Topic: AIF - DMC - British
The Battle of Rafa
Sinai, 9 January 1917
5th Mounted Brigade War Diary Account
5th Mounted Brigade, War Diary Account
The following is a transcription of the 5th Mounted Brigade, War Diary Account detailing their role at the Battle of Rafa, Sinai, 9 January 1917.
Operations 8 - 10th January, 1917.
Narrative of 5th Mounted Brigade.
El Arish 8 January 1917
1540 The Brigade, detailed as Advance Guard to the Column, left the rendezvous, total strength 89 Officers, 1,273 other ranks,
1,371 horses and mules.
2053 Arrived Sheikh Zowaiid, off saddled and fed. The vanguard squadron (Worcester Yeomanry), drawing a Cordon round the east and south east of the village.
Rafa 9 January 1917
0203 Marched off on road to Point 210, less 2 troops (Worcester Yeomanry) dropped for the protection of Sheikh Zowaiid; the vanguard squadron concentrating and marching on the Rafa Road.
0445 Arrived at Point 210,
0615 One troop (Worcester Yeomanry) sent to watch left flank, and two observation posts to watch right flank.
0755 The "B" Battery, Honourable Artillery Company with escort of 1 Squadron (Worcester Yeomanry) was sent to take up a position about one mile east of Point 210 and registered on C.1 & C.2.
1015 A message was sent to Officer Commanding "D" Squadron Worcester Yeomanry who was on the Rafa road, to demonstrate against A.1.
1030 An order was received to advance the whole Brigade and to worry the enemy along the whole front. The brigade moved off at once, Gloucester Yeomanry on left, Warwick Yeomanry on right, the renaming squadron of Worcester Yeomanry following in reserve, their Officer Commanding being ordered to collect the troop watching the left flank, and also the Squadron on the Rafa road as soon as it was relieved by the Gloucester Yeomanry. On arrival at the plateau about 2500 yards from the enemy's main position, the Warwick Yeomanry was ordered to engage B.1. and B.2, and the Gloucester Yeomanry was sent to the left along the edge of the dunes to attack the right of A.1, Worcester Yeomanry in reserve on right rear of Gloucester Yeomanry. Brigade Headquarters were established in an old Turkish Work Opposite A.2. at 2000 yards distance. The Warwick Yeomanry dismounted and came into action in the open at about 2200 yards from enemy's position, they at Once came under machine gun fire and shrapnel from 3 guns.
1130 The Imperial Camel Corps was observed advancing from the south the Warwick Yeomanry was ordered to push on towards B.1 and B.2 and to get touch with Imperial Camel Corps on their right. To carry out this, it was necessary for them to prolong their right. This touch was obtained shortly afterwards.
1110 A message was received from Gloucester Yeomanry that they were engaging enemy with 1½ Squadrons and machine guns and that one squadron was working round sand dunes from the north to outflank A.1. Considerable opposition was received from snipers and small parties of enemy in the dunes, but these were gradually pushed back.
1135 The machine guns brought into action from old trench close to Brigade Headquarters. Fire opened on A.1. and A.2. at 2000 yards.
1200 Warwick Yeomanry ordered to advance to a slight ridge 800 yards from B.1. and B.2. This was well carried out under a somewhat heavy fire. The 2 machine guns near Brigade Headquarters were sent up to this ridge, and the two reserve guns brought to former place to replace.
1305 Message received from Officer Commanding Worcester Yeomanry who in the meantime had collected the vanguard squadron, that he had put one squadron on the sand dunes on the right of the Gloucester Yeomanry to support them and had sent a patrol to watch the coast route.
1312 Orders were sent to Gloucester Yeomanry to press the attack on A.1, (hereinafter called Green Knoll). General Royston visited my Headquarters, and explained positions of Australian and New Zealand Division. In pursuance of above order, Gloucester Yeomanry pushed eastwards along dunes and got touch with New Zealand Brigade, who had come through Rafa. They were not, however, able to cross the valley on the right of Green Knoll at that time, as it was swept by 2 machine guns and rifle fire from that work.
