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Tuesday, 5 February 2002
Desert Column (DC), General Murray's Despatches, Part 1
Topic: AIF - DMC

DC

Desert Column

General Murray's Despatches, Part 1

 

General Sir Archibald James Murray GCMG, KCB, CVO, DSO.

 

General Sir Archibald James Murray GCMG, KCB, CVO, DSO (23 April 1860 - 21 January 1945) was a British Army officer during the Great War, known as commander of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force from 1916 to 1917.

 

SUPPLEMENT TO

The London Gazette

Of

MONDAY, 25 SEPTEMBER, 1916.

War Office,

25th September, 1916. The following Despatch has been received by the Secretary of State for War from General Sir Archibald Murray, Commander-in-Chief, Egyptian Expeditionary Force:—

General Headquarters, Egyptian Expeditionary Force,

1st June, 1916. Sir,—I have the honour to submit a report on the operations of the Force under my command from the date on which I assumed command to the 31st May, 1916.

1. On 9th January, 1916, I arrived in Cairo, and, on the following day, took over the command of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force from General Sir C. C. Monro, G.C.M.G., K.C.B., who had himself arrived from Mudros but a few days before. At that date the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force was in a state of transition as regards its larger component, the Dardanelles Army. On the night of the 8th/9th January this Army had completed its successful evacuation of Cape Helles; its units were still concentrated at Mudros and Imbros awaiting transport to Egypt, where all the Force, excluding the Salonica Army, had been ordered to concentrate. Meanwhile, a portion of the Force, which had been set free by the earlier evacuation of the Suvla Bay and Anzac positions, had already arrived in Egypt, where it had come under the command of General Sir John Maxwell, K.C.B., K.C.M.G. The concentration of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, for instance, was practically complete, and the 53rd Division was occupied in operations on the Western Frontier of Egypt. General Headquarters of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force were temporarily established in Cairo.

The instructions which I had received from the Secretary of State for War placed under my command all organized formations then in. Egypt, or on their way to Egypt, with the exception of such troops as might be considered necessary for the defence of Egypt and the Nile Valley against attack from the west, or for maintaining order in the Nile Valley and the Nile Delta. The function .assigned to me was that of protecting Egypt against attack from the east, and the westward limit of my command was roughly fixed by a line running north and south approximately five miles west of the Suez Canal. The British Force at Salonica was also placed under my general supervision.

2. During the period under review, in addition to the extensive .military preparations required for the defence of the eastern front, the amount of purely administrative work thrown, on all sections of my Staff has been extremely heavy. The exigencies of the Gallipoli campaign had placed the Force under my command in a state of serious disorganisation. Some units were in Egypt, others on the sea, others in Aegean ports. It was not until the end of February that the last units of the Dardanelles Army reached Egypt. Every day for over six weeks ship loads of troops, guns, animals and transport were arriving at Alexandria and Port Said. The components of this mass had to be disentangled and forwarded to their proper destinations; old units had to be reorganised, new units to be created, brigades, divisions, Army Corps to be reformed. The British troops from Gallipoli were incomplete in personnel and material. It was urgently necessary to bring them up to strength, reequip them, and provide them with train and mechanical transport on a modified scale. The Australasian troops also needed re-equipment, and, in their case, there was the additional problem of dealing with a mass of unabsorbed reinforcements. Further training of officers and men was an urgent necessity. Moreover, the embarkation of troops for service elsewhere began in February and continued without intermission till the end of April. To this work must be added not only the maintenance of my Force, both in Egypt and Salonica, with animals, supplies, ordnance stores, works material, and medical and veterinary stores, but also the provision and despatch of ordnance stores, works material, and supplies specially demanded for Basrah and East Africa.

The bulk of the work of disembarkation and embarkation, including the very heavy work of railway transport, fell upon the staffs of my Deputy Quartermaster-General and Inspector General of Communications, to whom great credit is due. This work, together with the task of supplying and maintaining the troops operating on the eastern, and subsequently also on the western, front, was efficiently carried out by the Ordnance, Supply and Transport, Remount, and Works departments.

As regards instruction, a training centre for Australasian reinforcements was started at Tel el Kebir and continued until it was decided that the Australasian training depots should be transferred to England. Further, a machine gun school was formed at Ismailia which, after producing excellent results, was merged in the Imperial School of Instruction at Zeitoun. The latter institution, which came under my control after 19th March, has since been increased in size so as to train officers in all branches of warfare. Under its commandant, Lieut.-Colonel the Hon. E. M. Colston, M.V.O., its work has been most valuable. Besides the ordinary courses, for officers and non-commissioned officers, it holds machine gun, Lewis gun, signal and telephone, artillery, Stokes gun, and grenadier classes. Between 7th January and 31st May, 1,166 officers and 5,512 other ranks attended and passed in the various classes. A machine gun school was also started at Salonica.

Excellent work has been done by the signal service during this period. In the first place, it has efficiently carried out the work of refitting the signal units from the Peninsula, reorganising them to suit the conditions peculiar to Egypt, and training locally officers and men to fill the gaps and meet the increased demand for signallers and telegraphists. Ninety-four officers and 1,305 other ranks have been trained in these duties at Zeitoun and Alexandria this year. Secondly, it has had to provide intercommunication for troops engaged upon over 1,000 miles of front, which has involved the development of an unusually extensive network of military telegraphs. All the resource and ingenuity of the service has been taxed to cope with the conditions peculiar to this field of operations—abnormal distances, unusual means of transport, desert, sand storms and mirage. Lastly, it has substituted a military telegraph and telephone service for the civil system which, until this year, had been the only available means of communication throughout Egypt and was worked mainly by native personnel.

I would also specially mention the survey work that has been carried out since the arrival of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force in Egypt. In addition to the standardisation, printing and issue of tactical maps of Sinai to the whole of the army on the eastern front, a new survey on a large scale of the Canal zone and certain areas east of our lines and advanced posts has been continuously carried on by the Topographical Section of the Intelligence Branch, working in close co-operation with the Royal Flying Corps. This survey, which has now been in process for nearly six months, is now approaching Qatia. I believe that the map based on this survey is the first map entirely constructed on this principle. The work was initiated by Mr. E. M. Dowson, Director-General, Survey of Egypt, who placed his resources at the disposal of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. The actual direction of the work has been in the hands of the Intelligence Branch of my General Staff, and is based on experience, gained in Gallipoli, of the production of trench maps from aeroplane photographs, controlled by ordinary field survey methods. Co-operation in this survey has been part of the routine of the Royal Flying Corps. These labours, most of which demanded the utmost despatch in their completion, were carried out concurrently with the conduct of more strictly military operations, to my report on which I will now proceed.

3. When I arrived in Egypt the intentions of the enemy as regards an attack on the Suez Canal were by no means certain. Though his new means of communication in southern Syria and Sinai, commenced with this end in view, were still in a backward state, he undoubtedly had at his disposal the troops, amounting to 250,000 men or more, necessary for such an attack. The adequate defence of the Canal was, therefore, a matter of serious importance. The outline of a scheme of defence had already been prepared; certain works were being constructed, railways and pipelines and roads commenced, and troops were being concentrated in the three sections of the Canal defences, which were based on Suez, Ismailia and Port Said respectively. A satisfactory agreement was arrived at between Sir John Maxwell and myself regarding the delimitations of our respective spheres of command and the troops to be allotted to him. On 22nd January General Headquarters opened at Ismailia.

My chief concern was now the defence of the Canal. The work on the stationary defences was backward. Difficulties of water supply on the east bank were increased by shortage of piping; labour troubles had delayed the progress of roads and railways. Guns had) still to be emplaced, and no part of the front defence line was actually occupied by troops. Nevertheless, as there were no signs of an imminent advance on the part of the enemy, the question of the stationary defences caused me no serious anxiety, though everything possible was done to hasten on their completion. The organisation of the offensive defence, which time has proved to be paramount, was, however, a pressing matter hitherto untouched. Practically nothing had been done towards the organisation of mobile forces. The collection of a large number of riding and transport camels had to be undertaken at once .and a plan of campaign to be devised. Moreover, time was short, for it was plain that any offensive on a large scale by the enemy must be commenced before the middle of March. For the force under my command the only possible line of advance was along the northern line from Qantara towards Qatia and El Arish, and the task was at once taken up of examining the possibilities of an offensive on this line and solving the problem of maintaining a considerable force at Qatia during the summer months. The result of these investigations is to be seen in my memorandum of 15th February addressed to the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, in which I stated that the first step towards securing the true base for the defence of Egypt was an advance to a suitable position east of Qatia and the construction of a railway to that place.

Up to the middle of February aeroplane reconnaissance was the only active military operation possible, owing to the need for reorganising the units of the Force and for pushing on the work of laying roads, pipelines and railways to enable an adequate force to be maintained on, and beyond, the front lines. The magnitude of the latter task may be judged from the fact that, during the period covered by this despatch, 114 miles of road, 154 miles of pipelines, and 252 miles of railway were laid. The work of the Royal Flying Corps, most actively and gallantly pursued, enabled me to keep the enemy's posts at Hassana, Nekhl and El Arish under close observation, and neither their reports nor those of the equally gallant and efficient Naval Air Service, which observed by seaplane the garrisons of southern Syria, showed any concentration of enemy troops for a big attack on the Canal. On February 16th the Russian Army entered Erzerum, inflicting a heavy defeat on the Turkish Army opposed to it. It seemed likely then that all the enemy's schemes for attacking the Canal in force must, for the present, fall to the ground, and such has proved to be the case. The garrisons in Syria were gradually reduced, until it was estimated that not more than 60,000 men were available for an attack on Egypt. During the latter half of February the work of reconnaissance beyond the front line began in earnest, especially in the northern section, where the 15th Corps patrolled as far as Bir El Nuss and Hod Um Ugba, establishing the fact that the country was all clear and practically deserted. At this period, too, a reconnaissance was undertaken from Tor. This post, and that of Abu Zeneima, both on the Sinaitic coast south of Suez, were then garrisoned by a battalion of the Egyptian Army— subsequently by the 14th Sikhs—and had, by arrangement with General Maxwell, come under my direction. The reconnaissance from Tor was undertaken against a concentration of a small body of the enemy at Wadi Ginneh, some miles distant from the coast. This minor operation was in every way successful, though the enemy had fled before their camp was reached, leaving behind their baggage, which was destroyed. The troops then returned without further incident.

4. From March onwards, the rapid embarkation of troops for France depleted my forces considerably. During this month the military operations on the eastern front, if not momentous, were satisfactory. On 6th March a very gallant and successful attack on Hassana was made by the Royal Flying Corps, which resulted in the destruction of the pumping station. Bomb attacks were made on Nekhl and other places in Sinai, and on 24th March Hassana was again attacked in force with bombs. In the northern sector, the preliminary steps were being taken for the advance to Qatia. Week by week permanent posts were pushed further ahead, special reconnaissances were made with a view to testing the water supply, and the broad gauge railway from Qantara to Qatia was being carried forward as fast as possible.

5. On 11th March I received instructions from the late Secretary of State for War that the command of the troops in Egypt was to be reorganised, and that I was appointed General Officer Commanding-in-Chief all the Imperial forces in this country, which added to my original command the command held by General Sir John Maxwell. The preliminary details for carrying this change into operation were fixed at a Conference with General Maxwell held on 13th March, and on 19th March I formally took over the whole command in Egypt, thus ending a system of dual control which had of necessity been unsatisfactory, especially from the point of view of economy. By this change I not only became responsible for the .administration of martial law in Egypt and the maintenance of order throughout the Nile Valley and Delta, but I also succeeded to the direction of the operations against the Senoussi on the Western Frontier, which had very appropriately been brought to a triumphant period by General Maxwell by his victories which led to the .occupation of Sollum on 14th March, the capture of Gaafer, the dispersal, with the loss of all his guns, of Nuri's force, and the recapture from the enemy of 90 British prisoners taken by hostile submarines. The unification of the command in Egypt made large economies in staff possible, and these were carried out at once. The Levant Base also ceased to exist, General Sir Edward Altham, K.C.B., remaining as Inspector-General of Communications. The work of reorganising the forces and staffs for the Delta and Western Frontier Force was pushed on as fast as possible. I decided to keep General Headquarters at Ismailia, and to establish at Cairo a General Officer Commanding the Delta District, who would also act as Commander of L. of C. Defences. For operations on the west I formed a Western Frontier Force, divided into two sections, a north-western and a south-western, divided by a line drawn east and west through Deirut. These staffs and forces were definitely established and at work by 1st April. The whole force under my command now took the name of Egyptian Expeditionary Force. Towards the end of March, at the request of the Sirdar, I undertook the responsibility for the defence of the reach of the Nile between Assouan and Wadi Haifa. Captain F. H. Mitchell, R.N., D.S.O., was sent for this purpose to make all arrangements for an armed naval patrol of this reach.

On 18th March, Captain H. R. H. the Prince of Wales took up his duties as Staff Captain on my Staff, remaining till his departure from Egypt on 1st May.

6. As soon as the conduct of operations on the Western Frontier devolved upon me, I took steps, in consultation with the various officers who were then best acquainted with the situation, to estimate the size of the hostile forces with which I should have to deal, and to determine the policy along this front of over 800 miles by which the Nile Valley could best be protected. It appeared from the information placed at my disposal that the Senoussi forces, spread over the whole Western desert, did not exceed 3,000, and it was certain that the enemy's moral had been severely shaken by Sir John Maxwell's recent successful operations. The chief dangers, therefore, against which I had to guard were enemy raids upon the Nile Valley, the stirring up of native tribes that were inclined to be well-disposed towards the Senoussi, and the creation of unrest in the Nile Valley .and Delta among disaffected or nervous elements of the population. The chief end to be held in view was to prevent any local success on the part of the Senoussi.

On 15th April the Kharga Oasis, which had previously been reported by aerial reconnaissance and resident agents to be clear of the enemy, was occupied without incident. The movement of troops was effected by the existing light railway, and by the 18th April a force numbering 1,660 of all ranks was concentrated in the Oasis.

On the 27th April the small oasis of Maghara was occupied. A strongly entrenched post has been constructed. The occupation of this post has materially assisted in preventing the passage of foodstuffs from the Nile Valley to the west, and denies the water to any enemy force attempting to move in the contrary direction.

During April frequent raids and reconnaissances, chiefly with a view to capturing concealed depots of ammunition, were undertaken on the Western Front; in these enterprises our armoured and light motor cars have been of inestimable value. On 7th April a detachment of four armoured cars, accompanied by the machine-gun section of the 2/7th Middlesex Regiment, conducted a raid from Sollum upon an ammunition depot at Moraisa, eighteen miles north-west of Sollum. After a very slight resistance from the guard of thirty Muhafzia, twenty-one boxes of 8.9 centimetre Mantelli gun ammunition and 120,000 rounds of small arms ammunition were taken and destroyed. On 11th April a motor car reconnaissance found and removed eleven rifles and

7,000 rounds of small arms ammunition some twenty miles west of Sollum. On 23rd April an armoured car reconnaissance from Sollum discovered and brought in 140,000 rounds of small arms ammunition from a concealed depot. On the 30th April a further 20,000 rounds were discovered and brought in to Sollum. During this month, also, four prisoners, including a Turkish officer, were captured sixty miles west of Minia, and two small camel convoys were captured near El Alamein. The light car patrols were responsible for all these captures.

7. During the month of April reconnaissance was active all along the Eastern Front, with the result that by the middle of the month all water supplies of any importance within thirty miles of the Canal were patrolled by our troops, and mobile columns were ready to go out and deal with enemy parties approaching them, or, in the event of serious threat, td demolish the rock cisterns. In No. 1 Section, on 20th April, a patrol from Bir Mabeiuk came in contact with an enemy patrol, fifty strong, on the sand hills near the mouth of the Wadi Hamatha, some eighteen miles W.S.W. of Suez. A squadron and fifty rifles endeavoured to cut the enemy off, but he at once retired and scattered among the hills. Our casualties were two men killed. On 23rd April and the following days four columns, each composed of mounted troops and infantry, carried out reconnaissances of the approaches from the west to Ain Sudr and Sudr El Heitan. The columns returned to their respective posts on 26th April.

In No. 2 Section, on 27th March, the 2nd Australian and New Zealand Army Corps came into existence on the departure of the 1st Australian and New Zealand Army Corps to France. The Corps was commanded by Lieutenant-General Sir Alexander Godley, K.C.M.G., C.B., and consisted of the 4th Australian Division, commanded by Major-General Sir H. V. Cox, K.C.M.G., C.B., C.S.I., the 5th Australian Division, commanded by Major-General Hon. J. MacCay, V.D., and the Anzac Mounted Division, commanded by Major-General H. G. Chauvel, C.B., C.M.G. (attached). In this section, the wells at Moiya Harab and Wadi Um Muksheib having been brought into the regular patrolling area, a very successful reconnaissance to Jif-jaffa was carried out between 11th and 15th April. The troops for this enterprise were a squadron of the 9th Australian Light Horse Regiment, accompanied by a detachment of Bikanir Camel Corps, and commanded by Major Scott, D.S.O., 9th Australian Light Horse. The objective was fifty-two miles from the starting point, and a jumping-off place for the attack, eight miles south-west of the objective, was reached at 2.30 a.m. on 13th April. From here an attack was launched by three troops upon the enemy's position at 9 a.m. The enemy, cut off in their attempted retreat by the right flanking party of the attack, stood at bay on one of the hills above the village, and lost six men killed and five wounded before surrendering. One Austrian lieutenant of engineers and thirty-three other prisoners were captured, our own casualties being one man and one horse killed. The destruction of the enemy's camp was thoroughly carried out, a quantity of correspondence was taken, and the elaborate well-boring plant, which had been at work for five months, was completely demolished. The manner in which this operation was carried out was most creditable, both to the commander of the column and to all ranks composing it.

In conjunction with this reconnaissance, a mounted column was sent out in No. 1 Section to reconnoitre Bir el Giddi and the roads leading east from it. This force satisfactorily accomplished its mission, and, after an encounter with a hostile patrol, captured unwounded three armed Arabs. In the Qatia District, where alone there is sufficient water supply to maintain a large body of troops, preliminaries to the accomplishment of our ultimate aim—the permanent occupation of the well-watered zone radiating 15 miles east and south-east of Qatia—were steadily pushed on. On 2nd April, a squadron of the Gloucestershire Hussars under Lieut.-Colonel Yorke, with a detachment of Bikanir Camel Corps, reconnoitred Bir el Abd, some 15 miles east of Qatia, met with no resistance, and burnt some tents and stores belonging to the enemy. On the following day, Bir Mageibra,

10 miles south-east of Qatia, was reconnoitred by the Worcestershire Yeomanry. On the 6th April Brigadier-General E. A. Wiggin, commanding the 5th Mounted Brigade, took command of the Qatia District, and was made responsible direct to the headquarters of No. 3 Section.

On 9th April, a further reconnaissance of Bir el Abd was undertaken by a squadron of Worcestershire Yeomanry. This time a strong party of enemy were found in possession of a ridge north-east of Bir el Abd. A sharp skirmish ensued when the Yeomanry attacked, and the enemy was driven eastwards from his position, but, owing to the heaviness of the sand, it was impossible for our cavalry to keep up the attack, and, after easily fending off an attempt at a flank attack, they withdrew unmolested. On 12th April, on orders being received for General Home to proceed to France, Major-General The Hon. H. A. Lawrence took over the command of No. 3 Section.

By the 21st April, the railway towards Qatia had reached a point upon which a serious advance to hold the whole district could be based, as soon as the necessary dispositions could be made. On the 23rd, however, the enemy attempted to forestall any such advance by making a sudden raid in force upon Qatia. This operation, though comparatively small forces were engaged, produced the severest fighting yet experienced by the force under my command.

8. On 21st April, the 5th Mounted Brigade were disposed as follows: —The Worcestershire Yeomanry at Qatia, the Warwickshire Yeomanry, less one squadron, at Hamisah, 3 miles S.S.W. of Qatia, and Brigade Headquarters and the Gloucestershire Yeomanry at Romani, 6 miles N.W. of Qatia. General Wiggin, commanding the Brigade, had received orders to dispose his Brigade in the Qatia District in such a manner as to protect all railway, topographical and water survey parties, with special attention to the exploitation of the water supply; also to observe the route eastwards towards Bir el Abd, but not to take any serious offensive measures without further orders. It had also been impressed on General Wiggin by the General Officer Commanding No. 3 Section that, since it would take two days to reinforce him with infantry, he was, in the event of a heavy attack, to manoeuvre back upon Dueidar, 13 miles from Qantara on the Qatia road, or upon the railhead near El Arais some 7 miles N.W. of Qatia. On the evening of the 21st one squadron of Worcestershire Yeomanry moved into bivouac at Oghratina, 7 miles E.N.E. of Qatia, to cover an R.E. party detailed to prepare wells. On the 22nd another squadron of Worcestershire Yeomanry proceeded to Oghratina, being replaced in Qatia by a squadron of Gloucestershire Yeomanry, pending the arrival of one regiment of the Anzac Mounted Division, which had been ordered up from Salhia so as to reach Qatia on the 24th. The remainder of the 2nd Australian Light Horse Brigade was marching) to arrive at Qantara on the 23rd.

In Qatia the squadron of Gloucestershire Yeomanry was covered by good trenches for some 50 or 60 men, and a number of smaller shelters afforded good covers. Their horses were picketed close to their camp.

The Officer Commanding the two squadrons of Worcestershire Yeomanry at Oghratina had been told to push on entrenchment as far as possible, and it was General Wiggin's intention that these squadrons, if attacked in force, should retire on Qatia and thence, if necessary, on Romani, with their left flank covered by the Gloucestershire Yeomanry and their right by the Warwickshire Yeomanry from Hamisah. On the morning of the 23rd, both posts stood to arms at 4 a.m., and I have ascertained that patrols had gone out by that hour, though those at Oghratina were probably much hampered by a thick fog.

On the 22nd April the Royal Flying Corps reported to No. 3 Section that new bodies of enemy troops were at Bir el Bayud, 15 miles E.S.E. of Qatia, and Bir el Mageibra, 10 miles S.E. of Qatia. Upon receipt of this information, General Wiggin obtained leave from General Officer Commanding No. 3 Section, to attack the enemy at Mageibra that night, reporting that he intended to use two squadrons of Warwickshire, and the one remaining squadron of Worcestershire Yeomanry. General Wiggin, with Lieut.-Colonel Coventry, commanding the Worcestershire Yeomanry, accompanied the raid to Mageibra. Finding very few enemy, they destroyed the camp and returned to Hamisah about 9 a.m. on the 23rd with six Turkish prisoners. In the meantime the post at Oghratina was attacked at 5.30 a.m. This attack was repulsed. No further information was received from the Officer Commanding at Oghratina until 7 a.m., when he reported that he was again heavily attacked on all sides. This attack carried the post, all the garrison of which were either killed, wounded, or captured. No details of tie fighting have, therefore, been obtainable. Qatia itself was attacked about 9.30 a.m. Lieutenant-Colonel Coventry was detached with one squadron of Worcestershire Yeomanry from General Wiggin's Force to operate towards Qatia. Unfortunately, this squadron became involved in the unsuccessful resistance of the Qatia garrison, and, with the exception of some 60 men and one officer who were able to disengage themselves, fell with it into the hands of the enemy. I have therefore been able to gather no detailed information of the actual fighting at Qatia.

General Wiggin and Colonel Yorke, commanding the Gloucestershire Yeomanry at Romani, both showed great judgment in dealing with the situation, and did all that was possible with their small forces against the enemy force of about 2,500, with four guns of small calibre. General Wiggin pushed forward from Hamisah north-east against the enemy's left, south of Um Ugba, and drove him back for about a mile; the advance was slow owing to the nature of the ground and the determined resistance encountered. Colonel Yorke. after hearing that Dueidar was safe, moved his whole force at 10 a.m. to attack the enemy's right advancing on Qatia. He skilfully drove the Turkish right back to El Rabah, and caused their guns to shift their position further east. The enemy gave ground slowly, and, since by 3.30 p.m. it was evident that Qatia had fallen, General Wiggin determined to fall back: he himself retired on Dueidar by way of Hamisah, Colonel Yorke on Romani; neither were followed. Meanwhile, at 5.30 a.m. a Turkish force, 1,000 strong, with one gun, advancing from the south, attacked Dueidar, the most advanced defensible post, which was held by 100 men of the 5th Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers, under the command of Captain Roberts, 5th Battalion, Royal Soots Fusiliers. This officer, who throughout showed conspicuous skill and ability, succeeded in repelling two determined attacks on the position at 6.30 a.m. and 8.30 a.m. respectively. Both attempts cost the enemy dear. At 9.30 a.m. reinforcements of two companies 4th Royal Scots Fusiliers, under the command of Major Thompson, 4th Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers, who had been despatched from Hill 70, seven miles away, on. the first news of the attack, arrived at Dueidar. The various posts were strengthened, and a counter-attack, delivered at 12.30 p.m. with great spirit, forced the enemy to retire, leaving 30 prisoners in our hands and 70 dead. The Turks were pursued in their retreat by the 5th Australian Light Horse, who had only arrived at Qantara at 1 p.m., and by aeroplanes, thereby suffering further loss. Besides the three and a half squadrons of Yeomanry and details lost at Qatia and Oghratina, our casualties on the 23rd were two officers and 18 men killed, four officers and 21 men wounded. Aeroplane reconnaissance on the evening of the 23rd established the fact that the enemy force, which included a large body of picked Turkish regular troops, was already retiring. At dawn on the 24tihi eight machines of the 5th Wing, Royal Flying Corps, made a bomb and machine gun attack from a low altitude on the enemy troops left in Qatia, causing very heavy casualties and completely destroying the camp.

One machine also located and attacked a large body of enemy at Bir el Abd, and located another party retiring on Bir el Bayud. On the morning of the 25th further bomb and machine gun attacks were made by the Royal Flying Corps on enemy forces at Bir el Abd and Bir el Bayud. Both attacks were extremely successful, working great havoc among men and animals. I cannot speak too highly of the admirable work done by the 5th Wing, Royal Flying Corps, during these few days. The strain thrown on pilots and machines was very heavy, and the former displayed the utmost gallantry and resource on all occasions. Chiefly through their efforts the enemy was made to pay a very heavy price for his partially successful raid. The general situation in front of No. 3 Section was not affected by these operations. Our Cavalry continued to patrol the Qatia district, which was now practically clear of the enemy, while our infantry posts at Dueidar and Romani were strengthened, and the railway towards Romani was pushed on with all speed.

9. After 16th January, when General Sarrail assumed supreme control of the operations of the Allied Forces at Salonica, the British Force there commanded by Lieutenant-General Sir B. T. Mahon, K.C.V.O., C.B., D.S.O., only remained under my control for administrative purposes. From the beginning of January to the end of April no active operations of importance took place. The general line of defences remained practically unaltered. Some 200 miles of deep trenches, including communioatdon trenches, 710 emplacements for guns, 230 reduits or strong posts, 160 miles of obstacles (barbed wire), and 1,300 miles of telegraph cable have been completed; and thedefences as a whole are now quite ready for occupation should the situation demand it.

As in Egypt, so in Salonica, the administrative work has been extremely heavy. At the, outset tne state of the communications was very unsatisfactory. There were only two metalled roads leading to our lines, both in a shocking state of repair; the few existing tracks soon became impassable in wet weather for everything except pack animals. The construction and repair of roads had, therefore, to proceed simultaneously with the preparation of the defences. Roads in the forward area were all begun by the troops themselves, and all ranks worked admirably, the men thoroughly recognising the importance of the matter. Later, it was found possible to organise local civilian, labour companies, who have largely been employed to complete and maintain the road work begun by the troops. Altogether about 90 miles of new metalled cart roads have been constructed, and 105 miles of mule tracks, besides some 60 miles of repairs to previously existing roads and tracks. Railway extensions leading to the various depots on the Monastir road, with the necessary sidings, have been constructed, and Decauville lines laid within the depots themselves. Preparations have been made for further extensions. Another great difficulty, that of insufficient wharfage accommodation, has been met by the construction of new piers in the bay itself and at Skala Stavros. These have reduced the congestion to an appreciable extent and fully justified the labour and expense involved.

The supply system, though hindered at first by the state of the communications and by the fact that the equipment of the force with a special scale of transport was only in process of gradual completion, has worked with uninterrupted success. The health of the troops has been excellent, all ranks having benefited by hard physical work in good climatic conditions. In view of the approach of summer, when malaria is likely to prevail in certain districts through which our line passes, special precautions have been taken for the protection of the troops and, where possible, alternative positions prepared.

Throughout the period the importance of training the troops has been insisted upon. At first one day weekly was devoted to training, as opposed to road-making or work on the defences. This proportion has gradually risen to four days weekly, excluding one day of rest. On 9th May, under orders from the War Office, Lieut.-General G. F. Milne, C.B., D.S.O., succeeded Lieut.-General Sir Bevan Mahon, K.C.V.O., C.B., D.S.O., in command of the Salonica Army. General Mahor sailed at the same date to take up command of the Western Frontier Force in Egypt.

10. In Egypt during the month of May there was no major operation to record. Intelligence received early in the month showed that the Turks had materially increased their numbers in Sinai, doubtless with the view of detaining troops in Egypt. The enemy's main concentrations were too far away for me to strike at them, and I was in hopes that he might be induced to cross the barrier of hills which extends from north to south some sixty miles from the Canal: he would then have been exposed to attack with the denies behind him. However, he made no such advance, and, during the hot weather in the middle of May, there were indications that he was drawing in his advanced posts. On the 8th and 21st May enemy aircraft attacked Port Said with bombs, doing no material damage. On the first occasion three civilians were wounded; on the second two civilians were killed, five soldiers and thirteen civilians were wounded. In each case the attack was answered by prompt and successful retaliation by the Royal Flying Corps. In all sections of the Eastern front reconnaissances were frequent, particularly in No. 3 Section, to which were now allotted three brigades of the Anzac Mounted Division. During the month the Mahemdia-Romani district has been occupied in some force, and at a conference, held on 17th May, at which General Lawrence, commanding No. 3 Section, was present, further decisions regarding the occupation of the Qatia district were arrived at. During the month several successful reconnaissances to the east were made by the Anzac Mounted Division, which proved itself a unit upon which I could absolutely depend to display energy, resource and endurance. On the 8th May, starting early from Oghratina, the 2nd Light Horse Brigade reconnoitred to Bir el Abd with patrols pushed out to Hod Salmana. On the 16th May, a day of intense heat, the same brigade, starting from Hod el Sagia, five miles E.S.E. of Qatia, reached Hod el Bayud, 15 miles on in the same direction, at 7 a.m. Camels and dismounted men were seen making off in a north-easterly direction. The enemy's camp was destroyed, and one prisoner, 36 camels, and a quantity of ammunition were brought in. The reconnaissance returned to Qatia, having covered 60 miles in 30 hours. During this time the Canterbury Mounted Rifles went out to Bir Abu Afein, covering 40 miles in 30 hours.

On the 18th May a very successful bombardment of El Arish from the sea and the air was carried out. A sloop and two monitors of His Majesty's Navy bombarded the town, reducing the fort S.W. of the town to ruins and damaging the aerodrome. The seaplanes of the Royal Naval Air Service then attacked with bombs, being followed later by 6 machines of the Royal Flying Corps, who had orders to attack any enemy aircraft that appeared and to bomb the enemy's camp and troops. The camps were effectively bombed, and three bombs exploded in the middle of a body of a thousand men who were on the march south of the town. A close reconnaissance of El Arish from the air was made, and many valuable photographs taken at the same time. All ships and aircraft returned safely. On 22nd May the Royal Flying Corps carried out a highly effective bombardment of all enemy camps on a 45 mile front roughly parallel to the Canal, during which severe damage was done to the waterworks at Rodh Salem and to buildings at El Hamma and Bir Mazar. On 23rd May the 2nd Australian Light Horse Brigade reconnoitred Hod el Gedaidia, 15 miles east of Qatia, where shots were exchanged with a patrol of 40 men on camels, who retired. Finally, on 31st May, the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade, one regiment of Australian Light Horse, and a sub-section of the Ayrshire Battery R.H.A., attacked the enemy's post at Bir Salmana, 20 miles E.N.E. of Qatia. The post was surrounded before dawn, and an enemy post on the Ganadil road was rushed, while a camel detachment was seen making off to the south-east. The enemy lost 15 men killed and 2 men captured. Our cavalry pursued till 8 a.m. when the pursuit was taken up by aeroplanes which bombed scattered parties with effect, killing 20 camels and 8 more men. The force returned, having covered 60 miles in 36 hours besides fighting an engagement. The only casualties were two men slightly wounded.

On the Western Front during May preliminary measures for the occupation of the Baharia Oasis have been in progress. A line of blockhouses has been established along the Darb el Rubi which runs due west from Samalut on the Nile. Four blockhouses were completed and occupied by 23rd May. Work on the two> remaining blockhouses has been postponed till the railway has reached a point where it can materially assist in the supply of stores: this should be about the end of June. From the most advanced blockhouse it is now possible to reconnoitre as far as the Mohariq sand dunes, some 80 miles west of Samalut. The difficulty of maintaining such a line in a waterless desert subject to frequent and severe sand storms has not been small, but all ranks have worked well and with great keenness.

The enemy has a small body of troops, under the command of Nuri, collected on the Libyan side of the frontier west of Sollum, but as yet he has not openly displayed his intentions. Two battalions of Italian troops landed at Moraisa during the month and have occupied Bardia. The relations between the Italian and British commanders on the frontier are excellent. The area between Sollum and Barrani has been cleared of the Bedouin population, and, though it has been impossible entirely to prevent communication between the Bedouins and Siwa, the energy of our patrols, according to numerous reports, is successfully restricting the entry of food supplies into Siwa.

By means of patrols of Imperial Camel Corps and motor cars, communication between the oases occupied by the enemy and the Nile Valley and Delta has been rendered almost impossible. In particular, the camel patrolling from Kharga towards Dakhla and Beris has been carried out most efficiently by No. 1 Imperial Camel Company under especially trying conditions. The Farafra, Baharia, Mognara and Wadi Natrun fronts have also been controlled with great vigilance.

The Aulad Ali tribes in Egyptian territory are now all west of Barrani, except for a receiving camp at Sollum. Markets have been established for the sale of food at Sollum, Mersa Matruh, Dabaa, El Hamman and Wadi Natrun, where they are allowed to purchase what is necessary for their daily needs. This restricts indiscriminate movement to the west or to the Delta.

In spite of the occupation, during very hot weather, of so many advanced posts in the desert or on its edge, I am glad to report that the health of the troops has been remarkably good. I much regret, however, that General Sir Bryan Mahon, shortly after his arrival in this country to take up the command of the Western Frontier Force, had to be invalided home owing to sever sunstroke. In the meantime, Major-General A. G. Dallas, C.B., has continued, with great ability, in temporary command of that force.

11. I beg to acknowledge with great respect the valuable assistance I have received from His Highness the Sultan of Egypt. He has with great kindness placed at my disposal his unrivalled knowledge of affairs affecting his country.

To His Excellency the High Commissioner, Lieutenant-Colonel Sir A. H. McMahon, G.C.V.O., K.C.I.E., C.S.I., and to the Government of Egypt, I owe a deep debt of gratitude for whole-hearted co-operation and help.

I am very greatly indebted to Vice-Admiral Sir R. E. Wemyss, K.C.B., C.M.G., M.V.O., and the naval forces under his command for constant assistance and active co-operation.

The construction of Roads, Waterworks, and kindred tasks in connection with the Canal Defences, which I have described to you, owe their accomplishment in a very large measure to the admirable services of Colonel Sir Murdoch Macdonald, K.C.M.G., of the Public Works Department of Egypt. His wide experience and capacity have been an indispensable asset to me in dealing with these important problems.

I am particularly indebted to the Railway Department, under Colonel Sir George Macauley, K.C.M.G., R. of O., Royal Engineers, for the highly successful manner in which Railway communication has been carried on under great difficulties. The movement of a large number of troops and impedimenta of an Army has severely taxed the capacity of the railway, and has put a great strain on its staff. That it never failed to accomplish what was desired is due to the high efficiency this Department has attained, and to the personal exertions of Colonel Sir George Macauley.

I wish to bring to your notice the very responsible and important duties that have fallen to my Director of Army Signals, Brigadier-General M. G. E. Bowman-Manifold, D.S.O., R.E., and to the admirable way in which he has discharged them.

Military operations on the two fronts have been spread over a very wide front, amounting to close on 1,000 miles in the west and 90 miles in the east. Prompt and reliable inter-communication has been a matter of vital importance.

In the successful achievement of this I beg also to bring to your notice the services of the Egyptian Telegraph Department under Lieutenant-Colonel J. S. Liddell, D.S.O., Royal Engineers, and to express my thanks to the Eastern Telegraph Company and the Telephone Company of Egypt, who have given my Director of Army Signals unceasing valuable help.

I beg to bring to notice the valuable services rendered to the Canal Defences by the representative and principal officer of the Suez Canal Company, Charles Comte de Serionne, Agent Superieur de la Compagnie du Canal de Suez, .and by the staff of that company.

The arduous and important work of the care of the sick and wounded in the Hospitals has been considerably lightened by a large amount of voluntary aid. I wish specially to mention the work of the British Red Cross Society and Order of St. John of Jerusalem under Sir Courtauld Thomson, C.B.

The Nursing services, both English and Australian, have done admirable work, and the voluntary aid of the Sisters of Notre Dame de la Delivrance, working at the Austrian Hospital at Alexandria, have been specially Drought to my notice.

Finally, and in conclusion, I wish to bring to notice the admirable services of my Chief of the General Staff, Major-General A. L. Lynden-Bell, C.B., C.M.G., my Deputy Quartermaster-General, Major-General W. Campbell, C.B., D.S.O., and my Deputy Adjutant-General, Major-General J. Adye, C.B. No Commander-in-Chief has ever been more loyally served, and no staff has ever worked with less friction.

I have other names to bring to notice for distinguished and gallant service during the operations under review, and these will form the subject of a separate communication.

 

I have the honour to be,

Sir,

Your most obedient Servant,

A. J. MURRAY, General, Commander-in-Chief,

Egyptian Expeditionary Force.

 

 

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Citation: Desert Column (DC), General Murray's Despatches, Part 1

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Desert Column (DC), General Murray's Despatches, Part 2
Topic: AIF - DMC

DC

Desert Column

General Murray's Despatches, Part 2

 

General Sir Archibald James Murray GCMG, KCB, CVO, DSO.

 

General Sir Archibald James Murray GCMG, KCB, CVO, DSO (23 April 1860 - 21 January 1945) was a British Army officer during the Great War, known as commander of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force from 1916 to 1917.

 

SUPPLEMENT TO

The London Gazette

Of

FRIDAY, the 1st of DECEMBER, 1916.

War Office,

1st December, 1916. The Secretary of State for War has received the following despatches from General Sir Archibald Murray, K.C.B., Commander-in-Chief, Egyptian Expeditionary Force.

 

General Headquarters,

Egyptian Expeditionary Force.

1st October, 1916.

SIR,

I have the honour to submit a report on the operations of the Force under my command from the 1st June to 30th September, 1916.

1. On the eastern front, during the month of June, vigorous counter-measures, culminating in the successful attack on the enemy's aerodrome at El Arish, were undertaken to check the much increased activity of hostile aircraft. This operation was brilliantly carried out on the morning of the 18th June. The first British, machine to arrive descended to 100 feet and attacked, blowing to pieces an aeroplane on the ground and its attendant personnel. A second machine on the ground was also put out of action by bombs. Heavy fire from rifles and anti-aircraft guns was now opened on the attackers, but the British pilots carried out their orders most gallantly. Altogether six out of the ten hangars were hit, and two, if not three, were burnt to the ground. A party of soldiers on the aerodrome was also successfully bombed, and at the close one of the observing machines attacked the hangars with its machine gun from a height of 1,200 feet. During the action three of our machines were, forced to descend; two were destroyed and one sank in the sea. Two of the pilots were rescued, and the third was taken prisoner.

On the eastern front there was comparatively little activity during the month of June, beyond the usual patrols and reconnaissances, which were actively carried out. A column of Australian Light Horse, with detachments of engineers and of Bikanir Camel Corps, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel T. J. Todd, D.S.O., successfully executed the task of draining the rock cisterns and pools in the Wadi Um Muksheib, some 40 miles S.E. of Ismailia, between 10th and 14th June. Some 5,000,000 gallons of water were disposed of in four days and nights of continuous effort, and the fact that every man and animal that left railhead on 10th June returned safely testifies to the efficiency of the staff arrangements. A column of Yeomanry co-operated with this force, and did very good work.

2. On 10th and 11th June, Bir Bayud, Bir El Mageibra and Bir El Jefeir were reconnoitred. Enemy stores and huts were destroyed at Hod El Bayud, and at Hod El Dababis a hostile patrol was successfully disposed of. On 15th June Bir El Abd was reconnoitred, and between 21st and 23rd June a reconnaissance of the Hod El Ge'eila,Hod Urn El Dhaunnin and Hod El Mushalfat area was carried out by an Australian Light Horse Brigade. During the latter operation one of our aeroplanes was reported missing, and the reconnoitring troops were ordered to find it. This they successfully accomplished, after considerable prolonged exertion in trying weather conditions, and the damaged engine and the machine gun were brought in on the 23rd. Bir El Abd and Mageibra were reconnoitred on 30th June and found to be clear of the enemy.

At the beginning of July a small reconnaissance was carried out from Abu Zeneima by detachments of the Sikh Pioneers and the Bikanir Camel Corps, under the command of Major W. J. Ottley. The column left Abu Zeneima on 11th July and returned on 14th July, having captured an Arab Sheikh and some other prisoners.

3. As regards the western front, during the month no important enemy movements took place. In the coastal section reconnaissances by aeroplane, motor and camel corps, to assure the safety of the Sollum post, were carried out, irrespective of frontier, and with the agreement of the Italian local military authorities, with whom a complete accord has been established by the interchange of visits between the respective commanders. Progress on the Baharia railway continued, though slower than was anticipated, and the defences of posts in the Kharga Oasis were completed. Aeroplane reconnaissance established the continued presence of an enemy force of some 1,800 rifles in the Dakhla Oasis. On 25th and 26th July a raid from Sollum was carried out by a detachment of light armoured cars, under the command of Captain C. G. Mangles, Hussars, in conjunction with some motor cars and personnel furnished by the Italian garrison of Bardia, supported by half a company Imperial Camel Corps, and by the Italian armed yacht "Misurata," ably commanded by Captain Como, Italian Navy. The objective was a party of some 100 Muhafzia, located near the mouth of the Wadi Sanal, in Italian territory, 40 miles west of Has El Melh, whence they had been robbing the Bedouin under pretence of collecting taxes for the Senussi. A complete surprise was effected, but only about twenty-five Muhafzia were found in camp. These fled towards the sea, after a slight .resistance, leaving six killed and three prisoners. Scattered groups on the seashore came under the gun fire of the "Misurata." The importance of this well-conducted operation lies in the proof which it gave to the Arabs of the close co-operation and good fellowship that existed between our Italian neighbours and ourselves.

4. More than half the month of July passed without any important occurrence on the eastern front. In the northern section mounted troops carried out frequent reconnaissances to the east, penetrating on 9th July as far as Salmana, but found the country clear of all but a few Bedouin. On 17th July, however, enemy aircraft were active over the Romani-Dueidar area, and on the 15th a patrol came in contact with a camel patrol of fifteen Turks, with whom shots were exchanged. The Turks retired rapidly eastwards. Up till this date there was no considerable body of Turkish troops further west than Bir El Mazar, some 18 miles east of Oghratina, where for some time there had been a camp of between 1,500 and 2,000.

The situation suddenly changed on 19th July, when an evening reconnaissance by the Royal Flying Corps revealed the fact that a. large force of the enemy had moved westwards from El Arish and established itself on the line Bir El Abd-Bir Jameil-Bir Bayud. Their numbers were estimated to be between 8,000 and 9,000, of which from 3,000 to 4,000 were at Bir El Abd, and the remainder divided between the other two places. It was not immediately clear whether the enemy's intention was to repeat the raid of 23rd April on the Qatia district on a larger scale, or to make a more deliberate advance, but I at once decided, on receipt of this information, to reinforce the troops in this area.

Early on the morning of the 20th the cavalry reported that Oghratina was .held by strong forces of the enemy, who were entrenching. This was confirmed by the Royal Flying Corps, who further reported that the pile of stores at Bir el Abd had increased in size, and that the troops reported on the previous evening at Bir Jameil and Bir El Bayud had moved. A further air reconnaissance, in the afternoon, revealed that this force had moved to Mageibra, where there were between 2,000 and 3,000 men,, with bodies of between 500 and 600 moving on a line between that place and Oghratina. Instructions were issued that the enemy was to be allowed to become involved in an attack on our defences, if he would, and that any such intention was not to be hindered by a premature counter-attack. The cavalry were in touch with the enemy all day, capturing a few prisoners, from whose information it appeared that the force in front of us was the 3rd Turkish Division, consisting of the 31st, 32nd, and 39th Regiments, with mountain guns, heavy artillery, and special machine gun companies; the artillery was manned by Turks, Germans and Austrians, and .there were Germans with all the machine gun companies. Prisoners also stated that there were other echelons following behind these advanced troops at a distance of one day's march. This information was confirmed in all essentials by the complete knowledge subsequently obtained of the attacking force, except that prisoners all exaggerated the number of troops that was following behind them. The whole force consisted of the Turkish 3rd Division, with eight machine gun companies, officered and partly manned by Germans, mountain artillery, and some batteries of 4-inch and 6-inch howitzers and anti-aircraft guns, manned chiefly by Austrians, with a body of Arab Camelry. It was commanded by Colonel Kress Von Kressenstein, a German officer in Turkish employ, and the German personnel of the machine gun units, heavy artillery, wireless sections, field hospital and supply section had been organised in Germany as a. special formation for operations with the Turkish forces. The force was in fine physical condition and admirably equipped.

On the evening of the 20th a demonstration with artillery against Oghratina disclosed the fact that the enemy were entrenching on a general line running south-east from Oghratina, with their left flank thrown forward to Mageibra, which was strongly held. Bir El Abd was used by the enemy as an advanced base throughout the operations.

During the next few days .there was no appreciable change in the situation. The enemy confined himself to closing up his troops and strengthening the position already occupied, pushing forward in one or two places and entrenching wherever he established himself. There were constant encounters between our cavalry patrols and the enemy's, but the latter handled his covering troops well and extended his right flank far enough northwards to prevent anything less than a very strong attack from interfering with his communications along the Bir El Abd-Oghratina road.

By the 24th the enemy had established a force, estimated at 5,000 men, in a series of entrenched positions extending from Hod En Negiliat through Oghratina to Hod El Masia, with supporting bodies of about 1,000 each at Bir Abu Afein and Bir El Abd behind his right flank. On his left Mageibra was entrenched with a series of strong redoubts and held by some 3,000 troops, with small connecting posts northward to Hod El Masia.

By 22nd July it was evident that the enemy had no intention of making an immediate raid upon the Qatia district, .but was either contemplating a serious attack upon the canal defences further west or preparing to establish himself firmly in the Um Alsha district, so as to block our further advance towards El Arish, to protect his own communications between Syria and the Hedjaz, and to prevent us from denying to him the whole of the Qatia area— the only district within which he could collect and maintain any considerable, force within striking distance of the Suez Canal. In either case, whether, on the first alternative, he was waiting for further echelons to arrive before attacking, or, on the second, he was preparing to establish himself permanently, there was only one course of action that commended itself to me—namely, to attack the enemy and inflict a decisive defeat upon him as soon as possible. To do this forthwith was impracticable, since 15 miles of desert separated my main position from that of the enemy, and it would be absolutely necessary that any force destined to advance across this tract to an attack on a strong enemy position should be equipped with camel transport on a very complete scale. While I was compelled, therefore, to remain for the moment on the tactical defensive, I took immediate steps to put everything in train for the adoption of a vigorous offensive at the earliest possible moment. The General Officer in command in the locality was instructed to formulate his plan for the earliest possible assumption of the offensive, and to proceed with all speed with the mobilisation of his striking force on a pack basis with camel transport. I calculated that all arrangements would be completed during the first days of August, and this calculation was borne out by events. By 3rd August all the formations were ready to take the field. My intention was to attack the enemy in force about 13th August, the date of full moon, unless myself attacked earlier. Major-General Hon. H. H. Lawrence was placed in local command of the operations.

During this period of energetic preparation the Mounted Troops kept in constant touch with the enemy, harassing him in every possible way and making valuable reconnaissances; and the Royal Flying Corps, having concentrated all available machines and pilots in Egypt on the Eastern Front, was able to make valuable report upon the enemy's movements in rear of his advanced line.

On the night of the 27/28th the enemy pushed forward all along his front and occupied a line in advance of his former entrenched position, running from the eastern end of Sabkhet El Amy a on the north, south-eastwards to Abu Darem on the south. On his right the advance was-small, for his .advanced troops, which at one time advanced to Hod Um Ugba, were driven back after a sharp skirmish by the Canterbury Mounted Rifles, the enemy sustaining heavy losses. The chief advance was made by his left flank, which swung up in a north-westerly direction from Mageibra to Abu Darem. It now seemed likely that the enemy meant to attack, but for the next few days be continued strengthening his new positions, while continual reinforcements were observed to be reaching him along the northern road. This movement of reinforcements ceased on 31st July, by which date the enemy appeared to have completed the concentration of troops in his front line. From 29th July onwards the Royal Flying Corps, whose role had hitherto been only one of observation, passed to the offensive, and constantly harassed the enemy with bomb attacks. From the 30th onwards H.M. Monitors lying off Mahemdia rendered most valuable assistance in shelling the enemy's camps and works, in which the Royal Flying Corps successfully co-operated. On 28th July I gave instructions for the formation of a mobile column, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel C. L. Smith, V.C., Imperial Camel Corps, to operate against the enemy's left flank and left rear in the neighbourhood of Mageibra and Bayud respectively. This mobile column proved itself invaluable in subsequent operations.

