"At a mile distant their thousand hooves were stuttering thunder, coming at a rate that frightened a man - they were an awe inspiring sight, galloping through the red haze - knee to knee and horse to horse - the dying sun glinting on bayonet points..." Trooper Ion Idriess
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Wednesday, 18 March 2009
Kimberley, South Africa, February 13 to 15, 1900 Topic: BatzB - Kimberley
South Africa, 13-15 February 1900
Kimberley, a major operation undertaken by British forces on 13-15 February 1900 (during the Second South African War) to break the Boer siege of the diamond - producing town of that name on the western border of the Orange Free State. After the campaign to relieve the town mounted by Lieut.-General Lord Methuen during November-December 1890 ended at Magersfonein (q.v.), a second attempt was prepared by Field Marshal Lord Roberts who arrived to supersede General Sir Redvers Buller as British Commander-in-Chief in South Africa in January. This effort entailed massing 47,000 combat troops (30,000 infantry, 7,501 cavalry and 3,600 mounted infantry), along with 120 guns, in the area between the Orange River and Modder River stations (q.v.). Included in this formidable army were about 500 Australians - men of the Queensland Mounted Infantry, New South Wales Mounted Rifles, and New South Wales Lancers - who were incorporated into the cavalry division commanded by Lieut.-General John French.
By 11 February Roberts was ready to move. While ordering Methuen to again take his 1st Division forward in a feint towards Magersfontein - thus tying the Boer general, Piet Cronje, to the defences the enemy had carefully developed there - at 2 a.m. the next day he began moving his main force north towards Modder River, as though confirming Boer expectations that the next major thrust would be along the axis of the railway. The cavalry division was used to guard the British right flank, moving out into Orange Free State territory to secure crossings on the Riet River for use by the 7th Infantry Division.
On the morning of 13 February, Roberts inspected the cavalry division before instructing French to proceed with the next step in his hold plan. Instead of continuing a slow ponderous advance via Magersfontein, Roberts had decided to cut the cavalry loose from the main body and send it on a rapid sweep forward to achieve the relief of Kimberley within two days. French's route from deep inside the Free State would carry him across Cronje's line of communications and threaten to cut off all Boer forces assembled on the western border unless these quickly fell back. Roberts himself was preparing to make an easterly thrust with his main force aimed at capturing the Free State capital at Bloemfontein.
Proceeding in scorching summer heat across the waterless veldt, both horses and riders in French's force suffered terribly; hundreds of mounts dropped in their tracks and had to be destroyed. Added to the hardships imposed by the country was the spirited resistance of the Boers, who realised they had been thoroughly wrong-footed and sought desperately to impose delay on the British cavalry's progress from the line of the Riet towards the Modder. Throughout the next two days, the Australian horsemen in French's division were in the vanguard and often under fire. The Lancers in particular were hotly engaged on 14 February at Klip Drift, where a large Boer camp beside the Modder was taken by surprise and captured.
When Cronje realised the significance of French's appearance off his left flank, he despatched 900 men with guns to block any British attempt to push further north away from the drift. The obstruction presented by this force was swept aside on the morning of 15 February with amounted charge which sent the enemy scattering in all directions - mostly back towards Magersfontein. British casualties during this day's fighting were five dead and ten wounded, but nearly 70 horses were lost through exhaustion. The way to Kimberley was now wide open, and by early that same evening General French with his staff and nearly 5,000 men finally rode in through the hastily abandoned Boer lines, to the immense relief of the town's 48,000 residents.
Despite the Australians' prominence during the advance, the only element to actually accompany the relieving troops into the town was a bearer company of the New South Wales Army Medical Corps; this was, in fact, the only medical unit able to keep up with the horse-killing pace of the dash. If the Queensland and New South Wales horsemen were denied a share in the glory of breaking the siege, they still found some hard fighting in securing areas out from Kimberley. On 16 February, for example, both the QMI and NSW Lancers were involved in an action at Dronfield (eleven kilometres north of the town) against an entrenched Boer party who eventually left of their own accord.
