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Remembered Today:

Indian Soldier - Possible to see if he served on the Western Front? Chanda Singh - 15th Sikhs


TomP

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Hi All

I was wondering if anybody would be able to assist me in checking whether a recipient of a GSM medal I have would have served on the Western front or during the First World War at all. 

The Soldier in question was from the 15th 'Ludhiana' Sikhs Regiment - Naik (Cpl.) Chanda Singh - Service #: 574 - which in 1922 later became the 2nd Battalion 11th Sikh Regiment. In this regiment he was issued a new service number: 1049. He was the rank of Naik during his qualifying period for the GSM medal, was promoted to Lance Havildar by 1923 and then Havildar by 1925 (all of this from the medal rolls for his clasps). 

Based on this successful career though, I was wondering if possibly he had served during the First World War as a sepoy and earned his promotion to Naik in the war prior to this medal service in Iraqi revolt in 1920?

Thanks in advance for any help or ideas!

Tom

 

The Medal:

GSMIraqKurdistan.JPG.5c35d0850b22b1828e48a1365d542dfe.JPG

 

Iraq Clasp medal roll 6th row (Credit: The National Archives WO100/G40/450)

Iraq.PNG.113ed5c29f51cb8e6beb9f0a88e94261.PNG

Kurdistan Clasp medal roll bottom row (Credit: The National Archives WO100/G41/451)

Kurdistan.PNG.a511d3803ee53e2984595fbcc6655a68.PNG

 

 

 

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The 15th Sikhs was involved with the early battles in the Western Desert late 1915-1916 after she had served in France

I wrote a bit about her in the fights against the Senussi

Sorry no lists of men in her

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13 hours ago, stevenbecker said:

The 15th Sikhs was involved with the early battles in the Western Desert late 1915-1916 after she had served in France

I wrote a bit about her in the fights against the Senussi

 

Hi Steven

Thanks for your reply. I would love to have a read of this (whether my chap was involved or not), is your writing published or online?

Also given what I've noticed about the ranks (ie Naik by 1920), do you think it likely he was a sepoy during earlier possibly wartime years? Or is it too hard to say. 

Thanks

Tom

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Tom,

   If you are very lucky, your man might be mentioned in the 15 Sikhs war diary. The only one available for France and Belgium is this one, covering April to August 1915;- 15 Sikhs | The National Archives   This can be downloaded free.

  Chanda Singh is a common name, but reference in the war diary may include his number.

Regards,

Alf McM

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Hi Alf

Thanks very much! I have downloaded that and will have a look through it later. Appreciate your help. I also have the unit diaries of Iraq for July - December 2020 but I'm finding it very hard to read most of it. The 1915 one looks far more legible, at least at first glance. 

A quick search of the Archives I also found his MIC which mentions his Iraq GSM and further Kurdistan clasp, but doesn't specify a theatre of war or entry within. Do you know whether it was common for this to be missed on Indian MIC's or would this suggest he didn't see wartime service prior to Iraq in 1920?

 

 

Source: National Archives: WO-372-4-74251

MICSingh.PNG.8816d73a4f4810600be236c6f6f21aca.PNG

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1 hour ago, TomP said:

Hi Alf

Thanks very much! I have downloaded that and will have a look through it later. Appreciate your help. I also have the unit diaries of Iraq for July - December 2020 but I'm finding it very hard to read most of it. The 1915 one looks far more legible, at least at first glance. 

A quick search of the Archives I also found his MIC which mentions his Iraq GSM and further Kurdistan clasp, but doesn't specify a theatre of war or entry within. Do you know whether it was common for this to be missed on Indian MIC's or would this suggest he didn't see wartime service prior to Iraq in 1920?

 

 

Source: National Archives: WO-372-4-74251

MICSingh.PNG.8816d73a4f4810600be236c6f6f21aca.PNG

Hi Tom,

as I understand it the MIC were created for everyone who served in the war.

So I would think if he has one then he did serve but where is a mystery to me at the moment. Possibly some one else will know.

Did the or were the Indian soldiers awarded Pip Squeak and Wilfred?

Regards, Bob.

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Bob,

  Medal Rolls for Indian troops are held at the India Office, in London. They have not been digitised, unfortunately. I am not sure if the Indian Army created MIC's. However, there are some Indians mentioned on the British medal rolls, but not many.

Regards,

Alf McM

 

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8 minutes ago, alf mcm said:

Bob,

  Medal Rolls for Indian troops are held at the India Office, in London. They have not been digitised, unfortunately. I am not sure if the Indian Army created MIC's. However, there are some Indians mentioned on the British medal rolls, but not many.

Regards,

Alf McM

 

Thank you Alf Mcm,

here is a link to the MIC page at the national archives.

https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/british-army-medal-index-cards-1914-1920/

I will have a read of the WDs later when I get back home.

Regards, Bob.

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Cheers both. Yes I was under the impression the existence of his MIC above means there would have been wartime service - but equally no mention is made of WW1 medal entitlement or a theatre/date of entry in the war. 
 

I’m not likely to get to Kew anytime soon. Slightly odd that the medal rolls for the post war minor actions have been digitised (not that I’m not grateful!) but not for the First World War. Maybe that is an issues of scale with the sheer number of Indian troops who served? 

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15 minutes ago, TomP said:

I’m not likely to get to Kew anytime soon.

Me neither Tom, however I just found this site which will be worth a read and may answer your question?

http://www.researchingww1.co.uk/indianarmymedals

Medal Index Cards from the National archives is here.

https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C11437826

Which must be where you got your copy of 'Chanda Singh' MIC from Tom?

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@TomP From a quick scan with my eyes over the WD we have him:thumbsup:

Edit here to put in the date. May 20th 1915.

574 Chanda Singh. Signaler

I need to read it a bit more and decypher some words but that must be him.

I am open to being corrected as I may not be correct.

Image courtesy of National archives WO 95/3929/5

image.png.88af696d8918ba2d45db8d3d2a9a2c43.png

Edited by Bob Davies
to add a bit. and the date
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35 minutes ago, Bob Davies said:

@TomP From a quick scan with my eyes over the WD we have him:thumbsup:

574 Chanda Singh. SignaleR

Amazing find Bob! That’s brilliant. Thanks so much for your help.

So we know for sure he was in France in May 1915 and based on what you saw was promoted to Lance Naik (along with several others) ‘for gallantry and especially good work in the field’. The actions described in the passage above are also fascinating. 
 

So if he was promoted with immediate effect to L/Naik May 1915, and was Naik by the time he served in Iraq, that would suggest he continued to serve throughout the war, and most likely did serve in Egypt after his time in France in the action against the Senussi that Steven mentioned above.

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Mate,

I can't remember where it was published but here is what I have on my records

Of interest one of their officers won a VC *Smyth

The History of the Composite Australian Light Horse Regiment

By Steve Becker

 On the 19 November 1915 an unknown British Officer strode into the Officers Mess at Heliopolis, he was to be the Commanding Officer of the newly formed Composite Australian Light Horse Regiment, and had come straight from the Staff of the 2nd Mounted Division, where he had been given just 12 hours to assemble his regiment and be ready to move for operations in the Western desert. This officer was Major, the Honourable, Dudley Roger Hugh Pelham, 4th son of the Earl of Yarborough, educated at Eton and commissioned from The Royal Military Collage Sandhurst into 10th Hussars in 1894. He had served in the Boer War and was a well known cricketer who played first class cricket for the European India side of 1902-03, and as he looked around the group of the newly gathered Australian Light Horse officers he began to brief them of the situation. 

