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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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Friday, 7 August 2009
Battle of Romani, Sinai, August 4 to 5, 1916, 5th Battalion, Highland Light Infantry, Unit History Account
Topic: AIF - DMC - British

Battle of Romani

Sinai, August 4 to 5, 1916

5th Battalion, Highland Light Infantry, Unit History Account

 

5th Battalion, Highland Light Infantry in bivouac at Er Rabah

[From Morrison, Ch VII, Illustration 12]

 

At the conclusion of the Great War, Colonel Frederick Lansdowne Morrison, the erstwhile Commanding Officer of the 1/5th Battalion Highland Light Infantry, 157th Infantry Regiment, 52nd (Lowland) Infantry Division asked his officers to provide accounts of their time in the Sinai and Palestine. Morrison collected the stories and edited them. In 1921, in printed in Glasgow for a limited private edition, the book The Fifth Battalion Highland Light Infantry in the War 1914-1918 finally came available. It included a section specifically related to the Battle of Romani and is extracted below.

Morrison, F.L., The Fifth Battalion Highland Light Infantry in the War 1914-1918, Glasgow, 1921. 

 
Chapter VII

The Sinai Desert - Mahamdiya, Romani, Katia

The peaceful life of our seaside resort was soon destroyed by rumours that the Turks were moving. On the evening of July 19th, an aeroplane reconnaissance discovered a considerable force of them at Bir el Abd, some twenty-five miles to the east of us, and noticed smaller parties much nearer. The Turkish feat of moving a force, then reckoned at from 8000 to 9000 men, fifty miles from El Arish without our being aware of it, was a very fine one, and when it is remembered that they attacked us at Romani, seventy-five miles from their base, with 18,000 men and artillery up to 6 inch howitzers, everyone who has felt what the desert is like in July will be full of admiration. Nor can one wonder at the fact established by our all-wise Intelligence, that prisoners captured had sore feet. The first ripples of the commotion produced by this report reached us at 1 a.m. on the 20th, when the Adjutant was summoned to Brigade Headquarters. At 2.45 a.m. half "C" Company moved out to take over Redoubt No. 10, and later in the morning "B" Company garrisoned No. 8 and "D" Company No. 11, while the rest of "C" Company occupied 10A. These redoubts, though habitable, were still unfinished. They were part of the defences mentioned above as being in the hands of the Egyptian Labour Corps, a chain of posts running south past Romani and then turning west among the sand hills. The garrisons had at once to set to and improve their position, strengthen their wire and finish off the fire bays. At 10A a signal station had to be established in mid-desert some hundreds of yards from the redoubt, owing to a temporary shortage of signal wire. Signallers are naturally imperturbable, but the officer in charge confessed to a thrill of horror when, having with some difficulty made his way to his signal station at midnight and been handed the receiver, even as he uttered the preliminary "Hullo," the instrument suddenly sprang from his grasp and rushed off into the darkness. Mastering an almost overpowering desire to run for the redoubt, he assisted two signallers to investigate and discovered that the wire had caught in the foot of a straying camel, which had proceeded on its thoughtless way with the receiver attached.

But as is usual in desert warfare, time passed and nothing happened. "B" Company were relieved in No. 8 by the 53rd Division and rejoined "A" Company in camp. The other garrisons got into tents which they pitched in the ground behind the redoubts, so that the majority of the men could have shelter by day. At night the trenches were manned, and all was ready for an attack at dawn. But with the exception of some bomb-dropping raids by their planes, the enemy remained passive. The Australian Light Horse reported that he was busy digging in on a line through Oghratina, some miles east of Katia, and we began to think that he intended to put the onus of attacking on to us. The fear, however, was unfounded, he was only completing his preparations, and on the night of August 3rd-4th he advanced and occupied Katia.

This movement was reported, and "A" and "B" Companies, who had by now relieved "C" and "D" in the redoubts, were warned that the attack was now almost certain. Before dawn on the 4th a bombardment began, but its entire force fell a mile or two to the south of us upon the Romani defences; the Turkish plan being to attack there and, if possible, to turn our right flank. All the morning the artillery fire continued, our reply being strengthened by the "crack of doom imitations" of a couple of monitors out at sea to the north of No. 11. Little or no news filtered through to us, and the redoubt companies spent a hot day in their trenches, which were but ill suited for permanent occupation, while the reduction in the water issue, made necessary by the fear of future difficulties in refilling the storage tanks, started a thirst which was not appeased for many days. During the night, however, we heard enough to assure us that things were going well, and early on the 5th we received orders to leave the redoubts to a garrison of the unfit and to rendezvous in the old camp, prepared for a "mobile."

