The Somaliland Expedition. Colonel Plunkett's Disaster. Trapped. The Fight to the Death - near Gumbura


This pencil drawing and watercolor was created by Melton Prior (1845–1910) in British Somaliland (the northern part of present-day Somalia) in 1903. Prior had been sent by the Illustrated London News to cover a small conflict that had erupted between the British authorities and Mohammed bin Abdulla Hassan (circa 1856–1920), the “Mad Mullah” of Somaliland. On April 17, a small British force of some 230 British and Sikh troops, at left in the image, was surrounded by about 14,000 Somalis charging from all directions and completely destroyed. Prior was not present but based his drawing on accounts from a few survivors and prisoners. The picture was published on June 6, 1903. As he wrote in his autobiography, “This was not a satisfactory campaign.” Prior was one of the leading “special artists” employed by the Illustrated London News in the late 19th–early 20th century. He supplied numerous illustrations of military conflicts in Africa, Asia, Spain, the Balkans, and Crete, as well as of events such as royal tours and marriages. The drawing is from the Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection at the Brown University Library.

Last updated: January 8, 2018