Following the upraising by the Berber tribes in the North African desert, one of these tribes, known as the Senussi, based at the Egyptian Oasis at Siwa, had been engaged in a guerrilla war against the Italians, who had taken the province of Libya from Turkey in 1911. When in 1915, Italy became an ally to Britain, the Senussi, encourage by Turkey, turned their attention to Egypt, where in the last month they had fired on British and Egyptian service personal and occupied the towns of Sidi Barrani and Sollum, and with the concern that should this uprising spread to the general Egyptian population the British position in Egypt would be threatened. It was decided to send all available troops into the desert to prevent this. However due to the situation at Gallipoli, and the need to garrison the Suez Canal, as well as the movement of troops to Salonika, a number of composite formations would need to be raised from the available units then in Egypt, until regular units could be obtained. 

The Composite Australian Light Horse Regiment was to be drawn from all the Australian Light Horse Reinforcements now under training and waiting deployment to Gallipoli, as well as those who by wounds or illness had yet to return or those that had been left behind to watch the stores and equipment in Egypt. The Squadrons were to be based on the present Light Horse brigades with “A” Squadron formed from the 1st Light Horse Brigade details, “B” Squadron from the 2nd and 3rd Light Horse Brigades details and “C” Squadron from the 4th Light Horse Brigade details. The medical staff would be drawn from the 3rd Light Horse Field Ambulance and the Signals from the 3rd Light Horse Signal Troop, men from the 3rd Light Horse Brigade train 12th Company Australian Army Service Corps would fill out the ranks of the Transport Troop. In all some 23 officers and 531 men were concentrated at Heliopolis for the adventure ahead. 

The problems with sorting out the Regiment were to say the least overwhelming. Most of the Officers and men being new to the Army had only limited training in Australia before embarking to Egypt, Few completed any Troop, Squadron or Regimental training or knew how a Light Horse Regiment operated in the field or the tactic’s that involved. Added to the problems was the lack of equipment which was left over from the main theatres of war, still there were plenty of horses for the men and wagons for the Transport Troop. 

The men did have their pick of the best horses in the Light Horse, as they set about their training as a Light Horse Regiment. Fortunately a number of the officers and men were from the Light Horse Militia in Australia, whilst a number had served in the Boer War and had a firm grounding in the duties of Army, only there were a lack of qualified Non Commissioned Officer’s in the Regiment and the wholesale promotion of those who were believed could fill the duties of Troop Sergeant and Troop Corporal along with other Non Commissioned Officer’s ranks had to fill these important positions. 

Thankfully there were a number of Veteran soldiers willing to pass on their knowledge, these included the Regimental Second In Command Major Thomas Daly of the 9th Light Horse Regiment who had started out as a Private in the 8th Militia Infantry Regiment in 1901 and commissioned in 1905, he had a solid background in handling men and along with the 40 year old Adjutant, Lieutenant Henry Forbes of the 5th Royal Irish Lancers who had served in the British Army since 1894 and had fought as a Sergeant in the Boer War, winning the Distinguished Conduct Medal, and was a Sergeant Major in the Warwickshire Yeomanry at the beginning of the present war. 

There were around thirty men in the Regiment who could claim service in the Boer War, and included such veteran’s as Arthur Thompson from the 3rd New South Wales Mounted Rifles and Bushveldt Carbineers, and who was a witness against Breaker Morant at his famous trial. Hamilton Yaldwyn was a Sergeant in the Queensland Imperial Bushman and later a Captain with the 7th Australian Commonwealth Horse, and John Morris, who began the war as a Private with the 1st Queensland Mounted Infantry and later returned as Squadron Sergeant Major of the 7th Australian Commonwealth Horse, and who stayed to fight in Royston’s Horse during the 1906 Natal Rebellion. The men included many in Australian formations was well as British Soldiers and Sailors and a New Zealander from the 3rd Contingent, who along with other men travelled to South Africa to join and fight. The most famous of the Boer War soldiers was Captain John Hutton Bisdee VC, who had won the Victoria Cross as a Private with the 1st Tasmanian Imperial Bushman and later returned as a Lieutenant in the 2nd Tasmanian Imperial Bushman. Bisdee had long service in the Militia and at the start of the war was the Commanding Officer of the 26th Light Horse Regiment Tasmanian Mounted Infantry and was now Officer Commanding “C” Squadron. 

After a regimental parade on the 20 November, the men were warned that the Regiment was to move to Mex camp outside Alexandria, and they packed up and boarded a train at Zeitoun and travelled by rail to Gabball Station at Alexandria before disembarking and moving down to Mex Camp the next day. The regiment being over subscribed by 30 soldiers had the choice of discarding that number before this move subsequently the 524 officers and men that entered the Western desert were the best of the reinforcements available in Egypt. 

Mex Camp was a large British base outside Alexandria, with many units forming and training. These units were part of the lately created Western Frontier Force, under command of Major General A. Wallace. The principle combat units of this force were the Composite Yeomanry Mounted Brigade, with three Composite Yeomanry Regiments, which contained the mixed Squadrons and Troops of no fewer then 20 different Yeomanry Regiments, all drawn from the replacements of the Yeomanry Brigades of the 2nd Mounted Division, and along with the Composite Infantry Brigade, which comprised the 2/8th Middlesex, 2/7th Middlesex, 1/6th Royal Scots and the 15th (Ludhiana) Battalion of Sikhs, made ready for operations in the Western desert of Egypt. 

Here the Light Horse Regiment was attached to the Composite Yeomanry Mounted Brigade and started training in earnest in the formations and drills of a Mounted Regiment in the field, however with a great deal to learn and limited time the training was intensive with short breaks for leave into Alexandria. On the 1 December the training program was interrupted and supplemented when the men were issued with new equipment including swords and rifle buckets to integrate them with the British Yeomanry regiments.

Figure 1Trooper Austen Edwards

 

Nevertheless all too soon the Regiment was warned to be ready to move as the Senussi were approaching the Port town of Matruh and had cut the El Daaba road and were needed to support the forces already deployed there. An advance component of the Regiment including a Signal Sect, loaded stores, signalling equipment and baggage on the AT “Ramage”  to sail for Matruh between the 6 and 8 December, while the main body of the regiment would travel by rail to El Daaba on the 8 December, then move cross country to Matruh. Only due to the poor water supply each Squadron would need to travel separately supported by the water wagons of the Composite Australian Army Service Corps of the 1st Australian Divisional Train under Major Albert Holdsworth and Major Frederick Francis, with two officers and 93 men, of whom an advance party under Lieutenant Claude Thomas had left on the 4 December with the 15th Sikhs and the 2nd Composite Yeomanry Regiment to Matruh. The Regiment began reforming as they arrived in Matruh between the 11 and 12 December. 

The Affair at the Wadi Senab 11 to 13 December 1915 

On the 11 December "A" Squadron under Captain Ernest Hudson was the first element of the Composite Australian Light Horse Regiment to arrive at Matruh. However no sooner had this Squadron arrived when it was ordered to move as quickly as possible to support the Yeomanry moving to Samaket el Medwa 16 Km south of Matruh. 

This Yeomanry force was under command of Lieutenant Colonel JLR Gordon (15th Sikhs) comprising; 

  • 15th Battalion Sikhs (two Companies),
  • 2nd Composite Yeomanry Regiment (Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Dorsetshire Squadrons),
  • Yeomanry Machine Gun Section (three Machine Guns),
  • Nottinghamshire Battery RHA (one section of two guns),
  • A detachment of Duke of Westminster's Royal Navy Armoured cars (four Rolls Royce Armoured cars), and
  • 1st South Midland Field Ambulance (one section)  

At 7 am on the 11 December the Infantry under Lieutenant Colonel JLR Gordon marched west from Matruh along the coast road while the 2nd Composite Yeomanry Regiment under Major Wigan and the section of guns of the Nottinghamshire Battery RHA, with two Armoured Cars moved south west following the Khedivial Motor road under orders to conduct a sweep to the south and drive the Senussi into the infantry to the north.

