Fighting the Aliab Dinka Southern Sudan, November 1919 – May 1920

This entry is part 2 of 6 in the series Harry Fecitt

 

Chauncey Stigand

In southern Sudan in 1919 the Aliab Dinka, Bor Dinka and Mandari tribes inhabited an area west of the upper White Nile river.  The tribesmen tended to be tall and fit-looking cattle herders who were adept at using spears.  They had little if any time for western conventions such as wearing clothing or paying tax demands.  The shared governing authority in the Sudan was a joint Anglo-Egyptian condominium in which the British held the higher administrative posts and Egyptians the lower ones.

But nobody did much to help the tribesmen, who were expected to pay tax and to provide labour for the Hakuma (government) on demand, without the tribes receiving any economic benefits.  Unscrupulous and corrupt policemen and administrators misused their authority to profit from the tribes-people, and resentment grew.  The British were unaware of this as their representative, the local inspector, spoke neither Arabic nor Dinka.

The outbreak of violence

On 30th October 1919 3,000 Aliab Dinkah men attacked the police post at Mekamon, near Bor.  Several policemen were killed and the post was evacuated, news of this uprising being sent to the Provincial Headquarters at Mongalla.  At the same time Mandari tribesmen who lived just south of the Dinka area attacked and killed some telegraph linesmen and police.

The 42-year old Provincial Governor, El Miralai (Brigadier or Colonel) Chauncey Hugh Stigand OBE, Royal West Kent Regiment, was very experienced in African matters and had written many books describing his travels and thoughts.  He ordered El Kaimakam (Lieutenant Colonel) Richard Finch White DSO, Essex Regiment, to take several companies of the Egyptian Army Equatorial Battalion into the troubled area to deal with the situation.

Sharp spears

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White’s troops had the firepower but the Dinkas had courage, knowledge of the ground and superior tactical ability.  Stigand went out on patrol himself, and on 8th December whilst the British were moving through long grass around one thousand Aliab Dinkas sprang an ambush.  Stigand, White, El Yuzbashi (Captain) Saad Osman and 24 soldiers and porters were speared to death.

The surviving British troops rallied under El Bimbashi (Major) Frank Crowther Roberts VC, DSO and Bar, MC, Worcestershire Regiment, and drove off the Dinkas.  Three other British officers present were Bimbashis William Heneage Wynne Finch MC, Scots Guards, Arthur Leslie Kent-Lemon CBE, York and Lancaster Regiment, and Bimbashi J.D. Lawrence MC, Manchester Regiment.  At the end of the day the British held the battlefield but they had been humiliated and their prestige was in tatters.  Roberts conducted a fighting withdrawal to Tombe where Stigand and White were buried on the bank of the White Nile.  Plans for retribution were now made.

The punitive expedition

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Ast, 10th, 12th, 13th, 14th and Equatorial Battalions provided the infantry.  Mounted Infantry and Camel Corps troops rode in support, and an artillery battery and a machine gun company added extra fire power.  Local knowledge was obtained by using troops from the Bahr el Ghazal Territorial unit.

Darwal established his force at Pap and began to gradually clear the area of rebel Dinkas.  The British patrols were slow and unwieldy and initially the tribesmen and their herds could avoid them.  But in the end over 400 Dinka, Atwot and Mandori tribesmen were killed, many villages were burnt and around 7,000 cattle were seized.  This was sufficient punitive action to make the leader of the rebellion, Kon Anok, surrender and submit to condominium authority.  Kon Anok later died of poison believed to have been self-administered.  The Aliab Dinka did not rebel again.

Ironically Stigand would not have been too happy with the punishment delivered against tribesmen armed only with spears, as he felt that such action only targeted the innocent.  However his administration had failed by allowing the rebellion to break out in the first place.  Sadly the British, using the excuse of being short of personnel, did not improve conditions for the Aliab Dinka after the rebellion, and for a time there was no British inspector in the area.

