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Tuesday, 3 November 2009
The Australian Light Horse, Light Horse Duties in the Field, Part 2, The Scouts of the Screen
Topic: AIF - DMC - Scouts

The Australian Light Horse,

Light Horse Duties in the Field, Part 2

The Scouts of the Screen


Light Horse Scout in the Sinai, 1916


The following essay called Light Horse Duties in the Field was written in 1912 by Major P. H. Priestley, who at that time was on the C.M.F. Unattached List. The article appeared in the Military Journal, March 1912.

Prior to that Priestley served in South Africa 1901-2 with the 5th South Australian Imperial Bushmen in Cape Colony and Orange River Colony and was awarded the Queen's South African Medal with four clasps. During the inter war years he served with the South Australian Mounted Rifles 1900 - 1910 when he was placed on the unattached list. At the outbreak of the Great War, he enlisted with the 3rd Light Horse Regiment and embarked with "A" Squadron. He was Killed in Action on 3 May 1918.

The following is a 3 part series of this article. A fourth part was attached as his article was critiqued by Major F. A. Dove, D.S.O., A. and I. Staff, in the  Military Journal, May 1912. Both articles give valuable insights in the basic thinking around the use of Light Horse scouts, detailing both theoretical ideas peppered with experience wrung from the recent war in South Africa.

Priestley, PH, Light Horse Duties in the Field, Military Journal, March 1912, pp. 171 - 185.


Light Horse Duties in the Field


(2) The Scouts of the Screen.

Since scouting is a duty of every day, scouts will usually be detailed fro," their troops by roster. It follows, however, that unless precautions are taken the scouting will vary according as the roster details the best men grouped in one or two sections or the worst grouped similarly. The precaution against this is to insist that each N.C.O. who is a section leader must be a good scout, so that his section is capable of good work though it may include indifferent men as well. Then if in the syllabus of competition for section leadership to lead the remaining sections of the troop the element of scouting largely prevails, it will follow that, each section is commanded by a good scout. Moreover, since this system selects the good scouts and divides them amongst the several sections as leaders, it follows that the indifferent scouts are also divided, and the scouting ability of the sections is approximately uniform.

Scouts in front of a troop ride with an interval of about a hundred or more yards between files.

A good scout will never waste time during the ascent of a rise he will let nothing attract his attention till he is on its summit.

When approaching a hill a scout should always select what part of it seems to offer the easiest ascent, and direct his path to it from a distance. Scouts ought not to ride in anything like a straight line, but as Lang as they are observing the whole of the ground allotted to them they should vary a hundred yards or so to either side, it does not matter if two are thus brought close together, it prevents a hidden enemy from forming any opinion as to whether or not a scout is likely to miss seeing him. Following an irregular line or path it is impossible, to say with any certainty which part of the hill he is about to cross.

The section should open out so that each scout ascends by a different path. It is not a matter of concern if they should lose sight of one another in doing so, as long as each is under the troop leader's eye.

When the hill is steep and rocky, so that it affords plenty of cover, the scouts may expect to draw fire, but may remember that such a hill has usually cover for them also if they need it. If the hill is precipitous a scout may know that it is almost impossible to fire straight downwards with anything like accuracy, and should consequently get as close to the cliffs as possible. Even on bare hills some cover may be expected. The minor watercourses are rarely so regular that they afford no protected approach to near the summit. Then again there is the dead ground of the contour. Every convexly sloped hill yields cover from its base to some distance up, and on concave slopes, dead ground may sometimes N' found near the summit. Usually the heads of minor watercourses provide dead ground near their origin, and consequently close to the summit of the hill.

A scout when doing duty with a picquet should notice the form of ground that is most easily watched, and note the minor features which need special attention. He will find that the general run of hills are convex, and that there are numerous minor watercourses running upwards that are entirely disregarded by a picquet on the crest, and there is the dead ground at the base. The picquet watches the opposite hill and the entrance to the dead ground between, but when once a scout has crossed to this dead ground he is lost sight of, and may approach unseen. This disappearance of scouts is very provocative of premature firing. The scouts being lost sight of there is no way of knowing where next they will appear, and their troop will be approaching over the skyline behind them. It is very unusual for fire to be reserved under such a combination of circumstances.

Scouts ascending a hill should make their objective that part of its crest which presents the lowest skyline. By doing this they so much the sooner see what is beyond it, as there is less climbing, they can expect to find that part at least unoccupied, as picquets usually hold the highest knolls, and their course to the toll or saddle leads them in the neighbourhood of the minor watercourses and the cover they afford, and moreover the approach to the skyline is less conspicuous at a distance as it will be under cover of the higher ground on both flanks.

The course of a scout up a minor watercourse of a hill leads him naturally to a saddle if one is present, and takes the fullest advantage of dead ground, even possibly between two picquet posts if they are at all badly situated with regard to convex slopes. No scout should ever ride up the spur to the highest point of a ridge or hill. The knolls and commanding positions are only to be attempted by scouts after inspection of the ground beyond.

