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stevebecker

Senussi campaign

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stevebecker

Mates,

For some time I've been working on a history of the Composite Australian Light Horse Regiment in the Senussi Campaign between Dec 1915 and Jan 1916.

As you will not see the magizine its for I will post it here for your coments. I am interested in any views from our British mates or others who feel I may have down graded or missed any british or others part in these actions.

The History of the 1st Composite Australian Light Horse Regiment

By Steve Becker

On the 19 November 1915 a British Officer strode into the Officers Mess at Heliopolis, he was to be the Commanding Officer of the newly formed 1st 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 As he looked around the mess 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 since 1911who took the province of Libya from Turkey. In 1915 when Italy became an ally to Britain the Senussi encourage by Turkey turned their attention to Egypt where in the last month they have 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. But 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 formations 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 and also 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, the only thing there were plenty of were 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, but 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 Regt 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 then 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 who was a witness against Breaker Morant at his trial, Hamilton Yaldwyn as a Sergeant in the Queensland Imperial Bushman and later as Captain with the 7th Australian Commonwealth Horse, 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 along with men who travelled to South Africa to join and fight, the most famous of the Boer War soldiers was Captain John Hutton Bisbee VC, he 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. He 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 a camp outside Alexandria and the men 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 so 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 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 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 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 but 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.

But 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 to support the forces already deployed there. An advance component of the Regiment loaded stores, signalling equipment and baggage on ships to sail for Matruh on the 6 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. But due to the poor water supply each Squadron would need to travel separately supported by the water wagons the Composite Australian Army Service Corps of the 1st Australian Divisional Train under Major AA Holdsworth with Major F. Francis, 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 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 but found it held over 300 tribesmen. The Berkshire Squadron how trapped were forced to fight for the 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, but the fighting was almost over 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 came from the Berkshire Squadron. About 83 of the Senussi were killed in this action and seven taken prisoners. 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 the force was reinforced by two companies of the 1/6th Royal Scots with a supply convoy of stores from Matruh. 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 15th Sikhs followed by two companies 1/6th Royal Scots while the reminder of the column with the Berkshire Squadron and one company 15th Sikhs 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.

Meanwhile "A"Squadron moved to attack the right flank of the Senussi while the Yeomanry attacked the left flank in the Wadi el Hasheifiat, but any cooperation was impossible due to the ground and Senussi fire wounding 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 however they were poorly handled and unlike the Machine guns which hit the Royal Scots very acutely. 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 but due to their many wounded his could not be undertaken at present and "A"squadron was directed to retire and defend Gordon’s Head Quarters as he tried to concentrate his scattered and disorganized forces into an all round defence.

Lieutenant Colonel Gordon then sent a heliograph message to the supply column at Ras umm er Rakham for help and a machine gun section of the Royal Scots and three officers and 73 men of the Composite Australian Army Service Corps and Royal Scots Transport grabbed a rifle and moved to the sound of the guns.

About a mile short of the Column they found the Senussi positioned in some wadis and Lieutenant Claude Thomas attacked by dividing his men into three sections under himself, Lieutenant McQuie and the Transport officer of the Royal Scots taking the tribesman under fire. Once in position he led an assault on the Senussi who scattered on there approach. Seeing a limber stuck fast in the mud Lieutenant Thomas went to help but fell mortally wounded as Sergeant Sanders took command and led his party clearing the wadi losing Driver Andrew Thompson killed and about 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 around 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, but the Senussi held back allowing the Yeomanry, 15th Sikhs and the Royal Scots strung out along the Coast road to concentrate around 3 pm behind the protection of the Light Horse at 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 the flank. During this fighting Trooper Edward Clements "A" Troop "C"Squadron was wounded as the Regiment moved to cut the Senussi off on the high ground but due to the terrain this couldn’t be completed before their adversary had fled. The Light Horse Regimental Padre Captain William Devine took 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 but continued to shell the area and snipe at the reforming troops who had taken the Gebel el Olamiya ridge line from the Senussi but 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 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 but they believe they had killed some 250 of the Senussi but 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".

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 but 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 and many 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 turned the ground to mud making it unfavourable for major operations to be were undertaken but 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 was out in force clearing a distance of 5 Km’s of the perimeter of Matruh, on the 17 December they had an encounter with the Senussi near the White Sands hills but 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 but got into trouble when fired on by the Senussi, the Regiment was alerted to support them but 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 by sea at Matruh 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.