 After 11 am the advance guard of the Buckinghamshire Squadron under Captain Cheape having crossed the Wadi Raml exposed their right flank and came under disarray fire from the direction of the Wadi Mejwa. The Commanding Officer of the 2nd Composite Yeomanry Regiment sent Major Foster’s Berkshire Squadron to the left front and Major Reeves Dorsetshire Squadron to the right to bring the Senussi under fire while the remainder of the column continued on the road.

 As the squadrons were deploying into position Major Foster suddenly ordered his Berkshire Squadron to charge the unseen shooters targeting his men, the Squadron quickly advanced into the attack forming into line as they charged across the flat ground all the time coming under unexpected heavy fire from an unknown position, killing Squadron Sergeant Major William Cox.

 The Senussi position was soon found as the Squadron stubbled into Wadi Mejwa, thought to contain some of the Senussi only to find it held over 300 tribesmen. The Berkshire Squadron how trapped were forced to fight for their lives as the Senussi were not prepared to take prisoners.

 Seeing the situation Major Wigan commit more of his column to help by attacking the flanks of the Senussi supported by the armoured cars and the guns, soon the Senussi seeing their flank being turned broke and ran onto the high ground of Gebel Medwa and into the many wadis to west to continue the skirmish and where the yeomanry became engaged with the Senussi in a running fight which developed back to the Wadi Senab.

 In the early afternoon “A” Squadron the Composite Light Horse Regiment arrived to help, and were directed to clear the remainder of the rear guard from the Wadi Senab. By 3 pm the engagement was over which allowed the medical services to recover the one officer (Colonel Snow) and 16 other ranks killed and two officers and 16 other ranks wounded most of who came from the Berkshire Squadron. Approximately 83 of the Senussi were killed in this action and seven taken prisoner. After dark the entire force concentrated at Ras umm er Rakham with the 15th Sikhs.

 The next day, 12 December saw many of the Yeomanry horses to fatigue to move and patrols had to be drawn from the fit Yeomanry and “A” Squadron to examine the battle area during which they captured 25 prisoners and seized a quantity of cattle and camels neglected by the Senussi.

 That evening Lieutenant Colonel Gordon’s force was reinforced by two companies (C and D with the Machine Gun section) of the 1/6th Royal Scots under Lieutenant Colonel A.O. Jenney along with a supply convoy of stores which left Matruh at 10.30 am. This convoy included an element of the Composite Australian Army Service Corps under Lieutenant Claude Thomas.

 On the morning of 13 December the column was ordered by Lieutenant Colonel Gordon to continue its advance on Ras Manaa and began to move at 8 am in the direction of Dawar Hussein along the coast road. In the van guard was the Dorsetshire and Buckinghamshire Yeomanry Squadrons, then one company (No2) 15th Sikhs, followed by the two companies 1/6th Royal Scots, while the reminder of the column with the Berkshire Squadron and one company 15th Sikhs and the machine gun section of the Royal Scots remaining at Ras umm er Rakham.

 In the interim “A” Squadron the Composite Light Horse Regiment was ordered to investigate the wells at Bir Shola, about 40 Km south west of Ras umm er Rakham before joining the main column near Ras Manaa. Captain Hudson commenced his movement at 8.30 am following part of the way at the rear of the main column before turning off towards Bir Shola.

 Shortly after 9.15 am as the leading Yeomanry Squadron was approaching the Wadi el Hasheifiat the columns long left flank became suddenly engaged by the Senussi estimated to be between 1200 to 1500 men with two guns and two or three machine guns. These were deployed along the cliffs of the Gebel el Olamiya forcing the British to move to their left to counter this fire. Small groups of the Senussi attacked the Yeomanry in the Wadi to cut them off from the 15th Sikhs, as the Royal Scots found them selves under heavy attack on the coast road and the flanking platoon from C Company under Lieutenant Jardine was badly cut up.

 Meanwhile “A” Squadron moved to attack the right flank of the Senussi, having heard the firing and returned, while the Yeomanry attacked the left flank in the Wadi el Hasheifiat however any cooperation was impossible due to the ground and Senussi fire wounding Trooper William Commons from “D” Troop, Trooper Sydney Baker “A” Troop, shot in the leg and Trooper George Hicks “C” Troop, shot in the shoulder.

 Around 10 am the Senussi brought their field guns into action and one or two 4 inch guns opened fire on the column, still they were poorly handled, and unlike the Machine guns, which hit the Royal Scots very acutely. It was under cover of this fire the Senussi moved to surround the Column and cut them off from Matruh. This forced Lieutenant Colonel Gordon to order Royal Scots to retire on his position, however due to their many wounded his could not be undertaken at present and “A” squadron was directed to retire to protect Gordon’s Head Quarters, as he tried to concentrate his scattered and disorganized forces into an all round defence. Squadron Sergeant Major Graham Wallas “A” Squadron was active during this time carrying the message from Head Quarters for the troops to retire.

 Lieutenant Colonel Gordon then sent a heliograph message to the supply column at Ras umm er Rakham for help and the machine gun section of the Royal Scots and three officers and 73 men of the Composite Australian Army Service Corps and Royal Scots Transport “turned out full of fight with shirts and trousers and with rifles and bandoliers” and moved to the sound of the guns.

 About a mile short of the column they found the Senussi positioned in some wadis to the rear of the column and Lieutenant Claude Thomas attacked by dividing his men into three sections under himself, Lieutenant Louis McQuie and Lieutenant Norman Henderson, the Transport officer of the Royal Scots, while the Royal Scots machine gun section provided cover and took the tribesman under fire. Once in position Lieutenant Thomas led an assault on the Senussi who scattered on there approach. Seeing a ammunition limber stuck fast in the mud Lieutenant Thomas went to help by pulling two mules across the open only to fall mortally wounded, Sergeant Albert Sanders then took command and led his party, clearing the wadi while losing Driver Andrew Thompson killed and five men of the Australian Army Service Corps wounded. Having now secured this position they were required to leave part of this force to protect the column’s rear while the remainder joined Lieutenant Colonel Gordon.

 Sometime after 10 am news of the Senussi attack was passed back to Matruh where the remainder of the Composite Light Horse Regiment under Major Pelham were order to mount and move as quickly as possible to the battle area with one section of two guns of the Nottinghamshire battery, these fresh reinforcements arrived at Ras umm er Rakham around 2.15 pm and joined the defences near Lieutenant Colonel Gordon’s Head Quarters.

 These squadrons were quickly moved to the left rear of the Royal Scots supported by the guns of the Nottinghamshire Battery, which with some good shooting stopped the tribesman from pressing their attack, both “B” Squadron under Captain Brune moved to the right of “A” Squadron while “C” Squadron under Captain Bisdee VC moved to its left, there they formed lines with “A” Squadron in the centre to repel an expected attack, only the Senussi held back allowing the Yeomanry, 15th Sikhs and the Royal Scots strung out along the Coast road to concentrate around 3 pm under the protection of the Light Horse near Lieutenant Colonel Gordon’s Head Quarters.

