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Transcriber's Note: A number of obvious typographical errors have been corrected in this text. For a complete list, please see the bottom of this document.
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THE FIFE AND FORFAR YEOMANRY
THE FIFE AND FORFAR YEOMANRY
AND 14TH (F. & F. YEO.) BATTN. R.H.
BY MAJOR D.D. OGILVIE
WITH A PREFACE BY MAJOR-GENERAL E.S. GIRDWOOD, C.B., C.M.G. Lately G.O.C. 74th (Yeomanry) Division
ILLUSTRATIONS AND MAPS
LONDON JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET 1921
All rights reserved
Major Ogilvie has done me the honour of asking me to write a short preface to a work which to me is of peculiar interest.
To write a preface—and especially a short one—is a somewhat difficult task, but my intense pride in, and admiration for, the part played by the Battalion with which the gallant author was so long and honourably associated must be my excuse for undertaking to do my best.
From his stout record as a soldier the author's qualifications to write this history are undoubted. His readers will be able to follow from start to glorious finish of the Great War the fortunes of that gallant little band of Fife and Forfar Yeomen who ultimately became the 14th (Fife and Forfar Yeomanry) Battalion The Royal Highlanders.
There was little of moment in the operations of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force in which this unit did not take part. In divers theatres of war they answered the call of Empire—from Gallipoli to Jerusalem, from Jerusalem to France—ever upholding the honour of their King and Country and the best traditions of the British Army.
No matter what by-path of the Great War they trod they bore themselves with the undaunted spirit of their forefathers.
The experiences of the Battalion were so full of interest as to seem well worth placing on record—quite apart from the military importance of the operations in which they were concerned.
The ordinary reader must consider the conditions under which the work of this unit was carried out—often under a burning sun and again in bitter cold, mud and torrential rain—conditions which might well appal the stoutest heart, but here I note that the gallant author, as I expected, makes light of the many hardships and vicissitudes that he and his comrades were called upon to endure.
Again, when we consider how these heroes first entered the lists as cavalry, were then called upon to serve as dismounted cavalry, and finally as infantrymen, it surely speaks highly for that "will to win" that they had not long before the cessation of hostilities died of a broken heart!
Many a time during the two years that I had the honour to command the 74th (Yeomanry) Division both in Palestine and France, I noted—not without a feeling of intense pride—the cheery "never-say-die" spirit which pervaded all ranks of this splendid Battalion.
No matter what task was set them—no matter what the difficulties and privations to be encountered—all was overcome by that unfaltering determination and unswerving loyalty which carried them triumphant wherever the fates called them.
In conclusion of these few poor remarks of mine, let me congratulate the author on his story. If others read it with the same interest and enjoyment with which it has filled me, I can only think that the author's labours have not been in vain.
Further, may these remarks go forth, not only as a token to my old friends of the 14th Battalion The Royal Highlanders, of the admiration, affection, and gratitude of their old Commander, but to the whole of Scotland as a tribute to the memory of those good and gallant comrades of the "Broken Spur" whom we left behind in foreign lands.
ERIC S. GIRDWOOD,
(late) Major-General, Commanding 74th (Yeomanry) Division.
PORTSMOUTH, 20th August 1921.
This short history, written by request, was started shortly after the Regiment was disbanded. For the delay in publishing it, I must plead the great mass of inaccuracies which had to be corrected and verified, entailing a considerable amount of correspondence and consequent lapse of time. It has been compiled from Official Diaries and Forms, and from a Diary kept by Lieut.-Colonel J. Younger, D.S.O., without whose assistance it would never have been completed.
It will, however, recall to the reader's mind the strenuous and eventful days we spent together in a regiment of whose history we are all so justly proud, and whose career now as a Yeomanry Regiment is ended, and it will recall the gallant fellows with whom we served and many a gallant deed.
To the glorious memory of those whose graves lie in a foreign land, I humbly dedicate this book.
D. DOUGLAS OGILVIE.
I. AT HOME—1914-1915 1
II. ABROAD—1915 9
III. EGYPT—1916 30
LIST OF OFFICERS 40
IV. EGYPT AND PALESTINE—1917 41
V. PALESTINE—1918 107
VI. FRANCE—1918 119
VII. SOME PERSONALITIES 143
VIII. THE PREDECESSORS OF THE FIFE AND FORFAR YEOMANRY 159
HONOURS AND AWARDS 165
LIST OF CASUALTIES 168
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Officers at Fakenham, 1915 Frontispiece
N.C.O.'s at Fakenham, 1915 2
H.M. The King, with Brigadier-General Lord Lovat and Major-General Bruce Hamilton 4
The Regiment in Column of Troops at St Ives 4
Crossing the Bridge, St Ives 6
Lieut. R.G.O. Hutchison and Machine Gun Section, 1915 6
Guard Mounting, Fakenham 8
Entraining Horses, Fakenham 8
Gebel-el-Ghenneim, Khargeh Oasis 18
The Highland Barricade, Asmak Dere, Suvla 18
Captain Tuke on "Joseph" 34
In the Village of Khargeh 34
Sentry on Water Dump "A" 36
Camel Lines at Khargeh 36
Senussi Prisoners, Dakhla 40
The Sergeants' Reel, Moascar 40
The Battalion Mascot 42
Battalion Cookhouse, El Ferdan 42
Dug-outs in the Front Line, Sheikh Abbas 54
A Reserve Wadi, Sheikh Abbas 54
A Platoon Mess, Wadi Asher 58
"C" Company Officers' Mess, Wadi Asher 58
Turkish Trench, with dead Turks, Hill 1070, Beersheba 62
Bathing, Regent's Park 62
Battalion Bivouac near Suffa 110
The Irish Road crossing the Wadi Ain Arik 110
The Battalion Football Team 140
The Fife and Forfar Imperial Yeomanry at Annsmuir 158
Detachment at H.M. The King's Visit to Edinburgh 160
Regimental Drill at Annsmuir, with Skeleton Enemy 160
Group showing Six successive Commanding Officers 164
The Cadre on arrival at Kirkcaldy 164
Our Trenches in the Front Line at Suvla 20
Battle of Sheria 68
Operations in Palestine, 1917-1918 106
Trench System on the Somme 134
The Lys Sector 142
THE FIFE AND FORFAR YEOMANRY
August 4th, 1914, marks the end and also the beginning of two great epochs in the history of every Territorial Unit. It marked the close of our peace training and the beginning of thirteen months' strenuous war training for the thirty-seven months which we were to spend on active service abroad.
The Fiery Cross which blazed across the entire Continent caught most people unawares and unprepared—but not so our headquarters. Our mobilization papers had already been made out and were despatched immediately on the outbreak of war. Each one of us was bidden to report forthwith to his Squadron Headquarters, and while we kicked our heels there, officers were scouring the country for horses. Soon these came in of every sort and shape, and in a week's time the Regiment was concentrated at Blairgowrie.
The headquarters of the Regiment was at Kirkcaldy, the four Squadrons A, B, C, and D having their headquarters respectively at Cupar, Dunfermline, Dundee, and Forfar. The recruiting area comprised the counties of Fife, Forfar, Kinross, and Clackmannan, and there was also a troop in Stirlingshire within a few miles of Loch Lomond. The rest of the Highland Mounted Brigade, to which the Regiment belonged, was pure Highland, consisting of two regiments of Lovat's Scouts, the Inverness Battery, R.H.A., and a T. and S. Column and Field Ambulance hailing also from Inverness. On changing to War Establishment, D Squadron dropped out and was divided amongst A, B, and C, with the exception of Lieut.-Colonel King who went to Remounts, and Captain Jackson who became Staff Captain on the newly formed Brigade Staff.
The Regiment was fortunate in having about a week at Squadron Mobilization Centres before uniting at Blairgowrie, and a pretty hectic week it was for most of us. The most rapid bit of work must have been that of D Squadron, whose men were distributed amongst the other squadrons, fully equipped, in about three days. This squadron was also called upon to provide the various details, such as mounted police, who were required on mobilization to report to the Highland Territorial Infantry Division, the famous 51st.
During this first week squadrons had to arrange for their own billeting, forage, and rations; take over, shoe, brand, and number the horses as they were sent up in twos and threes by the buyers; mark all articles of equipment with the man's regimental number; fit saddlery; see that all ranks had brought with them and were in possession of the prescribed underclothing, boots, and necessaries; take on charge all articles on the Mobilization Store Table as they arrived in odd lots from Stirling; and, beyond the above duties, which were all according to regulation, to make unofficial arrangements to beg, borrow, or steal clothing of sorts to cover those who had enlisted, or re-enlisted, to complete to War Establishment, and to provide for deficiencies in the saddlery and clothing already on charge.
The result of all the hard work was that it was practically a complete unit which came together at Blairgowrie about the 12th of August. Our Mobilization Orders had been thoroughly thought out and the general outline made known to all ranks, so that no time was lost in getting a move on. At Blairgowrie we were billeted in a school, and would have been very comfortable if we had been older campaigners, in spite of the fact that our horses were about half a mile away, up a steep hill, in a field which looked as if it had been especially selected so that we might trample to pieces a heavy clover crop, and at the same time be as far as possible from any possible watering place for the horses. It meant also about as stiff a hill as possible up which to cart all our forage from the station below. Here our adjutant, Captain M.E. Lindsay, who knew the whole business of regimental interior economy from A to Z, started to get things into proper form and to see that orderly officers, orderly sergeants, and orderly corporals performed as many of their proper duties as, with their inexperience, could be fitted into the twenty-four hours. By the end of three days order was beginning to spring out of chaos, and the adjutant never did a better bit of work—and that is saying a great deal—than he did in hunting all and sundry during those first few days.
