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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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Monday, 29 June 2009
The Battle of Elands River, Letter from Brakfontein, 22 September 1900
Topic: BatzB - Elands

The Battle of Elands River

Letter from Brakfontein, 22 September 1900



The Times, 22 September 1900.

The following letter, dated Brakfontein, received from a young cavalry officer:

I cannot omit to tell you about the very finest thing of the whole campaign, and probably the finest thing ever done. Colonel Hors's column consisted of 300 Bushmen from Australia, and he had with him a convoy with immense supplies for us. On march they got to this place, Brakfontein, which is commanded all round by kopjes. De la Rey here surrounded them with 2,800 to 3,000 men and eight guns-seven big guns and one ‘Pompom’. Colonel Hora had two guns - a 9-pounder muzzle-loader and one Maxim. There was absolutely no cover for them, and the first day the Boers fired 1,700 shells into them. Under cover of darkness they decided they would never surrender, and sent word to that effect to the Boers. Then they began to dig, and before daylight dawned they had made huge excavations. On the third day the Boers sent a flag of truce, saying that, owing to their gallant defence, they would, if they now surrendered, be allowed three days' rations, be escorted back to the British lines, and the officers allowed to retain their arms; but if they did not surrender at once they would be all blown off the face of the earth forthwith. The Bushmen sent back word, "We are all underground now; we have dug a tunnel down to the river, and you can shoot away as much as you like; we shall fight to a finish." The Boers answered, “We do not want you, we want your Supplies.“ “If you want them come and get them," was the only answer. They were days and days march from anywhere. Carrington, who had come to their relief, had been beaten back, nearly lost a gun, and the Boers spread the report that they had surrendered, in order that no more help should come. However, one runner managed to get through, which saved them. The officers behaved wonderfully well; one of them, Captain Annat, remained out in the open all day, and every day, with his 8 giving the ranges to his men. He was first shot through the forehead. Luckily it did not seem to affect him, and he still remained on the parapet doing his duty, when a shell caught him in the back, blowing him to fragments. Out of 600 horses 60 alone are unhurt and alive. The dead ones are all heaped up in the rear as a further parapet. I visited the place yesterday, and Cronje's laager was a joke to it. Yesterday was the thirteenth day and they lost 77 men. It is impossible to give you anything like an idea of what they must have gone through. I do hope Great Britain will show its gratitude to these Australians for its brightest page in the history of the war. Let it be known far and wide. Come out and see the place, and if your heart does not tingle with pride, or a lump get in your throat, and if a prayer does not fly to heaven at the sight, you must be harder and colder than an iceberg. I tell you these men deserve anything the Old Country can give them.



Further Reading:

Elands River

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: The Battle of Elands River, Letter from Brakfontein, 22 September 1900

Posted by Project Leader at 9:07 AM EADT
Updated: Sunday, 26 July 2009 9:24 PM EADT
The Volunteer Movement in Western Australia, Rifle Ranges
Topic: Militia - LHW - WA

Western Australian Militia

Rifle Ranges


The following is an extract from the book written in 1962 by George F. Wieck called The Volunteer Movement in Western Australia 1861-1903, p. 72:

Rifle Ranges

The first Rifle Range was constructed in 1863 on Mount Eliza; it remained in use until 1896 when activities were transferred to Karrakatta, a new rifle range having been opened there in that year. For the convenience of the Fremantle corps a rifle range was constructed on ground near the Obelisk and opened for use on 26 September 1871; it was closed again on 17 March 1897, Karrakatta evidently being designed to meet all requirements. A Rifle Range was opened at Bunbury on 23 March 1896. Rifle Ranges facilities were provided at the other Volunteer centres but details are not available.


