Topic: AIF - 1B - 2 LHR
The Battle of Magdhaba
Sinai, 23 December 1916
2nd LHR, AIF, Unit History Account
Lieutenant Colonel George Herbert Bourne's unit history of the 2nd Light Horse Regiment, AIF, included a section specifically related to the Battle of Magdhaba which is extracted below.
Bourne, Lieut-Colonel GH, "NULLI SECUNDUS" - The History - of the 2nd Light Horse Regiment Australian Imperial Force - August 1914 - April 1919, (Tamworth 1926), pp. 37-39:
Information having reached the Turks that these two patrols had penetrated their lines, however, they became nervous as to the safety of Mazar. They therefore evacuated that place and concentrated their force at El Arish. The instant this became known to General Chetwode, he ordered the advance on El Arish. This was accomplished by the Anzac Division (less 2nd Brigade) and Camel Corps marching round it during the night - the infantry of the Column moving on the place by direct road. By daylight it was surrounded; but the birds had flown. Having found that our horses were equal to such performances as that of Captain Brown's patrol, the Turks knew they were not safe at El Arish, and consequently sought the security of Magdhaba, evacuating the former place just before our arrival. Magdhaba was distant, 27 miles, along a practically unknown and waterless track, but in spite of that, and the fact that the Column had just had one night march General Chetwode decided to surprise the Turks there at dawn on December 23 with the mounted troops of his command, viz: - 1st, 3rd and NZMR Brigades, and Imperial Camel Corps, 18th Brigade, RHA and Hong Kong and Singapore Mountain Battery.
After a long and tiresome wait for rations to come up we accordingly started on the night of December 22 for Magdhaba - "C" Squadron, 2nd Regiment being Advance Guard. The enemy position was very difficult to locate; his trenches were beautifully sited. The attack was opened by the Camel Brigade. The 1st Brigade went in on their right - the 3rd Brigade and NZMR Brigade on their left, practically enveloping the position. The situation was that the Turks were sitting on the only water within miles; and the position had either to be taken or we would go thirsty for at least 24 hours.
The Turk ever proved himself a splendid and stubborn fighter from behind cover. So, in this case we found the job much more difficult than had been anticipated. This Regiment was not engaged as a unit; having been detailed as Brigade Reserve and split up in different jobs. The final result however, was largely contributed to by the energy of Major Markwell, who gathered up some details of 3rd Regiment in addition to three troops of "B" Squadron, 2nd Regiment under Major Chambers, and successfully led them against the chief remaining enemy redoubt. Major Birkbeck skilfully led two troops right round the position and threatened a mounted attack from the enemy's only line of retreat. This manoeuvre decided the Turkish Commander to hoist the white flag; the entire force surrendering.
Lieutenant Guiren, of this Regiment, and his troop, just beat the 3rd Brigade into Magdhaba itself.
The enemy force of about 2,500 was captured or killed. We also got a battery of mountain guns, about 2,000 rifles; machine guns, s.a.a. etc., a many horses and mules.
The 1st Regiment was detailed to clear up the battlefield, and bivouacked for the night; and 2nd Regiment was detailed to escort the prisoners to El Arish - another night march thus being necessary. During the previous 84 hours we had practically no sleep, so that the journey back was by no means a pleasant one; men went fast asleep on their horses or camels, some falling off. Most of us experienced optical delusions, induced by want of sleep. We halted to rations at Lafan, half-way to El Arish. Our bivouacs at El Arish were reached at dawn on Christmas Eve. The weather was wet and of course there were no tents owing to want of transport - indeed it was proving a difficult matter to even feed us as we had got so far beyond Railhead the trackless sand rendering wheeled vehicles of little use. Much heavy work was therefore thrown on the excellent Camel Transport Corps.
The prisoners were handed over y Major Stodart before noon on 24th. In order to ration them, our friends of the 52nd Division had to go short for a day or two. The "Scotties" were amusingly indignant, and repeatedly told our fellows that they had taken too ___ many prisoners, and should have used the ___ bayonet more.
Citation: The Battle of Magdhaba, Sinai, December 23, 1916, 2nd LHR, AIF, Unit History Account