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Wednesday, 25 November 2009
The Australian Light Horse, Militia and AIF, Mounted Rifle Tactics, Part 4, The Attack
Topic: AIF - Lighthorse

The Australian Light Horse,

Militia and AIF

Mounted Rifle Tactics, Part 4, The Attack


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 - Mounted riflemen as advanced troops - In the attack generally - Special attacks - Fire from the saddle - Rooiwal - The "mounted rifle -charge." - Vlakfontein - Blood River - Bakenlaagte - Yzer Spruit - Rooiwal again.

Attack is defined in Field Service Regulations as "the action of that force which has gained the initiative and assumes the offensive first." Dispositions for attack should be based on as accurate information of the enemy's strength and position as can be obtained. Such knowledge can, as a general rule, only be arrived at as the result of reconnaissance in some form or other. Reconnaissance is the duty of the mounted troops - mounted riflemen, in the case we are studying – whether acting alone or with other arms.

I propose to consider reconnaissance for attack in detail when dealing of reconnaissance. I think that for the purpose of our the attack, as it concerns the arm with which we are dealing, it will be well to investigate the subject under the following headings:-

1. Action as advanced troops.

2. Action in the attack generally.

3 Special methods of attack.

1. Advanced troops -

In view of their employment as advanced troops, mounted riflemen will always be concerned with the opening phases of a combat. Their action in a deliberately planned attack will be decided mainly by the dispositions of the commander of the force, and, as the enemy will be awaiting attack in a position of his own selection, such fire positions as are at first available can probably be occupied without special necessity for speed or effort, as they will have been deliberately left vacant. In the case of an encounter combat, however, that is to say, when hostile bodies meet during a mutual advance, the initial action taken by the commander of advanced mounted riflemen becomes of immense importance and may have a far-reaching effect on the issue of the fight after it becomes general. To gain the initiative and the advantage of better ground is the first object, and it is on the rapid seizure of fire positions, and by surprising the enemy and impeding his deployment, that this will be done.

The fire positions should be occupied with their prospective use for the development of the general attack in view. They must also be so selected that they deny as much advantage of ground as possible to the opponents; they must be capable of defence against possibly superior numbers for some time; and they must be so selected that after the main body has entered the fight, aggressive action by the mounted troops is possible, especially against the hostile flanks. The opening features of such an encounter will be rapid deployment and a contest in speed between two mounted forces to secure fire positions, and very often, given the offensive spirit in each force, the race will be for the same position. Many of us have seen gallops for the same position and the discomfiture of that force which is beaten in the race, it may be by a few minutes, and it is in such circumstances that I think that body which is able to fire from the saddle may gain a position which will give them the initial advantage, and often, with it, a command of the opening situation, which will influence the result of the struggle as a whole. Moments are of vast importance in such circumstances, and even a slight check in speed As the result of several horses coming down may just make the difference to the advantage of the side which has effected the small disorganization in its opponents' ranks.

Effective and bold reconnaissance on the part of the troops, ready acceptance of responsibility, general tactical knowledge in view of the eventual co-operation of all arms, good judgment of ground, and quick decision on the part of leaders, alone can insure that free and well-judged use of mobility which is the great advantage of mounted riflemen in the first stage of an encounter combat. Given the occupation of well-chosen fire positions, the denial to the enemy of the advantages which both sides are seeking will follow as a matter of course.

The necessity for rapid decision, and conveying clear orders, at a time when hesitation is fatal and confusion may well occur, is paramount, and all officers of mounted rifle units should be frequently exercised in tactical problems on the ground, which should be solved in a given time and by writing a short statement of the action taken and the verbal orders issued.

The maintenance of full freedom of manoeuvre, that is to say, of the power of regaining mobility by rapidly remounting, must never be overlooked at this stage of the fight, and the normal full strength of rifles in the firing line is, in the case of mounted riflemen, three in every section, or, in other words, one man in every four will be with the led horses, to insure their mobility. It is not conceivable that at the beginning of an undeveloped combat mobility can be sacrificed safely. At a time of excitement, unless action is based on habit, the desire to develop the fullest possible fire may lead to making the led horses immobile, and this seems to indicate the need for a strong word of caution. Sacrifice of mobility is the abandonment by a mounted rifleman of a large proportion of his tactical value, and if it is ever permissible, it certainly never is in the initial stages of attack by advanced mounted troops.

No effort should be wanting to ascertain the strength and dispositions of the enemy as far as he has committed himself to any deployment and distribution of his force, and endeavours should be made to locate the situation of his flanks, and prevent any outflanking movement on his part.

The initial action of mounted riflemen acting as advanced troops in case of encounter with the enemy will be the rapid seizure of fire positions to deny any advantage of ground and the initiative to the enemy, maintaining full mobility and endeavouring to obtain a clear idea of the situation which confronts the commander of the whole force.

2. The attack generally -

The action of mounted riflemen in the attack generally may now be considered.

Surprise being a strong element in the tactical value of the arm, fire positions should be occupied as quickly as possible and should be reached by routes which are concealed from the view of the enemy. It will probably be necessary, if the position is at any distance from the point at which its occupation is decided upon, to screen the exposed flank of the movement by flanking parties which should not be stronger by one man more than is necessary to achieve the object aimed at, viz., denial to the enemy of view of the manoeuvre.

Should it prove necessary to cross exposes ground, it should be covered at the fastest possible pace, and, if under fire, extended. Troops, however, should not be extended during such movements unless extension is imperative, and should be closed as soon as the necessity for the open formation ceases.

The object is to arrive at the fire position as soon as possible, and in a formation which will allow of the immediate issue of orders to the whole force for the rapid delivery of fire and the disposal of the horses. The force should therefore arrive at the position concentrated, and in good order, for confusion means delay, and minutes have assumed enormous importance.

The horses should be as close; to their dismounted riders in the firing line as circumstances will allow, but the following conditions must be secured:

1. They must be under cover from view and fire. To obtain the second of these conditions it may be necessary to move the led horses after dismounting, if unaimed fire is likely to reach them over the position. The ideal place for the led horses is close under the position, with easy access from the firing line.

2. They should be so placed that the return of their riders to mount is effected rapidly and so that the next movement, again in an orderly manner and compact form under the hand of the commander, is initiated without unnecessary delay.

I have often noticed, especially on peace manoeuvres, that confusion, and loss of mobility in consequence of it, occur when the usual rapid return to the horses is made. This is possibly due in some measure to the lack of training, for the horses require to be accustomed to what is always in the nature of a rush and a scramble, but largely owing to a want of foresight and not placing the horses so that mounting is made convenient, and the forward movement is started with the force collected and in good order. In attack, the place for remounting should be covered from view by the enemy-cover from fire when remounting for advance may not always be required-in order that the fresh movement may be concealed.

