Topic: AIF - 1B - 1 LHR
Battle of Romani
Sinai, August 4 to 5, 1916
1st LHR AIF Unit History Account
[From: Vernon, The Royal New South Wales Lancers 1885-1985, p. 105.]
[Click on map for larger version.]
PV Vernon's 1985 centenary celebration of the Royal New South Wales Lancers included a section on the work performed by the 1st Light Horse Regiment during the Great War. The pages specifically related to the battle of Romani are extracted below.
Vernon, PV, editor, The Royal New South Wales Lancers 1885-1985, (Sydney 1986), pp. 111-3:
Egypt and Sinai.
On July 30 the navy co-operated by shelling Ogratina with the guns of the monitors in the Mediterranean; next day the enemy had pushed his flanks closer to Romani and three aeroplanes bombed the camp and dropped steel darts, one of which was found to have gone nearly through a camel.
On the night of August 2-3 the enemy occupied Katia, a palm oasis about five miles from Romani. Next night the brigade took lip a new line of outposts from Hod el Enna to No. 1 Post, covering what had been left as an open approach for the enemy. The 1st Light Horse Regiment was in reserve, and about midnight the unit was ordered out as the Turks had made a forced march and were attacking the outpost lines. At 1.30 a.m. "A" Squadron reinforced the line held by the 3rd Light Horse Regiment on the southern slope of Mount Meredith, a prominent sandhill named after Brigadier-General Meredith, who was commanding 1st Light Horse Brigade at the time. At 1.45 a.m. "B" Squadron took up a line on either side of Mount Meredith. The night was dark but starlit, and the flashes of rifle fire showed up well against the sandhills. One troop of "C" Squadron was detailed to escort the Leicester Battery, Royal Horse Artillery. The remainder of the regiment struck a line covering the two re-entrants on the north of Mount Meredith.
The enemy was in force and the regiment came under heavy rifle and machine gun fire, also shrapnel from a mountain battery which the Turks brought well up on camels. At 10 a.m. the regiment fell back to Bir el Maler, the infantry having by this time come up. Remaining in reserve until 5 p.m., it then took up an outpost line on the south-east of the hods near Bir Abu Diyuk, casualties up to this time being Lieutenant McQuiggan and nine other ranks killed, Captains Weir (adjutant) , Fitzpatrick (QM) G. H. L. Harris, 2nd Lieutenant W. M. Nelson (signal officer) and 26 other ranks wounded. During the action enemy aircraft spotted for their guns, and dropped bombs, grenades, and a few darts, without doing much damage.
Next day, the 1st Light Horse Regiment at 4 a.m. started to drive towards Hod el Enna, with the 6th Light Horse Regiment on the left and the New Zealand mounted Rifles Brigade on the right. Twenty prisoners were taken, with one machine gun and four boxes of 18-pounder ammunition. The enemy had withdrawn 112
Royal New South Wales Lancers under pressure to Katia. At 2.30 p.m. on August 5 an attack was made on Katia by the 1st and 2nd Light Horse Brigades, New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade and 5th Mounted Brigade. The regiment dismounted on the western edge of the Katia swamp, occupying a frontage of 250 yards. An advance of 300 to 600 yards into the swamp was made, the enemy holding all the high ground east of Katia by machine gun and rifle fire. The dismounted strength of the regiment was only 150 all ranks and 41 horses had been killed or were missing, so at 6.30 p.m. the line commenced to withdraw and the regiment returned to Romani, both men and horses being badly off for water. During the day the camp was again bombed and shelled by the enemy.
Fatigues were sent out next day to bury the dead, and Lieutenant Max E. Wright and 20 men were sent to escort camels loaded with water and rations for divisional headquarters, which were now at Katia, since the place had been evacuated by the Turks.
At 2.15 p.m. on August 8 the regiment, now 236 strong, with "A" Squadron of the 3rd Light Horse Regiment, left Romani for Katia as advanced guard to the 1st and 2nd Brigades which were both under Brigadier-General J. R. Royston, C.M.G., D.S.O., the object being to cut off the Turks at Bir el Abd. The force moved along the caravan route to Hod el Khibba, thence in a night march, swinging off at a bearing of 22 degrees as far as the recently swollen marsh, thence on a bearing of 80 degrees to Hod Hamada and from there on a bearing of 129 degrees in order to reach a point north-east of Bir el Abd. On reaching the edge of the sand dunes north-east of Bir el Abd, the unit came under heavy fire, and was forced to deploy on a line running eastward into the dunes from the edge of a marsh, el Huag, lying north-east of Hod el Hisha. At 11 a.m. an attempt was made to straighten out the line-the Wellington Mounted Rifles, attached to the 2nd Light Horse Brigade, moved forward and occupied a hill south-west of Hod el Asal. The 1st Light Horse Regiment moved forward supporting this attack, one troop reaching the hill. As the enemy appeared to be making some advance across the. flat to the east, two troops of the regiment were moved up to Hod el Hisha, and were heavily fired on, at which time the Wellingtons were being heavily shelled on the hill occupied by them south-west of Hod el Asal. The enemy made a general advance, and orders were received at 3.30 p.m to withdraw to the north-west towards Hod Hamada, thence via Hod el Khibba to Ogratina, where the regiment bivouacked for the night. Lieutenant R. A. L. McDonald and two men had been killed, and Major DWA Smith and 13 men wounded.
At Romani, on August 4 1916, the British had routed the Turks and destroyed half their force. It was a decisive battle in the campaign' After the actions at Katia on August 5, and at Bir el Abd on August 9 to 12, the main enemy force was withdrawn across the 50 miles of practically waterless country to el Arish, but with a strong outpost left at Mazar, 24 miles east of Abd. The Romani operations had stressed the need for the railway line and pipeline which were gradually being constructed in the wake of the army, and the G.O.C. now made a determined effort to get these completed. (By December 21, the British were in el Arish.)
Citation: Battle of Romani, Sinai, August 4 to 5, 1916, 1st LHR AIF Unit History Account