Topic: Gm - German Items
Romani and Bir el Abd
Sinai, 4 - 9 August 1916
Liman von Sanders Account
The German General charged with the overall command of Ottoman forces was Liman von Sanders who wrote an account of his service in a book called Five years in Turkey, which was published in 1927.
Liman von Sanders, Five years in Turkey, 1927.
The instructions of the expeditionary corps (they came by way of Constantinople, but I do not know who originated them) required an advance so near to the canal that the long range guns could stop the passage of ships.
The instructions I have never understood. The question arises at once how long this interruption by artillery was to last. If it was to be a prolonged one, which alone was of Substantial value, it entirely depended on whether the British would tolerate it, or whether the Turko-German troops could enforce it. The former as well as the latter had to be answered in the negative, without question.
The instructions were neither fish nor fowl; they reminded one of washing the hands without wetting the fingers.
There were other circumstances which prevented the execution of the Operation.
Colonel Freiherr von Kress had no illusions about the Situation, On July 4th, ten days before the advance, he reported:During the past months the British with all immense expenditure of men, material and money, have erected a complete system of defence to the east of the canal with numerous excellent communications of every kind, and are awaiting us there with a force many times superior to our small expeditionary corps.
Any one who has had the responsibility in a difficult situation knows that in war it is sometimes necessary to carry out hopeless undertakings. The leader is helped over the difficulty by the bitter "must" and by the tiny spark of hope that some miracle will intervene in his favour.
The advance was made in three columns in several echelons to minimize the difficulties of water supply, the obtainable quantity at each place being limited. The laborious march led through undulating dunes in the sand in which the foot sank to the ankle. The marches were restricted to the night on account of the heat, and to escape observation of enemy aviators.
After a march of seven days, the entrenched camp of Romani, forty kilometres cast of the canal, was attacked an the 4th of August. The main attack was to be made against the least fortified west front of the camp.
The Turko-German attack failed completely, because the force used was too small, because its approach was known to the British, and because the expeditionary corps was completely exhausted when it reached the enemy. This time the British had not been playing football.
Instead of turning the enemy's flank, the flank of the expeditionary corps was turned by the skilfully led British cavalry, and by the reinforcements arriving from Kantara by rail. In the end the corps succeeded in breaking away from the enemy, who at first pursued hotly. In the attack and in the retreat to El Arish the corps lost about one-third of its strength.
This was the second and last Turkish enterprise of any consequence against the canal and against Egypt.
The roles were now exchanged. Heretofore the Turks had been on the offensive and the British on the defensive; now began the strategic offensive of the British in the sense of Lord Cromer's memorandum, heretofore referred to. The execution of the British plan was purposeful, and was carried out without haste and with the help of great experience in colonial wars. The British also gained valuable help by winning the Arabs to their side.
In the summer of 1916 the insurrectionary movements in Palestine and Syria supported by the Entente, gained in extent, and the Emir of Mecca had allied himself with the British and proclaimed his independence. It furnished a firm support for the systematically directed efforts of the Arabs to gain their independence.
Further Reading:Battle of Romani, Sinai, August 4 to 5, 1916
Citation: Bir el Abd, Sinai, 9 August 1916, Liman von Sanders Account