A depot for recruiting was formed at Kirkcaldy and men quickly swelled our reinforcements there. After a few days at Blairgowrie, the Regiment entrained for the Brigade Concentration at Huntingdon; but as it was found there was insufficient space for a whole brigade, we were moved to St Ives, about six miles off, where there was a splendid common for drilling and good billets for the men. Very strenuous training occupied our two months there, and the expectation of going abroad at a moment's notice kept us up to concert pitch. An inspection by H.M. the King of the whole Brigade on the common at Huntingdon, and another by Sir Ian Hamilton, helped to confirm our expectations, and when we suddenly got orders one Sunday at midnight that we were to move to an unknown destination few doubted that we were bound for Boulogne.
What a bustle we had that Monday. We had built a fine range of stables on the Market Square, which were completed all except the harness rooms on the Friday, and on the Saturday all the horses were moved in except those in the sick lines. We had just received a consignment of about 100 grass-fed remounts which had been handed over to squadrons to look after, but not definitely allotted. Consequently when we received orders to move we had horses in the Market Square, saddlery about a mile away up the Ramsey Road, and horses in the sick lines which belonged to no one in particular and had never been fitted with saddlery at all. In addition, every one had been collecting every conceivable sort of kit "indispensable for active service," presents from kind friends and purchases from plausible haberdashers, with the result that quite 50 per cent. of our gear had to be left behind or sent home. To add to our confusion a draft arrived from our second line to bring us up to War Establishment, and they had to be fitted out with horses, etc. However, we got off up to time and entrained at Huntingdon, wondering if it would be three days or a week (at most) before we were charging Uhlans.
But our destination was only the Lincolnshire coast—Grimsby. Fortunately thirty-six hours terminated our stay there, and we trekked off south, eventually halting at Hogsthorpe, a village about three miles from the coast. The two remaining regiments of the Brigade were one in Skegness and the other half-way between us and Skegness.
For the next few months we moved from one village to another in the neighbourhood of Skegness. "We dug miles of trenches along the coast—we erected barbed wire entanglements for the sea to play with—we patrolled bleak stretches of coast day and night, and in all sorts of weather—we watched patiently for spies and Zeppelins, and we were disappointed. Nothing happened; the Germans would not come."
Christmas was spent at Skegness, and in spite of alarms and excursions we had an excellent regimental dinner, very largely due to the generosity of our friends in Scotland. The ladies of the Regiment opened subscription lists for "Comforts" for the Regiment, and everyone who was asked not only gave but gave generously. Wherever we went our "Comforts" followed us, whatever we asked for we got and, except on Gallipoli, we were never without our own private stock of Grant's or Inglis' oatmeal. We owe a lot to the generosity of our friends in Scotland.
From Lincolnshire we moved again south to Norfolk. King's Lynn was found to be unsatisfactory as a billeting area, so we trekked on to Fakenham which proved to be our final resting place in England. By now our training had so far advanced that we were not kept at it quite so hard, and we had more time for sports. We had polo, cricket, and all kinds of games, and on 3rd June mounted sports which were most successful.
We spent the summer putting on the finishing touches, and did some very useful bits of training, including some fairly ambitious schemes of trench digging and planning, which proved invaluable later on, and which was a branch of knowledge in which many Yeomanries were conspicuously lacking. Also, by this time, a few courses of instruction had been started at the larger military centres, and we had several officers and men trained at these courses in musketry and other branches who were then able to pass their information on to the rest of us. We were given an army gymnastic instructor who brushed up our physical training—on which we had always been very keen—and also started to put us through a thorough course of bayonet fighting. There was also a busy time among our machine gunners, who trained spare teams up to nearly three times our establishment, which was invaluable, as it enabled us to take advantage of the chance which came to us of going abroad with six machine guns per regiment instead of three. As our usual role on Gallipoli was to take over with three squadrons, whose effective strength was never more than 100 each at the most, and generally considerably less, from four companies of infantry, each numbering anything from 150 to 180 strong, these extra machine guns were worth their weight in gold.
By this time a good many were thoroughly "fed up" with so long a spell of home service, fearing that the war would be over before we got out at all. And it was not till nearly the end of August that we got definite news that at last we were to receive the reward of all our hard training and see service overseas. We were inspected and addressed by General Sir H. Smith-Dorrien. Our horses, that had done us so well on many a strenuous field day, that knew cavalry drill better than some of us, that had taken part in our famous charge with fixed bayonets on the common at St Ives, were taken from us and sent, some to our second line and some to remount depots. In return for a horse we were each given a heavy cavalry sword, presumably to prevent us being confused with mere infantry.
On 5th September we said good-bye to our friends in Fakenham and started off on our journey for an unknown destination but—business.
The last few days at Fakenham were busy ones, chiefly owing to the floods of new equipment which were at last showered upon us. Two squadrons got a complete issue of new saddlery, harness, and vehicles, which meant, in the first place, handing over the old issues to representatives of the second line, and in the second place, assembling all the new saddlery (which was issued in small pieces) and packing it into sacks ready for the voyage. The rest of the saddlery was put on board without being unpacked. Then our complement of machine guns was increased from two to six per regiment, which meant taking from each squadron 1 officer and 20 men to form the new personnel, and replacing them in the squadrons with men from the second line. By this arrangement we lost also our adjutant, Captain M.E. Lindsay, who was made Brigade Machine Gun Officer. Lieutenant H.S. Sharp took Captain Lindsay's place as adjutant. All ranks were fitted with helmets (on which pugarees had to be fixed under the eye of the few old soldiers who had been abroad and knew how to do it), and also with a complete outfit of khaki drill clothing. This last caused no end of trouble and annoyance both to the tailors and the men. However, it was all finished somehow, and it was a very cheery party which embarked on the train at Fakenham station just after dusk. The entire population turned out to see us off and wish us luck, and gave us a very hearty send-off.
Next morning we found ourselves at Devonport, where we were to embark on H.M.T. Andania (Captain Melsom), a second-class Cunard Atlantic Liner, and set to at once to load our baggage in the holds. Speed seemed to be the main concern, the safety of the cargo being quite a secondary consideration. The Brigade arrived in some dozen or more trains, each carrying what corresponded to a squadron, its baggage, which consisted of all sorts of heavy cases and things more or less breakable such as personal baggage, and saddlery in sacks, and also motor bicycles and vehicles. Each train was unloaded as it arrived and its contents thrown holus-bolus into one of the holds, except for the wheeled vehicles. The result was that there were layers of saddles at the very bottom of the hold, and further layers at intervals up to the top sandwiched between ammunition and heavy cases of all kinds. Fortunately we were never asked to unpack the saddlery.
On Wednesday, 8th September, about 5 A.M., we left the harbour escorted by two destroyers who took us to abreast Cape Ushant and there left us.
The first day or two on board was regular pandemonium and most uncomfortable for the men. Four officers and 140 other ranks from the second line had joined us at Devonport and we were very overcrowded. Each man had a stuffy and inaccessible bunk and a place at a table in the steerage saloon for meals, which had to be served in three relays owing to the numbers on board. This meant either very perfect time keeping or very perfect chaos, and, needless to say, for the first few days it was the latter. The captain also had a habit of always having his alarm boat drills while some relay was feeding, which did not add to the harmony. After a few days, however, things went very much more smoothly, but at no time could it be called a comfortable voyage. For the officers it was very different. They were not too overcrowded and were fed like fighting cocks. The deck accommodation was, of course, ridiculously inadequate, and muster parades, boat drill, and physical drill in relays was all that could be managed. We also had lectures on flies, sanitation, and how to behave when we got to Constantinople.
We steered a very roundabout course to avoid submarines and came into the Straits of Gibraltar from the south-west keeping well south of the Rock. We hugged the north coast of Africa, and passed a Greek tramp who signalled to us to stop as a large enemy submarine was ten miles east of us. As such ships had been used before as decoys for German submarines, we gave her a wide berth and informed Gibraltar who were to send out a destroyer to have a look at her. We reached Malta on 14th September, but we were too late to get into Valetta Harbour, so we anchored in St Paul's Bay for the night and got into Valetta Harbour early next morning. For most of us it was our first glimpse of the Near East, and no one could deny the beauty of the scene—the harbour full of craft of all sorts down to the tiny native skiff, and crowned by the old Castle of St Angelo, the picturesque town, the palm trees, and the motley crowd of natives swimming and diving, and hawking fruit and cigarettes from their boats. Some of us got ashore to see the historical old town, full of memories of the Templars—St John's Cathedral, the Governor's Palace, the Armoury—but most had to stay on board to bargain and argue with the native vendors. We slipped out of the harbour at dusk, showing no lights, but to show we were not downhearted, Lovat's entire pipe band started to play. But not for long; as the captain threatened to put them all in irons, which brought the concert to an abrupt conclusion.
We reached Alexandria on the morning of the 18th, and the first stage of our trip was over—to everyone's regret. We had had a lovely voyage, a calm sea and perfect weather, and only the most persevering had managed to get seasick. Those of us who had still lingering hopes of seeing horses at Alexandria were speedily disillusioned, as we were ordered promptly to unload all our saddlery and transport vehicles. This was done with just as much organisation and care as the loading. The following morning we all went a route march for a couple of hours through the town. Perhaps the intention was to squash any desire we might have had to linger on in Alexandria. All the same some bits undoubtedly stank less than others.
