Arthur Sandbach and the Arabi Rebellion

Major-General Arthur Edmund Sandbach was a graduate of Eton College and the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, and was commissioned in the Royal Engineers in 1879 at the age of 20. He served in multiple colonial campaigns, including the Anglo-Egyptian War, the 1885 Sudan campaign, the 1886-7 Burmese Expedition, and the 1888 Sikkim Expedition. He later served in the Nile Expedition of 1898, and in South Africa during the Second Boer War.

His brother, Martin H. Sandbach, also served in the British Army, and the appearance of the correspondence between the two brothers on the philatelic market was a significant find for postal historians of this period.

This particular cover and letter was sent from Major Sandbach to his father, Henry R. Sandbach, from on board the S.S. Oxenholm en route to Malta from Egypt. Sandbach had been serving in Egypt during the Arabi Rebellion, an uprising led by Egyptian nationalist Ahmed Urabi to overthrow Khedive Tewfik Pasha and thus end the era of English and French influence in the region. It was ended by the British bombardment of Alexandria in July 1882, this letter being sent from Sandbach’s return journey to England following the conclusion of the campaign.

He writes of his last days in Egypt, and his expectations for the journey home:

“We left Cairo by train on Monday at 6:30pm, traveled all night, embarked at Alexandria on Tuesday. There were five of us in the carriage which was just one too many to be comfortable at night.  We breakfasted at the Abbat Hotel in Alexandria after sending the men on board and we had quite a refreshing luncheon…our orders are for Malta & Portsmouth.  We expect to be at Malta about Saturday, 7th, and at Portsmouth about 19th or 20th…We have left about 5 out of 200 men behind as sick & “C” Troop about the same number of sick…”  Sandbach ends with an addendum on Saturday, October 7th,  noting that they are “just entering Malta harbour. Probably shall not leave before Monday 9th…”

It would appear that Major Sandbach successfully made it to the post office that day, this cover bearing a Malta OC 7 A25 duplex which ties the 2&1/2d blue QV adhesive.

I found this a fascinating cover, one which exemplifies many of the thrills of collecting postal history. It is offered for sale here, where a full transcript of the letter can also be found.