About midday the Battalion moved off, "A" and "C" Companies having only just arrived from the redoubts after a wakeful night and a heavy morning's work, and already thirsty, though no more water could be issued. A single water bottle, once filled, is but a poor supply for a long day under the Egyptian sun. Marching over heavy sand in the hot hours, even when the haversack has replaced the pack, soon produces an unparalleled drought. Sweat runs into a man's eyes and drips from his chin. It runs down his arms and trickles from his fingers. It drenches his shirt and leaves great white streaks on his equipment. And while so much is running out, the desire to put something in grows and grows. The temptation to take a mouthful becomes well nigh irresistible, and once the bottle of sun-heated chlorine-flavoured water is put to the lips, it is almost impossible to put it down before its precious contents are gone. Then a man becomes hopeless and there is danger of his falling out. All honour to those, and they were many, who through age or sickness, had greater difficulty in keeping up than the rest of us, but who yet carried on indomitably to the end, or only gave in when they had reached a stage of complete collapse. How often in such hours have we felt that if only we could live where one may have an unlimited supply of water just by turning on a tap, we should be content for ever. But are we, my friends? I fear not.

One cannot help feeling that the comparison made with the performances of regular battalions in the heat of India before the war, are unfair. These were trained men, caught young and developed to a high standard of physical fitness, marching along the excellent Indian roads, with a certainty of a good water supply at their night's camping place, and accompanied in many cases by travelling canteens and soda water machines. In our ranks were to be found many men of middle age, unused to active life, and many boys whose physique had not had time to respond to military training. Some had but recently joined us and were not acclimatised, others had not recovered their strength after the dysentery of Gallipoli. Roads or canteens there were none. Of course British troops have often found themselves in such conditions and worse on active service. But it is interesting to find that that fine old soldier R.S.M. Mathieson, always said that he personally never suffered from thirst to anything like the same degree during the Egyptian campaign of 1882.

We left the Battalion moving off S.E. from the camp for the Brigade rendezvous. Here we received orders to attack a "hod" named Abu Hamrah, which lay between us and Katia. The distance was not great, hardly six miles as the crow flies, but we were not crows and had to adopt less direct as well as more laborious methods. The Battalion was on the right in support to the 7th H.L.I., and the march continued with but short halts till 4 p.m., when we had a somewhat longer pause, and a chance to reinforce our early breakfasts. Few men, however, can eat either bully beef or biscuit when they are thirsty, and that was all we had. It always seemed strange that we should not have made more use of food more suitable to the climate. Later on dried figs and occasionally little dried apricots were issued with the mobile ration. Doubtless these are not very sustaining, but they are the fruit of the country, and it is better to have a little you can eat than a full ration that you cannot, whatever the decrease in caloric value may be.

There was neither sound nor sign of enemy opposition, and the advance was resumed in artillery formation in an hour or so. Darkness began to fall and great difficulty was experienced in keeping touch with the battalion in front and even between the different companies, a difficulty increased by the first line camels of the 7th, who were perpetually, though inevitably, getting in our way. When daylight had actually failed it must be admitted the Brigade had become somewhat disintegrated. The Argylls did not regain touch till next morning. The Battalion, minus "A" Company, who had been cut off by some camels and thus entered Abu Hamrah on their own, got up on the right of the 7th, where the errant company eventually discovered it.

Immediately strings of camels now appeared on all sides marching and counter-marching across everybody's front, holding up exasperated and desperate platoon commanders, who finally ruthlessly cut them in two and forged ahead to a chorus of blasphemy from weary escorts and lamentations from terrified native drivers. The peaceful hod had become an inferno. No one knew anything except that there were no Turks. After superhuman efforts on the part of various exalted personages, things were straightened out, pickets detailed and posted, and the men, too tired even to swear, dropped where they were, and rapidly cooled down in the chilly dew. It was now nearly eleven o'clock, and a half bottle of water was issued, enough merely to whet the consuming thirst which gripped everybody. Tunics were disentangled from the damp congeries on our backs and we had a few hours' precious sleep.

