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"At a mile distant their thousand hooves were stuttering thunder, coming at a rate that frightened a man - they were an awe inspiring sight, galloping through the red haze - knee to knee and horse to horse - the dying sun glinting on bayonet points..." Trooper Ion Idriess

The Australian Light Horse Studies Centre aims to present an accurate history as chroniclers of early Australian military developments from 1899 to 1920.

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Saturday, 31 October 2009
Imperial Camel Corps - Outline
Topic: AIF - 5B - ICC

ICC, AIF

Imperial Camel Corps 

Outline

 

 

The evolution of the Imperial Camel Corps

Camel Companies

After the outbreak of the Senussi Rebellion in the western desert of Egypt, the first response was create composite regiments from the Light Horse reinforcements.  As the Light Horse Regiments returned from Gallipoli, so too were the men from those regiments serving with the Western Frontier Force. In response to this, a specific force was formed that was capable of traversing large distances over waterless territory. Camels were seen as the obvious form of transport.

In January 1916 the Imperial Camel Corps was formed to answer the needs for such a desert oriented force. Initially the men came from a variety of formations but usually infantry men who had experience with camels. This proved to be a skill concentrated in the Western Australian units and those also from South Australia where the camel was a key locomotive animal.

Four companies were initiallly formed. These were:


 

 

 

1st Camel Company

The 1st Camel Company was formed in Egypt on 24 January 1916 from volunteers drawn out of the 4th and 8th Infantry Brigades. On 16 December 1916 the 1st Camel Company was absorbed into the 1st Camel Battalion. The Battalion was disbanded on 25 July 1918 with all the available personnel forming 14th Light Horse Regiment.



 

 

2nd Camel Company

The 2nd Camel Company was formed in Egypt on 30 January 1916 from volunteers drawn out of the 1st and 2nd Infantry Brigades. On 10 March 1917 the 2nd Camel Company was absorbed into the 1st Camel Battalion. The Battalion was disbanded on 25 July 1918 with all the available personnel forming 14th Light Horse Regiment.



 

 

3rd Camel Company

The 3rd Camel Company was formed in Egypt on 31 January 1916 from volunteers drawn out of the 3rd and 7th Infantry Brigades. On 16 December 1916 the 3rd Camel Company was absorbed into the 1st Camel Battalion. The Battalion was disbanded on 25 July 1918 with all the available personnel forming 14th Light Horse Regiment.


 

 

4th Camel Company

The 4th Camel Company was formed in Egypt on 31 January 1916 from volunteers drawn out of the 4th and 8th Infantry Brigades. On 16 December 1916 the 4th Camel Company was absorbed into the 1st Camel Battalion. The Battalion was disbanded on 25 July 1918 with all the available personnel forming 14th Light Horse Regiment.

 

Following the success of the Camel Companies in the Western Desert, over time, ten more companies were formed from the various British units excess Light Horse reinforcements in the various training depots.

 

5th Camel Company

The 5th Camel Company was a British manned Company drawn from the 53rd Territorial Infantry Division. On 16 December 1916 the 5th Camel Company was absorbed into the 2nd Camel Battalion.  After the breakup of the Imperial Camel Corps on 25 July 1918, the 5th Camel Company remained as a camel formation giving assistance in the Hejaz campaign.

 

6th Camel Company

The 6th Camel Company was a British manned Company drawn from the Yeomanry 4th Dismounted Brigade. After the breakup of the Imperial Camel Corps on 25 July 1918, the 6th Camel Company remained as a camel formation giving assistance in the Hejaz campaign.

 

7th Camel Company

The 7th Camel Company was a British manned Company drawn from the 54th Territorial Infantry Division. After the breakup of the Imperial Camel Corps on 25 July 1918, the 7th Camel Company remained as a camel formation giving assistance in the Hejaz campaign.

