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"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

The Australian Light Horse Studies Centre aims to present an accurate history as chroniclers of early Australian military developments from 1899 to 1920.

The Australian Light Horse Studies Centre site holds over 12,000 entries and is growing daily.

Contact: Australian Light Horse Studies Centre

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WARNING: This site contains: names, information and images of deceased people; and, language which may be considered inappropriate today.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009
4th Australian Light Horse Brigade
Topic: AIF - 4B - 4 LHB

4th LHB, AIF

4th Australian Light Horse Brigade

 

Outline of the 4th Australian Light Horse Brigade, AIF

Formed in February 1917 as part of the Imperial Mounted Division. The previous 4th Light Horse Brigade was formed in March 1915 and disbanded on 26 August 1915 when the 11th, 12th and 13th Light Horse Regiments were broken up to provide reinforcements for the units that were at Gallipoli. The reconstituted Brigade lost the 13th Light Horse Regiment which went to France but gained the 4th Light Horse Regiment. Regiments included:

 



4th Australian Light Horse Regiment

This Regiment was recruited exclusively Victoria in August 1914 as divisional cavalry for the Australian Division. During the Gallipoli campaign, the Regiment was attached to the 2nd Infantry Brigade. "B" and "D" Squadrons embarked for France in May 1916. A new "B" Squadron was raised as a consequence. The Regiment was renamed 3rd Camel Regiment in September 1916 and served with the Imperial Camel Corps until it brigaded with the 11th and 12th Light Horse Regiments into the 4th Light Horse Brigade in February 1917.

4th Australian Light Horse Regiment, AIF, History

 



11th Australian Light Horse Regiment

This was a composite Regiment recruited primarily from Queensland with a South Australian Squadron. 

"A" Squadron recruited from Queensland.

"B" Squadron recruited from Queensland.

"C" Squadron recruited from South Australia.

The Regiment was broken up on 26 August 1915 as reinforcements to Regiments at Gallipoli.

"A" Squadron became "D" Squadron, 2nd Light Horse Regiment.

"B" Squadron became "D" Squadron, 5th Light Horse Regiment.

"C" Squadron became "D" Squadron, 9th Light Horse Regiment.

The Regiment was reconstituted on 20 February 1916 at Heliopolis, Egypt.

The Regiment was renamed 1st Camel Regiment in September 1916 and served with the Imperial Camel Corps until it brigaded with the 4th Light Horse Brigade in February 1917.

11th Australian Light Horse Regiment, AIF, History

 



12th Australian Light Horse Regiment

This Regiment was recruited exclusively from New South Wales.

The Regiment was broken up on 26 August 1915 as reinforcements to Regiments at Gallipoli.

"A" Squadron became "D" Squadron, 1st Light Horse Regiment.

"B" Squadron became "D" Squadron, 7th Light Horse Regiment.

"C" Squadron became "D" Squadron, 6th Light Horse Regiment.

The Regiment was reconstituted on 20 February 1916 in Egypt.

The Regiment was renamed 2nd Camel Regiment in September 1916 and served with the Imperial Camel Corps until it brigaded with the 4th Light Horse Brigade in February 1917.

12th Australian Light Horse Regiment, AIF, History

 


4th Signal Troop

The 4th Signal Troop was created in February 1917.

 



4th Light Horse Field Ambulance

The 4th Light Horse Field Ambulance was formed in February 1917 from some 60 men drawn out of all the other Light Horse formations in Egypt.

4th Light Horse Field Ambulance Formation

 


 

4th Light Horse Brigade Train

The 4th Light Horse Brigade Train was primarily recruited around Melbourne and trained at Broadmeadows. After Gallipoli, this unit underwent some name changes from 4th Supply Section in February 1917 to 36th Australian Army Service Corps Company in August 1917.

 



9th Mobile Veterinary Section

The 9th Mobile Veterinary Section was formed in February 1917.

 



4th Light Horse Machine Gun Squadron

The 4th Light Horse Machine Gun Squadron was formed when the Parent Brigade was formed in February 1917.

 

 

 

Artillery

Artillery support was provided for the 4th Light Horse Brigade from the British 19th Horse Artillery Brigade, "A" Battery, Honourable Artillery Company.

 

4th Light Horse Training Regiment

Formed in Egypt during February 1917, this unit trained incoming reinforcements while allowing the wounded and sick a place to recover before returning to active service. The Training Regiment contained three squadrons, each duplicating the Regiments within the Brigade to whom it supplied the reinforcements. The Training Regiment was disbanded in July 1918 to be replaced by the Australian Light Horse Training Regiment when recruits were no longer tied to a Regiment but placed in a general pool of reinforcements called the General Service Reinforcements.

 

Embarkation

The original Brigade embarked to Egypt during months of May and June 1915. In Egypt additional training occurred at Heliopolis Camp.

See: Troop transport ships for information and photographs about the various ships employed in transporting the troops to Egypt.

 

Colour Patch

To assist with identification of the various units within the AIF, Divisional Order No 81 (A) Administration was issued at Mena on 8 March 1915 detailing the Colour Patch for the various units. The 4th Light Horse Brigade received the colour in 1917. The colour patch for the Regiments was made of cloth 1¼ inches wide and 2¾ inches long and worn on the sleeve one inch below the shoulder seam. In contrast, the colour patch for the 4th Light Horse Brigade was plain electric blue although for Headquarters was in the shape of a triangle while the individual Regiments used the rectangle shape in the prescribed manner.

