Alexandria expedition of 1807

The Alexandria expedition of 1807 or Fraser expedition (Arabic:حملة فريزر) was an operation by the Royal Navy and the British Army during the Anglo-Turkish War (1807–1809) of the Napoleonic Wars to capture Alexandria in Egypt with the purpose of securing a base of operations against the Ottoman Empire in the Mediterranean Sea. It was a part of a larger strategy against the Ottoman-French alliance of the Ottoman Sultan Selim III.[1] It resulted in the occupation of Alexandria from 18 March to 25 September 1807.[2] The people of Alexandria, being disaffected towards Muhammad Ali, opened the gates of the city to the British forces, allowing for one of the easiest conquests of a city by the British forces during the Napoleonic Wars. However, due to lack of supplies, and inconclusive operations against the Egyptian forces, the Expedition was forced to embark the transports again, and leave Alexandria, not having reached any specific goals towards influencing the Ottoman Empire's improving relations with France.

The Expedition commences

The Expedition began in mid-February 1807 when a force of British troops deployed in Calabria and Sicily was ordered by General Fox in Messina[3] to embark on transports with a mission rumoured to be destined for Constantinople while John Thomas Duckworth, appointed second in command of the Mediterranean Fleet, sailed for Constantinople, but he failed to provide effective support for Dmitry Senyavin's Imperial Russian Navy in the Dardanelles Operation. After departure from Constantinople, as an Admiral of the White Squadron[4] he was to rendezvous with the transports in Aboukir Bay. However, by 17 March the fleet of transports with nearly 6,000 British troops embarked on board approached off Alexandria under the command of General Alexander Mackenzie-Fraser.[5]

Occupation of Alexandria

View of Pompey's Pillar with Alexandria in the background in c.1850
View of Pompey's Pillar with Alexandria in the background in c.1850

The appearance of the British transports off Alexandria was unexpected, and 20 March HMS Tigre was able to take two Ottoman frigates, Uri Bahar (40 guns) and Uri Nasard (34 guns), and the corvette Fara Numa (16 guns) on 20 March.[6][Note 1] HMS Apollo, with nineteen other transports, had separated from the main force on 7 March. They did not participate during the initial landings.

The city garrison at this time consisted of Albanian troops, which the French Consul-General Bernandino Drovetti attempted to force to repel the British landing west of the city.[6][Note 2] Despite the high surf, almost 700 troops with five field guns, along with 56 seamen, commanded by Lieutenant James Boxer, were able to disembark without opposition near the ravine that runs from Lake Mareotis to the sea.[11] These troops breached the palisaded entrenchments at eight in the evening on 18 March. It was fortunate for the attackers that they did not face serious resistance because the lines stretching from Fort des Baines to Lake Mareotis included eight guns in three batteries, and thirteen guns in the fort on the right flank.[6] British casualties were light; however the Pompey Gate (also known as the Pompey's Pillar), was barricaded and defended by about 1,000 troops and armed volunteers, forcing British troops to set up camp to the south. Two detachments were sent to occupy Aboukir Castle, and the "Cut", Qaitbay Citadel, a castle in Alexandria between lakes Maadia and Mareotis. The detachments's mission was to prevent Ottoman reinforcements reaching the city. The next day, 20 March, the rest of the transports appeared off Alexandria, and an Arab messenger was sent with an offer of capitulation that was accepted by the city authorities. Sir John Thomas Duckworth appeared on 22 March,[6] off Alexandria in his flagship HMS Royal George,[12] with a part of his squadron,[11] further bolstering the confidence of the British troops.