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 17 Squadron Royal Flying Corps under Captain the Lord George Wellesley 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 under Captain Chester Reynolds.

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

At 4 pm on the morning of the 25 December, the Left Column left 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 in use 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 enemies artillery became more effective and the Nottinghamshire‘s guns took them under fire at about 2000 metres, this was helped by the guns from HMS Clematis firing at over 10 Km’s near Matruh 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 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 Austin which 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, but 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 moved to far ahead.

At 8 am the lead Squadron of the Left Column found there way blocked by a mixed force of Senussi camelry and cavalry 6 Km’s due south of the Gebel Medwa who fired on "B"Squadron wounding Trooper Albert Roberts "B"Troop in the thigh.

This obstacle was removed when the guns of the Yeomanry Machine gun section came into action, forcing the Senussi to retire to the west but 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 not knowing that the Right Column was successful and the Senussi infantry were escaping, a number of 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.

The Left Column then 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 but 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 he became the only Light Horse soldier to die in the Composite Light Horse Regiment,

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.

On the 28 December with the weather again 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 but 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 biggest hazard to the men was the ground socked by rain and now only 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 once more 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 but “Matey†expresses so much betterâ€.

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, but 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 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 17 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), and

• A detachment of 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 remaining 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 engaged 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 attack having drawn the British into a trap.

At 11.45 am as the 15th Sikhs closed on the main entrenchments two companies of the 2nd South African Battalion with their new Lewis 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 large forces of the Senussi were 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 a company of the New Zealand Rifles with their Machine Gun section was sent to the enemies left to take them under fire, this stopped that attack but the Senussi again sent forces to there right outflanking the New Zealanders, forcing the commitment of a company of the Royal Scots from the reserve to counter that threat.

The large 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 when the yeomanry were forced under pressure to retire. "A" Squadron under Captain Hudson was to the rear supporting two Squadrons of the Buckinghamshire yeomanry 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 action.

To its rear "A" Squadron was supported by the Dorsetshire Squadron and "A" Battery Honourable Artillery Company which provided artillery support to the infantry, but 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.

To 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 there selves out while "B"company 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 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 with many of the horses worn out from the sticky mud and hard fighting and along with the Armoured Cars were stuck in the mud as the battle closed 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 and two officers and 30 other ranks wounded. The British believed Senussi losses were 200 killed and 500 wounded but the British again failed to finish the Senussi off as the majority escaped to reform again.

After the battle the column was 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 battle 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, 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.

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 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 an advance on Sollum.

Finally on the 9 February "A" Squadron was disbanded and the 1st Composite Australian Light Horse Regiment disappeared into history. But 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 expected in the desert, that with the surprising ability of the Senussi to reform their ranks and fight was a lesson to the British Generals 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 defeatedâ€.

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.â€

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.

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

These are the major appointments to the 1st Composite Australian Light Horse Regiment;

RHQ (54 men)

Dudley Roger Hugh Pelham 10th Hussars T/LtCol CO

Thomas Joseph Daly 9 LHR Maj 2ic

Henry Norman Forbes 5th Lancers Lt Adjt

Gerald Eugene Macdonald Stuart 3 LHFA Capt RMO

Nicholas O'Brien 15Bn Lt Sig/officer

Alfred Watt 8 LHR Lt QM

William Archibald Moore 3 LH Bde HQ Capt Chaplain (CofE)

William Devine AACD Capt Chaplain (RC)

Harry Worthington 9 LHR Capt Vet Officer

John Frederick William McDonald 9 LHR A/Sgt to RSM *reduced to Sgt/TSSM 12th Dec 1915 to B Sqn ** replaced by SSM Bowden

Albert Edward Dyos 5 LHR RQMS

George Bailey Fletcher 9 LHR Farrier QMS

Frank George Lawrence 9 LHR Saddler Sgt

Patrick John Malone 8 LHR Transport Sgt

Leonard Lewis Scorer 3 LH Sig Troop Signal Sgt

Joseph Clegg RASC Armourer Sgt

SHQ A Sqn (20 men)

Ernest Alfred Knight Hudson 1 LHR Capt OC A Sqn

Graham Wallas 1 LHR A/Sgt to SSM A Sqn

Herbert Victor Trickett 1 LHR Pte to SQMS A Sqn

Robert William Cooper 8 LHR S/Smith Cpl to Farrier Sgt A Sqn

A Troop A Sqn (35 men) (based on 10R/1 LHR)

