The Battle of Magdhaba (officially known by the British as the Affair of Magdhaba) took place on 23 December 1916 during the Defence of Egypt section of the Sinai and Palestine Campaign in the First World War.[Note 1] The attack by the Anzac Mounted Division took place against an entrenched Ottoman Army garrison to the south and east of Bir Lahfan in the Sinai desert, some 18–25 miles (29–40 km) inland from the Mediterranean coast. This Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF) victory against the Ottoman Empire garrison also secured the town of El Arish after the Ottoman garrison withdrew.
In August 1916, a combined Ottoman and German Empire army had been forced to retreat to Bir el Abd, after the British victory in the Battle of Romani. During the following three months the defeated force retired further eastwards to El Arish, while the captured territory stretching from the Suez Canal was consolidated and garrisoned by the EEF. Patrols and reconnaissances were carried out by British forces, to protect the continuing construction of the railway and water pipeline and to deny passage across the Sinai desert to the Ottoman forces by destroying water cisterns and wells.
By December, construction of the infrastructure and supply lines had sufficiently progressed to enable the British advance to recommence, during the evening of 20 December. By the following morning a mounted force had reached El Arish to find it abandoned. An Ottoman Army garrison in a strong defensive position was located at Magdhaba, some 18–30 miles (29–48 km) inland to the south east, on the Wadi el Arish. After a second night march by the Anzac Mounted Division (Australian and New Zealand Mounted Division), the attack on Magdhaba was launched by Australian, British and New Zealand troops against well-entrenched Ottoman forces defending a series of six redoubts. During the day's fierce fighting, the mounted infantry tactics of riding as close to the front line as possible and then dismounting to make their attack with the bayonet supported by artillery and machine guns prevailed, assisted by aircraft reconnaissances. All of the well-camouflaged redoubts were eventually located and captured and the Ottoman defenders surrendered in the late afternoon.
|Battle of Magdhaba|
|Part of the Middle Eastern theatre of World War I|
Camel corps at Magdhaba by Harold Septimus Power, 1925
|Commanders and leaders|
|Harry Chauvel||Khadir Bey|
1st Light Horse Brigade|
3rd Light Horse Brigade
New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade
Imperial Camel Brigade
RAN Bridging Train
80th Infantry Regiment's 2nd and 3rd Battalions|
|Casualties and losses|
300+ killed of whom 97 confirmed dead|
300 wounded of whom 40 confirmed cared for
At the beginning of the First World War, the Egyptian police who had controlled the Sinai Desert were withdrawn, leaving the area largely unprotected. In February 1915, a German and Ottoman force unsuccessfully attacked the Suez Canal. After the Gallipoli Campaign, a second joint German and Ottoman force again advanced across the desert to threaten the canal, during July 1916. This force was defeated in August at the Battle of Romani, after which the Anzac Mounted Division, also known as the A. & N. Z. Mounted Division, under the command of the Australian major general Harry Chauvel, pushed the Ottoman Army's Desert Force commanded by the German general Friedrich Freiherr Kress von Kressenstein out of Bir el Abd and across the Sinai to El Arish.
By mid-September 1916 the Anzac Mounted Division had pursued the retreating Ottoman and German forces from Bir el Salmana 20 miles (32 km) along the northern route across the Sinai Peninsula to the outpost at Bir el Mazar. The Maghara Hills, 50 miles (80 km) south west of Romani, in the interior of the Sinai Desert, were also attacked in mid-October by a British force based on the Suez Canal. Although not captured at the time, all these positions were eventually abandoned by their Ottoman garrisons in the face of growing British Empire strength.
The British then established garrisons along their supply lines, which stretched across the Sinai from the Suez Canal. Patrols and reconnaissances were regularly carried out to protect the advance of the railway and water pipeline, built by the Egyptian Labour Corps. These supply lines were marked by railway stations and sidings, airfields, signal installations and standing camps where troops could be accommodated in tents and huts. At this time the Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF) had a ration strength of 156,000 soldiers, plus 13,000 Egyptian labourers.
The Ottoman Army's Desert Force commanded by Kress von Kressenstein which operated in the Sinai region was sustained and supported by their principal desert base at Hafir El Auja, located on the Ottoman side of the Egyptian-Ottoman frontier. Hafir el Auja was linked to Beersheba, Gaza, and northern Palestine by road and railway.[Note 2][Note 3]
This major German and Ottoman base in the central Sinai desert, supplied and supported smaller garrisons in the area with reinforcements, ammunition and rations, medical support, and periods of rest away from the front line.[Note 4] If left intact, the Ottoman forces at Magdhaba and Hafir el Auja could seriously threaten the advance of the EEF along the north route towards Southern Palestine.[Note 5]
The area of oases which extended from Dueidar, 15 miles (24 km) from Kantara along the Darb es Sultani, along the old caravan route, and on to Salmana 52 miles (84 km) from Kantara could sustain life. But from Salmana to Bir el Mazar, (75 miles (121 km) from Kantara) there was little water, and beyond the Mazar area there was no water, until El Arish was reached on the coast 95 miles (153 km) from Kantara.
Before the British advance to El Arish could begin, the 20 miles (32 km) stretch without a water supply between El Mazar and El Arish had to be thoroughly explored. By mid-December 1916, the pipeline's eastward progress made it possible to store sufficient water at Maadan (Kilo. 128) and it was also possible to concentrate sufficiently large numbers of Egyptian Camel Transport Corps camels and camel-drivers to carry water forward from Maadan in support of an attacking force.