At 3 a.m. we stood to and began to dig ourselves in, in positions sited with extreme difficulty, in unknown country, in the dark. Soon, however, orders were received to prepare to move, and in spite of every effort, not more than half the men had had their bottles filled before we had to continue the advance. It was a very hot steamy morning, and the coolness of dawn soon disappeared. The advance was slow, and we grew thirstier and thirstier whether we moved or halted. On reaching a ridge overlooking Rabah and Katia it was found that the leading battalions were too far to the left. We and the Argylls were therefore ordered to turn right-handed and occupy Katia. The dark line of palms appeared very enticing, if very far away, and the Battalion struggled manfully on, shedding the weaker brethren as it went and, very nearly "all out," reached its objective about 10 a.m.

Our troubles were now nearly over. There were no enemy, and the trees gave us a grateful shade, which only "B" Company, pushed forward to hold an outpost line on the far bridge, had to forgo. A fine stone well was found in the oasis with a good supply of cool, though curious tasting water, and canteens were soon being let down into it at the end of puttees in a hopeless effort to cope with our thirst, after which the bolder spirits went so far as to nibble a ration biscuit. But one cannot help reflecting on what might have been the consequences for us if the Turks had adopted the German policy of well-poisoning.

We afterwards heard that the Turks, evacuating Abu Hamrah on our approach, had taken up a strong rear guard position at Katia, and had beaten off the cavalry, who had retired behind us to water their horses and get a much needed night's rest. The Turks had seized their opportunity and slipped away during the night. As far as we were concerned they were welcome to slip.

The story of the Battle of Romani can be read elsewhere. It was not an infantry show—at any rate on our side—though elements of the 52nd Division saw some fighting. No praise can be too high for the endurance and fine fighting quality of our cavalry, both Anzac and English. And it is reckoned that the Turks lost a good half of their force, either killed or captured, before they outdistanced the mounted pursuit.
 

 

Further Reading:

The British Army 

Battle of Romani, Sinai, August 4 to 5, 1916, Roll of Honour, British Forces

Battle of Romani, Sinai, August 4 to 5, 1916

Bir el Abd, Sinai, 9 August 1916

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920

 


Citation: Battle of Romani, Sinai, August 4 to 5, 1916, 5th Battalion, Highland Light Infantry, Unit History Account

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Sunday, 25 October 2009 5:26 PM EADT
The Volunteer Movement in Western Australia, Union Troop of W.A. Mounted Volunteers
Topic: Militia - LHW - WA

Western Australian Militia

Union Troop of W.A. Mounted Volunteers

 

The following is an extract from the book written in 1962 by George F. Wieck called The Volunteer Movement in Western Australia 1861-1903, pp. 32 – 33:

 
Union Troop of W.A. Mounted Volunteers

The Government Gazette of 19.7.1870 authorised the formation of a mounted corps in Perth to be designated the "Union Troop of Western Australian Mounted Volunteers", Lieut. de Lisle was appointed to command. The initial strength was three officers and 33 other ranks and this was easily maintained. The uniform adopted is stated to have been of Hussar type but this cannot be verified.

The frequency with which this corps was called upon to provide escorts for the Governor on official occasions suggests this as the chief reason for raising it. It appears to have performed its duties very efficiently.

Lieut. de Lisle resigned command and returned to England in 1872: he was succeeded by Capt. H. W. J. A. Blundell, an officer of British Royal Horse Artillery and an A.D.C. to the Governor.

On a date which may conveniently and satisfactorily be stated as 1.7.1872, the corps ceased to be Cavalry and was officially designated the "W.A. Troop of Volunteer Horse Artillery."



Officers of Union Troop of W.A. Mounted Volunteers

Lieutenant F de Lisle – 19 July 1870

Lieutenant CC Fauntleroy – 28 September 1870

Captain HWJA Blundell – 26 June 1872

Surgeon Dr T Hora - 28 September 1870

 

Previous:  Pinjarrah Mounted Volunteers, Nominal Roll, 1868

Next: Perth Company of W.A. Rifle Volunteers

 

Further Reading:

Western Australian Militia, Light Horse

Western Australian Militia, Infantry

 


Citation: The Volunteer Movement in Western Australia, Union Troop of W.A. Mounted Volunteers

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Friday, 14 August 2009 6:10 PM EADT
Turkish, Nek, Roll of Honour, 7 August 1915
Topic: Tk - Army

The Nek

Gallipoli, 7 August 1915

Roll of Honour

Turkish
 

Çanakkale Martyr's Memorial
 
[Photo by Jll.]

