But From Merawi
To Abu Hamed The River Is Broken By Continual Cataracts, And The Broken
Ground Of Both Banks Made A Railway Nearly An Impossibility.
of the French expeditions towards the Upper Nile counselled speed.
The poverty of Egypt compelled economy.
The Nile route, though sure,
would be slow and very expensive. A short cut must be found. Three daring
and ambitious schemes presented themselves: (1) the line followed by the
Desert Column in 1884 from Korti to Metemma; (2) the celebrated, if not
notorious, route from Suakin to Berber; (3) across the Nubian desert
from Korosko or Wady Halfa to Abu Hamed.
The question involved the whole strategy of the war. No more important
decision was ever taken by Sir Herbert Kitchener, whether in office or in
action. The request for a British division, the attack On Mahmud's zeriba,
the great left wheel towards Omdurman during that battle, the treatment
of the Marchand expedition, were matters of lesser resolve than the
selection of the line of advance. The known strength of the Khalifa made
it evident that a powerful force would be required for the destruction
of his army and the capture of his capital. The use of railway transport
to some point on the Nile whence there was a clear waterway was therefore
imperative. Berber and Metemma were known, and Abu Hamed was believed,
to fulfil this condition. But both Berber and Metemma were important
strategic points. It was improbable that the Dervishes would abandon
these keys to Khartoum and the Soudan without severe resistance.
It seemed likely, indeed, that the Khalifa would strongly reinforce both
towns, and desperately contest their possession.
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