 

4th Light Horse Brigade Colour Patch

The individual units attached to the 4th Light Horse Brigade carried the royal blue colour as a lower triangular part of the colour patch, the unit itself having their colour on the top. This is illustrated with the above description about each individual unit.

 

Commanders

Brigadier General John Baldwin Meredith, 13 February 1917 to 13 September 1917.

Brigadier General William Grant, 13 September 1917 to June 1919

 

Attachments

Formed Australia March 1914.

Disbanded and broken up when sent to Gallipoli and attached to the New Zealand and Australian Division at Gallipoli from May 1915 to February 1916.

Reconstituted Regiments were attached to the Imperial Camel Corps as the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Camel Regiments from September 1916 until February 1917.

Attached to the Imperial Mounted Division February 1917 until August 1917. 

Attached to the Australian Mounted Division August 1917 until June 1919.

  

Campaigns

Palestine:
  • First Battle of Gaza;
  • Second Battle of Gaza;
  • Third Battle of Gaza;
  • Beersheba;
  • Jerusalem;
  • Jericho;
  • Es Salt;
  • Megiddo; and,
  • Damascus


Disbandment

The Brigade returned to Australia from June to July 1919. As each Regiment arrived in the specific home port, they were disbanded.

 

Further Reading:

Australian Light Horse Order of Battle - Outline 

The Australian Light Horse - Structure

Australian Light Horse Order of Battle

 


Citation: 4th Australian Light Horse Brigade

Posted by Project Leader at 11:01 PM EADT
Updated: Sunday, 19 April 2009 3:15 PM EADT
The action at Brakpan - Max Chamberlain
Topic: BatzB - Grobelaar

The action at Brakpan.

by Max Chamberlain

 

The following article called The action at Brakpan was written by Max Chamberlain was published in Sabretache, Wednesday, 1 September 2004. It is reproduced in full.

 

The Australian units in the Boer War were on operations in all nine provinces of the present-day South Africa, as well as in Zimbabwe. I have been unravelling their tracks across this enormous battlefield and analysing their actions, in most of which they were successful, although they suffered severely in some. My approach has been to collect chronological observations of unit movements from whatever authoritative sources could be located and apply these to battlefield maps of the period. Without eye-witnesses to ask it is necessary to rely on clues in books, letters, diaries and newspapers. As this is an exercise in 'cartographic archaeology' I have retained such features as Imperial measurements, ie one mile equals approximately 1.6 kilometres.

I have chosen as a case study the action at Brakpan as perhaps being representative of the Australian service during the guerrilla phase of the war. It illustrates several of the problems encountered in attempting to recreate history from fragments up to 100 years old. The research indicated that there was confusion about where and when the action happened, controversy about whether it displayed courage or cowardice, and uncertainty about the responsibility of the Commonwealth government in regard to Australian units in the field.

The action occurred in May 1901 in the eastern Transvaal and involved men of the 5th and 6th Western Australian Mounted Infantry (5 and 6WAMI). These units were formed in January and February 1901, ie after Federation, and were part of what were called the Imperial Drafts--Drafts because they were raised to replace the earlier units, and Imperial because they were paid for by the British government.

 Section 114 of the Commonwealth Constitution says that 'A State shall not, without consent of the Parliament of the Commonwealth, raise or maintain any naval or military force ...'. (1) Because, in its first year of existence, the Commonwealth was not geared to the rapid formation of an Australia-wide force, the task was undertaken on its behalf by the States--the former Colonies-acting as agents for the Imperial government.

As the Prime Minister said, it was considered 'more satisfactory to have the completion of this work in the hands of those who had begun it, and who were familiar with the conditions of service and all other matters connected with the contingents'. (2) So for the only time in Australia's history, military units were raised by the States.

In Western Australia, the 5th contingent was authorised in December 1900, consisted of 14 Officers, 207 ORs and 234 horses, and sailed on 6 March 1901 aboard the troopship Devon, arriving at Durban on 28 March. The 6th contingent was authorised in January 1901, consisted of 14 Officers, 214 ORs and 237 horses, and sailed on 10 April aboard the troopship Ulstermore, arriving at Durban on 29 April. (3)

On arrival of the 6th contingent, the units, totalling some 449 men and 471 horses, served side by side in South Africa, under Major (later Lt Colonel) J R Royston DSO, a South African who had been with the Border Mounted Rifles, a Natal Volunteer Corps, and had gained distinction at the defence of Ladysmith. (4) They were part of a column under General Walter Kitchener, which also contained 2nd Imperial Light Horse, 1st Devons, two guns of 53rd Battery, one gun of 10th Mountain Battery and one pom-pom of S Section. (5)

The service began with operations north of the Delagoa Bay Railway when the column worked from Lydenburg towards Middelburg, seeking the Boers under General Ben Viljoen, who were escorting the Transvaal government. The British forced them westward towards the rugged bushveldt where General H C O Plumer's Australian Bushmen were advancing eastward from the Pietersburg Railway. Other columns advanced north from the Delagoa Bay line, including 5th Victorian Mounted Rifles (5VMR) under General S B Beatson, a Bengal Lancer.