In such an ideal position as I have described above, the led horses will be close behind the firing line and within easy reach, and communication with those in charge of them and their protection will in such circumstances be achieved by the tactical situation. Ideal positions are, however, scarce, and as communication with the led horses and their safety are indispensable conditions, they must be maintained; and I think this can be best assured by bearing in mind the following rules:

1. The maintenance of mobility by keeping the horses quickly available for dismounted men in action is as much the concern of the commander of mounted riflemen as the direction of the fire fight, which can only be conducted to the best advantage in attack by constantly seeking to deliver effective fire at close range. The position of the led horses with reference to their dismounted riders should be adjusted as the fight develops, and should be advanced or retired as the situation demands, being constantly checked l y the commander, and not changed as the result of suddenly giving attention to this most important point.

2. Visual communication whenever possible should exist between the commander and those in charge of the led horses.

3. When visual communication is impossible, an escort may become necessary, and in any case, as many orderlies as may be required should be detailed specially for communication work with the led horses.

4. When the led horses cease to be protected by the action of the firing line, or by the tactical situation, special measures, in the way of a separate escort, additional to the normal allowance of men, must be taken for their safety.

Successive advances must be undertaken in all offensive action by mounted riflemen, and as soon as a fire position has been occupied in attack, steps should be taken for the next advance. It will often be possible to send reconnaissance parties, which can use concealed lines of approach round the hostile flanks, to ascertain the most desirable and quickest route to the next suitable position, but in any case the commander must always bear in mind the need for continuous aggression, and, if he cannot reconnoitre by means of patrols, must send single individuals, or examine the ground carefully as far as he can for himself with the next forward movement in prospect.

The value and need of covering fire must also be borne in mind on all occasions.

In action with other arms, mounted riflemen should be employed on enterprises for which rapid and extensive movement are necessary, against the hostile flanks, on reconnaissance, and in reserve till the chance of dealing a rapid and unexpected blow is revealed. They should not be committed to any task which can be performed efficiently by infantry.

Finally, in this matter of action generally in the attack, the pursuit must be fixed in the intention of mounted riflemen as the finishing blow which by their mobility they are specially able to deal to a beaten foe. Victories on different scales are recorded in history by the score; thoroughly successful pursuits have been few and far between, and yet surely no chance of inflicting loss on a beaten enemy can be so great as that afforded by a vigorous pursuit. The larger the forces engaged, the more difficult it becomes to take up an organized pursuit immediately after a battle. Pursuit, however, in considering warfare in South Africa will be essential, particularly in native warfare, where only sustained offensive action is of avail) and, difficult as it may be, it must be effected, if possible, by mounted riflemen after success in a combat. A victory must have been unmistakable, and a mobile force must be in hand when the moment comes for launching the pursuit. Unless the force engaged is very small, the preparation of the pursuing force must be undertaken before the time comes for its employment. Pursuit after a victory by citizen forces has rarely been found possible, so history tells us, and its necessity must be impressed on all officers, and its execution practised in peace, to achieve the great success which is possible by the vigorous action of mounted riflemen in outflanking and anticipating a retiring beaten force. Confusion, exhaustion, and difficulty of communication all contribute to the impossibility of organizing a pursuit by employing troops who have been recently engaged, and these impediments are magnified in the case of citizen troops. A clear recognition of the necessity for pursuit, and the habit of providing for its achievement are therefore of much importance.

3. Special attacks -

I wish to consider two special forms of attack before leaving the subject. Each was employed by the Republican forces in the last South African War, and their use was practically confined to those forces.

The first is by the delivery of fire from the saddle. I am of the firm opinion that fire from the saddle is a means of offence and inflicting damage which will become far more effective if it is developed by training and practice. I have often heard the suggestion of its value dismissed as hardly worth consideration, and when I have expressed the opinion to which I have referred, the most courteous reception accorded to it, as a rule, has been that usually given to the opinions of a well-intentioned person with a pet idea. I have, however, no hesitation in saying that most of those with whom I have spoken have admitted that they have not really thought much about it, and far less have they examined any facts which bear on the point.

There is a mention of fire from the saddle in the new South African Manual. It is as follows:

"Few movements have proved to have such a demoralizing effect on unentrenched troops which have been at all unnerved, as an extended line of mounted riflemen at a gallop attacking them in front and simultaneously enveloping their flank, halting only for an instant at short intervals to fire from the saddle. Undoubtedly expert riders and well-trained horses are required to carry out such an attack, but it has been successful upon several occasions."

The recognition of fire from the saddle is brief, but if the words used are studied it will be admitted that such circumstances as those which are assumed are those in which great results may be achieved. Perhaps, until this method of delivering fire has been carefully tested, it would be unwise to lay down rules for teaching and using it, but I venture to express my view that it should be tested exhaustively, and, if found to possess something like the offensive value which a am inclined to ascribe to it, should be adopted and taught.

I do not know how many officers have studied the action of Rooiwal, in the Western Transvaal, on 11th April, 1902. 1 commend it especially, and several others, to the attention of those who are inclined to dismiss fire from the saddle as of little value. The following facts suffice for my purpose here:

A number of the mounted troops of the Republics-about 800-rode in a solid line, varying from two to four deep, against a British force, which, after hastily deploying, brought the fire of 1,500 magazine rifles and six guns to bear upon their adversaries. The latter were subjected to this fire while they covered from 300 to 400 yards in solid formation-an experience calculated to try the coolest temperament. They fired from the saddle, and - here is my point - killed 7 and wounded 56 of the British troops who were lying down and firing at them. One hundred and fifty horses were killed, and many more temporarily stampeded, as a direct result of this fire, unaimed as it was, in the ordinary acceptance of the word.

Is it wise to dismiss the possibility of fire from the saddle as a means of doing serious damage to an enemy, in the light of the above facts? I venture to think, certainly not. In the race for a fire position, to which I have alluded earlier-in sudden onslaughts, such as I shall discuss immediately; to stampede led horses and produce the great moral effect caused by such a disaster; on rear guards; surely this extra means of offence is well worth serious investigation.

Before closing this chapter I wish, in conclusion, to refer to what is called the "mounted riflemen charge." The word "charge" is a misnomer in this case. A charge means contact in a hand-to-hand fight with cold steel, and to use the term in connection with the method of attack that I shall now consider is calculated to give a false impression, and, I would even add, a wrong conception of its mode of application. The manoeuvre has been discussed in print, and while admitting its great value, I think the fact needs emphasis that, with all forms of tactics, it has its limitations.

We have successes, and at least one notable failure, to guide our investigations. The most striking instances of this form of attack axe the following:

1. Vlakfontein on 29th May, 1901 -

Five hundred mounted troops of the Republican forces, under cover of the smoke of a veldt fire which was blown into the faces of a rearguard of a British column, overwhelmed that column, captured its position, and two guns accompanying it, and inflicted heavy loss by fire from the saddle and the ground.

In the rear guard, in addition to a company of regular infantry, were 230 Imperial Yeomanry, largely composed of recruits. A troop of this Yeomanry, composed, as the Official History tells us, "of men totally fresh to campaigning," by Billing back and exposing the left flank of the rear guard without advising the rear guard commander of their action gave the initial advantage to the attack.

Important circumstances in this action were:-

(a) A definite objective; a rear guard occupying a ridge offering opportunity of further attack, if secured.

