WARMINSTER

Jean-Claude SEGUIN

Warminster est une ville du comté de Wiltshire (Angleterre-Grande-Bretagne).

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Le Cinématographe de John Benett-Stanford (Athenaeum, 2 mai 1899)

Le correspondant de guerre du Western Morning NewsJohn Benett-Stanford donne des conférences sur son travail lors de la guerre au Soudan. Il projette des vues fixes et une vue animée tournée la veille de la bataille d'Omdurman (Alarming Queen's Company of Grenadier Guards at Omdurman). La presse locale donne une version très détaillée de la conférence et évoque les projections :

"TO KHARTOUM WITH THE SIRDAR.”
LECTURE BY MR. J. BENETT-STANFORD ON THE SOUDAN CAMPAIGN.
EXCITING EXPERIENCES OF A WAR CORRESPONDENT.
A highly interesting and instructive lecture on the recent Soudan campaign was delivered in the Athenaeum on Tuesday evening by Mr. J. Benett-Stanford, who, it will be remembered, acted as war correspondent for the Western Morning News. The lecture, entitled “To Khartoum with the Sirdar," was illustrated by numerous lantern slides of scenes of the battle at Omdurman, photographs of the chief officers, and a cinematographe picture taken by Mr. Benett-Stanford, which was the only one taken during the recent campaign. An interesting collection relics and curios from Omdurman, Khartoum, etc., was afterwards exhibited in the ante-room by Mr. C. E. Southey. The proceeds were in aid of the Warminster Cricket Club, and the arrangements were carried out by the officers and committee of the club. In front of the platform was a group of plants kindly lent by Messrs. Harraway and Scott. There was a fairly large audience, and the clear, lucid, and fresh manner in which the lecture was delivered was greatly enjoyed. 
Mr. C. N. P. PHIPPS presided, and in opening the proceedings said he could not imagine why it was considered necessary to have a chairman, because it seemed to him that Mr. Benett-Stanford required no introduction to a Warminster audience. (Applause.) The name of Benett was well known in Wiltshire, and he was sure there were many who, like himself, could remember the fine presence and courtly grace of Mr. Benett-Stanford’s grandfather, Mr. Fane, who was for many years vicar of Warminster (applause)—and to whom among other things they were indebted for that useful county institution at Warminster—the Wilts Reformatory. If Mr. Benett-Stanford had not actually lived in their midst, he was well known to most of them. He had travelled much, had seen the world, and had not moved about with his eyes shut. He had great pleasure in asking Mr. Benett-Stanford to give them account of what he had seen in Egypt, the impression the scenes had left on his mind, and tell them something of the deeds of that Army of which they were so proud. (Applause.)
Mr. BENNETT-STANFORD, who was cordially received, then held the attention of his audience for upwards of an hour with a lecture, graphic in description, instructive in narrative, and interesting in exciting and dangerous personal experiences. They would probably, he said, go away with the impression that he was a very egotistical person, and that he had used the pronoun "I" far too frequently, but they must remember the difficulty of giving account of a campaign without drawing on one’s own personal experience. Having referred to his appointment as war correspondent for the Western Morning News, he said oddly enough Wiltshire had been very largely connected with the Soudan. Another officer of the Wilts Yeomanry, Lord Alec Thynne, was also appointed correspondent to a London evening paper, but he was sorry to say was unable to go through ill-health. He (the speaker) was in Norway fishing when received the appointment, and speedily returned to England. This was about the 25th July, and having made the necessary arrangements he started for the seat of war in the Soudan. On arriving at Port Said the first person he saw was an officer in police uniform, wearing the Burmese medal, whom he recognised as formerly a trooper in the Wilts Yeomanry, by name Broadribb. Of course they were soon friends, and he was most useful to him in getting his goods through the Custom House. In due course he arrived at Cairo, passing en route places that were still fresh in their memories, viz., the battle field of Tel-el-Kebir and the town of Kassasin. He reached Cairo about seven in the evening, and the next morning, as soon as office hours, he interviewed General Grenfel, to whom he was related by marriage, with regard to getting to the front. He was not over promising, he (the speaker) had not a permit from the War Office, but he wired to the Sirdar asking if he could proceed, and Sir Rennell Rodd, who was doing Lord Cromer’s work, and who he had known for some years, also wired to the Sirdar for him. Luckily the telegrams caught the Sirdar after he had been thinking of Atbara or some of his successes, as he was in a good mood, for he wired back "Certainly, come up all means." As he could not leave Cairo that day he occupied his time in buying articles of outfit and engaging a couple of blackguards—(laughter) —of the name of Alley and Hassan, the one called himself a cook and the other a personal servant. These two men were the biggest scoundrels on the face of the earth. Alley stole everything he had and bolted directly he could return to Cairo, and he never saw him again. Hassan, the cook, was never cooking, but occupied himself chiefly in looking down the muzzle of antiquated gun for which he had neither shot, powder, or caps ; yet he laboured under the belief, till he left Omdurman, that he was going to win the £500 and bring the Khalifa’s head to the Sirdar. (Laughter.) On leaving Cairo by the mail train for Assouan he was delighted to find his old friend, Captain Legge, with whom he had travelled from Calais, on board the