 Around 3.15 pm Lieutenant Colonel Gordon sent the now combined forces against the Senussi positions with the Royal Scots attacking the Gebel el Olamiya ridge, while the Composite Light Horse Regiment moved to their right flank to cut the Senussi off on the high ground. Meanwhile the Royal Scots lead by the Adjutant, Captain Gillatt and Major Milligan, took the fight to the tribesman capturing the ridge line, only due to the terrain this couldn’t be completed before their adversary had fled. The Royal Scots lost during the day, three soldiers killed and three officers and fourteen men wounded, while the Australians lost, Corporal John Kelly and Trooper Edward Clements “A” Troop “C” Squadron with Saddler Sam Torney “SHQ” “A” Squadron wounded. During the fighting the Light Horse Regimental Padre, Captain William Devine, had taken up a rifle and fired at the Senussi until all the Royal Scots wounded were recovered, he would later win a Military Cross and the French Croix de Guerre with the 48th Battalion in France.

 The Senussi now escaped onto the high ground, however they continued to shell the area and snipe at the reforming troops, who had taken the Gebel el Olamiya ridge line from the Senussi, nevertheless Lieutenant Colonel Gordon didn’t follow up the fleeing tribesman instead he withdrew his troops, and were allowed to retire to their camp at Ras umm er Rakham without serious torment from the tribesman before darkness. The column spent a quiet night with no firing or attacks by the Senussi, little knowing the Senussi had moved to cut off the columns return to Matruh and lay an ambush.

 The Column recorded some 9 other ranks killed and 6 officers and 50 other ranks wounded, however they believe they had killed some 250 of the Senussi, only their true casualties were very much lower, being less then 150 killed and wounded. The columns wounded were evacuated by sea during the night using the hospital ship “Rashid”.

 

Map source: British Official History of the War Military Operations in Egypt and Palestine Aug 1914 to June 1917 by Lt. Gen. Sir George MacMunn and Capt. Cyril Falls

 

At 6 am on the morning of 14 December the column began there return to Matruh, while the garrisons at a number of wells were withdrawn as General Wallace wanted to concentrate and reinforce his available forces at Matruh.

 Around 9.30 the Senussi conducted an ambush against of the column, only the tribesman had been in the field for some time and had little to eat or drink and the sprit of victory had left many of them. Most had slowly retired to their bases during the night leaving few to engage the column. The column passed the ambush site with only a few artillery shells falling and the odd shot being taken. Most accounts don’t even mention any contact at all.

 Between the 15 and 24 December heavy rain continued to turn the ground to mud making it unfavourable for major operations to be were undertaken, nevertheless the Light Horse and Yeomanry continued there patrol work as snipers were the main concern to the garrison, along with the cutting of the road to El Daaba.

 On the 16 December Major Pelham took the Composite Light Horse Regiment out in force clearing to a distance of 5 Km’s of the perimeter of Matruh, during which Trooper William Hyde “A” Troop “B” Squadron was reported wounded right leg, but the cause is unclear. On the 17 December they had an encounter with the Senussi near the White Sands hills, only the tribesman fled before the Light Horse came into contact and the regiment returned to Matruh that night.

 On the 18 December “C” Troop “B” Squadron under Lieutenant John Land conducted a patrol outside Matruh only to get into trouble when fired on by the Senussi, the Regiment was alerted to support them, however Lieutenant Land extracted his Troop with only one men wounded, Trooper Henry Hausknecht who was shot in the thigh.

 During this interlude new units began to arrive at Matruh by sea, including the 1st Battalion New Zealand Rifle Brigade, two 4 inch Naval Guns and “A” Battery Honourable Artillery Company with the Composite Yeomanry Brigade Head Quarters under General JDT Tyndale-Biscoe and the 1st Composite Yeomanry Regiment. The Berkshire Squadron 2nd Composite Yeomanry Regiment was returned to Alexandria on the 17 December by sea to be disbanded back to its parent regiment.

 A Notts Gunner mentioned that during the night 22 December, the Australian sentries shot an Arab trying to creep up to their defences, he died with eight bullets in him from their fire.

 The Affair at the Wadi Majid 25th December 1915

 Meanwhile the Senussi were still gathering their forces at Gebel Medwa, south of Matruh, while another force was at Halazin. The leader Ja Far Pasha had a base of three regular Battalions each about 300 men trained by Turkish advisers and the balance native tribesman. This numbered around 5000 men, four guns and a number of machine guns.

 Between 23 and 24 December two BE 2c aircraft from “A” Flight 14 Squadron Royal Flying Corps under Captain FH Jenkins made reconnaissance patrols in the area of Gebel Medwa and Halazin finding these concentrations and General Wallace ordered a surprise attack on the main force at Gebel Medwa on Christmas day.

 The attacking force would be made by two columns each would advance under cover of darkness and attack the Senussi by surprise at Gebel Medwa in the morning.

 The Right Column under Lieutenant Colonel Gordon with;

 Buckinghamshire Squadron 2nd Composite Yeomanry Regiment,

  • Nottinghamshire Battery RHA (one section of two guns),
  • 15th Battalion Sikhs,
  • 1st Battalion New Zealand Rifle Brigade,
  • 2/8th Middlesex,
  • 137th Indian Field Ambulance,
  • 1st South Midland Field Ambulance (less one section), and
  • Water section Composite Australian Army Service Corps.

 This Column would advance by night along the Khedival Motor road and attack the Senussi frontally.

 While the Left Column under General Biscoe with;

 Head Quarters Composite Yeomanry Brigade,

  • 1st Composite Yeomanry Regiment (Hertfordshire and Duke of Lancaster’s Own Squadrons and composite Derbyshire and City of London Squadron),
  • Composite Light Horse Regiment (three Squadrons),
  • Nottinghamshire Battery RHA (one Section of two guns),
  • Yeomanry Machine Gun Section, and
  • 1st South Midland Field Ambulance (one section)

 This Column would make a wide 10 Km detour east up the Wadi Toweiwia then west to cut the Senussi retreat from Gebel Medwa.

 At 4 am on the morning of the 25 December, the Left Column departed camp to begin there turning movement, while at 5 am the Right Column started their march as the Buckinghamshire Yeomanry in front screened the column while the 15th Sikhs, 1st Battalion New Zealand Rifle Brigade and the 2/8th Middlesex followed in complete silence.

 Around 6 am the sun began to rise when the Senussi pickets saw the leading British column moving alongside the Khedival Motor road and lit the warning bon fires alerting the Senussi into their battle positions. As they rushed to their defence’s one of their guns opened fire on the column.

 At 7.15 am the Right Column crossed the Wadi Raml and Lieutenant Colonel Gordon ordered the 15th Sikhs under Major Pennefather to attack the Senussi south west of Gebel Medwa and send one company forward to occupy Gebel Medwa, which appeared not to be held by the Senussi. Gebel Medwa was successfully taken by the Sikh company after 7.30 am, without a fight, while the main column continued there advance on the main Senussi position behind the Wadi Medwa

 At 8 am the Senussi artillery became more effective and the Nottinghamshire‘s guns took them under fire at about 2000 metres, this was helped by the guns from the Sloop “HMS Clematis” firing at over 10 Km’s off Matruh and the use of a spotting aircraft from 14 Squadron Royal Flying Corps for the ship which silenced the Senussi guns.

 By 9 am the 15th Sikhs, were still fighting in front of Wadi Medwa, when Lieutenant Colonel Gordon sent a company of the Middlesex Battalion to relieve the Sikh company on Gebel Medwa, so as to concentrate the Sikh battalion. The assault by the Sikhs was a classic frontal advance under fire, which was supported by the 1st Battalion New Zealand Rifle Brigade under Major WS Austin, who at 9.30 am moved “A” company under Major Kay, to the left flank of the Sikhs and Captain Puttick’s “B” company to the right, at the same time the Buckinghamshire Yeomanry and the remainder of the Middlesex Battalion were sent to the enemies left to turn that flank.