Meanwhile stacks of infantry web equipment had come aboard, and fortunately for us about forty infantry officers who were able to show us how to put it together. That kept us busy for the next few days.
A cruiser met us in the Grecian Archipelago and conducted us safely into Mudros Harbour on 23rd September. It had got very much colder as we got farther north, and the day before we made Mudros it was absolutely arctic, which was lucky indeed as it made us all take on to the Peninsula much warmer clothes than we would otherwise have done. Mudros Harbour was a great sight—British and French battleships, hospital ships, transports, colliers, and all sorts of cargo ships down to the little native sailing boats, and the steam cutters which tore up and down all day looking very busy. The island itself looked very uninviting, stony, barren, and inhospitable, and a route march only confirmed our opinions—the race ashore in the ship's boats, however, compensated us—and nearly drowned us.
Our ration strength at Mudros was 32 officers and 617 other ranks, but of these 9 officers and 63 other ranks remained behind as first reinforcements when the Regiment went on the Peninsula. Each squadron went forward 4 officers and 136 other ranks. When we returned to Mudros three months later our effective strength was 8 officers and 125 other ranks.
On 26th September the Regiment filed down the gangways of the Andania on to the Abassiyeh and landed that night on Gallipoli. From the Abassiyeh we were transhipped into a "beetle" packed like sardines and loaded like a Christmas-tree. These lighters being flat-bottomed could run ashore on the sand and land troops dry-shod. The gangway was very steep and slippery and the men were so overloaded, each carrying a bundle of firewood as well as full equipment, and a pick and a shovel, that nearly everyone, like William the Conqueror, bit the dust on landing. Otherwise, we had an unmolested landing and started off for our billets in some reserve trenches about a mile and a half away.
Here our difficulties began with daylight, as we were in full view of the Turkish positions and within easy range of their guns, with the result we were not allowed to move about outside the trenches during the day. Water had to be fetched by hand about a mile and then had to be boiled, and we had not, like those who had been on the Peninsula a few weeks, collected a stock of petrol and biscuit tins for storage. Later on we even got water-carts filled with water brought from Mudros or Egypt, but not for at least six weeks, and meantime everything had to be carried and stored in petrol tins, rum jars, and such few biscuit tins as were water-tight. The wells were so congested, and the water so scarce that water-bottles were not allowed at the wells, and all we could do was to keep them in the cookhouse, ready to be filled and issued as the water was boiled. Apart from the November blizzard our first week in the reserve trenches, until we got our water supply in working order, was the most uncomfortable of our stay. Rations were really wonderfully plentiful and good.
That night we were ordered forward to complete the digging of a new reserve area. Just as we were falling in to move off, a regular strafe started in the front line only just over a mile away, but luckily it stopped just before we were to move off. It was our first experience of being under fire, and for all we knew it might have been the sort of thing that happened every night, so we just carried on as if nothing unusual were happening. Familiarity may breed contempt in most cases, but bullets singing about four feet above one's head is one of the exceptions, and Heaven knows we had plenty of experience of "overs" on the Peninsula. They are undoubtedly a fine incentive to work however, and once on the ground the men dug like beavers—and they could dig—and by dawn at 4 A.M. we had a continuous though somewhat narrow trench. The soil, for the most part, was clay, and it was tough work digging, but once dug the trenches stood up well.
After a day or two we began to be sent up to the front line for instruction, 30 men per squadron at a time, the remainder digging trenches and going down singly to the beach for a bathe. That was the one thing for which Gallipoli was perfect. The beach was rather far away, perhaps two miles, but we were all glad of the exercise, and the bathing was glorious—the water beautifully warm and so refreshing.
As regards the lie of the land and our positions there—coming up from the beach at Suvla there were fully two miles of flat country before you reached the foothills. The northern part of this plain was a shallow lake dry in summer but with a few feet of brackish water in winter called Salt Lake, and the southern part a few feet higher stretched down to "Anzac," where spurs running down from Sari Bahr to the sea terminate it abruptly. Our front line, generally speaking, was just off the plain, a few hundred yards up the slopes of the foothills, with any reserves there were lying in trenches on the plain.
Imagining the whole Suvla plain and its surrounding hills to be a horse-shoe, you might say the Turks held round three parts of the shoe, leaving us with the two heels at Caracol Dagh on the north and Anzac on the south, and a line between these two points across the plain. This plain was practically bare, but Caracol Dagh was thickly covered with dwarf oak and scrub, and Anzac with a good undergrowth of rhododendron, veronica, and other similar bushes. At Sulajik (the centre of the horse-shoe), and immediately to the north of it, and also round the villages in the Turkish lines, were numbers of fine trees, but nowhere that we could see was there anything that could be called a wood. As regards the soil, the gullies at Anzac on the spurs of Sari Bahr were quite bewildering in their heaped up confusion, partly rocky, but mainly a sort of red clay and very steep. In the centre it was a yellower clay with patches of sand and bog, and on Caracol Dagh it was all rock and stones, so that digging was impossible, and all defences were built either with stones or sandbags. The view looking back to the sea from almost any part of our line was glorious. Hospital ships and men-of-war, and generally monitors and troop-ships in the Bay, and on the horizon the peaks of Imbros and Samothrace reflecting the glorious sunrises and sunsets of the Levant.
In these surroundings we spent about a week before getting a turn in the front line. We struck a reasonably quiet sector and fairly well dug, but there were several details in which the trenches varied from what we were accustomed to read about. The first and most noticeable difference from the point of view of the inhabitants was the entire absence of head cover. Even after we had been on the Peninsula nearly three months all we had collected were one or two poles, a sheet of corrugated iron (ear-marked as a roof for a signal station), and a few yards of wire-netting. There was not a house or a building of course in the country-side, and as our neighbours were as badly off as we were, there was no scope for the enterprising.
Our first turn only lasted four days, and we had hardly a casualty until an hour or two before we were to move back into support. The support trenches were very much less comfortable than the front line, and as there were lots of parties to go up at all hours of the day and night to dig and wire in front, it took a lot of scheming to get everyone satisfactorily fixed with water and food. We also had to send out officers' patrols to fix the Turkish line, as we were intending to have a dash at capturing his barrier across the Azmac Dere—a dry watercourse which ran right through both the Turkish and our lines—and so straighten out our line. Patrolling was very difficult—there were no landmarks to guide one, the going was exceedingly prickly, and at that time the place was full of Turkish snipers, who came out at dusk and lay out till morning in the broken and shell-pitted country. We soon got the better of these sportsmen though—our snipers out-sniped them, and our bombing officer, if he frightened them with his catapults and other engines of offence half as much as he frightened us, must also be given credit for a share in dispersing them.
A squadron (Major de Pree) and the bombing squad under Mr A.C. Smith, in conjunction with a squadron of 2nd Lovat Scouts, carried out the raid on the Dere on the night of the 17th/18th October. It was a complete success—all the Turks holding the barrier being killed by the bombing party, and about sixty or seventy yards of new trench being dug the same night. This little exploit was the subject of congratulations from both the Divisional and Corps Commanders, Major-General W. Peyton and Major-General Sir Julian Byng. Mr Smith got the M.C., and Lance-Sergeant J. Valentine and Private W. Roger the D.C.M. for that night's work.
The Brigade was then due for relief, but we wanted to finish the job of straightening the line before we went, so we stayed on to the end of the month, by which time the work was practically complete. During this time we had the joy of receiving some letters and parcels, and even a very limited supply of canteen stores. People at home hardly realised as yet where we were, the conditions under which we were living, and the time it took for parcels to arrive. One officer received three parcels—the first containing his keys which he had left on his dressing-table at home, the second, some sort of collapsible boot-tree, and the third, about a three years' supply of Euxesis shaving cream. Many a good cake too had to be hurriedly removed and buried deep in the refuse pit. All the same, parcels were a great joy to receive, and provided many an excellent tit-bit for supper. Many, unfortunately, went missing—especially if they had the labels of Fortnum & Mason, John Dewar, or Johnnie Walker. We sometimes wondered if they were timid and preferred the comforts of the beach to the hazards of the trenches.
The canteen arrangements could hardly be called a success either. Occasionally a few supplies trickled through to us, and once an expedition to Imbros was arranged to purchase stores at the local markets. Eggs, fruit, biscuits, oatmeal, chocolate, etc., were ordered by the hundredweight, and an officer sent to make the purchases. He returned to tell us the expedition had fallen short of complete success. His share of the plunder for the Regiment had been one packet of chocolate which he had eaten.
We had now completed our turn in the line, and were relieved by the 158th Brigade, and went back to our old place in reserve which we found very filthy. How we wished there were Dr Tukes in every regiment and battalion. He had so inculcated everyone of us—officers and men alike—with the vital necessity of cleanliness and the deplorable habits and peregrinations of the household fly, that we sometimes wondered if we were scavengers or soldiers. Though we lay no claims to perfection—or anything like it—few trenches were cleaner than ours were, and right to the very end of the war we never left a trench or billet without it being cleaner and more "lime and creosol"-ated than when we entered it.
The water arrangements had also been revolutionised, and we actually had cookers and water-carts in the lines, but the greatest joy of all was to go bathing again. The weather was not nearly so hot, and the flies which had tortured us in their myriads during the hot weather were now nothing like so numerous, which made it possible to enjoy what food we had.
Rumour as to our future movements meantime was rife. Lord Kitchener had come and gone, and all sorts of stories came from the beach. It was not till 26th November that we knew definitely that evacuation had been decided on, and that we had to make arrangements to get rid of all surplus kit and all our "lame ducks."
