The war, special telegram to the Liverpool Daily Post

Alexandria, July 11th, Afternoon

In accordance with Admiral SEYMOUR’S ultimatum the bombardment of the Egyptian forts commenced at 7 o’ clock this morning, when the signal “commence firing” was made from the Admiral’s ship. The next instant a shot from the INVINCIBLE fell into the Meks Fort, and the Egyptians promptly returning the fire, all the British ironclads were engaged.

One hour after the time of the opening fire a well-directed shell from the INVINCIBLE caused the magazine in the newly constructed fort of Marsa-el-Kanat to explode in a mighty roar, scattering death and destruction in all directions.

The MONARCH with her well-directed 25 ton guns pitched shell after shell into the lighthouse fort until the work seemed a ruin. Then turning her attention to Fort Napoleon she gave the native gunners little respite.

The MONARCH formed the advance of the fleet, on the west, the ships lying around Alexandria in the shape of a horseshoe, on the extreme east the SUPERB and the SULTAN were hotly engaged with forts Pharos and Ada.

Fort Pharos soon exhibited signs of the heavy cannonade, with breaches in the walls and dismounted guns. Fort Ada maintained an obstinate fire for hours, when the INFLEXIBLE having come into position, the magazine exploded and the guns on the peninsular where all silenced.

Alexandria 7pm

After heavy bombardment lasting ten hours and a half, firing ceased at 5.30, all forts were silenced and no reply was coming from the forts, the Admiral gave the order “cease fire”.

The Admiral sent ashore officers and men, eight in total, who proceeded to the ruined forts and burst up the guns with dynamite

Alexandria July 12th 2pm

Thick haze and heavy swell rendered naval operations in the early morning a matter of great difficulty.

The ironclads only occasionally seen steaming slowly along the shore. Just before 11am the weather cleared, the INFLEXIBLE and the TEMERAIRE were seen in position, the big ship directly after sent one of her massive shells into the Moncrieffe Fort, which it appeared the Egyptians had made some attempts to repair during the night. The TEMERAIRE anchored end on and followed suit, six shots fired in all before the Admiral signalled “cease fire”. No attempt was made to reply to the British guns, from the sea the forts appeared completely deserted.

The ironclads continued to steam along the shore, in front of the ruined batteries, the gunboats creeping close in to the dismantled forts. Tempted by the lull in the battle a few of the merchant vessels lying off the port made for closer quarters, a small gunboat was seen steaming out of the harbour towards the British fleet, bearing a flag of truce, making its way towards the Admiral’s ship. A white flag was then seen flying over the arsenal.

Fires have broken out in various parts of Alexandria today, it is conjecture by those afloat that pillagers are at work in the town.

Alexandria 8.45pm

The SULTAN, SUPERB, TEMERAIRE, INFLEXIBLE, ALEXANDRA and ACHILLES have taken up positions. Will probably shell the other ports in the morning, fires still burning, white flags flying.

Alexandria July 12th 9pm

White flag still flying, still up when the sun went down, fires still burning, seem to be spreading. The SULTAN, TEMERAIRE, INFLEXIBLE, ALEXANDRA and ACHILLES have drawn up in readiness to renew the bombardment in the morning. The other ironclads with all the gunboats are in the outer harbour.

Alexandria July 13th, 2pm

All last night flames which had broken out in several parts of Alexandria were seen to be spreading, flag of truce still up at daybreak, vessels of the fleet still cruising about. DECOY sent to Port Said to get information.

A European who escaped to the boats this morning states the officers gave permission to the soldiery to commence plundering. It was not until the troops had evacuated that the real horrors commenced. Then the mob broke in every house worth looting, and the spoils were carried off as fast as they could be got together.

Any European found were slaughtered, without mercy, natives who resisted were similarly served.

Robbery, murder and rapine ran rampant through the city. Buildings cleared of valuables were set on fire, blackened corpses were left in the street, some undoubtedly murdered for the sake of their valuables.

The officers of the fleet are chagrined at the escape of Arabi. Had a strong force been launched after the bombardment, it is almost certain Arabi would have been crushed and the army dispersed.

Admiral SEYMOUR was unwilling to take this course without definite instructions from home, operations here now are mainly dependant upon orders from headquarters.

Alexandria Jul 13th 8pm

A force of 500/600 marines and sailors have been landed by order of the Admiral. Since this morning nothing has been heard of what is going on, on shore, nothing can be seen from the vessels, but shots have been heard, which is believed signals fired by the expeditionary party.


The Khedive and Dervish Pasha who were in a place of safety during the terrible scenes of last night, have found their way to the fleet and are now safe on board one of the vessels in the harbour.


Appalling description from the Daily Telegraph

On board the ACHILLES, Thurs 11.15am

Early this morning Colonel LONG, the African explorer and myself, determined to enter Alexandria to see for ourselves what was going on.

At daybreak we found the English fleet, lying in two squadrons.

One squadron off Pharos Fort, The ALEXANDRA, ACHILLES [just arrived] SULTAN, INFLEXIBLE, TEMERAIRE and the NEPTUNE.

The second the MONARCH, PENELOPE and INVINCIBLE lay outside the harbour.

From this last squadron we saw the Admiral send off the HELICON with a flag of truce, and saw the ships moving slowly into the outer harbour. The HELICON having anchored, the rest passed her and anchored just inside the breakwater.

Taking our boat we sailed towards the shore, passing the HELICON, INVINCIBLE, PENELOPE and MONARCH on our way.

