Embarkation of the New South Wales troops for the Sudan

Accession Number ART19881
Collection type Art
Measurement sheet: 40.7 x 28.3 cm; image: 22.6 x 22.1 cm
Object type Print
Physical description wood engraving on paper
Maker George Rossi Ashton
The Illustrated Australian News
Date made 1885
Conflict Sudan, 1885

Item copyright: Copyright expired - public domain

Public Domain Mark This item is in the Public Domain


Depicts men of the NSW Contingent (infantry and artillery) boarding a ship (either SS Iberia or SS Australasian) to sail to Sudan with a crowd of civilians on wharf to see them off, after the artist George Rossi Ashton (1857-1942), which appeared on the cover of the 'Illustrated Australian News'. Ashton was a painter, illustrator and cartoonist who came to Australia at the encouragement of his brother Julian Ashton. He remained in Australia for 14 years, mainly working as an illustrator for various newspapers. Between March- June 1885, the NSW Contingent served in Sudan, Africa. 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. The NSW contingent anchored at Suakin, Sudan's Red Sea port, on 29 March 1885 and were attached to a brigade composed of Scots, Grenadiers and Coldstream Guards. Shortly after their arrival they marched as part of a large "square" formation -on this occasion made up of 10,000 men - for Tamai, a village some 30 kilometres inland. Not having participated in any battles, Australian casualties were few: those who died fell to disease rather than enemy action. By May 1885 the British government had decided to abandon the campaign and left only a garrison in Suakin. The Australian contingent sailed for home on 17 May 1885, arriving back in Sydney on 19 June. It was generally agreed at the time that, no matter how small the military significance of the Australian contribution to the War in Sudan, it marked an important stage in the development of colonial self-confidence and was proof of the enduring link with Britain.