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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.

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Saturday, 31 October 2009
Imperial Camel Corps - Outline
Topic: AIF - 5B - ICC

ICC, AIF

Imperial Camel Corps 

Outline

 

 

The evolution of the Imperial Camel Corps

Camel Companies

After the outbreak of the Senussi Rebellion in the western desert of Egypt, the first response was create composite regiments from the Light Horse reinforcements.  As the Light Horse Regiments returned from Gallipoli, so too were the men from those regiments serving with the Western Frontier Force. In response to this, a specific force was formed that was capable of traversing large distances over waterless territory. Camels were seen as the obvious form of transport.

In January 1916 the Imperial Camel Corps was formed to answer the needs for such a desert oriented force. Initially the men came from a variety of formations but usually infantry men who had experience with camels. This proved to be a skill concentrated in the Western Australian units and those also from South Australia where the camel was a key locomotive animal.

Four companies were initiallly formed. These were:


 

 

 

1st Camel Company

The 1st Camel Company was formed in Egypt on 24 January 1916 from volunteers drawn out of the 4th and 8th Infantry Brigades. On 16 December 1916 the 1st Camel Company was absorbed into the 1st Camel Battalion. The Battalion was disbanded on 25 July 1918 with all the available personnel forming 14th Light Horse Regiment.



 

 

2nd Camel Company

The 2nd Camel Company was formed in Egypt on 30 January 1916 from volunteers drawn out of the 1st and 2nd Infantry Brigades. On 10 March 1917 the 2nd Camel Company was absorbed into the 1st Camel Battalion. The Battalion was disbanded on 25 July 1918 with all the available personnel forming 14th Light Horse Regiment.



 

 

3rd Camel Company

The 3rd Camel Company was formed in Egypt on 31 January 1916 from volunteers drawn out of the 3rd and 7th Infantry Brigades. On 16 December 1916 the 3rd Camel Company was absorbed into the 1st Camel Battalion. The Battalion was disbanded on 25 July 1918 with all the available personnel forming 14th Light Horse Regiment.


 

 

4th Camel Company

The 4th Camel Company was formed in Egypt on 31 January 1916 from volunteers drawn out of the 4th and 8th Infantry Brigades. On 16 December 1916 the 4th Camel Company was absorbed into the 1st Camel Battalion. The Battalion was disbanded on 25 July 1918 with all the available personnel forming 14th Light Horse Regiment.

 

Following the success of the Camel Companies in the Western Desert, over time, ten more companies were formed from the various British units excess Light Horse reinforcements in the various training depots.

 

5th Camel Company

The 5th Camel Company was a British manned Company drawn from the 53rd Territorial Infantry Division. On 16 December 1916 the 5th Camel Company was absorbed into the 2nd Camel Battalion.  After the breakup of the Imperial Camel Corps on 25 July 1918, the 5th Camel Company remained as a camel formation giving assistance in the Hejaz campaign.

 

6th Camel Company

The 6th Camel Company was a British manned Company drawn from the Yeomanry 4th Dismounted Brigade. After the breakup of the Imperial Camel Corps on 25 July 1918, the 6th Camel Company remained as a camel formation giving assistance in the Hejaz campaign.

 

7th Camel Company

The 7th Camel Company was a British manned Company drawn from the 54th Territorial Infantry Division. After the breakup of the Imperial Camel Corps on 25 July 1918, the 7th Camel Company remained as a camel formation giving assistance in the Hejaz campaign.

 

8th Camel Company

The 8th Camel Company was a British manned Company drawn from the Yeomanry 6th Mounted Brigade. After the breakup of the Imperial Camel Corps on 25 July 1918, the 8th Camel Company remained as a camel formation giving assistance in the Hejaz campaign.

 

9th Camel Company

The 9th Camel Company was a British manned Company drawn from the Yeomanry 8th Mounted Brigade. After the breakup of the Imperial Camel Corps on 25 July 1918, the 9th Camel Company remained as a camel formation giving assistance in the Hejaz campaign.

 

10th Camel Company

The 10th Camel Company was a British manned Company drawn from the Yeomanry 22nd Mounted Brigade. After the breakup of the Imperial Camel Corps on 25 July 1918, the 10th Camel Company remained as a camel formation giving assistance in the Hejaz campaign.

 

 

 

11th Camel Company

The 11th Camel Company was formed in Egypt on 6 July 1916 from volunteers drawn out of the Anzac Mounted Division. On 16 December 1916 the 11th Camel Company was absorbed into the 3rd Camel Battalion. The Battalion was disbanded on 25 July 1918 with all the available personnel forming the 15th Light Horse Regiment.

 

 

 

12th Camel Company

The 12th Camel Company was formed in Egypt on 15 July 1916 from volunteers drawn out of the light horse reinforcements. On 16 December 1916 the 12th Camel Company was absorbed into the 3rd Camel Battalion. The Battalion was disbanded on 25 July 1918 with all the available personnel forming the 15th Light Horse Regiment.

 

 

 

13th Camel Company

The 13th Camel Company was formed in Egypt on 25 July 1916 from volunteers drawn out of the light horse reinforcements. On 16 December 1916 the 13th Camel Company was absorbed into the 3rd Camel Battalion. The Battalion was disbanded on 25 July 1918 with all the available personnel forming the 15th Light Horse Regiment.

 

 

 

14th Camel Company

The 13th Camel Company was formed in Egypt on 4 August 1916 from volunteers drawn out of the light horse reinforcements. On 16 December 1916 the 14th Camel Company was absorbed into the 3rd Camel Battalion. The Battalion was disbanded on 25 July 1918 with all the available Australian personnel forming the 15th Light Horse Regiment.


 

 

15th Camel Company

The 15th Camel Company was raised on 24 July 1916 from New Zealand Mounted Rifles reinforcements in the Egyptian training depot. The 15th Camel Company was joined as part of the 4th Camel Battalion, a composite Australian and New Zealand formation. The Battalion was disbanded on 25 July 1918 with all the available New Zealand personnel forming the 2nd New Zealand Machine Gun Squadron.

 

 

 

16th Camel Company

The 16th Camel Company was raised on 17 October 1916 from New Zealand Mounted Rifles reinforcements in the Egyptian training depot. The 16th Camel Company was joined as part of the 4th Camel Battalion, a composite Australian and New Zealand formation. The Battalion was disbanded on 25 July 1918 with all the available New Zealand personnel forming the 2nd New Zealand Machine Gun Squadron.

 

 

 

 

17th Camel Company

The 17th Camel Company was formed in Egypt on 3 February 1917 from men transferred out of the disbanded 4th Camel Regiment. The 17th Camel Company was joined as part of the 4th Camel Battalion, a composite Australian and New Zealand formation. The Battalion was disbanded on 25 July 1918 with all the available Australian personnel joining either the 14th Light Horse Regiment or 15th Light Horse Regiment.


 

 

18th Camel Company

The 18th Camel Company was formed in Egypt on 3 February 1917 from men transferred out of the disbanded 4th Camel Regiment. The 17th Camel Company was joined as part of the 4th Camel Battalion, a composite Australian and New Zealand formation. The Battalion was disbanded on 25 July 1918 with all the available Australian personnel joining either the 14th Light Horse Regiment or 15th Light Horse Regiment.

 

Camel Regiments

 

 

 

1st Camel Regiment

The 1st Camel Regiment was formed in Egypt during September 1916 by redesignating the 11th Light Horse Regiment. During the reorganisation of the Light Horse Divisions, the Regiment resumed its old identity as the 11th Light Horse Regiment in February 1917. The 11th Light Horse Regiment became part of the 4th Light Horse Brigade in the Imperial Mounted Division and then Australian Mounted Division.

 

 

 

2nd Camel Regiment

The 2nd Camel Regiment was formed in Egypt during September 1916 by redesignating the 12th Light Horse Regiment. During the reorganisation of the Light Horse Divisions, the Regiment resumed its old identity as the 12th Light Horse Regiment in February 1917. The 12th Light Horse Regiment became part of the 4th Light Horse Brigade in the Imperial Mounted Division and then Australian Mounted Division.

 

 


3rd Camel Regiment

The 3rd Camel Regiment was formed in Egypt on 24 December 1916 by redesignating the 4th Light Horse Regiment. During the reorganisation of the Light Horse Divisions, the Regiment resumed its old identity as the 4th Light Horse Regiment in February 1917. The 4th Light Horse Regiment became part of the 4th Light Horse Brigade in the Imperial Mounted Division and then Australian Mounted Division.

