It emerged that
Plunkett (Left), a tough, brave and experienced but perhaps impetuous soldier, had
disobeyed Cobbe’s orders. On reaching
Olivey he formed a square with the 2nd Sikhs in the front face and
advanced over 6 kilometres through the bush.
On reaching an open space partly surrounded by thick bush he halted,
perhaps hoping to teach the Dervishes a lesson.
After about 5 minutes he was attacked from the bush by the leading
elements of up to 8,000 spearmen and horsemen led by the Mullah. At first horsemen assaulted the front and
flanks of the square. After repulsing
the first attack Plunkett ordered the square to advance into the centre of the
open space. This advance left wounded
Askari behind on the ground, but this saved the lives of some of them who managed
to escape later as the fighting moved away from them. Then spearmen arrived and attacked all sides
of the square. The Dervishes cried “Allah! Allah!” whilst their womenfolk ululated
shrilly in the background.
from their saddles into the British troops who returned volley fire into the
seething mass of attackers. However the solid
rifle bullets of the Sikhs were not knocking down the most fanatical of the
Dervishes, who kept charging forward although wounded. At one stage spearmen broke through the face
of the square but the Sikhs reformed and killed or drove back the
attackers. The British officers were
targeted and brought down first.
Plunkett was wounded early in the action by a spear thrust but stayed on
his feet. The two machine guns, each in
a corner of the square, cut swathes through the Dervishes but began to run out
of ammunition. As men dropped ranks had
to be tightened as there were no supporting troops, but even so Dervishes repeatedly
broke into the square before being shot or bayoneted. Cobbe’s orders had been that this was a short
recovery patrol and reserve ammunition had not been taken. Eventually when the ammunition was expended a
horde of spearmen broke into the square.
Prominent amongst these attackers were the ferocious men of the Adonis
tribe. Plunkett and Johnston-Stewart ordered
those sepoys and Askari still standing to bayonet-charge their way back to
Cobbe’s position. A Dervish then shot
Plunkett through the head.
As the remains
of the square disintegrated the attackers swarmed over the retreating British
soldiers, spearing and hacking them to death.
No British or Indians survived, only 47 Yao
and Atonga Askari from British Central Africa
made it back to Cobbe’s zareba, and 42 of these men were wounded. No. A 759 Private Mandelumba, 2 KAR, was
later awarded a Distinguished Conduct Medal with the citation:
This man carried into the zareba, a distance of 6
miles from the action at Gumburu on 17th April, 1903, No. 885
Private Gomani, of the same battalion, who was wounded in the arm.
personnel killed at Gumburu were:
From 2 KAR: Major
and Local Lieutenant Colonel Arthur William Valentine Plunkett (Manchester
Regiment), Captain James Johnstone-Stewart (Left) (Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders),
Captain Herbert Edward Olivey (Suffolk Regiment), Captain Herbert Humphrey de
Bohun Morris (Page bottom Left) (East Kent Regiment), Captain Lachlan M’Kinnon (Nottinghamshire
and Derbyshire Regiment), Lieutenant Joseph Aloysius Gaynor (2nd
Dragoon Guards), Lieutenant Ernest William Bell (Page Botton Right) (Suffolk Regiment).
Sikhs: Captain Herbert Charles Vesey.
From the Indian
Medical Service: Lieutenant Francis Wheler Sime.
From the KRRC:
Riflemen No. 2176 Laurence Ensor and No. 1589 John Barrow.
personnel killed were: Havildar Major Dewan Singh, 2 KAR and 36th
Sikhs; No. 153 Lance-Havildar Khajan Singh, 1 KAR and 3rd Peshawar
Battery; 2 un-named officers and 46 sepoys from 2nd Sikhs; one
Hospital Assistant from 5 KAR.
dead were 117 Askari from 2 KAR; 2 Askari and one Maxim Gun Carrier from 1 KAR;
13 Somali transport drivers and followers.
were never known but mounds of dead lay around the site of the square. One estimate given by Dervish prisoners later
was that around 1,000 men were killed and many more were badly wounded.
Above: Major Gough, Sergeant Gibb and the Sikhs at Daratoleh.
Gough’s move to Danot
ordered Cobbe to withdraw to Galadi. But
also out in the field was Brevet Major J.E. Gough (Rifle Brigade and 2 KAR) who
Manning had ordered to march with a mobile column from Bohotle 120 kilometres
south-westwards to Danot. Gough’s mission
was to collect information and Dervish stock, and to act as a block in case the
Mullah’s men moved in his direction.
