Saturday, July 4, 2009

Rudolf Carl von Slatin

Major-General Sir Rudolf Anton Carl von Slatin GCVO KCMG CB [1] (June 7, 1857 – October 4, 1932) was an Anglo-Austrian soldier and administrator in the Sudan.



[edit] Early life

Slatin was born in Ober St Veit near Vienna.[2][3] He was the fourth child of the merchant Michael Slatin and his second wife Anna.[2] His father converted from Judaism to Christianity (Roman Catholic).[2] The children consisted of the twins, Maria and Anna (born in 1852); Heinrich (born in 1855); Rudolf, Adolf (born in 1861); and Leopoldine (born in 1864).[2] His father died in 1873[2] when Rudolf was at the Viennese commercial academy. He heard that a German bookseller in Cairo was looking for an assistant.[2] He traveled to Trieste and thence in five days to Alexandria.[2] He worked in the bookstore[3] until travelling with the German businessman and consul Rosset to Khartum.[2] Thence he went through Kordofan to Dar Nuba, exploring the mountains of that region. He was forced to return to Khartum because of a rebellion of the local Arabs against the Egyptian government. There Slatin met Dr Emin (Emin Pasha) and with him purposed visiting General Charles George Gordon at Lado, Gordon at that time being Governor of the Equatorial Provinces. Slatin, however, was obliged to return to Austria without accomplishing his desire, but Emin went to Lado and at Slatin's request recommended the young traveler to Gordon for employment in the Sudan.[2][3] Slatin left Africa in order to serve his conscription order in the Austrian army.[4][5][6]

In 1878, while Slatin was serving as a lieutenant in the crown prince Rudolf's regiment in the Bosnian campaign[6] he received a letter from Gordon inviting him to the Sudan, where Gordon had become the Governor-General.[1] Slatin was now a Lieutenant in the reserves of the Austro-Hungarian Army.[1][2] At the close of the campaign, Slatin received permission to go to Africa and he arrived in Khartum in January 1879. After a brief period as financial inspector, Slatin was appointed Mudir (governor) of Dara, the south-western part of Darfur, a post he held until early in 1881, when he was promoted Governor-General of Darfur and given the rank of bey.

[edit] Surrender of Dara

While administering Dara, Slatin conducted a successful campaign against one of the Darfur princes in revolt, and as governor of Darfur he endeavoured to remedy many abuses, particularly the endemic slave trade. He had soon to meet the rising power of the Mahdi Mahommed Ahmed. Early in 1882 the Arabs in southern Darfur of Rizeigat tribesmen led by Sheikh Madibbo who was the Emir of Darfur in Mahdiya were in revolt at the battle of Om Waragat. Slatin gallantly defended his province. Though victorious in over 20 engagements, he lost ground tremendously. As his followers attributed this failure to the fact that he was a Christian, Slatin nominally and publicly adopted Islam in 1883.[1]

But all hope of maintaining Egyptian authority vanished with the news of the destruction of Hicks Pasha's army and in December 1883 Slatin surrendered, refusing to make any further sacrifice of life in a hopeless cause. In the camp of the Mahdi, an attempt was made to use him to induce Gordon to surrender. This failing, Slatin was placed in chains, and on the morning of January 26, 1885, an hour or two after the fall of Khartum, the head of Gordon was brought to the camp and shown to the captive. After the sudden death of the Mahdi the same year, Slatin was kept at Omdurman by his successor, the Khalifa Abdullahi, being treated alternately with savage cruelty and comparative indulgence. During his captivity, he worked as adviser and interpreter for the Mahdi, and was made to serve in the personal retinue of the Khalifa.[1]

[edit] Escape from captivity

At length, after over eleven years captivity, he was able to escape, with the help of Sir Reginald (then Major) Wingate of the Egyptian Intelligence Department, in a perilous 1000 km. and three week journey across the desert, reaching Aswan, Egypt in March 1895. In a remarkable book, Fire and Sword in the Sudan, written in the same year and issued in English and German in 1896, Slatin gave not only, as stated in the sub-title, a personal narrative of fighting and serving the dervishes but a comprehensive account of the Sudan under the rule of the Khalifa.