The campaign across the Sinai desert required great determination, as well as conscientious attention to detail by all involved, to ensure that ammunition, rations and every required pint of water and bale of horse fodder was available when needed. While the Ottoman Empire's main desert base at Hafir el Auja was more centrally located, the British Empire base was some 30 miles (48 km) to the west of El Arish; almost at the limits of their lines of communication. Mounted operations so far from base in such barren country were extremely hazardous and difficult.
For these long-range desert operations, it was necessary for all supplies to be well-organised and suitably packaged for transportation on camels, moving with the column or following closely behind. It was vital that the soldiers were well trained for these conditions. If a man was left behind in the inhospitable Sinai, he might die in the burning desert sun during the day, or bitter cold at night. If a water bottle was accidentally tipped up or leaked, it could mean no water for its owner, for perhaps 24 hours in extreme temperatures.
In these extreme and difficult conditions, mounted troops of the EEF worked to provide protective screens for the construction of the infrastructure, patrolling the newly occupied areas and carrying out ground reconnaissance to augment and verify aerial photographs, used to improve maps of the newly occupied areas.
The British War Office's stated policy in October 1916 was to maintain offensive operations on the Western Front, while remaining on the defensive everywhere else. However, the battle of attrition on the Somme, coupled with a change of Britain's prime minister, with David Lloyd George succeeding H. H. Asquith on 7 December, destabilised the status quo sufficiently to bring about a policy reversal, making attacks on the Central Powers' weak points away from the Western Front desirable. The commander of the EEF, General Sir Archibald Murray, was encouraged to seek success on his eastern frontier, but without any reinforcements. He thought that an advance to El Arish was possible, and that such an advance would threaten forces in the southern Ottoman Empire and, if not prevent, at least slow the transfer of German and Ottoman units to other theatres of war from the Levant.
After the victory at Romani, Murray moved his headquarters back from Ismailia on the canal to Cairo. This move to Cairo was to enable him to be in a more central position to carry out his duties and responsibilities which extended from the Western Frontier Force, waging a continuing campaign against the Senussi in Egypt's Western Desert, to the Eastern Force in the Sinai. Another consequence of the victory was that Major General H. A. Lawrence, who had been in command of the Northern Sector of the Suez Canal defences and Romani during the battle, was transferred to the Western Front.
As a consequence of pushing the German and Ottoman forces eastwards away from the canal, during October, Lieutenant General Charles Dobell was appointed to command the newly created Eastern Force. With his headquarters at Kantara, Dobell became responsible for the security of the Suez Canal and the Sinai Peninsula.
Dobell's Eastern Force consisted of two infantry divisions, the 42nd (East Lancashire) Division commanded by Major General W. Douglas and the 52nd (Lowland) Division commanded by Major General W. E. B. Smith, as well as the Anzac Mounted Division, a mounted infantry division commanded by Chauvel, the 5th Mounted Brigade commanded by Brigadier General E. A. Wiggin and the Imperial Camel Brigade commanded by Brigadier General Clement Leslie Smith.[Note 6] Murray considered this force to be under strength by at least a division for an advance to Beersheba, but felt he could gain El Arish and form an effective base on the coast, from which further operations eastwards could be supplied.
In October Chauvel was granted six weeks' leave, and he travelled to Britain on 25 October, returning to duty on 12 December 1916. While he was away Desert Column was formed and on 7 December 1916, five days before Chauvel's return, Murray appointed the newly promoted Lieutenant General Sir Phillip Chetwode commander of the column. As a major general, Chetwode had been in command of cavalry on the Western Front, where he was involved in pursuing retreating Germans after the First Battle of the Marne.
On formation, Chetwode's Desert Column consisted of three infantry divisions, the 53rd (Welsh) Division, currently serving in the Suez Canal Defences and commanded by A. E. Dallas, and the 42nd (East Lancashire) and the 52nd (Lowland) divisions. Chetwode's mounted force consisted of the Anzac Mounted Division, the 5th Mounted Brigade and the Imperial Camel Brigade.
By early December 1916, construction of the railway had reached the wells at Bir el Mazar, the last water sources available to the EEF before El Arish. Bir el Mazar was about halfway between Kantara on the Suez Canal and the Egyptian-Ottoman territorial border. British intelligence had reported Ottoman Army plans to strengthen the garrison at Magdhaba, by extending the railway (or light rail) south east from Beersheba (and Hafir el Auja) towards Magdhaba.
Mounted patrols to the outskirts of El Arish discovered 1,600 well-entrenched Ottoman troops holding the town, supported by forces based 25 miles (40 km) to the south-east on the banks of the Wadi el Arish at Magdhaba and Abu Aweigila.
On 20 December, a week after Chauvel returned from leave, the advance to El Arish began when the Anzac Mounted Division left Bir Gympie at 21:45. They moved out without the 2nd Light Horse Brigade, which was in the rear assisting with patrolling the lines of communication stretching 90 miles (140 km) back to Kantara on the Suez Canal. So it was the 1st and 3rd Light Horse Brigades, the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade, the 5th Mounted Brigade and the newly formed battalions of the Imperial Camel Brigade with the mountain guns of the Hong Kong and Singapore Camel Battery which made the 20-mile (32 km) trek to El Arish.
As the Anzac Mounted Division approached Um Zughla at 02:00 on 21 December, a halt was called until 03:30 when the column continued on to El Arish. At 07:45, the advanced troops entered the town, unopposed, to contact the civil population and arrange water supplies for the mounted force. One prisoner was captured, while lines of observation were set up, which maintained a close watch over the country east and south of the town. By 16:00 the 1st and 3rd Light Horse, the New Zealand Mounted Rifles and the Imperial Camel Brigades were in bivouac at El Arish, the only casualties during the day being two members of the 1st Light Horse Brigade, who were blown up by a stranded mine on the beach.
