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Wednesday, 5 August 2009
Romani, Sinai, 4-5 August 1916, 5th LHR, AIF, Unit History Account
Topic: AIF - 2B - 5 LHR

Battle of Romani

Sinai, 4 - 5 August 1916

5th LHR, AIF, War Diary Account

 

The officers of the 5th Light Horse Regiment after the Battle of Romani

[Left to Right: Back Row: Captain Richard Stewart Billington, ?, ?, Major John McClelland Boyd, Captain George Hicks, Lieutenant Bernard Radcliff; Middle Row: Lieutenant Cyril Ernest Scott, Lieutenant Colonel Lachlan Chisholm Wilson, Lieutenant Colonel Donald Charles Cameron, Major Archdale George Bolingbroke; Front Row: Major Robert Harold Nimmo, Lieutenant David Blakeney Broughton, Captain Ernest Alfred Field Stanfield, Lieutenant Frederick Anthony James W. Taylor.]

 

Brigadier General Lachlan Chisholm Wilson and Captain Henry Wetherell, collaborated to produce a unit history published in 1926 called History Of The Fifth Light Horse Regiment, 1914 - 1919 which included a section specifically related to the battle of Beersheba and is extracted below. A copy of this book is available on the Lost Leaders of Anzacs website.

Wilson, L.C. and Wetherell, H., History Of The Fifth Light Horse Regiment, 1914 - 1919, Motor Press, Sydney, 1926, pp. 73-80:

   

PART I. By Brigadier General LC Wilson.

CHAPTER 19. ROMANI OPERATIONS (July and August, 1916).

On the 18th July, 1918, Major-General Chaytor, the Commander of the Anzac Mounted Division, left Romani by aeroplane on a reconnaissance towards El-Abd. On the same afternoon, the 2nd Light Horse Brigade moved out from Romani, with the intention of carrying out a reconnaissance as far as El Abd. General Chaytor, from his aeroplane, observed large Turkish forces between El Abd and Oghratina; upon his return he informed the Brigade-which had then reached Katia-.of his discovery. The Brigade accordingly halted at Katia for the night. Before dawn it moved eastward towards El Abd. This Regiment was not participating in the reconnaissance, but Captain McNeill, of 'B' Squadron, was with the 6th Regiment to learn the local geography. It appears that the advance scouts of the Brigade shortly before dawn, near Oghratina, rode into the infantry advance guard of the Turkish force. Captain McNeill reported a few exciting moments as the Turkish infantry tried to surround the advanced horsemen, who, however, galloped over them in the first tinge of dawn back to their own supports. It appeared afterwards that this was a strong Turkish force of some 18,000 troops, under the German General, Von Kressentein, who had some weeks previously moved from Beersheba with the intention of taking possession of the Canal. The 1st and 2nd Light Horse Brigades, who were based at Romani, immediately got in contact with this Turkish force, each brigade doing a 24-hour tour of duty. [74] During the next fortnight, these brigades kept in close touch with the Turkish force and delayed their advance considerably. This delay enabled the Higher Command to make arrangements for a stand of the British troops at Romani.

On the 1st July, 1916, the Kantara Outpost Command had been formed under Brigadier-General the Marquis of Tullibardine. Its area included Dueidar, but special instructions were issued that the 5th Regiment was not to be embodied in the scheme of defence as the Regiment was to remain mobile.

On the Turkish invasion being reported, a Force, known as the Section Mounted Troops, under Brigadier-General Chaytor, was formed under the direct orders of the Section Commander, General Lawrence, the command consisting of the Canterbury and Auckland Mounted Rifles, the 5th Light Horse, two squadrons of the Warwickshire Yeomanry, one squadron of the Worcestershire Yeomanry, one squad of the Gloucester Yeomanry, and the Somerset and Leicestershire Batteries, R.H.A. In the meantime, our position in the 2nd Light Horse Brigade had been taken by the Wellington Mounted Rifles.

From the 18th July, when the Turkish force was reported until the subsequent advance after the defeat of the Turks at Romani, this Regiment was engaged in sending out strong patrols to Dhaba on the East and Aras on the South, by day. By night, posts were kept at Hill 383 (three miles) and 331 (six miles) and at a point three miles out to the east of Dueidar. Telephone wires were run out to these night posts and early warning would have been received a1 an attack on this particular front. Stand-to at 1.30 a.m.

