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Auction: 24001 - Orders, Decorations and Medals
Lot: 254

A Desert Column casualty's pair awarded to Private W. Downey, 1st Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment, who was shot while foraging at Gubat in the final stages of the Nile Expedition

Egypt and Sudan 1882-89, undated reverse, 2 clasps, The Nile 1884-85, Abu Klea (881. Pte. I. Downey. 1/R. Suss: R.); Khedive's Star 1884, minor contact wear to edge, light pitting, very fine (2)

One of 282 Abu Klea bars to the Regiment.

William Downey was born at Mountmellick, Queens County in 1863 and attested with the 2nd Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment on 10 July 1882. Posted to the 1st Battalion, Berkshire Regiment on 30 January 1883 he joined the unit in Egypt for service with the Gordon relief expedition. Here Downey joined General Stewart's Desert column, one of a small portion of the Regiment to do so, on their mad dash towards Khartoum behind the slow-moving River Column.

Stewart's forces made good progress but were reliant upon fixed water sources to supply their advance, this made them vulnerable as the Dervishes were able to bloke off their water access at the crucial wells of Abu Klea. Knowing that he had no option but to attack Stewart formed his men into a square and advanced against the Mahdist position. The Royal Sussex Regiment was stationed at the rear of the Square however they found themselves unexpectedly thrust into action when the men of the Heavy Camel Corps advanced out of the Square leaving a gap.

The Dervishes rushed to exploit this opening and the rear ranks of the Royal Sussex had to turn in order to confront them. What followed was a soldier's battle, with the heavies suffering serious losses including their commander Frederick Burnaby. Eventually the square was closed and those Dervishes which had penetrated it were wiped out, the Royal Sussex had lost 5 dead and 25.

Advancing on the Column fought another action at Abu Kru in which Stewart was killed and Wilson took command. However they were too late, Khartoum fell on 26 January 1885, with the British steamers arriving just two days later. The expedition returned to their base at Gubat, on the Nile and it was here on 3 February 1885 that Downey was shot in the right hand while foraging, he was invalided home.

Unfortunately his hand was never to recover, being described in his pension documents as 'almost useless; and Downey was invalided on 21 July 1885. He listed his intended place of residence as Harvest Street, Mountmellick, Queen's County, Ireland; sold together with pension documents, casualty list and medal roll.

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