 This attack was finally successful when the ridge was taken after 10 am by the Sikhs and the Senussi broke and fled into the wadis to the west, however the yeomanry of the Left Column had still not arrived in the battle area and the tribesman had time to escape as the Infantry followed the fleeing Senussi fighting from wadi to wadi. A young Sikh officer which took part in the assault was Lieutenant John Smyth VC who had already won the Victoria Cross in France with his regiment and would later rise to General and Commander of the 17th Indian Division in Burma during World War 2.

 The late arrival of the Left Column was in part due to the slowness in clearing the Wadi Toweiwia at 7.30 am when the wheeled transport was delayed by the rocky ground, leaving the Hertfordshire Yeomanry squadron to lend a hand and later joined the Right column when the Left column had advanced to far ahead.

 Around 8 am the lead Squadron of the Left Column was “C” Squadron Composite Light Horse Regiment under Captain Bisdee VC, guided by Lieutenant Beck, encountered and found there way blocked by a mixed force of Senussi camelry and cavalry 6 km’s due south of the Gebel Medwa, and during the opening skirmish wounded Trooper Clifford Brown “A” Troop in the leg. Lieutenant Beck “B” Troop “C” Squadron, was the son of Alderman Beck from Bega, and one of Beck's soldiers recorded this on him "He knows the game from A to Z, and is cool under fire, and how the boys like him, and would go anywhere with him".

 This obstacle was removed when the Yeomanry Machine gun section with the guns of the Nottinghamshire Battery came into action forcing the Senussi to retire to the west nevertheless they had delayed the Columns advance till 9 am.

 Following this action the Yeomanry and Light Horse of the Left Column kept moving west pursuing the retiring mounted Senussi unaware that the Right Column was successful and the Senussi infantry were escaping, a number of heliograph messages sent to the Left Column from General Wallace all failed to contact them until 3 pm when the messages were seen and acted on. It is reported that Major Pelham had seen these signals and requested his regiment go and engage these retiring enemy Infantry only General Biscoe considered it to difficult to undertake.

 On seeing these signals the Left Column now moved north to the area of the Wadi Majid and joined the New Zealand Rifle Brigade who’s “A” and “B” companies had trapped about 150 men of the Senussi rear guard. The Light Horse Squadrons moved up to the high ground supported by two squadrons of Yeomanry and two guns of the Nottinghamshire Battery to bring fire onto the Senussi, only to come came under fire from hidden positions around the wadi, this fire hit the leading Troop under Lieutenant Frank Snow mortally wounding Trooper Henry Creed “A” Troop “A” Squadron in the head and wounding Captain Ernest Hudson. Harry Creed was a young 19 year old Railway clerk from Sydney, whose parents lived in Nelson New Zealand, and became the only Light Horse soldier to die in the Composite Light Horse Regiment, while another casualty was Trooper Albert Roberts “B” Troop “B” Squadron wounded in the hand.

 Again most of the Senussi had escaped and the Right column was ordered to concentrate on the Wadi Medwa after 5 pm and rested on the battlefield while the Yeomanry and Light Horse of the Left Column were ordered to return to Matruh that night. After a cold wet night the Right Column returned to Matruh on the morning of the 26 December.

 British casualties were given as 13 killed and 51 wounded, among the dead were six men (CSM Purkis) and 14 wounded from the New Zealand Rifle Brigade, while the Senussi dead were estimated to be around 300 with between 20 and 82 prisoners.

 

 Map source: British Official History of the War Military Operations in Egypt and Palestine Aug 1914 to June 1917 by Lt. Gen. Sir George MacMunn and Capt. Cyril Falls

 On the 28 December with the weather once more slowing operations General Wallace decided to clear the Senussi from his rear and open the track from Matruh to El Daaba. A Column under General, the Earl of Lucan, commander of the Composite Infantry Brigade was sent to clean up the largest concentration at Bir Gerawla.

 This force included;

 Composite Light Horse Regiment (three Squadrons),

  • 1st Composite Yeomanry Regiment (Hertfordshire and Duke of Lancaster’s Own Squadrons and composite Derbyshire and City of London Squadron),
  • Nottinghamshire Battery RHA (one section of two guns),
  • 15th Sikhs,
  • 2/7th Middlesex,
  • 1st Battalion New Zealand Rifle Brigade,
  • 1st South Midland Field Ambulance,
  • 137th Indian Field Ambulance, and
  • Water section Composite Australian Army Service Corps

 When the column arrived at 7 pm at Bir Gerawla no resistance was met and the Senussi had fled. The column destroyed stores and stock belonging to the Senussi and the local Bedouin, then moved to Bir Zarka south of Bir Gerawla however again the Senussi had fled after which the column returned to Matruh by the 30 December having destroyed eighty tents and large quantities of grain and bringing in 100 camels and 500 sheep. The main hazard to the men was the ground socked by rain and now no more than sludge this forced the men to drag all the wheeled transport and guns by hand.

 By the start of a new year at war the weather yet again turned appalling with large falls of rain over the area of operations, this seriously restricted the movement of cavalry and wheeled transport. On the 1 January 1916 a patrol of “B” Troop “B” Squadron under Lieutenant Warren Palmer with Captain Purdy “C” company, the Adjutant Captain Bell and medical officer along with about 40 men of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade went out to find the body of Corporal Beresford-Wilkinson killed on the 25 December around the Wadi Medwa, when the body was recovered they returned that night without incident.

At this time the 3rd Light Horse Regiment entered the field as an element of Minia Force, part of the Western Frontier Force which took up positions at the Wadi Natrum about 60 Km’s north west of Cairo to cover the Nile River from Senussi attacks from the Baharia Oasis, while the remainder of the 1st Light Horse Brigade followed around the 13 January 1916 to join them.

 On the 9 January the weather had cleared enough to continue operations and once again Lord Lucan was ordered to take a column out to destroy the Senussi encampments between Matruh and El Daaba in particular a camp of 80 plus tents at Gebel Howeimil.

 This column was composed of the following;

 Composite Light Horse Regiment (three Squadrons),

  • 1st Composite Yeomanry Regiment (Hertfordshire and Duke of Lancaster’s Own Squadrons and composite Derbyshire and City of London Squadron),
  • “A” Battery Honourable Artillery Company (one Section of two guns),
  • 2/7th Middlesex (two companies),
  • 15th Sikhs (two companies),
  • 1st South Midland Field Ambulance,
  • 137th Indian Field Ambulance, and
  • Water section Composite Australian Army Service Corps under Captain Chester Reynolds.

 Before this move the famous Thomas Henley MLA of the Australian Comforts Fund arrived in Matruh on the 11 January brining the War Chest Funds Christmas Billies, he had picked up the nickname of “King Billy” for his valuable work in the Western desert. These were passed around the regiment as well as the British soldiers and contained all types of wonderful things not seen by these men for some time. An English soldier mentioned the Australians as “a splendid corps, indeed the word “friendly” is not quite enough only “Matey” expresses so much better”.

 The column was ready to proceed on the 12 January and moved to Baqqush on the afternoon of the 13 January, the slow going was due to the ground saturated by rain which made the movement of horse and wheeled transport very difficult. Next day the column arrived at Gebel Howeimil which was found deserted, nevertheless a number of smaller camps in the area were found and burned while the stock was taken and a number of prisoners captured, once completed the column returned to Baqqush that night having travelled around 80 Km’s across difficult terrain.

