Thomas Keith (1793 - 1815)
Thomas Keith was born in Edinburgh in 1793 in Scotland, he enlisted in the British Army's 78th Highlanders Regiment on August 4, 1804, at the age of 11. He went with the 2nd battalion of the regiment to join John Stuart in the British campaign to Sicily in 1806. Soon after, Keith was sent as part of the English expedition to Alexandria in 1807. However, the expedition was a failure, and British forces were destroyed by the Albanian Mameluke cavalry commanded by Muhammad Ali, Ottoman khedive Egypt.
After being captured at Al Hamed near Rosetta on April 21, 1807, Keith and a drummer in his regiment, William Thompson were reportedly sent to Cairo together with about 450 heads of defeated English soldiers. Once there, both were bought from an Albanian spearman by an Ottoman officer named Ahmad Bonaparte and made Mamelukes or "military slaves" at Ahmad’s service. Keith became Ahmad's favourite.
During their initial term of service, the two Scots decided to convert to Islam and change their names: Keith becoming Ibrahim and Thompson Osman. Keith subsequently became involved in a fight with one of Ahmad's Mamelukes, ironically a Sicilian, who had insulted him.
In 1811, at the age of 18, Keith joined the 17-year-old Tusun in an expedition leading 2000 men between Bedouins and Albanians against rebel insurgents in Arabia. Moved by the thirst for blood and plunder they spread terror throughout the region even entering the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.
The rebel insurgents were successful in defeating the Ottomans at first, due to their overwhelmingly greater number and more experience on the ground. However, in 1812, a new campaign was launched and they were defeated. The forces led by the highlander managed to reach the holy city of Medina where Keith became governor in 1815. The following year, the expedition to Mecca was also successful.
At Medina, he fought with courage, being the first man who mounted the breach, and after distinguishing himself on several other occasions.
Keith was ambushed with Tusun by the rebels in a confrontation in the vicinity of El Bass, where he led 250 men and defended the prince's life against 2000 enemies. He died bravely while fighting four rebels after which he was quartered, at the age of 23.
Even after the final victory, the rebels testified to the Scottish bravery on the battlefield.
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