 

I

 

The Australian units in the Boer War were on operations in all nine provinces of the present-day South Africa, as well as in Zimbabwe. I have been unravelling their tracks across this enormous battlefield and analysing their actions, in most of which they were successful, although they suffered severely in some. My approach has been to collect chronological observations of unit movements from whatever authoritative sources could be located and apply these to battlefield maps of the period. Without eye-witnesses to ask it is necessary to rely on clues in books, letters, diaries and newspapers. As this is an exercise in 'cartographic archaeology' I have retained such features as Imperial measurements, ie one mile equals approximately 1.6 kilometres.

I have chosen as a case study the action at Brakpan as perhaps being representative of the Australian service during the guerrilla phase of the war. It illustrates several of the problems encountered in attempting to recreate history from fragments up to 100 years old. The research indicated that there was confusion about where and when the action happened, controversy about whether it displayed courage or cowardice, and uncertainty about the responsibility of the Commonwealth government in regard to Australian units in the field.

The action occurred in May 1901 in the eastern Transvaal and involved men of the 5th and 6th Western Australian Mounted Infantry (5 and 6WAMI). These units were formed in January and February 1901, ie after Federation, and were part of what were called the Imperial Drafts--Drafts because they were raised to replace the earlier units, and Imperial because they were paid for by the British government.

Section 114 of the Commonwealth Constitution says that 'A State shall not, without consent of the Parliament of the Commonwealth, raise or maintain any naval or military force ...'. (1) Because, in its first year of existence, the Commonwealth was not geared to the rapid formation of an Australia-wide force, the task was undertaken on its behalf by the States--the former Colonies-acting as agents for the Imperial government.

As the Prime Minister said, it was considered 'more satisfactory to have the completion of this work in the hands of those who had begun it, and who were familiar with the conditions of service and all other matters connected with the contingents'. (2) So for the only time in Australia's history, military units were raised by the States.

In Western Australia, the 5th contingent was authorised in December 1900, consisted of 14 Officers, 207 ORs and 234 horses, and sailed on 6 March 1901 aboard the troopship Devon, arriving at Durban on 28 March. The 6th contingent was authorised in January 1901, consisted of 14 Officers, 214 ORs and 237 horses, and sailed on 10 April aboard the troopship Ulstermore, arriving at Durban on 29 April. (3)

On arrival of the 6th contingent, the units, totalling some 449 men and 471 horses, served side by side in South Africa, under Major (later Lt Colonel) J R Royston DSO, a South African who had been with the Border Mounted Rifles, a Natal Volunteer Corps, and had gained distinction at the defence of Ladysmith. (4) They were part of a column under General Walter Kitchener, which also contained 2nd Imperial Light Horse, 1st Devons, two guns of 53rd Battery, one gun of 10th Mountain Battery and one pom-pom of S Section. (5)

The service began with operations north of the Delagoa Bay Railway when the column worked from Lydenburg towards Middelburg, seeking the Boers under General Ben Viljoen, who were escorting the Transvaal government. The British forced them westward towards the rugged bushveldt where General H C O Plumer's Australian Bushmen were advancing eastward from the Pietersburg Railway. Other columns advanced north from the Delagoa Bay line, including 5th Victorian Mounted Rifles (5VMR) under General S B Beatson, a Bengal Lancer.

In these operations the Australians had several engagements and made captures of prisoners, stock and supplies, although some commanders concentrated on devastation and deportation rather than destruction of the enemy. The measure of success in this war of attrition became, not battles won, but a statistical exercise, numbers of enemy killed or captured, and livestock and bags of mealies confiscated. The Boers, however, fought desperately and skilfully.

Viljoen escaped across the Olifants River and ultimately to the high veldt, south of the Delagoa Bay Railway, where the more open terrain allowed greater manoeuvrability. His commando attacked blockhouses and conducted aggressive operations against the newly-arrived Imperial Yeomanry and Imperial Draft units. The experienced British troops, including the Bushmen, had now departed for home, but the Boers, on the other hand, were now all determined veterans, having rid themselves of the faint-hearted.

The British columns also crossed to the south of the line and Kitchener's and Beatson's columns were engaged in clearing operations in the eastern Transvaal under General Sir Bindon Blood. It was in these operations that the Australians suffered severe casualties, first, according to the South African Field Force Casualty List, at Grobelaar Recht in May and then at Wilmansrust in June. It is with these actions, which became curiously linked, that this paper is concerned.

