Commemorative pencil from the battle of Omdurman, 1898. These were made from field relics (spent bullets from the actual battle site). The Illustrated London News of Dec. 16, 1899 ran a Christmas advertisement for Mappin indicating that Mappin Brothers had the exclusive rights to sell these pencils and that 10% would be donated to the Funds of the Gordon Memorial College of Khartoum (see pics). The watch chain loop was a 1 pound 6 pence add-on option. The basic silver version was actually more expensive than the gold version which seems odd – 10 pounds vs. 8 pounds).
It is made from a spent .303 bullet case, the outer silver shell of the pencil cleverly looking like the live round. A twist reveals the silver pencil inside. The brass case is engraved “OMDURMAN” and “Remember Gordon” and has a silver swivel for mounting onto a watch chain. The outer silver case has a couple of small dents, otherwise the item is fine and working. The wear in the silver ring suggests that the original owner wore this proudly for many, many years, attached to his watch chain. While there is no maker’s mark on the pencil, I’ve assigned it to Mappin Brothers given their documented efforts in acquiring these field relics and converting them to magic pencils.
The battle of Omdurman, September 1898. British and Egyptian troops under General Horatio Kitchener prevailed over Sudanese tribesmen (Dervishes) led by the Khalifa Abdullah el Taashi. The Khalifa escaped, to be pursued and later brought to battle and killed.
Gordon of Khartoum 1885 – Administrator of the Sudan between 1874 and 1880, General Charles Gordon was instrumental in the ending of the slave trade in the country. In 1882, Mohammed Ahmad (the Mahdi) objected to Egyptian control of Sudan and rose in revolt. His forces defeated an Egyptian army and cut off British garrisons in the central Sudan. Gordon was sent back to Sudan in 1884 to rescue the isolated garrisons but became cut off in Khartoum. After a ten-month siege, the town fell and he was killed. Public opinion saw Gordon as a hero of Empire and blamed the British government under Gladstone for failing to send a relief column. Sudan remained under local control until Kitchener was successful at the Battle of Omdurman in 1894
The following article was printed in the Los Angeles Herald – November 6, 1899 –
“The Gordon Pencil. Certain supercilious persons in England seemed to take great delight In accusing the American people of vindictiveness for their phrase of “Remember the Maine.” Charges like this, however, usually come home to roost, as will be attested by the Gordon pencil, which has become a sudden rage in England and which also bears the significant motto, “Remember Gordon.” An enterprising London jeweler secured the empty cartridge cases used by the British troops at the battle of Omdurman, which he has turned to the peaceful uses of the scribe, manufacturing them into writing pencils. It has in this connection also leaked out that the general order given to the English troops on the morning of the engagement with the kallfa’s army was “Remember Gordon.” The sale of these pencils, by the way, is said to have been enormous.” (I found this in a search on the web for references to the “Gordon Pencil”).
For more information on war related pencils click here.
"OMDURMAN", "Remember Gordon"