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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.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008
The Battle of Maghara, Sinai, 15 October 1916, 12th LHR, AIF, War Diary Account
Topic: AIF - 4B - 12 LHR

The Battle of Maghara

Sinai, 15 October 1916

12th LHR, AIF, War Diary Account

 

War Diary account of the 12th LHR, AIF.

 

The transcription:

 

13 October 1916

A Column was formed today, approximate strength of which was 800 Australian Light Horse, 400 City of London Yeomanry, 600 Mounted Camelry and 4,500 Transport Camels, also 200 Camels for Army Medical Corps work.

The Column moved off today at 1700 in 2 Echelons, the Yeomanry leading, then 11th Light Horse Regiment and the 12th Light Horse Regiment in the rear.


14 October 1916

Column arrived at 0100 and fed horses and placed Posts. Column left Zagadan at 1930 for Maghara. Bright Moonlight night. Camel Company leading followed by 11th Light Horse Regiment, then 1st  City of London Yeomanry and 12th Light Horse Regiment in rear with the Regiment's Machine Gun Section and Hong Kong and Singapore Mounted Battery.

Heavy mist came over at 2300, which retarded the progress of the Column considerably.


15 October 1916

The Column halted and fed horses on slopes of Rakwa at 0100 and moved on again at 0230. The Column halted again on west side of sand hills, ½ mile from the slopes of Maghara Hills at 0730, waiting for the fog, which was still very heavy to lift. Could hear our own planes, but could not see them. The screen had by now become close to the enemy and stray shots could be heard.

At about 0800 an attack on the Hills was made. "A" and "C" Squadrons of the 12th Light Horse Regiment occupied the centre, the 11th Light Horse Regiment were on the Right Flank and the Yeomanry were on the left flank. All troops dismounted when they reached the foot of the Hills and handed over lead horses, for which there was excellent cover. The dismounted men then scaled the heights and in isolated cases, got into action. The 11th Light Horse Regiment captured 7 Turkish prisoners and 3 Bedouin.

At 1400 the 11th and 12th Regiments withdrew to Rakwa.

The whole Column eventually camped at Rakwa for the night. The 12th Light Horse Regiment found all outposts and guards for the safety of the camp.


16 October 1916

The Column moved out from Rakwa at 0730 and arrived at Zagadan at 1600. The 11th Light Horse Regiment supplied all outposts and camp guards. Major Chambers reported to the Regiment for duty.


17 October 1916

The Column marched out from Zagadan at 0800, arrived at Bayud Wells at 1300. The Column bivouacked for the night at Bayud.

 

Roll of Honour

 

Lest We Forget

 

Further Reading:

12th Australian Light Horse Regiment, AIF

12th Australian Light Horse Regiment, Roll of Honour 

The Battle of Maghara, Sinai, 15 October 1916

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920

 


Citation: The Battle of Maghara, Sinai, 15 October 1916, 12th LHR, AIF, War Diary Account

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Tuesday, 1 December 2009 9:15 PM EAST
The Battle of Maghara, Sinai, 15 October 1916, 12th LHR, AIF, Unit History Account
Topic: AIF - 4B - 12 LHR

The Battle of Maghara

Sinai, 15 October 1916

12th LHR, AIF, Unit History Account

 

 

Despite the only reference being AWM 224 MSS 38 called the History of the 12th Regiment from its Formation on 1st March 1915 to date of embarkation to Australia it is written in such a manner as to indicate that the manuscript was written from first hand experience and so it included a section specifically related to the battle of Beersheba and is extracted below.

Anonymous, History of the 12th Regiment from its Formation on 1st March  1915 to date of embarkation to Australia.

      

Maghara Operations.