 

The Roll of Honour contains the names of all the men known to have served at one time with the 18th Infantry Regiment and gave their lives in service of the Ottoman Empire on 7 August 1915. The names are compiled from the Turkish Book of Martyrs commonly known as Sehitlerimiz

 

Roll of Honour

 

490 Private Ali Osman son of MEHMET, 3rd Battalion, 18th Regiment.

 

346 Private Halil son of ÖMER, 2nd Battalion, 18th Regiment.

 

787 Private Ismail son of MUSTAFA, 2nd Battalion, 18th Regiment

 

2966 Private Mehmet son of HAMDI, 3rd Battalion, 18th Regiment.

178 Private Mehmet son of HASAN, 2nd Battalion, 18th Regiment.

179 Private Mehmet son of HASAN, 2nd Battalion, 18th Regiment.
2966 Private Mehmet son of HAMDI, 3rd Battalion, 18th Regiment
1571 Private Mustafa son of HÜSEYIN, 2nd Battalion, 18th Regiment.

2776 Private Mustafa son of HÜSEYIN, 2nd Battalion, 18th Regiment.
1457 Private Mustafa son of MEHMET, 3rd Battalion, 18th Regiment.
 
2235 Private Osman son of MEHMET, 2nd Battalion, 18th Regiment.
 
1233 Private Süleyman son of HASAN, 2nd Battalion, 18th Regiment.
 
1060 Private Yakup son of HÜSEYIN, 3rd Battalion, 18th Regiment. 

 

Lest we forget

 

Further Reading:

Turkish Army

The Nek, Gallipoli, 7 August 1915

Gallipoli Campaign

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920

 


Citation: Turkish, Nek, Roll of Honour, 7 August 1915

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Tuesday, 13 October 2009 10:07 AM EADT
Australian Light Horse, Roles within the Regiment, Sentries Challenging
Topic: AIF - Lighthorse

Australian Light Horse

Roles within the Regiment

Sentries Challenging

 

The following entries dealing with the roles and duties within the hierarchy of a light horse regiment are extracted from a very informative handbook called The Bushman’s Military Guide, 1898. While written in 1898, the information contained in the entries held true for the next twenty years with only minor modifications with the principles remaining as current then as now.

 

Sentries Challenging

 

(1.) When it gets dark the sentries will challenge in the following manner:

On the approach of any person the sentry will bring his carbine to the "Ready" position, and call out in a sharp tone "Halt: who comes there?" If the person approaching gives a satisfactory reply, the sentry will say, "Pass friend: All's well," remaining at the "Ready" till he has passed.

(2.) If the person approaching answers "Grand (or visiting) rounds," when there is no countersign, the sentry will say, "Pass grand (or visiting) rounds: All's well," shouldering his arm at the same time and presenting as they pass if they are grand rounds; but when there is a countersign, he will say, "Stand grand (or visiting) rounds; Advance one and give the countersign," still remaining at the "Ready"; in this position he will receive the countersign, and if it is correct will say, "Pass grand (or visiting) rounds," and proceed as above described.

(3.) If the sentry is on or near the guard-tent door, he will proceed as described under the topic: Guards Turning Out 

 

 

Previous: Sentries Paying Compliments 

Next: Instruction of Recruits as Sentries

 

Further Reading:

Australian Light Horse

Militia 1899 - 1920

 


Citation: Australian Light Horse, Roles within the Regiment, Sentries Challenging

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Wednesday, 2 September 2009 11:18 AM EADT
Battle of Romani (Battle of Aweidia), Sinai, August 4 to 5, 1916, 11th LHR, AIF, Unit History Account
Topic: AIF - 4B - 11 LHR

Battle of Romani (Battle of Aweidia)

Sinai, August 4 to 5, 1916

11th LHR, AIF, Unit History Account

 

Turkish prisoners captured at Aweidia being interrogated by Lieutenant Colonel Grant in the oasis at Hod el Bayoud.

[From Hammond, between p. 40 and p. 41.]

 

Ernest W. Hammond, in 1984, produced the unit history for the 11th LHR called the History of the 11th Light Horse Regiment, Fourth Light Horse Brigade, Australian Imperial Forces, war 1914-1919, which included a section specifically related to Smith's Column which participated in the Battle of Bir el Aweidia as part of the the Battle of Romani and is extracted below.

Hammond, EW, History of the 11th Light Horse Regiment, Fourth Light Horse Brigade, Australian Imperial Forces, war 1914-1919, (Singapore 1984)

 
Chapter VII

Battles of Aweidia and Bayoud


On the morning of the 7th August, the Desert Column was hastily drawn up at Mageibra and ordered to advance and attack the enemy's left flank. The column comprised the 11th Light Horse Regiment, a regiment of City of London Yeomanry, and the 4th, 6th 9th and 10th companies of the Imperial Camel Corps, all of which were under the command of Colonel CL Smith, VC. At Daybreak, we moved quietly out of the camp and advanced to Bir el Aweidia, a distance of four miles without encountering the enemy. The country here was made up of a series of small sand hills packed closely together with narrow strips of desert gorse bush filling the ravines. It was difficult country for scouting, and we realised this, a mile or so beyond Aweidia, when our advance guard, under lieutenant F Farlow, came within a hundred yards of a Turkish outpost before either party was aware of the other's presence. The Turks were too dumbfounded to offer resistance, and endeavoured to escape to their main line of defence, located on a long narrow ridge in the background. Quickly recovering from the first sharp shock of surprise, Lieutenant Farlow ordered his men to charge, and, with splendid dash, they galloped forward, capturing a number of Turks and routing the remainder.

Shortly afterwards, a time probably coincident with the arrival of the Turkish stragglers, who had escaped to their own lines, the enemy opened fire on us with shrapnel and machine guns. We estimated that he had four field batteries, twelve machine guns, and five hundred rifles, whereas we had no artillery and only four machine guns and four Lewis guns to support our rifles. We had moved very rapidly in our advance, and to such an extent, in fact, that we were out of touch with the Corps Commander's Headquarters at Jaffier. Lieutenant Colonel Grant was the senior officer in the line, and he assumed command of the column, his plan of attack being as follows:-

The 11th Regiment would make a frontal attack on the Turkish position whilst the Yeomanry, and the Imperial Camel Corps would deploy to the north and south respectively, to harass the enemy's flanks.

His position overlooked a narrow plain on which there was little cover for the purpose of an attacking force. The gullies to this plain were well covered by his artillery and machine gun fire, and it was apparent that no good purpose would be served by a direct frontal thrust. We were outnumbered when the battle commenced, and as the day wore on the enemy was heavily reinforced from the north; this information being furnished by one of our 'planes, which dropped messages at intervals throughout the day.

Communications between sections of the Regiment were maintained by flags and heliographs. In open desert country the heliograph can be used over long distances, but here, owing to the mass of small hills, observation was limited, and five or six signalling stations had to be established, where, ordinarily, two would have been sufficient. This meant a shortage of signallers, and two men were placed on stations normally occupied by three.

Stations No. 1 and No. 2, important links in the chain of communications, were controlled by Sergeant J. McElligott and Corporal G. Groundwater respectively, and both remained on duty for long periods without rest. Furthermore, by sheer ability and perseverance, they were successful in transmitting and receiving heliograph messages by moonlight, this being the first occasion when messages were transmitted in that manner with any degree of success. Next day the Corps Commander, Colonel C. L. Smith, V.C., visited both stations and congratulated Sergeant McElligott and Corporal Groundwater for their resourcefulness and devotion to duty; both were mentioned in despatches.

Our frontal attack on the enemy did not develop, and on the morning of the 8th, we withdrew and concentrated our attack on his left flank and rear left flank. We moved swiftly into the new position, and, at 10.30 a.m., the action commenced. By 12.30, the enemy began to give ground, and, shortly afterwards, retired. The Regiment had advanced a mile, fighting in dismounted order from hill to hill. Suddenly, four columns of Turks were seen retiring from high ground, near the oasis of Hod el Beheir. The horses were rushed up, and, mounting, the troopers gave chase, capturing forty prisoners.

At this time the Imperial Camel Corps arrived, taking up a position on the right of the Regiment. The combined force drove the enemy out of an entrenched position, and he retired northwards, linking up with his main force in that area. His strength was estimated at 1,500 rifles, 12 machine guns, and 6 field guns.

At 3 o'clock in the afternoon, our O.C., Lieutenant Colonel Grant, was directing operations from the brow of a sand dune, when a sniper's bullet passed through his helmet, knocking it from his head. Those who witnessed the occurrence were always eager and proud to relate how Colonel Grant stooped, without undue haste, recovered his helmet, examined the bullet hole, and, replacing his headgear, exclaimed, "My word, that was a close call."

