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Wednesday, 5 August 2009
Romani, Sinai, 4-5 August 1916, Massey Account
Topic: BatzS - Romani

Battle of Romani

Sinai, 4 - 5 August 1916

Massey Account

 

 
Massey, WT, "Turks' Flight from Romani",
 
[From: Times,  10 August 1916, p. 6.]

 

William Thomas Massey describes the Battle of Romani for the London Times

William Thomas Massey was the embedded London Times journalist with the British and Allied forces during the Sinai and Palestine campaign. After the battle of Beersheba, he filed a report to the London Times on 10 August 1916 detailing the event.

 

TURKS' FLIGHT FROM ROMANI,

CAMEL CORPS IN ACTION.

THE KING'S MESSAGE TO THE TROOPS.

His Majesty the King has sent the following telegram to General Sir A. J. Murray, K.C.B., Commander-in-Chief in Egypt:

Please convey to all ranks engaged in the battle of Romani my appreciation of the efforts which have brought about the brilliant success they have won at the height of the hot season and in desert country.

GEORGE R.I.


Telegraphing at 8.45 p.m. on Tuesday, the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief in Egypt reports that our pursuit of the enemy in the Katia district continues.

To the north and west the Turkish rearguard has been pressed back, while to the south the Imperial Camel Corps by a dashing attack drove them from their entrenchments. We have captured more prisoners, and the enemy rearguard has now retired to about a line running north and south through Bir el Abd (15 miles east of Katia).

Bir-el-Abd is about 19 miles cast of the battlefield at Romani.

From W. T. Massey. ROMANI, AUG. 6 (Midnight).

We are pressing the Turks heavily everywhere, and the toll of 3,000 prisoners already taken may be materially increased. Our infantry are advancing steadily on a wide front, with mounted troops on the flanks, but the enemy is fighting strongly, supported by artillery, which shows no sign of slackening. In Friday's fight, which settled the Turkish attempt to invade Egypt, we had a superiority in guns, but when the enemy's attack developed it was surprising to see the vast amount of ammunition he had at hand, and, though the Australian Light Horse captured a complete ammunition column and some guns, the Turks continue to have a plentiful supply, and use it without stint.

It is probable that they have three, if not four, 6-inch howitzers and a considerable number of mountain guns.

FINE WORK OF AUSTRALIAN LIGHT HORSE.

I can now give fuller details of the Anzac Mounted Division's sterling work. These magnificent troops fought with a tenacity, courage, and endurance worthy of comparison with the greatest things done by them in Gallipoli.

For a week the Australian Light Horse were in touch with the enemy for 24 hours out of 48, the two brigades taking turn and turn about. Tho 1st Brigade got in touch with the Turks a few minutes after midnight on Thursday, and, with the 2nd Brigade, fought them almost uninterruptedly till darkness sat in on Saturday. The horses were many hours without water, many of the men had little food on Saturday, and scarcely a drop of water to relieve the agony of thirst in the desert.

The 1st Brigade Light Horse held off 3,000 Turks, in the darkness, on a line of nearly four miles, retiring very slowly. They prevented the Turks from obtaining the wide, sandy, undulating ground between the hills south-east of Romani before daylight, their intention being to rush forward, seize and cut the railway west of Romani, isolate the garrison of that important place, and prevent reinforcements from reaching them by rail. Holding on doggedly, the 1st Brigade stopped that attempt, and when reinforced at daylight by the 2nd Brigade, they held Wellington Ridge for hours in face of heavy artillery and infantry fire.

The Turkish attacks were so desperately launched that the lines were sometimes only 100 yards apart. The Turks occupied Mount Meredith and Mount Royston, named after the Commanders of the 1st and 2nd Light Horse Brigades, but they never secured Wellington Ridge, called after the Wellington Mounted Rifles.

This paved the way to our triumph, and the Battle of Romani was made absolutely secure when the New Zealanders threw the enemy off Royston and the infantry thrust him back towards Katia.

TURKS' NEW BATTLE CRY.

There was some desperate fighting in the early morning when the enemy's strong advanced line was thrown furiously against the Light Horse, the Turks shouting their newfangled battle cry, "Allah finish Australia," and rushing against our outposts with the bayonet. The Light Horse regarded the cry with immense amusement. They likened it to "Gott strafe England," shouted back derisive answers, and showed that they were more than a match for the Turk with steel.

I saw the Light Horse on Wellington Ridge when shrapnel was bursting over them with wonderful accuracy, but the Australians never showed the slightest sign of movement until the enemy attempted a rush. Then, I am told they poured a terrible stopping fire into the enemy, and the appearance of the battlefield supports the story of the accuracy of the Australian marksmen.

On Saturday morning the First and Second Brigades of Light Horse, with the New Zealand Mounted Rifles on their right, worked down through the previous day's battlefield any moved towards Katia, which the enemy held in strong force, the Third Light Horse Brigade new to this particular area, making a in attack on the Hamisah group of palms, two miles south of the Katia Oasis. At 2 o'clock in the afternoon there was a combined attack on Katia. The three Brigades galloped three quarters of a mile into action across extreme heavy country, and the gallant horses, untired after many hours' exertions, carried the cheering men at such a pace that the Turks' artillery was at sea, though the enemy attempted to put up a curtain fire.

On the left the Warwickshire and. Gloucestershire Yeomanry came into action. They got half-way across the swamp and were several hours under heavy howitzer and mountain gun fire, but as Hamisah could not be carried before night, the First and Second Light Her withdrew at dusk for the men and horses get a thoroughly well-earned rest.

HEROIC "DESERTER"

I must relate one instance of the typical spirit of these light horsemen. When the Australian infantry went to France a light horseman, who had been awarded the D.C.M. at Gallipoli, smuggled himself away with them. Recently he was discovered and, though he pleaded that he wanted to be where the Empire's work was hottest, he was sent back to Egypt and reached his regiment when the Turks approached. He was placed in a guard tent and not allowed to have a rifle or a horse; but when the action began he escaped from the tent and tramped to where the engagement was hottest. Attaching himself to an ambulance, he went to the firing line and carried 14 wounded men out of action and was in the act of rescuing a 15th when he was killed. If there is a endorsement on this brave fellow's conduct sheet it should be inscribed in letters of gold.

 

Editor's note

Note about the identity of the HEROIC "DESERTER" mentioned in the above article by William Thomas Massey. The man was Francis Patrick Curran of the 7th Light Horse Regiment.  See:

859 Corporal Francis Patrick Curran, 7th LHR

 

Further Reading:

Battle of Romani, Sinai, August 4 to 5, 1916 

Bir el Abd, Sinai, 9 August 1916

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920

 


Citation: Romani, Sinai, 4-5 August 1916, Massey Account

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Monday, 26 October 2009 4:33 PM EADT

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