Topic: AIF - 2B - 7 LHR
7th LHR, AIF
7th Australian Light Horse Regiment
Return to Gallipoli, 1918
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. 107 - 113:
THE OLD BATTLE-FIELDS.
THE men were now very keen, and seemed to recognise the honour of belonging to the Regiment selected to represent the A.I.F. on the old battle-fields. Major Hession did good work in securing clothing and equipment when possibly most other men would have failed. On the 17th 57 reinforcements arrived from Moascar, and the Regiment was built up to strength, but unfortunately at the last moment accommodation on the transport became limited and only 22 Officers and 399 O.R.'s, including Canteen personnel, were able to go. Lieutenants Gibbs and Donkin were detailed to stay behind with the surplus men, but these Officers and Lieutenant Worthington afterwards followed via Salonica; Lieutenant Gibbs, who was placed in charge of some wheeled transport of the two Regiments which could not be taken, never actually joined up, though he saw Athens, Salonica and Constantinople.
Lieutenant Campbell, of A.I.F. Headquarters in Cairo, took photographs of the Regiment for record purposes whilst at Kantara. On the 27th a move was made for the wharves at 7 a.m. for embarkation, lorries being available for the baggage; the men marched in and were given coffee and biscuits by the Y.M.C.A., whose representative had been with our Brigade in the old days at Marakeb. Horses were got on board without difficulty, but the luggage and canteen goods for the two Regiments were not loaded till midnight. A properly staffed A.I.F. Canteen, under Captain Frost, with sufficient supplies to last the two regiments for four months, :vas taken, also through the thoughtful arrangements of Major Anderson (R.M.O.) sufficient Red Cross supplies to equip a small regimental hospital of 10 beds; these later on saved the lives of a number of men. The Australian Red Cross Commissioner in Cairo responded generously and promptly at short notice, making these supplies available. The transport, on which the 7th Regiment and the Canterbury M.R. embarked, was the "Huntscastle," a captured boat which had recently been gutted by fire; though a good horse boat and seaworthy, she was not well fitted to carry so many troops. The three officers who had been allowed at the last moment to go on 1914 leave were Major Hession, Lieutenants Waugh, H.G.H., and Waugh, W., and these were said good-bye to before sailing. Captain Maddrell had already gone. The "Huntscastle" left Kantara at 5.30 a.m. on November 28th, Lieut.Colonel Finlay, C.B., D.S.O., of the C.M.R., being O.C. Troops. Port Said was reached about three hours later, and the day was spent in taking in coal and supplies; time was lost in repairing some horse boxes on deck, which had badly slipped, when men were being assembled to boat stations. The transport put to sea in fine weather at 6 a.m. next day, all ranks wearing lifebelts owing to the menace of anchored mines in the shallow waters, and these belts were always carried during the voyage. The masts of two vessels which had been sunk a few miles out of Port Said showed the work of enemy submarines. On November 30th the weather changed, and, running through the Sporades Group of the Greek Archipelago, it became squally with an unpleasant choppy sea.
Mudros Harbour was reached at 5 p.m, on December 1st, and presented a very different appearance from that place in other days, when crowded with some of the greatest liners and warships afloat; it was then temporarily, at any rate, one of the most important harbours in the world. Now a couple of tramp steamers and half a dozen trawlers sweeping for mines were all that could be seen. Mudros was left at 10.30 p.m. on the same day, and a round-about track had to be taken on account of the minefields. Imbros was passed at daylight next day; a cloud and mist wreathed Imbros in a stormy sea, instead of, as in the old days, standing out clear cut and beautiful with its background of glorious sunsets. The hill features of Anzac and Achi Baba could be faintly seen in the distance. From Imbros to the Straits and to Chanak the "Huntscastle" was guided by a trawler along the narrow wept and buoyed channel to avoid the minefield, Cape Helles and Seddul Bahr, with the famous collier "River Clyde" looking wonderfully well preserved, were passed at 9 a.m., and the old trenches right to Achi Baba could be easily traced through glasses.