 

Sudanese infantry form a square

A clasp to the silver Khedive’s Sudan Medal

A clasp titled ALIAB DINKA, written in English and Arabic, was awarded for service in the operational area between 8th November 1919 and 6th May 1920.

Other awards:

Commander of the Military Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE):

Miralai Robert Henry Darwall DSO.

Officer of the Military Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE):

Bimbashis:

Roy Gerard Corcor Brock, Royal West Kent Regiment.

John Henry Brocklehurst, Coldstream Guards.

Vere Henry Fergusson, Cameronians.

Frank Crowther Roberts VC, DSO, MC, Worcestershire Regiment.

Mention in Despatches: the above five officers were all mentioned in despatches.

The Order of the Nile Third Class:

Miralai Robert Henry Darwall CBE, DSO.

The Order of the Nile Fourth Class:

Bimbashis:

Collen Edward Melville Richards DSO, MC, East Lancashire Regiment.

William Heneage Wynne-Finch MC, Scots Guards.

William Gerald Cowley, The Essex Regiment.

Lionel Carrington Bostock MC, The Manchester Regiment.

John Davies Lawrence MC, The Manchester Regiment.

Eric Douglas Mackay Heriot-Hill, Royal Army Medical Corps.

Stanley Arnott MB, Royal Army Medical Corps.

Roy Gerard Corcor Brock OBE, Royal West Kent Regiment.

Officers on the campaign from the North and East Lancashire Regiments:

These two Bimbashis were awarded the clasp ALIAB DINKA to the silver Khedive’s Sudan Medal:

Collen Edward Melville Richards DSO, MC, The East Lancashire Regiment. (See Order of the Nile Fourth Class above.)

Alured Fauncett Primatt Knapp, The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment (he managed transport on the campaign).

SOURCES:

Empire on the Nile: The Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, 1898-1934 by M.W. Daly.

Soldiers of the Nile by Henry Keown-Boyd.

British Battles and Medals by John Hayward, Diana Birch and Richard Bishop.

London Gazette Supplements:

17 June 1921 pp 4888-4889; 22 April 1921 p 3186; 23 May 1922 p 3960; 8 August 1922 p5958.

Administration in Tropical Africa: Chapter XXIII, Armed Forces by Captain C.H. Stigand (freely downloadable at:

http://www.archive.org/stream/administrationin00stigrich#page/n5/mode/2up )

The Melik Society website:

http://www.melik.org.uk/articles/soldiers-of-the-nile/chauncey-stigand/

Series NavigationThe Final Shots in Portuguese East AfricaThe Action Around OK Pass, Somaliland Protectorate, 1st to 3rd March 1919
  • samuel Mwalimu

    Dear Peterbasterafrica,

    I’m a Sudanese Students studying in the USA, and was fascinated by valuable resources on Dinka on your websites. I would like to request whether there are other important resources or links on the Dinka Bor, Aliab Dinka and etc.
    Thanks for your help.

  • http://peterbaxterafrica.com Emmanuel Malual

    Thank you Harry Fecitt, I am Sudanese-American student living In the United States and this is great sources and it is hard to believe that it is true story as far I understanding the whole context and I would like author or authors to post more articles, books or memos related to Aliab Dinka and it neighbors such as Mandari and Bor Dinka who fighting during the British era. Chief Kon Anok was great hero who give up his life to served tribesmen in his time and it is pleasure to learn and read this story and I believe that Chief Kon Anok is the foundation of story in Aliab Dinka during British period up to present time and I founded his Statue in University of Juba, South Sudan in 2009.