Meantime, we were busy improving our trenches and digging South Lane and Peyton Avenue communication trenches, and generally making ourselves more comfortable.
On 26th November we got orders to pack all surplus stores which were dumped, along with officers' valises, ready to be taken off that night by the Sikh muleteers. We parted with great reluctance from our tarpaulins and cart covers which provided the only shelters we had, but that night even they would have been of little use. At five o'clock the downpour started, accompanied by thunder and lightning, such as you only can see in the tropics. Thunder-clap merged into thunder-clap, each one noisier than the last—sheet lightning lit up the sky, north, south, and east at the same time—and the rain came down in torrents. It was a wonderful and awful sight. Trenches and dug-outs were quite uninhabitable and a foot deep in water. Fortunately by this time it was dark, so we climbed out of the trenches and prepared to spend the night on the top, where the water was only lying in places. Then came down the water from the hills. The Azmac Dere came down in spate, washing away the Turkish and the Highland barricades, carrying horses, mules, and men, dead and alive, down with it. Peyton Avenue and South Lane were culs-de-sac and soon filled, and the overflow flooded our trenches. The 2nd Lovat Scouts were completely washed out, and had to retire and dig in down near the beach. By this time the rain had stopped, and by next morning we saw the water subsiding gradually. Fortunately it was a misty morning, and we could wander about on top, though we did have one or two shrapnel bursts over us. We then discovered that our valises and stores were still floating in the water-cart emplacement—the Sikhs having turned tail when the storm broke. It was six weeks later when we opened our valises.
We had hoped the relief would have been cancelled, but not so, and at 5 P.M. we started off for the front line. The Turks evidently anticipated something of the sort, and their rifle fire soon forced us to take to the communication trenches. North Lane was not too bad. There was 18 inches of water, but the bottom was gravelly and the going not too bad. Where this trench struck the old support line we found guides awaiting us who took us past Willow Tree Well through the most awful trenches-too narrow for a heavily ladened man, greasy and slippery, and full of holes which took us up to the waist in water. Some idea of the going may be gathered from the fact that the journey of less than two miles took upwards of five hours to accomplish. And then our troubles weren't over. The firebays we found crammed with the infantry we were relieving—a helpless, hopeless mob—and it wasn't till midnight that we had the place to ourselves.
A Squadron (Major de Pree) held from the Azmac Dere to Fort Conan, and B Squadron (Major J. Younger) from Fort Conan to the old road leading to Anafarta, C Squadron lying in support. We could only man every second or third bay lightly, and our left flank was in the air—the 159th Brigade on our left, being about 120 yards away. Lovats were in, and to the south of, the Dere.
Movement in the trenches to promote circulation was impossible—one was exhausted long before one felt any life in one's limbs, and to add to our troubles snow fell during the night, and it turned bitterly cold. Next day was even more bitterly cold with snow and rain, and a lot of men had to go down the line sick with trench feet and exhaustion, many of them suffering from jaundice and diarrhoea as well. The area was again very heavily shelled with shrapnel, and we suffered a few casualties. By night time everything was covered with snow, but what really put the lid on was a sudden blizzard about 2 A.M. with ever so many degrees of frost. Everything one had on was of course soaking wet and covered with mud, and this was now frozen stiff by the frost. Most of the rifles were out of action, and even the water in the machine guns froze. However, daylight put new heart in us, and we made good progress in improving the trenches, getting rifles once more in working order, and generally tidying up and making things as comfortable as possible under the circumstances. That night about six or eight Turks crawled up the sunken road on our extreme left flank and caused quite an excitement, but finding the trenches still manned retired hastily. Unfortunately the message that they had retired miscarried, and headquarters stood to impatiently for about an hour.
Gradually the weather improved and the sun came out, and we managed to drain off more and more of the water from the communication trenches. But the damage had already been done—the wet followed by the cold and intense frost brought on trench fever in an acute and terrible form. One poor fellow had died of exhaustion and 142 left the Regiment in two days, some few never to recover and others to be maimed for life.
In the week following the storm 7 officers, including Major Younger and Captain Tuke, R.A.M.C., and 221 other ranks were admitted to hospital through sickness. Owing to the washing away of the Highland barricade, three men, bringing water up the Azmac Dere, foolishly missed our trenches and wandered into the Turkish lines.
By this time our numbers were so reduced that C Squadron was brought up from the support line and divided between A Squadron (Major de Pree) and B Squadron (Captain D.D. Ogilvie). A troop of Lovats and a section of machine gunners were in support to us. Later we were all amalgamated into one squadron under Major de Pree, 8 officers and 103 other ranks, the entire strength of the Regiment, including headquarters, being only 13 officers and 190 other ranks.
From the beginning of December we began gradually to send off parties of men to Mudros with surplus kit and stores. On 9th December we were relieved by the 2nd Scottish Horse and moved back into the support trenches, from which we sent a party back to the front line who reported very little firing from the Turks but that they seemed to be suffering from bad colds. Embarkation orders by Major-General W.R. Marshall were read to all ranks and we prepared to go. Three officers and 27 other ranks took over part of 1st Lovats' line and formed our rear-guard, and at six o'clock on the evening of 19th December the Regiment paraded for the last time on Gallipoli and marched to C Beach, via Peyton Avenue and Anzac Road. The perfect weather of the last three or four days still held; a full moon slightly obscured by mist, a calm sea and no shelling made the evacuation a complete success. The remains of the Regiment embarked on the Snaefels and sailed for Imbros, where they were joined by Captain D.D. Ogilvie, who had been acting M.L.O. for the evacuation and left by the last lighter. A four-mile march to camp and a hot meal, and our troubles were over.
The complete success of the evacuation caused quite a stir at home. From Suvla alone 44,000 men, 90 guns of all calibre, including one anti-aircraft gun, 3000 mules, 400 horses, 30 donkeys, 1800 carts, and 4000 to 5000 cartloads of stores had to be embarked—and only by night too, as of course the beaches and bay were visible by day from the Turkish lines. To deceive the Turks, men were actually embarked by night and disembarked by daylight to represent reinforcements, and the Sikh muleteers drove furiously all day chiefly to make the dust fly. On the last night about 12,000 men were embarked from A and C beaches, and everything had been so well managed that there was never a hitch of any kind. Needless to say each party arrived at the point where the M.L.O. were to meet them well up to time and were conducted straight on to the "beetles."
We were, of course, exceedingly lucky in the weather and in the lack of initiative on the part of the Turks. The Higher Command counted on 50 per cent, casualties but actually, on the last night, only two men were wounded on the way down to the beach—8 old guns, rendered useless, were left behind at Anzac, 250 cases of Sunlight soap, a few Indian carts minus their wheels, and one or two hospital tents were left as a present for "Johnnie," and that was about all. The A.S.C. set fire to everything they could not take away, and a fine bonfire it made. The morning we left the wind rose, the sea became choppy, the Turks attacked in great style, bombarding the beaches very heavily, smashing the piers and nearly wiping Lala Baba off the map.
On 23rd December we left our camp and tried to board the Prince Abbas, but the storm was too strong and we had to land again. However, we got off next day, reached Mudros Harbour, and changed on to the Scotian on Christmas Day. None of us will forget the kindness with which we were received on the Scotian, and the arrival of a huge mail and plum puddings completed our joy. We left on Boxing Day and got to Alexandria on the 28th, where we at once disembarked and went to camp at Sidi Bishr.
Of the 32 officers and 617 other ranks who sailed from Alexandria on the 20th September, 8 officers and 107 other ranks returned on 28th December—each squadron on 20th September was 6 officers and 136 other ranks strong, the composite squadron on 28th December was 4 officers and 61 other ranks. On 9th December the strength of the Highland Mounted Brigade was 39 officers and 854 other ranks—the 2nd Mounted Division only 2200 all ranks.
In addition to the C.O., Lieut.-Colonel A. Mitchell, we had lost through sickness alone two squadron leaders (Majors J. Younger and R.S. Nairn), the Adjutant (Lieutenant H.S. Sharp) and his successor (Captain G.E.B. Osborne), the Quartermaster (Lieutenant W. Ricketts), and the M.O. (Captain Tuke, R.A.M.C.), the R.Q.M.S. and all the S.S.M., and S.Q.M.S., in all 18 officers and 339 other ranks. The Brigade was commanded by Lieut.-Colonel A. Stirling of Lovat's Scouts, Lord Lovat having left through sickness; the Regiment by Major J. Gilmour. Fortunately a good many of these, after a brief stay in hospital in Egypt or at Malta, were able to rejoin us later on.
From a military point of view 1916 can be summed up as far as we were concerned in two words—nothing doing. It was certainly for us the most peaceful and uneventful year. New Year saw us resting and refitting at Sidi Bishr—bathing in the Mediterranean and sightseeing in Alexandria. After a few days we moved to Mena Camp, under the shadow of the Pyramids, and at the end of the tram line to Cairo. Apart from the fact that we had two regiments of Lovat's Scouts on one side, and three regiments of Scottish Horse on the other, and every man was either playing the pipes or practising on the chanter from early morn to dewy eve, we had a peaceful time there for about five weeks, watching our numbers gradually increase as men returned from hospital, and wondering whether we were ever to be mounted again. That rumour soon, however, got its quietus, as we were told we were to link up with the South-Western Mounted Brigade (North Devon Hussars, Royal 1st Devon Yeomanry, and West Somerset Yeomanry under Brig.-General R. Hoare), and form a dismounted Yeomanry Brigade of six regiments.
