The term 'Dervish' was commonly applied to the warriors of the Mahdi by both the Egyptians and the British, although the men themselves preferred the term 'Ansar'. Whatever the label, they were the followers of the Mahdi, rebelling against Egyptian hegemony in the Sudan, and in the early days they were more a collection of tribal forces than any organised army. Nevertheless they were well motivated and successfully expelled the Egyptians from the Sudan, only to be reconquered by the Egyptians and British in 1898 outside Omdurman.
For much of the uprising Dervish warriors wore their own traditional tribal garb, and only later was some form of uniformity encouraged. This uniform was the jibbeh, a sleeved tunic decorated with coloured patches that were at first random but later became increasingly regularised. This was worn over loose trousers coming to below the knee, and a cloth or straw cummerbund was worn around the waist. On the head would be a skull cap, turban or both. Such was the uniform worn by most Ansar at Omdurman, and several of these figures are suitable for these men. However others display costume seen mostly in the early days, when Khartoum was under siege and Egyptian garrisons and columns were being destroyed. There were many forms of costume, and all the figures here are authentic for this period. The last two pictured above are particularly distinctive as they are Beja swordsmen with their hair frizzed, prompting the British term 'fuzzy-wuzzy'.
Initially the main weapon was the spear, with some men having swords. Firearms were not permitted to begin with, but in time (and as large stocks were captured from defeated enemies) numbers of rifles did grow. The majority of these rifles were Remingtons, captured from the Egyptians. While other types could and were obtained from various sources, the majority seem to have been Remingtons, and at least two different types of firearm are being handled in this set. The riflemen have bandoliers of different types either round the waist or over the shoulder, which were either locally produced or captured stock. The spears are of a good length and have the leaf-shaped blade so often seen on these men. The swords are both straight-edged, which is fine although blades weighted towards the point were also used. However we would have liked to have seen at least some of the figures with daggers, either in the waist belt or strapped to the upper arm. One man carries a shield, rounded with a pronounced boss and notches on either side. This too is accurate, and was made of crocodile, elephant or other animal skins. In a nutshell then, everything here is accurate.
The poses too mostly pass muster, but the spearman in the second row is carrying it sideways, which is of course possible but rather odd, and the second spearman in the top row is a bit flat. The first spearman has been given a ring hand, into which the spear fits very neatly. The man with the rifle in the second row is standing on tip-toe for reasons we cannot guess but again it looks odd.
Sculpting is fairly good although the faces are not appealing. Clothing generally is OK and of course there is very little detail on such men, although such as there is, on firearms and bandoliers, looks OK. Apart from the spear in the ring hand, one of the swordsmen has his shield arm as a separate piece, but this fits well on the shoulder and does improve the pose. We found no flash anywhere, which is always a welcome feature, particularly if you want to paint up a lot of them.
There are only eight poses, which can never cover so complex a subject in much depth, but this set has a bit of everything and when combined with the few other sets that cover this subject it does add something to the total. A couple of the poses could have been better but this is a decent set for all those recreations of battles fought under the merciless Sudanese sun.