Extracted from the book produced by Chris Coulthard-Clark, Where Australians Fought - The Encyclopaedia of Australia's Battles, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1998, pp. 66-68.
Additional References cited by Chris Coulthard-Clark:
L.M. Field (1979) The forgotten War, Carlton, Vic. Melbourne University Press.
R.L. Wallace (1976) The Australians at the Boer War, Canberra: Australian War Memorial & Australian Government Publishing Service.
605th Machine Gun Company War Diary - 3-7 April 1916 Topic: Gm - Bk - 605 MGC
German 605th Machine Gun Company (MGC)
War Diary, 3 April to 7 April 1916
605th Machine Gun Company War Diary - 3 to 7 April 1916
At Cuprija (Serbia) we got coffee at 2.15 a.m. as our evening meal from a German supply depot. Departure at 2.45. At Aleksinac we had a stop from 11.30 to 1.45 where an issue of coffee took place. From 2.10 to 5.30 we had a stop at Greac. At 6 p.m. we arrived at Nisch where we got our evening meal from the German supply depot there. During the night we travelled from the L. of C. rail station to the main railway station.
From to-day at 8 a.m. we keep Bulgarian time. During the morning we were allowed to visit the town finder the escort of an acting S.M. We left at 4, Bulgarian time, and at the first stop we got coffee from our field kitchen and at the same time we got bacon- At 8.45 p.m. we reached Pirot.
At 9.05 we arrived at Sofia and as we stopped there till 1.30 p.m. we visited the town under escort. At 9.30 we got coffee and at 12.00 our midday meal from the German supply depot, and we also got Bulgarian cigarettes from the German Colony in Sofia. At 9.30 p.m. we arrived at Philipopel and got our evening meal from the German railway supply depot. During the night we travelled towards Adrianopel.
At 11.35 we got our dinner in Adrianopel and departed 1.30 p.m. Stopped at Kubile-Burgas from 2.30 p.m. to 6 p.m. At 7 p.m. we got our evening meal at Usunkenpu from the Turkish supply depot. At 10 p.m. we got coffee from our field kitchen.
At 9 a.m. we got breakfast at Tscherkasskoi. At 2 p.m. we had dinner at Kutschuk-Tschemedji from the field kitchen.
1st Australian Armoured Car Section - Palestine - Part 3 Topic: AIF - Cars
1st AUSTRALIAN ARMOURED CAR SECTION, AIF
This is a transcription from a manuscript submitted by Captain E.H. James called "The Motor Patrol". It is lodged in the AWM as AWM 224MSS 209. This is Part 3.
Before dark, according to instructions, we retired to Es Salt which we reached in time to make a comfortable camp for the night. However, before leaving our position of the night before the advance party of the infantry division had reached us and was well on its way to junction with the mounted division.
We stayed next day at Es Salt and sent messages through to Divisional H.Q. asking for orders. Next day was Good Friday which we spent (also the three following days) in driving along the Es Salt to Amman road and bringing in loads of wounded who were compelled to walk as it was not possible for the ambulances to reach them. We were able however, to give a pretty rough ride to quite a number of these poor chaps who were nearly dead with wounds, cold and exposure. Later on some of the light ambulances managed to get up into the hills and we received instructions to protect them from interference, which we did by continually patrolling the road.
The troops were having a pretty rough spin altogether. The weather was bitterly cold and wet and most of them were soaked to the skin, day and night. Some of the natives were also giving some trouble and there were rumours of retirement. All day and night the population of Es Salt and the surrounding district were slowly evacuating their homes and with their valuables packed up began to march down the long road through the hills to the Jordan Valley over twenty miles below. Word had evidently reached the villagers that we intended to retire to the valley again shortly and they were fearful of the vengeance that the Turks, on their return, would turn upon them for helping the British during the advance. The road was becoming filled with refugees and it was pitiful to see tiny children and old people quite unfit for such a journey endeavouring to do the long walk with their bundles. On the first of April we received orders to evacuate the Es Salt and return to Shunet Nimrin at the foot of the hills.
