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"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

The Australian Light Horse Studies Centre aims to present an accurate history as chroniclers of early Australian military developments from 1899 to 1920.

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Thursday, 12 March 2009
Rickard, J , Battle of Belmont, 23 November 1899, Account
Topic: BatzB - Belmont


South Africa, 23 November 1899

Rickard, J , Battle of Belmont, 23 November 1899, Account

Lord Methuen's relief expedition


The battle of Belmont saw the first fighting during Lord Methuen’s failed attempt to raise the siege of Kimberley. He had left his base on the Orange River on 21 November, with a force of around 8,000 men. His plan was to follow the railway straight to Kimberley. This predictability would allow the Boers to take advantage of the few natural obstructions on the route.

The first of those obstructions was at Belmont, twenty miles from the Orange River. There the railway ran past a cluster of low hills east of the track.  Near to the railway were two peaks (given the names Gun Hill for the southern and Table Mountain for the northern peak by the British soldiers). Behind them to the east, separated by a narrow pass or nek was a taller hill, given the name Mont Blanc.

Map showing the battle of Belmont, 23 November 1899
[From: The Times History of the War in South Africa, II, London, 1902, facing p. 330.]


The main Boer force at Belmont was composed of around 2,000 men from the Free State under Jacobus Prinsloo (Kroonstad, Fauresmith, Bloemfontein, Brandfort and Jacobsdaler commandos). Another 800 men from the Transvaal, under De la Rey, arrived in time to cover the Boer retreat at the end of the battle.

Methuen based his plan of attack on a faulty understanding of the nature of the hills. He was unaware of the gap between Table Mountain and Mont Blanc. Instead he believed there to be more high ground between the two hills. His plan was for the 9th Brigade to attack Table Mountain and the Guard’s Brigade to attack Gun Hill. The Coldstream Guards would then seize the non-existent high ground, while the 9th Brigade would use it to attack the northern flank of the Boer positions on Mont Blanc. They would do this after a night march that would place them at the base of the hills under cover of darkness.

The plan went wrong almost from the start. At first light on 23 November it was realised that the march had stopped 1,000 yards short of the base of the hills, probably because the British were not yet experienced in judging distances in the clear air of the veldt. This meant that the assault would have to be made in daylight, and after a dash across open ground. Despite this, the British soldiers proved that they could make successful attacks up hill against the Boer’s rifle fire. The attack began soon after 3.30 a.m, and by 4.20 the British had reached the top of both Table Mountain and Gun Hill, although not without losses. It would take longer to clear the top of Table Mountain, but the big problem now was posed by Mont Blanc.

The 9th Brigade, whose role it had been to attack this second position, now found itself in the wrong place to do so. The western face of Mont Blanc, facing Table Mountain, was the steepest, and well defended by the Boers, who had had time to prepare their positions. Fortunately for Methuen, the Coldstream Guards solved his problem. Their original role had been to capture the non-existent high ground north east of Gun Hill. When it became clear that there was no such ground, they drifted right, eventually capturing the southern end of Mont Blanc (with help from the Northamptons and the Grenadiers).

With three of the four areas of high ground lost, the Boers decided to withdraw. At around 7.30 a.m. they abandoned their positions on Mont Blanc, returned to their horses, and escaped north. This was when Methuen’s lack of cavalry became significant. He simply could not mount a pursuit of the Boers. An attempt was made to do so by Rimington’s Guides and a squadron of the 9th Lancers, but they were outnumbered by fresh Boer horsemen under De la Rey and were lucky to escape intact.

British losses were 74 dead and 220 wound. Boer losses were officially reported at 12 dead and 40 wounded, but the British buried 30 Boers found after the battle. Forty prisoners were taken, and Boer losses may have been around 100. Prinsloo was badly shaken by the fighting at Belmont, especially by the determination of the British advance. The high kopjes may have looked like ideal defensive positions, but the steep slopes actually gave the advancing troops some protect. In many battle of the war, the most severe fighting would happen on the flat tops of the hills, not on the steep slopes. Methuen meanwhile was confirmed in his belief in the frontal assault. He would repeat the same tactic at Rooilaagte, the Modder River and Magersfontein, with decreasing success. Belmont is normally described as a “soldier’s battle” as it was won by the determination of the infantry, and not through any great skill on Methuen’s part.


Further Reading:

Rickard, J (12 February 2007), Battle of Belmont, 23 November 1899. 

