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Monday, 23 November 2009
The Australian Light Horse, Militia and AIF, Mounted Rifle Tactics, Part 6, Protection
Topic: AIF - Lighthorse

The Australian Light Horse,

Militia and AIF

Mounted Rifle Tactics, Part 6, Protection


Cape Mounted Rifleman

[Drawing from 1904 by Richard Caton Woodville, 1856 - 1927.]


The following series is from an article called Mounted Rifle Tactics written in 1914 by a former regimental commander of the Cape Mounted Riflemen, Lieutenant-Colonel J. J. Collyer. His practical experience of active service within a mounted rifles formation gives strength to the theoretical work on this subject. It was the operation of the Cape Mounted Riflemen within South Africa that formed the inspiration for the theoretical foundations of the Australian Light Horse, and was especially influential in Victoria where it formed the cornerstone of mounted doctrine. 

Collyer, JJ, Mounted Rifle Tactics, Military Journal, April, 1915, pp. 265 - 305:


Mounted Rifle Tactics.


Definition - On the march - Advanced guards - Rear guards - In action - Halted -Reconnoitring patrols - Groenkop, 1901 - Standing patrols - Moving protective patrols. Safety of patrols.

"Every commander is responsible for the protection of his command against surprise." (Field Service Regulations.) Surprise, the most valuable aid to all military operations, and employed by every great military captain to the fullest extent, is aimed at by a good commander to enhance the value of his action against the enemy, and is anticipated by him, and guarded against, so that his adversary's attacks may not find him unprepared.

"Protection" is the name given to the measures which a commander adopts to save his force from surprise at the hands of his opponent. This protection is necessary on the march, in action, and when halted, when forces are employed on service against an enemy. We may perhaps best discuss protection under the conditions stated above.

It may at once be stated that the most satisfactory, and safest, protection that a commander can insure for his troops, in any circumstances, is that which is procured by a full knowledge of the whereabouts, strength, and movement of the enemy. In fact, as Field Service Regulations assert, "If an enemy is so continuously watched that he can make no movement without being observed, surprise will be impossible."

I do not propose to deal with the composition or formation of the various bodies designed to undertake the duty of protection-such details are contained in training manuals-but to confine myself to a discussion of certain principles connected with their employment.


Protection on the March -

Protection by day on the march will be the duty of the mounted troops, whose mobility and power of covering long distances enable them to do such work. The duty is arduous, calculated to impose much strain on those occupied with it, and physically exhausting to man and beast. I think it well to mention what may perhaps seem too Obvious to call for reference, for although the horse soldier is well aware of what is involved by the demands which are made from him and his mount on such work, those who do not belong to a mounted arm are often inclined to overlook the amount of energy which has been expended by the mounted troops, especially when the question of protection when halted has to be faced. This I will consider in its proper place, but it is well to insist that in the matter of protection each arm should do its share in the circumstances which suit it best, and that no effort should be spared to maintain the mobility of the mounted troops by employing the infantry whenever conditions are such that they can do their portion. By always sparing his mounted troops when he can do so without detriment to his plans, a commander may rely upon their full energies being put into the highly important duties which they alone can undertake.


Advanced Guards -

The duty of an advanced guard is to protect the main body from the moment the march of the latter begins. The commander of the advanced guard must know certain details, and must not enter upon the task without obtaining them. He must know all that is known of the situation as regards the enemy, the strength of the force which he himself is to command, and what his own commander proposes to do.

The progress of his command is regulated by the pace maintained by the main body, and by the fact that he is responsible for keeping a given distance ahead of it. This distance will, of course, be decided by the nature of the country and the tactical situation, and by the fact that the duty of the advanced guard is to protect the main body from surprise. In broken, hilly country the need for communication and the possibility of intervention by the enemy, and his capture of good positions, will necessitate far less distance between the advanced guard and its main body than will be required if the country is open, the view extensive, and commanding positions few.

The action of an advanced guard when the enemy is encountered will depend to a large extent upon the intentions of the commander of the force which it is protecting, and whether attack is to be regarded as a part of his scheme when contact with the enemy is established. If immediate offensive action has been decided upon, the first duty of the commander of the advanced guard will be, as it were, to prepare a field of battle for his main body, which is approaching, by seizing positions which will aid the attack. If the offensive is not to be the immediate object when the enemy is encountered, as good a reconnaissance as can be effected should be undertaken to enable the commander of the force to decide upon his line of action.

We have discussed the action of mounted riflemen in the advance, under attack, and there is only one other point to which I need allude here. It is, I gather, much debated, and involves somewhat important principles.

