[ 13 September 1842 ]

On this day in 1842, having defeated Afghan forces ranged against them at Tezin Pass, the victorious British troops began several days of appalling retribution against Afghan villagers for the massacre nine months earlier of a British army of occupation which had been forced to retreat from Kabul. All men and boys over the age of fourteen were killed. Historian Saul David describes it as “an orgy of pillage and murder.”[1]


[ 13 September 1857 ]

On this day in 1857, British troops captured and ransacked Delhi during the Empire’s repression of the Indian mutiny, killing almost everyone they saw and looting almost every home. Lieutenant Charles Griffiths commented

“There is no more terrible a spectacle than a city taken by storm. All the pent up passion of men are here let loose without restraint. Roused to a pitch of fury from long continued resistance and eager to take vengeance on the murderers of women and children, the men in their pitiless rage showed no mercy… Each street was filled with a mass of debris consisting of household effects of every kind… Not a single house or building remaining intact.”[2]


[ 13 September 1882 ]

On this day in 1882, a British army which was advancing on Cairo, under the command of General Sir Garnet Wolseley, killed hundreds of Egyptian who were either fleeing or lying wounded on the battlefield of Tel el-Kebir.  A reporter who watched the battle, informed his readers that British cavalry committed “fearful execution among the rebels” and another recounted how “the slaughter was simply horrible…. (the Egyptians) being literally mown down in hundreds as they fled,” and he estimated the number of Egyptian killed at between three and four thousand.[3]  About a thousand of whom, according to the correspondent of The Times, had been “cut down by the cavalry and shot as they retreated.”[4]

Nor were the wounded spared. The correspondent of the Stockholm Dagblad  saw with his “own eyes how the Egyptian wounded in the trenches of Tel el-Kebir, half an hour after the attack, were killed by English soldiers,” even though they “were “incapable of offering any resistance,” while an Austrian officer attached to the British headquarters, also “witnessed the slaughter of the wounded in a helpless condition”, adding his own opinion that “fewer were killed in the heat of battle than were murdered long afterwards by plundering English soldiers.”[5]

Many British officers admitted the mass slaughter, telling a reporter with the Cologne Gazette that they “could do nothing to prevent it,” although a colonel “frowned when I spoke of murder,” explaining that the soldiers had “spared nobody” because “they could not ask every wounded man  whether he would perhaps fire at a better opportunity,” adding that the men were “carried away by the heat of the fight.”[6]


  1. Saul David (2007), “Victoria’s Wars: The Rise of Empire,” Penguin Books, London, p71.
  2. Charles John Griffiths, A Narrative of the Siege of Delhi with an Account of the Mutiny with an Account of the Mutiny at Ferozopore in 1857,  J Murray, London, 1910
  3. “The British Victory at Tel el-Kebir,” The Nottingham Evening Post, 14 September 1882, p4 and “The Victory at Tel el-Kebir,” The Sheffield Independent, 15 September 1882, p2.
  4. The Times quoted in St. James’s Gazette, 15 September 1882 p10. See also Piers Brendon, The Decline and Fall of the British Empire, 1781-1997, Jonathan Cape, London 2007, p168
  5. The Belfast Evening Telegraph, 9 October 1882, p4 and “Foreign Opinion on Egyptian Events: Grave Charges Against British Soldiers,” The Derby Mercury, 11 October 1882, p3
  6. Ibid.





“The British cavalry cut down fugitives by the score” and “the trenches… (were) filled with dead, mostly bayoneted, and the ground in rear as far as the railway station was dotted with the bodies of those shot down in the retreat.”[1]

  1. Charles Royle, The Egyptian Campaigns 1882 to 1885 and the events which led to them, Vol 1, Hurst and Blackett, London, 1886 p327.

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