 

4th Camel Regiment

The 4th Camel Regiment was formed in Egypt on 10 November 1916 from men transferred out of the disbanded 1st, 2nd and 3rd Light Horse Double Squadrons. [See: Double Squadron - Units] The 17th and 18th Camel Companies [See above] were formed in Egypt on 3 February 1917 from men transferred out of the 4th Camel Regiment which was subsquently disbanded.

 

Camel Battalions and the Imperial Camel Corps Brigade

The camel companies were small formation adapted for the small scale encounters that occurred in the Western Desert. With the massed armies of the Turks met in set piece battles, the size of the units proved unsuitable for effective combat against the Turks in Palestine. In response, the Allied authorities amalgamated the independant companies into camel battalions in December 1916. The three companies were original formed with a fourth company added in February 1917. These four Battalions were brigaded into the 1st Imperial Camel Corps Brigade, a composite Brigade which included 10 Australian, 6 British and 2 New Zealand Companies. Although formed from all states, all camel reinforcements came from New South Wales.

 

 

 

1st Camel Battalion

Originally the 1st Camel Battalion was formed in the Sinai on 2 August 1916 as a composite British and Australian Camel formation. Into the Battalion came the 5th (British), 6th (British), 7th (British) and 4th Camel Companies. At prior to the Battle of Magdahba, the 5th (British) Camel Company was replaced by the 12th Camel Company. Hence the 4th, 6th (British), 7th (British) and 12th Camel Companies comprised the 1st Camel Battalion during the Battle of Maghdhaba. In early January 1917, the 6th (British), 7th (British) and 12th Camel Companies were replaced by the 1st, 3rd, and 15th (New Zealand) Camel Companies, with the 4th Camel Company remaining. It was this composition of the Batalion that took part in the Battle of Rafa. On 10 March 1917, the 15th (New Zealand) Camel Company was replaced by the 2nd Camel Company assigned making the Battalion now an entirely Australian formation. The Battalion was disbanded on 25 July 1918 with all the available personnel forming 14th Light Horse Regiment.

 

 

 

2nd Camel Battalion

In early January 1917, all the British Camel Companies were brought together into the 2nd Camel Battalion. After the breakup of the Imperial Camel Corps on 25 July 1918, the 2nd Camel Battalion remained as a camel formation giving assistance in the Hejaz campaign.

 

 

 

3rd Camel Battalion

Originally the 3rd Camel Battalion was formed in the Sinai on 4 December 1916 as a composite New Zealand and Australian Camel formation. Into the Battalion came the from 1st, 11th and 15th (New Zealand) Camel Companies. In early January 1917, the 1st and 15th (New Zealand) Camel Companies were replaced  by the 12th and 14th Camel Companies thus making it now an exclusive Australian Battalion. When engaged at the Battle of Rafa, the 3rd Camel Battalion comprised the 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th Camel Companies. The Battalion was disbanded on 25 July 1918 with all the available personnel forming the 15th Light Horse Regiment.

 

 

 

4th (Anzac) Camel Battalion

The 4th (Anzac) Camel Battalion was created during the process of reforming the Light Horse structure in Egypt. Formed in the Sinai on 16 February 1917, it was a composite New Zealand and Australian Battalion with the component units being the 16th (New Zealand), 13th, 17th and 18th Camel Companies. After the Second Battle of Gaza, 19 April 1917, the 13th Camel Company was transferred to the 3rd Camel Battalion and replaced by the 15th (New Zealand) Camel Company. The 4th (Anzac) Camel Battalion consisted of the  14th (New Zealand), 15th (New Zealand), 17th and 18th Camel Companies. In January 1918, the transfers of the 13th Camel Company and the 15th (New Zealand) Camel Company were reversed returning back to the original configuration of the 16th (New Zealand), 13th, 17th and 18th Camel Companies. The Battalion was disbanded on 25 July 1918 with all the available Australian personnel joining either the 14th Light Horse Regiment or 15th Light Horse Regiment while all the available New Zealand personnel formed the 2nd New Zealand Machine Gun Squadron.

 

Artillery

The artillery unit at the disposal of the Imperial Camel Corps was the No. 1 Hong Kong & Singapore Battery, RGA which was on the strength of the an Indian Mountain Battery, was been temporarily transformed into a Camel Battery with great success. The battery consisted of three sections, each with two 13 pounder mountain guns. The nickname of this unit was the "Bing Boys".

 

 

 

Australian Camel Field Ambulance

Raised in Victoria and trained at Seymour Camp in early 1917, the unit embarked on 10 May 1917. After the issue of camels and further training, the Australian Camel Field Ambulance joined the Imperial Camel Corps at Sheik Weli Nuran on 23 August 1917 thus replacing the 1/1 Welsh Field Ambulance. The unit had the distinction of being the only mounted field ambulance unit with a dedicated Quartermaster. The Australian Camel Field Ambulance was renamed the 5th Light Horse Field Ambulance.

 

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 1st Imperial Camel Corps Brigade received the colour in 1916 which was plain red in the shape of a triangle.

 

1st Imperial Camel Corps Brigade Colour Patch

The individual Battalions attached to the 1st Imperial Camel Corps Brigade carried the their own specific colour as a triangle illustrated with the above description about each individual unit.

 

Commanders:

Brigadier General Clement Leslie Smith, VC, MC.

 

Attachments

Desert Column 1916.

Desert Mounted Corps 1917 until July 1918.

 

Campaigns

The Imperial Camel Corps was formed from the various companies whose battle honours were transferred to the Brigade.

Egypt:

  • Western Desert
  • Defence of Egypt

Sinai:

  • Magdhaba; and,
  • Rafa.

 Palestine:

  • First Battle of Gaza;
  • Second Battle of Gaza;
  • Third Battle of Gaza;
  • Beersheba;
  • Khuweilfe/Ras es Nagh;
  • Bald Hill;
  • Amman; and,
  • Musallabeh.

 

Embarkations:

The following list details all the embarkations in support of the Imperial Camel Corps, AIF, during the Great War. Each entry details the individual soldier's: rank on embarkation; full name; Declared age; last occupation held; last address as a civilian; enlistment Date; and, ultimate fate. Each man is linked to a brief military biography where ever possible. One interesting point is that many of the men listed in the embarkation roll for the Imperial Camel Corps ended up in a different unit altogether. This list details the men's starting point in the AIF.

