Topic: AIF - 3B - 9 LHR
The Jifjafa Raid
Sinai, 10 - 14 April 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 Jifjafa Raid and is extracted below.
Darley, TH, With the Ninth Light Horse in the Great War, Adelaide, Hassell Press, 1924, pp. 33 - 38.
Chapter IX Serapeum: The Jif-Jaffa Operations
Early in April reports were received that the Turks had thrown out a line of outposts opposite our sector, from the western foot of the Maghara Hills, south-east to Nekhl, with a post at Bir el Jif Jaffa where they were stated to have erected a boring plant and built large cisterns. Jif Jaffa lies about 52 miles due east of Serapeum on an old caravan route.
Reports also showed that the enemy had established posts at Bir Barthel Hegaiib about three miles north of Jif Jaffa, at Rodh Salem (north of Jif Jaffa) and at Bir-el-Hama, each post having a strength of about 50 rifles. As the construction of this tank system was a direct menace to our position at Serapeum, Headquarters decided that efforts should be made to wreck them and the plant. Orders were accordingly passed to Headquarters, 3rd Light Horse Brigade, to detail a force to carry out this duty, and a composite force was made up as follows:
Officer to command, Major W. H. Scott, 9th L.H.; Staff attached, Capt.' Macaulay, G.S.O., 2nd Aus. Div., Capt. H. E. Wearne, 8th L.H-, Capt. Ayris, 3rd L.H. Brigade.
Light Horse Squadron:
Officer commanding, Major K. A. McKenzie, 9th L.H.; Second in command, Capt. B. B. Ragless, 9th L.H.; Troop leaders, Lieut. A. H. Nelson, 9th L.H., Lieut. W. S. Pender, 9th L.H., Lieut. J. M. McDonald, 9th L.H., Lieut. F. J. Linacre, 9th L.H.
Machine Gun Officer:
Lieut. L. W. Jacques, 9th L.H.
The non-commissioned officers and men were selected from the 8th and 9th Light Horse Regiments, the composition of the whole force being as follows:
Unit Officers Other Ranks Horses Camels Remarks Light Horse Squadron 8 122 138 Engineers 1 8 10 4 Royal Flying Corps 2 2 2 4 Ground signal apparatus Wireless Section, R.E. 1 8 1 15 Included three Soudanese 3rd L.H. Field Ambulance 1 8 13 6 Two sand carts and five camel cacolets Camel Transport Corps 1 2 3 Officers & warrant officers Camel Transport Corps 29 Light Horsemen attached as drivers Camel Transport Corps 95 195 Native drivers Australian Army Service Corps 1 1 Warrant officer
Bikanir Camel Corps (Indian)
1 24 37 Fighting troops
2 2 Interpreter 1 1 (French and Arabic) Officers attached 3 4 Grand Total 18 302 175 261
The camels of the Camel Transport Corps were distributed as follows: For water 88, rations 15, forage 78, ammunition 4, the remainder travelling unloaded to be used in lightening loads where necessary. The Light Horsemen acting as drivers were allowed to ride, but the native drivers walked and led their camels. The Bikanir Camel Corps carried their own supplies on the 12 spare camels shown with that unit. The quantity of drinking water which had to be carried was 2,640, gallons, each camel 30 gallons. This water was carried in flat copper tanks measuring about 24 x 18 x 10 inches, one being hung on each side of the saddle. These tanks (called fantasis) had a hole, fitted with a screw plug, at the top for filling and a tap at the bottom rear end.
The Light Horse Squadron was made up of the lightest men and the fittest horses, as on account of this being the first operations undertaken by the Light Horse in the desert of the Sinai Peninsula it was highly essential that it should be carried to an entirely successful conclusion, therefore only the most suitable men and horses for the operation were taken. The distance to be travelled was long and trying, whilst the time at our disposal was short. Owing to the heavy sand, orders were issued that nothing would be taken that could possibly be done without, so that the horses would travel as light as possible.
A short time before this the 8th Light Horse had sent a party to reconnoitre and verify reports received to the effect that there were large rock-hewn cisterns containing water in the vicinity of Gebel um Muksheib and Moiya Harab, which lie about 40 miles south-east of Serapeum. An abundant water supply was located and it was therefore decided that the force should march via these cisterns.
On the night of the 10th April, 1916, the camel convoy escorted by the Bikanir Camel Corps, moved out and proceeded down the
Wadi Muksheib, halting near El Ashubi. The fighting force left Road Head at 2 p.m. on the 11th April and proceeded along the wadi. The force halted from 5.30 to 7.30 p.m., then resumed the march and came up with the convoy at 10.30 p.m.