On the occupation of the city, Fraser and his staff first heard of the death of Muhammad Bey al-Alfi, upon whose co-operation they had founded their hopes of further success; and messengers were immediately despatched to his successor and other local Beys, inviting them to Alexandria. The British Resident, Major Missett, with support from Duckworth, was able to convince General Mackenzie-Fraser of the importance of occupying Rosetta (Reshee'd) and Rahmanieh (Er-Rahhma'nee'yeh) to secure supplies for Alexandria because they controlled the canal, by which supplies were brought to the city via the Nile.[13]

Qaitbay 0005
Front view of Qaitbay Citadel

Attempts to supply the expedition

Omar makram
Omar Makram

1500 troops of the 31st Foot and the Chasseurs Britanniques were detached, accompanied by a section of Royal Artillery, under Major-General Patrick Wauchope[14] and Brigadier-General the Honorable Robert Meade,[15] on a mission to secure the Abourmandur Heights (the heights of Caffarille and Cretin), outside the city.[16] The force entered Rosetta without encountering any opposition, but as soon as they had dispersed among the narrow streets, the garrison opened fire on them from the latticed windows and the roofs of the houses. They retreated on Aboukir and Alexandria, after taking heavy losses: of General Wauchope, three other officers, and 185 men were killed, and General Meade, nineteen other officers, and 281 men were wounded.[17] The heads of the British slain were fixed on stakes on the sides of the road crossing the Ezbekia in Cairo.[18][19]

Manoeuvring against Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali, meanwhile, was conducting an expedition against the Beys in Upper Egypt (he later defeated them near Assiut) when he heard of the arrival of the British. In great alarm lest the beys should join them, especially as they were far north of his position, he immediately sent messengers to his rivals. Ali promised to comply with all the Beys demands if they should join in expelling the invaders; this proposal being agreed to, both armies marched towards Cairo on opposite sides of the river.

Occupation of Rosetta

Alexander Mackenzie Fraser
Alexander Mackenzie Fraser

The possession of Rosetta being deemed indispensable, Brigadier-General Sir William Stewart and Colonel Oswald were despatched there with 2500 men. However, a deputy of Muhammad Ali of Egypt, Umar Makram, had begun to rally the local population and bring troops from Cairo in the attempt to slow the British advance towards the capital. They fought a running battle for fifteen days against superior Turkish forces, including a thirteen-day cannonade of the town without effect.[18] On 20 April news arrived from the advanced guard at Al Hamed of the arrival of 50-60 large vessels with reinforcements to join the besieged by Nile,[17] and General Stewart was compelled to retreat.[20] A dragoon was despatched to Lieutenant-Colonel Macleod, commanding at Al Hamed, ordering him to fall back as well,[18] but the messenger was unable to reach the British position. On 21 April, the advanced guard, numbering 733 and comprising a detachment of the 31st, two companies of the 78th, one of the 35th, and De Roll's Regiment, with a picquet of dragoons, was surrounded.[18] the survivors, who had expended all their ammunition, became prisoners of war.[21] General Stewart regained Alexandria with the remainder of his force, having lost over 900 men, killed, wounded and missing.[17] Hundreds of British heads were exposed on stakes in Cairo, and the prisoners were marched between these mutilated remains.[18] However, this time the British prisoners were well treated, and officers were given quarters in the Citadel.[21]

Siege of Alexandria

The defeat at Rosetta forced Mackenzie-Fraser to reconsider his position, and British troops were ordered to reoccupy Alexandria which was soon besieged by the Arab and Mamluk troops from Cairo.[20] Using his feigned good will as a pretext, Muhammad Ali then offered the British the freedom to receive supplies from Duckworth's transports as well as a grain trade agreement with an added assurances of security for any trade routes to India in return for recognition of his independence from the Ottoman Empire. The grain agreement was accepted, and supplies continued to be delivered to the British troops in Alexandria. However, formal recognition of independence was not given by the British Government, which had no intention of seeing the Ottoman Empire dismantled at this time.[20]

Departure from Alexandria

Colonel Dravetti, now advising Muhammad Ali in Cairo, was able to persuade the dictator to release the British prisoners as a good will gesture, sparing them the usual fate of becoming slaves to their captors.[19] In September, when no further use could be gained from occupation of Alexandria, General Mackenzie-Fraser was permitted to surrender the city[1] and withdraw to Sicily on the 25th.[17]