In the Field Service Regulations the practice of dividing a force into several columns and marching on a broad or narrow front is mentioned. Though such a division of force will not involve in South Africa the breaking up of such large masses as are contemplated in Field Service Regulations, it may well occur, as it almost invariably does, that a division into smaller columns for purposes of the march will be made in the case of our own South African forces in war.

As the regulations say, when at a distance from the enemy, the columns march on a broad front, and each should provide for its own protection, but, as the enemy is approached, unity of action is essential, and one advanced guard, common to all the columns, is preferable. It is enough here to say that a common advanced guard is only possible when the same commander is in actual command of the whole force in its divided condition, and that, as soon as any column is allotted an independent task, or leaves the control of the commander of the whole force, it must provide for its own protection. The intervals between the columns will have much influence in deciding this question, but these intervals cannot be laid down, as the tactical situation and considerations of terrain - both very variable factors - must settle the point.

Flank guards may be necessary, and will be found by the mounted troops, but there are no special points as to the tactics which they should adopt which seem to call for discussion.


Rear Guards -

Of the duties of protection which fall to the lot of mounted troops, those connected with rear guards present the most special features. I do not propose to touch upon the action of rear guards of forces advancing against an enemy, for their work is mainly concerned with collecting stragglers, helping on transport, and generally assisting the orderly conduct of the march, apart from tactical considerations, but to discuss the action of such bodies when covering retreats.

This task is trying and exhausting to a degree, and entails great responsibility and strain upon the commander of the force which is charged with it. The main object of the efforts of such a force is to insure the retreat of a body of troops-perhaps a beaten one, in which case its duties are even more exacting-in good order, free from serious damage by the enemy, and under conditions which will enable it to sustain its moral, or regain it if it has been shaken. It must fight, but always with the power of extricating itself and breaking off an engagement. Mounted riflemen, by their mobility, are best able to secure these favorable conditions.

The mobility of a rear guard of mounted riflemen is its chief source of strength in such circumstances. The enemy must be made to deploy and prepare for attack as often as possible. He must be deceived and bluffed as to the strength opposed to him, and this can be effected by the occupation of positions which render it difficult for him to turn the flanks, and ascertain the real state of affairs. His own flanks must be the constant concern of the rear guard commander, and, these secured, a bold attitude must be adopted to impose on the enemy, and the rear guard must deliver counter-attacks which, though sufficiently vigorous to check the enemy and impose upon him, must not be pushed too far.

Communication with the retiring main body must be maintained, and the line of withdrawal and the new position must be carefully reconnoitred before leaving that from which the enemy is being engaged. The line of retreat decided upon, a retirement must be effected before any superiority of the enemy becomes effective, but it must be delayed until the last moment in which it is possible to occupy his energy without detriment to the force opposing him. The mode of withdrawal we have considered in an earlier chapter.

Boldness, resource, and a control of the immediate tactical situation, in circumstances which often render the last condition a matter of extreme difficulty, are necessary to an effective employment of a rear guard. It may be necessary to accept as inevitable the annihilation, or, in any case, the severe handling of a rear guard occasionally, in order to gain time.


In Action -

Protection is necessary while a fight is in progress, but as it is mainly a feature of the general tactics of the attack or defence, as the case may be, it does not seem necessary to make any comments in this connexion here, beyond stating that the free employment of mounted riflemen on the flanks, and in well-controlled reconnaissance, is, generally speaking, the surest way of guarding against surprise, by gaining as clear an idea as possible of the situation before entering the combat, and by forestalling the efforts of the enemy while the fight is in progress by watching his movements.


Halted -

The protection of a force halted, when hostile action is to be expected, calls for different measures. It will be arranged for by a combination of mounted troops and infantry by day, and as far as the actual protection by tactical arrangements by night is concerned, it will be undertaken by dismounted troops-though troops mounted may be used at night if the situation demands it.

It must, however, be remembered that usually the mounted troops will have furnished protection during the day, and that night should be taken advantage of to give horses, at any rate, and, if possible, their riders, rest to fit them to resume their arduous work on the following day. When halted, not a single horse should be used unless the necessity for using it can be plainly justified on the score of absolute need.

The duties of mounted riflemen, for purposes of protection by day, will be practically devoted to reconnaissance, either by reconnoitring patrols, or by observation from small posts of mounted men conveniently placed to watch all likely approaches at some distance from the main body, which, by reason of their power of rapid movement, they can regain quickly. The resistance to be offered by the outposts will be the duty of the dismounted troops again-mounted riflemen on foot or, when the force is mixed, infantry.