The Mahemdia-Romani position consisted of a series of strong poste extending southwards from the sea to a point on the east of the Katib Gannit hill, and thence curving backwards round the southern slope of that hill north-westwards towards Etmaler.

On 2nd August there were indications of a forward move on the part of the enemy, who made a strong reconnaissance towards Er Rabah-Qatia and Bir El Hamisah, but his advanced troops were driven in, except on the north, by the Australian and New Zealand Mounted Troops after some sharp encounters. By the evening of the 2nd August his general position was but little altered. Even up to this time it was still uncertain whether the ultimate assumption of the offensive would come from our side or the enemy's, but on the following day the enemy disclosed his intention of taking the initiative by making a general move forward and occupying a semi-circular line running from the immediate west of Hill 110, past the high ground north-west of Rabah, over the high ground east and south-east of Qatia to the high ground north-west of Bir Hamisah. It then appeared certain that he would attack the Romani-Mahemdia position, and it appeared to me extremely probable that, while holding us east of that position, he would throw his main attack against the Katib Gannit-Bir El Nuss line in a north-westerly direction, with the object of forcing back our entrenched line before we could interfere from the west and north-west. I warned General Lawrence of this possibility, which was confirmed by events.

5. On the night of the 3rd/4th August, owing to the proximity of the enemy at Qatia, the cavalry, in addition to leaving out the usual officers' patrols, put out a strong outpost line which extended from just south of Katib Gannit along the entrance to the gullies between the sand dunes up to and including Hod El Enna, thus preventing the enemy from penetrating unobserved into the waterless area of sand dunes south-west of Romani, into which I anticipated he would attempt to move. This outpost line, formed by two regiments, was attacked by the enemy in increasing strength from midnight onwards. Several attempts to force the line were repulsed, a bayonet charge on Mount Meredith, a high sand dune midway between Katib Gannit and Hod El Enna, being beaten off between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. The continuous pressure of the enemy gradually forced back the outpost line, which by 4.20 a.m. was facing generally south along the dune called Wellington Ridge, between Mount Meredith and Katib Gannit. Before long the enemy's threat to outflank our right made it necessary to retire slowly northwards towards the railway. It was evident by daylight that the enemy had committed his troops to a decisive attack, as he was pressing the line of fortified works from the east under cover of artillery fire from field guns and heavy howitzers at the same time as he was moving round the southern flank of the position with strong forces, before which our cavalry, while stubbornly resisting, were slowly retiring.

The situation had developed in accordance with my anticipations, and it was certain that, once the force of the enemy's attack from the south was spent, a decisive and rapid counter-attack would place him in a position of great difficulty. General Lawrence issued orders for all available troops to be ready to operate against the enemy's southern flank in the direction of Mount Royston, a high sand dune about two miles south of Pelusium Station: a Mounted Brigade was directed to act vigorously from Dueidar towards Hod El Enna; another Mounted Brigade was ordered to send one regiment to Hod El Aras, and to be prepared to follow it up with the whole Brigade, so as to co-operate with the first-mentioned Mounted Brigade. Finally, I issued orders to the Mobile Column, under Lieutenant-Colonel Smith, V.C., to commence operations against the enemy's left rear towards Mageibra and Bir Aweidiya, working wide of the flank of the last-named Mounted Brigade. This Column at once started for Hod El Bada, which it reached by the evening of the 4th.

During the forenoon the enemy made several attacks against the Romani-Mehemdia defences from the east, south and south-west. These were repulsed by the garrisons, composed of Scottish and Welsh Infantry, with considerable loss, and in spite of heavy artillery fire from the enemy's heavy howitzers, which in one or two cases inflicted severe casualties on our troops, who behaved with admirable steadiness. The fire of these howitzers, however, was very effectively kept down by the guns of the monitors, with the co-operation of the Royal Flying Corps.

There was, unfortunately, more delay than had been anticipated in moving up the infantry reinforcements to Pelusium Station, so that during the morning of the 4th no infantry was available for an attack on the enemy's flank at Mount Royston. This caused the whole brunt of the fighting in this area to fall upon the cavalry, whose casualties had not been light, and whose right flank was unprotected. A squadron of cavalry from 7.45 a.m. onwards held off attacks from the south-east for three hours till a yeomanry regiment, which had come into action at 9.45, gained touch with it. The result of the somewhat rapid, advance of the Turks from the south was that General Lawrence was obliged to divert the cavalry originally destined to operate against the enemy's rear to strengthen the line of resistance on the north. By 12.30 p.m. the enemy on our southern flank reached the furthest point of his advance—a line running from Bir Abu Diyuk, north of Mount Royston, along the southern slopes of Wellington Ridge, and thence bending round to the east and north facing the southernmost infantry post. Shortly after 1 p.m. New Zealand mounted troops, with some Yeomanry, began to attack Mount Royston from the west. This attack was pressed slowly forward, and was accompanied, in spite of heavy fire from the enemy, by a general move forward of the cavalry. By 3.30 p.m. two battalions of the E. Lancashire Regiment, closely followed by a third, were on the march southwards from Pelusium Station, and by 4 p.m. all the troops were ordered to press forward for the counter-attack and gain and hold the line Mount Royston-Wellington Ridge. By 6.30 p.m. Mount Royston, with about 500 prisoners, some machine guns, and a battery of mountain artillery were in our hands. At 6 p.m. an attack was made on Wellington Ridge by infantry, supported by the fire of our artillery. The ridge was strongly held, and, owing to darkness, the enemy remained in possession of part of it during the night. The result of the day's fighting was that we had repulsed a vigorous attack, capturing between 500 and 1,000 prisoners, retaken Mount Royston and part of Wellington Ridge, and were pressing back on the south a now exhausted enemy. The outpost line for the night was taken up by the leading battalions, with some of the cavalry in the centre. Some Australian cavalry which had reached Hill 70, was ordered on to Dueidar to be ready to take up the right flank of the pursuit.

Vigorous action, to the utmost limits .of endurance, was ordered for the next day, and the troops, in spite of the heat, responded nobly. At daybreak the Scottish Territorial Infantry, assisted by Australian and New Zealand mounted troops, took the remainder of Wellington Ridge by assault, capturing about 1,500 prisoners. Elsewhere the mounted troops pressed forward, meeting with some opposition, but prisoners continued to come in steadily, and it was soon obvious that the enemy's offensive was completely broken. An advance was ordered all along the line, and all mounted troops were put under the command of General Chauvel, with orders to push on as far and as vigorously as the resources at Ibis disposal would permit.

The mounted troops pressed steadily forward, and found the enemy holding the ridges Katib Gannit-Bir El Nuss line in a north-westerly direction, with the object of forcing back our entrenched line before we could interfere from the west and north-west. I warned General Lawrence of this possibility, which was confirmed by events.

5. On the night of the 3rd/4th August, owing to the proximity of the enemy at Qatia, the cavalry, in addition to leaving out the usual officers' patrols, put out a strong outpost line which extended from just south of Katib Gannit along the entrance to the gullies between the sand dunes up to and including Hod El Enna, thus preventing the enemy from penetrating unobserved into the waterless area of sand dunes south-west of Romani, into which I anticipated he would attempt to move. This outpost line, formed by two regiments, was attacked by the enemy in increasing strength from midnight onwards. Several attempts to force the line were repulsed, a bayonet charge on Mount Meredith, a high sand dune midway between Katib Gannit and Hod El Enna, being beaten off between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. The continuous pressure of the enemy gradually forced back the outpost line, which by 4.20 a.m. was facing generally south along the dune called Wellington Ridge, between Mount Meredith and Katib Gannit. Before long the enemy's threat to outflank our right made it necessary to retire slowly northwards towards the railway. It was evident by daylight that the enemy had committed his troops to a decisive attack, as he was pressing the line of fortified works from the east under cover of artillery fire from field guns and heavy howitzers at the same time as he was moving round the southern flank of the position with strong forces, before which our cavalry, while stubbornly resisting, were slowly retiring.

The situation had developed in accordance with my anticipations, and it was certain that, once the force of the enemy's attack from the south was spent, a decisive and rapid counter-attack would place him in a position of great difficulty. General Lawrence issued orders for all available troops to be ready to operate against the enemy's southern flank in the direction of Mount Royston, a high sand dune about two miles south of Pelusium Station: a Mounted Brigade was directed to act vigorously from Dueidar towards Hod El Enna; another Mounted Brigade was ordered to send one regiment to Hod El Aras, and to be prepared to follow it up with the whole Brigade, so as to co-operate with the first-mentioned Mounted Brigade. Finally, I issued orders to the Mobile Column, under Lieutenant-Colonel Smith, V.C., to commence operations against the enemy's left rear towards Mageibra and Bir Aweidiya, working wide of the flank of the last-named Mounted Brigade. This Column at once started for Hod El Bada, which it reached by the evening of the 4th.

During the forenoon the enemy made several attacks against the Romani-Mehemdia defences from the east, south and south-west. These were repulsed by the garrisons, composed of Scottish and Welsh Infantry, with considerable loss, and in spite of heavy artillery fire from the enemy's heavy howitzers, which in one or two cases inflicted severe casualties on our troops, who behaved with admirable steadiness. The fire of these howitzers, however, was very effectively kept down by the guns of the monitors, with the co-operation of the Royal Flying Corps.

There was, unfortunately, more delay than had been anticipated in moving up the infantry reinforcements to Pelusium Station, so that during the morning of the 4th no infantry was available for an attack on the enemy's flank at Mount Royston. This caused the whole brunt of the fighting in this area to fall upon the cavalry, whose casualties had not been light, and whose right flank was unprotected. A squadron of cavalry from 7.45 a.m. onwards held off attacks from the south-east for three hours till a yeomanry regiment, which had come into action at 9.45, gained touch with it. The result of the somewhat rapid, advance of the Turks from the south was that General Lawrence was obliged to divert the cavalry originally destined to operate against the enemy's rear to strengthen the line of resistance on the north. By 12.30 p.m. the enemy on our southern flank reached the furthest point of his advance—a line running from Bir Abu Diyuk, north of Mount Royston, along the southern slopes of Wellington Ridge, and thence bending round to the east and north facing the southernmost infantry post. Shortly after 1 p.m. New Zealand mounted troops, with some Yeomanry, began to attack Mount Royston from the west. This attack was pressed slowly forward, and was accompanied, in spite of heavy fire from the enemy, by a general move forward of the cavalry. By 3.30 p.m. two battalions of the E. Lancashire Regiment, closely followed by a third, were on the march southwards from Pelusium Station, and by 4 p.m. all the troops were ordered to press forward for the counter-attack and gain and hold the line Mount Royston-Wellington Ridge. By 6.30 p.m. Mount Royston, with about 500 prisoners, some machine guns, and a battery of mountain artillery were in our hands. At 6 p.m. an attack was made on Wellington Ridge by infantry, supported by the fire of our artillery. The ridge was strongly held, and, owing to darkness, the enemy remained in possession of part of it during the night. The result of the day's fighting was that we had repulsed a vigorous attack, capturing between 500 and 1,000 prisoners, retaken Mount Royston and part of Wellington Ridge, and were pressing back on the south a now exhausted enemy. The outpost line for the night was taken up by the leading battalions, with some of the cavalry in the centre. Some Australian cavalry which had reached Hill 70, was ordered on to Dueidar to be ready to take up the right flank of the pursuit.

Vigorous action, to the utmost limits .of endurance, was ordered for the next day, and the troops, in spite of the heat, responded nobly. At daybreak the Scottish Territorial Infantry, assisted by Australian and New Zealand mounted troops, took the remainder of Wellington Ridge by assault, capturing about 1,500 prisoners. Elsewhere the mounted troops pressed forward, meeting with some opposition, but prisoners continued to come in steadily, and it was soon obvious that the enemy's offensive was completely broken. An advance was ordered all along the line, and all mounted troops were put under the command of General Chauvel, with orders to push on as far and as vigorously as the resources at Ibis disposal would permit.

The mounted troops pressed steadily forward, and found the enemy holding the ridges west of Quatia, supported by artillery. The Australian Light Horse, which had moved forward from Dueidar by Bir El Nuss, came into contact with the enemy near Bir El Hamisah and captured some 450 prisoners, with machine guns and other materiel. The further advance of these troops, however, was met with heavy fire from field guns and howitzers, and no further progress was made. Further northwards, as soon as the infantry had cleared Abu Hamra, the advance was continued towards Qatia, where the enemy's rearguard was found firmly established east of the palm trees, with both flanks well protected. A strong attempt was made to eject him by dismounted action, but the attack failed to make progress, and darkness found our troops and the enemy's facing each other roughly on parallel lines. During the day the Royal Flying Corps reported that the retreat of the Turks was general throughout their depth, and our aeroplanes most effectively harassed his movements and threw his columns into confusion by well-directed bomb attacks.

On the morning of the 6th the enemy was found to have retired from Qatia, and, while the cavalry pressed on in pursuit, the infantry moved forward and occupied the line Er Rabah-Qatia-Bir El Mamluk. These Australian Light Horse regiments, which had borne the brunt of observing and harassing the enemy's advance, were given a day's rest in camp, while the remainder of the cavalry continued the advance. The enemy's rearguard was found to be occupying his previously prepared position extending across the road and telegraph line between Hod El Reshafat and Hod El Dhaba. Our attempts to turn his flanks by Hod En Negiliat on the north and Hod El Sagia on the south were frustrated by heavy artillery fire.

On the same morning the Camel Corps detachment of Smith's Mobile Column occupied Bir El Mageibra without opposition. Another body of mounted troops also moved to Mageibra in support at Bir El Jafeir. In the afternoon Major J. J. de Knoop, commanding the Camel Corps detachment of this column, reconnoitred towards Hod El Bayud, and reported that a force of the enemy was in occupation of Hod El Muhammam, five miles north-east of Mageibra. Orders for an attack next morning were issued by Colonel Smith.

On the 7th August the cavalry maintained their action with the enemy's rearguard, which had fallen back to the line of his first entrenched position running from Oghratina to Hod El Masia, with flanks thrown well out to the north and south. There was continuous fighting throughout the day, but the enemy were too strongly supported by artillery for the cavalry to drive him from his position. Meanwhile the Mobile Column, operating from Bir El Aweidiya, had fought a very successful action with the enemy force—consisting of 1,000 rifles, three machine guns and two 12-pounder guns—in the neighbourhood of Hod El Muhammam. The camel detachnfent and cavalry, the whole under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Grant, drove the enemy out of several successive positions, capturing 53 prisoners, and successfully withdrew at nightfall. This threat to his flanks was probably an important factor in determining the enemy to continue his retreat. I regret to say that Major de Knoop, who had handled the camel detachment throughout with great skill and judgment, was killed while directing operations.

On the 8th August the enemy was found to have abandoned Oghratina and, by the evening, to have taken up a position covering Bir el Abd, his advanced base. It was here that the enemy made his final stand to cover the evacuation of his camp and stores. Touch was now gained between the cavalry and Smith's Mobile Column, and was maintained from this time onwards.

On the 9th August the cavalry which had hitherto carried out the pursuit was reinforced. A strong effort was made to encircle both flanks of the enemy at Bir El Abd and cut off his further retreat. Strong opposition was, however, encountered on both flanks, and it was decided to deliver a dismounted attack with the object of driving out the enemy. Our field batteries got close enough to shell effectively .the convoys removing stores from the pile at Bir El Abd, but our artillery fire drew a heavy reply from the enemy's howitzers, which caused some casualties. The enemy, well supported by artillery, fought stubbornly. He made three counter-attacks, all of which were driven back with heavy loss by our rifle and machine-gun fire, and in the evening what appeared to be a general advance by fresh forces was made against our troops. This was also driven back with heavy loss, but the enemy was able to maintain his covering position. During the next two days our cavalry was unable to .do more than maintain continuous pressure, but the Mobile Column, which had occupied Bayud on the 9th, continued to menace the enemy wide on his left flank. On the 10th a strong reconnaissance was made against the enemy, who was in strength at Hod El Mushalfat, south-east of Bir El Abd. On the 11th an enemy force with two mountain guns approached Bayud. A sharp action, which commenced at 5.30 a.m., was fought, and in the course of it all the baggage camels and ammunition mules of the enemy detachment were destroyed. Towards the afternoon the enemy evacuated this position and retired on the main body of his rearguard. On the following day patrols from the neighbourhood of Bayud found the country to the east and north all clear.

Early on the morning of the 12th it was found that the enemy had retired from Bir El Abd, and, though there was a small encounter with his rear troops about Salmana, the general pursuit stopped at this point, the enemy retiring through Bir El Mazar to El Arish. The General Officer Commanding was ordered to hold the line Bir El Abd-Homossia with two brigades of cavalry, keeping touch with the Mobile Column, which remained at Mageibra. The infantry returned to the Mahemdia— Romani line.

6. The complete result of the operations in the Qatia district was the decisive defeat of an enemy force amounting in all to some 18,000, including 15,000 rifles. Some 4,000 prisoners, including 50 officers, were captured, and, from the number of enemy dead actually buried, it. is estimated that the total number of enemy casualties amounted to about 9,000. In addition, there were captured 1 Krupp 75 mm. mountain battery of four guns complete with all accessories and 400 rounds of ammunition.

9 German machine guns and mountings with specially constructed pack saddles for camel transport, 2,300 rifles, 1,000,000 rounds small arms ammunition, 100 horses and mules, 500 camels, and a large amount of miscellaneous stores and equipment. Two field hospitals, with most of their equipment, were also abandoned by the enemy in his retreat, and large quantities of stores were burnt by him at Bir El Abd to prevent their capture.

Lieutenant-General the Hon. H. A. Lawrence directed the operations throughout, and the warmest praise is due to him and the commanders, staffs and troops concerned in the operations. General Lawrence's staff deserve great credit for their efforts in working out the allotment of camel transport enabling our troops to conduct a vigorous pursuit. Throughout the whole month which elapsed between the enemy's first approach and his final disappearance Major-General H. G. Chauvel, C.B., C.M.G., proved himself a resolute and resourceful cavalry leader. The brunt of the fighting fell upon the Australian and New Zealand mounted troops, to which were attached batteries of R.H.A. I cannot speak too highly of the gallantry, steadfastness and untiring energy shown by these fine troops throughout the operations. The S. Mid. Mounted Brigade came into action successfully on 4th August, and subsequently took part in the cavalry pursuit. The Scottish troops, commanded by Major-General W. E. B. Smith, C.M.Q., not only showed great steadiness under heavy artillery fire, but were responsible for the assault which recaptured Wellington Ridge on 4th August, and for clearing Abu Hamra on the 5th. Of the E. Lanes, troops, commanded by Major-General Sir W. Douglas, K.C.M.G., C.B., only two battalions were in action on the 4th, but the force carried out a march under very trying conditions on the subsequent days. Detachments of the Bikanir Camel Corps were invaluable in reconnaissances and as escorts to small parties, besides bringing in much of the material captured.

Most excellent work was done by Lieutenant-Colonel C. L. Smith, V.C., Officer Commanding Camel Corps, and by all ranks composing the Mobile Column under his command. He executed the role ascribed to him with great energy, and carried out his instructions with the highest intelligence. The arrangements made for mobilising and maintaining his column reflect the greatest credit on Major-General A. G. Dallas, C.B., and his staff.

I cannot speak too highly of the work of the Royal Flying Corps during the whole period. Their work was extremely arduous and exhausting. The average total daily reconnaissances during the period amounted to 23 hours, and during the first five days of August to as much as 31 hours. Many pilots and observers were out two or three times a day for several consecutive days under very accurate anti-aircraft fire, and were frequently engaged in air combats with enemy machines of superior power. Special commendation is due to Lieutenant-Colonel P. B. Joubert, Officer Commanding Royal Flying Corps, and to Major H. Blackburn, Royal Flying Corps, who commanded the detachment at Kantara.

I wish also to bring to notice the good work done by H.M. Monitors, under the command of Lieutenant-Commander A. O. St. John, R.N., and Commander E. Robinson, V.C., R.N., respectively. The shooting of these ships was consistently good, and they were very successful in reducing the fire of the enemy's heavy howitzers on the 4th August.

7. With the exception of the operations described in the preceding paragraph, there is little to record beyond reconnaissances and patrols for the remainder of the period under review.

On 16th and 17th September a mounted force of Australian Light Horse, Imperial Camel Corps, R.H.A. Batteries and a Mountain Battery, under the command of Major-General Chauvel, carried out a successful reconnaissance in force against the enemy's camp at Bir El Mazar. At dawn, on the 17th, the camp was attacked from the west and from the south and south-east. On the west our troops occupied a ridge about 800 yards from the enemy's second Bine trenches; several small posts were rushed and taken. Our batteries came into action in a favourable position, partially enfilading some enemy trenches, which were seen to be occupied in strength, and inflicted considerable loss. The enemy replied actively with shell fire and heavy rifle fire. On the south and south-east our troops drew the enemy's fire on a front of two miles, and in many instances occupied the enemy's original first line trenches. My instructions were that a general action against the enemy in entrenched positions was to be avoided, and the column, having successfully carried out its mission, withdrew without any attempt on the part of the enemy to molest it. The Royal Flying Corps co-operated effectively throughout the operation, and the gallant action of the seaplanes of the Royal Naval Air Service off El Arish diverted the attention of the enemy's aircraft from our troops at Bir El Mazar. Our casualties were slight, and our captures included one officer and thirteen men of the enemy's camel corps, besides a number of camels.

The success of this operation, apart from the casualties inflicted, which were heavy, lay in the fact that it gave the enemy a new and unexpected proof of our extended radius of action, and induced him, in the course of the next few days, to evacuate his camp at Bir El Mazar and withdraw the troops to camps near El Arish.

During the month of September various small reconnaissances were made. The most important of these was carried out against Bir El Tawal (about 30 miles west of El Kubri) by a column under Brigadier-General A. Mudge, between the 14th and 21st September. The approach march was excellently carried out over very broken and intricate country. The enemy's position was reached on the 17th, and, after a preliminary reconnaissance on that day, an attack was made early the next morning. The infantry advanced with great dash, and almost immediately the enemy took to flight, but pursuit was impossible, owing to the nature of the ground. An inspection of the enemy's camp showed that he had been completely taken by surprise, and had left behind all his stores and personal effects, which were captured. After the wells had been emptied, and such stores as could not be brought away had been destroyed, our troops withdrew, reaching Kubri railhead on 21st September. Our total casualties were three other ranks killed and two other ranks wounded.

On the western front during the months of August and September there has been little of note, to report. The railway towards the Baharia Oasis has been pushed on, and the railhead of the Kharga railway is now ten miles beyond Kharga Station. Patrolling has been most active in all sections of the line. On 31st August a patrol of eight motor-cars captured an enemy camel convoy twenty miles north-west of Jaghbub. The escort of thirty Armed men surrendered without resistance, the loads and saddles of the camels were burnt, and most of the camels destroyed. In the Saharia Section a patrol of two officers and three men, Imperial Camel Corps, came in contact with a small body of between fifteen and twenty enemy near the point where the "Rubi" road from Samalut descends the escarpment of the Baharia Oasis. The two officers became detached from the men, who made their way back to the post covering the railhead, but I much, regret that subsequent search has failed to discover the missing officers. In the Wadi Natrun Section “A” motor-car patrol on 21st September arrested a small convoy under a Tripolitan officer of the Senussi Force, which was bringing mails and a quantity of bombs, gelignite and automatic pistols from Baharia to Amria (12 miles west of Alexandria on the coast).

Throughout the period under review the command of the Delta District and the Lines of Communication Defences has been held by Major-General W. A. Watson, C.B., C.I.E., and the duties of that command, though happily involving no active operations, have been carried out to my satisfaction. Great activity and thoroughness has been shown in carrying out my instructions to establish a line of posts along the western edge of the canal zone to prevent the entrance of undesirable persons. The patrolling duties involved have been entrusted to two Australian squadrons, who have displayed the greatest zeal, tact and resource in bringing the new orders and restrictions into force. The results of this measure have been excellent, and the Western Canal Zone can now be said to be free from the presence of all unauthorised persons.

8. It gives me the greatest pleasure to bring to notice the services rendered by General Sir F. R. Wingate, G.C.B., G.C.V.O., K.C.M.G., D.S.O., and the Egyptian Army, since the beginning of the war, to the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force and the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, and to express my gratefulness for the assistance which has at all times been so willingly given. Fifty-eight officers and twelve Sudan Government officials served—most of them for short periods equivalent to the amount of leave to which in normal circumstances they would have been entitled—with the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force; of these, six officers were either killed or died of wounds, and eleven were wounded. Sixty officers and twenty-seven Sudan Government officials were lent at various times for service with the Egyptian Expeditionary Force.

Personnel of the Egyptian Army has been employed at different times as guards for railway bridges and to garrison various important points in the interior. The Egyptian Army also supplied guns and gunners for two armoured trains for use with the defences of Egypt. A Camel Maxim Section and an armed detachment of the Military Works Department were attached to the Bikanir Camel Corps, and took part in the operations against the Senussi (in which operations No. 1 Squadron Egyptian Cavalry was also employed) and in the attack on the Suez Canal in April, 1915. Two companies of the 2nd (Egyptian) Battalion garrisoned there in January, 1915, and took part in the subsequent operations in that district. The garrison of Abu Zeneima was also supplied for some months by troops of the Egyptian Army. In the course of 1915, 2,230 Egyptian reservists, who had been called up, were employed on works connected with the Canal defences; a number of Egyptian officers from pension and unemployed lists volunteered for service with these reservists and gave valuable assistance. A works battalion of six companies was formed in May, 1915, for service at the Dardanelles, the battalion and the companies being, commanded by British officers in the employ of the Egyptian Army. This unit did excellent work, under perpetual shell-fire, on the Peninsula during the four months of its employment.

Besides this assistance in the matter of personnel the Egyptian Army has most liberally placed at the disposal of the Mediterranean and Egyptian Expeditionary Forces accommodation, war material and transport camels.

I would especially mention the loan of the Egyptian Army Hospital at Cairo, complete with equipment, to the New Zealand Division; the purchase in the Sudan of over 14,000 riding and baggage camels, the collection, veterinary examination, and dispatch of which threw a large amount of additional work upon the province staffs; the supply of 174,000 grenades for the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force; the loan of tugs and steel plates for the Canal defences; and the manufacture and repair, in the Stores Department, of a large number of articles of equipment and clothing. For these, and all other services rendered in addition to their normal duties, the Egyptian Army and the Sudan Administration deserve the most cordial thanks.

I also wish to express my extreme gratefulness to Field Marshal Rt. Hon. Lord Methuen, G.C.B., G.C.V.O., C.M.G., Governor and Commander-in-Chief, Malta, and to all his staff, for the labours which they have undertaken in connection with hospital work for the benefit of the Mediterranean and Egyptian Expeditionary Forces.

The expansion, reduction and re-expansion of accommodation has necessitated very hard work on the part of the Engineer, Barracks, Ordnance, Transport and Supply Services, as well as oh the part of the Medical Department. I wish to call attention to the admirable work that has been performed by the Nursing Services in the hospitals in Egypt. Not only have they had to deal with a very large number of wounded and sick from Gallipoli, Salonica and Egypt itself, but also from other theatres of war. The devotion to duty, zeal .and skill of the Nursing Services, both British, Australian and New Zealand, and of the voluntary helpers has been beyond praise, and I have great pleasure in bringing to your notice in a subsequent despatch the names of a number of those ladies for specially distinguished service.

The distribution by the Army Postal Service of letters and parcels over the extended desert fronts has been fraught with difficulties. The successful manner in which these have been overcome has greatly contributed to the comfort and health of the troops under my command. In this connection I wish to acknowledge the assistance I have received from the Egyptian Postal Service, under the able direction of N. T. Borton Pasha, Postmaster-General.

The complete failure of the enemy's operations in August was largely due to the manner in which the plans for defence were prepared and the distribution of the troops arranged, in the accomplishment of this the Chief of my General Staff, Major-General A. L. Lynden-Bell, C.B., C.M.G., rendered me able and devoted service. His work has been of an onerous nature and he has discharged it with energy, skill and determination.

My thanks are also due to Lieutenant-General E. A. Altham, K.C.B., C.M.G., for the manner in which he has discharged his responsible duties as Inspector-General of Communications.

I will submit in a separate Despatch the names of those officers and men who have rendered distinguished service during the period under review and whose services I desire to commend.

I have the honour to be, Sir, Your most obedient Servant,

A. J. MURRAY, General, Commander-in-Chief, Egyptian Expeditionary Force.

 

 

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Further Reading:

Desert Mounted Corps

The Desert Mounted Corps, Roll of Honour

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920

 


Citation: Desert Column (DC), General Murray's Despatches, Part 2

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
Updated: Friday, 21 January 2011 7:11 AM EAST
Sunday, 3 February 2002
Desert Column (DC), General Murray's Despatches, Part 3
Topic: AIF - DMC

DC

Desert Column

General Murray's Despatches, Part 3

 

General Sir Archibald James Murray GCMG, KCB, CVO, DSO.

 

General Sir Archibald James Murray GCMG, KCB, CVO, DSO (23 April 1860 - 21 January 1945) was a British Army officer during the Great War, known as commander of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force from 1916 to 1917.

 

SUPPLEMENT TO

The London Gazette

Of

FRIDAY, 6 JULY, 1917.

War Office,

 

The Secretary of State for War has received the following despatches from General Sir Archibald Murray, G.C.M.G., K.C.B., Commander-in-Chief, Egyptian Expeditionary Force: —

General Headquarters,

Egyptian Expeditionary Force,

 

1st March 1917. MY LORD,—

I have the honour to submit a report on the operations of the Force under my command from 1st October, 1916, to 28th February, 1917.

1. During the months of October and November and the first half of December there were no important operations upon my Eastern front, though a successful reconnaissance against the enemy positions at Gebel El Rakwa and Maghara, 65 miles east of Ismailia, was carried out between the 13th and 17th October by a small force of Australian Light Horse, Yeomanry and Camel Corps. This operation not only needed careful preparation, but entailed two night marches over exceedingly difficult sand dune country, the difficulties being increased on the second night by the presence of a thick fog. On the early morning of the 15th the enemy was located holding a strong position on the high precipitous hills of Maghara. The force, attacking in two columns, dislodged the enemy from his advanced position, capturing a few prisoners. At the same time the enemy's camp was repeatedly bombed by our aeroplanes, which furnished invaluable assistance throughout the operation. After an engagement lasting two hours the force withdrew unmolested, and reached Bayud on the 17th without the loss of a single camel. The operation was well carried out, and valuable information was obtained regarding the enemy's dispositions and the nature of the country.

With this exception all was quiet on the Eastern front. The unexpected evidence of our mobility given to the enemy by the successful reconnaissance against Mazar, which I recorded in my last despatch, and the losses suffered by the Turks during this affair, had given the enemy sufficient uneasiness to induce him to withdraw altogether from Mazar, and towards the end of October his nearest troops were in the neighbourhood of Ujret El Zol and Masaid, about seven and four miles west of El Arish respectively. The enemy also maintained various small posts in the neighbourhood of Maghara, with small garrisons further south at Hassana and Nekhl. About the same time the railway towards El Arish, which had been making steady and uninterrupted progress, was in the neighbourhood of Bir Salmana, some four miles east of Bir el Abd. The Australian and New Zealand mounted troops, with a force of Yeomanry attached, had advanced from Romani, and were covering the advance and the railway construction east of Salmana with brigades thrown out to their flanks and rear.

2. On the 23rd October, in order to be in closer touch with the civil authority, I moved my General Headquarters from Ismailia to Cairo, and at the same time the new Headquarters of the Eastern Force came into existence at Ismailia under the command of Lieutenant-General Sir Charles Dobell, K.C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O. At the same time the headquarters of the Inspector-General of Communications, which had always been in Cairo, were merged in General Headquarters, and on the lapse of his appointment Lieu tenant-General Sir E. A. Altham, K.C.B., C.M.G., to my great personal regret, returned to England.

3 The first half of November was mainly occupied in making the necessary arrangements for pressing forward our advance towards El Arish. In the south a small column under Brigadier-General P. C. Palin, C.B., marched on Sinn Bisher and Bir um Gurf, 30 miles south-east of Suez, on the 15th and 16th November, and attacked and drove off some enemy posted in the hills.

During the latter part of the month the cavalry gradually pushed forward in advance of the railway, which by November 26th reached Mazar. Reconnaissances by mounted troops were pushed forward to within 8 miles of El Arish by 17th November, when the enemy's outposts were located at Jjret el Zol; on November 28th a mounted patrol was pushed through to Bir el Masmi, little more than 3 miles south-west of El Arish; and from this time our patrols were constantly in touch with the enemy's position at El Arish-Masaid. Throughout the month the enemy's aircraft showed considerable activity, attacking the railhead and the bivouacs of our advanced troops with bombs. Little damage, however, was done, and our own aircraft retained complete superiority in the air. The Royal Flying Corps in this month visited Magdhaba, Sheikh Zowaid and Khan Yunis for reconnaissance purposes, and on the 11th November made very successful bomb attacks on Bir Saba and Magdhaba. At Bir Saba special attention was paid to the aerodrome and the railway station, both of which were damaged. Presumably in retaliation for the air raid at Bir Saba one hostile aeroplane dropped bombs on Cairo on the 13th, causing some casualties among the civil population and killing one private; no other damage of a military nature was done. The Royal Flying Corps promptly replied by heavily bombing the enemy's camp at Magdhaba by moonlight on the same night. On the 17th November the enemy's camps at Masaid were heavily bombed by four machines in reply to' the appearance of a hostile machine at Suez the same morning.

By the 1st December the railway was east of Mazar. During the first week of December constant patrols were sent out by the cavalry, and the country was thoroughly reconnoitred in the area Mazar-Risan Aneiza—Bir Lahfan— Bir el Masmi. In the meantime the enemy maintained his position of El Arish and Masaid, and in order to afford him no inducement to withdraw until such time as I should be ready to strike, mounted patrols were ordered to be as unostentatious as possible.

4. On the 7th December Lieutenant-General Sir P. W. Chetwode, Bt., C.B., D.S.O., assumed command of the Desert Column, shortly afterwards moving his Headquarters from Bir el Abd to Mazar. Since January the force had gradually pushed right across the Sinai desert, fighting when necessary, organising and constructing incessantly in the heavy sand and hot sun. The pressure on the enemy in other theatres and our success at Roman! were undoubtedly contributing factors to this advance, but the main factor—without which all liberty of action and any tactical victory would have been nugatory—was work, intense and unremitting. To regain this peninsula, the true frontier of Egypt, hundreds of miles of road and railway had been built, hundreds of miles of water piping had been laid, filters capable of supplying 1,500,000 gallons of water a day, and reservoirs had been installed, and tons of stone transported from distant quarries. Kantara had been transformed from a small canal village into an important railway and water terminus, with wharves and cranes and a railway ferry; and the desert, till then almost destitute of human habitation, showed the successive marks of our advance in the shape of strong positions firmly entrenched and protected by hundreds of miles of barbed wire, of standing camps where troops could shelter in comfortable huts, of tanks and reservoirs, of railway stations and sidings, of aerodromes and of signal stations and wireless installations, by all of which the desert was subdued and made habitable, and adequate lines of communication established between the advancing troops and their ever receding base. Moreover, not only had British troops laboured incessantly through the summer and autumn, but the body of organised native labour had grown. The necessity of combining the protection and maintenance, including the important work of sanitation, of this large force of workers, British and native, with that steady progress on the railway, roads and pipes which was vital to the success of my operations, put the severest strain upon all energies and resources. But the problem of feeding the workers without starving the work was solved by the goodwill and energy of all concerned.

Moreover, organisation kept pace with construction. The equipment of the fighting units with camel transport, which had reached its first stage of completion at the time of the Romani battle, had been perfected by the middle of December, the allotment of camels to units having been worked out with the minutest precision. A large number of additional camels were provided for convoying supplies and water from the railhead to the front. The striking force was now completely mobile, and the troops had grown skilful in meeting the special problems of desert campaigning.

5. But no organisation could entirely overcome the chief difficulty which

The Turkish garrison at El Arish consisted of some 1,600 infantry in all, in a strong entrenched position. Between the 9th and 14th December increased activity was shown by the Turks, and our aircraft and mounted patrols reported the construction of new works, while the enemy camps at Magdhaba and Abu Aweigila were reported to have increased m size. On these indications of a probable reinforcement to the enemy, the final preparations were pushed on with most strenuous determination. Had rain only fallen, an earlier move could have been made, but as it was, the water supply for the striking force was not adequately secured till 20th December.

6. The swiftness of our final preparations was rewarded, but not immediately, by a successful engagement. We had been too quick for the enemy, but he had recognised it, and, knowing that reinforcements would arrive too late, had hurriedly withdrawn his troops from Masaid and El Arish. This retirement was reported by the Royal Flying Corps on the 20th December, and the Australian and New Zealand mounted troops and Imperial Camel Corps were ordered to move on El Arish the same night. Scottish troops were to move in support of the mounted troops. Accordingly, after a skilfully conducted march of twenty miles in the moonless night, the Australian Light Horse and the Imperial Camel Corps surrounded the enemy's position. Light Horse patrols reached El Arish about sunrise, and found it unoccupied. By 7.20 a.m. the Light Horse were east of El Arish, the Imperial Camel Corps south of the town, another party of Light Horse was about Masaid, and the New Zealand Mounted Rifles were at Masmi. During the day our aircraft reported about 1,600 of the enemy on the march in two columns in the neighbourhood of Magdhaba and Abu Aweigila. Sheikh Zowaid and Rafa appeared to be clear of the enemy. Maghara had been evacuated, and the enemy was apparently in process of withdrawing from the neighbouring posts. By the night of the 21st December, therefore, the re-occupation of El Arish had been effected, and the enemy was evacuating, or had evacuated, his positions west of a north and south line through that place, except those at Nekhl and Hassana. The aircraft, moreover, reported that the garrison of the latter place seemed also to be reduced.

On the 22nd December the Scottish troops were about El Arish and Bittia. Mine-sweeping operations were at once commenced in the roadstead under the direction of Captain A. H. Williamson, M.V.O., R.N., while the erection of a pier was taken in hand. In forty-eight hours the roadstead was cleared of mines, and the supply ships from Port Said began unloading stores and supplies on the 24th. Supplies were also hastened to El Arish by camel convoy, since it was of the utmost importance to accumulate at once a sufficient amount to give our mounted troops a further radius of action. Our aircraft were exceedingly active during the day A successful attack was made on the railway bridge at Tel-el Sharia, north of El Arish, El Auja and Bir Saba were effectively bombed, and two battalions of Turkish, troops located by the Royal Flying Corps at Magdhaba, some 20 miles south of El Arish, were attacked with bombs by thirteen of our aeroplanes and suffered many casualties.

In order to emphasise the capture of El Arish, in the Southern Canal area a column assembled near Bir Mabeiuk on the 22nd December, and on the following days advanced through the Mitla Pass and by the Darb el Haj as far as Sudr El Heitan, more than half-way to Nekhl. This column destroyed various enemy posts and entrenchments, but, finding no enemy, returned on the 25th.

7. The enemy having temporarily succeeded in eluding us, it was of the utmost importance to strike any of his forces that remained within our reach. I had always anticipated that, should the enemy choose to abandon El Arish, his line of retreat would be through Magdhaba and Abu Aweigila towards El Auja. These anticipations were confirmed by the report of the Royal Flying Corps that an enemy force of about two regiments was at Magdhaba. It appeared likely that this force consisted of the 1,600 infantry which had composed the garrison of El Arish, and that it was preparing to hold Magdhaba as a rearguard. Orders were given that a mounted force should push forward with all haste against the enemy, and arrangements were made accordingly by General Sir Charles Dobell for the move of most of the Australian and New Zealand mounted troops, with the Imperial Camel Corps, against Magdhaba and Abu Aweigila on the night of the 22nd-23rd. Major-General Sir H. G. Chauvel, K.C.M.G., C.B., was in command of the column.

8. Starting at 12.45 a.m. on December 23rd, the flying column halted at 4.50 a.m. in an open plain about four miles from Magdhaba, whence the enemy's bivouac fires could plainly be seen. General Chauvel, with his staff and subordinate commanders, immediately undertook a personal reconnaissance of the enemy's position, and soon after 8 a.m., by which time the first aeroplane reports had been received, the attack was set in motion.

The enemy had taken up a position on both banks of the Wadi el Arish, and was very strongly posted in a rough circle of from 3,000 to 3,500 yards diameter. Five large closed works, exceedingly well sited, formed the principal defences, and between these works was a system of well-constructed and concealed trenches and rifle pits.

General Chauvel's plan of attack was as follows: —

The New Zealand Mounted Rifles and Australian Light Horse, both under the command of Brigadier-General E. W. C. Chaytor, C.B., were to move to the east of Magdhaba and to swing round to attack the enemy's right and rear. The Imperial Camel Corps were to move direct against Magdhaba to attack the enemy in front—that is, from the north-west. Other Australian mounted troops were at the outset in reserve. Between 8.45 a.m. and 9.30 a.m. the attack developed, and at the latter hour General Chaytor moved a Light Horse Regiment and part of a Machine Gun Squadron on a wide turning movement round the rear of the enemy's position with orders to come in from the south. A little later two regiments of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles were despatched in more or less the same direction, though making a less wide detour, with orders to move on 'Magdhaba from the east. In the meantime the Imperial Camel Corps wore making progress, though somewhat slowly.

At 10 a.m., the aircraft reports indicated the possibility that the enemy might try to escape. Thereupon General Chauvel ordered the mounted troops in reserve, less one regiment, to push in from the north-west. The troops moved forward at a trot, and, coming under shrapnel fire, increased the pace to a gallop. The enemy then opened a very heavy rifle and machine gun fire, whereupon the force swung to its right and gained cover in the Wadi where, dismounting, it began an attack against the left of the enemy position.

Between noon and 1.30 p.m., the enemy's position was practically surrounded, but for some little time it had been found increasingly difficult to make progress. The horse artillery batteries had been greatly hindered by the' mirage and the difficulty of getting forward observation, the ground round the enemy's position being absolutely flat and devoid of cover.

In the meantime reports were received from the Field Squadron that no' water could be found. Unless Magdhaba could be taken during the day, therefore, it was probable that our troops would have to withdraw, as none of the horses had been watered since the evening of the 22nd, and the nearest water, except that in the enemy's position, was at El Arish.

General Chauvel reported the situation to the Desert Column accordingly, and received orders to maintain the attack.

But before this communication arrived the situation had begun to improve. Some Australian mounted troops, pressing on against the enemy's left, captured a work on the west of the Wadi, taking about 100 prisoners. At 2 p.m. two regiments of the Australian Light Horse coming in from the north-east, were within 200 yards of the position, in close touch with the Imperial Camel Corps advancing from the north-west. A quarter of an hour later the attack of a third regiment of this force was pressing heavily on the enemy from the south. By three o'clock the New Zealand Mounted Rifles were within 600 yards of the enemy's trenches on the east.

From this time forward the pressure on the enemy increased from all sides. Before half-past three the force from the Wadi and the Imperial Camel Corps attacked the second line of the enemy's trenches, and at four o'clock the former carried one of the main redoubts, taking 130 prisoners, including the Turkish Commander. Immediately after this, part of a Light Horse Regiment charged in from the south, mounted and with fixed bayonets, and by half-past four all organised resistance was over, and the enemy was surrendering everywhere.

The total number of prisoners taken in this-, fine action was 1,282, including some 50 wounded. A large number of the enemy were buried by our troops on the position. Four mountain guns, one machine gun and 1,052 rifles were captured, and 200 more rifles were destroyed.

Our own casualties were 12 officers and 134 other ranks killed and wounded. It was possible to give every attention to our wounded before moving them back to El Arish, owing to the fact that the enemy had a permanent and well equipped hospital at Magdhaba, to which they were taken as soon as the action was over.

The troops marched back to El Arish during the night of December 23rd-24th.

9. On 27th December the Royal Flying Corps reported that an entrenched position was being prepared by the enemy at Magruntein, near Rafa. Work on this position was continued during the following day, and it was occupied by a garrison equivalent to about two battalions with mountain guns. It was not at the moment possible for me, owing to difficulties of supply, to push on and occupy Rafa permanently. Since, however, the enemy had again placed a small detached garrison within striking distance of my mounted troops, I determined, if possible, to repeat the success at Magdhaba by surrounding and capturing the Magruntein position also. On 7th January I communicated this decision to General Dobell, who entrusted the operation to Lieutenant-General Sir Philip Chetwode, Bt., C.B., D.S.O., commanding the Desert Column, who set out from El Arish on the evening of the 8th-9th with a force consisting of Yeomanry, Australian and New Zealand mounted troops, and the Imperial Camel Corps, with a battery of artillery attached.

So efficiently and swiftly was the approach march carried out that the enemy was completely surprised, and by dawn on 9th January his position was almost entirely surrounded before he became aware of the presence of any large forces in his vicinity. The position, however, was a formidable one. It consisted of three strong series of works connected by trenches, one series facing west, one facing south-west, and one facing south and southeast. The whole was dominated by a central keep or redoubt, some 2,000 yards southwest of Rafa. Moreover, the ground in front of these works was entirely open and devoid of cover, and in their immediate neighbourhood was almost a glacis.

The guns, with which aeroplanes were cooperating, started to register at 7.20 a.m. The main attack, to be carried out by Major-General Sir H. G. Chauvel, K.C.M.G., C.B., General Officer Commanding Australian and New Zealand Mounted Troops, was timed for 10 a.m., with the New Zealand Mounted Rifles on the right, attacking from the east, some Australian Light Horse on their left, attacking from the east and south-east, while the Imperial Camel Corps attacked the works in their front from the south-east. A body of Australian Light Horse were in reserve and the Yeomanry in column reserve. Shortly after 10 a.m., parties of Turks, who were attempting to leave Rafa by the Khan Yunus road, were met and captured by the New Zealand Mounted Rifles, who galloped the Police barracks and Machine Gun post, capturing six Germans (including one officer), two Turkish officers, and 163 other ranks.

Before 11 a.m., Rafa was occupied, and two regiments of the troops in reserve were advanced against the works on the left of the troops attacking from the east and south-east. Some Australian Light Horse and the Camel Corps were ordered to press their attack on the works facing south-west, and about the same time the remainder of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles, with a body of Light Horse, galloped an open space south of the Police post, and established themselves 300 yards east of the nearest enemy work. The Yeomanry were also ordered to deploy against the western works and to attack in conjunction with the Camel Corps. The encircling movement was now practically complete, save for a gap in the north-west between the New Zealand Brigade and the Yeomanry.

At 12.20 p.m. one of the Horse Artillery batteries moved forward some 1,500 yards to support the attack of the Yeomanry. By 1 o'clock our troops were within 600 yards of the southern and western trenches, which were being shelled with good effect by our artillery. By 2 p.m. the right of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles had linked up with the left of the Yeomanry, and was pressing its attack on the rear of one of the enemy's works. General Chetwode now issued orders for a concerted attack on the "Redoubt," or central keep, by the New Zealand Mounted Rifles, and all other available troops of the Australian and New Zealand mounted force, to commence at 3.30 p.m. The Yeomanry was ordered to co-operate against the rear of the work. By 3.15 p.m. two of the enemy's works had been captured and further prisoners had been taken.

While the attack on the central redoubt was developing, information was received, both from patrols and from the Royal Flying Corps, that an enemy relieving force was marching from Shellal on Rafa. This force was attacked frequently with bombs, and machine gun fire by our aeroplanes with success. General Chetwode did not allow this threat, which complicated his situation, to affect the execution of his purpose. He at once gave orders for the attack to be pressed with vigour. The troops, admirably supported by the artillery, advanced with great gallantry, and at 4.45 p.m. the New Zealand Mounted Rifles captured the redoubt with brilliant dash, covering the last 800 yards in two rushes, supported by machine gun fire. By this achievement they were able to take the lower lying works in reverse, and these soon fell to the Camel Corps, the Yeomanry, and the Australian Light Horse. By 5.30 p.m. all organised resistance was over, and the enemy's position with all its garrison was captured, while a detachment of the Australian Light Horse, which had come in contact with the force marching from Shellal, drove off the enemy without difficulty. Our troops now withdrew, taking with them all prisoners, animals and material captured; one regiment and a light car patrol, which were left to clear the battlefield, withdrew unmolested on the following day.

In this fine action, which lasted for ten hours, the entire enemy force, with its commander, was accounted for. More than 1,600 unwounded prisoners were taken, including one German officer and five German non-commissioned officers. In addition, six machine guns, four mountain guns, and a number of camels and mules were captured. Our casualties were comparatively light, amounting to 487 in all, of which 71 were killed, 415 wounded, and one was missing.