507 Trooper Frederick Avard

The Fighting 28

Boer War - Battle of Belmont

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: Rickard, J , Battle of Belmont, 23 November 1899, Account

Posted by Project Leader at 11:01 PM EADT
Updated: Thursday, 2 April 2009 12:14 PM EADT
Merivale Street, Qld, Courier Account 28 March 1919 p7, sundays-procession
Topic: BatzA - Merivale

Merivale Street

Queensland, 24 March 1919


The following is a contemporaneous account of the battle at Merivale Street taken from the pages of the Brisbane Courier.  The text from the scan is of poor quality and thus cannot be readily transcribed into text but it is legible enough to allow the contents to be satisfactorily read.

The ongoing Battle of Merivale Street, Queensland, from the account published in the Brisbane Courier, 28 March 1919.


[From: Brisbane Courier, 28 March 1919, p. 7, Sunday's Procession.]



Further Reading:

Merivale Street, Queensland, March 24, 1919

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: Merivale Street, Qld, Courier Account 28 March 1919 p7, sundays-procession

Posted by Project Leader at 11:01 PM EADT
Updated: Monday, 30 March 2009 1:07 PM EADT
Suez Canal Attack, Egypt, Official British History Account, Pt 1
Topic: BatzS - Suez 1915

Suez Canal Attack

Egypt, January 28 - February 3, 1915

 Official British History Account, Pt 1


The following is an extract from:

MacMunn, G., and Falls, C., Military Operations Egypt & Palestine - From the Outbreak of War with Germany to June 1917, London, 1928, pp. 19 -  22.


Chapter II



ON the 9th November the German commerce raider Emden was destroyed at Cocos Islands. Remote though the scene was, the effect of her disappearance was at once felt in Egypt. As soon as her menace to shipping east of Suez was removed a number of warships urgently required in Mediterranean waters were ordered westward and passed through the Canal. In the Indian Ocean there remained only one small group on the East African coast and another assisting the Persian Gulf Expedition. The Admiral of the East Indies station had in these circumstances little to occupy him, and the Admiralty decided that he could do better service in Egypt and on the Syrian coast. Vice-Admiral R. H. Peirse therefore rehoisted his flag in the Swiftsure at Suez on the1st December. On an average about four ships, British and French, were available for the defence of the Canal, being changed from time to time as circumstances required.

Meanwhile, on the 16th November, the Indian troops destined for the defence of Egypt reached Suez, and battalions were moved as quickly as possible to Ismailia and Port Said. Major-General A. Wilson, arrived from India, was appointed G.O.C. Canal Defences. The Sirhind Brigade was relieved and sailed on the 23rd to rejoin its division in France. At the same time Sir J. Maxwell was informed of Lord Kitchener's project of bringing the Australian and New Zealand contingents to Egypt for war training. The intention was to send them later to France, but temporarily they would be available as reserves in Egypt, where their appearance would undoubtedly impress public opinion.

On the 20th November occurred the first hostilities. A patrol of 20 men of the Bikanir Camel Corps, under Captain A. J. H. Chope, was attacked at Bir en Nuss, 20 miles east of Qantara, by 200 Bedouin, who approached it under a white flag. The party extricated itself creditably, though with casualties amounting to more than half its numbers. Unfortunately this affair proved that the loyalty of the camel troopers of the Egyptian Coastguard, several of whom accompanied the Bikanirs as guides, was extremely doubtful, since they allowed themselves to be made prisoners in a manner virtually amounting to desertion.

There was for a considerable period no further contact with the enemy, and for the rest of the year the headquarters of the Force in Egypt and of the Canal Defences had time to prepare defences and organize the troops. The Australian and New Zealand contingent, a magnificent but still only partly trained force, landed early in December. [The original Australian contingent consisted of one light horse brigade and one infantry division complete with artillery; that of New Zealand of 2,500 mounted troops, 5,000 infantry and one field artillery brigade.] The Indian troops were organized into two divisions, the 10th and 11th.

Lord Kitchener discussed with Sir J. Maxwell the possibility of some action against the Turkish communications with Syria. It was at this time that a diversion in the Gulf of Iskanderun, a project that was to reappear more than once in the course of the war, was first considered and rejected, after some preliminary preparations had been made. ["If any diversion is contemplated, I think the easiest, safest and most fruitful in results would be one at Alexandretta. There we strike a vital blow at the railways and also hit German interests very hard. Alexandretta would not want a very large force. All other places - Rafah, Jaffa, Acre, Beirut - are too far from the Turkish lines of communications." Sir J. Maxwell to Lord Kitchener, 4th December, 1914.] The importance of Alexandretta at this period is not made clear by a first glance at the map, because the railway line to this town from west of the Amanus Mountains is a dead end. This branch line represented the originally planned course of the Baghdad Railway, which had been altered for strategical reasons. Turkey was still a great military, but no longer a great maritime Power, and the line following the shore of the Gulf of Iskanderun was peculiarly vulnerable from the sea. The railway was therefore carried over the Amanus and then, via Islahie, to Aleppo. At the outbreak of war the Bagche tunnel, west of Islahie, was not pierced. Some eighty miles further west, in the Cilician Taurus, was another gap in the line. Troops and supplies from Constantinople had to be detrained at Bozanti, west of the Taurus gap, and moved down by road to Tarsus, whence they were railed to Alexandretta. There they took to the road again and moved by it to Aleppo or a station just west of it before returning to the railway. The alternative to the Alexandretta route was to continue along the main line to the Amanus gap, there detrain, follow the mountain road to Islahie, and again entrain for Aleppo. The Alexandretta route was the better and quicker. [The Amanus road was not suitable for wheeled traffic till the German engineer Klinghart had finished work on it in 1916 ("Sinai", Kress, i, p. 19). A traveller who crossed in January 1915 states that the mud was over his ankles and that there was no transport on the road but pack-mules and camels.]

