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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

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Thursday, 2 April 2009
Um Rakhum, Egypt, December 13, 1915
Topic: BatzSe - Senussi

Um Rakhum

Egypt, 13 December 1915


A British armoured car column passing an Egyptian Camel Corps column


Um Rakhum, an action fought in Egypt's western desert adjoining Cyrenaica on 13 December 1915, between pro-Turkish Arabs of a primitive Islamic sect called the Senussi and troops of an improvised British force specially raised to defend the western approaches to the Nile Valley from the Senussi threat. Known as 'Western Frontier Force' and under command of an Indian Army officer, Major-General Alexander Wallace, the British column comprised a brigade of infantry and a cavalry brigade. The latter was drawn from the rear details of units fighting on Gallipoli in a dismounted role, and among its four composite regiments s one comprising Australian light horse squadrons commanded by a British regular officer, Major Hon. Dudley Pelham. Artillery support was provided by the Notts Battery, Royal Horse Artillery, equipped with 13 pounder guns.

After bringing his troops up to the small fishing village of Mersa Matruh on 9 December, Wallace decided to strike an immediate blow against the enemy. On 11 December a half - battalion was sent out on a fighting reconnaissance towards Duwair Hussein, 26 kilometres to the west, where aerial reconnaissance reports indicated about 1,000 Senussi were assembled. Providing support for this move was a British yeomanry regiment, two guns and four armoured cars.


Map illustrating the zone of Senussi activity in relation to Egypt.


While the infantry marched along the coastal track, the cavalry and guns followed a route further inland grandly called the Khedival Motor Road, initially heading in a South-westerly direction from Mersa Matruh. The latter force had covered about fourteen kilometres when a heavy rifle-fire was suddenly opened at close range from the column's right flank by Arabs occupying a position known as Wadi Senab.

One squadron of the cavalry attempted a charge, with disastrous results, and a flanking movement tried by the armoured cars was stopped when the heavy vehicles became bugged in soft ground. When word of the situation reached the camp at Mersa Matruh, a squadron of Australian light horse was sent to the scene. Supported by the 13-pounders, the augmented force cleared the wadi of opposition at a cost to the enemy of 80 dead and seven prisoners; losses on the British side amounted to one officer and fifteen other ranks killed.

The infantry, meanwhile, pressed on to a point near the coast called Um Rakhum, where camp was made. They were joined here by the exhausted yeomanry, and the next day by additional troops. The latter included No.4 Company of the Australian Service Corps, from the 1st Australian Divisional Train (forming Western Frontier Force's supply component). On 13 December the cavalry and infantry again set off towards the objective, the transport elements remaining in the bivouac camp. Only a short distance had been covered when the column was again ambushed by a force of Senussi, 1,500 strong, which lay concealed in another wadi to the left of the axis of advance. The enemy troops were ably directed and supported by two medium field pieces and three machine-guns. As the action developed one of the leading British companies was in peril of being encircled, and attempts to relieve the pressure quickly encountered severe difficulties.

The column commander sent an urgent message by heliograph back to Rakhum calling for all reinforcements which could be spared to be sent forward. Among those despatched were 75 Australian Service Corps (ASC) personnel armed with rifles. On arrival, the ASC men performed good service in driving off Arabs who were occupying several gullies, although they were generally untrained for infantry work. During this fighting the Australians lost one man killed, and an officer and five other ranks wounded; the officer subsequently died. Two squadrons of the light horse also arrived on the scene of the action as escort to the Notts Battery crews, the appearance of which on the enemy flank again proved critical to the outcome of the contest. Although forced to come into action at extreme range, one of the 13-pounders succeeded in landing a shell at a point where the Senussi were at their thickest. At this the enemy decided to bring to an end the fight, which had lasted six hours, and withdrew.

While the British were left in possession of the field, and had lost only half as many men as the 125 dead suffered by the Senussi, they were in no condition to press on with the original mission. The next day the column returned to Mersa Matruh, thereby allowing the enemy to re-occupy the high ground.

Australian troops at Mersa Matruh


Extracted from the book produced by Chris Coulthard-Clark, Where Australians Fought - The Encyclopaedia of Australia's Battles, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1998, pp. 112-113.

Additional References cited by Chris Coulthard-Clark:

C.E.W. Bean, (1929), The Australian Imperial Force in France 1916,  Sydney: Angus & Robertson.


Further Reading:

The History of the Composite Australian Light Horse Regiment

Senussi Rebellion and the 9th LHR 

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: Um Rakhum, Egypt, December 13, 1915

Posted by Project Leader at 11:01 PM EADT
Updated: Sunday, 5 April 2009 2:09 PM EADT
Graspan, South Africa, November 25, 1899, Times Account, 29 Nov 1899
Topic: BatzB - Graspan


South Africa, 25 November 1899

Times Account, 29 November 1899


The Times, 29 November 1899 





The British arms have achieved a brilliant victory.

An armoured train sent out to reconnoitre encountered the Boars at Graspan. A patrol under Lieutenant Lewis was fired on, and Lieutenant Lewis and a private were killed.

The division bivouacked for the night at Swinkspan.

At daybreak they stormed the kopjes at Enslin occupied by the enemy. Two batteries of artillery posted on each side shelled the enemy and made splendid practice. The Doers stuck tenaciously to their positions. The Naval Brigade, however, with the Yorkshire Light Infantry, Northamptons, Northumberlands, and Loyal North Lancashires, stormed the enemy's positions. A withering fire was sent into them, but kopje after kopje was captured.

The Boers made good their retreat. The 9th Lancers attempted to intercept the movement and succeeded in reaching the enemy, but a severe fire was opened upon them from a kopje, and they were forced to retreat.

Remington's Scouts also faced a terribly severe fire when charging the enemy.

The infantry worked magnificently, taking the enemy's positions at the point of the bayonet.

The Naval Brigade suffered severely in storming the last position.

Commander Ethelston was killed, and Captain Prothero was wounded. Nine others were killed.

The Boers were shelled during the final retreat, end must have lost heavily.
Commandant Cronje was with the Boers.

Thirty of the enemy's wounded. have been brought here.

Our casualties were not so severe as at Belmont. The wounded were taken away by the hospital train.

Among the Boer prisoners are Alderman Jeppo and Commandant Rissik, who led a commando.

The enemy's strength is estimated to have been 3,000. They retired in a northerly direction.



CAPE TOWN, Nov. 27.

The official details of the defence of Kuruman show that the mission station, which was formerly the centre of Dr. Moffat'e long work among the natives of that part of Africa, was the point of resistance to the Boer attack. When the Boer commandant notified the magistrate of his intention to occupy the place, the latter replied that he had orders to defend it, and forthwith collected 20 natives and 30 half-castes, with whose aid he barricaded the mission chapel and there resisted the attack of 500 Boers for sin days and nights, after which the Boers abandoned the attack.


Further Reading:

Graspan, South Africa, November 25, 1899

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: Graspan, South Africa, November 25, 1899, Times Account, 29 Nov 1899

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Monday, 6 April 2009 10:09 PM EADT
1st LHMGS, AIF, Thomas Aloysius O'Brien
Topic: AIF - 1B - 1 LHMGS


1st Light Horse Machine Gun Squadron

Thomas Aloysius O'Brien

Thomas Aloysius O'Brien



44 Private Thomas Aloysius O'Brien, originally enlisted with the 3rd Light Horse Regiment, Machine Gun Section, then transferred to the 1st Light Horse Machine Gun Squadron.


A brief military biography of Thomas Aloysius O'Brien  from The AIF Project:

Regimental number44
ReligionRoman Catholic
AddressFrances, South Australia
Marital statusSingle
Age at embarkation23
Next of kinFather, Thomas James O'Brien, Frances, South Australia
Enlistment date4 September 1914
Rank on enlistmentPrivate
Unit name3rd Light Horse Regiment, Machine Gun Section
AWM Embarkation Roll number10/8/1
Embarkation detailsUnit embarked from Adelaide, South Australia, on board HMAT A17 Port Lincoln on 20 October 1914
Rank from Nominal RollPrivate
Unit from Nominal Roll1st Light Horse Brigade Machine Gun Squadron
FateReturned to Australia 7 January 1919


Further Reading:

1st Australian Light Horse Machine Gun Squadron, AIF

1st Australian Light Horse Machine Gun Squadron, Roll of Honour

3rd Light Horse Regiment, AIF

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920

Citation: 1st LHMGS, AIF, Thomas Aloysius O'Brien

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Thursday, 17 September 2009 4:39 PM EADT
1st Australian Signal Troop, Page 5
Topic: AIF - 1B - 1 Sig Trp

1st Australian Signal Troop, AIF



Below is a transcription from a manuscript submitted by by Major R. Smith called 1st Australian Signal Troop. This is Page 5.


