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Lot 18
Egypt 1882-89,
Sold for £360 (US$ 563) inc. premium

Lot Details
Egypt 1882-89,
undated reverse, one bar, Suakin 1885 (Platelayer. G.Karley.). Lightly toned, extremely fine. (1)

Footnotes

  • G.Karley was a platelayer employed by the railway contractors, Lucas and Aird, the engineering company responsible for constructing the Suakin to Berber Railway in 1885 [WO100/68/FOLIO 210 confirms Karley's medal and bar. For a summary of Lucas and Aird see: 'The Railway Builders' by R.S.Joby/1983].

    Correspondence in PRO.WO32/6105 records the exact objectives of the Suakin to Berber Railway, which was clearly an ambitious project, intended to cross 280 miles of desert as a means of supply and transport. Lucas and Aird signed the contract on February 17th 1885, but the civilian process of railway construction came into conflict with those responsible for the region's military aims. A 'Minute Paper' sent to the Surveyor General was received at the War Office on February 24th, 1885 implying that this would cause friction and difficulty, but the advice was apparently unheeded.

    The military position here may be summarised by Lieutenant-Colonel Sandes in 'The Royal Engineers in Egypt and The Sudan' [1937]. Sandes implies that the Navvies, working on the railway, lacked the motivation which the military situation required, a view clearly not shared by the civilian workers. Sandes comments, without humour, that although issued with pith helmets, the Navvies preferred to wear their bowler hats.

    Karley was presumably one such Railway Navvy, sent from England, with experience of permanent way construction, but in the event, the British Government abandoned the project after a mere 18 miles of track had been laid. This had cost the taxpayer in excess of £865,000.
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