(b) Surprise; owing to the cover from view afforded by smoke, and materially assisted by the unknown retirement of the left flank of the rear guard.

(c) The presence of many recruits new to campaigning.

(d) The casualties were inflicted by fire-some of it from the saddle.

2. Blood River Poort on 17th September, 1901 -

Three hundred of Gough's Mounted Infantry, extended and engaged to their front with about 500 of the enemy, were caught in flank and rolled up by the fire, chiefly dismounted, of 500 additional hostile mounted troops whose presence had been undetected on the flank, in consequence of a hasty assumption that the force in front represented all to be reckoned with, and omission to reconnoitre.

The main points to notice in this combat are:

(a) A definite objective; a smaller force, ignorant of the presence of superior numbers, and obviously liable to heavy defeat.

(b) Surprise; effected as the result of neglect to reconnoitre.

(c) Striking preponderance of strength in favour of the victorious troops.

3. Bakenlaagte on 30th October, 1901 -

Some 800 mounted troops, having collected and advanced rapidly in more or less close formation, under cover of mist driven into the faces of their opponents by wind, practically annihilated a rear guard of somewhat less than 200 men by fire delivered at close range dismounted.

The following features are conspicuous:

(a) A definite objective; the rear guard of a force going into bivouac, having taken up a position from which further offensive action might well be undertaken by the attacking force.

(b) Surprise; effected under cover of mist.

(c) Preponderance of strength with the attack to a large extent, as compared with the portion of the defending force engaged.

4. Yzer Spruit on 25th February, 1902 -

Twelve hundred mounted men captured a convoy escorted by 490 British troops, after a severe fight, in which “rushes " in bodies were conspicuous on the part of the enemy, who used fire from the saddle to a considerable extent.

The main circumstances to be observed are:

(a) A definite objective; a convoy thrown into confusion by a sudden attack, made on the head of the column in the first instance.

(b) Surprise; less complete than was evidently desired, with a consequent loss on the part of the attackers, which is not so marked on some other occasions of the use of the same method.

(c) Preponderance of strength again to a large extent with the attack.

There are other instances of success, but I think enough have been examined. The failure is perhaps the most instructive episode of all.

5. Rooiwal on 11th April, 1902 -

Eight hundred mounted men were launched in a solid irregular line from two to four deep at a British advanced guard, and, in spite of a most determined and gallant attack, were repulsed with severe loss by a hurried deployment of 1,100 troops in support of the advanced guard.

Here we must note that -

(a) Whereas the original objective seems to have been the advanced guard, the co-operation of troops in its support does not appear to have been expected.

(b) Surprise was incomplete, for time was available to deploy against the attack, although very hurriedly.

(c) Preponderance of strength, though not to such a marked extent as with the attack in the instances previously quoted, rested with the defence.

(d) The whole attack bears the impress of a most gallant enterprise undertaken largely on the impulse of the moment, and with insufficient knowledge of the situation.

We may now draw our conclusions.

This special form of attack, which I prefer to call a mounted assault in close formation, rather than a charge, is valuable and highly effective, but can only be undertaken

1. By thoroughly seasoned troops. The Republican troops who delivered these attacks were tried warriors of proved gallantry.

2. When the situation to be dealt with is clearly known to the officer who orders the attack and a definite objective has been plainly determined.

3. Against a disorganized, hampered, or indifferently disciplined force. 4. When it is possible to surprise the force to be attacked.

5. In the great majority of instances, when the attack has the advantage in strength.

In short, this method of attack, in spite of its undoubted value, needs specially favorable circumstances for its successful accomplishment, and, unless they exist, such attacks will fail. Particularly is it necessary that troops of proved courage should be well aware of the limitations attaching to it, for the rapid onslaught in close formation appeals strongly to the soldierly instinct, apart from any consideration as to what its result may be.


Previous: Part 3, General Considerations 

Next: Part 5, Defence 


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 4, The Attack

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
Updated: Thursday, 10 December 2009 9:01 AM EAST
Graspan, South Africa, 25 November 1899, Contents
Topic: BatzB - Graspan


South Africa, 25 November 1899



Graspan, an action also referred to as the Battle of Enslin, was fought on 25 November 1899 (during the Second South African War) by a British force of 8,500 men under Lieut.-General Lord Methuen while attempting to break the Boer siege of Kimberley.


Items about the Battle of Graspan.

Graspan, South Africa, November 25, 1899 

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

Graspan, South Africa, The Times Casualty List, 29 November 1899 

Montague (Macgregor) Grover - I Killed a Man at Graspan 

Midshipman Cymberline Alonso Edric Huddart 


Further Reading:

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: Graspan, South Africa, 25 November 1899, Contents

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
Updated: Wednesday, 13 January 2010 7:05 PM EAST
Tuesday, 24 November 2009
Surafend, the massacre, Palestine, 10 December 1918, TVNZ Sunday November 22, 2009: "Day of Shame"
Topic: BatzP - Surafend

Surafend, the massacre

Palestine, 10 December 1918

TVNZ Sunday November 22, 2009 : "Day of Shame" 



On Sunday evening, 22 November 2009, in its magazine program "Sunday" TVNZ screened a most extraordinary story called "Day of Shame". By their own program description: "It was a war crime, an atrocity committed by New Zealand troops. They walked into a village and systematically murdered as many as 130 unarmed, innocent civilians. No-one was ever held to account, and the stain on our proud military history was brushed aside with a 500 pound pay-off. SUNDAY has tracked down a survivor and they demand New Zealand faces its past."

Currently, the full show may be accessed at:

TVNZ SUNDAY "Day of Shame"


Generally, the sentiments expressed in the story were powerful and very human. It brought two families who shared a historical event together. Both families were victims of what happened at Surafend, one a New Zealander and another an Israeli Arab. It was a moving encounter as the program aimed to reconcile the loss felt by these two different families. As a social piece, it was very engrossing and personal.

The historical backdrop to the story was the Surafend Massacre. It was here that the story fell apart. Poor research made for inadequate history. In addition, claims were made that were demonstrably untrue. 

This item deals only with that aspect of the story.


Claim 1

That the letter written by Mulhall and held by the National Archives of Australia makes the claim that 137 villages were killed.


Mulhall letter claim

[Click on picture for the Sunday extract.]


The commentary states:

... but no less than 137. Trooper Ambrose Mulhall's account is preserved in Australian archives.

"It was a most gruesome sight the manner in which their heads were bashed and battered"


The Mulhall letter from the National Archives of Australia is used as the backdrop to this segment and clearly given the impression that it was quoted from to establish the claim.

Prior to this story being aired on New Zealand television, in early July 2009, the Mulhall Account was placed on this site with a full transcription of the letter. The cursive handwriting was difficult to read at the time and still remains that way, thus requiring a transcript that is still incomplete due to illegibility. As a companion for cross checking purposes, the Full original Mulhall Letter was also made available for anyone seeking this information.

From the available information the following questions may be asked.

Does this letter make the claim of 137 bodies counted at Surfend?

