Topic: BatzP - Rafa
The Battle of Rafa
Sinai, 9 January 1917
The Desert Column, Chetwode Letter
The following is a transcription of the letter of General Chetwode from the War Diary of the Desert Column, about their role at the Battle of Rafa, Sinai, 9 January 1917.
17 January 1917
I forward herewith a descriptive diary of events of the affair at Rafa, together with sketches and plans of the enemy works.
When daylight broke the ground was seen to be almost entirely open and devoid of cover, while the immediate neighbourhood of the works was almost a glacis.
I confess that I thought the task was almost beyond the capacity of dismounted cavalry to carry through, and it is difficult for me to express my admiration for the dash and gallantry with which the thin dismounted lines, with little or no depth, kept up the forward impulse, and finally stormed the enemy position.
This result was largely due to the close support and good shooting of the RHA (Royal Horse Artillery) and the Hong Kong and Singapore Battery under Colonel JF Laycock, DSO, CRA, A & NZ Mounted Division, and the "B" Battery, HAC (Honourable Artillery Company).
When all behaved so well before the enemy, it is almost invidious to select one unit or formation for special praise, but I am sure all who witnessed the action will agree that good as the work was, by the ANZAC Mounted Division, the ICC and the 5th Mounted Brigade, that of the New Zealand Mounted Brigade under the able leadership of Brigadier-General EWC Chaytor, CB, stood out, and that their brilliant assault and capture of the Reduit, finally broke the enemy resistance.
I have again to express my indebtedness to Major General HG Chauvel, CB, CMG, commanding the A & NZ Mounted Division, to whom the conduct of the main attack was entrusted and who handled his troops with conspicuous success.
The complicated arrangements for the march, the approach, and the withdrawal, all conducted in the dark, worked without a hitch, under the direction of Colonel VM Fergusson, DSO, and Major SH Kershaw, General Staff, Desert Column.
Colonel CG Powles, DSO, AA & QMG, A & NZ Mounted Division, made all the arrangements at Sheikh Zowaiid for the return, feeding and watering of the tired troops in the dark and the reception of the wounded. It is enough to say that no one was kept waiting a moment.
The RFC (Royal Flying Corps), under Colonel Joubert, did yeoman service, with the artillery, by offensive action from the air, and in keeping me continually informed as to the situation and the movements of neighbouring hostile forces.
The devotion of Colonel HM Downes, ADMS, A & NZ Mounted Division and his staff, who were operating and attending to the wounded for 36 hours continuously maintained the best traditions of their Corps.
I am much indebted to Major CL Barlow, DSO, Intelligence Officer, for guiding the Column to the exact spot indicated to him, and for his assistance in dealing with hostile Arabs and others.
Philip W Chetwode
Commanding Desert Column
All War Diaries cited on this site should be read in conjunction with the Australian Light Horse Studies Centre, AIF War Diaries of the Great War, Site Transcription Policy which may be accessed at: