"At a mile distant their thousand hooves were stuttering thunder, coming at a rate that frightened a man - they were an awe inspiring sight, galloping through the red haze - knee to knee and horse to horse - the dying sun glinting on bayonet points..." Trooper Ion Idriess
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Friday, 27 February 2009
A Token Force Topic: Tk - Bks - Air Force
Pasha and Yildirim, the Palestine Front, 1915 to 1918
A Rumpler C.I and Pfalz E.I (Lt Henckel) flying over Beersheba Airfield, April 1916
[From: Ole Nikolajsen, Ottoman Aviation 1911 - 1919, p. 203.]
Part 1 - A Token Force
With the outbreak of the 1st World War in August 1914 it was planned that the Palestine Army Command in Damascus should be equipped with a Tayyare Boluk (Aircraft Company) of two flights, each with two aircraft. As the previously ordered French aircraft not were delivered the unit was formed initially with only a Rumpler Doppeltaube taken over from the German flyer Dr. Elias. (Dr. Elias later served as aircraft company commander for FA305 in 1918 in Palestine.)
This aircraft was chosen as it had the longest range of any available Turkish aircraft. Lieutenant Sakir who had received biplane training in Germany was selected to pilot the aircraft. This token force was to provide reconnaissance for the planned Turkish assault on the Suez Canal.
An aircraft named "Fazil" arrived at Aleppo on 28 December 1914. Here luck ran out and it crashed the next day during take-off when the engine failed. Lieutenant Sakir escaped unhurt and was soon sent to Germany to procure new aircraft for the 4th Army in Palestine.
In May 1915, Austria promised to deliver 12 LVG B.I's, but the first crashed during delivery and another 2 were delayed for many months during their transport through Romania. The rest of the order was never delivered.
Meanwhile the Turkish attack on the Suez Canal had been repulsed largely due to lack of Turkish aircraft to provide reconnaissance.
In this situation, for the task the unsuitable acrobatic training aircraft of Ponnier design was rushed to Palestine. However, it was the only Turkish aircraft available and it safely arrived at Damascus on the 17th of March. After a few flights however it crashed on the 9th of April.
While the Ottoman Army was trying desperately to get aircraft to Turkey the German Major E. Serno arrived to reorganize the flying units. Another German named Dittmar took a commission in the Ottoman Army and was soon sent to Palestine where he organized an airfield near Beersheba in late 1915.
Source: The above extract is obtained from a self published work by Ole Nikolajsen called Ottoman Aviation 1911 - 1919. A Token Force comes from Chapter 8, Pasha and Yildirim, the Palestine Front, 1915 to 1918, p. 174. The text has been edited to remove errors and make it readable for an English speaking audience.
Third Ypres, Belgium, September till to November, 1917 Topic: BatzWF - Westn Front
Belgium, September till to November, 1917
Aerial photograph of Ypres taken at 3,300 metres from an observation balloon.
Third Ypres, the collective name given to the campaign fought between September and November 1917 aimed at capturing the Gheluvelt Plateau in southern Belgium. The operations followed earlier campaigns over the same ground, the first during October - November 1914 and the second in April-May 1915.
This time they were directed by General Sir Herbert Plumer, commander of the British Second Army, who decided on a step-by-step approach of limited advances preceded by heavy artillery bombardment. Once each attack had attained its objective, the attacking troops were to be protected by further barrages while they consolidated their positions-this measure being necessary to thwart the German tactics of dealing with each penetration of their line with an immediate counter-attack by formations held well hack specifically for this purpose.
When Plumer requested fresh troops he was given I Anzac Corps under Lieut.-General Sir William Birdwood. The actions in which the Australians took part are listed individually.
Fred Leist painting of the Cloth Hall, Ypres, 1917.
Extracted from the book produced by Chris Coulthard-Clark, Where Australians Fought - The Encyclopaedia of Australia's Battles, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1998, p. 130.
Additional References cited by Chris Coulthard-Clark:
C.E.W. Bean, (1933), The Australian Imperial Force in France 1917, Sydney: Angus & Robertson.
P.A. Pedersen, (1985), Monash as Military Commander, Carlton, Vic.: Melbourne University Press.
