Topic: AIF - 2B - 7 LHR
Bir el Mazar
Sinai, 17 September 1916
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 Bir el Mazar and is extracted below.Richardson, JD, The History of the 7th Light Horse Regiment AIF, Sydney, 1919:
The enemy had now retreated to Bir El Mazar, on the caravan route to El Arish, and it was decided, during September, to make a divisional reconnaissance of that place, 30 miles away. At 2.30 a.m. on the 16th, the Brigade moved out of Hassaniya reaching Ge’eila, a luxuriant palm grove, shortly after daybreak. Here we remained during the day, in order that our advance should not be disclosed to enemy aeroplanes. At 6 p.m., the march was resumed, the 7th. Regiment following the 5th. Regiment, which was advance guard. After a wearisome night march, the wide salt pan about two males west of Mazar, which was the place of deployment, was reached at 4 a.m. on the 17th.
After receiving orders, the Regiment, less "C" Squadron (in Brigade reserve) moved with two machine guns, under Lieutenant Zouch, to attack Mazar from the southwest, the left flank being on the caravan route and in touch with the 5th Regiment there. "A" Squadron, under Major Bird, formed the advance guard, and, moving rapidly, a troop, under Lieutenant Stanley, surprised and captured a camel out-post of six men. No check was experienced until we were close to the ruins of Mazar, where the enemy was strongly entrenched on bare sand ridges, which commanded all ways of approach. His guns commenced firing on our aeroplanes.
Major Bird's squadron pushed forward, dismounted, butt was quickly held up by machine gun and rifle fire. It still seemed possible that, by means of covering fire, an assault could be made, and preparations were in progress, when a message was received that the 3rd. Light Horse Brigade, on our right, had been held up and was withdrawing. Some of their troops crossed our frontage, and being in close formation, received concentrated fire from the enemy, sustaining a number of casualties. Out field guns had opened fire but, although the enemy guns were firing in plain view from our positions, and messages were sent to that effect, no attempt was made to shell them. Possibly the messages were not received until after the withdrawal had been ordered.
All troops were now ordered to retire to the position of deployment, but it was some time before our front line could be drawn back, owing to the necessity of getting a man, badly wounded in the abdomen, away in a sand cart. Before this was effected three more men had been wounded and our casualties for this ineffective little action were, 1 killed and 5 wounded: two men subsequently died of wounds. The enemy shelled us without result, as the withdrawal was continued. We followed the Northern or Bardawil Road, thus, as we learned later, avoiding congestion and disorder at the water rendezvous. As no bivouac had been indicated, it was presumed that Ge’eila would be the place; but we arrived there only to find it deserted. Much trouble was experienced in watering the horses from buckets, and at 8 p.m., it was decided to return to Salmana, where B.H.Q. was found. The 6th. Regiment had just arrived. After a quiet night, at 3.15 a.m. on the 18th., the march back to Hassaniya was resumed.
The greatest difficulty, in these little actions, was getting the wounded away; carried over long distances, in a sand cart or on a camel cacolet, they must have suffered greatly. The Mazar stunt was most strenuous, and tested the endurance of men, whose vitality had been greatly decreased by the fighting, fatigue and heat of the last few months.