On the 26th July, the Turks had a force at Mageibra. The High Command was very anxious to know where the Turkish attack was likely to eventuate: whether through Dueidar or more to the South, or whether it would be made through Romani. To keep in touch with the Turks at Mageibra, a patrol of two officers and thirty other ranks (Lieutenant Stanfield and Lieutenant Broughton) were sent to Nagid, from the 26th to the 30th. The headquarters of this patrol were at Nagid, and their duty was for one officer and four men to be day and night on the ridges overlooking Mageibra, [75] so as to keep close observation of movements there. This particular duty was well carried out by these officers. The work was exciting, as they were operating some twenty miles in front of our line of posts, and the Turks soon discovered their presence. They made numerous attempts to capture them. They were chased away temporarily on various occasions, but always came back to their posts when the Turks had retired. General Chaytor was very complimentary on the excellent way in which this work was carried out. After this four days' tour of duty officers from other units took over the duty.

On the 3rd August, the patrols watching the enemy at Mageibra reported that a large hostile force was advancing from the latter place towards Hamisah and Nagid. It was estimated that the enemy force in this vicinity towards evening was holding an outpost line on the high ridge, 2,000 yards east of Nagid, extending south-east towards Bir-Waset. Instructions were accordingly received from General Chaytor that this Regiment should reconnoitre Nagid at dawn, the object being to locate the enemy flank and to find out, if possible, his strength. Any serious engagement with the enemy was to be avoided. The Regiment accordingly left Dueidar at 12.30 a.m. on the night of the 3rd-4th. A halt was made at Nuss to consult Major Whitehorn, who was stationed there in charge of a squadron of the Auckland Mounted Rifles, which was supplying the officers' patrol watching Mageibra. This patrol was captured that night, being caught between two columns of Turkish infantry. The Regiment left Nuss at 2.45 a.m. in a south-east direction, in order to arrive at Nagid from the south. This was accomplished, and at dawn the advance guard reported Nagid 'All clear.' The advance guard moved on to the high ridges 2,000 yards north of Nagid. Upon reaching this position, the advance scouts detected a body of the enemy, apparently two battalions of a strength of about 1,500, marching in a north-west direction. The enemy had as protection a flank-guard and advance-guard of camel men. The enemy, seeing out advance scouts and patrols, immediately took up a position along a high ridge, between our position and the, valley up which they were marching to Hod-el-enna. They opened fire with machine [76] guns and mountain guns. We had two casualties, one being Lieutenant G. Hicks (wounded).

Having carried out our instructions of ascertaining the position of the enemy, their strength and movements, we reported by telephone to General Chaytor. In the meantime the main Turkish columns were attacking the British lines at Romani. Instructions were received from General Chaytor to proceed three miles back from Nuss on the road towards Dueidar and there await instructions from him. This movement was carried out. Touch was obtained with various signalling stations, but no instructions could be obtained or information gained as to the whereabouts of the New Zealand Brigade. After waiting there a couple of hours, the Regiment moved to the north-west of the Sand Hills. Similar efforts were here made and patrols sent out, but no information could be obtained. It afterwards appeared that a message was sent from that brigade to the Regiment to report at Canterbury Hills,. but this message never arrived. Accordingly, at sun-down the Regiment returned to Dueidar to re-ration and get orders.

The presence of this Regiment at Nagid in the morning had undoubtedly a material effect on the Turkish Reserves. It subsequently appeared that they were stationed that night at Marieah, and two battalions seen by us were, no doubt, part of that Reserve marching to reinforce the attack at EtMaler. We were afterwards informed that, upon the fire opening at Nagid, there was a cessation for two hours of reinforcements to the Turkish firing-line.

At 7.30 p.m. Brigadier-General Antill with the 3rd Light Horse Brigade arrived at Dueidar from the south, and instructions were received that this Regiment should be attached to him for the time being. On the morning of the 5th, the 3rd Light Horse Brigade, plus this Regiment, marched from Dueidar to Nuss. On arrival there, we joined up with the New Zealand Brigade and again came under the command of the Brigadier of that unit.