Expedition Order of Battle

The Royal Navy
HMS Royal George (100 guns) Vice-Admiral Duckworth (flag), Captain Richard Dalling Dunn
HMS Canopus (80 guns)
HMS Repulse (74 guns)
HMS Pompee (74 guns)
HMS Thunderer (74 guns)
HMS Tigre (74 guns) Captain Benjamin Hallowell[Note 3]> HMS Apollo (38 guns) Captain Fellowes
HMS Wizard brig-sloop (16 guns) Captain Palmer
33 transports

The British Army
detachment, Royal Staff Corps
detachment, Royal Artillery
detachment, Royal Engineers Sir John Burgoyne[23]
3rd Squadron, 20th Light Dragoons
31st Regiment of Foot
1st Battalion, 35th Regiment of Foot
2nd Battalion, 35th Regiment of Foot
2nd Battalion, 78th Regiment of Foot
Roll's Regiment
Chasseurs Britanniques
Sicilian Regiment
Adjutant General's Department
Hospital Staff
Pay Master General's Department
Quarter Master General's Department

See also


  1. ^ The Royal Navy commissioned Uri Nasard and Fara Numa circa January 1808, and disposed of all three in 1809. Uri Bahar had twenty-eight 18-pounder guns on her upper deck, and six 8-pounder guns and six 18-pounder carronades on her QD and Fc.[7] Captain George Hony (or Honey) took command of Uri Nasard. She was armed with twenty-six 12-pounder guns on her upper deck, and eight 6-pounders (QD/Fc).[8] Commander Samuel Fowell became captain of Fara Numa.[9]
  2. ^ Drovetti was a Piedmontese colonel who had served in the Egyptian campaign with Napoleon.[10]
  3. ^ Hollowell was the naval commander of the expedition.[22]



  1. ^ a b p.25, Olson, Shadle
  2. ^ Olson, James Stuart; Shadle, Robert. Historical Dictionary of the British Empire, Volume 1. p. 25.
  3. ^ p.684, Yeo
  4. ^ pp.108-122, Lysons
  5. ^ p.141, Scott
  6. ^ a b c d p.609, The Literary Panorama
  7. ^ Winfield (2008), p. 183.
  8. ^ Winfield (2008), p.216.
  9. ^ Winfield (2008), p.273.
  10. ^ Manley, Ree p.76.
  11. ^ a b p.313, James
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-07-18. Retrieved 2008-08-09.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link) George Thom
  13. ^ p.308, Bell, Balbis
  14. ^ of Edmonston
  15. ^ David Stewart (1825). Sketches of the Character, Manners, and Present State of the Highlanders of Scotland: With Details of the Military Service of the Highland Regiments. Constable. p. 345.
  16. ^ p.595, The Monthly Magazine
  17. ^ a b c d p.520, Russell, Jones
  18. ^ a b c d e p.19,Lane, Thompson
  19. ^ a b p.76, Manley, Ree
  20. ^ a b c p.26, Olson, Shadle
  21. ^ a b p.7, Hassan, Fernea
  22. ^ [1] Sir Benjamin Hallowell (1761 - 1834).
  23. ^ p.287, Hart