At 5 o'clock, orders were received from Desert Column Headquarters to retire, but owing to a shortage of cacolets to convey our wounded from the scene of action, the withdrawal was not effected until nightfall. "B" Squadron, under Major Lee, covered the retirement, and the Regiment returned to Mageibra.

Our Medical Officer, Captain G. H. Vernon, worked tirelessly throughout the engagement under the most trying conditions, and frequently under fire. He was short of medical supplies, water, and transport for the wounded. On the last night of the engagement, he penetrated far beyond our lines alone, and at great personal risk bandaged a wounded man and brought him back to safety. He was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry in the field.

Captain L. S. Alexander, Adjutant of the Regiment, was severely wounded while directing an attack. Our total casualties during the engagement were one officer wounded, four other ranks killed, and four other ranks wounded.
On the 8th August the Regiment rested at Mageibra, as both men and horses were beginning to feel the strain of fighting under such fierce conditions. During the day the heat was intense; at night it was cold, while food and water were scarce. Our camp was formed in a depression at the foot of Mageibra Hill, and the only shade in the vicinity was a narrow latticed strip cast upon the sand by a -few withered date palm fronds that had been transported from an oasis fourteen miles away.

The Army Medical Corps had thoughtfully carried them along to provide a shade for the wounded. On the morning of the 9th, while the horses were being watered, an enemy 'plane bombed our camp, stampeding the horses, many of which were not recovered until several hours later. That day we left Mageibra to relieve the City of London Yeomanry, who were holding a position to the south at Hill 286, near the oasis of Hod el Bayoud. After watering our horses, we made camp with the Yeomanry, and the 4th and 10th Companies of the Imperial Camel Corps. At daybreak, three patrols under Lieutenants Koch, Gee and Stumm were sent out to reconnoitre the ground to the north-east, north, and east of our position, and shortly afterwards two companies of the Camel Corps were sent to occupy a forward position at Hod el Honoasia, the Regiment being instructed to follow when the horses were watered. In preparation for the advance, the patrols were called in, and it was found that the patrol under Lieutenant Koch had captured a Turkish sniper. The other two patrols had sighted large parties of Turks and many transport camels. There seemed to be considerable movement in and around the Turkish position. Having watered the horses, the Regiment advanced to a large dune at Hilu, and here our advance guard was attacked by the enemy. Several troops were rushed to the front• and these snipers and enemy outposts were quickly driven back. By 9.30 a.m., the Regiment occupied a position opposite the Turkish force, which held an entrenched line on the hills, south-west of Mushalfat. "A" Squadron, commanded by Major P. J. Bailey and "C" Squadron, under Major J. W. Parsons, commenced a direct frontal attack, while "B" Squadron, under Major C. A. Lee, moved to the south-east of the enemy position. The enemy had two nine-pound batteries, eight machine guns and about one thousand rifles.

The Regiment made every endeavour to come to close quarters with him, but his position was unassailable, and by 4 o'clock in the afternoon very little ground had been gained. About this time the Turk commenced a heavy counter attack, the full force being directed against our right flank, and "B" Squadron was in danger of being cut off from the rest of the line. Realising the gravity of the position, Major Bailey, by a skilful move, brought two troops of his squadron into a position which enabled them to concentrate a severe fire on the advancing Turks, thus relieving the pressure on "B" Squadron, which then withdrew.

The horses of Lieutenant Gee's troop, a troop which was fighting dismounted on the extreme right flank, were stampeded by shell fire just before the order to retire was received, and as a result this troop leader and his men were forced to escape on foot. Theirs was a narrow escape and indeed an unenviable experience. There were brief moments of doubt, when it was thought that the whole troop would either be annihilated or captured.

During the retirement, Trooper W. H. Crawford, a member of Lieut. Gee's troop, made an unsuccessful, but nevertheless praiseworthy attempt to carry a wounded comrade (Trooper McKay) from the field of action under heavy fire, delaying his own escape until the Turks were almost upon him. For this action he was awarded the Military Medal. For bravery and devotion to duty Trooper W. R. Wilson was also awarded the Military Medal.

The enemy did not follow through with his counter attack and the Regiment retired with the remainder of the column and bivouacked on high ground, south of the wells and oasis of Hod el Bayoud. During the night, Turkish reinforcements under Semi Bey marched from Maghara, a Turkish position in the north, and entrenched themselves in the high sand dunes north of the Bayoud wells.

