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.
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
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.
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.
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):
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:
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).
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:
The Melik Society website: