« September 2009 »
1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30
You are not logged in. Log in

Search the site:

powered by FreeFind
Volunteer with us.

Entries by Topic All topics
A Latest Site News
A - Using the Site
AAA Volunteers
AAB-Education Centre
AAC-Film Clips
AAC-Photo Albums
AIF - Lighthorse
AIF - ALH - A to Z
AIF - DMC - Or Bat
AIF - DMC - Anzac MD
AIF - DMC - Aus MD
AIF - DMC - British
AIF - DMC - French
AIF - DMC - Indian
AIF - DMC - Italian
AIF - DMC - Medical
AIF - DMC - Remounts
AIF - DMC - Scouts
AIF - DMC - Sigs
AIF - DMC - Sigs AirlnS
AIF - DMC - 1 Sig Sqn
AIF - DMC - 2 Sig Sqn
AIF - DMC - Eng
AIF - DMC - Eng 1FSE
AIF - DMC - Eng 2FSE
AIF - 1B - 1 LHB
AIF - 1B - 6 MVS
AIF - 1B - 1 LHMGS
AIF - 1B - 1 Sig Trp
AIF - 1B - 1 LHFA
AIF - 1B - 1 LHR
AIF - 1B - 2 LHR
AIF - 1B - 3 LHR
AIF - 2B - 2 LHB
AIF - 2B - 7 MVS
AIF - 2B - 2 LHFA
AIF - 2B - 2 LHMGS
AIF - 2B - 2 Sig Trp
AIF - 2B - 5 LHR
AIF - 2B - 6 LHR
AIF - 2B - 7 LHR
AIF - 3B - 3 LHB
AIF - 3B - 8 MVS
AIF - 3B - 3 LHB Sigs
AIF - 3B - 3 LHFA
AIF - 3B - 3 LHMGS
AIF - 3B - 3 Sig Trp
AIF - 3B - 8 LHR
AIF - 3B - 9 LHR
AIF - 3B - 10 LHR
AIF - 4B - 4 LHB
AIF - 4B - 4 Sig Trp
AIF - 4B - 9 MVS
AIF - 4B - 4 LHFA
AIF - 4B - 4 LHMGS
AIF - 4B - 4 LHR
AIF - 4B - 11 LHR
AIF - 4B - 12 LHR
AIF - 5B - 5 LHB
AIF - 5B - 10 MVS
AIF - 5B - 5 LHFA
AIF - 5B - 5 Sig Trp
AIF - 5B - ICC
AIF - 5B - 14 LHR
AIF - 5B - 15 LHR
AIF - 5B - 1er Regt
AIF - 5B - 2 NZMGS
AIF - Aboriginal LH
AIF - Badges
AIF - Cars
AIF - Chinese LH
AIF - Double Sqns
AIF - Engineers
AIF - Fr - 22 Corps
AIF - Fr - 13 LHR
AIF - Honour Roll
AIF - HQ - 3rd Echelon
AIF - Marching Songs
AIF - Misc Topics
AIF - NZMRB - Sig-Trp
AIF - Ships
AIF - Ships - Encountr
AIF - Ships - Una
AIF - Wireless Sqn
BatzA - Australia
BatzA - Broken Hill
BatzA - Liverpool
BatzA - Merivale
BatzB - Boer War
BatzB - Bakenlaagte
BatzB - Belmont
BatzB - Bothaville
BatzB - Buffels Hoek
BatzB - Coetzees Drift
BatzB - Diamond Hill
BatzB - Driefontein
BatzB - Elands
BatzB - Graspan
BatzB - Grobelaar
BatzB - Grootvallier
BatzB - Hartebestfontn
BatzB - Houtnek
BatzB - Karee Siding
BatzB - Kimberley
BatzB - Koster River
BatzB - Leeuw Kop
BatzB - Mafeking
BatzB - Magersfontein
BatzB - Modder River
BatzB - Onverwacht
BatzB - Paardeberg
BatzB - Palmietfontein
BatzB - Pink Hill
BatzB - Poplar Grove
BatzB - Rhenoster
BatzB - Sannahs Post
BatzB - Slingersfontn
BatzB - Stinkhoutbm
BatzB - Sunnyside
BatzB - Wilmansrust
BatzB - Wolvekuil
BatzB - Zand River
BatzG - Gallipoli
BatzG - Anzac
BatzG - Aug 1915
BatzG - Baby 700
BatzG - Evacuation
BatzG - Hill 60
BatzG - Hill 971
BatzG - Krithia
BatzG - Lone Pine
BatzG - Nek
BatzJ - Jordan Valley
BatzJ - 1st Amman
BatzJ - 2nd Amman
BatzJ - Abu Tellul
BatzJ - Es Salt
BatzJ - JV Maps
BatzJ - Ziza
BatzM - Mespot
BatzM - Baghdad
BatzM - Ctesiphon
BatzM - Daur
BatzM - Kurna
BatzM - Kut el Amara
BatzM - Ramadi
BatzN - Naval
BatzN - AE1
BatzN - Cocos Is
BatzN - Heligoland
BatzN - Marmara
BatzN - Zeebrugge
BatzN - Zeppelin L43
BatzNG - Bitapaka
BatzO - Other
BatzO - Baku
BatzO - Egypt 1919
BatzO - Emptsa
BatzO - Karawaran
BatzO - Peitang
BatzO - Wassa
BatzP - Palestine
BatzP - 1st Gaza
BatzP - 2nd Gaza
BatzP - 3rd Gaza
BatzP - Aleppo
BatzP - Amwas
BatzP - Ayun Kara
BatzP - Bald Hill
BatzP - Balin
BatzP - Beersheba
BatzP - Berkusieh
BatzP - Damascus
BatzP - El Auja
BatzP - El Buggar
BatzP - El Burj
BatzP - Haifa
BatzP - Huj
BatzP - JB Yakub
BatzP - Kaukab
BatzP - Khan Kusseir
BatzP - Khuweilfe
BatzP - Kuneitra
BatzP - Megiddo
BatzP - Nablus
BatzP - Rafa
BatzP - Sasa
BatzP - Semakh
BatzP - Sheria
BatzP - Surafend
BatzP - Wadi Fara
BatzS - Sinai
BatzS - Bir el Abd
BatzS - El Arish
BatzS - El Mazar
BatzS - El Qatiya  
BatzS - Jifjafa
BatzS - Magdhaba
BatzS - Maghara
BatzS - Romani
BatzS - Suez 1915
BatzSe - Senussi
BatzWF - Westn Front
BW - Boer War
BW - NSW - A Bty RAA
BW - NSW - Aust H
BW - NSW - Lancers
BW - NSW - NSW Inf
BW - Qld
BW - Qld - 1ACH
BW - Qld - 1QMI
BW - Qld - 2QMI
BW - Qld - 3ACH
BW - Qld - 3QMI
BW - Qld - 4QIB
BW - Qld - 5QIB
BW - Qld - 6QIB
BW - Qld - 7ACH
BW - SA - 2ACH
BW - SA - 4ACH
BW - SA - 8ACH
BW - Tas
BW - Tas - 1ACH
BW - Tas - 1TIB
BW - Tas - 1TMI
BW - Tas - 2TB
BW - Tas - 2TIB
BW - Tas - 3ACH
BW - Tas - 8ACH
BW - Vic
BW - Vic - 1VMI
BW - Vic - 2ACH
BW - Vic - 2VMR
BW - Vic - 3VB
BW - Vic - 4ACH
BW - Vic - 4VIB
BW - Vic - 5VMR
BW - Vic - 6ACH
BW - Vic - AAMC
BW - Vic - Scot H
BW - WA - 2ACH
BW - WA - 3WAB
BW - WA - 4ACH
BW - WA - 8ACH
BW Gen - Campaign
BW Gen - Soldiers
BW General
Cavalry - General
Diary - Schramm
Egypt - Heliopolis
Egypt - Mena
Gen - Ataturk Pk, CNB
Gen - Australia
Gen - Legends
Gen - Query Club
Gen - St - NSW
Gen - St - Qld
Gen - St - SA
Gen - St - Tas
Gen - St - Vic
Gen - St - WA
Gm - German Items
Gm - Bk - 605 MGC
GW - 11 Nov 1918
GW - Atrocities
GW - August 1914
GW - Biographies
GW - Propaganda
GW - Spies
GW - We forgot
Militia 1899-1920
Militia - Area Officers
Militia - Inf - Infantry
Militia - Inf - 1IB
Militia - Inf - 2IB
Militia - Inf - 3IB
Militia - Inf - NSW
Militia - Inf - Qld
Militia - Inf - SA
Militia - Inf - Tas
Militia - Inf - Vic
Militia - Inf - WA
Militia - K.E.Horse
Militia - LH
Militia - LH - Regts
Militia - LH - 1LHB
Militia - LH - 2LHB
Militia - LH - 3LHB
Militia - LH - 4LHB
Militia - LH - 5LHB
Militia - LH - 6LHB
Militia - LHN - NSW
Militia - LHN - 1/7/1
Militia - LHN - 2/9/6
Militia - LHN - 3/11/7
Militia - LHN - 4/6/16
Militia - LHN - 5/4/15
Militia - LHN - 6/5/12
Militia - LHN - 28
Militia - LHQ - Qld
Militia - LHQ - 13/2
Militia - LHQ - 14/3/11
Militia - LHQ - 15/1/5
Militia - LHQ - 27/14
Militia - LHS - SA
Militia - LHS - 16/22/3
Militia - LHS - 17/23/18
Militia - LHS - 24/9
Militia - LHT - Tas
Militia - LHT - 12/26
Militia - LHV - Vic
Militia - LHV - 7/15/20
Militia - LHV - 8/16/8
Militia - LHV - 9/19
Militia - LHV - 10/13
Militia - LHV - 11/20/4
Militia - LHV - 19/17
Militia - LHV - 29
Militia - LHW - WA
Militia - LHW-18/25/10
Militia - Military Orders
Militia - Misc
MilitiaRC - Rifle Clubs
MilitiaRC - NSW
MilitiaRC - NT
MilitiaRC - Qld
MilitiaRC - SA
MilitiaRC - Tas
MilitiaRC - Vic
MilitiaRC - WA
Militiaz - New Zealand
Tk - Turkish Items
Tk - Army
Tk - Bks - Books
Tk - Bks - 1/33IR
Tk - Bks - 27th IR
Tk - Bks - Air Force
Tk - Bks - Yildirim
Tk - POWs
Wp - Weapons
Wp - Hotchkiss Cav
Wp - Hotchkiss PMG
Blog Tools
Edit your Blog
Build a Blog
RSS Feed
View Profile
Open Community
Post to this Blog
Site Index
Education Centre
LH Militia
Boer War
Transport Ships
LH Battles
ALH - Units
ALH - General
Aboriginal Light H
Ottoman Sources