The Regiment in conjunction with the 11th. Regt. "The City of London Rough Riders" and an Indian Mountain Battery now carried out a raid on a strong Turkish post in the Maghara Hills. Major. D. Cameron with "C" Squadron moved out to "Bayud (the scene of recent fighting) a week in advance of the Regiment and carried out preliminary reconnaissances in the country over which it was intended to operate. The Regiment marched out from Gebel Habeita on the 27th., Sept. 1916, and trekked along the line El Ferdan, Mahadat, Bada, Mageibra, Bayud, a well watered oasis was the base from which the Mounted force was to operate. The objective lay about forty miles from Bayud, the intervening country being a sea of sand dunes, waterless and with no defined roads. The operations occupied six days, during which time men and horses were rationed and watered by camel transport. It was an impressive sight to see this miniature army (a desert flying column) move out just before dusk on the 13th. October; as far as the eye could see great strings of camels and horses stretched far across a sea of sand like great rivers. Travelling was done under cover of night, the Force camping by day in hollows between the sand dunes, so as not to reveal to enemy patrols or aircraft, the presence of a hostile force, for the success of the venture depended upon a sunrise attack. The last night ride when ten miles from the objective, a dense fog settled down, making riding uncomfortable and the work of the advance guard more difficult. When nearing Maghara a Turkish outpost was located, surrounded and silenced with the bayonet. At daybreak still under cover of the fog the whole force deployed and moved into position for the attack, the "Rough Riders" being in position on the Left of the Regiment and the 11th Regiment on the Right. As the fog lifted the whole line moved forward in extended order at the gallop across a cultivated field half a mile in width. Although surprised the Turkish Garrison subjected the attackers to a fusillade of bullets from rifles and machine-guns. Gaining the foothills with few casualties the whole line dismounted and moved to the attack on foot. Climbing the hills which were precipitous in places, tested the metal of the best trained troops; the wind was like a blast from a furnace and the pitiless rays of an Egyptian Sun tried the courage of the stoutest hearted. The enemy outnumbered but holding a position almost impregnable gradually fell back; one redoubt given a heap of trouble was eventually silenced by the Indian Mountain Battery with a few well directed shots, the occupants being either killed or wounded.

The enemy gradually vacated his forward position but the country was far too hilly and broken to follow up the advantage gained. At midday, having beaten and routed the enemy, killing and taking many prisoners, the whole line withdrew and trekked back to Bayud.


 

Further Reading:

12th Australian Light Horse Regiment, AIF

12th Australian Light Horse Regiment, Roll of Honour 

The Battle of Maghara, Sinai, 15 October 1916

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920

 


Citation: The Battle of Maghara, Sinai, 15 October 1916, 12th LHR, AIF, Unit History Account

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Tuesday, 1 December 2009 9:46 PM EAST
Sunday, 12 October 2008
The Battle of Beersheba, Palestine, 31 October 1917, 12th LHR, AIF, Unit History Account
Topic: AIF - 4B - 12 LHR

The Battle of Beersheba

Palestine, 31 October 1917

12th LHR, AIF, Unit History Account

 

12th Light Horse Regiment Killed in Action at Beersheba

[From: AWM P02279.003]

 

Despite the only reference being AWM 224 MSS 38 called the History of the 12th Regiment from its Formation on 1st March 1915 to date of embarkation to Australia it is written in such a manner as to indicate that the manuscript was written from first hand experience and so it included a section specifically related to the battle of Beersheba and is extracted below.

Anonymous, History of the 12th Regiment from its Formation on 1st March  1915 to date of embarkation to Australia.

   

Beersheba Operations.

On the afternoon of 28th. October the 4th. Brigade moved out to Esani and the following day continued the march to Khalasa.

On the 30th, the Brigade accompanied by a Battery of H.A.C. Horse Artillery travelled by night across the desert and by a long detour arrived on the morning of the 31st, at a point approximately 9 miles North East of Beersheba. All that day the Brigade remained bivouacked under cover of the hills resting both horses and men in anticipation of heavy work ahead.
At 4.p.m. the same day it was decided that the 4th. Brigade should attack Beersheba mounted, the horses being greatly in need of water. A hasty reconnaissance of the ground in front was made with a view of selecting a covered way of approach for the Brigade to the point of deployment. This was necessary as the 3rd. Brigade had just previously been heavily shelled in attempting to cross exposed ground. A. & B. Squadrons of the 12th, and two squadrons of the 4th. Regt., with one Squadron from each in support moved forward, all pack animals and Hotchkiss Guns being sent to the rear.

On reaching the crest of a hill Beersheba about three miles distant could plainly be seen at the foot of the Beersheba Hills. Moving forward in line at the trot with drawn bayonets the men and horses eager for the fray, the pace soon increased to a gallop.

As the first line of galloping horsemen neared the outer defences of the town it was noticed that many buildings were in flames, the enemy evidently attempting to destroy stores and works of military Importance.

On topping the rise 800 yards in front of the enemy trench system, a terrific rifle and machine gun fire from a line of semi-circular trenches met the oncoming horses, emptying many saddles and filing many trusty steeds, but the line continued unchecked. On reaching the Trenches many horses whilst attempting to clear then were brought down, and others were impaled on enemy bayonets. The greater number of horsemen who successfully cleared the trenches or avoided them by veering to the right or left, galloped straight for the enemy guns, capturing them intact, then continuing the gallop entered the town which soon capitulated.