On 12th February we removed up the Nile to Minia—a dusty, dirty, horrible place. Two expeditions of 2 officers and 43 other ranks and 3 officers and 40 other ranks set out from there—- one to guard bridges at Nazlet el Abid and the other to demonstrate along with Lovat's Scouts at Assiut. Minia is one of the wealthiest towns in Upper Egypt, and it was thought probable that the Senussi might attempt to raid Minia or Assiut, with a view to plundering the banks and giving a start to any disaffection among the fellahin.
On 5th March we moved again farther south to Sohag, and a squadron carried on to Kilo 145 on the Sherika line to take up an outpost line. Camel patrols were also sent out into the desert. We had a scheme or two in the desert and a fire in the M.G. tent, at which the local fire brigade greatly distinguished itself by its masterly inactivity and futile energy. To the strains of "Kam leyal, Kam iyyam" at the far end of a leaking hosepipe, the fire eventually burned itself out. We only had two fires the whole time we were in Egypt, which was very creditable considering the inflammable nature of our "houses," and on both occasions our enterprising quartermaster made full use of the distressing occurrence.
We had two very excellent days of sports at Sohag against the Australian Light Horse and in the Brigade, our most popular win perhaps being in the tug-of-war. Another sporting event took place here—a racing camel, ridden by its Bedouin owner, was backed to beat any one of our officers' horses over a six-mile course, of which the first half lay along the canal bank, the last half over the desert which was pretty heavy going. After the first mile and a half the camel was leading by some 600 yards. After three miles the camel was leading by about 200 yards and rolling heavily, whereas "Charlie" and his horse were cantering steadily and easily. The latter continued to gain and passed the camel about the four miles, and won comfortably at a fast trot. In forcing the pace along the canal bank the Bedouin undoubtedly burst his camel.
We received a most unpleasant welcome at Gara on the night of 13th April. A severe sandstorm got up at night, and in the morning we had hardly a tent standing. Gara didn't like us. When we returned there in November we were washed out by a cloud-burst—a thing which hadn't happened there since the Flood.
On the 16th of April we went to Sherika, and there we remained till 15th November. We became a small detached force—the Kharga Oasis Detachment under Lieut.-Colonel Angus MacNeil, 2nd L.S. Yeomanry, consisting of the Highland Mounted Brigade, a squadron of Egyptian Lancers, and a company of the I.C.C. Later on three 15-pounders were sent us, a company of R.E., a battery of Sikh Mountain Gunners, R.F.C., at Meherique, and later at Sherika about 1000 baggage camels and 2000 E.L.C. We also had an A.S.C. Bakery Section and our own slaughter-house, and towards the end of our stay at Sherika another company of I.C.C. joined us.
Our oasis which looked so green on the map, we found to be a deep depression of about 1200 feet, cut out of the central limestone plateau. On the north and east the drop was almost precipitous, and it was really a wonderful engineering feat to get a railway down it at all—only accomplished by means of unusually steep gradients and sharp curves.
The floor of the oasis is, for the most part, just as bare and desolate as the plateau above, but here and there are patches of green round the Artesian wells, which were the only sources of water. Except for the surroundings of the village of Khargeh itself, where there are a number of splendid wells, a small shallow brackish lake, and considerable date and fruit groves, no watered patch in the northern half of the oasis is more than half a mile long and a few hundred yards wide. The usual patch round a well would include a few date-palms, perhaps an apricot tree, and an acre or two of Bersim, the clover of the country, and a kind of Lucerne.
The groves of Khargeh produce great quantities of excellent dates, and a considerable trade is done with the Nile Valley in rush matting, made chiefly in the southern portion of the oasis, at Boulak and Beris.
Points of interest were the half-buried and utterly filthy village of Khargeh, the Persian Temple near Railhead in a very fair state of preservation, and the Roman Fort near Meherique. This was still remarkably intact—a large square with bastions at the four corners, and built of mammoth bricks—about 60 feet high, with walls 12 feet broad even at the top.
The only notable natural feature was Gebel-el-Ghenneiem, which was just a portion of the original limestone plateau left standing. Its slopes were full of various sorts of fossils—sea-urchins and the like—so that evidently the sea had been there at one time. From its flat top one had a wonderful panorama of the desert.
War, with a No-Man's-Land of eighty miles and a very doubtful enemy at the far end, is war at its very best—even though we did have only marmalade and nothing but marmalade. But no war is without its horrors—these came about once a month in the shape of inspecting generals, who ordered us to raze our defences and build fresh and proper ones—not a bad game in sand, where you do anyhow see some result for your labours.
Every other week a squadron would go off to either Kilo 145, at the top of the Scarp, Meherique, the only place the engines could water, or Kharga (Railhead), and latterly to Water Dump A, to take over the outpost there with the I.C.C., or a troop of Gyppy Cavalry. Life there was not quite so pleasant on account of the mosquitoes (which, thanks to Dr Tuke, we had exterminated at Sherika), and the sand hill which formed the key to the situation at Kharga had a nasty habit of moving on and leaving our wire entanglements buried up to the neck. We owe a great debt of gratitude to Dr Tuke and his sanitary squad for the comfort and health of the Regiment at Sherika. At all hours of the day the doctor and his faithful mule waged war on the mosquito and the Gyppy sanitary squad indiscriminately, and with complete success. Fly and fellah, mosquito and reis—all fled at his approach, or buried themselves in the sand.
After the departure of Lovat's Scouts for Alexandria, whence they emerged as 10th Camerons, and proceeded to Salonika, the West Somerset Yeomanry joined us, and on 1st August two detachments from the North Devon Hussars and the Royal 1st Devon Yeomanry were attached to us.
The half section of guns—old Nordenfeldts—had arrived without a crew, but a couple of officers and one or two N.C.O.'s and men who had once been Territorial gunners took the matter in hand with great alacrity. Mobility was their chief trouble. Camel harness was produced—they were taken out a couple of days before a field-firing practice, and the targets were adjusted till the guns could hit them every time, and really when the inspecting general arrived they gave a most creditable performance.
We also had a mounted troop, under Lieutenant W. Gray, mounted mainly on mules for the longer patrols, and a Light Car Patrol (Lieutenant A.S. Lindsay) consisting of 2 officers, 45 other ranks, and seven Ford cars, fitted with Lewis guns, and one armoured car, which went out with the camelry. Lieutenant M'Dougal's bombing school and the rifle range combined instruction with amusement.
The heat during the day was very trying-as much as 120 deg. F. being recorded in the shade—but we only worked from reveille (5.30) to breakfast, and in the afternoon from 4.30 to 6. Polo and an occasional jackal hunt, cricket and football, and all kinds of foot sports kept us fit, but the most enjoyable time of all was in the swimming-baths. When we first went there, there was only a small swimming-bath built for the officials of the Western Oasis Corporation, which was reserved for officers and for sergeants twice a week. However, with the help of the Engineers, we built a beautiful swimming-bath, 26 yards long, which was formally opened by Lieut.-Colonel A. M'Neil, O.C. troops, at a swimming gymkhana on 6th August.
Although we had abundant water at Sherika and Kharga, it had to be bored for. There was a river about 400 to 600 feet below ground, and the water came up quite warm—about 85 deg. F. The problem was how to provide water for the 100-mile advance across the desert to Dakhla. For this purpose the R.E. started boring at Water Dump A, about twenty-five miles from Sherika, and were so far successful that, at the finish of the Dakhla expedition, they were obtaining sufficient water to work the bore. By that time also the light railway had advanced to within a few miles of Water Dump A.
The campaign was brought to an abrupt termination through the overzeal of O.C. Light Car Patrol, who patrolled right up to Senussi outpost at the entrance to the Dakhla Oasis. At the sight of Mr Lindsay and his car the Senussi general fled, and when the I.C.C., after a very fine march, got into Dakhla, all they got were 197 miserable, underfed, diseased prisoners. Four officers and 100 other ranks from C Squadron (Captain D.D. Ogilvie), and 2 officers and 30 other ranks from the M.G.C. (Mr D. Marshall) set off on 25th October to relieve the I.C.C. It was a trying march. Cars dumped fanatis with water for the midday meal, twelve miles on and more for the evening meal, and breakfast seven miles beyond that. The second day out was a scorcher, blazing hot and no wind, over rough stony going for the most part, and Hell's Gate wasn't reached till 7 P.M., after a very exhausting march. The total march was seventy-six miles to Tenida, and of the 136 only 7 failed to finish which, considering the circumstances, was very creditable. No sooner were we there than orders were received to return again. This time, however, we went in cars as far as Water Dump A, and there we commandeered a convoy of camels returning with empty fanatis, and we finished our trek mounted. Great credit is due to the Light Car Patrol and to the Ford cars which really were wonderful. Neither sand up to the axle, nor dropping down over rocks stopped them—they made a road for themselves as they went along, and always seemed to get there.
That finished our 1916 campaign against the Senussi—the I.C.C. were relieved by a London Yeomanry Company of the I.C.C, and later on some Gyppy Cavalry went out and garrisoned Dakhla Oasis.
On 13th November the Regiment started in relays by train for Gara. There we received orders to start infantry training, as we were to be converted into a battalion of infantry. Till then we had always done dismounted cavalry drill. We now started hammer and tongs at infantry drill, instructed by an officer and two N.C.O.'s from a neighbouring garrison battalion. We were all looking forward to becoming pukka infantry, as we had long realised that in our eccentric form as dismounted yeomanry we should only be given the odd jobs.
We had just got our camp tidy when the water-spout burst, and not only washed out our lines and those of the Ayrshire and Lanarkshire Yeomanries, but also demolished the fine earth church which the Anglican Padre had had built.
