Topic: AIF - 3B - 9 LHR
Bir el Mazar
Sinai, 17 September 1916
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 Mazar and is extracted below.Darley, TH, With the Ninth Light Horse in the Great War, Adelaide, Hassell Press, 1924:
On the 15th, the Regiment, under the command of Major T. J. Daly moved out as an advance guard to the Brigade, and proceeded via Bir el Abd to Hod Salmana which was the point of rendezvous for a reconnaissance in force of Bir el Mazar. Arriving at Salmana at 4 a.m. on the following, morning the Brigade took advantage of all possible cover as a protection from aeroplane observation. At 9 a.m. an enemy plane flew over the lines and after dropping a few bombs flew low and opened fire with his machine gun, causing a few casualties. The plane was eventually driven off by rifle fire.
At .5.30 p.m. the Brigade advanced, the Regiment forming the advance guard, and halted at a point 31 miles east of the Hod where the remainder of the force, consisting of the 2nd Light Horse Brigade, the Ayrshire and Inverness Batteries, and the Hong Kong and Singapore Mountain Battery joined rap. This mountain battery was an exceptionally fine unit, and made excellent shooting with their small but serviceable guns, which were carried on pack mules. The guns on being dismounted were distributed over variant loads, the gun on one pack, mounting on another, and the wheels on a third, together with the tools. Ammunition for these guns was carried in leather panniers on mules. In spite of this distribution, it was astonishing to see how quickly the guns could be assembled and brought into action by their highly-trained teams, which consisted mostly of Indians.
The 3rd Light Horse Brigade were to proceed to a point some distance to the south of Bir-el-Mazar, and at a stated time to advance on the enemy position, but if the enemy were found to be in strength, the attack was not to be pressed. Lieut.-Colonel W. H. Scott, D.S.O., having joined up at Salmana, was given the task of guiding the Brigade to its appointed position. The night was pitch dark, and the country to be traversed was filled with every possible kind of obstacle for mounted troops, but in spite of these difficulties, daylight showed that the troops were in the exact position ordered.
The column moved off at 10 p.m., proceeding east, and at 2 a.m. the direction was changed to the south. Winding its way along the foot of the enormous sand dunes, the column constantly changed its direction in order to get back to its proper course. At 4.30 a.m. a point two miles south of Mazar was reached, and at 4.45 a.m. "C" Squadron was fired on by an enemy post which was promptly rushed and captured. The direction was now changed to the north-west, "C" Squadron moving on the right and throwing out flank patrols; "A" Squadron deployed on the left of "C," and "B" on the left of "A," the line being extended by one squadron each of the 8th and 10th Light Horse Regiments. The 2nd Light Horse Brigade who were making a demonstration against Mazar from the west, joined up with our left flank.
A number of the enemy could be seen moving about the main redoubt one mile to the north, and several trenches were seen, well manned, at a range of about 800 yards. Numerous rifle-pits were located at various points, the position appearing to be a difficult proposition owing to the scattered nature of the defences. As soon as our force came in sight, the enemy opened a brisk sniping fire, but with little effect. As the Regiment moved forward to the attack an order arrived from headquarters to withdraw as the position was reported by aeroplane as being strongly held. As the Regiment withdrew the enemy opened fire with field and machine guns, and Lieut. Slattery was killed. This officer had only received his commission three days before, but had served through Gallipoli as a non-commissioned officer, and later as Regimental Sergeant-Major.
During the forward move it was noticed that at frequent intervals small fires were lighted on the sand dunes some distance in front, and it became evident that Bedouins were advising the enemy of our approach. These small fires were followed by a big fire in the centre of the enemy position, as a signal to their scattered Posts to be on the alert. At 7 a.m. the Regiment halted at Sabahet-el Mustabib, the horses being fed and the men having breakfasts, The return journey was commenced at 11 a.m., the route being along the ancient caravan route and telegraph line. As the horses had not been watered, for over 24 hours, arrangements had been made to send out a large camel convoy, each camel carrying 30 gallons of water to a point eight miles east of Salmana. The water arrived safely, but the arrangements for its distribution were faulty, and some units went very short. Troughs were erected in such a manner that in some cases the horses could not get near them without being wedged in and disturbing the horses who were drinking at other troughs. The whole of the water supply was put in the troughs before the first unit arrived, with the result that the lucky first arrivals used up about twice their share, and left none for the rear units.
Salmana was reached at 7.30 p.m., and the column bivouacked for the night, leaving at 4 a.m. on the following day for their camp at Amara. The heat during these operations was intense, men and horses suffering severely from thirst.