A scout must always avoid showing himself over a skyline until he has seen beyond it himself. It is the only way to effect a surprise in the daytime. A useful hint to remember is this, that while he can see nothing over it, nothing can see him, and when he can just see an object the top of his head will be only visible. If he has seen something of importance while thus approaching a skyline, he can signal to his troop leader. It is beyond the duty of scouts in the screen to estimate the importance of what they see that there may be something unusual is all that concerns them. This may be illustrated by supposing that a scout can just see over the skyline a portion of a horse with a saddle on. That is why he signals to his troop leader; he would be exceeding his duty if he made any attempt to see anything further. A scout alone can do very little but see, and the duty of the troop leader is to gain information at first hand, not to commence an elaborate attack on a hill because his scouts can see something beyond it. So too it must be if a scout sees waggons or a gun crossing a distant skyline.

Once having seen the country over the skyline, the concealment of a scout becomes of less importance as the advance guard, supports, and the whole column will soon be crossing it. Then it is that the scouts of a troop may attend to the knolls and scan what is before them from the more commanding points. It is then that the men who compose the scouting section may close in and speak between themselves of the work done and to be done. There they may remain if the aspect is extensive till the troop leader reaches them, and receive his comments or instructions. This halting of scouts on commanding positions is very useful, as it assists in maintaining a closer touch between the scouts and the troop, and it gives the troop leader a greater control of the scouting.

As a rule scouts should avoid remaining in one place, but rather should be always on the move. Their work is not to hold a position, it is to see. It is very seldom that a knoll is such that a section of scouts grouped together can see everything around it from one spot. It is only by a habit of being always on the alert that a man will become a scout. Each movement will afford some difference in the field of view, and as a rule positions that command an appreciable space of country are rare. A scout who rides up to a skyline, and showing himself at once waits on the same spot till ho may proceed, is not doing his duty. He would probably be limiting his view to half* of what may have been possible to him. Moreover such a scout is one that an enemy would wait for. A scout when he has shown himself, and at the same time shown himself to be smart and alert, rives a watching enemy the impression that no good can ensue from waiting for him.

A scout will never ride over a skyline till his troop is at least ascending the hill he is on. This must on no account be varied. Scouts are of use only as long as they are seen, if out of sight they are out of touch. Once out of sight a scout may be ambushed and captured, while his troop follows him into the trap. Unless this is absolutely adhered to, each skyline as it is encountered presents the opportunity for an ambush, since each body in turn can be caught as it crosses and becomes out of touch with its support.

The ground between ridges should be rather hurried over, especially the descent, so that time is afforded the scouts to work the skylines properly. If waiting on a crest till the troop leader arrives, they recommence their advance at a gentle canter, there is no better way of varying the steady walk that is the usual pace of the column.

On the whole, scouts should move somewhat faster than their troops, on account of the greater extent off ground they have to cover. They should habitually adopt a rather haphazard direction in preference to riding straight on their objective. The best scouts when working appear to be wandering in an aimless manner from one hill to another, and yet remain approximately in front of their troops. Each seems to turn to his right or left as his fancy takes him, but he is examining all points of the ground. The scout who rides from point to point indicates his path for some distance ahead. Hoe will prove effective in drawing fire as the temptation to wait for him is usually too great.

A very useful pace for a scout is a jig-jog trot. A horse accustomed to this pace covers an enormous amount of country with little fatigue, and by changing it to a walk in ascending a hill the horse experiences a certain relief to counteract the uphill work. Moreover, a horse that is accustomed to this pace in screening work is less fatigued by the monotony of long marches in the main body at the one pace. Horses that are fast walkers or that amble are very useful, but others soon learn the jig-jog, and the movement becomes an easy one from use to both the horse and rider. What is known as the pace or triple, is also an excellent accomplishment for a scout's horse. These remarks do not, of course, apply to the trained horses of regular regiments.

When scouts encounter an isolated hill or the end of a prominent spur run ring across their path, they do not want to ride over it as much as to see what is beyond it. This is best done by certain of the party riding around it while the others deal with it in the usual way. Often a certain amount f co-operation between the scouts of two or more troops can be used in such a case as this.

Scouts must be continually on the alert for any change of direction on the part of their troops, and will frequently look back to observe such as soon as it occurs. Apart from the general question of touch, by making minor changes of direction which do not affect the general line taken a troop leader can indicate to his scouts what ground he wishes them to scout or avoid.

It may not infrequently occur that an almost precipitous hill lies at a distance to the flank of the route of march, so that rifle fire from it would reach the column at long range, and yet the location of the hill and difficulty attending its ascent seem to put it rather beyond the scope of the flank troops of the advance guard. In this case it will be a flank guard position, and does not need the attention of the advance guard. If the latter were to deal with it so much time would be expended that in all likelihood the column would be passing it with an opening in the screen caused by the delay of this troop of the advance guard.

The correct way to deal with it from the point of view of a flank troop of the advance guard is to avoid it by closing in to the centre troop so as to be under only long range fire from it. The scouts should seek protection of its cliffs by going close to it. They may in this way draw fire from it, but a downward fire from the summit would be of little consequence, while useful information in regard to its occupation may be obtained for the flank guard.

It sometimes happens that the flanking troop or scouts of an advance guard are working along the crest of a ridge that runs, almost parallel with the line of march and then curves away so as to become beyond the scope of the screen. In this case the scouts are apt to leave the ridge in a slanting direction parallel with the line of march By doing this they move for some distance under an unoccupied skyline, which is bad. The correct line for the scouts to work on would be to follow the crest of the hill for some distance further outside, and then leave it by galloping in a slanting direction in towards the column, but square with the crest of the ridge. In this way the scouts get clear of the ridge' at once on leaving it.