May 1916 Reinforcement

Sydney, New South Wales on board RMS Morea 27 May 1916

July 1916 Reinforcement

Sydney, New South Wales on board RMS Mongolia 8 July 1916

August 1916 Reinforcement

Sydney, New South Wales on board RMS Malwa 22 July 1916

September 1916 Reinforcement

Sydney, New South Wales on board RMS Mooltan 19 August 1916

October 1916 Reinforcement

Sydney, New South Wales on board HMAT A43 Barunga 20 October 1916

November 1916 Reinforcement Medic Group 1st MD

November 1916 Reinforcement Medic Group 2nd MD

November 1916 Reinforcement Vestalia Group

Sydney, New South Wales on board HMAT A7 Medic 12 December 1916

Sydney, New South Wales on board HMAT A7 Medic 12 December 1916

Melbourne, Victoria on board HMAT A44 Vestalia 15 December 1916

December 1916 Reinforcement Karmala Group

December 1916 Reinforcement Boorara Group 1st MD

December 1916 Reinforcement Boorara Group 3rd MD

Sydney, New South Wales on board RMS Karmala 3 February 1917

Melbourne, Victoria on board HMAT A42 Boorara 10 May 1917

Melbourne, Victoria on board HMAT A42 Boorara 10 May 1917

January 1917 Reinforcement Karmala Group 1st MD

January 1917 Reinforcement Karmala Group 2nd MD

January 1917 Reinforcement Karmala Group 3rd MD

January 1917 Reinforcement Boorara Group

Sydney, New South Wales on board RMS Karmala 3 February 1917

Sydney, New South Wales on board RMS Karmala 3 February 1917

Melbourne, Victoria on board RMS Karmala 6 February 1917

Melbourne, Victoria on board HMAT A42 Boorara 10 May 1917

February 1917 Reinforcement Boorara Group

February 1917 Reinforcement Morea 17 February Group

February 1917 Reinforcement Morea 20 February Group

Melbourne, Victoria on board HMAT A42 Boorara 10 May 1917

Sydney, New South Wales on board RMS Morea 17 February 1917

Melbourne, Victoria on board RMS Morea 20 February 1917

March 1917 Reinforcement Port Sydney Group

March 1917 Reinforcement Boorara Group

Sydney, New South Wales on board HMAT A15 Port Sydney 9 May 1917

Fremantle, Western Australia on board HMAT A42 Boorara 22 May 1917

April 1917 Reinforcements Port Sydney 9 May 1917 Group

April 1917 Reinforcement Port Sydney 22 May 1917 Group

Sydney, New South Wales on board HMAT A15 Port Sydney 9 May 1917

Fremantle, Western Australia on board HMAT A15 Port Sydney 22 May 1917

May 1917 Reinforcement Kyarra Group

May 1917 Reinforcement Port Lincoln Group

Sydney, New South Wales on board HMAT A55 Kyarra 3 September 1917

Fremantle, Western Australia on board HMAT A17 Port Lincoln 30 June 1917

June 1917 Reinforcement Canberra Group

June 1917 Reinforcement Kyarra Group

Sydney, New South Wales on board SS Canberra 16 November 1917

Fremantle, Western Australia on board HMAT A55 Kyarra 17 September 1917

July 1917 Reinforcement Commonwealth Group

July 1917 Reinforcement Port Darwin Group

Fremantle, Western Australia on board HMAT A73 Commonwealth 9 November 1917

Sydney, New South Wales on board SS Port Darwin 30 April 1918

August 1917 Reinforcement

Fremantle, Western Australia on board HMAT A73 Commonwealth 9 November 1917

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

 

Acknowledgement: Many thanks to Steve Becker who has provided much useful assistance in the construction of this page.

 

Further Reading:

Imperial Camel Corps, AIF

Imperial Camel Corps, Roll of Honour 

Double Squadrons

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920



Citation: Imperial Camel Corps - Outline

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Tuesday, 2 March 2010 10:02 AM EAST
Friday, 30 October 2009
Imperial Camel Corps, Roll of Honour
Topic: AIF - 5B - ICC

ICC, AIF

Imperial Camel Corps

Roll of Honour


Poppies on the Roll of Honour, Australian War Memorial, Canberra

 

The Roll of Honour contains the names of all the men known to have served at one time with the Imperial Camel Corps and gave their lives in service of Australia, whether as part of the Imperial Camel Corps or another unit.

 

Roll of Honour

 

Roy Bunbury ARMSTRONG, Died of Disease, 30 October 1918.

 

Charles BASKETT, Died of Disease, 13 October 1918.

Ernest BIRD, Died of Wounds, 8 April 1918.

Arthur Edward BROWN, Killed in Action, 11 April 1918.

William John BROWN, Killed in Action, 30 March 1918. 

Cecil Robson BROWNING, Killed in Action, 11 April 1918.

Percy BUTCHER, Killed in Action, 23 December 1916.

Richard Leslie Oliver BUTTERS, Died of Disease, 22 November 1918.

 

John CAMPBELL, Died of Wounds, 5 June 1918.

Walter Walterous CLEMENTS, Died of Disease, 20 October 1918.

Rees CLIFFORD, Killed in Action, 30 March 1918.

Sidney Albert COLE, Died of Disease, 12 November 1918.

William Joseph COLEMAN, Killed in Action, 7 November 1917.

Gerald Arthur COLLETT, Killed in Action, 5 June 1917 .

David COLQUHOUN, Killed in Action, 8 November 1917.

Guy Sydney CONNOR, Killed in Action, 19 April 1917.

Herbert Stephen CONNOR, Died of Disease, 10 July 1918.

Sidney Martin CONNOR, Died of Disease, 9 October 1918.

James COOPER, Died of Disease, 7 November 1918.

John Allan COOPER, Died of Disease, 22 October 1918.

Ernest James CRAGGS, Killed in Action, 31 October 1917.

 

William George DALZIEL, Died of Disease, 14 December 1918.

Cecil Montague DASKEY, Killed in Action, 19 April 1917.

Bertie Leon DORNAN, Died of Disease, 29 October 1918.

 

David Henry EDDY, Died of Disease, 12 October 1918.

Thomas Stanley Pryse EXELL, Died of Wounds, 30 November 1917.

 

Harold Hamilton FARLOW, Killed in Action, 1 June 1918.

Walter Leslie FEEBREY, Killed in Action, 11 April 1918.

Henry Peter FLEGLER, Died of Wounds, 12 April 1918.

Malvern Plymton FOLLAND, Killed in Action, 11 April 1918.

Edward Charles FRASER, Killed in Action, 25 September 1918.

 

Richard Clarence GREEN, Died of Disease, 25 October 1918.

Walter Bede GREENHALGH, Killed in Action, 31 October 1917.

Ellis Charles Thomas GROVE, Died of Disease, 23 June 1918.

 

Charles Wolseley HAIG, Died of Disease, 6 November 1918.

Digby Hamilton HAY, Died of Disease, 4 February 1919.

Arthur Ernest HOPE, Killed in Action, 7 November 1917.

Norman Farquhar Bruce HUON, Killed in Action, 23 December 1916. 

 

Henry JOHNSON, Died of Wounds, 4 December 1917.

John William JONES, Killed in Action, 6 August 1916.

 

William KEENAN, Died of Accident, 14 February 1917.

George Stanley Arthur KING, Killed in Action, 6 November 1917.

Robert KIRKPATRICK, Died of Disease, 20 October 1918.

Wilhelm KONSTEN, Killed in Action, 19 April 1917.

Frederick Thomas LINDBECK, Died of Disease, 23 October 1918.

Robert Clement Ramsay LINDSAY, Died of Disease, 14 October 1918.

John LYONS, Died of Disease, 17 October 1918.

 

Jack Lawrence MAYSTEERS, Died of Disease, 25 June 1917.

Patrick McNAMARA, Died of Wounds, 10 June 1918.

Harry Endrich MORLEY, Killed in Action, 6 November 1917.

Arthur Burton MUGGLETON, Died of Wounds, 1 December 1917.

David MUIR, Killed in Action, 28 March 1918.

Neil MUNRO, Killed in Action, 19 April 1917.

George Alexander MURDOCH, Died of Disease, 8 April 1919.

 

Nicholas James OATES, 23 Infantry Battalion attached to Imperial Camel Corps, Killed in Action, 6 August 1916.  

 

William Thomas PAPWORTH, Died of Disease, 5 December 1918.

Joseph Anthony PAUL, Killed in Action, 9 January 1917.

Arthur Robert Thomas PEACE, Died of Wounds, 6 December 1917.

Roy Noel PEISLEY, Killed in Action, 6 November 1917.

Harry PUNSHON, Died of Wounds, 25 February 1918.

 

Robert Culley QUIN, Killed in Action, 11 April 1918.

 

William John RAYNOR, Killed in Action, 11 April 1918.

James Reginald REID, Killed in Action, 6 November 1917.

George Henry RICHARDS, Killed in Action, 31 October 1917.

Frederick Hastings RICHARDSON, Died of Disease, 9 November 1918.

Harry Arthur ROBINSON, Killed in Action, 29 March 1918.

 

John Joseph Bede SAMUELS, Died of Disease, 23 November 1917.

Norman Edward Johnston SCHMIDT, Killed in Action, 1 November 1917.

Noel Hunter SHERRIE, Died of Wounds, 8 June 1917.

Victor SPINKS, Died of Wounds, 5 June 1917.

Archibald Allan STOKES, Died of Disease, 20 August 1918.

William Thomas STOREY, Died of Disease, 31 June 1918.

 

Herbert James TEATHER, Died of Disease, 24 October 1918.

Francis George THOMPSON, Killed in Action, 7 November 1917.

 

Herbert John VIGORS, Killed in Action, 30 September 1918.

 

Douglas Kendell WATT, Died of Wounds, 8 October 1918.

George Frederick WEEDON, Died of Disease, 1 November 1918.

Albert Edward WHITTAKER, Killed in Action, 19 April 1917.

Robert John WILKINSON, Died of Disease, 10 June 1916.

Andrew James WOOD, Killed in Action, 6 November 1917.

Harold WRIGHT, Died of Disease, 27 October 1918.

 

Lest We Forget

 

 

Acknowledgement: Many thanks to Steve Becker who provided much of the raw material that appears in this item.
 