 

8th Camel Company

The 8th Camel Company was a British manned Company drawn from the Yeomanry 6th Mounted Brigade. After the breakup of the Imperial Camel Corps on 25 July 1918, the 8th Camel Company remained as a camel formation giving assistance in the Hejaz campaign.

 

9th Camel Company

The 9th Camel Company was a British manned Company drawn from the Yeomanry 8th Mounted Brigade. After the breakup of the Imperial Camel Corps on 25 July 1918, the 9th Camel Company remained as a camel formation giving assistance in the Hejaz campaign.

 

10th Camel Company

The 10th Camel Company was a British manned Company drawn from the Yeomanry 22nd Mounted Brigade. After the breakup of the Imperial Camel Corps on 25 July 1918, the 10th Camel Company remained as a camel formation giving assistance in the Hejaz campaign.

 

 

 

11th Camel Company

The 11th Camel Company was formed in Egypt on 6 July 1916 from volunteers drawn out of the Anzac Mounted Division. On 16 December 1916 the 11th Camel Company was absorbed into the 3rd Camel Battalion. The Battalion was disbanded on 25 July 1918 with all the available personnel forming the 15th Light Horse Regiment.

 

 

 

12th Camel Company

The 12th Camel Company was formed in Egypt on 15 July 1916 from volunteers drawn out of the light horse reinforcements. On 16 December 1916 the 12th Camel Company was absorbed into the 3rd Camel Battalion. The Battalion was disbanded on 25 July 1918 with all the available personnel forming the 15th Light Horse Regiment.

 

 

 

13th Camel Company

The 13th Camel Company was formed in Egypt on 25 July 1916 from volunteers drawn out of the light horse reinforcements. On 16 December 1916 the 13th Camel Company was absorbed into the 3rd Camel Battalion. The Battalion was disbanded on 25 July 1918 with all the available personnel forming the 15th Light Horse Regiment.

 

 

 

14th Camel Company

The 13th Camel Company was formed in Egypt on 4 August 1916 from volunteers drawn out of the light horse reinforcements. On 16 December 1916 the 14th Camel Company was absorbed into the 3rd Camel Battalion. The Battalion was disbanded on 25 July 1918 with all the available Australian personnel forming the 15th Light Horse Regiment.


 

 

15th Camel Company

The 15th Camel Company was raised on 24 July 1916 from New Zealand Mounted Rifles reinforcements in the Egyptian training depot. The 15th Camel Company was joined as part of the 4th Camel Battalion, a composite Australian and New Zealand formation. The Battalion was disbanded on 25 July 1918 with all the available New Zealand personnel forming the 2nd New Zealand Machine Gun Squadron.

 

 

 

16th Camel Company

The 16th Camel Company was raised on 17 October 1916 from New Zealand Mounted Rifles reinforcements in the Egyptian training depot. The 16th Camel Company was joined as part of the 4th Camel Battalion, a composite Australian and New Zealand formation. The Battalion was disbanded on 25 July 1918 with all the available New Zealand personnel forming the 2nd New Zealand Machine Gun Squadron.

 

 

 

 

17th Camel Company

The 17th Camel Company was formed in Egypt on 3 February 1917 from men transferred out of the disbanded 4th Camel Regiment. The 17th Camel Company was joined as part of the 4th Camel Battalion, a composite Australian and New Zealand formation. The Battalion was disbanded on 25 July 1918 with all the available Australian personnel joining either the 14th Light Horse Regiment or 15th Light Horse Regiment.


 

 

18th Camel Company

The 18th Camel Company was formed in Egypt on 3 February 1917 from men transferred out of the disbanded 4th Camel Regiment. The 17th Camel Company was joined as part of the 4th Camel Battalion, a composite Australian and New Zealand formation. The Battalion was disbanded on 25 July 1918 with all the available Australian personnel joining either the 14th Light Horse Regiment or 15th Light Horse Regiment.

