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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

Let us hear your story: You can tell your story, make a comment or ask for help on our Australian Light Horse Studies Centre Forum called:

Desert Column Forum

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

Sunday, 9 August 2009
Battle of Romani, Sinai, August 4 to 5, 1916, Falls Account, The British Occupation of Romani
Topic: BatzS - Romani

Battle of Romani

Sinai, August 4 to 5, 1916

Falls Account, The British Occupation of Romani

 

The Battle of Romani, 4-6 August 1916

[Click on map for larger version]

[From: Military operations: Egypt and Palestine, Sketch 10 facing p. 178.]

 

As part of the Official British War History of the Great War, Captain Cyril Falls and Lieutenant General George MacMunn were commissioned to produce a commentary on the Sinai, Palestine and Syrian operations that took place. In 1928, their finished work, Military Operations, Egypt and Palestine - From the outbreak of war with Germany to June 1917,  was published in London. Their book included a section specifically related to the battle of Romani and is extracted below.

MacMunn, G. & Falls, C., Military operations: Egypt and Palestine, (London 1930), pp. 173 - 182:

 

Part 1. The British Occupation of Romani.

Between the 11th May and the 4th June the 52nd (Lowland) Division moved to Romani, where a strong position was gradually developed, its left flank on the sea, its right rounded off to cover the new railhead at Romani Station. It was supplied by both the main line from Qantara and the narrow-gauge line from Port Said to Mahamdiyah. A 6-inch pipe-line was laid beside the main railway, but owing to the heavy demands on piping by the Canal Defences, lagged considerably behind railhead. By the 4th June, 17 miles of this pipe had been laid from Qantara, "pipehead" being then west of Pelusium Station. The troops at Romani had therefore still to be supplied with water either by means of trucks from Qantara or by convoys of camels from pipehead. Local water was impregnated with salts to such an extent that it could not be used in the boilers of the engines, and on the 30th June Sir A. Murray informed the War Office that every drop of water drunk at Romani came from the Nile, that the 6-inch pipe was now inadequate, and that he required a 12-inch pipe. This the War Office promised, and three months later the first consignment arrived.

The mounted troops originally established at Romani, Qatiya, and Oghritina had subsisted on the local well water, but the coming of the extreme summer heat, during which a temperature of 123° Fahrenheit was registered inside a tent, altered the situation. British troops could not now march and fight on the saline water; the horses often refused it, and, if they drank it, quickly lost condition.1

1. A condensing plant was installed at Mahamdiyah to supplement the supply, but it proved expensive in coal and the intake sucked in so much sand that the pipes were choked. When it was finally put into working order the further advance across the desert had begun and its need was almost over.


It must be added that both troops and horses gradually accustomed themselves to the local water, and were able to subsist upon it for short periods. Better water than that in existing wells, which were fouled by decaying vegetable matter, was frequently obtained by sinking new ones in their vicinity. The digging of a well in the sand was, however, a long and arduous task. Great saving of time and trouble was effected by the use of the "spear-point" pump, first employed by the Australian Field Squadron. A section of 2j-inch piping was brought to a point and perforated above that point, the perforation being covered with wire gauze. This was driven into the sand, and additional lengths screwed to it till the required depth was attained, when a service lift-and-force pump was attached. Water was thus obtained without difficulty in any water-bearing area and far more quickly than from most of the wills in the Oases.

[175] The defensive position at Romani ran southward from Mahamdiyah along a line of high sand-hills, which marked the eastern edge of an area of very soft and shifting sand. East of this natural line of defence the ground sloped down to much lower dunes and harder sand. Movement here was easier, nor were the dried gypsum pans by which the area was broken, in general serious obstacles. Within sight of the Romani heights were the large groves forming the Qatiya Oasis.

The principal tactical point in the position was a dune known as Katib Gannit, at its southern end, standing 100 feet above its neighbouring hillocks. Between the shore at the western end of the Bardawil Lagoon and Katib Gannit, on the eastern slopes of the Romani heights, were constructed in first line twelve works, on an average 750 yards apart, with another series curving westward, then northward, in the form of a hook, to protect the right or southern flank. The total number of works was eighteen;2 [2 Maps 9 and 10 show only 16 works; apparently the two remaining were in rear of these.] when fully garrisoned they held from 40 to 170 rifles apiece, with an average of 100 rifles. In addition to Lewis guns an average of two Vickers guns was also allotted to each. The works were prominent, since concealment could not be obtained without sacrificing field of fire. They were well wired, though at the opening of the Battle of Romani the spaces between them were not covered by wire, except on the right of the position.

