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Reminsences of Tel-el-Keber.


(By Sergeant A. L. Palmer.) The men had been suffering so fearfully from thirst before they reached the. canal that I saw some of them drinking th« blood that ran out of wounded camels. When we had drunk our fill of canal water the " assembly" was sounded, and the roll was called, when many a poor;' fellow had to be marked as "absent." Men I told one another of their adventures, | narrated their escapes, and had time now to examine their bare legs, from which much skin had been lost m falling into and clambering out of the trenches. The most remarkable escape I remember was that of a colour sergeant who was looking at the enemy, through a binocular .when a bullet came along, shivered the glass, and then dropped spent into his mouth, from which he spat it with only the loss of. a couple of teeth. Some of us were detailed to search the Egyptian camp to make sure that none of the enemy remained lurking In it. A guard was set on Arabi's tent, through which I had passed m the advance, and had snatched a cutlet from the table, little thinking to whom tent and food had belonged. I had the luck to chance on a small shed full of melons, nuts, bottle* of eau-de-Cologne, tins of Turkish tobacco and boxes of cigarettes. I filled my water bottte with eau-de-Cologne, my haversack with cigarettes, and with a tin -of tobacco and a bottle of eau-de-Cologne m my hand went m search of my captain. He was not to be found m the t«nt, of which the officers had taken possession, and I handed the eau-de-Cologne bottle to a major, an Irishmen, who swallowed tha contents neat at a gulp, and then exclaimed, " Holy Jasua, isn't that good stuff," to the great amusement of the th« other officers. Presently I met my captain, to whom I gave the cigarettes, and showed him where he could get all he wanted of lemons, tobacco, and eau-de-Cologne. He gave me a sovereign for ray trouble. Volunteers were now called for to go and assist the wounded. I made one of the party, and started well equipped with pipe m moubh, a haversack full of cigarettes, a water-bottle full of eau-de-Colongue and plenty of water. The sights of the battle-field were gruesome, now one looked at them, ill cold blood. The Artillery had ■wrought fearful havoc. I remember one heap of twenty-four corpses, some ;blown absolutely into fragements, others headless, others with limb« lopped off. Some of the dead Egyptians were roasting slowly as they lay; their clothing had been ignited, and was still smouldering. A man of the rifles came along, drew his pipe from his pocket, and lit it at one of these bodies,, remarking, somewhat brutally it struck me: "I never thought I should live to use a dead Egyptian for a light to my pipe !" In the outer trench our dead and wounded lay more thickly then those of the enemy, but m ohe inner trenches and on the spa ces between for one man of ours there were certainly ten Egyptians. In the redoubts the black gunners lay dead or wounded almost to a man, for they had been fastened to the guns and to one another by Small chains attached to ankle/fetters, so as to leave them free to work the guns* but. hindering them from running away. Among them poor Lieutenant Rawsoh lay mortally wounded ; it deemed bitter hard, after his fine service m guiding the army, that he who had contributed so much to the victory should lie dying m fch« hour of triumph. When Sir Archibald Alison was told of his* being wounded,.he at once went to see him. '' Didn't I lead them straight, sir?" were the dying man's last faint words—faithful unto duty even to the end. ,■-,..■ The first wounded man I attended to was an Egyptian, whose moans were piteous, and on examination I found him severely wounded m the belly, I poured some eau de-Cologne down.hls throat and used my own surgical bandages to bind up his wound so as to keep the flies from ifc. Then I lit a cigarette, put it m his mouth, placed more beside him, and gave him a drink of water. He kissed my hand and muttered something about "Allah.' I had not left him far when I heard the crack «fa rifle and a bullet whizxed by my ear* Looking round, I saw the smoke of the shot drifting away from where my wounded man lay, and noticed that he was quietly taking aim at me again. He had time to fire a second, shot, which also missed me, before I reached him, and I had no compunction, m driving the life out of him with my 1 bayonet, remarking to myself as I took the weapon oub of him for the last time, "You won't come that game any more, you ungrateful brute!" Many such instances of this treacherous hate occurred. I myself had to wipe out four more wounded. Egyptians whom I caught m the act of firing at our men after they ; had passed. To run a bayonet into a man who is down one feels it hardly the, thing, and it was done reluctantly, but m such cases as I have described it was a clear act of compulsory duty.

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Bibliographic details

Reminsences of Tel-el- Keber., Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2487, 9 August 1890

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Reminsences of Tel-el- Keber. Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2487, 9 August 1890

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