The day after El Arish was occupied, on 22 December, the leading infantry brigade of the 52nd (Lowland) Division reached the town and, together with the 5th Mounted Brigade, garrisoned the town and began fortifying the area. At 10:00, Chetwode landed on the beach opposite the Anzac Mounted Division Headquarters to begin his appointment as commander of Desert Column. Chetwode reported that he had arranged a special camel convoy with rations and horse feed to arrive at El Arish at 16:30 that day, with a view to the Anzac Mounted Division advancing on Magdhaba, 18 miles (29 km) away. (On the following day 23 December, the first supplies to be transported to El Arish by ship from Port Said were landed.) With essential rations organised, Chauvel led the mounted division out of El Arish at 00:45 on the night of 22/23 December towards Magdhaba, after reconnaissances had established that the retreating Ottoman force from El Arish had moved to the south east along the Wadi el Arish towards Magdhaba.
After their retreat from El Arish, the Ottoman garrison withdrew down the Wadi el Arish 25 miles (40 km) south east of El Arish, to Magdhaba and Abu Aweigila, about another 15 miles (24 km) further away from the coast, on the banks of the wadi. At Magdhaba the garrison had increased from 500 to about 1,400 Ottoman soldiers; there may have been as many as 2,000, consisting of two battalions of the 80th Infantry Regiment (27th Ottoman Infantry Division but attached to the 3rd Ottoman Infantry Division for most of 1916). These two battalions, the 2nd Battalion, commanded by Izzet Bey, of about 600 men and the 3rd Battalion, commanded by Rushti Bey, were supported by a dismounted camel company and two squads from the 80th Machine Gun Company. (The remainder squads of the 80th Machine Gun Company had been moved north to Shellal.) The defending force was also supported by a battery of four Krupp 7.5 cm Gebirgskanone M 1873 guns (on loan from the 1st Mountain Regiment), since the 80th Regiment's own artillery battery was stationed at Nekhl. Also attached to the Ottoman garrison at Magdhaba were a number of support units, including elements of the 3rd Company of the 8th Engineer Battalion, 27th Medical Company, 43rd Mobile Hospital and the 46th Cooking Unit. The garrison was under the command of Kadri Bey, the commanding officer of the 80th Infantry Regiment.
The series of six well-situated and developed redoubts making up the strong Ottoman garrison position at Magdhaba reflected considerable planning; the redoubts were almost impossible to locate on the flat ground on both sides of the Wadi el Arish. Clearly, the move of the Ottoman garrison from El Arish had not been a sudden, panicked reaction; indeed it was first noticed by Allied aerial reconnaissance planes as early as 25 October.
These fortified redoubts, which were situated on both sides of the wadi, were linked by a series of trenches.[Note 7] The whole position, extending over an area of about 2 miles (3.2 km) from east to west, was more narrow from north to south. On 22 December 1916, the day before the attack, the garrison had been inspected by Kress von Kressenstein, commander of the Ottoman Desert Force, who drove from his base at Hafir el Auja. At the time he expressed satisfaction with the garrison's ability to withstand any assault.[Note 8]
Von Kressenstein's satisfaction that the garrison could withstand any assault may have had something to do with its remoteness. Magdhaba was about 40 miles (64 km) from the British railhead and 25 miles (40 km) from El Arish. There were two other important pieces of information von Kressenstein did not have. Firstly, he would have been unaware of the speed, flexibility and determination of the Australian, British and New Zealand mounted force, which they were about to demonstrate. Secondly, the arrival of the new British commander, Chetwode, and his staff and their vital forward planning to organise the necessary logistical support for an immediate long range attack by the Anzac Mounted Division.
Chauvel's force for the attack on Magdhaba consisted of three brigades of the Anzac Mounted Division; 1st Light Horse Brigade (1st, 2nd and 3rd Light Horse Regiments), the 3rd Light Horse Brigade (8th, 9th and 10th Light Horse Regiments), the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade (Auckland, Canterbury and Wellington Mounted Rifles Regiments), together with three battalions from the Imperial Camel Brigade in place of the 2nd Light Horse Brigade. These nine regiments and three battalions were supported by the Inverness and Somerset Artillery Batteries, Royal Horse Artillery, and the Hong Kong and Singapore Artillery Battery.[Note 9]
This force, which may have been 7,000 strong, moved out from El Arish just after midnight, following an unexpected delay caused by incoming infantry columns of the 52nd (Lowland) Division, which crossed the long camel train carrying water which followed the mounted division. Nevertheless, the Anzac Mounted Division (riding for forty minutes, dismounting and leading their horse for ten minutes and halting for ten minutes every hour) reached the plain 4 miles (6.4 km) from Magdhaba, at about 05:00 on 23 December. The column had been successfully guided by brigade scouts, until the garrison's fires had become visible for about an hour during their trek, indicating the Ottomans did not expect an attacking force to set out on a second night march, after their 30 miles (48 km) ride to El Arish.
Aerial reconnaissances were routinely carried out; one carried out on 15 November by the Australian Flying Corps made a detailed reconnaissance behind enemy lines over the areas of El Kossaima, Hafir el Auja and Abu Aweigila, taking 24 photographs of all camps and dumps.