"At a mile distant their thousand hooves were stuttering thunder, coming at a rate that frightened a man - they were an awe inspiring sight, galloping through the red haze - knee to knee and horse to horse - the dying sun glinting on bayonet points..." Trooper Ion Idriess

The Australian Light Horse Studies Centre aims to present an accurate history as chroniclers of early Australian military developments from 1899 to 1920.

The Australian Light Horse Studies Centre site holds over 12,000 entries and is growing daily.

Contact: Australian Light Horse Studies Centre

Let us hear your story: You can tell your story, make a comment or ask for help on our Australian Light Horse Studies Centre Forum called:

Desert Column Forum

WARNING: This site contains: names, information and images of deceased people; and, language which may be considered inappropriate today.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009
el Qatiya, Sinai, 23 April 1916, Gullett Account
Topic: BatzS - El Qatiya

el Qatiya

Sinai, 23 April 1916

Gullett Account


Left to right: Lt Murray, Surveyor; Mr Gullett, Official War Correspondent; Lt O'Connor, Photographer.

Gullett, HS,  The Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine, 1914–1918 (10th edition, 1941) Official Histories – First World War
Volume VII


Chapter VII

The Advance to Romani

Like so many British campaigns, the advance into Sinai was to he marked by an unfortunate preliminary tragedy. The 5th Mounted (Yeomanry) Brigade, under Brigadier General E. A. Wiggin which advanced to Romani on April 7th, was ill-suited for its mission. Its raw material in officers and men was of the best; but it was indifferently trained for actual warfare, and possessed few of the essentials for isolated work in the desert. Its men were recruited almost entirely from the farmers of the English shires, and its officers, with the exception of a few regulars, were drawn from the landed gentry.

The wealthy young men of England, when they respond whole-heartedly, as they always do, to the nation's call to arms, tend to treat their newly acquired military responsibilities in a very sporting manner. They do not in the least mind dying for England, but they like to go to war casually and, if possible, in comfort. They ask that the wretched business shall not, except as a last resort, too seriously alter their regular habits of life, So it was with the ill-fated yeomanry brigade under General Wiggin's command. They rode gaily out into the desert to " have a crack '' at an enemy whom they respected as a man but despised as a soldier. They moved in great comfort. The officers included a number of young men of noble families and more who were heirs to great riches, and their messes were laden with good things. They established brigade headquarters at Romani and standing outpost camps at Katia, five miles away, Oghratina, six miles still further east, and Hamisah, four miles south of Katia. With slight exception among the officers, all ranks were utter strangers to the desert, and a sharper contrast than that between the desert of northern Sinai and the soft and gracious English countryside is scarcely to be discovered in the world. But the strangeness of their surroundings only heightened the zest of the yeomanry for campaigning. The sun was not yet excessively hot; the men were well and fit, the horses in good condition; the enemy, except in harmless numbers, was apparently far away in southern Palestine; and the brigade, conscious that it was the venturesome vanguard of Murray's army, was very well pleased with itself and its prospect.

The enemy made no secret of his knowledge of the yeomanry camps. German airmen patrolled the area almost daily and bombed the Katia camp on April 20th and both Katia and Romani on the 21st. The Bedouins had the full run of the British lines, and were always prowling through them; but, when questioned about the enemy, they said there were no Turks within a distance of many miles. The situation was as familiar to Major-General the Hon. H. A. Lawrence,' who was in command of the No. 3 Section, or northern sector, of the Canal Defences, as it was to Wiggin, inasmuch as Lawrence visited Romani on the 19th and Oghratina on the 20th. On April 22nd Wiggin learned from the natives that there was an enemy force 200 strong at Mageibra, about fourteen miles from Romani across the desert to the south-east; and he asked Lawrence by telegraph for permission to attack. Lawrence agreed, and Wiggin at once moved out in the early afternoon for Hamisah, where he picked up the garrison of the Warwickshires. On the night of the 22nd Wiggin, with two squadrons of Warwickshires and one squadron of the Worcesters, made a reconnaissance to Mageibra. The British commander's information was misleading, and probably had been purposely supplied to him by Bedouins acting as agents for the Turks. On the early morning of the 23rd, therefore, Wiggin's brigade was split up as follows; - Three squadrons with brigade headquarters at Mageibra, two squadrons of the Worcesters at Ogliratina, one squadron of the Gloucesters at Katia, and the rest of the brigade in camp at Romani. Already at that time the whole oasis area from Oghratina to Romani, and as far west as Dueidar, was overrun with a force of Turks numerically stronger than the British brigade, and supported by a number of light guns. Yet until after the Turks opened fire at Oghratina, Katia, and Dueidar, Wiggin was not aware of an enemy's presence. The Turk is a fine infantry raider; and that night, with the Germans to plan for him, as they probably did on this occasion, he showed his quality. Dawn found him in strength at Oghratina, at Katia six miles further west, and fourteen miles still nearer the Canal at Dueidar. Marching in that country is exhausting and slow, but the Turks when they reached their objective were still fresh enough to attack with resolution.

Position of 5th Yeomanry Brigade, and attack by Turks at about 5.30 a.m. on 23rd April, 1916.

The morning of the 23rd favoured the Turkish plans. A heavy mist enfolded the sand-dunes, making observations beyond a short distance impossible. The soft sand muffled all sound of movement. The two squadrons of Worcesters under Major Williams-Thomas at Oghratina stood to arms before daylight, and then, despite the fog, withdrew their patrols. The Turks crept up through the fog at dawn, and opened a very heavy fire from light guns, machine-guns, and rifles at point-blank range. Thanks, doubtless, to the Bedouins, they appeared to know, even in the fog, the exact location of the camp. They advanced confidently and boldly. The British were completely surprised. First assailed when the fog lifted at 5.30, the force resisted in a confused struggle for about two hours; then, when most of the firing parties had exhausted their ammunition, the Turks overwhelmed the positions in a rush from all sides. The yeomanry casualties in killed, wounded, and prisoners were fifteen officers and 187 of other ranks.

Having secured their prisoners, the Turks pressed on immediately to Katia. At Katia the Gloucesters, under Captain M. G. Lloyd-Baker, to the number of five officers and ninety other ranks, stood to arms half-an-hour before dawn. Horses were saddled and a patrol of eight men was sent out, which returned at about 5 o'clock, having seen no sign of the enemy in the mist. A few' minutes later an enemy patrol about twenty strong came into contact with the yeomanry outpost line; a few shots were exchanged, and the Turks withdrew. At about 5.30 heavy fire was heard in the direction of Oghratina. The posts were connected by telephone at 6 o'clock Oghratina reported that the enemy had been beaten off, but an hour later telephoned again that they were heavily attacked from all sides. The wire was then cut, but firing continued until 7.30, when it suddenly ceased. Oghratina had been overwhelmed. A few minutes later a strong enemy patrol approached the Katia camp, but on challenge retired; the mist then became so dense that the Gloucesters, straining their eyes in expectation of attack, could see nothing beyond a distance of a hundred yards.

The fog lifted at about 8 o'clock, and before 9 Corporal Tippett, who had been out with a patrol towards Oghratina, reported two long lines of men, about 300 in each, and also troops on camels, about a mile and a half away, marching towards Katia. Wiggin had orders to avoid serious engagement with a superior force, but this instruction was either not communicated to the outlying posts or was not acted upon. Lloyd-Baker was indifferently placed on a little flat piece of ground in a palm hod surrounded by sand dunes. He was menaced by an infantry force greatly outnumbering his squadron; but he had his horses saddled. The way was clear towards Romani, or towards Wiggin's force at Hamisah, with which he was in touch by telephone; or he could have led his men mounted out of camp, and fought the advancing enemy with safety as opportunity offered in the open. But he decided to stay where he was and fight in his camp, relying upon the fire-strength of his ninety men, and, as he was justified in believing, on the certainty of support from the camp at Romani or Wiggin's three squadrons at Hamisah. Perhaps, too, he thought he could ride out on his horses at any time, if the enemy proved too strong for him.