After the middle of May the heat in Sinai is very great, becoming fiercest between mid-June and the end of July. By night it is reasonably cool, and often cold, but day after day, when once the sun is well up, the desert throws back its heat like metal. Plate-laying on the railway could not in these conditions be carried out after 10 a.m. Worse than [177] the sun is the hot southerly wind, or Khamsin,1 [1. Khamsin, fifty. The Bedouin believe this wind blows once every fifty days. It lasts sometimes for only a few hours, sometimes for several days.] which turns the atmosphere to a haze of floating particles of sand. In camp at Romani the troops suffered severely, but the Scotsmen more than the Australians, many of whom, coming front the ranges of the interior, were accustomed to great summer heat and scanty water supply. No major operations took place within this period, for the Turks retained in Sinai only small scattered garrisons, out of reach of the British force. In the air, however, there was considerable activity. Turkish aeroplanes appeared over the Suez Canal twice during the month of May, dropping bombs on Port Said, but causing no material damage and only 23 casualties to troops and civilians. On the 18th a successful bombardment of the town and aerodrome of El Arish was carried out from the sea and air in reprisal for the first of the Turkish raids. On the 22nd the R.F.C. bombed all the enemy camps on a front of 45 miles parallel to the Canal.

The activity of the Turkish aeroplanes was, however, increasing, and Colonel W. G. H. Salmond, commanding the Sketch B. 5th Wing, planned a big raid on the 18th June upon their aerodrome at El Arish. To gain the advantage of surprise, the eleven British machines kept out to sea until past El Arish, then turned inland and approached their objective from the south-east. Two Turkish machines were destroyed on the ground, two of the ten hangars set on fire, and four others hit by bombs. Successful attacks with bombs and machine guns were also made on several parties of Turkish troops. The British aeroplanes were subjected to heavy fire and three brought down. Of these, one fell into the sea, the pilot being rescued by a motor-boat; a second fell north of the aerodrome and was burned by its pilot, Captain R. J. Tipton, R.F.A., before the Turks could reach him. The third aeroplane was observed on the ground by one of the escorting machines, piloted by Captain S. Grant-Dalton, Green Howards, who landed beside it, took off its pilot, Captain H. A. Van Ryneveld, 2 [2. Now Colonel Sir H. A. Van Ryneveld, Director of the South African Air services, who flew from London to Cape Town via Cairo in 1920.] and carried him 90 miles back to Qantara. [178]

On the ground constant patrolling and reconnaissances took place. In one such expedition, to Bir Bayud, 19 miles south-east of Romani, made on the 16th May, a day of particularly intense heat, the 6th A.L.H., narrowly escaped disaster from lack of water, many men lying for hours unconscious in the groves of Qatiya. On the 31st a successful raid on the enemy's post at Bir Salmana, 22 miles E.N.E. of Romani, was carried out by the New Zealand Brigade, supported by the 1st A.L.H. Two Turks were captured and 15 killed, while British aeroplanes caused further loss to the retreating enemy, especially in camels.

During the month of June an operation was carried out from No. 2 Section of the Canal Defences to deny to the enemy the large supplies of water in the Wadi um Mukhsheib and at Moiya Harab, 25 miles east of the Little Bitter Lake, which had been used by the Turks in their attack on the Canal the previous year. A composite force of the 9th and 10th A.L.H. (3rd L. H. Brigade), with detachments of engineers and of the Bikanir Camel Corps, under the command of Lieut.-Colonel T. J. Todd, moved out on the 9th June to the Wadi um Mukhsheib, and a detachment of Middlesex Yeomanry advanced to Moiya Harab. The ancient stone cisterns, sunk beside the wadi's bed to catch its overflow, were pumped dry. Patches of clay which were holding water in large pools were ditched by explosives, to drain off the water into the sand. Three days' work in intense heat disposed of five million gallons of water, the cisterns being then sealed to prevent them from refilling after the next season's rains. As a result, the use by the enemy of the Central Sinai route, by which he had advanced in 1915, was made practically impossible and the area of a serious Turkish offensive narrowed down to the coast route, where preparations had been made to meet it.

At the beginning of June the revolt of the Arabs in the Hejaz against the Turks broke out. This, together with the events which led up to it, will be described in the chapters that follow. One result may be mentioned here : Sir A. Murray was now directed by the C.I.G.S. to consider seriously that advance to El Arish which had previously been merely a vague possibility. Sir W. Robertson did not, however, contemplate that such an advance would be possible before October.