The Royal Flying Corps's 5th Wing under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel P B Joubert de la Ferté stationed at Mustabig supported the Anzac Mounted Division. The Wing was a composite formation of the No. 14 Squadron and the Australian Flying Corps's No. 1 Squadron. It was ordered to provide close air support, long-range scouting and long-range bombing. One British and ten Australian planes had dropped a hundred bombs on Magdhaba on 22 December and during the battle bombed and machine gunned the area, but targets were difficult to find.
The evacuation of wounded had been reviewed following the problems encountered during the Battle of Romani, with particular attention given to the development of transport by railway. By the time the advance to El Arish occurred in December 1916, two additional hospital trains were available on the Sinai railway, and medical sections had been deployed at the following:
At 06:30 the No. 5 Wing attacked the Ottoman defences, drawing some fire which revealed the locations of machine guns, trenches and five redoubts. The redoubts were arranged around the village, which protected the only available water supply in the area. During the day, pilots and their observers provided frequent reports; fourteen were received between 07:50 and 15:15, giving estimated positions, strength, and movements of the Ottoman garrison. These were most often given verbally by the observer, after the pilot landed near Chauvel's headquarters, as the aircraft did not at this time have wireless communication.
The main attack, from the north and east, was to be made by the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade, commanded by Brigadier General Edward Chaytor, which moved in line of troop columns. The New Zealanders were supported by a machine gun squadron armed with Vickers and Lewis guns, and the 3rd Light Horse Brigade all under the command of Chaytor. This attack began near the village of Magdhaba and the Wadi El Arish, on the virtually featureless battleground, when the British Empire artillery opened fire at the same time as Chaytor's group moved towards the Ottoman garrison's right and rear.
Chauvel's plan of envelopment quickly began to develop. Despite heavy Ottoman fire, Chaytor's attacking mounted troops found cover and dismounted, some about 1,600 yards (1,500 m) from the redoubts and entrenchments, while others got as close as 400 yards (370 m).[Note 10] At the same time, units of the Imperial Camel Brigade were moving straight on Magdhaba, in a south easterly direction, following the telegraph line, and by 08:45 were slowly advancing on foot, followed by the 1st Light Horse Brigade, in reserve.
Chauvel's envelopment was extended at 09:25, when Chaytor ordered a regiment to circle the entrenched positions and move through Aulad Ali, to cut off a possible line of retreat to the south and south east. The 10th Light Horse Regiment with two sections of the brigade Machine Gun Squadron, led by Brigadier General J. R. Royston, commander of the 3rd Light Horse Brigade, succeeded in capturing Aulad Ali and 300 prisoners.
The Ottoman artillery batteries and trenches were difficult to locate, but by 10:00 the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade was advancing towards the firing line. At this time, an aerial report described small groups of the Magdhaba garrison beginning to retreat, and as a result the still-mounted reserve, the 1st Light Horse Brigade, was ordered to move directly on the town, passing the dismounted Imperial Camel Brigade battalions on their way. After meeting severe shrapnel fire as they trotted over the open plain, they were forced to take cover in the Wadi el Arish where they dismounted, continuing their advance at 10:30 against the Ottoman left. Meanwhile, the battalions of the Imperial Camel Brigade, continued their advance over the flat ground for 900 yards (820 m), section by section, covering fire provided by each section in turn.
By 12:00 all brigades were hotly engaged, as the 3rd Light Horse Brigade's 10th Light Horse Regiment continued their sweep round the garrison's right flank. An hour later, the right of the Imperial Camel Brigade battalions had advanced to reach the 1st Light Horse Brigade and 55 minutes afterwards, fierce fighting was beginning to make an impact on the Ottoman garrison. Reports continued of small numbers of Ottoman troops retreating, but by 14:15 the 10th Light Horse Regiment was continuing its trek after capturing Aulad Ali; moving across the Wadi el Arish, round Hill 345 to attack the rear of Redoubt No. 4. By 14:55 the frontal attack by the Imperial Camel Brigade was within 500 yards (460 m) of the Ottoman defences and, together with the 1st Light Horse Brigade, at 15:20, they attacked No. 2 redoubt. Ten minutes later the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade, with fixed bayonets, attacked the trenches to the east of some houses and the 10th Light Horse Regiment, by now advancing from the south, captured two trenches on that side, effectively cutting off any retreat for the Ottoman garrison.
By 16:00 the 1st Light Horse Brigade had captured No. 2 redoubt, and Chaytor reported capturing buildings and redoubts on the left. After a telephone call between Chauvel and Chetwode, pressure continued to be exerted and an attack by all units took place at 16:30. The Ottoman garrison held on until the dismounted attackers were within 20 yards (18 m), but by that time, there was no doubt that the Ottoman garrison was losing the fight, and they began to surrender in small groups. All organised resistance ceased ten minutes later and as darkness fell, sporadic firing petered out, while prisoners were rounded up, horses collected and watered at the captured wells. Then Chauvel rode into Magdhaba and gave the order to clear the battlefield.
Of the 146 known British Empire casualties, 22 were killed and 124 were wounded. Five officers were killed and seven wounded, and 17 other ranks were killed and 117 wounded. Included in the 146 figure, which may have been as high as 163, the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade suffered the loss of two officers and seven other ranks killed and 36 other ranks wounded.
No more than 200 Ottoman soldiers escaped before the surviving garrison of between 1,242 and 1,282 men were captured. The prisoners included the 80th Regiment's commander Khadir Bey, and the 2nd and 3rd Battalions commanders, Izzat Bey, Rushti Bey among 43 officers. Over 300 Ottoman soldiers were killed; 97 were buried on the battlefield, and 40 wounded were cared for.