10. The result of these successful operations was that the province of Sinai, which for two years had been partially occupied by the Turks, was freed of all formed bodies of Turkish troops. The destruction of his rearguard at Magdhaba compelled the enemy to withdraw from Maghara, Hassana and Nekhl, all of which were clear by" the 31st December, and the victory at Magruntein had driven him over the frontier at Rafa, which he did not attempt to reoccupy. For this achievement I am greatly indebted to Lieutenant-General Sir Charles Dobell, K.C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., and his Staff for their unremitting efforts during the whole period to make our advance, as it was, rapid and decisive. To them are mainly due the excellent organisation and dispositions which ensured success without delay, and, above all, the perfection of arrangements for maintaining the troops in a waterless district far ahead of the railway, without which the dash and endurance of our troops would have been of no avail. The foresight, rapid decision and excellent arrangements of General Sir P. Chetwode and the Staff of the Desert Column, the skilful leadership of General Chauvel, the cheerful endurance by the troops concerned of the fatigue and hardships entailed by the Magdhaba operations, and their gallantry and dash at Magruntein, are also worthy of the highest praise. During the actions the work of the Royal Flying Carps in co-operation with the mounted troops was admirable. Not only were the enemy harassed with bombs and machine gun fire throughout, but the aircraft reconnaissance was as reliable as it was untiring. General Chauvel and General Chetwode were kept constantly and accurately informed both of the enemy's movements and of the progress of their own widely dispersed troops, and the co-operation of the aircraft with the artillery was excellent. During the engagement at Magruntein the Royal Flying Corps, besides attacking the entrenched enemy and his relieving column, made a very successful raid on Bir Saba.

11. As a result of the action near Rafa the enemy immediately began to concentrate his forces near Shellal, west of which place he began rapidly to prepare a strong defensive position near Weli Sheikh Nuran, with the object of covering his lines of communication and supply along the railway running into Bir Saba from the north, and along the Jerusalem—Hebron—Bir Saba road. The preparation of this position has continued up to the present date. During the earlier portion of January considerable activity was shown by the enemy's aircraft, both in reconnaissances and small bombing raids. On the other hand, the effect of our recent success on his moral was proved by the very marked increase in the number of deserters who came into our lines.

In the meantime arrangements had been progressing with a view to the concentration of additional troops towards El Arish.

In general, the period following the action at; Magruntein was, on my eastern front, devoted to preparations for a further advance. Invaluable work was done during this period by the Royal Navy in transporting and landing supplies from the sea at El Arish. The coast is exceptionally unfavourable for operations of this kind, owing to strong currents, a shelving and shifting beach and heavy surf. Nevertheless, owing to the whole-hearted co-operation of Vice-Admiral Sir R. E. Wemyss, K.C.B., C.M.G., M.V.O., and those under him, a large amount of stores and supplies was landed. Before the end of the month the railway station at El Arish was completed.

12. During the month of February, on the eastern front, the railway, in spite of many difficulties, owing to the heavy sand, was gradually pushed out along the coast. The period generally was devoted to the perfection of the El Arish position, and to energetic training of the troops. Our cavalry patrols kept the country up to and beyond Rafa continuously under observation, and steps were taken to bring in the local Bedouins.

On 23rd February, information having been received that Khan Yunus had been evacuated, a reconnaissance was carried out against that place by the New Zealand Mounted Rifles. The column, arriving at dawn, found the position strongly held, and, after manoeuvring the enemy out of his front line of defence and capturing prisoners, withdrew without difficulty. Continuous pressure maintained by our troops in this neighbourhood, however, induced the enemy to withdraw the garrison of Khan Yunus, which was entered by our cavalry without opposition on 28th February.

During the month also a successful minor operation was carried out in the interior of the Sinai Peninsula. Information having been received that the enemy had re-established small posts at Hassana and Nekhl, with the object of regaining his prestige in the eyes, of the Bedouins, I ordered a combined operation, against those two places to be undertaken by three mobile columns of cavalry and camelry one column starting from El Arish against Hassana and two starting from Serapeum and Suez respectively, against Nekhl. The advance was so timed that all the columns should arrive at their destinations at dawn on 18th February. The column from El Arish surrounded Hassana by daybreak on, the 18th. The garrison of three officers and nineteen other ranks at once surrendered without resistance. The town was searched, and a few camels, twenty-one rifles and 2,400 rounds of small arms ammunition were found.

The northernmost of the Nekhl columns, leaving Zogha (some twenty-three miles east of the Great Bitter Lake), which was its point of concentration, marched through the Baha Pass to Themada, twenty-five miles north-west of Nekhl, where it arrived on the 16th. On the following day a patrol sent forward towards the Nekhl-Hassana road was fired on from the hills, and in the afternoon it was further reported that the road was clear and that men could be seen leaving Nekhl in an easterly direction. The advanced patrol captured four of the enemy and ten camels, but was prevented from crossing the plain east of Nekhl by rifle fire from about fifty of the enemy who had temporarily halted in the foothills on the Nekhl-Akaba road. Nekhl was entered that evening by a squadron of the Australian Light Horse, who captured two Bedouins and one Turk, the town being otherwise empty. Further pursuit of the enemy was impossible owing to darkness, and the remnants of the garrison were able to make good their escape eastwards along the waterless road towards Akaba. The main body entered Nekhl at dawn on the 18th, and the Southern Column from Suez reached the town at 9 a.m. The latter column, which included detachments of Indian infantry, had marched from Abu T'if (20 miles south-east of Suez) through the difficult Bir Abu Garad Pass to Ain Sudr, and thence to Nekhl. The total captures at Nekhl were eleven prisoners, one field gun, a number of rifles, 16,000 rounds of small arms ammunition, 250 rounds of gun ammunition, and a quantity of stores and explosives. These well-executed and carefully organised operations gave one more proof to the enemy of the mobility of our mounted troops, .and of their power to strike over considerable stretches of waterless desert. The excellent arrangements for the Nekhl operation reflect great credit on Brigadier-General P. C. Palin, C.B., and his staff.

13. During most of the period under review the Western Front has been quiet. My advance to the Baharia and Dakhla Oases was accomplished without opposition, and the subsequent task on that front was that of policing its large area and guarding against the possibility of further raids on the part of the Senussi.

On 4th October Major-General W. A. Watson, C.B., C.I.E., took over the command of the Western Force. By this date a column had already been concentrated at Shusha, three miles west of Samalut, for the purpose of conducting operations in the Baharia Oasis. A few days later, however, reliable intelligence was received to the effect that Sayed Ahmed, who had already left the Dakhla Oasis for Baharia, had left Baharia for Siwa on 9th October, the majority of his force preceding him, the rearguard following on the next day. It is probable that the news of my impending advance and the sickness and lack of food in the oasis, which impaired the moral of his troops, were deciding factors in determining his retreat. An immediate endeavour to intercept the enemy's rearguard was made by concentrating all available light armed cars wrest of Baharia, but the distance to be covered and the sandy nature of the country prevented the success of the attempt. Small mobile columns were at once pushed into the oases of Baharia (110 miles west of Samalut) and Dahkla (75 miles west of Kharga), and all the enemy who had not accompanied the retreat, some 300 in number, were captured with little resistance. The Harra wells on the edge of the Baharia Oasis were captured by a detachment of the Imperial Camel Corps on the 17th, and on the 19th a detachment of the same corps entered the oasis and took possession of the villages of Harra, Mendisha, Bawitti, and Kasr. This oasis was soon completely in our possession, and the Baharia railway commenced receiving traffic. A Light Car Patrol and a detachment of Imperial Camel Corps, starting from Kharga, covered 70 miles of desert .and occupied Tenida, in the Dakhla oasis, by the 17th. The light cars pushed on to Budkulu, capturing a tabur of 45 men and ten camels, and on the 19th the Camel Corps detachment reached Bir Sheikh Mohammed, five miles west of Kasr Dahkla, and captured 40 more prisoners. From the 20th to the 22nd a thorough "drive" was made of the oasis, with a systematic search of the villages, which resulted in the capture of 50 more of the enemy, besides many political prisoners. By the end of the month the oasis was entirely clear of the enemy. During the following month permanent garrisons were established in these two oases. The Baharia garrison marched out on 6th November and encamped on the escarpment at Legalit Gate, where a very healthy site has been found. The inhabitants, who were undoubtedly glad to be rid of the Senussi, all turned out to welcome the troops, and so far throughout the oasis the latter have always been well received. General Watson himself visited the oasis on 16th November and held a durbar on the 17th at Bawitti, which was attended by the Omdas, Sheikhs and principal inhabitants. The Union Jack was hoisted in the presence of a guard of honour. On 15th November a patrol left Legalit to reconnoitre the Farafra Oasis. The town of Farafra was entered on the 19th. All Senussi followers were separated from the inhabitants, and a search made for arms, with the result that 18 Senoussi prisoners and 12 rifles were taken. The patrol left Farafra on the 20th.

During December General Watson visited Dakhla and held a durbar on the 19th. The task of re-instituting civil administration in both the Baharia and Dakhla Oases has now been taken over by the civil authorities, to the gratification of the inhabitants, and trade is being encouraged as much as possible.

In the other sections of the western front the work done by the light and armoured cars, owing to the dash and enterprise of their officers, has been uniformly excellent. They are the terror of all the ill-disposed in the Western Desert, and to them, as much as to any, is due the satisfactory state of things which exists throughout from the coast down to the Fayum. The geographical information obtained by these patrols is also invaluable.

14. During October, under the direction of the Italian authorities, a combined British and Italian naval reconnaissance was carried out at Ageila, thirty-two miles west of Tobruk, where a large camp of followers of Idris and Nuri, with guns and a quantity of ammunition, was reported. The camp was shelled, serious casualties being inflicted. On 27th October a light armoured car patrol, accompanied by Lieutenant T'escione, of the Italian Army, reconnoitred an enemy camp at Zowia Jansur, the Muhafzia holding the camp being driven off into the sand dunes by machine gun fire. During, November and December much valuable information of the desert routes in the Coastal Section was obtained by patrols. In the Moghara Section several attempts were made by the light car patrols to find a practicable route to the El Qara Oasis, but the boggy ground and high sand dunes on each occasion defeated the attempt. Towards the end of November an interesting and useful reconnaissance was made from Aswan through the Kurkur Oasis to Beris, on the southernmost end of the Kharga Oasis. The total distance covered was 336 miles.

15. During the month of January I received intelligence that Sayed Ahmed, the Grand Senussi, with his Commander-in-Chief, Mohammed Saleh, whose force amounted to some 1,200 men, were making preparations to depart from the .Siwa Oasis and to retire to Jaghbub. With the intention of capturing Sayed Ahmed if possible, and of inflicting as much loss as possible on his followers, I gave orders on the 21st January that operations were to be undertaken against the Siwa and Girba Oases at the earliest possible moment by a mixed force, to consist of Imperial Camel Companies and armoured cars. Preparations for the march of such a force, however, over the 200 miles of waterless desert between Mersa Matruh and Siwa would have taken at least one month, and the expenditure of so much time was put out of the question by a reliable report received towards the end of the month that Sayed Ahmed and his followers were on the point of leaving Siwa. I therefore ordered an immediate reconnaissance of the Siwa and Girba Oases to be undertaken by a column consisting entirely of armoured motor cars, and supplied by motor transport based on Mersa Matruh, with the object of verifying the above report, and of inflicting as much loss as possible on such part of the enemy forces as might be met with. Command of this column was entrusted to Brigadier-General H. W. Hodgson, C.V.O., C.B., whose plan was to attack the enemy camp at Girba with his main body, and to detach two armoured motor batteries to block the pass at Garet-el-Munasib — the only pass between Siwa and Jaghbub practicable for camels—so that should Sayed Ahmed, as was probable, take to flight, casualties might be inflicted on his retreating column by the detached batteries, and his march be deflected into the waterless sand-dunes.

16. The fighting force of three light armoured batteries and three light car patrols was concentrated at Mersa Matruh by the evening of the 29th January. Owing, however, to a severe sandstorm, some of the heavy lorries of the heavy supply column did not arrive there from Dabaa till the 31st. The light supply column moved out from Mersa Matruh on the same day, and the fighting force moved out early the following morning. The column, having halted for the night on the road, moved to the point of concentration half-way between Gebel Lamlaz and Neqb el Shegga Pass, 185 miles from Matruh. This long march over the desert track was carried out in good time, and all units reached the point of concentration on 2nd February. After a reconnaissance towards the Siwa Oasis, orders were given for an advance on Girba—at the western end of the Siwa Oasis— on the following day, and for the move of the detachment allotted to block the Munasib Pass.

By 9 a.m. on 3rd February all units had successfully descended the pass north-east of Girba and moved off to the attack, the advanced guard being divided into three parties of two armoured cars each, one of which was to attack each of the three enemy camps already located. The enemy was located in rough ground close under the rocky escarpment; he was completely surprised by the arrival of the armoured cars, and thrown into considerable confusion. Brisk fire was opened on the enemy, who at once took to the cliffs and rocks beyond the camps and returned our fire. The advanced guard was now reinforced, but, owing to the very rough nature of the country, it was impossible for the cars to approach nearer than a distance of 800 yards from the enemy without serious risk of getting stuck. As the action progressed, it became evident that the enemy, who was engaging the armoured cars with two guns and two machine guns, was in considerable force and did not intend to retire without a fight. Information obtained from deserters showed that the strength of the enemy at Girba was 850, while Sayed Ahmed, Mohammed Saleh, and some 400 or 500 men were at Siwa. As afterwards appeared, Mohammed Saleh left to take command at Girba at the beginning of the engagement, while Sayed Ahmed and his force made off to the westward. General Hodgson, who made skilful arrangements for extricating his force, in case of a threat directed by the Siwa party on his left flank and rear, continued the action all day. The light armoured cars, though unable to get closer than 400 yards from the enemy's position, kept the enemy under an accurate fire, inflicting some casualties. Towards evening the enemy's fire died down, though occasional bursts were fired from his machine guns during the night.

At 5 a.m. on the 4th February the enemy fired four final rounds from his guns and several bursts of machine gun fire. Fires were seen beyond his camp, movements of men and animals could be distinguished, and the sounds of small arms ammunition being burnt were heard. By dawn he had completely evacuated his position. The rest of the day was spent in destroying the enemy's camp, reconnoitring towards Siwa and resting the troops, and on the following morning, 5th February, the column entered Siwa without opposition. A parade, at which the local sheikhs were assembled, was held before the court-house, and a salute of nine-guns fired with a Krupp gun that had been brought from Matruh in a motor lorry. Arrangements were then made for the collection of all rifles and for the repair of the passes leading down to the escarpment. The reception given to our troops by the inhabitants of the oasis was friendly, and reports from them confirmed the fact that the enemy had incurred considerable casualties. The column left the town on the same afternoon, and reached the point of concentration on the following day.

Meanwhile, the Munassib detachment, consisting of armoured cars and a light car patrol, had reached its position on the evening of the 3rd February. It was found impossible to get the armoured cars down the steep escarpment, and they were forced to remain at a point 18 miles north of Munassib during the operations. The light car patrol and one car managed to get down the escarpment and take up a position at Munassib. On the 4th this detachment captured a small convoy of mailbags proceeding east to Siwa, and on the 5th it was able to intercept and cut up the leading parties of the enemy retreating from Girba. Subsequently, the enemy established a post out of reach of the cars, and warned all subsequent parties of the enemy to turn into the sand-dunes before reaching the pass. The detachment was therefore ordered to return to the point of concentration, as there was no chance of further successful action. The whole column returned to Matruh on the 8th February, having sustained no casualties to personnel beyond three officers slightly wounded, or to material besides the loss of one tender with broken springs. The enemy's losses were 40 killed, including two Senussi officers, and 200 wounded, including five Turkish officers; 70 rifles were brought in and 150 destroyed; 3,000 rounds of small arms ammunition were brought in and 2,000 destroyed, besides what was burnt by the enemy; 40 of the enemy's camels were killed, and a large number of shelters and tents were burnt.

17. Though the capture of Sayed Ahmed and Mohammed Saleh was wanting to the complete success of the operations, the fighting troops—supported most admirably by the supply column working under extremely arduous conditions—accomplished all that was possible under the circumstances, and great credit is due to General Hodgson and his staff. The expedition which, at my request, was accompanied by Captain Caccia, the Italian Military Attaché, dealt a rude blow to the moral of the Senussi, left the Grand Senussi himself painfully making his way to Jaghbub through the rugged and waterless dunes, and freed my western front from the menace of his forces.

On 14th February No. 2 Light Armoured Car Battery left Sollum to reconnoitre the road to Melfa. During this reconnaissance two enemy caravans were met and destroyed.

18. The outstanding features of the period covered by this despatch have been, on the eastern front the rapid progress of the railways, and on the western front the work of the armoured cars. For the speed at which the railway has been pushed out along the desert to El Arish and beyond, the greatest credit is due to Colonel Sir G. Macauley, K.C.M.G., C.B., Director of Railways, the officers of his staff, and the officers and men of the railway companies. In spite of endless difficulties owing to heavy sand and lack of water, they maintained by their strenuous efforts a rate of advance which was not far behind that of the fighting troops, and were largely instrumental in enabling the latter to keep the enemy under a continual pressure.

I have already referred to the excellent work of the armoured cars and light car patrols on the western front. Their mobility, and the skill and energy with which they are handled, have made them an ideal arm for the western desert, where the sand is not so heavy as on the east. It is not too much to say that the successful clearance of the western oases and the satisfactory state of affairs which now exists on the western front is due more to the dash and enterprise of the armoured car batteries and the light car patrols than to any other cause, and the enemy has found many times to his cost that their range of action is far beyond that of any troops mounted on horses or camels. The work of the Imperial Camel Corps has been excellent throughout. This corps includes Australian, New Zealand and Imperial units, and the efficiency of the camel companies is largely due to the efforts of the instructional staff at the headquarters of the corps at Abbassia, which has been continuously engaged in their training.

A great deal of the work of supplying the troops on both fronts has been done by the Camel Transport Corps, a unit which has been raised in this country since the commencement of operations, and which has invariably carried out its duties with the utmost efficiency.

The execution of the enormous amount of work necessitated by our advance on the eastern front would have been quite impossible had it not been for the Egyptian Labour Corps, which began to be recruited in this country early in 1916. The officers of this Corps (have been largely found among gentlemen who are resident in this country and are familiar with the language and customs of the population.

My relations with the High Commissioner, General Sir F. E. Wingate, G.C.B., G.C.V.O., K.C.M.G., D.S.O., have always been most cordial, and I should like to express my gratitude for his ready assistance and valuable advice which have always been at my disposal.

I also wish to express my grateful appreciation of the services of all the officers employed as King's Messengers. The risks involved were not small, as is proved by the fact that one officer was drowned and another, when his ship was torpedoed, was forced to sink his despatches; nevertheless, this duty has always been faithfully and efficiently performed.

I have, in a former despatch, referred to the admirable work of the Red Cross and Order of St. John in this country, under the direction of Sir Courtauld Thomson, C.B. I desire now to express my obligation to those ladies and gentlemen who have given voluntary aid in connection with these institutions, and who lave worked with a devotion deserving of the highest praise, in the interests of the sick and wounded. Not only have they earned the gratitude of the individuals they looked after, but also they deserve the thanks of their country, as they have materially contributed towards the rapid convalescence and, therefore, to the maintenance of the fighting efficiency of the forces under my command.

The operations which I have had the honour to describe in this despatch, and which have resulted in the freeing of Egyptian territory of all formed bodies of the enemy, could not have been successfully carried out by the forces in the field but for the devotion, energy and skill of the Headquarters Staff and Heads of the Administrative Services.

I have on previous occasions expressed my appreciation of the able manner in which Major-General A. L. Lynden Bell, C.B., C.M.G., Chief of the General Staff, has discharged his duties. I wish again to bring this officer prominently to notice for his admirable work during the period under review.

The abolition of the Inspector-Generalship, Lines of Communication, has thrown upon my Deputy Quartermaster-General, Major-General W. Campbell, C.B., D.S.O., and my Deputy Adjutant-General, Major-General J. Adye, C.B., the whole of the work previously performed by the Inspector-General of Communications, and these duties they have had to discharge in addition to the normal work in connection with an Army in the Field. The Eastward advance has also now lengthened the lines of communication to something like 200 miles. I wish, therefore, specially to acknowledge the excellent work done by these two officers', and I shall have the pleasure of bringing before you the names of a number of Officers of the Administrative Services in this connection.

I wish to bring to your notice the excellent manner in which my Assistant Military Secretary, Lieutenant-Colonel S. H. Pollen, C.M.G., has performed the exceptionally heavy work of his department.

A list of those Officers, Non-commissioned officers and men whom I desire to bring to your special notice in connection with these operations will be forwarded at an early date.

 

I have the honour to be,

Your Lordship's most obedient servant, A. J. MURRAY,

General, Commander-in-Chief, Egyptian

Expeditionary Force.

 

 

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Further Reading:

Desert Mounted Corps

The Desert Mounted Corps, Roll of Honour

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920

 


Citation: Desert Column (DC), General Murray's Despatches, Part 3

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
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Saturday, 2 February 2002
Desert Column (DC), General Murray's Despatches, Part 4
Topic: AIF - DMC

DC

Desert Column

General Murray's Despatches, Part 4

 

General Sir Archibald James Murray GCMG, KCB, CVO, DSO.

 

General Sir Archibald James Murray GCMG, KCB, CVO, DSO (23 April 1860 - 21 January 1945) was a British Army officer during the Great War, known as commander of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force from 1916 to 1917.

 

SUPPLEMENT TO

The London Gazette

Of

TUESDAY, 20 NOVEMBER, 1917.

War Office

20th November, 1917.

 

The Secretary of State for War has received the following Despatch from General Sir Archibald Murray, G.C.M.G., K.C.B., late General Officer Commanding - in - Chief, Egyptian Expeditionary Force: —

General Headquarters,

Egyptian Expeditionary Force,

28th June, 1917. My Lord,

I have the honour to submit a report on the operations of the Force under my command from 1st March to 28th June, 1917.

1. At the beginning of March the Eastern Force, under the command of Lieut.-General Sir Charles Dobell, K.C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., was concentrated in the neighbourhood of El Arish. The headquarters of the Desert Column, under the command of Lieut.-General Sir P. Chetwode, Bt., K.C.M.G., C.B., D.S.O., were at Sheikh Zowaiid, in advance of which place the mounted troops of the column were covering the construction of the railway, which was being: rapidly extended along the coast towards Rafa. Our mounted patrols, -as I reported in my last, despatch, had on 28th February entered the village of Khan Yunus, which had been evacuated by the enemy. Every preparation was being made for an attack in force on the strong position at Weli Sheikh Nuran, upon which the Turks had been working incessantly since the beginning of January. On 5th March, however, aeroplane reconnaissance established the fact that the enemy had decided not to face our attack and was evacuating this carefully prepared position. I at once instructed the General Officer Commanding, Eastern Force, to do all that was possible either to prevent this evacuation or to inflict loss on the enemy during its execution, and the Royal Flying Corps were ordered to carry out bomb attacks with the utmost energy against the enemy's communications. Accordingly on 6th March .and the following days vigorous attacks were made by our aircraft on the railway at Bir Saba, Tel el Sheria and the junction station on the Jerusalem—Ramleh line; but it was found impossible for our infantry or mounted troops to make any effective move against the enemy, owing to the distance between railhead and Weli Sheikh Nuran. The enemy had retired while he was still out of reach, and his troops, which then consisted of about two divisions, were subsequently distributed between Gaza and Tel el Sheria, with a small garrison at Bir Saba.

It thus became necessary to meet an altered situation, which was complicated by complete uncertainty as to the line on which the enemy would ultimately elect to stand, and also to decide on the method and direction of my advance in Palestine. I decided that it would in any case be unwise to make an attempt on Bir Saba, since by so doing I should be drawing my line of communications parallel to the enemy's front, and there was no technical advantage to be gained by linking up the military railway with the Central Palestine Railway, either at Bir Saba or Tel el Sheria. The true line of advance was still along the coast, since the enemy was no less effectually threatened thereby, while my line of communications was more easily protected and railway construction was more rapid, owing to the absence of gradients. The coastal district, too, was better supplied with water. I decided therefore to continue for the present a methodical advance up the coast, moving troops forward as the railway could supply them, together with energetic preparation of the force for an attack in strength as soon as the state of its communications should make that possible. The most important thing was to increase the radius and mobility of the striking force. The Desert Column was therefore reconstituted to consist of the two cavalry divisions each less one brigade)—the concentration of the Imperial Mounted Division, under Major-General H. W. Hodgson, C.V.O., C.B., being completed at Sheikh Zowaiid by 16th March—and the 53rd Division, together with light armoured motor batteries. Local arrangements were also made by which improvised trains, both of horses and camels, should be available for the three infantry and two cavalry divisions in* the Eastern Force.

2. By the middle of the month the railway had reached Rafa, and the work of making a large station there with the requisite sidings was being rapidly pushed on. The Desert Column was between Rafa and Sheikh Zowaiid, the 52nd Division was at Sheikh Zowaiid and the 54th Division between that place and El Arish. There were distinct indications that the enemy intended to withdraw his troops without a fight from the Gaza—Tel el Sheria—Bir Saba line, a move which it was highly important to prevent, while it was necessary to seize the line of the Wadi Ghuzze in order to protect the advance of the railway from Rafa towards Gaza. The chief difficulty lay in deciding, in view of these considerations, the exact moment when it would be wise to abandon the methodical advance and to push out to its full radius of action a considerable force into a 'country bare of all supplies and almost devoid of water. I came to the conclusion that it would be necessary to push forward the Desert Column as soon as it could be supplied from Rafa Station, and the two other infantry divisions could be maintained in support of it between Rafa and the Wadi Ghuzze. It appeared that these conditions would be fulfilled shortly before the end of the month. I therefore instructed the General Officer Commanding, Eastern Force, to concentrate the Desert Column about Deir el Belah, a small village to the south-west of the Wadi Ghuzze, with one of the supporting divisions on the ridge to the east of Deir el Belah and the other in the neighbourhood of Khan Yunus, with the Imperial Camel Corps to cover the right flank of the force. When these dispositions were completed the Desert Column, with the Imperial Camel Corps attached, was to march on Gaza, thus giving the enemy the alternative of standing his ground and fighting or of submitting to the attacks of our cavalry on his flanks and rear should he attempt to retire. On 20th March, General Dobell moved his headquarters to Rafa, whither, on the same day, headquarters Desert Column moved from Sheikh Zowaiid. The further preliminary moves, covered by the cavalry, who on the 23rd approached very near the outskirts of Gaza, were completed without any hitch by the 25th March. By the evening of that date the whole of the Desert Column were concentrated at Deir el Belah. the 54th Division was at In Seirat under the hills to the east of Deir el Belah, the 52nd Division at Khan Yunus and the Camel Corns and armoured batteries about Abasan el Kebir. All preliminary reconnaissances had been carried out and the orders to the General Officer Commanding. Desert Column, were to advance on Gaza in the early hours of the following morning, the cavalry pushing out to the east and north of the town to block the enemy's lines of retreat, while the 53rd Division attacked Gaza in front. The 54th Division was to .cross the Wadi Ghuzze in rear of the mounted troops of the Desert Column to a position of readiness in the neighbourhood of Sheikh Abbas, a commanding ridge 5 miles S.S.E. of Gaza, where a position was to be selected suitable for defence against an attack from east or south-east. One infantry brigade and one artillery brigade of this division were to assemble at a convenient point to the west of this position, where they would be held in readiness to reinforce the Desert Column at short notice. One brigade group of the 52nd Division was to be brought up to replace the 54th Division at In Seirat. The enemy's main body was in the Tel el Neiile—Huj area, south of the Wadi el Hesi, covered by detachments about Gaza, Sheria—Hereira and Bir Saba. His strength appeared to be between two and three divisions.

The object of this advance was threefold: firstly, to seize the line of the Wadi Ghuzze to cover the advance of the railway; secondly, at all costs to prevent the enemy from retiring without a fight; thirdly, if possible, to capture Gaza by a coup de main and to cut off its garrison.

On 25th March I set up my Advanced General Headquarters at El Arish for the period of the operations, and on the following morning battle headquarters of Eastern Force were established just north of In Serait.

3. Early in the morning of 26th March the preliminary movements were begun and successfully accomplished. The Australian and New Zealand Mounted Division left its bivouacs at 2.30 a.m. and crossed the Wadi Ghuzze, closely followed by the Imperial Mounted Division. The leading division headed tor Beit Durdis. 5 miles east of Gaza having completed its crossing of the Wadi, by 6.15 a.m. The Imperial Mounted Division, after crossing the Wadi, headed due east for El Mendur, where it arrived at 9.30. The moves of the mounted divisions, as well as of the infantry, were considerably delayed by a very dense fog, which came on just before dawn and did not entirely clear till 8 a.m. This unavoidable delay had a serious effect upon the subsequent operations. The Imperial Camel Corps crossed the Wadi Ghuzze a little further south and also proceeded to El Mendur, where its role was to assist the Imperial Mounted Division in observing the enemy in the direction of Huj and Hereira, and to withstand any attempts to relieve Gaza from those directions. At 9.30 a. m. the Australian and New Zealand Mounted Division reached Beit Durdis, and pushed out detachments to the west, north and east. In the course of these movements the 2nd Australian Light Horse closed the exit from Gaza and rested their right on the sea. A detachment of these troops captured the Commander of the 5Srd Turkish Division, with his staff, while he was driving into Gaza; also a convoy of 30 Turks. Later in the morning the same force destroyed the head of a Turkish column with machine-gun fire as it debouched from Gaza in a north-easterly direction. The Imperial Mounted Division sent out patrols towards Hereira. Tel el Sheria and Huj, while two squadrons of a Yeomanry Brigade were placed astride the Bir Saba—Gaza road, about 5 miles south-east of Gaza, and one squadron was sent north to gain touch with the Australian and New Zealand Mounted Division. Later in the morning these squadrons found themselves engaged with enemy mounted troops, supported by bodies of infantry, and remained so throughout the day against continuously increasing numbers. They were also exposed to the fire of heavy guns at Hereira, and suffered some casualties in consequence. Meanwhile, the 53rd Division, under the command of Major-General A. G. Dallas, C.B., C.M.G., having thrown forward strong bridgeheads before dawn, crossed the Wadi Ghuzze at a point some 3 miles from the sea coast, with one brigade on the right directed on the Mansura Ridge, and another brigade on the left directed on El Sheluf, some 2 miles south of Gaza on the ridge running south-west from that place. A brigade was held in reserve and crossed in rear of the first-named brigade. The Gloucestershire Hussars, with a battalion and a section of 60-prs., crossed the Wadi near the sea coast, and for the remainder of the day successfully carried out their role of working up the sandhills to cover the left of the 53rd Division, and to keep the enemy employed between the village of Sheikh Ahmed and Gaza. At the same time the divisional Squadron secured a good gun position and an excellent observation station for another section of 60-prs. on the far side of the Wadi Ghuzze, in the neighbourhood of the main road from Gaza to Khan Yunus. The 54th Division, under the command of Major-General S. W. Hare, C.B., began to cross the Wadi at 7 a.m., and two brigades proceeded to take up a defensive position on the Sheikh Abbas Ridge, south-east of Gaza. These brigades remained in their positions throughout the day without coming into action. One brigade, with a brigade of field artillery, remained in the vicinity of the Wadi, so as to be at the disposal of the General Officer Commanding, 53rd Division, when required. During the morning this brigade was ordered to Mansura, to come under the orders of General Officer Commanding, 53rd Division, and it finally assembled at that point about 3.30 in the afternoon. After the preliminary reconnaissances had been completed, the 53rd Division commenced to deploy from the line El Sheluf—Mansura, to attack the AH Muntar position, with the following objectives:—One brigade astride the El Sheluf—AH Muntar Ridge on the enemy's southwestern defences; one brigade moving north from Mansura on the prominent Ali Muntar Ridge on the southern outskirts of the town; and one brigade, less one battalion in divisional reserve, pivoting on the right of the last-mentioned brigade on the hill 1,200 yards northeast of Ali Muntar, in co-operation with the attack of that brigade. The deployment of the leading brigades commenced at 11.50 a.m., and the brigade in reserve moved forward shortly afterwards to its assigned position. In co-operation with artillery fire and long-range machine-gun fire, the brigade on the left pressed forward along the ridge, and the remaining brigades over the flat, open ground, practically devoid of cover. The final advance, which began just after 1 p.m., was very steady, and all the troops behaved magnificently, though the enemy offered a very stout resistance, both with rifle and machine-gun fire, and our advancing troops, during the approach march, the deployment and attack, were subjected to a heavy shrapnel fire.

About 1 p.m., General Officer Commanding, Desert Column, decided to throw the whole of the Australian and New Zealand Mounted Division against the north and north-east of Gaza to assist the infantry. Both mounted divisions were placed under the orders of Major-General Sir H. G. Chauvel, K.C.M.G., C.B., General Officer Commanding, Australian and New Zealand Mounted Division, with instructions that he should bring the Imperial Mounted Division further north to continue observing the enemy, while the Imperial Came? Corps was ordered to conform to this movement and observe the country from the right of the Imperial Mounted Division. About the same time, considerable enemy activity was observed on the roads leading north and east of Tel el Sheria and also about Hereira. By 3.30 p.m., General Chauvel had collected his division, with the exception of some detachments not yet relieved, and had commenced to move on Gaza, together with the 3rd Australian Light Horse from the Imperial Mounted Division. The attack was made with the 2nd Australian Light Horse on the right, with its right flank on the sea, the New Zealand Mounted Rifles in the centre directed on the continuation of the Ali Muntar Ridge and the Yeomanry, less one detachment on the left, east of the town.

4. Meanwhile, the infantry attack was being pressed with great vigour, and by 4.30 p.m. considerable progress had been made. Portions of the enemy positions were already in our hands and shortly afterwards the Ali Muntar Hill, a strong work known as the Labyrinth, and the ground in the immediate neighbourhood, fell into our hands. The Australian and New Zealand Mounted Division was already exerting pressure on the enemy, and by 5 p.m. the enemy was holding out in the trenches, and on the hill south of the Mosque only. The General Officer Commanding, 53rd Division, called on the brigade of the 54th Division

(Brigadier-General W. Marriott-Dodington), which had been placed at his disposal, to take this position. The brigade responded with the greatest gallantry in face of a heavy fire, and after some hard fighting it pushed home its attack with complete success, so that when darkness fell the whole of the Ali Muntar position had been carried and a footing gained on the ridge to a point about 1,200 yards northeast of that position. Meanwhile, during the relief of the observing detachments of the Australian and New Zealand Mounted Division by the Imperial Mounted Division, the enemy, pressing his advance vigorously from the east, had succeeded in dislodging our troops from a prominent position on the east of Gaza. To restore the situation on this flank, General Chauvel sent back the 3rd Australian Light Horse. Thanks to skilful leadership of Brigadier-General J. R. Royston, C.M.G., General Officer Commanding, and his promptness in taking up his position, the mounted troops, supported by horse artillery and motor batteries, were able to prevent any .further advance by the enemy from this direction. The attack of the Australian and New Zealand Mounted Division on the north of Gaza was pushed home with the greatest dash and gallantry, in conjunction with the infantry attack. The New Zealand Mounted Rifles was soon in possession of the redoubt of the ridge east of Gaza, while the Yeomanry on their left carried the knoll running west from that ridge. During these operations the Somerset Battery, Royal Horse Artillery, in support of the 2nd Australian Light Horse, silenced two enemy guns, and the New Zealand Mounted Rifles captured and retained, in spite of counterattacks, two 77-mm. guns, which they used with skill on small bodies of the enemy which were still in the occupation of houses in the vicinity. As a result, 20 prisoners were taken, and eventually the guns were safely brought away. The whole division then established itself amongst the cactus hedges on the outskirts of the town, all brigades overcoming serious difficulties in fighting their way through the cactus hedges, in spite of the stubborn resistance of the enemy. The Australian Light Horse, under the command of Brigadier-General G. de L. Ryrie, C.M.G., particularly distinguished itself in this phase of the operations.

5. When darkness fell, the situation was as follows: —Gaza was enveloped, and the enemy, in addition to heavy losses in killed and wounded, had lost 700 prisoners. The 53rd Division was occupying the Ali Muntar position, which it had captured, but its right flank was very much in the air, only a thin line of cavalry holding off the relief columns of continually increasing strength which were approaching from north and east. In support of this division, the 54th Division, less one brigade, was holding Sheikh Abbas, with its left about 2| miles from the flank of the 53rd. The Australian and New Zealand Mounted Division was very much extended round Gaza and was engaged in street fighting. The Imperial Mounted Division and the Imperial Camel Corps, on a very wide front, were endeavouring to hold off enemy forces. The majority of the mounted troops had been unable to water their horses during the day, and it appeared that, unless Gaza was captured during the day, they would have to withdraw west of the Wadi Ghuzze in order to water their animals. Strong columns of the enemy, with guns, were moving to the relief of Gaza from the north, north-east and south-east. It was at this moment that the loss of two hours' daylight made itself particularly felt, since, had two more hours' daylight now been available, there is no doubt that the infantry would have been able to consolidate the positions they had won, and for arrangements to have been made by which the 54th Division could have effected junction with the 53rd. It is perhaps possible that, if General Dobell had at this stage pushed forward his reserve (the 52nd Division) to support the 53rd the result would have been different, but the difficulty of supplying water for men and horses would have been immense and impossible to realise by those who were not on the spot. As it was, after consultation with General Officer Commanding, Eastern Force, the General Officer Commanding, Desert Column, in order to prevent the envelopment of his mounted troops, decided to withdraw them during the night; he therefore directed General Chauvel to break off the engagement and retire his divisions west of the Wadi Ghuzze, using the Imperial Camel Corps to assist in his retirement. This movement made the maintenance by the 53rd Division of the very exposed position which it had captured no longer possible, and General Officer Commanding, Desert Column, reluctantly ordered General Officer Commanding, 53rd Division, to draw back his right and gain touch on that flank with the two remaining brigades of the 54tb Division, which had already been ordered by General Officer Commanding, Eastern Force, to fall back westwards from Sheikh Abbas and take up a line on the El Burjaliye Ridge, running south-westwards from Mansura, with their left in touch with the brigade of the 54th Division, which was to fall back from its line south of Ali Muntar and establish an outpost line further back, with its right in touch with the remainder of its division. These movements were carried out during the night, the 53rd and 54th Divisions converging so that their inner (or northward) flanks rested one on the other, their lines running along the El Sire and El Burjaliye Ridges respectively, the Imperial Camel Corps closing the gap between the right of the 54th Division and the Wadi Ghuzze. The retirement of the .mounted troops was accomplished without difficulty, though during the movement the 3rd Australian Light Hors» became engaged with the enemy advancing from the direction of Huj, but succeeded in driving them off with the assistance of a light car patrol. At dawn on the 27th, two light armoured motor batteries found themselves in the middle of a large body of the enemy, but brilliantly extricated themselves, causing considerable casualties to the enemy.

6. The withdrawal of the cavalry and the retirement of the 53rd Division on to the El Sire Ridge, enabled the enemy to reinforce the garrison of Gaza with considerable bodies of troops. At daybreak, nevertheless, reconnoitring patrols from two brigades pushed forward, seized the positions up to and including the Ali Muntar Hill which had been captured on the day before. They encountered some resistance, but drove the enemy out and established themselves on this line. At 8 a.m. the 53rd Division and the Imperial Camel Corps passed under the direct command of General Officer Commanding, Eastern Force. As soon as the advanced parties of infantry were established in the recaptured positions, preparations were made by the General Officer Commanding, 53rd Division, to reinforce them, but before the reinforcements could reach their objective a strong counter-attack was made by fresh Turkish troops, which were pouring; in from the north and north-east. This counter-attach drove our patrols out of the position on AH Muntar Hill, though further advance from it on the part of the enemy was prevented by our artillery, and our infantry still held the rest of the positions. Since, however, the junction of the right of the.53rd Division and the left of the 54th made an acute salient exposed to attack on three sides, it was necessary to withdraw the line here so as to eliminate the acute angle. In addition to the Turkish reinforcements coming from the east and north-east against Ali Muntar, another body appeared early in the morning on the Sheikh Abbas Ridge, which they occupied. From this point they directed artillery fire on the rear of OUT positions on the Mansura Ridge, doing a certain amount of damage among the transport animals and making any movement of camel transport during the day impossible. Our position.-1 were also exposed to heavy artillery fire from the north. Nevertheless, though tired and ill-supplied with water, the 53rd and 54th Divisions, now placed under the command of the General Officer Commanding, 53rd Division, remained throughout the day staunch and cheerful and perfectly capable of repulsing with heavy losses to the enemy any Turkish counterattacks. At no point was any enemy attack successful, and the Imperial Camel Corps, on the right of the 54th Division, in repulsing the attack by the 3rd Turkish Cavalry Division, practically annihilated the attackers. The position, however, was an impossible one to hold permanently. It was narrow and exposed to attack and artillery fire from three directions; also, it,was devoid of water, and hostile artillery fire made the approach to it -by day of slow moving camel convoys with water and supplies impossible. If it had now been practicable for the General Officer Commanding, Eastern Force, to advance with his three infantry divisions and two cavalry divisions, I have no doubt that Gaza could have been taken and the Turks forced to retire; but the reorganization of the force for a deliberate attack would have taken a considerable time, the horses of the cavalry were very fatigued, and the distance of our railhead from the front line put the immediate maintenance of such a force with supplies, water and ammunition entirely out of the question. The only alternative, therefore, was to retire the infantry, and this movement, after a strong counter-attack at 4 p.m. on the northern apex of our position had been shattered by our rifle, machine-gun and artillery fire, was carried out during the night at the order of General Officer Commanding, Eastern Force. By daylight the whole force had reached the western side of the Wadi Ghuzze and taken up a strongdefensive position covering Deir e Belah. The enemy made no attempt to advance on "the 28th, but contented himself with the occupation of the Gaza defences, our cavalry remaining in touch with him throughout the day. Arrangements were made on the 29th for the defensive line on the western side of the Wadi Ghuzze to be divided into sections to be held by the 54th, 52nd.and 53rd Divisions respectively, to cover the further progress of the railway which was just reaching Khan Yunus.

7. The total result of the first battle of Gaza, which gave us. 950 Turkish and German prisoners and two Austrian field guns, caused the enemy losses which I estimate at 8,000 and cost us under 4,000 casualties, of which a large proportion were only slightly wounded, was that my primary and secondary objects were completely attained, but that the failure to attain the third object-—the capture of Gaza—owing to the delay caused by fog on the 26th and the waterless nature of the country round Gaza, prevented a most successful operation from being a complete disaster to the enemy. The troops engaged, both cavalry, camelry and infantry, especially the 53rd Division and the brigade of the 54th, which had not been seriously in action since the evacuation of Suvla Bay at the end of 1915, fought with the utmost gallantry and endurance, and showed to the full the splendid fighting qualities which they possess.

8. Preparations were immediately begun for a second attack in greater force on the Gaza positions as soon as possible, though I instructed the General Officer Commanding, Eastern Force, that upon no consideration was a premature attack to be made. The station at Deir el Belah, where the headquarters of the General Officer Commanding, Eastern Force, had been set up on 30th March, was opened on the 5th April, and was rapidly developed into an important railhead. At this period the activity of hostile aircraft in bombing Deir el Belah and other advanced camps considerably increased, but little damage was done and all attacks were followed by vigorous retaliation on the part of the Royal Flying Corps. The troops were all concentrated ready for an advance and reconnaissances for artillery positions east of the Wadi Ghuzze were completed early in April, but the chief factor in fixing the date of the advance was our continual source of anxiety, the water supply. It was necessary for the next advance that two divisions should be able to water in the Wadi Ghuzze, where the prospects of obtaining water by well-sinking were small. Tanks therefore had to be set up in the Wadi, and arrangements made to pump rail-borne water from Deir el Belah over the In Seirat Ridge to fill them.

The general plan of the attack had by this time already been decided. It was that the advance on Gaza with three infantry divisions and two cavalry divisions should .take place in two stages. The first stage would be the occupation of the Sheikh. Abbas—Mansura Ridge, south of Gaza, and its preparation as a strong point from which any flank attack could easily be repelled. A short, period .of development was to follow the first stage, during which water supply and communications would be improved as far as possible, heavy artillery and Tanks brought up and supplies advanced, so that the final stage—an advance on Gaza after a heavy bombardment — should be accomplished rapidly. Meanwhile, the enemy in front of me had been considerably reinforced, and had abandoned all intention of further retirement. It became clear that five divisions and a cavalry division had now appeared on our front with an increase in heavy artillery. . Not only were the Gaza defences being daily strengthened and wired, but a system of enemy trenches and works was being constructed south-east from Gaza to the Atawineh Ridge, some 12,000, yards distant from the town. This put any encircling movement by our cavalry out of the question, unless the enemy's line in front of us could be pierced and a passage made through which the mounted divisions could be pushed. Until that could be done the role of our mounted troops would be to protect the right flank of the infantry, whose attack in the final stage was to be on the same lines as the first attack. While one division advanced from the Wadi Ghuzze between the sea and the Gaza— Deir el Belah road, the two divisions occupying the Sheikh Abbas—Mansura Ridge were to attack the south-western defences up to the Ali Muntar Hill; the right division, after overcoming the enemy on its front, to pivot on its left against the defences north of Ali Muntar. The 17th. April was fixed as the first stage of the advance, and on the 15th April I proceeded to Khan Yunus, where I set up my Advanced General Headquarters.

9. For the first stage of the operations the dispositions of the General Officer Commanding, Eastern Force, were as follows: —The 52nd ; and 54th Divisions, the latter on the right, to seize and occupy the line Sheikh Abbas— Mansura—Kurd Hill (on the El Sire Ridge). The General Officer Commanding, 52nd Division, Major-General W. E. B. Smith, C.B., C.M.G., to command this attack. The 53rd Division, under the command of Major-General S. F. Mott, to remain in position just north of the Wadi Ghuzze between the sea and the Gaza—Khan Yunus road, but to carry out strong reconnaissances northward along the coast. The 74th Division to remain in general reserve in the vicinity of In Seirat. Of the Desert Column, now constituted of two mounted divisions and the Imperial Camel Corp, one mounted division was to be disposed about Shellal with the object of immobilizing enemy forces at Hereira, while the remainder of the column was to protect the right flank of the 54th Division. The enemy was disposed in a chain of detachments along the 16 miles between Sheria and Gaza, with strong trenches at El Atawineh (about 13,000 yards south-east of Gaza) and very strong defences, known as the Warren, the Labyrinth, Green Hill, Middlesex Hill, Outpost Hill and Lees Hill, running south-westwards along the ridge from Ali Muntar. This position, which commands all approaches to the town from the south-west, south and south-east, had been very strongly fortified and well wired, in addition to the natural obstacles formed by thick cactus hedges, had been made into a nest of machine guns, largely manned by Germans. The right of his line, between Gaza and the sea, ran in the arc of a circle west and south-west of the town. This section consisted of a double line of trenches and redoubts, strongly held by infantry and machine guns well placed and concealed in impenetrable cactus hedges built on high mud banks enclosing orchards and gardens on the outskirts of the town.

The advance began at dawn on 17th April and the Sheikh Abbas—Mansura—Kurd Hill position was taken by 7 a.m. with little opposition and practically no casualties, though one Tank was put out of action by direct hits from artillery. The consolidation of the position was at once begun under intermittent bursts of heavy shelling. The Desert Column fulfilled its task of protection and reconnaissance, during which a strong body of enemy cavalry was dislodged by a brigade of the Australian and New Zealand Mounted Division from a ridge just east of the Wadi Imleih. The mounted troops of the Desert Column fell back west of the Wadi Ghuzze for the night, leaving an outpost line from the right of the 54th Division southwards. Consolidation of the Sheikh Abbas—Mansura position continued during the night, and all other preparations for the second stage of the advance, which was ordered to take place on the 19th, were pushed on during the 18th. On this day the Desert Column again made strong reconnaissances towards the east. The Imperial Camel Corps

.was detached from the Desert Column and placed under the orders of the General Officer Commanding, 54th Division.

The dispositions for the final stage, in which the guns of the French battleship "Requin," and of H.M. Monitors Nos. 21 and 31 were to co-operate, were as follows: —

The 54th and 52nd Divisions, acting under the command of General Officer Commanding, 52nd Division, were to attack the Ali Muntar group of works, the 54th pivoting on the right of the 52nd and including in its objective the group of trenches at Khirbet Sihan, east or Gaza, the Imperial Camel Corps being attached to it for this purpose. The 53rd Division was to attack the enemy trenches in the sand dunes south-west and west of Gaza. the line Sampson Ridge—Sheikh Ajlin being its first objective.

The 74th Division, in general reserve, was to advance and take up a position of readiness behind the Sheikh Abbas and Mansura Ridges. Of the Desert Column, the Imperial Mounted Division was to make a dismounted attack on the enemy's position at El Atawineh, part of the Australian and New Zealand Mountain Division to seize a spur at Baiket el Sana on the right of the Imperial Mounted Division, and the remainder to be held in re serve to take advantage of any success gained by the Imperial Mounted Division.