 

Camel Regiments

 

 

 

1st Camel Regiment

The 1st Camel Regiment was formed in Egypt during September 1916 by redesignating the 11th Light Horse Regiment. During the reorganisation of the Light Horse Divisions, the Regiment resumed its old identity as the 11th Light Horse Regiment in February 1917. The 11th Light Horse Regiment became part of the 4th Light Horse Brigade in the Imperial Mounted Division and then Australian Mounted Division.

 

 

 

2nd Camel Regiment

The 2nd Camel Regiment was formed in Egypt during September 1916 by redesignating the 12th Light Horse Regiment. During the reorganisation of the Light Horse Divisions, the Regiment resumed its old identity as the 12th Light Horse Regiment in February 1917. The 12th Light Horse Regiment became part of the 4th Light Horse Brigade in the Imperial Mounted Division and then Australian Mounted Division.

 

 


3rd Camel Regiment

The 3rd Camel Regiment was formed in Egypt on 24 December 1916 by redesignating the 4th Light Horse Regiment. During the reorganisation of the Light Horse Divisions, the Regiment resumed its old identity as the 4th Light Horse Regiment in February 1917. The 4th Light Horse Regiment became part of the 4th Light Horse Brigade in the Imperial Mounted Division and then Australian Mounted Division.

 

4th Camel Regiment

The 4th Camel Regiment was formed in Egypt on 10 November 1916 from men transferred out of the disbanded 1st, 2nd and 3rd Light Horse Double Squadrons. [See: Double Squadron - Units] The 17th and 18th Camel Companies [See above] were formed in Egypt on 3 February 1917 from men transferred out of the 4th Camel Regiment which was subsquently disbanded.

 

Camel Battalions and the Imperial Camel Corps Brigade

The camel companies were small formation adapted for the small scale encounters that occurred in the Western Desert. With the massed armies of the Turks met in set piece battles, the size of the units proved unsuitable for effective combat against the Turks in Palestine. In response, the Allied authorities amalgamated the independant companies into camel battalions in December 1916. The three companies were original formed with a fourth company added in February 1917. These four Battalions were brigaded into the 1st Imperial Camel Corps Brigade, a composite Brigade which included 10 Australian, 6 British and 2 New Zealand Companies. Although formed from all states, all camel reinforcements came from New South Wales.

 

 

 

1st Camel Battalion

Originally the 1st Camel Battalion was formed in the Sinai on 2 August 1916 as a composite British and Australian Camel formation. Into the Battalion came the 5th (British), 6th (British), 7th (British) and 4th Camel Companies. At prior to the Battle of Magdahba, the 5th (British) Camel Company was replaced by the 12th Camel Company. Hence the 4th, 6th (British), 7th (British) and 12th Camel Companies comprised the 1st Camel Battalion during the Battle of Maghdhaba. In early January 1917, the 6th (British), 7th (British) and 12th Camel Companies were replaced by the 1st, 3rd, and 15th (New Zealand) Camel Companies, with the 4th Camel Company remaining. It was this composition of the Batalion that took part in the Battle of Rafa. On 10 March 1917, the 15th (New Zealand) Camel Company was replaced by the 2nd Camel Company assigned making the Battalion now an entirely Australian formation. The Battalion was disbanded on 25 July 1918 with all the available personnel forming 14th Light Horse Regiment.

 

 

 

2nd Camel Battalion

In early January 1917, all the British Camel Companies were brought together into the 2nd Camel Battalion. After the breakup of the Imperial Camel Corps on 25 July 1918, the 2nd Camel Battalion remained as a camel formation giving assistance in the Hejaz campaign.

 

 

 

3rd Camel Battalion

Originally the 3rd Camel Battalion was formed in the Sinai on 4 December 1916 as a composite New Zealand and Australian Camel formation. Into the Battalion came the from 1st, 11th and 15th (New Zealand) Camel Companies. In early January 1917, the 1st and 15th (New Zealand) Camel Companies were replaced  by the 12th and 14th Camel Companies thus making it now an exclusive Australian Battalion. When engaged at the Battle of Rafa, the 3rd Camel Battalion comprised the 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th Camel Companies. The Battalion was disbanded on 25 July 1918 with all the available personnel forming the 15th Light Horse Regiment.