Frank Noel Snow 1 LHR 2/Lt A Troop Officer A Sqn

Albert Maxwell 1 LHR Pte A Troop Sgt A Sqn

B Troop A Sqn (30 men) (based on 11R/2 LHR)

George Taylor Pledge 2 LHR 2/Lt B Troop Officer A Sqn

Robert Dingwell Butters 2 LHR Pte B Troop Sgt A Sqn

C Troop A Sqn (40 men) (based on 9 and 11R/1 LHR)

Harold Ireland Johnson 7 LHR 2/Lt C Troop Officer A Sqn

William Harrington Cowper 1 LHR Pte C Troop Sgt A Sqn

D Troop A Sqn (31 men) (based on 9R/1 LHR)

Alan Pearse 6 LHR 2/Lt D Troop Officer A Sqn *Lt Yaldwyn to B Sqn

Charles Seton Logan 1 LHR Pte D Troop Sgt A Sqn

SHQ B Sqn (16 men)

Fulke Prideaux-Brune 1 LHR Capt OC B Sqn

Arthur Henry Bowden 7 LHR Pte to SSM B Sqn * to RSM 12 Dec 1915 ** replaced by T/SSM McDonald

Arthur Wyatt Miles Thompson 10 LHR A/Sgt to SQMS B Sqn

James Rusher Campbell FQMS 9 LHR Far/Sgt to Farrier QMS B Sqn

A troop B Sqn (38 men) (based 9R/10 LHR)

Albert Hopkins 10 LHR 2/Lt A Troop Officer B Sqn *FGCM drunkenness 8 Dec 1915 (who replaced him unknown)

John Graham Sandilands 10 LHR A/Cpl A Troop Sgt B Sqn *to hosp Dec 1915.

Eric Alexander Miller 10 LHR A/Cpl A Troop Sgt B Sqn

B Troop B Sqn (40 men) (mixed 2, 4, 6 and 10 LHR's)

Warren Clive Palmer 2/Lt 10 LHR B Troop Officer B Sqn *Lt Pearse to A Sqn

Horace Andrew Forward 10 LHR Pte B Troop Sgt B Sqn *to hosp Dec 1915

Edward O'Keefe 9 LHR Cpl B Troop Sgt B Sqn

C Troop B Sqn (30 men) (based 9R/5 LHR)

John Norman Land 5 LHR 2/Lt C Troop Officer B Sqn

Walter John James Bloomfield 8 LHR A/Sgt C Troop Sgt B Sqn

D Troop B Sqn (37 men) (based on 11R/5 LHR)

Hamilton Yaldwyn 5 LHR 2/Lt D Troop Officer B Sqn *changed from A Sqn **FGCM drunkenness 8 Dec 1915 who replaced him unknown.

Charles Hugh Lyon 8 LHR Sgt D Troop Sgt B Sqn

Ewen Gore Stewart 5 LHR A/Sgt D Troop Sgt B Sqn

SHQ C Sqn (16 men)

John Hutton Bisdee VC Hon/Maj 12 LHR to Capt OC C Sqn

Michael William Cowell 8 LHR Sgt to SSM C Sqn

Norman George Burnett 11 LHR Pte to SQMS C Sqn

James Arthur Brocos Phillip 10 LHR Far/Sgt to Farrier Sgt C Sqn

A Troop C Sqn (32 men) (based on 4R/11 LHR)

Aubrey Sydney Nobbs 11 LHR 2/Lt A Troop Officer C Sqn

Thomas Norman Johnson 11 LHR Pte A Troop Sgt C Sqn

Duncan McIntrye 11 LHR Sgt A Troop Sgt C Sqn

B Troop C Sqn (30 men) (based on 4R and 5R/12 LHR)

William Beck 12 LHR Lt B Troop Officer C Sqn

Alfred John Finlayson Bugler 12 LHR B Troop Sgt C Sqn

C Troop C Sqn (36 men) (based on 2R/13 LHR)

John Crisop Morris 13 LHR 2/Lt C Troop Officer C Sqn

William George Sydney Holland 13 LHR A/Cpl C Troop Sgt C Sqn *to hosp Dec 1915

William David Tollens 13 LHR A/Sgt C Troop Sgt C Sqn

D troop C Sqn (38 men) (based on 5R/13 LHR)