 On the 15 January “B” and “C” Squadrons with the Regimental Headquarters of the Composite Light Horse Regiment with one section “A” Battery Honourable Artillery Company were sent to El Daaba as part of the garrison while the main column returned to Matruh on the 16 January with 13 prisoners, 140 camels and 50 cattle as prizes.

 Once at El Daaba the Regimental Headquarters and “B” Squadron proceed to Alexandria and were disbanded around the 19 January while “C” Squadron remained as protection at El Daaba with a few cars of the Duke of Westminster's Royal Navy Armoured car section until it was returned to Alexandria and disbanded around the 5 February.

During this period the Yeomanry Composite Regiments were also under going changes as formations were being returned to Alexandria to be reformed with their Regiments which had now returned from Gallipoli. These complete units were slowly moving into the desert to merge with the Western Frontier Force.

 The Affair at Halazin 23 January 1916

 On the 19 January aircraft from 14 Squadron Royal Flying Corps again located the Senussi encampment at Halazin around 35 Km’s south west of Matruh which contained over three hundred tents including that of the Grand Senussi. General Wallace ordered the Troops to be ready to move as soon as the South African Brigade had arrived at Matruh. By the 21 January the 2nd Battalion under Lieutenant Colonel Tanner had arrived and General Wallace decided to move with those forces available to destroy the camp.

 The force again divided into a number of Columns, the Right Column under Lieutenant Colonel Gordon with;

 Duke and Lancaster’s Own Yeomanry (one Squadron),

  • Nottinghamshire Battery RHA,
  • 15th Sikhs,
  • 2nd South African Battalion,
  • 1st Battalion New Zealand Rifle Brigade, and
  • 137th Indian Field Ambulance

 The Left Column under General Biscoe with;

 1/1st Buckinghamshire Yeomanry Regiment (three squadrons),

  • Composite Yeomanry Regiment (Hertfordshire and Dorsetshire Squadrons) with “A” Squadron Composite Light Horse Regiment,
  • Yeomanry Machine gun Section,
  • “A” Battery Honourable Artillery Company (less one section at El Daaba), and
  • 1st South Midland Field Ambulance

 Reserve Column of General Wallace’s Head Quarters with;

 Australian Signal Section Composite Light Horse Regiment,

  • Surrey Yeomanry Squadron (two Troops),
  • 1/6th Royal Scots (two companies A and B), and
  • A detachment of Duke of Westminster's Royal Navy Armoured cars

 Baggage escort of;

 2/8th Middlesex (two companies), and

  • Composite Australian Army Service Corps under Captain Chester Reynolds

 The force left Matruh at 4 pm on the morning of 22 January and moved to Bir Shola where they camped and spent a chilly night sleeping on the wet ground awaiting all columns to concentrate.

 At 6 am on the 23 January both the Right and Left Columns moved to Halazin followed by the reserve Column, while the baggage train remained at Bir Shola. The Right Column advanced covered by the cavalry of Left Column with “A” Squadron acting as the advance guard. Around 8.25 am the Senussi forward posts were found and “A” Squadron moved to engage them, when the fighting became intense General Wallace ordered a squadron of the Buckinghamshire yeomanry with “A” Battery Honourable Artillery Company forward as support while the Infantry of the Right Column were dispatched around 10 am to take over the advance from the Cavalry.

 The 15th Sikhs led the advance supported by the 2nd South African Battalion and the 1st New Zealand Rifles, while the Light Horse and Yeomanry of the Left Column now relieved by the infantry moved to the Senussi right flank to protect the Infantry and to out flank the defences. The guns of the Nottinghamshire Battery covered the Infantry advance as the tribesman retired in front of the Right Column until the Senussi arrived at Halazin and took up prepared positions in the shape of a semi circle and waited the British attack having drawn them into a trap.

At 11.45 am as the 15th Sikhs closed on the centre of the main entrenchments, two companies of the 2nd South African Battalion with their new Lewis machine guns were moved to support the exposed right flank of the Sikhs, as the Senussi now appeared in force on the Sikhs right. At around the same time a large mounted force of the Senussi where seen moving onto our left flank to engage the cavalry of the Left Column.

 The Senussi now pressed their attack against the 2nd South African Battalion’s right flank and B company of the New Zealand Rifles with their Machine Gun section under Captain Puttick, was sent to the enemies left to take them under fire, this stopped that attack however the Senussi again sent forces to there right outflanking the New Zealanders, forcing the commitment of a company of the Royal Scots under Major Adams from the reserve to counter that threat, losing one killed and five wounded. At this time C Company of the New Zealand Rifles under Captain Pow, was moved forward to support the left Company of the Sikhs and lost one killed and 15 wounded in the fighting.

 Mean while the large mounted Senussi forces on our left slowed any advance by the leading Squadrons of the Buckinghamshire Yeomanry Regiment, as the Senussi pressed their attack around 1.30 pm the yeomanry were forced under pressure to retire. “A” Squadron under Captain Hudson was to the rear supporting two Squadrons of the Buckinghamshire yeomanry, and were also forced to cover the retiring Yeomanry, under heavy Senussi fire.

 As the yeomanry fell back through the Light Horse “A” Squadron found itself in the front rank and soon had to conform with the Yeomanry and to conduct a fighting withdrawal Troop by Troop as the Senussi fire increased in strength and parties tried to out flank the Light Horse line, Sergeant Albert Maxwell “A” Troop was shot in the knee, and both Trooper Thomas Bushby and Trooper Albert Wyatt from “C” Troop were shot in the thigh during this intense fighting.

 To its rear “A” Squadron was supported by the Dorsetshire Squadron and “A” Battery Honourable Artillery Company which provided artillery support to the infantry, and on the approach of the Senussi one gun had to pivot to the left to engage them, still the Senussi pushed on in overwhelming strength, as all the cavalry retired back as far as the Reserve Column and the Head Quarters of General Wallace.

 o restore the situation half of “A” and “D” companies of the New Zealand Rifles under Major Kay, were ordered with the remaining Squadron of the Buckinghamshire yeomanry to move to their rear to support the cavalry and protect General Wallace’s Head Quarters. This attack on the left flank of the Senussi checked them for a while allowing the cavalry to reform and sort them selves out, while “B” company and Machine guns under Captain Puttick, soon arrived to assist. Signaller Percy Nance of the Australian Signal Section Composite Light Horse Regiment with General Wallace’s Head Quarters manned his post under heavy Senussi fire relaying messages as the action flowed around him.

 The battle now took on the surreal as the 15th Sikhs were still advancing onto the Senussi entrenchments while the British left and right flanks were being turned or beaten back by the Senussi.

 At 2.45 pm the 15th Sikhs supported by the South Africans and New Zealanders over ran the main Senussi trenches, forcing the tribesman to escape in all directions abandoning all their equipment and stores in the camp. This also led to the pressure on both flanks suddenly disappearing, as the Senussi departed the battlefield at high speed, however the worn out cavalry forces of the Left Column were to exhausted for any vigorous pursuit of the fleeing Senussi and who along with the Duke of Westminster's Armoured Cars were stuck in the mud, with many of the horses worn out from the sticky sludge and hard fighting, this closed the encounter around 4.30 pm.

 The cost of the battle were given as 312 men with one officer (Captain Walsh) and 20 men killed and 13 officers and 278 men wounded, of whom the South Africans lost one officer (Captain JD Walsh) and 7 men killed with four officers and 102 men wounded of whom one officer (Lieutenant WG Strannock) and two men died of wounds, while the New Zealanders lost one man killed (Riflemen Hookings) and two officers and 30 other ranks wounded, which one Died of wounds (Rifleman Blaikie). The British believed Senussi losses were 200 killed and 500 wounded, only the British again failed to finish the Senussi as the majority escaped to reform again.