  • Alsager Pollock, Arthur William, (ed.), The United Service Magazine, Notes of an Expedition to Alexandria of the year 1807, H. Colburn [etc.], 1837
  • Scott, Walter, The Life of Napoleon Buonaparte, Emperor of the French: With a Preliminary View of the French Revolution, vol.II, Carey, Lea & Carey, Philadelphia, 1827
  • The Monthly Magazine; or British Register, Vol.XXIII, Part I for 1807, July 1, Richard Phillips, London
  • The Literary Panorama, Vol.II, Letter from Major General [Mackenzie-]Fraser to Viscount Castlereagh, London, Charles Taylor, 1807
  • Manley, Deborah & Ree, Peta, Henry Salt: Artist, Traveller, Diplomat, Egyptologist, Libri Publications Ltd., 2001
  • Olson, James Stuart & Shadle, Robert, Historical Dictionary of the British Empire, Robert T. Harrison, Alexandria, British occupation of (1807), Greenwood Publishing Group, 1996
  • Hart, H.G., Captain 49th Regiment, The New Annual Army Lists for 1848, Ninth annual volume, containing the dates of Commissions, and statement of the war services and wounds of nearly every officer in the Army, Ordnance and Marines, John Murray, London, 1848 (includes Militia List, and Imperial Yeomanry List)
  • Russell, William & Jones, William, The History of Modern Europe: With a View of the Progress of Society from the Rise of the Modern Kingdoms to the Peace of Paris, in 1763, Vol.III, Harper & brothers, New York, 1839
  • Bell, James, A System of Geography, Popular and Scientific: Or A Physical, Political, and Statistical Account of the World and Its Various Divisions, Vol.III, Archibald Fullarton and Co., Glasgow, 1832
  • Hassan, Hassan & Fernea, Robert, In the House of Muhammad Ali: A Family Album, 1805-1952, American University in Cairo Press, 2000
  • Lane, Edward William & Thompson, Jason, Description of Egypt: Notes and Views in Egypt and Nubia, Made During the Years 1825, -26, -27, and -28 ..., American University in Cairo Press, 2000
  • James, William, Naval history of Great Britain, Vol. IV, [2]
  • Winfield, Rif (2008). British Warships in the Age of Sail 1793–1817: Design, Construction, Careers and Fates. Seaforth. ISBN 1-86176-246-1.
  • Yeo, Richard R., The Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, Routledge, 1999
Al Hamed

Al Hamed is a town in Egypt near Rosetta. On 21 April 1807, forces loyal to Muhammad Ali defeated a small British force here during the Alexandria expedition of 1807.

Anglo-Turkish War (1807–09)

The Anglo-Ottoman War was a conflict that took place during the Napoleonic Wars between 1807 and 1809.

In the summer of 1806, during the War of the Third Coalition (of Britain, Russia, Prussia, Sweden), Napoleon's ambassador General Count Sebastiani managed to convince the Porte to cancel all special privileges granted to Russia in 1805 and to open the Ottoman straits (Dardanelles) exclusively to French warships. In return, Napoleon promised to help the Sultan suppress a rebellion in Serbia and to recover lost Ottoman territories. When the Russian army marched into Moldavia and Wallachia in 1806, the Ottomans declared war on Russia.

During the Dardanelles Operation in September 1806, Britain pressured Sultan Selim III to expel Sebastiani, declare war on France, cede the Danubian Principalities to Russia, and surrender the Ottoman fleet, together with the forts on the Dardanelles, to the Royal Navy. After Selim's rejection of the ultimatum, a British squadron, commanded by Vice-admiral Sir John Thomas Duckworth, entered the Dardanelles on 19 February 1807 and the British destroyed the an Ottoman naval force in the Sea of Marmara, and anchored opposite Constantinople. But the Turks erected powerful batteries and strengthen their fortifications with the help of General Sebastiani and French engineers. The British warships were cannonaded and Duckworth was forced to sail back to the Mediterranean on 3 March 1807.

On 16 March 1807, 5000 British troops embarked on the Alexandria expedition of 1807 and occupied Alexandria in August, although Khedive Muhammad Ali defeated them heavily and forced them to evacuate five months later after a short siege; however, Turkey had a little military support from France in the war with Russia. Napoleon failed to secure Russia's compliance with the armistice agreement of 1807. Therefore, on 5 January 1809, the Ottoman government concluded the Treaty of the Dardanelles with Britain (being now in war with both France and Russia).

David Richard Morier

David Richard Morier (1784–1877) was an English diplomat.

HMS Apollo (1805)

HMS Apollo, the fifth ship of the Royal Navy to be named for the Greek god Apollo, was a fifth-rate frigate of the Lively class, carrying 38 guns, launched in 1805 and broken up in 1856.

