In December 1867 Britain invaded Ethiopia on the orders of Queen Victoria. The aim was to put an end to Emperor Tewodros II, who had taken hostage a missionary and diplomats sent to free him. The campaign (which lasted from December 1867 – May 1868) was led by Sir Robert Napier.
The result was a vast punitive expedition, consisting of 13,000 British and Indian troops, reinforced by thousands of transport staff and camp followers, and including 44 trained Indian elephants.
Landing in Eritrea they made their way slowly through the Ethiopian highlands.
Finally they confronted the Emperor’s forces at the fortress of Magdala, where the hostages were being held.
His forces defeated, Emperor Tewodros committed suicide rather than face the ignominy of imprisonment, with a pistol originally given him by Queen Victoria.
His crown was taken back to Britain and only restored
to Ethiopia when it was handed to the Emperor Haile Selassie in 1925.
Photographs now online
This story is well documented, but now, for the first time, photographs have been
made available online from the British Archive, of which these are a small selection.
The importance of these photographs, and the rest of the African holding of the Archive, is explained by Jenni Orme.
British Encamped at Magdala