 

II

 

Among casualties on the South African War Memorial in Perth is the name of Lieutenant A A Forrest. In Murray's Official Records Lt Anthony Alexander Forrest is listed as having been killed in action near Carolina on 15 May 1901 as a member of 5th Western Australian Mounted Infantry. He was the son of Alexander Forrest and the nephew of Sir John Forrest, the early Australian explorers. Alexander had become Mayor of Perth, and Sir John became Premier of Western Australia in 1890 and, after Federation, Defence Minister in the Commonwealth Parliament at the time of the Boer War. Anthony was thought to have benefited from influence when he was able to join 5WAMI as a Lieutenant at the age of 16. (6)

Early references outline the action in which he was killed. Stirling, Colonials in South Africa (1907), states, 'On 15th May there was severe fighting at Grobelaar Recht, in which the 5th had Lieutenant Forrest and Sergeant Ejards [sic] and 1 man killed and 5 men wounded, and the 6th 4 men killed and Lieutenant S S Reid and 3 men wounded.' [ie seven killed and nine wounded]. He mentions further heavy fighting on the 16th, in which Lieutenant F W Bell won the Victoria Cross. (7) Murray's account (1911), which was derived from Stirling, is almost identical, except that he refers to Grobelaar Recht as being near Carolina, corrects Sergeant Edwards's name, indicates that the 5th also had Corporal Bollinger killed and four men wounded, alters the 6th's wounded to five, one of whom died later [ie seven killed, one died of wounds and eight wounded], and cites Bell's act at Brakpan on 16 May. (8) On Field Intelligence Department maps of the area the farm Grobelaar Recht-or variously Groblersrecht or Groblers Refit 229-is shown about 20 miles west of Carolina. (9) Recent accounts continue to refer to two separate actions--Grobelaar Recht on 15 May and Brakpan on 16 May.

Campbell, History of Western Australian Contingents serving in South Africa during the Boer War 1899-1902 (1910), does not mention Grobelaar Recht, but describes how the units had trekked from Middelburg to Rondebosch on 12 May, and charged the enemy at Bosman's Spruit on the 14th, one man being wounded at Rietkuil, according to the South African Field Force Casualty List. On the 16th, 5 and 6 WAMI were ordered to bring in some wagons from a farm about three miles east of the column, and moved off at about 7.00am. The wagons were found in a spruit up to their axles in mud. They were being removed when the enemy opened fire from the rising ground on the opposite side of the spruit. The Australians crossed the spruit in several divisions, fixed bayonets and drove the enemy off.

On advancing further it was discovered that the Boers had planned an ambush, hiding in the long grass, mealie fields and the nearby farmhouse. The troops were ordered to fall back under heavy fire and it was here that Lieutenant F W Bell, 6WAMI, won the VC, although the force suffered heavy casualties until General Walter Kitchener arrived with reinforcements. Casualties were stated as seven killed, among whom was Lieutenant Forrest, two died of wounds and eight wounded. The location of the action was given as Brakpan, a farm several miles north-west of Grobelaar Recht. (10) Therefore there is confusion about the place and date of the engagement and variation in casualties.  

 

III

 

Less than a month later, 5th Victorian Mounted Rifles (5VMR), engaged in the same clearing operations, were surprised by General C H Muller and forced to surrender at Wilmansrust, after suffering 18 killed and 42 wounded. Accused of cowardice by their own general, some men of 5VMR felt aggrieved and expressed dissatisfaction with leadership that had cost their comrades' lives and threatened their own. Three men were overheard, court-martialled for 'incitement to mutiny' and sentenced to death. Lord Kitchener commuted these sentences to terms of imprisonment in England.

In the subsequent controversy in the press it was suggested that because, up until then, no Australians had thrown down their arms, 5VMR had damaged the reputation of the Australian soldier, although it was later agreed that it was unlikely that any large body of Australian troops could be totally unlike those that had preceded it. The unit's reputation, however, still suffers unjustly. There were two sequels to this action and it is revealing to examine these before considering further the action at Brakpan.

First, the Report of the Court of Inquiry into Wilmansrust, held in the field in the days following the action, as the battered column fought its way to safety, indicates that the Boers had infiltrated the inappropriate, widely-spaced cavalry picket line insisted on by General Beatson, on a pitch dark night. In the hand-to-hand fighting a bugler had received an order to blow 'Cease Fire', relayed in the confusion by a sergeant, but actually given by a Boer. The sergeant had not realised that some Boers spoke excellent English. So the surrender was due to a Boer ruse and not became the men had thrown down their arms. General Muller had reported six Boers killed and four wounded. (11) The men of 5VMR had obeyed the order of the bugle and were not, therefore, guilty of cowardice.

Second, while the three men convicted of 'incitement to mutiny' languished in prison, questions raised by members of the new Commonwealth Parliament on behalf of relatives, or out of concern for the unit, resulted in cables between the Governor-General and the British authorities seeking clarification of the situation regarding the treatment of 5VMR. How new the Australian authorities were to the complexities of conducting a war is revealed by the following evidence.

 When requested to inquire into the whole history of 5VMR, Sir John Forrest, as Defence Minister, at first expressed bewilderment that the military authorities in South Africa or the Commanding Officer had not provided periodical reports of its movements as had the Commanding Officers of earlier Western Australian units of which he had knowledge. On later consideration he was of the opinion that this was an Imperial and not an Australian Corps and that the State government merely acted as agent for the Imperial authorities in raising and despatching these men. The position was therefore different from that of the Western Australian contingents with which, as Premier, he was closely associated, and consequently the fact that no progress reports were received from the Commanding Officer was not surprising. (12)

After negotiations, however, a telegram was received from the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Mr Joseph Chamberlain, explaining that the Judge-Advocate General had declared that the three men had been tried under the wrong section of the Army Act and instructions had been issued for their release. (13) Whether this was an admission of ineptness or a bowing to pressure, it was not a mere reprieve nor a pardon but a quashing of the charges, and the men were released and returned to Australia. So 5VMR was also not guilty of mutinous conduct.