HMS Pompee (1793)

HMS Pompee was a 74-gun ship of the line of the British Royal Navy. Built as La Pompée, a Téméraire class ship of the French Navy, she was handed over to the British at Spithead by French royalists who had fled France after the Siege of Toulon (September-December 1793) by the French Republic, only a few months after being completed. After reaching Great Britain, La Pompée was registered and recommissioned as HMS Pompee and spent the entirety of her active career with the Royal Navy until she was broken up in 1817.

HMS Repulse (1803)

HMS Repulse was a 74-gun third rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, launched on 22 July 1803 at Deptford.In 1805, Repulse took part in the Battle of Cape Finisterre. In 1807 the ship served in the Mediterranean squadron under Vice-Admiral John Thomas Duckworth and Vice-Admiral Harry Riddick during the Dardanelles Operation and the Alexandria expedition of 1807.

She was broken up in 1820.

HMS Royal George (1788)

HMS Royal George was a 100-gun first rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, launched from Chatham Dockyard on 16 September 1788. She was designed by Sir Edward Hunt, and Queen Charlotte was the only other ship built to her draught. She was the fifth ship of the Royal Navy to bear the name.

Royal George served as the flagship at the Battle of Groix and wore the flag of Admiral Alexander Hood at the Glorious First of June. In 1807 she served as the flagship of Admiral Sir John Duckworth during the Alexandria expedition of 1807.

She was broken up in 1822.

HMS Thunderer (1783)

HMS Thunderer was a ship of the line of the Royal Navy, built in 1783. It carried 74-guns, being classified as a third rate. During its service it took part in several prominent naval battles of the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars; including the Glorious First of June, the Battle of Cape Finisterre and the Battle of Trafalgar.

HMS Windsor Castle (1790)

HMS Windsor Castle was a 98-gun second rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, launched on 3 May 1790 at Deptford Dockyard.

John Fane, 11th Earl of Westmorland

General John Fane, 11th Earl of Westmorland (2 February 1784 – 16 October 1859), styled Lord Burghersh until 1841, was a British soldier, politician, diplomat and musician.

John Oswald (British Army officer)

General Sir John Oswald (2 October 1771 – 8 June 1840) was a prominent British Army officer during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars whose service was conducted in seven different theatres of war. Oswald was born in Fife and educated in France, which gave him both excellent command of the French language and close connections with the French aristocracy. The excesses of the French Revolution gave him a hatred of the French Republic and later Empire, and his exemplary service in the West Indies, the Netherlands, Malta, Italy, Egypt, the Adriatic and finally the Peninsular War demonstrated both his keen tactical and strategic understanding his and personal courage.

Highly commended for his war service, Oswald later took an interest in politics, unsuccessfully attempting to enter parliament but using his influence in the army to support the Conservatives. He married twice and had several children, and was invested in two knightly orders following his retirement from the army in recognition of his service. He died in 1840 at his family estate in Fife.

Joshua Gregory

Joshua Gregory (1790 – 20 August 1838) was an early settler in colonial Western Australia. Two of his sons, Augustus Charles and Francis Thomas, became renowned Australian explorers.

Joshua Gregory entered the army in 1805 as an ensign in the 78th Highlanders (Ross-shire Buffs). At the age of 16 he saw active service when his regiment was sent to Sicily at the height of the Napoleonic Wars. He was part of the successful campaign at Calabria, followed by the unsuccessful Alexandria expedition of 1807, where Gregory was severely wounded. In April 1807 he was sent back to England to recover, then rejoined his battalion for the successful invasion of Java.

In Java, Gregory, by then a lieutenant, began suffering from ill health. He was posted to Fort George, Scotland, but his health continued to deteriorate, and in 1818 he was forced to retire on half-pay. On 14 June 1812, while stationed at Fort George, Joshua Gregory married Frances Churchman. By 1825 they had five surviving children, and Gregory had difficulty supporting his family on his pension.In 1829, the Gregory family emigrated to Western Australia, arriving on the Lotus four months after the establishment of the Swan River Colony. He was initially granted land on the left bank of the Swan River, but the soil was poor, and he later obtained other grants at Maylands and in the Upper Swan district. He was later appointed a Justice of the Peace. On 20 August 1838, he died after a long illness.