Previous:  Forts and Fixed Defences 

Next: Finance 


Further Reading:

Western Australian Rifle Ranges

Western Australian Militia, Light Horse

Western Australian Militia, Infantry


Citation: The Volunteer Movement in Western Australia, Rifle Ranges

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Friday, 4 September 2009 6:53 PM EADT
El Burj, Palestine, 1 December 1917, 9th Light Horse Regiment War Diary Account
Topic: AIF - 3B - 9 LHR

El Burj, Palestine, 1 December 1917

9th Light Horse Regiment War Diary Account


9th Light Horse Regiment War Diary, Saturday, 1 December 1917


War Diary of the 9th Australian Light Horse Regiment, AIF

The War Diary provides an excellent reference to the day to day activities of note that occurred within a particular unit. They were never designed to be histories in themselves but aids to future historians who wish to write about their deeds. The War Diary was often written up at the end of the day when most men were weary and seen as just another useless activity demanded by "the Heads" in far off places. It was only years later when unit histories were produced that the value of the War Diaries became to be realised by the men. The result is that the War Diary is usually light on detail. These details can be supplemented by Routine Orders and signals where these may exist.


The entry for Saturday, 1 December 1917 is transcribed below.

War Diary Entry

Saturday, 1 December 1917

9th Light Horse Regiment Location -

El Burj.

9th Light Horse Regiment War Diary -

0120, the enemy, 1,000 strong, made a determined attack on sector held by 8th Light Horse Regiment which regiment was immediately on right of 9th Light Horse Regiment.

The right flank post of 8th Light Horse Regiment was forced to withdraw about 300 yards south west whilst the enemy occupied the position from which the 8th Light Horse Regiment had withdrawn. The enemy brought heavy bomb, rifle and machine gun fire to bear on 8th Light Horse Regimental posts.

"A" Squadron, 9th Light Horse Regiment, who were in position 800 yards on left front of 8th Light Horse Regiment, brought a heavy machine gun and rifle fire to bear on flank and rear of attacking force inflicting many casualties and prevented enemy retiring towards Shilta.

At dawn 0500 it was seen that the remaining enemy were in a precarious position, faced in front at a few hundred yards range by 8th Light Horse Regiment and a strong detachment of 4th Royal Scots who had hurried up in support. This detachment did fine bombing work at dawn.

About 0530 the 8th Light Horse Regiment moved forward and the remaining Turks about 100 strong surrendered including a German Lieutenant Colonel Commanding Officer of the attacking battalion. Many rifles and automatic rifles and bombs were captured from enemy.

Estimated enemy dead 200 whilst 300 enemy wounded had passed previously through the Turkish dressing station. Heavy enemy shell fire continued all morning in and around El Burj. 9th Light Horse Regiment casualties four Other Ranks wounded.


The Wounded

429 Cpl John Herbert Jones

1502 Cpl William  Mackley

3006 Private Howard William Ball Smith

3171 Private John Robert Clark


The War Diary of the 9th Australian Light Horse Regiment, AIF is held by the Australian War Memorial and available online at no cost.


Further Reading:

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920

The Battle of El Burj, 1 December 1917

9th Light Horse Regiment, AIF


Citation: El Burj, Palestine, 1 December 1917, 9th Light Horse Regiment War Diary Account

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Tuesday, 14 July 2009 12:56 PM EADT
AIF & MEF & EEF, Glossary of Sinai, Palestine and Syrian Terms
Topic: AIF & MEF & EEF


Glossary of Sinai, Palestine and Syrian Terms


The following is a glossary of common place names in the Sinai, Palestine and Syria.