 

IV

 

The action at Brakpan is not detailed in the Times History of the War in South Africa and other major histories of the war, and there is no contemporary discussion of the reason that led to the following incident. When, after Wilmansrust, General Beatson had berated 5VMR as 'a lazy lot of wasters and white-livered curs', a Western Australian officer, Major Sam Harris, was present, and Beatson said that the Victorians had another Colony [sic] to keep them company in running away from the Boers, referring to the time when the Western Australians had Lieutenant Forrest and seven men killed. (14) Although Beatson later apologised to Major Harris, Sir John Forrest must have felt this keenly, because his brother, Alexander, who was ill, was said to have not overcome his grief at Anthony's death, when he died five weeks later on 20 June 1901. Many questions were left unanswered, why did General Beatson regard the retirement of 5 and 6WAMI as running away? Had the action taken place where the casualties were reported at Grobelaar Recht on 15 May, or where Bell won the VC on 16 May at a different farm, Brakpan?

While I was researching these problems an article appeared in the press about a doctor in Bristol, England, who had come across the grave of Lieutenant Colonel F W Bell VC, and was intrigued about why he was buried there, until he had discovered Bell's later career in the Colonial service in Africa and his subsequent retirement to England. (15) Following this publicity he received more information which he summarised for a journal article, mentioning that he had a copy of a detailed map of the action at Brakpan, showing where Bell had won the VC. (16) It was described as being from the Forrest Papers, but my request to the appropriate repository revealed that the map had been missing since 1984. I would have to track down the doctor and seek a copy from him. I managed to deduce an address to write to, and ultimately a copy of the map arrived--perhaps the most detailed sketch-map of any Australian action in this war.

The map indicates that the casualties and the award of the VC occurred at the same place and time. who prepared the map is not known, but a note refers to the account from Campbell J, 1910, obviously the history of the Western Australian contingents produced by the Western Australian Government Printer, (17) which suggests it may have been drawn by Captain Campbell, CO of 6WAMI, possibly at the request of the Forrest family. It lacks a north point and a scale, but assuming it to be oriented with north at the top of the map, would appear to indicate that the site of the action was, correctly, Brakpan and not Grobelaar Recht.

It shows how Captain Campbell attacked the Boer position with Lieutenant Bell on his right and Lieutenants H B McCormack and S S Reid on his left, and highlights the tracks of their retirement, and the places where Bell won the VC and where the casualties occurred. It also shows that Lieutenant Forrest and an escort were in charge of a wagon when the horses stampeded, taking them out of the line of retirement, and how, while returning on foot, they were shot from 700 yards range. This confirmed that the correct location of the action was Brakpan, and the date was therefore 16 May. The column moved on towards Carolina and the dead were buried on 17 May, the South African War Graves authority giving the location as Grobelaar's Recht, although they were subsequently removed to Middelburg old municipal cemetery.

 In corroboration of the date and place of the action, Lord Kitchener's despatch of 28 July, 1901, which lists Bell's VC act at Brakpan, goes on to say 'Captain J Campbell assisted above. Lieutenant S S Reid, at same place and date remained with his men though severely wounded early in the fight. Lieutenant A A Forrest (killed) and A J Brown; for conspicuous gallantry on same occasion ... Surgeon-Captain F B Reid showed absolute disregard of danger in performing his duties on same occasion'. (18)

What appears to have happened is this: when Stirling attempted to record the experience of the Colonials in this war, he depended largely on Official despatches, including casualty and award lists. By ordering such observations chronologically he discovered casualties listed as at Grobelaar Recht and concluded that they had resulted from an action at that place, apparently not realising that the place of burial is often not the place of the action. For some reason, not yet explained but possibly simply clerical error, he assigned them to an action on 15 May. Then, from the award list showing Bell's VC as having been won at Brakpan on the 16th, he concluded that another action had taken place on the following day.

When Murray came to prepare his Official Records, he admitted in the Preface that for parts of the service of the South Australians, Western Australians and Tasmanians he had been indebted to Stirling, and reproduced the descriptions of Grobelaar Recht on 15 and Brakpan on 16 May. It seems that he had not noted Campbell's description, nor seen a map of the action, and so it became enshrined that there were two actions.

This analysis shows the importance of seeking evidence from more than one source when recreating old battles, and the value of checking Field Intelligence Department and other maps for farms and features as they appeared 100 years ago. Also, it is not wise to accept at face value accounts of actions simply because they are based on Official despatches, or included in Official Records, or have been repeated in every derivative reference since first appearing in print. Similarly, it is not wise to accept the validity of critical comments, made in the stress of battle, without challenge.

 As with 5VMR, whose ranks included two future VCs at the time of Wilmansrust, and who did not deserve the accusations of cowardly and mutinous conduct, a Victoria Cross and five Mentions in Despatches for 5 and 6WAMI do not seem consistent with an allegation of having run away at Brakpan, and indicate once again the injustice of the imputation of cowardice.

 

Footnotes:

 

(1) The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia.

(2) Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates, 1901, p. 1488.

(3) P L Murray (ed), Official Records of the Australian Military Contingents to the War in South Africa, 1899-1902, Department of Defence, Melbourne, 1911, p. 418.