The Turks, however, speedily demolished any chance of mounted escape. Shortly before 9 o'clock three or four light guns opened fire on the camp from a knob to the east. The first twenty bursts went over; but the gunners, getting correction from good observation, then shortened their range and poured round after round into the yeomanry horses. In less than ten minutes most of the animals were killed. Then came a German aeroplane, whose observer turned the gun-fire on to the hastily formed British line. Simultaneously the Turkish riflemen opened heavy fire on the camp at from 800 to 1,000 yards.

In the tragic engagement which followed, the folly which first sent the brigade alone into the desert, and which afterwards divided it into isolated camps, ignorant of the enemy's movements, was redeemed by the magnificent fight to the death carried on by the slender force of yeomanry officers and men. Scooping out little shelter-holes in the sand, the Gloucesters maintained rapid fire against the rapidly increasing Turks, who, appearing first from the east, spread swiftly round the camp. For a time the British were confident they would receive reinforcements. Shortly before 11 o'clock the two other squadrons of Gloucesters were seen to be advancing on the left of the camp from the direction of Romani; about the same time a squadron of Worcesters from Hamisah, under Lieutenant-Colonel the Hon. C. J. Coventry, advanced towards Katia on foot, having dismounted about three-quarters of a mile away on the west. Coventry and his men succeeded in joining up with Lloyd-Baker's force.

The Turks continued to receive reinforcements. At about I 1 o’clock a body of enemy horsemen from I 50 to 250 strong appeared about three miles away on the right flank of the Katia post; these men were apparently riding yeomanry horses captured at Oghratina. After dismounting in a hod they joined the Turkish firing line. The enemy guns had ceased fire at 10.30 a.m., but at 12.30 p.m. they re-opened at about 2,000 yards, and the riflemen, constantly creeping forward in small parties under good cover, came within 300 yards. At 2 o'clock the camp was under concentrated punishment from guns, machine-guns, and rifles. The hospital tent was set on fire; casualties rapidly diminished the gallant yeomen's resistance, and ammunition was running very low. The dislike of the Turk to bayonet work in the open was never more clearly demonstrated. He advanced to within fifty yards of the British, determined if possible to use his rifles in disabling every man before risking a charge with the steel. The remnants of the yeomanry now had a good target, and they punished the Turks heavily as long as ammunition lasted. Shortly before 3 o’clock, when the Turkish cordon was complete, the guns ceased fire. The British fire had diminished to an occasional splutter from the few rifles still in action. The Turks then rushed swarming into the camp, as the yeomanry got the order to retire, but not before the single machine-gun possessed by the squadron had been buried. Three of the five officers under Captain Lloyd-Baker, including Lord Elcho, were wounded and made prisoners. Captain Lloyd-Baker and 2nd Lieutenant W. A. Smith fought to the end and were killed. Of the men, seventeen were definitely known to have been killed and many wounded, while fifty-six men were posted as missing. Colonel Coventry's squadron shared fully in the gallant fight, and the inevitable fate, of Lloyd-Baker's men. One officer was killed, Coventry and three others were taken prisoners, and fifty men reported missing. About twenty unwounded men of the garrison attempted to escape, but only nine evaded the enemy. Lloyd-Baker's decision to stand upon his ground was influenced by the fact that he had in the camp between thirty and forty dismounted men without horses, and a quantity of stores which he was loath to abandon. Moreover he received by telephone the definite promise of support from both Hamisah and Romani. Wiggin with two squadrons had followed Colonel Coventry from Hamisah. His force attacked the Turks' left flank and drove it back a few hundred yards, but without giving any relief to the garrison.

Lieutenant-Colonel Yorke, advancing with two squadrons from Romani, had a sharp little engagement with the enemy to the north of Katia, but was driven off. But at no time after Coventry came up was the counter-attack pushed with that resolution which alone would have saved the men at Katia Had the relief fought with anything like the splendid spirit of the men in the camp, Lloyd-Baker's party would probably have been saved.

General Wiggin, when the fate of Katia and Oghratina became clear, decided to retire at once towards the Canal. He ordered Colonel Yorke to join him without returning to the camp at Romani, and the brigade, having abandoned much of its equipment, rode that night as far as Bir el Nuss. The Turks, after destroying the two posts, at once withdrew east with their prisoners, leaving the British wounded to the customary brutality of the Bedouins, who at once stripped them naked, refused them water, and taunted them with the cries " Finish British! Turks Kantara! Turks Port Said!" Simultaneously with the attack on Oghratina, another Turkish column appeared before the little British infantry post at Dueidar, twenty miles further west, and only twelve miles from the Canal. At Dueidar, a small British redoubt, protected by a few strands of barbed wire at a distance of zoo yards, was held by about 100 Royal Scots Fusiliers of the 52nd (Lowland) Division and a troop of yeomanry. A few hundred yards away, at a little oasis, was a further small body of Royal Scots in reserve. The garrison at the redoubt stood to arms before dawn, and the troop of yeomanry went out, reported all clear, and returned to the lines. Apparently the Turks intended to rush the post with bombs and bayonet, for just on dawn, when the British camp had settled down again, they appeared at the barbed wire. As they picked their way in strength through it, still unseen, a fox-terrier belonging to a man in the fusiliers began to bark excitedly and rushed towards the wire. The alarm was instantly given, the garrison turned out and poured rapid rifle fire into the advancing enemy. Reinforcements were rushed up from the oasis, and further aid summoned from Hill 40 in the neighbourhood; and after a sharp brief engagement, in which the Turks and some Arabs who accompanied them suffered heavily, the enemy was driven off, leaving seventy dead and thirty wounded on the ground. The British had two officers and eighteen men killed. This enemy column, about 300 rifles strong, had traversed the desert on camels, which they had left a few hundred yards from the position.

The merit of the Turks' achievement was that they crossed nearly the whole of the desert of northern Sinai, and broke and routed a mounted brigade. They certainly had a marked superiority in numbers, but the British had the mobility of their horses and a clear line of communication. That the brigade was so faultily and dangerously disposed before the attack. and so indifferently handled during the fighting, does not detract from a singularly fine piece of work done by the enemy. The Turks had no thought of remaining in the oasis. Their movement was a true raid; having succeeded beyond their expectations, they proceeded at once to advertise and exaggerate in Palestine and Syria the importance of their victory. The British prisoners were hurried back into Judea and paraded through the streets of Jerusalem as evidence to the Arabs, and the many other races and religions of the Holy City, of the invincibility of Turkish arms. Coming so soon after Gallipoli, and with the Turkish star ascendant at the time in Mesopotamia, the success upon Sinai was of great political and moral value to the enemy.

The Turks were either particularly well advised as to Murray's plans, or especially lucky in their attack on the yeomanry. When the blow fell, the 2nd Light Horse Brigade under Ryrie was already moving eastwards to support the British force in the oasis district. On April 10th, General Murray had cabled a highly cheerful dispatch to the War Office. He reported that the broad-gauge railway was already laid for twenty-six kilometres east of the Canal, and that it was expected to reach a point three miles west of Romani by April 26th. " I shall then have," the dispatch continued, "two mounted brigades and part of the 52nd Division in occupation of the whole district, and hope to be able to give the quietus to small enemy forces in the neighbourhood." The dispatch also informed the War Office that all water-supplies within thirty miles of the Canal were now patrolled by the British, and that a mobile force was ready to go out and deal with enemy forces approaching them, or to demolish the wells if that should appear necessary. In brief, Murray by the middle of April believed he had finally denied the enemy all approach towards the Canal except by the northern or Katia route, and he was satisfied that the blocking of that route was well in hand. "Katia," he added, " is already occupied, and should be finally secured against every attempt on the part of the enemy by the end of this month."

The 2nd Light Horse Brigade had arrived at Salhia on April 8th, and was followed two days later by the New Zealand Brigade and the headquarters of Anzac Mounted Division. Every effort was made to hasten the complete equipment of the two brigades, and there seems to have been a general feeling that the yeomanry were dangerously “in the air," and should be reinforced as speedily as possible. On April 22nd the 5th Light Horse Regiment (Queensland), under Lieutenant-Colonel L. C. Wilson reached Kantara under orders from the 52nd Division, while the rest of the

2nd Brigade was ordered to leave Salhia on April 23rd, reach Kantara that evening, and march immediately towards the Katia area. Early on the morning of the 23rd Wilson received news of the attack upon Dueidar, and was ordered to scour the post without delay. Major D. C. Cameron, advancing at a smart pace with the leading squadron, reached Dueidar after the Turks had been driven off, and immediately took up the pursuit. The enemy, however, had a good start on his camels, and Cameron's horses, handicapped by the deep sand, were unable to come up with the main body, which retreated to the southeast. Cameron, after picking up a few enemy stragglers, returned to Dueidar at dusk.