Sinai, Palestine and Syria    
Abu  -  Father of
Ain [pl Ayun]  -  Spring
Ali Muntar   -  The watch tower
Ard  -  Ground
Bahr  -  Sea
Bar  -  Land
Benat   -  Daughter of
Bethlehem   -  House of bread
Bir [pl Biar or Biyar]  -  Well
Bir el Saba [Beersheba]   -  Well of the oath
Bir Eyub   -  Well of Job
Birket  -  Pool
Boghez  -  Strait or narrow pass
Cana   -  Zeal
Canaan   -  Sunken or low land
Capernaum [Heb. Kefar Nahum]   -  Village of Nahum.
Carmel   -  The garden or park
Damascus [Dimishq, Esh Sham]   -  The land of the left hand; the north west country, or Syria
Dar or Dair  -  House
Darb  -  Road
Egeidet  -  Sand hill
Egiret [or Ujerat]  -  Knoll or small hill
El  -  The
El Lajjun   -  The legion
Et Tire   -  The fortress
Gabr  -  Grave
Galilee   -  The ring
Garf  -  Cliff
Gaza   -  Fortress
Gebal  -  Hill or rocky place
Geziret  -  Island
Gisr [or Jisr]  -  Bridge
Goz [pl Gowuz]  -  High sand hill
Har Megeddon   -  The mountain of Megiddo
Harab  -  Rock cut water cistern
Hebron   -  Town of the friend of God
Hejaz   -  Barrier
Hod  -  Depression with palm trees and water
Ibn  -  Son of
Jaffa   -  The beautiful
Jericho   -  The city of palm trees.
Jerusalem   -  City of peace
Jisr Benat Yakub   -  Bridge of the daughters of Jacob
Jordan   -  Swiftly descending
Kalaat  -  Castle
Katib [pl Kataiib]  -  Sand dunes
Kebir  -  Great
Khabra  -  Flooded area
Khirbit  -  Ruin
Mafrak  -  Road fork
Mashash  -  Wells
Mellahat  -  Salt Lake or Flat
Moin [or Moya]  -  Water
Mutla  -  Rising ground
Nablus [Shechem]   -  Corruption of Neapolis, the name given by Vespasian
Nazareth   -  Sanctified
Negb [pl Engeib]  -  Mountain pass
Palestine   -  Philistina
Ras  -  Head, cape, summit
Resm  -  Traces of ruins
Rijm  -  Stone heap
Rodh  -  Small valley
Sabakha, sabkha, sabika  -  Salt lake or marsh
Sana  -  Rain water pit
Sariri, soghaiyira  -  Small
Seil  -  Torrent
Sharon   -  smooth
Sion [Zion]   -  Fortress
Tala  -  Rising ground
Tel  -  Earth mound
Themilst [pl themail, thmyl]  -  Water hole in a wadi bed
Um  -  Mother of
Wadi  -  Valley
Wadi el Arish   -  River of Egypt
Wadi el Sheria   -  the valley of the watering place.


Further Reading:

Battles where Australians Fought

AIF, MEF and the EEF


Citation: AIF & MEF & EEF, Glossary of Sinai, Palestine and Syrian Terms

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Thursday, 9 July 2009 9:30 PM EADT
Soldier's Housewife - the "Hussif"
Topic: AIF - Lighthorse

Soldier's Housewife

The "Hussif"


The Soldier's Housewife


At the commencement of the Boer War in 1899, Victorian troops were issued with an item known as the Soldier's Housewife or more commonly called "hussif". It comprised a small pack made of cotton and able to be rolled up, with contents consisting of some spare buttons, a couple of needles, some thread and other bits and pieces that soldiers used to make small repairs to the uniforms and kit.

The Soldier's Housewife was roughly sewn from a rectangle of fabric, with one pocket, a needle-rest, and calico tape ties. It was so versitile and ideal for its purpose and very long-lived. Rolled up, it measured approximately 5.5" by 4".

This was the first time in the Victorian military forces that the Soldier's Housewife was now standard issue for serving soldiers. Its use was obvious in repairing problems with clothing that needed repairing whilst in the field. It was a standard item in many armies and now it was finally part of the field equipment to be taken by the Victorian forces into battle.

The name attracted a great deal of attention amongst the newspapers of the time. Below is a cartoon from the Melbourne Punch using the term as a double entendre.


Cartoon from the Melbourne Punch, 12 October 1899, p. 353.


The transcription follows:

(The authorities have provided one housewife for each man." - News Item.)

Colonel - "Well, young woman, what do you want?"

Sweetheart of "equipped" Transvaal volunteer. - "What I want, it? Well I want five minutes with the 'Complete Housewife,' ye call her, that yer going to give my tarm!"


For the average soldier, it still survives in one form or another today.



Next: Australian Light Horse Regiments, AIF, Marching or Service Order Field Kit


Further Reading:

The Australian Light Horse, AIF, Contents


Citation: Soldier's Housewife - the "Hussif"

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Tuesday, 30 June 2009 10:30 PM EADT

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