Topic: AIF - 1B - 2 LHR
Battle of Romani
Sinai, 4 - 5 August 1916
2nd LHR, AIF, War Diary Account Appendix
War Diary account of the 2nd LHR, AIF.
I beg to submit my report on operations from 3rd to 5th insts inclusive.
On the evening of the 3rd inst. I took up Outpost line as ordered from Mt Meredith exclusive to high ground South of Hod el Enna inclusive, “A” Squadron (Major Birkbeck) taking right of line, Section of MG Squadron (Lt Hackney) centre and “B” Squadron (Major Shanahan) left of line and in touch with 3rd LH Regt there. “C” Squadron (Capt Stodart) was in reserve and was stationed behind my HQ at second re-entrant South of Mt Meredith. Strong enemy patrols probed our line throughout the night and supports were eaten up very early. By midnight all my reserves except one Troop were employed in Strengthening the line which was very thin owing to the considerable frontage. I repeatedly asked for reinforcements which Brigade were unable to supply and by 0200 on 4th inst. It was apparent that the line would have to swing back or be penetrated. The Right, being hard pressed and in danger of being cut off, Major Birkbeck wisely withdrew to strengthen the MG Section, advising me of his action. The enemy then made a determined attack on the line held by “B” Squadron and I was obliged to put every available man, Reg HQ Staff, Signallers and batmen under Captain Stodart to prevent the Turks breaking through between “B” Squadron and the Machine Guns. About this time the telephone line was broken and I had no further communication. About 0330 it was seen that Mt Meredith was occupied by the enemy and Major Shanahan was thus taken in flank. His position was most precarious and the greatest credit is due to him and his Squadron for the way they held on in compliance with my orders. “A” Squadron of the 1st LH Regt had been sent by Brigade to support him and I sent Sergt Menzies to guide it to him but it never quite reached his position. I was now informed that the 3rd Regt on my left had been forced to withdraw and it became apparent to me that I should be surrounded. I therefore sent back to select a position to retire to in neighbourhood of Hod Abu Adi. I hung on to the centre of my position till the last possible moment in order to allow Major Birbeck and the MG Section to withdraw and get round behind my Right. The Turks were now among the led horses of “B” Squadron and within 50 yards of mine. I therefore ordered Captain Stodart to withdraw which we did at the gallop under a very heavy fire from three directions. On the previously mentioned position I had selected I converted my Outpost line which was naturally much disorganised, into a Rearguard for a withdrawal to Wellington Ridge and if necessary to Etmaler. The greatest credit is due to all Officers and Other Ranks of the Regiment that this difficult operation was carried out. It enabled several of my men who had been unhorses, to rejoin, but its chief object was to allow Major Birbeck and the MG Section to get round via Hod es Seifanya and rejoin me which they did on the second ridge to which we retired. Here we linked up with part of the 1st and 3rd Regiments. The withdrawal to Etmaler was carried out in an orderly manner by troops, each ridge in turn being held till we were outflanked and suffering losses from enfilade fire. I wish to bring under your notice the excellent work of Major Markwell, my Second in Command. The credit of the successful withdrawal of my Right is in a great measure due to him. He was invaluable to me throughout the night aw owing to difficulty of communication, he frequently had to act on his own initiative and his judgement was invariably correct. I consider his consistently good work, followed by this action of night of 3rd/4th August entitles him to substantial recognition. He also gave very great assistance in getting unhorses men away under very heavy fire. I strongly recommend him for DSO.
The work of Captain Stodart on the same night was also splendid. The position in the centre was held by him till the last possible moment and the withdrawal under heavy fire was admirably carried out. His work throughout has been consistently good. I have already brought to your notice his action in assisting to carry a wounded man away under heavy fire at Qatia some days ago. His control of his Squadron under extreme conditions has been admirable. I recommend him for DSO.
Major Shanahan, who I regret ot say was badly wounded during the Rearguard action while carrying in a wounded man, also did very good work. His Squadron held its ground immediately South of Mt Meredith even after that hill had been taken by the enemy. The Turks were among his led horses with the bayonet when he was forced to retire. He himself brought several unhorses men from the Outpost position hanging on to his stirrup leathers. I consider that his determination and self sacrifice should be recognised suitably.Among the other Officers, where one and all did their duty6 so magnificently, it is difficult to discriminate but I think the work of Major Birkbeck and Lieurenant Hackney fo the MG Squadron deserves mention.
It is impossible to do justice to the work of all NCOs and men but in my opinion the following deserve mention:-
No 107 Acting Squadron Sergeant Major JA Menzies for especially good work on night of 3rd/4th August in assisting to organise the Outpost position and supervise Cossack Posts and in carrying orders in the dark where the two lines were so close that is was almost impossible to distinguish them.
No 350 Corporal C Mowbray for excellent work while in charge of a Cossack Post which he held on to till the last minute. He also carried a wounded man out of action on his horse under heavy fire. This man also did good work on Gallipoli. He was severely wounded at Quinn’s Post in the wortie of 7th August 1915.
No 1172 MH Shand for assisting to organise scattered parties of men who were without leaders during the withdrawal from Outpost Line to Wellington Ridge. These he formed up and led into action himself at a very critical moment. There were no Officers or NCO about at that particular point.
No 534 Sergeant T Kirkbride for his coolness, judgement and devotion while acting as Troop Leader by keeping his men together in a dangerous and exposed position whilst covering the retirement of other troops thereby risking being cut off.
On morning of 4th inst. I assembled as many men of the Brigade I could gather in the vicinity of Etmaler and reported to Divisional Headquarters. I subsequently received orders that my Regiment was temporarily attached to the 2nd LH Bde and was instructed by Colonel Royston to assist in the sweeping operation from Bir el Arais, Bir abu Diyuk and Mt Royston. My Regiment was again employed in the Outpost line that night. At 0400 on 5th inst. In conjunction with 7th LH Regiment my Regiment advanced and carried high ridges between Mt Meredith and Mt Royston with the bayonet. During the advance we captured over 400 prisoners, 67 laden camels, some horses, a great quantity of rifles and equipment, a complete Field Hospital and two German Machine Guns with German crew of six men. The officer, unfortunately, escaped but his papers were taken and handed to Major Foster of Divisional Staff. They included Diary, Operation Order for attack on Romani, plan of the defences of Qatia and appreciation of the situation. [See below, editor] The Regiment also assisted in the capture of about 600 Turks who were left with the 7th LH Regiment.
Led horses were brought up to the men about Mt Meredith. The Regiment subsequently was ordered to rejoin the 1st LH Brigade near Qatia. Men and horses are naturally very exhausted.
I confidently trust that the work of the Regiment during these few days will meet with your approval and would like to emphasise what I consider the chief points, viz:-
- The holding of an extended Outpost line in face of strong attack.
- The conversion of this Outpost Line into an effective Rearguard. This enabled the remainder of the 1st LH Bde who were to the North of us, to seize positions and gave the 2nd LH Bde time to get out.
- The advance on foot with bayonet under heavy fire resulting in capture of many prisoners and much enemy material.
I regret to say the operations resulted in the loss of Lieutenant Righetti and Lieutenant Woodyatt killed, Major Shanahan severely wounded and Lieutenant Pledger wounded. The total casualties are 9 killed, 30 wounded and 10 missing.