The containing attack by the cavalry began at dawn, and by 10.30 a.m. the Imperial Mounted Division was on the line Gaza—Baiket el Sana Ridge, with its right refused, while the Australian and New Zealand Mounted Division had seized the ridge at Baiket el Sana. The Imperial Mounted Division, under shell and machine-gun fire, continued the attack on the Atawineh trenches with the greatest gallantry, but could make little headway. For the main attack, the bombardment opened at 5.30 a.m. The guns of the "Requin" and the monitors bombarded Ali Muntar and the works immediately to the south-west. These guns kept the enemy's defences and dug-outs under an accurate and sustained fire and were instrumental during the day in rendering several enemy counter-attacks abortive. At 7.15 a.m. the 53rd Division advanced on Sampson Ridge and Sheikh Ajlin, and at 7.30 a.m. the Imperial Camel Corps, 54th Division and 52nd Division advanced to the attack. The 53rd Division, though meeting with considerable opposition, gradually worked up to Sampson Ridge, which was carried by a brigade early in the afternoon. This enabled another brigade to carry the high ground between this position and the coast with little opposition, and the first objective of the division was attained. The remainder of the main attack was not so fortunate. The left brigade of the 52nd Division made good Lees Hill, the nearest point to our line of the enemy's defences on the AH Muntar Ridge, by 8.15 a.m., but on advancing beyond Lees Hill this brigade came under very heavy machine-gun fire from Outpost Hill, which checked its progress. This prevented any advance of the brigade, which was echeloned slightly in the right rear of the left brigade. A little later one of the Tanks came astride of the lunette on Outpost Hill, causing considerable loss to the enemy, but the infantry could not capture this lunette till shortly after 10 a.m. The Tank was unfortunately hit by three shells and burnt out. Meanwhile, the 54th Division, with the Imperial Camel Corps, had advanced steadily under fire on the right of the 52nd Division. Its left brigade was in advance of the right of the rear brigade of the 52nd Division, and thus exposed to a heavy enfilade fire from the direction of Ali Muntar. At 9.30 a.m. the left of this brigade was heavily counter-attacked, but the enemy were repulsed by machine-gun fire. On the right of this brigade another brigade fought its way forward against the enemy works between Gaza and Khirbet Sihan. One Tank advanced ahead of the infantry and inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy in a redoubt, but was afterwards hit by shell fire and burnt out. The Imperial Camel Corps, in conjunction with the 4th Australian Light Horse on its right, entered the enemy trenches at Khirbet Sihan by 9 a.m., the enemy withdrawing to a position some 800 yards to the north. The Imperial Camel Corps was unable, however, to advance beyond Khirbet Sihan, and the two brigades, 54th Division, in spite of most strenuous and gallant efforts to advance, were repeatedly checked by very heavy fire from this front Towards noon the left of the right brigade was forced back by a determined counter-attack from the north-east, and this left the other brigade in a critical position, but it stood firm until, assisted by a third brigade of this division, the right brigade was able to regain all the ground it had lost. The enemy counterattack against the right brigade was meanwhile continued against the 4th Australian Light Horse, which was forced to give ground, and, with the 3rd Australian Light Horse on its right, suffered heavy casualties. However, the Imperial Camel Corps, though in a critical position, held on till a Yeomanry brigade filled the gap and stopped the enemy's advance. Heavy shelling and machine-gun fire were directed at the line during the remainder of the afternoon. Meanwhile, the left brigade, 52nd Division, was shelled out of its position on Outpost Hill, but the position was most gallantly retaken on his own initiative by Major W. T. Forrest, M.C., King's Own Scottish Borderers (subsequently killed), who collected a few men for the purpose. All further attempts by the brigade to launch an attack from Outpost Hill were shattered by fire at their inception, and the brigade in rear was forced to remain in the open under a heavy fire.

10. The position at 3 p.m. was therefore as follows:—The operations of the Desert Column (in effect a "containing attack ") were meeting with all the success which had been anticipated. A serious enemy counter-attack had been checked and driven back.

The 54th Division, on the right of the main attack, had progressed, in spite of determined opposition and heavy casualties, as far as was possible until a further advance of the 52nd Division should prevent the .exposure of its left flank. Reports received from the 54th Division stated that the situation was satisfactory, and that no help was required in order to enable the ground gained to be held until further progress by the 52nd Division should render practicable a renewal of the advance. I should like to state here my appreciation of the great skill with which General Hare handled his fine division throughout the day. The 52nd Division was unable to advance beyond Outpost Hill. Middlesex Hill, and a large area of extremely broken ground west and north-west of it, had been made by the enemy exceedingly strong. The nests of machine guns in the broken ground could not be located among the narrow .dongas, holes and fissures with which this locality was seamed. Partly owing to this, and partly owing to the extent of the area, the artillery fire concentrated upon it was unable to keep down the enemy's fire when the brigade on Outpost Hill attempted to advance. The Reserve Brigade of the 52nd Division had not been employed, and the remaining brigade was in position ready to attack Green Hill and Ali Muntar as soon as the progress of the brigade on Outpost Hill on its left should enable it to do so. Up to this time, therefore, only, one brigade of the 52nd Division was seriously engaged. The conformation of the ground, however, was such that the attack on Outpost and Middlesex Hills could only be made on an extremely narrow front. It is possible that if the General Officer Commanding, Eastern Force, had now decided to throw in his reserves, the key of the position might have" been taken with the further loss of between 5,000 and 6,000 men, but this would have left my small force, already reduced, with a difficult line of front to hold against increasing reinforcements of the enemy, who, owing to the conformation of the terrain, could attack from several directions. As it was, the General Officer Commanding, Eastern Force, in view of information received that our attack had not yet succeeded in drawing in the enemy's reserves, decided that the moment had not yet come for an attempt to force a decision by throwing in the general reserve, though he moved a brigade of the 74th Division up to Mansura, so as to be ready to press home this attack of the 52nd Division whenever required. At 3.30 p.m. an enemy counter-attack against the left of the right brigade, 54th Division, was shattered by our shell fire with heavy loss to the enemy, but otherwise no change occurred in the situation till 6.20 p.m., when the brigade on Outpost Hill was forced to evacuate the hill. Since it was evident that the action could not be brought to a conclusion within the day, at 4 p.m. I issued, personally, instructions to General Officer Commanding, Eastern Force, that all ground gained during the day must, without fail, be held during the night with a view to resuming the attack on the Ali Muntar position under cover of a concentrated artillery bombardment at dawn on the 20th.

The position at nightfall was that the 53rd Division held the Sampson Ridge—Sheikh Ajlin line; the 52nd Division on its right was facing north towards Outpost Hill and Ali Muntar; the 54th Division carried the line south-eastwards and southwards round the Sheikh Abbas Ridge to El Meshrefe, whence the mounted troops continued the line southwards to the Wadi Ghuzze. Our total casualties had amounted to some 7,000.

During the night of the 19th—20th I received a message from General Dobell to say that, after careful deliberation and consultation with all divisional commanders, he was strongly of the opinion that the resumption of the attack ordered for the following morning did not offer sufficient prospect of success to justify the very heavy casualties, which such an operation would, in his opinion involve. He therefore urgently requested my sanction to cancel the instructions previously issued and my approval for the substitution of orders for the consolidation of the positions already gained, to be carried out on the 20th, with a view to a further attack on the enemy's line at pome point between Gaza and Hereira as and when an opportunity might offer. In view of the strongly expressed opinion of the General Officer Commanding, Eastern Force, supported by the General Officer Commanding, Desert Column, and the divisional commanders, I assented to this proposal.

11. The ground gained by the end of the 19th April was consolidated during the 20th. No ground, in fact, gained on that day has since been lost, and the position to which we then advanced has facilitated, and will facilitate, further operations. The enemy, contrary to my expectations, made no general counter-attack on the 20th, and all his local counter-attacks were easily repulsed. One counter-attack was nipped in the bud entirely by our aircraft; a reconnaissance machine having detected about 2,000 infantry and 800 cavalry gathered in the Wadi near Hereira; four machines immediately attacked this force, which they found in massed formation, with bombs, and the entire body was dispersed with heavy casualties.

On 21st April, General Dobell visited me at my Advanced General Headquarters to discuss the situation. He repeated that in his opinion, which was confirmed by that of all his subordinate commanders, in view of the great strength of the positions to which he was opposed, the renewal of a direct attack with the force at his disposal would not be justified by any reasonable prospect of success. He was most strongly of the opinion that deliberate methods must be adopted, and that even the assumption of trench warfare might be necessary, pending the arrival of reinforcements. After full discussion, and not without considerable reluctance, I assented to this change of policy.

In the meantime, it became apparent to me that General Dobell, who had suffered some weeks previously from a severe touch of the sun, was no longer in a fit state of health to bear the strain of further operations in the coming heat of summer. To my great regret, therefore, I felt it my duty to relieve him of his command, and to place the command of Eastern Force in the hands of Lieut. - General Sir Philip Chetwode, Bt., K.C.M.G., C.B., D.S.O. General Chetwode was succeeded in command of the Desert Column by Major-General Sir H. G. Chauvel, K.C.M.G., C.B.; and Major-General E. W. C. Chaytor, C.B., C.M.G., succeeded to the command of the Australian and New Zealand Mounted Division.

Accordingly, on the morning of the 21st, I interviewed General Dobell and informed him of my decision, in which he concurred. I then interviewed General Chetwode, and instructed him to relieve General Dobell in the command of Eastern Force.

12. The enemy continued to receive reinforcements for his units and additional troops, so that early in May I estimated that he had nearly six infantry divisions in his front line, while his total force in this theatre might amount to eight divisions. There was no doubt, moreover, that he had lately received considerable reinforcements in artillery and machine-gun units, as well as in mounted troops. Throughout the month he continued to strengthen his positions between Gaza and Hereira, and began to build a military branch line from El Tine, on the Central Palestine Railway, towards El Mejdel, north of Gaza.

As the result of recent operations I was closely in touch with the enemy on a front of some 14,000 yards from Sheikh Ajlin, on the sea, to the north-eastern corner of the Sheikh Abbas Ridge. From that point my line turned back through Sharta towards the Wadi Ghuzze; with the right flank extended to Shellal in order to protect my southern flank and to deny to the enemy the valuable supplies lying in the Wadi at that point. In the meantime, arrangements had been made to construct a branch line of railway as rapidly as possible from Rafa to the neighbourhood of Shellal.

13. From 6th May the defensive line from Sheikfi Ajlin to Tel el Jemmi was reorganised into two sections, to be held on a regular system of reliefs. Cavalry patrolling was actively carried on by the mounted troops, who frequently came into contact with the enemy's mounted patrols to the east and north-east. During the earlier part of May, the enemy aircraft made several attacks with bombs on Deir el Belah and other points near the front line. The Royal Flying Corps made effective retaliation against Ramleh and Sheria, and as the month advanced the enemy's activity diminished in this respect. During May, also, our heavy batteries, with the co-operation of the Royal Flying Corps, made very effective practice on enemy batteries in tire neighbourhood of Gaza. The only event, however, of any note during this month was a cavalry raid carried out on the 23rd and 24th May against the Bir Saba—Auja Railway, with the object of preventing the enemy from recovering and using its material for the construction of his branch line from El Tine to Mejdel.

The plans for this operation necessitated the movement of one mounted brigade and demolition parties to Bir el Esani, 10 miles W.S.W. of Bir Saba on the Wadi Shanag, during the afternoon before the raid took place. Since this movement could not be concealed, it was arranged that an artillery demonstration should take place on the left flank in order to draw the enemy's attention from the movement on Esani, and place him in doubt as to our intentions. For three days previously the artillery carried out wire-cutting on the Gaza defences, and the enemy's repairing parties were kept under artillery and*machine-gun fire. The artillery demonstration was made more intense during the afternoon of 22nd and the early morning of 23rd May. This demonstration was very successful in making the enemy apprehensive on his right, and he appears to have suffered a considerable number of casualties.

On the afternoon of the 22nd, one brigade of the Australian and New Zealand Mounted Division, with demolition parties from the field squadrons of both mounted divisions, moved to Esani. During the night of the 22nd/23rd. this force marched on the railway at Asluj and Hadaj by way of Khalasa. Khalasa was surrounded during the night and no opposition was met with there. The demolition parties reached their positions on the railway line just before 7 a.m. on the 23rd. The Imperial Camel Corps left Rafa early on the 22nd and marched approximately down the Turco-Egyptian frontier on Auja. Owing to the difficulties of the country the Imperial Camel Corps demolition party was unable to begin work on the railway before 11.45 a.m. on the 23rd. The demolition parties had previously been thoroughly trained and their work, once begun, was carried out with great rapidity. Those of the mounted divisions completed the destruction of the railway from Asluj to Hadaj —about 7 miles—by 10 a.m. The destruction of this portion of the line made interference with the work of the Imperial Camel Corps practically impossible. The demolition party of that corps, therefore, had time to complete the destruction of six miles of railway eastward from Auja during the day.

Thus 13 miles of railway line were completely destroyed, each pair of rails being cut in the centre. One 6-span bridge near Hasaniya, one 12-span bridge over the Wadi el Abiad, a viaduct over the Wadi Theigat el Amiria, and (between Thamiliat el Rashid and Asluj) one 18-arched bridge, one 5-arched bridge, one 3-arched bridge, one 2-arched bridge and two culverts were completely destroyed. All the points and switches at Asluj Railway Station were destroyed. A considerable number of telegraph posts were cut down, wires cut and insulators broken. A quantity of decauville material near Hadaj was destroyed. Finally, a large stone building near Wadi Inkharuba was demolished, with quantities of sandbags, timber and matting.

While this work was in progress, the mounted divisions of the Desert Column carried out a demonstration towards Bir Saba and Irgeig. The divisions marched by night on the 22nd/23rd, and during the 23rd carried out a tactical and water reconnaissance of the area immediately west and north-west of Bir Saba. A Heavy Battery, R.G.A., was moved forward behind this force and shelled the viaduct at Irgeig.

The withdrawal of the mounted troops was effected without difficulty, the enemy showing no signs of activity. The Australian and New Zealand Mounted Division met a few Arab snipers. One armed Arab was killed and 13 prisoners were taken. The Imperial Mounted Division encountered only slight opposition from small parties of enemy cavalry. Our casualties were one man wounded. During this operation crops which could not be brought in and which would otherwise fall into the hands of the enemy were destroyed by our troops. It is estimated that 120 tons were burnt during the day. One of our aeroplanes employed for inter-communication between Desert Column Headquarters and the Imperial Camel Corps was damaged in attempting to land near Auja. The Imperial Camel Corps therefore remained at that place for the night 23rd/24th, and personnel of the corps succeeded in repairing the aeroplane, the loss of which was thereby avoided, and which returned safety to the aerodrome on the 24th.

For the month of June there is nothing of special note to record, the period being mainly one of energetic preparation for further operations. For the time being, the infantry in the northern part of the line were confined to trench warfare, to which the troops soon adapted themselves, while to the south and south-east our cavalry patrols were daily in touch with the enemy.

14. During the period covered by this report, the situation on the Western front has been such as to call for little comment. The light armoured motor batteries, light car patrols and Bikanir Camel Corps, have been able to keep the whole front free from disturbance. The route from Sollum to Siwa has now been improved, so that Siwa can be reached by car from Sollum in a single day.

No incident has occurred in the Southern Canal Section. The extent of the Northern Canal Section increased continuously as the Eastern Force advanced, and at the beginning of May this command was reorganised as that of the General Officer Commanding, Palestine Lines of Communication Defences. This command now extends from the northern part of the Suez Canal to Khan Yunus, and includes the responsibility for the defence of almost the whole length of the military railway and pipelines. Except for attacks by hostile aircraft, no enemy attempts have been made against the lines of communication, but between 7th and 11th May a small force from this command, consisting of two companies Imperial Camel Corps and a field troop, made a successful expedition to El Auja, Birein and Kossaima, for the purpose of blowing up the wells and water supply at those places to the utmost possible extent. The force met with no opposition, captured five prisoners and completed successfully the demolitions, including that of the railway bridge north-east of El Auja.

I have great pleasure in recording the addition to the force under my command of a French detachment under M. le Colonel Piepape and of an Italian detachment under Major da Agostino. At the end of May I was most happy to welcome in Egypt M. le General Bailloud, who came as inspector of French troops in Northern Africa to inspect the French detachment.

At the beginning of May it became necessary to reorganise the administrative services on the Eastern Lines of Communication, owing lo the increasing size of the Eastern Force. An inspector, Palestine Lines of Communication, was therefore appointed. His headquarters were established at Kantara on 2nd May and the advantage of this appointment has been proved by the increased efficiency of the lines of communication services east of the Canal.

15. In conclusion, I should like to place on record my appreciation of the magnificent work done by all the fighting troops before Gaza. No praise can be too high for the gallantry and steadfastness of the cavalry, infantry, artillery, Royal Flying Corps and all other units which took part in the two battles. Particular commendation is due to the infantry. The 52nd, 53rd and 54th Divisions, though actively engaged for over a year in the Sinai Peninsula, had not, since their reorganisation after the operations in the Dardanelles, been able to show how they had improved out of all knowledge in training and discipline and in all that goes to make up an excellent fighting organisation. Under severe trial they have now given ample proof of the finest soldierly qualities. It is hardly necessary to reiterate the praises of the Australian and New Zealand mounted troops, who have always come up to their high reputation, and their comrades in the mounted yeomanry have shown themselves to be endowed with the same bravery, vigour and tenacity. The Imperial Camel Corps, manned by Australian, New Zealand .and British personnel, has proved a corps d'elite, possessed with a quite remarkable spirit of gallantry. The distinguished service rendered by the troops from India is deserving of high commendation. Units of the Indian Regular Army, mounted and dismounted Imperial Service troops and the Bikanir Camel Corps have shown soldierly qualities in action, discipline and endurance; and I wish to record the unfailing devotion to duty of the battalions in garrison in Egypt and to the British West Indies Regiment. The Camel Transport Corps and the Egyptian Labour Corps—two units raised in this country —are worthy of the warmest praise for their untiring labours, under the severest conditions, in close conjunction with the fighting troops.

The health of the troops has throughout been singularly good. All branches of the medical services, under Surgeon-General J. Maher, C.B., deserve the highest commendation for their successful work at the front, on the lines of communication and in the base hospitals. The presence in the force of a number of civil medical consultants, who have so patriotically given their services, has been of the very greatest value, and they have worked in successful accord with the regular medical services of the Army. The Australian Army Medical Corps and the New Zealand Medical Corps have also been remarkable for their efficiency and unremitting devotion.

The workings of the supply and transport services have had to take into account quite abnormal conditions, both of supplies available and terrain, involving in some cases complete reorganisation of unite to suit local conditions. In spite of this, the functions of these services have been discharged in a most admirable manner, and great credit is due to the Director, Brigadier-General G. F. Davies, C.M.G., and to all ranks under him.

The same local conditions above referred to have rendered the force more than usually dependent on animal transport, while operations have involved the use of important mounted forces. The remount and veterinary services have consequently held a vital place in the organisation, and they have carried out their respective tasks to my complete satisfaction.

I have, in a previous despatch, brought to notice the admirable work of the Signal services, and I need only now add that this service has continued in its efficient and highly satisfactory condition. The work done by the engineer services and the works directorate deserves high commendation.

There is, perhaps, no department which has a greater influence upon the morale of an Army than that of the Chaplains' Department. The thorough and self-sacrificing manner in which chaplains of all denominations, under the principal chaplain, Brigadier-General A. V. C. Hordern, C.M.G., have carried out their duties, has earned the gratitude of all ranks.

The impossibility of granting leave home on any extended scale has rendered the Army in the Field dependent on rest camps and voluntary institutions for that rest and relaxation so necessary in view of the arduous conditions of campaigning in the desert and in tropical heat.

I wish to take this, my last, opportunity of expressing the thanks of the whole Field Force to those ladies and gentlemen who have done so much to obviate the deprivations imposed on it by those conditions. Especially are they due to the Church Army and the Young Men's Christian Association, whose recreation huts are provided, not only in the rest camps, but also throughout the front. It would be hard to exaggerate the value of these institutions, both in sustaining the morale and the health of the troops.

The dealing with reinforcements and material arriving from England, the transference of such large numbers of troops to other theatres of war, the keeping of records thus affected and the registration of casualties and evacuation of sick and wounded, have thrown very heavy work on the base ports. The staffs responsible for these matters have discharged their arduous duties with marked efficiency, frequently under difficult climatic conditions and abnormal pressure.

In spite of the important operations in progress during this time, military training has been continued with undiminished vigour. The Imperial School of Instruction at Zeitoun has by now passed over 22,000 officers and non-commissioned officers through its hands.

A staff school was started early in the year for the training of junior staff officers. Three courses, each of about six weeks, were held at this school for which accommodation was found just outside Cairo, the number of candidates at the first two courses being shared between this force and the Salonika Force, while the last course was confined to the Egyptian Expeditionary Force. The results of these courses have been exceedingly useful, and the instruction has been extremely well carried out.

His Highness the Sultan has, throughout the period of my command, given me valuable encouragement and wise counsel, based on his unrivalled knowledge of Eastern affairs.

I wish once more to thank His Excellency The High Commissioner, General Sir F. R. Wingate, G.C.B., G.C.V.O., K.C.M.G., D.S.O., for the ready assistance and quick sympathy which he has given me in all my work; all branches of the Civil Government of Egypt have assisted the Forces in the Field with unfailing readiness.

My gratitude is also due to Vice-Admiral Sir Rosslyn Wemyss, K.C.B., C.M.G., M.V.O., Commander - in - Chief, East Indies and Egypt, for his part in securing the unfailing co-operation of the Royal Navy at all times; and I wish to make special reference to the admirable and gallant work done by the Naval Air Service, which has been of the greatest assistance to my operations.

My Chief of the General Staff, Major-General Sir Arthur Lynden Lynden-Bell, K.C.M.G, C.B., has given me unvarying and loyal support at all times. He has proved himself an ideal Chief of the General Staff, combining a thorough knowledge of his duties with an activity and an energy that overcomes all difficulties. He has earned the confidence of all ranks.

Major-General John Adye, C.B., has been an excellent Deputy Adjutant-General, having great knowledge of all administrative work and sound judgment. He has been of the greatest assistance to me.

Major-General Sir Walter Campbell, K.C.M.G., C.B., D.S.O., my Deputy-Quartermaster-General, is an organizer of great general ability, very sound and hardworking. I owe a great debt of gratitude to this officer.

The General Officer Commanding, Eastern Force, Lieut.-General Sir P. W. Chetwode, Bt., K.C.M.G., C.B., D.S.O., has united the qualities of brilliant leadership and sure judgment, and has invariably inspired confidence in all ranks.

The labours of a Commander-in-Chief in the Field are considerably lightened when the complex and difficult duties which fall to the military secretary are ably discharged. In this respect I have been fortunate. Lieut.-Colonel S. H. Pollen, C.M.G., is an officer of outstanding ability and sound judgment, and the manner in which he has carried out his duties has greatly contributed to the smooth working of the staff, and is beyond praise.

I am submitting, in a further despatch, the names of officers, non-commissioned officers and men and others whom I wish to bring to notice for gallant and distinguished service during the period under review.

 

I have the honour to be,

Your Lordship's most obedient Servant,

A. J. MURRAY, General,

Commanding - in - Chief, Egyptian Expeditionary Force.

 

 

Previous: General Murray's Despatches, Part 3

Next: General Allenby's Despatches, Part 1

 

Further Reading:

Desert Mounted Corps

The Desert Mounted Corps, Roll of Honour

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920

 


Citation: Desert Column (DC), General Murray's Despatches, Part 4

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
Updated: Friday, 21 January 2011 7:18 AM EAST
Friday, 1 February 2002
The Battle of Baku, Azerbaijan, 26 August to 14 September 1918, Captain S.G. Savige, Stalky’s Forlorn Hope
Topic: BatzO - Baku

The Battle of Baku

Azerbaijan, 26 August - 14 September 1918

Captain S.G. Savige, Stalky’s Forlorn Hope

 

Stanley George Savige

 

Lieutenant General Sir Stanley George Savige, KBE, CB, DSO, MC, ED (26 June 1890 – 15 May 1954), was an Australian Army soldier and officer who served in World War I and World War II, rising to the rank of lieutenant general. During 1918 he served with Dunsterforce and wrote of his adventures in a book called Stalky’s Forlorn Hope which is reproduced below.

 

Chapter 1 - Stalky.


Assembled in a courtyard, surrounded by high mud walls, were gathered some sixty British officers and N.C.O's drawn up in a hollow square awaiting the arrival of their chief, whose name was so familiar, but who had as yet not been seen by any of the group. Down in the valley lay Hamadan, one of the chief cities of Persia, and from the slope of the hill where these men were assembled, a commanding view of the city could be obtained, and of the whole valley which at that time of the year is cloaked with beautiful grass and wild flowers.

The sun by now was extremely hot, and standing at attention tried the spirits of most. There was a cry from the orderly at the gate, and immediately the officer in command called the party to attention, for General Dunsterville, the original "Stalky" of Kipling's famous novel, walked on to the parade ground, and as he passed to the front, all eyes were fixed upon him, the man of their hopes. He glanced round the ranks, and then in a quiet, but commanding voice said, "I think it would be better if we sat under the shade of one of these trees." Leading the way he selected one giving the most shade, sat down and gathered the company round about him.

"Well, men," he commenced, "I suppose you want to know why you are here; but to begin with, I might as well tell you the truth, and that is the good Shah has just informed me that I must leave Persia with my force immediately. This I do not propose to do, and I have notified his Majesty accordingly, and in addition, told him that I find this country most agreeable to my health and also to my officers and men. I take it that you will find it the same, and anticipated that such would be your opinion when I replied for myself and on your behalf. I might say that I also added that, if he desired that we should go, the only thing left for him to do was simply to come and put us out. I admit that there are less than a hundred of us here even now, but we have an old Russian armoured car, together with a driver, a few machine guns, one or two Ford cars, and each of you have a rifle with a few hundred rounds of ammunition. On the other hand, there is such a thing in existence as a Persian army. Still we are of the right stuff, even though we hail from the four corners of the earth.

"Now, about your job! I want you to be prepared for anything that you may be called upon to do. I want the sergeants to do, if necessary, privates' jobs, and the officers, lance corporals’. The job is big, but you all have big hearts and I feel sure will overcome every obstacle. Some, I hope, will go to the Caucasus; others will have to remain behind in Persia. I went to Enzeli myself before the roads were blocked by the snows, and had rather a pleasant trip, even though my friends, the Bolsheviks, did not like me at first. I had no sooner arrived in that fine town when the local committee ordered me to present myself at once to their presence. I hardly felt disposed to answer this summons, so rested.

Some little time later, they came round to my house in a body, and demanded that I should come forward at once, asking by what right I was in Russia. Seeing that their attitude was an ugly one, I suggested that it would be much nicer if we all came inside and discussed the question while sitting in easy chairs. Having got them all seated and puffing away at Russian cigarettes, which I provided, we got to business. "'I am here,' I said, 'as head of a British Mission to see conditions for myself and help you, if possible, where able,' and then proceeded to applaud the results of the Revolution. This pleased my guests immensely, who at once considered that I was second only to themselves and, after more friendly exchanges, they left thinking that I was a very fine fellow indeed. I deemed it time to leave as soon as possible, seeing that I only had a few men with me, and that fortune cannot be played with too long.

So while they went out the front door and down the main street, I packed my gear and cleared out by the back entrance as it were, and, after a certain amount of bargaining, got clear of those regions. Eventually I found myself back here once more with a mere handful of men, and decided to wait until you chaps came along.  "This is the first party from the other fronts, and more are on their way, so I purpose to commence work immediately and push on with the job, knowing that I can rely on your
hearty co-operation in whatever we undertake. I therefore wish you good luck in the ventures ahead and in all that we undertake."

That was enough for us. We knew that we had a man of rare quality and stern determination to lead us, and whatever he would ask of us would be more than attempted.



Chapter 2 –The Genesis


January, 1918, found the war dragging on much the same as during the last three and a half years with a credit balance in favour, if anything, of Brother Boche. The Russians had advanced and retired, pushed forward again in places to be again bumped back. The French had stopped the rush at Verdun, and the British, together with their French Allies, had been pounding the Germans on the Somme, pushing him back to the famous Hindenburg line and again bumped him up north, driving him back to the Passchendaele Ridge, but still there was no sign of any weakening in the enemy's line. The world was then flabbergasted by the Russian Revolution and that nation's withdrawal as a fighting force.

Those in high places saw the great danger of India after this debacle, when the roads leading from Persia and the Caucasus to India were left open to the Brother Boche and his Ally, the gentle Turk; and probably a general survey of operations in the near east is advisable at this stage to understand the objects of the Dunsterville force sent to Northern Persia and the Caucasus.

As soon as possible after war had been declared by Great Britain on the Central Powers, the first Mesopotamian Division was sent out from India. After severe fighting and long marches under the glare of the Mesopotamian sun, General Townshend, hampered by the lack of adequate supplies, and the enormous length of his lines of communication, eventually reached Ctesiphon. After defeating the Turks there, he was compelled to fall back on Kut-el-Amara, and after putting up the well-known heroic fight, he was surrounded by the enemy and forced to capitulate.

No sooner had this force ceased to exist as a fighting unit in the field than another, much stronger and better equipped, replaced it. Although they failed in the earlier stages to relieve Townshend, they eventually carried Baghdad and the foothills beyond. During this fighting, the Russians under the Grand Duke Nicholas, had steadily pushed ahead, driving the Turks out of Armenia and holding a line from Trebizond to Kirmanshah. When the British troops established their line beyond the Dialia River, touch was maintained with the Russians by mounted patrols. Thus the roads leading from the Caucasus and Turkey to India were denied to the enemy.

The Palestine force had steadily pushed ahead until a line had been established along the Jordan Valley, whence it will be seen that the Turk was more or less hemmed in. When the Russians pulled out, a glance at .the map of the Near East will show that the three main roads running from Turkey to India were left unguarded. Bearing in mind that at this time the Persians and Afghans were allied by religion to the Turk and never over friendly towards the British, a great danger, therefore, menaced British rule in India.

If, since the Mutiny, Great Britain was ever in danger of losing India, it was at this time, as hundreds of Turkish-German envoys could be poured into these countries bordering on Northern India, and, with supplies of German gold, could easily create a rising amongst the wild Northern tribes.

Luckily for Great Britain, these regions are one mass of mountains, and so we were. sure of at least six months' delay, owing to the passes becoming snow-bound during the winter months. If we worked quickly, a force could be got up through Mesopotamia to the Persian foothills on the frontier at about the time when the snow began to clear, giving us an equal chance with the Turks in the race through Persia to gain dominion there.

One of Germany's pet plans was to gain control of the Near East, so that, in the event of war, she would be close enough to India to create sufficient trouble to make our position extremely uncomfortable in our great dominion out East. Years before the war, the Kaiser and his followers saw this. and the be-laurelled trip of the Kaiser throughout the Near East is well remembered by all. The outcome was his precious Berlin-Baghdad railway scheme, which was intended to run from Berlin through Constantinople, along the Tigris Valley to Baghdad, thence across the Euphrates Valley to the head of the Persian Gulf.

Mr. Winston Churchill must be given immense credit for his far-sighted policy at this time, in that he bought up, on behalf of Great Britain, the oil fields at the head of the Persian Gulf. This was the first spoke in the German wheel of fortune out East, since Great Britain, holding the land near Basra and the Persian Gulf, prevented the German line from passing that important city and finding for its terminus the still waters of the Tigris River as it enters the Persian Gulf. This, however, did not daunt the Hun who swung the line from the Tigris River down south to Koweit Harbour.

With the capture of Baghdad, the progress of this line was severely hampered, and for a time his dream of creating trouble in India was at a standstill. But with the open roads of Persia, the great project was once more revived, and the opportunity of creating a diversion in India, which would mean the withdrawal of British troops from France, at a time when every man was required, was an opportunity that the Boche would not let slip, And so the spring of 1918 would see the great race between Great Britain and Germany, one in the endeavour to block the roads, the other in attempting to get through to Afghanistan in order to carry out his cherished plan.

It should be remembered that, at this stage of the war, few men could be spared from the other theatres of war by Great Britain, and that our only way into Persia was by Mesopotamia. Seeing that the Western Frontier of Persia is barred by great barriers of mountains, the idea of getting an army through was impracticable. Even though a force might be marched through these mountains into the heart of Persia, it would be impossible to maintain them in the field as all supplies would have to come, first by river to Baghdad, then on to the Persian border, and from there onwards all food, ammunition and guns would have to be packed through on mules and camels. Thus the idea of getting a force there was well nigh impossible, and the hope of maintaining them in the field was altogether out of the question.

The danger to India was seen at the very outset by those in authority in the War Office, and, as the Russian army collapsed and melted away, so British agents bought up all their guns, rifles, ammunition and war-like stores, concentrating them in various places throughout the Caucasus.

At this time little was known of the fighting qualities of the Armenians and the kindred Christian tribes throughout the Caucasus, or of the fidelity of the Russians and Cossacks of Southern Russia to the Allied cause.

On this gamble all hopes were centred, and approximately one hundred and twenty officers and two hundred and fifty sergeants were to be sent forward through Persia to the Caucasus with orders to raise an army to. be equipped with the Russian material which had been bought by our agents. Knowing nothing of this great project, Divisional Commanders in France, Salonika, Palestine and Mesopotamia received instructions to nominate certain men whose qualities as leaders of men, and whose adaptability to war, under the most adverse circumstances had been proved.

Early in January some twenty Australian officers were gathered at Corps Headquarters in response to their volunteering to undertake a desperate venture which would probably cost them their lives. They were ushered into a large room of the old Chateau where Corps Headquarters was situated, and there General Byron of South Africa, who had been sent out by the War Office, put the same question to them; namely,

"Gentlemen, are you prepared to undertake a desperate venture which. will probably cost you your lives, but, if successful, will mean everything at this stage of the war to the British Empire?" Naturally the first question asked by each was,

"Well, what's the job?" which elicited the reply, "I am sorry, but I cannot tell you."

"Well, where is the job?" which again was answered in the same manner.

After so many years of war, on Gallipoli and in France, especially through the fighting of the Somme and Flanders, nothing could possibly be worse than that of the past, so nineteen of us accepted the proposition and were told to go to our units and there await further orders.

On January 12th, each of us received our marching orders with instructions to report at once to A.I.F. Headquarters, London. There were three of us from the 2nd Australian Division: Lieut. Turner, M.C., 27th Battalion, Lieut. Hitchcock, D.C.M., 6th Machine Gun Company, and myself, and on informing General Smythe, V.C., who commanded our Division, that we had to leave next morning, he at once ordered a car to be placed at our disposal. In the early hours of January 12th, we three left Flanders for one of the Channel ports.

The day was indeed in keeping with our stay of two years in France. The snow lay on the ground about one foot thick and to add to the discomfort of this, combined with the slush on the road, snow fell without ceasing during the four hours' journey to Boulogne, and it was indeed a weary, frozen, mud-bespattered trio that reported at Horseferry Road at 4 p.m. on that day. We were then told to go home and report at 10 a.m. next morning at the Tower of London.

In due course we all assembled at the Tower, and there had to undergo the strictest of strict medical examinations. It was indeed gratifying to know that after so much war, one could pass without a blemish. Later in the afternoon, we dismissed for the day with orders to report at 10 a.m. next morning. This we did, and received lists of clothing to buy which included a tropical outfit together with an arctic, such as fur coats, caps, mittens, and boots. We were instructed to buy not only this, but sufficient to last for at least two years? What hope had we of even guessing where we were bound for, when given orders to buy outfits of such complete contrast, together with a supply of medicine, all of which had to last us for two years? Seeing that we were not prophets or seers, we simply read through the list, looked at each other and said, "Well, how about a spot?" and then booked seats for the theatre that night, determined at all events to make the most of the few days we were likely to have in London.

After accumulating all this gear (which cost about £80; the Government allowance was somewhere near £25, the remainder coming from our own pockets), we were told to parade to be reviewed by Sir William Robertson, Chief of the Imperial General Staff. This in due course we did, and we were drawn up according to Dominions, Imperials in front, behind which in order were the Australians, Canadians, New Zealanders, and South Africans. While waiting, about a dozen Russian officers marched on to the parade ground, whose presence created a busy five minutes in laying odds as to what part of Russia we were bound for.

Shortly afterwards, General Sir William Robertson walked on to the parade ground, and, after passing throughout the ranks, drew us up in a hollow square facing the steps leading to the Barracks, from the top of which he addressed us. After saying many nice things, he concluded by saying, "Gentlemen, I am indeed pleased to see you, for I recognise that before me I see gathered from the Imperial Army and the troops of the various Dominions, the cream of the British Army, and in whatever you undertake, I wish you good luck and God speed."

We were then given leave until the 28th, with instructions to leave our addresses with the officials at the Tower. On reporting once more, we were assembled in a large room of the barracks and behind closed doors, a Colonel from the War Office unfolded to us the proposed plan of operations, which did not leave much wanting in the way of adventure. The next day, January 29th, we were ordered to have our bag and baggage at the station ready to leave England.



Chapter 3 - Eastward Bound.


At 11.30 a.m., on January 29th, 1918, we were all assembled on Victoria Station, and, after a busy half hour loading the baggage on to the train, we moved out with the good wishes of those who came to see us off, which not only included friends and relatives, but representatives from the War Office and the various Dominion Headquarters.

Southampton was reached in due course, and at 7.3o p.m. all were aboard, and the boat lifted anchor and moved out of the harbour for France. We disembarked at Cherbourg at 6 a.m. next morning, and immediately went into camp, and there for the first time came in contact one with the other. One looks back on those few days when each found the true value of the other fellow, and it was with high spirits that we all settled down, determined to do the best, one towards the other. Of all the mingling of men that this world has seen there was never a finer gathering of real men than the party one was
privileged to belong. There one rubbed shoulders with a Canadian from out West, the South African from the lone veldts, and the New Zealander from good old Pig Island, and I suppose they thought as much of the Australians as the Australians thought of them.

Orders were received to entrain on the afternoon of the 31st, and after much hard work in loading heavy boxes and baggage, we set off for Taranto. The weather in Northern France was at this time of the year extremely cold but as we journeyed further south, we experienced more congenial days. After every couple of days, we would be taken off the train and put into a rest camp for twenty-four hours. This indeed was a we/come change from being crowded four together in about a fifth-class railway carriage in which we attempted to live, eat and sleep. The opportunity of a hot bath and the
purchase of tin food was not missed on arrival at one of these camps.

By stages we went further south through Marseilles, Nice, across Northern Italy, until we eventually reached Taranto, and after waiting a couple of days, the outfit embarked on the "Malwa" on the 11th February. The three days' trip across the Mediterranean was delightful and, to while away the time, Russian classes were commenced, bridge parties gathered, and together with the company of some forty nurses, life was worth living.

Should anyone want to grow out of their hats in a remarkably short space of time, there is one little hobby I should advise them to take up, and that is learning Russian. Still, knowing that this language would be of immense value to us, we put up with the headache--the result of those few hours' study each day.

On February 16th, we disembarked and entrained at Alexandria, where we left at nightfall, arriving at Suez about 6 a.m, next morning. For me a strange coincidence occurred here. We got off the train and marched down to the quay, and there saw at a distance the ship on which we had to embark. There was something strangely familiar about the old tub that at once attracted my attention. She was no other than the old "Nile," the boat that saved the 24th Battalion from the submarine on the way to Gallipoli, when the "Southland" was torpedoed. At that time the whole 6th Brigade were bound for the Peninsula, the 24th Battalion being in the leading boat, the "Nile", with the 21st Battalion on the "Southland" a few miles in the rear.

Suddenly the old tub put on full speed ahead and continued until well into the night, during which time she circled round one of the small islands three times. The reason of this was unknown at first, but on arrival at Lemnos the skipper informed us that he had sighted the submarine and, in order to baffle the enemy, had adopted these tactics. The "Southland," not being so fast, had unfortunately stopped the tin fish. The heroic conduct of the men on board that vessel is known to all. With these thoughts, and the knowledge that she had saved us in my first venture, I took it to be a good omen that she should be the vessel that would carry me on my last and greatest venture.

On February 17th, we up-anchored and moved out from the land of Sun, Sand, and Sorrow, and after an uneventful voyage, in which we only stopped once (at a place called Henjan in order to coal), we eventually reached the head of the Persian Gulf, and there remained outside the bar. We waited until a smaller steamer, the "Erin Pura," came alongside, to which boat we transferred, awaiting the favourable turn of the tide in order to cross the bar over which we had to pass to reach the Shat-el-Arab. This was accomplished safely during the night, and at daybreak we all turned out to get a view of the magnificent river of Mesopotamia.

For miles it is about a mile and a half across, and as we moved slowly up the stream, place after place of interest came into view. The banks are lined with date palms which grow in great abundance. Numerous vessels of every description moved either up or down the river -- transports of troops, cargo vessels with Army Service Stores, and the hospital ship, laden with the sick and wounded. Hugging the banks were huge Arab dhows, laden with the merchandise of the country, being towed by natives who hauled these primitive barques with great ropes attached either round the head or to the waist.

Now and then a smaller canoe, propelled by poles, would be passed. All of this was indeed a restful change to the eye after being a couple of weeks at sea. About noon we arrived at a point where the Mahamarah joined the great stream, and it was here that the Turks, in their endeavour to frustrate the British in their earlier operations, sank two steamers. The attempt to block the stream failed since, as the boats sank, the force of the water swung them round out of the main channel and beyond the necessity of a little extra caution on the part of the pilot, this did no damage. Eventually we reached Bazra, where we were to disembark. After a great deal of hurry and bustle all stores and personal kit were got ashore, and small parties were told off to the various camps.



Chapter 4 - The Land of the Arab


Mesopotamia, the land of the "Arabian Nights Entertainment" which we had read so much about, the place of so many visions, was here stretching for hundreds of miles before us. When one is camped under canvas at that time of the year, a great many of its charms pass away. It rained continuously for three or four days. The land, being baked and dry, and the roads pounded to dust by the thousands of wagons that passed over them during the summer months, were naturally turned into quagmires after a few days' steady rain. The tents, which had been pitched in the open plain where inadequate arrangements for drainage had been made during the summer months, were soon about three or four inches deep in mud and water, but on active service, comfort and .contentment are generally found after the scraping away of such trifles. Drains were dug and sleeping places banked up to such a pitch of perfection that the heavens could do their worst without any fear of the tents being swamped out.

Near by was an Officers' Club, which never did such a booming trade in all its history as when the members of this "Hush-hush" party, as we were called, sojourned nearby. If ever a piano required attention it was after this party left as, night after night until well on into the early hours of morning, its soul was worked out of it by some pianist who reckoned he knew all about the make-up of such instruments in the production of sufficient noise to enable some other fellow who reckoned he knew all about singing to inflict pain and punishment upon the hearers. Anyhow it was all a change, and meant good fellowship, and that means everything.

The days, however, were not passed in such an easy manner, as at once swords were issued, and all had to turn to learn the uses and misuses of that very excellent weapon. It can be said that at that time most of us knew as much about a sword as a sword knew about us. Anyhow, after pointing and parrying, right, left, high and low, and enduring hours of trying to work with painful wrists, we learnt a good deal. Russian classes were continued and, as a relief to the sore-wrist business, the work that developed very thick heads was substituted.

The news of our arrival soon spread and every General within fifty miles signified his intention of coming along to see us. This meant that everybody had to turn out, spick and span, on the parade ground to be reviewed by the All-Highest, when many very nice things were said to each of us, but the unspoken desire of all was that there were fewer Generals on earth to "butt in" upon our time which was so urgently needed for training for the great work ahead. Now and then we were allowed an afternoon off in order to see the sights of the city, and each of us took the advantage of going to the
Bazra, one of the chief cities of Mesopotamia, and destined, I believe, to be one of the biggest in that land on account of its suitability as a port. Miles of wharves and shipping facilities have been erected in order to land stores at this place which served as the Base Depot.

Here one sees the Arab in his native land. In build he is about medium height, dark complexioned, with clear piercing eyes, set in an intelligent face. His dress is strikingly picturesque, consisting of flowing white robes, with a head dress composed of a cloth fastened to the head with bands of fancy cord. The town itself is typically eastern. One walks along its narrow, winding streets which are roofed from one side to the other, and, here and there, holes are pierced, throwing a dim light on to the goods and chattels exposed for sale.

The streets themselves are hardly wider than a footpath, yet strings of mules, horse-drawn carriages and horsemen move rapidly along, the drivers and riders clearing a passage by shouting at the top of their voices. As in all eastern cities the shops are small and crammed with tawdry ware. Here one sees cheap Manchester goods and cheapjack Birmingham ware exhibited in great profusion. The women in most cases are heavily veiled, but, like other parts of the world, with the advent of Western  civilisation, the superstition of the East is being thrown off, and gradually the women are doing away with their face coverings.

Among the most interesting sights of the city are the canals. Hundreds of years ago these were cut out from the main river and were run far inland in order to irrigate the surrounding country, and to be used also as a means of bringing to the city, goods from elsewhere, and sending out the products of the country. These canals teem with small native boats, propelled by poles, one man, working from the boat's nose, pushes the pole into the muddy bottom and walks along the narrow gunwale facing the stern, for three parts of the boat's length. The native in the rear, poles from the stern and is responsible for the steering of this twelve-foot narrow canoe.

Owing to the cramped, crowded condition of the stream, it has become an art in which only the native, reared from childhood to his job, is the only proficient handler of such craft. Though a thousand years behind the times in customs and conditions, here and there a flash of Western civilisation gleams forth, and of all the surprises of an Eastern city, a cinema show provides the best. Standing a little way back from one of the main streets there stood a big hall on which was placarded the usual picture show advertisements.

Not having seen such a show for months, we decided to have a look. The main part of the hall was filled with rough, unfinished forms, the better ones having a pole or two rigged tip as a back. A balcony ran around three sides, the back one, being bigger and fitted with seats made from the boards of packing cases, was considered to be the best, and the portion which the European population patronised. The show itself suited our tastes admirably, as one could smoke throughout the performance and order coffee at frequent intervals. At the conclusion of each picture, the audience cheered itself to a standstill, particularly when one, depicting British troops in training, was preceded by throwing on to the screen a portrait of King George.

He was immediately recognised, and a more enthusiastic reception could not be given by any John Bull audience. Our time was more than fully occupied during our few weeks' stay here, though our souls chafed to be up and doing. Drill and preparation, no matter how irksome, has its place and is essential as a beginning to any great enterprise. Knowing from past experience that such preparatory work was necessary, each vied with the other to "do or burst."



Chapter 5 - Upstream to Baghdad


Orders were issued on March 8th, for the first party to move on to Amara, a large town on the Tigris, midway between Bazra and Baghdad, and next day this detachment moved out. Those of us who remained behind cursed our luck at being amongst, as we termed them, "the unfortunates," but our turn came on the 17th, when we boarded one of the river paddle-boats, not unlike those used for pleasure trips in various parts of the world.

After an immense amount of energy and perspiration had been expended on yelling to the Arabs, placing aboard our personal kit and stores, we were ready to move. Lashed to either side of the steamer was a big barge, on one of which was placed all the baggage. The N.C.O's found accommodation in the other, while the officers occupied the steamer.

No such luxuries as beds were aboard, each person having so many feet of deck space allotted, and in this he slept, worked and had his being. The saloon (spare the name) was a partitioned-off, roofed-in portion of the deck on which there were a couple of tables and some chairs. If lucky or early one was present at the first seating, if not, then it was a case of waiting your turn. Such was our home to be for about two weeks, and, though the deck space prevented us from carrying on with sword exercises, there was room enough to continue the Russian classes.

The winding nature of the river provided an ever-changing view of scenery, though the banks themselves were lined with the inevitable Mesopotamian date palm.

Next day we entered the Tigris proper, leaving the Euphrates on our left. What old scenes and recollections of Sunday School days these ancient rivers bring back to one's mind, the conquest of Palestine by Cyrus and the deportation of the Jews to the banks of the noble Euphrates. As one looked across the wide waters and winding turns, the cries of the Jews in the days of that bondage seemed to be echoed by the swirl of the passing waters. Thoughts pass through the brain in rapid succession, and one wonders if it was here that Ezra or his fellow-patriots thought out the scheme of re-building Jerusalem.

Next day we pass this grand old man's tomb, revered by Christian and Mohammedan alike. It stands on the right bank of the Tigris and from a mile off it can be seen flashing forth its blue shimmer of light from between the ring of palms that surround it. The dome and as much of the structure as can be seen over the high square mud walls is covered with blue porcelain tiles and is in a wonderful state of preservation, no doubt due to the fact that Ezra is reckoned among the great men of the Mohammedan religion which solicits the caring eye and hand of the Arab.

Day after day we followed the winding course of the stream along the wide stretches of water and through the Narrows, so called on account of the nearness of the banks through which the rushing waters swirl like a mountain torrent. Occasionally we pulled into one of the banks in order to give the engines a spell.

Sports were organised, and from the Colonel to the youngest sergeant all competed in the various events. Though our worthy Colonel was elderly, he at all events provided a certain amount of amusement when stripped for the fray. Coatless, hatless, and with collar and leggings thrown aside, he looked the personification of determination. After a couple of hours of such strenuous pastime we were glad to be aboard again and once more on the move.

A few hours were spent at Amara, renowned for its copper and brass workers. The secret of this craft is handed down from father to son, generation after generation, and though Japan places tons of such work on the market, it bears no comparison with the work of the Amara Arab.

A few days later we reached Kut-el-Amara, the town of Townshend's last stand. The village itself crowns a small knoll on the left bank, and can be seen from miles off. The river takes a big bend here, and in one sense proves an excellent barricade, though if crossed and the ground held, it becomes a trap to the beleaguered.

We went ashore at this place for a few hours and rambled over the battlefield and through the British and Turkish trenches. The Turks, to commemorate for all time their victory, commenced building a giant obelisk on a big rock foundation, and at each of the four corners was placed a captured British gun. Unfortunately for themselves, they were not granted sufficient time to complete their emblem of triumph, as the relieving force under General Maude soon turned our gloom into sunshine and re-captured Kut.