Alexandretta, therefore, though a railhead, was a vital point on the improvised Turkish line of communications. If it were held by an enemy, Turkish troops moving to Syria would have to scramble and struggle over the Amanus road. Traffic between Turkey and Syria would be virtually stopped between January and March, and relatively small quantities of munitions could be brought through at any time of the year. The objections to the scheme were, however, at least at this period, very great. An organized field army, with modern means of transport and equipment for the landing of stores, would have been required and could have ill been spared, even if it could have been found. The Navy would have been called upon to make the bay secure against submarines and protect the sea route thereto. The landing of a British force for any operation greater than a raid would probably have resulted in risings of Armenians and of tribes such as the Nasariyeh and Ismailiyeh in the Amanus, so that, once embarked upon the enterprise, Britain would have found it almost impossible to withdraw, however urgent the reasons, and leave friends to Turkish vengeance. These considerations, the first above all, convinced Lord Kitchener and the Cabinet that in existing circumstances the passive defence of the Canal itself, on the line of the Canal, was the only possible method of protecting Egypt from attack by land.

It seemed, however, that the expected Turkish invasion was a long time brewing. Admiral Peirse was therefore instructed to employ light cruisers to harry Syrian ports particularly Alexandretta, Beirut and Haifa, with a view to stopping the movement of supplies. Early in December he had available the Doris and the Russian Askold, which had been put at his disposal. The Askold cleverly cut a German ship out of Haifa, while in the latter part of the month the Doris had a series of remarkable adventures. She began on the 13th by bombarding earthworks at El Arish and landing a party. She next landed a party at Sidon, which cut telegraph wires running along the coast and inland towards Damascus. But her most notable exploit was in the Gulf of Iskanderun, when she landed parties which blew up bridges, derailed trains, cut telegraph lines. Finally at Alexandretta, under threat of bombardment of the station, she forced the Turks to blow up two locomotives, lending them gun-cotton for the purpose. The torpedo-lieutenant sent ashore by Captain Larken to supervise their destruction was solemnly given Turkish rank for that day to preserve Turkish dignity. The end of the comedy is said to have been a claim by the Baghdad Railway Company against the Turkish Government for wanton and malicious damage to the former's property by a Turkish officer.

The raids, though justifiable by the usage of war, were afterwards discontinued in view of reprisals threatened by the Turks against Allied subjects in their hands, and it was left to the enemy to take the next step. News of the occupation of El Arish, within the Egyptian border, caused Lord Kitchener to enquire if it were not possible, with the aid of the Navy, to carry out a landing and strike at the Turks. Sir J. Maxwell replied that shallows and a choppy sea made such action difficult, adding that the force at El Arish consisted mainly of Bedouin, who would retire inland at the first appearance of British warships.


Previous Chapter: No previous chapter.

Next Chapter: Suez Canal Attack, Egypt, THE CANAL DEFENCES, Official British History Account, Pt 2


Further Reading:

Suez Canal Attack, Egypt, Contents

Where Australians Fought, Sinai, 1916-1917

Light Horse Battles

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: Suez Canal Attack, Egypt, Official British History Account, Pt 1

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Sunday, 26 April 2009 11:30 PM EADT
1st Australian Armoured Car Section - Megiddo - Part 2
Topic: AIF - Cars



Part 2


This is a transcription from a manuscript submitted by Captain E.H. James called "The Motor Patrol". It is lodged in the AWM as AWM 224 MSS 209. This is Part 2.



The division next pushed on to Beisan about 16 miles east of El Afule where we were promised some sleep. This was sorely needed by the drivers who had been at the wheel for 40 hours without any rest whatever. We discovered that the horseman has a decided advantage over the motor driver in the matter of sleep. The former can nod off and still keep in the saddle as the old horse jogs along and follows the track, but if the motor driver closes his eyes for an instant he will probably crash into a rook or over a cliff. On the way to Beisan we noticed a motor car about half a mile off the road in difficulties. On examining this through the glasses we noticed some man making frantic efforts to get a touring car (that was bogged) out of the mud. We sent a car across and the occupants promptly bolted into the scrub. The car had the German coat of arms painted on the door and it was apparently one of their staff cars. So we hitched a rope on to it and hauled it out with one of our own cars. We found that car very useful and kept it for nearly six months. We used it for carrying extra petrol and baggage about with us on our peregrinations.