Nightfall, however, changes the situation, and the small detached bodies of mounted men can no longer take advantage of their situation for observation purposes, and since, without the power of observation, they are useless and helpless, they must be withdrawn. As I have said, mounted troops should not be employed mounted at night, unless the situation imperatively demands the step. Night provides the careful commander with the chance of recuperation for exhausted men and horses who have been hard at work all day.

The outposts are furnished by dismounted mounted men or infantry, and the employment of mounted troops at night should be restricted to reconnoitring patrols, standing patrols, and what I may perhaps call moving protective patrols. They should all be used sparingly, and only in view of definite circumstances.


Reconnoitring Patrols -

A reconnoitring patrol by night to move towards the enemy, locate him, and watch and report his movements is by far the most effective method of protection at night by mounted riflemen, and should always be employed if conditions seem favorable to good results. The South African Mounted Riflemen Training, 1912, and the British Imperial Yeomanry and Mounted Rifle Training, 1912, say a reconnoitring patrol should be "generally under a non-commissioned officer." It seems to me that the great importance of the work justifies the selection of an office rand an officer specially chosen-for the command of any enterprise of this nature, if it is possible to obtain him.

This method of seeking out the enemy, marking him down, watching him, and dogging his movements is the most effective protection which can be devised, and should be resorted to by mounted riflemen whenever they are halted. In South Africa the large open expanses of country, and facilities for extended observation, aid the safety and escape of small patrols most materially, and reconnaissances should always be pushed far ahead and at distances from their main body, which, it must be allowed, would be impossible where close and broken country restricts the view and favours ambushes. Add to the favorable features of the country the fact that it is the South African troops' own country, and reconnaissances pushed far and wide should be a weighty factor in the successful employment of those troops in war.

The episode of Groenkop in the last war in South Africa is one of the most instructive which can be studied. On the evening of 24th December, 19011 the following British troops were between Bethlehem and Elands River Bridge:-At Mooimeisjes Rust, 270 infantry, 60 mounted infantry, and 1 gun; at Tradouw, 150 infantry; and at Groenkop, 400 Yeomanry and 2 guns. Each of these forces was within three miles of the other two. The Imperial Light horse were at Elands River Bridge, thirteen miles to the east. The Yeomanry had been at Groenkop since the 21st of the month - four days. Beyond one short ride by a small party and an expedition to Tweefontein Farm, three miles away, where a hostile observation post daily kept the camp at Groenkop under its eyes, no reconnaissance whatever was undertaken by this force of 400 mounted men during its occupation of Groenkop, and the hostile observation post was left free to continue its investigations after its temporary ejectment.

As a direct consequence of this passive attitude, a force of the enemy - some 1,000 - was collected at Tyger Kloof Spruit, eight miles north of Groenkop on the night of the 24th, though the intelligence reports had stated on the same day that only 70 of them were within striking distance. Careful reconnaissance during the two or three preceding days had assured the attacking force of the exact dispositions with which they had to reckon, with the result that Groenkop was stormed at 2 o'clock on Christmas morning, and captured in a short space of time-the last shot being fired one hour and a quarter later-with a loss to the defending force of 58 killed, 84 wounded, and 206 prisoners. The retirement of the attacking force was then conducted practically without molestation, with all captured waggons and stores.

As an instance of thorough reconnaissance resulting in striking success, and omission to reconnoitre freely being punished by severe defeat, Groenkop is well worth study.


Standing Patrols -

A standing patrol is a small party sent beyond the outposts, usually by night, which conceals itself near a possible line of approach to give warning of an enemy's advance. Such a patrol should not be sent out unless it is perfectly clear that its employment is necessary, in view of definite information. It is said to be useful because the horses do not move about, and therefore are not much fatigued. They are, however, under the saddle, and get little more rest than if they were moving, and, except when circumstances indicate beyond a doubt that a standing patrol is necessary, reconnoitring patrols by night mean little more real fatigue to the men and horses, and should give far better results.


Moving Protective Patrols -

And now with reference to what I have called moving protective patrols, as distinguished from reconnoitring patrols.

At Groenkop the attack was delivered on the steepest side of the hill, where the storming party massed in dead ground, out of sight of the sentries.

It would have been impossible to do this without alarming the defenders if the base of the hill had been constantly patrolled by small mounted parties during the night. It is such parties that I refer to as moving protective patrols. If there is dead ground which cannot be kept under the observation of the sentries and fire of the piquets, and in which a force may mass under cover of darkness, it should be kept under watch by incessant patrolling by small mounted parties throughout the night.