(4) ibid

(5) The Times History of the War in South Africa, 1907, Vol V, p. 290.

(6) Gavin Souter, Lion and Kangaroo, Collins, 1976, p. 68 fn. WA Birth Registration indexed as Alexander Anthony Forrest, 1884, 25706.

(7) John Stirling, The Colonials in South Africa, Wm Blackwood & Sons, Edinburgh, 1907, pp. 476, 478. It appears that Stirling used casualty and award lists, but not maps.

(8) P L Murray, op cit, p. 419.

(9) Field Intelligence Department (Pretoria), Ermelo/Carolina map, April 1901. Field Intelligence Department (Cape Town), Ermelo map, April 1900. Jeppe's map, Transvaal, 1899, No. 5.

(10) J Campbell, History of Western Australian Contingents serving in South Africa during the Boer War 1899-1902, Government Printer, Perth WA, 1910, pp. 60-63.

(11) Report of the Boer attack on a detachment of Major General Beatson's force at Wilmansrust, WO32/8007, Public Record Office, London. See also General C H Muller's Report to General B Viljoen, The Argus, Melbourne, 1 February 1902.

(12) The Argus, Melbourne, 11-13 November 1901.

(13) The Argus, Melbourne, 9 November 1901.

(14) Major W McKnight's Report to Major General M F Downes, Commandant, Victorian Military Forces, 21 October 1901, NAA: B168, 1901/3859 Report by Major McKnight on the Wilmansrust Affair.

(15) Georgina Harvey, 'Man of war rests in peace', Sunday Herald-Sun, Melbourne, 12 December 1996.

(16) Dr James C Briggs, 'The search for Lt Colonel F W Bell VC', Sabretache, Vol XXXVIII, Apr-Jun 1997, pp. 3-12, and later correspondence.

(17) Map entitled Sketch of Brakpan, The British Empire & Commonwealth Museum, Bristol, UK.

(18) John Stirling, op cit, p. 478. Honours and awards, Lord Kitchener's Despatch, 8 July 1901 [sic 28 July]. See also South African War--Honours and Awards 1899-1902, Greenhill Books, 1987, p. 66. 

 

Further Reading:

Grobelaar Recht, South Africa, May 15, 1901

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920

 


Citation: The action at Brakpan - Max Chamberlain

Posted by Project Leader at 11:01 PM EADT
Updated: Sunday, 29 March 2009 4:36 PM EADT
Merivale Street, Qld, Courier Account 26 March 1919 p7, street-violence
Topic: BatzA - Merivale

Merivale Street

Queensland, 24 March 1919

 

The following is a contemporaneous account of the battle at Merivale Street taken from the pages of the Brisbane Courier.  The text from the scan is of poor quality and thus cannot be readily transcribed into text but it is legible enough to allow the contents to be satisfactorily read.

The ongoing Battle of Merivale Street, Queensland, from the account published in the Brisbane Courier, 26 March 1919.

 

[From: Brisbane Courier, 26 March 1919, p. 7, Street Violence.]

 

 

Further Reading:

Merivale Street, Queensland, March 24, 1919

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920

 


Citation: Merivale Street, Qld, Courier Account 26 March 1919 p7, street-violence

Posted by Project Leader at 11:01 PM EADT
Updated: Monday, 30 March 2009 8:56 AM EADT
Bothaville, South Africa, November 6, 1900, Times Account 2
Topic: BatzB - Bothaville

Bothaville

South Africa, 6 November 1900

Times Account, 9 November 1900

 

The Times, 9 November 1900, p. 3.

 

ORANGE RIVER COLONY.

(THROUGH REUTER'S AGENCY.)

KROONSTAD, Nov. 7.

Yesterday morning Colonel Le Gallais had an engagement at Bothaville. The enemy were in force, holding the kopjes on the south side of the town with two guns and a "Pom Pom." The British advance guard engaged the Boers, and the artillery, arriving later, took up a position and shelled the enemy. One or two of our men were wounded, but our casualties have not yet been fully reported.

The Boers are occupying farms between here and Bothaville. Despatch riding is difficult and dangerous owing to the presence of raiding parties outside Kroonstad.

Further Reading:

Bothaville, South Africa, November 6, 1900

Boer War Battles, 1899 - 1902

South African (Second Boer) War: 1899-1902 - Overview 

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920

 


Citation: Bothaville, South Africa, November 6, 1900, Times Account 2

Posted by Project Leader at 11:01 PM EADT
Updated: Sunday, 5 April 2009 8:20 PM EADT
1st Australian Armoured Car Section - THE LIBYAN DESERT
Topic: AIF - Cars

 

 

1st AUSTRALIAN ARMOURED CAR SECTION, AIF

  THE LIBYAN DESERT

 

 

Below is a transcription from a manuscript submitted by Captain E.H. James called "The Motor Patrol". It is lodged in the AWM as AWM 224 MSS 209.


An armoured car of the Australian Light Car Patrol, which was operating on the western frontier of Egypt, against the Senussi, in difficulties. The wheels sank in a patch of soft sand, and the car had to be dragged out over layers of board. Left to right: Sergeant) A Lloyd, Corporal N Bisset, Lieutenant Holloway (Imperial Army), Lieutenant EH James, Driver Oscar Hymen, Sergeant Ivan Young (inside car), Corporal G F Morgan, Sergeant H Creek, Corporal W P Thompson.
 
