A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 21

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ALEXANDRIA BOMBARDED IN 1882


Egyptian finances in the hands of a dual board of control, British and French, with the inevitable result that the board became in effect, though not in form, largely responsible for the government; a state of things by no means to the liking of the officials, drawn for the most part from other parts of the Turkish empire, who had hitherto battened according to custom upon the khedive’s helpless subjects and the revenues, of which latter only a fraction reached the treasury.

It was not difficult, in the circumstances, to raise the cry of Egypt for the Egyptians, or to draw an army colonel, Arabi Pasha, into the role of patriot leader and champion of the anti-foreign sentiment. Ismail’s successor, Tewfik, found himself powerless; the anti-foreign agitation became a grave danger to the very considerable European population in Alexandria and elsewhere. The Porte (the suzerain) would not and the khedive could not do anything. The French and British governments offered Tewfik their support at the beginning of 1882, and sent naval squadrons; the only effect was to produce riots. A European conference was called to deal judicially with the problem, but the position at Alexandria and the menace to the Europeans there from Arabi's troops were too critical for delay. The British admiral took the responsibility, which the French admiral declined to share, of sending an ultimatum to Arabi, and, when it was ignored, of opening a bombardment and occupying Alexandria, while the French retired.

The force at the admiral’s disposal was obviously inadequate for the restoration of order and security. With due notification to the sultan, troops were dispatched to Egypt from England and India. Arabi’s army was shattered in a brief and decisive campaign, and he himself was deported. But the whole situation had been changed. The khedive's government — anything that could be called a government — could be restored only by the British. In the public interest the British on their own sole responsibility had taken upon themselves to do the thing that was admittedly necessary, but which no one else had been ready or willing to undertake either alone or in conjunction with them; the French had had the opportunity to take part in the operation, but had deliberately rejected it.

The British thereupon occupied Egypt as the Austrians had occupied Bosnia, on the theory that they would evacuate it as soon as a government had been established which could stand securely

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