 

 

 

4th (Anzac) Camel Battalion

The 4th (Anzac) Camel Battalion was created during the process of reforming the Light Horse structure in Egypt. Formed in the Sinai on 16 February 1917, it was a composite New Zealand and Australian Battalion with the component units being the 16th (New Zealand), 13th, 17th and 18th Camel Companies. After the Second Battle of Gaza, 19 April 1917, the 13th Camel Company was transferred to the 3rd Camel Battalion and replaced by the 15th (New Zealand) Camel Company. The 4th (Anzac) Camel Battalion consisted of the  14th (New Zealand), 15th (New Zealand), 17th and 18th Camel Companies. In January 1918, the transfers of the 13th Camel Company and the 15th (New Zealand) Camel Company were reversed returning back to the original configuration of the 16th (New Zealand), 13th, 17th and 18th Camel Companies. The Battalion was disbanded on 25 July 1918 with all the available Australian personnel joining either the 14th Light Horse Regiment or 15th Light Horse Regiment while all the available New Zealand personnel formed the 2nd New Zealand Machine Gun Squadron.

 

Artillery

The artillery unit at the disposal of the Imperial Camel Corps was the No. 1 Hong Kong & Singapore Battery, RGA which was on the strength of the an Indian Mountain Battery, was been temporarily transformed into a Camel Battery with great success. The battery consisted of three sections, each with two 13 pounder mountain guns. The nickname of this unit was the "Bing Boys".

 

 

 

Australian Camel Field Ambulance

Raised in Victoria and trained at Seymour Camp in early 1917, the unit embarked on 10 May 1917. After the issue of camels and further training, the Australian Camel Field Ambulance joined the Imperial Camel Corps at Sheik Weli Nuran on 23 August 1917 thus replacing the 1/1 Welsh Field Ambulance. The unit had the distinction of being the only mounted field ambulance unit with a dedicated Quartermaster. The Australian Camel Field Ambulance was renamed the 5th Light Horse Field Ambulance.

 

Colour Patch

To assist with identification of the various units within the AIF, Divisional Order No 81 (A) Administration was issued at Mena on 8 March 1915 detailing the Colour Patch for the various units. The 1st Imperial Camel Corps Brigade received the colour in 1916 which was plain red in the shape of a triangle.

 

1st Imperial Camel Corps Brigade Colour Patch

The individual Battalions attached to the 1st Imperial Camel Corps Brigade carried the their own specific colour as a triangle illustrated with the above description about each individual unit.

 

Commanders:

Brigadier General Clement Leslie Smith, VC, MC.

 

Attachments

Desert Column 1916.

Desert Mounted Corps 1917 until July 1918.

 

Campaigns

The Imperial Camel Corps was formed from the various companies whose battle honours were transferred to the Brigade.

Egypt:

  • Western Desert
  • Defence of Egypt

Sinai:

  • Magdhaba; and,
  • Rafa.

 Palestine:

  • First Battle of Gaza;
  • Second Battle of Gaza;
  • Third Battle of Gaza;
  • Beersheba;
  • Khuweilfe/Ras es Nagh;
  • Bald Hill;
  • Amman; and,
  • Musallabeh.

 

Embarkations:

The following list details all the embarkations in support of the Imperial Camel Corps, AIF, during the Great War. Each entry details the individual soldier's: rank on embarkation; full name; Declared age; last occupation held; last address as a civilian; enlistment Date; and, ultimate fate. Each man is linked to a brief military biography where ever possible. One interesting point is that many of the men listed in the embarkation roll for the Imperial Camel Corps ended up in a different unit altogether. This list details the men's starting point in the AIF.

