Topic: BatzS - Bir el Abd
Romani and Bir el Abd
Sinai, 4 - 9 August 1916
Falls Account, Turkish and German Forces Engaged
The Battle of Romani, 4-6 August and Bir el Abd, 9 August 1916
[Click on map for larger version]
[From: Military operations: Egypt and Palestine, Sketch 10 facing p. 178.]
As part of the Official British War History of the Great War, Captain Cyril Falls and Lieutenant General George MacMunn were commissioned to produce a commentary on the Sinai, Palestine and Syrian operations that took place. In 1928, their finished work, Military Operations, Egypt and Palestine - From the outbreak of war with Germany to June 1917, was published in London. Their book included a section specifically related to the battle of Romani and is extracted below.
MacMunn, G. & Falls, C., Military operations: Egypt and Palestine, (London 1930), pp. 202 - 203:
Part 7. Turkish and German Forces Engaged.Germany was now able to assist her Turkish ally with more than the few staff officers who had represented her first contribution in Palestine. For the attack on Egypt she had organized a contingent of all arms and auxiliary services. This force received the code name of "Pasha," and later, when preparations were made to despatch a second and stronger contingent, was known as "Pasha 1." Its constitution was as follows
A machine-gun battalion of 8 companies [Five companies according to Steuber, the official German historian, 8 according to others, Kress speaks of "personnel and materiel for 8 "companies," and it seems certain that 8 of 4 guns each were formed, with the addition of Turkish personnel as drivers, etc.];
5 anti-aircraft groups;
60th Battalion Heavy Artillery [The personnel of the batteries was apparently German as to officers, N.C.O.s and leading numbers, the remainder Turkish.]:-1 battery 100-mm. guns .1 battery 150-mm. bows. .2 batteries 210-mm. bows. [2 each].
2 trench-mortar companies;
300th Flight Detachment;
3 railway companies;
2 field hospitals;
A number of mechanical transport companies for work in the Taurus.
Austria provided two mountain howitzer batteries of six guns each.
All the above units, with the exception of two 210-mm. howitzers, the trench mortars, (and, of course, the railway and mechanical transport companies) took part in the expedition to Romani. The remainder of the force consisted of the 3rd Division (of twelve battalions), a Turkish regiment of camelry, the 3rd Regiment of Mountain Artillery (three 4-gun batteries), and auxiliary services. The ration strength was about 16,000. In addition to the above there is some evidence that the 81st Regiment of the 27th Division advanced as far as Bir el Abd and took part in the defence of the position there. Nearly 5,000 camels and 1,750 horses accompanied the columns.
The object of the expedition was not to cross the Canal, but to capture the Romani position and then establish strong entrenchments opposite Qantara and bring the Canal under the fire of the heavy artillery. Liman von Sanders as detailed in his book Five years in Turkey (1927) at p. 183, describes the objective as
"not whole and not half; it makes one think of a man trying to wash his hands without wetting his fingers."
But it appears that further troops were to have been brought across Sinai had the first attack succeeded.
The advance was made in three successive columns on account of the scanty water supply, the troops marching by night. The transport of the heavy guns was an extraordinary feat. According to prisoners' reports, boards were laid down over the smaller islands of soft sand and picked up again when the wheels had passed over them. Over large areas of this nature tracks for the wheels of the gun-carriages were dug and packed tight with brushwood. Considerable quantities of ammunition, both artillery and small arm, must have been carried, for it was used without stint at Romani. It is believed, however, that the supply ran short after the 4th August.
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Citation: Romani and Bir el Abd, Falls Account, Turkish and German Forces Engaged