Raised to the rank of Pasha by the Khedive[1], Slatin received from Queen VictoriaCompanionship of the Bath. On the eve of his surrender to the Mahdi at Christmas 1883, he had resolved, if he regained his liberty, to use the knowledge he would acquire while in captivity for the eventual benefit of the country, and after a years rest he took part, as an officer on the staff of the Egyptian army, in the campaigns of 1897-98 which ended in the capture of Omdurman.[7] the

In autumn 1895, he was granted an audience with Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria and honoured with a barony in the Austrian nobility. He was since styled "Freiherr von Slatin".[6]

[edit] Further service

For his services in these campaigns, he was made a KCMG and in 1899 was knighted by Queen Victoria.[5][1] Also in 1899, he was made a Brigadier-General in the British Army.[4][5][6] In 1900 he was appointed Inspector-General of the Sudan[1][4][6], in which capacity his mastery of Arabic and his profound knowledge of the land and peoples proved invaluable in the work of reconstruction undertaken by the Anglo-Egyptian government in that country.[3]Queen Victoria.[3] He was a personal friend of the Governor General, F. R. Wingate, and was free to define his role as Inspector-General without much interference from his colleagues and superiors. Never before or since did any official hold the title of Inspector-General. He was a frequent guest of

In 1906, he was ennobled by Franz Joseph I of Austria.[1] In 1907, he was made an honorary major-general in the British army. His rank in the Austro-Hungarian Army always remained Leutnant d.R.[6]

He wrote his memoirs "Feuer und Schwert in Sudan"[7], which became a bestseller. They were edited by F. R. Wingate, and originally published in English in 1896 entitled "Fire and Sword in the Sudan". They were published in German in 1896 by the Brockhaus Verlag in Leipzig.[8][3] His position as Inspector-General of the Sudan terminated in 1914 due to the commencement of hostilities in World War I between Great Britain and Austria-Hungary.[1]

He then headed the Prisoners-of-War section of the Austrian Red Cross.[9][4][1] [6]Geheimrat by Franz Joseph I of Austria during World War I.[5][3] He was awarded with the title

He was involved in the plans of Charles I of Austria to get a separate peace with Great Britain and France.[5][6]

[edit] Later life

He received absolution from the Pope for his conversion to Islam, which he had reversed.[2]

On 21 June 1914, Rudolf Carl von Slatin married Baroness Alice von Ramberg.[1] The wedding took place in the Votivkirche in Vienna. In 1916, their daughter Anne Marie was born.

During the years he served the British Empire, he became acquainted with Robert Baden-Powell and became his personal friend.[7] So it was not surprising that he was asked to serve within the new founded Austrian Scout organisation. From 1914 to 1918, he was the Honorary Chief Scout of the Österreichischer Pfadfinderbund.[10].

In 1918, on behalf of the Austrian government led by Renner, he was instrumental, through his British contacts, in ensuring the supply of food and coal from Czechoslovakia for the beleaguered and starving inhabitants of Vienna.[5] For this he was made an honorary citizen of Vienna.[5][3][7]

In 1919, he was a member of the Austrian delegation in St. Germain.[5] [1][6][4][4] and was responsible for the repatriation of Prisoners of War.

In 1919, a Scout group of the Österreichischer Pfadfinderbund in Klosterneuburg[11] was named Slatin Pascha.

In 1923, after the death of his wife, he moved to Meran and lived in a villa in Obermais, a quarter of Meran[1]. In June 1932, he and his daughter Anne Marie were guests of George V.[5]

He died on 4 October 1932[7], during an operation for cancer in Vienna,[2][3][6][5] His grave is still there.[3] and was buried on 6 October in the cemetery of Ober St. Veit, a suburb of Vienna. His funeral looked like a state funeral.

[edit] Memory and legacy

In 1936, a memorial was erected in Khartum, but it was destroyed in 1956 by the Sudanese government, after Sudan became independent.[6]

The Spitzvilla in Upper Austria near Traunkirchen is a memorial site for Rudolf Carl von Slatin. He bought it in 1897 and there entertained many grand persons of his epoch.

An Old Scouts Guild, affiliated with the Pfadfinder-Gilde Österreichs is named Slatin Pascha.[12] At the Austrian National Jamboree in 1961 a Subcamp was named Slatin Pascha.[13] A Scout Group in Vienna was also named Slatin Pascha.[14]

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