It is also sometimes necessary to hold positions during the night which are sometimes widely separated-more widely than one could wish, taking into consideration the force at one's disposal. To arrange that fire should cover the intervening space is not enough, unless warning is also given that the enemy is likely to pass through; this, again, may be given by the same moving protective patrols, and instances where such patrols might be of use will no doubt occur to many.


Safety of Patrols -

In concluding this subject of protection, I wish to refer to a method of safeguarding a position when a small force is concerned. Reconnoitring patrols of mounted riflemen will usually be of little strength, for the nature of the work demands that they should be weak in numbers to escape detection. Such small parties are frequently compelled to halt for a night within striking distance of the enemy, and how to protect his little force against surprise and capture is a constant source of anxiety to its commander. He is often compelled to bivouac where the possession of some commanding feature means safety or destruction to his command, according as it is in his own possession or that of the enemy. In such circumstances, sleeping on the position they are to defend is the safest method of protection. If each man sleeps where he will fight if attacked, it will mean that he has only to turn over, grasp his rifle, take advantage of the presence of cover he has prepared overnight, and defend ground which he knows to be essential to his safety, and which he has taken notice of before going to sleep. The necessary sentries should be posted, of course. Unless this precaution is adopted, the position may be rushed, and confusion among men suddenly awakened and flustered will result in capture.


Previous: Part 5, Defence 

Next: Part 7, Night Operations 


Further Reading:

The Light Horse

Australian Light Horse Militia

Militia 1899 - 1920

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: The Australian Light Horse, Militia and AIF, Mounted Rifle Tactics, Part 6, Protection

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
Updated: Thursday, 10 December 2009 8:38 AM EAST
The Battle of Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, 25 April 1915, Auckland Infantry Battalion Roll of Honour
Topic: BatzG - Anzac

The Battle of Anzac Cove

Gallipoli, 25 April 1915

Roll of Honour

Auckland Infantry Battalion

Poppies on the Auckland Cenotaph plinth


The Roll of Honour contains the names of all the men from the Auckland Infantry Battalion who are known to have served and lost their lives during the Battle of Anzac, 25 April 1915.


Roll of Honour


William Eric ANDERSON, Auckland Infantry Battalion.


Frederick Hugh DODSON, Auckland Infantry Battalion.

William Evelyn Francise FLOWER, Auckland Infantry Battalion.

Leonard Richard GRIMWADE, Auckland Infantry Battalion.

Langley MANNING, Auckland Infantry Battalion.

Charles Albert MATTHEWS, Auckland Infantry Battalion.


Wilmett Napier PHILSON, Auckland Infantry Battalion.


Frederick John WILLIAMS, Auckland Infantry Battalion.


Lest We Forget


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, Auckland Infantry Battalion Roll of Honour

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
Updated: Tuesday, 13 April 2010 10:09 AM EADT
Sunday, 22 November 2009
The Australian Light Horse, Militia and AIF, Mounted Rifle Tactics, Part 7, Night Operations
Topic: AIF - Lighthorse

The Australian Light Horse,

Militia and AIF

Mounted Rifle Tactics, Part 7, Night Operations


Cape Mounted Rifleman

[Drawing from 1904 by Richard Caton Woodville, 1856 - 1927.]


The following series is from an article called Mounted Rifle Tactics written in 1914 by a former regimental commander of the Cape Mounted Riflemen, Lieutenant-Colonel J. J. Collyer. His practical experience of active service within a mounted rifles formation gives strength to the theoretical work on this subject. It was the operation of the Cape Mounted Riflemen within South Africa that formed the inspiration for the theoretical foundations of the Australian Light Horse, and was especially influential in Victoria where it formed the cornerstone of mounted doctrine. 

Collyer, JJ, Mounted Rifle Tactics, Military Journal, April, 1915, pp. 265 - 305:


Mounted Rifle Tactics.


Authorities as to importance - Reconnaissance - Training - Night movements (tactical) - Rests - Pace - Supervision - Information - - Secrecy - Order of march - Night combats - Difficulties - Small raids -Important points -Encounter combats - Summary.

Night operations have been a feature of every protracted military enterprise since the time of Gideon, who succeeded with a small force in beating his enemies by the device of the lamps and pitchers. Wellington said that 49 night attacks upon good troops are seldom successful "; but he was compelled to attack strong fortresses at night in the Peninsula to obtain important results. Lord Wolseley has written that "night attacks can only be attempted when the attacking army is highly disciplined and well led by tactically well-instructed officers," and has recorded his belief that the army " which is first able to manoeuvre at night will gain brilliant victories." Comparatively recent events in the Far East go far to corroborate his statement. Field-Marshal Sir John French, summing up after a lecture on the subject at Aldershot, said:-

"Proficiency in the practice of night operations is an absolute essential to the successful conduct of war as it is to-day. If, of two forces, one is trained in the performance of night operations, and the other is not, the former will have an enormous advantage over the latter."