 

Map source: British Official History of the War Military Operations in Egypt and Palestine Aug 1914 to June 1917 by Lt. Gen. Sir George MacMunn and Capt. Cyril Falls

 After the battle the columns were too fatigued to move and with the ambulances and supply wagons stuck in the mud and unable to join them until morning, the Columns spent another cold wet night on the battlefield with neither blankets or greatcoats, recovering all the wounded and burning the encampment and looting what ever could be found.

 On the morning of the 24 January the Senussi showed no sign of continuing the combat and at 8.30 am the force moved back to Bir Shola and the limited comfort of the baggage train, as the ground turned to mire. The weather cleared on the 25 January and the force retired to Matruh, who it was said in good spirits with 25 train wagons and 20 other vehicles of the Composite Australian Army Service Corps or the artillery limbers carting the suffering wounded and the dead.

 Once at Matruh all the remaining Composite Forces were finally broken up and returned to there units, this included “A” Squadron and the Composite Australian Army Service Corps who left Matruh around the 30 January and returned to Alexandria on the 5 February. With large forces now available in Egypt these were now being sent into the desert for a second offensive against the Senussi and replaced all the composite Yeomanry units with fresh veteran units of the 2nd Mounted Yeomanry Brigade, General Wallace was relieved due to physical strain and General W.E. Peyton arrived to command the advance on Sollum.

 Finally on the 9 February “A” Squadron was disbanded and the Composite Australian Light Horse Regiment disappeared into history. However the 1st Light Horse Brigade continued operations as part of the Western Frontier Force covering Baharia Oasis until the 11 May 1916 when the Brigade was redeployed to the Suez front.

 What value could be said about the Composite Australian Light Horse Regiment and all the Composite forces in the Western desert at that time? The forces were themselves no more then a stop gap until regular Troops could be released and the job they were given was to stop Senussi expansion into Egypt and protect Matruh. This they did even if they were unsuited to the mission they were given with almost all the Mounted composite units being drawn from poorly trained reinforcements. Added to the problems of the Troops was the weather which was the worst for some time and large rain falls over the area of operations was something never experienced in the desert, that with the surprising ability of the Senussi to reform their ranks and fight was a lesson to some British officers, who believed all they had to do was show the colours and the tribesman would run away.

 It was said by the British Command in their official report that “Had the standard of training and the experience of the whole column been equal to those of the 15th Sikhs, the Senussi might have been heavily defeated”. Of all the units that saw action in the Western desert between December 1915 and January 1916, the 15th Sikhs was the most experienced, having fought in France, while no other British unit had as yet seen action. 

However the Composite Australian Light Horse Regiment never received the recognition it deserved for its work in the western desert, as the Senussi campaign took place between the great battles at Gallipoli and the later Light Horse victories in the Sinai desert, even Gullett’s History of the AIF in Sinai and Palestine Volume VII The Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918 has no mention of the Composite Light Horse Regiment, only these few words on page 50, 

“Meanwhile on the 23 January a composite British force including Indians, New Zealanders, South Africans and Australians, had captured and burned the Senussi camp at a point 25 miles west of Mersa Matruh, and so eased British anxiety about the Egyptian western desert.” 

There is an excellent description of this campaign in CEW Bean’s History of the AIF in France 1916 Volume 111 Annex 1 the Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918. 

Nevertheless the Composite Australian Light Horse Regiment was the first mounted force used by Australia in the Great War and fought Australia’s first cavalry actions of that war and this experience would later served the men well in the great victories ahead. 

Four men are known to be awarded decorations with the Regiment during its actions in the Western desert, they are, Sergeant Albert Maxwell and Squadron Sergeant Major Graham Wallas, both awarded the Italian Bronze Medal for Valour, while Major Dudley Pelham Commanding Officer and Signaller Percy Nance received a Mention in Dispatches.

 

Cheers S.B

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1 hour ago, TomP said:

Amazing find Bob! That’s brilliant. Thanks so much for your help.

So we know for sure he was in France in May 1915 and based on what you saw was promoted to Lance Naik (along with several others) ‘for gallantry and especially good work in the field’. The actions described in the passage above are also fascinating. 
 

So if he was promoted with immediate effect to L/Naik May 1915, and was Naik by the time he served in Iraq, that would suggest he continued to serve throughout the war, and most likely did serve in Egypt after his time in France in the action against the Senussi that Steven mentioned above.

He may be mentioned elsewhere in the diary, I have to read it all yet. Thanks to @alf mcm for giving us the WD number.

It is a very interesting WD, and tells us at the start they are heading to 'Egypt No 2 canal section' '22 (IND) Infantry brigade'.

image.png.c4e5bc29d16cdae81ee88b8cddf2ab93.png

Hopefully there will be more to find.

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From the WD on the 5th June 1915 they march from Croix Barbee to Windy corner to the trenches. Screen shot courtesy of National Archives.

image.png.49d3b8a05026eb9fca687a7d423f304e.png

Croix Barbee is grid ref 36SW M26 c. 8. 3. (Also known as La Croix Barbet )

Windy corner is grid ref 36SW S9 a. 6. 9.

Left hand side top part of the map from National Library Scotland.https://maps.nls.uk/view/101464978

Screenshot courtesy of them.

image.png.eac53a940d5de1d92db3aa464931cafd.png

This is a 1917 map so things will have changed a little since 1915.

Though by the look of it the blue trenches (German trenches are red) are not that far from Windy Corner so possibly things had not moved that much?

Edited by Bob Davies
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11 hours ago, Bob Davies said:

@TomP From a quick scan with my eyes over the WD we have him:thumbsup:

Edit here to put in the date. May 20th 1915.

574 Chanda Singh. Signaler

I need to read it a bit more and decypher some words but that must be him.

I am open to being corrected as I may not be correct.

Image courtesy of National archives WO 95/3929/5

image.png.88af696d8918ba2d45db8d3d2a9a2c43.png

Well done Bob,

  That's a great result. It's clearly a very good war diary, compared to others. It'll be interesting to see if anything else crops up.

Regards,

Alf McM

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7 hours ago, Bob Davies said:

From the WD on the 5th June 1915 they march from Croix Barbee to Windy corner to the trenches.

image.png.49d3b8a05026eb9fca687a7d423f304e.png

Croix Barbee is grid ref 36SW M26 c. 8. 3. (Also known as La Croix Barbet )

Windy corner is grid ref 36SW S9 a. 6. 9.

Left hand side top part of the map from National Library Scotland.https://maps.nls.uk/view/101464978

Screenshot courtesy of them.

image.png.eac53a940d5de1d92db3aa464931cafd.png

This is a 1917 map so things will have changed a little since 1915.

Though by the look of it the blue trenches (German trenches are red) are not that far from Windy Corner so possibly things had not moved that much?

Bob,

   As the 15th were part of the Sirhind Brigade, you may be interested in the Brigade war diary. This one is the most relevant to the date you mentioned above, but there are others;-  9 (Sirhind) Infantry Brigade: Headquarters. | The National Archives  This is a big file and may show a more contemporary map of Windy Corner. It will also show orders for various actions, sometimes including locations of signallers. It will basically show what was supposed to happen, with the Battalion war diary showing what did happen. Chanda is unlikely to be mentioned by name but you may find it an interesting read. A lot of the orders etc. will be typed, so it should be easy to read, although in the example you quoted above the handwriting is very good.

