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Wednesday, 5 August 2009
Battle of Romani, Sinai, August 4 to 5, 1916, 7th LHR, AIF, Unit History Account
Topic: AIF - 2B - 7 LHR

Battle of Romani

Sinai, August 4 to 5, 1916

7th LHR, AIF, Unit History Account

 

7th LHR Horse Lines at Bir Etmaler

[From: Richardson, photograph plate facing p. 12.]

 

Lieutenant Colonel John Dalzell Richardson produced a unit history published in 1919 called The History of the 7th Light Horse Regiment AIF which included a section specifically related to the battle of Beersheba and is extracted below.

Richardson, JD, The History of the 7th Light Horse Regiment AIF, Sydney, 1919, pp. 29 - 34:

 

CHAPTER IV.

ROMANI, KATIA AND BIR EL ABD.


[29] At 1 a.m. on August 4th., orders were received to be ready to move, and at 3.30 a.m. the Brigade moved out to Wellington Ridge, half a mile to the S.W. of our camp, to support the 1st Brigade, whose posts were being slowly driven in, whilst making a most gallant fight in the darkness.

Under shelter of Wellington Ridge, the 7th. Regiment dismounted and moved forward under severe fire to support the 3rd. Regiment, heavily engaged with the enemy on a long low spur, running north-east from Mount Meredith. This advance took place over nearly a mile of heavy sand and many men were greatly exhausted before the ridge was reached. Here it was found that the enemy was in strength. The machine gun and rifle fire were severe, and enemy mountain batteries sprayed the whole line with shrapnel; an effort was being made to encircle both our flanks.

The 3rd. Regiment now commenced to retire, having their horses with them; as the position was clearly untenable. Lieut: Colonel Onslow also gave the order for the 7th. Regiment to fall back on Wellington Ridge and the horses. There had already been over twenty casualties, including Major Windeyer and Lieutenant Ryan, both severely wounded. During the long retirement to Wellington Ridge, the Regiment came under heavy shell, machine gun and rifle fire, and only the very exhausted state of the enemy, owing to his long advance over the sand, prevented him from profiting more by this withdrawal. He was, undoubtedly, slow in following up his advantage.

Many gallant acts were performed in getting our wounded away, the behaviour of Corporal Harrington being especially notable.

At Wellington Ridge, orders were received to take up a position on a low sand dune, about half a mile due west of our camp at Et Maler, and to cover it. The 6th. Regiment had been sent well out on to the right flank, and the Wellington Regiment was in reserve behind our position. This was an excellent one, as, later, when troops of the 1st Light Horse Brigade moved to some high ridges on the north, it could not well be enfiladed, and had to be approached across a long flat. Here the men scooped rough cover in the sand, and our machine guns and two Lewis guns, only that morning obtained, were set up, and any enemy movement brought forth a 'burst of fire. Turkish snipers pushed forward among the bushes on the flat in front of us, but, excepting some intermittent fire from the direction of Wellington Ridge, there was little movement for some time. The enemy bombardment of the redoubts to the west and north of Katib Gannit was now intense, the 5.9 shells making an appalling explosion with clouds of sand and smoke everywhere; but the damage done was not great. Enemy planes hovered overhead, bombing any targets that presented themselves; among others our led horses; but without great results. Our field guns commenced to open at 8 a.m., and did some good shelling of enemy troops that were moving at some distance, on our front.

The day became intensely hot, and difficulty was experienced in keeping up the water supply to the men. After dark, hot tea was sent up by the quartermaster under difficult conditions, as the camp area and the kitchens were riddled with bullets, and it was close to these, that Corporal Curran, who had gained a decoration at Gallipoli, was killed after most gallantly bringing to safety a number of wounded men. By [30] midday it was evident that the Turkish advance had been held up, and Colonel Royston galloped along the line directing that every effort be made to harass and pin the enemy down. Later in the day, news came that 500 Turks had surrendered on the right flank, after being cut off, and orders were received that a continuous fire was to be kept up on those in front. This was done, with due regard to the expenditure of ammunition, and produced the almost inevitable result-heavy shelling of our position by the enemy's mountain guns. This bombardment lasted for half an hour, most of the shells falling just behind us. A signaller was killed, and half a dozen other men were slightly wounded. The shelling, however, had the effect of making the men dig in deeper, and by night fair trenches had been constructed. The horses were watered late in the day with some difficulty, as the watering area was constantly under the enemy's fire. As night approached the position was consolidated and reinforced by 50 men of the 52nd Division, and we linked up on the left with other troops of this Division, and on the right with the 1st. Light Horse Brigade.

The enemy became nervous as soon as darkness set in; there were frequent bursts of rifle fire and a "display" of Verey lights. At intervals also, his 5.9. shells burst with a deafening roar, but as a rule, they did not fall close to the defences. Little sleep was obtained. Orders were received that at 4 o'clock next morning, the whole line would advance.

