1882 Scroll to Major General
Drury Curzon Drury Lowe
Three years later, and General Drury Lowe was again in the headlines, after he commanded a cavalry division of the 7th Dragoons and three squadrons of Household Cavalry, which had been first to reach Cairo in the 1882 Egyptian War. A local revolt had taken place, and troops were sent to restore order. After victories at Kassassin and Tel El-Kebir, the cavalry was sent under cover of night to reach Cairo. They arrived at about 3a.m. and so surprised the remaining enemy, who were holding the city, that they surrendered immediately.
This is how The Times reported it:
The following detail of the Egyptian campaign comes from the excellent britishbattles.com:
Egypt in the late 19th Century, ruled by the Khedive, remained a nominal part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire. Britain and France maintained a substantial interest in the country due to the Suez Canal, in which both countries had invested heavily and which provided the most direct route to their Asian colonies; India and Australia for Britain and Indochina for France. In the 1870s Egypt, through mismanagement and corruption, lurched towards financial collapse and political instability. Britain and France installed a commission to supervise Egypt’s government. In 1881 Colonel Ahmed Arabi Bey, a native Egyptian officer of the Egyptian Army with other Egyptian officers launched a revolt against the Khedive and the British and French. A British naval squadron under Admiral Seymour bombarded the defences of Alexandria Egypt’s main port on the northern coast on 11th July 1882. A British military force assembled under Lieutenant-General Sir Garnet Wolseley to invade Egypt, with the purpose of capturing Cairo and restoring the Khedive as nominal ruler and Anglo-French control of the country.
The leading elements of the British force landed at Alexandria in the second week of August 1882. The aims of the force were to secure the Suez Canal that ran North-South in the East of Egypt and then to march on Cairo, the capital of the country, which the rebels were threatening to destroy in the event of an invasion.
An Anglo-Indian force was sent from India to join the British contingent in the Suez Canal. The landing at Alexandria was a feint. General Wolseley concealed his true plan from everyone except his immediate staff, which was to land at Ismailia, at the Northern end of the Suez Canal and to march West to Cairo, attacking Arabi’s army in its positions at Tel-El-Kebir on the railway and main irrigation canal.
The British contingent landed at Ismailia around 20th August 1882 securing the local barracks and canal facilities, while the Anglo-Indian contingent came up the canal from the Persian Gulf in the South.
At 4am on 24th August 1882 General Wolseley’s army marched out of Ismailia along the line of the railway, moving West towards Cairo, to attack Arabi’s army at the town of Tel-El-Kebir situated on the line of the railway and irrigation canal.
Arabi’s army had in the meanwhile dammed the irrigation canal that ran alongside the railway with the aim of cutting off the water supply to the Anglo-Indian army and the town of Ismailia.
General Graham’s brigade was pushed forward to Kassassin where there was a lock on the irrigation canal. Graham’s brigade formed in position across the railway line and canal.
Late on 24th August 1882 an Egyptian force, comprising guns and infantry, appeared to the North of Graham’s position. Graham engaged them. Seeing that the Egyptians’ flank was exposed, Graham directed Major General Drury-Lowe to attack the Egyptians with the cavalry brigade.
Drury-Lowe lead forward his mounted force comprising a composite regiment of Household Cavalry (a squadron from each of 1st Life Guards, 2nd Life Guards and the Royal Horse Guards, the ‘Blues’) and 7th Dragoon Guards with 4 guns of N/A Battery, Royal Horse Artillery.
Drury-Lowe was aided in reaching the battle line by the gun flashes in the gathering darkness. The first fire was opened by the Egyptians. Drury-Lowe engaged them with his guns and then launched the Household Cavalry in a charge. The Egyptian infantry were swept away and their guns abandoned and captured in the ‘Moonlight Charge’ of the Battle of Kassassin.
Informed of this success Graham returned to his positions at Kassassin. General Sir Garnet Wolseley completed the build up of his army around the Kassassin position by 12th September 1882. Arabi’s Egyptian army lay at Tel-El-Kebir some 6 miles distant. Tel-El-Kebir comprised a small town to the South of the line of the canal and the Cairo-Ismailia railway that ran parallel and to the North of the canal.
