A Sketch Map of the Battle of Omdurman by Kitchener’s Aide-De-Camp, 1898
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Overall: 33cm (13in) x 37.5cm (14.75in)
Ink and pencil on paper laid down on board. An on-the-spot sketch plan of the opening phase of the Battle of Omdurman fought on 2 September 1898, inscribed upper left ‘For Mr Williams The Daily Chronicle’ and ‘Drawn by J. K. Watson, K.R.R.’ lower left. Sketch: 29cm (11.5in) x 25cm (10in). Framed and glazed.
The present diagram was made in the field by a leading light amongst ‘Kitchener’s band of boys’, Captain James Kiero Watson, King’s Royal Rifle Corps, for the Daily Chronicle’s veteran war correspondent C.F. Williams (1838-1904), of whom the Duke of Connaught, once said, 'When I see Charlie Williams shut up his telescope, I know it's all over.’ For Williams, who had taken part in the Gordon Relief Expedition of 1884-85, and others present at Omdurman on that day in 1898, the battle was the long-awaited conclusion to unfinished business. Williams, while working for the Central News Agency of London in 1885, had caused a scandal with an article filed with the Fortnightly Review, in which he accused the relief column commander of military incompetence for not rushing to Gordon’s aid when the Nile steamers became available at Abu Kru. Moreover it was Williams who first reported the Fall of Khartoum to Mahdist forces and the death of General Gordon.
Captain James Kiero Watson (1865-1942) was A.D.C. to Lord Kitchener from 1895 to 1905, and maintained a close relationship with the Earl until the latter’s death in 1916. Commissioned into the K.R.R.C. in 1885, Watson was attached to the Egyptian Army and posted to the Xth Sudanese Infantry in 1894. He was the first Englishman to meet Slatin Pasha after his escape from ten years captivity in the Mahdist camp at Omdurman. At the battle, Watson’s official title was ‘A.D.C. to the G.O.C. in the Nile Expedition of 1898’ and his evident willingness to assist Williams in his reportage stands testament to the high regard in which the Daily Chronicle’s senior military reporter was held. The map itself is an aide-memoire to the disposition of the opposing armies at 7am and shows the line of Ali Wad Helu’s attack on the Egyptian Cavalry at the Kerrai Heights; the line of first attack towards the British units on the Nile, with the positions of Lyttleton, Wauchope, Maxwell, Macdonald, Lewis, the 32nd Field Battery and the Nile Gunboats.
Watson Seated right of Kitchener
Williams was among the press corps’ battle casualties. The London Times lost two killed and Williams was wounded in the face. He was also not alone in experiencing another painful aspect of the day. He was horrified by the excesses indulged in after the battle, where wounded Dervishes were ’butchered from sheer wantonness and lust of bloodshed.’ Fellow correspondent Lieutenant Winston Churchill, temporarily attached to the 21st Lancers, was likewise appalled and was led to comment: ’I must personally record that there was a very general impression that the fewer the prisoners, the greater would be the satisfaction of the commander.’