Arthur Ernest Constable Lord 13 LHR 2/Lt D Troop Officer C Sqn

Albert James Gibson 13 LHR Pte D Troop Sgt C Sqn *to hosp Dec 1915

Silverton Silas Claude Payne 13 LHR A/Sgt D Troop Sgt C Sqn

Sources both Official and Non Official;

British Official History of the War Military Operations in Egypt and Palestine Aug 1914 to June 1917 by LtGen Sir George MacMunn and Capt Cyril Falls,

History of the AIF in Sinai and Palestine Volume VII the Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918 by HS Gullett,

Supplement to the London Gazette 21 June 1916 Operations on the Western Front to 31 January 1916 by General Maxwell,

History of the Berkshire Yeomanry Regiment,

The Campaigns in Palestine by General Morshead,

Nominal Roll book 129 of Composite Light Horse Regiment Field Returns B213 – 7-1-16, 26-1-16 and 24-3-16,

History of the Operations of the 1st Div Train AWM 16 4360-3-1 (unpublished)

History of the 3rd LHFA by Capt Gerald Eugene Macdonald Stuart (unpublished),

History of the South African Forces in France,

History of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade by Austen,

Equal to the Task History of the RAASC by Fairclough,

With Our Army in Palestine by Anthony Bluett

Personal Diary of Sapper Charles William Jamieson 3rd LH Sig Troop (unpublished),

Personal account by Lt Heath Surrey Yeomanry, and

Personal letter by Jack McGlade (unpublished).

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bushfighter

Bravo Steve

- a splendid effort & a big help to others interested in the Campaign

Keep researching please!

Harry

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Bill Woerlee

Steve

G'day mate

Just found this pic of 1090 Pte Austin William Edwards of the 1st LHR. The gear he has indicates service in the Western Frontier Force where he arrived with Taffy, the horse in the pic, on 14 January 1916. Edwards was wounded at Romani but didn't miss out on all the next engagements at Gaza and the Sept 1918 breakout.

Cheers

Bill

post-7100-1181209040.jpg

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delta

Steve

what a superb article - thanks for sharing it with us Mate

Stephen

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Jeff Pickerd

Steve,

Congratulations Mate, your article has come up just fine.

The members of this forum are indeed privilaged to have access to this fine narrative of the Senussi Campaign, but it would be remiss not to mention the enourmous amount of research and time you have put into this, and it is the first time a full account of the Australian Light Horse Composite Regiment's involvement has been outlined in such great depth.

Well done,

Jeff

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Ozzie

Well done Steve!

Cheers

Kim

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delta

Having re-read this again and agin today; fascinating stuff

By the way, am I correct in thnking that Tanner was the same CO that lead the 2nd Bn into Delville Wood on 15 Jul

Stephen

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stevebecker

Mates,

Thanks for your kind words.

I would have liked to see any histories of the 15th Sikhs or the 1/6 Royal Scots but all searching failed to find any.

Of cause after this campaign the Royal Scots were disbanded in June 1916 and reformed with the 1/5 RS into the mixed Bn 5/6 Bn Royal Scots.

So very few units come out of this period with a good record other then the Sikhs, and the Springboks and Kiwi's.

I was concerned about using English county names in full rather then using the short names Buckinghamshire (Bucks) and since this is aimed at an aussie audience rather then british it would be easy to understand. But I am happy to change that if you feel I could shorten them particularly after the first mention of the name.

S.B

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TJames

Hello

It was so fascinating reading the article that you have made and you have done a good job of it to. I have letter from my gg uncle John Lyman who was in the 1/1st Bucks Yeomanry, I thought that it might help you as it has the tribe names that they were up against and what they had done to the dead allies. Also it has names of towns/ city’s that they went to. I hope it can help in some way for your research although I am a few years late!

Thomas

post-78035-0-06540800-1347540039_thumb.j

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centurion

Nice article but isn't it in the wrong place - North Africa and Palestine would seem more appropriate?

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rmcguirk

I have letter from my gg uncle John Lyman who was in the 1/1st Bucks Yeomanry, I thought that it might help you as it has the tribe names that they were up against and what they had done to the dead allies.

Re Sanusi habit of stripping the dead in WW1 the following may be of interest. The source is an excellent little book entitled With the Springboks by a "Captain Miller".

Referring to three dozen dead from the Western Frontier Force after (I believe) the battle at Halazin, Capt Miller writes:

"During the night marauders had taken their clothes and left the bodies naked. They were reverently put together [again by us] and buried in a large common grave. This depleting the dead of their garments, equipment, etc. was always practised by the enemy.