Chanak, the most important town on the Asiatic side, was reached at 1 I o'clock on a bitterly cold and squally day: the wind cut like a knife, and was the more keenly felt because the two Regiments had just come from the intense heat of the Jordan Valley. Spanish influenza had again made its appearance in a more severe form among the C.MR., but up to the time of disembarkation there had been only one case in the 7th Regiment. The rations on board the transport left much to be desired, and had to be supplemented from Canteen and Comforts Supplies. At Chanak, where definite orders were expected, none were forthcoming, and all that was known of us was contained in a paragraph in the London "Times. It was necessary to wait on board, in bitter weather, until December 4th, when the 28th British Division, whose Headquarters were at Chanak, took the responsibility of disembarking the two regiments at Maidos, on the European side of the Straits, whither officers had been sent to look for billets, but found none suitable.
The French, who were in occupation of Kilid Bahr and Maidos, were then asked if they could find us accommodation, and they placed an old Turkish hut hospital at our disposal. This was a verminous place, and a great deal had eventually to be done to make it habitable at all. On December 5th the disembarkation commenced, and proceeded slowly, as the horses had to be slung into a horse boat, and everything had to go by lighter to Maidos wharf, about one mile and a half away.
The unloading of Canteen, Red Cross and Comforts stores took much time also, and the last boatload was not landed until the morning of the 10th. The Turkish Hospital, situated between Maidos and Kilid Bahr, had to be shared by the two regiments; it was inadequate for their requirements, and many tents had to be used. It was fortunate that, with the exception of a few bad days, the weather was good during our stay, as conditions on the Gallipoli Peninsula in midwinter often are wretched in the extreme.
On a few occasions, when the weather was bad, the wind was so keen that it penetrated all clothing, and the mountains over in Asia had their mantles of snow, particularly Mount Ida, famous in the Homeric Legend, though no snow actually fell on our camp. It was fortunate also that plenty of firewood of one sort or another was available, some of the old Turkish barracks being found particularly useful in this way. On the 6th a dismounted party of Australians and New Zealanders marched over to Anzac -the first British troops to visit the old lines since the evacuation. The distance is, however, between eight and ten miles, according to the route taken, and this proved rather an exhausting march for men just off the ship.
The work of cleaning up the old hospital and making it fit to live in and comfortable engaged all attention at first; a suitable building was at once set aside for the Regimental Hospital. Influenza, which had already appeared so seriously in the C.M.R., now commenced to spread in our Regiment, and soon many officers (including the C.O.) and men were suffering from this dangerous disease. The little hospital became crowded, and the R.M.O. and orderlies worked incessantly to combat the scourge and to make things as comfortable as possible for the sick men. A stationary hospital was established at Chanak by the 28th Division, under whose command the Regiment now came, but the voyage across the Straits, in cold or wet weather, was anything but beneficial to sick men, and in the beginning our own little hospital was far better equipped. Altogether there were about 60 fairly severe cases in the 7th Regiment, but only 20 of these were evacuated to the hospital at Chanak, where one death from influenza, that of Trooper Jones, occurred. Lieutenant J. Dalton, an officer who had been with the Regiment almost from the beginning, and who was most popular with all ranks, died from pneumonia. On the other hand, the Canterbury Mounted Rifles, under exactly the same condition as ourselves, evacuated about 140 to hospital and had 13 deaths, including an officer. After being about three weeks on the peninsula the influenza gradually disappeared, and during the rest of the stay the health of all ranks was good, and in the keen, bracing climate the vitality of the men quickly improved. Just before landing, Mr. E. R. Peacock, a correspondent of the British and Australian Press, joined up; he remained with us during our stay, and contributed many articles to the papers that he represented. Parties, mounted and dismounted, were sent almost daily to Anzac, and later on to Cape Helles. Interest in the old battle-fields never flagged, and the later men, who had not been at Anzac, were keen to see all the places whose names were familiar to them. The right flank at Anzac, which had been held practically all through by our Brigade, was, of course, the place of greatest interest. Ryrie s Post, named after our gallant Brigadier, was perhaps most visited by our men, who were anxious to identify old trenches and dug-outs which had been their home for so long, and under such hard conditions. Lone Pine, Quinn's. Pope's and Walker's Ridge-in fact, all the old posts-were traced out; battles were fought over again. The trenches were in a good state of preservation after three years of exposure to the weather, and the positions could be located without difficulty. Dug-outs and tunnels had caved in here and there, and the whole area was gradually being overgrown with scrub, the holly-oak predominating. Hundreds of young apricot trees, some of fair height, were noted. There had been no violation of graves, though possibly a few had been dug up in a search for buried arms and ammunition; practically all headstones and crosses had been removed. A number of the cemeteries had been wired in, and it seems to have been the intention of the Turk to prevent any possible desecration. Evidence of what they suffered themselves was seen in the numerous cemeteries behind enemy lines, completely filled with graves. Judged by these alone, their casualties at Anzac were at least three or four times as severe as ours, and from what was heard later in Constantinople, there is little doubt that the flower of the Turkish race perished on Gallipoli. Imbros and Samothrace stood as boldly as ever, but the sun in midwinter sets far to the south-west of the former island, which in those days, which now seem so long ago, used to make a back-ground for sunsets, which were one of the only compensations of a miserable existence. The Turks had wired the beach in places with two heavy lines of wire, practically from Helles to north of Suvla Bay, and perhaps beyond, and there were numerous new trenches ready to meet another landing. Gaba Tepe was found to be honeycombed with great tunnels, gun roads and dug-outs, and seems to have been a place upon which even the intense bombardment of the warships would have little effect. The Turks had built unsubstantial "victory" monuments on Lone Pine and Walker's Ridge, and these, as transitory as their victory, were already falling to pieces. An Imperial Graves Commission, with an Australian Section, had already commenced work, before our departure, identifying and restoring the graves. On the 19th word was received that Lieutenant Dalton had died, and on the 21st a burial party was sent over to Chanak. Lieutenant Dalton and Trooper Jones were buried in the little English Cemetery at Chanak, where members of a certain British Consular family have been buried since 1830. Preparations were made for Christmas, with puddings and billies issued by the Comforts Fund. The day was fine and bright, and was passed fairly cheerfully, though all our thoughts were now centred on getting back to Australia as quickly as possible. On the 27th leave for officers to Constantinople was granted, and until we re-embarked for Egypt parties were constantly sent to that beautiful and fascinating city. Constantinople was now under the muzzles of the guns of the great warships of the Powers, and garrisoned by Allied troops, who held all the important tactical points.
In Constantinople, food undoubtedly was scarce and very high priced; it was pitiful to see little children lying on newspapers on the pavements of the main street at night whilst the cold winter rain beat on their pinched faces and saturated their thin garments. One saw real poverty and starvation there, such as cannot even be realised in Australia. Constantinople, between Europe and Asia, and a few days' steam from Africa, is surely the fittest place for a world's capital, if such a Utopian idea should ever become a possibility. The hills on all sides slope gently to the Golden Horn, the Bosphorus and the Sea of Marmora, and with domes and minarets standing up among the buildings of a half-European, half-Asiatic city, make a picture that will never fade from the memory of those who are fortunate enough to see it. It is to be regretted that all our men were not able to visit this place, to gain which such gallant efforts were made in 1915.
By New Year's Day, which was fine and bright, the influenza had almost disappeared, though a few men were still in hospital suffering from the after effects. New Year's Eve was given over to a fine fireworks display, and the blowing of whistles and sirens from all warships in the roadstead. The French in the Kilid Bahr forts made a great display. Our men and these French troops became friendly, and the French band used to visit our camp once a week. In order to keep the Regiment fit and smart, half an hour's run before breakfast and about half an hour's parade at 10 a.m, were part of the daily routine, unless the weather was bad. On January 8th the 28th Division asked the C.M.R. and ourselves to undertake a reconnaissance of the Gallipoli Peninsula from Helles to about the vicinity of Gallipoli town. The sector allotted to the 7th Regiment was from Cape Helles to a line between Gaba Tepe and Maidos. The object of the reconnaissance was to discover any guns, dumps or stores hitherto not reported by the Turks. Our sector was sub-divided amongst the three squadrons, "C" taking the Helles sub-sector with Krithia as headquarters, "B" the intermediate sub-sector, and "A" the northern
A start was made on the 10th, and the reconnaissance was completed on the 14th. Though the country was well searched, little additional information was gained.
