I was very pleased recently to receive an email from a Mr Land. His grandfather was a cousin of Admiral Earl Beatty and Mr Land was interested in my account of the Royal Navy's presence at the Battle of Omdurman where a young Lieutenant David Beatty commanded the gunboat Fateh. In the prologue of my novel, Now the Darkness Gathers, I mention the gunboat Melik. Mr Land has a photo of himself standing before this very boat. The gunboat still survives the battle and, until 1989, was the clubhouse of the Blue Nile Sailing Club at Khartoum. A group of enthusiasts, The Melik Society, has been formed to improve awareness of British and Sudanese history and it hopes, too, to raise sufficient funds to preserve and restore the Melik. Should you wish to know more of the society, see their website at www.melik.org.uk.
It may come as a surprise to many to learn that the Royal Navy was involved in the Battle of Omdurman, deep in the interior of the Sudan. Kitchener’s forces were transported down the Nile and the flotilla of craft employed included a number of gunboats, largely commanded by Royal Navy officers. The gunboats were heavily armed and the guns manned by Royal Marines. In addition to the heavy weaponry, they were equipped with powerful searchlights and, as my readers will discover, these were to have an important effect on the battle.