A reading of the letter held by the National Archives of Australia indicates that the answer is no.

Is the comment "It was a most gruesome sight the manner in which their heads were bashed and battered" in the letter held by the National Archives of Australia?


Hence the commentary, inclusive of the graphics, on the Sunday segment does not match with the document that the program alleged contained that information.

So where does this claim originate?

The only known source for this commentary on Sunday comes from Paul Daley’s book, Beersheba, published in July 2009 at pages 281 - 282. Here there is a letter transcribed which allegedly was written by Mulhall on 12 September 1936 to Colonel Bell. We see only a typed copy of the transcription so we are unable to authenticate the provenance of the letter. Daley alleges that the original this particular letter is held by a certain Mr Douglas Wyatt of Tasmania. It turns out that this is the man who interviewed 3511 Private Edward Harold O'Brien (see the interview Ted O'Brien Account) in 1988, whose testimony forms lynchpin of Daley's conclusions that conclusively proved Australian participation at Surafend.

Here is the extract from Daley's book.


Transcript of Mulhall's letter in Paul Daley’s book, Beersheba, p. 281


The transcription:

Dear Sir,

I desire to inquire from you relative to certain facts concerning the Bedouin massacre Palestine Dec. 1918. In communications recently Sir Henry Gullett said that you Colonel Bell presided over a Court Martial concering the Bedouin massacre, I know of no such inquiry of any kind held into this affair. If such were the case would you be good enough to inform me (1) What was the nature of the inquiry. (2) When were the persons tried next.

I fail to see how you coul.d possibly be connected in the trial of them seeing that you were one of us whom Allenby charged with being a lot of cold blooded murderers and coweards.

You were there on parade that Sunday morning when Allenby made that criminal attack on us. I saw you there, you were standing in front of the 3rd ... Regiment and this is what Allenby said: "You who were not there know who were and know all about it but you are not game ot come forward and say so. You are a lot of cold-blooded murderers and cowards."

Are you aware that I had full particulars of the Bedouin massacre at the time but neither myself or anyone else had an opportunity to bring them forward. I was at the village at 7AM the morning following the massacre and I was astounded to see the numbers who had their heads bashed in by the use of blunt instruments. Being an experienced man in the detection of crim, I might say I resigned from the NSW Mounted Police to go to the war. I counted 137 dead within the village. It was a most gruesome sight the manner in which their heads were bashed and battered. The first thing I asked, why should soldiers use blunt instruments to do to death their victims when each soldier had rifle and ammunition. At this stage I was under ...


Let us assume for the moment that the letter is authentic. The evidence in the letter is contradicted by the testimony of O'Brien. In the letter held by the National Archives of Australia Mulhall states:

The Australians were not present there that night, they did not know there was any trouble taking place in the village that night. I was engaged for some days in these investigations and I say definitely."

In other words,  according to the testimoney of Mulhall, no Australian's participated in the massacre and he makes a definite assertion to this claim citing his three days work investigating the crime - one might add that these investigations were conducted without any official sanction but on Mulhall's own personal initiative.

In contrast O'Brien clearly alleges that Australians did take part and in his interview he confesses that he was one of them - Ted O'Brien Account.

[Douglas Wyatt] What did you actually do?  Did you go in and wreck the village?

[Edward Harold O'Brien] Oh, absolutely.  Yes.  It didn't matter.  There was cows and ducks and geese:  there were kids.  But men:  they all went for the men with the bayonet and they got it.

The O'Brien - Mulhall claims on this matter of Australian participation are totally contradictory. Here is the conceptual conundrum: once part of a piece of testimony has been contradicted, the balance of the testimony also is tainted as no certainty can be held for any part of that claim. Prima facae, it is or it isn't accurate. If part of it isn't accurate or tainted by contradictory testimony, then each aspect of the testimony needs to be verified by independent third party sources before being accepted as accurate testimony. Neither the O'Brien or Mulhall claims can be taken at face value and both require corroborating testimony before being accepted as accurate. One cannot cherry pick testimony according to whim. And yet this is what TVNZ have done without actually authenticating their claim with independent sources. Indeed, the TVNZ claims have the appearance of cherry picked sensationalism rather than an earnest attempt to get to the truth. While they are entitled to do this, by doing so, they are not entitled to have this claim treated seriously.

The result of this claim is that:

1. The Mulhall letter held by the National Archives of Australia makes none of the claims screened on the Sunday Program.

2. The Sunday Program uses a different source to that quoted, thus misleading the viewers.

3. The evidence upon which it did rely was tainted and thus unreliable.


Claim 2

That the thief came from Nes Tsiona.


The Nes Tsiona claim

[Click on picture for the Sunday extract.] 


The commentary states: 

Yes. I think it was a mistake because he was from Nes Tsiona not from Surafend.

This is a most extraordinary claim, both ethnically and politically, which should have been investigated prior to airing it. A cursive examination would have pointed the way.

Firstly, the physical identification of Nes Tsiona in relation to Surafend is important to place this claim in context. Below is a map displaying the location of Nes Tsiona. It is close to Surafend, Nes Tsiona being a few kilometres south west.

Nes Tsiona (Nes Ziona)


Nes Tsiona in relation to Surafend.
[See the full map: Regional Map]


On the above map, Nes Ziona is underlined in white. At the bottom right hand side of the underlining is a Star of David, the symbol of Judaism. This map was drafted in 1917 to detail the localities in Palestine for the British Army. In a complex ethnic maze, Jewish settlements needed differentiating as they were considered to be friendly.

If the thief came from Nes Tsiona, it raises the following very important conceptual question: why would a Jewish thief run to Surafend, an Arab village, with the certain knowledge that he would be lynched if he entered that village? It makes no sense. In addition, the cap found on the scene was that used by the Arabs and not the Jews. The claim that the thief came from Nes Tsiona is clearly absurd in a historical sense. Here Ockhams Razor needs to be applied - the simplest answer is usually the correct answer.

There is an alternative place that might have been referred to -  Wadi Hanein was also known as the Arab Nes Tsiona. If this is the place the man was referring to, then again there is a problem as Wadi el Hanein was a Jewish village with the Arab village being founded in the late 1920's, thus making the comment asynchronic and so not a possible solution.

However, if we delve deeper into the comment, we see it as a contemporary political statement - it was the Jews who were at the heart of his over 90 years of misery. The Jews were the thieves and the Arabs beaten up as a consequence. It appears to be an apocryphal tale of detailing the subtext of Arab-Israeli perceptions regarding their often toxic relationship. Consequently, on this reading it cannot be taken as a serious claim.

The result of this claim is that:

1. Nes Tsiona was a Jewish village.

2. It makes no sense that a Jewish thief would wear an Arab hat and run to an Arab village.

3. Arab Nes Tsiona was not established until about a decade after the Surafend Massacre.



With the enormous research budget allotted by NZTV to this story, it is difficult to understand the reason for these fundamental and very basic errors exposed in the program. Folks with access to the Internet can assess the veracity of the claims without the benefit of a research team and appropriate budget. One can only conclude that either the research team was just not up to the task and hence the very loose and sloppy research, or there was another agenda being pursued. Only the authors and producers of the program can give that answer. In the meantime, this program must be seen as flawed history and thus unreliable in content.