We must, therefore, accept capacity to work during night as a condition indispensable to any force properly trained for war. Effective night work will, as a rule, be based on efficiently performed reconnaissance, which, as I have already said, is one of the chief duties of mounted troops. This makes it necessary that leaders of mounted troops should be aware, not only of the correct mode of employing their own arm at night, but that they should have a good knowledge of night operations as they affect every arm of the military service.

We find, in reference to night operations, by those best qualified to express an opinion, a distinct note of warning as to difficulties which may be anticipated in their performance. Each of the remarks which I have quoted above clearly indicates the opinion of its author that certain favorable conditions must be obtained to make night operations effective.

It may be suggested that the South African Forces, especially the mounted troops, will, by the circumstances of their every-day life, be well fitted to work at night. Those accustomed to the veldt may perhaps be especially well able to find their way about by night as well as by day, but, as I have said, a more general civilization is depriving the citizen soldier of many of the advantages in a military sense possessed by his forbears, and I wish to quote again the words of a famous general of the Republican Forces, when he said with regard to his preparations for a night march of six miles with 600 mounted men, "it cost me considerable thought to arrange everything satisfactorily." Therefore the need for special training exists, and must be met.

The citizen troops of South Africa must be trained to meet possibilities, and he would be a bold man who would say that South Africa will not need to employ troops in comparatively large bodies in certain eventualities. In discussing any military operations as possibly to be performed by the troops of South Africa, we must take into consideration columns of more than 500 or 600 mounted men, and be prepared to handle forces containing; some infantry and in bodies of some considerable size.

The larger and more varied in composition a force is, the more difficult it becomes to control and move it, and what may perhaps be a perfectly simple movement to arrange with a small column composed of troops of one arm, becomes a far more complicated business when numbers increase and several different arms have to be dealt with.

The term “night operation” is correctly applied to any military operation which can be carried out at night, and covers a wide field, and I propose to confine myself to night movements and night combats.


Night Movements -

I do not wish to deal with ordinary night marches, which have no tactical consideration to govern our discussion. I propose to consider only those movements which contemplate a definite action against an enemy, or during which an encounter with an enemy may take place. A night march of the first kind is probably undertaken to reach a given spot at a given time, and then to take up a previously chosen position with the object of fighting the enemy, either by attacking him, or frustrating his advance. If we study instances of night marches, u e shall find that previous reconnaissance of the route is by far the most satisfactory method of providing for them, but, of course, this may not be possible, and then reliance must be placed on guides, or the route must be determined, and then followed on the map with the aid of the compass or stars.

It must be accepted that if the ground to be traversed is difficult and intricate, unless a complete reconnaissance has been carried out or some one with sound military knowledge is available to guide the force, the venture will most probably fall short of a successful issue, as a result of not knowing the whole ground thoroughly.

“Every commander who orders a night operation, which is not preceded by a complete reconnaissance, increases the risk of failure and incurs a heavy responsibility." (Field Service Regulations.)

A night march is always in many respects more exhausting than one in the daytime, very largely because the strain and uncertainty act through the nerves on the physical energy. On the other hand, in summer animals will move with less distress to themselves by night, and, of course, the cover afforded by darkness gives great value to night movements.

Constant rests, during which all mounted men should invariably dismount, and supervision of the column are necessary, and the time allotted for the march should allow of rests at definite intervals for fixed periods. This has all to come off the total time allowed for reaching the spot or force which is the objective, and must therefore be carefully calculated. These rests should be made the opportunity for staff officers to go along the column and check its condition, rectifying errors of position, distance, and so on. The defeat at Stormberg is largely attributable to neglect of the physical condition of the troops. They should be rested and prepared for such an undertaking as a night march, for the possession of all their mental alertness and physical energy has a large influence in the direction of success. Jaded troops are useless at the end of a trying night.

The pace of the column is that of the slowest moving unit in it. Mounted riflemen should be well aware of what can be expected from artillery and infantry at night in respect of the rate of marching. The complete ignorance of the guides at Stormberg as to what infantry could do was again a factor which contributed substantially to the failure of the enterprise. They were mounted policemen who knew nothing of infantry troops, and had no expert to question them as to facts, and draw his own inferences as to what in a military sense was possible. Grave consequences may ensue if thorough military knowledge is not at hand to supplement the efforts of local guides, who should merely be relied on as to facts, such as the position of roads and actual distances. The question whether the performance of any military task is possible should be decided by those who possess expert military knowledge.

