Friday, April 15, 2005


British bodies of 1798 naval battle found in Egypt


April 13, 2005

CAIRO - An Italian archaeologist has discovered the remains of 30 British troops dating as far back as a decisive naval battle in 1798 between France and Britain off Egypt's north coast, the British Embassy said on Wednesday.

Archaeologist Paolo Gallo discovered the bodies on an island in Abu Qir bay, east of Alexandria, where British Admiral Horatio Nelson defeated Napoleon Bonaparte's French fleet in the Battle of the Nile.

Gallo had been excavating the island for Greek-Roman artefacts when he discovered the remains of the 30 British sailors and soldiers, some dating to the 1798 battle and others to 1801, when Britain landed an expeditionary force in the area.

The body of British navy Commander James Russell was identified by his uniform with the help of British archaeologist and naval historian Nick Slope, an embassy official said.

Russell, the only one to be buried in full uniform, and the other unidentified bodies will be reburied in a ceremony at a British Commonwealth military cemetery in Alexandria on Monday.

A descendant of Russell and the commanding officer of visiting British warship Chatham will attend, the embassy said.

The British, who later became a colonial power in Egypt, had been seeking to prevent Napoleon's forces from taking control of Egypt and threatening Britain's Indian empire.

Nelson hunted for Napoleon's fleet across the Mediterranean and took the French by surprise on Aug. 1, 1798, off the Egyptian coast at Abu Qir.

Britain lost 218 men but no vessels during the battle, which lasted until Aug. 2. The French lost 1,400 men and most of their fleet was destroyed or captured.

After the Battle of the Nile, French forces in Egypt were cut off and surrendered to the British in 1801.


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