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Wars of the British Empire

During the 19th Century, the British Empire fought numerous wars around its vast territiories. From India to Africa and beyond, we examine those conflicts here.

First Anglo-Sikh War: Battle of Aliwal
The Battle of Aliwal was fought January 28, 1846, during the First Anglo-Sikh War. Advancing to threaten the British rear, Sikh troops occupied Aliwal along the Sutlej River. To clear this threat, the British dispatched Gen. Sir Harry Smith to the area. Attacking the Sikhs at Aliwal, the defeated them and forced them to retreat.

Indian Rebellion of 1857: Siege of Lucknow
The Siege of Lucknow took place during the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857. Besieged in the Residency, British forces held the building against the rebels for two periods lasting 87 and 61 days. The Siege of Lucknow ended after the second relief of the city when British forces withdrew.

Anglo-Zulu War: Battle of Isandlwana
The Battle of Isandlwana was fought on January 22, 1879, during the opening stages of the Anglo-Zulu War. After advancing into Zululand, the British troops guarding the camp at Isandlwana were attacked by the main Zulu army and massacred. The defeat at Isandlwana remains the greatest British defeat at the hands of native forces.

Anglo-Zulu War: Battle of Rourke's Drift
The Battle of Rourke's Drift was a famed engagement of the 1879 Anglo-Zulu War. In the wake of their victory at Isandlwana, over 4,000 Zulus attacked the British outpost of Rourke's Drift. With fewer than 150 men, the garrison held out until the Zulus retreated the next day.

Anglo-Zulu War: Battle of Kambula
The Battle of Kambula was fought March 29, 1879, during the Anglo-Zulu War. Attacking fortified British troops, the Battle of Kambula saw the Zulus defeated with heavy losses. The Battle of Kambula was considered the turning point of the conflict.

Second Anglo-Afghan War: Battle of Maiwand
Meeting at Maiwand on July 27, 1880, British troops under General George Burrows were attacked by Afghan soldiers under Ayub Kahn. In the ensuing Battle of Maiwand, the Afghan troops were able to overwhelm Burrows' men, forcing them to flee, but suffered approximately 50% casualties in the process. The battle was one of the few instances of...

Mahdist War: Siege of Khartoum
The Siege of Khartoum took place March 13, 1884 to January 26, 1885, during the Mahdist War. Held by forces led by Major General Charles "Chinese" Gordon, British and Egyptian forces at Khartoum were besieged by Mahdist warriors overseen by Muhammad Ahmad. Attacking in January 1885, the Mahdists won the Siege of Khartoum and killed Gordon.

Anglo-Zanzibar War: Shortest Conflict in History
Occurring from approximately 9:00-9:45 AM on August 27, 1896, the Anglo-Zanzibar War is widely believed to be the shortest war in history. Fought between Britain and Khalid bin Barghash, the Anglo-Zanzibar conflict arose after a dispute over who would become the sultan of Zanzibar.

Mahdist War: Battle of Omdurman
The Battle of Omdurman resulted when the British clashed with the Mahdists on September 2, 1898. Fighting near Khartoum, Sudan, the British under Lord Horatio Kitchener deployed modern weapons and decimated Abdullah al-Taashi's men. The victory at Omdurman reasserted British power in eastern Africa.

Second Boer War: Siege of Ladysmith
The Siege of Ladysmith occurred during the early days of the Second Boer War. Commencing on November 2, 1899, Boer forces surrounded British positions for 118 days. The siege of Ladysmith was finally lifted on February 28, 1900, when troops under Sir Redvers Buller broke through the Boer lines.

Second Boer War: Battle of Spion Kop
The Battle of Spion Kop was fought January 23-24, 1900, during the Second Boer War. British forces advancing to relieve the Siege of Ladysmith attacked Boer forces around the hill of Spion Kop. Unable to break through in the Battle of Spion Kop, they sustained heavy losses in the process.

Second Boer War: Battle of Paardeberg
The Battle of Paardeberg was fought between February 18-27, 1900, following the end of the siege of Kimberley. Retreating from Kimberly, Boer forces were intercepted by the British at Paardeberg. After direct assaults failed, the British forced the Boars to surrender after a short siege.

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