After the fight with the 2nd Reg't the enemy dug up our dead and took all clothing off them. They needed clothes and, therefore, helped themselves as best they could.

It has been stated that the Senussi indulged in mutilation of the dead bodied. That is incorrect. In not a single instance where our dead were deprived of clothing, etc., was anything done to their bodies.

The remainder of our dead were also interred in a common grave, dug close to the battlefield among the sand dunes. All their clothing was taken away. The bodies were [by us] reverently placed on a layer of wild desert flowers, placed at the bottom of the grave. Blankets were laid on top and thousands of beautiful wild flowers strewn over them."

As regards Sanusi "barbarity" consider their treatment of prisoners, the best and most reliable account of which is that of Capt. Gwatkin Williams, Prisoners of the Red Desert. Williams cites numerous examples of generosity and compassion by the Libyan keepers of the POW camp at Bir Hakim inside Libya. He also describes some very callous treatment, but that was mainly by the thoroughly unpleasant Egyptian Coastguard deserter/Nationalist in charge of getting the prisoners on foot from the coast to inland Bir Hakim. He was not Sanusi -- he was a rabidly anti-British Egyptian.

Russell

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AndrewFrench

Hi Steve and everybody

 

Found this recently and have just typed it up to post here regarding the Notts RHA with the composite Yeomanry Bde.

 

FIGHTING IN THE DESERT.

R.H.A.’s ENCOUNTER WITH ARABS.

A member of the Notts R.H.A. has sent to his parents a cheery and interesting letter describing how to use his own words how the artillerymen “broke their duck." The missive is headed Mersa Matruh about 20 miles west Alexandria, and states that the tribe which is causing all trouble is one the Italians have been lighting for some years in Tripoli.

“It’s absolutely nothing but desert here,” he notes “no vegetation at all, except few palm trees neat the wells, which are few and far between. The water we get is all doctored and tastes rotten, like chloride of lime, but it flavours the tea nicely. We get some as a special “treat” from Alexandria which is brought by trawlers and other boats that come round here. About ten days ago our section were told we were going for a four days’ trek further on. We set out the morning at 7 o'clock, escorted by about 400 cavalry and were on the go until 10 o'clock, when we watered and then set off at about 10.30. We heard that some of the enemy had been sighted, and suddenly we got the order to gallop. We went along like the blazes, and came into action on the edge of the desert road

FLEEING ARABS.

It was exciting and the dust kicked up the horses and guns made impossible to see where we were going. I could see was the heels of horses in front of me and the drivers’ whips in the air, and before we could realise what had happened we were dropping one two shells the Arabs. We were 1,500 yards from the enemy, and you should have seen them run when they had a shell or two about them. We could see them with the naked eye. We stopped firing, and saw the cavalry make a sword charge, and we could see their swords glistening in the sun, and then they disappeared over a crest, and shortly afterwards there appeared several rider-less horses. It was fine to see the cavalry, and made us want to give them a helping hand. All the time they were charging we could  hear the Arabs’ rifle fire and then suddenly the enemy retired, and we got the order to mount, and were going round them on their flank. They were in gullies, which made it impossible for the cavalry to get at them. In the first charge some of the cavalry went over a precipice, and a number broke their necks. Well we went round with our gun and came into action again at 1,100 yards, a bit close for artillery, and when we opened fire we dropped several shells on the Arabs, whom we could see start and scuttle off up the hillside. Whilst we were firing one of the armoured cars went right up on top of the enemy, and opened fire with a machine gun. Then things quietened down, and the gun set off and went about five miles further on accompanied by a detachment cavalry. The latter picked up some rifles dropped by the Arabs in their flight and caught one the enemy running for his life. He was roped, and made to run alongside, and although he hung back a bit, in the end he came quietly enough. After a halt we went back and joined our other gun, which was still in position. .

Whilst we had been away our other gun hadn’t fired any more, and the cavalry had dismounted and crept to the edge of the various gullies and picked some of the Arabs off.

POWERFUL ARMOURED CARS.

About 4 [p.m.] we got the order to return to camp, 15 miles away, and then we heard more particulars about what had happened. The cavalry had some losses. We were not a large enough force to go on, as the number of the enemy hidden in the gullies was very uncertain, so we all set off back, trotting nearly all the way. All I had to sustain me was a bottle of water and a biscuit. Our transport went another way when we came into action, so I was lucky to have a few biscuits in my pocket. We were all very tired as we had been on the move all the time.