On 1st December we arrived at Moascar, a large camp on the Sweetwater Canal near Ismailia, and there our infantry training started in earnest. We ate our Christmas dinner there, and on Boxing Day had Brigade sports. There was very fair bathing in Lake Timsah, and we all enjoyed getting a sight of the Suez Canal, and being once more in comparative comfort and civilization.
C.O. Lieut.-Colonel J. GILMOUR
2nd in Command Major J. YOUNGER
A Squadron Major C. G DE PREE and Capt. R.W. STEWART
B Squadron Major G.E.B. OSBORNE
C Squadron Capt. D.D. OGILVIE
Adjutant Lieut. H.S. SHARP
Q.-M. Lieut. R.H. COLTHART
M.O. Capt. A. TUKE, R.A.M.C.(T.)
EGYPT AND PALESTINE—1917
New Year's Day saw the Regiment at Moascar Camp, Ismailia, and it was there that the Fife and Forfar Yeomanry were interred "for the duration," giving birth at the same time to a sturdy son—the 14th (Fife and Forfar Yeomanry) Battalion, Royal Highlanders. We were all very sorry to see the demise of the Yeomanry and to close, though only temporarily, the records of a Regiment which had had an honourable career, and of which we were all so proud. At the same time we realised that, in our capacity as dismounted yeomanry, we were not pulling our weight either as yeomanry or infantry, and no other regiment certainly appealed to us as much as our own Territorial Infantry Regiment, and we were proud to link our record to the long and glorious record of the Black Watch.
We spent five weeks altogether at Moascar, working hard at the elementary forms of infantry drill and tactics, and on 8th January we marched to our new camp El Ferdan, some ten miles along the Canal. Here we continued our training, but of a more advanced kind, brigade schemes, tactical tours and route marches, "jerks," bathing, and football kept us busy and fit.
One day some of us went to see the Canal defences, dug the previous year, about four miles east of the Canal. The sand was so soft, no amount of ordinary sandbagging or revetting would make it stand up, and all the trenches were made by sinking complete wooden frames into a wide scooped out trench, and then shovelling the sand back on either side of the frame. The original digging had to be about 20 feet wide to allow them to sink the frames sufficiently deep in the sand. It must have been a colossal work, and this was only a small portion of the scheme, which included laying on water to the more important defences, and laying out lines of light railways and roads from the Canal eastwards, at intervals of seven and eight miles, the railheads being linked by a lateral road.
On 4th March we left El Ferdan and marched to Kantara, the base of all operations up the Sinai Railway, and there entrained for El Arish to join the 74th (Yeomanry) Division. The journey of about ninety miles, over the very recently laid railway, was timed to take some eight or nine hours, and was uneventful and, though we travelled in open trucks, was not too unpleasantly hot. The frequent short gradients led to the most awful bumps and tearings at the couplings, but they stood the strain all right.
It was a very interesting journey to us, who knew only the Western Desert, to note the difference between it and Sinai. To our eyes Sinai did not appear to be a desert at all, as there were scrubby bushes of sorts growing in nearly every hollow, various kinds of camel grass, and even a few flowers—such as poppies and one or two species of lilies. After the waste of misshaped lumps of limestone and volcanic looking boulders, which were the only decoration of the Western Desert, this sort of landscape seemed positively verdant.
At El Arish we were camped some three miles from the station, and a very long three miles it seemed, as a large part of the way was over the softest of sand and most exhausting marching, especially with a heavy pack. Here we had our first sight of hostile aeroplanes, some of which came over nearly every day; it was a very pretty sight to see them in the brilliant blue at about 12,000 feet, with the white puffs of shrapnel bursting now on one side of them now on the other (but seldom very close). We were at once set to dig ourselves funkholes, which we were supposed to occupy on the alarm being given, but they never once bombed us, or seemed to take any notice of us. They made one or two bold individual attacks on the railway, between Kantara and El Arish, but for the most part they appeared to be out purely for reconnaissance.
At El Ferdan we had got our first infantry reinforcements—11 new officers—and now we received a welcome addition in the shape of 1 officer and 373 other ranks, which necessitated the reorganisation of the battalion. We also had to acclimatise the new draft who felt the heat and heavy going very exhausting, and, to begin with, had to go easy.
Our camp was pleasantly situated on a sandy plain, within half a mile of the sea, and dotted with scattered fig-trees just beginning to show a few leaves. The climate was perfect, but the water arrangements were most difficult. We began to realise that it does not pay to be the last comer when there is a shortage of anything. We were paid off with the minimum number of fanatis (copper vessels for carrying water on camel pack), and, instead of getting allotted to us the wells nearest our camp, we had just to take whatever wells were left. These proved to be on the other side of El Arish village, in amongst the steepest sandhills, and it was a very tough tramp for the fatigue party, which had to accompany the water camels and do the pumping. Our stay here was just inside a fortnight, before the end of which we had got our new drafts allotted to their various companies; and a very good lot they were, though we feared they would have great difficulty in standing the heat if we were called upon to do long marches.
On 22nd March we started on our way to our first halting place El Burj. It was about nine miles, and we marched in the evenings, which was undoubtedly very wise. The going was not bad, there being a wire-netting track laid over all the softest parts: it is wonderful how satisfactory this is to march on, and many a time did we bless the man who invented it. The only sufferers were the mule leaders. They, naturally, could not lead their mules on the netting, and it was extra hard work for them, as they had to walk in the heavy sand and maintain the pace set by the troops who were on the good going. El Burj proved to be a most desolate spot, but it was at all events near wells; and we were so glad to hear that we were not to march straight on next day, that we didn't grumble much about the scenery.
The Higher Command were a little nervous that the Turks might slip away again as they had already done at El Arish; but the next few days were to show that this information was not correct, and that the Turk had no intention of leaving the Gaza-Beersheba line so long as he could hold on to it.
We stopped there four days, and marching once more in the evening, we did a comparatively short step to Sheikh Zowaid, camping about a mile short of the station. It was pitch dark when we arrived and we had no idea what our camp was like, and it was a great surprise to find in the morning that we were on the edge of a shallow salt lake. The sunrise on this sheet of water, fringed on the far side with a line of scattered palm trees, was really most exquisite. It was, however, the only good thing about the place. Water for breakfast was late in arriving, and we were told that the half-day's supply, which then arrived, had to fill the dixies for lunch, and also the water-bottles for the next march. There was not nearly enough for this, with the result that we had to start in the blazing sun about 1 P.M. with hardly anything in the bottles. The reason for this was, that the camels had to go on ahead to our next stop—Rafa—about thirteen miles distant, where it was hoped to have water drawn and ready for us on our arrival.
This afternoon march was a gruelling experience. It was the hottest part of the day; we had practically nothing in our water-bottles, and, to add to our trials, the wire-netting road was not laid beyond Sheikh Zowaid, as the ground had appeared quite firm to the divisions who had preceded us. Since they had passed, however, the route had been cut up by guns and transport, until it was just as soft as the softest sand, and twice as dusty. Finally, when we did get to Rafa about 7 P.M., there was no water waiting for us, and we found we had to take up an outpost line from the railway to the sea, a distance of about three miles, through the worst sandhills we had encountered. It was hopeless to move before the arrival of some water, and it was about 10 P.M. before we started to take up the line, and it was well after midnight before the left company had got the line extended right through to the shore. These sandhills were made of such fine sand that it was continuously blowing and drifting; any rifle pits dug out, say, a couple of feet, in the evening, would be completely obliterated in the morning.
Sending out supplies, as soon as it was light, to this distant company, was a most difficult job. To begin with, we found that camels, loaded with water fanatis, could not negotiate the steep faces of sand, so we had to do our best with the Lewis gun mules, carrying the fanatis only half full. Then there was a thick mist—the same mist which hampered the attack on Gaza—and we had no accurate knowledge of where the company was, nor was it possible to follow the tracks of the previous night, as they were all obliterated by the drifting sand. Luckily, some active members of the company had found the morning too cold for sitting still, and had taken a morning walk back from the line, so we came upon their fresh tracks, which led us to the rest of the company.
That night we had an alarm that the Turkish cavalry was out and had slipped round our right flank, and was likely to have a dash at our lines of communication either at Rafa or elsewhere, so we spent the night digging trenches which, during the next day or two, we improved into a sort of continuous line covering the water and railway station.
During these few days the first attack was made on Gaza, but without success. We heard a good many tales of hardship from lack of water, and saw some prisoners come through, but there was no great excitement.
From Rafa—which is on the Palestine Boundary—we moved on 30th March to Khan Yunis, said to be the home of Delilah. The march was once more in the evening, and was very comfortable, except for the last mile or two when we got in between the high hedges of prickly pear, and had to march through about a foot of dust in the most stifling atmosphere. When we arrived we found that we were once more on the fringes of civilisation: we could buy oranges in unlimited numbers, and also fresh eggs—not the Egyptian variety, about the size of a pigeon's egg, but real pukka hen's eggs. Water also was less scarce than it had been, and we were well content with our lot. We were in Brigade Reserve, which sounded very comfortable, but which was not so "cushy" as it sounded. It meant that we had to do all the unloading of supplies and ammunition at the supply depot and at the station, and also find the very large guards which were absolutely necessary, as the native was a diligent and skilful thief. The units in the outpost line really had much less to do, though, of course, they had their turns of night duty which we escaped.
Here we were joined by another brigade of our new division, and felt that at last we were about to become like other people—organised in a proper division.
