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Re: El Arish township in Palestine

From: John Wilson  email  hugo@actrix.gen.nz
Date: 11/15/00
Time: 8:21:47 PM
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El Arish, 1916 is mentioned in Chapter 21 of “The Story of Two Campaigns: Official War History of the Auckland Mounted Rifles Regiment 1914-19” by Sgt CG Nicol, which covers the AMR in the Sinai and Palestine (my grandfather was in the AMR, part of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles).

El Arish is in the Northern Sinai, Egypt not far from the border with Palestine (Gaza). After a night march (20 Dec 1916) El Arish was invested at dawn (21st?); by Yeomanry on the west, MZMR and 3rd LH on the southwest, Camel Corps on the south and 1st LH on the east. El Arish was found clear of the enemy and occupied. It consisted of the usual mud brick buildings, plus a mosque and public buildings. But the fort had already been reduced to rubble by monitors, as it was only about a mile from the sea.

The stay at El Arish was wet and cold, with only ground sheets and blankets for shelter. The troops went on to Magdhaba where they captured 1200 Turks, and Rafa which was taken by a bayonet charge by New Zealand troops who had not got the order to retreat, supported by Australians.

The book named 7 NZ soldiers buried at El Arish Cemetery (5 were killed in the attack on Rafa, 9 Jan 1917). Cemetery presumably now lost, as they are now commemorated on a memorial at Kantara to 16 NZ soldiers killed in the Sinai and Palestine whose graves are not known, according to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission site www,cwgc.org Kantara War Memorial Cemetery, Egypt has 1500+ burials from WWI and 350+ from WWII, including many Indian and Polish deaths (search for Cross, AJ or Harris, WT who were killed at Rafa, 1917).

Last changed: December 29, 2000