April Gough halted 24 kilometres short of Danot as his mounts were “done
up”. A 6 KAR patrol of mounted
infantrymen reconnoitred Danot water hole, chased away 15 Dervishes and
captured 9 ponies. On his return the
patrol commander reported that there was only sufficient water at Danot for
Gough’s column for three days. Gough
then sent back his infantry, 2 KAR and the BCA Sikhs, to Bohotle. Gough then led his mounted troops to occupy
Danot waterhole. At this stage he had
with him 56 men of the Bikaner Camel Corps and 57 mounted infantry and 51
camelry of 6 KAR.
At Danot Gough
found sufficient water and so sent a message to the infantry ordering that now
100 Askari of 2 KAR, 50 Sikhs of the BCA contingent, 2 maxims, reserve
ammunition, 100 water tins and all available rations be turned around and sent
to Danot. A strong Zareba was built at
Danot to cover the waterhole, which despite its thick covering of green slime
stayed full after the men and animals had watered.
April Gough sent patrols out of Danot. A
6 KAR mounted infantry patrol had a contact resulting in the killing of 18
Dervish spearmen and the capture of two prisoners and 300 camels. The prisoners were wearing pieces of British
equipment and they talked of a recent large battle at Gumburu, but Gough
believed that the equipment came from a battle during the Second Expedition at
Erigo. One of the prisoners later died
of wounds and the other was shot through the head whilst trying to escape from
The fight at Daratoleh
At 0430 hours
on 22nd April Gough moved out of the zareba to look for the
enemy. He took:
officers and 30 Askari from 2 KAR.
officers and 104 camelry and mounted infantry from 6 KAR.
officer and 12 BCA Sikhs mounted on ponies.
officers and 45 rifles of the Bikaner Camel Corps. As the Indian camel saddles
were double ones the 2 KAR Askari rode behind the sowars of the Bikaner Camel
Each man carried 250 rounds of ammunition.The
remainder of the column remained to hold the zareba at Danot under Captain F.B.
Young (Cheshire Regiment and 2 KAR).
The order of
march was 6 KAR camelry riding at the point followed by the mounted BCA Sikhs;
then came a loose square as shown in the first sketch; followed by two groups
of 6 KAR mounted infantrymen as rearguard.
By 0730 hours the advance guard was skirmishing. At 1020 hours a large enemy force was
encountered to the front. Gough at once
dismounted his troops in flat open ground surrounded by clumps of tall bush and
long grass, and formed a square as shown in the second sketch. Camels and ponies were roped down in the
waited and tension rose. Suddenly an
outburst of enemy rifle fire from the thorn bushes and grass opened the
battle. An estimated 300 Dervish
riflemen and 500 spearmen moved against the square. The British maintained fire discipline using
volley fire against enemy rushes. The one Maxim gun was handled by
Armourer-Sergeant Allan Gibb, Army Ordnance Corps and attached to 2 KAR. He had already been cited for coolness and
bravery in battle during the Second Expedition.
Gibb and his gun team regularly moved the Maxim and ammunition to
whichever face of the square needed support, cutting down groups of
attackers. The effective volley-fire of
the riflemen kept the enemy at a distance of 20 metres from the square and
bayonets did not have to be used.
However after four hours of fighting several officers and men were down
and ammunition was running low. Captain Godfrey was one of the dead. Gough issued a warning order for a fighting
Above: Daratoleh battle square
The withdrawal from Daratoleh
wounded and dead were secured onto camels, except for three 6 KAR corpses that
were left because their Somali colleagues saw no need to move them. To clear the ground Gough ordered the front
and left faces to bayonet charge 100 metres forward. This was achieved successfully by the 2 KAR
and Bikaner Camel Corps detachments under Captains R.E.L. Townsend and
Walker. The war correspondent of the
illustrated weekly Graphic newspaper
joined in the Bikaner’s
charge, replacing the wounded Captain Hughes.
The returning troops brought in 9 rifles, 3 of which were identified as
2 KAR weapons from Cobbe’s column.
now began, the rear face withdrawing first, followed by the camels and ponies,
and then the other three faces pulled back to join the rear face. This slow but sure method of using an
‘elastic square’ continued through the heat of the afternoon. As the withdrawal progressed the 6 KAR
camelry troops, the BCA Sikhs and and 2 KAR Askari again made successful
bayonet charges to push the enemy back.
By 1500 hours enemy pressure was increasing as more Dervishes arrived to
attack the withdrawal. Gough sent four 6
KAR horsemen back to Danot with an order for ammunition to be sent
detail and escort arrived at 1730 hours under the command of Captain P.C.R. Barclay
(Indian Staff Corps and 1 KAR), allowing the mens’ pouches to be re-filled with
rounds. Gough now ordered the 6 KAR
mounted infantry to mount and clear the bush adjacent to the front and side
faces, which they did successfully under Captains Dickinson and Howard. Whilst doing this some of the 6 KAR soldiers
observed Dervishes wearing the black fez of 2 KAR which could only have
obtained during action against Cobbe’s column.