A few days later Ctesiphon was reached or rather, the ruins of that ancient capital where Townsend defeated the Turks before falling back to Kut. Only the ruins of the King's Palace stands, and the huge arch towers up to a height of some 200 feet, with a breadth of approximately 150 feet. Its magnitude creates a great impression as, though so big, it is composed almost entirely of small baked bricks girded together with huge slabs of timber. Like the great Pyramid, its present occupants are the sparrow and his kind - once the abode of the mighty, now the resting place of the humble.



Chapter 6 - The City of the Caliphs


During the morning of 28th March, we pushed slowly up stream, passing through most uninteresting country as there is nothing on the banks of the river to break the monotony of the great stretches of dull desert landscape. However, as the day wore on we passed here and there small clumps of palms, until we reached the fringe of those trees lining the banks leading to Baghdad. Afar off, one could see the domes and minarets of the city, rising above the forest of date palms. About four miles south of Baghdad we pulled into the bank and were there met by the first party, who had already arrived at the place and erected tents.

Naturally, our first excursion was to Baghdad, the city of Sinbad the Sailor and his exploits. The roads leading to this ancient palm-encircled capital are dusty and tiring to the sightseer, but where the motor car runs, so does the soldier's luck, and ours was well in within five hundred yards of the camp, being in the shape of a lurching, bumping motor lorry which conveyed us without mishap to the city.

One is struck by the cosmopolitan population of the city: Arabs, Jews, Armenians, Chaldeans, and Persians throng the bazaars. Though the Arab predominates in numbers, the Jew, as elsewhere, is master of the wealth. One enters into New Street, a fine wide street running through the city, constructed by the Turks ostensibly in commemoration of the fall of Kut, but really as a means of easy transport. Houses and shops were not spared by the Turkish Commander who drove the thoroughfare from one end of the city to the other. The rage of the inhabitants was intense, but its utility was very soon appreciated and the popular resentment abated.

Like Bazra, the bazaars are covered in, but in this city there is a far greater supply of goods,  necessitating bigger places of business. The quaintness of Baghdad is that if one wants brass it is sought in the brass bazaar, if boots or cotton goods, then to the section of the bazaar in which these goods are sold. A place for everything and everything in its place seems to be the idea carried out. Everywhere is noise. The fair price is never asked; it is always about 100 per cent. higher than expected, and the satisfaction to both buyer and seller in their heated bargaining transactions is very evident.

The dresses of the women are much more gaudy than those seen elsewhere in Mesopotamia. One of the sights of the country is to walk along New Street about an hour before sunset and see the hundreds of Jewesses taking the air. Here one sees dresses, or, to be more correct, loose gowns made of silk, vying with the rainbow for richness of colour. The great ambition of the Jewess is to possess a black lace veil, some of which are wonderfully fine in texture, to cover the face. At first they took great care to hide their faces from the eye of man, but in October of the same year this custom was beginning to die out. The signs of the times were that the women were beginning to realise that the face of woman was good for the eye of man.

On the river front is a very pretty garden, and here on Sunday afternoons the Indian Regimental band rendered selections, drawing crowds of admirers of music, to say nothing of the Jewesses themselves. These beautiful gardens of Baghdad, the rich colours of the women's dresses, the light tussore suits of the men, tipped with a red fez, are sights to be remembered. The river is the main waterway or highway of traffic, and here are seen boats of every make and shape - the huge hospital paddle-steamers, paddle-transports, motor launches, dhows, canoes and rowing boats, but strangest of all is a round structure, made of goats' skin stretched over a bamboo foundation, capable of holding ten or twelve people. How this is propelled by paddle and directed, without any steering gear, across such a wide and swift river as the Tigris, gives plenty of food for thought.

There are many places of interest in the city, such as the old Turkish barracks covering acres of ground, the blue-domed mosques and the high minarets of the various buildings of the city. There seems to have been no plan adopted in the laying out of the streets. It seems rather as if the first builders ran up their houses alongside the particular track that they took across the desert. The houses themselves are built much like those we see in the pictures of the time of Queen Elizabeth. All are two-storied [sic], with the upper storey jutting out four or five feet further than the lower one, and it would be an easy matter in many places to shake hands with the person in the building across the road. Sanitation is unknown, and to see the city proper one has to endure the vilest smells imaginable and be chased by myriads of flies.

One thing must not be overlooked, and that is the so-called Dancing Theatre. One enters the big hall and procures a seat well forward, in front of the raised stage, in the place where the orchestra in a modern theatre would be seated. After making oneself as comfortable as possible, having lit a cigarette to counteract the other perfumes of the hall, one sits and waits for the opening show. The babble and gestures of the audience provide plenty of entertainment to while away the waiting minutes. Then the musicians enter, and the weirdest of noises and wails is created by drums of all makes, strange string instruments and cracked voices.

Then enter the dancing girls, each taking a seat on the platform which is so arranged as to form a semicircle. The first performer is a child of ten years of age, who wriggled her body into all sorts of contortions, keeping time by beating first one foot, then the other, on the heavy boarded platform, the ankles being encircled with brass bangles, a most terrific din is created. The place is stifling and the perspiration streams in small rivulets down the face and arms of the dancer. The clothes are thick and corsets are not worn. The first dancer was followed by the others in order of age, the first dancer being about ten and the last being about sixty years of age.

Life in camp was more than strenuous. Our time was filled in by sword exercises, machine-gun courses, pack-animal work, riding classes, and the continuance of Russian and Persian, the latter being added to our list of studies as it appeared that a certain number of us would have to remain behind in Persia, while the main party went on to the Caucasus.



Chapter 7 - Off to the Unknown


0n 17th April, orders were issued to a certain number of us to push on with the first party under Colonel Keyworth, D.S.O., of the Salonica Forces. We were organised into sections, and the one in which I found myself was in charge of Captain Kay, M.C., of the Imperial Army. The other officers of that group were Captain Hooper, M.C., Captain Scott-Olsen, M.C., of the Australian Forces, Captain Fisher, M.C., of the Canadian Forces, and Captain Carpenter, who hailed from China.

About 9 p.m. next day, we entrained at Baghdad. and at about 2 a.m. next morning, were transferred to open goods wagons. As it rained continuously during the whole of that night, we had rather a miserable trip to Ruz, which was at that time the advanced rail head. We left the train at about 8 a.m., and ran up our tents on the open plain at the foot of the foothills of Persia. We scouted out for firewood in order to cook a little food. As there were no trees in the vicinity, a great deal of strategy was required by a couple of officers who paid a visit to the A.S.C. stores. They engaged the officer in charge in such vivid conversation as enabled a couple of men to get round the back and collar several
packing cases. It was by these means that we kept up a sufficient supply of fuel to produce a drink of warm tea three times a day. The rain continued without ceasing for three or four days which put a stop to all our training, but developed our engineering skill to such an extent that any canal or drainage system would not be too big for any of us to take on, and the drains dug around our tents were really works of art.

On April 22nd, orders were issued to the effect that we were to push on to the Persian border by Ford cars, and next day we started off over that rocky stretch of country leading to Kasr-i-sherin, the Persian city just over the border. This place is built near the ruins of a city of ancient days.  Considering their age the ruins of this place are in excellent state of preservation, the two outstanding features being the castles, one of which covers about two acres of ground. Though the top portion is a heap of ruins, the stables which are built below are almost as good as the day they were erected. This speaks volumes for the durability of the stone which abounds throughout Persia.

The other castle is much smaller, but most of its walls and arches remain intact, and one wonders what excavation amongst these masses of ruins would reveal. Some day the antiquarian will come with his pick and shovel and find relics of that ancient civilisation which swayed the East, having its origin and home in the old kingdom of Persia.

The surrounding country is of a rolling nature, rising to very steep mountains in the distance. Through the gorges run two swift rivers, one to the south-east, the other to the south-west. and just beyond the old city they are separated by only a few hundred yards. The fertile brains of these ancients devised a scheme for creating a huge lake just outside the city walls. For miles the remains of a tremendously strong and high wall encircles the lower foothills into which were gathered the waters of the rivers, with the hill tops forming little islands here and there. In imagination one can see this beautiful, island-studded, inland sea crowded with the boats of the nobility and the wide walls  thronged with gay pedestrians. All this has passed, conquests have shattered the walls, freed the waters and destroyed the city. All that remains are the heaps of masonry.

We camped here for six days, passing the time by playing football and organising shooting expeditions amongst the hills and along the two rivers. One never-to-be-forgotten day was April 25th, which was ushered into being by bright sunshine. A little after noon heavy black clouds swept over the mountain tops and rolled down into the valleys, and we had a downpour of the greatest violence. The hailstones
were as big as marbles and the wind blew in hurricane force. Tents were blown down and the few that remained standing were flooded out, despite the fact that the usual tent trenches had been well excavated. For two or three days each of us had a very busy time in drying, cleaning, and repairing the damage of that hour's storm.

On the 29th we received orders to push off into the Unknown. Letters were written and many, before going to sleep that night, thought of the dangers of the last few years and wondered what the future had in store. Next morning we were roused out at dawn, and after a hurried breakfast, tents were pulled down and all the gear packed. By the time this was done, the muleteers had all their mules lined up in the open and, after endless upsetting of loads and the chasing of stray beasts, these two hundred and fifty animals were eventually loaded up, and were ready for the track. About eight of us were detailed to form the advance guard, with instructions to push on to a town about twenty-two miles up amongst the hills, keeping in touch with the main body the whole time. That tramp amongst those rocky slopes knocked the best man out, and it was a very tired party that crawled under canvas that night.

Next morning we were out again at 4 a.m. and, after about an hour's hard work in sorting the animals into groups and loading up, we set off to Seripul, a town at the foot of the pass some eighteen miles distant. The road wound over the hills and through the long valleys, with the mountains in places rising like veritable walls. While trudging along through these passes the heat was unbearable, since not a breath of air relieved the close atmosphere. One had an opportunity of studying the Persian in his native land, and for filth, laziness and lying, they have no equal in the world. The dress of the middle class along those mountain tracks is generally composed of a thick felt shawl, a sort of coat with two holes let in for the arms, and numerous others for ventilation.

They wear loose trousers and canvas shoes with the soles composed of cord or straight pieces of cloth tightly bound together. Amongst the poorer class a well-dressed person is he who has over his body an ordinary sack with openings for the arms and head. The women in these districts are dressed much the same as the men, with the exception that they generally have in addition some yards of black cloth which is robed about their bodies. From all appearances the clothes are never removed, and as needles and cotton are unknown, the rents are generally tied up with a piece of string, and after years of wear are knotted to such an extent that it would be impossible for any of them to disrobe without the aid of a pair of scissors.

The road we traversed that day was much better than the track of the previous one as it ran for a long distance through a well-grassed and watered valley. Our luck was in finding a very clear stream near the camp, and, after pitching our tents, we all made off  for a swim.



Chapter 8 - Through the Mountains


Next morning we had to face one of the greatest passes of Persia, the Pia-tak Pass, the gateway of south-western Persia. This day was extremely trying as the heat seemed to concentrate in the deep valley along which we marched, and one could not wish for a worse stretch of country. The mountain ahead was a veritable wall, and up it side we zig-zagged until we eventually reached the top. On the left, cliffs towered up to the very heavens and, on the right, deep gorges yawned. We pitched camp on the plateau and, after resting for an hour or two, were refreshed sufficiently to gaze at the wondrous beauties of unconquered nature. For miles the ranges extended, broker with tumbled and  jagged peaks and perpendicular cliffs. The wind and rain of centuries had twisted and carved them into wonderful shapes, and to stand on that plateau and gaze for miles across the country was a most wonderful and inspiring sight.

Next day, as usual, we were up at dawn and, without much waste of time, for we were becoming more practised in the use of our transport animals. we were soon ready for the road. After getting over the great barrier, the road extended along through a more or less open valley, and it was here for the first time that we saw the wild flowers of Persia in all their beauty. Along the valley and up the slopes they grew in great profusion of colour and variety. One could, without any difficulty gather twenty varieties of the most beautiful flowers in any patch of twenty square yards.

The music and jangle of the bells tied round the mules' necks was something never to be forgotten. We had, as stated, about two hundred and fifty of these sure-footed beasts loaded to the eyebrows. Each muleteer had his own group of about twenty beasts, which was generally led by one of the oldest mules, or a Persian pony, and to this one's neck was attached a bell of a different tone. At each halt the whole of this mob would wander off the road and graze on the lower slopes of the mountains, and during the ten minutes rest would become a hopeless mass of bumping, laden beasts. At first we reckoned that we had a very small chance of finding the particular animal which carried our kit on arrival at the camp. This, however, did not disturb the muleteers, each of whom hung on to his  leader, and when word was given to move off once more, they would simply lead the way on to the road and move on, the others finding their place by following the sound of the bell. The way in which these animals are trained to fall into place by sound is indeed creditable to the Persian muleteer.

At intervals we would pass through what was considered to be dangerous country, and some of the party would be ordered to scale the heights overlooking the various passes in order to prevent the tribesmen from ambushing the party as it wended its way through the narrow gorge. At this time we had reliable information to the effect that certain tribesmen were extremely hostile. It would be an easy matter for them, if they held these heights as we passed through, to shoot the leading mules and those at the end of the column, producing such confusion that it would be impossible for the few troops to take up any sort of opposition. The party would be soon wiped out, and it can be readily seen that it was of the utmost importance that these heights should be secured, before any of the main party attempted to get through.

From dawn until late in the afternoon we would be swinging along the road, some of us climbing the heights which towered almost perpendicularly from the road, and then arrive at a camping place at any time between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., without having anything to eat since starting off that morning. These camping grounds would be generally selected in an open space near a spring, and the camp itself would be laid out four square, and each of the four groups were responsible for protecting their corner frontages. At night fall, any high prominence overlooking the camp would be picketted and, with the sentries placed round the camp, we were more or less secure.

At one stage, we picked up a telegraph line repairing outfit, who were waiting to be escorted through some particularly dangerous country. At 4 a.m. next morning, we set off across a wide open flat and, as it had rained continuously for a couple of days, we sank at each step into a couple of inches of pure clay. My particular group was that day detailed as rear guard, whose duty it was to remain behind the last of the teams. The horses pulled and strained in their traces through about eight or ten miles of this country, when at midday we rested at the foot of the hills over which we had to cross that night.

By that time the animals were in a state of utter exhaustion and, in order to get the wagons over the rocky slopes, each of us had to turn to and lend a hand at man-handling. them over the steepest pinches. To make matters infinitely worse, it began to rain about four o'clock, and as the road turned to the left one got the full blast of the bitter evening wind. While the sun shone brilliantly the heat was terrific, yet when it began to rain up amongst those heights the reverse of climatic conditions would be experienced. Away ahead along the road lay a heap of mud structures, similar to ant hills, which we knew to be the village beyond which we were to camp that night. Two or three of these Army Transport carts soon out-distanced the others, and, on reaching the more level road, these were sent on ahead while we waited for the others to come up.

The evening shadows darkened and the wind became more bitter, so we at once sought shelter, finding a haven in a nullah which ran across the road. One of the lads had some tea in his haversack, and before long a fire was made with grass, and the billy filled from a stream running near by. As we sat and drank the warm beverage, two men from a nomad tribe encamped on the hillside, put in an appearance, and, with voice and gesture, we made them understand that we wanted some eggs. Hardly had they returned with these when some old men and women came down, displaying for sale both fowls and eggs. We bought up the latter, but discarded the former.

The remainder of the party was still some two miles in rear, so a couple of us decided to view at close range this tribal camp. We set off and within fifty yards of these rough shelters were surrounded by a crowd of the usual howling camp dogs, and naked curious children. The camp was composed of about twenty-four huge, black, tarry canvas shelters, filled not only with men, women and children, but goats, sheep, dogs and fowls, with a floor about two inches deep in mud and filth. The men and women greeted us with black looks and scowls, as if our presence polluted the sanctity of the village. Five minutes sufficed for a view of the nomad village type, and one carried the odours of that place in his nostrils for many days.

On reaching the road we saw that the other transports were only a few hundred yards behind. After another hour's pulling and swearing, we reached camp and drew our rations, which in a remarkably short space of time were eaten without the aid of knives, forks or table-napkins, but with. I am sure, more relish than one would enjoy a dinner in any fashionable restaurant. No bed was more acceptable than the one we had that night.

Although it is admitted that stones are somewhat rough and hard as a palliasse, an exhausted man, hardened by such tramps as we had done, would find rest anywhere, especially after having covered eighteen miles through clay flats and over steep ridges with the added exertion of the pulling and pushing of laden telegraph wagons. That day we were kept going from about 4 a.m. until somewhere near 7 p.m., with nothing to eat between breakfast and supper except a hard army biscuit and the eggs we managed to buy.

Before retiring that night, we bought more eggs, which were boiled hard for next day's lunch, and, although it was another march of sixteen miles, the road was much better as it led over harder ground. We were all much fresher on reaching camp that night than the previous day. No doubt it was due to the fact that our spirits were buoyed up with the knowledge that Kirmanshah was to-morrow's goal. Kirmanshah conjured up the first sight of a real Persian city, and the, next morning, 9th. May, found us going strongly on the good road that led to it. A ridge lay ahead and with swinging strides the little column surmounted the top. It halted for about ten minutes, drinking in the view of the minaretted and domed city, surrounded with a wealth of green trees and shrubs so restful to the eye after so many days' tramp through a treeless and rocky country, with nothing to relieve the monotony of the cliffs and broken, bare mountains.

Leading to the city were ploughed fields, and others with wheat and rice crops, two or three feet high. Beyond the city ran an immense barrier of snow-capped mountains which seemed to be the strong arm of protection almost encircling the city itself. After the rest, the column moved ahead with renewed vigour and, on gaining the edge of the city, swung round to the outskirts and pitched camp on a knoll which commanded the whole place. Near by was a camp of a section of Australian Wireless people, who, with the usual insistence of the race, soon made themselves known, and it was with great  pleasure that Australian singled out Australian, and after the usual, "Where do you come from, cobber?" soon settled down to debate the merits of "our 'arbour," or the well laid-out and beautifully-gardened Melbourne, then on to the Cup winners.



Chapter 9 - Kirmanshah


The most excellent orders yet issued on the march were received that night, wherein was contained the glad instructions that we were to rest for three days. These days were devoted to sight-seeing, and the report of a famine were soon turned to a melancholy fact. On going to the city, knots of starving inhabitants were seen scattered across the valley actually eating grass, and every step in the city brought one face to face with a living skeleton. Those strong enough begged or watched their opportunity to steal. Those too weak to stand, lay dying in the streets. The dead were passed at frequent intervals. Mothers, with maternal instinct, clung to their dying, and in many cases, dead children; children crowded round the dead body of a parent, while many were so weak that a touch would fell them to the ground, from which they could not rise without assistance.

The bazaars, even in spite of so much poverty and death, were alive with merchants, producers and buyers, bartering and selling. Here one missed the haggling of the bargain hunter and avaricious merchant of other Eastern cities, and it was soon seen that the Persian merchant preferred the quieter methods of business from the strenuous bargaining of Baghdad. In most cases the merchant sat, cross-legged, in his little rabbit-hutch of a shop, and awaited the pleasure of a customer, either displaying for sale soft-goods in the shape of bright materials with the brand "Made in Manchester" stamped on the outside, or such groceries as tea, rice, sugar, dried fruits and native tobacco. Here and there was a brass worker banging away at his wares, or a hatter making those strange, black felt "beehive" hats of the Persian.

The most interesting worker was the baker, who, covered in flour, was hard at work kneading dough, while his huge round oven was heating. Taking a piece of dough in his hands, he soon moulded it into the desired shape, first by pressing it out flat, and then extending its dimensions by throwing it from the palm of one hand to the other. When a number of these had been shaped, the hot coals were scraped out of the oven and the dough placed inside to bake, after which they were exhibited for sale like so many hams hanging on hooks, or rags on a clothes line.

The market square was fringed with the usual rabbit-hutch shops. The centre was filled with donkeys and camels, around which farm produce was displayed for sale in the shape of mars (sour milk), dirty white-coloured butter and cheese containing enough cholera germs to kill half the city's population. The most pathetic of all were the women endeavouring to sell their tawdry ornaments and odd house furnishings in order to procure sufficient money to ward off the evils of the famine for a few more weeks. Others had done this before and their fate was known. Bit by bit, the householder's fillings and furnishings go; a little more food is procured; then, when the last is sold, the only food is the grass of the fields. Certainly a life not too full of roses.

Sickened by the appalling sights of the famine-stricken city, though refreshed after three days' rest, we moved onward once more, this time with Hamadad as our goal. The valley ahead was the widest yet seen, being some ten to twelve miles across, covered with a beautiful carpet of green grass and crops, relieved at intervals by clumps of trees showing the position of a village. Fertile though the country appeared. All crops during the last two or three seasons had failed and the hopes of the inhabitants were centred on those green fields of corn and rice. Would they mature? Or would they, when the dry season set in, frizzle and dry as those of previous years?

Up to this period we had been living chiefly on Government rations, such as bully beef, biscuits and cheese, jam, tea and sugar, varied by the eggs and dried fruits bought on the road. From now on we were to live on the country, and in order to do this, officers were allowed one pound and the sergeants ten shillings a day. The officers and sergeants formed themselves into little groups for feeding purposes, and got hold of native servants to do the odd slushy work. On our departure from Baghdad the officers were allowed one batman to every three officers. As these lads had recently been  discharged from hospital and were awaiting their draft at the concentration camp, their powers of endurance were most limited. Early on the march, it was seen that these boys had to be helped to a greater extent than they could help, and were given a lift on the odd mules over the rougher stages of the march.

To lessen their burden, most of us procured a native servant, and not only were they useful for the odd jobs, but of immense value in buying, as well as an aid to learn the language. The necessary precaution of fumigating these urchins was taken, and after they were scrubbed and clothed in odd bits of uniform and singlets, they presented quite a respectable appearance, while they themselves were in the seventh heaven of delight and the envy of the other kids of the country Their authority, as being servants of the "sahibs" would break down any barrier and procure food that we ourselves could not get.

Their powers of endurance were marvellous. We men would be exhausted after the daily march of from fifteen to twenty-five miles, yet these youths would reach camp as fresh as paint and immediately set to lighting a fire or drawing water in the preparation of the evening meal. Their honesty at the age of ten to fourteen was about equal to that of white youngsters of the same age, and if anything was taken, it was generally some fancy article that caught their curious eye.



Chapter 10 - Modern Persian Hosts and Ancient Persian Glory


The first stage out from Kirmanshah was over a first-class road that led through the wide valley, bounded on either side with the never-ending rocky barrier of mountains. Looking across from the road to these ridges the distance appeared to be only five or six miles, whereas in reality it was nearer fifteen. The clear light of Persian springtime is most deceptive, and objects which are twelve and fifteen miles distant appear to be quite near.

Early next morning, the column was swinging along in splendid style, averaging three miles an hour, which is excellent going, seeing that the pace was regulated by that of the mules, and that only fifty minutes in each hour was devoted to actual marching the remaining ten being spent in resting. Presently a cloud of dust appeared in the distance, and within a couple of hours its cause was manifested in the shape of a long convoy of mules and camels. As we approached, its composition was clearly seen to be a body of troops with their baggage animals.

I happened to be in charge of six men who formed the advance guard, with our main body about three quarters of a mile in the rear. One man was sent back to inform our commanding officer of the fact that Persian troops were ahead. So far we had not seen any of the Shah's army, but knew that it was trained by Swedish officers, the outcome of an agreement between England and Russia when arriving at an understanding concerning the position of each in Persia. At that time we were quite ignorant of the Shah's displeasure with our movements within his borders.

It was soon apparent that this force was composed of at least two battalions and, if they cared to be nasty, we six individuals would have a most unpleasant time. Even the fifty odd, back along the road, would not appear to have much chance. The position was nicely put by a young Canadian sergeant who said, "Say, Sir, I guess we'll have about as much chance as a snowflake in hell if these here guys cut up." Well, we had to chance that, and as we closed on one another the whole outfit could be sized up as nothing but a rabble. Ahead of them were a string of about twenty camels, with huge box-like  contrivances slung on either side, one balancing the other and on closer investigation, revealed their occupants to be richly dressed but veiled women, holding frightened youngsters, the wives and families of the officers. Such a thing as an advance guard was apparently not considered necessary but, judging from the number of colours carried and the blare of trumpets, military glory was reckoned rather by picturesque display than fighting utility.

The commanding officer, ablaze with gold tassels and coloured trimmings, rode ahead, surrounded by his staff. A little in the rear came the first batch of standard bearers, carrying the national colours of Persia wrought in gold braid on white satin. Behind these marched the drummers and trumpeters, creating an inferno by banging the drums and blaring the trumpets without time or reason. If they contemplated trouble the only manner in which to meet it was by bluff, so, ordering my men to march strictly to attention with arms at the correct slope, we stepped out briskly. Within the distance laid  down in "Infantry Training," I bellowed out "Eyes Left," and the boys swung their heads towards the required direction like clockwork.

The old Persian Commander was so thunderstruck at being greeted by such a salute that he bowed and saluted like the movements of a jumping-jack. Each officer was greeted similarly, much to their  edification, and, if their first thoughts were evilly disposed towards us, it was certain that they were well in our favour before we reached the end of the column.

Later we heard that the force was moved from another town south of Kirmanshah, with orders to stop the advance of the "miserable" British force that was marching through Persia, and what might have been an uncomfortable experience for us, was turned into an amusing episode by playing on the vanity of the Eastern mind. That night we pitched camp under the shadow of a giant precipice which, forming the side of a section of the mountain spur, reared its craggy head some 400 feet into the heavens.

At the base gushed forth the purest of pure water from about a dozen springs, bubbling and swirling until they intermingled and formed a wide stream, which ran through the grassy flats of the valley. Nearby was heaped the ruins of an ancient capital of Darius. Heaps of jagged stones, broken masonry and smashed columns were the only relics of the one time centre of ancient civilization and glory. The hand of the conqueror had been heavy and in no place was one stone left standing upon the other. Devastation had been complete; yet the glory of the king of that capital would live for ever, for the  busy and cunning hands of these citizens had left records of that city's military power in carving, in ancient letterings, that people's history for a considerable distance upon the face of the cliff.

After the evening meal, I sat on a piece of broken column, filled my pipe and was soon lost in thought, picturing the old city in its days of Power. Here there were scattered dozens of broken columns. I wondered if this was the site of the King's Palace or his Audience Chamber. What stories could those old stones tell, if only gifted with speech! Stories of great councils where the brain and wit of the councillors conceived and worked out some brilliant military expedition! Was it there, along the terraced stream, that the mighty walked and chatted light-heartedly with their women folk?

I wondered if yonder heap of debris were the remains of another palace where brave men danced with the dazzling beauties of that age. I supposed that open square was were the king reviewed his troops with critical eye and besought them to greater deeds and extolled the splendour of his dominions. Yet tonight all was silent. The stars peeped out, first one, and then in pairs and groups until the heavens were a mass of glistening pin-pricks of silver. The cliff stood silhouetted in all its grandeur, unconquered by man, symbolic of Nature's stability and triumph over the passing history of mankind. Though demolished, how mighty was this city, symbolic of ancient Persian power over the Persia of to-day!

This morning, about fifteen hundred of the Shah's troops allowed sixty Britishers to pass them by without the slightest attempt to molest them. What would that ancient king, who founded this city have done to a force of sixteen hundred and sixty aliens who dared to pass into his realms in contravention of his royal decree to the contrary? Surely degeneration has sapped the vitals of the once all-powerful Persia.



Chapter 11 - Kurds and Nomads


Early next morning the party was roused out and, after cooking a hurried breakfast and loading the mules within a remarkably short space of time, we, were on the road once more. Away ahead, a cloud of dust denoted the existence of a party of nomads moving slowly along the road. These people, as I have already described, live in their encampments on the hillside and graze their flocks on the rich pastures of the valley, which, when depleted, are deserted in favour of the next valley ahead. Moving day, to these people, is a Red Letter one, for all and sundry dismantle the shelters, roll up the
bag and baggage, and collect the flocks.

This group was moving slowly along, and this is the Kurd's golden opportunity. Like the vultures of the mountains he sweeps down in a body of twenty or thirty strong on the inoffensive wanderers and, before the alarm is properly given, half the flock is cut off and driven up a by-valley. Then develops a general stampede of the nomads who, in their flight to safety, leave their all to the tender mercy of the Kurds, who, racing backwards and forwards on magnificent horses, add to the pandemonium by firing their rifles and looking the part of the dreaded desperado.

So, on that sunny morning, ahead of our little column, this group of nomads move slowly on, grazing their flocks on the roadside. Suddenly wild yells and the noise of discharged firearms rent the air, and in a twinkling, about fifty gaily-dressed, well-mounted Kurds dashed out from the cover of the mountains. The women and children shrieked and ran aimlessly off the road, while their gallant protectors, the men folk, squeezed themselves into the smallest places imaginable between the rocks on the mountain side or small nullahs that ran across the road.

Such an opportunity for a friendly scrap was not to be missed, especially in view of the fact that we had not had a fight for many months, so. the order was passed to the advance guard to get busy and move ahead, while a group of the main body moved on to replace them, and another detachment of about half a dozen sergeants under an officer were ordered to move along under cover of the banks of a neighbouring stream. On seeing our approach, the Kurds wheeled their horses, halted, then endeavoured to frighten our fellows by firing a few shots at long range which were immediately replied to.

Seeing we were in earnest most of the Kurds galloped back to the shelter of the mountains, while a few of the more daring spirits among them dismounted at a turn of the road and waited to see us pass, apparently in the friendliest of terms even though we had spoiled their morning's work.
We very soon caught up to the nomads, who had collected their stock and were once again moving slowly on. A few of our men were ordered to remain with them to protect them from further trouble, and no men had the blessings of Allah called down upon their heads more persistently than those men of ours.

The outfit was most amusing, for besides a flock of sheep all branded with red ochre, they had with them about a half-a-dozen cattle on whose backs were lashed the poles and canvas of their shelters. To the others were tied young lambs and small children, while here and there the quiet old ewe had tied to her back one or two pairs of fowls. The men themselves rode the small jack donkeys standing about three feet high, and to see a few of these wild, whiskered nomads astride such an insignificant mount, with their feet dragging along the road, was ludicrous in the extreme. The women, as is customary in the East, trudged along in the rear, and those not carrying infants tied to their backs were laden with the various pots and, paraphernalia of the camp.

The next two days were without incident. The road was fairly good and the valley wide and straight. Away ahead the outlines of the great barrier of mountains, over which we had to cross in order to reach Hamadan, stood clearly out. Food so far was plentiful in the shape of chupatties, mutton, eggs, honey and dried fruits. On May 17th, we faced the great pass through which the Russians had constructed a most excellent road, though in many places from the offside one had an excellent chance of rolling hundreds of feet down the steep slopes.

Of all our marches, up to the present, this for all concerned was the most severe. That day we tramped eighteen miles and ascended 8,ooo feet above sea level to where the snow still lay in great drifts in the mountain crevasses, and it was indeed a weary party that pitched camp that evening and cooked their meal. Nevertheless all were cheerful, as tomorrow would bring us to Hamadan where we would see our leader, General Dunsterville.



Chapter 12 - Hamadan


Next day, after a seventeen-mile tramp, we reached the outskirts of the city where we were met by guides sent out by the General, and they led us to our camping ground situated in the European quarter of the city. After we had pitched camp on a vacant allotment surrounded by trees, we stretched out on our beds to rest. A little later, all the officers were invited to lunch with those already stationed there, and to sit at a table eating chicken, salad, bread and tea was more than fully appreciated. In the afternoon we all assembled to be addressed by old "Stalky" as Dunsterville was termed.     1918-08. Portrait of Major General L. C. Dunsterville, British Officer of the Indian Regular Army, leader of the Dunsterforce expedition which included forty members of the AIF.

He is seated in a Ford car with a Russian officer and members of his staff (not seen) .

The main purpose of Dunsterforce was to reorganise resistance in Mesopotamia and Persia to German penetration of Asia during the period 1918 to 1919.


We stayed at Hamadan until 26th May and three days of rest were most acceptable to all. Breakfast at 8 a.m. was indeed a welcome change from the usual 3.30 a.m. breakfast of the past few weeks.
Naturally we were bent on seeing the city, with the result that early next morning most of us were nosing about the bazaar. The devastating famine was as much in evidence here as at Kirmanshah.

Hamadan is a much better city in many ways than Kirmanshah. Here one comes in contact with more Jews, Armenians, and Chaldeans, who, being better business men have more up-to-date shops with a more lavish display of goods, while the Jewish quarter was more European in style than any yet seen out East. One derived a great deal of comfort from the fact that there was also a European quarter, situated on a beautiful rise overlooking the city, with the impassable barrier of mountains rising in the rear which served as a background to the settlement. Here were the houses of the American missionaries, the Manager of the imperial Bank of Persia, the manager of a carpet factory and others.

Each was constructed on European lines and surrounded by a large allotment of ground which in every case was well cultivated and planted with fruit trees. Dr and Mrs. Funk, of the American Missionary Society, were extremely kind to us. Small tea parties and picnics were arranged, and one can never forget the kindness of these people, especially some months later when so many were sick. Dr. Funk's private library was thrown open to all, and to choose a book and sit down in a comfortable room,
reading and smoking did much to help many along the road to recovery. No trouble was too much for these kind-hearted folk, anything that was thought to be of help or pleasure to us was done, and Mrs. Funk admirably carried out the part of Mother to both officers and sergeants. Should their eyes ever scan these pages may it remind them that the writer remembers with pleasure and gratitude all they did for him while so ill after the awful months of July and August spent in endeavouring to save the refugees from Urmiah.

One never-to-be-forgotten day was Empire Day. Sports were organised, which consisted of tugs-of-war and foot races, such as 120 yards and 440 yards and one mile races. Then Dominion representatives grouped themselves into teams and competed in the Relay race and Tug-of-war, which were won by the New Zealand team, with the Australians as runners-up. All the European, Armenian and Jewish inhabitants turned up in great strength to witness what Hamadan had never beheld before - the British soldier at play. Officers and men mingled together, and took their places on the rope for the tug-of-war, full of the spirit of "pride of race," straining every nerve and sinew in the endeavour to nail their colours to the top of the mast.

When New Zealand won, long and loud were the lusty cheers that greeted the victors, given whole-heartedly by the comrades from the other quarters of the globe. This cheering of the victors by the vanquished was beyond the understanding of the Eastern folk and was witnessed with wide-eyed amazement. One does not hesitate to say, "Thank God for such a spirit!" because it is that spirit of fair play and unstinted acknowledgment of the better team who have won their laurels in a fair
game, which goes so far to make the Britisher the noble and independent fellow he is.

Once more, hats off to the clean, fair game! The staff, during this time, were by no means idle. A big job lay ahead, and to carry it out to its proper extent much had to be done. The small force was isolated and hemmed in by the mountain barriers, inhabited by lawless bandits and cut-throat Kurds, which made up the country whose Government had given us orders to quit. Roads had to be constructed in order to maintain communication with the Mesopotamian Force and be the means of hurrying up relieving troops if we got into difficulties. A Police Force was necessary to maintain law and order in the country administered by the Force. Maps of the occupied country had to be compiled, as none were available beyond those issued which were in most cases newspaper reproductions,
such as the map showing the "Near East Fronts."

Irregulars were necessary to form a garrison to hold the occupied places and repel Turkish raiders. In order to do all this, officers and sergeants were detailed to undertake the various duties. Road gangs were easily procurable since recruits, both men and women, presented themselves in hundreds. Here was work which brought a remuneration in the shape of food and money, and thousands owed their lives to the fact that the British force was able to give them work.Captain Steward, Imperial army and Captain Richard Henry Hooper, MC, originally 58th Battalion, both Dunsterforce men, watch native women working on the road construction at Hamadan.   


An officer was told off as Chief Engineer, whose duty was to survey the roads and raise the necessary labour. Others took charge of the gangs and saw that as much work as possible was done by the labourers. Owing to their awful condition it was necessarily slow, as a fully matured man was unable to do as much as an average British boy of six. Patience and perseverance were rewarded, for in a very short space of time metalled roads appeared here, there and everywhere.

It was at this time that General Dunsterville showed the humane side of his manliness for, at the commencement of this work, he issued orders that, in view of the weak state of the labourers, every officer and sergeant in charge of labourers was to use his judgment, that only as much work was to be done by the worker as could be reasonably expected, and on no account were natives to be harshly treated by those in charge. Patience must be exercised until the workers had regained some degree of strength from the food to be issued.

Odd officers and sergeants were told off to establish soup kitchens and prepare the food for the workers which was issued at the end of each day's work.



Chapter 13 - A Day with the Roadmaker


8 a.m.
"Hurry up! You don't need a coat. Yes, it's chilly yet, but within two hours the sun will simply be a blaze of heat, so hurry along!" That huddled line of men and women are the labourers, and those peculiar wicker baskets are what the stones are carried in from the slopes there to the road. That tall chap there is the officer in charge; he is giving instructions to his two sergeants. They will
control this crowd of 300 odd.

The people are a bit lean to be sure. They have just finished their breakfast of grass. Yes, grass. Don't look so horror-stricken. We'll see them have the same for lunch at midday. They've commenced now; see, they are off to collect the stones. Slowfully and painfully these living skeletons drag one foot after the other, and in about a quarter of an hour return to the job with a basket of stones which were gathered within two hundred yards of the road. Slowly this is tipped out, then the "dressers" place
one after the other in position by hand, inch by inch, yard by yard.

"Slow! Yes, it is, but look at the other gangs along the track. Do you notice they are only separated by a few hundred yards? Well! That is continued for miles, so in time a road will grow and appear complete all at once like the waving of a magician's rod." "Come along and see the next crowd."

12 o'clock.
"Now come along and see them feed. Yes, they are off to grass like cattle. See that little bunch over there, come and watch them closely. This woman, for instance. Oh! the awful look in her face! Why man she is simply a walking skeleton! The skin is drawn over the skull and face bones, and those eyes have sunk right back into her head. See, she pulls the grass up by the roots, knocks the earth off and eats away as if she had never seen food before. Why does she search and examine the grass so? Why, I declare, she is evidently looking for a special brand. Come away, it's too bad. Let us go along to the
kitchens! Here is the sergeant in charge. How are things, sergeant?"  "Good, sir. The old contractor has just brought along a couple of sheep and dried peas and greens. The kitchen hands (Persians) are just killing and dressing the sheep."

We go out and look on. When the sun is hot, these valleys are worse than India. We stay an hour or so. The meat is cut into small hunks and thrown into the copper, together with the dried peas and greens, and all soon gives off a savoury odour. "Let us go to the Engineer's office, and then come back and watch the feeding." We find him hard at work, drafting sketches, ordering timber for alterations to the billets and offices, engaging men, etc. "We won't interrupt this chap, he is going full steam ahead. So let us go back to the soup kitchen."

"See! Here they come. My word! They're getting a wriggle on this time. Yes, no doubt, for who wouldn't when it means food to one who is starving." "What's wrong with their stomach? Oh, that's due to living chiefly on grass. You see the human being has a spleen like a cow, and when it is subjected to grass for a means of sustenance, the spleen is affected and causes that horrible swelling." One sergeant hurries to the end of the race and holds them in check, while another clears the front and keeps the opening in the wall clear. "Righto, Bill, let 'em come," yells the sergeant in charge of the kitchen, and one after the other they pass along and hold out their brass vessels for a scoop of the stew. Then hands ply freely, and, before the other end is reached, all is vanished, and only the licking of pots and hands remain. To ensure them getting a "fair go," you notice the flank sergeant watches the queue pretty closely, and if one dares to turn and rob the one behind, or rushes ahead to the one in front, he feels the full weight of that stick.

"But what is this crowd of unfortunate women and children on the side? Oh, they are waiting for the overflow. When the workers have had their share, each of these groups go through the "race" and get just half that issued to the workers until all is finished. Yes, we do save a few. Thousands owe their lives to the British for what is supplied as you have seen. They ought to be thankful, you say! Well, the people you have seen today are, but there is a big party in this country who have got hold of the European word "democrat," which they call themselves. These are the better class and they overthrew
the previous Shah. They are chiefly tradesmen or the "upper" class. They don't appreciate our work, but rather are out against us, for their pet theory is to allow this "scum" (for so they class the people you have seen to-day) die off, and have) a new Persia arise from amongst the survivors Horrible, you say. Well, yes, but I venture to say that, if you pick out any hundred you like from amongst the workers on this job, you will discover in them every known disease. Perhaps from that point of view it might be better, but we won't discuss that, so let us get back to camp."

There is no "eyewash" about the conditions of Persia as described in that little pen-picture. Incredible as it may appear, the people were so reduced by famine that grass became the principal food of thousands. Later, on the trip from Zenjan to Bijah, havoc of a more devastating nature had swept the countryside clean of inhabitants. Whole villages were without inhabitants, all of whom had died, due to the result of the famine.

Its causes were apparent. Two or three years had been devoid of crops. First the Turk, then the Russians had swept the country bare of what it nourished. To make matters worse, the Government, represented 'by the Shah and thieving ministers, had cornered all the grain. The products of the South, untouched by war and free from famine, were controlled by the royal ring with special care that only a limited quantity at a time was released to the public in order to maintain the high prices. Thus, when one is conversant with the conditions of that time - famine and the devastating work of war, capped by the avarice of the Shah and politicians one feels but little doubt as to the ultimate outcome.



Chapter 14 - The Highway To Kasvin


May 26th saw a party of thirty-five upon the road once more, with orders to push on to Kasvin, a large town near the Caspian Sea. A troop of cavalry had already been sent ahead to clear the road if necessity arose, and it was also hoped that, if events worked smoothly, our party would be able to push ahead to Baku as the representatives of the first British force in that arena. Major Starnes, D.S.O., of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force was in command. He stood about 5ft. 7in. and though thin, he was all sinew and muscle, and the square jaw set off a lean but determined face. One always felt safe with Starnes as he never minced matters and, if the opportunity arose, the enemy would never be able to complain of his want of enterprise. As he himself always said, "I'm not much to look at, but I'm always there when the whips crack."

The party was subdivided into two groups. Nos. 1 and 2 - No. 1 being the Imperial men and No. 2 the Dominion troops, and I was fortunate enough to be given command of the latter. Camels and mules were brought along to convey our baggage, and this was our first experience of the camel. They were brought along in groups of four to six, the leading rope of one tied on to the harness of the one in front, the leader being led by a Persian. Groups were given their required number by a quartermaster, Captain R. Hooper, M.C., of King Island, and one by one they were brought to their knees, despite the disapproval on their part demonstrated by prolonged fits of bellowing. Like our first experience of loading mules, the camel loading was not of the best, and throughout that day more than one group of three or four men cursed the humped-backed camel in their endeavours to reload the baggage that had fallen off.

The information given on leaving Hamadan was that water would be found sixteen miles along the road where it was proposed to camp. The heat, as the season advanced, was becoming more intense, and after three winters in France, one's blood had thickened, and all naturally felt the climate considerably. The road ahead had been constructed by the Russians and was extremely good, though the metal played up with the boots and feet.

After skirting the city, the straight road ahead led to the mountains and to the sixteen-mile water point. This was reached at about 4 p.m. when, much to the disappointment of all, it was soon discovered that the water had dried up. As there was no Moses with the rod amongst us, the only thing left to do was to push on until water could be found. Over the ridge marched that small, tired and hard-swearing column in search of water and a place to camp. Captain Hooper, who, being mounted, pushed ahead to reconnoitre, after awhile sent word by the interpreter that he had found a stream near a village six miles ahead. The sigh of "Thank God for that!" ran through the groups, and a spurt was put on to get there before nightfall.

Just before dusk we were led off the road by Captain Hooper to a camping ground on the upstream side of the village. Tents soon took shape and almost immediately food was distributed by the quartermaster. On May 31st we arrived at a roadside village called Abba Garm, the native name for boiling water. The preceding days were much of a muchness, the road being good and, though the country was stated to be in a dangerous condition, we arrived without mishap. The reports of Russian parties being massacred were verified, as at intervals we passed overturned Russian motor transports denoting where some luckless party had come into conflict with the tribesmen and had been murdered on the wayside. Yet, whether it was the fear of the British name or that exaggerated reports had been spread, we were spared to pass through this hostile stretch of country without mishap.

Before the war, the Russians, as it is known, had virtually the entire control of Northern Persia which was regarded as their sphere, according to an agreement between the British and Russian Governments. In order to develop trade, the Russians had opened up the country by constructing first-class roads, and at various intervals had erected blockhouses or posts, where a small Russian detachment was stationed. The real object of these posts was to collect toll from the passing caravans in order to pay for the construction and repair of the roads.

Abba Garin, the place of boiling water, was a village on the roadside near one of these Russian posts, and here is seen one of the oddities of Nature. The town itself is straggling, the houses being built entirely of mud bricks, the villagers grazing their flocks on the rich pasture lands of the valley, through which flowed a beautiful creek. The road beyond the village rose over a spur which jutted out to the bank of the stream, and stood out as clearly as the Sphinx on the Egyptian desert. Rising from this rock was a cloud of steam, and it was here that we were told the boiling springs gushed forth amid numerous icy cold springs. After pitching camp and receiving our issue of rations, small parties wended their way down to take the opportunity of bathing in the hot sulphur waters.

Turning off from the road, a track led to the rocky spur and, sure enough, we passed numerous icy cold springs. On reaching the end, we saw gushing from the rocks the boiling sulphur waters. Beside one of these cold icy springs, within three feet bubbled the water from a boiling spring. It was an easy matter to place the right hand in the cold water of one and the left in the boiling spring alongside. At the end of this large rock, the Russians had built a small stone hut over the largest of the boiling springs, and inside had excavated a huge bath in the solid stone. At one corner, the boiling water gushed forth, and, on filling this bath, overflowed and tumbled down in a small waterfall into the cold  waters of the stream that flowed alongside. Not much time was wasted in throwing off the few clothes we wore on the march, and there for an hour we revelled in the beautiful hot waters of this bath of Nature.



Chapter 15 - Kasvin


0n June 3rd we arrived at a small village just outside Kasvin and there pitched camp, awaiting orders as to our future movements. Feeling somewhat leg-weary after so much continuous marching we were quite content to spend the next day as Sunday, making it a day of complete rest, but on the following day most of the party were bargain hunting in the bazaar. Kasvin being comparatively close to the Caspian Sea was more European in appearance than any of the Southern cities. Here there are many fine Russian shops and hotels. One street is really fine, having an avenue of trees planted for about a mile through the city, a splendid shelter being afforded by these overlapping trees, the branches of those on one side of the road intermingling with those of the other.

After exploring this portion of the city for a considerable time we decided to lunch at one of the hotels. The food set before us was of the best, being soup, poultry, mutton, vegetables and sweets. To sit on a chair, drawn up to a table, covered with a white cloth, with table-napkins thrown in, was indeed a welcome change from the camp meal!

After lunch we made for the bazaars which appeared to be stocked to overflowing with all classes of goods, especially Persian cigarettes. These are much like Virginians in appearance, but far removed in taste. What weed they are made from is a mystery. Still, when one is "on his uppers" for a smoke, anything pertaining to the shape or colour of a cigarette will do. So large supplies were bought and, when next we moved, many a camel carried a bulkier load in the shape of a couple of months' supply of cigarettes. Other purchases were made in the shape of tea, sugar, curry, and dried fruits, to act as a standby in the event of any scarcity of food on the track, which we hoped would lead to the Caspian Sea.

Next day our hopes of reaching the Caucasus were dashed to the ground as we received information that a chief, named Kuchik Khan, was in the pay of the enemy. As he had 5,000 troops at his disposal this barred the way to the Caspian. Seeing our force was about thirty strong, our chances of moving forward were somewhat meagre.



Chapter 16 - Pioneering


A glance at the general situation at this stage is necessary in order to understand the value of our future movements. General Dunsterville had established his headquarters at Hamadan, as the most central place, and our force held the main Baghdad - Caspian Road from Baghdad to Kasvin, a position most favourable for our enterprise, since, by holding this highway we also controlled the roads which lead from Turkey to India. Posts were being established at intervals, and the road gangs were hard at work in constructing new roads and reconstructing those out of repair. In order to secure our position is was essential to push out posts along the roads leading from the North, the reason being to hold the Turks in the passes through which these roads ran and, if any raids were attempted, to delay them sufficiently to enable the General to reinforce any portion of the line before the enemy reached the main highway.

With this move in mind, a group of about our own strength was sent from Hamadan to Zenjan, another from Kirmanshah to Senna, while we were ordered to march to Bijah, via Zengan, picking up a Wireless Section at the latter place. The other parties were to be equipped with wireless also, in order to keep in touch with headquarters and with each other. Kasvin was to be held by two troops of cavalry, another one having moved in to reinforce the first troop, and another party, similar to our own, was also on its way.

On June 6th, we were on the move once more, feeling rather "fed-up" at the thought of being barred the honour of pushing on to Baku, but this feeling was counteracted by the fact that we had to undertake the most venturesome task of any of the parties in pushing across the unknown and unmapped country between Zengan and Bijah. Before leaving Kasvin we were assembled and any man who did not relish the trip was given the chance to remain behind and join the next party that was moving up. Even though the chances of the march ahead, through enemy controlled country was full of dangers, not one man demurred, and once again we were all volunteers on a perilous undertaking.

