Topic: AIF - 3B - 9 LHR
Bir el Abd
Sinai, 9 August 1916
9th LHR, AIF, Unit History Account
Major Thomas Henry Darley produced a unit history of the 9th Light Horse Regiment, AIF, called With the Ninth Light Horse in the Great War, in which included a section specifically related to the battle of Bir el Abd and is extracted below.Darley, TH, With the Ninth Light Horse in the Great War, Adelaide, Hassell Press, 1924.
On the 8th the Regiment left Abu Daren with the main body of the Brigade and marched to Hod Dhahab, arriving there at about p.m. At 3 a.m. the following morning the Regiment moved off and joined up with the 8th Light Horse who had been on outpost duty. The 8th then moved off as advance guard with the Regiment in support, and followed by the 10th. The advance guard gained touch with the enemy at 6 a.m. about one mile east of Hod Hassaniya where they held a strong position consisting of two redoubts covering Hod El-Bada. These redoubts were well sited and prepared, with good trenches and field fortifications, and it was evident that they had been prepared during the forward move as strong points to be used in the event of a retirement.
The 8th soon became heavily engaged, and "C" Squadron of the Regiment under the command of Major McKenzie was sent up in support and to protect our right flank; but the greater portion had to be diverted to strengthen the centre of the 8th Light Horse line.
A" Squadron under Major H. M. Parsons was therefore sent up to extend the line to the right and to reinforce where necessary.
It was now discovered that there was a gap of about one and a half miles between the left of our line, and the right of the New Zealanders, and "B" Squadron, under Major T. A. Brinkworth, was sent to fill it. "A" Troop of this squadron was sent to gain touch with the New Zealanders, who were seen to be advancing on Abd, touch being gained near El Birdieh. Large enemy movements were observed in the direction of Bir-el-Abd, and the position in the immediate front was found to be strongly held. Several attempts were made to dislodge this force, but these attempts were all held up by heavy rifle and machine gun fire.
It was reported that away to the south in the vicinity of Hod el-Bayud a column, known as "the mobile column," composed of two squadrons of the 11th Light Horse, the City of London Yeomanry, and two companies of the Imperial Camel Corps, were endeavouring to make a wide flanking movement, and to threaten the enemy's lines of communication. It was essential that they should gain possession of Hod Bayud, which was strongly held by the enemy, and, after heavy fighting, the Hod was captured. They watered their horses and held on during the night, but a determined counter-attack in the early morning of the 10th resulted in the Hod being recaptured by the enemy.
It was understood that the duty assigned to the 3rd Light Horse Brigade consisted of holding the enemy in his present position until the turning movement had been carried out, and during the whole of the day the Inverness Battery did excellent work, especially in the early morning when the enemy attempted to launch a counter-attack. At sundown the enemy made a most determined attack on our position, and four men of "A" Squadron were captured. During this attack the enemy advanced within 200 yards of our position, and as a result of the heavy fire brought to bear on them, a party opposite "C" Squadron put up the white flag.
On seeing these flags, Lieut. G. O. Robertson, after ordering his men to cease fire, stood up and went forward to take their surrender, but as he approached, a heavy cross fire was opened by the enemy on the flank, when he was about 100 yards from the enemy, and he fell badly wounded. On seeing the officer fall, No. 84 Corporal Titan Barrington, of "A" Squadron, a big and powerful man, ran forward with great gallantry and determination, and in spite of the fact that Lieut. Robertson weighed over 13 stone, picked him up and ran with him towards our line.
During the whole of this proceeding the enemy maintained a heavy fire, and a number of Turks rushed out in an effort to capture him, yet in spite of his heavy load, and that he had to cover a distance of nearly 100 yards, he succeeded in reaching our lines in safety. No. 462 L.-Corp. Neyland had in the meantime brought up Lieutenant Robertson's horse, and took the wounded officer to safety under intense fire. This officer, it is regretted to state, succumbed to his injuries shortly after his arrival at Kantara Hospital.
Cpl. Barrington was recommended for the Victoria Cross on the evidence of Lieut. Robertson, Major McLaurin, and Lieut.-Colonel L. C. Maygar, V.C., of the 8th Light Horse, who were eye witnesses, whilst L.-Cpl. Neyland was recommended for the Distinguished Conduct Medal, but no awards were made. It is an astonishing fact that one of the bravest deeds of the war should thus pass unrewarded and the two gallant men were not even mentioned in dispatches for their splendid work.
Of the four men captured, only one, Pte. Rose, survived the terrible treatment meted out by their inhuman captors. He passed through Tripoli, Syria, on his release and met the Regiment, which had just arrived at that place from Homs. He stated that when captured, he and some of the others were wounded, but were immediately taken before a German officer and interrogated. Sgt. H. Sullivan, who had been captured whilst endeavouring to rescue one of the wounded men, was the first to be questioned. On being asked questions of military importance, such as, "Who is your commanding officer, etc., he replied, "I don't know. The German officer immediately replied that he being a sergeant must know these facts, and Sullivan said, "I don't know, for you." The German then threatened to shoot him and had a machine gun brought and placed in front of him, but still this gallant soldier, of Coromandel Valley, South Australia, refused to give any information whatever. The German, after adopting a very threatening attitude, asked various questions, but seeing the determination of the sergeant' not to answer, he finally gave up the attempt. Sergeant Sullivan was reported some time later to have died of dysentery.
The enemy maintained his efforts, continually counter-attacking, but our line held, and at 7 p.m. the enemy retired to their trenches. The 10th Light Horse, who had been held in reserve during the day, now came forward and took up an outpost line in rear of the battle line. As soon as they were in position the Regiment withdrew to Hod Hassaniya for water and supplies.
Citation: Bir el Abd, Sinai, 9 August 1916, 9th LHR, AIF, Unit History Account