1340 At this time the Imperial Camel Corps appeared to be advancing towards B.1. and 2. but there was still a gap between them and the Warwick Yeomanry right, so I brought up three troops, (Worcester Yeomanry) from the Battery escort and put their in here.
1400. I sent orders to "B" Battery to send up one section to a position 200 yards to right rear of my Headquarters and I sent a message to Imperial Camel Corps asking if they could cooperate in an attack on B.1. and 2. my intention was, if a favourable reply was received, to shell the trench wall and then push in the Warwicks and the three Worcester troops in conjunction with the Imperial Camel Corps bringing up another Worcester Squadron in support.
1430 Before however this plan could materialise, I noticed the shearing off to their right and missing above named work.
1440 Ten minutes later an order was received from Column Headquarters that a concentrated attack on the Reduit was to take place at 1530 and that I was to cooperate by pushing a vigorous attack in that direction from my left with every available man. This necessitated my giving up the attack on B.1. and 2. and transferring the 3 troops of Worcesters and 1 Squadron of Warwicks to the left flank. I detailed Colonel Williams, Commanding Officer Worcester Yeomanry to conduct this attack, the force for the purpose mounting to the equivalent of 5½ Squadrons. At the same time I sent for the other section of "B" Battery, to move to the position near my Headquarters and pointed out to them the trenches to be shelled till 1525. I also told Officer Commanding Warwick Yeomanry, that the attack on B.1. and 2 must be temporarily abandoned but to keep up a steady fire from his machine guns and rifles at any target that might present itself there in order to divert attention from Imperial Camel Corps to east of it. Owing to the distance to be traversed by the two Squadrons transferred from right to left, the left attack was a little late is developing.
1600 About 1600 I switched the guns on to Green Knoll and trenches adjoining and excellent practice was made. The attack progressed steadily till about 1645 when the leading lines were within 200 yards of the Green Knoll, but the glacis slope here was by 2 machine guns and many rifles, so that the advance was held up and somewhat heavy Casualties sustained.
1645 A message was received from Column Headquarters that owing to advance of enemy reinforcements, the action was to be broken off at 1700.
At this moment, I observed the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade rushing the summit of Hill 255 and a few minutes later the ANZAC Brigades swept over the crest line on their left. I Immediately informed the General Officer Commanding by telephone, and sent orders to the Warwicks to co-operate vigorously in the enveloping attack on B.1. and 2. which fell shortly after, 320 prisoners were taken in this work alone.
1700 to 1730 As the firing on the left was still heavy I rode to that flank along the dunes, and proceeded thence towards the firing line on foot. I met Officer Commanding Gloucester Yeomanry and gave him the order to pass down the word to withdraw. Just at this time the firing ceased, some of the Gloucesters creeping forward in the darkness found the enemy has evacuated the Green Knoll and adjoining trenches. The majority probably fell into the hands of the Anzacs near Rafa. The collection of wounded was them proceeded with.
1850 I left for Sheikh Zowaiid, leaving one squadron Warwick Yeomanry to help Medical Officers with the wounded.
2100 Brigade (less one squadron) arrived at Sheikh Zowaiid.
2300 Above mentioned Warwick Squadron arrived at Sheikh Zowaiid.
10 January 1917
0100 Brigade marched from Sheikh Zowaiid.
0645 Brigade arrived El Arish.
The Light Car Patrol ably assisted the final attack with their machine guns. They conveyed a number of wounded to Sheikh Zowaiid and their Officer Commanding then guided a number of sand carts back again for further wounded. I understand he made a third journey in the small hours of the 10th. I cannot speak too highly of the behaviour of all ranks throughout the day. Fire control was excellent and the ammunition supply worked smoothly. The "B" Battery, Honourable Artillery Company rendered admirable assistance and both their ranging and fusing were very good. One of my Medical Officers examined "A" trenches the following day and found them choked with the enemy's dead and wounded.
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