The Battle of Omdurman was fought in Sudan in 1898. In a ferocious clash, the British force (of which some two-thirds were in fact Egyptian and Sudanese) led by General Kitchener destroyed a Dervish army while taking only light casualties themselves. The Islamist-nationalist rebellion which had defeated all opposition through the 1880s was brought to a bloody end. Kitchener was welcomed back to Britain as a hero.
This telescoping pencil was made to commemorate the battle; it is made from a real .303 rifle cartridge, but the "bullet" portion is hollow silver. The quality of manufacture is excellent, and while the pencil bears the name of Mappin Brothers as retailers, it is probable that Sampson Mordan & Co. were the actual makers. Contemporary notices confirm that the cartridge case is itself a battlefield relic; the headstamps are for a Woolwich-made Mark IV Ball cartridge, a hollow-point round introduced shortly before Omdurman and pulled from service not long thereafter. Mappin Brothers advertised that 10% of the sales price of these pencils would go to benefit the Gordon Memorial College at Khartoum.
One side of the brass cartridge is engraved "OMDURMAN".
The other bears the slogan, "Remember Gordon".
General Charles George "Chinese" Gordon was governor-general in Sudan in the late 1870s, where he took an active role in suppressing the slave trade. Shortly after he returned to England in 1880, Britain's hold on Sudan was imperiled by a rebellion led by Muhammed Ahmad, who had declared himself al-Mahdi ("the messiah"). Gordon was recalled to service in 1884 and charged with evacuating Britons and Egyptians from Khartoum, but the city came under siege soon thereafter. The city fell in January of 1885, two days before the British relief force arrived; Gordon was slain, his head paraded on a pike.
The Mahdi did not long outlive Gordon. His tomb was for a time a site of pilgrimage for his followers; after the British victory at Omdurman, the tomb was destroyed and its contents thrown in the Nile.