  • http://peterbaxterafrica.com Malual

    It is my pleasure to learn this great history and also it is my first time to read this fascistic story in my entire life. It is truly that for God sake Aliab Dinka, Mundari and Bor Dinka participators during the fighting in 1919 to 1920 are heroes because they were fought to prevent British, Egyptian and Equatorial powers to demands taxation from local villages in their time. Now, South Sudan history begins and Southern Sudan will again her Independence in July 2011. South Sudan will start writing their own history even some tribes in Southern Sudan fought for same problems like Aliab Dinka, Bor Dinka and Mundari in 1919 to 1920 for self-depended to prevent British or Egyptian power to get more taxations from these local villages and also colony exploration in their territorial disputes are disregarded.
    Truly, tribesmen fought for their own rights, the rights to prevent colonial to get all resources they need for development in their own countries and also impeding colony from exploring some areas that are not legitimately needed in those areas. Tribesmen are considered as indigenous people in our time but in their time tribesmen are considered as enemy of state by colonial government because they colonial officials did not recognized them as they people of the land and colonial government did not provides true government such as in our time recognized the rights of people such as self-government in which people can elect their representatives and I believe in their time indigenous people were naturally smart.
    I think that Aliab Dinka tribesmen fighting between 1919 and 1920 with British, Egyptian and Equatorial are heroics and their ideals to fighting with colonial powers seem to me very important and conflict grew over disputes and taxations problem and economics development in Southern Sudan were not same because not only in term of education level but lack of power sharing and resources goes in hand of few people and many people are manipulated in their lands.
    I favored Chief Kon Anok who gave up his life and his tribesmen fighting to British, Egyptian and Equatorial to served his tribesmen life and worked toward freedom among all Aliab people and their colonial friends and brought permanent peace for all people in particular region even Chief Kon Anok was hanged by colonial government but he did not died alone in calaboose cell but I believe he was assassinated in calaboose cell.

  • Abolish Madol Nyinger

    I would like to thank you and my honored to you Harry for the great website about the Dinka Aliab of South Sudan who ransomed their lives for their own people sake. Which were under the British empire colonists. As a matter of fact, I am indeed familiar with the story when growing up since this is where my roots come from, but it was only in a myth, African ways tradition telling stories and now it is a true living history it is a good message to people that do not believed it. I had never came across the written document about the fearless Aliab tribesmen that devoted themselves to fought the British soldiers with their allies of the time the Arabs and, the Equatorias collaborators. British were fighting them with guns, big artilleries, and faster war running horses and they were only using African spears to fight the well off arms best arm of their time,to the best of knowledge the tribesmen consistently remained royal to their land and bowed to die to protect their fathers, mothers, wives, and children. I want to pay tributes to Kon Anok, chiefs, and tribesmen they were [are] heroes. Kon did not die alone, he was assassinated he gave his life up to set the innocence to let them free in the hands British arms in own territory that what happen to him together with his chiefs.

  • Simon Gai Manyiel

    I love that history in my life to hear about aliab. when i heard it seemed as dream in my mind. i appreciated those people who this topic online.

  • Michael m

    I want to thank Harry for the brief story of Aliab Dinka warriors in late 1900s. Tradtionally, I had heard these stories from Aliab folkstory tellers in community some years back and to my suprise, i did not know that our Aliab traditional stories are recorded somewhere else in the world. Harry, keep doing good work of updating Aliab people worldwide about past and current contemporary eveents. Michael Mangol

  • Deng Hishim

    Thank you this great website, we can’t uphold our IDENTITY without history.

  • Mading Abraham

    I,m proud for the history of my fellows South Sudanese especially great Yirol Dinka Aliap area were Kon Anok Was die for the sake of his people,s and the history of Kon Anok was now remain to be remember by the people,s of South Sudan as well as late Dr. John Garang implemented the need of Southerners that was start by Kon Anok in 1919 to 1920, the dream of the early leaders can not be forgotten by the people.
    thanks for the resources that produce by Harry and I would like you to provide me with any necessary information of the history between Dinka Aliap,Bor and Mandiri tirbes.
    I,m from South Sudan and studies in South Sudan international college doing public administration programm and at the same time doing Diploma in education.

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