In ascending a ridge of similar nature that curves in towards the line of march the same plan should he followed. The scouts should turn outwards from the column so as to encounter it squarely, and will resume their interval with the column as the ridge approaches its line of march.

A scout should always bear in mind that the curve of trajectory affords safety, and that an enemy will as a rule never fire at a single man while there are larger targets available. Knowledge of those two points will often enable a scout to move confidently even under fire. The case especially occurs when some dead ground is covered from hostile rifle fire beyond it, and there is need to see if it is unoccupied or otherwise.

A valuable hint to a scout is that there is nothing more puzzling to an enemy who is watching him than to use his cover (that of the enemy) for concealment.

When a scout is using dead ground below the crest of a convex hill he is doing this, and the principle can be extended so that a scout expecting that he is being watched by an enemy behind an isolated knoll or patch of timber or a house may, by avoiding to show himself to that side of the cover which he believes to be occupied by the watching enemy, know that he is moving in dead ground.

Whenever the main body of the column halts the scouts will remain on the ground they occupy in front of the screening troops as observation posts, but if they happen to be with the troop on a commanding position there is no occasion for them to push out till shortly before the column resumes its march. Should the halt be for the purpose of camp, the scouts or observation posts will be recalled unless the local conditions at the time need an observation post in front of the picquet line of the camp. The object of this is to prevent the necessity of the scouts having to re-occupy any points they have previously abandoned, when the column moves on. If the scouts of the enemy see the post retiring, they are certain to occupy it at once in the search for information, and from this cause the re-occupation of an abandoned post is always uncertain work. This applies to the scouts of the advance and flank guards only, as the scouts or pointers of the rear guard do not hold their ground, but fall back on their troop. In the latter case a movement on the part of the column may not be expected to entail the reoccupation of the ground vacated.

The case of an attack being developed against a column which first opens against the scouts is worthy of attention. The scouting sections analogous to the observation posts of a picquet line are beyond the line of resistance, but unlike them are connected with a support which is mounted and ready for instant use. From this latter it occurs that the action of observation posts and scouting sections differ when attacked. With the former the supports, in addition to the picquet which must not move off its post and so is not available for the purpose, are at least dismounted and in camp. The time that would be needed to mount a force and move it to support a weak post in advance of the picquet line would afford the enemy such an interval that they could overcome the observation post if it waited for the purpose. Hence observation posts will retire on to the picquet line as being the line of resistance, and there assist the picquet to hold the ground till reinforcements arrive.

On the other hand with scouting sections the support necessary to push out beyond the line of resistance is available at an instant's notice, and local conditions should decide whether the scouts are to retire or to be supported by their troops. The control of the matter is however, under the troop leader. Scouts are allowed to dismount and fire only on condition that they are situated on an excellent commanding position and their firing is a signal to the troop leader that the position they occupy affords a field of fire on the enemy. It remains with the troop leader to use it or not. If he decides to use it he must move towards it as soon as he sees his own movement is supported, or will entail no loss of touch, so that the scouts can be made aware of his purpose. If, on the contrary, he will not go out to it, then his continuing the regular guard work will indicate to the scouts by his disregarding their action that they are to cease fire.

The latter case of a troop leader declining to move out to the ground the scouts hold applies to flank guards, especially because it is their duty to maintain a defence along the line of resistance parallel with the line of march. With this guard it is the exceptional case for a troop to move out beyond the screen, and is only to be done when the troop leader sees his squadron leader bringing up the supporting troop towards him, and if the position is obviously a simple one, that does not entail by its occupation the occupation of other ground in addition.

With the advance guard there is less option, but even though the principle of the work of this guard is to press on, some caution must be exercised. As a rule, whenever the scouts of an advance guard open fire their troops will push up to develop a firing line on the ground they hold, but even this must only be done while the troops continue in touch with their supports. If the troop leaders persistently follow their scouts every time they open fire, they will be apt to get so far ahead of their supports that the advance guard may be cut off, and thus afford the opportunity of that form of attack which is one of the most likely to be disastrous to a mounted column, the delivery of a surprise attack between the advance and flank guards on the guns and troops of the main body in column of route.

In the case of an attack on the scouts or pointers of the rear guard, there is to be no attempt made to hold a position; the scouts must retire.

The rule for scouts holding their ground when attacked becomes this, that they never attempt to do it unless supports are pushed out immediately on their opening fire. Beyond the instance of inferiority of numbers there is only one exception to this rule, and that occurs with the flank scouts of the flank troops of the rear guard. These, if well situated in respect to the rear troops of the flank guard, and in such touch with their troop that they become an extension of its firing line to that flank, will hold their ground. Their real duty is, however, not so much to increase the strength of the rifle fire, as to maintain a watch over movements of the enemy, so as to have early information of any attempt on his part to enfilade the firing line that the troop has established.