The trouble apparently was not that we could not hold our own in the hills but the difficulties of transport for supplies and ammunition were too great to keep up for an extended period. We now saw the worst side of war as we had to force our way through the panic stricken population and we could imagine what a retreat meant. Numbers of footsore and crying villagers asked for seats in our patrol cars and many of the men were quite willing to walk and let these poor people have their seats but this could not be allowed as military considerations had to come first and we had to be hard hearted and keep to our schedules. We left Shunet Nimrin at 6.30 a.m. next day and proceeded to cross the Jordan at the Ghoranyeh Bridge about an hour later while the enemy aeroplanes were making things very lively by bombing the road and bridge-head. However, we managed to run the gauntlet without suffering in any respect and joined our old comrades the Anzac Mounted Division at Jericho about 11 o'clock and learnt of the rough times they had experienced In their retirement and how the Cirsassians and Bedouins who had feted them on their advance had sniped them from every rock on their return journey. So this was the end of the first Amman Stunt.
Next morning the enemy reminded us that the war was still on by bombing our camp at daybreak from their planes. However, our chaps were so tired or else were getting used to bombs to such an extent that the majority of them would not stir from their blankets.
The enemy was beginning to get a bit cheeky and they evidently thought that as we had retired from the hills we were beaten and on the 11th April they came down from the hills and after a lot of shelling they began to attack our bridge heads on the Jordan. The Light Car Patrol received orders to take the Lewis Guns out of the cars and to reinforce the 1st Light Horse Brigade who were holding the foothills across the river. We placed our guns in the trenches under orders from the Brigade and vary soon had plenty of machine gun practise opening up at 1200 yards which was reduced later down to 500 yards range.
Next morning a large number of dead Turks were buried in front of our position so apparently the couple of thousand rounds of ammunition used by us was not all wasted. Our chaps relished the change of sitting down behind cover to do the shooting as generally the position was reversed and they were the targets. During the night the enemy retired to the hills again, sadder but wiser and it was quite a time before he picked up courage to make another attack.
After their attack on the 11th April, the enemy became very quiet and unenterprising. So a demonstration was made into his territory on the 13th and 19th to keep him busy and on the 24th the Armoured Cars and Light Car Patrols made a dash across the river and proceeded north for about 7 or 8 miles into enemy territory to have a look at his territory and dispositions. We toured around for a couple of hours and beyond provoking some of the batteries of artillery which shelled us we were not interfered with. The shelling did not affect us as the enemy discovered that quick moving motor cars make a very difficult target especially when they do not adhere to a fixed road. We returned back again to camp shortly after midday by our old pontoon bridge.
Next day we crossed the river again and this time we proceeded in a southerly direction through scrub and now country along the east coast of the Dead Sea. Our duty this time was to cover a working party who were endeavouring to salvage a damaged enemy motor boat which had been beached along the coast some miles south east of the mouth of the Jordan. We encountered about half a squadron of enemy cavalry about four miles along the coast. These men scattered to the hills on seeing our cars and as our job was to cover the working party we did not give chase and left them alone after firing a few shots to hurry them along. The working party managed to get the boat afloat and they towed it with a motor boat to Rujm-al-Bahr a rendezvous on the north of the Dead Sea.
We arrived back at Headquarters about 4 o'clock in the afternoon with several broken springs owing to the extremely rough ground covered along the coast. We found on examination that there was scarcely a sound spring on any car in the patrol so in the evening we sent off a car post haste to Richon and Ludd via Jerusalem, a trip of about 60 miles each way to fetch back a fresh supply of spring plates. We received these next evening and after a busy night we had all springs repaired and replaced the care ready for anything; but the men rather weary.
