War and Australia – Sudan

In the early 1880s the British-backed Egyptian regime in the Sudan came under threat from local supporters of Muhammed Ahmed, also known as the Mahdi. In 1883 the Egyptian government was sent south to crush the revolt but instead of destroying the Mahdi’s forces, the Egyptians were soundly defeated. On March 29, 1885 a New South Wales contingent arrived in Sudan, the first time Australian troops fought in an imperial war.

The NSW contingent consisted of an infantry battalion and an artillery battery, totalling 758 men. They left Sydney on March 3, 1885 and returned on June 19, 1885.  While the contingent did not fight in any major battles, there were three wounded soldiers and seven deaths from fever or dysentery.

Soldiers and horse - possibly Sudan contingent. Digital ID 4481_a026_000695

Soldiers and horse – possibly Sudan contingent. Digital ID 4481_a026_000695

There has been much speculation about this photo on our Archives Outside blog. If you think you can help identify the soldiers, the era or the location we’d love to hear from you.

From the blog post:

We received many comments on the post at the time with most suggestions pointing to around 1870-1890. With only a rural landscape and no obvious landmarks/features, the site remains a bit of a mystery.

State Records holds very few archives relating to the Sudan Contingent.  Researchers could search the Colonial Secretary’s Correspondence for more references.  We do hold a photocopy of the Soudan [sic] Contingent Roll 1885 (COD474) in our reading room.

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