Note: A copy of this item has been despatched to the Sunday Program staff for comment. They have also been given the offer of right of reply and their response will be published in full as it is received.


Further Reading:


Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: Surafend, the massacre, Palestine, 10 December 1918, TVNZ Sunday November 22, 2009: "Day of Shame"

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
Updated: Monday, 14 June 2010 6:51 PM EADT
4th Australian Light Horse Regiment, Roll of Honour
Topic: AIF - 4B - 4 LHR

4th LHR, AIF

4th Australian Light Horse Regiment

Roll of Honour

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


The Roll of Honour contains the names of all the men known to have served at one time with the 4th Light Horse Regiment and gave their lives in service of Australia, whether as part of the 4th Light Horse Regiment or another unit.


Roll of Honour


Arthur John ADAMS, Killed in Action, 20 September 1917.

Thomas AGNEW, Died of Wounds, 6 August 1915.

George ALEXANDER, Killed in Action, 25 March 1917.

Jack ALLEN, Killed in Action, 4 May 1918.

William Robert ALLEN, Killed in Action, 1 February 1917.

Frederick Clifford ALLINGHAM, Killed in Action, 20 July 1916.

John Clyde ALLISON, Killed in Action, 24 April 1918.

Francis David AMIET, Killed in Action, 7 June 1917.

Alexander ANDERSON, Killed in Action, 12 April 1919.

Arthur James ANDERSON, Died of Wounds, 3 June 1918.

William Walter ASH, Killed in Action, 2 May 1918.

Clarence Etheridge ATKINSON, Killed in Action, 28 June 1915.

Ernest Edward AUSTIN, Killed in Action, 4 October 1917.



Alfred BAILES, Died of Wounds, 8 August 1915.

Ralph BARNFATHER, Killed in Action, 19 July 1916.

Edward Victor BARROW, Killed in Action, 17 June 1917.

Norman James BARTLETT, Died of Wounds, 24 May 1915 , and subsequently buried at sea. .

Harry Cyril BASTOW, Killed in Action, 4 October 1917.

Harold Thomas BELL, Died of Wounds, 1 November 1917.

William Robert BELL, Killed in Action, 27 July 1918.

Frederick Rubon BENHAM, Killed in Action, 27 April 1918.

Lewis Richard BERRYMAN, Killed in Action, 25 June 1917.

Henry BIGGS, Killed in Action, 2 May 1918.

Reginald Allan BIRCHENOUGH, Died of Wounds, 15 April 1918.

Frederick Arthur BIRD, Died of Wounds, 6 August 1915.

Lancelot Charles BLACKALL, Killed in Action, 4 May 1918.

Martin Petrie BLUNDELL, Killed in Action, 18 April 1918.

Gilbert John BLYTHMAN, Killed in Action, 4 October 1917.

Henry Joseph BOWERS, Killed in Action, 6 April 1917.

Wesley Stanley BRIDESON, Killed in Action, 22 August 1915.

Frederick Charles Lionel BRIDGELAND, Killed in Action, 6 August 1915.

Reginald William BRINSMEAD, Killed in Action, 17 December 1917.

Harold Osborne BROWNING, Killed in Action, 16 October 1915.

Frederick James BUCHAN, Killed in Action, 1 May 1918.

Archibald Edward BULLER, Died of Wounds, 18 April 1918.

George Walter BURNETT, Killed in Action, 22 August 1917.

Albert BURROWS, Killed in Action, 1 May 1918.

Francis James BURTON, Killed in Action, 31 October 1917.



Edwin George Rutherford CAIRNS, Killed in Action, 4 October 1917.

Edward CALLANAN, Killed in Action, 18 April 1918 .

Dugald CAMPBELL, Died of Disease, 16 November 1915 , and subsequently buried at sea. .

John Murray CAMPIGLI, Died of Disease, 21 November 1918.

Joseph CAREY, Killed in Action, 8 November 1915.

John Ernest CHAPMAN, Killed in Action, 8 August 1918.

Allan Patrick CHRISTENSEN, Killed in Action, 28 September 1918.

Edward Randolph CLEAVER, Died of Wounds, 31 October 1917.

William Crellin CLOVER, Died of Disease, 23 June 1917.

Josiah John COATES, Died of Disease, 17 January 1918.

Harry (Izod) COLDICOTT, Died of Wounds, 7 June 1917.

John CONNORS, Died of Disease, 14 October 1918.

Albert Edward COOPER, Killed in Action, 29 March 1917.

Albert John Benjamin COOPER, Killed in Action, 17 April 1918.

Arthur Lindsay COPE, Killed in Action, 1 September 1918.

Robert James COULTER, Died of Disease, 7 November 1915.

Joseph CROWLEY, Died of Disease, 12 February 1919.

Reginald Jesse CUSSINS, Died of Disease, 7 December 1918.



Charles Malcolm DALTON, Died of Wounds, 12 August 1915.

James Edward DALY, Killed in Action, 29 August 1918.

Allan Vincent DARGAVEL, Killed in Action, 7 November 1917.

Robert DELANEY, Killed in Action, 31 May 1918.

Colin Langston DOUGLAS, Killed in Action, 7 August 1915.

Lachlan James DOWNEY, Died of Disease, 16 October 1918.

Leo DUCKMANTON, Killed in Action, 5 May 1917.

John James DYER, Killed in Action, 29 September 1917.



Francis Thomas EACOTT, Killed in Action, 4 January 1917.

Leicester George ELLIS, Died of Wounds, 23 August 1915 , and subsequently buried at sea. .



James FAHEY, Killed in Action, 31 July 1915.

Frederick Roland FAULKNER, Died of Wounds, 10 May 1917.

Ronald John FLETCHER, Killed in Action, 29 September 1918.

Robert Bartholomew FONTANA, Killed in Action, 1 September 1918.

Alexander Gibson FORSYTH, Died of Disease, 2 April 1917.

John Walter FRANCIS, Killed in Action, 26 September 1917.



William John GARDNER, Died of Wounds, 9 May 1917.

Hugh GILLIES, Killed in Action, 3 May 1918.

Lionel Leonard GORDON, Died of Disease, 24 July 1917.

Edward GORMAN, Killed in Action, 9 October 1915.

James GORRIE, Died of Wounds, 10 August 1915.

Walton Robert GRAYSON, Killed in Action, 26 April 1918.

Edward GREEN, Killed in Action, 3 May 1918.

Charles Edward GUPPY, Died of Wounds, 6 August 1916.



William James HALL, Killed in Action, 14 November 1915.

Gordon Robin HARPER, Killed in Action, 31 October 1916.

Keith HARRINGTON, Died of Wounds, 6 August 1915.

Reginald HARRINGTON, Died of Wounds, 10 June 1918.

Edward Todd HARRISON, Killed in Action, 14 July 1918.