The armoured cars are fine machines, and can go over any kind country. They did 45 miles an hour when they were out with us, going over boulders and all kinds of things. I bet they set the Arabs thinking. Whilst we were on the go we saw donkeys, goats, sheep and some camels they had left in their hurry to get the gullies. Two horses were hit, but not one of ours. There were a few bullets kicking bits of earth up as we went into action. I didn't notice anything until I saw our cavalry escort ducking, and then I noticed bits of dust where the bullets dropped. Still, it was nothing to worry about, as the usually dangerous projectiles, were spent.

Thus the R.H.A. broke their duck!

Two days after, our left section went out again, and we stayed in. There was much larger force, and they remained out all night, coming home next day at dinner time.

ENEMY’S STRANGE IDEAS.

In the morning the colonel was on a hill near our camp looking through a telescope. We could hear the guns firing, and I was with a fellow also watching through another telescope. We could see the shells bursting with the naked eye, but with the telescope we could see them explode right among the enemy. The fighting was taking place five miles away. The colonel was not allowed to leave the camp, as he is camp commandant, and he couldn't keep quiet. He was so worried at not being able go out. Fancy his battery being in action, and him not there. It was enough to upset anyone after all these months waiting.

This second force had to retire, as the enemy were too strong, but they didn't half bring some stuff back. They brought goats, sheep, and some prisoners. The Australians rounded up most stock, and you can tell they brought a lot, as the whole force here had a fresh meat supply, and are still having it. The poor animals are all bone, so have to be made into stew.

I should like you to see the Australians and New Zealanders. They are fine lot fellows. After the second action a hospital boat came for the wounded and it turned out to Lord Brassey’s yacht which I expert you have heard about. The other day we had an alarm half way through dinner. We went out a few miles, accompanied by the Australian Light Horse, but came back without having any fun. Only two guns are allowed to leave camp at once, two having to remain in camp for defence, so we take it in turns. We captured the chief of a portion of the Arabs, and thirty others together. The chief had been hit in the leg by of our shrapnel, and had to have the limb taken off. When an interpreter spoke to him he said “he had expected his companions and he would be killed,” and he appeared to be very much surprised on being told they would treated all right. Asked what would happen to any of our men who might fall into their hands, he just drew his fingers across his throat.

Another chief had been hit and the doctor at the hospital asked if he would have his leg off. He consented on condition that he should be allowed to see it done as he thought they were going to chloroform him and then finish him off. They managed to chloroform him and perform the operation however.

Last night (December 22nd), we were awakened by a volley of rifle shots, and this morning have heard that the Australian outposts on the ridge near camp had seen something creeping, and had all fired at once. Eight bullets hit the intruder, and that was the end him.

An indication of the spirit of the writer is contained in his closing injunction "For goodness sake don’t worry about me, as I am in the pink and right as hops. Fancy Christmas Day in two days. I think we shall be settled down in England long before next Christmas.

Nottingham Evening Post - Wednesday 02 February 1916p5c1

Regards

Andrew

 

 

 

 

 

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stevebecker

Andrew,

 

Thanks for that.

 

I am sorry but this was finished and published some time ago but all little bits help, and I added these to the finished article in case its needed again;

 

This was the finished article, sorry but the maps and photos didn't cross over here;

 

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 a 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 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 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 “B” 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 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.

 

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 suport 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.

 

To 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.

 

These are the major appointments to the Composite Australian Light Horse Regiment;

 

RHQ (54 men)
Dudley Roger Hugh Pelham 10th Hussars Maj to T/LtCol CO
Thomas Joseph Daly 9 LHR Maj 2ic

Henry Norman Forbes 5th Lancers Lt Adjt
Gerald Eugene Macdonald Stuart 3 LHFA Capt RMO
Nicholas O'Brien 15Bn Lt Sig/officer
Alfred Watt 8 LHR Lt QM
William Archibald Moore 3 LH Bde HQ Capt Chaplain (CofE)

William Devine AACD Capt Chaplain (RC)

Harry Worthington 9 LHR Capt Vet Officer

John Frederick William McDonald 9 LHR A/Sgt to RSM *reduced to Sgt/TSSM 12th Dec 1915 to B Sqn ** replaced by SSM Bowden
Albert Edward Dyos 5 LHR RQMS
George Bailey Fletcher 9 LHR Farrier QMS
Frank George Lawrence 9 LHR Saddler Sgt
Patrick John Malone 8 LHR Transport Sgt
Leonard Lewis Scorer 3 LH Sig Troop Signal Sgt
Joseph Clegg RASC Armourer Sgt