This week, with its eggs and oranges, passed like a flash, and we once more moved on; this time quite a short way beyond Railhead at Deir-el-Belah, where we camped quite close to our compatriots the 52nd Division. After one night and a good bathe we took over, on 7th April, from the 54th Division a sector of trenches near Sheikh Nebhan, overlooking the hollow through which meandered the Wadi Ghuzzeh. This wadi—like all others in this part—is quite dry except during the storms of winter, but water could usually be got by sinking wells in the bed of the wadi at about ten or twelve feet down. Our cavalry by day and infantry by night held a line out beyond the wadi, covering the work of those who were sinking wells, making ramps for guns and transport crossings, and laying the water-pipe line. This line was to be carried to the cisterns of Um Gerrar, where it would come in very useful during the further operations for which we were preparing. It is rather wonderful to think that this water was carried with us by pipe line all the way from the Canal, and was actually Nile water brought to Kantara by the Sweetwater Canal.
The banks of the Wadi Ghuzzeh were almost everywhere precipitous, and anything from ten to twenty feet high. All these had to be ramped, and during the period of preparation some thirty such crossings were made between Tel-el-Jemmi and the sea, and each unit was allotted its crossing for the coming advance. During these days of preparation our Battalion dug a strong line of trenches dominating the crossings of the Wadi Ghuzzeh, and most of the officers got the chance of a reconnaissance to a distance of about three miles beyond the wadi.
The country beyond was very much cut up with smaller wadis, which at this time of year were a mass of wild flowers which grew most luxuriantly, and would have been welcome in most herbaceous borders; the anchusas—to name one—were several feet high, and covered with brilliant blue blooms, but the brightest effect was that of fields of mauve daisies. These grew as thick as poppies in Norfolk, and were almost as bright. One had plenty of time to look about at all the flowers, as there was practically no sign of a Turk, though, if one went too near up to the top of the watershed, an odd sniper would let off at one.
As the day for the advance drew near, all the troops told off for battle surplus were sent back to Railhead and formed into a divisional camp. Each battalion had to leave behind the following:—Either C.O. or 2nd in Command, two of the four Company Commanders and two of the four Company Sergeant-Majors, and a proportion of instructors in P.T., Lewis gun, musketry, gas, bombing, and signalling—in all, for a battalion at full strength, 120 of all ranks, including all officers above the number of 20.
This was the dustiest and dirtiest week of the whole year, the only interest being the scraps of gossip which kept coming in, and from which we pieced together the disastrous tale of the second battle of Gaza. One could also ride up to the top of Raspberry Hill or Im Seirat and see something for oneself, but usually any movement of troops was invisible owing to clouds of dust.
The fact that our main outpost line was, after this battle, advanced about live or six miles, was used to represent this battle as a British victory, but, as a matter of fact, it was a victory which failed to gain any main Turkish position. The positions which we held at the end of the battle, to which we had retired after being stopped at Ali-el-Muntar and Gaza itself, had been reached in the first instance with very few casualties, and it was on the glacis between these positions and the Turk that we suffered our main losses. This glacis was destitute of any cover, and was dominated by the heights of Ali-el-Muntar and the cactus hedges surrounding Gaza, and after many gallant efforts this had to be abandoned to form a No-Man's-Land of a mile or a mile and a half between ourselves and the Turk. On our left in the sandhills the progress was slower and steadier, and the line finished up a good deal nearer the Turk than on the right; but here again the cactus hedges lined with machine guns proved too much for us. Our Division was not used in this battle, being in reserve, which was lucky for us, as those who were in the front line of the attack all got a pretty severe knock.
On 19th April the Battalion left the outpost line on Sheikh Nebhan and marched towards Gaza, resting during the middle of the day on a ridge west of El Burjaliye, and moving in the afternoon on to Mansura Ridge in support. On the evening of 22nd April the Battalion moved forward to construct and occupy trenches at El Mendur, which was on the right, or refused, flank of the line, and there the details again joined us. There we had a good defensive position, but the trenches still had to be dug and, as luck would have it, this digging, which ought to have been nothing to our men fit as they were, in ordinary weather, was turned into a very high trial indeed by a khamsin. This red-hot and parching wind, blowing off the desert, makes thirst a positive torture when water is limited, and it was very limited at that time. We were getting rather less than half a gallon per man for all purposes, which is perhaps just about the quantity used by the ordinary man for cooking and drinking in the cold weather at home; but in a khamsin when you are doing five or six hours' hard manual labour per diem, a gallon is easily consumed. Luckily these heat waves only last about three days, but it left us pretty limp.
After a fortnight here a start was made with thinning out the line, in order to let some of those who had been engaged in the Gaza battle get a spell in reserve. We moved a step to our left, taking over with our Battalion the sector previously held by a brigade. Our portion of the line was taken over by the 12th (Ayr and Lanark Yeomanry) Battalion R.S.F., and we took over the line on the left previously held by the 5th and 7th Essex Regiments. Battalion H.Q. had a very comfortable pitch at the top of the Wadi Reuben, near a junction of many tracks which had been named Charing Cross.
Our week here meant another spell of steady work, as we had to convert what had previously been a continuous line into a series of strong posts, the intervals between which were covered by machine guns. This was known as the Dumb-bell Hill Sector of the Sheikh Abbas Line, being named from a hill whose contours on the map were a very fair imitation of a dumb-bell. Here we were still facing to a flank, but our left came up to the corner where the proper front began, which meant that we lay enfiladed from the main front, and they used to throw over a good deal of stuff if ever they spotted any movement.
At the beginning of May we did another move, this time on to the real front in the Sheikh Abbas Sector. This was quite a pleasant place, as we lived on the reverse slope of a fairly steep bank, pretty well defiladed from all the Turk guns, and the trenches, though only in most places a single line with quite insufficient communication trenches, had a long view and a good field of fire. The wire was continuous though not very thick, and it was quite safe to leave the trenches during the day in charge of a few observation posts. Add to this the fact that all, except the posts, could walk about during the day in the open quite covered from view by the steep slope mentioned above, consequently it was trench warfare under the most pleasant possible conditions. All the same it was a trying life owing to the difficulty of getting a normal amount of sleep. We had to "stand to" from about 3 A.M. till dawn, and then work till breakfast, and on to about 9.30 A.M. By that time it was too hot to do any more, and the rest of the day had to be spent in idleness. Few of us could sleep during the day because of the heat, and the temperature seldom began to get much cooler before 8.30 P.M., and sometimes later. There was nothing doing in the way of warfare beyond continuous patrols at night, sometimes small, sometimes up to twenty or more. The only occasion during our first stay did anything in the nature of a skirmish take place, and that was brought on by one of our patrols having a narrow escape of being cut off at dawn near a place called Two Tree Farm. One of the platoons in the line saw what was happening and went out to support them, and managed to get them in all right. A very small affair, but quite exciting for the onlookers, when there is nothing more important doing. In this part there was about a mile of No-Man's-Land, and the Turk was very completely wired in and was seldom to be found outside his wire. Most of our patrols in consequence came in without having seen a Turk at all, but it was not a comfortable job, as machine guns were firing bursts all night.
We had a fortnight in the line, and on 25th May came out to Brigade Reserve which was only a move of a couple of hundred yards and not half so comfortable; but it gave some of us the opportunity of riding over towards the sea and having a look at our own and the Turkish lines on the sandhills.
While we were here we marched to Deir-el-Belah to be disinfected, and later relieved, first, the 16th (Royal 1st Devon Yeomanry) Devonshire Regiment, and then the Ayr and Lanarks, to allow them to do the same. On 13th June we took over the centre sector, the Abbas Apex Sector, of the Brigade line from the Devons, and remained in the line till 9th July when we handed over to the 4th Royal Scots, 52nd Division. Every night we sent out a patrol of 1 N.C.O. and 10 men, either as a standing patrol on Essex Hill or to patrol the wire in front of our area, and an officer's patrol consisting of an officer and 20 men to cover the ground between Two Tree Farm and Old British Trenches. These patrols were nearly always fired on, but we were in luck's way as regards casualties.
We then marched back some four miles to the Dorset House area, where we at once got started on intensive training for open warfare, varied with some very hurried musketry in the Wadi Ghuzzeh. Whilst here we had a very thorough inspection by Lieut.-General Sir P.W. Chetwode, K.C.M.G., C.B., D.S.O., Commanding Eastern Force, and in the way of amusements managed to get one or two games of polo with a neighbouring brigade. The plain on which we played was in full view of some of the Turkish positions at Gaza, and on one or two occasions play was stopped by shells. Also, in rotation by battalions, we made bathing expeditions to the sea at Regent's Park. It was seven miles each way, but was well worth the trouble as it was months since most of us had been in the sea.
At the beginning of August we again changed our camp, and while on the move put in a couple of days' field firing. For once in a way the ground lent itself to the purpose, and we had most interesting days; but it was pretty warm work, not being confined to morning and evening. Our new camp was right in the sandhills, near the aerodrome at Deir-el-Belah, where we did intensive divisional training. This was to have lasted three weeks, and was a very strenuous business. A full divisional day meant leaving camp any time after 2 A.M. and not getting back again until after midday; it was usually interesting for the senior ranks, but intensely boring for everyone else. Luckily we were able to fit in bathing, concerts, and sports, which kept everyone cheery.