Meanwhile the remainder of the 2nd Light Horse Brigade had reached Kantara at 6.30 on the evening of the 23rd, after a six and a half hours' march from Salhia. Ryrie was at once informed of the enemy successes, and was ordered to make all speed to Hill 70, to cover the retreat of the yeomanry. The brigade clattered across the pontoon bridge over the Canal in the bright moonlight of Easter Sunday (St. George's Day), and rode eastwards into the desert by the famous Royal road of the ancients. "The only entry into Egypt is by this desert," says Herodotus, and that entry was now to be denied to the Turks by the Australian light horsemen. The brigade was in fine trim for operations. The men were fresh and touched with excitement, the horses were in perfect condition. As the column hurried through the magical moonlight across the desert, all ranks felt the influence, as they so often did in the long campaign which followed, of the teeming associations of the route which since the birth of time had been trodden by mighty armies and great personages. Here the desert air had resounded with the huge marching hosts of the Pharaohs, the Persians, the Macedonians under Alexander, the legions of Rome, and the matchless revolutionaries of France under Napoleon. With the crossing of the Canal in strength was launched the amazing enterprise of the men of one of the world's youngest Christian peoples for the conquest of patriarchal Palestine. The idea seemed so unreal and ludicrous that many officers and men laughed aloud in the night as they pondered it.

Although the brigade was in sound campaigning condition and high spirits, it rode out indifferently equipped for a severe campaign. When Ryrie reached Kantara, he was without transport for his ambulance. All that offered for the purpose was a batch of seventy camels; and scarcely a man in the ambulance had ever handled camels. Moreover, the gear supplied with the camels was old and defective. But the ambulance men, with the cheerfulness and adaptability which always distinguished them, struggled bravely with the strange animals, and after a wild scramble marched gaily out to time with the brigade. All ranks were entirely without tents, and were limited to one blanket each. The brigade had no sanitary supplies, and was faced, at least for a few days, with short rations. Riding in their khaki and large slouch hats, without a single splash of colour, on their long-tailed horses, these young men from the new continent were perhaps the least pretentious force that ever appeared on the old Sultani road. They paced along in the night, silent except for an occasional order passed up and down the column to regulate the speed, and for the jangle of clashing stirrup-irons, in marked contrast to the richly-clad, many-coloured army pageants which had ridden the track so often all down the ages.

As the brigade advanced into the desert, it was met in the night by scattered yeomanry parties who had missed Wiggin's camp at Bir el Nuss and were hastening back towards the Canal. Ryrie thus realised for the first time the full extent of the Turks' dramatic success. The yeomanry were badly shaken. They could give no account of the situation ahead beyond declaring that the Turks were advancing in great strength.

Half-an-hour before midnight, after nearly twelve hours in the saddle, Ryrie reached Hill 70, seven miles east of Kantara, and remained there awaiting orders. Next morning, the 24tI1, he pushed on to railhead, and Chauvel, with Anzac Mounted Division Headquarters and the New Zealand Mounted Brigade, arrived at Hill 70. At railhead Ryrie found a British officer in charge of some hundreds of natives of the Egyptian Labour Corps, who had not been advised of the disasters at Katia and Oghratina.

On the 24th Chauvel was ordered to take over the command of all troops east of Hill 70, including the infantry at Dueidar, and during the day he shifted his headquarters to Hill 40. His first step was to order a complete change in the arrangements for the defence of the oasis. A month before he had pointed out to the High Command the folly of establishing small isolated posts at places like Hamisah, Oghratina, and Katia, and now, with the full concurrence of General Lawrence, he proceeded to form one strong camp at Romani, and to control the oasis area to the east and south by a system of daily reconnaissances in strength. Chauvel showed in this decision that sound sense of a position which always marked him, and a particular appreciation of the difficulties and possibilities of the Katia district.

Ryrie's 2nd Brigade moved forward on the 25th, occupied Romani and Bir Etmaler, and found at once that these camps, although abandoned by the yeomanry after the fighting at Katia, had not been entered by the enemy. The Turks had withdrawn eastwards to Bir El Abd, sixteen miles from Katia, while the yeomanry were retiring westwards towards the Canal. And now were sown the seeds of the unfortunate and prolonged misunderstanding between the British yeomanry and the Australian light horsemen, which for upwards of a year did much to affect the happiness of the mounted troops in the campaign. The Australians were not favourably impressed by the spectacle of the fugitive parties of yeomanry whom they passed in their advance from the Canal to Hill 70. Nor was their respect for the British brigade increased when they reached its headquarters camp at Romani, and found that it had been abandoned, although not approached by the enemy. Moreover, the light horsemen discovered in the officers' messes of that camp evidences of good living which they deemed inconsistent with serious campaigning. This led them to a foolish, although a natural action. They had ridden out hurriedly at very short notice without full equipment, and on scanty rations. They had come to succour the yeomanry, finding the yeomanry fled, they helped themselves to any foodstuffs and military equipment which they could find in their camps.

Having established his headquarters at Romani, Ryrie pushed his regiments out upon reconnaissance to Katia, Oghratina, and Hamisah. Nowhere did he encounter the enemy. At Hamisah he found tents and other material abandoned in haste by the yeomanry, but inspection of the positions at Katia and Oghratina disclosed the resolution with which the British had sustained the unequal struggle against the Turks. At Oghratina the bodies of seventy British and twenty-five Turks were located, and at Katia the Australians buried thirty-three British dead and counted seventy bodies of horses and forty-eight of camels. In neither camp was there any evidence of early surrender. Both garrisons had fought valiantly as long as their ammunition lasted, and until the Turks had overwhelmed the survivors with bomb and bayonet.

The sudden smashing of the yeomanry brigade naturally caused excitement and anxiety at Murray's headquarters. There was no fear of a general Turkish attack upon the Canal; but it was only too evident that the yeomanry brigade had been pushed forward without a proper appreciation of the danger of its position, and that its disposition had been extremely hazardous. Steps were at once taken to complete the Anzac Mounted Division, and the movement of the 1st Light Horse Brigade from Upper Egypt was hastened. At the same time the advance of the 52nd Division to Romani was vigorously pushed. Murray's despatches to the War Office clearly indicate his concern, and also his consciousness that his confident forecast of April 14th had been badly at fault. Cabling the news of the reverse, he first mentioned the successful resistance at Dueidar, and then stated that the Katia garrison had been attacked by 3,000 Turks and after severe fighting had been withdrawn to Dueidar and Romani. In his first dispatch he did not mention Oghratina.

When that dispatch was forwarded, Murray may not have possessed all the facts of the yeomanry disaster; even if he did, he was to be forgiven perhaps for not at once sending the evil tidings to the War Office. At that moment the British Cabinet was hourly expecting news of the fall of Kut el Amara, with the loss of the garrison under the intrepid Townshend. On April 25th Lord Kitchener, ignorant of the confusion in Sinai, cabled to Murray, saying that there was "little or no prospect of saving Kut," and therefore "any success you can achieve during the next few days will be most valuable" as an offset to the failure in Mesopotamia. But the yeomanry misfortune, bitter as it was, served a very useful purpose. It was a grim lesson, but it was well learned. Never again in the whole campaign was a British force surprised and enveloped, a remarkable fact in a war of extended fronts and widely scattered units.


Further Reading:

el Qatiya, Sinai, 23 April 1916

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: el Qatiya, Sinai, 23 April 1916, Gullett  Account

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Sunday, 13 September 2009 10:33 PM EADT
Monday, 7 September 2009
el Qatiya, Sinai, 23 April 1916, Falls Account, Egypt in the Spring of 1916
Topic: BatzS - El Qatiya

el Qatiya

Sinai, 23 April 1916

Falls Account, Egypt in the Spring of 1916


As part of the Official British War History of the Great War, Captain Cyril Falls and Lieutenant General George MacMunn were commissioned to produce a commentary on the Sinai, Palestine and Syrian operations that took place. In 1928, their finished work, Military Operations, Egypt and Palestine - From the outbreak of war with Germany to June 1917,  was published in London. Their book included a section specifically related to the battle of Romani and is extracted below.

MacMunn, G. & Falls, C., Military operations: Egypt and Palestine, (London 1930), pp. 154 - 159:


Egypt in the Spring of 1916.

In Chapter VI the general narrative was carried up to the arrival of the troops from Gallipoli in Egypt : there to be re-equipped, restored in health, and finally either despatched to the Western Front or employed to protect Egypt and the Suez Canal against the Turkish offensive then expected. In the same chapter the amalgamation of the two Egyptian commands in March was anticipated, the return of Sir J. Maxwell to England and Sir A. Murray's assumption of command of the combined Mediterranean Expeditionary Force and Force in Egypt, under the name of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, being recorded. Though that point has been disposed of, it must be remembered in reading the pages which follow that until the 19th March Sir A. Murray's command included only Sharqia, the easternmost province of Egypt, and Sinai, and that his attention was concentrated on the defence of the Canal. For these reasons he established his headquarters at Ismailia.

The administrative work of the first six weeks was very heavy. Every day during that period ships arrived at Alexandria and Port Said with troops, guns, transport and stores of the Dardanelles Army ; every formation in need of reorganization and re-equipment. Before the last units reached the country or the components of this great mass has been disentangled, the move of troops from Egypt for service elsewhere began, further to complicate the administration. In both material and personnel the formations from Gallipoli were incomplete, and training was one of the most urgent problems to be faced.