 

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

Next: The Turkish Advance

 

Further Reading:

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, Falls Account, The British Occupation of Romani

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Monday, 7 September 2009 6:25 PM EADT
The Volunteer Movement in Western Australia, Fremantle Volunteer Rifles
Topic: Militia - LHW - WA

Western Australian Militia

Fremantle Volunteer Rifles

 

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. 29 – 30:

 
Fremantle Volunteer Rifles

The public meeting held in Fremantle in September 1861, recommended an Infantry corps of 100 all ranks, to be designated the "Fremantle Volunteer Rifles". Approval was given, and training, organization etc. proceeded under the direction of Captain C. Finnerty, Staff Officer for Enrolled Pensioners at Fremantle. Formation was "gazetted" on 6/8/1862, as was the appointment of Mr R. S. Price as Captain Commanding.

It is difficult to justify the optimism of the citizens of Fremantle in supposing that their district could supply 100 Volunteers, the population being small and employment uncertain. The objective was never attained. The highest strength gained was in 1864 when the roll bore the names of 69 members, 22 honorary members, and 19 cadets. The recruiting potential seems to have been grossly overestimated.

The corps was armed with obsolete muzzle-loading muskets, presumably those taken over from the War Office stocks held in the Colony. It is understood that the uniform adopted was similar to that of the Perth corps. By-laws were approved on 18/12/1861, and later embodied in the general code.

By 1869 the strength had dwindled to one officer and 50 other ranks, much of it on paper only. After careful inquiry the Military Commandant recommended disbandment of the Corps on the grounds of "Inefficiency". Disbandment was gazetted on 8/2/1870.


Officers of the Fremantle Volunteer Rifles

Captain RS Price - 6 August 1862

Lieutenant M Brown - 22 October 1862

Lieutenant A Francesco - 22 October 1862

Captain CA Manning - 16 November 1864

Lieutenant LW Clifton - 1 June 1866

 

Previous: Perth Volunteer Rifles

Next: Pinjarrah Mounted Volunteers

 

Further Reading:

Western Australian Militia, Light Horse

Western Australian Militia, Infantry

 


Citation: The Volunteer Movement in Western Australia, Fremantle Volunteer Rifles

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Friday, 14 August 2009 12:08 PM EADT
Australian Light Horse, Roles within the Regiment, Relieving and Posting
Topic: AIF - Lighthorse

Australian Light Horse

Roles within the Regiment

Relieving and Posting

 

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.

 

Relieving and Posting

 

(1.) On the approach of the relief, a sentry will place himself with shouldered arms in front of his sentry-box. The corporal of the relief will proceed as follows:

 

"Shoulder-Arms."

At about 10 paces from the sentry.

 

"Relief, Halt."

At about 6 paces from the sentry.

 

"Sentries, Port - Arms."

The old sentry, and the man who is to relieve him, will port arms, the latter moving out from the relief and placing himself at 1 pace from the former, facing him; the old sentry will then give over his orders, the corporal referring to the board of orders to see if they are correctly given.

 

"Pass."

The old sentry will take 1 pace to his left, and then move to his place in the relief, turning to the rear, and the new sentry will take 1 pace to his front.

 

"Shoulder-Arms."

"Front."

The sentries will then be ordered to shoulder arms and front.

 

"Relief Quick - March."

"Support - Arms."

The relief will be marched on, and, when it has proceeded about 10 pares, will be ordered to support arms.

(2.) The proper front of a sentry's post, and the extent of his walk, should be pointed out to him when he is posted.

When a sentry is to be posted on a new post, the procedure will be as above described, except that on the command, "Sentry, Port - Arms", the sentry will port arms, move to the post assigned to him, and be ordered to front. The corporal will read the orders to him, and then direct him to shoulder.

(3.) Sentries walking to and fro on their posts must do so in a brisk and soldier-like manner; they must on no account quit their arms, lounge, or converse with anyone; nor must they stand in their sentry boxes in good, or even in moderate weather. Sentries are to walk about with supported arms, but they are permitted to order arms and stand at ease from time to time.

 

 

Previous: Marching Reliefs 

Next: Sentries Paying Compliments 

 

Further Reading:

Australian Light Horse

Militia 1899 - 1920

 


Citation: Australian Light Horse, Roles within the Regiment, Relieving and Posting

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Wednesday, 2 September 2009 11:21 AM EADT
Bir el Abd, Sinai, 9 August 1916, 1st LHR, AIF, Unit History Account
Topic: AIF - 1B - 1 LHR

Bir el Abd

Sinai, 9 August 1916

1st LHR, AIF, Unit History Account


Map of the 1st LHR participation in the Sinai Campaign, 1916-17

[From: Vernon, The Royal New South Wales Lancers 1885-1985, p. 105.]