With the victory at Magdhaba the occupation of El Arish was secure. This was the first town captured on the Mediterranean coast and infantry from the 52nd (Lowland) Division and the 5th Mounted Yeomanry Brigade quickly began to fortify the town. The Royal Navy arrived on 22 December 1916, and supplies began landing on the beaches near El Arish on 24 December. After the arrival of the railway on 4 January 1917 followed by the water pipeline, El Arish quickly developed into a major base for the EEF.
Aerial reconnaissance found Ottoman forces moving their headquarters north from Beersheba, while the garrison at their main desert base of Hafir El Auja was slightly increased. Other Ottoman outposts at El Kossaima and Nekhl remained, along with their strong defensive system of trenches and redoubts at El Magruntein, defending Rafa, on the frontier between Egypt and the southern Ottoman Empire.
Chauvel's force had left El Arish the previous night, carrying one water bottle per man. Additional water was organised by Desert Column staff and sent from El Arish to Lahfan, and a water convoy from Lahfan, ordered to move to Magdhaba at 15:10 on the day of battle, was reported to be on its way at 15:20.
Material assistance was given to the returning columns by the 52nd (Lowland) Division, in form of the loan of camels, water fantasses, sandcarts and gun horse teams, the latter going out on the commanding generals' initiative to meet the returning teams.[Note 12]
At dressing station set up 3 miles (4.8 km) west of Magdhaba, by the New Zealand Field Ambulance Mobile Section and the 1st Light Horse Field Ambulance, 80 wounded were treated during the day of battle. Field ambulances performed urgent surgery, gave tetanus inoculations and fed patients. During the night after the battle, treated wounded were evacuated in sandcarts and on torturous cacolets to El Arish, with the No. 1 Ambulance Convoy assisting.[Note 13]
Part of the 1st Light Horse Regiment, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel C. H. Granville, with two squadrons of the Auckland Mounted Rifle Regiment, and one squadron from the 3rd Light Horse Brigade bivouacked for the night at Magdhaba. A convoy of supplies was ordered from El Arish to support these troops as they continued, the following morning, clearing the battlefield. The remaining 44 British Empire and 66 Ottoman Empire wounded, collected on 23 and 24 December, were taken to an Ottoman hospital within the Magdhaba fortifications, before being sent to the dressing station. From there, at 17:00 the ambulance convoy set out on its 23 miles (37 km) march to the receiving station.
The convoys of wounded were met a few miles from El Arish by infantry with sandcarts lent by the 52nd (Lowland) Division, so the wounded who had endured the cacolets travelled in comfort to the receiving station, arriving at 04:00 on 25 December. The 52nd (Lowland) Division supplied medical stores and personnel to assist, but although arrangements were made for evacuation to the railhead two days later, evacuation by sea was planned. This had to be postponed due to a gale with rain and hail on 27 December and it was not until 29 December that the largest single ambulance convoy organised in the campaign, 77 sandcarts, nine sledges and a number of cacolet camels, moved out in three lines along the beach with 150 wounded. A few serious cases, who had not been ready to be moved, were evacuated the following day to begin their journey to Kantara on the Suez Canal.
In an address to the troops after the battle, Chetwode expressed his appreciation for the mounted rifle and light horse method of attack. He said that in the history of warfare he had never known cavalry to not only locate and surround the opponent's position, but to dismount and fight as infantry with rifle and bayonet.
On 28 September 1917 Chauvel, who by this time had been promoted by Allenby to command three mounted divisions in Desert Mounted Corps, wrote to General Headquarters:
The point is now that, during the period covered by Sir Archibald's Despatch of 1-3-17, the Australia and New Zealand Troops well know that, with the exception of the 5th Mounted [Yeomanry] Brigade and some Yeomanry Companies of the I.C.C., they were absolutely the only troops engaged with the enemy on this front and yet they see that they have again got a very small portion indeed of the hundreds of Honours and Rewards (including mentions in Despatches) that have been granted. My Lists when commanding the A. & N.Z. Mounted Division, were modest ones under all the circumstances and in that perhaps I am partly to blame but, as you will see by attached list, a good many of my recommendations were cut out and in some cases those recommended for decorations were not even mentioned in Despatches.— Chauvel, letter to GHQ
The 11th (North Auckland) Mounted Rifles was formed on 17 March 1911. They were mobilised during World War I as a squadron of the Auckland Mounted Rifles Regiment. They served in the Middle Eastern theatre of World War I and first saw action during the Battle of Gallipoli.
As a part of the larger New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade (of the ANZAC Mounted Division) they went on to serve in the Sinai and Palestine Campaign.1916 in Australia
The following lists events that happened during 1916 in Australia.4th (Waikato) Mounted Rifles
The 4th (Waikato) Mounted Rifles was formed on March 17, 1911. They were mobilised during World War I and formed part of the Auckland Mounted Rifles Regiment, and served in the Middle Eastern theatre of World War I and first saw action during the Battle of Gallipoli.
As a part of the larger New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade (of the ANZAC Mounted Division) they went on to serve in the Sinai and Palestine Campaign.6th (Manawatu) Mounted Rifles
The 6th (Manawatu) Mounted Rifles was formed on March 17, 1911. They were mobilised during World War I as a squadron of the Wellington Mounted Rifles Regiment. They served in the Middle Eastern theatre of World War I and first saw action during the Battle of Gallipoli.
As a part of the larger New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade (of the ANZAC Mounted Division), they went on to serve in the Sinai and Palestine Campaign.8th (South Canterbury) Mounted Rifles
The 8th (South Canterbury) Mounted Rifles was formed on March 17, 1911. They were mobilised during World War I as a squadron of the Canterbury Mounted Rifles Regiment. They served in the Middle Eastern theatre of World War I and first saw action during the Battle of Gallipoli.
