An Oddington Soldier – January 1899


Writing in the Islip Rural Deanery Magazine of January 1899, the Rector of Oddington, Rev. Samuel Crawley, records an account of the Soudan campaign given by Private Arthur Turvey , of the First Battalion of the Grenadier Guards. Arthur was the son of James and Charlotte Turvey of Upper Grange Farm, Oddington.

“The first stopping-place was at Gibraltar, where the troops stayed a few days, proceeding thence past Malta to Alexandria, where they disembarked. After reaching Cairo, where they stayed a week, the soldiers went down the Nile in gunboats, stopping at the Atbara, and making a camp there. All tents and camping requisites were left behind at the camp in the Atbara, and during the whole journey to Omdurman the troops had to sleep under the open sky on small blankets. Fortunately for the men most of the journey was performed by gunboat, only five or six days marching having to be done; but even so little as this was quite sufficient, for the sand was up to the knees, and sun scorching, and flies and mosquitoes terrible. The food for the soldiers was dry, hard biscuits and corned beef in tins, washed down with muddy water. Coffee was served out twice a week. At every halt a zareba was formed, the soldiers cutting down bushes to shield them from the observation of Dervishes. At five miles from Omdurman the army was put in fighting order, and at half-past six in the morning of September 2nd, the Dervishes were seen advancing, waving numerous flags, some black and some white. The firing on our side began when the Dervishes (who were already firing) were at a distance of 2,500 yards. At 1,500 yards most of the Dervishes were killed. Private Turvey gives a graphic description of the charge of the 21st Lancers. They were scouting on the left, and ran into a number of Dervishes, through whom they charged right to the other side, and then right back again, losing many a gallant fellow cut to pieces by the infuriated Dervishes. After five-and-a-half hours firing the battle was won. Three days after the entry into Omdurman Private Turvey fell ill of fever and dysentery, and did not recover for many days after. He relates that while crossing the battlefield a wounded Dervish tried to stab him, but he bayoneted him just in the nick of time. In consequence of this danger to soldiers from the wounded enemy, the Egyptian troops were ordered to kill all the wounded Dervishes – it seems cruel but was necessary. After his furlough

Private Turvey will be quartered at Wellington Barracks and afterwards will be on guard at Windsor. He wears the Omdurman medal, inscribed with Egyptian characters commemorating the victory.”