At daybreak next morning, the Regiment prepared to water the horses. The oasis at Bayoud consisted of a small grove of palm trees nestling close under the high, steep face of a large sand dune, about four hundred yards in length and three hundred feet high. The oasis faced the enemy position, and, in order to water the horses, we were compelled to descend the sand dune in single file along a narrow camel path which struck obliquely across its steep face. One troop had reached the wells and was drawing water, when a party of Turks, who had crept unseen to a ridge two hundred yards distant, opened fire on them with machine guns and rifles. The bullets whipped up the sand, and slashed through the palm trees before our fellows were aware of the position. Prisoners, who were captured by us later that day, informed us that the Turks thought we had retired to Mageibra, and they were actually coming in to the wells to water their animals when they found us already in possession. The surprise, therefore, was mutual and complete, and it demonstrated very clearly the difficulties of the Sinai campaign, where the very nature of the country, with its sand hills packed together, prevented successful scouting and reconnaissance work.

After the first burst of enemy fire, our fellows acted quickly. Some of them raced up the narrow path to safety, whilst the remainder galloped along the foot of the hill northwards. The escape of the troop was aided by the prompt action of Lieutenant-Colonel Grant, who at once assumed command of the whole force. He despatched the Yeomanry and "B" Squadron under Major Bailey with all speed to the left flank ; the Imperial Camel Corps raced to the right flank, and the Regiment attacked with machine guns and rifles from the sand dune above the wells. The enemy replied with machine gun and rifle, curd with shrapnel from his field guns in the background. In the first few moments of the engagement the Lewis gunners of the Camel Brigade and our machine gunners picked up the enemy range, and we witnessed the utter confusion into which he was thrown. Men and animals fell side by side, and lay still. The remainder of' his force retired from their forward position in complete disorder. Dashing in pursuit, we soon covered the ground which he had lately occupied, finding 21 enemy dead, and the bodies of 37 camels and 15 mules. The pursuit was not continued beyond that point, as our horses were worn out through lack of water; and so we retired to our camp at Bayoud. Arriving there, we set about cooking our breakfast, the preparation of which had been so rudely interrupted it few hours earlier. The "fates," however, persisted in being adverse in the matter of our meal, for our bacon had hardly commenced to grow warm in the dixies when tin enemy 'plane swooped down upon our camp with machine gun and bombs. Hurriedly, the men untied heir horses from the ground lines and scattered across the desert in order to confuse the raider and offer a less conspicuous target. The raider inflicted no casualties and when he departed we were ordered to break camp and retire to Mageibra, and so we ate a meagre break fast of biscuit and jam in the saddle as we rode along. Our casualties during the engagement; were one killed, eight wounded, and one missing.

During the next two days, the Regiment rested at Mageibra, but small patrols were sent out daily to test the enemy's strength, and discover his movements.
These patrols found numerous newly-made graves, where the enemy had buried his dead. On the 13th, 14th and 15th of August enemy 'planes bombed our camp, but no direct hits were registered. On the 16th we broke camp, returning to our base at El Ferdan to reorganise, and rest both men and animals.

The light casualties suffered by us, in comparison to the heavy enemy losses, is a tribute to the brilliant field work of our commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Grant, and his ability as a leader of mounted troops; qualities that were to bring him fame, later, at the gates of Beersheba and beyond. He was brilliant, without being spectacular; cautious, but unafraid, and his was a steadfastness of purpose that could not be denied. Above all, he possessed an overwhelming regard for the welfare, not only of his men, but also of his horses, a characteristic that endeared him to every bushman in the "outfit."

The Aweidia and Bayoud engagements had occupied 12 days, during which our losses were five killed, 12 wounded, and one missing. The total casualties suffered by the "Flying Column" was two officers and ten other ranks killed, one officer and 37 other ranks wounded, two other ranks missing. Several horses were killed outright, or destroyed later as a result of wounds received in the field of action.
 

 

Further Reading:

11th Australian Light Horse Regiment, AIF
 
11th Australian Light Horse Regiment, Roll of Honour

Battle of Romani, Sinai, August 4 to 5, 1916

Bir el Abd, Sinai, 9 August 1916

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920

 


Citation: Battle of Romani, Sinai, August 4 to 5, 1916, 11th LHR, AIF, Unit History Account (Battle of Aweidia)

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Monday, 26 October 2009 8:48 PM EADT

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