Previous: Part 1, Scouting for Troop Leaders

Next: Part 3, Scouts, Pointers, and Connecting Files of the Flank Guard


Further Reading:

Brigade Scouts

The Light Horse

Australian Light Horse Militia

Militia 1899 - 1920

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: The Australian Light Horse, Light Horse Duties in the Field, Part 2, The Scouts of the Screen

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
Updated: Thursday, 10 December 2009 10:25 PM EAST
The Battle of Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, 25 April 1915, New Zealand Field Company Engineers War Diary
Topic: BatzG - Anzac

The Battle of Anzac Cove

Gallipoli, 25 April 1915

New Zealand Field Company Engineers War Diary 


War Diary account of the New Zealand Field Company Engineers.


The following is a transcription of the War Diary of the New Zealand Field Company Engineers, of their role in the landings at Anzac on 25 April 1915.


25 April 1915

Port Mudros

9 am - On board HMT A26 Gostar. Left Port Mudros at 9 am arriving about 3 pm of beach between Kaba Tepe and Fisherman's Hut (Squares 224 G/L) where landing had been established this morning by ANZAC.

Gallipoli Peninsula

3 pm - 4 Officers and 14 Other Ranks landed at 6 pm leaving transport by destroyer at about 5 pm and disembarking into small boats close in to the beach. Captain Simon as MTO and Lieutenant Paine in charge of Drivers and Tools car - men left on transport.

6pm - midnight - making reserve trenches on Hill Square 224 L6-9.

26 April 1915

Midnight - 7am - Parties told off for making gun emplacements on both north and south flanks of landing beach.

7am - 6 pm - Bivouacked on hill (facing beach) 224 L1-L5. Shrapnel bombardment drove us out for about 2 hours to shelter on beach (224 L7)

Officer Commanding and party surveying for new road (224 L3-6) came under rifle fire and Captain McNeill wounded in leg. One man hit by bullet whilst in bivouac.

6 pm - Shifted bivouac to Square 224 G5.

7 pm - midnight - Now section making gun emplacements for Howitzers.


War Diaries

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 


Further Reading:

The Battle of Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, 25 April 1915

The Battle of Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, 25 April 1915, NZEF Roll of Honour

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: The Battle of Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, 25 April 1915, New Zealand Field Company Engineers War Diary

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
Updated: Friday, 16 April 2010 12:46 PM EADT
Monday, 2 November 2009
The Australian Light Horse, Light Horse Duties in the Field, Part 3, Scouts, Pointers, and Connecting Files of the Flank Guard
Topic: AIF - DMC - Scouts

The Australian Light Horse,

Light Horse Duties in the Field, Part 3

Scouts, Pointers, and Connecting Files of the Flank Guard


Light Horse Scout in the Sinai, 1916


The following essay called Light Horse Duties in the Field was written in 1912 by Major P. H. Priestley, who at that time was on the C.M.F. Unattached List. The article appeared in the Military Journal, March 1912.

Prior to that Priestley served in South Africa 1901-2 with the 5th South Australian Imperial Bushmen in Cape Colony and Orange River Colony and was awarded the Queen's South African Medal with four clasps. During the inter war years he served with the South Australian Mounted Rifles 1900 - 1910 when he was placed on the unattached list. At the outbreak of the Great War, he enlisted with the 3rd Light Horse Regiment and embarked with "A" Squadron. He was Killed in Action on 3 May 1918.

The following is a 3 part series of this article. A fourth part was attached as his article was critiqued by Major F. A. Dove, D.S.O., A. and I. Staff, in the  Military Journal, May 1912. Both articles give valuable insights in the basic thinking around the use of Light Horse scouts, detailing both theoretical ideas peppered with experience wrung from the recent war in South Africa.

Priestley, PH, Light Horse Duties in the Field, Military Journal, March 1912, pp. 171 - 185.


Light Horse Duties in the Field


(3) Scouts, Pointers, and Connecting Files of the Flank Guard.

Connecting files are always to be detailed for use between the advance troop of the flank guard and the flank troop of the advance guard, and between the rear troop of the flank guard and the flank troop of the rear guard. These may often appear to be useless on account of the closeness of touch between the troops in question, but if the occasion for their need arises it may be a very urgent one, and they should be either already in place or at least detailed to move out to it at the instant.

The connecting tiles between the advance troop and the flank of the advance guard will take their direction from their own troop, but will work so as to be relatively in the direction of the advance guard troop, and will divide the distance between the two troops, so that they ride midway between them. This provides that their troop leader knows from the distance he is behind them how far he is from the troop in front of them.

These connecting files though detailed to work between two troops must always be prepared to scout the ground in front of them. For this reason they should habitually move in open order extended to 25 yards between files. If they work at a greater interval they would be difficult of recognition! in their character of connecting files, if less it would be too small for their duty as scouts if the occasion arises. At any time a change of direction may cause the flank troop of the advance guard to gallop away from touch in front of the flank guard, and if scouts were not provided the front of that troop would be open until the change had been completed by that guard also.

Whenever the section detailed for this duty become scouts as in the above case, or when their troop is working outside the advance guard flank, they should open out, but will resume the lesser interval on regaining their place in rear of the advance guard troop. If men are trained to work in this method, the troop leader can see by a glance at the interval between his scouts or connecting files whether they are following the flank of the advance guard or not, and that is why a specific interval much less than that used by scouts is given for use here.

The connecting files detailed for duty from the rear troop of a flank guard should, as a rule, be used. When circumstances show them to be unnecessary they can ride in the troop though already detailed for instant use if the circumstances change.