SHQ A Sqn (20 men)
Ernest Alfred Knight Hudson 1 LHR Capt OC A Sqn
Graham Wallas 1 LHR A/Sgt to SSM A Sqn
Herbert Victor Trickett 1 LHR Pte to SQMS A Sqn
Robert William Cooper 8 LHR S/Smith Cpl to Farrier Sgt A Sqn

A Troop A Sqn (35 men) (based on 10R/1 LHR)
Frank Noel Snow 1 LHR 2/Lt A Troop Officer A Sqn
Albert Maxwell 1 LHR Pte A Troop Sgt A Sqn

B Troop A Sqn (30 men) (based on 11R/2 LHR)
George Taylor Pledge 2 LHR 2/Lt B Troop Officer A Sqn
Robert Dingwell Butters 2 LHR Pte B Troop Sgt A Sqn

C Troop A Sqn (40 men) (based on 9R and 11R/1 LHR)
Harold Ireland Johnson 7 LHR 2/Lt C Troop Officer A Sqn
William Harrington Cowper 1 LHR Pte C Troop Sgt A Sqn

D Troop A Sqn (31 men) (based on 9R/1 LHR)
Alan Pearse 6 LHR 2/Lt D Troop Officer A Sqn *Lt Yaldwyn to B Sqn
Charles Seton Logan 1 LHR Pte D Troop Sgt A Sqn

SHQ B Sqn (16 men)
Fulke Prideaux-Brune 1 LHR Capt OC B Sqn
Arthur Henry Bowden 7 LHR Pte to SSM B Sqn * to RSM 12 Dec 1915 ** replaced by T/SSM McDonald
Arthur Wyatt Miles Thompson 10 LHR A/Sgt to SQMS B Sqn
James Rusher Campbell FQMS 9 LHR Far/Sgt to Farrier QMS B Sqn

A Troop B Sqn (38 men) (based 9R/10 LHR)
Albert Hopkins 10 LHR 2/Lt A Troop Officer B Sqn *FGCM drunkenness 8 Dec 1915 (who replaced him unknown)
John Graham Sandilands 10 LHR A/Cpl A Troop Sgt B Sqn *to hosp Dec 1915.
Eric Alexander Miller 10 LHR A/Cpl A Troop Sgt B Sqn

B Troop B Sqn (40 men) (mixed 2, 4, 6 and 10 LHR's)
Warren Clive Palmer 2/Lt 10 LHR B Troop Officer B Sqn *Lt Pearse to A Sqn
Horace Andrew Forward 10 LHR Pte B Troop Sgt B Sqn *to hosp Dec 1915
Edward O'Keefe 9 LHR Cpl B Troop Sgt B Sqn

C Troop B Sqn (30 men) (based 9R/5 LHR)
John Norman Land 5 LHR 2/Lt C Troop Officer B Sqn
Walter John James Bloomfield 8 LHR A/Sgt C Troop Sgt B Sqn

D Troop B Sqn (37 men) (based on 11R/5 LHR)
Hamilton Yaldwyn 5 LHR 2/Lt D Troop Officer B Sqn *changed from A Sqn **FGCM drunkenness 8 Dec 1915.

Denis Vincent Hannay 5 LHR Lt D Troop Officer B Sqn *and 2ic B Sqn
Charles Hugh Lyon 8 LHR Sgt D Troop Sgt B Sqn

Ewen Gore Stewart 5 LHR A/Sgt D Troop Sgt B Sqn

SHQ C Sqn (16 men)
John Hutton Bisdee VC Hon/Maj 12 LHR to Capt OC C Sqn
Michael William Cowell 8 LHR Sgt to SSM C Sqn
Norman George Burnett 11 LHR Pte to SQMS C Sqn
James Arthur Brocos Phillip 10 LHR Far/Sgt to Farrier Sgt C Sqn

A Troop C Sqn (32 men) (based on 4R/11 LHR)
Aubrey Sydney Nobbs 11 LHR 2/Lt A Troop Officer C Sqn
Thomas Norman Johnson 11 LHR Pte A Troop Sgt C Sqn
Duncan McIntrye 11 LHR Sgt A Troop Sgt C Sqn