The march must be supervised by an unceasing watch and check by staff officers. The necessity for this is at no time more marked than after a pause in the march. The need for this was brought home to me, on one occasion at least in the South African War, when after moving off after a halt I failed to hear the noise of wheels behind me after marching for some distance. As staff officer to the column, I rode back and found the drivers of the leading pom-pom mule team asleep, and the whole portion of the column behind them still waiting the order to move. The forward movement had been resumed by the leading portion of the force so quietly that the troops behind the pom-poms had not heard it. The more varied the component parts of the force, and the larger it is, the greater the chance of such mishaps.

It is essential that each individual, who is to be charged with any share in the execution of the enterprise, should know as much as is necessary to enable him to perform that share properly. This is, of course, necessary in all military undertakings, but becomes especially important in night operations. Darkness means loss of power of supervision and accidents, and events assume exaggerated proportions in the doubtful atmosphere of night.

The habit of moving at night and of identifying features in the darkness and, in fact, of being at home in circumstances when objects and conditions, easily recognisable and familiar in daylight, become strange, and the imagination has full scope, must be cultivated deliberately, if it is not possessed. Most forces will need this practice, and all must be able to work at night if they are to be of full value to the country. Timed marches, allowing for halts and beginning with a start from a bivouac in which the troops collect their belongings and become accustomed to moving out of halting places in an orderly and quiet manner; employing cross tracks and instructing troops to recognise them by landmarks and features at night; small marches by different parties to meet at a certain hour at a given place; the withdrawal of outposts in the dark for it night movement; these, and many other situations which thought will readily suggest are valuable methods accustoming troops to work at night. This can well be applied to Citizen Forces, and will give good results.

Secrecy must be maintained, as if any news of a projected night movement reaches the enemy, he is at once in possession of a means of dealing an unexpected and disastrous blow, for the force which awaits another, prepared to surprise and attack it at night, has its objective at a tremendous disadvantage.

How to maintain secrecy, and yet insure the general knowledge to which I have referred as necessary for individuals to possess, is always a matter of difficulty. Confidential verbal orders to commanders of units before starting, and arrangements which will enable them to instruct their subordinates at the first halt after the night march has begun will be the safest plan when the size of the force allows it to be adopted. Camps and bivouacs should be prepared for the night in the usual way, and any action which will tend to indicate a movement from them, or the fact that something unusual is contemplated, should be avoided as far as is possible. Secrecy is absolutely necessary if success is to be assured, and when, as will be the case in war, knowledge of the intentions of the commander of the force is eagerly sought after by an enterprising enemy, it is extremely difficult to keep from that enemy the intention of a night movement. A force in which the vast importance of secrecy is generally taught and known, and which by practice has become easy to handle by night, will be best able to conduct night movements. Every effort should be made to give the impression that no movement is contemplated, and, when the troops are sufficiently trained, a movement in a direction opposite to that which leads to the objective and a rapid change towards the latter after the march has begun, will often prove effective. Well-trained troops, and a careful calculation of time, will always be necessary if such a ruse is attempted. Secrecy during the movement must be secured by forbidding all talking, and striking of lights and by strict injunctions that fire will not be opened without orders from superior authority-who should be defined in each case. The officers who have the right to order fire should, if possible, be made known, in order that unauthorized fire may not be delivered, and that only those who have the right to give the order shall do so.

The action of the force in case of surprise should be arranged for, and communicated as far as is necessary for its adoption. Disciplined troops who have been instructed to take a definite line in a given emergency will take it, and in the absence of knowledge in the above respect any troops will be specially liable to panic. Instances of want of foresight in this respect and its result will no doubt occur to many readers.

The order of march is an important point in a mixed force (that is, containing units of more than one arm). Where a column contains infantry, the usual protective guards will be furnished by that arm; mounted troops and artillery will march in rear of the bulk of the infantry. Where the route has been well reconnoitred or is well known, a few carefully chosen mounted patrols under an officer who has reconnoitred or knows the road thoroughly may be sent ahead to occupy good positions which will command it, and which, if held, will deny the advance. The knowledge that the road is clear for several miles ahead is valuable and reassuring to the commander, and may materially aid him. Unless, however, the points which should be aimed at by such patrols are well known by those concerned with their supervision, extended patrols of this nature may easily become a source of danger, especially if the enemy allows them to go through.

All places passed en route, from which inhabitants may reach the enemy with information, should be secured by mounted detachments of such strength as may be necessary, who will guarantee that all inmates remain on the spot until the need for concealment has ceased. These detachments should be pushed on sufficiently far ahead of the force to prevent the escape of any person before the column arrives and, if the inhabitants cannot be conveniently taken with the force, must remain until the possibility of information reaching the enemy no longer exists.