AWM Picture B01769

 

 THE LIBYAN DESERT

On August 15th. 1916, The Australian Armoured Car Battery received orders to entrain at Ismailia for the South of Egypt with their Armoured Care. The battery was detrained at Minis on the 17th. and immediately took part in the operations between this point and the Baharia Oasis along a line of blockhouses through the Libyan Desert over one hundred miles in length. The unit worked in conjunction with the 11th. & 12th. Light Armoured Car Batteries which were imperial unite, and were equipped with Rolls Royce Armoured Care and the new Light Vickers Machine Guns. These vehicles were the envy of the Australians who were equipped with a mixed fleet of care which while satisfactory on hard ground, gave the drivers and gunners plenty of exertion in the soft Band of the desert. The Colt gone with which the Australians were equipped, worked well and the unit did good practice with these. While the unit was stationed at Minia the members suffered severely from Nile fever and welcomed the expeditions into the desert especially when they were detailed to relieve the garrisons occasionally in the desert blockhouses, where the conditions were much more healthy although of course the heat was intense.

The work of operating the heavy cars in the desert ass extremely strenuous on account of the many very soft patches in the sand which called for skilled driving. All our drivers were accustomed to bush driving in Australia but nevertheless it was wonderful how the driving improved as they became more accustomed to the desert conditions. Efforts were made :,o lighten the care by sacrificing some of the armour plating; and other more or less unnecessary parts; and twin tyres were also devised for the rear wheels which improved the going somewhat. The cars always worked in pairs, chiefly so that there would be plenty of man power available when help was required in bed country.

The chief work of the motor unite was to patrol the desert East of the Nile as it was known that the Senussi were established in some of the oases and were in the habit of making small raids into Egypt across the Libyan Desert. These people could only travel by canals and would perhaps average about 20 miles a day, (while of course the motors could do this distance in an hour). This meant that if the motors patrolled on a line about 100 miles out, information of a raid could always be obtained about four days ahead.

When patrolling, the crews of the care would keep a keen watch on the sand for footmarks which showed up very clearly and any fresh tracks on the desert would always be followed until the people who made them were overhauled and interviewed. On September 6th. a couple of Imperial officers who were out with a car were surprised in the sand dunes near the Baharia Oasis by a party of tribesmen and were overpowered and shot. Next day a patrol car crew discovered the bodies in the sand with their emptied revolvers alongside them. Some days later the party of tribesmen were overhauled and captured by one of the Light Car Patrols.

On the 3rd. December, orders were received by the unit for all cars, guns, and vehicles, to be returned to G.H.Q. Cairo and the unit to proceed South and take over the Ford Light Cars and Lewis guns of a Light Car Patrol and the Australian unit was to take the name of No. 1. Light Car Patrol. The unit proceeded South by rail to Oasis Junction on 6th. December. Next day they travelled by a narrow gauge Military Railway which had been built across the desert to Kharga Oasis and the unit detrained at Rail head at what was known as Water Dump A. A camp was made near railhead in the sand, and work was commenced on the Ford cars which had been taken over in a very dilapidated condition and which had apparently been allowed to run almost to destruction. All ranks worked night and day for the next couple of weeks overhauling and reconditioning the vehicles also in practising on the new Lewis guns. The strength of the unit was increased by the addition of some extra drivers also some dispatch riders with motor cycles who soon became very expert with their machines on the desert.

On 18th. December the Divisional Commander and staff were escorted out to the Dakhla Oasis (about 80 miles) by a fleet of 8 care and an the following day the British flag was officially hoisted at Tenida (the capital of the Oasis) by Mayor General Watson. Two days afterwards the party returned to railhead.

On the 30th. December, we took three cars and two motor cyclists with 6 days rations, patrols &c. on a reconnaissance to discover alternative routes to the south of the Dakhla Oasis. The present route known as the "Gubari road" is a very ancient caravan route across the desert with defined tracks made by the camels' pads which have been crossing the same track for centuries. The surface is very rough anti flinty and the sharp stones caused a lot of damage to the tyros of the motors.

We spent a couple of days exploring the desert south of Mot (the most southern village of the Dakhla Oasis) and proceeded along another ancient route which runs for 220 miles due south to the Wells of El Sheb.

We travelled mostly by the aid of the compass, but discovered that the instrument was very much affected by the Magnetos of the motors and consequently had continually to be checked by stopping the cars and taken some distance away from the engine for bearings to be taken. Cairns of atones were erected in prominent positions and empty petrol tins placed on top Of these to mark routes. These Cairns would be seen for many miles as the sun would be reflected off the shiny tin. In some cases we could see these tins as fur as 20 miles away.

To the cast of the El Sheb route rune a range of rocky hills which appeared to be impassable to cross with vehicles or any description. We Climbed those hills on foot " discovered that the country was comparatively level to the east (the direction which we desired to travel). After two days searching a practicable pass was discovered through the hills about 40 miles from Mut and from this point the sere were able to travel almost due east over splendid hard sand similar to the firm send along the sea shore. High speeds could be obtained and we returned to Kharga Oasis by compass bearing after 4 days and nights in the desert.