The weather was beautiful now, and it was a great pleasure to walk about the hills and enjoy the splendid views which the Straits and the hills over in Asia always afforded. Organised parties of men wandered far and wide, going right down to Achi Baba, while others were sent by trawler to Gallipoli Town and to the site of historic Troy, on the Asiatic side opposite Cape Helles. One never-failing interest lay in the shipping that passed up and down the Straits; the flags of almost all nations of the Allied Powers could be seen, with all types of vessels from giant transports and graceful cruisers to minesweepers, trawlers and motor-boats.
The hill system of Anzac, which culminates in the height of Chunuk Bair to the north, slopes gradually downwards in undulating ridges almost to sea level at Cape Helles-the height of Achi Baba being the one outstanding feature, not far from the village of Krithia. But between the village of Maidos on the Straits and the headland of Gaba Tepe lies a level plain of no great width, and on the side farthest from Anzac is the famous "Olive Grove," from which Beachy Bill used to fire with such deadly results. The enemy position, known as Pine Ridge, on the right flank, looks down on this plain, and the gully held by the Turks at the eastern end of Lone Pine opens into it. If this gully and the ridge beyond, as well as Pine Ridge, could have been taken, the valley would have been open for an advance at any time as far as the Kilid Bahr Plateau without any natural obstacle.
But Gibraltar itself does not look half as formidable as the Kilid Bahr Plateau, which rises steeply from the plain. It was found to be criss-crossed with trenches on its dominating heights and flanks, whilst water-torn ravines and numerous folds in the hills gave ample protection for reserves in rear. Under the almost sheer reverse slope are situated the great Kilid Bahr forts, practically inaccessible to any fire except from across the Straits. As natural obstacles, Achi Baba or 971 Chunuk Bair did not appear nearly so formidable, and with this place untaken, there could have been no real command over the Straits. As it could be easily supplied almost without molestation on account of its immense bulwark, from the Asiatic shore, there is no reason to suppose that it could not have held out indefinitely even if Achi Baba and Chunuk Bair had fallen.
Lieutenant James, of the 1st L.H. Regiment, with a special photographic party and men to collect war trophies, had arrived soon after the New Year. They camped near Lone Pine in some old Turkish huts; rations were sent to them in our limbers, and all the trophies in the shape of old gun limbers, shells, etc., were carted back to Maidos Jetty.
On the 15th word was received to be ready to embark on the "Norman" on the 20th. This was rather unfortunate, as arrangements had been made with G.H.Q. at Constantinople to allow parties of men to see the city. Also, since the influenza had ceased, the condition of the men had wonderfully improved, and the Regiment would cheerfully have stayed for at least another month.
On the 19th the "Norman" anchored off Chanak, and re-embarkation commenced. As she was not a horseboat, all horses and vehicles had to be left, with two officers and 70 men, Lieutenant Wikner being in charge. At 4 p.m. re-embarkation was complete, and the "Norman" commenced the voyage for Port Said. Cordial "Good-byes" were sent to the 28th Division, who had treated us throughout like honoured guests, and had done their utmost to help in every possible way. The weather soon became cold and squally. Port Said was reached at 8.30 a.m., the disembarkation commenced at noon. The train left shortly after 6 p.m., Kantara being reached at 10.30 p.m. After a meal at Mrs. Chisholm's (now Dame Alice Chisholm, D.B.E.) Canteen, the Regiment marched to the R.A.M.C. Detail Camp for the night.
Next day we travelled by rail to Rafa, where the Divisional and Brigade Staffs were waiting to meet us. A camp site close to the 6th L.H. Regiment was allotted, and tents brought from Gallipoli were pitched in a hollow square, the three squadrons and Headquarters forming the sides with the quartermaster's stores, regimental recreation tent, canteen and cook-houses in the centre. This became a model camp, and it was praised by all inspecting Field Officers. Special attention was paid to the cook-houses, and £10 to £15 per week, from Regimental Funds, was spent in supplementing the rations, whilst a regimental canteen, where vegetables and cooked eggs could be sold, was established. Tables for each little mess were dug on the inside of the tent lines in regular formation, and it was a fine sight to see the whole Regiment at dinner. The horse lines were placed on the outside.