There is no need for them to use a specific interval, as they will not be constantly under their troop leader's eye. He will expect them to send one man up to inform him if the rear guard is being delayed, and if it is apparent to them that such delay has not been noticed by him. Previous to making any increase in pace to lessen the distance between his troop and the centre one, the troop leader will always look back for the flank troop of the rear guard, and see how the purposed movement will affect them, and in doing so will see that his connecting files are sufficient for the purpose, or, if otherwise, will regulate hip: work so as to make them so.

The connecting files of the rear troop of the flank guard will work normally as if they were pointers to it, but will work in close touch with their flank troop of the rear guard, informing their troop leader by messenger if difficulty is occurring through the delay of the rear guard.

The scouts on the flanks of the flank troops of the advance guard rear guards and on the flanks of the flank guards, have slightly different work to perform than those in front of the advance guard troops, or those of the advance troops of the flank guards. Their duty is to ride on the flank at such an interval as to prevent a surprise attack being made from that direction, and to allow the; troops they cover time to prepare for any attack that may be impending.

A great point of difference between the two duties is that whip advance scouts have to look for a concealed enemy who has had time to prepare his position, the flanking scouts have only to watch for an attack developing. For this purpose they may ride at any distance from their troop, so that they have the ground constantly under observation up to 3,000 yards from it.

The distance from the troop usually is about 1,000 or 1,500 yards according to ground, but it is permissible for good scouts to considerably exceed this. The permissibility is afforded when, the line of resistance is a well-marked feature, and the troop moving along it has under its observation the ground up to long, if not distant range. The value of allowing this wide scouting consists in presenting the unexpected to an enemy near by.

By the time the flank guard of a column is passing a point a very good general idea of its line of march and frontage have been given to an enemy who has watched its movements in regard to that point. From this he can expect the line of safety to him to be a well indicated line at a regular distance outside the scouts of that flank guard. Having ascertained this line of safety he may make use of it by concealing hiss transport, guns, or troops in the ground beyond it with the intention of evading action with the column, so that he may press forward on a reconnaissance, or escape from a superior force, or confuse the brigadier's information as to his whereabouts. The knowledge of the position of this line of safety outside the flank guards of a column is valuable information to an enemy, and a flank scout pushed out beyond it is the unexpected that sometimes upsets calculations.

Scouts with the flank guards usually move either in single file with 50 or more ands distance between them, or in half sections equally open.

In a typical case of a flank guard working where it is moving along the crest of a ridge parallel to the line of march, the troop itself will be just under the skyline on the side towards the column while the scouts will be beyond it, but not so that they are not under the observation of the troop leader. It is here that the movement in half sections for the scouts gains the preference, as while the line of scouts is in touch with the troops the outer scouts of the half sections can direct their march so as to prevent dead ground being caused through convex slopes, since they are again beyond those watched by the hoop leader, and still in touch with them.

It may often happen, however, that the hollows between the ridges or hills may not be sufficiently wide to afford scouted ground to the required amount being obtained. A ridge running parallel with that occupied by the flank guard at about a thousand yards from it is too close to allow unscouted ground to exist beyond it, as rifle fire can be directed over the latter by aid of the curve of trajectory, so as to fall on the column itself. In this case it is correct for the flank guard to maintain its position on the line of resistance, that is the nearest skyline, and to push its scouts out on to the second.

As a general rule the work of a flank scout is such that he cannot be fired on at less than 1,000 or 1,500 yards, silica he should allow no unscouted ridge to be within that distance of him. It is not meant by this that the flank scouts have any important frontal scouting to do in obtaining this result, since the only flank scouts that have any frontal work at all to do are those on the flank troop of the advance guard and the advance troop of the flank guard when it is working outside the former, and though all positions these scouts encounter have to be considered also from a frontal point of view, as they are the first to cross them, yet they have bpi enfiladed previously by the advance of other scouts. Any body of the enemy that attempts to move up to fire at a closer range on a flanking scout should have to do so under the observation of the scout, and since the flank guard work is that of defence, such a body must be kept at a distance by establishing a danger zone in front of it.

It sometimes happens that the exposed flank of a guard is towards a wide valley, so that the country is under the observation of the troop leader himself for a distance of perhaps 3 or more miles. In this case the scouts should be drawn in close to the troop as they can do no good ay being out. They would nave been on lower ground than the troop leader, and would have been able to have seen even less than he could. Moreover, the less efficient the scouts happen to be, the more apt will they be in circumstances of this kind to venture out beyond support in the endeavour to see something. This does not of course apply where there may be dead ground from convex contours in the watercourses. It is an exception to this when good scouts are purposely pushed out to supply the enemy with the unexpected.

It is only thoroughly efficient scouts who should be so used, ' as they must depend on themselves only if they encounter the enemy, and must know in such a case that their horses' legs will prove of more use, than their rifles. For a troop leader to push his troop out to assist scouts who have been working badly is verb often only to involve it with them, as there will then be a whole troop instead of only its scouts that has to be withdrawn. The best assistance that can be sent to men in such a trouble is an order to retire at once.

Scouts who notice the sudden appearance and disappearance of hostile scouts between them and the horizon in apparently flat open country, must draw their troop leader's attention to it, and the facts must be outlined to the squadron leader immediately. The correct inference is that there is hollow ground, and that the enemy are in possession of it, but since there is no indication of whether the force in occupation is a small one or a large one, the whole guard should be warned to expect an attack.