That night we encamped near an old Caravanserai, one of the havens of refuge to the convoys on the great highways of Persia. Built four-square, it covered about a quarter of an acre while the outer walls, standing some twenty feet high, were composed entirely of mud bricks. At each wall was built a gate of burnt bricks, through which the convoys entered. Inside were dozens of small rooms, erected close to the walls. Here the muleteers store their goods and find rest for themselves. The open courtyard was paved and even in winter it was comparatively dry for the animals. On one corner was erected the inevitable Persian teashop, where the passer-by halts to obtain a glass of the beverage of the country, and swops [sic] yarns by the hour with those assembled therein.

These places are most popular, as they provide protection for the passing caravan, from the raiding Kurds and tribesmen, who would soon make short work of animals and goods if the muleteers were so foolish as to camp overnight in the open. That night we met the party moving up to Kasvin and, as they pitched camp nearby, it seemed like old times once more. Many a pleasant hour was spent in yarning over past work and guessing at future operations.

Next morning we moved on once more, saying goodbye to the other fellows. Swinging off to the Zenjan Road, we were once more alone in our undertaking. The country through which we passed for the first few days was well cultivated and rich in vineyards. The hills, being more open, gave larger grazing grounds for the stock and richer soil for the husbandman. Here one had most excellent opportunities of examining the wonderful, though primitive, methods of irrigation. The system has  survived for centuries, and was imported to Northern India by the Great Moguls.

Springs are located in the distant hills and then, from the low flats, holes are sunk some twenty yards apart in a line to the subterranean spring. These are then linked up by driving a tunnel from one to the other, during which operation levels are considered. When the spring is tapped, the waters flow along these subterranean courses to the village flats, There the holes are sunk shallower and shallower until the water is brought to the surface. Then open canals are cut out, following the line of the contours overlooking the cultivated plots. From the main canal smaller ones are cut, which run through the plots. By these the water is directed in sufficient quantities to irrigate the crops regulated by banking up the junction with mud, when sufficient has flowed through.



Chapter 17 - An Awkward Predicament


A few days later we were pushing along in the usual style, with the advance guard well ahead, and the main body, with the mules and camels, moving steadily in compact formation. The advance guard, at this stage, could not see more than half a mile of the road ahead, the remainder of the track being obscured from view by a ridge over which it ran. The men were in the best of spirits, and taking things very easily during the cooler hours of the march. This quietness was turned into a scene of inward, if not outward excitement, for suddenly over the ridge galloped a band of well-armed horsemen. On seeing our approach, they immediately halted and, after scanning our outfit for a few  minutes, wheeled and galloped back along the road over which they had come.

Such a thing as halting could not be entertained by us until that ridge had been occupied by the advance party, who pushed off as hard as they could go to gain that position. As the remainder of us came up, we saw ahead of us a column of mules and camels, preceded by armed troops with fixed bayonets. Again there was no chance of our retirement for, with our long strings of mules and camels, it would be the height of foolishness to show our backs to this force ahead of us. After passing the word for our detachment to be prepared for eventualities and strengthening the advance guard, we  moved on once more, determined to put on a bold front and accept whatever was coming our way.

The show ahead of us, though much stronger, was apparently every bit as much disturbed as we ourselves were. On the approach of the mounted men, who were doubtless the advance guard, the Commander rode up to them and, after much gesticulating, one or two mounted orderlies were sent riding back along the column giving instructions to groups here and there. We marched steadily on and, within five hundred yards of this force, we were met by the commanding officer who, in a very excited manner, began plying us right and left with such questions as, "Who are you?" "Where do you come from?" and "Where are you going?" The answers were apparently to his satisfaction and, after much bowing and scraping and shaking of hands, we moved on once more, the Commander himself insisting upon accompanying us to the other end of his column.

As we moved along we had a good opportunity of sizing the show up and seeing what was tied to the backs of the mules and camels. These animals were strung together in groups of about fifteen to twenty, and were burdened with chests, containing rifles and boxes of ammunition. Every here and there marched a small group of armed Persians, each carrying a rifle with fixed bayonet. On passing us, they gripped the butts of their rifles tighter, showing on their faces their own apprehension, for doubtless they expected to be rushed and butchered at any moment by our party. Now and then a  Russian officer was passed and the usual military compliments exchanged. The native troops, on seeing that their own Russian officers were cordially received by us, cordially returned our salutes and were to some extent relieved of their anxiety. The column was so long that it took about half an hour to pass from the advance guard to the rear guard.

We afterwards heard it was a convoy of Russian rifles and ammunition, purchased from the Russians by the Shah, on the way from Tabriz to Teheran. On passing the end of that column and arriving at a hill which overlooked the whole of the road for miles, we halted. We felt much freer than when we ascended the first ridge and came in full view of this unknown party.



Chapter 18 - The City Of Zenjan


A few days later, without further mishap, we arrived at Zenjan, the capital of one of the northern provinces. Within a couple of miles of this city we were met by a British officer, who had been sent out by the commanding officer of the small party sent from Hamadan to hold this city. After a rest of an hour, during which time we ate a couple of chapatties and three or four eggs for our lunch, and smoked a couple of the vile Persian cigarettes, we moved on once more and were guided to our camping ground, situated on the slopes of a hill overlooking the city itself. We were all unanimous in voting that this party knew a camping ground, for the one selected for us was situated in an orchard through which ran a beautiful stream of fresh water.

After unloading the animals we soon erected our tents under the shade of the large fruit trees, and there rested for the remainder of the day. As we were to be here for a few days, before undertaking the march to Bijah across unknown country, we determined to put in the time in buying as much provisions in the shape of dried fruits, tea, sugar and flour, as could conveniently be carried. During the last few days of the march, some little difficulty had been experienced in obtaining sufficient  rations. From reports to hand, the trip of one hundred and twenty miles which lay ahead of us, was to be made through a country stricken bare by famine and war. As no risks could be taken, the precaution of having at least quarter rations was necessary before we undertook the journey.

Early next morning small groups of the party were distributed through Zenjan in their endeavour to buy the required rations. It was at this time that Captain Hooper, our worthy quartermaster, displayed so much foresight in buying up a large supply of the necessary provisions. The trades-people of the town were soon found to be anything but well disposed towards us, and their attitude was seen to be that of passive resistance. It must be remembered that this portion of Persia is very close to the Turkish border, and the language spoken is more Turkish than Persian in character. Doubtless their sympathies would be with the Turks rather than with the Britishers. Not much difficulty was  experienced in buying the stuff, but the shopkeepers themselves showed no interest in trying to conduct business with us. Nothing could be bought beyond that which was outwardly displayed in the small shops of the bazaar, and more often than not the merchant had to be asked two or three times the price of his goods.

In nearly every case, the first question met with no response, as he invariably pretended not to hear.  It was while in camp here that a brother officer and myself had a remarkable experience. After having enjoyed our evening meal, we decided to fill our pipes and go for a little stroll across the open paddocks beyond the orchard. As the camp was a good mile from the city, little danger was entertained by either of us, so we decided to go out without taking the usual precaution of strapping our revolvers to our sides, and as the evening was mild, we also left our tunics behind. As we strolled aimlessly across the fields, engaged in pleasant conversation and enjoying the pleasure of a quiet pipe after the evening meal, we were quite unaware of any lurking dangers until a couple of straggling Turks rose from out of the nullah about twenty yards ahead.

Which party was the most surprised it is hard to say, but I can give you my word that neither my pal nor myself felt too happy. As in other cases, we decided to take the bull by the horns and hurry matters to a climax by rushing our pair of Turks before they had an opportunity to recover from their surprise. In a twinkling we were up to them and by signs ordered them to put their hands up. This they did without demur, and after satisfying ourselves that they were without revolvers or knives, we walked them across to the camp, feeling quite proud of being the possessors of the first captured Turks.

We took them along to our commanding officer, and after he had handed them to the interpreter, we discovered that they were Turkish deserters who had recently come down from the northern districts. They also informed us that there were many more of their comrades wandering about the country in search of the British troops, whom they heard were moving up their way, hoping to be able to surrender themselves and escape the hard work and starvation rations of their own forces. This was good news to us, knowing that we had to undertake a dangerous march through country where Turks were stationed, and we felt more happy at knowing that the opposing forces were in this demoralised condition.

Next morning we received information that there were more Turks lurking about the city, so a few of us decided on capturing these birds, but this time we made sure of having our revolvers, and a good supply of ammunition. We spent a couple of hours in exploring the bazaars without success, but were rewarded as we were about to leave the city when we ran into about twenty-five grey-coated Turks. It was soon apparent that they were not as eager to surrender as their comrades whom we captured the night before, for, on seeing us, they scattered in all directions, and we were only able to collar three of this bunch. As we stood guarding these while others of our party chased the remainder through narrow alleys, the citizens of the town gathered round about in great force, and we were subjected to their black scowls and howling threats for some five to ten minutes until the remainder of our fellows came back.

The sight of their co-religionists being captured by the hated infidel British incensed the crowd to the height of their wrath, and many attempts were made to release our prisoners. However, we kept the  threatening mob at a safe distance by drawing our revolvers, and managed to get our prisoners safely out of the town.

This city, as in others of Persia, had its large percentage of starving inhabitants, and on hearing of the Turks being taken prisoner by us, and of their good treatment, many of the inhabitants determined to present themselves to our camp in the guise of Turkish deserters. For the remaining few days the busiest man in our outfit was the unfortunate interpreter, who was kept fully engaged in trying to sort out the Persian from the Turk, for the former came along and swore by Allah and the Prophet that he was a Turkish soldier in Persian disguise who had tramped miles to surrender himself to the British. One can hardly blame the deceit of these people when one knew that hundreds were dying from starvation alone.

Not only were we pestered by these pretenders, but had crowds of women hanging around the camp, squatting on the outskirts like crows on a rail waiting either for a stray morsel or for a job of work at washing clothes. Most of us availed ourselves of the opportunity of hiring their services, not that we had neglected this job, but the opportunity of having someone else to do it for us was much more acceptable than doing our own. So for a few days the good ladies were kept rather busy, and an amusing hour was spent in watching them at work.

They gathered their share of work in bundles and then made a bee line for the stream, and were soon busy with a large round tray and a piece of soap, or to be more correct, fat. The articles were first well soaked in the stream, and then soaped on the tray. A large stone was then rolled to the edge of the water and a shirt or singlet well soaped, rolled into a knot, and placed on top of the stone. A smaller one was then secured and the unfortunate piece of clothing subjected to a vigorous pounding for a few minutes. It was then soaked again and re-soaped, then again another dose of pulverisation.

While the ladies are thus employed they have but little chance of keeping the covering hood over their faces, and it is here that one has an opportunity of ascertaining their beauty. The younger women, as a rule, have pleasant, though plump faces. The dark eyes and long eyelashes doubtless being a great asset to any claim of beauty, but as they advance in years, they coarsen and are by no means attractive.



Chapter 19 - A Perilous Journey


June 14th was the day upon which we were due to leave Zenjan with orders to push across to Bijah, the capital of a neighbouring province. No maps were available and nothing was known of any roads or tracks leading across the mountains to our destination, but Hadja Baba, our muleteer, swore by Allah and all the prophets that the road was as well known to him and his men as the sacred Koran itself, so we left the task of providing guides to his gentle care.

To make our path smoother, we hired the services of a well-known citizen of Zenjan who professed friendship to the British, to act as political agent in conjunction with Major Chaldecott, the British political officer attached to our party as Intelligence officer. Fresh mules and camels were brought along, as our late muleteers, on learning that we were to push on to a hostile country, gave us the slip. The chance of bumping into a strong force of Turks did not appeal to their fancy so they cleared out under cover of darkness without collecting the balance of their wages, but being Easterners, this  apparently did not trouble them in the least, for their attitude was - "Is it not better to leave a little money and praise Allah in the orthodox fashion than for our bodies to provide a repast for the vultures of the mountains? What is money? Surely Allah is good and will protect the faithful."

Fortunately we were able to obtain other mules and camels which came along to the camp at the appointed hour, and after a lot of trouble with fresh animals, we eventually loaded up. Of all the obstreperous beasts of burden the camel takes the bun, especially when he has only been handled by natives. Whether it is that we smell differently from the native or the native in his filth provides the only known perfume to the camel's nostrils, it is hard to say, but it was noticeable that, on every occasion that we took over new beasts, we had a very bad time for at least three or four days in trying to load them.

It took one all his time to keep clear of some of these vicious animals. So it will be seen that, after loading up fresh animals with their attendant troubles, the party were not in the best of tempers when they got on the high road leading out from Zenjan. A few alterations had been made in the command of our group, as the O.C., Major Starnes, D.S.O., had received orders to sketch a map of the country through which we were to pass. This meant that the whole of his time, together with the assistance of his Adjutant, would be devoted to this work, and I was lucky enough to be given command of the party as we moved across the unknown. My duties were to see that the column was on the road at the earliest possible moment after dawn, that the advance guard was well placed ahead of the column, and the rear guard in readiness to fall in behind. Besides this, the mules had to be got out in their respective groups, with the required number of men told off as convoy escort.

Before we left Zenjan we took over a section of the Wireless Corps in order to maintain communications with the other posts. On arrival at camp each night this wireless apparatus was erected, and we informed our comrades of the neighbouring posts that so far we were all right. The second day out we swung off what, with the greater stretch of imagination, might be called the main road, and travelled across country, picking up caravan tracks here and there. We were soon faced with the fact that the country was destitute of any means of providing food, for, of all the villages we passed during this march, it was a rare thing to discover one inhabitant. The nature of the country became rougher, though the view one obtained from the ridges was beyond description.

On gaining these heights one could obtain a view of from twenty to twenty-five miles of country that seemed to have been the playground of some evil genii, who had pulled great handfuls from the earth and tossed them holus-bolus in all directions, forming mountains of most fantastic formation. Not a tree could be seen, but on the lower foothills there was a plentiful supply of grass which appeared to be the background for thousands of wild flowers, growing in great profusion and vying with the rainbow for richness of colour.

Water was becoming scarcer and scarcer, for the small streams, fed with the melting snows, had long since disappeared with the advance of summer. The track zig-zagged in and out between the hundreds of small mountains, sometimes taking us down to the depths of a great valley, then over the top of an almost impassable ridge. The constant jostling and foot-propping of the mules over these rough tracks loosened the surcingles which strap the loads on the animals' backs, and before going many miles our baggage would be tumbling off in all directions. No richer flow of dinkum language could be heard elsewhere than was given expression to by the fed-up little groups in trying to re-load the gear. The muleteers we had at this stage were not the most intelligent that one could wish for, and instead of lending a hand would invariably sneak off, pretending not to see the load that had fallen off.

One of the most sterling sergeants of the party, Sergeant Murphy of Western Australia, was placed in charge of the convoy because of the large experience he had had in peaceful days, trekking with camels across the great stretches, of North- Western Australia. Murphy was one of these easy-going fellows that would take a lot to put out, but on one occasion while crossing a difficult nullah, when load after load fell off as the camels attempted to climb the steep further bank after coming down an incline, tried his temper to the utmost. He stood on the further bank and there shouted directions to the muleteers as they negotiated the bad pinch. By this time most of them had felt the weight of his boot, but one hulking Persian deigned it beneath his dignity as a cameleer to take directions from a British soldier, and tried to climb up the bank according to his own way of thinking. The result was obvious before the attempt was made, and hardly before his camels had got half way up when the first stumbled and fell back on to those behind. The result was an awful mix-up of overturned loads, and a general stampede of the free camels took place.

Nothing daunted, the native in charge, who had caused the whole trouble, adopted the usual tactics of trying to sneak away, but the watchful eye of Murphy was too quick to allow this, so collaring the fellow by the scruff of the neck, he hauled him out and told him to get busy in trying to extricate the unfortunate camels. This he did, but while Murphy was directing those coming on, he again sneaked off, but had not gone more than twenty yards when he was pounced on. He wore the national hat of Persia, which is shaped like a large beehive and stands about eighteen inches high, being made of hard, black felt.

This appealed to Murphy's eye, and after shaking the life out of him, he gave the hat a tremendous bang, forcing it down over his head to the shoulders, then wheeling him about, kicked him yard by yard back to his team. There our worthy native put in some five minutes endeavouring, with the assistance of a fellow countryman, to extricate his head, from his hat. We all voted that this guy's neck was at least two inches longer after so much tugging at the obstinate head gear.

The third day was over much easier country, as the track followed the course of a fairly wide river, but though it ran through flatter country, and this meant easier walking, it proved itself to be rather a formidable obstacle, when we had to ford it. In order to do this the mules and camels came in very to ford it. In order to do this the mules and camels came in very handy, and one after the other we scrambled on to their backs and made the crossing safely, though one or two less fortunate pals were not able to sit on top of the lurching unwieldy mounts and took a sixer into the stream below. Though most uncomfortable to themselves, their plight at least provided great amusement to those who  managed to cross without mishap.

The next day’s journey led over the roughest country we had yet crossed, the track zig-zagged over spur after spur and, after doing some eighteen miles, we were faced with about a three thousand feet climb. After so much experience with our mules and camels we had discovered that the loads fall off more frequently during the first couple of stages of the march than later on when the animals seemed to be more their normal size. After gorging all night on the rich grasses of the valley, they came in the morning shaped more like balloons set on four pegs than the animals they were supposed to be and when once on the roads lessen in size, which means the loosening of surcingles and tumbling down of the loads. After sizing up the obstacle before us, we decided it would be far better for all concerned to climb that three thousand feet with the animals in their present state than when blown out, as they would surely be in the morning.

Tired and dusty as we were, we set off after a spell of half an hour, and spent about two hours in toiling up to the top of the rise. Our efforts were rewarded, in that the top of the hill was perfectly flat, forming a great tableland, and not far from the camp site a spring bubbled up from between the  rocks. Water was becoming scarcer every day, and Nature, not satisfied with inflicting this upon us, went a good deal further in filling the streams with alkali which provides the fiercest thirst imaginable. If one wishes to go in for training for some function a month ahead where unlimited thirst is essential, then I would recommend a trip to the hills of North-west Persia and partake of the water of the streams thereof.

At this time we had our first sample of sickness, as several of the fellows were down with dysentery. Fortunately, on leaving Kasvin, we had attached to us an assistant-surgeon who proved to be a veritable godsend from this time onwards. The country, being deserted of inhabitants, was naturally without food. Our worthy quartermaster was at his wits' end, trying to buy up an odd sheep here and there, which very often meant him riding to some village miles off the beaten track. Owing to his  foresight before leaving Zenjan, we had at least a fair supply of rice, flour, dried fruits, tea and sugar, and during this five days' trek, we would generally boil a little rice for breakfast, another lot for supper, and would consider ourselves very lucky if we were able to have meat for the evening meal. For lunch, we generally had a big drink of water and would then tighten the belt and consider that we had a fair meal.

This was all bad enough, but fortunately we were in the best of spirits and, when not always feeling  satisfied in the inner man, would pass it off with a joke. So far we had gleaned no intelligence of the whereabouts of the Turks, but on the fourth day we arrived at a village on the banks of a fairly wide stream, and there were told that a Turkish convoy with ammunition, for Kuchik Khan had camped there only a few days previously, and had somehow managed to pass us without being detected. The  knowledge of this by no means improved our tempers, as such a chance of bagging a catch of this description was hard to let pass.

Anyhow, Fortune did not favour us, and, even had we wished, there was no hope of catching them in the rough country over which we had passed, where they would be sheltered by so many valleys running in between the hills. Disappointed at letting the Turks pass through our fingers, but encouraged by the fact that there was only one more day's march to complete, we set off on the final stage for Bijah, and within an hour arrived at the high road leading to that city. We had travelled by this time a good one hundred miles during the five days, the whole of which time was done on short rations across roadless regions. Our only guide was a prismatic compass which, useful as it might be, is not the easiest thing to travel on through country of that description.

Fortunately we struck this main road only twenty miles north of the city, and later in the afternoon we arrived on the outskirts of the town itself, pitched camp near an outlying orchard, and prepared ourselves for a tremendous meal, for the quartermaster had obtained a good supply of mutton and rice. The people of Bijah, from the Governor down to the meanest inhabitant, were at a loss to account for our appearance in their domains. They certainly knew that a British force was around about Hamadan about a hundred miles further south, but how on earth this party of some thirty men arrived at the town from the north was a puzzle beyond their solution.

The camp had no sooner taken shape when the Governor and his wise men rode along and, after a deal of salaaming, were persuaded to dismount and have a cup of tea with the Commanding Officer. Any illusions which they might have had as to our poisoning them were soon dispelled when our worthy agent put in an appearance and made himself known as one of the reputable citizens of Zenjan, producing his credentials to prove the fact.

While this pow-wowing was going on, the wireless people were erecting their apparatus, and were soon flashing forth the message that we had arrived at our destination without mishap. Overlooking the camp was a high spur of mountains which commanded a full view of the city and the roads leading thereto, and after a short reconnaissance [sic], a piquet was posted upon this height. Thus on June i8th we arrived at our destination, after having marched a distance of about six hundred miles, through a country in parts practically, and in most parts, absolutely unknown. After leaving Kasvin no maps were available, and we had to trust our guides to lead us through a semi-and in parts wholly-hostile country in which there were known to be Turkish outposts.

Up to Kasvin we did not have a man who understood even the rudiments of medicine and, even after that, the man attached was only an assistant-surgeon. Certainly we carried our own medicines, but it is hard to guess correctly what ails one, or again what medicines to take. The gods were indeed kind as we were all comparatively well on reaching Bijah and only two or three had dropped out at Hamadan.



Chapter 20 -The Lone Outpost


At last we were in the field of our operations and in touch with the surrounding posts and headquarters at Hamadan with wireless. In order to understand exactly the whole sphere of operations and our own little efforts in regard to the whole, it is as well at this stage again to review the general situation.

At Hamadan, General Dunsterville had established his headquarters with posts here and there to the Mesopotamian force, and up as far as Kasvin. Thus the whole road, from this important town back as far as Baghdad, was in the hands of the British and, so long as we held this stretch of country, the Turks and Germans were blocked in any attempt they might make in sending convoys of ammunition or money to the dissatisfied tribes of the North-west frontier of India. In order to hold this road, it was necessary to throw out posts to the north-west, holding those which led down from Turkey to India at the most suitable places. We had established a post at Miana, a town north of Zenjan, which held the main eastern road. Ours, at Bijah, commanded the centre while another post had been thrown out from Kirmanshah to a town called Senna which commanded the western of the three roads. Thus, if the Turk moved down either of these approaches, Hamadan would be immediately notified by wireless, and the group established at the particular place would take up their position in such a manner as to be able to keep back any force, though they themselves were few in number.

To do this, great judgment had to be displayed in selecting the most commanding position where a small force could keep at bay a larger and better equipped force. This would give General Dunsterville time to move any reserve of troops or native levies to the threatened point. Thus we were able with these small posts and our wireless sections to hold the whole country, without the employment of large bodies of men.

The first thing, essential to obtain a footing in any of these posts in outlying districts was to secure the goodwill of the Governor of the Province. Early next day the C.O., with the Intelligence Officer and native agent, paid a call on our worthy Governor of Bijah, while we had a look over the town. At first we were ill-received by the inhabitants, who had had their full share of war and its attendant miseries. The Turks had been there and the Russians had driven them out, to be themselves dislodged by the Turks a little later, but the town eventually was occupied by the Russians, who held it up to the time of the Revolution. Both the Turk and the Russian had done their best to destroy or carry off all the moveable goods and the household furniture of the inhabitants, so it can be readily imagined that a fresh batch of troops of a strange nationality would not be made welcome.

The bazaars in many places had been burnt out, and the unfortunate tradesmen were still endeavouring to make some sort of a living by selling small quantities of the produce of the country. The better class of people had been entirely ruined by the war, their houses in nearly every case being destroyed by either the Turk or the Russian. To add to the miseries wrought by war, thousands of the inhabitants had died from the effects of that dread disease, cholera, or from starvation due to the famine, and on our arrival, hundreds of the survivors were on the verge of starvation.

In order to hold the place, a knowledge of the surrounding country was essential, not only for our own use, but for our Commander back at Hamadan, so after a couple of days' rest, many of us were told off to make road surveys and maps of the surrounding country. It was known that a road led back to Hamadan, but as to what condition it was in no one knew. As it was most important that this should be ascertained, in order to send up troops if necessary, a party was detailed to make a thorough reconnaissance of the road between Bijah and Hamadan. A Canadian officer, Captain Fisher, M.C., with a couple of N.C.O's were told off for this job, and Hamadan was accordingly notified.

It was known that the surrounding tribesmen were anything but friendly and though this dash through to Hamadan was a very precarious undertaking, the chance of being scuppered by the wild tribesmen did not daunt these men. They started off a few days later and rode, with only one halt, over the hundred miles stretch of road. It was welcome news to the remainder of us when our wireless station picked up the message that they had arrived safely at Hamadan.

In these reconnaissances [sic] it was not sufficient to mark down on paper the direction of the roads, but it was also essential to take note of any position that might adapt itself as a defensive position for our own use, or offensive for the use of the enemy. It was also necessary to note the quantity of grain and produce under cultivation, for the simple reason that we never knew at what time we might be cut off from our comrades further south at Hamadan and, should we remain here for the winter, it was certain that no convoys could be brought to the town owing to the snow-bound nature of the roads through the passes. So day after day small groups would be detailed to ride out through the neighbouring country in order to ascertain this information.



Chapter 21 - A Narrow Escape


As at Zenjan, the women of the city flocked to the camp in search of washing, and to see these poor creatures waiting all day in the hope of being able to earn a few coins was most pitiful. One morning I went out in search of someone to do my washing and came across a little girl of about twelve or thirteen years of age who, seeing that there was an opportunity of earning something, came along offering to do the job. I gave her the clothes and made her understand to bring them along after they were finished, which she did.

Being struck by the cleanliness of the child, for the few clothes she wore were spick and span, her face and hands clean and her hair combed, a strange contrast indeed to the condition of most of the ladies who hung round the camp. I took her to the interpreter and got him to ask her where she came from and what she was doing, and why it was necessary that she was in search of work. She immediately burst into tears and informed us that the day before she had walked in from a village seventeen miles away as the last of her family had died of cholera. She assured us that she had no relatives or friends in the world and, on hearing that there were British soldiers in the neighbourhood, she decided to come down hoping that she might be able to earn some money to buy sufficient food for herself. Feeling sure that her story was true, I decided at all events to do a little for one, who, without assistance, would die in the course of a few weeks.

I asked the interpreter if it was possible to get her into some Persian's home and by the payment of a little money obtain for her a home and food. He assured me that this could be done, so after telling, him to get busy, I told the child to wait near by for a little while. Later on, the interpreter came back and informed me he was able to place her in a home, and after interviewing the lord and master paid him something in advance to take her in at once. Everything went well for a few days and I was consoling myself with the fact that she was being well cared for, when she came to the camp, and I discovered that the good people in whose charge she was, were making a good thing out of the money I was giving them and starving her into the bargain. Feeling very much annoyed at this, I took the interpreter along to this household, and by threatening all sorts of calamities to these people, obtained from them the promise that the offence would not be repeated.

I then took to the youngster into the bazaar in order to buy her a pair of shoes as she was barefooted, and as the lady of the house promised to make her some clothes if I produced the material, I resolved to purchase some cheap cloth as well. Going from one merchant to another in the bazaar I eventually procured both boots and material, and also a few bright coloured beads which took the eye of my little lady. Being absolutely unaware of doing any wrong, I was quite naturally not displeased at the Persians as they edged closer and sized me up while completing the purchase. Feeling quite pleased with the efforts of the last couple of hours, and the little girl in high spirits at the thought of new dresses, boots and bright bead necklaces, we wended our way out once more.

Suddenly a howling mob came tearing along the bazaar in full chase as I thought of some robber or murderer. At the head of them came the Commissioner of Police, a tall fellow in the gaudiest of Russian uniforms, full of his own importance. Standing to one side to allow him to pass, I was quite surprised when he drew alongside and the whole mob surrounded us, and then the worthy Commissioner commenced talking in Persian as fast as he could let his tongue go, accompanied by the working of his arms and legs like a jack-in-the-box being operated by very fast strings. Not making head or tail out of the whole business. I made him understand that I would go with him to the Police Station and then we would send for the interpreter.

This we did, and shortly afterwards the interpreter put in an appearance, and after a lot of parleying, informed me that I had committed a breach of one of their laws which was considered to be of the utmost importance, both from a religious and civil standpoint, in that I had taken a woman of the Mahommedan [sic] faith through the bazaar of her own city in broad daylight and purchased for her  clothing and ornaments! Their idea of a woman very much appealed to my sense of humour, as I could hardly class a child of some twelve years of age as being a full-grown woman of the world. This I asked the interpreter to inform the worthy Commissioner of Police. His reply was that I could consider myself the most fortunate of men as he, while walking down the bazaar, had come across the mob who had gathered themselves together in order to scupper me, but he had persuaded them to lead him to the infidel in order that he might inflict just punishment for such a crime.

I thanked him very much for his kind interference and for the fact that he had probably saved my life, but pointed out at the same time that I understood the rudiments of his religion and ours of the Western nations were much of a sameness, in that it was our duty to do what good that lay in our power. He agreed with this and assured me that he realised that my intentions were anything but what they  supposed them to be, and he would thus notify the people who remained outside to hear the verdict of his decision.

I then asked him if I could send the youngster home to the people where I had arranged that she should stay. He said this was absolutely impossible, but that he as chief commissioner would take her under his care. This was all that I wanted, and I again thanked him for his courtesy, and asked him if he would give the child the goods I had purchased for her. He informed me this was impossible, as even though he could realise the spirit of the gift, yet he could not make the people believe that it was right for a lady of the Mahommedan [sic] faith to accept a gift from an infidel, but promised me if I gave him the goods he would distribute them to needy cases. So, there being no other option, things were left at that.

I saw this child on several occasions during our stay at Bijah, and ascertained that the Commissioner had not even attempted to do anything for her. Knowing it was quite useless attempting to do more myself than giving her the washing and pay her a great deal above the average wage. I had to let the affair stand at that. How she got on after we left is better not thought of. Doubtless she would share the fate of thousands of others, and after exhausting every method of obtaining food, would eventually have to go out and live on grass for a few weeks until she would die. Such was the case with thousands that we ourselves saw, so worrying about her fate as compared with that of others would be like trying to fill the ocean by throwing a glass of water overboard from a steamer.



Chapter 22 - The Daily Task


Soon after our arrival we were working in dead earnest, my particular job being road reconnaissance and map making. The road that led south to Hamadan had been hurriedly examined by Captain Fisher and his men on their risky trip, but it was essential that we should compile a more accurate and thorough map of the road for a distance of at least twenty miles from Bijah. Up till now we were without horses, but still retained our mules, the camels having been dispensed with. The mule was then employed as a mount, and having fixed rope-stirrups to the huge straw-stuffed pack-saddles, proved to be most useful, especially when crossing the rough, loose, stoney [sic] hillsides.

The map-making party usually consisted of an officer and a couple of sergeants who would move out early in the morning and return to camp late in the afternoon. The work was rather slow, as one was forced to dismount when taking a "shot" with the compass while the roads, being all turns and twists, the dismounting and mounting was pretty continuous.  After much patient work, a fairly comprehensive map of the surrounding country was completed. The state of the roads and number of men required for repairing work was noted, together with a tabulated statement of the product of the country, such as stock and grain under cultivation. Creeks and rivers were marked down, offensive and defensive positions selected and noted for future use. A rough census of the inhabitants of the outlying villages was also taken and outlined in the general report.

While this work was progressing the others were working at their various tasks. One officer, assisted by a sergeant, was told off for famine relief work. A soup kitchen was established and a native buyer appointed, who purchased the required number of sheep and the quantity of greens to make a substantial stew. The members of the most deserving families were then issued with tickets by the Chief Commissioner of Police. On presenting these, they would be served with a basin of stew. Altogether about seven hundred persons received one full meal daily, free of charge, and thus we were able to save about a thousand of the inhabitants from starvation. The men were enlisted in the road gangs and set to work on road making, for which they received both food and money.

On our arrival, the Kurds had been carrying out a series of raids upon the towns of the district, and in order to prevent this, and maintain law and order in the city itself and outlying districts, a police force was raised. This took up the time of an officer and two sergeants who enlisted and drilled the men.  The candidates eligible were those of good repute, who owned a rifle and had a supply of fifty rounds of ammunition. Altogether about fifty were chosen who were given white arm-bands, with D.P. (District Police) in black cloth sewn on them. The people, not knowing what characters these were, treated the members of the force with respect and fear. When they were knocked into some sort of shape, they were told off to patrol the bazaars and guard our quarters, thus releasing the sergeants for other more important duties.

By this time we had sized the Persians up as being useless material for troops, and as it was most essential that we should raise a force of sufficient strength to maintain our positions in these outback posts, to be prepared to move North towards the Caucasus, more suitable material had to be sought for our army. As the Kurds were always scrapping for loot, we turned our attention to this source of supply. The Sirdar, who rules these tribesmen, resided in Bijah but unfortunately he and the Governor, being a Persian, were not by any means friendly. The Kurd looks upon the Persian as a degenerate race, lacking the stamina of manhood, while the Persian looks upon the Kurds as an illiterate and lawless crowd who live by plunder alone.

As to which was the better type of the two we very soon decided. Negotiations were commenced with the Sirdar to enrol a force under our flag, but the Governor, at the time of our arrival, who was at his wits' end as to how he should cope with the raids of the Kurds on his villages, and was expecting a raid
in force upon his capital itself, applied for our assistance in putting down this lawlessness and terror. We were anxious to protect the citizens, but at the same time were desirous of raising a Kurdish force for operations further North. So, in order to assist the people and still keep the Kurds on our side, a great deal of tact was necessary. All credit is due to Major Starnes and Major Chaildecott for their tactful negotiations with both parties. Lawlessness was suppressed within the city and protection afforded to, the near villages by the policing of these areas by our District Police, relief to the starving inhabitants being  afforded by our famine work.



Chapter 23 – We go into Billets


We spent about a fortnight under canvas in the camp near the orchard on the outskirts of the city. By this time we felt pretty sure that conditions were much safer, and that our grip upon the Governor and the head men of the city was secure enough to warrant our taking over a house in the city, thus living in more comfort than the camp could afford. At this time of the year, with the advance of summer, the roads becoming dry, the dust accumulating in the valleys, meant that when the slightest winds blew the dust would be whirled throughout the camp and life made anything but pleasing. One morning I received orders from the C.O. to look round the city and obtain, if possible, a house on the further side of the city, in order that we could obtain water for cooking purposes before it flowed through any of the houses.

So in company with a sergeant I set off on the job. We spent about an hour or so riding around the outskirts, and decided to have a look at a house which we thought would suit our requirements. All the better class of houses in any Persian city are surrounded by high mud walls, the only entrance being through the heavy doors which are always locked.. After knocking for some time at the gate of this particular courtyard we were greeted by the voice of a woman from within, who inquired our business. We did our best to explain, but this apparently only added to her fright, for she rushed back to the house, screaming at the top of her voice. After a lot of yabbering, she brought her worthy master to interrogate us.

He asked for explanations. We tried to tell him that we were seeking a house and wished to negotiate with him for the rental of this particular place. Doubtless this man had previous experience of other strangers requisitioning what they required, and thinking, if he refused us admittance, he would be treated in the same manner by us as the Russian and Turkish officers had treated the inhabitants during their, occupation of the city. So with much fear and trembling he unbolted the gate and invited us inside, and after shouting commands to his woman folk to make themselves scarce, he commenced
showing us round the building.

After making a thorough survey of the place, he invited us to have tea, and to all appearances was on the verge of a nervous collapse, but, after drinking tea and sharing our cigarettes, he was apparently satisfied that the English fellows were not so bad after all. We then hastened back to camp and made our report to Major Starnes, but in the meantime the Sirdar had offered us the use of one of his houses near the one we had inspected. This was much larger and more adaptable to our use on account of its higher walls round the courtyard, which overlooked the open spaces on that side of the city, also commanded the Governor's residence-a point not to be despised in the event of his  treachery. Next day the C.O. and a few officers inspected the place and resolved that this should be our home during our stay in Bijah, although it required a great deal of work before it would become habitable.

Captain Scott-Olsen, an Australian officer, was told to collect the required number of workmen and the necessary material, and within a fortnight had cleared all the refuse from the yard and buildings, blocked up the holes in the roof and walls, white, washed the place throughout and made it ready for our occupation. On the 1st July we shifted from the camp to our new quarters and after a bath felt much more comfortable in the spacious rooms than in the cramped 40-Pounder tents of the camp. The house itself contained seventeen rooms, nine of which were on the ground floor, and eight above, with a large Persian bathroom built on one wing. Close to the mud walls of the courtyard were erected spacious stables. A smaller building at the back was converted into a cook house, and in another building within the yard we built an oven to bake our bread.

One of the fellows, a Scottish sergeant, was a baker in more peaceful times, and he superintended the erection of the oven, and after many experiments made some sour dough which was to take the place of yeast. The Quartermaster during this time was buying up large supplies of wheat, and had made arrangements with a native miller to grind the grain into a coarse flour. The wheat was brought in from the outlying districts on mules and donkeys and placed in one of the store rooms of our new home. Several women were employed in cleaning the grain.

The Persian has no scruples about how he produces his goods, such a thing as a "Pure Foods Act" being unheard of. A common practice was to mix six to eight pounds of small stones with the wheat in order to add to its weight, for all goods are sold according to weight, not quantity. Thus when a large stock of grain is purchased, the dealer obtains a certain amount of payment for pebbles. The good ladies would commence work about 7 o'clock in the morning, bringing with them their trays, and, after sifting the grain, would then gather it into the trays and by deft movements throw it into the air, allowing the breeze to blow away the dust and chaff. They would then wash the grain, re-bag it ready  for the, miller, who a few days later would return with a couple of bags of rough flour in which the bran and pollard still remained. Although it turned out brownish bread, it was nevertheless wholesome, and much more acceptable than the vile chupatties of the East.

We then hired the services of a cook, and after going through a dozen applicants, engaged a native who claimed to have been at one time in the Shah's household, but before starting, this chap laid before us his demands, which not only included cooking utensils, etc.. but a supply of clothing to make him respectable enough to be a worthy cook of the English Sahibs.



Chapter 24 - We Give A Dinner


Negotiations were still proceeding with the Governor of the Province and the Sirdar who controlled the Kurds, who were the leaders of distinct parties, opposed one to the other. In order to overcome this bad feeling that existed between the two factions we resolved to give a dinner, to which the leading men of both would be invited. The Sirdar lived in a house near by, and the Governor's residence was close at hand. After the invitations had been sent out, the Sirdar came along and promised to help us in placing the dishes of the country on the table. This offer we gladly accepted, for, except for Major Chaildecott, most of us were quite ignorant of the customs of the better class of natives.

The fashion is to commence dinner about 10 o'clock in the evening and feast, with intervals between until about 4 a.m. the following morning. On the night appointed all came dressed in their best to partake of our hospitality and to listen to our speeches, and make their various responses. The Sirdar informed us that, on account of Englishmen eating from tables, he thought the guests would prefer to adopt our custom instead of squatting on the floor as was their usual custom. We had a large table and two forms in our mess which was laden with the good things, and that evening, many of the leading notables put in five or six hours in the uncomfortable position of sitting on a form and eating from a table. Nevertheless they deemed it an honour and thought it an opportunity to show Britishers that they were as much at home with our customs as with their own.

Everything went on smoothly until about 1 a.m., when Major Chaildecott, who spoke the Persian tongue fluently, delivered a speech in which he outlined our policy, informing them that we were always prepared to pay for anything we required, also mentioning the wages we were prepared to pay the men who would form the police force and the small army that we contemplated raising. He asked for their co-operation and pointed out that if this was given, the result would be the prevention of the Kurdish raids, the opening up of roads, the uplifting of trade and commerce in the surrounding district due to the safety which we would secure for the inhabitants.

The Governor was the first to respond and he was most emphatic in his statements that he would help us to the best of his ability, because he saw that we would protect the whole country and that the result of such a policy would be a revival of trade throughout the land. He assured us that all grievances between him and the Sirdar, so far as he was concerned, would be forgotten in their efforts to work together for the common good of the people. The Sirdar was next to respond and in eloquent language stated that nothing would give him more pleasure than to throw in his lot with us and work side by side "with his brother the Governor." The Commissioner of the Police, the Director of the telegraph service, Director of the postal service, and others spoke in the same strain, and  apparently the efforts of the evening were full of good promises for our future work.

The Persian, particularly the better class, have appetites second only to the lion, and from all appearances have but one meal a day, which is partaken in the evening, when at least six hours are devoted to eating. After the speeches they had apparently recovered from their exertions of the first attack on the food and were ready for more. The table by this time was becoming empty; further supplies were ordered, but we were informed by the Sirdar that the stock was almost exhausted. In order to keep things going, a Canadian officer, remembering that he had received a supply of Virginian cigarettes in the last mail, suggested that these might be produced. His suggestion was readily carried out, though he bitterly regretted the move next morning, for our worthy visitors appeared to relish the cigarettes beyond anything else that could be offered, and smoked one after the other at such a furious rate that before long his priceless stock had gone in smoke.

We afterwards discovered that the Sirdar was not so ready to help us in procuring the food for the feast as he was willing to take advantage of an opportunity to give his opponents a rebuff and purposely cut out many articles on the menu in order to carry out his designs. A few days later, we also noticed that each party was arranging little meetings on their own. The Governor, who paid frequent visits to us, was always keen on telling us to beware of the Sirdar, and the Sirdar's spies, noting that the Governor was continually visiting us, informed their master who made a point of stealing round a few minutes after the Governor's departure and, in a very confidential manner, would tell us to beware of the Governor and his gang.

Each of them, in running down the other, would point out the advantages of throwing the other fellow over and accepting their own services in preference. Knowing what money will do in Persia, we determined to get at the bottom of the two parties, who, when brought together in our presence would be as sweet as honey to each other, yet would go without sleep in order to meet us during the small hours of the morning in their zeal to point out the traitorous nature of the other side.

Eventually we got hold of the Director of the Telegraphs, who was on the Governor's side, and gave him a good present of money, one of the Sirdar's followers being treated in a similar manner. The Governor's man would visit us during the early hours of certain days of the week and then lay before us copies of the telegrams he had received, and the originals of those despatched during the day, and place before us his report of the doings at the Governor's secret meetings. The Sirdar's man for his part would lay before us his reports of the Sirdar's secret doings. We soon saw that both parties were out to obtain all the money they could get, and were quite willing to turn traitors to our cause if better offers were forthcoming.

We were still striving to get the Sirdar on our side to raise forces from the wild tribesmen whom he controlled, and he told us he thought a certain sum sufficient to induce them to join our colours. A few days: later he stated that it would have to be doubled, and proposed that the C.O. and Major Chaildecott should pay a visit to the high priest, who lived in a village some miles away. This was done and the priest informed us if he received a present he could induce the tribesmen to join our cause. After testing the promises of both the Governor and the Sirdar, we soon realised that they would join us, but when face to face with the Turks would probably massacre the officers and men who led them, and join their fellow-religionists.

Therefore, we determined to work more or less on our own and raise a police force in the city, and strengthen and extend our powers by establishing posts in the village throughout the district.



Chapter 25 - The Outstations


Captain Kay, of the Imperial Army, with the assistance of two sergeants, knocked into shape some fifty police for duty in and around the city. After about four or five weeks of patient work he infused some sort of discipline and knowledge into the better class of men whom he had gathered into his force. Captain Wilson, who went by the nickname of "Diddler," was despatched to an outlying village, and, with the help of a New Zealand sergeant, commenced work in trying to raise a smaller force. Wilson was a man who had spent a number of years in Central Africa and was at that time about fifty years of age and, though a mere handful to look at, had the heart of a lion. On the outbreak of war, he had been given three years' leave of absence from Central Africa in order to re-establish his health but, being an old soldier, decided to spend the time in fighting the Hun rather than in taking things easy in England.

During the years he had spent in Africa he had suffered from every known form of fever, and had once been attacked by "black water fever." After many attempts to join the Army he was eventually accepted for service and fought for some time with our forces in Palestine, distinguishing himself to such an extent to be chosen for this expedition. After negotiating with the Governor of the place (for every village in Persia sports a Governor), he obtained the use of a house for himself, which was large enough to accomodate [sic] the twenty-five police that he hoped to raise. After more negotiations, he obtained the required number of men, and both he and the sergeant were working long hours each day, in knocking their little army into some sort of shape. They were given white arm bands with the black letters "D.P." sewn on, and obtained the same respect and fear from the inhabitants of the village as the police of Bijah received from the citizens of the capital.

The Kurds had gone further afield to carry out their raids and so far had not molested any of the villages near the city. Having carried all the stock and goods from the bazaars of the towns and villages further away, they resolved upon coming back to their favourite hunting ground of Bijah and the surrounding district. They obtained information that there were only two British soldiers in this outstation and knowing full well the worthlessness of the Persians as fighters they decided upon attacking this village, the object no doubt being to see how far the British would go in stopping their maraudings. A note was sent by the Kurdish chief to the Governor of this village, notifying him that at a certain time on a certain day he would raid the place.

The Governor immediately rushed to Wilson's quarters and for about five minutes nothing could be got out of him on account of his nervous excitement. After being calmed, he informed Wilson of the contents of the letter. Wilson asked him if he thought the Kurds were in earnest and really intended attacking the village. The Governor stated that he had no doubt whatever of the genuineness of the note, and that they fully intended to attack as they had stated. Wilson then asked him what he proposed doing. The Governor replied “I cannot do anything. I am helpless, but I rely upon you to protect me and the people of the village." Wilson then asked him if he thought the district police would fight.

The Governor stated that in his opinion they would fight if led by their British leader. So Wilson comforted him with the fact that he would lead them against the Kurds and give them more than they were looking for, if they attempted any of their raiding in his little domain. That night Wilson rode into Bijah and informed the C.O. of the events that were likely to happen out his way, and asked if Bijah could spare any reinforcements to aid him in his little fight. Major Starnes at that time had all his small forces employed on various jobs and if anybody was taken away, it would mean the easing up of the work in one particular direction and the hampering of the others in their various tasks, as each part of the work dovetailed into the other.

One sergeant was all that could be spared at this time, and he was handed over to "Diddler" to reinforce the remainder of his white army - which consisted of one other sergeant! Wilson stated that he was entirely satisfied with this addition to his force and was quite confident that he would give the Kurds a little bit of "hurry up." So after the sergeant had collected his gear and saddled his horse, they
started for their sphere of operations. The eventful morning arrived and the entire village was perched upon the flat roofs of their houses on the look out for the expected Kurds. A little before the stated hour of their attack, they were seen riding along through the valley towards the village. "Diddler" had all his men ready for the attack and, on sighting the enemy, got them into the most  favourable positions, where he might intercept and attack them to the greatest advantage.

The Kurds came riding along and when within range were greeted with a volley from the district police. They immediately scattered and closed in on the village from the heights. “Diddler” advanced his troops, and the main body of the Kurds commenced to retire with our forces on their heels. Now and then the Kurds would put up a stand and open fire from a long range, but as our fellows advanced they galloped back to other positions.

As the fight progressed, one by one our worthy police bolted, taking advantage of any broken country to scurry away out of danger. After fighting. for six or eight hours, and chasing the Kurds some twenty miles, "Diddler" discovered that the only forces he commanded were the two sergeants and about four native police, one of whom was killed. The only loss on the Kurdish side that he was sure of was a magnificent white Arab charger, ridden by their leader. The men themselves, as far as he could see, were without any serious casualties owing to the fact that they took care to keep a good distance between themselves and "Diddler." Feeling sure that he chastised the Kurds to the fullest extent and had given them a lesson, which would prevent any recurrence of raiding on their part, he decided to come back to the village. On arrival there he discovered that the Kurd was the shrewdest of all fighters, and the force that had first attacked him, though the larger, was merely a decoy to trick his men further away from the village, while the smaller force swung round through one of the outer valleys and during his absence had carried off all the stock.

The Governor, with a crowd of his followers rode along to break the news to Wilson, who was in high spirits, believing that he had defeated the Kurds and wondering how he would word his report to emphasise the fact that he had pushed the enemy well back into Kurdistan. Next morning the Governor received a communication from the Kurds, being nothing more than a bill, stating the amount claimed for their leader's horse, which was killed in action! This was brought round to Wilson, who asked the Governor what he intended doing about the matter, and was informed that the villagers would pay the amount.

Wilson remonstrated with him and told him that instead of paying for the dead nag he ought to go out with his men and kill all their bally horses. This the Governor could not understand. He explained that such a debt was a debt of honor, and that it was the unwritten law to pay for any animals killed in action on either side, and, before Allah, it must be done.

Rave as he would, Wilson could not alter the old man's decision, and sure enough the money was collected and despatched to the Kurds. Wilson wanted to know how much would be paid to the widow of the man who was killed in the fight? He was informed that such was war, there being no payments in the event of a man being killed or wounded! Later on, arrangements were made through Major Starnes to buy this good woman a little plot of ground and sufficient stock to ensure her a livelihood in the future.

Even though nothing came in the way of help from the village chiefs, we showed the people that the British looked after those who proved faithful to their cause. Evidently the Kurds had received their lesson, though their cunning had proved too much for us in this our first fight. From that day no other attempt to raid any of the villages or towns occupied by us was made until just before we left some months later, when we prepared ourselves for any ruses and gave the Kurds such a bad time that it had the effect of stopping their little game.



