Topic: BatzS - Jifjafa
The Jifjafa Raid
Sinai, 10 - 14 April 1916
Gullett, HS, The Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine, 1914–1918 (10th edition, 1941) Official Histories – First World War
The Victorians of the 8th Regiment had had the honour of the pioneer enterprise to the Muksheib, and a few men of the same regiment were associated with a slightly more serious mission to Jifjafa early in April. The British airmen, who were daily becoming more active and venturesome, reported the existence of a small Turkish force at Jifjafa, a post situated in the Sinai Range at an altitude of about 1,000 feet, some fifty-two miles east of the Canal. Major W. H. Scott was ordered to proceed with a squadron of the 9th Light Horse Regiment (South Australia and Victoria), under Captain Wearne, to capture the position, destroy the well sinking machinery on which the enemy was reported to be working, and observe the country generally. Scott had, after allowing for the horseholders, about ninety rifles available for action, in addition to thirty-two officers and men from the Australian and Royal Engineers and the Army Medical Corps; but, when his column was complete with transport camels and their native Bikanir escort, it included no less than 320 officers and men, 175 horses, and 261 camels. This fact, unimportant in itself, is an indication of the transport entailed by an advance into the desert. The actual fighting was simple; the difficult problem confronting the Commander-in-Chief was supplies.
The light horse, fighting as mounted troops, first drew blood upon the Jifjafa raid. Scott moved out from the Canal defences on the afternoon of April 11th, and bivouacked that night in the Wadi um Muksheib. The desert of central Sinai is sandy only in patches-much of the country provides firm ground for horses-and on this march the Australian Waler began to show his superior pace as a walker, an invaluable campaigning quality in which he was always superior to horses from England and other countries. Preceded and advised by aircraft, Scott travelled by rapid marches up the firm, dry bed of the Muksheib for several miles, and then struck north-north-east along a branch wadi towards Jifjafa to his final bivouac before action, a point about eight miles from the enemy post, which he reached at half-past two on the morning of the 13th. The airmen had reported that the little Turkish force usually retired to the hills during their reconnaissance in the mornings, and returned later to their camp. Scott therefore waited until the morning was well advanced before making his attack.
Very little fighting attended the capture of the post, but Jifjafa provides a pretty, if a slight, example of light horse work. Moving from cover, Major Scott ordered one troop, under Lieutenant J. M. McDonald, to ride as rapidly as the broken ground would permit round the west and north of the hill 1082, and to occupy ground on a ridge about a mile north-west of the supposed position of the enemy camp. A second troop moved north-east past the enemy's works on the south, while a third troop, under Lieutenant J. Linacre, made the frontal attack. Four men and the machine-gun section were held in reserve. As Linacre approached the first enemy outpost, it was seen that McDonald would be a little late in his envelopment on the left. Linacre was then swung with sixteen men over the ridge slightly to the north of the enemy, and the remaining men and the slender reserve marched direct on to the post. When the Australians came into view the Turks bolted, some to the hills and some towards the south-east. Those who made for the hills, finding themselves headed off by Lieutenant W. S. Pender," took up a position and opened fire. The engagement was brief. The Australian riflemen speedily asserted fire superiority; six of the enemy were killed and five wounded, and the rest of the force, with the exception of two who escaped on camels, surrendered. The officer in charge was an Austrian engineer, whose party had been engaged in boring and well-making with a German military artesian plant. During the brief fighting the light horse suffered their first casualty in the campaign, Corporal Monaghan of the 8th Light Horse, being killed. Scott, having demolished the plant, returned with his prisoners to the Canal. As the column re-traversed the Muksheib, the wadi came down in flood, the dirty brown waters, fed by a downpour rare in Sinai, spreading wide and shallow over the bed of the wild ravine. The light horse spent nearly a year in Sinai, but that was the only time they saw a running stream.
This raid, insignificant in itself, was very encouraging to General Murray. The Commander-in-Chief was well aware that success in Sinai depended almost entirely upon his mounted troops; he probably knew, even before a yeomanry brigade met with disaster in the oasis area, that the Australians and New Zealanders were the only horse which showed promise of early usefulness. Jifjafa demonstrated that the light horsemen were at home on the desert. Scott had led his little force for several days and nights over a wild route, most of which was quite unknown to him and his men; he had surprised and demolished the enemy at a slight cost to himself, gleaned much information about the cisterns of the Muksheib, and returned to his base almost precisely to his time-table. The troop-leaders had shown dash and resource, the cooperation with the airmen had worked admirably, and the men had displayed keenness, excellent horsemanship, very straight shooting, and perfect discipline. Murray expressed warm appreciation of the exploit, and was already satisfied that in the Anzac Mounted Division he had the beginning of a force of exceptional fitness for the irregular work ahead.
Further Reading:Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920
Citation: The Jifjafa Raid, Sinai, April 10 to 14, 1916, Gullett Account