May 1916 Reinforcement

Sydney, New South Wales on board RMS Morea 27 May 1916

July 1916 Reinforcement

Sydney, New South Wales on board RMS Mongolia 8 July 1916

August 1916 Reinforcement

Sydney, New South Wales on board RMS Malwa 22 July 1916

September 1916 Reinforcement

Sydney, New South Wales on board RMS Mooltan 19 August 1916

October 1916 Reinforcement

Sydney, New South Wales on board HMAT A43 Barunga 20 October 1916

November 1916 Reinforcement Medic Group 1st MD

November 1916 Reinforcement Medic Group 2nd MD

November 1916 Reinforcement Vestalia Group

Sydney, New South Wales on board HMAT A7 Medic 12 December 1916

Sydney, New South Wales on board HMAT A7 Medic 12 December 1916

Melbourne, Victoria on board HMAT A44 Vestalia 15 December 1916

December 1916 Reinforcement Karmala Group

December 1916 Reinforcement Boorara Group 1st MD

December 1916 Reinforcement Boorara Group 3rd MD

Sydney, New South Wales on board RMS Karmala 3 February 1917

Melbourne, Victoria on board HMAT A42 Boorara 10 May 1917

Melbourne, Victoria on board HMAT A42 Boorara 10 May 1917

January 1917 Reinforcement Karmala Group 1st MD

January 1917 Reinforcement Karmala Group 2nd MD

January 1917 Reinforcement Karmala Group 3rd MD

January 1917 Reinforcement Boorara Group

Sydney, New South Wales on board RMS Karmala 3 February 1917

Sydney, New South Wales on board RMS Karmala 3 February 1917

Melbourne, Victoria on board RMS Karmala 6 February 1917

Melbourne, Victoria on board HMAT A42 Boorara 10 May 1917

February 1917 Reinforcement Boorara Group

February 1917 Reinforcement Morea 17 February Group

February 1917 Reinforcement Morea 20 February Group

Melbourne, Victoria on board HMAT A42 Boorara 10 May 1917

Sydney, New South Wales on board RMS Morea 17 February 1917

Melbourne, Victoria on board RMS Morea 20 February 1917

March 1917 Reinforcement Port Sydney Group

March 1917 Reinforcement Boorara Group

Sydney, New South Wales on board HMAT A15 Port Sydney 9 May 1917

Fremantle, Western Australia on board HMAT A42 Boorara 22 May 1917

April 1917 Reinforcements Port Sydney 9 May 1917 Group

April 1917 Reinforcement Port Sydney 22 May 1917 Group

Sydney, New South Wales on board HMAT A15 Port Sydney 9 May 1917

Fremantle, Western Australia on board HMAT A15 Port Sydney 22 May 1917

May 1917 Reinforcement Kyarra Group

May 1917 Reinforcement Port Lincoln Group

Sydney, New South Wales on board HMAT A55 Kyarra 3 September 1917

Fremantle, Western Australia on board HMAT A17 Port Lincoln 30 June 1917

June 1917 Reinforcement Canberra Group

June 1917 Reinforcement Kyarra Group

Sydney, New South Wales on board SS Canberra 16 November 1917

Fremantle, Western Australia on board HMAT A55 Kyarra 17 September 1917

July 1917 Reinforcement Commonwealth Group

July 1917 Reinforcement Port Darwin Group

Fremantle, Western Australia on board HMAT A73 Commonwealth 9 November 1917

Sydney, New South Wales on board SS Port Darwin 30 April 1918

August 1917 Reinforcement

Fremantle, Western Australia on board HMAT A73 Commonwealth 9 November 1917

See: Troop transport ships for information and photographs about the various ships employed in transporting the troops to Egypt.

 

Acknowledgement: Many thanks to Steve Becker who has provided much useful assistance in the construction of this page.

 

Further Reading:

Imperial Camel Corps, AIF

Imperial Camel Corps, Roll of Honour 

Double Squadrons

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920



Citation: Imperial Camel Corps - Outline

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Tuesday, 2 March 2010 10:02 AM EAST

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