This method of bringing up troops is especially suited for an attack against a flank guard, and in the methods of dealing with it be perhaps certain distinctive features of flank scouting.

The point of danger is usually to be found in a depression that curves in towards, or crosses the line of march, since this permits of bringing the force under cover the whole way up to the striking point. Especially dangerous is the entrance to such a lateral gully that has near it farm buildings or trees, as these become a pivot of manoeuvre for the attack.

Understanding the possibilities of open country, therefore, scouts will always watch carefully any hostile scouts who may be seen moving approximately parallel with them. Often members of a small force move in this way who are only taking advantage of open country to inflict a minor attack on a flank guard, if the opportunity is afforded by bad working, so that their presence in itself is no cause for unusual steps to be taken beyond increased watchfulness.

Often they are scouts watching the movements of the column for purposes of information only, but at any time they may work in closer and open fire on the scouts or the troop. This probability need cause the scout no anxiety, as long as he can see them mounted, for while mounted they are harmless. If he should see them halt or dismount, he should hasten to the nearest cover, from which he can watch them, as bullets usually follow on the dismounting. So, too, if they disappear he may expect fire, but this latter is more often cause for informing the troop leader of the circumstance, as the reappearance must be closely watched for. Such will usually be much nearer the scout than; the disappearance from sight.

The correct defence to this method of bringing up troops is to push the whole flank guard further out, so that if an attack is made it will occur at such a distance from the column that its forward momentum will be lessened if it passes the flank guard, and can be checked by the additional support sent out from the column. By creating a greater interval between the column and the first point of resistance more time is gained to detail and handle these supports, which is a matter of great importance, as an attack by troops brought up "along the donga" is often very rapidly developed.


Previous: Part 2, The Scouts of the Screen

Next: Part 4, A Criticism of the Article


Further Reading:

Brigade Scouts

The Light Horse

Australian Light Horse Militia

Militia 1899 - 1920

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: The Australian Light Horse, Light Horse Duties in the Field, Part 3, Scouts, Pointers, and Connecting Files of the Flank Guard

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
Updated: Thursday, 10 December 2009 10:24 PM EAST
The Battle of Daur, Mesopotamia, 2 November 1917, Contents
Topic: BatzM - Daur

The Battle of Daur

Mesopotamia, 2 November 1917



1st Australian Wireless Signal Squadron


Daur, an action fought in Mesopotamia on 2 November 1917, on the west bank of the Tigris River about 140 kilometres north of Baghdad, was brought about when the commander of the British expeditionary force, Lieut.-General Sir Stanley Maude, decided to move against the Turkish garrison of 4,500 men with twenty guns opposite Daur (or Ad Dawr). To spare the attacking troops from extreme daytime temperatures, a night approach was employed which entailed some units marching from up to 50 kilometres away. In an attempt to prevent an enemy withdrawal the same tactic used five weeks earlier against Ramadi (q.v.) wits followed, involving the cavalry division being sent out on a secret movement to sweep around the right flank of the Turkish position.


Mesopotamian operations.


Again, during this operation the cavalry was supported by the 1st Australian Wireless Signal Squadron which provided three radio stations. Some of the unit's motorbike mounted despatch riders were also used as guides for ten armoured cars employed during the night march. This time, however, the mounted troops lost direction slightly in the dark, bumped into the enemy they were trying to bypass and disclosed their presence. In the subsequent fighting, infantry of the 7th (Meerut) Division managed to capture two lines of trenches by 9.30 a.m., but the cavalry column was delayed and bombed from the air, with the result that the bulk of the enemy were able to retire into stronger defences at Tikrit fifteen kilometres further up the river. This position was also carried by the British three days later, but the Turkish 18th Corps was able to escape intact albeit after being forced to burn part of its stores.


Extracted from the book produced by Chris Coulthard-Clark, Where Australians Fought - The Encyclopaedia of Australia's Battles, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1998, pp. 136-137.


Additional References cited by Chris Coulthard-Clark:

C.E.W. Bean (1937) The Australian Imperial Force in France during the Main German Offensive, 1918, Sydney: Angus & Robertson.


Further Reading:

The Battle of Daur, Mesopotamia, 2 November 1917

The Battle of Daur, Mesopotamia, 2 November 1917, Roll of Honour

The Mesopotamia Campaign

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: The Battle of Daur, Mesopotamia, 2 November 1917, Contents

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
Updated: Saturday, 13 November 2010 12:23 PM EAST
Sunday, 1 November 2009
The Battle of Khuweilfe, Palestine, 1 - 8 November 1917, Baly Account
Topic: BatzP - Khuweilfe

The Battle of Khuweilfe

Palestine, 1 - 8 November 1917

Baly Account


The following is extracted from the book written by Lindsay Baly called Horseman, Pass By,  Chapter 13, Khuweilfe barrier and Kauwukah breakthrough.

