Extract taken from the diaries of Orphelius Smith, Sergeant in the Royal Engineers. This is a tale that the Royal Artillery want to forget. It a factual story about the Battle of Umbangaloo River; a battle forgotten in the mists of time but an example of how Sappers overcome adversity whilst Gunners hung their heads in shame. In West Africa 1879, a column led by Colonel Rampant F e l c h i ng-Hooper and consists of a detachment of infantry from the 1st Battalion Princess Agathas Own Regiment (The Waffleshires), a section of Royal Engineers, a gaggle of Artillery with six field guns and 200 native bearers. It was at this time that an Eâbeyo Bayo from a local village was rabble rousing; the son of a local headman, Mambo Cumkwika had proclaimed himself leader of all Bangbumboland and was travelling in the region raising an army of warriors to âthrow the white devils back into the ocean â¦ or the river if nearerâ. Trading continued at the British outpost throughout October, November and December, the British mission completely unaware of the growing feeling of discontent. Thankfully, the work at Fort Umbangaloo had been completed by the Engineers and the fort was now a formidable defensive position. Unfortunately, in early January 1880, Colonel F e l c h i ng-Hooper , suffering a particularly bad bout of madness, made one of his infamously poor decisions. He decided that the fort would be best defended if the guns were positioned on the other side of the river to give flank protection. Lieutenant Harmony was consequently ordered to take his men and his guns across the river and away from the fort. The Sappers rafted the guns and men across the river on 4th January 1880, constructed a quick camp, dug latrines and left them to their own devices. Meanwhile, the young Mambo had declared himself âPrince Generalissimo Dr Mambo Bangbumba Cumkwika Grand Bassoon of Bangbumbolandâ and his army of followers had grown into a force of 1500 warriors itching for a fight â¦ well; they were definitely itching as soap had never been used in trade. Still unaware of the danger of an imminent attack, life at the fort continued as normal whilst the artillery detachment slipped further into depravity on the far bank of the river. It would appear that Lieutenant Harmony had very little control over his artillery group, constantly being harangued by the detachment sergeant, Arthur Clam, a course and devious man able to manipulate others. The inevitable happened on the morning of 29th February 1880 when the forces of Mambo Cumkwika arrived on the outskirts of the settlement. Sending forward scouts he soon discovered the fort unprepared for defence, most of the occupants taking a siesta in the afternoon heat. His scouts also discovered the guns on the other side of the river with all but Lieutenant Harmony and a young Gunner Graham (later reinvented and immortalised in âIt Ainât Half Hot Mumâ) comatose from imbibing much palm wine. That afternoon the Grand Bassoon devised a cunning plan; a small group were deployed to capture the guns. Disguised as a band of travelling Geisha girls, the warriors quickly captured the position and all the artillerymen. Gunner Graham was quickly despatched by hanging him from a nearby Ingumba tree with his own lanyard whilst Lieutenant Harmony was moved back to the main camp. The remaining Gunners were stripped, removed to a native hut and suitably entertained by the faux Geishas, specifically chosen for their extremely large genitalia. The guns were then turned to face across the river and aimed at Fort Umbangaloo, manned by native artillerymen trained by the French â¦ who else! The Generalissimo then ordered that the guns remain silent until nightfall; the British would be attacked as they took dinner that evening. And it just so happens, in a way not dissimilar to âCarry on up the Khyberâ, that Colonel F e l c h i ng-Hooper had organised a Regimental Dinner that evening for all the officers, less the disgraced Lieutenant Harmony. The guns opened fire on the fort just after 7pm, between the mango sorbet and Binky antelope la crÃ¨me de champignon served with mango (since the Binky antelope did not exist, this was in fact goat thinly disguised in mushroom soup and mango).The Colonel, believing that the Gunners had mistakenly fired on the fort, was furious and ordered that a message be sent to them immediately to cease fire. The fort was stood too, less officers who were to continue to dine. It wasnât