Further Reading:

Imperial Camel Corps, AIF

Imperial Camel Corps, Roll of Honour

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920

 


Citation: Imperial Camel Corps, Roll of Honour

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Tuesday, 5 July 2011 11:30 PM EADT
The Australian Light Horse, The Limitations of the Militia Officer by Captain EW Tulloch
Topic: AIF - Lighthorse

The Australian Light Horse

The Limitations of the Militia Officer

Captain EW Tulloch

 

Eric William Tulloch

 

In 1913, a very fed up Captain EW Tulloch of the 86th (Western Australian Rifles) Infantry Battalion wrote a scathing essay outlining the difficulties a country officer faced in the Militia. Titled The Limitations of the Militia Officer, it was published in the Military Journal, January 1914.

Tulloch was a very keen officer whose later service bore this out. During the Great War Tulloch enlisted with the 11th Infantry Battalion. He became well known through commanding a small group from the 11th Battalion on 25 April 1915, at 9 am, his men reached the eastern side of Battleship Hill beyond where Baby 700 Cemetery stands today. This was the farthest advance by Australian forces in that sector for the rest of the campaign. Sadly Tulloch was murdered in Melbourne on Friday, 7 May 1926, with his killer never being found.

Tulloch, EW, The Limitations of the Militia Officer, Military Journal, January 1914, pp. 94 - 96.

 

The Limitations of the Militia Officer

The criticisms of the first camps of continuous training under the new organization seem to be unanimous on one point: that the trainees are amongst the best material in the world; but that the officers, particularly company and troop officers, need more training. Now I think the Militia officer himself will be the first to admit this. His preparation for examination in various ranks, and his study of articles in the Commonwealth Military Journal, written by masters of their profession, to say nothing of the criticism of Staff officers on his work, all force him to the conclusion that there is a very great dial he does not know ; and although he applies himself with determination to the task of acquiring as much knowledge as possible, it is generally with a consciousness that his opportunities to learn are less than his needs or his desires.

Before proceeding to any arguments, let us admit this much-that the Militia officer is keen. Most of us obtained our commissions under the old organization, and if we were not keen we would have dropped out before now. Let us also admit this: that the standard of efficiency of our officers must not be lower than the efficiency of the officers of any other country we are likely to meet. We have now admitted our standard, our keenness to attain it, and the fact that we have so far fallen woefully short of it. There must be reasons-let us seek them.

The Australian recruit has astonished those who have had an opportunity of comparing him with the recruits of the old world by his quickness to grasp and put into practice all he has been taught of the elementary principles of warfare. Why? Because in his education, his outdoor life, his natural independence of thought, and his adaptability, he has an advantage over the class of people from whom the rank and file are drawn in older countries. Has the Australian officer these advantages over the class from which officers are drawn in other countries? So, unless it be in regard to adaptability, and that remains yet to be proved Our rank and file, then, start well handicapped in the race for efficiency. Our officers do not. How, then, are our officers-equal material, let us say, to officers of foreign armies-to attain the same efficiency? Obviously, if opportunities are equal, by giving an equal amount of time to their work. And if they have not the same opportunities for practical handling of men? By giving more time and application to their work.

What is the work of a Militia officer?

1. To train his unit.

2. To administer his unit.

3. To train himself.

And what time has he at his disposal for this?

To answer this we must ask another question-What duties does he owe as x citizen? Three at least: His duty to his country, to his family, and to his employer, even if that employer be himself.

When the foreign Regular officer is performing the first of these he is, by its very nature, performing the other two, and is able to devote his whole time to it. Now in Australia we have practically no leisured class from which to draw our officers, and, indeed, we purpose drawing them from the best men in all walks of life. It follows, then, that our officers must come from people who in some manner or other earn their own living and that of their families. This being the first essential of a man's duty as a citizen, it follows that our officer's military training must be done in what is euphemistically called his spare time.

Now let us see how much of this spare time he needs.

 

First, to train his unit.

I am O.C. a detached company of detached units, and have no subalterns, and do not seem likely to have any for a year or two. I have before me a syllabus of parades laid down by regimental head-quarters. It consists of two night and one half-day parades per fortnight, and two night classes for N.C.O.'s per week-a total of six night and one half-day parades per fortnight, exclusive of special musketry or other parades.

 

Secondly, to administer his unit.

Here lies the difficulty. No one but an O.C. realizes the amount of correspondence necessary, or the number of returns, etc., required, and the time they take in compilation-musketry returns, absentee returns, musketry progress returns, efficiency returns, ammunition and clothing returns, defaulter sheets, stock sheets, pay sheets, parade states, leave of absence forms, requisitions, clothing measurement forms, and the thousand and one items of departmental, administration, including those panes of an O.C.'s existence, C.M. form 02, with its attendant M7 and M18. I estimate that at least an hour a day, with two hours on Sunday morning, is necessary to keep the administrative work of my unit up to date. I know , however, that mine is an exceptional case, as my acting N.C.O.'s are more accustomed to handling timber in truck loads and ships' slings than in the form of pen-holders, and the two company orderly clerks provisionally appointed, have both, in a few weeks' time, preferred a request to rejoin the ranks.

 

Thirdly, the amount of spare time available to train himself.

Well, he has all the rest of his spare time available to train himself.

The points that I wish to bring out are these:

That a Citizen officer requires to devote as much time as possible to training; that while he is training his unit he is only partly training himself.

That administrative work robs him of a lot of his time which might be more profitably employed.

That while it is necessary for company officers to have a thorough knowledge of administration not necessary that they should use up their limited time in the drudgery of office work when they could he more profitably employed training themselves and their N.C.O.'s and in nursing their commands. The same applies in a lesser degree to N.C.O.'s.

I am quite aware that a number of fortunate individuals in old-established and concentrated battalions, who have their turn as orderly officer at infrequently recurring intervals, with well-trained orderly N.C.O.'s, and possibly a company orderly clerk, will wonder why on earth things should be as I have shown them. Let me remind them that in detached country units the men are generally more accustomed to manual than clerical work; that they frequently live far from the orderly room, with no tram to drop them at the door; that the best man at office work is usually the worst man in charge of a section of bean-handed out-door workers; and that choice in a small detachment is limited.

Staff sergeants-major are excellent people, generally only too anxious to assist, but in detached districts all their time which is not taken up in travelling is absorbed by area office work.

Where, then, does the remedy lie? I venture to say that a judicious appointment of military staff clerks in outlying areas, under the supervision and control of area officers, would prove not only efficient, but economical. How often do we see S.S.M.'s, painstakingly trained in field work before their appointment, slogging away with the area officer for the best part of a day on some belated returns, while Militia officers are crying to high heaven for assistance in the field or on the rifle range?

The town in which I live (Bunbury) is head-quarters of an area, a Light Horse squadron, and a scattered Infantry company. The area comprises four troop centres, two company centres, and five Cadet training centres, all widely separated. A Staff clerk would surely find plenty to occupy his time at area head-quarters. This would leave the officers and N.C.O.'s free to fit themselves for their work, under the guidance of the S.S.M. And here again I have a suggestion to offer which I think suitable to such outlying areas. Small weekend schools for officers and N.C.O.'s could be held in the area once a mouth, or oftener. Officers and N.C.O.'s who find it impossible to attend the longer and more distant brigade and district schools of instruction would gladly avail themselves of these. In addition to this, musketry could be fostered and male a competitive sport instead of something to be crammed into a certain number of compulsory or alternative parades. Voluntary classes for physical training and bayonet fighting could be formed, and units could be "nursed" into self-respect and jealousy of their reputations, instead of being aggregations of willing and unwilling lads gathered together on stated nights and half-days to do a certain amount of set work.

 

To sum up:

Administration would be better and work more smoothly, and good administration goes a long way to make good discipline. Officers and N.C.O.'s would be given more time and opportunity to improve themselves and we greatly need improving. Commanders would give more attention to their units, thus fostering that esprit de corps so necessary to make soldiers, and particularly Citizen soldiers, put their best into the work.

 

Further Reading:

The Light Horse

Australian Light Horse Militia

Militia 1899 - 1920

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920

 


Citation: The Australian Light Horse, The Limitations of the Militia Officer by Captain EW Tulloch

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Saturday, 12 December 2009 4:20 PM EAST
Thursday, 29 October 2009
The Australian Light Horse, Some Features of Squadron Training, Arthur William Hutchin
Topic: AIF - Lighthorse

The Australian Light Horse,

Some Features of Squadron Training

Arthur William Hutchin

 

Arthur William Hutchin (seated, left) with the the Staff Officers of the 3rd Infantry Brigade

 

In 1912, Lieutenant Arthur William Hutchin of the Army and Instructional Staff penned an essay called "Some Features of Squadron Training" which was published in the Military Journal in September 1912.