Unknown to the British, the Turkish Army was in disarray owing to divided counsels, uncertainty in its aims and irresolution in its actions. Rations, clothing and munitions were not flowing and a chronic haemorrhaging of deserters wasted the front line. The German General von Falkenhayn, in Fall's estimation one of the greatest soldiers of the war, was at dangerous odds with Djemal Pasha, the tempestuous Turkish Commander-in-Chief who resented German interference. In his eyes, they were to provide technical assistance in aircraft, gunnery, transport and communications and no more, and he made an ostentatious point of ignoring German strategic advice. Djemal ran Palestine like a despotic potentate and sybarite of old, and a Turkish major general remarked to the German von Kressenstein, 'Now we shall go hungry because Djemal will have no interest in feeding us'.

In spite of all this the Turkish Army after Beersheba summoned a creditable defence. There was less throwing down of arms and begging for mercy and more of the dogged rifleman who, having dug a trench to his liking was not about to give it up.

The effect of this resistance on the British plan was that the envisaged 'rolling up' of the Turkish left flank from Beersheba towards Gaza by the mounted men did not take place. Instead, there was a series of chequerboard actions for the next week around Tel el Khuweilfe, a Turkish strongpoint with good water ten miles north of Beersheba. What influenced von Falkenhayn to fight here was the seizure of some high ground overlooking the Hebron road by Arab irregulars under a British officer. Falkenhayn was convinced they were Chauvel's advance guard and deployed six Turkish battalions against them. The Arabs fought well and their eventual surrender was dearly bought.

The British then had to tackle the enemy who still held Khuweilfe. This was rough, dry country and the summer lingered on with intense heat and a three-day khamsin. There was no water to be had beyond Beersheba and the infantrymen, Yeomanry and Light Horse had to march and fight on one water bottle in 36 hours, and the horses on nothing - they would not eat past the early stages of thirst - until they could be brought out of action and back to Beersheba, twelve to fifteen miles away.

Tel el Khuweilfe commanded the country to both west and east, and would therefore menace the British infantry and mounted troops when they struck at the Hareira and Nejile redoubts in the rolling-up process. On the other hand, its capture by the British would leave the Turkish left flank in the air.

The 8th Mounted Brigade of Sherwood Rangers and South Notts Hussars and the 8th Light Horse Regiment (which was under the mistaken impression it would be deployed for only one day and did not draw rations) advanced directly up the valley to three miles below the enemy stronghold.

Brigadier General JT Wigan considered a bold frontal attack offered the best chance of success and sent a squadron of the 8th Light Horse at it at the gallop. The squadron got to within 800 yards before it was forced into cover on its left by heavy fire. It was later joined by the rest of the 8th Regiment. After nightfall, Wigan endeavoured to link up the Yeomanry regiments with the Light Horse, but the Sherwoods could not go forward.

All night the 8th was under heavy machine-gun and rifle fire, but with good cover in the rocks, suffered little. At dawn, the enemy was discovered in strength much closer, within 200 to 300 yards of the Australians, who had now been 24 hours without food and had exhausted their water on the previous day

The commitment expanded. The 53rd Infantry Division and Cox's 1st Light Horse Brigade advanced on the feature and Cox's 1st Regiment seized a ridge on its right, but there they were pinned down and isolated all day, suffering heavy casualties. Many officers were killed and one squadron was left with a sergeant in command. The Turks deliberately fired on ambulance cans sent in to collect the 1st's wounded in a gross breach of their previously honoured convention. A Turkish prisoner said this was at the instigation of Germans, who claimed the ambulance carts would be carrying ammunition.

Soon after the 1st Regiment's advance, Brigadier General 'Fighting Charlie' Cox took over the forward area, including the ridge called Ras el Nagb, from the Yeomanry and the 8th Light Horse came under his command. The Yeomanry were withdrawn but Cox ordered the 8th to hold on at all costs. The 8th endured and fought back until their ammunition was exhausted.

At 11 am the enemy launched a rare counterattack, but Cox dispersed it with the 2nd and 3rd Regiments. In two hours, fresh British regiments began to arrive and the 5th Mounted took over at Ras el Nagb. Elements of the 53rd Division marched up from the south-west and at 4 PM the British took over the whole line.

These rotations, a trial in themselves, where necessary for men and horses to be watered at Beersheba. The long-suffering 8th Light Horse arrived at Beersheba at 10 PM and their desperate horses heaved and struggled for the water troughs and their first drink in 39 hours. Many men drank too much, suffering the consequences of severe diarrhoea.

During the action at Khuweilfe, Ryrie's 2nd Brigade was vainly trying to break through from the east. The country was just as strewn with rocks and ridges over which men and horses could only pick their way and the Turks, on higher ground, had the advantage. Over two days, Ryrie tried three times to turn the Turks' flank, but the terrain, lack of water, shortage of supplies and ammunition, and constant enemy shell fire in which time after time the led horses were searched out and fired on, indicating Bedouin cooperation with enemy artillery, all conspired to frustrate the brigade. The truth was, it was being worked to exhaustion. Recognising this, Chauvel intervened to say the main object should be to guard the flank rather than advance and that Ryrie should just hold the line. The last of some rain puddles from an October thunderstorm dried out and Ryrie had to march back to Beersheba after a most strenuous and frustrating operation.

In the centre, on 6 November, Chetwode was to assault the Kauwukah Trench System, a typically labyrinthine Turkish gallery protecting the Hareira and Sheria redoubts, with three divisions of infantry. This plan also provided for the 53rd Division to capture Khuweilfe simultaneously.