As a part of the larger New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade (of the ANZAC Mounted Division) they went on to serve in the Sinai and Palestine Campaign.Ayrshire Royal Horse Artillery
The Ayrshire Royal Horse Artillery was a Territorial Force Royal Horse Artillery battery that was formed in Ayrshire in 1908. It saw active service during the First World War in the Sinai and Palestine Campaign with the ANZAC Mounted Division from 1916 to 1918. It was disembodied after the end of the war and was not reconstituted in the post-war Territorial Force.Battle of Rafa
The Battle of Rafa, also known as the Action of Rafah, fought on 9 January 1917, was the third and final battle to complete the recapture of the Sinai Peninsula by British forces during the Sinai and Palestine Campaign of the First World War. The Desert Column of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF) attacked an entrenched Ottoman Army garrison at El Magruntein to the south of Rafah, close to the frontier between the Sultanate of Egypt and the Ottoman Empire, to the north and east of Sheikh Zowaiid. The attack marked the beginning of fighting in the Ottoman territory of Palestine.
After the British Empire victories at the Battle of Romani in August 1916 and the Battle of Magdhaba in December, the Ottoman Army had been forced back to the southern edge of Palestine as the EEF pushed eastwards supported by extended lines of communication. This advance depended on the construction of a railway and water pipeline. With the railway reaching El Arish on 4 January 1917, an attack on Rafa by the newly formed Desert Column became possible. During the day-long assault, the Ottoman garrison defended El Magruntein's series of fortified redoubts and trenches on rising ground surrounded by flat grassland. They were eventually encircled by Australian Light Horsemen, New Zealand mounted riflemen, mounted Yeomanry, cameliers and armoured cars. In the late afternoon, the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade captured the central redoubt and the remaining defences were occupied shortly afterwards.Charles Frederick Cox
Major General Charles Frederick Cox, (2 May 1863 – 20 November 1944) was an Australian Army officer and politician. He retired in 1923 as an honorary major general.Desert Column
The Desert Column was a First World War British Empire army corps which operated in the Sinai and Palestine Campaign from 22 December 1916. The Column was commanded by Lieutenant General Philip W. Chetwode and formed part of Eastern Force. When Chetwode took command of Eastern Force after the Second Battle of Gaza, Harry Chauvel took command and oversaw the expansion of the column to three divisions.Chetwode was appointed on 7 December 1916 to command the Column which was composed of the 42nd (East Lancashire) Division, the 52nd (Lowland) Division, the Anzac Mounted Division and the Imperial Camel Brigade's eighteen companies, six of which were yeomen. These divisions had been involved in the Battle of Romani in August 1916 and had advanced across the Sinai Peninsula. Chetwode arrived at El Arish to take up his appointment on 22 December 1916. The Battle of Magdhaba was won the next day, and on 9 January 1917 the Battle of Rafa was also won by the Desert Column, before two defeats were suffered during the First and Second battles for Gaza in March and April 1917.In mid 1917 when General Edmund Allenby took command of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, Desert Column was renamed to become the Desert Mounted Corps commanded by Lieutenant General Chauvel.Encirclement
Encirclement is a military term for the situation when a force or target is isolated and surrounded by enemy forces.This situation is highly dangerous for the encircled force: at the strategic level, because it cannot receive supplies or reinforcements, and on the tactical level, because the units in the force can be subject to an attack from several sides. Lastly, since the force cannot retreat, unless it is relieved or can break out, it must either fight to the death or surrender. A special kind of encirclement is the siege. In this case, the encircled forces are enveloped in a fortified position in which long-lasting supplies and strong defences are in place, allowing them to withstand attacks. Sieges have taken place in almost all eras of warfare. In modern warfare, an encircled force that is not under siege is commonly referred to as a pocket.
Encirclement has been used throughout the centuries by military leaders, including generals such as Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Genghis Khan, Khalid bin Waleed, Hannibal, Sun Tzu, Yi Sun Shin, Shaka Zulu, Wallenstein, Nader Shah, Napoleon, Moltke, Heinz Guderian, von Rundstedt, von Manstein, Zhukov, and Patton.
Sun Tzu and other military thinkers suggest that an army should be not completely encircled but should be given some room for escape, or the "encircled" army's men will lift their morale and fight till the death. It is better to have them consider the possibility of a retreat. Once the enemy retreats, they can be pursued and captured or destroyed with far less risk to the pursuing forces than a fight to the death. Examples of this might be the battles of Dunkirk, in 1940, and the Falaise Gap in 1944.
The main form of encircling, the "double pincer", is executed by attacks on the flanks of a battle whose mobile forces of the era, such as light infantry, cavalry, tanks, or armoured personnel carriers attempt to force a breakthrough to utilize their speed to join behind the back of the enemy force and complete the "ring" while the main enemy force is stalled by probing attacks. The encirclement of the German Sixth Army in the Battle of Stalingrad in 1942 is a typical example.
If there is a natural obstacle, such as ocean or mountains on one side of the battlefield, only one pincer is needed ("single pincer"), because the function of the second arm is taken over by the natural obstacle. The German attack into the lowlands of France in 1940 is a typical example of this.
A third and rare type of encirclement can ensue from a breakthrough in an area of the enemy front, and exploiting that with mobile forces, diverging in two or more directions behind the enemy line. Full encirclement rarely follows, but the threat of it severely hampers the defender's options. This type of attack pattern is centerpiece to blitzkrieg operations. Because of the extreme difficulty of this operation, it cannot be executed unless the offensive force has a vast superiority, either in technology, organization, or sheer numbers. The Barbarossa campaign of 1941 saw some examples.