The rapidity of the attack seamed to demoralise the enemy as they mostly fired high, and it was afterwards found that the sights of their rifles were never lowered below 800 metres. The enemy artillery was al so unable to estimate the pace, and the shells all went over the heads of the advancing troops.

In the charge for the Trenches one Troop of "A" Squadron and portion of a Troop of "B" dismounted for action, and together with those who had been unhorsed, after a stiff fight were instrumental in collecting many prisoners.

"C" Squadron in reserve, on finding that the Left flank of the Regiment was unguarded through a Yeomanry Regt failing to arrive in time, moved forward and filled the gap.

It was now dark and great disorder prevailed in the enemy camp, armed and unarmed Turks were scattered about in small groups awaiting capture. By 10pm 1,080 prisoners, 9 guns, and 180 animals had been collected and placed under guard. In the meantime the Regiment had been reorganised and preparations made to resist a counter attack. Next morning after burying the dead and attending to the wounded, the work of salving all enemy abandoned war material commenced.

The casualties amongst men and horses although severe, were small compared with the task accomplished. The charge of two Light Horse Regiments mounted, armed only with bayonets, against a line of trenches fully manned by a formidable enemy and a nest of Machine Guns, is without parallel in the History of Warfare.

 

Further Reading:

12th Australian Light Horse Regiment, AIF

12th Australian Light Horse Regiment, Roll of Honour

The Battle of Beersheba, Palestine, 31 October 1917

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920

 


Citation: The Battle of Beersheba, Palestine, 31 October 1917, 12th LHR, AIF, Unit History Account

Posted by Project Leader at 4:01 PM EADT
Updated: Saturday, 3 October 2009 10:37 AM EADT
Sunday, 10 August 2008
Cotter and the Gezireh Sports Club, Part 2
Topic: AIF - 4B - 12 LHR

In a previous post, the legend of Albert (Tibby) Cotter began its telling on this blog. The entry can be found here:

Cotter and the Gezireh Sports Club 

 

 A Rare Coloured Cigarette Card Displaying Cotter's Bowling Action. 

Another retelling of the Gezireh Sports Club story is to be found in: 

Headon, D. ed., The Best Ever Australian Sports Writing, 2001, pp. 498-9.

TIBBY COTTER AT BEERSHEBA

by 'Sergeant'

When Johnny –‘Won't- Hit-Today’ Douglas comes to write his memoirs, ‘My 97 Years of Cricket at Home and Abroad’, I bet he won’t remember a certain cricket match played on the sands of the Mediterranean coast of Southern Palestine between the British Yeomanry and the Australian Light Horse. Both divisions were having a short rest and clean up on the coast. The Yeomanry, led by Gentlemen from the Very Best Families of England, sent the Light Horse Commander a challenge to a game of cricket. Our scouting parties had seen the Tommy officers sporting themselves in flannels in the cool of the evening. Anyhow, we took them on.

Douglas was a Colonel of the Yeomanry, although I never rightly knew whether he was in the Warwicks, the Worcesters, or the Gloucesters. He was always there when it came to a cricket match or a fight according to the Marquis of Queensberry.

We had a few sets of cricketing tools bought out of certain regimental funds—never mind whose funds. The desert sand, watered and stamped with tibbin by the Kamleelah wallahs, made a pretty fair concrete pitch.

The Yeomanry team, all officers, was a treat to see in spotless flannels. The officers were always punctilious about appearance and cleanliness even in the desert. How they carried their boudoirs about in the desert was a marvel.

Our team looked like a mob of Murrumbidgee whalers who had lost their swags. A few of the officers were in khaki slacks and shirts, and the other ranks wore their old blue-grey flannel shirts, riding strides with the knees out for the most part, no leggings, and their knitted socks hanging down over their ankle boots.

Our fellows won the toss, and had a bat. They put up only 57, Douglas getting most of the wickets.

Then the Yeomanry took block. That's about all they did take. Tibby Cotter, a trooper in the 12th Light Horse Regiment, bowled with the wind behind him, and the Tommy officers never saw which way he went. They just walked in and out in a dazed manner. We had four men behind the stumps to stop any risk of byes getting into double figures.

Clive Single, Colonel of our ambulance, bowled from the other end. He had been high in Grade cricket in Sydney and had a good University career—as far as cricket went, anyhow. He bowled a mixed over of slow and medium balls breaking in from both sides.

Cotter and Single bowled the Yeomanry all for 4, including one bye.