On the 26th 200 horses were handed over to us from the 6th Regiment and Machine Gun Squadron; the 5th Regiment was still in Galilee. The routine now became one of early morning physical exercises, with an hour and half's parade later on, and two mounted parades a week. An educational scheme was commenced, and lectures and classes were properly organised under Brigade arrangements. Trooper Treloar, of the 7th Regiment, later on was granted a Commission under this scheme. Troopers McMaugh and young were given the rank of Sergeant, the former also obtaining a commission before embarkation. Race meetings, football matches and sports meetings were carried out, and everything possible was done to relieve the monotony for the men. Preparations were made for early demobilisation and embarkation. Leave parties visited Cairo and other parts of Egypt, also Jerusalem. On February 3rd, Lieutenants Wikner and Glasson, with the remainder of the Regiment (transport, etc.), arrived after a good voyage. Owing to numerous Divisional and Brigade duties, it was always difficult to obtain large parades, and the Divisional Commander, who was constantly making inspections, found some fault with these.
During the stay at Rafa, small parties of men were granted early repatriation on urgent grounds, and, later on, about 40 were allowed leave to England. Reinforcements arrived at intervals from Moascar, but owing to repatriation and leave to England it was difficult to keep the strength of the Regiment up to establishment. Our race horses did not particularly distinguish themselves at any of the meetings, owing chiefly to the fact that nearly all our best mounts had been handed in, and those returned were not very good. On the other hand, the Regiment was first as regards boxing, and was the only one in the Division that sent a team, later on, to complete in Cairo. A fishing boat to supply the Division with fish was financed by Colonel Arnott and Canon Garland and sent up to Rafa; Lieutenant Wikner was placed in charge of the craft, with a party of men from the Division, but these fishermen had no great success. On February 24th the Corps Commander inspected the Brigade. This was a farewell inspection, and all ranks were thanked for the good work done. The weather was, for the most part good, though occasional wind storms were trying.
On March 12th a start was made handing in our horses, and finally only a sufficient number of transport and riding horses was left to carry on the routine of the Regiment. Preparations for embarkation began in earnest, so that, when the news of the Egyptian outbreaks was heard, the Regiment was actually a dismounted unit, with only officers' chargers and a few transport horses available. Fortunately, rifles, bayonets and ammunition had not been handed in. On the 22nd orders were received for the Brigade to entrain for Kantara, to be hurried to danger points and deal with disturbances. At 3.30 p.m. on the 23rd the Regiment entrained at Rafa, the other units of the Brigade having gone on before, and Kantara was reached at 11.30 p.m., where bivouac was made for the night close to the station. On the 24th, at 6.30 a.m., a start was made for the camp site, near the swingbridge. Mrs. Chisholm provided breakfast for all ranks without charge.
All horses had to be handed in to the Remount Depot and were then redrawn. The camp site was on the banks of the Canal, and the water was a great boon. On the 25th 193 horses and 214 mules were drawn from the Remounts Depot, and equipment and gear of all sorts was obtained as fast as possible from Ordnance to place us once again on a mobile war footing. The work of re-equipment was strenuous. Finally many non-essential things had to he done without, as Ordnance simply could not supply them. By the 26th all units of the Brigade, excepting ourselves and most of the M.G. Squadron, had entrained for Damanhur. On the same day, orders were received for the Regiment and one section of Machine Guns to move to Salhia at 6 a.m. next morning. It was a difficult matter getting equipment and ammunition in time, but it was done. Reveille sounded at 5 a.m., and horses and mules were saddled in the darkness; it was remarkable how many mules had changed into horses, since the first allotment. Thirty-two camels were provided, including 12 Cacolet camels, for transport, and our wheeled transport was left with a party, under Lieutenant Glasson. The Machine Gun Section detailed was not ready to join us on the 27th, having no guns, and did not reach Salhia with the two troops as escort until about a week later. Word was received that an attempt was to be made to free 12,000 Turkish prisoners of war, in the large compound at Salhia, combined with a rising of the district. The march was commenced at 6 a.m. on the 27th, and after a halt for lunch Salhia was reached at 2.30 p.m.
Citation: 7th Australian Light Horse Regiment, Return to Gallipoli, 1918