The danger to the encircling force is that it is, itself, cut off from its logistical base; if the encircled force is able to stand firm, or maintain a supply route, the encircling force can be thrown into confusion (for example, Rommel's "Dash to the Wire" in 1941 and the Demyansk Pocket in 1942) or be comprehensively destroyed (as during the Burma campaign, in 1944).
Examples of battles of encirclement:
Battle of Thermopylae (480 BC)
Battle of Cannae (216 BC)
Battle of Walaja (633 AD)
Battle of Fraustadt (1706)
Battle of Kirkuk (1733)
Battle of Kars (1745)
Battle of Isandlwana (1879)
Battle of Tannenberg (1914)
Battle of Magdhaba (1916)
Battle of Rafa (1916)
First Battle of Gaza (1917)
Battle of Beersheba (1917)
Battle of Megiddo (1918)
Battle of Suomussalmi (1939-1940)
Battle of Kiev (1941)
Battle of Smolensk (1941)
Battle of Białystok–Minsk (1941)
Battle for Velikiye Luki (1942)
Battle of Stalingrad (1942-1943)
Battle of the Korsun-Cherkassy Pocket (1944)
Kamenets-Podolsky pocket (1944)
Six-Day War (1967)
Battle of Khorramshahr (1980)
Battle of Mogadishu (1993)
Battle of Misrata (2011)
Battle of Aleppo (2012–2016)
Second Battle of Tikrit (2015)Harry Chauvel
General Sir Henry George Chauvel, (16 April 1865 – 4 March 1945), more usually known as Sir Harry Chauvel, was a senior officer of the Australian Imperial Force who fought at Gallipoli and during the Sinai and Palestine Campaign in the Middle Eastern theatre of the First World War. He was the first Australian to attain the rank of lieutenant general and later general, and the first to lead a corps. As commander of the Desert Mounted Corps, he was responsible for one of the most decisive victories and fastest pursuits in military history.
The son of a grazier, Chauvel was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Upper Clarence Light Horse, a unit organised by his father, in 1886. After the family moved to Queensland he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Queensland Mounted Infantry in 1890, and saw service during the 1891 Australian shearers' strike. He became a regular officer in 1896, and went to the United Kingdom as part of the Queensland contingent for the 1897 Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. In 1899 he commanded one of two companies of Queensland Mounted Infantry that were Queensland's initial contribution to the Boer War. After the war, he was closely involved with the training of the Australian Light Horse.
Promoted to colonel in 1913, Chauvel became the Australian representative on the Imperial General Staff but the First World War broke out while he was still en route to the United Kingdom. Chauvel arranged for the Australian Imperial Force to be diverted to Egypt, where he joined his new command, the 1st Light Horse Brigade, in December. In May 1915, it was sent dismounted to Gallipoli, where Chauvel assumed responsibility for some of the most dangerous parts of the line. He took charge of the 1st Division that November. In March 1916, Chauvel became commander of the Anzac Mounted Division, gaining victories in the Battle of Romani in August and the Battle of Magdhaba in December, and nearly winning the First Battle of Gaza in March 1917. The following month, he took over the Desert Column, later known as the Desert Mounted Corps, thereby becoming the first Australian to command a corps, and the first to reach the rank of lieutenant general. At Beersheba in October 1917, his light horse captured the town and its vital water supply in one of history's last great cavalry charges. By September 1918, Chauvel was able to effect a secret redeployment of three of his mounted divisions and launch a surprise attack on the enemy that won the Battle of Megiddo. He followed up this victory with one of the fastest pursuits in military history.
In 1919, Chauvel was appointed Inspector General, the Army's most senior post. He was forced to maintain an increasingly hollow structure by politicians intent on cutting expenditure. He was concurrently Chief of the General Staff from 1923 until his retirement in 1930. In November 1929, he became the first Australian to be promoted to the rank of general. During the Second World War, he was recalled to duty as Inspector in Chief of the Volunteer Defence Corps.III Brigade, Royal Horse Artillery (T.F.)
III Brigade, Royal Horse Artillery (Territorial Force), along with its sister IV Brigade, Royal Horse Artillery (T.F.), was a Royal Horse Artillery brigade of the Territorial Force that was formed in Egypt in April 1916 for the ANZAC Mounted Division.
Both brigades served with the ANZAC Mounted Division during the Sinai and Palestine Campaign of World War I. In July 1917, the division's artillery was reorganized and the brigade headquarters were dissolved.IV Brigade, Royal Horse Artillery (T.F.)
IV Brigade, Royal Horse Artillery (Territorial Force), along with its sister III Brigade, Royal Horse Artillery (T.F.), was a Royal Horse Artillery brigade of the Territorial Force that was formed in Egypt in April 1916 for the ANZAC Mounted Division.
Both brigades served with the ANZAC Mounted Division during the Sinai and Palestine Campaign of World War I. In July 1917, the division's artillery was reorganized and the brigade headquarters were dissolved.Imperial Camel Corps
The Imperial Camel Corps Brigade (ICCB) was a camel-mounted infantry brigade that the British Empire raised in December 1916 during the First World War for service in the Middle East.
From a small beginning the unit eventually grew to a brigade of four battalions, one battalion each from Great Britain and New Zealand and two battalions from Australia. Support troops included a mountain artillery battery, a machine gun squadron, Royal Engineers, a field ambulance, and an administrative train.