The late occupants who took to the hills would probably have had their throats cut by the Arabs who are always ready to murder and rob the under dog. On arriving at Beisan we discovered that there was not to be too much sleep after all. The road from Beisan to Shutta had to be patrolled through the night with cars to take prisoners who were expected to be coming back from the fight that was still going on at part of the enemy's front lines. Our division now had a line about 40 miles long and it was about 30 miles behind the enemy's front lines. The Turks were now in a thorough trap and could not escape any way. Although the road had to be patrolled, we found that a couple of cars could manage it all right and the drivers took one hour shifts so the majority managed to get a reasonable amount of sleep after all. We bivouacked for the night at Beisan but next morning all the cars were required to patrol the roads and collect numerous enemy fugitives who wore more or less demoralised and pouring in from all quarters.

The divisional commander asked us to send a car up to Jesi Mejame, a railways crossing where there is a bridge across the river a few miles south of Lake Tiberias or the Sea of Galilee. A party of engineers was there to mine the Railway bridge and one of the officers had his hand injured with explosives. A car was required to bring him back to Beisan the nearest field ambulance.

It was explained that an armed car was not necessary as the road had been cleared. All our patrol cars were busy on the road in the other direction gathering up prisoners, but we dug up a ration car and one of the drivers who had been having a well earned sleep. A couple of us pushed off as quickly as possible. We found that the road was littered with abandoned transport and broken down vehicles of all descriptions and we frequently were compelled to drive off the road altogether in order to get past these obstructions. We had proceeded several miles on our journey when a loud report seemed to come from under the car. Thinking that one of the tyres had blown out we were slowing down when another report occurred from behind. We discovered that the tyres were all right but the reports were gun shots and as we were the target we decided the best thing was to get a move on. There were growing crops alongside the road and in there were concealed the marksmen. It was impossible to see them so it was no use trying to shoot book at them. Fortunately, they were atrocious shots and they did no damage beyond making us break the speed record.


Previous section: 1st Australian Armoured Car Section - Megiddo - Part 1

Next section: 1st Australian Armoured Car Section - Megiddo - Part 3


Further Reading:


Australian Light Horse Order of Battle - Outline 

The Australian Light Horse - Structure

Australian Light Horse Order of Battle

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: 1st Australian Armoured Car Section - Megiddo - Part 2

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Monday, 13 April 2009 11:23 PM EADT
605th Machine Gun Company War Diary - 26 to 30 May 1916
Topic: Gm - Bk - 605 MGC

German 605th Machine Gun Company (MGC)

War Diary, 26 May to 30 May 1916 


605th Machine Gun Company War Diary - 26 to 30 May 1916


The entries



Pte. Reinhardt fell sick of tonsillitis and was handed over to the 213th Field Ambulance here. Supplies from the T.S. Depot.


Nothing new to-day. supplies from the T.S. Depot.


We had to wait till to-day for the rest of our boxes which we loaded here on railway trucks. We moved off at 9.45 a.m. At 5.30 p.m. we arrived at Aleppo. Here we were welcomed in a very friendly Banner by the German Colony of Aleppo and got coffee and cakes. At 11 p.m. we journeyed on. To-day our supplies were furnished by stores taken from the Turkish Supply Depot. In Aleppo we got bread from the Turkish Supply Depot.


We passed Homs early this morning. In the afternoon we passed by Baalbek and reachedRayak at 5 p.m. This evening, we got ½ litre of wine per man for supper.


At 10 a.m. we moved from the goods station at Rayak to the passenger station from which we left at 11.30 a.m. We arrived at the suburban station Baranke of Damascus at 4.30 p.m. and were welcomed in a very friendly manner by the local German Colony. Since our horses and oxen, which had to march the section from Rayak to Damascus, had not arrived here we had to wait till next day at Kadem station on the Kedjas line. On our arrival at Damascus today we had to send Pte. Runge to the Damascus hospital. Pte. Runge had fallen sick en route and, as referred to above, was sent to hospital on Turkish diagnosis as a case of "spotted typhus".


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Further Reading:

German 605th Machine Gun Company (MGC) , Contents 

The Battle of Romani

Light Horse Battles

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: 605th Machine Gun Company War Diary - 26 to 30 May 1916 

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Wednesday, 15 April 2009 4:34 PM EADT

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