On Tuesday 30th April and Wednesday 1st May, another big attack was made on Shunat Nimrin by the infantry and further north by the Light Horse Regiments. This attack was not altogether a success from all points of view and at times things were very mixed. We were ordered to stand by with cars ready for a dash at any moment to places that might need assistance.
About noon on the Wednesday, word was received that the 4th Light Horse Regiment had been out off by the enemy, and that General Chaytor the divisional commander was motoring with his escort directly into the enemy's lines. One of our cars was told off to chase him at full speed and warn the party of its danger but fortunately we discovered that they had already been warned of the enemy's new position. Our base of operations for this two days fighting was a place known as Um-esh-Shirt and we slept in the scrub for the night. Next morning an enemy bombing squadron dropped a large number of bombs amongst our forces but did very little damage considering the large numbers of troops moving about.
We had a little more machine gun practise at the aeroplanes but with no apparent result. At 6 o'clock that evening we were all back again at Jericho as the attack was over and everything was quiet once more except for occasional shots from outposts.
Throughout the month of May the Patrol was stationed alternately around Jericho and at different points along the river front. The heat by day was very severe and almost unbearable and the dust was choking. The flies were a black mass over everything and at night the sand flies and mosquitoes took over their duties to make our lives as miserable as possible. The flies were so thick that it was absolutely impossible to get food to one's mouth without some flies going with it. In fact, many of us cut our meals down to two a day (one in the early morning before the flies were up and the other in the evening after they went to bed). One genius discovered a method of beating the flies for a midday meal. He built a small frame with sticks large enough to sit in. This he surrounded with a mosquito net into which he took his tin of jam, biscuits and mug of tea. He then proceeded to kill off the flies inside the curtain and then calmly ate his meal to the maddened buzz of the insects outside the curtain who could not reach him. After he had finished his meal others would take their turn.
The men on outpost work near the river at night time had a miserable time as the swarms of sandflies and mosquitoes would leave their faces and hands like raw beef. After three months of this misery in the Jordan valley we were given a fortnight's leave to overhaul our ears and recuperate up in the hills at Bethlehem. The cooler climate was a great relief after the uncomfortable valley but we were all very sorry when the two weeks was up and we had to return to the heat, filth and flies again on 24th June.
This time our camp was made at the base of Mount Kuruntel which was nearly ten miles from the enemy's front line. A few days afterwards we were very surprised to find high velocity shells exploding around us, as under ordinary circumstances this should have been out of range. We heard afterwards that the Turks had taken some of the long range naval guns from the old "Goeben" and had manoeuvred them overland to the hills opposite where they were enjoying themselves at our expense.
However, the range was too long for them to see what they were doing and most of their shooting was harmless.
The large scale of the Great War often gave people a sense of alienation from the activities of the government and the army. To overcome this, newspapers of the day commenced columns called Query Club or similar names, where ordinary people could clarify their understanding of the complex processes. They also provide us, the historians, an insight into witnessing first hand, the responses of the various bodies to public concerns. The end product is a window into a society now almost out of living memory.
This is the Query Club from the Sydney Mail, 21 April 1915, p. 36.
The Army Service Corps is a mounted combatant corps. You should look up the Universal Training Regulations V. to see the details regarding qualifications, etc.
Great Britain has lost so far five battleships, ten cruisers, two gunboats, and three submarines. The total value of German naval losses must run into a good many millions. It is impossible to give even approximated figures at present.
"Gordon" asks how range finding on warships is worked out.
To answer this question would require at least a page of the "Mail". Your better plan would be to visit the nearest public library, and turn up any books dealing with naval and military range finding.
AMBULANCE WORK "Anxious"
Even though you have had both theoretical and practical experience of ambulance work you would have to join the Expeditionary Force as a private at 6s a day. Probably you would be attached to the Army Medical Corps as a stretcher bearer.