B Troop C Sqn (30 men) (based on 4R and 5R/12 LHR)
William Beck 12 LHR Lt B Troop Officer C Sqn
Alfred John Finlayson Bugler 12 LHR B Troop Sgt C Sqn

C Troop C Sqn (36 men) (based on 2R/13 LHR)
John Crisop Morris 13 LHR 2/Lt C Troop Officer C Sqn
William George Sydney Holland 13 LHR A/Cpl C Troop Sgt C Sqn *to hosp Dec 1915
William David Tollens 13 LHR A/Sgt C Troop Sgt C Sqn

D Troop C Sqn (38 men) (based on 5R/13 LHR)
Arthur Ernest Constable Lord 13 LHR 2/Lt D Troop Officer C Sqn
Albert James Gibson 13 LHR Pte D Troop Sgt C Sqn *to hosp Dec 1915
Silverton Silas Claude Payne 13 LHR A/Sgt D Troop Sgt C Sqn

 

Sources both Official and Non Official;

 

British Official History of the War Military Operations in Egypt and Palestine Aug 1914 to June 1917 by LtGen Sir George MacMunn and Capt Cyril Falls,

History of the AIF in Sinai and Palestine Volume VII the Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918 by HS Gullett,

History of the AIF in France 1916 Volume 111 Annex 1 the Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918 by CEW Bean,

Supplement to the London Gazette 21 June 1916 Operations on the Western Front to 31 January 1916 by General Maxwell,

History of the Berkshire Yeomanry Regiment,

The Campaigns in Palestine by General Morshead,

Nominal Roll book 129 of Composite Light Horse Regiment Field Returns B213 – 7-1-16, 26-1-16 and 24-3-16,

History of the Operations of the 1st Div Train AWM 16 4360-3-1 (unpublished)

History of the 3rd LHFA by Capt Gerald Eugene Macdonald Stuart (unpublished),

History of the South African Forces in France,

History of the 6th Bn Royal Scots,

History of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade by Austin,  

Post Action Report written by 1st Battalion New Zealand Rifle Brigade,

Equal to the Task History of the RAASC by Fairclough,

With Our Army in Palestine by Anthony Bluett

Personal Diary of Sapper Charles William Jamieson 3rd LH Sig Troop (unpublished),

Personal account by Lt Heath Surrey Yeomanry,

Personal letter by Jack McGlade (unpublished),

Personal diary of Dvr S. Stevenson (unpublished), and

Personal diary of WJ Darmody 1 Div Train (unpublished)

 

Cheers


S.B

 

 

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CS_Alexandria

Dear,

I'm finishing an article about camps at Alexandria during WW1.
I just found this mention about Mex Camp, and I would like to quote the reference "The History of the Composite Australian Light Horse Regiment", By Steve Becker. Is-it published? What is the whole reference (date and place of publication).
Thanks a lot for your attention
Best
Cécile

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stevebecker

Mate,

 

You can use me as the reference, the article was a local publication of the "Spur magazine" of the Light Horse assoc here in Australia.

 

The date excapes me at present.

 

Jean Bou in his book "History of the Australian Light Horse" mention it as unpublished article provided to author from myself.

 

If you want to you can use the same.

 

Cheers


S.B

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CS_Alexandria

Thanks a lot for this reference.

Best

Cécile

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James A Pratt III

More online at archive.org:

Prisoners of the Red Desert

War in the Air the RAF official history I think its mentioned in volume 5

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Chris480_9

As this is quite an old topic I may not get any answers to this question; however, I'm trying to find out something about Brigadier General The Earl of Lucan, who commanded the Composite Infantry Brigade, who seemed to appear from nowhere and then disappear equally rapidly with no explanation. Assuming that his surname was Bingham, which Bingham was he? I've looked at sources for family records but nobody described quite seems to fit the bill. I'm also assuming that this man was not actually the Earl of Lucan but nonetheless somebody permitted to use the 'Lord' prefix. 

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Chris480_9

I've seen this Lord Lucan and wondered whether this was the one but Wikipedia is very cagey about his Great War service other than that he was mentioned in dispatches. I think you're probably right and thanks for your help I just wish I could fine out more.

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pierssc

Well, as 5th Earl of Lucan he would be called “Lord Lucan” (like his better-known ancestor and more recent successor), and he was a Brigadier-General (albeit a temporary one)  so I think he might be the same guy!

 

There are some medal records for him on Ancestry and the NA.

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