The Military Journal of G.H.Gough

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 133 Eng MS 1375
  • Dates of Creation
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      185 x 130 mm. 1 volume. Not foliated. There are two maps which been bound into the volume at the entries for 1 and 12 September. Medium: Boards. There is some evidence of usual wear and tear, but overall the volume is in good condition.
  • Location
      Collection available at The John Rylands Library, Deansgate

Scope and Content

Contents: Captain Gough's journal was written between August and November 1882, when he was on active service in the Anglo-Egyptian War. Gough was the aide-de-camp to Lt Gen Edward Hamley, commanding the Second Division of the British Expeditionary Force to Egypt. As such, Gough was very well placed to describe the progress of the war as it moved from Alexandria to the Suez Canal, and finally to the decisive battle at Tel-el-Kebir on 13 September. Thereafter Gough was based in Cairo until he left for Britain in early October. Gough's journal is not an official military record of the 2nd Division's activities, but it provides some interesting insights of how the rapidly-assembled British force performed in the field during this brief but violent conflict.

Gough's first entry is for 14 August, when he describes his arrival in the port of Alexandria, having sailed from Portsmouth on 4 August. He notes the damage done to the Egyptian forts by the British bombardment several weeks earlier. Gough describes a visit the Khedive's looted palace at Ramleh, near Alexandria. The Khedive had taken refuge in Alexandria, and Urabi's forces were still menacing the city. At this stage, it was expected that the British forces would advance down the Nile to attack Cairo. The commander-in-chief of the expeditionary force, Sir Garnet Wolseley however rejected this option after seeing the disposition of Urabi's forces. Instead British force was sent to Ismailia on the Suez Canal, planning to advance along the railway line from that town which went to Cairo.

Initially, the Second Division remained at Alexandria to ensure its security, and Gough describes various reconnaissance activities and occasional skirmishes with Urabi's forces. By late August, the 1st Division had advanced from Ismailia along the railway line and adjacent Sweetwater canal (a major irrigation channel, which fed into the Suez Canal). Arabi had moved his forces and developed a strong point at Tel-el-Kebir, building a four mile-long defensive line. On 26 August, the British won a victory at Kassassin Lock, and held off Arabi's counter-attacks a few days later. Gough describes reports of these actions in his journal, and finally getting the order to embark for Ismailia on 30 August. He arrived in Ismailia on 1 September, and his journal notes the relative quiet in the Canal Zone as well as the huge number of British merchant ships there, which were reinforcing the expeditionary force. Gough also notes some of the difficulties the British were having, because they were unable to use the railway to move troops. Instead soldiers advanced on foot and horse, and many fell victim to heatstroke and dysentery. Gough noted that the slow advance was "beginning to augur badly for Sir Garnet's popularity at home" (entry for 5 September). Gough himself writes of the intense heat during the day which limited the soldiers' movements [entry for 12 September].

On 12 September, Gough's journal picks up pace, when Wolseley announces his plan of action, intending to attack Arabi's army at Tel-el-Kebir. Wolseley had decided that a frontal assault would be necessary, but as this was too risky during daylight, he boldly ordered a night march so the British could attack at dawn (reconnaissance had identified that the Egyptians' security was weak after dark). Gough describes his feelings of anticipation and uncertainty about this risky manoeuvre, which required high levels of discipline to ensure the formations marched in order and in silence for few miles. Gough remarks on the strange creaking noises made the soldiers' boots on the sand as they march in silence, and describes how Lt. Rawson, a naval officer, successfully used the stars to direct the troops to their destination.

As dawn broke, the British managed to get within 150 yards of the Egyptian lines before they were fired on. The 3rd (Highland) Brigade then fixed bayonets and led the charge into Egyptian lines. Gough gives a dramatic account of the battle: "From every side…sheets of flame show, and the air hisses with bullets". As the fighting intensifies, General Hamley ordered him to call up reinforcements from the 4th brigade in the rear, and as he rides off, his horse is shot from under him. Fresh troops eventually arrive, and within a couple of hours of the battle's commencement, the Egyptians are put to flight. Gough comments, "It is now no more dangerous than rabbit shooting". Many prisoners are taken, and it is estimated that over two thousand of Urabi's forces were killed, for the loss of 57 British soldiers (many from the Highland Brigade).

Gough's journal then tells how the British press on to the next settlement along the railway line, Zagazig, which quickly falls. He notes that the inhabitants there "are not the least degree alarmed by our occupation…" [entry for Sept 15], but a few days later, he changes his mind, and considers "they thoroughly believe in Arabi" [entry for 18 September]. Urabi had by this stage surrendered, and Cairo was occupied by the British. Gough and the rest of the divisional staff move to Cairo on 18 September. At this stage, the British were uncertain of the political situation in the city, and Wolseley issued orders emphasising "the Army is here as the friend of the people of Cairo, whom it has relieved from the despotism of rebellion" [entry for 19 September]. By and large, the British occupation passed off peacefully. Gough describes visits to the bazaars, horse races, the Pyramids, and the Bonlak (Cairo) Museum where he inspects the mummies. He also encounters the Khedive, who has been restored to power at a levee (26 September) and review at the Abden Palace [30 September]. The Khedive awards Gough the order of the Medjidie, 4th class [entry for 9 October].