same train. This was more than lucky for him, as the railway officials had received orders that Captain Legge was to be pushed on to the front with the utmost promptitude. They therefore found special trains awaiting for them wherever they stopped, and everything arranged for their speedy transport. He then gave a graphic and humorous account of his journey to the front. At Luxor, in the front garden of the only hotel, which was more or less shut up, and which was kept by a Frenchman, was the notice "Persons are not permitted to go shooting in the garden." What there was to shoot goodness only knew. The only things he saw were a few lizards and the everlasting Egyptian flea, which was different from the English flea, because they met with it everywhere. (Laughter.) Here, singularly enough, on looking through the visitors' list he saw the names of Lord and Lady Folkestone. Having given some humorous reminiscences of Assouan, and the steamers on the Nile, together with pictures of the place, he said they travelled op the Nile at the rate of two miles an hour to Wady Halfa, where the Soudan military railway started. He described this railway, on which the trains did not travel faster than fifteen miles an hour, and the covered cattle truck provided for the accommodation of the officers with whom he travelled. In due course they arrived at Atbara, which, since our occupation of it, less than twelve months, had grown into quite a large place, and boasted of row of huts jokingly called "Tommy’s paradise row." On the way up he had agreed with a friend in the Cameron Highlanders to take his cook and some food over to a certain telegraph post and have dinner with him. About six o’clock, or just after dark, he proceeded to the telegraph post, but did not find his friend or any one else there, so he went off towards some tents where he hoped to get some information of him. The first tent he went into was pitch dark. He poked his head in and said "Have you seen Cameron, of the Cameron Highlanders ?" "Go away” was the only remark he got. He replied to the man lying in the tent, "I know that voice." "Do you?” he said, "I am Willie Fox-Pitt.” "Oh !” I answered, "I am Jack Benett.” So they promptly lit a candle, and drank success to Wiltshire. (Laughter.) In the meantime he was getting hungry, and went in search of his pal Cameron. The next tent he tried be received "Get out, drat you: I want to go to sleep.” In that case he knew the voice, and replied "My dear Archie, to blazes.” (Laughter.) That, as they would easily see by the name, turned out to be his old pal and friend Archie Morrison. (Applause.) He kindly took compassion on him, and gave him food that night with the regiment. Needless to say, as they were only going to be there a night he did not pitch a tent, but slept on a blanket on the sand. As they could imagine, when one had to be up early and work hard, one naturally went to bed early and slept the sleep of the just. (Laughter.) The following evening he was lucky enough to be permitted to go up the steamer that was taking a detachment of the 20th Fusiliers fo Jebel Royan, where he found the whole force collected, and he immediately reported himself to the Press Censor, Colonel Wingate, D.S.C., who presented him to the Sirdar. Here he came across, for the first time, the other war correspondents, but he would only mention two—Colonel Frank Rhodes, of the Times, who, as they would remember, was wounded at the battle, and Hubert Howard, son of Lord Carlisle, who was representing the New York Herald, and who was unluckily killed by one of our own shells when riding to Khartoum with him (the speaker) behind the Sirdar’s staff. With these two exceptions the whole of the correspondents tried to take a rise out of him by demanding, in somewhat surly tone, what right he had to come to the Soudan, and what paper he represented. His answer to the first question was "By the courtesy of the Sirdar,” and to the second he replied "The Pink ’Un and the Christian Herald." (Laughter.) Whereupon they all left him, but afterwards they made friends when they saw he was not the person to get a rise out of. (Laughter.) After enumerating the Sirdar’s force, and giving description of the march, he said the day before the battle they saw the first signs of the Dervishes. On the morning of the 1st September the whole force arrived at Kerreri, some six miles to the north of Khartoum, and formed into triangle, the Nile making the longest side. The 21st Lancers were immediately thrown out to their front and took up a line of outposts around the Hill Surghan, and the Egyptian Cavalry was to the westward. He rode out to the line of outposts, and found the men dismounted and watching the enemy. As the soldiers could not advance further than their line of outposts they were very anxious that should ride down and see if he could get any nearer the enemy’s position. He went nearer and got to within some 300 yards of their line. They were all chanting the whole time "Allah, Bismallah.” It was a most extraordinary sight to see this large mass of men, the number of whom was estimated at between 50.000 and 60,000, in one great long line, simply sitting down and waiting. Oddly enough they did not fire much at him, only few Remington bullets going over his head. He then rode back to the cavalry main body and found them dismounted resting their horses. About five o’clock in the evening the cavalry scouts were withdrawn, and as nobody knew what were going to be the dispositions of the Khalifa, all the men slept at their post, and half-company watches were kept through the night. He rode round the whole position about six o’clock, and found everybody waiting in grim silence for the events of the night. At 4.30 the next morning reveillé sounded, and everything was got ready for the advance. About 5.15 the 21st Lancers