Chapter 26 - Trade Flourishes


Before leaving England, we had taken from London drafts for the money we required for our operations in Persia and the Caucasus, to be drawn on the Imperial Bank of Persia. At that time we had no conception of the dreadful ravages of the famine, nor did we know of the immense amount of work required in making new roads and repairing the older ones. Before very long it could be plainly seen that our resources would soon come to an end if something was not done to replenish our supply. To raise funds, we decided upon a blockade system, charging a small duty on all goods that were imported to and exported from any of the cities that we held.

Captain O'Brien, an Australian, was detailed at Hamadan by General Dunsterville to act as Blockade Officer. He selected for his headquarters a caravanserai near a large vacant allotment, admirably suited for a loading and inspecting place, where all goods would be checked. Examining posts, manned with Persian recruits, under British officers and N.C.O's were established at intervals along the main roads. The Imperial Bank of Persia was asked to assist in representing the Persians. Records were kept of all goods received and forwarded, one copy being sent to Headquarters and another to the Bank. Posts had already been established throughout the most dangerous parts of the country in order to protect the lines of communication. Then the roads were repaired and made safe, and the merchants eager and willing to conduct business.

Permits were issued by the various posts permitting the merchant to export his goods. One copy was kept by the officer or N.C.O. in charge, while the other was forwarded by despatch rider to the destination of the convoy, generally reaching there long before the goods arrived, where they were checked by the Commander of the post or by the British Consul residing in the town. It was not necessary that the merchant should be known at the Bank, but, before a permit was issued, some merchant, whose name appeared on the Bank's books, signed as a guarantor of the goods. This was done to prevent any leakage to the enemy.

During our occupation, trade increased by leaps and bounds, the second month showing an increase of fifty per cent. over the first. There was only one case where the merchant endeavoured to trick us. Besides collecting the small duty, we inserted in the agreement a clause which gave us the right to purchase a tenth part of any convoy at cost price. Thus we were in a position to keep down prices in the purchase of our own goods. Owing to the great revival of trade, prices immediately dropped, and the poorer inhabitants had a chance of buying the necessaries of life at a reasonable price.

In replenishing our treasury, we were enabled to relieve the distress of the Persians themselves by reducing the prices and helping the merchant in his endeavours to build up his business which had been so badly hit during the war. At no other time in their memory of trading had they had such good roads over which to bring their caravans, or did they know at any time in the past what it was to travel through the country without the fear of being raided. The whole populace were loud in their cries in our favor. I have mentioned before that one particular class, the democrats, were not at all keen on our methods, and were riled because we provided the starving poor with free food.

Now that relief was being extended, owing to the effects of our blockade system, these democrats, generally the leading citizens of the place who obtained their appointment from the Government at Teheran, actively worked against us, both in an open and in an underhand manner whenever they got an opportunity. They commenced a crusade amongst themselves, hoping to extend it to the lower classes, by stating that we were simply there endeavouring to get in the thin edge of the wedge in order that we might take over the country as a province of the British Empire.

The most notorious leaders against us were put under arrest and, in some cases, sent back to Mesopotamia as prisoners of war, with a view of giving a lesson and warning to the other members of their fraternity. This had the desired effect, and little trouble was experienced in the future. In conclusion, it might be worth while quoting the opinion of the merchants themselves as stated by their representative in a report, who said: "Our merchants are very keen on getting their consignments of goods from Baghdad before the winter months, and now that we know the road is safe, we can go straight ahead with our consignments. Before the British came here we lost heavily from the brigands looting our convoys on the route, but, thanks to the British methods, this is now a thing of the past."

As soon as the road from Baghdad was constructed and improved, General Dunsterville brought up a Ghurkii Battalion, who, assisted by two armoured cars, completely defeated the Mhutchik Khan forces, who blocked the road between Kasvin and the Caspian. The Ghurkis never had such a day in all their lives. The cars drove the tribesmen from out of the towns into the open where the Ghurkis quickly got to work with their long knives. Khutchik Khan was captured and brought to Dunsterville, who saw in him a possible ally if properly approached. Inviting him to his quarters, they lunched together. Before the meal was completed, Kutchik was much impressed with General Dunsterville, and the latter, when he had obtained the confidence of Khutchik, said: "Now look here, Khutchik, don't you think that we would make better friends than enemies?" Khutchik agreed, with the result that he was, appointed Chief Supply Officer in the District.

From then onwards, Khutchik was the most loyal of all our allies and owing to his position was of great service in obtaining supplies for the troops and horses. This is but another example of Dunsterville's farsightedness. Had he sent Khutchik Khan back to India as a prisoner of war, little would have been gained, but, by winning him to our side, much was accomplished in that supplies were at hand for the force about to embark for Baku.



Chapter 27 - A Murmur from the North


For some time past Headquarters had an idea that there was a large body of Assyrians and Armenians cut off somewhere up north, who were still fighting the Turks. Later on this was confirmed, and we were told that a large body of Assyrians were hemmed in round the city of Urmiah on the edge of the lake of the same name. A great number of Armenians from the vicinity of Lake Van, together with the Christian mountaineers from the surrounding countries, had fallen back, and with the Assyrians had been fighting the Turks round Urmiah for the last six months. On receipt of this news, General Dunsterville got an aeroplane up from Baghdad to Miana, a post north of Zenjan, the most northern post held by our forces. After overhauling the machine and obtaining a plentiful supply of oil, the airman flew across to Urmiah with "Stalky's" message to these people.

The plane encircled the city in search of a favourable landing ground, and on deciding on a spot, descended. The people, not having seen one of our machines before, mistook it for an enemy plane, and immediately opened up a heavy rifle fire. On seeing the plane descending, they thought that they had captured their first Turkish plane. The airman, on reaching ground, alighted from his machine, and was immediately surrounded by Armenian and Assyrian troops. He asked if anyone spoke English and there being one present who could, he told these people that he was not an enemy, but a friend sent to ascertain their position and requirements. He was then taken to the house of the Commander-in-chief, Agha Petros, who spoke English fluently. Our man then handed over his despatches wherein the General stated to what extent he was prepared to help, and requiring from the Chief the number and disposition of his troops and exactly what were his requirements.

The news of his arrival soon spread, and for a couple of days all the bigger people rushed him with invitations to the various entertainments held in his honor. In these countries the British soldier wears the lightest of clothing, his trousers being replaced by "shorts," which showed bare knees and much of the leg. The people, not having seen a man wearing trousers with legs only about six inches long, thought that the poor fellow was in a frightful plight and had completely run out of all his clothing and was endeavouring to make both ends meet by cutting off the ragged ends of his trousers. The day before he was to leave a deputation of the women folk called on the Commander-in-Chief and craved permission to present to the hero a pair of trousers as a mark of their appreciation for his gallant flight, which brought them the glad tidings that the British would help. It took a great deal of persuasion before they could be made to believe that his shorts were the full regulation size, according to that laid down for the uniform of British troops in tropical countries. After soothing these good ladies' feelings and thanking them for their kind considerations, he received the Commander-in-Chief's reply, examined his machine, and once more took to the air, flying direct to Hamadan, where he placed the reports in the hands of General Dunsterville.



Chapter 28 - New Arrivals


The General's offer of officers and N.C.O's, together with a supply of machine guns, ammunition and money being accepted by the Christians, machinery to carry out the job was at once got moving, and gradually new arrivals put in their appearance at Bijah, the first being Major Moore and Captain Reid, both of the General Staff at Baghdad. They had been touring throughout the north of Persia for the last six months, gathering what information they could in order to help our forces in that far off field. Major Moore spoke several languages fluently, one of which was Persian. Knowing too, the manners and customs of the country he was able to gather a vast amount of information. Captain Reid had, in pre-war days, spent a number of years with the Assyrians, having been sent out their as the political adviser on a missionary staff. When the move forward was contemplated, he was ordered to Bijah in order to take over the political side of the work.

Major Moore, thinking it would be an opportunity of gaining more knowledge among the hostile tribes of North-West Persia, took advantage of the chance to continue his labours under the protection of our escort. Two troops of cavalry were then ordered to move forward to Bijah and in due course they put in an appearance, camping in the open paddocks near our billet. Supplies of grain for the horses were at once gathered, and very shortly all was in readiness for the move forward.. The nature of the expedition was kept an entire secret, not one of us knowing exactly what was in the wind, nor what was the strength of the party that would move ahead. Later on I got an inkling that I would be in charge of this expedition on account of being second in command of our post. As we were on the main road that leads to Lake Urmiah it was considered probable that the party would be from our post.
This was realised, for on the 17th July the following order was given me with instructions that more would be issued later on.
Capt. S. G. Savige, M.C. You will be in charge of the party detailed hereunder proceeding with Major Moore.
Capt. S. G. Savige, M.C., 24th Battalion, A.I.F.
L. Crawley-Boevey, Yorkshire Regiment
R. L. Kay, M.C., 12th Cheshires
E. G. Scott-Olsen, 55th Battalion, A.I.F.
R. K. Nichol, M.C., Wellington Regiment, N.Z.E.F
D. Wilson, 2nd Royal Irish Fusiliers11/971
Sgt. L. Barrell, M.M., Wellington Regiment, N.Z.E.F
12/3449 F. Brophy, Auckland Regiment, N.Z.E.F
33/58 H.G.Tollan, Canterbury Regiment, N.Z.E.F
1764 B. F. Murphy, D.C.M., 28th Battalion, A.I.F.
5446 A. G. France, 6th Lancers
C2685i J. Abrahams, R.W. Kents
26824 W. G. Beevis, 2/ Norfolk Regiment
265279 A. H. N. Todman, 1/9 Middlesex
75341 R. Casey, 29th Canadian Bn.
64214:1 W. T. Brophy, 75th Canadian Battalion
26,5159 A. W. H. Place, 1/9 Middlesex
225091 D. Cameron, 10th Lovat Scouts Btn. (Cameron High.)
417 C. T. Wallace, 38th Battalion, A.I.F.
165665 Pte. H. C. Southgate, R.E. Sigs. (Batman Capt. Scott-Olsen)
30500 B. N. Lake, 4th S.W.B. (Batman Capt. Savige)
31118 A. Smithson, 2nd Norfolks (Batman Capt. Kay)
2. Instructions as to time of departure, transport, etc. will be notified later.
3. You will draw from the Q.M. sufficient ammunition to make up to 200 (two hundred)
rounds per N.C.O. and O/R.
J. Seddon, Capt.
A/Adit.
Included in above: 
34906 Sgt. A. Nimmo, Otago Regiment, N.Z.E.F
2C6 H. G. Smith, 40th Battalion, A.I.F.

J. Seddon, Capt. A/Adjt.

The order itself appeared to be most meagre, and naturally I wanted fuller particulars as to where we had to go, and what we were expected to do, but was again told that special instructions had been received from Hamadan that no details were to be given until well out on the march. On the evening before departing, I was asked to check over the boxes containing £45,000 in Persian silver, 12 Lewis machine guns and 100,000 rounds of ammunition, for which I gave receipts. Each officer was given a horse which cost about £40, in reality only worth £8 in any civilised country. The N.C.O's were to ride mules which were still retained on the hire system, which were to be handed over to the Cavalry for return to Bijah on our joining forces and proceeding further north with the Christians.



Chapter 29 - Northward Bound


We were timed to leave Bijah at five o'clock on the morning of July 19th and at the first streak of dawn, the compound presented a sight of great activity. Gear was being collected and tied into bundles, the money in the boxes carried to the gateway, together with the cases containing the machine guns and ammunition. Horses and mules were being saddled and fed while others were assembled and loaded with our baggage, money, guns and ammunition. After a busy couple of hours everything was in readiness to move. After many handshakes and best wishes from those remaining, the column swung out on to the roadway. Only one troop of cavalry was to proceed with us, and these troops at once took over the protection of the column by throwing out an advance guard, placing a baggage guard and leaving a rear guard to follow on.

This was about the longest column we had yet seen, as it required one animal to every two boxes of ammunition and money, and others required to carry the grain, baggage and rations for the cavalry and ourselves. The first few miles out was fairly easy country but at midday we were once again in the heart of the mountains where the track which led north was hardly distinguishable from the hundreds of other caravan tracks that branched off in every direction. Having a good guide, not much difficulty was experienced in keeping on the right track which led up and down over almost impassable ridges, dropping in one place into a valley through which a wide and swift stream flowed, luckily for us was fordable. A fair amount of difficulty was experienced in negotiating the stream, on account of the rocky nature of its bottom, and on gaining the further bank we halted for an hour, during which time we partook of our midday meal.

That night we camped on a plateau on the top of a small hill, overlooking the village of Ponja, ruled by a chief whom we had met on the roads some hours before. This was considered to be a hostile locality, but fortunately the chieftain was extremely friendly to us, on account of our assistant-surgeon looking after him when he damaged his country during which time he had acted as McLean's guide. Mac was a typical Canadian, and besides teaching this young hopeful a few words such as roads, creek, house, horse, etc., had added to his vocabulary some choice Canadian swear words. The youth, being quite proud of the fact that he understood English, would rattle off a string of words, both fair and foul, much to our amusement. He was quite emphatic on the point hand a few weeks before. He assured us that no danger would befall any of our party while passing through his territory. Nevertheless the usual precautions were taken, as we had learnt by this time that a Persian's word goes for naught.

We set off shortly after dawn next morning and on passing another village a young Persian, the son of the priest with whom we were negotiating for troops, joined the column and informed us that his greatest friend was Capt. McLean, a member of our hundred thousand rounds of ammunition to carry on for the time being. Our contract was to reach a town named Sain Kala, while his was to break through the Turkish forces south of the Lake and join us at the same town on a certain date Bijah party, who had ridden into a portion of his father's that he was a friend of the great English and offered to ride with us that day, in case any robber bands attacked the column, which he could overcome on account of being the son of the High Priest. This proffered help we accepted, as we did not want to get into any fights and waste our ammunition unnecessarily. That night we camped on the high ground overlooking the village of Kizil -Bulahk, and on that evening the objects of the expedition were unfolded to me.

Agha Petros, the Leader of the people whom we were going to help, had accepted General Dunsterville's offer to send a few officers and N.C.O's to organise, train and lead his army, a political officer to help him in his government, together with £45,000, twelve machine guns, and one. The cavalry were to escort my party to Sain Kala and, after our junction with the other forces, their orders were to return to Bijah. Our duty on arrival at Urmiah was to organise immediately this irregular army and endeavour, if possible, to keep the southern road open in order that we could be reinforced later on. Such a proposition for adventure was altogether to our liking, and the others on being told of the  proposition were full of spirits at the prospects ahead.

Realising that at last we were on a big job, and seeing that the irregular forces were fifteen thousand strong, all of whom were armed and that also they had a few field pieces and some armed boats on the Lake, the hope of doing big things ran high.

Captain Reid and I immediately set to work in drafting plans for our first dispositions. An officer and a couple of sergeants were to hold a town on the western road at a point where others joined it before running through the passes. By doing this it was hoped that they, with one hundred Assyrians and Armenians, could fortify these passes to such an extent that they would be able to hold up any enemy reinforcements from Turkey.

The junction of several other roads with the main highway to Tabriz on the east was to be held in a similar fashion. The town of Suj-Bulalik on the main road itself was to be held as an intermediate post where Captain Kingscote, our Intelligence Officer, was to be installed in order to be in touch with the flank posts, the city of Urmiah, and our headquarters at Bijah. This town was the central place from which the telegraph lines ran out and was specially adapted, under the circumstances, for its proposed use. Captain Scott-Olsen, an Australian, was to move ahead and, being a sea-faring man, was to take
over the fleet on the Lake. Captain Kay and Captain D. Wilson, Imperial Officers, were to move forward and assist me in Urmiah while Captain Crawley-Bovey and Captain Nicol were to take charge, the former of the Western post, the latter of the Eastern.

The next town of importance was Takan-Tepe, which is the best laid out town in North-West Persia. Some Governor of the past had evidently visited Europe, and being impressed with the beauty of avenues of trees placed along the road, had beautified his town by planting along the roads leading thereto, avenues of poplars. We were timed to be in Sain Kala on the 23rd, and as this town was about fifty miles from Takan-Tepe, the journey of the next couple of days had to be by forced marches. The first was to San jud, a distance of twenty-eight miles over extremely rough country, and on July 23rd we arrived at Sain Kala, our destination.



Chapter 30 - Disappointment


On arrival at our rendezvous there was no sign of the people whom we were to meet, even although we were a day late. It was decided to wait a few days in the hope that they might come along. As in other places, the first thing necessary was the bribing of the telegraph operator, who, on receipt of a gift of money, was instructed to bring along to us, each day, copies of all the telegrams received and the originals of those sent by him. Thus we soon ascertained that nothing was known of our movements, nor had any word been mentioned of a move on the part of our friends from the north. The people of the town were extremely hostile, and in many instances closed up their places of business in the bazaars. In order to obtain supplies of grain and food, the threat of commandeering our requirements was necessary before we could buy anything at all. Seeing that we were quite in earnest in what we said, the inhabitants considered it was much more profitable to bring. along the goods we ordered, and obtain the prices they themselves would fix, rather than have their goods commandeered and be paid the prevalent prices of the more southern cities.

The Governor paid us a visit early next morning and assured us of his friendship and hospitality, but on going through the telegrams that night we discovered that he had informed the Turks that there was a force of about seven hundred British troops, whereas there were not more than one hundred at the outside. In reporting, the Governor was prone to the usual exaggerations of his countrymen and, posing as a strong man able to keep in hand such a big force, exaggerated his report by six hundred per cent.

The Turkish Commander's reply, couched in the usual glowing and fantastic language of  the East, was to the effect that if the Governor would keep an eye on us for a few days, he would advance with his gallant troops, and show the world how the troops of Allah could smash the infidel troops of England.

On the 25th there was still, no sign, nor any word of the movements of the Assyrians and Armenians. As the grain for the horses was running short and there was little chance of replenishing our stock, the Colonel in charge of the cavalry, being the senior officer, decided to return to Bijah on the following day. Such a decision was keenly disappointing to those of us who were to move forward to Lake Urmiah, and after consulting one another, we put up a proposal that we would supply a patrol who would volunteer to push ahead and obtain some news of the people whom we were to meet. The hostility of the country and its lack of supplies was considered to be sufficient reason for knocking out
this proposition. We showed both the Colonel and the Major that the idea could be carried out by travelling along the banks of the stream, which passed Sain Kala and flowed into the Lake, and by travelling all night with the stream as a guide there would be little risk of being caught, and as for supplies, we had the men who were prepared to do the job, if need be, on dry rice and water.

This was considered to be impracticable and, being soldiers, we had to obey orders, and leave next day with hearts full of disappointment, and trek back again over the road to Bijah. Although foiled for the time we reckoned there must be some way out of the difficulty. In the upward journey as we passed through Takan Tepe, we noticed that the people, who belonged to a particular tribe named the Afsharis, were the finest stamp of men we had yet seen in Persia.

Major Chaildecott, the Intelligence Officer, of Bijah, had joined the party at this place, cutting across to the town after doing an out-back job amongst the hills. From there he rode on with us to Sain Kala as a passenger in order to see the start of our show and gauge with what success we commenced the job. The idea of still being able to reach the Christians had not by any means left us, and after consulting with the commander of the party, we ascertained that he was quite willing for us to remain at Takan Tepe, in order to establish a post, with the hope that we would raise a force strong enough to work through to Urmiah should the Assyrians and Armenians fail in their breakthrough. I obtained from Major Chaildecott orders in the name of the commanding officer of Bijah to carry out our project. The Colonel in command of the cavalry allowed portion of his command to remain behind with us in order to protect us, until such time as we raised a force strong enough for our own safety, while he with his staff, together with Major Moore, Major Chaildecott and Captain Reid rode back to Bijah.



Chapter 31 - Levy Raising


We immediately set to work in our endeavour to raise the force necessary to carry out our cherished plan. The first thing necessary was to obtain the goodwill of the Governor. After making our camp as comfortable as possible for a long stay, I set out to interview "his Highness the Governor." After spending so many months together in a far-off land and being such a small party, a deep friendship existed between the officers and men, a friendship, which people living the humdrum life of the cities of civilised lands, have no conception of. Under our conditions, friendship was full of thoughts of how one could best help the other.

Little gifts in the shape of a few eggs, choice dried fruits, and odds and ends, were constantly being bestowed upon one. When an arduous job had to be done, one after another would come forward, stating that he was better fitted in health to do it than the other chap. Such little things have a wealth of meaning under such circumstances. All the best in a fellow comes to the top, and one sees the true value of a man shorn of all the conventionalities of civilisation. In paying a state visit, in the orthodox fashion of the East, it was necessary that I, as leader, should ride ahead, with two officers a certain distance behind, in rear of whom were four sergeants, fully armed, who brought up the rear of  my escort. To keep a straight face under these circumstances was an extremely hard job.

On arrival at the Governor's house we drew rein and waited until the attendants had rushed to our horses' heads and would not think of dismounting until one stood by and held the stirrup to allow one to dismount in royal fashion. We officers would then look very severe, and give a few short orders to our N.C.O's, who would double all over the place on imaginary errands as if we instilled the fear of the devil into their hearts at the very suggestion of opening our mouths. It must be said that they carried out their part of the job in a most thorough though amusing manner.

After inquiring as to each other's health, we were asked to be seated in the Governor's audience chamber. This particular one was a gaily-coloured tent lined and floored with some beautiful carpets. After getting through the preliminaries, tea would be ordered and served in small glasses about three inches high and two inches in diameter at the top and bottom, narrowing in to about one inch and a half in the centre. Sugar is always served in small lumps, and after a piece has been chosen it is placed in the mouth and the tea sweetened by sucking it through the sugar. When the tea is served it is necessary that, out of courtesy, it should be offered to the host. He then insists that it is yours. For a couple of minutes this offering and re-offering goes on, until you consider that it is time for you to give in and accept the tea with a great show of reluctance.

Later on other drinks are produced, such as sour milk, (and as every animal, including camels, donkeys, sheep and cows, are milked it is not considered to be first favourite), sherbet, a sweet sticky sort of concoction, and arak, the only alcoholic beverage. I have met men in my time, who were very fond of their glass of stimulants, but never yet met a man who acquired the taste for arak. In color it is like water; in taste it resembles methylated spirits with a burn that catches one's breath. It is made, so I am informed, from the sap of date palm or peppermint plants and owing to its strength it does not require much to make one very inebriated.

After a night's sleep one feels quite sober, though suffering from a bad head, but after partaking of a drink of tea or water one is as tight as on the night before, the effects being felt even on the third day. The action of this vile drink evidently causes some sort of fermentation within, and re-acts once more on the approach of any liquid. The old saying "once bitten, twice shy," is fully carried out as  regards this particular concoction.

Other drinks were fruit juice concoctions in which rose petals were strewn as a flavouring, and many the time, in order to dodge arak, we have drunk a large basin of sour milk, assuring our host that we relished it beyond any other known drink, and dodging the rose petals would wade through this vile muck with great gusto. We always made a point of staying until such time as our worthy host would be forced to cry out for his food and invite us to his repast. The object was to test the man by seeing whether he was willing or not to give us his salt.

Such meals are always served on the carpet, and, after marking out a square with chupatties, the meat dishes would then be brought along, in nearly every case flavoured with cinnamon, or various fruits. When it was time to commence operations we would turn to the Governor and tell him how we Englishmen enjoyed Persian food, but in a careful way would point out to him that we always liked more salt with our meals than they usually put in their dishes, at the same time working our hands round close to the butt of our revolvers. If he gave us more salt, we knew that he was bound by his religion to protect us, but, if he contemplated any treachery he would try and side-step our little bait.

Seeing that we were sometimes in an upstairs room, in a high house situated in the centre of an enormous courtyard, it might be necessary to get the first shot in if we hoped to get out. So far as our party were concerned we received the salt and thus knew that, as far as the Governor was concerned, we were quite safe.

On the word "Go," a piece of chupatties would be torn off and with both hands we would dive into the dish that took our fancy for the moment. Eating seems to be an accomplishment with the Persians and the amount they can stow away in such a short time is a mystery to a Britisher. The harder one goes and the quicker one eats, the better you please your host, who would be extremely displeased if you did not belch to show him that you were eating as much as possible. At the conclusion of the meal belch would follow belch to show him that we had enjoyed his hospitality. After this we would take our
departure and in the hearing of the Governor would bully our N.C.O's who would jump about in all directions. On arrival at our own camp we would hardly be able to stand for laughing at the absurdity of such tactics.

A return visit is always made by the Governor or his representative, so next afternoon we were busily engaged in preparing for the reception. Small glasses and saucers were purchased. One of the lads who was looking after our cooking was brought along to rehearse the whole show. Another officer and myself sat on the ground and went through the preliminaries necessary before receiving tea, and the pre-arranged signal of the acceptance of the drink was to be a wink from me. Later on in the cool of the evening, the Governor's brother, the Sirdar, came along followed by the retinue as escort. Hadji Baba, our worthy muleteer and loyal follower, loaned us his tent for the reception.

The Sirdar was invited in and, after the usual exchange of compliments, tea was mentioned, and on his acceptance our worthy Lake was called. This lad was about as gentle as an elephant in all his movements, but one of the best in a campaign. He came in, balancing two of those small glasses on miniature saucers held in trembling hands, with his eyes glued on me, and the usual offering and re-offering was gone through. On the Sirdar's friendly accepting I threw Lake an enormous wink. He then shoved out one of the drinks for the Sirdar, and, in his hurry, tipped the whole lot of scalding tea over the soft white hands of our worthy guest. Under my breath I damned Lake up hill and down dale, but, to the Sirdar was full of apologies, and he, on his part, full of assurances that he understood it was quite an accident.

I felt sure he cursed the carelessness of the worthy Lake, but he appeared to be rather a decent fellow and showed no animosity. Knowing that he would not accept our camp meals, we had no qualms about offering him portion of our board which he declined and shortly afterwards left. This visiting and re-visiting we knew must continue until the Governor obtained from his spies the reason of our stay in his town. To make matters worse, business is the last thing to enter the Persian's mind; it was necessary we proceeded gently or the whole work would be doomed to failure.

In order to get on as quickly as possible we were out to help his spies in collecting information, and it was here that our worthy Hadji was of such valuable assistance. Hadji was a man of about forty-five or fifty years of age, with a stomach which showed that he partook of and enjoyed the good things of life. Though in reality there was no need for him to come with this convoy, yet on account of his taking a liking to us, he came along on all our trips, thinking he could be of some assistance on the road, and he was useful on more than one occasion. His little stunt would generally be to go along to the village teashop where the old cronies congregated and spent hours over a glass of tea. He would there inform all and sundry of the reason of our being there, that we were trying to raise troops, stating also how well we would pay, feed and treat our levies. He assured them that we were the very essence of generosity and the personification of all the noble traits of English character.

This would soon be repeated to the Governor, and he, on a special visit, in a casual sort of fashion, would ask if it was true that the nature of our business was to raise troops. We would inform him that this was correct, and the matter for the time being would drop. But next visit more would come out, and within a couple of days we were lucky enough to get him to give us about a dozen guides to visit the outlying villages to collect material for our force.



Chapter 32 - New Developments


Work was now in full swing, the officers and N.C.O's being detailed for levee raising, while others were hard at work compiling a map of the surrounding country, others again were selecting defensive positions in such localities where a small party could hold up a much larger force. About five miles north of Takan Tepe, the country is of a most broken nature. After climbing the lower foothills, the ground slopes down to a great valley through which runs a wide river, passable only by one stone bridge. This was considered to be the key of the whole position for, to the right, the river ran through precipitous hills through which no force could manoeuvre nor conduct its convoy. The left flank was quite secure, in that the river ran through a deep gorge and broken country. The forward slopes, rising on the other side from the river, were extremely steep, though strangely open for this part of Persia.

By holding the various hillocks on either side with a series of disconnected posts and a few machine  guns, it would be quite possible to hold up a vastly superior force. Sergeant Place, of the Imperial Force, being handy at map work, was told off to draw a complete map of this position, a copy of which was sent to our headquarters at Bijah for their information. The other work was continuing smoothly, and there was no doubt that we were welcome in this part of Persia, probably on account of the Kurds ceasing their raiding expeditions in the near vicinity. The protection afforded by our party was deeply
appreciated by the inhabitants.

This goodwill was amply verified in a conversation I had with a Khan. Over a glass of tea he said that he heard the English were in the district and were endeavouring to raise troops, so he thought he would come in and get the full strength of it. On being informed of our requirements, he readily promised to raise fifty horsemen on his own account, and bring them across to us. He asked me if we intended occupying this district permanently.

I informed him that the British had no desire to interfere with the Persians but, owing to difficulties of the war, it was necessary for us to encounter the Turks in Persia in order to prevent them from overrunning the country and striking at India. This information apparently did not tend to cheer him, as he replied, "Oh, we have had enough of our shopkeeper king and his profiteering ministry and the country would welcome the advent of British rule. We know if the Englishman says he will do a thing, he will do it, but if he says 'I will not do it' all the money in the world will not break his word, for the Englishman speaks the truth."

This statement in itself may not appear to be of great moment to the casual reader, but it is a striking illustration of British prestige in the East, built pp by the good faith of great Englishmen from the time of Clive. No doubt, the story Edwin Pottinger at Herat in the "thirties" when he stood alone and proved to the natives that the Englishman is a true and generous soul, when all thought of present comfort and gain is forgotten when the common weal of the people is at stake. On the other hand the Germans had agents scattered throughout Northern Persia, even during the time of our being there, who paved their way with gold, and adopting the costume of the country and pretending to be  followers of Mohammed, yet they failed miserably. What a contrast their methods were to ours! We professed to be British soldiers, wore the uniform of our country, professing to have no other religion than Christianity, none the less the predominant thought that swayed the people was that the word of the Englishman is true. On each and every occasion we won through and the Germans failed.

On August 1st we were told by a native who had ridden down from the north that he had heard that the Assyrians and Armenians were fighting the Turks in a great battle south of Lake Urmiah. We pretended to be quite ignorant of the existence of any such people, but knew that this was the first move on the part of our friends. On visiting the Governor, he told me the same news and, being confirmed by him, I immediately sent back for Captain Reid in the hope of reaching him before his arrival at Bijah. Luckily they were taking things easy and a despatch rider caught them up. Captain Reid, with Major Moore, set off immediately on the return trip to Takan-Tepe. On the night of 2nd September, we received the first message in writing from the Christians in which it was stated that they had fought a great battle, had defeated and broken through the Turks and were at present on their way to meet us.

At dawn next morning the whole camp was dismantled, gear was packed and the whole party, in high spirits in the knowledge that the show had not fallen through, were on the road once more. That day we travelled until late in the afternoon. On arrival at a stream we pitched our camp, with the idea of moving forward with the first streak of dawn. The tents had hardly been erected when away ahead, through the long valley, a cloud of dust could be seen, which grew in proportion as it neared us. Within a mile or so of our tented camp, a group of horsemen rode ahead, one of whom carried a large red banner with a white cross worked on its face.

On reaching the rise over our camp they dismounted and scanned us for some little time through their field glasses. We signalled to them that we were friends, and although not apparently sure, they rode towards the camp. Their fears were soon set at rest when we shouted to them that we were the English. One galloped back to the main party, while the others rode into camp. As some of them could speak English they expressed their delight at joining us in no half-hearted manner.

Shortly after this their leader, Agha Petros, rode into the camp, and there we awaited the arrival of his forces. Of all the sights that one was privileged to see, these horsemen winding along the valley was one never to be forgotten. They came along in an orderly, soldierly fashion, split up into groups of about equal size to our own troop of cavalry. Ahead of each group rode the leader, and behind him, came his standard bearer, who carried a large red flag across which was worked a white cross, the flag of Agha Petros, the Commander-in-Chief, being the gaudiest of all. It was made of silk, fringed with gold with the usual white cross in the centre, over which was worked the Assyrian words, "Trust God and Follow the Cross!'

The horsemen, on nearing the camp, swung off alternately to the right and left, and in a remarkably short space of time had picketed their horses and were preparing their evening meal. All the chiefs were summoned to attend a conference at our camp, which continued until the early hours of the morning, and re-assembled again after an interval of three or four hours, during which time we discussed the whole situation and worked out our plans for future operations.



Chapter 33 - Agha Petros
   

The strong man of the  Christian forces was their leader Agha Petros, (Putros)) a man with a wonderful career, though from hearsay he was what was termed a "bit of a doer." While in Canada and England but as the story is only hearsay, it is hardly fair to the man to relate it here. 

This much we know to be a fact - in years gone by he was the Turkish representative in the districts in the vicinity of Lake Urmiah. While things were peaceful he honestly served his Turkish masters, but on the outbreak of war, when his people, on account of their being Christians, were hard pressed, he threw in his lot with the Russians, and was appointed commander of the forces in the Russian service. After the revolution he was forced to retire to Lake Urmiah, and for the past eight months had been fighting the Turks.


He was elected as leader by both the Assyrian and Armenian communities, and as Commander-in-Chief of the Christian forces, led them in person in their endeavour to break through to our forces. Never trained as a soldier, he proved to be a genius in war, while his people were, as we say, "up against it,” he was able to lead them on many victorious fields. The greatest of all his exploits was the one in which he broke through to us. After carefully mapping out his route and drafting his plans, he decided that he would move south in three columns, each separated by some miles of rough country. On encountering the Turkish force his troops were swung into line, each column gaining touch with the flanks of the others. It was then decided to take up the best position available, and delay the battle to allow a strong mounted force to sweep down through the hills to a town called Suldaz, the Turkish headquarters.

It was then decided to attack during the night, and force the enemy to fall back on his base, and into the hands of the mounted force. The whole plan worked without a hitch. The column moving without mishap, got into touch with the Turks and formed a line, and in the dead of night, the whole line moved forward to the accompaniment of intense rifle fire and shouts of victory. The Turks were bewildered at this unexpected attack at such an unexpected time.

Their stand was feeble and they were forced to retire in a disordered state to Suldaz, to find waiting for them a mounted force in such positions that the Turks were completely annihilated. Without any loss of time Agha Petros rode on with his victorious troops to effect a junction with our party, and on reaching us had but little food and no money. Food, in sufficient quantities for their requirements we did not have, but handed over enough money to buy sufficient for them on the march back to Urmiah.

In order to impress the Governor and inhabitants of Sain Kala, Agha Petros asked if the British Cavalry might ride ahead of his forces through that particular town, knowing full well that the news of the British and Christians fighting together would be soon spread throughout the country. Luckily for the whole show, as after events will prove, this was agreed to.



Chapter 34 - The First Of The Refugees


After settling all preliminaries at the conference which continued until about 10 a.m., we moved forward once again, with the Christian cavalry acting as escort to the convoy. The Armenians and Assyrians were delighted with the fact that help had at last come to them, and the British jubilant in the knowledge that they were going forward to a big task which required big hearts and steady nerves, but confident nevertheless in the ultimate success of our cause.

Thus, we rode on and, towards dusk, negotiated the last of the hills on our side of Sain Kala, then swung off the road to the poplar groves and orchards near the river where we had decided to camp. I happened to be riding with Major Moore and Captain Reid at the head of the column. On arrival at the camping ground we saw a crowd of people dressed differently from those we had seen in the town before. Amongst them were a number of women clothed in bright print dresses, without face coverings-an unheard of thing in Mohammedan lands. We were at a loss to explain their existence in
that part of the country. Shortly afterwards Agha Petros rode up. On seeing these people his face blanched. For a moment or two he was unable to speak. Then turning in his saddle, he said, "My God! Here are my people! What calamity has happened during my absence?"

On questioning he was told that the Turkish commander had attacked the outposts and had broken through to the city, which meant that they had to fly for their lives, and beyond this, nothing further could be ascertained.



Chapter 35 - The Moving Multitude Of Refugees


Seeing that nothing could be done that night, as it was quite apparent that the people were coming down in large numbers, we decided to camp in the large valley of the river to the south and west of Sain Kala, and then after receiving more particulars of what was happening up north, decide on the plan on the morrow. At dawn next morning, it was seen that there were thousands in the valley, and along the road they were still streaming in thousands more. In order to subdue their panic Agha Petros, Captain Reid and myself rode out some miles along the road over which they were coming.

Terror and despair was deeply written on their faces. Agha Petros was greeted as their father, and we, being in British uniform, as their deliverers. It was an extremely hard job to make a headway through the crowds that constantly surrounded us, calling down the blessings of God on our heads. After all our inquiries as to the reason of their evacuation and what was happening further north, nothing could be gained from the people, who apparently did not know why they were here, beyond the fact that the Turks had attacked them and they had immediately fled.

The men under Agha Petros, on ascertaining the state of affairs, scattered on the first night, each man rushing back to endeavour to look after his family or personal belongings. The idea of united co-operation apparently did not appeal to their martial instincts. On the morning after our arrival, on endeavouring to raise a force, we soon discovered this fact, and not knowing fully the state of affairs, it was impossible to use the cavalry on what might be a wild goose chase ' when they would be infinitely more useful in protecting the people on their arrival at Sain Kala. That night the whole thing was cleared up, when an Assyrian doctor rode in and told us the whole story of the evacuation.

It appeared that there were fifty or so Russians who had remained behind after the Russian evacuation. These were chiefly officers and men who knew that if they returned to Russia with its new government, they would have a very short shrift. The Armenians had been driven back to Lake Urmiah from Lake Van and thousands of Christians had flocked into the town from the surrounding mountains. Thus three classes, the Russians, Armenenians and mountaineers, not having any interest in Urmiah, had conspired together.

They sent forward mounted messengers with orders to ride back when it was ascertained that Agha Petros and his forces, who were chiefly Assyrians, had broken through the Turkish army and opened up the road that led to the British. This news was sent back to the conspirators, who immediately took steps to evacuate the town.

Dr. Shed, the American Missionary, had been left behind to conduct affairs in the absence of Agha Petros. He noticed that the Armenians were evacuating their line north of the city. When questioned as to the reason of their strange behaviour, they stated they were simply moving from their camp to a more healthy position. This did not seem at all feasible to Dr. Shed, who told them that he thought they were lying and that their intentions were to desert the Assyrians.

They assured him that this was not the case, and after his asking them if they contemplated such an act, to remain for at least four days, he rode back to the city, on their giving him their promises. They apparently waited till nightfall and then continued their march southwards, with both the Russians and mountaineers. The Turks very soon received intelligence of the fact that the northern portion ofi Ahe line, held by the Armenians, was unoccupied, and, together with the Kurds, moved down on the city.

Small parties of Assyrians moved out to intercept them and delay their advance until the inhabitants had sufficient time to load their wagons with supplies of food for the journey together with what valuables they had. Dr. Shed and some of the missionaries led these isolated parties and held up the Turks until most of the people were clear of the city. Dr. Shed with his wife followed on with the people, Dr. Shed himself forming a rearguard to protect the column while other missionaries remained to look after the wounded Turkish prisoners and the Christians unable to get away. Of about 100,000 inhabitants about 70,000 got clear of the city and were on the road before the Turks captured the place, and the fate of the others who were unable to get clear we never heard.

Their only hope lay in what success the missionaries might have in preventing a massacre. The Assyrian doctor also informed us that large bodies of Turkish troops and Kurdish irregulars were raiding the column murdering the people and carrying off young girls to their harems, together with what loot they could lay their hands on. On receipt of this information my party volunteered to go out and act as a rearguard, while the cavalry remained behind to protect the people as they swarmed into the valley.

We put our proposals to Agha Petros, which were as follows: I would take out with me two officers, six sergeants, three Lewis machine guns and sufficient food for six days. He was to collect and hand over to me one hundred men under the command of one of his chiefs, a man who was on the spot. On the assurance that he would have the men ready at dawn, we returned to our camp in order to select the best horses to ride, and the strongest and fastest mules to carry our ammunition, food and blankets.



Chapter 36 - The Rearguard Moves Out


Long before dawn on the morning of August 5th, the camp was astir preparing breakfast, loading up provisions and gear on the mules, and feeding and saddling the horses prior to moving out. The two officers and six sergeants I selected for this enterprise were Captain E. G. Scott-Olsen, 55th Battalion, A.I.F.; Captain R. K. Nicol, M.C., Wellington Regiment, N.Z.E.F; Sergeant B. F. Murphy, D.C.M., 28th Battalion, A.I.F.; Sergeant W. T. Brophy, 75th Canadian Battalion; Sergeant R. C. Casey, 29th Canadian Battalion; Sergeant A. Nimmo, Otago Regiment, N.Z.E.F; Sergeant A. W. H. Place, 1/9 Middlesex Regiment; and Sergeant D. Cameron, 10th Lovat Scouts Battalion (Cameron Highlanders).

About half an hour after dawn we moved out of camp to Agha Petros' headquarters, in order to pick up the chief with his band of irregulars, but on arrival there we were informed that they would join the party along the road on the further side of the town. We, however, secured one of Agha Petros' followers, who was to act as interpreter, and another as guide to the mules, who were to follow on behind. We then moved out on to the high road, along which the people were still streaming on to Sain Kala. The first village we reached was a picture of chaos, owing to the streets being so narrow, and the crowd of refugees so great that progress was almost impossible. All the places of business in the town were closed and the Persian people, having escaped to the top storeys of their buildings, were looking out of the windows, fearful of their own lives, for the Armenians and the Assyrians were carrying out a systematic raid on the bazaars and streets.

Seeing that this would lead to more trouble, we endeavoured to put a stop to the thieving on the part of the refugees. While we were doing this the Governor of the Village, who heard of our presence in the place, came along and, in a great state of excitement, related to us the ill-treatment meted out to his people by the refugees. We obtained from him a messenger to return to the camp with a message stating the situation and asking for some of the cavalry to be sent out along the road to act as police and protect the Persians and their property. This calmed his fears and, on returning to his house, we rode on once more.

As we got out into the more open spaces of the valley, the road could be seen for some miles ahead. The people were streaming along in thousands, and hailed us on our approach as their deliverers. The men would shout in tones of great joy, "The English! The English!" and fired their rifles in the air and shouted loud hurrahs. The unfortunate women folk were so overcome at the sight of the first party of British that they wept aloud. Striking their breasts they would call, down upon us the blessings of God and rush across and kiss our hands and boots in very joy at the sight of their first deliverance from the cruel raids of the Turks.

We had ridden some eight miles, and there were still no signs of our promised escort, though the chief assured us every time we inquired that they would be along presently. Feeling rather apprehensive, we asked him to make some specific endeavour to obtain the men, as the information we were receiving from the people was to the effect that the Turks were close upon their heels. They also informed us that Doctor Shed was behind the last of the refugees and, with a small party, was endeavouring to protect them along the march.

We knew that the main body of Turks, to the south of the lake, had a force of two hundred and fifty Turks and an irregular force of two hundred and fifty Kurds at a town called Miandab to the north of our road, who had not been engaged in the fight between the Christians and Turks, when the former broke through to us. Thus we were particularly anxious to get behind the people, before this strong force received news of their plight, and came down in force upon the unfortunate column. Seeing that there was no likelihood of obtaining the promised hundred men, owing to the fact that the whole force had disbanded on seeing the people coming down, we resolved to push on without any loss of time and do what we could with whatever forces Doctor Shed commanded in his endeavour to form the rearguard.

The havoc wrought by the raiders on the column was becoming more evident the further we travelled, as time and time again one of us dismounted in order to bind up the wounds of some unfortunate woman, who was struggling along as best she could. Another thing was most noticeable, and that was the destruction of property and crops in the towns along the route, caused by the Armenians and the Assyrians. We passed villages in which there was not a single living Persian, but lying in the streets were the bodies of the murdered inhabitants. Houses and household utensils were wantonly destroyed, and the crops, which had been harvested and stacked on the outskirts, were all set afire by the Christians, in retaliation for what they had endured at the hands of the Turks. It was hard for the Persian villages to be thus treated, simply because they happened to be Mohammedans.

One very soon saw that the Mohammedan is not the only fanatic in the world, for the acts of these Christians were the outcome of pure fanaticism. Bad as the conduct of these Christians was one has to bear in mind their awful treatment at the hands of the Turks and Germans during the war. Still two wrongs do not make a right, and later on we had to adopt very strict measures to put a stop to this destruction.

About four o'clock, after riding somewhere near thirty miles, we were informed that Doctor Shed, with his wife, was only a mile further on, and very shortly we reached a little group of vehicles in one of which was Mrs. Shed and some of the workers of the American mission station of Urmiah. What a relief the sight of us was to these good women, is left to the reader's imagination. They had been five days on the road endeavouring to encourage the people and urge them forward, while Mrs. Shed's  husband was putting up a gallant fight with a few followers about half a mile further back. After shaking hands and telling her that she would reach our camps before twelve o'clock next day we pushed on to where Doctor Shed and his party were.

He had with him twenty-four men who he had persuaded to form his rear guard. On reaching them they were resting on top of a ridge on the lookout for the next rush on the part of the raiders. He told us that he had been fighting continuously for the last five days in his endeavour to save the people. We asked him how it was that so few of the Christians rallied around him, as it appeared to us that, if he had a strong force, the raiders could no doubt be kept at a safe distance. He answered with a shrug of his shoulders, saying, "What can one do, seeing that self-preservation seems to be the motto of most of the men." We had seen this on the road, as in nearly every instance the men rode their horses, carrying at least one rifle over their shoulders, with a plentiful supply of ammunition around their waists, while the unfortunate women folk tramped on as best they could. Every endeavour on our part to get the men to return with us to the rear of the column met with no response on their part.

We informed Doctor Shed that we would take over his command, if he would push on to our camp in order to assist the people as they came in. Agha Petros particularly requested this, knowing that the Doctor's influence over the people was greater than that of any other man. Before leaving he told us that the last skirmish he was engaged in was near a village about six miles back. These raiders were chiefly groups of wandering Kurds, or small bands of Turks, who would rush in on the column and, after a sharp fight, would carry off as much loot as they could pack on their horses, and the prettier girls whom, no doubt, they would sell to the lords of the Turkish harems.

From this rise we could see that the country further ahead was much more broken than that we had passed, so decided to push on and get in contact with some of the raiders. By hiding our forces in the rough country and opening fire with our machine guns, we might lead them to believe that a strong force of British troops were now protecting the people, hoping that we would impress them that the raiding would immediately cease. About a mile further on we passed through a village, wrecked by the refugees, without seeing a single inhabitant, beyond the bodies of those who had been butchered in the streets.

We noticed that this place was situated on a hill that overlooked the country on all sides, and nearby there was a spring bubbling forth clean water. About six miles further on we came to another village, round about which were tethered horses This village was situated in a narrow valley, and to the right was a gap in the hills, forming a semi-circular valley, which joined the main one some four miles further ahead. We halted here in order to form some plan of action and decided that, if we attacked these people in this place, without protecting our flank by sending a force round to the right, the chances were that if we drove them out they would probably get in contact with a stronger force which could easily sweep round this dangerous valley, command the positions in the rear and thus surround us.

In order to overcome this, Captain Nicol, with two sergeants and twelve of our refugees with one machine gun, were ordered to ride round to the right and prevent any encircling movement on the part of the enemy. With Captain Scott-Olsen, four sergeants, and the twelve refugees, we rode on to this force in the village. Two men were sent ahead to act as a screen and draw the enemy's fire, while the remainder of us followed under cover some distance behind. We had not gone very far when the enemy opened fire on our two men riding ahead. The remainder of us, with a machine gun on either flank at once extended on the outskirts of a poplar grove on our side of the village, and immediately opened fire on the enemy who mounted and galloped out of the place as fast as their horse could go.

About a mile further on the road wound over a ridge along which the enemy had ridden. The ridge on the right rose to a height of some four or five hundred feet. A couple of Assyrians were told off to climb the most commanding height and there keep a look-out for any movements on the part of the enemy. Two sergeants with a Lewis gun, together with four Armenians, were ordered to ride along to the ridge ahead and endeavour to obtain any information concerning the people we had driven out of the place. The remainder of us halted until reports were obtained from our scouts. About ten minutes
later the machine gun could be heard firing from the ridge along the road, so in a twinkling we rode out to their assistance with the other gun. On reaching this rise we could obtain a view of a couple of miles along the flats ahead, and saw about a hundred tribesmen, racing backwards and forwards, keeping up a steady fire on our chaps holding the ridge, who were answering them with their machine gun and rifles.

The other gun was promptly got into action and, after bowling a few of the tribesmen over, the remainder of them scurried across country over the ridge to the left of the road. It only wanted about an hour before darkness would overtake us. Seeing that the position we held was covered by ridges on either side of the road, over which we could easily be attacked and surrounded, we decided to fall back on the village, overlooking the country, some six miles further back, and there camp for the night. We sent word to Captain Nicol and his party, informing him of our movements, in order that he would make his way back to the village, where we arrived about ten p.m. A large house on the outskirts was selected for our camp, where the stream flowed quite close to its high mud walls. The place evidently belonged to one of the richer inhabitants and, luckily for us, had a large store of fodder for horses stored in one of the out dwellings within the courtyard, into which there was only one entrance which could easily be guarded by one sentry enabling the remainder of the party to get at least a few hours' sleep.


Chapter 37 - Against Big Odds


We waited for a little while in order to see if there were any signs of the mules carrying our blankets and food, each man pulling his belt in an extra hole in the attempt to satisfy the gnawing of the inner man, for since dawn we had not partaken of any food but a piece of chupattie at about eleven o'clock. One of the men set out to make inquiries concerning the mules, returned a little later with the report that they were not in sight.