[Click on map for larger version.]

 

PV Vernon's 1985 centenary celebration of the Royal New South Wales Lancers included a section on the work performed by the 1st Light Horse Regiment during the Great War. The pages specifically related to the battle of Romani are extracted below.

 

Vernon, PV, editor, The Royal New South Wales Lancers 1885-1985, (Sydney 1986), pp. 112 - 113:

 

At 2.15 p.m. on August 8 the regiment, now 236 strong, with "A" Squadron of the 3rd Light Horse Regiment, left Romani for Katia as advanced guard to the 1st and 2nd Brigades which were both under Brigadier-General J. R. Royston, C.M.G., D.S.O., the object being to cut off the Turks at Bir el Abd. The force moved along the caravan route to Hod el Khibba, thence in a night march, swinging off at a bearing of 22 degrees as far as the recently swollen marsh, thence on a bearing of 80 degrees to Hod Hamada and from there on a bearing of 129 degrees in order to reach a point north-east of Bir el Abd. On reaching the edge of the sand dunes north-east of Bir el Abd, the unit came under heavy fire, and was forced to deploy on a line running eastward into the dunes from the edge of a marsh, el Huag, lying north-east of Hod el Hisha. At 11 a.m. an attempt was made to straighten out the line - the Wellington Mounted Rifles, attached to the 2nd Light Horse Brigade, moved forward and occupied a hill south-west of Hod el Asal. The 1st Light Horse Regiment moved forward supporting this attack, one troop reaching the hill. As the enemy appeared to be making some advance across the flat to the east, two troops of the regiment were moved up to Hod el Hisha, and were heavily fired on, at which time the Wellingtons were being heavily shelled on the hill occupied by them south-west of Hod el Asal. The enemy made a general advance, and orders were received at 3.30 p.m. to withdraw to the north-west towards Hod Hamada, thence via Hod el Khibba to Oghratina, where the regiment bivouacked for the night. Lieutenant R. A. L. McDonald and two men had been killed, and Major D. W. A. Smith and 13 men wounded.

At Romani, on August 4 1916, the British had routed the Turks and destroyed half their force. It was a decisive battle in the campaign. After the actions at Katia on August 5, and at Bir el Abd on August 9 to 12, the main enemy force was withdrawn across the 50 miles of practically waterless country to el Arish, but with a strong outpost left at Mazar, 24 miles east of Abd. The Romani operations had stressed the need for the railway line and pipeline which were gradually being constructed in the wake of the army, and the G.O.C. now made a determined effort to get these completed. (By December 21, the British were in el Arish.)
 

 

Further Reading:

1st Australian Light Horse Regiment, AIF

1st 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: Bir el Abd, Sinai, 9 August 1916, 1st LHR, AIF, Unit History Account

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Thursday, 17 September 2009 12:36 PM EADT
Bir el Abd, Sinai, 9 August 1916, 2nd LHR, AIF, Unit History Account
Topic: AIF - 1B - 2 LHR

Bir el Abd

Sinai, 9 August 1916

2nd LHR, AIF, Unit History Account

 

Lieutenant Colonel George Herbert Bourne's unit history of the 2nd Light Horse Regiment, AIF, included a section specifically related to the battle of Beersheba which is extracted below.

Bourne, Lieut-Colonel GH, "NULLI SECUNDUS" - The History - of the 2nd Light Horse Regiment Australian Imperial Force - August 1914 - April 1919, (Tamworth 1926), p. 36:

 

On 8th, we marched out with the object of again attacking the enemy's rear guard at Bir-el-Abd, distant 22 miles. The position was reached at daylight on 9th. A hot engagement was fought, but the Turks were too well prepared for us, and we were obliged to return, for rations and water, nearer our base, viz. - Oghratina. In this engagement the Regimental casualties were:- Killed, one; wounded, ten.

We again had a very warm corner in this action and covered the withdrawal when that, unfortunately, became necessary.

This was the last attempt to molest the Turkish retreat. Had full use been made of our mobility at the outset, not a Turk or a gun would have got away.

 

Further Reading:

2nd Australian Light Horse Regiment, AIF

2nd 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: Bir el Abd, Sinai, 9 August 1916, 2nd LHR, AIF, Unit History Account

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Friday, 18 September 2009 9:07 PM EADT

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