Hutchins was at the beginning of a long and distinguished career in the Defence forces. When he wrote the article he had been appointed Lieutenant on 16 September 1911 in the 3rd Military District where he served as Assistant Brigade Major, 17th Brigade Area. During the Great War he served as Brigade Major for the 3rd Infantry Brigade being Mentioned in Despatches and awarded the DSO.

Hutchin, AW, Some Features of Squadron Training, Military Journal, September 1912, pp 272 - 276.

 

Some Features of Squadron Training.

The idea of these notes is to draw attention to some of the more common faults which are repeated and commented on year by year during the Continuous Training Camps of the Light Horse Brigades, and which it would seem must be brought home as frequently as possible to those responsible for training and leading the various squadrons, if ever they are to be eradicated.

It is apparent at the outset that squadron leaders and troop officers have many difficulties to contend with, those in chief being the lack of opportunities for training and self-education in the fundamental principles of mounted work in the field, and the drifting personnel which they command. The word “drifting" is used advisedly, for, although there are many long-service men, the average length of service of the man in the ranks would probably work out at something under three years, and from a personnel recruited and serving in that manner, a maximum of efficiency is beyond the bounds of reasonable possibility. These evils I do not propose to deal with, but rather with those to which they give rise.

The squadron in its home training is taught to drill, and immediately it takes the field all drill is promptly disregarded. The fundamental idea of Light Horse organization, viz., that the unit is the section, which has a responsible leader in its No. 1, and that the troop is composed of a certain number of sections under a superior leader, is not applied; and if one were to examine the average squadron on a field day galloping to a position, or changing ground at a fast pace, in 90 per cent of cases would he find sections intermixed and out of hand of Nos. 1, and troops in a similar state. In fact, the squadron becomes an excited mass of individuals, without any cohesion whatever. When the signal “Action" is given, horses are not properly handed over to the No. 3, who, with a swinging rifle across his shoulders, and trying to collect three nervous horses sufficiently well to lead them, has a very unenviable task. The consequence is that the led horses do not get promptly to cover. A few bullets would teach a very severe lesson and show all ranks the importance of rapidly transferring the horses from the danger zone, and what an encumbrance a Light Horseman minus his horse may be. The maintenance of the correct formation is vital, and never so vital as when acting at top pace; for the idea of the Light Horse attack is a series of swift, sudden blows accurately delivered from different points, a long-sustained attack being possible only when in concert with other arms.

Moreover, it is usually inadvisable to dismount at a very great distance from .r position, the axiom being to remain as close as possible to the horses, so as to prevent them being cut off and to allow of rapid change of ground. The handing over of horses must often be done under fire, consequently it must be carried out quickly, yet methodically.

When the squadron has gone into action and formed its firing line, one frequently finds men of different sections intermixed, and troops not intact, thus causing men to be away from the control of their natural leaders, resulting in confusion and unnecessary movement to regain their proper places.

Again troop leaders are often found to fail in their duties as fire unit commanders. The description of the target is vague, the range, if range be given, is more vague, and it is no uncommon sight to see adjacent troops in the same alignment ranged upon a common target, using elevations varying as much as 200 or 300 yards, and that, too, when the objective is under 1,000 yards distant. Not only is the ranging faulty, but the fire control is equally so, little care being taken to see that the correct elevation is put on each rifle. No. 1 of each section should be trained to look to this.

The Light Horse Manual particularly mentions the great effect which can be obtained by sudden bursts of accurately-delivered fire, leading the enemy to overrate one's strength and to effect surprise. Troop leaders should practise this idea, and put a stop to the bad habit men have of finding their own target and firing indiscriminately at it without reference to what any one else may be doing. How often are men seen to actually fire a shot in the middle of an advance; and what can be the value of that shot? And what can a trooper do beyond exposing his position, who fires in a wild fashion when mounted? Yet these things do occur.

The whole matter is one of control. Troop officers should strive to work rapidly, silently, without undue “hustle." Perfect equanimity on their part, total absence of excitement, quiet and steady control by signal as far as possible, are preferable to endeavouring to give orders audible above the roar of galloping hoofs or rattling musketry. For calmness begets confidence, and confidence obedience, whilst the whole are the outcome of method. Habits follow, as a matter of course; and immediately good habits are inculcated the number of things correctly done without thought must leave the mind free to face circumstances which are not constant and which cannot be done automatically. This is the fundamental idea underlying all training, whether of the individual or of a force.

During manoeuvre, one is frequently struck by the very limited use made of ground scouts and the restricted knowledge of their duties displayed by those selected. Few squadrons appear to have men who have been permanently told off as ground scouts and trained accordingly. The Light Horse Manual on the subject says,

"Although every man in the squadron is to be instructed in the duties of ground scouts, a sufficient number of men of superior intelligence and horsemanship, must be selected and especially trained as the scouts of the squadron.”

The duties of scouts are to ascertain whether the ground in the immediate vicinity of the squadron is suitable for mounted troops, to point out obstacles, and to indicate the best points of passage.

Single troops always throw out scouts in difficult ground; a squadron should never manoeuvre over unknown or broken ground without being preceded by a ground scout.

The number of scouts employed, and the distance to which they are to go out, must depend upon the nature of the ground and the rapidity with which the body is moving; they must not, however, be more numerous than is absolutely necessary, and must be sufficiently far in advance to give ample warning of obstacles, and never out of sight of their squadrons.

Squadron commanders are responsible (without any order) that one scout from each squadron gallops out to a point at a suitable distance, as explained above, in front of the centre of his squadron if in line, or line of squadron columns, or opposite the exposed flank of the squadron; in the latter case the leading squadron also sends out an additional scout ahead of the column. After reaching this point, each scout conforms as far as possible to the pace and to any change of direction of his squadron.

The fact that a squadron is practising over very open country should not deter the ground scouts from being utilized, even if only to find passages through fences. A scout should always take post on the exposed flank of the led horses when in the attack.

Another phase of mounted work which I should like briefly to touch upon is the relation of drill to the ground. Just as cover is most vital to the individual in the firing line so is concealment to bodies of troops on the move. So keen and penetrating are the intelligent scouts of a modern army, and so great the possibilities of aerial reconnaissance, that the question of secret movement from place to place is daily becoming more important. The fullest advantage will in future have to be taken of the contour of the country, its hills and hollows, and its forests. Squadron leaders might well practise the handling of their squadrons with this idea in view.

Adjacent to almost any training ground may be found a stretch of country to suit the purpose. Let a troop officer be posted at any distance from 600 to 1,000 yards, in likely place for an enemy's look-out to occupy, to observe the squadron. The squadron leader will then put the squadron through some movements suitable to the ground and with some definite tactical object in view. Let each officer in turn take host as observer and much will be learned of the possibilities of even open country for providing cover for quite considerable bodies of troops.

The continual practice of such exercises will, moreover, cultivate that eye for country which is a most valuable asset.

Finally, the subject of reconnaissance and the training of the individual in scouting seems to be a feature of squadron work the value of which is not fully understood, and which, consequently, does not receive the attention it deserves.

The average well-educated Light Horseman is the ideal person for this work, because of the fact that he lives continually in the bush and every day is called upon to exercise those senses which are inseparable from a good scout. He is usually keen of eye, a good judge of distance, a horseman who knows how to look after his horse and capable of withstanding exposure and fatigue.

But the things he is used to observing in his daily life are not always what he would be required to do from a military point of view. Negative information, for instance, is often quite as valuable as positive ; and his natural bent must therefore be supplemented by a training in what to look for, what to avoid, and how to render reports suitable for military work.

The scout should understand that he is a chosen individual upon whom greater risk is thrust, from whom greater intelligence is expected, and for whom there is more chance of distinction than for the average individual. He must feel that his officers have confidence in him, and that the discovery of the enemy's plans and the fate of his comrades depend upon him and how he carried out his work.

Perhaps one of the most difficult tasks a scout has to perform is that of mapping a country which he has been sent to report upon.

Cavalry Training says:-

"When a man has learnt to read a map, elementary instruction in sketching should be given. This to include instruction in conventional signs; judging distances by time or eye; making a simple approximate scale; finding an approximate north point; sketching a simple piece of country; drawing a map from memory; estimating heights."

