Topic: BatzP - Rafa
The Battle of Rafa
Sinai, 9 January 1917
No. 7 Light Car Patrol Account
The following is a transcription of the No. 7 Light Car Patrol Account from the War Diary of the Desert Column, about their role at the Battle of Rafa, Sinai, 9 January 1917.
Report on operations of No. 7 Light Car Patrol on the days of January 8th, 9th and 10th 1917.
To Headquarters, Desert Column.
On Monday January 8th, at 1800, the four gun cars and three store cars carrying two EP Tents, one operating tent, medical stores and four FA personnel left El Arish and crossed the wadi then in flood, and halted the night behind the lines of the 1st Australian Light Horse, one mile east of the wadi.
On Tuesday January 9th, at 0630, the seven cars moved out to Sheikh Zowaiid where I reported to Lieutenant Colonel Powels, at Anzac Divisional Headquarters at 0800. He allotted me a site near the village, where I unloaded the tents and medical stores.
I then proceeded to Column Headquarters near Point 250 reported to the GOC there at 0930.
At 1100 the Column Commander instructed me to take my cars and report to the 5th Mounted Brigade. This is did, moving up with four gun cars and one spare car, and leaving back two store cars with instructions to fall back to Sheikh Zowaiid if not sent for by 1500.
I reported to General Wiggin in his trenches facing "A" Works. He asked me to try to reach his left flank and assist the squadrons there, who were dismounted and striving to make forward progress on the extreme left of our line.
I therefore crossed to the sandhills and moved the cars along the low road that runs at the foot of the sandhills on the western side, and went forward travelling fast over the open ground that was then under machine gun fire until we came up with a squadron of Gloucester Yeomanry who were having a bad time from enemy machine guns. The sunken portion of the road at this point which was just north of the "A" in Magruntein (Rafa 1:125,000) afforded just enough cover for the cars, so we dismounted two guns from the cars and brought them into action at once.
That was about 1200. The range was 1600 yards. We had excellent observation and was thus able to bring oblique fire to bear on those trenches that overlooked our left flank.
This had a quietening effect immediately on the hostile fire directed at our quarter, and when half an hour later the Yeomanry were ordered to make a concerted advance up the grassy slopes towards enemy trenches, we were able to give covering fire to the Gloucesters on our left and the Worcesters on our right. This, they assured me, was a tremendous help both in encouraging the men in advance, and in proving troublesome to hostile machine gunners. But we were unable to locate definitely an enemy gun emplacement until about 1500 when a Gloucester Squadron leader sent word back to me to come up and watch a certain position. There I could see distinctly the cloud of steam that rose after each long burst, and on giving my guns the target, was able to quieten it very considerably.
We kept up covering fire for these troops until they were within a few hundred yards of their objective, though we had to economise our fire all the time, because our own stock was quickly used up, and we were able to keep the guns firing simply because the horse holders and some spare signallers of the Gloucesters brought us all the bandoliers that could be obtained, emptied them, and helped to fill belts for us.
When covering fire was no longer possible we returned the guns to the cars and prepared to run the cars towards the police barracks in order to assist the last charge, by coming in from that direction. The order, however, was given for the 5th Mounted Brigade to retire, and I reported at once to the rendezvous in the sandhills.
Wounded were being collected here, and General Wiggin being unable to get sufficient transport for them back to Sheikh Zowaiid, we used our cars for that purpose and sent our machine gunners back on the spare horses. The cars brought the first lot in very quickly then one car returned with a convoy of sandcarts for the remainder.
Meantime the two spare cars that had been left at Point 250 returned to Sheikh Zowaiid and finding we had not returned ran through to El Arish for a supply of petrol, leaving again at daylight joining us at Rafa at 0900 on Wednesday.
On Wednesday January 10th under instructions from Column Headquarters the cars left Sheikh Zowaiid for Rafa at 0400, and joined the party under Major Parsons for the clearing of the battlefield. We worked on the left redoubt all morning, burying Turkish dead sending one car to the Clearing Station 3 miles to the south west for a medical officer to attend to the Turkish wounded, then utilizing five of our cars to bring in four Gloucester and one New Zealand wounded, and many Turkish wounded. We had taken out only two guns in order to have the more space for wounded, so the gun cars, at Major Parsons' request, were kept to cover the retirement of the party.
At 1800 a message was brought to me that an aeroplane was down north of the works and wanted our assistance, so while the five cars of wounded proceeded to Sheikh Zowaiid, one gun car went to the assistance fo the aeroplane, the other car getting into a position where the approach of Turkish reinforcements would be observed.
We stood by the aeroplane until it was safely away. this was at 1300. then returning southeast we found between the Police Barracks and the works, one machine gun and two sleighs. The gun was in perfect order, so we brought in the gun and one sleigh.
A few hundred yards south I came upon several bodies of Gloucesters that I had reported an hour earlier to one of Major Parsons' burying parties, and these were still unburied, and as word had been sent to me that the Turks were approaching more quickly, as our horsemen had all required, and as great numbers of Arabs were flocking in from the direction of the police Barracks while I was two miles in advance of my other car, I had perforce to leave them, and stopped only to pick up a body that I recognised as that of Major Clifford of the Gloucesters. (I had been asked to try and find it).
When I came up with my other gun car the Turks could be observed three to four miles back advancing with rifles slung and in extended order over a front of about two miles form the trees behind Rafa.
As far as I knew all of our wounded had been cleared from the battlefield, and all the Turkish wounded save one that left because he was too near death to be moved, and five or six that a medical officer reported to me were left behind because no transport could be given them.
I reached Sheikh Zowaiid about 1430, where I reported at the Casualty Clearing Station. The officers in charge here had instructions from Column Headquarters that I was to use all my available space to bring in wounded to El Arish.
The seven cars left Sheikh Zowaiid about 1600 and arrived at El Arish about 1800, where the wounded were handed over to the 3rd Light Horse Field Ambulance and the body of Major Clifford delivered to the Commanding Officer of the Gloucester Yeomanry.
The Turkish machine gun (1915) and sleigh with 4 spare barrels, 2 boxes and ammunition, 4 spare locks, also 4 bolts of Turkish rifles and two British rifles were handed in to the Administrative Commandant next morning.
We had two machine guns in action continuously from about 1200 to 1630 on the 9th, always holding two guns ready in reserve. Ammunition expended was about 9,000 rounds only, because the last few thousand rounds that were filled from bandoliers were troublesome as the cartridges that had rusted in the clips gave us stoppages through separate cases.
The men behaved themselves splendidly.
We had no casualties.
WHP McKenzie, Second Lieutenant
Officer Commanding No. 7 Light Car Patrol
12th January 1917.
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