went forward and took up their old line of outposts, when it was soon seen that the Dervish army was on the move. He again went out with the cavalry, and they were only driven in when the Dervish flanks had well overlapped them, and Remington bullets were whistling round their heads in most unpleasant way. The cavalry then retired, and the whole of the Khalifa’s force burst into the view of the British troops over a long low ridge of sand which had intervened between the two positions the night before. Poor Hubert Howard and himself were absolutely the two last people to retire to the British line, as they were so interested in watching the effects of Williams’s battery that was firing over their heads and playing havoc with the advancing Dervishes. The Lecturer then described the undaunted courage of the Dervishes and the terrible slaughter by our artillery and Maxims, while, as the enemy came nearer, company volleys began at some 1,700 yards. Still the enemy came on to within the range of some 700 yards. Among the most peculiar things that he noticed in the battle, which was the first battle of any size or importance where the new Lee-Metford rifle was used, was the extraordinary sound made by the whistling of the bullets as the troops fired company volleys. There was one continual whistle, more like an engine than anything else he could compare it to, going on the whole time. One did not hear the crash of the volleys being fired, but simply this extraordinary hooting noise. Another thing which struck him was the extraordinary noise of the battle, not the shouting of voices, but the noise of the firing. After the enemy’s main attack had ceased and the British troops had ceased firing he saw a flag stuck in the ground some 200 yards from the corner of the triangle, and rode out to endeavour to get it. He had no sooner got it than up jumped a nigger with a spear and came for him. He carefully gave him all the shots he had, but succeeded in missing him each time—(laughter)—and then had to turn tail and hook it—(renewed laughter)—whereupon a sergeant of one of the Egyptian battalions came out to his assistance, fixed bayonet and all. He knelt down, took a steady aim at the Dervish, but greatly to the sergeant’s dismay and the Dervish’s joy, he missed him, whereupon the sergeant tucked his rifle under his arm and hooked it back to the square as hard as ever he could. (Laughter.) The Dervish came on, and Captain Smythe, of the Queen’s Bays, who was A.D.C. to General Gatacre, trotted out and shot him, but not till the Dervish had got his spear in Smythe’s arm. He was close by and bound the wound up for Captain Smythe, and he was astonished to tell them that for simply shooting this man Smythe got the V.C. After relating a number of other interesting incidents of the battle, he said after the Sirdar had ordered an advance, and as he was riding with the Grenadier Guards, he heard volleys going on some distance to his right. He immediately galloped over, and found that General Macdonald’s brigade were having a desperate battle with the enemy. General Wauchope’s brigade were sent over from the left to support them, and arrived only just in time. General Macdonald’s brigade were facing the Khalifa’s black flag. With regard to this flag, he noticed that one man held it up for a good tea minutes, while he had firing at him some 4.000 Egyptian troops and some six Maxim guns at a range of some 500 yards; yet there he stood perfectly still, holding the flag without a shot going near him. Eventually, of course, he was killed, and he (the speaker) rode up with Slatin Bey towards the black flag and found it surrounded with hundreds and hundreds of bodies of Dervishes. With regard to the controversy relative to the treatment of the wounded, he wished to say he did not see a British soldier kill any wounded man, and the Egyptians only killed those who fired at them or in some way showed signs of animosity. A number of views of the battle were then thrown on the screen, which were explained by Mr. Benett-Stanford, and such pictures as the Sirdar mounting his grey charger and being followed by the Khalifa’s black flag taken on the battle-field were received with applause. Proceeding, said he was unlucky enough not to see the charge of the 21st Lancers, which, as they probably knew now, was the first bit of active service they had ever seen, and they did the work well. In this famous charge there were many acts of gallantry, and three V.C.’s had been given for it. The forces halted at Wadi, where they were rested and watered. Immediately after this short rest he was lucky enough to see the Sirdar going into the town, and he joined him behind his staff. He then gave a description of the town and the opening of the prison by the Sirdar, and said they then rode back to the first brigade, which was bivouacked a mile to the west of the town. Here the Sirdar, who was dead beat from his work in the day, simply lay on a rug on the ground and went to sleep. Through the kindness of Freddie Bathurst, whom they all probably knew, the Grenadiers gave him some food that night, and he was a great deal better off than most of the correspondents, who had to go to bed, or rather lie down on the ground, with empty stomachs. He never before, however, tried to sleep with a hungry horse tied on to his arm, and all he could say was that for comfort he did not recommend anyone to try it. (Laughter.) In conclusion he had thrown on the sheet a number of interesting views, the last being a photograph of Major-General Lord Kitchener of Khartoum.
At the close of the lecture Mr. PHIPPS expressed the hearty thanks of the audience to Mr. Benett- Stanford for his instructive lecture.


Warminster & Westbury journal, and Wilts County Advertiser, Saturday 06 May 1899, p. 5.

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