At 7.30 a.m. on the following morning the whole force continued the march. On reaching a point two miles west of the junction of the wadis, north of Gebel-um-Muksheib, one troop was detached and sent round to the north and east of the cisterns, as Bedouins had reported that enemy parties had been seen in that locality a few days previously. This troop shortly afterwards reported "all clear," and the column proceeded on its journey, reaching the first cistern, which lies half a mile west of where the wadi turns south to Moiya Harab, at 11.30 a.m., when it halted.
The travelling down this wadi was very good for some distance, the sand being quite firm, but the last mile was rough and stony. The convoy arrived at 1.20 p.m. in good order, and the camels were off-loaded. During the march down the wadi our aeroplane had dropped a message stating that all was clear except for a few Bedouin camps near Moiya-Harab.
After the mid-day meal three troops were sent out to reconnoitre and report on the/ water supplies in the area, and altogether nine cisterns were found, hewn in the solid rock. Some were found to be practically empty, but the others were estimated to contain about 140,000 gallons. Having completed the reconnaissance, the troops rejoined at 5.30 p.m., and preparations were made for the final dash forward. It was decided to leave the ambulance, sand carts, and a portion of the Camel Transport Corps at this point under an escort of one officer and 16 other ranks from the mounted squadron, and four Light Horse camel drivers. They were also ordered to guard the wells.
At 7 p.m. the remainder of the column moved off north-east to point 1340, which was reached at 4.30 a.m. on the 13th, and the column bivouacked for the remainder of the night. During this march the Light Horse travelled for 40 minutes of each hour, then halted and dismounted in order to allow the camel portion of the force to keep touch.
At 5.30 a.m. the column moved forward, leaving the Bikanir Camel Corps, Wireless Section, and the remainder of the transport under the charge of Capt. B. B. Ragless, and marched to hill 1082, halting south-west of the hill and out of view of Jif-Jaffa, at 7.30 a.m. The section of the Royal Flying Corps erected their ground wireless plant at the foot of the hill and awaited the aeroplane report which was eventually dropped at 8 a.m., stating that all was clear.
From information previously received it was known that each time our planes appeared over their position the enemy scattered into the hills, therefore the CO decided to launch the attack whilst the enemy had lost cohesion. A reconnaissance of the position was made
with the aid of field glasses, and orders were issued to Lieut. McDonald to take his troop round the west and north of the hill, and occupy a point about one mile N.W. of the enemy camp.
On the order to move being given the troops moved to their allotted tasks, Lieut. Fender's troop moved to the north-east and passed south of the enemy camp, whilst Lieut. Linacre with his troop, less eight men, was to make a frontal attack. Four men and a machine gun section were kept in reserve, and four men were told off as escort to the engineers, stores, and ammunition.
It was now seen that Lieut. McDonald's troop, owing to the rough nature of the country they had to traverse, would be a little late in arriving at their position. Lieut. Linacre and his troop were therefore sent over the ridge slightly to the north of the enemy's post, the remaining men and reserves moving direct on the post. An enemy observation party were seen to withdraw, whilst a number attempted to occupy position in the hills, but these were headed off by Lieut. Fender's troop. They therefore took up a prepared position near their camp and a brisk fire fight ensued. Although considerably outnumbered and surrounded, they put up a good defence, but after sustaining numerous casualties, surrendered, as their position was hopeless.
Six of the enemy were found to have been killed, and five wounded, too being too seriously wounded to move. One Austrian engineer officer and 34 Turks were captured. The personnel of the enemy post belonged to the second company, 4th Battalion, 79th Regiment, 27th Division, 8th Army Corps, 4th Turkish Army.
According to the statement made by the captured Austrian officer, the post was occupied by a total of 41; it would, therefore, appear that the whole of the enemy force had been accounted for, but two mounted men were seen to gallop away in a north-easterly direction. Evidently these men were just on the point of visiting the post when the attack started.
Our casualties amounted to one man (Cpl. Monaghan, 8th L.H.) and one horse killed. The work of destroying the enemy's tanks and plant was immediately commenced, as it was possible that other enemy forces were in the vicinity, and might hasten to the support of the post on hearing the firing. Two very well-built German artesian boring plants were destroyed, the rods and tools belonging to the drills being thrown down the bores, which were three in number, and about 8 inches in diameter, the deepest being 276 feet These were subsequently blown in with guncotton, 25 feet from the surface. Large quantities of camp equipment and stores were destroyed, and a number of letters and papers seized.