Bernard HERMANN, Died of Wounds, 26 August 1916.

Stanley HICK, Killed in Action, 16 September 1915.

Edward Francis Patrick HILLIEAR, Died of Wounds, 5 August 1915 , and subsequently buried at sea. .



Charles Hugh IBBS, Killed in Action, 16 July 1918.

Thomas Gordon INGLIS, Killed in Action, 3 August 1915.



Arthur Lethero JAMES, Died of Wounds, 2 February 1917.

John JOPE, Killed in Action, 16 October 1918.

Alfred James JURY, Died of Wounds, 22 April 1918.

Henry William JURY, Killed in Action, 28 November 1915.



Daniel KELLY, Killed in Action, 18 April 1918.

John Joseph KENNEDY, Killed in Action, 15 April 1918.

John Michael KENNEDY, Died of Wounds, 6 August 1915 , and subsequently buried at sea. .

Sylvester Daniel KENNEDY, Died of Wounds, 26 August 1918.

Robert KIDD, Killed in Action, 25 October 1917.

Charles David KING, Killed in Action, 1 December 1917.

Walter Rodney KINGHORN, Killed in Action, 31 October 1917.

John KISSICK, Died of Wounds, 25 June 1915 , and subsequently buried at sea. .

Mervyn Digby KNIGHT, Killed in Action, 6 July 1918.



Leslie Reed LANGTRY, Killed in Action, 4 December 1917.

John Francis LATTA, Died of Disease, 12 November 1918.

William James LEE, Died of Wounds, 19 August 1918.

Nicholas LENAGHAN, Died of Disease, 8 May 1916.

Clifton LESLIE, Died of Wounds, 30 October 1916.

George LETTS, Died of Accident, 13 November 1916.

Leslie Cecil LEWIS, Killed in Action, 13 October 1918.

Joseph Herbert LINDSAY, Died of Wounds, 30 June 1915.

John Edward LOWE, Killed in Action, 13 August 1915.

Cecil Flinders LUCAS, Killed in Action, 23 August 1918.



Charles Albert Ernest MacKAY, Killed in Action, 20 June 1918.

Ernest MATTHEWS, Killed in Action, 22 August 1918.

Allan MAY., Died of Wounds, 31 July 1915.

Leslie Cecil MAYGAR VC, Died of Wounds, 1 November 1917.

James Joseph McCAGUE, Died of Wounds, 3 November 1917.

John Elmer McCANCE, Died of Wounds, 9 August 1915.

William Alexander McCAREY, Killed in Action, 4 May 1918.

James McCRAE, Died of Accident, 15 June 1916.

Frederick Alexander McDONALD, Died of Wounds, 17 October 1915 , and subsequently buried at sea. .

Frank McDONNELL, Killed in Action, 19 April 1917.

Duncan Campbell McDOUGALL, Killed in Action, 6 November 1917.

Herbert McGILL, Killed in Action, 30 April 1918.

Francis Edmund McGRATH, Died of Wounds, 31 October 1917.

William Hodge McGREGOR, Killed in Action, 5 June 1915.

Harry Athol McINTOSH, Died of Wounds, 22 October 1917.

William Hutchison McINTOSH, Died of Wounds, 1 December 1917.

James Greer McKAY, Killed in Action, 19 August 1916.

Norman Joseph McKAY, Killed in Action, 11 November 1917.

William Fraser McKERROW, Killed in Action, 4 May 1918.

Archibald McKINNON, Died of Accident, 18 June 1916.

William Carlyle McLEISH, Died of Disease, 6 April 1915.

Angus McLEOD, Died of Wounds, 7 October 1915 , and subsequently buried at sea. .

John McLEOD, Died of Wounds, 18 April 1918.

Oswald Samuel McLEOD, Killed in Action, 18 April 1918.

Horace Joseph McMAHON, Killed in Action, 8 November 1915.

Malcom Wade McPHERSON, Died of Wounds, 17 November 1915.

Harry George MENZIES, Killed in Action, 9 August 1918.

Benjamin Peter George MEREDITH, Killed in Action, 31 October 1917.

Hassef Lees MILLINGTON, Killed in Action, 27 November 1915.

Sydney Newman MITCHELL, Killed in Action, 31 October 1917.

Alfred Norman MOORE, Killed in Action, 6 November 1916.

Robert Herbert MORLEY, Killed in Action, 31 October 1917.

Hugh MORTON, Died of Disease, 1 January 1915.

Humphrey Osborne MOULE, Killed in Action, 6 August 1915.

Albert Herbert MULLER, Killed in Action, 2 August 1915.

Joseph Albert MURPHY, Died of Disease, 17 October 1918.

Joshua Grant MURPHY, Killed in Action, 22 October 1917.

Albert Gordon MURRAY, Died of Disease, 19 November 1918.

Albert John MURRAY, Killed in Action, 10 July 1918.



Arthur William NAGLE, Died of Wounds, 5 February 1917.

James NASH, Killed in Action, 7 June 1917.

Ernest Henry NETHERBY, Killed in Action, 2 May 1918.

William David NIVEN, Died of Wounds, 5 August 1915 , and subsequently buried at sea. .

Percy Henry NORMAN, Died of Accident, 17 October 1918.



Ronald Ewan O'BRIEN, Killed in Action, 20 September 1917.

Thomas Stephen O'BRIEN, Died of Disease, 14 May 1919.

William John O'LEARY, Died of Wounds, 15 June 1915.

Charles OWENS, Died of Wounds, 30 September 1918.



Harry Beckett PATERSON, Killed in Action, 23 August 1918.

Arthur Forbes PAULET, Killed in Action, 5 June 1915.

Roger Henry PAY, Killed in Action, 27 July 1918.

Walter George PEEL, Died of Wounds, 5 September 1915.

Charles Raymond PHILLIPS, Died of Wounds, 19 June 1915 , and subsequently buried at sea. .

Clifford Oswald PHILLIPS, Died of Wounds, 23 August 1915 , and subsequently buried at sea. .

Frederick POND, Killed in Action, 4 February 1917.

Michael Lewis POWELL, Died of Wounds, 19 July 1918.

Joseph James POWER, Died of Accident, 18 March 1915.

Robert Henry Werribee PRATT, Died of Wounds, 12 April 1917.

William George PURVIS, Killed in Action, 12 October 1917.



Alexander Leslie RAY, Killed in Action, 16 September 1915.

John REINEKE, Died of Wounds, 1 November 1917.

John Lewis RENNICK, Died of Wounds, 21 September 1918.

Edwin REYNOLDS, Killed in Action, 25 October 1916.

Rupert REYNOLDS, Died of Wounds, 4 January 1917.

Ormond Francis RICHARDSON, Died of Disease, 12 June 1917.

Frederick Rowland RIGBY, Killed in Action, 18 April 1918.

Herbert Charles RIGBY, Died of Accident, 30 December 1915.

Joseph Arthur ROBERTS, Died of Disease, 25 June 1915.

James ROSS, Killed in Action, 30 April 1918.

