Topic: BatzS - Suez 1915
Suez Canal Attack
Egypt, January 28 - February 3, 1915
Official British History Account, Pt 6
The following is an extract from:
MacMunn, G., and Falls, C., Military Operations Egypt & Palestine - From the Outbreak of War with Germany to June 1917, London, 1928, pp. 33 - 34.
ENGINEER WORK ON THE CANAL DEFENCES.
The construction of the Suez Canal Defences prior to the Turkish attack was a work of great difficulty owing to the shortage of Engineer units. There were available:
(1) Divisional Engineers, East Lancashire Division (Nos. 1 and 2 Field Companies);
(2) Queen Victoria's Own Sappers and Miners (No. 10 Field Company);
(3) Australian Divisional Engineers (No. 3 Field Company, detached from the division at Cairo);
(4) Military Works Department, Egyptian Army (an unarmed detachment of about 110 all ranks and a small mobile section mounted on camels);
(5) The 128th Pioneers.
Of these, one of the Territorial field companies was withdrawn from the Canal on 6th January 1915; and the other did not arrive till 6th February, after the attack. The Q.V.O. Sappers and Miners were not present till the 22nd December 1914, nor the Australian Engineers till mid-January. Thus, when the bulk of the work was in hand, only two field companies were available, and for about ten days in the middle of January only one, for two divisions defending a front of 95 miles. There were no Engineer officers available as C.R.E. or Field Engineers, save a single R.E. officer, Captain R. E. M. Russell, lent by the Egyptian Army, who was attached to the headquarters of the G.O.C. Canal Defences. The shortage of skilled supervision had its result in a lower standard of work on the trenches and posts than would have been the case with a normal engineer establishment. Fortunately, the State Railways and Telegraphs Departments were largely managed by ex-officers of the Royal Engineers, and undertook many of the duties which would, in ordinary circumstances have been carried out by Engineer units of the Force in Egypt.
The principal works carried out were, first, the laying out and construction of trenches on the west bank and of bridgeheads on the east bank. Secondly, there was the bridging, which included the construction and working of lighter bridges at El Qantara and El Kubri, a boat bridge at Ismailia Ferry Post, and eight bridges over the Sweet Water Canal. The Engineer units were also employed on the construction of aeroplane hangars; the laying on of filtered water to the camps at Moascar, Ismailia, and Suez ; the distribution of filtered water by boat from the Canal Company's filters at Port Said, Ismailia, and Suez to the posts on the Canal; the storage of two days' supplies of water at 1 1/2 gallons per head in these posts; the cutting of the Canal bank for the inundations described in this chapter; the drawing of large-scale maps of the defences and for use with range-marks by the land and Naval artillery, for which they had the assistance of a Survey Section equipped by the Egyptian Survey Department ; the installation of searchlights for the armoured train, and at Qantara, Ismailia Ferry Post and El Kubri. The mobile section accompanied reconnaissances on several occasions, prepared landing grounds for aeroplanes, drained water pools and controlled the water supply during expeditions into the desert.