Soma weeks later we did this route again thoroughly, spending several days surveying and mapping. We afterwards prepared a comprehensive map of the various routes and landmarks between the two Oases of Karga and Dakhla. This was subsequently forwarded to the General Officer in charge of Southern Egypt and he later wrote and congratulated the unit on the result of the work.

Early in January, 1917, we received instructions to move our camp from Water Dump A and endeavour to effect communication between the Dakhla Oasis and the Oases to the East (Kufra and Farafra).

The first named oasis was about 400 miles east of Dakhla while Ferafra was about 100 miles North East in a direct line, (but very much farther the way motors would traverse, as several ranges of very rocky mountains would have to be avoided).

We decided to try the Kufra Oasis first. It was reported that no Europeans had ever reached this Oasis. There was certainly no caravan route to the west in the direction of the Dakhla Oasis. The native caravans having always proceeded in a northerly direction towards the Mediterranean via Aujila.

The well known Explorer Harding King had made an expedition in 1911 to the South Fast of Dakhla for 200 miles partly in the direction of Kufra but had to return on account of the very heavy country and complete absence of water.

We determined to make our route further North than east. We spent a week making a dump in the desert about 80 miles out from our last camp. We buried stocks of Petrol and water in fanatis, also supplies of bully beef and biscuit here, as this was to be our jumping off point and we naturally wished to start off with a full stock. Water & petrol would be the governing factors of the journey and in order not to waste any of the precious liquid in the radiators of the care, we fitted condensers to the radiator caps and closed up the overflow pipes. The condensed water being caught in a 2 gallon patrol can and returned tat intervals to the radiator again. By this means we saved fully 75,E of the water generally lost through boiling.

Having completed our dump and got everything ready, we made a start with three Ford Cars and a crew of two men on each. Two Motor Cyclist Despatch Riders accompanied the Patrol in order to keen up communications.

Every ounce that vas not necessary was taken off the vehicles. For instance the cars had no bodies at all. The seats consisted of ration & Ammunition boxes; the cushions were the men's blankets. Two of the cars were stripped of the Lewis Guns mountings. This meant that only one car was really armed, but each car was provided with a rifle, and the crews all had their revolvers.

All the cars at the start were grossly overloaded, as of course this load would be rapidly diminished every mile traversed. It was intended to issue one of the cars as an advanced dump at a point about 200 miles from our objective and make the final dash with two cars and a cyclist.

 

An armoured car of the Australian Light Car Patrol, probably a Daimler 50 hp named 'Gentle Annie' by the crew and was armed with a single Colt Model 1895 Machine Gun, commonly known as a 'potato digger'.
 
AWM Picture B02865

 

After leaving the last wall known as "Bir Sheikh Muhammud" the character of the desert begun to change for the worse. Hitherto the sand, although perhaps soft underneath, generally had a hard crust. This meant that once a car got a start it could usually keep going. The crew would run along and push until a speed of 6 or 8 miles per hour was reached and then jump up on to the step. The nature of the ground was now quite different and seemed to be composed of very fine drift sand on the surface to a depth of about six inches. This meant very heavy going on low gear which of course was the very thing we wish to avoid, as it meant increased patrol and water consumption and reduced speed. However, we found that if one car led the way on low gear the others could follow in the tracks made, (running on top gear) as the going was much easier for the following care. Perch car now took its turn half hourly to make the road and the cyclists travelled out on either flank to ascertain if there was any improvement in the ground. Unfortunately there was no sign of improvement and after about 80 miles of this gruelling work one of the cars smashed its differential. We transferred some of the stores to the other two cars and pushed on abandoning the disabled vehicle. We travelled for another day under similar gruelling conditions when a second car caved in under the terrible strain. Things now began to look serious. The two cyclists were sent ahead to a high hill on the horizon to try out the country and they returned that night to state that there was no improvement, so it was reluctantly decided to abandon the present attempt as there was well over 200 miles to go, and try again at a later date. The second car was temporarily repaired and the patrol returned to the well at "Bir Sheikh Muhammed" just as the last water can was emptied.

The cars returned along the old tracks in lose than half the time taken in the outgoing journey, as the road improved each time a vehicle used it, consequently, a second effort should be much easier than the first. We towed in the remaining broken car about a week later and began to make preparations for a second attempt.

The experience gained in the first trip was very useful and given reasonable luck we anticipated success next time. However, the second attempt was never made as before arrangements were completed, orders were received for the patrol to pack up and move into a new and more exciting theatre of the war, and early in May 1917, we started off on the long 1,000 mile journey into Palestine.

 

Previous section: 1st Australian Armoured Car Section - THE FIRST AUSTRALIAN ARMOURED CAR SECTION

Next section: 1st Australian Armoured Car Section - Sinai

 

Further Reading:

Bean, C.E.W., The Australian Imperial Force in France, 1916, Official History, Volume III:-

Appendix 2 – The Light Cars in the Libyan Desert.

1st AUSTRALIAN ARMOURED CAR SECTION, AIF, Contents 

Australian Light Horse Order of Battle - Outline 

The Australian Light Horse - Structure

Australian Light Horse Order of Battle

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920

 


Citation: 1st Australian Armoured Car Section - THE LIBYAN DESERT


Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Monday, 13 April 2009 11:11 PM EADT

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