Bert Schramm's Diary, 27 February 1919 Topic: Diary - Schramm
Diaries of AIF Servicemen
During part of the course of his military service with the AIF, 2823 Private Herbert Leslie Schramm, a farmer from White's River, near Tumby Bay on the Eyre Peninsular, kept a diary of his life. Bert was not a man of letters so this diary was produced with great effort on his behalf. Bert made a promise to his sweetheart, Lucy Solley, that he would do so after he received the blank pocket notebook wherein these entries are found. As a Brigade Scout since September 1918, he took a lead part in the September 1918 breakout by the Allied forces in Palestine. Bert's diary entries are placed alongside those of the 9th Light Horse Regiment to which he belonged and to the 3rd Light Horse Brigade to which the 9th LHR was attached. On this basis we can follow Bert in the context of his formation.
Bert Schramm's Diary, 27 February 1919
Bert Schramm's Handwritten Diary, 26 February - 1 March 1919
[Click on page for a larger print version.]
Thursday, February 27, 1919
Bert Schramm's Location - Tripoli, Lebanon.
Bert Schramm's Diary - Weather still rough and wet. No news. Nothing doing. I ought to write some letters but things are so unsettled I think I will have to wait until I get down to Egypt.
9th Light Horse Regiment War Diary
9th Light Horse Regiment Location - Rafa, Egypt.
9th Light Horse Regiment War Diary - Camp routine.
Darley, TH, With the Ninth Light Horse in the Great War, Adelaide, Hassell Press, 1924.
Query Club, 12 January 1916 Topic: Gen - Query Club
The Query Club
12 January 1916
The large scale of the Great War often gave people a sense of alienation from the activities of the government and the army. To overcome this, newspapers of the day commenced columns called Query Club or similar names, where ordinary people could clarify their understanding of the complex processes. They also provide us, the historians, an insight into witnessing first hand, the responses of the various bodies to public concerns. The end product is a window into a society now almost out of living memory.
This is the Query Club from the Sydney Mail, 12 January 1916, p. 30.
The conscripts of France, Russia, and Germany are liable for service wherever they may be sent.
There are four battalions to every brigade, so that the fifth battalion would be in the second brigade, the ninth in the third, the 25th in the seventh, and so on.
A Lieutenant in the Imperial Army receives from 9s a day, according to the regiment to which he is attached, and field allowances. A second lieutenant receives 7s 6d a day and allowances.
The Hague is a permanent court of arbitration consisting of representatives nominated by the Governments of 44 nations. The Court meets at the Palace of Peace when there is anything upon which to adjudicate. The last case decided was that between France and Italy over the seizure of the steamers Carthage and Manouba in 1913.
BILLETING OF SOLDIERS
"Mac" asks if it is legal to billet soldiers in private houses.
It is legal in some continental countries, but no in Britain or in Australia. Providion is made in the annual Mutiny Act, however, by which troops in Britain may be billeted among the innkeepers, victuallers, wine merchants, wine and beer retailers, licensed grocers, etc, wherever a body of soldiers halts on the march.
FLYING IN AUSTRALIA
The personnel of the flying squadron that is to go to the front from Australian has already been selected. The squadron will include 28 commissioned officers and 181 other ranks. The Australian Military Flying School is in Victoria. If you have no experience either of flying or engineering, it is not likely that you would be accepted as a pilot. Write to Colonel Reynolds, Director of Military Operations, Melbourne, for further information.
It is necessary to obtain your parents' consent to your enlisting under the age of 21. Whilst young men over that age are usually better able to stand the hardships of a strenuous campaign, the fact that the military authorities accept youths of 18 who are sufficiently developed physically is a complete answer to the allegation that these young fellows do not make good soldiers. The strictness of the medical examination is proof of the fact that only men who are physically fit are wanted. The measurements you give stamp you as a robust type, and provided you have no inherent weakness, such as heart trouble, etc, you should do well. Whilst training shows up a man's weakness very quickly, it also shows up his strong points. It makes men of thousands of boys who have the constitution, but have not had the training necessary to their development. With the certificate you hold you may confidently look forward to promotion. Non-commissioned rank should be quite within your grasp.