The ICC became part of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF) and fought in several battles and engagements, in the Senussi Campaign, the Sinai and Palestine Campaign, and in the Arab Revolt. The brigade suffered 246 men killed. The ICC was disbanded in May 1919 after the end of the war.Inverness-shire Royal Horse Artillery
The Inverness-shire Royal Horse Artillery was a Territorial Force Royal Horse Artillery battery that was formed in Inverness-shire in 1908. It saw active service during the First World War in the Sinai and Palestine Campaign with the ANZAC Mounted Division from 1916 to 1918. A second line battery, 2/1st Inverness-shire RHA, served in the United Kingdom throughout the war. It was disembodied after the end of the war and was reconstituted as a Royal Field Artillery battery in 1920.Leicestershire Royal Horse Artillery
The Leicestershire Royal Horse Artillery was a Territorial Force Royal Horse Artillery battery that was formed in Leicestershire in 1908. It saw active service during the First World War in Egypt and Palestine from 1916 to 1918, initially with ANZAC Mounted Division before joining the Yeomanry Mounted Division and 1st Mounted / 4th Cavalry Division. A second line battery, 2/1st Leicestershire RHA, served on the Western Front with the 63rd (Royal Naval) Division from 1916 to 1918. Post-war, it was reconstituted as a Royal Field Artillery battery.Sinai and Palestine Campaign
The Sinai and Palestine Campaign of the Middle Eastern theatre of World War I was fought by the Arab Revolt and the British Empire, against the Ottoman Empire and its Imperial German allies. It started with an Ottoman attempt at raiding the Suez Canal in 1915, and ended with the Armistice of Mudros in 1918, leading to the cession of Ottoman Syria and Palestine.
Fighting began in January 1915, when a German-led Ottoman force invaded the Sinai Peninsula, then part of the British Protectorate of Egypt, to unsuccessfully raid the Suez Canal. After the Gallipoli Campaign, British Empire veterans formed the Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF) and Ottoman Empire veterans formed the Fourth Army, to fight for the Sinai Peninsula in 1916. During this campaign the Anzac Mounted Division and the 52nd (Lowland) Division succeeded in pushing German-led Ottoman Army units out of the area, beginning with the Battle of Romani and pursuit in August, the Battle of Magdhaba in December, and in January 1917 the newly formed Desert Column completed the recapture of the Sinai at the Battle of Rafa. These three victories, resulting in the recapture of substantial Egyptian territory, were followed in March and April, by two EEF defeats on Ottoman territory, at the First and Second Battles of Gaza in southern Palestine.
After a period of stalemate in Southern Palestine from April to October 1917, General Edmund Allenby captured Beersheba from the III Corps. Having weakened the Ottoman defences, which had stretched almost continually from Gaza to Beersheba, they were finally captured by 8 November, after the Battle of Tel el Khuweilfe, the Battle of Hareira and Sheria and the Third Battle of Gaza, when the pursuit began. During the subsequent operations, about 50 miles (80 km) of formerly Ottoman territory was captured as a result of the EEF victories at the Battle of Mughar Ridge, fought between 10 and 14 November, and the Battle of Jerusalem, fought between 17 November and 30 December. Serious losses on the Western Front in March 1918, during Erich Ludendorff's German Spring Offensive, forced the British Empire to send reinforcements from the EEF. During this time, two unsuccessful attacks were made to capture Amman and to capture Es Salt in March and April 1918, before Allenby's force resumed the offensive during the manoeuvre warfare of the Battle of Megiddo. The successful infantry battles at Tulkarm and Tabsor created gaps in the Ottoman front line, allowing the pursuing Desert Mounted Corps to encircle the infantry fighting in the Judean Hills and fight the Battle of Nazareth and Battle of Samakh, capturing Afulah, Beisan, Jenin and Tiberias. In the process the EEF destroyed three Ottoman armies during the Battle of Sharon, the Battle of Nablus and the Third Transjordan attack, capturing thousands of prisoners and large quantities of equipment. Damascus and Aleppo were captured during the subsequent pursuit, before the Ottoman Empire agreed to the Armistice of Mudros on 30 October 1918, ending the Sinai and Palestine Campaign. The British Mandate of Palestine and the French Mandate for Syria and Lebanon were created to administer the captured territories.
The campaign was generally not well known or understood during the war. The English people thought of it as a minor operation, a waste of precious resources which would be better spent on the Western Front, while the peoples of India were more interested in the Mesopotamian campaign and the occupation of Baghdad. Australia did not have a war correspondent in the area until Captain Frank Hurley, the first Australian Official Photographer, arrived in August 1917 after visiting the Western Front. Henry Gullett, the first Official War Correspondent, arrived in November 1917. The long-lasting effect of this campaign was the Partitioning of the Ottoman Empire, when France won the mandate for Syria and Lebanon, while the British Empire won the mandates for Mesopotamia and Palestine. The Republic of Turkey came into existence in 1923 after the Turkish War of Independence ended the Ottoman Empire. The European mandates ended with the formation of the Kingdom of Iraq in 1932, the Lebanese Republic in 1943, the State of Israel in 1948, and the Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan and Syrian Arab Republic in 1946.Somerset Royal Horse Artillery
The Somerset Royal Horse Artillery was a Territorial Force Royal Horse Artillery battery that was formed in Somerset in 1908. It saw active service during the First World War in the Sinai and Palestine Campaign with the ANZAC Mounted Division from 1916 to 1918. A second line battery, 2/1st Somerset RHA, served on the Western Front with the 63rd (Royal Naval) Division from 1916 to 1918. It was disembodied after the end of the war and was not reconstituted in the Territorial Force in 1920.
Theatres of World War I