until an hour later, during a course of roasted parakeet on a bed of wild rice served with mango, that the Colonel was informed that âdarkiesâ were observed to be firing the cannon and that there was no sign of the wayward artillerymen on the far bank of the river. Infuriated, Colonel F e l c h i ng-Hooper shouted to Major Dullard to take some infantry across the river and silent the guns. This wasnât possible for two reasons; having imbibed some malt whiskey and with no one conversing with him, Major Dullard and taken to talking to himself so intensely that he had sent himself into a deep sleep. The second reason was that there were no infantry to spare as they were stretched thin defending the gate and fighting hand to hand at the breach in the wall created by the guns. Noticing that Captain McCrackwun had also slipped into alcoholic comatose, young 2nd Lieutenant Willoughby Nonce-Probin stood up and announced that he would take his Sappers across the river to spike the guns and blow up the latrine. He purposefully strode out of the mess to gather his men and brief them. Under cover of darkness, the Sappers set out immediately to cross the river in their raft. The slow paddle across took place in absolute silence so as not to alert the enemy warriors on the far bank. The crossing took twenty minutes but remained undiscovered, the enemy unguarded and concentrating on firing the guns. On arrival they dismounted the raft and lined up, bayonets fixed in the river reeds. 2nd Lieutenant Nonce-Probin drew his sword, raised it, shouted âfollow meâ and charged off to the left. This somewhat puzzled the rest of the Sappers as the guns were no more than twenty yards to their front. As the charging young officer disappeared into the darkness, never to be seen alive again, Sergeant Smith rallied his men and led a bayonet charge up the bank directly towards the guns. The Eâbeyo Bayo gunners were taken completely by surprise as the Sappers charged into them, stabbing with their bayonets. The fighting was fierce and hand to hand, the Sappers being outnumbered four to one. But they fought with determination and soon the area around the guns was piled with enemy dead. As the position was consolidated, Sgt Smith made the decision not to spike the guns, but rather turn them on the enemy camp facing the fort. He ordered his men to do so, at the same time dispatching two men with explosive charges to blow up the latrine. By eleven the guns were firing fiercely into the enemy camp causing scores of casualties as well as the relentless fire from the infantry within the fort. Sgt Smith, seeing that the fight was won, cut young Gunner Grahams body from the tree and tied the blue lanyard to his jack knife. Surprisingly, as Grahams limp body hit terra firma, he coughed and spluttered and regained consciousness; by some miracle he had survived the ordeal but the tightened lanyard around his neck would cause him to forever talk in a rather posh, la de da accent. The other Gunners were found naked and distressed in the nearby native hut, released and given sackcloth to cover their dignity; the sackcloth was tied in place using white string. As dawn broke on the following morning, the infantry went out to carry out the traditional task of stabbing to death the enemy wounded and the Sappers handed over the guns to the artillerymen and re-crossed the river on their raft. Colonel F e l c h i ng-Hooper greeted the returning heroes and ordered that from that day on they were to wear blue lanyards. He also ordered that the Gunners on the far bank of the Umbangaloo were to be re-issued uniform and were to fashion their own lanyards from the white string tying their sackcloth. Two months later a relief column arrived to relieve the garrison and hunt down the rebellious Eâbeyo Bayo. The rebellion was effectively ended in June 1880 when Prince Generalissimo Dr Mambo Bangbumba Cumkwika, Grand Bassoon of Bangbumboland was captured and taken under escort to Mala Swammpi Mano Bumba Bumba. The remains of 2nd Lt Willoughby Nonce-Probin RE were eventually found in the destroyed latrine. It was thought that during his gallant, if somewhat directionally challenged, lone charge into the night, he must have slipped and fell into the latrine. There he lay unable to pull himself free from the sucking muck when the explosive charges were thrown into the bog, killing him instantly. His scarf and balaclava are displayed at the Royal Engineers museum in Chatham.