Charles RUSSELL, Died of Disease, 12 October 1915 , and subsequently buried at sea. .



Ernest James SAMMONS, Died of Wounds, 24 April 1918.

Alan Robertson SCOTT, Died of Wounds, 29 April 1918.

Alexander Charles SCOTT, Killed in Action, 25 April 1918.

William Royal SELKIRK, Died of Wounds, 17 November 1917.

Patrick SEXTON, Killed in Action, 17 April 1918.

Richard SEXTON, Died of Accident, 5 October 1916.

John SLATTERY, Died of Wounds, 23 August 1915 , and subsequently buried at sea. .

Alexander Sydney SMITH, Died of Wounds, 7 August 1915 , and subsequently buried at sea. .

Duncan SMITH, Died of Disease, 18 October 1918.

Frederick Joseph SMITH, Killed in Action, 7 August 1915 .

Robert Frederick SMITH, Died of Wounds, 2 October 1916.

Walter SMITH, Died of Wounds, 18 October 1918.

William John SMITH, Killed in Action, 6 August 1915.

Clifford STEPHENSON, Died of Wounds, 9 November 1916.

John STEWART, Killed in Action, 30 July 1915.

Sydney John STEWART, Killed in Action, 17 April 1918.

Gerald Cunliffe STONES, Killed in Action, 30 May 1917 .

Murray Charles STORRER, Died of Wounds, 5 June 1915.

Alfred Thomas STUCHBERY, Killed in Action, 2 August 1918.

Richard SWALE, Died of Wounds, 29 September 1917.



Norman Thomas TALBETT, Killed in Action, 5 August 1915.

James Raymond TAYLOR, Died of Wounds, 8 June 1917.

Stanley TAYLOR, Died of Disease, 25 October 1918.

Thomas Henry TAYLOR, Killed in Action, 2 May 1918.

Smedley Joseph John TERRY, Killed in Action, 6 August 1915.

Albert Ernest Victor THOMAS, Died of Disease, 21 October 1918.

Charles Vivian THOMAS, Killed in Action, 29 April 1918.

Reuben Montague THOMAS, Died of Disease, 22 June 1915.

John Hunter THOMSON, Killed in Action, 13 August 1916.

Rupert James TILLY, Died of Wounds, 30 November 1915.

Herbert Stanley TUCKFIELD, Killed in Action, 15 April 1917.

Miles Neil TURNER, Killed in Action, 6 August 1915.



Frank VENDY, Died of Wounds, 31 July 1915.



Walter Arthur WALLER, Died of Wounds, 10 January 1917.

Christopher Norman WARD, Killed in Action, 30 September 1918.

James Edward WAUGH, Killed in Action, 26 August 1916.

Ernest Walter WESTON, Died of Wounds, 5 December 1917.

Clifford Knapsey WHEELINS, Died of Wounds, 4 November 1917.

Patrick WHELAN, Died of Wounds, 9 August 1915 , and subsequently buried at sea. .

Patrick WHELAN, Died of Wounds, 9 August 1915 , and subsequently buried at sea. .

Harold Thomas WICKHAM, Died of Wounds, 1 November 1917.

Reginald WILLIAMS, Killed in Action, 3 August 1915.

Alexander WILSON, Killed in Action, 31 October 1917 .

Francis Ernest WILSON, Killed in Action, 3 January 1917.

Edward WOMERSLEY, Died of Wounds, 2 November 1917.

William John WOODS, Killed in Action, 1 May 1918.



Herbert YOUNG, Died of Wounds, 8 June 1917.


Lest We Forget


Acknowledgement: Many thanks to Steve Becker who provided much of the raw material that appears in this item.

Further Reading:

4th Australian Light Horse Regiment, AIF

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: 4th Australian Light Horse Regiment, Roll of Honour 

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
Updated: Monday, 18 January 2010 11:51 AM EAST
The Australian Light Horse, Militia and AIF, Mounted Rifle Tactics, Part 5, Defence
Topic: AIF - Lighthorse

The Australian Light Horse,

Militia and AIF

Mounted Rifle Tactics, Part 5, Defence


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 - Uses of mobility - Frontages occupied - Dead ground - Position of reserve - With other arms - Counter-attack - Advanced positions - Lateral communications -The moment to strike.

Turning again to the Field Service Regulations, we find "Defence" described as " the action of that force which postpones the assumption of the offensive and awaits attack in the first instance."

The evils of passive defence have been referred to in the first chapter, and it is not necessary to labour the point further. A defence which contemplates nothing but saving one's own troops, and does not aim at dealing the enemy a severe blow, sooner or later, is regarded as "delaying action," and, as I shall discuss rear guards under. "Protection," I propose to confine our investigations to the defence as defined above-that is, a defensive attitude in the first instance, with the intention to deal a decisive blow as soon as circumstances become favorable to its accomplishment.

How can the mobility of mounted riflemen be turned to the best account in circumstances such as those which I have just stated? Mounted riflemen lend themselves peculiarly to effective work on the defence, and perhaps it is just this fact which gives rise to the criticism which we have considered earlier, that their tactics tend to destroy the offensive spirit which leads to the charge of cavalry and infantry.

A defensive attitude implies inferiority in some respects, possibly temporary, but recognised as enough to call for caution, and an effort to counterbalance an advantage which rests with the attack. The mobility of the arm enables mounted riflemen to hold a defensive position in small strength, and covering an extent of ground impossible for infantry in similar circumstances. This admits of misleading the enemy as to the real strength of the force awaiting attack, and still of keeping a large proportion of the force in reserve, to deal with the situation as it develops.

A position of wide frontage should not, however, be selected, unless the strength available will allow of its occupation, and at the same time of the retention of a force for the decisive counter-attack. The fact that many lines of retreat were usually available and the frontages of the defensive positions were wide, accounts largely for the absence of decisive counterattacks by the. Republican forces in the first stages of the war in 1899-1902. That the frontages were selected by these forces without any intention of regarding this counter-attack as a feature of their defensive tactics is very likely, for several of the early battles, notably Stormberg and Colenso, are instances of opportunities lost when a large measure of success had been gained, and opportunities for counter-attack were afforded to the forces on the defensive.

The position having been selected, with the dual object of making the enemy attack, and dealing him a decisive blow during his attack by a heavy counter-attack, should be held at first with the smallest possible strength deployed. Every advantage should be taken of cover, and natural cover should be improved in order to have more men available for the mobile reserves. The initial force distributed in the firing line, with its supports, on the position must be strong enough to prevent the sudden seizure of any important commanding features included in the line of resistance, and their security must be provided for. Full advantage must be taken of ground to cover by fire all possible approaches, and all dead ground must be carefully watched and denied to the attacking force.

Reference to the records of the last South African War will reveal disaster after disaster directly attributable to the omission to recognise dead ground, and to provide facilities for covering it with fire. In spite of bloody lessons which are at hand to be studied, and studied on the ground if the trouble be taken, hardly a peace exercise is carried out in which dead ground is not ignored both by the attack and the defence.

