Topic: AIF - 5B - ICC
The Battle of Rafa
Sinai, 9 January 1917
Headquarters, Imperial Camel Corps, Battle Account
Headquarters, Imperial Camel Corps, Battle Account
The following is a transcription of the Headquarters, Imperial Camel Corps, War Diary Account detailing their role at the Battle of Rafa, Sinai, 9 January 1917.
Imperial Camel Brigade, January 1917
Headquarters, Desert Column through Anzac Mounted Division.
Attached is a report upon the part played by the 1st Imperial Camel Brigade, in the action at Magruntein.
0915 On receiving orders for attack on "B" Group in conjunction with the 1st Light Horse Brigade, on our right, who were attacking "C3", "C2", and "C1", I moved the Brigade up at 0915 to a position west of the Somerset Royal Horse Artillery Battery who were in action.
0925 Dismounted and deployed 1 Company facing south east behind ridge, and in line with Divisional Artillery.
Immediately after this Company had deployed, the camels were shelled, and had to be moved back ½ a mile south east in rear of the garden at Karm ibn Muslet.
1000 I sent in the Hong Kong and Singapore Mountain Battery up to the position selected to support infantry advance and ordered the 1st Battalion (Major Langly) to develop attack on B4 (plan drawn from aeroplane sketch. See: Map of Turkish Trench Works). This attack was ordered forward on a front of 1 Company, which was to advance at 1130, under further instruction received from General Officer Commanding Anzac Mounted Division, in conjunction with attack on "C" Group by 3rd Light Horse Brigade.
1130 The range was found to be 4,500 which is not an effective range with the Mountain Battery. I therefore asked the Commander Royal Artillery to support infantry advance on "B" Group 1130.
The attack was sent forward with 1 Company firing line, 1 Company support, 1 Company reserve, with the 2nd Battalion (less 1 Company detached as escort to prisoners, and escort to Hong Kong and Singapore Mountain Battery, as general reserve).
1200 The firing line, No. 15 Company (Captain McCallum) advanced to within 800 yards of "B4" Group without opposition, but came under heavy fire from "C" Group, then about 1,400 yards from them 1215. The line was stiffened up by the supports and reserves, and pushed forward slightly when it was found that the works in "B2" were strongly held and was in reality, a formidable Reduit.
1230 2 Companies 2nd Battalion (under Major Bassett) was sent to prolong our left and engage "2" works from south east and this attack was carried out, advancing with our left front slightly forward within 700, when it appeared that a junction could be made with the 5th Mounted Brigade. A company of 2nd Battalion was sent into the left centre to reinforce the line.
1300 I asked Division to request 5th Mounted Brigade to cooperate with my left.
1415 As progress was slow, and the Brigade had not joined up with 5th Mounted Brigade, I ordered 1 Company of 3rd Battalion (Major Huddleston) forward to the left of the position to envelope "B2" if possible, and effect the junction, which seemed necessary before a general advance could be made, but little progress could be made beyond "B2" (which was found to be unoccupied) owing to lack of cover and heavy machine gun fire.
1430 The 5th Mounted Brigade, which at this time had effected a junction with out left, was withdrawn. I therefore sent Major Huddleston forward with remaining Companies of his Battalion, to the left centre, to fill the gap which was becoming greater owing to the movement of sections, which were being closed in to the left.
1530 But before his arrival, he met Major Langly (whose Battalion was not in a position to move until "C" works were so engaged as to cease enfilading him) who advised elongation and strengthening on the left of the line, against "C4" Reduit, and he was moved there accordingly, joining No. 11 Company with his Battalion 1530 which was about 600 yards from the centre C4 and held up by machine gun position with 2 guns in centre of the Reduit.
1600 At this time I sent the Light Machine Gun Section of this Company on escort duty forward to assist the left in carrying out the "B" works. Advance in the meantime continued slowly.
1630 The Hong Kong and Singapore Mountain Battery having kept the Reduit under continual shrapnel fire, at 1630, the advance of 2 Companies, 3rd Battalion with 1 Company 2nd Battalion, supported by machine gun fire, became very rapid, and at 1630 they assaulted the position and carried it, capturing 5 Officers 214 Other Ranks, 2 machine guns.
The Hong Kong and Singapore Mountain Battery advanced with each advance to the firing line, and at the scene of the action, was within 1,500 yards, and kept up a continuos fire throughout the day both on "B4" and (at the request of Officer Commanding 1st Battalion) "C1", in order to assist his advance, which was enfiladed by these works.
Again, as at Magdhaba, the Hong Kong and Singapore Mountain Battery, supporting Light Machine Gun fire, mad an advance for open ground against well sited trenches possible, with comparatively small casualties.
Communication with Desert Column was opened up at 0814 by helio and wireless telephone, but no messages other than signal service messages were received.
With Anzac Mounted Division, from 0745 until dark by helio and to 1700 by lamp and by occasional despatch riders through the day. Was unable to establish communication with 5th Mounted Brigade, except through Desert Column, until 1400, when 1st Battalion got Worcester Yeomanry by flag.
Telephone communications with firing line was maintained throughout the day, and proved to the greatest of assistance.CL Smith, Brigadier General
Commanding Imperial Camel Brigade
El Arish, 12 January 1917
All War Diaries cited on this site should be read in conjunction with the Australian Light Horse Studies Centre, AIF War Diaries of the Great War, Site Transcription Policy which may be accessed at:
Australian Light Horse Studies Centre, AIF War Diaries of the Great War, Site Transcription Policy
Imperial Camel Corps, Roll of Honour
The Battle of Rafa, Sinai, 9 January 1917
The Battle of Rafa, Sinai, 9 January 1917, Roll of Honour
The Palestine Campaign, 1917 - 1918
Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920
Citation: The Battle of Rafa, Sinai, 9 January 1917, Headquarters, Imperial Camel Corps, Battle Account