At daybreak the order of march will, if the movement continues, be changed to that usually adopted in the daytime, and the mounted troops will assume their duties of protection. The abortive night march to Stormberg again is an instance of the failure to readjust the formation of a column on the march at daybreak.


Night Combats -

Combats at night entail certain disadvantages to the attacking force when the enemy is in position. Of these the most important are:

1. Liability to panic in the event of an unexpected development. The sense of being at the mercy of the foe who is waiting for you, the feeling of insecurity and helplessness, which is the result of not seeing the situation plainly, and the different appearance of objects familiar by day, all contribute to an exaggerated sense of danger.

2. Extreme difficulty of supervision. Darkness prevents the supervision possible by day, and lack of supervision and control mean opportunities for shirking - men are easily lost in the dark - and an inability to keep your whole strength available.

3. I have refrained from touching on native warfare, but I must mention the fact, when reflecting upon the possible employment of South African troops, that to fight in the dark against. natives is to neutralize the effect of superiority in arms of precision, and to give the advantage to the superior numbers of the enemy, who are far better able to fight hand to hand in the dark than white men.

In defence, fighting at night is due to the force of circumstances, and is more or less involuntary. Every position taken up by any body of troop on active service at night should be carefully reconnoitred and occupied, with the object of offering the most determined and effective resistance possible. No matter how improbable an attack may seem, there is no justification for any commander who neglects to make the fullest preparation against surprise at night, or early dawn. Almost every night attack which succeeds does so as much from the lack of precaution on the part of those attacked, as from the skill and determination of the attackers. Outpost work is trying, and a weak commander may be prevailed upon to take the opportunity of what seems to be a very small probability of attack to relax precautions, which should never be done while an enemy is in the field.

As far as night combats are concerned, I will confine myself to the discussion of two kinds of combat. I do not propose to consider night attacks on a large scale, but merely to refer shortly to combats of a nature which makes it very likely that mounted riflemen will be engaged in them. They may be classified as (1) enterprises deliberately planned and on a small scale, and (2) encounter combats.

Their mobility, and their experience of such combats while moving au night, increase the probability of their employment upon such enterprises. Small offensive undertakings, such as the sorties at Ladysmith against Gun Hill and Surprise Hill, are useful to harass an investing force, and inspirit a force which is invested. Mounted riflemen who are able to reach and retire from any spot rapidly are useful for such work. The seizure of advanced and commanding positions in darkness, to aid the development of a general attack at dawn, is a task which may also be well allotted to the arm.

Comparatively small forces will be required for such missions, and the following points demand careful attention:

1. Previous reconnaissance or thorough knowledge of the ground is essential. Groenkop, cited in the last chapter, is an admirable case in point.

2. The attack must be a surprise. If it can be launched from the direction which seems the least likely for the purpose, so much the better.

3. Troops on whom implicit reliance is to be placed are alone suitable for such work. The personnel for any enterprise of this nature should be carefully chosen. The process of elimination by which Gideon obtained his men is interesting to follow. Good leading is of vast importance; good troops are indispensable.

4. A whole-hearted offensive is essential. Grave risk must be taken, and there must be no hesitation.

5. The operation must be carried out as noiselessly as possible. Here I wish to make my final reference to the bayonet, as calculated to be of immense value in tasks which demand the taking of life at close quarters when it should be done without noise.

6. If a position has been taken at night and is to be retained, it should be entrenched with the least possible delay after it has been thoroughly reconnoitred. Majuba and Spion Kop are striking instances of the evil of an inadequate reconnaissance and too ready acceptance of a position taken up in the darkness. Nothing done at night should in such circumstances be regarded as final, the troops should be kept ready and alert all night, and early dawn should see another reconnaissance of the position to decide if anything is necessary in the way of alteration in the dispositions.

In encounter combats at night, success will, in the majority of cases, attend that force which, taking advantage of the mutual surprise, adopts at once and maintains the initiative by a vigorous offensive. The promptitude of the leaders, and the excellence of the troops, will enable any force which acts at once and sustains an offensive attitude, accepting the whole risk, to defeat a far larger body of an enemy which hesitates in the first moments of surprise.

To sum up, night movements will be resorted to constantly, especially to bring forces unexpectedly to a scene of battle at dawn. Night attacks in South African conditions of warfare as a rule will be undertaken sparingly on a large scale, but in the way of small enterprises will be an effective form of action. Night training is therefore essential.