LETTERS FOR THE FRONT
Until an official alteration is announced, all letters for Australian soldiers who have left with the Expeditionary Forces would be addressed to Egypt. No doubt that will be the training ground for all the contingents whether they ultimately go to Turkey or France.
It is not known how many contingents Australian may yet send to the front, nor what their composition may be. No doubt, if more men are sent, they will include light horse. The fact of a man bringing his own horse should assist to get him into the mounted infantry.
Civil servants on volunteering for active service do not resign their posts. These are kept open for them. The State makes up to the men the difference between their military and civil pay. Many private firms are adopting the same course, guaranteeing their employee positions at least equal to those they leave on their return from the front.
ADMIRAL FLAGS "E.W.P." asks what distinguishes the flags of the British admirals, vice admirals and rear admirals.
The distinguishing marks of the various flags are:-
Admiral, the red St George's Cross on a white background;
Vice Admiral, the same with a red ball in the top left hand corner;
Rear Admiral, the same, with a red ball in each of the top and bottom left hand corners.
The sleeves of the naval officers (executive) are braided as follows:-
Sub Lieutenant, one half in gold stripe with a curl on top;
Lieutenant, the same, with another plain gold stripe below it;
Lieutenant Commander, one half inch gold stripe with curl, one quarter inch plain one with a half inch plain one below;
Commander, three half inch stripes with a curl on the top one;
Captain, four half inch stripes with a curl on the top one;
Rear Admiral, a plain broad gold stripe with half inch one above it with a curl;
Vice Admiral, the same, only having two half inch stripes, the top one with curl;
Admiral, the same only with three stripes; and,
Admiral of the Fleet, the same, only having four narrow stripes above the broad band.
The Titanic was lost in the Atlantic on the night of Sunday, April 14, 1912.
None of the trades awards provide for the payment of wages to employees during the Easter or other holidays.
Bert Schramm's Diary, 18 March 1919 Topic: Diary - Schramm
Diaries of AIF Servicemen
During part of the course of his military service with the AIF, 2823 Private Herbert Leslie Schramm, a farmer from White's River, near Tumby Bay on the Eyre Peninsular, kept a diary of his life. Bert was not a man of letters so this diary was produced with great effort on his behalf. Bert made a promise to his sweetheart, Lucy Solley, that he would do so after he received the blank pocket notebook wherein these entries are found. As a Brigade Scout since September 1918, he took a lead part in the September 1918 breakout by the Allied forces in Palestine. Bert's diary entries are placed alongside those of the 9th Light Horse Regiment to which he belonged and to the 3rd Light Horse Brigade to which the 9th LHR was attached. On this basis we can follow Bert in the context of his formation.
Bert Schramm's Diary, 18 March 1919
Bert Schramm's Handwritten Diary, 17 - 19 March 1919
[Click on page for a larger print version.]
Tuesday, March 18, 1919
Bert Schramm's Location - Tel el Kebir, Egypt.
Bert Schramm's Diary - We all left Moascar by train this morning at 7.30 but after travelling an hour or so we found the rails had been torn up and a couple of trains wrecked and we had to wait all day for the line to be cleared and are camping tonight near Tel el Kebir and we will wait until the line is clear. All the trains have a guard on and a picket on all stations. This business is a cursed nuisance and will probably delay us here a couple months.
9th Light Horse Regiment War Diary - 0100 McDonald, Captain JM, MC, with 120 Other Ranks moved out mounted to Kafr Sagr to rescue influential Greek family who were reported to be in danger.
Several small guards were mounted locally thus absorbing all available men of the Regiment except seven Officers and 24 Other Ranks [Duty men and specialists].
1000 All available personnel of the Brigade marched dismounted through the streets of Zagazig for the purpose of making a demonstration before the inhabitants. No Turkish flags were observed. The inhabitants were quiet and orderly but sullen; in a few cases friendly.
Darley, TH, With the Ninth Light Horse in the Great War, Adelaide, Hassell Press, 1924.
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