Gough comments in passing on the bad moods and rudeness of General Hamley [entry for 5 October], and his poor relations with Wolseley, who Hamley believed had shown insufficient recognition of his command. Gough was also disappointed that Wolseley's official dispatch underplayed the contribution of the Highland Brigade in winning the battle of Tel-el-Kebir. On the following day, he sails for home on the Arab > between 11 and 31 October he is at sea; he describes arriving at Portsmouth, where crowds have gathered, and are particularly enthusiastic for the Royal Marines, who were stationed locally. Gough comments: "What a lucky fellow I've been; how much I have to be thankful for." He also learns that he has been promoted to major [entry for 18 November]; he attends a review by the Queen in the Mall, and the journal ends with a final entry on November 26 noting the receipt of his medal and clasp [the Egypt medal issued to British soldiers who had served in the War].

Gough's description of the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir is the most compelling part of the journal. However, it also includes interesting comments on some of the incidentals of the campaign, including the problems of logistics and rapid movements which the Army faced as it adapted to Wolseley's ambitious plan. Although Gough offers little in the way of direct political comment, he recounts the views of two fellow officers, who criticised Sir Edward Malet, the British consul general, for portraying Urabi as an unrepresentative rebel: in their view, "…this movement is really a national movement, that rightly or wrongly the Egyptians hate us, and that Arabi is a representative of their sentiments" [entry for 25 August]. Gough was unimpressed by the Khedive, who he met on several occasions: "It was noticeable how utterly ignorant he was of all that is going on Arabi's side" [entry for 25 August]. First-hand accounts of the Anglo-Egyptian War seem relatively rare, so this journal provides a useful perspective of a participant in the military action.

Note: Gough's journal is not titled, and the identity of the author has been inferred from information present in the journal and other sources. It is clear that the journal was compiled by one of the Second Division's staff officers, and Gough is the most likely candidate. The entry for? where Gough receives notice of his promotion, has his name given as "H G Gough". Some sources indicate that the Hon H G Gough, an officer in the 14th hussars. served in this war. Other sources indicate that George Hugh Gough was a staff officer in the 2nd Division during this war.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Hon. George Hugh Gough was the second son of the 2nd Viscount Gough of Goojerat, and the grandson of the noted British general, Hugh Gough, 1st Viscount Gough. He was born in 1852, educated at Eton and the University of Cambridge, and following family tradition, entered the Army as a cornet in the 14th Hussars in 1871. In 1882, he served as aide-de-camp to General Sir Edward Hamley (1824-1893), commander of the Second Division of the British expeditionary force to Egypt. During the Anglo-Egyptian War, the Second Division was prominent in the decisive battle of the campaign, at Tel-el-Kebir on 13 September 1882 . Thereafter, Gough was part of the occupation force in Cairo, which helped reestablish the Khedive's authority. Gough left Egypt in early October, and shortly afterwards was promoted to major. In later life, he was promoted to colonel, and served as private secretary to the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces in 1897-8 [Lord Wolseley]. He died while on active service during the South African War in March 1900.

The Anglo-Egyptian War of 1882 marked a major escalation in British involvement in the Near East, and was the culmination of several years of political instability in Egypt. During the 1860s and 1870s, British and French financial interests had invested heavily in Egypt as the country modernised. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1867 was an example of this, and the waterway was soon considered to be a vital strategic and trade artery of the British Empire. By the late 1870s, there were growing concerns about the Egyptian government's indebtedness, resulting in greater Franco-British controls over the country's finances. This provoked a response from nationalist Army officers in what was known as the Egyptian National Movement, who demanded a more assertive defence of their country's interests. This group was led by Ahmed Urabi Pasha (known to European contemporaries as Arabi Pasha), and was in conflict with the country's ruler, the Khedive, who was accused of being subservient to European interests (the Khedive was a viceroy, formally subject to the Ottoman Sultan, but in practice enjoying considerable autonomy).

The National Movement gained increasing powers over the government, with Urabi becoming minister of war. In the summer of 1882, anti-European riots broke out in Alexandria. A British naval force was sent to Alexandria, bombarding its forts and occupying the city. Urabi raised an army to counter the intervention, which in turn led to the British government dispatching a much larger British-Indian expeditionary force under General Garnet Wolseley, which was charged with defeating Urabi Pasha, and restoring the authority of the Khedive. Wolseley's force arrived at Alexandria in August 1882, with plans to advance up the Nile to seize Cairo. A change of plan saw British forces dispatched to the Suez Canal, where they set up base at Ismailia. On 13 September 1882, Wolseley's army decisively defeated Urabi's forces at Tel-el-Kebir. This was followed by the British occupation of Cairo, the capture of Urabi and the restoration of the Khedive. This marked the beginning of what was known as the "veiled protectorate", with Britain taking an increasingly dominant role in the government of Egypt.

Conditions Governing Access

The manuscript is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

The manuscript was purchased by the Library from B. Hall on 28 September 1970 along with another item for a total of £40.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the manuscript can be supplied for private research and study purposes only, depending on the condition of the manuscript.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the manuscript. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, The John Rylands Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.

Custodial History

The custodial history of the item prior to purchase is unknown.


There are several military studies of the Anglo-Egyptian war, including J. F. Maurice, Military history of the campaign of 1882 in Egypt (London 1887) , M J Williams "The Egyptian campaign of 1882" on Brian Bond (ed.), Victorian military campaigns (London 1967)  and Halik Kochanski, Sir Garnet Wolseley: Victorian hero (London 1999) .

Geographical Names