The ‘elastic square’ now resumed its progress back to Danot, arriving
there at 0115 hours.
A display of great gallantry
initial stages of the withdrawal Gough’s staff officer, Captain C.M Bruce
(left) (Royal Field Artillery), was shot from 20 metres range whilst with the
rearguard. He fell and was unable to
move. The enemy followed up closely
hoping to seize Bruce’s body and disfigure it.
The rearguard withdrew as ordered but Captain Walker and the column
Intelligence Officer Captain G.M. Rolland (1st Bombay Grenadiers),
two KAR Askari, one 6 KAR camel man and one BCA Sikh stood fast around Bruce,
and held the attackers off. Rolland ran
back to the disappearing square and returned with Gough, a camel and supporting
The men around Bruce had to
fight fiercely, the Sikh was wounded and Bruce also was wounded again. Bruce, now dying, was loaded onto the camel
and the party fought its way back into the square.
following awards were made.
The Victoria Cross (two recipients initially, followed later by a
Murray Rolland. Whilst retiring from Daratoleh, Somaliland,
he (together with Captain Walker and 4 men) was in the rearguard under heavy
fire from the pursuing enemy when Captain Bruce was shot through the body. He ran 500 yards to fetch help whilst the
other men fired ceaselessly to keep the enemy in check. Returning with Major Gough, he helped to lift
Captain Bruce onto a camel. The enemy
remained in close pusuit for a further three hours, during which time Captain
George Walker. Whilst retiring from Daratoleh, Somaliland,
he (together with Captain Rolland and four men) was in the rearguard under
heavy fire from the pusuing enemy when Captain Bruce was shot through the
body. Whilst Rolland ran to fetch help,
he kept up a desperate fire to keep the enemy at bay. When Rolland returned with Major Gough, he
helped to lift Captain Bruce onto a camel.
The captain died soon afterwards.
John Edmund Gough During the action at Daratoleh, on 22nd
April last, Major Gough assisted Captains Walker and Rolland in carrying back
the late Captain Bruce (who had been mortally wounded) and prevented that
officer from falling into the hands of the enemy.Captains Walker and Rolland have already been
awarded the Victoria Cross for their gallantry on this occasion, but Major
Gough (who was in command of the column) made no mention of his own conduct,
which has only recently been brought to notice.
Above: Rescue of Captain Bruce
Distinguished Conduct Medal
Ndermani, 2 KAR. 87 Corporal
Surmoni, 2 KAR. Sowar Umar
Ismail, 6 KAR Camel Corps.
Indian Order of Merit
126/Regimental No. 2376 Lance-Naik Maieya Singh, 24th Baluchistan Regiment.
Back at Danot
Gough’s column re-grouped. The British
and Askari dead were buried and the Sikh dead were cremated. The casualty list was 15 men killed and 29
wounded. Animal casualties were 19
riding camels killed and 13 wounded, and 9 ponies killed and 9 wounded. Gough estimated that 150 Dervishes were
killed and many more must have been wounded.
dead were Captains Charles Godfrey DSO and Charles Maurice Dundas Bruce. The wounded were the officer commanding 6 KAR
Major A.G. Sharp (Leinster Regiment), Major H.B. Rowlands (Suffolk Regiment and
2 KAR), Captain E.M. Hughes (14th Lancers and the Bikaner Camel
Corps), and Captain R.E.L. Townsend (Worcestershire Regiment and 2 KAR). Major Rowlands subsequently died of his
wounds at Bohotle.
Gough wrote in
his after-action report:
I cannot speak too highly of the behaviour of all
ranks. It could not have been better,
the Somalis (6 KAR) surprising everyone by their steadiness and
dash, 2 KAR having both officers wounded and losing 11 men killed and wounded
out of 30, and yet full of dash and fight.
The Abyssinian sector
As the news of
the Gumburu disaster spread London
ordered Manning to concentrate his mobile columns at defended locations, and to
maintain readiness for future operations.
Gough arrived at Bohotle on 28th April. Manning correctly believed that the Dervish
flocks were still in the Walwal - Wardair area and he sent a message to the
Abyssinians urging them to attack Wardair.
However the Abyssinian force was composed of tribal groups under their
own chiefs and was not organised as an army.
The force reached Mekunna on the Webi Shebelli river, 275 kilometres
south-south-west of Gumburu, on 17th April but stayed near the river
as it had no water-carrying equipment for a desert crossing.