History of the Wireless Sections after being detached from 1st Signal Troop.


April 28th 1915

No. 2 Det. moved to Gully Beach, about 3 miles from X Beach and worked between forward O.P and the Fleet.

No. 1 Det. moved to De Totts Battery on the south shore east of Sad-el-Bahr.

There was a good deal of sniping on to Gully Beach from the snipers hidden in front, also at De Totts Battery and there the N.C.O i.e. No. 1 "Det". Sgt. Metcher was wounded through the leg.

So far No. 2 "Det." had no causalities and remained at Gully Beach about 4 days, quite as comfortable as circumstances would permit, rations and water were plentiful.

May 2nd.

At dusk No. 2 "Det". dismantled station and eventually arrived at our new destination which was about 1 mile E of the lighthouse on Helles, here the station was re-erected and spotting work for the Fleet was carried on.

No. 1 "Det". took over the position vacated by No. 2 "Det." at Gully Beach and both Dets. remained in this position until ordered to rejoin the 1st Signal Troop which they did at Anzac on the 31/5/15.

The strength of the sections and the equipment at their disposal was inadequate to cope with the amount of work which had to be done so another set of receiving; instruments was given each section for special use with the aeroplanes in addition to this ground signals for use with the planes had to be operated for calling planes back to their aerodromes etc.

From this time on until the 9th May things ran fairly smoothly there being just the different shoots to work on but on the 9th at 16.45 an exceptionally heavy bombardment was opened and the sections were kept busy right up till dusk. There was a good deal of hostile fire onto our positions, the area in which the wireless (No. 2) stood fell in for its share and one of the Operators was wounded.

For the next 3 weeks there was just the daily work between aeroplane and navy and both 'sections went on board a trawler and landed at Anzac on 31/5/13.


Of the original members of the 1st Signal Troop the following obtained commissions during the war.

Hoddinott    Farnes Latham   
Masters    Shaw    Matthews
Metcher    Fitton    Larkin
Sutherland    Cash    Ward
Mustard    Westerman    Bate
Turnbull    Fahey    Dugan
Letch    Stinson    Wills


The following decorations were awarded to members of the Troop during the war.

Mentions in Despatch. 5.
M.C. 7
D.C.M. 3
D.F.C. 1
M. M. 2
C. de G. 2
Order of the Nile 1


Further Reading:

1st Signal Troop

1st Australian Light Horse Brigade  

Anzac Mounted Division


Citation: 1st Australian Signal Troop, Page 5

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Sunday, 12 April 2009 6:46 PM EADT
Bert Schramm's Diary, 2 April 1919
Topic: Diary - Schramm

Diaries of AIF Servicemen

Bert Schramm


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, 2 April 1919


Bert Schramm's Handwritten Diary, 31 March - 3 April 1919

[Click on page for a larger print version.]


Bert Schramm

Wednesday, April 2, 1919

Bert Schramm's Location - Zagazig, Egypt.

Bert Schramm's Diary - Nothing worth recording just the usual thing.



9th Light Horse Regiment War Diary

9th Light Horse Regiment Location - Zagazig, Egypt.

9th Light Horse Regiment War Diary - 2400, today dismounted portion of Regiment passed to command of General Officer in Command Belbeis sector.

One troop patrolled streets of Zagazig 0530 - 0630.



Darley, TH, With the Ninth Light Horse in the Great War, Adelaide, Hassell Press, 1924.

No Entry

Previous: Bert Schramm's Diary, 1 April 1919

Next: Bert Schramm's Diary, 3 April 1919


Further Reading:

9th Light Horse Regiment AIF War Diary - Complete day by day list

Bert Schramm Diary 

Bert Schramm Diary - Complete day by day list


Additional Reading:

Darley, TH, With the Ninth Light Horse in the Great War, Adelaide, Hassell Press, 1924.


Citation: Bert Schramm's Diary, 2 April 1919

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Saturday, 9 May 2009 9:40 PM EADT

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