The New Zealand Brigade had relieved the 1st Light Horse Brigade at Khuweilfe just as 2000 Turks attacked the Yeomanry on Ras el Nagb. The Yeomanry held them off until nightfall, when they were relieved by the Canterbury Regiment. The New Zealanders' orders were to hold their ground while the 53rd Division attacked Khuweilfe from the south-west again. The 53rd had suffered much for no gain, except to serve and to augment the flow of Turks from Gaza to the Beersheba operation.

A quiet night of the 5th ended with two hours of Turkish bombardment and an advance against the Canterburys at dawn. The Wellingtons went to their support, the enemy was stopped and there was no further action that day But in the evening, the NZ Brigade had to return to Beersheba for water: they had been unable to complete watering before setting out, owing to congestion and insufficient flow at Abraham's Wells.

The Camel Brigade took over their line, less its 3rd Battalion (Australian), temporarily attached to the 53rd Division. Its task was to follow close in rear of the 53rd's advance and occupy Khuweilfe's commanding hill once it was captured.

The 158th Brigade of the 53rd Division set off before dawn on the 6th, unfortunately short of one battalion that had not arrived in time. The Hereford Battalion was ordered to close this gap in the line, but in attempting this movement they lost direction and turned a full circle to the left. The Camel Battalion, which had been following the Herefords, kept to the line of march and with daylight found themselves in utter isolation, with Tel el Khuweilfe looming ominously ahead. To Lieutenant Colonel N. de Lancey Forth's alarm, the Camels would obviously attract annihilating fire and he moved to cover behind a spur just as the Turks swept the open ground with machine-guns. At the same time, some 200 of the Herefords in the open were targeted: they lost all their officers and fell back in confusion on the left of the Camels, in the process abandoning to the enemy part of the ridge behind which the Australians sheltered. It was clear that unless the Herefords held that part of the ridge, the Camels would have to retreat from their part. Lieutenant E.W Dixon with about 30 men rushed to meet the retreating infantry and, waving his hat, stemmed the confusion and turned them under heavy fire back onto the ridge, where they then held steadfastly. Later in the day, they repulsed a Turkish attempt to envelop them, at the same time saving the Camels from encirclement and likely disaster.

But from every approach, the Camels were still taking shrapnel, machine-gun and rifle fire and Forth asked for assistance. His official report says: 'At about 10 o'clock, representations were made by the 3rd Battalion to the General Officer Commanding the 158th Brigade for the infantry to come up and drive the Turks off the ridge ... to the left rear, and over which the infantry held commanding ground. This, for reasons unknown, they were not ordered to do; but the 2nd Light Horse Brigade's machine-gun squadron were ordered to gallop up a little valley commanded by the Turks ... They charged in a very gallant manner and at once came under murderous machine-gun and shrapnel fire, but ... led by Captain Cain, reached their objective ... They rushed their guns up the hill within forty yards of the Turks, and, although the teams were shot down almost to a man, their very gallant action caused the Turks to pause and gave the 3rd Battalion breathing time to size up their position.'

The machine-gun squadron maintained their precarious hold and their fire, along with the Camel Battalion's, all through the day, repelling repeated Turkish counterattacks that threatened to sweep them, and the 53rd Division's leading elements beside them, off their ground.

Shortly before dawn on the 7th, the machine-gunners were withdrawn, but the fire fights resumed with daylight, Turkish close-range sniping especially taking a severe toll. The action was deadlocked, with the Camels and 53rd units unable to move, and the Turks held at bay At 3 PM, accurate artillery fire was brought to the support of the 53rd, enabling a general advance to be mounted towards evening. All troops had been marching and fighting for over 36 hours, but summoned their last reserves to attack determinedly. The Camels rushed the slopes of Khuweilfe with bayonets and hand grenades, and after brief resistance the Turks fled the grim mound. The 53rd went forward until darkness checked them. The night was tense but quiet, and in the morning it was found that the Turks, whose front had been comprehensively breached by Chetwode at Kauwukah, had abandoned all the Khuweilfe fortifications.

Khuweilfe was a piecemeal, reactive action. It seemed small scale, undeserving of proper plans and systematic reduction, yet the pinprick became a consuming canker that wore down and mauled three divisions for six days. Beersheba, from the time Brigadier General Grant got his orders to the fall of the town, took less than an hour.

The Khuweilfe operations dashed Allenby's hope of an early breakthrough and pursuit, yet in the sense that it did draw the enemy away from Gaza in strength, it contributed very much to victory. And despite the lack of an overall operational plan, no theorist has yet conjured any one that would have served well.

In the final action, the 53rd Division suffered the heaviest pro rata casualties. The 3rd Camel Battalion lost 22 men killed and 54 wounded, and Captain Cain's machine-gun squadron eight men killed and nineteen wounded.



Further Reading:

The Battle of Khuweilfe, Palestine, 1 - 8 November 1917

The Battle of Khuweilfe, Palestine, 1 - 8 November 1917, Roll of Honour

The Third Battle of Gaza, Palestine, 26 October 1917 - 2 January 1918

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: The Battle of Khuweilfe, Palestine, 1 - 8 November 1917, Baly Account

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
Updated: Monday, 8 November 2010 1:11 PM EAST

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