In the event it
was late May before Manning’s message reached his chief liaison officer with
the Abyssinians, Colonel A.N. Rochfort CB (Royal Artillery). Despite not being self-sufficient in
necessary equipment the Abyssinians did successfully fight engagements against
Dervish forces. Rochfort recorded one
. . . we were attacked by 1,100 tribesmen on three
sides. . . .The attack came as a surprise and severe hand-to-hand fighting
ensued, lasting 45 minutes, when the tribesmen were beaten off and many killed
in the water while trying to cross the river. . . .What direction there was
during the action was carried out by the various chiefs. There was a great deal of firing and
considerable noise and confusion, but individually the men rushed into the
fight in the keenest possible way. . . .They are too excitable to be good shots
and prefer their swords to their rifles. . . .It was altogether a very
remarkable sight. The Abyssinians
pursued all day. The casualties are
reported as follows:- Abyssinians: killed 21; wounded 10. Dervishes: killed 301; wounded 2. I think the Dervish loss is much exaggerated. Doctor Martin is doing all that is possible for the
British liaison officers with Rochester
were Captain and Local Major R.P. Cobbold, Reserve of Officers, and Dr. C.
Martin of the Burmah Uncovenanted Medical Service.)
During late May
an Abyssinian detachment killed around 1,000 Dervish spearmen near Jeyd. Whilst Manning had hoped for more from his
allies the Abyssinians had acted as an effective block to any large-scale
Dervish movement to the south.
The Mullah’s escape
believed that he held the upper hand because he was holding and controlling all
the water holes to the east of Wardair where the Mullah’s followers’ flocks and
herds were concentrated. He believed
that once he could find the Dervish herds moving then he could force a fight on
his terms. The Mullah’s men would either
have to fight or submit to the British to protect their animals and their
Dervishes knew the ground and the climatic conditions better than Manning did
and he was out-manouevred. The rains
that fell in May and June created pools and water holes that the British could
not control. The Mullah moved his tribes
eastwards towards the Nogal valley. On
14th June a 6 KAR mounted reconnaissance patrol found the Dervishes
crossing Manning’s defended line 24 kilometres from Damot. The Mullah’s men were picqueting all the recently-formed
pools and water holes that he needed and 5,000 Dervish horsemen were covering
the movement of the herds.
commanding the Berbera – Bohotle Lines of Communication, Lieutenant Colonel J.C.
Swann (Indian Army), had 1,132 all ranks and 8 Maxim guns at Bohotle and he
considered that force insufficient to both hold Bohotle and immediately
confront the Dervishes. By the time
Manning had moved more men to Bohotle on 26th June there were only
meagre pickings from the tail-end of the Dervish migration in the area. British patrols seized 400 camels and 2,000
sheep and goats. The Mullah and his followers
had moved into the Nogal region. London
was not impressed and the Third Expedition was terminated.
and preparation performed by the British staff officers, the building of roads
by Indian Sappers and Pioneers, the operation of a port in extremely difficult
conditions at Obbia, the construction of a long telegraph line by Royal
Engineers and the holding of a long series of defended posts had all been in
vain. Manning had not concentrated
sufficient force in the actions that were fought and the Dervish army, whilst
doubtless hurt, was not destroyed. The
amount of stock taken was much less than in the Second Expedition when Swayne’s
Somali troops excelled at bringing herds in, knowing that they were going to
share in the plunder.
of confidence in the Somalis as fighters was unfortunate, as Gough’s comments
after Daratoleh showed. London
now planned a much larger Fourth Expedition, this time to be commanded by a
General who believed that the use of a greater number of Indian Army troops was
the answer to Somaliland’s military
A campaign bar
to the African General Service medal was not issued until after the conclusion
of the Fourth Campaign.
Brevet Major J.E. Gough VC, the Rifle Brigade (the Prince Consort’s Own) was
appointed to the Brevet rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
Allan Gibb, Army Ordnance Corps and attached to 2 KAR, later received a
Distinguished Conduct Medal for his actions during the Second Expedition.
References: Frontier and Overseas
Expeditions from India Volume VI, Expeditions Overseas, reprinted
by The Naval & Military Press Ltd. The Official History Of The Operations In Somaliland 1901-04, reprinted by The Naval
& Military Press Ltd. Hamilton, Angus, Somaliland,
1911, Hutchinson and Co., London. Hayward, Birch and Bishop, British
Battles and Medals, 2006, Spink, London. Headlam, Major
General Sir John, The History of the Royal Artillery from the Indian Mutiny
to the Great War, 1937, Royal Artillery Institution. Jardine, Douglas, The
Mad Mullah of Somaliland, 1923, Herbert Jenkins Ltd., London. Magor, R. B., African
General Service Medals, The Naval and Military Press, revision of 1993
edition. Moyse-Bartlett, Lt. Col.
H., The King’s African Rifles,
reprinted by The Naval & Military Press Ltd. Page,
Malcolm, KAR - A history of the
King’s African Rifles, 1998, Leo Cooper, London. The London
Gazette The Graphic.. The VC & DSO Book Volume II, The Naval