Pasha and Yildirim, the Palestine Front, 1915 to 1918
Inspection of FA300 at El Arish by Cemel Pasha, June 1916
[From: Ole Nikolajsen, Ottoman Aviation 1911 - 1919, p. 203.]
Part 2 - Pasha I
To take pressure off the Gallipoli front, a renewed attack on the Suez Canal was planned by the Ottoman High Command to take place in the beginning of 1916. As the Turkish flying units possessed neither personnel nor aircraft for such a large undertaking, Germany agreed to send pure German units to support and lead the attack. A flying unit, an anti-aircraft battery, a heavy howitzer battery and several machine-gun companies were promised. [For the War Diary of the 605th Machine Gun Company, see: German Units - 605th Machine Gun Company]
The aircraft unit, Fliegerabteilung 300 "Pasha" was established on 24 December 1915 at Dallgow-Döberitz, in Germany. The officers of the unit had their first meeting in January and an advance party was formed. This comprised the Commanding Officer, Captain Heemskerck, 2 pilots, 2 observers and 41 other personnel as well as 2 Rumpler C.I's with special coolers, one Pfalz E.I fighter, three trucks and supplies for three months. The advanced party left for Turkey on 20 February. The party travelled via a long and complicated route through Eastern Europe, Anatolia, Syria and Palestine, travelling on rail, ship, ox-cart and road. They arrived at the prepared field at Beersheba on 1 of April. Two hours after their arrival the Pfalz, named “Käthe” and piloted by Lieutenant Henckel, came by air. The duties of the small unit were to provide reconnaissance over the sea to search for British seaplane tenders and covering the Sinai desert to observe British advance units.
On 19 April, two Rumplers were ordered to El Arish from which an armed expedition was sent towards the oasis of Katia. During the next days several sorties were carried out over the Suez Canal, Romani and Port Said.
The main party of FA300 arrived on 30 April bringing with them 4 additional pilots, 3 observers and 4 Rumplers equipped with wireless transmitters. A base receiver station was erected at the field. All six Rumplers were air worthy on 7 May, and one was immediately given the task of photographing the Suez Canal and surrounding fortifications. The five others were ordered to make bombing attacks on Suez City, Ismailia and Port Said to disrupt shipping. The last part of the unit arrived on 18 May with another two crews but only one Rumpler as the other had been lost on a flight near Jerusalem.
Initially setbacks were experienced by the Aircraft Company. First on 9 May, one of the Rumplers was destroyed on the ground by a British attack.
The next setback  occurred the following day [10 May] when the British, who apparently were well informed, struck the new airfield with 12 aircraft. They left 2 Rumplers completely destroyed and the Pfalz damaged. Three pilots and five mechanics were severely injured.
Although a heavy blow, the raids did not discourage the unit, and on the same day a British warship was attacked off the coast. This made the whole British fleets steam west, not to be observed again for a long time. Another counter-blow was dealt the British Navy on 26 May when the seaplane tender "Raven II" was bombed and damaged in Suez harbour.
The first air-duel in the area was fought two days later [28 May] near the Suez Canal between a Farman and a Rumpler. The Farman had the advantage of a front gun and the Rumpler returned with 18 bullet holes in the fuselage and wings.
On 16 June was FA300 with its full complement of six Rumplers and the Pfalz ordered to proceed to El Arish in preparation for the canal attack.
Map of air activities covered by this extract
[From: Ole Nikolajsen, Ottoman Aviation 1911 - 1919, p. 176.]
[Click on map for larger version.]
Finally the new canal attack moved ahead and from 1 July, FA300 was given the task to employ all means possible to prevent British aircraft from observing the Turkish and German column of 15,000 men moving out of El Arish. When Turkish advance units reached the oasis at Bir el Abd on 15 July a detachment with one Rumpler was stationed there to cut off any approaching British aircraft.
The advance through the desert with the heavy guns in the intense summer heat soon became painfully slow and it was not until one month later that an attack on the British lines near Romani could be launched.