A training centre for Australian and New Zealand reinforcements was at once formed at Tell el Kebir, and a machine-gun school at Ismailia. Sir J. Maxwell had already organized at Zeitun the Imperial School of Instruction on a considerable scale. When this passed under the 1916. control of Sir A. Murray in March, he expanded it and merged in it the machine-gun school, concentrating all training, except that of the Australian reinforcements, at Zeitun, under the command of Lieut.-Colonel the Hon. E. M. Colston, Grenadier Guards. Classes were formed for:

(i) officers,

(ii) non-commissioned officers,

(iii) machine gunners,

(iv) Lewis gunners,

(v) signallers,

(vi) artillery,

(vii) Stokes gunners,

(viii) grenadiers.

Between the 7th January and 31st May, 1,165 officers and 5,512 other ranks passed through the various courses of instruction.

The organization of the signal services was also of importance. The signallers from Gallipoli had to be almost entirely re-equipped in material and reorganized to suit Egyptian conditions, while fresh personnel had to be trained to replace their heavy casualties. [Up to the 31st May 94 officers and 1,305 other ranks were trained in signal duties at Zeitun and Alexandria.] Until this period the civil administration had worked the telegraph system for the army, employing mainly native operators. New units had to be formed, equipped and trained to take over this work on the Sinai front, on the coast of the Western Desert as far as Sollum, and for the force defending the Nile Valley from the west.

Yet another piece of work, on the importance of which Sir A. Murray lays stress in his Despatches, was the survey on a large scale of the Canal Zone and certain areas east of the advanced line. This was initiated by Mr. E. M. Dowson, Director-General of the Survey of Egypt, who put his resources at Sir A. Murray's disposal, and carried out by the Topographical Section of the Intelligence Branch, working in co-operation with the Royal Flying Corps. By the end of May the survey had approached Qatiya.

Sir A. Murray found the work on the Canal Defences, the plan and organization of which have been outlined, fast progressing. No part of the advanced line was as yet occupied by troops, mainly because there had been delays in establishing the water supply caused by lack of piping. But on the 13th January Sir A. Murray ordered his Corps Commanders to the Canal, to take over the work and prepare schemes of defence.

The Canal was divided into three sections, [The military term employed in this connection is generally "sector.'' As, however, "section" is used in Sir A. Murray's Despatches and the official titles of the headquarters were subsequently "Headquarters No. … Section," the latter has been retained.] each held by a corps, as follows:-

No. 1 Section (Southern) - Suez to Kabrit:–

IX Corps (Lieut.-General the Hon. Sir J. G. H. Byng);

29th, 46th, and 10th Indian, Divisions.

Headquarters, Suez.

No. 2 Section (Central) - Kabrit to Ferdan:-

Anzac Corps (Lieut.-General Sir W. R. Birdwood);

1st and 2nd Australian, and New Zealand and Australian, Divisions.

Headquarters, Ismailia.

No. 3 Section (Northern) - Ferdan to Port Said:–

XV Corps (Lieut.-General H. S. Horne);

11th, 13th and 31st Divisions.

Headquarters, Port Said;

Advanced Headquarters, Qantara.

The VIII Corps (Lieut.-General F. J. Davies), consisting of the 42nd and 52nd Divisions, was at first concentrated at Tell el Kebir and later, as other divisions moved to France, broken up. General Davies then succeeded General Byng, who had returned to the Western Front, in command of the IX Corps.

In addition to these eleven divisions, there were the 53rd and 54th, in Sir J. Maxwell's command, the former guarding the Nile Valley, the latter at Cairo. By the end of February, after the departure of the 13th, 31st and 46th Divisions and the break-up of the 10th Indian, the distribution was as follows:

No. 1 Section:-

IX Corps;

29th and 42nd Divisions.

No. 2 Section:-

Anzac Corps;

1st and 2nd Australian, and New Zealand and Australian, Divisions.
No. 3 Section:–

XV Corps;

11th and 52nd Divisions.

Then the Anzac Corps and its troops went to France, and on the 27th March the II Anzac Corps, commanded by Lieut.-General Sir A. J. Godley, and consisting of the 4th and 5th Australian Divisions and the Australian and New Zealand. Mounted Division, came into being and took over No. 2 Section. [The 3rd Australian Division went to England direct from Australia.] By this time, though the defences were not yet complete, the advanced line was occupied.

Sir A. Murray, however, was not content to adopt a system of passive defence. He was already buying camels in order to organize large mobile columns in each section. He was engaged in preparations for pushing out a railway to the Qatiya district, to permit of its occupation, in accordance with the appreciation made by him when C.I.G.S. But he now contemplated an advance much greater than to Qatiya. In a letter addressed to Sir W. Robertson on the 15th February, 1916, he stated that in his opinion the best method of defending Egypt from the east was to advance across Sinai to El Arish, and that fewer troops would be required for this undertaking than for the passive defence of the Suez Canal. With regard to the danger of a Turkish invasion he stated that during the early spring it would be possible for the Turks to bring down to Beersheba and push across the desert a force of 250,000 men, but added that there was no sign of their attempting such an enterprise and that the time available was short. Replying on the 27th, Sir W. Robertson agreed that Qatiya should be occupied if possible; an advance to El Arish was a far bigger question, on which no decision could for the moment be made. For his part, he thought it extremely unlikely that more than 100,000 Turks could be brought against Egypt.

We see then that as late as mid-February the command in Egypt still contemplated the possibility - though not the probability - of a force of 250,000 Turks advancing to the attack on Egypt, and that the C.I.G.S. considered two-fifths of this force to be the maximum which the enemy could concentrate for the purpose. In view of the scanty information available from the Turkish side regarding this period, it is difficult to ascertain exactly what the enemy's intentions were. That an offensive was contemplated in February we know from both Kress and Liman. ["Sinai": Kress, i, p. 21; Liman, p. 181. Both speak of it as "eine grössere Expedition," meaning a major expedition. The Historical Section of the Turkish General Staff speaks somewhat vaguely of an expedition consisting of seven divisions and 100,000 strong (57 battalions, 23 batteries) having been contemplated. But this was first projected in April 1915 and then found impossible owing to the drain of Gallipoli. Later it was hoped to carry out the expedition in October 1916, but "patience was not “exercised" and "for some urgent reasons" the small-scale advance which led to the Battle of Romani took place in the hottest season of the year.] The question to which we must attempt to find an answer is: How far were the British estimates justified, and why was the Turkish expedition postponed until July and then limited to a single reinforced division?

There is no evidence that the Turks ever contemplated, still less made preparation for, an expedition approaching the strength of 250,000 men. In February 1916 their troops between the Cilician Gates and the Suez Canal numbered from forty to sixty thousand men, but of these the bulk were in Northern Syria, where the enemy was concerned for the safety of his communications at Alexandretta. Three Turkish Armies, the First, Second and Fifth, were in Thrace, where, as Liman von Sanders caustically remarks, there was no enemy. As an example of the slow rate at which Turkish troops in large numbers were transported to a distant theatre of war, it may be mentioned that when the Second Army was transferred to the area south-west of Lake Van in Armenia, the move began in April and lasted until August. Communications with Palestine were better, and the ten divisions of this army might have been concentrated in Southern Palestine in a shorter period, but not before the end of the wet season. With the forces already in Syria there might then have been 150,000 men between Jerusalem and the Sinai frontier. But if they had come they could hardly have been fed, as we now know, even in Southern Palestine, far less in Sinai ; for in the summer of 1917 the 40,000 combatants holding the Gaza-Beersheba line were seriously under-nourished and their transport animals half-starved. Turkish troops can subsist on less than any European troops, the Russians not excepted, but the resources of Palestine in food were comparatively small, all munitions of war had to come from Constantinople (when not from Berlin), and the railway system, which has been described in detail, was quite inadequate to maintain a quarter of a million men even at Beersheba. As to the equipment of the Turkish reserves at this period, the following telegram sent by Liman to the Turkish Ministry of War from Balikisri in Asia Minor on the 14th March is instructive: "Saw to-day depot regiment over 8,000 strong, with only 1,050 rifles of various models. Not a single bandolier, and a great proportion of those who had rifles without side-arms." (Liman, p. 157.)

Turkish plans were, perhaps, as Sir A. Murray subsequently stated in his Despatches, upset by the campaign of the Grand Duke Nicholas, which resulted in the capture of the fortress of Erzerum on the 15th February and in April of Trebizond, the best Turkish Black Sea harbour in the zone of operations. This campaign did not result in the withdrawal of troops from Syria to any great extent, but it may have kept reinforcements from being sent there, and certainly kept the Baghdad Railway fully employed in transporting the Second Army to Ras el Ain, whence it was to march towards Erzerum. As a result, the German and Austrian reinforcements sent to Palestine, small in numbers though valuable in quality, were delayed till the summer, when Sinai was at its driest and hottest, and no move against the Canal was made until July. This, however, does not affect the contention that the M.E.F.'s estimate of Turkish resources was altogether excessive. Sir W. Robertson's figure of 100,000 represented their means and intentions much more nearly, and this appears, in the light of present knowledge, to be the extreme limit of any concentration ever contemplated by Turkey, or in her power to effect. That the exaggeration of the former estimate was quickly recognized by the Imperial General Staff is shown by the speed with which British divisions were transferred from Egypt to the Western Front, even before the end of the wet season in Sinai. It will be noted that Sir A. Murray lays down in his appreciation that after the beginning of the hot weather, that is from about the 15th April, one corps of three divisions on the Canal, one division holding Qatiya, and three mounted brigades for all purposes, would suffice for the defence of Egypt from the east.