Absolute accuracy is not to be sought after; but the result should be approximately so, having due regard always to speed in working. It is, again, much more vital that the sketch should include valuable concrete information rather than that time be wasted in compiling a work of art of comparatively small military value. Field Service Regulations, Part 1, section 16, says:-

"A plan or panorama sketch is a useful adjunct to a report, and it is often possible and convenient to dispense with the latter and to convey all essential information on the former. Clearness and relevancy are required, not artistic effect. Ranges in yards to conspicuous points should as far as possible be indicated on such sketches."

Other phases of the work include

(a) Ability to find the way:-

Colonel Henderson says,

“In peace time it is often difficult to find the way; but in time of war, when the country is unknown and unmapped, and one must constantly be expecting the enemy to appear, the task is one of much greater difficulty."

“Experience teaches that many messengers may be sent, but comparatively few arrive at their proper destination in time. The same applies to scouts who are required to find some definite piece of information in a given time."

(b) Use of Eye and Ear:-

There are many signs which to the trained eye and ear are full of import, e.g.

1. Dust Clouds:-

Troops in movement invariably raise dust clouds in dry weather, and the clouds are different in the case of cavalry, guns and infantry.

2. Tracks:-

The trained observer can pick up tracks and follow them. He can form a good idea of what troops made the tracks, and how rapidly that body is moving. He can tell whether they are new or old, and perhaps formulate some very valuable theories to work on.

3. Deserted Camps and Bivouacs:-

The scout should be able to deduct much from these as to the size and composition of the force which rested there, when it rested, and in which direction it moved.

(c) Getting Across Country:-

Most Australian Light Horsemen will want but little instruction in this, as they are in the habit of jumping a fence or swimming a creek in the course of their daily work.

(d) Reporting:-

Field Service Regulations, Part I, section 16, deals fully with reports. Reports should, whenever possible, be in writing.

“It is more important that the information contained in a report should be relevant and accurate and should arrive in time to be of use, than that the report should be long and elaborate."

(e) Horsemanship:-

As in paragraph (c) the care and preservation of his horse is a daily habit of the Light Horseman, and he will need to learn but little more than he already puts into practice as a matter of course.

(f) Scouting by Night:-

Men will need practice in observing things by night, for appearance and distance are very deceptive.

The hearing and sense of smell will come more into play and the scout should be able to direct his steps with the aid of the stars.

Seeing that scouting work is of such a specialist nature it requires much thought and constant practice if it is to be efficient.

Skill at arms prizes are offered annually and competed for amongst the various arms of the service, but I have not yet heard of trophies for scouting. Competitions might well be instituted for extended patrol work for, say, sections of Light Horse, covering 25 miles of country; and for individual scouts, given definite missions over a more limited area, and points allotted for headings similar to those above indicated.

Likewise when the troops are concentrated for manoeuvre annually, something might be clone in the direction of actual scouting, instead of the idle sending of disjointed d patrols in diamond formation along main roads 3 to 5 miles in advance of the main body, as usually happens.

 

Further Reading:

Brigade Scouts

The Light Horse

Australian Light Horse Militia

Militia 1899 - 1920

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920

 


Citation: The Australian Light Horse, Some Features of Squadron Training, Arthur William Hutchin

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Tuesday, 15 December 2009 3:51 PM EAST
Imperial Camel Corps - Brief History
Topic: AIF - 5B - ICC

ICC, AIF

The 1st Brigade, Imperial Camel Corps

Brief History

 

Members of the Camel Corps, Abbassia, Egypt, 1915

 

The following is an article written by Jim Underwood called The organisation of the Imperial Camel Brigade, 1916-1918, which first appeared in the official journal of the Military History Society of Australia, Sabretache, in their edition of 1 December 2003.

Jim Underwood, The organisation of the Imperial Camel Brigade, 1916-1918, Sabretache, 1 December 2003.

 

The 1st Brigade, Imperial Camel Corps - more commonly known as the Imperial Camel Brigade - was raised on 13 December 1916 under the command of Brigadier General Clement Leslie Smith VC MC (17 January 1878-14 December 1927) was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. (1). The Brigade concentrated at Mazar on the north coast of the Sinai Peninsula, north-eastern Egypt. Located between the Gulfs of Suez and Aqaba at the northern end of the Red Sea, it covers some 23,500 sq mi (61,000 sq km). 19

December; and on the following day advanced to El Arish where it was attached to the Anzac Mounted Division. The Anzac Mounted Division was a mounted infantry (light horse) division formed in March 1916 in Egypt during World War I following the Battle of Gallipoli when the Australian and New Zealand mounted regiments returned from fighting as infantry. The Imperial Camel Brigade had its baptism of fire as a brigade formation at the Battle of Magdhaba. The Battle of Magdhaba took place near the tiny Egyptian outpost of Magdhaba in the Sinai desert, some 22 miles from El Arish on the Mediterranean coast. In late 1916 the Turkish forces in the Sinai that had been menacing the British-controlled Suez Canal had retreated to the 23 December 1916--only four days after being concentrated and 10 days after being raised. (2)

While the actions of the Imperial Camel Brigade are referred to in official and private accounts of the Sinai and Palestine campaigns, little has been published on its structure. The aim of this paper is to examine the Brigade organisation as it evolved over the period from its raising in December 1916 until its disbandment in June 1918. Part 1 of the paper records the organisational changes that took place in the Brigade during its existence. Part 2 which will appear in the March 2004 Sabretache will take a closer look at the establishments of the units that formed the Brigade.


PART 1

Brigade Organisation--December 1916 The initial organisation of the Brigade was: (3)

Brigade Headquarters

1st (Anzac) Camel Battalion

2nd (Imperial) Camel Battalion

3rd (Anzac) Camel Battalion

No. 1 Mountain Battery, Hong Kong & Singapore, Royal Garrison Artillery

26th (Camel) Machine Gun Squadron,

Machine Gun Corps (MGC) Section,

2/1st (Cheshire) Field Company,

Royal Engineers (TF) Signal Section,

Royal Engineers Wireless Section,

Royal Engineers Section,

1/1st Welsh Field Ambulance (TF) Detachment,

Army Service Corps Detachment,

Camel Transport Corps (4) Detachment,

Egyptian Labour Corps


The two Territorial Force (TF) units were on loan from the 53rd (Welsh) Infantry Division (TF) which was then garrisoning the Suez Canal Defences. The detachments from the Army Service Corps, the Camel Transport Corps and the Egyptian Labour Corps were ad hoc units for which there were no proper establishments.

The strength of the Brigade was approximately 2,800. It was capable of putting into the firing line, after providing "camel holders": 1,800 rifles, 36 Lewis light machine guns, eight Maxim medium machine guns and six 10 pounder pack mountain guns. (5)

Raising of Independent Camel Companies--1916

The main combat elements of the Brigade--the Camel Battalions—were formed from the independent Camel Companies that had been raised from January 1916 onwards to combat the pro-Turkish Senussi tribesmen who were threatening the Nile Valley from the Libyan Desert. During its existence, the Imperial Camel Corps raised 18 Camel Companies—10 Australian, six British and two New Zealand.

The first four Camel Companies, filled by Australian infantrymen from the First and Second Divisions, Australian Imperial Force (AIF), marched into the British Army's Camel Corps School at Abbassia near Cairo in the last week of January 1916. All four Companies were in the field on operations against the Senussi before the end of March 1916. (6) Also in January 1916, the permanent staff of the former Camel Corps School were absorbed into a new Headquarters, Imperial Camel Corps under command of Major C L Smith VC MC. (7)

In March 1916, it was decided to increase the Camel Corps by six Companies with personnel drawn from various British Territorial Infantry and Yeomanry units then in Egypt. In June, approval was given for five additional Companies. The personnel for the four additional Australian Companies were provided from the Anzac Mounted Division and Light Horse reinforcements in Egypt. The fifth Company was raised from the New Zealand Mounted Rifles. Subsequently, in the first half of 1917 two more Australian Companies and a further New Zealand Company were raised from the same sources.

Provisional Camel Battalion

In late July 1916, as part of the British preparations for the forthcoming Battle of Romani, four Camel Companies that had been operating in the Western Desert of Egypt against the Senussi threat, were formed into a provisional Camel Battalion for operations east of the Suez Canal. This provisional Battalion formed part of now Lieutenant Colonel C L Smith's "Mobile Column" which operated on the extreme right flank of the British advance eastwards after the Battle of Romani (4-5 August 1916). The Column was engaged in several clashes with the Turkish Left flank guard as it tried to envelop the open desert flank of the withdrawing Turkish force. The main combat elements of the "Mobile Column" were the 11th Australian Light Horse Regiment, the City of London Yeomanry Rough Riders and the provisional Camel Battalion. (8) During these operations the Camel Battalion consisted of three British Companies and one Australian Company.