Previous: Part 6, Protection

Next: Part 8, Reconnaissance 


Further Reading:

The Light Horse

Australian Light Horse Militia

Militia 1899 - 1920

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: The Australian Light Horse, Militia and AIF, Mounted Rifle Tactics, Part 7, Night Operations

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
Updated: Thursday, 10 December 2009 8:36 AM EAST
XXII Corps Mounted Troops, AIF, Roll of Honour
Topic: AIF - Fr - 22 Corps

XXII Corps Mounted Troops

Australian Imperial Force

Roll of Honour


Poppies on the Roll of Honour, Australian War Memorial, Canberra


The Roll of Honour contains the names of all the men enrolled within the XXII Corps Mounted Troops, AIF, known to have served and lost their lives during the Great War.


Roll of Honour

Francis David AMIET


Archibald Edward BULLER


James Edward DALY


Frederick Rowland FAULKNER


Alfred James JURY


Daniel KELLY


Frederick Henry LANG


Frederick Angus Rowland RIGBY


Patrick John SEXTON

Lest We Forget



Further Reading:

XXII Corps Mounted Troops

XXII Corps Mounted Troops, Roll of Honour

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: XXII Corps Mounted Troops, Roll of Honour

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
Updated: Tuesday, 24 August 2010 9:13 AM EADT
Saturday, 21 November 2009
The Battle of Magdhaba, Sinai, December 23, 1916, Contents
Topic: BatzS - Magdhaba

The Battle of Magdhaba

Sinai, 23 December 1916




The Battle of Magdhaba, Sinai, December 23, 1916, Outline 


Roll of Honour

The Battle of Magdhaba, Sinai, December 23, 1916, Roll of Honour, Australia and New Zealand


The Battle of Magdhaba, Sinai, December 23, 1916, Roll of Honour, 1st Australian Light Horse Brigade

The Battle of Magdhaba, Sinai, December 23, 1916, Roll of Honour, 3rd Australian Light Horse Brigade  

The Battle of Magdhaba, Sinai, December 23, 1916, Roll of Honour, New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade 

The Battle of Magdhaba, Sinai, December 23, 1916, Roll of Honour, Imperial Camel Corps



Comparison of Maps, Australia, Britain and Turkey 

Mapping the 3rd LHR attack at Magdhaba 

Mapping the Magdhaba Redoubts 


Official War History Accounts


Falls Account


Gullett Account

Cutlack Account

New Zealand

Powles Account


Sinai Campaign Account


Kress Account


War Diary Accounts


General Staff Headquarters, Anzac Mounted Division, AIF, War Diary Account

Anzac Mounted Division Artillery, AIF, War Diary Account

1st Light Horse Brigade Account

1st Light Horse Field Ambulance Account

1st Light Horse Machine Gun Squadron Account  

1st ALHR, AIF, War Diary, account

2nd ALHR, AIF, War Diary, account

3rd ALHR, AIF, War Diary, account

3rd Light Horse Brigade Account

3rd Light Horse Field Ambulance Account

3rd Light Horse Machine Gun Squadron Account 

8th ALHR, AIF, War Diary, account

9th ALHR, AIF, War Diary, account

10th ALHR, AIF, War Diary, account

ICC, AIF, War Diary, account 


New Zealand War Diaries

New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade Account

Auckland Mounted Rifles Account

Canterbury Mounted Rifles Regiment Account

Wellington Mounted Rifles Account
52nd (Lowland) Division
156th Brigade


Unit Histories


1st ALHR AIF account

2nd ALHR AIF account

3rd ALHR AIF account

3rd LHFA, AIF, Unit History Account

8th LHR, AIF account

9th LHR, AIF account

10th LHR, AIF account

ICC, AIF, account 


New Zealand

AMR, NZMRB account

CMR, NZMRB account

WMR, NZMRB account



The Battle of Magdhaba, Sinai, 23 December 1916, El Arish and El Magdhaba, 9th LHR, AIF, Commentary by Bill Woerlee

Magdhaba and Kress by Bill Woerlee

The Battle of Magdhaba, Sinai, December 23, 1916, ICC, AIF, Commentary by Steve Becker    


Personal Diaries

The Battle of Magdhaba, Sinai, December 23, 1916, 8th LHR, AIF, Auchterlonie Diary Account 


Newspaper Accounts

New York Times Account

Times Account


Further Reading:

The Battle of Magdhaba

The Battle of Magdhaba, Sinai, December 23, 1916, Roll of Honour, Australia and New Zealand

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: The Battle of Magdhaba, Sinai, December 23, 1916, Contents

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
Updated: Monday, 30 November 2009 8:56 AM EAST

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