Topic: AIF - DMC - Anzac MD
Bir el Mazar
Sinai, 17 September 1916
RHA HQ, Anzac MD, AIF, War Diary Account
The transcription:Report on work of Royal Horse Artillery Batteries with Anzac Mounted Division during the reconnaissance to Mazar between 14th and 19th September 1916.
The Batteries employed were the Ayrshire and Inverness Shire with their 2nd and 3rd Light Horse Brigades, Ammunition Columns and also that of the Leicestershire Battery, 1st Light Horse Brigade.
On Monday 11th September, the Inverness Battery marched out from Romani to Hod el Amara relieving there one section of the Somerset Battery which came back to Romani.
On Wednesday, 13th September, the Ayrshire Battery marched out to Amara.
On Saturday, 16th September, both batteries and Royal Artillery Headquarters marched with 3rd Light Horse Brigade to Salmana where they arrived at 3 a.m. and remained for the day.
The three (1st, 2nd and 3rd) Light Horse Brigades Ammunition Columns assembled at Bir el Abd by 6 a.m. on 16th September.
The batteries marched at 5.15 p.m. for the first Rendezvous, 4½ miles east of Salmana on the telegraph line reaching there without incident about 1900. Here the 2nd Light Horse Brigade joined the troops from Salmana, the whole forming the main Column for the advance on Mazar.
At 2030 the main Column moved off eastwards over good ground for the first 5 miles, the batteries keeping up easily with the Light Horse. Later the going became rough sand dunes covered with scrub, and the guns found difficulty in keeping their place in the Column. A steep and narrow defile was passed about 12 miles east of Salmana, when hard, level ground was again found, about 12 midnight, after the moon had risen.
Hear here was the Second Rendezvous whence General Royston's Column of 3rd Light Horse Brigade moved off south eastward to meet a battalion of three mountain guns of the Camel Corps and attack Mazar at 0500 from south and southeast in conjunction with them. He had orders to withdraw if he encountered severe resistance, without getting seriously involved.
With this Column was sent an Artillery Officer to endeavour to communicate targets and to facilitate co-operation with the main Column. He carried a helio and got touch with Divisional Headquarters about 0700, but was unable to do more than indicate his own position.
All troops of the Light Horse Brigades also carried small red flags to wave, so as to mark progress and to show their positions to the Artillery in rear.
At 0230 the main Column moved on 3 miles to west end of Sabkhet el Mustabig, where it arrived at 0400.
Here the road opened out on to a hard flat plain apparently about 1 mile wide north and south and two miles east and west. The guide, a Sergeant of the Sinai Police, said that Mazar was close and that this Sabkhet would be under machine gun fire from the redoubts in daylight.
Two Artillery Officers were sent out to look for likely positions for the guns but little could be done until dawn appeared. However one position was chosen and the Ayrshire Battery was brought into action at 0450 before it was light enough to shoot, in a position whence it could have shelled Mazar, had it been where it was supposed to be. But when it became light, the range was found to be too great.
At 0500 the guide pointed out to me from the hill where Divisional Headquarters was being established what he said was the tomb at Mazar. This was in a East South East direction and at a distance of 4 miles. In the dim light I thought I made out a camp near the tomb and therefore took the Inverness Battery about 1½ miles South East to a place which looked like a position form which the camp could be shelled.
I recalled the Ayrshire Battery to a position of readiness near Divisional Headquarters and set out myself to reconnoitre the new position for the Inverness Battery.
At 0530 the Inverness Battery was in actin facing the supposed position of Mazar, but there was absolutely no target then visible although the light had improved. There was also no sound of firing from that direction and only one or two desultory rifle shots from the east.
After some consideration, it appeared to me certain that the guide had been wrong and that the position of Mazar was really considerably further to the North East.
I therefore galloped back to Divisional Headquarters, ordering the Battery to follow. I found that Divisional Headquarters had moved and left no word to say where they had gone to, but their telephone wire guided me and both batteries to their new position which was reached about 0615.
A message had just come in from 5th Light Horse Regiment describing "a good Artillery target", so two S.O.'s were despatched to reconnoitre positions near the Caravan track to north east.
It was now quite evident that the position of Mazar was as shown on the map and that the AA guns which had now begun to fire, were near a conspicuous hospital which could be seen to the north east.
I therefore took the two batteries straight off in that direction and brought them into action ½ mile south of the Caravan track against series of trenches facing north west and south west and full of Turks, near the Tomb of Abu Gilban.
The Ayrshire Battery opened fire about 0730 at 3250 yards range, and the Inverness about 0723 at 4000 yards range.
Rifle fire was coming from the trenches apparently against General Royston's Column to their south and some of the trenches were taken partly in enfilade by the shells which certainly were effective in subduing the rifle fire.
Whenever pauses took place in the shelling, movement was visible in the trenches and rifle fire broke out again, but it was invariably stopped by bursts of shrapnel.
We could, however, see no signs of General Royston's men and so it was difficult to so-operate with success. The light was such that red flags could not be seen anywhere till about 0700, and never with the detached Column. The early morning sun shone directly over the enemy's position into our eyes and it was impossible to make out anything at any distance to the east before 0700.
AA Gun Target, 0800
Lieutenant Colonel Wilson of 5th Light Horse Regiment pointed out by their flashes the positions of the two AA guns on to which the Ayrshire Battery turned fire about 0800 at the short range of 2800 yards, but no information could be obtained as to the result of this fire. The AA guns at first returned the fire of the battery but only two of their shells came anywhere near it and they did no damage.
After firing about 30 rounds at these guns, and when the AA guns had ceased firing, the Ayrshires again fired on the trenches near the Tomb, in co-operation with the Inverness Battery.
About 12 noon orders were received from General Chauvel to withdraw the guns, which was done by alternate batteries, the 5th Light Horse Regiment covering their retirement from the left.
The retirement took place without trouble and undisturbed by any hostile fire and at 1230 the return march to Salmana started from Mustabig Lake with the rest of the Division.
About 1500 a halt was made to water at a point 9 miles east of Salmana. There was however great difficulty in getting water at all there, and though the horses and men of the Ayrshire Battery and the Inverness men got some, it was found impossible to water the horses of the latter battery.
Both batteries reached Salmana about 1945 on 17th September and Hod Amara on 18th by 1000.
The Inverness Battery horses were without water from 1700 on 16th to 2030 on 17th during which time both batteries did no less than 40 miles. So the horses were rather exhausted, but they have already improved and considering everything did their work extraordinarily well and with very few casualties.
The Ayrshire Battery lost 1 horse died and 1 missing, and expended 111 shrapnel shells.
The Inverness Battery lost 4 horses died and 2 missing, and expended 156 shrapnel shells.
The three Brigades Ammunition Columns moved with the 1st Light Horse Brigade and the water convoy to a point 9 miles east of Salmana on the night of 16th and remained there until the return of the column on the afternoon of 17th.
Citation: Bir el Mazar, Sinai, 17 September 1916, RHA HQ, Anzac MD, AIF, War Diary Account