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Remembered Today:

Camel Artillery - Mountain Battery HKS-RGA


ianjonesncl

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The Hong Kong and Singapore Royal Garrison Artillery (HKS-RGA) was a mountain battery that fought in the Middle East Campaign from 1915 to 1918, operating in Libya, Egypt, Sinai, Palestine and Jordan. It was equipped with mountain guns, initially using mules as transport, before switching to use camels  in December 1916.

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The HKS-RGA manned coastal batteries in Hong Kong, Singapore and Mauritius. A mountain battery was formed in Hong Kong in 1912 using Indian Army personnel. In November 1915 the HKS-RGA mountain battery was sent to Egypt with a nucleus from 1 Company Hong Kong and augmentees from Singapore and Mauritius. The battery  was equipped with 6 x 10 pounder guns using mules as pack animals.

 

The 10 pounder mountain gun was introduced in 1901. It broke down for transport, the barrel being in two parts which screwed together. The gun had no recoil mechanism which resulted in it moving around when fired. Its calibre was 2.75 inches (970 mm), firing a 10 pound (4.54 kg) shell. The guns maximum range was 3,700 yards (3,380 metres) firing shrapnel and 6,000 yards (5,490 metres) firing HE.

 

10 Pounder Mountain Gun

 

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10 Pounder Mountain Gun

 

On reaching Egypt, the battery was  attached to the Imperial Cavalry Brigade and sections were deployed along the Suez Canal. In March 1916 they moved to Libya to support forces engaged in suppressing an uprising of the Sanussi Tribe. When the Turks began attacks in Sinai, the HKS-RGA together with other troops were moved back to the Suez Canal. The Turkish attacks were blocked. In response, the British mounted a show of force with raids on Bir El Mazar and Bir El Maghara. Both actions were supported by the HKS-RGA, after which they withdrew to Abassi, on the outskirts of Cairo, where the battery mules were exchanged for camels.

 

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Abassia

On the 19th December 1916 the Imperial Camel Corps Brigade (ICCB) was formed as part of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF). The brigade consisted of of 4 x Infantry Camel Battalions ( 2 x Australian / 1 x New Zealand / 1 x British) and a Machine Gun Company. It included a signals section, engineer troop, field ambulance and a brigade train.  The No 1 Mountain Battery, Hong Kong & Singapore RGA would provide artillery support. The brigade's logistic support included the Brigade Ammunition Column. Total brigade strength was 4,150 men and 4,800 camels.  

 

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INSPECTION OF THE IMPERIAL CAMEL CORPS
IWM Inspection of the Imperial Camel Corps     
Hong Kong-Singapore Mountain Battery with 10 pounder guns ---> 4 mins 40 secs

Probably 3rd or 4th Battalion, Imperial Camel Corps, with its camel battery, the Hong Kong-Singapore Mountain Battery, training on the Palestine Front, early 1917.
 

The display begins with a parade and marchpast, followed by men of the ICC setting out for a patrol in the desert and drawing river water for their camels. This is broken by sequences of horse and mule riders in the desert, and a demonstration of assembling its guns by the Hong Kong-Singapore Mountain Battery of the Indian Army, attached to the Imperial Camel Corps

(this was the only camel-mounted battery equipped with 10-pounder breechloading mountain guns on active service).

Source: Imperial War Museum Catalogue number IWM 6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Brigade's first action would take place on the 23rd December when the ANZAC Mounted Division and the Imperial Camel Brigade captured Magdhaba. The Turks had withdrawn from El Arish on the 20th December, which was then occupied by the British. In order to cut off retreating Turks, the British advanced to seize Magdhaba. The HKS-RGA supported the engagement, the Battery Commander, Major William Agnew Moore, being awarded the Distinguished Service Order.

In February 1916 the battery re-equipped with 2.75 inch mountain guns. The more modern gun had a recoil buffer and recuperator, which  provided greater accuracy. Firing a 12 pound (5.7 kg) shell it had a maximum range of 5,600 yards, (5,120 metres) when firing shrapnel and 5,800 yards (5,300 metres) firing HE.

2.75 inch Mountain Gun

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2.75 inch Mountain Gun

The 2.75in mountain gun was carried by six camels , additional camels would carry first line ammunition, gun stores and spares. 

 

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Source: War Establishment 699/47-No 1 Mountain Battery, Hong Kong & Singapore RGA dated 30 August 1917

 

The battery was established for 15 British personnel (5+10), 240 Indian personnel (3+237), 21 horses and 436 camels.

British Personnel 15

Officers 5

S Sgts/Sgts 4

Artificers 6

 

Indian Personnel 240

Officers 3
NCOs 30
Gunners 200
Followers 7

 

Animals 457

Riding Horses 21

Riding Camels 251

Pack Camels 18

 

Each of the three two gun sections had 3 riding horses, 73 riding camels and 47 pack camels. As well as transporting the guns and their detachments, the camels carried the first line ammunition of 720 rounds shrapnel (120 rounds per gun), 42 rounds HE (7 rounds per gun) and 28 illuminating rounds (4 rounds per gun).

 

The Brigade Ammunition Colum carried the mountain battery's second line ammunition and small arms ammunition for all of the Imperial Camel Brigades .

 

Source: War Establishment 699/47-Brigade Ammunition Column dated 30 August 1917.

 

The Brigade Ammunition Colum was established for 2 British personnel (1+1), 15 Indian personnel (0+15), 59 Egyptian Camel Drivers and 126 camels.

 

British Personnel

Officers 1

Veterinary Sgt 1

 

Indian Personnel

Other Ranks 15

 

Egyptian Personnel

Egyptian Camel Drivers 59

 

Animals

Riding Camels 16
Baggage Camels 110

 

The Battery would support the Imperial Camel Corps Brigade (ICCB) as the campaign in Sinai and Palestine developed. The advance continued with the capture of Bir El Hassana. The next major objective was Gazza. An unsuccessful attempt to take the town in March 1917 resulted in British forces being forced to withdraw, assisted by effective covering fires from the HKS-RGA. Another attempt in April also failed. The EEF  forces short of ammunition withdrew to resupply and refit.  The campaign resumed in the autumn when the Egyptian Expeditionary Force captured Beersheba and finally took Gaza. Ottoman forces began to withdraw,  with the EEF in pursuit, crossing into Palestine.

 

As the campaign wore on into 1918, the ICCB moved into the Jordan Valley and the nature of the terrain changed. With the desert left behind, in June 1918 units of the Imperial Camel Corps  began to be convert to horses and units re-assigned. It is believed the HKS-RGA reverted to using mules as pack animals.

 

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