Previous: el Qatiya, Sinai, 23 April 1916

Next: The Affair of Qatiya


Further Reading:

el Qatiya, Sinai, 23 April 1916

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: el Qatiya, Sinai, 23 April 1916, Falls Account, Egypt in the Spring of 1916

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Sunday, 13 September 2009 10:51 PM EADT
Sunday, 6 September 2009
el Qatiya, Sinai, 23 April 1916, Falls Account, The Advance into Sinai
Topic: BatzS - El Qatiya

el Qatiya

Sinai, 23 April 1916

Falls Account, The Advance into Sinai


As part of the Official British War History of the Great War, Captain Cyril Falls and Lieutenant General George MacMunn were commissioned to produce a commentary on the Sinai, Palestine and Syrian operations that took place. In 1928, their finished work, Military Operations, Egypt and Palestine - From the outbreak of war with Germany to June 1917,  was published in London. Their book included a section specifically related to the battle of Romani and is extracted below.

MacMunn, G. & Falls, C., Military operations: Egypt and Palestine, (London 1930), pp. 159 - 162:


The Advance into Sinai.

Until the middle of February the troops were fully engaged in reorganization, training, and work upon the Canal Defences, in the making of roads and laying of light railways and pipe-lines, without which these defences could not be occupied. Reconnaissances by the Royal Flying Corps and the seaplanes of the Royal Naval Air Service (a squadron of which now succeeded the French seaplane detachment at Port Said - The "East Indies and Egypt Seaplane Squadron" was formed in late January 1916, and consisted of British seaplanes which had been employed in the Gallipoli campaign and of the French seaplane detachment. There is no record of the precise date at which the French detachment was withdrawn from Egypt, but its last reported flight took place on the 16th April. Squadron Commander C. L'Estrange Malone was the first commander of the East Indies Squadron, Commander C. R. Sampson, R.N., taking over command in May 1916. The seaplane carriers at the disposal of the squadron were the Ben-my-Chree, Anne, Raven, and Empress, but the last named was sent to Mudros in May. The depot included a training base for observers, who were supplied by the Army, and an intelligence report centre. The squadron carried out remarkable work in reconnaissance, photography, and bombing along the Syrian coast throughout 1916 and 1917, and was also employed in the Red Sea and at Aden. An interesting account of its activities is to be found in "In the Side Shows" by Captain Wedgwood Benn (Holder and Stoughton).)" established the fact that there were no considerable Turkish forces in Sinai and no signs of a concentration in Southern Palestine for an attack on Egypt. During the latter half of the month the XV Corps pushed its mounted patrols out 20 miles, to Bir en Nuss and Hod Umm Ugba, finding this area clear of the enemy and practically deserted by the Bedouin. From Tor, at the southern end of Sinai, which was garrisoned by the 2nd Battalion Egyptian Army and had come under General Murray's control by arrangement with General Maxwell, a reconnaissance was carried out, and a small force of the enemy - chiefly Bedouin with a few Turkish officers - ejected from a camp established several miles inland. In No. 2 (the Central) Section a force about a squadron strong of the 8th and 9th Australian Light Horse and a detachment of Bikanir Camel Corps carried out between the 11th and 15th April a raid to Jifjafa, [See: Jifjafa] a distance of 52 miles, captured an Austrian engineer officer and 33 men, and destroyed a well-boring plant which had been at work for five months. At the same time the IX Corps in the Southern Section reconnoitred 30 miles to Bir el Giddi and the tracks leading east there from.

Meanwhile the standard-gauge line from Qantara towards Qatiya had been begun. On the 10th March the first shipload of rails and sleepers arrived at Qantara, and in four weeks 16 miles, including sidings, were laid. The line followed the caravan track for 5 miles and was then to make a sweep north to avoid the large and shifting sand dunes of Romani, curving back to the caravan route near the 0ghratina oasis, 5 miles east of Qatiya. A subsidiary 2 ft. 6 in. line was also begun from Port Said along the shore, April.

The railway having passed through the advanced line of the Canal Defences, it became necessary to establish permanent posts ahead of it in the Qatiya Oasis to protect it from attack by the enemy and to ensure the Egyptian labourers against interference from armed Bedouin. On the 6th April, Br.-General E. A. Wiggin, 5th Mounted Brigade (the mounted troops in the XV Corps Section), was appointed to the command of the Qatiya district, and made responsible to Lieut.-General Horne. Three days afterwards the latter was recalled to a command in France and succeeded by Major-General the Hon. H. Lawrence, hitherto commanding the 52nd Division. The XV Corps Headquarters was broken up and General Lawrence was given a reduced corps staff, known as Headquarters No. 3 Section.

On the 9th April a squadron of the Worcester Yeomanry found the Turks in some strength at Bir el Abd, 15 miles east of Qatiya. By the third week of the month the whole of the 5th Mounted Brigade was disposed to cover the railway:

Headquarters and Gloucester Hussars at Romani,

Worcester Yeomanry at Qatiya,

Warwick Yeomanry (less one squadron on the Canal) at Bir el Hamisah, 3 miles south of Qatiya.

The 2/2nd Lowland Field Company, R.E., 52nd Division, was attached to the brigade for the development of wells.

The brigade had no artillery, the ground being soft sand over which wheels could scarcely move and the water supply for horses still far from plentiful. On the 21st and 22nd two squadrons (less one troop) Worcester Yeomanry with a detachment (4 officers and 60 other ranks) of the Field Company were pushed out to the Oasis of Oghratina, and replaced in Qatiya by a squadron of Gloucester Hussars until the arrival of the 5th Australian Light Horse. This regiment had been ordered to reinforce General Wiggin, in view of signs of renewed activity on the part of the enemy, an outpost of the Warwick Yeomanry from Bir el Hamisah having been attacked by Turkish or Bedouin cavalry before dawn on the 19th and having had its horses stampeded. The Light Horse was due to arrive at Qatiya on the 24th.

Thirteen miles S.S.W. of Qatiya, on the track from Qantara, the small oasis of Dueidar was held by 120 rifles 5th Royal Scots Fusiliers, a few Yeomanry and men of the Bikanir Camel Corps, 156 rifles in all. Five miles behind this post, at Hill 70 in the advanced line of the Canal Defences, was the 4th Royal Scots Fusiliers, of the 52nd (Lowland) Division, which was holding this portion of the front. Railhead was on the 21st near El Arais and 4 miles west of Romani, so that the time had come when Qatiya could be held in greater strength and more easily supplied. At the very moment when this reinforcement was about to take place, the enemy struck a blow which for combined speed, skill, daring, and success is hardly to be matched in the records of the campaign.


Previous: Egypt in the Spring of 1916

Next: The Affair of Qatiya


Further Reading:

el Qatiya, Sinai, 23 April 1916

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: el Qatiya, Sinai, 23 April 1916, Falls Account, The Advance into Sinai

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Sunday, 13 September 2009 10:49 PM EADT
Saturday, 5 September 2009
el Qatiya, Sinai, 23 April 1916, Falls Account, The Affair of Qatiya
Topic: BatzS - El Qatiya

el Qatiya

Sinai, 23 April 1916

Falls Account, The Affair of Qatiya


As part of the Official British War History of the Great War, Captain Cyril Falls and Lieutenant General George MacMunn were commissioned to produce a commentary on the Sinai, Palestine and Syrian operations that took place. In 1928, their finished work, Military Operations, Egypt and Palestine - From the outbreak of war with Germany to June 1917,  was published in London. Their book included a section specifically related to the battle of Romani and is extracted below.

MacMunn, G. & Falls, C., Military operations: Egypt and Palestine, (London 1930), pp. 162 - 170:

The Affair of Qatiya.

Br.-General Wiggin had received a report that the enemy party which had raided his outpost on the 19th was at Bir el Mageibra, 8 miles south-east of Hamisah, and that it was about two hundred strong. With the approval of General Lawrence, he arranged to carry out a raid from Hamisah against the camp. This raid he decided to command in person. He arrived at Hamisah on the 22nd, bringing with him headquarters, one squadron and one troop of Worcester Yeomanry from Qatiya. The dispositions of his force that evening were therefore as follows :


Two squadrons (less one troop) Worcester Yeomanry,

Detachment 2/2nd Lowland Field Company R.E.

Qatiya :-

One squadron and machine-gun subsection, Gloucester Hussars,

40 dismounted details Worcester Yeomanry,

Details R.A.M.C.,

Details A.V.C., and

Camel transport.


Warwick Yeomanry (less one squadron),

One squadron and one troop Worcester Yeomanry.

Romani (in reserve):-

Gloucester Hussars (less one squadron and machine-gun subsection).

As luck would have it, the raid coincided with the Turkish advance. General Wiggin arrived at Mageibra at dawn on the 23rd and found a considerable but almost empty camp. He dispersed a handful of Turkish troops, captured six prisoners, and destroyed the camp. He was back at Hamisah by 9 a.m., having marched 16 miles, his horses tired and in need of water but not exhausted. On his arrival, as will be recorded later, he heard of the Turkish attack, to which we must now turn.