Nothing daunted, a couple of the fellows went out and picked up a stray sheep, which was soon despatched with the aid of a bayonet. A strip of skin was ripped off from the fleshiest portion of the animal and pieces of flesh about two inches square were then sliced off. Bits of wire were then brought to bear in the operation, acting as skewers for the meat, which was soon grilling over a large fire we had alight in the centre of the courtyard. On the meal being cooked, it was quickly devoured and washed down with the clear water of the spring. One by one the lads rolled themselves into their coats and huddled together on beds of straw under the cover of a roof.

We officers were not by any means easy in our minds, for one great danger was ever present before us at this particular stage. Away to the north lay the town of Miandab, with the Turkish chief and his five hundred followers, and the query in Our minds was "Has that beggar got any news? If so, what action is he adopting?" The hope was that he would keep clear of our tracks until we got the last of the refugees down to the cavalry at Sain Kala. A sentry was posted, and soon the remainder of us were peacefully slumbering after an exhausting day.

At about 2 a.m. the tinkle of the mule bells could be heard on the road outside, and all were awakened by the muleteers, and the guide in their endeavours to lead the mules through the narrow doorway, and unload their burdens in the courtyard. After a little while all the gear had been sorted out, and a few of us commenced cooking a little rice and boiling the billy in order to brew tea. This was successfully accomplished and, feeling much better after this rough but much appreciated meal, we soon sought our couches of straw once more, under cover of the much desired blankets, as the cold, during the earlier hours of the morning, is acute in that country, even in the summer time.

Before the first streak of dawn had flashed across the grey skies some of us were astir, in order to place a sentry on the top of the flat roof, with instructions to keep a sharp look-out over the surrounding country. One by one the others sat up, and, after stretching and much yawning, crawled out of the blankets and were soon busy in rebuilding the fire to cook a little breakfast. Our spirits were high in the knowledge that we had defeated the enemy the night before and at the good supply of mutton, rice and tea, with the rosy outlook of a good breakfast, unhindered by any surprises on the part of our foes.

The fires were burning brightly and the breakfast well on its way, when the sergeant on the look-out called out for us to come up on the roof and have a look at what was going on. Seizing the glasses, I saw coming over the hills, and from the direction we had driven the raiders of the night before, a party of about one hundred and fifty horsemen. As we watched we saw them dismount in a valley, and halt there, for what reason we did not at that time know. Thinking that these were the demoralised tribesmen, whom we had hustled with our machine guns, little attention was paid to them beyond giving orders to the sergeant to keep a sharp eye on their movements. We concentrated our attention on our morning meal for which we were feeling more than ready.

Again the sentry called to come and have a look, and by the tone of his voice we gathered that something must be doing on the hills out yonder. It did not take long to realise that something indeed was doing, for parties of men were seen, riding over the hills, on both sides of the valley to our rear. The Turkish commander was on our tracks! If we wished to extricate ourselves from the village immediate action was imperative. Looking at the breakfast which would be ready in five minutes, one felt like staying to have his fill before clearing out, but casting a glance over the other houses to the high road that led to Sain Kala, one saw the refugees putting the last touches to their wagons, and in an instant we made up our minds breakfast must be abandoned and positions sought for the guns on the flanks of the village if we hoped to save the moving multitude on the road ahead.

The swearing on the part of the lads was terrific at the thought of "Boot and Saddle" once more and hopping into a scrap without a meal, but the danger of the situation was realised by all who accompanied the swearing with rapid movements in saddling their mounts and in seeing that the guns were working smoothly.

Two sergeants, with four refugees, were detailed to load up the gear, one Lewis gun being left with the sergeant on the post, which was placed under cover, on the sloping roof. A few of us took one gun to the right flank of the village, and the others took the remaining one to the other flank, in order to hold the enemy back until the mules had got clear. I happened to be with the gun on the right flank and had with me a Canadian sergeant, named Brophy, and the native chief whom Agha Petros had sent out with us.

We crept through the poplar grove and took up our position behind a low mud wall near the edge of the wood. There we waited until the enemy on our side came within killing range, though at this time they were well over a mile distant. The chief was frantic in his efforts to get us to open fire immediately, believing in the doctrine of his country, that moral effect, that is, a jolly good fright, is the best way in which to open a battle. We pointed out to him that according to our rules of warfare, the best way to frighten any enemy is to kill as many as possible at the outset, and then trust to the demoralising stunt. With this idea we waited until this particular party of about two hundred strong had reached the outskirts of the poplar grove some six hundred yards away.

We guessed that they had but little information as to our exact whereabouts and that they would be very wary in any of their movements beyond, or close to the village where we had camped during the night. On arrival at the poplars they dismounted and congregated in small groups, lit up their cigarettes and prepared to enjoy a quiet smoke while their scouts were obtaining information as to our exact whereabouts.

Young Brophy said, "I guess sir, it's about time to give them a little bit of hurry up," and he stood by with another loaded magazine, ready to slip on the gun immediately the one in position had run out. Laying the sights on to the thickest group in the centre of the crowd, I pressed the trigger until the whole magazine had been expended. In a twinkling young Brophy replaced the empty one with another fully loaded drum, which burst into the now panic-stricken enemy. Men and horses were rolling and kicking on the ground amongst the others, and those of the enemy who were fortunate enough to be holding their horses, quickly mounted and galloped back to the protection of the hills.

We kept up our fire until they got out of range, and hearing the other gun, on the opposite flank, rat-tat-ting for dear life, we knew that our fellows were making things busy in that quarter. On the retreat of our foes we pulled back to the rear of this town and there took up positions on the high ground which covered to greater advantage the open country, and would thus be in a position to cover the withdrawal of the mules. Sergeant Murphy was then sent back to lend a hand in loading, with instructions to urge them to get clear of the place with the least possible delay, for it meant they would be cut to pieces if caught in the narrow, winding streets of the village.

As we watched, we heard the machine gun within the village open up with short rapid bursts. Hardly daring to think of what was happening in that quarter, we waited with nerves strained to the utmost pitch for the first signs of their coming out. Most of the enemy were galloping round on the hills on either flank evidently with the idea of cutting off our retreat. So our guns were sighted to extreme range, and we poured a stream of bullets amongst the leading horsemen, who we forced to fall back to the higher ground.

Eventually the leading mules got out of the village, yet the gun continued firing in the streets further back. Our position was about seven hundred yards away and from there we saw that things were anything but pleasant with the lads as they endeavoured to get the animals clear of the streets. We stood by in order to give them a hand, but devoted most of our energies in preventing the horsemen riding down from the hills on our flanks, and thus cutting us off completely.

We knew each other's work thoroughly by this time and were confident that if anybody was able to get our convoy clear it was the sergeants who had been left behind to carry out the job. We trusted to their ability in extricating themselves in this delicate job, though we watched their movements carefully in order to assist should the necessity arise.

As the leading mules raced across the open, we heard the wild yells of the tribesmen close on their heels, and when the last got clear, we saw Murphy gallop out with the gun on his saddle, casting anxious eyes behind. He raced to a rise some two hundred yards clear of the village, keeping his horse under cover, dismounted and crept up the slope, placing his gun in position to obtain a good field of fire. This was hardly completed when some hundred horsemen dashed into the open to be knocked back with the deadly fire that Murphy opened up with his machine gun. The survivors immediately galloped back to the protection of the mud walls of the village, but in a few minutes repeated the performance, with the same results. Captain Nicol, who was in charge of the gun on the left, had moved forward on foot, evidently with the idea of giving the boys with the mules a hand.

The enemy, seeing that by shooting the mules it would considerably hamper our immediate movements, shot down one after another. The loads had to be abandoned, as it was quite impossible under such a fire to unload them and carry off the gear, the most valuable of which were two boxes of ammunition. On the boys gaining our sheltered position under cover of nullahs, it was seen that Nicol was still out in the danger zone, and before he had time to gain cover, he was hit, and fell without a move. Murphy, who was nearest Nicol's horse, ordered one of the lads to gallop out and bring him in, while he kept the enemy back with the fire of his machine gun.

The lad had not traversed fifty yards, when down crashed his horse, though in some miraculous way, not a bullet touched the rider, who luckily was near cover, under which he crawled back once more. Murphy then turned to another lad and asked him to take his own horse and attempt Nicol's rescue. The lad made a rush for it, but again the horse was brought to the ground, while the rider again escaped.

By this time Murphy had run out of his supply of ammunition for his machine gun, and was forced to double back to where we were in order to replenish his stock. We looked round for some of the twenty-four Armenians and Assyrians, who were carrying the loaded magazines for the guns, to find that at least half of them had pulled back along the road to a place of more safety. Nicol could be still seen lying out in front in the same position as when he had fallen. One of the lads made another attempt to get him out by making a detour along a narrow creek bed to the left flank, but before riding very far, it was seen that the enemy held such a position as to block any movement. So, with great reluctance, we abandoned any further attempts to rescue Nicol because it was seen that in all probability the would-be rescuers would be shot down one after the other in their futile attempts.

Feeling sure that he was beyond help, we decided to preserve the lives of the remainder to the last minute, in order to hold up the enemy's advance.



Chapter 38 - A Terrible Eight Hours


The noise of the continuous firing had spread panic through the ranks of the refugees who, in a great number of instances, were abandoning their wagons in their haste to flee from danger. We immediately despatched a message to the commander of the cavalry, informing him of our predicament, urging him to send all available reinforcements at once, and telling him that we intended to hold the enemy in the open, by falling back from one place to another, until he had time to bring his troops up. We endeavoured to collect our native allies, who were carrying panniers containing the loaded magazines for our machine guns, but found them to be missing. As the Turks and Kurds pressed our front and extended further along round our flanks, we decided to gallop back to the next position, which was done under fire from three sides.

Again and again this was repeated, until we got on the heels of the refugees who were moving through the valley, in two columns about seven or eight hundreds yards apart. Seeing that our small forces, which at this time consisted of only eight Europeans, one Armenian and one Assyrian, were unable to protect both columns, we decided on working along the column on our left. We knew that, so long as we continued fighting, the Turkish Commander would concentrate his efforts on wiping us out, before turning the energies of his men on looting the unfortunate people. Thus from position to position we retired, pulling out on each occasion before they had completely surrounded us.

At one stage we were, in dire straits, for the next position was at least one thousand yards behind, and in order to reach it, we had to gallop over a stretch of country devoid of any cover. Seeing the well-nigh hopeless position, and fearing that the guns would be lost we realised that something nearer madness than sanity had to be done immediately. With the Armenian chief we bailed up twelve to fourteen men at the points of our rifles, and offered them the choice of riding forward in a charge, or being shot there and then.

They chose the former, so we rode forward at full gallop, firing our rifles in the air and yelling at the top of our voices, hoping that the confusion we wrought amongst the people would mislead the Turks, and make them think that, instead of fourteen people charging them, there were about three times the number. This little bit of bluff had the desired effect of halting the oncoming Turks and Kurds, who galloped back to the ridge some few hundred yards to their rear. As we were falling back we saw hundreds of men amongst the refugees who, in every case, were armed, many with two rifles and supplies of ammunition in two or three belts round their waists, but, despite all our endeavours to induce them to join our ranks to stop the enemy's rush, we met with no response, and in many cases after a blank refusal, the worthy Christian drove his spurs into his mount and galloped along the road towards safety, leaving his women folk to the tender mercies of the Mohammedans or our ability to protect them.

Those that rode forward in the charge made themselves scarce at the first opportunity, leaving us once more to our own resources. Still hoping that the cavalry would be up, we continued our running fight. The refugees, particularly the women, were in the last degrees of panic, which meant that we had to take our lives in our hands, and at times ride back, single-handed, amongst the people in order to show them the colour of our khaki uniforms. This appeared to be the only thing to quell the panic, for so long as a Britisher stayed with them or rode through their ranks, their fears, for the time being, would be dispelled and a little order maintained in extricating their wagons containing their feed and earthly goods.

The preservation of these was of the most vital importance, as we knew full well that it would be many days before their supplies could be replenished. After fighting for over seven hours we heard a welcome English shout from a ridge behind. Looking round we saw about a dozen cavalrymen lining the heights. We got back to them in a state of collapse and utter exhaustion, due to the continuous fighting and hard riding of so many hours, without food or drink. Before' leaving the village in the morning we did not even have time enough to fill our water bottles, let alone eat, and the heat of the sun smote us most cruelly in the deep valley.

In command of the section was a sergeant who told us that he happened to be on police duty along the road, when he intercepted the message carried to Major Moore. Without loss of time he collected his men and rode out to our assistance, and never were men more welcome. These men were all British Regulars, thoroughly disciplined in the use of their rifles, and it was a good sight to see the way in which the sergeant directed their fire first to one flank, then the other, and then to the immediate front, with great success.

Hearing the increased fire from our side, the enemy halted and came on more warily. Under cover of the cavalrymen's fire, we managed to get about ten minutes rest, before falling back to the next position. After that, touch was lost between us, owing to the fact that the people were dispersed, through panic, across the whole of the valley. It was with the utmost difficulty that we managed to get into such positions so as to be able to fire on the enemy with something like effect. We still continued to use our rifles, though the machine guns were out of action owing to our ammunition being exhausted.

Throughout the fight we were forced not only to carry our machine guns but also our supply of ammunition. With rifles slung and a machine gun on the right shoulder, with four magazines in the left hand, we guided our horses in the mad gallop from position to position, fired at each time from the front and both flanks yet, strange as it may appear, we did not sustain a casualty and only three horses were lost. Fortunately for us, stray animals were passed at times, which were utilised in the cases where the men lost their mounts. Murphy, on giving up his horse in the attempt to rescue Captain Nicol, yielded the only apparent chance he had of saving his own life, but here at the very beginning, our luck was in, for one of the stray animals was caught by another sergeant.

Though it only had a halter as its equipment, Murphy rode it bareback, guiding it with the one rope and carrying a Lewis gun during the eight hours of the fight. It seems an impossible task, but such men as Murphy have grit enough to overcome any obstacles. Within six miles of our camp one of Agha Petros' men rode out at the head of about fifty mounted troops. The enemy on seeing these reinforcements did not wait to continue any more fighting, but galloped back, helter-skelter to the shelter of the hills overlooking the valley. At this stage we were just about at our last gasp, and separated one from the other, with not more than half-a-dozen rounds apiece, riding horses that stumbled along in a state of utter exhaustion.

As to what had happened to the cavalry, we were at a loss to understand. I still had with me young Brophy, who, throughout the day, was always nipping up when danger seemed to be most prevalent and he, on more than one occasion, saved my life. The pair of us rode, or rather clung to our saddles, towards the camp, and within a quarter of a mile we met the cavalry moving out under the command of a lieutenant, who informed me that Major Moore had ordered him out to our assistance. We told him it was rather late in the day to think of helping us, but pointed out to him the direction which the Turks had taken in their retirement. We suggested that he might hurry them along with his fresh men and much fresher horses than the enemy were riding. He accepted this advice while we rode back to the camp.



Chapter 39 - An Uneasy Night


Fording the river, we climbed to the small plateau on which our camp was pitched, and were there met by our comrades of the party, who, judging by the long hand-shakes and the glisten in their eyes, were more than pleased to see us again. Reports as to our plight during the early hours of the morning had reached camp some five hours earlier. For some reason the cavalry was withheld. Hence the delay. A meal was soon ready in the shape of boiled mutton, tea and the eternal rice, but, owing to the parched condition of our throats, most of us were unable to eat, but drank to our heart's content, even though it was a source of danger to our stomach.

Dr. Shed was extremely busy handling the mass of refugees, hurrying a group here and a family there in his endeavour to get them on to the main road that led to safety. It was hoped to be able to send them on in groups of eight hundred or a thousand strong, under the charge of two or three British soldiers. The proximity of the enemy and our knowledge of the existence of a deep gorge about twelve miles to the rear, formed by a river running through the mountains, the tops of the ridges on either side being only a matter of four or five hundred yards apart, forced us to hurry matters. It was our endeavour to get the people clear of this dangerous piece of country before the enemy or wild tribesmen had time to seize the heights. It would be an easy matter to ambush the column in this dark defile, which would prove a veritable death trap to thousands of unfortunate refugees.

Throughout that afternoon Dr. Shed and Agha Petros, together with some of our officers and men, strained every nerve in order to get the refugees, numbering approximately 70,000, on the road which led through this pass. The confusion was chaotic. Mothers sought their children, brothers hunted for sisters, while the husbands loaded their animals and wagons with the meagre store of flour and grain, which had to last them for several days.

By nightfall, as our camp was in the open, it was deemed advisable to fall back in the direction of some hills about a mile to the rear and there camp under cover for the night. Tents were struck and the baggage was soon loaded on the mules. Dr. Shed, who had been complaining of feeling ill during the afternoon, moved ahead with his wife in their wagon, in order to reach the camp before night had set in, but unfortunately missed the turning in the road that led to the camping ground. After a couple of hours work the tents were pitched, sentries posted, and the evening meal was ready, and by this time we began to feel uneasy at the doctor's long absence. Two sergeants were sent out to search for him and his wife. About midnight one rode back to the camp with the news that they had found the doctor who was very ill.

The medico attached to the cavalry got up at once and rode out to attend to the Doctor.  Unfortunately, on his arrival he saw that it was too late to render any assistance, as the missionary's life was fast ebbing out, as he was in the deadly grip of cholera. After doing what good he could, he waited there with Mrs. Shed for the end, which came quickly. Then next morning, with the assistance of the two sergeants, he dug a shallow grave and left the mortal remains of this great missionary in the wild hills of Northern Persia.

The loss of Dr. Shed at this stage is almost inconceivable. He was the man who had inspired the Christians during their long weary months of siege warfare. It was he who conceived the idea to work hand in hand with the British forces operating in Northern Persia, in the hope that relief would come to the people whom he so dearly loved. Though beset with traitors and defeated by men whose only ambition was self preservation, he still carried on. When forced to evacuate the city, he, by the force of his strong personality, gathered round about him a few brave men in his endeavour to form a rear guard to protect the people from the raiding tribesmen.

It was chiefly due to his efforts that the people were moving once more' giving us a big chance of saving a large number of them. Such is war. Even when one expects to find things working smoothly  after a trying and difficult period, something generally intervenes that dashes one's hopes to the ground. Like the Persian, let us call it "Kismet."

Beyond a few shots fired across the valley, the night passed without any further disturbance, but with the first streak of dawn came the attack on our position. The sentries had been carefully posted the night before and, with the aid of their machine guns, drove back the raiding bands that rode across the valley, who, being subjected to the machine gun fire, galloped back to the shelter of the hills beyond Sain Kala.



Chapter 40 - We Shake Off The Turks


Though we felt sure that Nicol had lost his life the day before, there was still the hope that, finding himself badly wounded, he had feigned death until nightfall, when he would creep to the shelter of the river in the valley. Even though he was dead, the idea of leaving him in the open to the Kurds was abhorred. The Major agreed to send a section of cavalry, guided by Captain Scott-Olsen, in order to bring him in. After breakfast this party moved out, but, on reaching the heights over which the enemy had fled, were attacked by a force of great superiority and forced to abandon the project. Major Moore was unable to carry on, owing to an acute attack of malaria, with the result that I found myself once more in command at an extremely critical period.

A large band of the enemy was bearing down upon us from another direction, which necessitated the changing of our dispositions to meet this threatened attack. We decided that it was imperative to hold on to this position until at least midday, in order to give the refugees a fair start, and also to enable us to get our convoy of mules and camels well ahead on the road before we retired. At this stage not one single soldier of the refugees remained with us. Agha Petros himself had failed in his attempts the night before to rally a force around his standard, but had ridden on to Takan Tepe, three marches further on, in order to raise if possible at least fifty followers, who would wait for us at that place.

Nothing developed for a couple of hours and, seeing that our position was well posted with machine guns, and particularly strong, it was decided to attempt some sort of a ruse in order to deceive the enemy to draw him on and inflict heavy casualties. The order was passed along the line of detached posts that, at a certain time, everybody was to rise and make the pretence of dismantling the guns in full view of the enemy, who had not come closer than about 1300 yards. At the appointed hour this was done and with great show the lads apparently dismantling the guns strolled down over the top of  the hills, again to crawl back to the crest where look-out men were posted to watch for any movements on the part of the enemy.

Even this did not induce them to come any nearer, so, after waiting for a couple of hours, we decided to fall back, knowing that the convoy and people were at least four miles further ahead. The cavalry were then ordered to ride ahead to protect our own valuable convoy of money, machine guns and ammunition, while we of the Dunsterforce Party were to follow on behind as a rear-guard party.

At this time sickness was beginning to make itself felt in the party, and on moving, we found it necessary to lash a couple of our boys to their mounts to prevent them from falling off. On reaching the highway the first sign of the horrors of the march were seen. The refugees, in their wild flight had made it a race of the survival of the fittest and along that road we came across small parties of old men, weak and wounded women, deserted infants and crippled children at frequent intervals. The heat of the sun was simply cruel and water was only found at stages from ten to twenty miles apart.

These unfortunates had been without water for about fifteen hours and, as we neared them, pitifully called for something to drink. We dismounted, and placed two or three women or children upon our horses, abandoning hundreds to their fate. Cruel as this was it was absolutely essential, as our idea was to save the greatest number of lives possible. Knowing that the first help was at Bijah, six marches off, it would have been absolute folly for a mere handful of us to remain behind in the attempt te save a few.

These, through their weaknesses, would surely succumb before reaching that haven of safety. So, with heavy hearts and big lumps in our throats, we were forced to turn a deaf ear to the pleadings of these poor unfortunates, who called upon us to save them. To have drawn our revolvers and shot
them would have been humane, knowing full well how cruelly they would be treated by the foe behind, but to shoot the old, the cripples and the infants in cold blood was a little beyond any Britisher. Thus, with aching hearts, we were forced to leave them to their fate.

After toiling throughout that day we eventually got the people and convoy clear of the dreaded pass and on to the open country further ahead, selecting for ourselves a camping ground on a commanding position overlooking the rough country.



Chapter 41 - Days Of Trial


Next morning it was seen that the horses were absolutely incapable of going further without rest, and the pangs of fever were gripping us, one and all. It was decided to spend that day in camp and move off during the cooler hours of the late afternoon. A party was told off to ride across to a neighbouring village in order to procure food for ourselves and grain for the horses. It met with a nasty reception at the hands of the inhabitants, who opened up a lively fire on these few men. After a lot of trouble, we were successful in getting a small supply of our requirements. The Russians, who had with them four mountain guns, failed to give us any assistance, and on the first attack on our position at Sain Kala, hurried on as quickly as their jaded beasts could move, offering as their excuse their duty in protecting some half-a-dozen Russian women who were with them. 

Mrs. Shed still remained with us and one can never forget the fortitude of that brave woman, who only a few hours before had buried her husband and was now alone, with three servants, in the hostile crags of Northern Persia.

As soon as it was cool enough we were on the move once more, enduring hardship, as on the previous day. Ahead of us lay a large village in the centre of a fertile, cultivated country which we hoped to reach that night and replenish our diminished stock of provisions. On our arrival at about midnight, we discovered the place to be a shambles and a heap of ruins. On the arrival of the refugees, the people were butchered, their houses burnt and the crops destroyed. There was nothing for it but to move again next morning in the hope of reaching Takan Tepe, whose population was big enough to put down any barbarous acts on the part of the refugees. So once more we were on the road, leading our horses, which carried some of the people whom we had rescued.

About a mile out we came across a group of young girls in great distress, gathered round the dead body of their father. We endeavoured to persuade them to move on, but they refused to leave the body of their parent to the vultures by day and the jackals by night. After promising to bury their father, we ultimately persuaded them to climb on top of the loads on the mules and move on to safety. 

About six miles from Takan Tepe we came to the wide river. Here were halted hundreds of the refugees who were bathing their swollen feet and watering their buffaloes. We decided to wait here until they were on the move once again. After an hour's wait we moved on, reaching Takan Tepe about six o'clock, finding to our joy that the place was unmolested.

On our meeting the refugees some time before, Major Starnes had despatched Captain MacLean, with a couple of sergeants from Bijah to take up the work of levy raising commenced by us. Before leaving Sain Kala we sent an urgent message to Starnes, asking him to send a few of the cavalry to that place in order to buy grain to be distributed on our arrival. It was due to the effort of these fellows that the people of Takan Tepe owed the safety of their lives and property. 

Next day the people continued their march to safety while the exhausted and sick were concentrated in a camp under the shade of the trees which grew about the village. Odd officers and sergeants were sent to the outlying villages in order to protect the inhabitants on the one hand, and the refugees on the other. Where khaki was, there safety dwelt for both parties. One or two cases of murder were reported and, where the offender was caught, he was handed over to Agha Petros, who had gathered round about him about fifty followers, chiefly relatives.

He lost no time in trying the culprit who was generally hanged on a tree on the roadside, as a warning to prospective offenders. The second day in Takan Tepe a messenger rode in from Captain Wilson who was on duty at one of the villages with the following message: 

Doorbash, 18/8/18.
To O.C. Troops,
Takan Tepe. 

From information to hand there has been a raid on the village of ARABSHAH, about nine  miles from here or eighteen miles in an from Takan Tepe. So far the main body of  refugees have not been attacked, but are certain to be after the tribesmen finish with the villages. 

These Kurds are foraging for horses and grain, I am led to believe, for the use of the Turkish troops. The two villages I am at present looking after are quiet, and no looting is taking place. I have one Armenian under arrest for murder and looting. Will I shoot him or send him to you for disposal?" 

D. WILSON, Captain, 2nd Royal Fusiliers. 

Something had to be done to protect the people from this new danger. A note to this effect was scribbled to Wilson, telling him at the same time to forward the offender to our camp and hand him over to Agha Petros. 

Next day he adorned the landscape, as a sign of warning to any others of his kind. The cavalry were out on patrol duty amongst the hills round Takan Tepe, so we at once approached Agha Petros who promised to come out with his fifty men, while I was detailed to command, assisted by six sergeant and two Lewis guns, with orders to disperse these four hundred tribesmen. In about an hour's time we were ready to move. Agha Petros, after a lot of delay, brought his men out on to the roadway in pairs, the white flag, on which was written above the red cross the words "Trust the Lord and Follow the Cross" at the head of his command. 

The standard bearer led the way with the party following, throwing up a huge column of dust, that completely hid from view the rear files, making it hard for an enemy to discern whether there were fifty or five hundred horsemen behind that silk flag. On riding some twenty miles, we saw on the hill slopes, some four miles to our left, a group of about four hundred horsemen who immediately galloped to the top of the hills overlooking the road. As it was now getting late and darkness would soon be upon us, we deemed it advisable to try and bluff the enemy rather than endeavour to engage them in a conflict amongst those rough hills, where the chances were that we would lose ourselves at the approach of darkness, which would be upon us before we developed the battle. 

So riding off through a valley to the right of the road, under cover of the dust cloud that we raised, we were soon hidden from their view, to reappear again in groups along the crest's top in such a manner as to make them believe that we were a very strong force. 

We watched the people passing on the road between us and our foes, until darkness set in. Gathering heaps of dry grass, we lit small fires along the top of the crest, as if we were preparing our evening meal. Our followers were told to sing and pass from one fire to the other, knowing that sound travels for miles in those valleys and hills during the silent hours of darkness. After keeping this up for a couple of hours, the fires were allowed to die out, we then mounted our horses and rode back to camp. This little bit of bluff worked. No other raid was attempted on the column by the tribesmen along that part of the road, they no doubt believing that a strong force was now protecting the column. 

We had to march a distance of nearly twenty miles without water and, on reaching the road on our homeward track, the cries of the people were most heart rending. Most of them, on leaving Takan Tepe, filled small jars and even cups with water, but this stock had been exhausted during that twenty miles' tramp, or spilt in the dark on the rough road. The physical endurance of these unfortunates was remarkable. Day and night they tramped on, resting only when they dropped from sheer exhaustion. On recovering sufficient strength, after a couple of hours' sleep, the crowd would trudge on once more.

We reached camp about 2 a.m., tired, cold and hungry, as we had had nothing to eat since breakfast the preceding day. Fires were soon lit, and while water was being boiled for the tea, some stew that had been left over from the evening meal in the camp was warmed up and literally devoured, so great was our hunger after the strenuous exertions of the day. 



Chapter 42 - Saving The Helpless


As soon as possible after our arrival at Takan Tepe, we set to work in buying up all the available mules, corn and flour in the district, with the object of bringing the helpless and most exhausted refugees to Bijah. We had urged Major Starnes to buy up all the grain and flour that could be secured in Bijah, and also to send for doctors from Hamadan to treat the sick we hoped to bring down on the mules and camels. 

The first camping ground of the refugees was littered with filth and refuse, and thus became a deadly menace at that time of the year in a cholera stricken country. So early next morning accordingly, we moved camp to the banks of a fresh stream that ran near the house of the Governor, with whom we were negotiating for the animals and grain. Sickness was showing itself among all ranks. Captain Kingscote was stricken down with pleurisy the first day out from Sain Kala, and by the time he reached Takan Tepe, he was in a state of collapse. His life was hanging in the balance for several days, but, thanks to the skilful energy of the cavalry's doctor, he regained sufficient strength to undertake later on the three, days' trip to Bijah, on a stretcher slung between two horses.

For days, odd stragglers in a starving condition again, and in nearly every case were stripped of their clothing. These people we fed and drafted to the concentration camp to be carried to Biiah, One morning two unfortunate girls, stripped of almost every shred of clothing-one with a bullet wound through her shoulder, the other wounded in the back-dragged their way into our camp and, after hanging back for some time, due to their modesty, were at last forced to come forward to seek food.

A couple of shirts were procured which served as some sort of covering in the shape of dress. The one who was wounded through the shoulder had been struck with a soft-nosed bullet, which made an opening about two inches across, at the point where it went out. Being without medical attention for five or six days, the wound was in a dreadful condition, as the flies had got to it. When she first came to us there were maggots of about half an inch long inside the wound. One hardly knew what to do. Remembering that I had some Condy's Crystals in my medicine chest, we mixed a solution of this stuff and poured it through the wounds, which kept them clean and killed the vermin.

For bandages we relied on the tails of our shirts. Our fame as doctors soon spread, and regularly every morning a crowd of women and children hung about our tents for medical treatment. Not being able to speak their language. and unacquainted with Medicine, we hardly knew what on earth to do with these folk. Practising the old stunts of the regimental doctor, we got them to put out their tongues, felt their pulses, turned down their eyelids, looked wise, and gave them one or two rhubarb pills, according to their size. Whether it was that the stunt or the pills worked, it is extremely difficult protecting the people, as the first two days' march led through an extremely hostile country. 

At least half of our own party were ill, some having to be tied on to their horses, while the remainder of us were suffering from fever and in a state of more or less exhaustion. Captain Kay took over twenty of Agha Petros' men and formed the rear guard; with two other sergeants and the remainder of the irregulars, I formed the advance guard. The rest of the fit officers and N.C.O's looked after our convoy of money, machine guns and ammunition, and the refugees. Mrs. Shed also accompanied us, attending to the needs and requirements of the sick people. The cavalry were to remain behind at Takan Tepe, in order to prevent the advance of the Turks and Kurds from the direction of Sain Kala. 

As we moved out we soon saw that more of our fellows would have to remain behind with the refugees in the column. These we had mounted in twos and threes according to the carrying capacity of the animals, but soon noticed that if a strict eye was not kept on them at least a third would never see camp or safety at the end of each day's trek, for the simple reason that the strongest person would - when not seen - throw the weaker ones off the animals in order to have a more comfortable ride.

Thus we had to detach men from other important duties, to the task of looking after the helpless and weaker of the people and prevent the selfishness on the part of the stronger, or, in plainer words, to put a stop to the murder of a section of Christians at the hands of their fellow countrymen. The first day's trek was about twenty-two miles to a place called Kizal-Bulahk, the native name for a spring. On arrival at camp the worst cases of sickness were attended to and those who were wounded had their wounds re-dressed. Amongst the people was a preacher from the American Mission Station whose wife was very ill, but the family decided taking her with us when we moved out. 

Next morning, after a great amount of trouble, we were ready for the road, to find, unfortunately, that the preacher's wife was slowly dying, the exertions of the previous day proving too much for her weak and delicate constitution. Captain Kay and two sergeants remained behind with her and the husband on our moving once more. They rejoined the party, about an hour later, with the news that she had died. 

That day's journey was extremely hard and trying, leading as it did through a desolate and broken country. Hundreds of bodies of the refugees in a state of decomposition were passed, particularly at the springs and small streams along the route. In every case these bodies had been stripped by the wild tribesmen who came down from the hills at night in search of plunder.

The exertions of the road began to tell terribly on the members of our own party, and on arrival at Bijah three days after leaving Takan Tepe, we were in a complete and utterly exhausted condition.  The members of our Bijah party did all they could for us. Food was ready and rooms prepared for our reception, yet within twenty-four hours of arrival every man but one collapsed. The doctors had arrived from Hamadan and were hard at work in the two hospitals established for the refugees. It was soon seen that another one would have to be got ready for the treatment of the members of my party. The month's continuous toil, every day of which was spent in the saddle - very often sixteen to eighteen hours at a stretch - lack of food, drinking water polluted with the bodies of those who had died, together with hard fighting, had proved too much for the human frame. The last two days on the road I, for one, have little recollection of, beyond the fact that I hung to the saddle and endeavoured to direct the work of the advance guard. 


Chapter 43 - The Last Of The Refugees


After a week in the hands of the doctors I recovered sufficient strength once again to resume my duties. One of the first things I did was to seek the two wounded girls whom I had taken care of at Takan Tepe and on the track, finding them in one of the refugee hospitals. On opening the gate of the courtyard one of them saw me and both, rushing to the gate, with strange words and anxious looks, seemed to be sizing up my condition, stroking my face and making me understand that my cheeks were very hollow. As to their joy on seeing me still in the land of the living, there was little question of it, as it took me a good hour to get out of the place once more, owing to their sympathetic tenderness. 

My job was to take over the concentration camp of the refugees into which they were drafted after discharge from the hospital. The place selected for this purpose was a poplar grove in the banks of a clear, swiftly-running stream. The scarcity of grain and flour for the couple of thousand people we were still looking after necessitated the strictest rationing. By this time we had quite sufficient experience of their gentle ways not even to trust a sick girl's rations to the tender care of a loving brother who would, without any compunction, eat at least half of it before delivery. To obviate this, each person was given a ticket which, on presentation, entitled the bearer to his or her share of rations.

 A large stockade was built, leading to which was erected a sort of run so that the people would travel a distance of about twenty yards in which they would receive their food, passing on to the stockade in which they were kept until the last person had received his respective share. The reason for doing this was that we very soon discovered that, even with tickets, we could not keep a proper check on the food, or guarantee that every person received his share. Some of the stronger members of the refugees very often would steal the ticket from some of the older and weaker ones, simply to double their own stock of provisions.

Owing to the huge consumption of food by this big crowd of people, and the limited quantity available in the district, it was imperative that those able to walk should be pushed on to Hamadan. In the first place the people were told of this, and those fit to move were asked to leave the town as soon as possible for the sake of those who were still too weak to walk. This appeal met with no response. An example of the selfishness of the Armenians and the Assyrians was brought to light on the very day of our appeal. Two able-bodied Armenians went to our paymaster and asked him to take over their money, amounting to nearly two thousand pounds, and give them a draft, payable by the paymaster at Hamadan. On hearing this I asked these people when they intended to get a move on, and to cease drawing the rations so urgently required for others. 

They apparently did not see the force of my argument, and one, who spoke English fluently, turned to me with a smile and in the oiliest manner imaginable assured me he was without the means of moving on. When asked what he intended doing, he replied, "Oh well, sir, we can do nothing until you provide us with camels or mules to undertake the journey!"

I then asked him if he would like a motor car and, without seeing the irony of my question, he said, "That would do splendidly! People always say that the English are the best people on earth, and this kind of offer on your part, sir, proves them to be no idle words." By this time I had had enough of these people, and quietly informed him that if he, with his family and whole outfit were not on the road before dawn next morning, I would cut off their supply of rations. He said, "Surely you are joking, sir, for are not the English Christians like we ourselves are? And by forcing me to walk you would be imitating the Turks." 

In as few words as possible I told him that I knew all about his little transaction with our paymaster and if he walked or starved on the track, it would be no concern of mine. I should not be troubled in the slightest as, in my opinion, a man who had as much money as he had and malingered on British generosity at the cost of his poorer countrymen, deserved to die the most horrible death imaginable. If I saw him or his friend on my next visit to the camp, I would have much pleasure in kicking them both out. Next morning he was still there, and came up to me, as large as life, inquiring after my health. I assured him that I was just strong enough to kick him every step of the fifty yards that led to the road, and quickly proved the statement by performing the act. If ever a man got a full dose of kicking, this fellow got his, with a margin to spare!

The example I made of this particular sample of Near East Christianity worked wonders with the others. Very quickly all those who could walk, loaded their mules or oxen with three days' rations and set out on the road that led to Hamadan. A large number of mules and camels had been hired, on which we sent numbers of these people on. The people at headquarters, on being informed of the lack of supplies in the district of Bijah, promptly sent up convoys of food and, on the homeward journey, carried our refugees. 

The havoc wrought by the Christians along the route which we had taken was simply devastating and, there being so few of us, we had no chance of disarming the men. Hamadan was informed of their playful tricks and advised to disarm them before they reached that city. A detachment with a couple of machine guns occupied a pass a few miles north of Hamadan and, as the refugees came down, disarmed them one and all, much to their indignation, before leading them to the camping ground prepared for them on the outskirts of the city. 



Chapter 44 - The Hand Of Sickness


Gradually the refugees were being passed from the camp to the road, and then in batches to Hamadan. Work was still being zealously carried on in gathering supplies, and from aeroplane reconnaissance it was ascertained that the Turks were concentrating about Sain Kala, evidently with the view of attacking Bijah. By this time the roads leading from Baghdad were in a good state and seeing the uselessness of trying to raise troops in Persia, it was soon agreed that if we wished to hold the country, British troops would have to be sent up, which resulted in a force being concentrated in Hamadan for immediate use in Persia. 

In view of the great danger of Bijah, two companies of British troops were despatched to hold the town, and some little time after the arrival of the refugees, these troops were got into motion, arriving towards the end of August. At the time of their arrival a large number of our fellows were down with sickness, some of whom had died. On the 26th August I was once again stricken down with fever and after another spell in the hospital, was discharged for duty. On taking up the reins I discovered that my heart was severely affected, and easily caught a local disease by the name of "berri-berri." a swelling of the ankles and knees. On being examined by the doctors I was ordered to be removed to Hamadan. 

I was due to leave on the 26th August and at six a.m. I crawled into the front seat of a Ford van, running a temperature of 102 degrees, with over one hundred miles' ride in view. One does not wish to dwell on the memories of such a journey. The road was terrible, being nothing more than a caravan route, and along this bumpy highway we moved, reaching Hamadan at about 6 p.m., three parts of which journey I have very little recollection of, being delirious at the time of reaching the Hamadan hospital.

Dr. Funk, the American missionary stationed at Hamadan, had handed over the use of his hospital to our force. On arrival at this place kind hands lifted me from the van and placed me on a bed in a tent within the hospital grounds. I was ordered to remain on my back for about eight days, after which I was allowed to walk as far as the missionary's house within the same grounds. The doctor's house and library were thrown open for our use, and Mrs. Funk acted as matron-in-chief to those in the convalescent stage. One can never forget the kindness of these people during those days. Nothing was too much trouble, as long as it would mean pleasure or bring contentment to the invalid. 

The library itself was a large, airy room, lined with book cases filled with all manners of reading. Sitting in an easy chair, smoking real cigarettes and reading an interesting book, interrupted only by the arrival of morning and afternoon tea, helped more than one sufferer along the road to recovery. Many of the fellows were so far gone by the time they reached this haven of refuge that, despite all the skill and attention of Dr. Funk and the British Medical Officers they succumbed to sickness or disease. During my stay there I don't think one night passed without at least three patients dying.

The food available for the invalids was only that which was procured locally. A bakery had been established, and there being no time to clean the wheat properly, the flour was full of grit, which, owing to our weak condition, afflicted the invalids terribly. After getting off milk diet, one was forced to eat this gritty discoloured bread and mutton stews. The Turks, seeing that very little could be gained by striking at Bijah, turned their attention to Zengan on the eastern road where very soon the garrison was engaged in heavy fighting. 

As every man who was able to fight was wanted in this district, the colonel in command at Hamadan visited the hospital daily, to see if there were any of us fit to take the saddle. I was asked if I would go up and take charge of certain operations in that area, but on going for a walk to see how strong I really was, I fainted when I had walked but a bare five hundred yards, which was sufficient proof to show that I was of no use for any further service in Persia. Owing to the altitude, some six thousand feet above sea level, I discovered that my heart was daily becoming worse instead of better, so I asked permission to undertake the trip to Baghdad where proper medical attention could be procured.

Owing to the tremendous distance and terrible conditions for any sick person on the road, there was much reluctance on the part of the doctors to grant this request. Eventually they acceded, and on the 14th September I once more boarded a Ford machine and took the road that led to Baghdad. We left Hamadan about seven o'clock that morning and continued running, with only sufficient stops to cool the engine, until nightfall, by which time I was again running a high temperature. Being in the open wilds, I was forced to look after myself, but fortunately, not feeling inclined to eat, was not compelled to light a fire in order to cook my own meal. 

That night the wind blew at hurricane rate, and being camped at the entrance of a pass, we got the full force of the elements, which did not tend to make one feel fresher on moving shortly after dawn next morning. We continued the run throughout the day, still passing groups of refugees streaming towards the plains of Mesopotamia, and reached Kirmanshah, where a hospital was established. A little before dark I was put into bed, remaining there for several days, until I gained sufficient strength to move on once more. The next stage was one of two days, the first of which brought us through the Pia Tak Pass, where we rested in a camp until morning, arriving the next night at Kezel Robahk.

Resting there for one day, I arrived at the clearing station at Rtiz late that afternoon in a state of complete exhaustion. After receiving decent medical attention and Christian food for the first time, I was able to proceed by train to Baghdad on the third night, arriving at that splendidly equipped Military Hospital about seven a.m. on the morning of the 28th September and was there treated for some weeks. Then I passed on through the hospitals of Amara and Batounamah, after which I was placed on a hospital ship and brought to Bombay, being finally discharged about the middle of December. 


Chapter 45 - The Rush To Baku


While we were arranging preliminaries at Bijah prior to moving up towards Lake Urmiah, General Dunsterville was concentrating his force at the seaport town of Enzeli, on the south-eastern coast of the Caspian Sea. During the time we were fighting about Sain Kala endeavouring to draw the Turks from the Caucasus down on our party, Dunsterville embarked with his troops. Without molestation, he landed at Baku, but owing to the evacuation of the refugees from Urmiah, we failed to draw the large numbers of the enemy anticipated to that area, and Dunsterville found himself forced to dig in a few  miles outside the city, and there for some weeks put up a gallant fight with his small force. 

One of the first things that he did on arrival at Baku was to call together a conference of the Armenian and other leaders, where he asked for their co-operation in driving the Turks inland. They assured him that they would help to the utmost of their abilities, and commenced gathering a force of their fellow countrymen. It was also hoped that a general in command of a Russian force would be able to effect a junction with our troops in the near future.

The Armenians and Russians gathered their forces, and a portion of line was allotted to them, with patrols established well ahead by members of the famous Locker-Lamson armoured car force, which was now attached to the Dunsterforce party. The Turks attacked in overwhelming numbers at frequent intervals, and were defeated on every occasion by the Britishers in the trenches. The anticipated help on the part of the Armenians soon resolved itself into a delusion for, early in the fighting, it was seen that these worthy allies of ours would desert their trenches on every occasion when the Turks attacked. 

General Dunsterville pointed out to their leaders this lack of co-operation, also the fact that he was receiving heavy casualties among his own forces without the remotest hope of obtaining reinforcements, and in very plain language, told them that if they refused to fight, he would be compelled to evacuate the town. This met with the audacious reply that if he attempted to leave the place the inhabitants would open fire on him and his gallant band, as they considered he was there to protect them. 

After urging upon them the necessity of their co-operation in fighting the Turks and meeting with a refusal on every occasion, Dunsterville decided in favour of withdrawing his forces, who were becoming fearfully reduced through the continuous heavy fighting. Taking advantage of a favourable night, he skilfully withdrew his troops and guns in the very face of the enemy, embarking the men on one vessel, and the guns and ammunition on another. Fortunately, the skipper in command of the boat carrying the troops was loyal to the British, but the master of the other vessel on which the guns were placed had to be forced to follow the leading boat by an officer with the persuasion of a revolver.

On passing the fort near the town, the sentries caught sight of the moving vessels and signalled to stop immediately. Dunsterville replied that he would anchor a few hundred yards out and there wait until the morning, but this did not satisfy "Our Allies," who instantly opened fire upon the two vessels. Thanks to their erratic aim they altogether missed the boat containing the troops, though they landed a few light shells in the other vessel which was carrying the guns, without causing much damage.  Steam was increased, and before very long both boats were well out of range, eventually reaching Enzeli once more, after an entirely fruitless campaign in the Caucasus. 

Had the Armenians and townspeople in any way helped this force, there is little doubt that the town would have been held, but owing to their faithlessness, evacuation was a necessity, and a few days after our force left, the Turks entered Baku, celebrating their victory by putting to death some thousands of the inhabitants. 

Operations now came more or less to a standstill, and seeing that it was utterly futile with such a limited force at our disposal (the brigade which fought at Baku, being reduced to about a battalion's strength), to again attempt any operations in the Caucasus, our attention was directed to the holding of 'the highway from Baghdad to the Caspian, thus blocking the roads to India to the German and Turkish propagandists. 

In reviewing the whole operations, with its two phases first that of holding these highways, secondly that of entering the Caucasus and raising a force to re-establish the old Russian line, it can be said that we failed in the latter, but succeeded in the former task, for we successfully raced the Turks for possession of the Baghdad-Caspian Road and effectually established outposts to the north at points along those roads leading southwards to India.

We opened up the country by constructing roads, over which it is possible to drive motor cars and lorries, put down raiding on the part of the wild tribesmen and Kurds, thus making the country safe for the merchant in importing goods and exporting the products of the country, which increased trade by at least one hundred per cent., besides saving the lives of thousands of the inhabitants during the worst months of the famine. 

Of the seventy thousand refugees that left Urmiah, we were successful in saving about 60,000 to 65,000, conveying them in stages to the fertile flats of the Diala River, north of Baghdad, by providing trains of mules and camels for those too weak to walk, and supplying food for them during their long journey to this place of safety. 

A huge tented settlement was erected for their reception with an enormous supply of army rations for their maintenance. A fully equipped Military Hospital was sent forward from Baghdad in order to attend the wants and requirements of the sick on their arrival. A glance at the map will show the extensive stretch of country over which we operated. One has to bear in mind that we were in an unfriendly country, overrun by our enemies and German agents. A fearful famine devastated the land and to accomplish the job the force known as "Dunsterforce" was only about three hundred and fifty strong, assisted by one squadron of cavalry. 



Chapter 46 - Stalkys Farewell


On the cessation of hostilities, the survivors of Dunsterforce were recalled to Baghdad. A force of Indian troops replaced them in Persia, until the results of peace were finally cleared up. During October General Dunsterville bade farewell to those who had been the members of his force, by issuing the following Order of the Day: 

To The British Officers And Non-Commissioned Officers Of Dunsterforce. 

It is with great regret that I sever my connection with the gallant members of the force I have commanded under very peculiar circumstances for the past nine months. The original destination, of course, was the Southern Caucasus, but, owing to various causes, that destination was never reached. The force remained in Persia until August, 1918, when a portion reached Baku and took part in operations there, which came to an end with the evacuation of September 14th, 1918. The remainder of the force was employed in various parts of Persia and Kurdistan, where they had the honour of being the first British troops to operate in these regions.

The work carried out by the members of the force was varied from valuable administrative tasks to daring achievements in the battlefield, and all have striven to do their utmost, even in spheres of work for which they were never prepared and they would never have chosen for themselves. Officers and N.C.O's have been called upon to superintend famine relief work, to assist in road construction, to police towns, to drill and instruct levies and Armenian troops, and to lend a ready hand in many tasks that were not, in themselves, congenial. 

Apart from any military results achieved, the members of the force have had the proud privilege of showing the various races in the lands through which they passed, the pattern of the finest army of present times. The effect of their demeanour and their behaviour has been such as to enhance the reputation of the British race in the eyes of all with whom they had dealings. 

Mirza Kuchik Khan, the leader of the Gilinas, with whom we fought at Resht in July, has stated that he fears the British more than any other European race because their methods are such as to call forth the admiration even of their enemies. Against other foes he can rely upon stirring up some desire for vengeance or retaliation, but against the British he fails to rouse any feeling at all. 

I am prouder of my command of the gallant officers and N.C.O's of Dunsterforce than of any other command I have ever held, or am likely to hold. Brought together from every corner of the Empire, all have vied with one another to show the absolute unity of our national aspirations, and our determination to win in this great war of the representatives of freedom against the powers of autocracy and militarism.

I wish each individual member of Dunsterforce everything good in the future and happy memories of this far away theatre of the great war. 

To General Dunsterville, the soldier and the man, we say "Goodbye and Good Luck," and never will we forget those days that gave us the pleasure of. following your gallant leadership.

 

 

Further Reading:

The Battle of Baku, Azerbaijan, August 26 to September 14, 1918

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920

 


Citation: The Battle of Baku, Azerbaijan, 26 August to 14 September 1918, Captain S.G. Savige, Stalky’s Forlorn Hope

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
Updated: Friday, 3 September 2010 12:15 PM EADT

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