Lieut.-Colonel Onslow left "B" Squadron with the led horses and the fifty men of the Infantry to act as reserve and to garrison the position; with "A" and "C" Squadrons, and, leading the advance, he commenced to move dismounted against Wellington Ridge. Some time was lost in permitting the Wellingtons and troops of the 1st Light Horse Brigade to get into position; then, in one thin line, the attack was begun. Enemy snipers among the bushes on the flat were soon disposed of, and when their front line was reached, only a feeble resistance was made, though unfortunately among our casualties was Lieut: Colonel Onslow, who was severely wounded through the leg at point blank range. Major Sutton automatically took charge of the Regiment, and the advance proceeded. The enemy now commenced to surrender in a body, and it was evident that his demoralisation was complete. Many machine guns were captured with their crews standing round them without attempting to fire a shot, and a large proportion of these were Germans. The long heavy march through the sand, with the shortage of water and the great heat, had exhausted even the Anatolian troops, the Flower of the Turkish Army. Many were almost in a state of collapse. Altogether 700 enemy were captured by the Regiment, with many machine guns, camels and booty of all kinds.

The led horses with "B" Squadron were brought up, and the Brigade moved on in pursuit under Lieut.-Colonel Meldrum (W.M.R.), Colonel Royston having been slightly wounded in the knee on the previous day. No check was experienced until near Katia, where at a small hod Bir Abu Gulud, south-west of that place and towards Hamisah, an ammunition column and Field ambulance were captured. Here we came under some shell fire, and the Wellingtons on our left ran into machine guns. The 6th. Regiment were still with the 1st Brigade in our rear, and as the enemy strength on our right and in the vicinity of Hamisah was unknown, Major Sutton decided to halt until the 1st. Light Horse Brigade came up. The opportunity was taken to water the horses at rather a poor well, and to pile up the captured ammunition ready for destruction in the event of the Turks making another attack.

About 10 a.m. the 1st. Light Horse Brigade, under Colonel Meredith, came up and orders were received to be ready to make a combined assault by the whole mounted Division on Katia, in the afternoon. In this attack, the 2nd. Light Horse Brigade was placed in the centre position against Katia itself, with the Yeomanry Brigade on the left and the 1st. Light Horse Brigade on the right, the N.Z.M.R. Brigade being on their right, and the 3rd Light Horse Brigade, directed against Hamisah, were to move against [31] enemy's left flank and rear. The 7th. Regiment was in Brigade reserve. The advance commenced mounted, the 6th. Regiment leading, and no check was experienced until the scrubby flat just to the west of the palm groves of Katia was reached, when the enemy's field and heavy guns opened, and shortly afterwards his machine guns began to splutter. The impression had been that the whole Division was to go in mounted, but apparently this idea was abandoned later, though it is possible, that if it had been carried out resolutely, it would have meant the annihilation of the Turkish Force. In a small palm grove and behind a low ridge, the Brigade dismounted for action, and the 6th. Regiment and the Wellingtons moved forward extended, the 7th. Regiment being still in reserve. The horses were now moved up behind the low ridge on the edge of the scrubby flat. It was fortunate that this was done, as the palm groves, in which cover at first had been taken, were soon heavily bombarded by 5.9. and mountain guns.

The battle had now become general. The 6th. Regiment and Wellingtons made some progress at first under heavy fire, but soon sustained a number of causalities, and their advance was finally checked by machine guns, sweeping an open flat, on which no cover could be obtained. The 1st. Light Horse Brigade on the right, was heavily shelled. It was soon seen that the Yeomanry, on the left, had run into some machine guns; they commenced to go right out of the action, which left the flank of our Brigade in the air. The 5th. Light Horse Regiment, which was still attached to the N.Z.M.R. Brigade charged Bir El Maraieh mounted, with bayonets fixed. A few prisoners were taken, but a cross fire from machine guns was met, and so many casualties were sustained, that a short withdrawal had to be made.

The enemy's shell fire increased as the afternoon wore on, and he did his utmost to locate the horses sheltering in rear of the low ridges; but though many shells fell within a few yards, and the shrapnel was like rain just behind, there were only two or three casualties. It seemed as if the muzzles of his guns could not be depressed sufficiently, firing as they were at very close range. The palm groves close by were well searched and his heavies reached for our field guns, which had opened from the high ground, about a mile in our rear.

As the whole line had been checked, and there seemed no further hope of an advance with our greatly exhausted troops, orders were received to be ready to retire at 7 p.m.; about a quarter of an hour before this, the firing ceased on both sides. It was afterwards discovered that the enemy had also made simultaneous withdrawal.

The 7th. Regiment was now ordered to form the rear guard, and "B" Squadron was given the post of honor as rear troops. The main body of the Brigade quickly got away, but much time was occupied getting the wounded into sand carts; this operation had to be covered, though there was no trouble from the enemy. Finally, all were got away, and after a troop had been detailed as escort to the sand carts, the Squadron moved back in rear of the Regiment, both men and horses being exhausted. The casualties for the Regiment for the battle of Romani were 9 O.R's. killed, and 3 officers and 42 O.R's. wounded. The Regiment suffered only one casualty at Katia. The 6th suffered fairly heavily here, Lieut.-Colonel Fuller, the C.O. being severely wounded.

The next two days were spent in resting, and, in the meantime, Major Richardson was placed in command of the Regiment; he continued in this capacity for three months, until the return of Lieut.-Colonel Onslow, holding also the rank of Temporary Lieut.-Colonel for two months.

 

Further Reading:

7th Australian Light Horse Regiment, AIF

7th 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: Battle of Romani, Sinai, August 4 to 5, 1916, 7th LHR, AIF, Unit History Account

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Monday, 26 October 2009 6:10 PM EADT

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