Regards,

Alf McM

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@TomP The Punjab&WW1 website has a search facility to check records of Punjabi soldiers which were found in 2021. I tried searching for Chanda Sing by name, but got no results. I then searched for 15th Regiment and this gave over 800 results. Fortunately names are listed in alphabetical order and it wasa easy to find that there were 5 men named Chanda Singh. The results given are;- Father’s name; Caste/Community; Rank; Regiment {Stated}; and Regiment {Standardised}. Of the 5 Chanda Singh’s listed, 4 have the rank of Sepoy, the other is shown as ‘Lance’. This is presumably Lance Naik, and this may be ‘your’ Chanda Singh. His father’s name is Lal Singh; his caste is Jat; Regiment {stated} is 15th Infantry; Regiment {standardised} is 15th Ludhiana Sikhs. Additionally, his village is named as Narangwal. The original record has a number 531 after Chanda’s name, but I don’t think this is a regimental number as all the other names on the list would have numbers. I don’t know how complete these records are but apparently they are for 320,000 Punjabi soldiers from WW1. This means, I think, that we have a good chance of having the correct Chanda Singh, 

image.png.68a53f5c05004af427fe15c2183c3c05.png

  Image from punjabww1.com

Regards,

Alf McM

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Thank you all for your replies!

@stevenbecker What a brilliant write up. Sounds like the Australian Light Horse were really under appreciated in the annals of the campaign, and my chaps Regiment also put in a real hard fight against the Senussi whilst the British home troops were still finding their feet. 

@Bob Davies Another fantastic find. To have original period maps to accompany the findings in the diary is excellent. I'm very grateful as well for the hand writing of the scribe as some diaries I have seen (including the Iraq 1920 one) is very difficult to decipher! 

@alf mcm I have downloaded the Sirhind Brigade June War Diary as well thank you. Finding that list with Chanda on it sounds very promising to me. Do we know when this original list was compiled? I wonder if it was during/at the end of the war and he was promoted to Naik in the period between Armistice & his deployment to Iraq in 1920. 

Thank you all so much for your continued help and support, the amount of detail we've already managed to find is so much more than I ever expected (especially considering the medal I have isn't even for the service we're discovering!). I am excited to see if anymore can be uncovered - but even if not what we have so far is brilliant. 

Tom

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7 hours ago, alf mcm said:

Bob,

   As the 15th were part of the Sirhind Brigade, you may be interested in the Brigade war diary. This one is the most relevant to the date you mentioned above, but there are others;-  9 (Sirhind) Infantry Brigade: Headquarters. | The National Archives  This is a big file and may show a more contemporary map of Windy Corner. It will also show orders for various actions, sometimes including locations of signallers. It will basically show what was supposed to happen, with the Battalion war diary showing what did happen. Chanda is unlikely to be mentioned by name but you may find it an interesting read. A lot of the orders etc. will be typed, so it should be easy to read, although in the example you quoted above the handwriting is very good.

Regards,

Alf McM

Thank you for these WD numbers Alf McM,

very useful as it will give us the story of the 3rd Lahore Div 'Sirhind Brigade' story from leaving India onward.

Starting here I believe https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/results/r?_q=WO+95%2F3928%2F1

There is a WD from the Lahore Div signal company which will be of interest and use, here. https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C7356060

That should give us all enough to read for a week or so:lol:

6 hours ago, alf mcm said:

The Punjab&WW1 website has a search facility to check records of Punjabi soldiers which were found in 2021

Another great find here from you Alf McM, thanks for sharing it.

From what I have read over the years especially about 1st Ypres battles, without these men from India :poppy:all would have been lost quite early on.

That however is another subject so we should not start it here.

Back to reading, regards, Bob.

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14 hours ago, alf mcm said:

As the 15th were part of the Sirhind Brigade,

Hi Alf McM, @TomP and all,

reading the war diary https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C7356095 there is a reference in there that says they had not had such a hard time since Ypres.

Then reading the 9th Sirhind Brigade WD https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/results/r?_q=WO+95%2F3928%2F1 I realise that while the 15th Sikhs get the odd mention here and there,  they are not actually a part of the 9th Sirhind Brigade  at the start of the war.

They sailed to France via Aden, Suez, Cairo, Alexandria and then on to Marseilles as a part of the 8th Jullundur Brigade/ 3rd Lahore Division.

From there they end up as per the screen shot below. Courtesy of the National Archives. War Diary is https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C14056389

image.png.8dbe31068688e10613485402fade7dc9.png

The reading continues...

Edit here; As I read I will add to this post.

20th-12th-1914 the 15th Sikhs placed at the disposal of the GOC Sirhind Bde.

screenshot courtesy of National Archives. Same WD as the last I posted above.

image.png.ec9d8fe3f0f07155bee292406c8634b0.png

 

Edited by Bob Davies
to add the next find.
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21 minutes ago, alf mcm said:

Bob,

  Appendix 33 should be interesting.

Regards,

Alf McM

I have yet to download that Alf McM, so far it is a very interesting read, the hand writing is quite good but it takes time as you know :D

I will keep you informed as I go, though others may have got there or read it already.

Edited by Bob Davies
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Great finds Bob. 

I've downloaded the sections you mention where 15th Sikhs were handed over to the 9th Sirhind Brigade. Would this mean they were with them for the long term or just short term then back to the 8th Jullundur Brigade? I presume since they were all part of the 3rd Lahore Division either could be true?

I have downloaded some of the later diaries trying to  work out when they came off the Line in the western front and headed for Egypt. Based on the WD of the 15th Sikhs (WO 95/3929/5
- Page 42 onwards) It looks as if they departed towards Marseille on 17th August 1915 - and the diary mentions 'On the departure of the 15th Ludhiana Sikhs the brigade commander wishes to express to Colonel Hill and all ranks his high appreciation of the fine work done by the Battalion during the time it has served with the Sirhind Brigade' - This sounds like they stayed with them from December 1914 until their leaving the front in August 1915. 

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7 hours ago, TomP said:

Great finds Bob. 

I've downloaded the sections you mention where 15th Sikhs were handed over to the 9th Sirhind Brigade. Would this mean they were with them for the long term or just short term then back to the 8th Jullundur Brigade? I presume since they were all part of the 3rd Lahore Division either could be true?

I have downloaded some of the later diaries trying to  work out when they came off the Line in the western front and headed for Egypt. Based on the WD of the 15th Sikhs (WO 95/3929/5
- Page 42 onwards) It looks as if they departed towards Marseille on 17th August 1915 - and the diary mentions 'On the departure of the 15th Ludhiana Sikhs the brigade commander wishes to express to Colonel Hill and all ranks his high appreciation of the fine work done by the Battalion during the time it has served with the Sirhind Brigade' - This sounds like they stayed with them from December 1914 until their leaving the front in August 1915. 

I think you are ahead with all we have so far TomP, it is just a matter of reading.

 I have not read any more as yet, work keeps getting in the way.:lol:

19 hours ago, alf mcm said:

Appendix 33 should be interesting

It is telling us of their time at Givenchy les la Bassee Alf McM. Only a few pages

A Major C A Vivian 15th Sikhs signs at the bottom. Edit here; Also Lt Col J Hill DSO Commanding Officer 15th Ludhiana Sikhs signs part of it. Their names can be found on the Indian army Lists @TomP Link here; https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.284987/page/n435/mode/2up                                                  There is a good map which @brianmorris547 might be interested to see.

Map picture courtesy of

image.png.44c682898f4e0e468bc2e561e6b7c82b.png

Edited by Bob Davies
To add some more
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