List of sail frigates of the Ottoman Empire

This is a list of Ottoman Empire and allied sail and steam frigates of the period 1650-1867:

The guns listed are sometimes approximate as it's difficult to get accurate data for early Ottoman warships.

Naval campaigns, operations and battles of the Napoleonic Wars

The naval campaigns, operations and battles of the Napoleonic Wars were events during the period of World-wide warfare between 1802 and 1814 that were undertaken by European powers in support of their land-based strategies. All events included in this article represent fleet actions that involved major naval commands larger than 3–4 ships of the line, and usually commanded by a flag officer.

The period commenced with the breakdown of the Peace of Amiens on the 16 May 1803. Three days later Cornwallis began the Blockade of Brest. On 10 May 1804 William Pitt was instrumental in creating the Third Coalition.

Ottoman corvette Ferahnüma

Ferahnüma was an Ottoman corvette launched in 1792. The British Royal Navy captured her on 21 March at the Alexandria expedition of 1807. The Royal Navy commissioned her under Commander Samuel Fowell in early 1808, and disposed of her in 1809, probably early in the year. Commander Fowell assumed command of HMS Roman circa April 1809.

Richard Dacres (Royal Navy officer)

Sir Richard Dacres (September 1761 – 22 January 1837) was an officer of the British Royal Navy who saw service during the American War of Independence, and the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. A member of a substantial naval dynasty, he eventually rose to the rank of vice admiral.

Royal Sicilian Regiment

The Sicilian Regiment (also known as The Royal Sicilian Regiment of Foot) was a light infantry regiment recruited from Sicily that served with the British Army during the Napoleonic wars, from 1806 to its disbandment in 1816.

Sir John Duckworth, 1st Baronet

Sir John Thomas Duckworth, 1st Baronet, GCB (9 February 1748 – 31 August 1817) was an officer of the Royal Navy, serving during the Seven Years' War, the American War of Independence, the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, as the Governor of Newfoundland during the War of 1812, and a member of the British House of Commons during his semi-retirement. Duckworth, a vicar's son, achieved much in a naval career that began at the age of 11.

Serving with most of the great names of the Royal Navy during the later 18th and early 19th centuries, he fought almost all of Britain's enemies on the seas at one time or another, including a Dardanelles operation that would be remembered a century later during the First World War. He was in command at the Battle of San Domingo, the last great fleet action of the Napoleonic Wars.

Thomas Keith (soldier)

Thomas Keith (c. 1793 - 1815) was a Scottish soldier, captured in Egypt while fighting for the United Kingdom. As a prisoner of war, he converted to Islam and joined the Ottoman military. He died in 1815 as governor of Medina while fighting the rising power of the Wahhabis.

Born in Edinburgh, Keith enlisted in the 78th (Highlanders) Regiment of Foot on 4 August 1804. He went with the 2nd battalion of the regiment to join John Stuart in the British campaign to Sicily 1806. Soon after, Keith was sent as part of the Alexandria expedition of 1807.

After being captured at Al Hamed near Rosetta on 21 April 1807, Keith and a drummer in his regiment, William Thompson, were purchased by Ahmad Aga (nicknamed Ahmad Bonaparte). During the time the two Scots resolved to convert to Islam and change their names: Keith becoming Ibrahim Aga and Thompson Osman. Keith had a quarrel with one of Ahmad's Mamluks, ironically a Sicilian. The Sicilian was killed in their duel and the Scot then sought the aid of the wife of Muhammad Ali Pasha, wali of Egypt. She sent Keith to the service of her son Tusun Pasha. In 1811, Keith joined Tusun's expedition against the Wahhabis of Arabia. After a successful campaign, Keith was made acting governor of Medina in 1815 in Tusun's absence. He was killed in a Wahhabi ambush later that year.Thomas Keith is the subject of the novel Blood and Sand (1987) by Rosemary Sutcliff.

Colonial conflicts involving the English/British Empire

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