Oghratina, on the morning of the 23rd April, had been occupied only about thirty-six hours by one squadron and the detachment of Royal Engineers and twelve hours by the second squadron, so that not much entrenching had yet been carried out. The camp was, however, alert, and stood to arms at 4 a.m. in a dense sea-fog, which is not uncommon in the early morning at this season. Suddenly the sound of pumps at the wells 500 yards south-west of the camp and at the foot of the slope on which it stood was heard by the sentries of "D" Squadron, on the left of the line. It was thought that a patrol of "A" Squadron must be watering, but Captain E. S. Ward ran down the hill to investigate. He almost ran into the midst of a party of about sixty Turks in a hod south of the wells. He rushed back, collected what men he could find in the mist, opened fire on the Turks at point-blank range, inflicted heavy casualties on them, and forced them to retreat headlong. Captain Ward followed, but was at once met by very heavy rifle fire, showing him all too plainly that it was no small party which he had surprised. He therefore fell back to the line held by his squadron.

Soon afterwards "A" Squadron on the right was heavily attacked and by 5.15 a.m. the whole camp was assaulted from north, east and south-east in overwhelming strength. Almost from the first the troops were engaged from a range of fifty yards or less. Major F. S. Williams-Thomas, in command of the detachment, had orders to retire if attacked in force, but found himself unable to do so without leaving in the lurch the dismounted men. He felt it his duty to stand by the engineers, but for whom, he considered, he might have been able to disengage his two squadrons and fight a rear-guard action back to Qatiya. The remnants of "D" Squadron were driven back upon the second line of defence, held by the engineers, but that position was speedily forced also, and then the Turks had the whole camp at their mercy. By 7.45 a.m., he states, 11 Yeomanry officers and 135 other ranks were casualties. Half the rifles of those still unwounded were clogged with sand. Further resistance would have meant that the whole force would have been slaughtered to no useful end, and the remnant of the detachment surrendered.

At Qatiya "A" Squadron Gloucester Hussars, under Captain M. G. Lloyd Baker, stood to arms and saddled up at 3.30 a.m. A patrol came in to report having seen and heard nothing in the mist. Soon afterwards a small patrol of the enemy approached and fired into the camp, then retired swiftly. Heavy firing was heard from Oghratina and a message received at 6 a.m. that an attack had been repulsed. Half an hour later came a message that it had been renewed, and a mounted orderly from Romani reported that Dueidar, far away to the right rear, had also been attacked. At 7.45 another enemy patrol was driven off. All firing at Oghratina had ceased and there was for an hour complete quiet, while the fog gradually dispersed.

At 8.45 a.m. a patrol, sent out toward Oghratina, saw two lines of troops in open order, about three hundred in each line, advancing on Qatiya, and a mile and a half distant. Behind them were further troops in a formed body, and cavalry could be seen advancing south-west, doubtless to surround the post. At 9.45 a.m, a battery of mountain guns opened fire from near Er Rabah, north-east of Qatiya. The first twenty shells fell beyond the camp, but then a correction was made and shells began to burst in the horse-lines, killing or maiming most of the horses within a few minutes. An enemy aeroplane came over very low, spotting for the artillery. As the guns opened the enemy advanced, crawling forward in small parties, covered by rifle fire.

Meanwhile, on his arrival at Hamisah, General Wiggin had learnt that Oghratina was surrounded, and soon afterwards was informed of the advance on Qatiya. He ordered Lieut.-Colonel Coventry, commanding the Worcester Yeomanry, to water the Worcester squadron first and advance with it on Qatiya. Watering at a few small desert wells was slow work, and, before it was completed, shells were seen bursting at Qatiya. Colonel Coventry then moved off at once, at 9.50 a.m. As he approached Qatiya he saw that the camp was heavily engaged. He dismounted his squadron three-quarters of a mile west of the camp and led it up on foot to prolong the line of the Gloucester squadron to the left. This considerably relieved pressure on that flank, where the enemy fell back some distance. A heavy fire battle then continued for several hours. The enemy's artillery had ceased fire after destroying the horses, but the volume of his rifle and machine-gun fire was great, and under its cover his infantry gradually pressed in on front and flanks.

The first of General Wiggin's remaining squadrons Warwick Yeomanry having watered at Hamisah, moved off 23 April, at 10.30 a.m., he himself following with the second a quarter of an hour later. His intention was to attack the enemy in rear in the neighbourhood of the Hod um Ugba, north-east of Qatiya. Half-way between Hamisah and the camp he became engaged with the enemy's flanking troops. He fought his way slowly forward for about a mile. But now, at 1.45 p.m., the opposition became very strong, and his own men and horses were tired out. He saw soon afterwards a commotion among the camels in Qatiya camp and that some of the tents were burning. He decided that he could do no more to help and that his best course was to fall back on Hamisah, whence he had heard a burst of machine-gun fire, and pick up a detachment of 20 men guarding the camp, a quantity of stores and a number of camels. On his return he discovered that the firing had been no more than an exchange of shots between a body of Turks retiring from Dueidar and British aeroplanes pursuing them. It must be added that the firing and the safety of his detachment at Hamisah had had no serious weight in deciding General Wiggin to retire.

Lieut.-Colonel R. M. Yorke, in command at Romani, moved out with five troops and a machine-gun subsection, Gloucester Hussars, at 10.15 a.m. His intention was not to advance to the support of Qatiya, of the attack on which he had not heard, but to intercept a column of 500 Turks, which he was informed was retiring south-east from Dueidar in a disorganized condition. But shortly after leaving Romani he heard firing from Qatiya, and, on reaching some high ground, was able to see the Turkish artillery north of Er Rabah shelling the camp. He changed direction and advanced towards it, whereupon it ceased fire and a quarter of an hour later withdrew some distance.

At 10.45 a.m. Colonel Yorke's advanced guard came under fire north-west of Er Rabah. He pressed on, driving the enemy back to the high ground south of the Hod um Ugba. Here the enemy was reinforced and his rifle fire became so heavy that Colonel Yorke found himself unable to make any further progress. He began a gradual withdrawal, with long halts to let his wounded get clear to Romani, and was followed up by the Turks at 1 p.m., their battery reopening fire from a new position, but with little result.

It will be noted that his advance had been almost simultaneous with that of General Wiggin on the other flank of the enemy. Unfortunately, he was not aware of the presence of the other force to south of Qatiya, nor was it till after General Wiggin's troops had begun their retirement, about 3 p.m., that Colonel Yorke, who was then a mile east of Abu Hamra, caught sight of them. General Wiggin had seen Colonel Yorke's force on the horizon an hour earlier and had tried to communicate with it by heliograph. At 3.30 he saw that Qatiya was in the hands of the enemy and decided to retire at once to Romani. There he remained till midnight, when, on being informed that no infantry could be sent up to support him, he fell back on railhead.

From the time - about 1 p.m. - when the two relieving forces had failed in their object, the garrison of Qatiya was doomed. The enemy pressed in closer and closer. Soon after 1.30 p.m. Colonel Coventry asked Captain W. H. Wiggin, commanding the squadron of Worcester Yeomanry, if he thought he could get back to the horses and bring up the horse-holders, as every man was needed. Captain Wiggin crawled down the hill, but before he reached the horses, by what proved to be extraordinary good fortune for himself and other survivors, fainted from the effect of a wound received earlier and lay about an hour unconscious. Meanwhile the shelling was renewed and the enemy closed to within fifty yards. At 3 p.m. the Turks charged with the bayonet, and the remnant of the little garrison was forced to surrender. Captain Wiggin, now recovered, was leading forward the numbers-three when he saw the camp rushed by the enemy. But, seeing some men running back from the line, he had the presence of mind to gallop horses up to meet them, and rescued a number of them. In all, including the horse-holders, about eighty escaped. Captain Wiggin himself was the only officer at Oghratina or Qatiya not either killed or captured.

There remains to be recorded an episode incidental to the Turkish expedition against Oghratina and Qatiya: the attack on Dueidar. This post was in a small oasis, measuring 450 yards from east to west and 150 from north to south, and was defended by half a dozen small works clear of the date trees. Its garrison, as previously stated, consisted of 156 rifles.

At 4 a.m. it was found that communication with Qatiya was interrupted. A linesman was sent out and the commander of the garrison, Captain F. Roberts, 5th Royal Scots Fusiliers, visited his posts. He then sent out a Yeomanry patrol to the south-east and ordered the troops to stand to arms. The patrol returned without having seen anything in the dense mist. At 5.17 a.m. a large body of men suddenly appeared in front of the principal redoubt, to the south-east of the oasis. As the sentry who had seen them fired, the Turks dashed forward. The garrison of the redoubt was creditably alert, when it is considered that it had no reason to suppose there was an enemy nearer than Mageibra, 20 miles away. The fire of a Lewis gun under 2nd Lieutenant G. McDiarmid and of every one of the fifty rifles in the redoubt swept the Turkish ranks. The enemy recoiled, leaving about twenty dead and wounded on the ground.

Fire was now opened by a mountain gun out of the mist, but the shooting was hopelessly erratic, doubtless because no observer could see the British position. The rifle fire increased, and at 7 a.m. the enemy attempted to outflank the position to the south. This move was checked by the fire of a little work on that flank, containing only one N.C.O. and six men. Shortly afterwards the Turks shouting "Allah!" again charged the south-eastern redoubt. Again they were routed by the steady fire of the defence, some being brought down within twenty yards of the wire. Thenceforward they confined themselves to ineffective artillery, machine-gun and rifle fire.