At 11 a.m. a start was made on the return journey, and the force marched to Point 1340, collecting the Royal Flying Corps Section on the way. On reaching this point, the horses were watered from the fanatis brought up on the camels, and after a short rest the party proceeded to the cisterns, which were reached at 11.30 p.m. The weather throughout the day had been most unpleasant, owing to a very strong Kamseen (hot wind), which blew clouds of sand in our faces so that it was almost impossible to see more than 20 yards. This wind also had the effect of rendering the light portable wireless instruments useless, and communication could not be established.
During the absence of the fighting force, a large number of Bedouins made a determined attack on the party which had been left to guard the wells, but after half an hour's fighting they had retired taking their casualties with them.
At sunrise on the 14th, communication by wireless was gained with the 3rd Light Horse Brigade Headquarters, a full report of the operations being despatched. After breakfast the whole party moved homewards, halting at 1 p.m. for the mid-day meal, and to allow the camel convoy to close up. During the halt, congratulatory messages were received from the Brigade and Sector commanders. Whilst these were being read to the men, one of the members of the outpost was seen to be galloping towards the camp at a great pace, and almost as soon as he came in sight it could be seen that the wadi was coming down in flood.
One troop had laid out its lines in the wadi bed, but before the water reached them they succeeded in moving the whole of their belongings to the safety of the bank. The water came down with a rush, the stream being 30 yards wide and from 6 to 10 inches in depth. The water appeared to have the consistency of white paint, and was moving almost as fast as a horse could gallop. Within five minutes the wadi had become a raging torrent, waves breaking from two to three feet high.
This unexpected happening divided the column, one portion being on either side of the wadi, but the march was continued along the wadi banks, the whole force reaching Road Head camp at midnight, having covered the 160 miles in less than three and a half days, thus proving that the Light Horse could be efficiently used in desert warfare.
It will be noticed from the composition of the force that 29 Light Horsemen were employed as camel drivers. This innovation proved of the greatest value, as they also acted as an escort for the convoy, and during the night of the 12th-13th set the pace for the Egyptian camel drivers, who were apt to loiter whenever possible. The prisoners were brought back on the camels whose loads had been consumed.
At 2 p.m. on the 15th March, 1916, the Commander in Chief, General Sir Archibald Murray, wired the following honours and awards:
Major W. H. Scott, 9th Light Horse, Distinguished Service Order.
Cpl. P. Teesdale Smith, 9th Light Horse, Distinguished Conduct Medal.
Sgt. H. McInnes, 8th Light Horse, Distinguished Conduct Medal.
The following congratulatory messages were also received:
The General Officer commanding wishes to place on record the following telegrams received in connection with Major W. H. Scott's Jif Jaffa party:
From the Commander in Chief, Egyptian Expeditionary Force. Addressed to Major W. H. Scott, 9th Light Horse, O.C. Reconnaissance No. 2:
"I am directed by the Commander in Chief to say that he congratulates you on your success yesterday, and that he has great pleasure in conferring on you the Distinguished Service Order for your good services on April 13th."
Assistant Military Secretary, GHQ
From the Corps Commander to Major W. H. Scott:
"Heartiest congratulations to you and all your command on your ably conducted, gallant feat of arms."
From Major-General Sir H. V. Cox, K.C.M.G., CB, C.I.E., commanding 4th Division, to 3rd Light Horse Brigade:
"Congratulate Major W. H. Scott, officers, and all other ranks, 9th Light Horse, on brilliant success in raid. Execution reflects great credit on all concerned."
From Major-General H. C. Chauvel, CB, C.M.G., commanding Anzac Mounted Division, to Brigadier-General J. M. Antill, CB, commanding 3rd Light Horse Brigade:
"Hearty congratulations to self, Scott, all concerned. Brilliant success."
The Corps Commander, Lieut.-General Sir A. J. Godley, K.C.B.,, K.C.M.G., in addressing Major Scott's Jif-Jaffa party on the 18th April, said:
"Officers, NCO's and men of Major Scott's Jif-Jaffa party, I am very pleased to be here to have the opportunity on behalf of all Australians and New Zealanders of the 2nd Anzac Corps of expressing our admiration for the gallant feat of arms which you have performed. We are, one and all, very proud of you. You have carried out an enterprise which can certainly be ranked as being equal to any that has been accomplished during the war and will no doubt be carried out in the future.
"It is unfortunate that more honours on an occasion like this cannot be distributed, but by His Majesty the King graciously consenting to confer the Distinguished Service Order on your commander, he not only honours him, but every one of the command. I again repeat my admiration for the work you have done, and congratulate you."
Citation: The Jifjafa Raid, Sinai, April 10 to 14, 1916, 9th LHR, AIF, Unit History Account