# 26140

GOERGS, Karl Wilhelm

[SHEET MUSIC; SOUDAN CONTINGENT] The Harp of the Southern Cross : Australia’s message.

$135.00 AUD

  • Ask a question

/ by Karl Wilhelm Goergs. Author of Echoes of Australia &c. Cover: “For the Patriotic Fund”. Sydney : [K.W. Goergs?], 1885. Folio (345 x 250 mm), disbound, decorative covers featuring a diagram of the Southern Cross with the date March 3rd, 1885 (closely trimmed at top and bottom edges), [2] pp music notation (arrangement for voice and piano) and lyrics; rear cover with full listing by name of all members of the New South Wales Soudan Contingent (the heading “Authentic list of the Contingent” has been cropped) and below it a list of contributors to the Patriotic Fund with amounts contributed (cropped at the foot); scattered foxing to covers and inside pages, else good.

Very scarce. Trove locates only two copies (NLA; SLNSW).

‘Sudan (New South Wales Contingent) March-June 1885.

In the early 1880s the British-backed Egyptian regime in the Sudan was threatened by an indigenous rebellion under the leadership of Muhammed Ahmed, known to his followers as the Mahdi. In 1883 the Egyptian government, with British acquiescence, sent an army south to crush the revolt. Instead of destroying the Mahdi’s forces, the Egyptians were soundly defeated, leaving their government with the problem of extricating the survivors. The difficulties of evacuating their forces in the face of a hostile enemy quickly became apparent, and the British were persuaded to send General Charles Gordon, already a figure of heroic proportions in England, to consider the means by which the Egyptian troops could be safely withdrawn. Disregarding his instructions, Gordon sought instead to delay the evacuation and defeat the Mahdi. Like the Egyptians, Gordon failed and found himself besieged in Khartoum. The popular general’s predicament stirred public opinion in England, leading to demands for an expeditionary force to be dispatched to his rescue. The relief force was sent from Cairo in September 1884, but it was still fighting its way up the Nile when Gordon was killed in late January the following year. Gordon’s exploits were well known throughout the British Empire, and when the telegraph brought word of his death to New South Wales in February 1885 it was met with recriminations against the Liberal government led by William Gladstone for having failed to act in time.

Volunteers for the NSW Infantry Contingent for the Sudan at Victoria Barracks, Sydney, shortly before the contingent’s departure on 3 March 1885. With news of Gordon’s death and the Canadian government’s offer of troops for the Sudan, the NSW government cabled London with its own offer. To make its proposal more attractive, it offered to meet the contingent’s expenses. London accepted but stipulated that the contingent would be under British command. Similar offers from the other Australian colonies were declined. The British government’s acceptance of the contingent was received with enthusiasm by the NSW government and members of the armed forces. It was seen as a historic occasion, marking the first time that soldiers in the pay of a self-governing Australian colony were to fight in an imperial war.

The contingent, an infantry battalion of 522 men and 24 officers, and an artillery battery of 212 men, was ready to sail on 3 March 1885. It left Sydney amid much public fanfare, generated in part by the holiday declared to farewell the troops. The send-off was described as the most festive occasion in the colony’s history. Support was not, however, universal, and many viewed the proceedings with indifference or even hostility. The nationalist Bulletin ridiculed the contingent both before and after its return. Meetings intended to launch a patriotic fund and endorse the government’s action were poorly attended in many working-class suburbs, and many of those who turned up voted against the fund. In some country centres there was a significant anti-war response, while miners in rural districts were said to be in “fierce opposition”.’ (Australian War Memorial)