At 10 a.m. the New Zealand Brigade (Chaytor), including this Regiment marched towards Katia along the telegraph line. The 3rd Brigade (Antill) marched towards Hamisah. The 1st Brigade (Meredith) and 2nd Brigade [77] (Royston) and 5th Mounted Brigade (Yeomanry) were marching towards Katia from Romani.

It should be here remarked that on the previous evening at sunset the Turkish attack at Romani had been repulsed with heavy losses, both in killed and prisoners, and that the remnants of the Turkish force had retired towards Katia.

When the New Zealand Brigade, to which we temporarily belonged, had arrived within a couple of miles of Katia Oasis, the Brigadier (Chaytor) sent for the C.O. and informed him that the five mounted brigades were going to charge Katia Oasis and rush the Turkish position mounted. The General pointed out the fronts to be attacked by the New Zealand Brigade and explained that a battery of heavy Austrian guns were supposed to be amongst certain palm trees to our front. The 5th Regiment was accordingly instructed to gallop the Turkish position and they would be supported by one of the New Zealand regiments, the idea being that the other four mounted brigades were to charge in on our flanks. The Regiment was accordingly formed in two lines. 'A' and 'B' Squadrons in the front line, and 'C' Squadron in the second line, the squadrons being in line of troop columns; the ground to be covered was sand, over which was scattered small brush. Bayonets were drawn and fixed on the rifles, which were to be used as lances. Orders were issued that on approaching the Turkish position the troops would gallop up into line and the Regiment would sweep through the Turkish position. The Regiment accordingly moved off at a fast trot, with bayonets fixed, over a distance of about a mile and a half. Within half a mile of the objective the troops galloped into line, and the Regiment charged the oasis. A splendid line was kept, the Regiment moving with the precision of a peace manoeuvre. As a matter of fact, the guns had been removed from that part of the Oasis which we attacked, and when we arrived there, there were only some dozen Turks who were taken prisoners. As we approached our objective, machine guns, rifle fire, and artillery opened on us from the Turkish position further to the rear. We had now gained our objective, and it was apparent that the other brigades were not charging in (mounted) as anticipated. This being so, it was useless for this Regiment alone to charge across the open country to the main position of the Turks. The Regiment [80] under Major Cameron, was sent to the extreme right of the Brigade line, covering the flank of the Auckland Rifles. Two troops of 'B' Squadron were sent as escort to the guns and one troop as escort to the ammunition, two of these troops being subsequently brought up to the firing.-line, one on the right with 'C' Squadron, and the other on the left with the remainder of the Regiment. The remainder of the Regiment, consisting of 'A' Squadron and portion of 'B' Squadron, were sent up on the left of the brigade line to support the Canterburys and to keep in touch with the 1st and 2nd Brigades, It thus happened that during this day's fighting, part of the Regiment was on the extreme right of the Brigade and the balance on the extreme left. The 3rd Brigade did not come up on the right-flank of the line as anticipated. It appears they met strong opposition and were not able to take up their allotted place. The result of this was that the Turks started to out-flank the New Zealand Brigade line occupied by 'C' Squadron, and some very brisk fighting at very close quarters ensued, there being a distance of yards only between the opposing men. On our left flank touch was obtained with the 2nd Brigade. Fighting continued throughout the day. The enemy's numbers were greatly in excess of ours and their artillery was very active. Late in the afternoon, a determined counter-attack was made by the enemy. They opened an extremely heavy artillery and machine gun fire on the 2nd Brigade, to our left. That brigade was forced back, which resulted in our left flank being open. As a gap was now occurring in the Division's line our left flank was thrown back to prevent the Turks getting in behind our left rear. Shortly after this, instructions were received from General Chaytor that the whole force would retire. The Division accordingly retired to Oghratina. During the day we collected 13 prisoners. Our casualties for the day amounted to 37, including Major Johnstone and Lieutenants Wood and Graham wounded. Sergeant Hector McLean was subsequently awarded the D.C.M. for his gallantry during these operations.

 

Further Reading:

5th Australian Light Horse Regiment, AIF

5th Australian Light Horse Regiment, Roll of Honour

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, 5th LHR, AIF, Unit History Account

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Monday, 26 October 2009 6:14 PM EADT

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