After a fortnight of this we found we were at last told off for a useful job of work—digging a new line of trenches in the sandhills facing Gaza, between Fusilier Ridge and Jones' Post, in front of those on Samson's and Fusilier's Ridges, at that time held by the 54th Division. We moved over the Wadi Ghuzzeh to Regent's Park, where we camped right on the shore about an hour and a half's march from the scene of our labours. After the second night it was decided that this was too remote, and we moved up nearer our work. Here we stayed for a week, with half of each battalion digging each night. It was a tiresome job, as the sand was so soft that a very wide ditch had to be dug and then faced with sandbags. The men were very quick about getting down, and after the first night they were practically working in safety for the remaining four or five days necessary to complete the sandbag revetting. All bags used had to be double, as single ones would not keep the sand in.
Our first night was a pretty jumpy business. We were somewhere about 500 yards from the Turk lines, and there was a bright moon, with the result that he spotted something and gave us quite a bombardment. For some time there was considerable doubt whether the work should be attempted at all, but thanks largely to Lieut.-Colonel J. Gilmour, who subsequently got a D.S.O. for his work that night, a good start was made at the cost of a few casualties. The rest of the week passed quietly, but we were quite glad at the end of it to be relieved by a battalion of the Norfolk Regiment of another brigade, as the march both ways, plus digging, was very hard work.
We did not return to the camp we had left, but to the Wadi Selke, a mile or two inland from Deir-el-Belah. The distance from the sea made bathing a bit of a toil, but otherwise it was a good camp, especially for the officers, whose bivouacs were in a fig grove which bore a very heavy crop of excellent figs. We stayed here about seven weeks, the longest spell we had in any one place, and made it into a good camp. There was a fair football ground on which we got through an inter-platoon American tournament, which kept everybody amused. There used to be a great turn-out when the officers' team was due to play—they occasionally won their matches. We also had a good 200 yards' range with sixteen targets, and carried out innumerable experiments to decide upon the best methods of attack. We had exhibitions of wire-cutting and smoke screens, bangalore torpedoes, and many days of practising co-operation with aeroplanes. Very frequent night marches by compass, combined with digging in, and followed by an attack or advance at dawn. In fact, we were put through a very practical training for the task which we were later to undertake.
In order to minimise the chance of anything going wrong with the plans for the concentration and attack on Beersheba, many officers were given the chance of making a reconnaissance as near as possible to the Turkish positions. This was done from Gamli, a place on the Wadi Ghuzzeh about fifteen miles inland and about eleven from us. We rode over there the night before, and in the early morning the cavalry moved out and pushed their line within a mile or two of the Beersheba defences. Covered by this, parties of officers rode out and familiarised themselves with the sector in which their unit was to operate, and they were thus able to hand in reports upon which Brigade Staffs could allot concentration areas and routes.
At the moment of kicking off we were as well trained as we were ever likely to be, and, what is more important, were very fit and full of the offensive spirit. The concentration started on 25th October, when we marched some six miles to Abu Sitta. Our transport establishment had been very carefully thought out, and, though both animals and vehicles were undoubtedly overloaded at the start, this soon rectified itself, as consumable stores could not be replaced. We had one camel per battalion for officers' mess, and he started out very fully laden. He was a good deal less heavily loaded towards the end of the operations. Next day we marched on beyond the Wadi at Gamli—a very dusty and tiresome march—and were to have remained there throughout the next day. Word came in, however, that the Turk was attacking our outpost line at El Buggar, some ten miles out, and the Battalion had to move off at a moment's notice about noon. The march through the heat of the afternoon was most trying, and on arrival it was found the enemy were occupying part of the line we were to take up. They withdrew, however, in the evening, and we constructed a series of strong posts from the Beersheba road to south of El Buggar.
During these days of concentration the plain lying between Shellal and Beersheba had been the scene of great activities. Karm had been selected as the position for a forward supply dump, and both light and broad gauge railways were being pushed out towards it at top speed. The first blow of the campaign was to be launched at the defences of Beersheba, which were facing west and extended both north and south of the Wadi Saba. They occupied a commanding position and were continuously wired. The main attack was to be pushed home south of the Wadi Saba by the 74th and 60th Divisions, and at the same time the enemy's extreme left flank was to be turned by the cavalry, who were to make a wide detour through very difficult and waterless country and attack Beersheba from the east, and, if possible, cut off the retreat of the garrison of the Beersheba area. Covering all these preparations an outpost line was established some miles east of Karm and El Buggar, held on the left by the 53rd Division, then the 74th Division, then the Imperial Camel Corps, and, south of the Wadi Saba, where it was much more lightly held, a mere line of cavalry observation posts. These cavalry posts were covering, and slightly in advance of, the positions selected for battle headquarters for the 74th and 60th Divisions.
The preliminary arrangements for the troop movements went like clockwork, as did also the approach marches to the positions of deployment, and at the appointed time on 30th October, the Divisional H.Q. moved up the five or six miles to the battle stations selected. There was no sign of crowding or confusion—the only indication that there was anything unusual on, was the dust which could be seen here and there. The moves of the infantry began just as it was getting dusk, and long before dawn both the 60th and 74th Divisions had their two brigades on the line of deployment, which stretched southwards some three or four miles from the Wadi Saba.
As soon as it was daylight a bombardment of the Turkish advanced position on Hill 1070 was started, smothering the entire landscape in clouds of dust. This first attack, which was carried through by one of the brigades of the 60th Division, was ordered at 8.30 A.M. Hill 1070 was carried at 8.45, and during the next hour all the remaining advanced positions fell, and it was even reported that the enemy was here and there evacuating portions of his main line. There was now another interval for bombardment, whilst the gunners were wire-cutting for the attack on the main positions. During this period of waiting, which was longer than had been expected, our infantry suffered a good deal from shelling, much of which was in enfilade from positions north of the Wadi, and it was with relief that they received the order about 12.15 to proceed with the main attack. In about forty minutes all the trenches opposite the 60th Division were captured, and the 74th completed their task only about twenty minutes later, one brigade having had some difficulty owing to incomplete wire-cutting. The 60th had, by 2 P.M., advanced some way beyond the captured trenches towards Beersheba, and the 74th crossed the Wadi Saba and cleared the trenches northward to the barrier on the Fara-Beersheba road.
Meantime the cavalry had found their detour even lengthier than had been expected, with the result that they were some hours later than they should have been, and were held up for most of the day by trenches at Tel-el-Saba, a mile or more east of Beersheba proper. These were, however, rushed towards evening, and Beersheba was occupied that night. Very few of the troops allotted for the defence of Beersheba escaped, the whole operation being completely successful. The Engineers at first reported that the water supply and wells were intact; but this proved to be far from the fact, and within forty-eight hours the shortage of water was being severely felt. After this smashing success in the first stage of operations all our tails were well up, and everyone was keen to know what was to be the next move.
The next day found the 60th concentrated at Beersheba; the 74th just north of the barrier on the Fara-Beersheba road, while an advance northward had been begun by the 53rd and, in the evening, by a party of the 74th. One brigade group for the former advanced in a northerly direction west of Ain Kohleh, and the remainder in a north-westerly direction on Kuweilfeh. The left advance was successful, and a line was established on the desired objective, a ridge running east and west some five or six miles north of Beersheba. The other advance was not so fortunate; something went wrong with the supplies both of water and ammunition, and strong opposition was encountered. Also, it was impossible country to campaign in; practically roadless, and very much broken up with wadis and rocky precipices, which made it most difficult to maintain communications, even though a mounted brigade was thrown in to help.
The situation up here was much the same next day. No great progress had been made, nor were good communications established, but they had managed to get through both water and ammunition. Other divisions were, however, kept on the move. The 74th were moved up to take over some line from the left of the 53rd, the 60th were concentrated some three miles N.W. of Beersheba, and one brigade of the 10th was moved to Irgeig. This was an anxious day, as the 53rd seemed to be quite held up at Kuweilfeh and not too well provided with supplies, and there was considerable doubt, in view of the general scarcity of water, whether it would be possible to carry on the campaign, which involved rolling up the Sheria and Kuwauka defences from the east.
Our Intelligence Department had for the moment "lost" a Turkish division, which complicated the situation very much as, if it were suddenly to appear on the right flank of our attack on Sheria, a most serious situation would be created. However, on the afternoon of the 5th, word was received from the 53rd Division that they had captured prisoners from numerous different battalions, some of which were known to belong to the missing division. This settled the question, as it was quite clear that the 53rd were keeping them too busy at Kuweilfeh for them to be able to send any serious force to Sheria. The "lost" division it seems was one which had been sent to reinforce the forces defending Beersheba, but by the time it got to Sheria the Beersheba defences were taken, and it was obviously no use going there. It was accordingly then sent to Kuweilfeh in anticipation of an attempt by us to turn their extreme left flank.
On the afternoon of the 5th orders were rapidly issued for the attack next day on the Sheria defences and the Kuwauka system.
As most of the troops destined for the Sheria attack were at this time in the outpost line, this meant a concentration and deployment by night in an unknown country where map reading was very difficult indeed, and it was most creditable that it should have been, as it was, successfully carried out. There were certain minor mistakes, but in the main the attack came off as planned, and by midday all the line of the Sheria defences were in our hands.
The spearhead of the attack was the 229th Brigade, with ourselves and the Somersets in the front line, and it was a brilliant affair from start to finish. The brigades on our right and left, the 230th Brigade and a brigade of the 60th Division, were echelonned in rear of us, and the prompt success of our attack greatly assisted the advance of the 60th and 10th Divisions on the Kuwauka system. Our Lewis guns especially gave great assistance, and were successful in preventing the Turks from removing several of their guns, placed in rear of the Kuwauka system. This was acknowledged by the 60th Division who, in the true sporting spirit, let our Division know that they did not claim those guns as captured by them, though it was by their men that the guns were actually collected.