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already a figure of heroic proportions in England, to consider the means by which the Egyptian troops could be safely withdrawn.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.