'Who is this Cotter man?' they kept asking. Douglas had spotted Cotter the first time he made his characteristic long run before bowling, but thought it wise not to break the news to the batsmen beforehand.

They took it like sportsmen when they knew. It hardly seemed fair. They squared it off with us later—but that is another story.

Poor old Tibby Cotter was given out at Beersheeba later. He was in the front of the mounted charge.

The Melbourne Evening Sun, November 1924

The last paragraph is a matter of contention and will be discussed in another post. Cotter was quite a character and his natural larrikan behaviour will become very apparent.


Citation: Cotter and the Gezireh Sports Club, Part 2

Posted by Project Leader at 2:32 PM EADT
Updated: Sunday, 10 August 2008 10:27 PM EADT
Saturday, 9 August 2008
Cotter and the Gezireh Sports Club
Topic: AIF - 4B - 12 LHR

Albert (Tibby) Cotter, the Sydney Express, 1912

Much has been written about Albert (Tibby) Cotter. He was an extra-ordinary bowler with a pace that reached at least 160kmph. Cotter was feared by all who faced him in the international arena of test cricket. During the Great War, Cotter enlisted with the 12th Light Horse Regiment as 924 Tpr Albert Cotter.  He saw service at Gallipoli until his death at Beersheba on 31 October 1917. 

There are a number legends that surround Cotter. The most commonly known legend related to his bowling performance at the Gezireh Sports Club. Harold "Lol" Larwood, the nemisis of the Australian batsmen during the infamous "Bodyline" Series relates this anecdote. 

The Larwood Story by Harold Larwood, Sydney [1982] pp 53-54.

When I first went to Trent Bridge they were still talking about the terrifying speed of Albert (Tibby) Cotter, the human catapult who was reputedly a menace with the ball even when a boy in short pants playing for Forest Lodge public school in Sydney.

When he came into the game in Australia, Trumper, Noble, Duff, Hopkins, Syd and Charles Gregory were all in their prime, with colts like Bardsley, McCartney and Kelleway looming up behind.

Cotter was picked for Australia against England in the Fourth Test in Sydney in 1904 at the age of twenty-one, the youngest fast bowler to win Australian colours since Sammy Woods in 1888. Ernie Jones had finished his career by riding his bicycle into a water-cart and breaking his arm.

Although the returning Englishmen reported that Australia had un-earthed a new pace bowler nobody was prepared for the Cotter who demoralized English players in 1905 (he took 8 for 65 in the last Test). At Worcester he so unnerved the County team that he took 12 wickets for 34 in one day. He bagged 124 wickets on the tour, leaving behind many a set of bruised ribs. The Sydney Express, as they called him, was described on all sides as terrifying, his deliveries frequently playing about the ears.

Cotter won several Tests with his bowling and big hitting. And in a club game in Sydney he once hit 121 for Glebe in 64 minutes and for New South Wales against Victoria scored 68 in 20 minutes.

No cricket enthusiasts were surprised when Tibby was mentioned in despatches for gallantry in the First World War in bringing wounded out under heavy Turkish fire.

In March, 1916, when the war was at its height, a cluster of troops on leave renewed memories of more peaceful days when they gathered at the Gezireh Sports Club, Cairo, to watch a cricket match. The game was between a team of English troops and A.I.F. members. Some of the Australians were from the small headquarters staff left in Egypt after the Gallipoli evacuation, the rest were light-horsemen training for the campaign which eventually was to beat the Turks in Palestine.

The odds were on the Tommies. Several had played for English counties and their captain. Colonel J. W. H. T. Douglas, was the celebrated "Johnny" Douglas who had led England to victory against Australia and South Africa.

Expecting an easy win the Englishmen weren't prepared for the shock they got from a big and powerfully built light-horseman who was brought in from the Suez Canal and dressed for the match simply by discarding hat, shirt and leggings.

Apologizing for being a bit out of practice the Australian skittled the Tommies with short-pitched bumpers, yorkers that knocked bats out of some hands, full tosses which broke a couple of stumps and occasional good-length balls. Most were out before scoring. He then pasted the bowling all over the field before retiring to catch a train back to Suez.

A bullet ended Tibby Cotter's life. About eighteen months later, on October 20, 1917, he was shot through the head at Beersheba by a Turkish soldier, and was the first Australian international cricketer to be killed in war.

Another version of this story will appear in a subsequent post.


Citation: Cotter and the Gezireh Sports Club

Posted by Project Leader at 1:53 PM EADT
Updated: Saturday, 9 August 2008 2:17 PM EADT

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