Scarcely had we got beyond the large ironclads, when we came up with the BEACON Gunboat. We learned that the town was in the hands of Arabi’s party. We went on to the inner harbour and met a steam launch coming up flying an English flag. A man cried out, “the town is in the hands of the Bedouins, they have fired the European quarter”. We could see the smoke ascending in dense volumes, but determined to proceed at all hazards.

In the inner harbour where three Egyptian ships, flying the Egyptian flag, not molested we continued up the harbour to the palace, there the whole of the European quarters was in flames, the wings of the palace was hit by shells and injured by fire. Some buildings were also burned in the Arab quarter close by.

The Grand Square, where the dreadful riots took place on the 11th of June, were also on fire, all the European streets leading from the square were burning.

The conflagration now covers an area of about a mile in length, a fearful, body of flame rising, a heavy smoke hangs over head, the air too hot to even approach the scene.

I saw no natives and was told by an Arab that they had fled en masse, towards the canal. The Egyptian soldiers had evacuated all the batteries and fortresses and were gathered together in considerable force in the neighbourhood of Mohurran Bay, at the outer part of the city suburbs.

The soldiers had done nothing to stop the conflagration or prevent the plundering, not a soul was trying to arrest the destruction everywhere, overtaking the city.

The danger from the flames and falling buildings, too great, I retreated and coming through the deserted streets reached the harbour at 10 o’ clock. I saw the INVINCIBLE fire two shells at the outer part of the city. I then came round to the other side of the town and saw the telegraph ship getting under way to re-enter the harbour.

I am now going over to the new port to see if I can land and get an idea how far the conflagration extends.

It is my firm opinion that the whole European quarter of Alexandria is doomed to destruction.

Alexandria Thurs 9.20pm

We perceived sailors and marines on a despatch steamer getting ready to receive the Khedive who had been on retirement at Ramleh. Here the commander warned us not to go alone, but we ventured to push on to the Post Office where there also arrived a party of marines and sailors from the INVINCIBLE. These formed a column at the bottom of the street leading to the city. On going along with them we saw Arabs firing on a private house and plundering others.

Here we had a small street fight, but the mob thickened and the officers fell back for reinforcement, which came presently in the welcome shape of the Gatling gun from the MONARCH.

A second advance was made into the middle of the street, after a short, sharp fight the area was cleared. The officer finding his force very, small, judged it better not to push to the centre of the quarter.

Meanwhile a number of Europeans, who had hidden from the time of the bombardment came running down, some French ladies amongst them whose condition was pitiable. From them we learned that the Christians, that could be, had been killed, they themselves had hidden in cellars.


The projectiles fired from the INFLEXIBLE weigh 1,700lbs each, they leave the muzzle of the gun with a velocity of about 1.600 ft, a third of a mile a second, at a range of 1,000 yds, after having lost 100 ft of their muzzle velocity, they would penetrate about twenty three and a half inches of solid wrought iron.

The common shells contain 60lbs of powder and the charge of the gun, no less than 450lbs of prismatic powder.


Central News correspondent, July 6th says;-

Channel Fleet consisting of the MINOTAUR, AGINCOURT, NORTHUMBERLAND, ACHILLES and SALAMIS could furnish a contingent of 1,800 men for an occupation of Egypt. The large vessels could convey 800 troops each, should it be necessary to bring troops from Malta.

They have several Gatling and small guns, which could be landed for field service. These ships have left Malta for Cyprus, now within easy reach of Alexandria should her consorts require assistance.


Fortunately damage to the vessels proved to be slight, and not to have in any way interfered with their fighting power.

SULTAN and SUPERB, both shot through the funnel, the formers mainmast also pierced with a cannon ball.

ALEXANDRA and SUPERB’S hulls showed traces of having been under fire.

INFLEXIBLE, the swinging boats of the turret ram damaged.


Correspondent of the times

Our gunboats at the beginning of the action were supposed to be out of range but the CYGNET crept in close enough to use her guns. The CONDOR went away to the west-ward to engage the Marabout Fort. This she had to do all herself for over an hour, when the BITTERN and the BEACON were signalled by the flagship to go to her aid, these, the only two gunboats signalled to go, the DECOY seemed to think she should join to. The manner in which the little CONDOR steamed out to a large port and pounded away, unsupported, elicited general admiration.

The INVINCIBLE'S firing was second to none.

Writes a correspondent :-

I must mention the admiration here felt by every eye-witness for the glorious little gunboat CONDOR, and her gallant commander Lord Charles BERESFORD. She did not come quite unscathed out of the duel which she waged with the Marabout Fort, the formidable batteries there being engaged by her for a long time single-handed, steaming backwards and forwards in front of the big guns of the island she managed like a tug and fought like a three-decker. Everyone is talking about her on board the foreign ships, and praising the splendid and skilful manner in which she “backed and fired” into the big Marabout battery, giving them her heavy stern gun, leaving little or nothing for the Egyptians to shoot at, though one raking shell may have settled her.

BERESFORD’S handling of his little vessel was indeed one of the finest things seen, and gained from the Admiral a special signal of thanks.

The fire from the INVINCIBLE was admired for its precision. Much of its success of the cannonade was said to be due to the quickness of a young middy named HARDY, stationed on the maintop, he observed the effects of the shells and reported them on deck. The young officer subsequently joined the landing party


Europeans had great difficulty getting away. Two English men engineers on board the tug CHAMPION were seized by the Arab crew, and were being carried off, when the gunboat BITTERN started in pursuit and rescued them. The last two Englishmen to come on board were Mr CORNISH the manager of the waterworks and Mr ROUTH secretary of the Porte trusts.

Copyright 2002 / To date