Winston Churchill Publishes 'The River War'

..there are many people in England, and perhaps elsewhere, who seem to be unable to contemplate military operations for clear political objects, unless they can cajole themselves into the belief that their enemy are utterly and hopelessly vile. To this end the Dervishes, from the Mahdi and the Khalifa downwards, have been loaded with every variety of abuse and charged with all conceivable crimes. This may be very comforting to philanthropic persons at home; but when an army in the field becomes imbued with the idea that that the enemy are vermin who cumber the earth, instances of barbarity may easily be the outcome. This unmeasured condemnation is moreover as unjust as it is dangerous and unnecessary... We are told that the British and Egyptian armies entered Omdurman to free the people from the Khalifa's yoke. Never were rescuers more unwelcome.”

— Winston Churchill

Aware that there was a war in Sudan, Churchill determined to be part of it. He was not alone in this, because in a time generally of peace, many British army officers wanted experience of battle to further their careers. In Churchill's case, he did not see his career as lying with the army, but had already started writing about wars and wanted a new campaign to write about. He first attempted to obtain a transfer from his regiment stationed in India to the 21st Lancers, which was the unit taking part in the war. This was granted by the War office, but rejected by the commander of the British force in Sudan, General Kitchener. Churchill next took leave to Britain, where he enlisted friends and family to lobby Kitchener to permit him to take part. This continued to be unsuccessful, even when the prime minister Lord Salisbury made an inquiry on his behalf. Eventually, however, he prevailed upon Sir Evelyn Wood, Adjutant General of the Horse Guards, who had authority over appointments to the regiment in England, and he received an attachment to the Lancers in place of an officer who had died, on July 24, 1898. On August 5 he was in Luxor and on August 24 the regiment set out from Atbara to attack the Mahdist forces.

Before leaving London, Churchill obtained a commission to write accounts of the war for the Morning Post, producing thirteen articles between September 23 and October 8, 1898 for which he was paid fifteen pounds each. This helped offset his expenses for the trip, which the war office had declined to meet, as well as refusing any liability should he be killed or injured. The Times had two correspondents covering the war, one of whom was killed and another injured, and Churchill wrote a piece for this newspaper also, but Kitchener vetoed sending of the report.