An ever-changing provisional Camel Battalion saw action during the early months of the British advance from Romani to El Arish. Imperial Camel Corps operations included participation in the raid on Mazar (15-17 September 1916), the attack on Maghara (13-15 October 1916) and wide-ranging patrols in the Sinai Desert on the southern flank of the British advance towards Palestine.

Raising of Regular Camel Battalions

In September 1916, approval was given to form regular Camel Battalions and most of the independent Companies were redeployed from the Western Desert to the Sinai to man these units. The 1st Battalion was raised on 9 September; the 2nd Battalion on 4 November and the 3rd Battalion in early December. Although the Imperial Camel Brigade was formally established on 13 December 1916, the allocation of Companies to Battalions remained flexible for some months. This may be illustrated by reference to the changing composition of the 1st Camel Battalion in Table 1 below.

Table 1. CHANGING COMPOSITION OF THE 1st CAMEL BATTALION

Aug 1916--Provisional Camel Battalion--Smith's Mobile Column

No.4 Camel Company (Australian)
No.5 Camel Company (British)
No.9 Camel Company (British)
No.10 Camel Company (British)

09 Sep 1916--1st Camel Battalion formed

No.4 Camel Company (Australian)
No.5 Camel Company (British)
No.6 Camel Company (British)
No.7 Camel Company (British)

13 Dec 1916--Formation of the Imperial Camel Brigade

No.3 Camel Company (Australian)
No.4 Camel Company (Australian)
No.7 Camel Company (British)
No.12 Camel Company (Australian)

26 Dec 1916--After Battle of Magdhaba

No.1 Camel Company (Australian)
No.3 Camel Company (Australian)
No.4 Camel Company (Australian)
No.15 Camel Company (New Zealand)

Late Mar 1917--Final Organisation--After First Battle of Gaza

No.1 Camel Company (Australian)
No.2 Camel Company (Australian)
No.3 Camel Company (Australian)
No.4 Camel Company (Australian)

 

 

Brigade Augmentation

In the first half of 1917, the Imperial Camel Brigade took on a more formal structure and the ad hoc and "on loan" units initially included in the formation were replaced by units with authorised establishments.

In January 1917, the 1/1st Scottish Horse Mounted Field Ambulance replaced the section of the 1/1st Welsh Field Ambulance that was on loan from the 53rd (Welsh) Infantry Division. This was an improvement in medical support to the Imperial Camel Brigade. The Welsh Field Ambulance was an Infantry Division Field Ambulance and its stretcher bearers were not mounted. Furthermore, only one section of the Welsh Field Ambulance had been allotted to the Brigade. This had proved inadequate during the attack on Magdhaba when the Brigade had suffered 27 wounded. The Scottish Horse Field Ambulance was at least a mounted unit; but its organisation was designed to support a Cavalry Brigade of about 2,000 personnel not a Camel Infantry Brigade of some 3,000 personnel capable of operating away from established lines of communication. 

In February 1917, the Imperial Camel Corps Mobile Veterinary Section joined the Brigade. This was a purpose designed veterinary section catering for sick, injured and wounded camels. Prior to its arrival, veterinary support in the Brigade was very basic consisting of a single Veterinary Sergeant in each Camel Company.

In March 1917, the 10th Field Troop, Royal Engineers replaced the section of the 2/1st (Cheshire) Field Company on loan from the 53rd (Welsh) Division. This, too, was a significant enhancement. The section of Cheshire engineers had been drawn from an Infantry Division and it lacked the mobility to support the Camel Brigade. The 10st Field Troop was specifically raised and equipped to support the Imperial Camel Brigade. Importantly, the new Troop had a significant capacity to develop water supplies; a capability lacking in the Cheshire's section.

In May 1917, the newly raised 4th (Anzac) Camel Battalion joined the Brigade. From this time onwards, it was usual for three Camel Battalions to operate forward with the Brigade while the fourth Battalion was rested in the Suez Canal Defences. At the same time, four of the six British Camel Companies formed the 2nd (Imperial) Camel Battalion while two Companies were rested or patrolled in the Western Desert where the restless Senussi remained a dormant threat.

Also in the first half of 1917, the ad hoc administrative detachments were replaced by properly established units raised specifically to support the Imperial Camel Brigade. The Imperial Camel Corps Brigade Train replaced the Army Service Corps detachment. The Imperial Camel Corps Brigade Ammunition Column replaced the temporary Ammunition Column provided by the Camel Transport Corps. The Imperial Camel Brigade Signal Section replaced the wireless and cable sections at Brigade Headquarters. The Imperial Camel Brigade Ordnance Section was also formed. At the same time there were significant changes to No. 1 Mountain Battery and the 26th Machine Gun Squadron.

No. 1 Mountain Battery, Hong Kong & Singapore, Royal Garrison Artillery. This Battery was manned by British and Indian officers and Sikh and Indian Muslim other ranks. The other ranks were recruited in Hong Kong and Singapore mainly from ex-Indian Army regulars residing in these two colonies. Despite its title, there were no Chinese in the unit. The Battery was equipped with horses and mules when it fought in the Western Desert against the Senussi in the first half of 1916; but in June 1916 it was converted to camel transport. It was initially equipped with six 10-pounder BL pack mountain guns. This gun had been introduced into the British inventory in 1901 but it was obsolete by European standards. It used an old-fashioned three-piece breech mechanism. There was no recoil system. The gun leaped and bucked when it fired. It was even known to topple over when fired on uneven ground. The gun's calibre was 2.75 inches and the standard projectile weighed 10 pounds. Its maximum range was 6,000 yards with percussion or 3,700 yards with time fuse. In early 1917, the Battery was re-equipped with an improved gun--the Ordnance BL Mark I calibre 2.75 inches. This new gun bad a maximum range of 5,600 yards for shrapnel and 5,800 yards for high explosive. Two of the older 10-pounder mountain guns were retained as rudimentary anti-aircraft guns although the gun detachments relied on the expediency of throwing their greatcoats over the guns to camouflage them from prying German aircraft. (9) No camouflage nets were provided.

With the limited range of its guns, the Battery bad to fight from a position well forward in both attack and defence. Its personnel were highly regarded for their bravery in action and professionalism. Within the Brigade, the Battery was affectionately known as the "Bing Boys" on account of the high pitched plaintive noise made by the discharge of the mountain gun.

26th (Camel) Machine Gun Squadron. The history of the Machine Gun Squadron is somewhat obscure. No unit War Diaries have been located in Australia or the United Kingdom. There are also discrepancies between various published works and official records regarding the title of the Brigade's machine gun unit and its parent unit. During its existence this unit apparently underwent a number of name changes. The Brigade machine gun unit appears to have been established initially in Egypt as the 26th (Scottish Horse) Squadron, Machine Gun Corps in October 1916. The parent unit was the 1/3rd Scottish Horse--a Yeomanry regiment that had fought dismounted at Gallipoli as part of the 2nd Mounted Division. After the evacuation of Gallipoli, the Regiment was sent to Egypt where it became part of the 1st Dismounted Brigade. (10)

Whether the Scottish Horse machine gun unit was originally a horsed unit or camel mounted has not been determined. No record has been located of the unit undertaking camel training at Abbassia in October 1916 or at any other time. However, the 26th (Camel) Machine Gun Squadron was on the Imperial Camel Brigade's order of battle when it was raised in December 1916. To add another wrinkle to the problem, the history of the New Zealand Camel Companies--With the Cameliers in Palestine by John Robertsun--states that the 26th (Camel) Machine Gun Squadron was formed from the machine gun sections of three Scottish Yeomanry regiments that had fought at Gallipoli--the Scottish Horse plus the Lanarkshire Yeomanry and the Ayrshire Yeomanry. (11)

Initially, the 26th Machine Gun Squadron was armed with eight Maxim machine guns that had apparently seen hard service at Gallipoli. (The normal allotment of guns to a machine gun squadron was 12 guns.) In the first quarter of 1917, the Machine Gun Squadron was reequipped with eight Vickers medium machine guns and about the same time the unit was retitled the 265th Machine Gun Company. In some contemporary documents the unit is also referred to simply as the Imperial Camel Brigade Machine Gun Company. (12)

Australian Camel Field Ambulance. When the Imperial Camel Brigade was raised in December 1916, Headquarters Egyptian Expeditionary Force approached the Australian Government, through AIF headquarters in Egypt, to provide the personnel for a camel-mounted Field Ambulance to support the Brigade. (13) The Australian Government approved the request but advised that it would be several months before the unit became operational. It was agreed that the officers and senior NCOs would be drawn from Australian medical units then serving in Egypt; while the bulk of the other ranks personnel would be sent to Egypt after completing their initial military and medical training in Australia. The officers and NCOs would join the Australian contingent when it arrived in Egypt. Until the Australian Camel Field Ambulance became operational, medical support was provided by the two British Army Territorial Force units indicated above--the 1/1st Welsh Field Ambulance and later the 1/1st Scottish Horse Mounted Field Ambulance.