Over the preceding weeks the Egyptian army of some 20,000 soldiers with 59 guns, some of them modern German Krupp-made weapons, had built a length of entrenchment starting with redoubts at the canal and railway and stretching north some 3 miles to the end of a raised section of ground. A second section of entrenchment covered the Egyptian camp to the rear.
General Wolseley resolved to attack the Egyptian line at dawn, following a night approach march. His army formed up with the 2nd Division, commanded by Lieutenant General Sir Edward Hamley, on the left; the Highland Brigade leading with the second brigade of the Division in reserve immediately to its rear. The 1st Division took the right with Major General Graham’s brigade to the front and the Guards Brigade commanded by the Duke of Connaught, in reserve. The guns, commanded by Colonel Goodenough, advanced in the area between the 2 reserve brigades. The cavalry brigade commanded by Major General Drury-Lowe, augmented to a division by the addition of the Indian regiments, took the right of the army, conforming to the Guards Brigade, its role being to sweep around the Egyptian flank once the infantry had stormed the entrenchments and make for Cairo to prevent the destruction of the Egyptian capital by Arabi’s rebels.
The Indian brigade was to advance along the canal/railway line on the South side, to clear the Egyptian redoubts in that area, and take the town of Tel-El-Kebir, before moving on to the next station up the line, Zag-a-Zig.
The direction of the night-time advance was to be supervised by Lieutenant Rawson, Royal Navy, navigating by the stars from the left flank.
The night march to the entrenchments went surprisingly smoothly, except that the advancing army drifted to its right. Dawn broke with the Highland Brigade within 150 yards of the Egyptian line. A heavy fire immediately broke out. The 4 regiments of the Highland Brigade, led by its commander, Major General Allison, and General Hamley, the Divisional Commander, stormed into the entrenchments, the two centre regiments, the Gordons and Camerons leading. The Black Watch on the right of the brigade found the resistance hard to overcome, until supported by 3rd Battalion the King’s Royal Rifle Corps from the divisional reserve. On the left the Highland Light Infantry were unable to break into the entrenchments until reinforced by the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry from the reserve brigade.
On the right, General Graham’s brigade met heavy resistance but drove the Egyptians from their trenches with the support of guns from the centre.
Following the success of the infantry attack, General Drury-Lowe took his cavalry division in a sweep around the Egyptian left flank and rode down the Egyptian rear towards the bridge crossing the canal into Tel-El-Kebir, accelerating the route of the retreating Egyptian troops.
To the South of the canal, the Seaforth Highlanders attacked the Egyptian redoubt while and 20th Punjabis (Brownlow’s) moved around the Egyptian right flank and stormed a village from which fire was being directed, both battalions supported by 7th Bengal Native Infantry and 29th Bombay Native Infantry.
The Indian brigade then moved into the town of Tel-El-Kebir. The battle was finished with the Egyptian army in rout.
Following the battle the cavalry division secured Cairo on 14th September 1882 and accepted the surrender of Arabi. On 25th September 1882 the Khedive re-entered his capital escorted by British and Indian troops.
Drury Curzon Drury Lowe died in 1908. The Drury Lowe family archives are deposited in the Hallward Library at the University of Nottingham, where a scroll survives that the local dignitaries gave to Major Gen. Drury Lowe to congratulate him.
"To Major General Drury Curson Drury Lowe, C.B. Commander of the cavalry division of the Expeditionary force in Egypt.
Sir, we, the undersigned inhabitants of Woburn, Aspley Guise, Woburn Sands, Wavendon and Crawley beg leave to offer you our most cordial and respectful congratulations on your return from active service in Egypt.
As English citizens, we rejoice at the decisive and unqualified success which has attended the operations of Her Majesty’s forces.
As you friends and immediate neighbours, we regard with particular satisfaction the distinguished part in those operations which has fallen to your share. The whole campaign, glorious in all its aspects, contained no feature more striking than the march to Cairo made by the Cavalry under your command. Holding that march to be unsurpassed alike in brilliancy of its execution and the importance of its results, we are proud to reflect that your name will be inseparably associated with its renown.
With earnest hope that you and Mrs Drury Lowe may live to enjoy, in health and happiness, the honour which justly belongs to so conspicuous and so memorable an achievement.
We beg to subscribe ourselves, very faithfully yours,
Document images courtesy of the Manuscripts and Special Collections department, at The University of Nottingham. Document reference Dr 2F 13.