After stubborn fighting the oasis was taken on the 17th of August but at this crucial time a British encouraged Arab uprising took place. Most of the Arab regiments constituting the main force of the Turkish column defected to the British side. [Editor’s note: This paragraph has been left as it was in the original manuscript. The Battle of Romani was fought from 4-6 August while the Battle of Bir el Abd occurred on 9 August after which the Canal invasion force retreated back to El Arish leaving a rear guard at Bir el Mazar.]
Consequently a hurried Turkish withdrawal had to take place and in this, the FA300 played a significant role in providing rear cover. The harassment of the British cavalry force was so successful that all contact between the two armies was lost. The Turkish attack force was successful in withdrawing with all its precious heavy howitzers.
During the operations Lieutenant Henckel, being an engineer, managed to shoot down a Bristol Scout with a self-constructed synchronised frontal machine-gun.
By now the heavy workload had completely exhausted FA300's supplies and little ammunition while only 800 litres of petrol remained. An officer flew to Damascus to arrange for new supplies and here he was greeted by a team of new reinforcements and supplies on their way to FA300. They arrived in mid September at the Beersheba airfield. The reinforcements included the new Commanding Officer, Captain Felmy, 3 replacement crews, 6 new Rumpler C.I's and two Fokker E.III fighters.
At this time had the FA300 detachment withdrawn from Bir el Abd and by 27 August the complete unit was back at El Arish.
On 15 September a large attack by British seaplanes was made. Unlike the attack in June, this time the FA300 had been alerted and watched the seaplane tenders approach. Two Rumplers and the Pfalz intercepted the attackers, shot down one and forced another into the sea. Thereafter the Rumplers promptly returned to base and one hour later attacked the seaplane tenders with bombs and machine-gun fire, forcing them to retire westwards.
Even though all Turkish forces were well back at El Arish, a further withdrawal to Gaza was initiated. FA300 returned to Beersheba on 25 September. This was done by three night marches with the assistance of 300 heavily laden camels. At Beersheba the headquarters was re-established with 9 Rumplers, 2 Fokker E.III's and a barely air worthy Pfalz E.I. Captain Heemskerck and 3 of the first members of FA300 returned to Germany.
During the following months, the Turkish forces were reorganizing around Gaza while the British moved slowly ahead in the desert building a supporting railway track. This was a period of attrition in the air.
On 8 November a Rumpler was lost to British anti-aircraft fire. An air-duel took place on 11 November, the Rumpler pilot was victorious. In this month a last bombing attack by a formation of 3 Rumplers was made on the Suez Canal and Port Said, using El Arish as a refuelling point. Fuel was brought by two additional Rumplers. Shortly afterwards was El Arish abandoned by the Turks without a fight. During December several battles developed in the air all without losses for FA300. The British however lost aircraft on the 2nd, 3rd and 9th of November 1916. Altogether 14 British aircraft were claimed shot down by FA300 in the period between 1 April and 31 December 1916. Fifteen more were claimed shot down by ground fire. (Only aircraft in which a wreckage was found, or prisoners taken as proof, are included in this total.)
Despite the unquestionable air superiority gained by FA300 in this period the high number of British aircraft and their shorter supply line made them able to perform a number of concentrated attacks on the airfield at Beersheba. No important German equipment was lost in these nuisance raids, as all  aircraft and vital equipment had been dispersed.
The raids however soon became such a menace that headquarters and equipment of FA300 was relocated on 10 January 1917 to a new field near the old monastery at Ramleh. The workshops were transferred to Damascus where they eventually supported all Palestine aircraft units. On 1 March the old personnel of FA300 were relieved by new battle proven western front crews arriving from Germany. Soon also 8 new Rumpler C.I's with a synchronised forward firing gun were received. During the next months, the surviving 7 old Rumplers were sent to the Damascus Aircraft Station and after refurbishing re-issued to the Turkish 3ncu Tayyare Boluk (3rd Aircraft Company).
Source: The above extract is obtained from a self published work by Ole Nikolajsen called Ottoman Aviation 1911 - 1919. Pasha Icomes from Chapter 8, Pasha and Yildirim, the Palestine Front, 1915 to 1918, pp. 175-9. The text has been edited to remove errors and make it readable for an English speaking audience.
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