Meanwhile in Australia, in late January 1917, 93 other ranks commenced their military and medical training at Seymour, Victoria. This contingent departed Australia on l0 May 1917 on HMAT Boorara and arrived in Egypt on 19 June. Here they were joined by six officers, one warrant officer and 13 senior NCOs. The Ambulance commenced camel training on 29 July 1917 and this was completed within three weeks. On 18 August, the unit entrained at Cairo and moved to the Palestine front that was then facing the Turkish Gaza-Beersheba defensive line. On 20 August 1917, the Australian Camel Field Ambulance replaced the 1/1st Scottish Horse Mounted Field Ambulance in the Imperial Camel Brigade. However, for a period, 30 members of the Scottish Horse Field Ambulance remained attached to the Camel Field Ambulance as the Australian establishment did not initially include the necessary drivers and artificers--saddler, farrier, wheelwright--to man the wheeled vehicles issued to the Ambulance. The original Australian concept was that the whole Ambulance would rely solely on camels for transport and medical evacuation. With the advance of the British force into southern Palestine, the terrain proved more suitable for the use of wheeled vehicles and those held by the Scottish Horse Field Ambulance were taken over and retained by the Australian Camel Field Ambulance.

97th Australian Dental Unit. This unit, consisting of one officer, two sergeants and one private, was attached to the Australian Camel Field Ambulance from 1 September 1917. Prior to the attachment of this dental unit, there had been no dental support in the Imperial Camel Brigade since its raising in December 1916. The only dental equipment carried in the Brigade was a set of forceps carried by the Battalion and Field Ambulance medical officers. Extractions were done without any local or general anaesthetic. Considerable dental work was required prior to the third Battle of Gaza to make the Brigade dentally fit. (14) (It is interesting to note that dentures were only provided if the soldier had insufficient teeth to masticate the Army ration.)

Brigade Organisation--December 1917

By the end of 1917 the order of battle of the Imperial Camel Brigade had settled down into the organisation that it was to retain until its disbandment in June 1918:

Brigade Headquarters

1st (Anzac) Camel Battalion

2nd (Imperial) Camel Battalion

3rd (Anzac) Camel Battalion

4th (Anzac) Camel Battalion

No. 1 Mountain Battery, Hong Kong & Singapore, Royal Artillery

265th Machine Gun Company, Machine Gun Corps

10th (Camel) Field Troop, Royal Engineers

Brigade Signal Section, Royal Engineers

Imperial Camel Corps Brigade Train

Imperial Camel Corps Brigade Ammunition Column

Imperial Camel Corps Brigade Ordnance Section

Australian Camel Field Ambulance

97th Australian Dental Unit

Imperial Camel Corps Mobile Veterinary Section



Disbandment of the Imperial Camel Brigade

By mid-1918 the British advance into Palestine had moved into country which was increasingly unsuitable for camel operations. The rugged nature of the Judean Hills and the cold, wet winter of 1917-1918 caused an excessive number of camel casualties. In early June, the decision was made to convert the Australian and New Zealand Camel Companies to horsed units. (15) Personnel from the 1st Camel Battalion were used to form the 14th Australian Light Horse Regiment; while the 3rd Camel Battalion formed the 15th Australian Light Horse Regiment. These two Regiments, together with a French Colonial cavalry regiment--Regiment Mixte de Marche de Cavalarie--formed the main combat units of the newly raised 5th Australian Light Horse Brigade. (The French cavalry regiment consisted of North African troops--two squadrons of Spahis and two squadrons of Chasseurs d'Afrique.)

The two New Zealand Camel Companies were used to raise the 2nd New Zealand Machine Gun Squadron that supported the 5th Light Horse Brigade. (16) At the same time, the Australian Camel Field Ambulance was converted to a mounted brigade field ambulance and re-titled 5th Australian Light Horse Field Ambulance, also supporting the 5th Light Horse Brigade. Personnel from the 4th Camel Battalion were used to bolster the number of troops in the 14th and 15th Light Horse Regiments as a number of personnel in the 1st and 3rd Camel Battalions returned to their original units.

The six British Camel Companies were retained until 1919; mainly for patrolling the lines of communication and the Sinai Desert. The last two British Companies were not disbanded until June 1919 but personnel strengths were progressively run down. There was one last hurrah for the Imperial Camel Corps. No.7 and No.10 (British) Camel Companies were detached to the Hejaz from July to September 1918 to assist Colonel T E Lawrence and his Arab army in its attacks against the Damascus-Mediua railway east of Aqaba. The majority of the camels of the Imperial Camel Corps also found their way to the Hejaz. Some 2,000 riding camels and 1,000 baggage camels were transferred to Lawrence for use by his Arab army in its advance to Damascus.

Notes:

(1) Australian War Memorial - AWM4 Item 11/12/1 - War Diary Headquarters Imperial Camel Brigade 13 December 1916. The dates of specific events in some published accounts of the Imperial Camel Corps are at variance with the dates used in this papst. (and with one another). Where possible, dates used in the paper are taken from contemporary Official Records.

(2) Australian War Memorial - AWM224 Item MSS42 - Imperial Camel Brigade--Short History compiled by Captain R Hall in 1919, p. 1. Captain Hail was the Staff Captain on Headquarters, Imperial Camel Brigade when the Brigade was disbanded in July 1918. He also wrote a book on his experience in the Imperial Camel Corps: The Desert Hath Pearls, Melbourne: The Hawthorn Press, 1975.

(3) Australian War Memorial - AWM4 Items 11/12/1 and 11/12/2 - War Diary Headquarters Imperial Camel Brigade December 1916 and January 1917.

(4) Attached to the Brigade as a temporary smallarms Ammunition Column. It consisted of 59 camels and 23 Egyptian drivers. Australian War Memorial - AWM4 Item 11/12/2 - War Diary Headquarters Imperial Camel Brigade January 1917.

(5) Hall, op.cit, p. 1.

(6) Australian War Memorial - AWM45 Item 12/36 PART 1 - Report on Organisation and Formation of the Imperial Camel Corps, 1916 dated 31 December 1916.

(7) Ibid.


(8) Sir Archibald Murray's Despatches (June 1916-June 1917) - Second Despatch. London: J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd, 1920; pp. 60-61.

(9) Order of Battle of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, 26 July
1917, p. 7.

(10) Correspondence with the Machine Gun Corps Old Comrades Association, United Kingdom, 22 February 2002.

(11) John Robertson, With the Cameliers in Palestine, Dunedin, NZ: A H & A W Reed, 1938; p. 26. On page 25 there is a photograph of the Scottish machine gunners on parade with their camels.

(12) For example, see Australian Imperial Force Order No 874 dated 27 September 1917.

(13) Colonel R M Downes, The Australian Army Medical Services in the World War of 1914-1918, Volume 1 Part II The Campaign in Sinai and Palestine, Melbourne: Australian War Memorial, 1930; p. 269 and National Archives of Australia A11803/1 Item 1817/89/151.

(14) Australian War Memorial - AWM224 MSS279: Australian Camel Field Ambulance. Narrative by Major G S Shipway dated 26 May 1919.

(15) Australian War Memorial - AWM25 Item 157/1 - Headquarters Imperial Camel Brigade Preliminary Instruction dated 10 June 1918 and Headquarters Imperial Camel Brigade Re-organisation Order No 1 dated 16 June 1918.

(16) Major J H Luxford, With the Machine Gunners in France and Palestine. The Official History of the New Zealand Machine Gun Corps in the Great World War 1914-1918, Auckland: Whitcombe & Tombs Ltd, 1923, p. 225.

 

Further Reading:

Imperial Camel Corps, AIF

Imperial Camel Corps, Roll of Honour 

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920

Double Squadrons  

 


Citation: Imperial Camel Corps - Brief History

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Monday, 5 April 2010 9:49 AM EADT

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