Once the attacking enemy is aware of the numbers opposed to him, his task is enormously simplified, and the chance of misleading him as to the strength and distribution of his objective vanishes. Unless, however, the attacker is in possession of accurate information, mounted riflemen, well handled, on the defence can mislead, delay, and hamper a far stronger force with much effect, and with a strong likelihood of delivering a counterattack. Efforts at reconnaissance on the part of the enemy are therefore to be anticipated and checked; all avenues of approach must be watched, and arrangements for their protection must be made. The mobility of mounted riflemen confers on them special aptitude for this work.

Having arranged that the position is held in adequate strength, but with not a man or horse more than is required detailed for the task, the large bulk of the force should be kept in reserve, if possible, under the hand of the commander. Where a comparatively large force is employed, so that the rapid reinforcement of any portion of the position is possible as developments indicate the course of the fight, local reserves will be required, and the force which is held back may have to be divided. It must, however, be remembered that every man in the firing line means a man away from the force available for the decisive counter-attack, and that the security of all important features of the position, which would afford advantage to the attack in. advance, should therefore be achieved by the initial dispositions.

As soon as the trend and intention of the attack have become plain, the general reserve should be prepared and placed for the delivery of the decisive counter-attack, and should remain under the direct order of the commander of the force. Constant communication between that commander and the general reserve must be maintained.

Any force kept in reserve for dealing with situations as they must reconnoitre all routes loading to places on the position accessible from their position of readiness, and free communication by visual signalling and other means should be established and maintained between all units positions, and sections of the defending force. The commanders of all such mobile reserves must anticipate their employment by making every preparation while waiting, so that an order to move to any spot is carried out at once, and not delayed to make inquiries, which usually can be undertaken beforehand.

When acting with other arms, mounted riflemen should be employed in the defence in holding advanced or detached positions, securing and reconnoitring the flanks, and especially in reserve for rapid movement to restore the fight when portions of the defence are hard pressed, and in the general reserve. The infantry will hold especially those portions of the position from which movement is not contemplated, and of which a prolonged defence may be necessary, the mobile mounted riflemen being so employed that their power of rapid movement is used to the very best advantage.

Mounted riflemen, since they will, as a rule, occupy positions lightly at first, will have special need for the use of local reserves where a sudden attack may penetrate their line or gain an advantage. By employing their mobility to reach the threatened point, and dismounting under cover as close to it as possible, it is not improbable that the use of the bayonet will be found of much effect. The employment of local reserves is necessary to restore local disorganization of the defence, or to confirm a local success. It is essential that the local reserve, having performed its definite and limited task, should return to its former position of readiness, and a continued advance out of the position after having achieved the task is undesirable, and calculated to end in the tables being once more turned. Given that the situation can be rectified by the use of the bayonet, the fact that the mounted man is employing that weapon, and that his horse cannot follow, may prove a salutary check on the impulse to carry the venture too far. The local reserves will also be used to compel the attacker to use strong forces for the attack and draw in his reserves, so that the counterstroke may find a large force already occupied in the attack when the blow is given. Here, again, by feints and constant use of mobility, mounted riflemen in local reserves may impose upon their attackers with substantial influence on their dispositions.

The decisive counter-attack, for which mounted riflemen are particularly suited, more often than not occurs as the consequence of a mistake on the part of the attacker, and in any case must be undertaken while the situation which is favorable for it exists. The enemy will expect it at some stage or other, and will quickly endeavour to adjust any circumstances which seem to invite it. As Napoleon has said, "'The transition from the defensive to the offensive is one of the most delicate operations in war." A mounted force of good riflemen may be invaluable in such a situation. A correct appreciation of the moment for the effort, instant communication with the force which is to receive the order to make it, and rapid move inept to the scene of the proposed attack, are all necessary. The movement will be decided by the commander of the whole force, but the commander of the general reserve must assure himself that communication is always possible with head-quarters, and the commander of mounted riflemen in such a body must reconnoitre in advance all routes from the position of the reserve to probable scenes of its employment.

Any action which will tend to exhaust the enemy by making him deploy and attack before he reaches the position selected for defence is to the advantage of the defending force, and the employment of mounted riflemen in advance of the position to achieve this purpose is, as I have said, sound and in accordance with principle. The action of mounted riflemen in such circumstances will be much the same as that adopted on rear guards-that is to say, positions will be held so that the enemy is compelled to halt and make dispositions for attack, and perhaps deliver it. The force which has effected the delay caused to the enemy will then retire, while it can do so in good order, to another position, and, if possible, repeat the same tactics.

The necessity for time being spent on detaining the enemy is not as pressing as in the case of rear guard actions, and the main object is to exhaust, disorganize, and damage the advancing force as much as possible, in order that when they arrive at the prepared position their moral and physical energy may have been affected to an appreciable extent. Care must therefore be exercised that the retiring mounted troops effect their successive withdrawals in good order and with deliberation, and that the final retirement to the main position especially presents no feature of hurry or confusion which may have a disturbing influence on the waiting force behind it. Troops driven in from advanced positions in disorder are apt to include those on the main position in their rout when a resolute enemy follows on their heels. The front of the defending force must not be masked by the final retirement, but, on the other hand, the withdrawal should not by its direction clearly indicate the flanks of the main position to the enemy. Suitable lines of retirement which will fulfil the above conditions must therefore be reconnoitred and decided beforehand.

The led horses in defence will be disposed of in the same way as in the attack. Attempts by the enemy to stampede them must be expected and guarded against, and whenever retirement takes place, as it must do in any case with the advanced troops of which I have first spoken, cover from fire while remounting must be secured. Withdrawals from a position will be effected by leaving a few men on it till the last moment, who will endeavour by fire and skilful movement to conceal the disappearance of the bulk of the force from the firing line, and will extricate themselves, as soon as the remainder are in a position to be clear of effective fire when the enemy occupies the vacated position, by rapid retirement, aided by covering fire from the troops who have proceeded them in the withdrawal.

Lateral communication along the positions selected for defence is, of course, essential, and should be as free as arrangements can make it. Again, at the risk of being wearisome, let me lay stress on the need for the fullest reconnaissance of all means of moving along the position from the rear of it, and for constant reconnaissance during the fight. This reconnaissance will be the duty of the mounted troops, and their recognition of its necessity will be a great help towards its accomplishment.

Finally, the mobility of the mounted riflemen in defence should be used to deal the attack sudden, unexpected blows, and the desire to give such blows should be fostered in the arm. Victory, according to Napoleon, is to him who has the last reserves, and, it may be added, uses them at the right moment, for the same famous authority says the art of war consists ni a frapper fort, ni a frapper souvent, mans a frapper juste. In defence, striking at the right moment is of supreme importance; the mobility of mounted riflemen, with free communication and a well-chosen line of movement - each of which may often be secured by foresight-makes them a potent factor in the hands of the commander who is able to select the exact moment for the delivery of his blow.


Previous: Part 4, The Attack 

Next: Part 6, Protection


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 5, Defence

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
Updated: Thursday, 10 December 2009 8:39 AM EAST

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