At 6.25 a.m. Major H. Thompson, 4th Royal Scots Fusiliers, at Hill 70 on the railway, 5 miles in rear, received orders to reinforce Dueidar with two companies. He moved off forty minutes later with " C " and " D " Companies and 11 men of the Glasgow Yeomanry as scouts. On approaching the palm grove he sent up a small detachment to reinforce the south-eastern redoubt, where the action appeared hottest, and went forward himself to ascertain the situation and take over command. He found that the enemy had a firing line south of the Dueidar-Qatiya track, 200 yards distant from the principal redoubt. North of the track there were apparently no Turks; at least no attack had been made in that quarter.

Major Thompson then sent a party out to an isolated work, north-east of the grove and not hitherto held, to engage the enemy with enfilade fire. Shortly afterwards the mist cleared somewhat, and a British aeroplane dropped a message to the effect that the enemy's main body was in retreat and that the firing line in front of the position now amounted to no more than about one hundred and fifty rifles. At noon a squadron of the 5th Australian Light Horse arrived and moved off south-east in pursuit of the enemy's main body, leaving the rearguard to the garrison of Dueidar, which issued from the oasis and attacked it all along the line. The Turks broke and fled. They were pursued for a mile and a half and 17 unwounded prisoners taken, while several wounded men were brought in later. The remainder of the 5th Australian Light Horse arrived at 1.30 p.m., having marched from Qantara, and took up the pursuit, capturing a few more prisoners. The total captures were one officer and 31 other ranks, and 75 dead were left on the field. The British casualties numbered 55, and 52 camels were killed in the lines beside the oasis.

At 9 p.m. Br.-General Wiggin arrived at Dueidar with his two squadrons, [On the following day he was ordered to take the remnants of his brigade back to Qatiya.] and the outer line of defence now became from railhead to Dueidar. Both positions were reinforced, the 2nd Australian Light Horse Brigade moving up to railhead the following morning. But the attack was over and the enemy in retreat. On the 24th aeroplanes of the 5th Wing followed various columns, bombing them and firing on them with machine guns.

An interesting point regarding this series of actions was later brought to notice. An observer of the 14th Squadron R.F.C., discovered from tracks in the sand the lines of advance of the enemy. The main force, which attacked Oghratina and Qatiya, advanced along the caravan route from Bir el Abd. On the other hand, the track of the column which attacked Dueidar - consisting mainly if not wholly of camelry - ran from Mageibra through Bir Gharif ed Dukhan. There is therefore no doubt that this was the force reported at Mageibra to General Wiggin. While he was on the march to attack it, as he hoped by surprise, it was on the march to attempt the surprise of Dueidar.

It must be added that it was not the intention of Major-General Lawrence to make a serious resistance in the oases to a Turkish attack, and that in such circumstances General Wiggin's orders were to retire on Dueidar or railhead. The difficulty regarding these orders was the presence of dismounted troops with the outposts. The engineers at Oghratina could scarcely have marched 14 miles from Oghratina to railhead without being caught by the enemy's camelry, which could have brought them (and the Yeomanry if it attempted to succour them) to action until the Turkish infantry came up. Had there been no sappers at Oghratina it is possible that the Yeomanry might have slipped away in the fog. It is also probable that the presence of dismounted details at Qatiya made Captain Lloyd Baker hesitate to retire during the short period that such a course was open to him, before his horses were destroyed.

It should, however, be noted that Captain Lloyd Baker was in telephonic communication with Br.-General Wiggin after 9 a.m., that he informed the latter of the advance of 600 men in open order with a formed body behind them, and that he was not ordered to retire. He was told that both General Wiggin and Colonel Yorke were moving to his assistance.

The details of the capture of these two posts were not known till after the Armistice, when information became available from officers who had been prisoners of war. This information, which has been embodied in the foregoing narrative, tends to relieve the Yeomanry of the charge of having been completely surprised. It may be said that patrols from Oghratina were not apparently far enough out, and that a mounted outpost of this type should have had standing patrols far ahead in the direction of the enemy. But at Qatiya there was not any suggestion of surprise, and it is difficult to see in what respect Captain Lloyd Baker (who was killed) could have acted differently. In both cases the defence was gallant in the extreme.

The affair at Qatiya was a lamentable occurrence, resulting as it did in the total loss of three and a half squadrons of Yeomanry. Otherwise it had no effect, except to delay the progress of the railway for a few days. On the 24th Major-General Chauvel, commanding the A. & N. Z. Mounted Division, was put in command of the advanced positions, including the 52nd Division's post at Dueidar. Romani was reoccupied that day, but General Chauvel, taught by the unhappy experience of the 5th Mounted Brigade, established a considerable camp there and controlled the area by vigorous patrolling rather than by maintaining dangerously isolated detachments at the other oases.

The delay to the railway's progress was small. By the 29th April four trains a day were running regularly to railhead, and a special company had been formed to work the line - No. 276 Railway Company. The subsidiary narrow-gauge line from Port Said had reached Mahamdiyah on the coast. By the 19th May the main line was open for traffic up to Romani. During the week ended 26th May the following tonnage was carried:

1,125 tons supplies,

420 tons engineering material,

960 tons water (215,000 gallons),

150 tons railway material,

150 tons miscellaneous stores, and

60 tons troops (about 700 men).

It was decided to link up Romani and Mahamdiyah by a branch of standard gauge. This was completed by the 9th June. It was now possible to garrison Romani with infantry on a considerable scale, to construct a strong position, and to maintain there a certain amount of artillery for its defence.


Previous: The Advance into Sinai

Next: The Composition of the Turkish Force at Qatiya


Further Reading:

el Qatiya, Sinai, 23 April 1916

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: el Qatiya, Sinai, 23 April 1916, Falls Account, The Affair of Qatiya

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Sunday, 13 September 2009 10:47 PM EADT
Friday, 4 September 2009
el Qatiya, Sinai, 23 April 1916, Falls Account, The Composition of the Turkish Force at Qatiya
Topic: BatzS - El Qatiya

el Qatiya

Sinai, 23 April 1916

Falls Account, The Composition of the Turkish Force at Qatiya


As part of the Official British War History of the Great War, Captain Cyril Falls and Lieutenant General George MacMunn were commissioned to produce a commentary on the Sinai, Palestine and Syrian operations that took place. In 1928, their finished work, Military Operations, Egypt and Palestine - From the outbreak of war with Germany to June 1917,  was published in London. Their book included a section specifically related to the battle of Romani and is extracted below.

MacMunn, G. & Falls, C., Military operations: Egypt and Palestine, (London 1930), p. 170:

The Composition of the Turkish Force at Qatiya

The composition and strength of the Turkish force is given in detail by the Historical Section of the Turkish General Staff. It was commanded by Colonel Kress von Kressenstein and consisted of the 1st and 2nd Battalions and one company 3rd Battalion, 32nd Regiment (afterwards to distinguish itself at Romani), an irregular camel regiment of four companies, two independent camel companies, a 75-mm, battery of the 8th F.A. Regiment and two guns of the 9th, two field ambulances and an ammunition column. Its strength was 95 officers and 3,560 other ranks (2,668 rifles), 6 guns, 4 machine guns, 225 horses, 1,009 dromedaries (presumably riding camels), 756 camels (presumably baggage camels), 96 donkeys. In his Despatches Sir A. Murray estimated the enemy force at 3,500, which is almost exactly its ration strength.

The account of the raid given by Kress is laconic. He writes”

"In March 1916 we heard for the first time that the English were making a railway from Qantara in the direction of Qatiya. A fighting reconnaissance, which I carried out in April with two battalions, an Arab camel regiment and one and a half batteries, against Qatiya and Dueidar, led to the capture of an English cavalry regiment and half a company of engineers, and confirmed the accuracy of the reports."


Previous: The Affair of Qatiya

Next: Sir A. Murray's Appreciation


Further Reading:

el Qatiya, Sinai, 23 April 1916

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: el Qatiya, Sinai, 23 April 1916, Falls Account, The Composition of the Turkish Force at Qatiya

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Sunday, 13 September 2009 10:45 PM EADT

Newer | Latest | Older

Full Site Index

powered by FreeFind
Let us hear your story: You can tell your story, make a comment or ask for help on our forum.

Desert Column Forum

A note on copyright

The Australian Light Horse Studies Centre is a not for profit and non profit group whose sole aim is to write the early history of the Australian Light Horse from 1900 - 1920. It is privately funded and the information is provided by the individuals within the group and while permission for the use of the material has been given for this site for these items by various donors, the residual and actual copyright for these items, should there be any, resides exclusively with the donors. The information on this site is freely available for private research use only and if used as such, should be appropriately acknowledged. To assist in this process, each item has a citation attached at the bottom for referencing purposes.

Please Note: No express or implied permission is given for commercial use of the information contained within this site.

A note to copyright holders

The Australian Light Horse Studies Centre has made every endeavour to contact copyright holders of material digitised for this blog and website and where appropriate, permission is still being sought for these items. Where replies were not received, or where the copyright owner has not been able to be traced, or where the permission is still being sought, the Australian Light Horse Studies Centre has decided, in good faith, to proceed with digitisation and publication. Australian Light Horse Studies Centre would be happy to hear from copyright owners at any time to discuss usage of this item.


Australian Light Horse Studies Centre

eXTReMe Tracker