|Above: Armed with holstered large frame revolver and a Swinburne-Henry express rifle William Hyder Abdel Malek of the Uganda Civil Service posed for an unnamed itinerant
photographer somewhere in British East Africa c. 1899. Wearing kit probably purchased from a London based outfitter he appears to have been photographed out doors in front of a
slightly tattered painted canvas backdrop. This is probably the same "uniform" he wore while taking part in the suppression of mutinous Sudanese riflemen in East Africa and
Uganda in 1897-98.
The photograph bears a very faint pencil inscription on it reverse side which can only be read in an angled light. It reads: "William Hyder eldest son of Abdelgani Hyder Abdel Malek.
Married Edith Roberts of Dolawel, Wales. Went to Africa. Boer War?"
Over Sized Cabinet Photograph
5 1/2 Inches by 8 1/2 Inches
(14 cm x 21.5 cm)
Uganda/British East Africa
|William’s parents had been married in London on 27 May, 1870 and had returned to Syria for a short time where he was born. The family came back to Caernarvonshire and the
elder Abdelmalek* applied for and was granted British citizenship on 4 March 1875. Although the precise social standing within the Ottoman Empire that Abdelghani held is uncertain
it was without doubt of the higher echelons since he is listed variously with the Turkish honorifics of “bey” and “effendi” as well as the afore mentioned “sheik”. Abdelghani served in
Egypt during the 1884-85 Nile Campaign and was granted the right by the Queen to wear the 4th Class Order of Osmanieh “in recognition of his eminent services during the late
operations in Egypt.” Having served at an interpreter with the garrison at Korosko he was also entitled to the Egypt Medal with the clasp “The Nile – 1884-85”. Although I have not
found the appropriate medal roll entry, he was in all likelihood also entitled to the bronze Khedive’s Star.
William received part of his education at public grammar school along with his two brothers Esmond Morgan and Joseph Russelan. The records pertaining to William’s adult career
are scant and he must have entered the Civil Service sometime in the 1890s. He took an active part in the field against mutinous Sudanese troops in Uganda/East Africa in 1897-98
which is recounted in part in With MacDonald in Uganda by Major Herbert H. Austin, C.M.G., D.S.O., R.E. (1903). Always referred to as Mr. Malek in the text of With MacDonald
reflecting his civil position in the Uganda administration, on more that one occasion he was in command of mixed detachments of loyal Sudanese troops and locally raised native levies.
His little commands often included a Maxim gun and conducted riverine patrols in canoes and for a time he was invalided with fever. For his part in putting down the mutiny William
Hyder Abdel Malek was entitled to the East and Central Africa Medal with clasps "Lubwa's" and "Uganda 1897-98".
Returning to Wales in 1898 he married Miss Edith Anne Roberts at Merionethshire, Wales on 9 November 1898. After a relatively short respite he returned to British East Africa not
but died of as yet unknown reasons at Eldama Ravine Station in East Africa on 2 April 1899.
As mentioned above just how William Hyder Abdel Malek died is as yet a mystery. Naturally to most likely scenario would be that he died one of the countless tropical diseases that
plagued European colonists in Africa. One other seeming possibility was found in the 1922-23 edition of The Red Book: Handbook and Directory for Kenya Colony and Protectorate,
Uganda Protectorate, Tanganyika Territory, and Zanzibar Sultanate which mentions an massacre by the Masai of a 1200 man government caravan at Eldama Ravine in 1899. This
proved not to be the case due to a typographical error in The Red Book as the actual date of the massacre was 1895.
Another possibility is that Hyder Abdel Malek was killed during the final mopping up of Sudanese troops at the close of the mutiny in Uganda and East Africa which was not fully put
down until mid-1899.
William Hyder Abdel Malek’s story begs for further resolution and research is ongoing and I have little doubt that more information will be uncovered in the future.
* As is typical for the time period, the Arabic surname of Abdel Malek can be found in more than a few variations even when dealing with this single family. While doing this
research the name was found as Abdul Malek, Abdelmalek, Abdel-Malek, Abdel Maleck to list but a few.