The Royal New South Wales Lancers

Battle Honour 1st


On the evening of 22 December 1916 the 1st Light Horse moved out for Magdhaba, a fortified military post 30 Kilometres east of el Arish. Captain Weir was now adjutant again. A Squadron was detached as escort to the Ayrshire Battery, B was in reserve and C in the main body, being used in the later part of the fight to reinforce the right flank. The position was attacked at 06:30 after a long night march, rations for horse and man being drawn on the march about six kilometres from the el Arish wady. The enemy held out nearly all day, being sited in a number of redoubts, but by a few minutes after 16:00 the last redoubt had fallen to Chauvel's force, which in this fight consisted of the 1st and 3rd Australian Light Horse Brigades, the New Zealand Mounted Rifles and Imperial Camel Brigades, Inverness and Somerset Batteries and the Hong Kong and Singapore Battery. The enemy surrendered four mountain guns, hundreds of rifles and much ammunition and other material.

Headquarters and C Squadron remained all night to clear the battlefield, bury the dead and destroy all material not transportable. Two of the Turkish doctors helped with the wounded, and before the squadron left the fire stick was put into all the buildings.

On 8 January 1917 the brigade moved out to Sheikh Zowaüd en route to Rafa where the Turks were reported to be strongly entrenched. The regiment, the advanced guard for the brigade, started at 01:30. On all-night marches it was difficult to keep touch, and the guides, mostly local friendly desert people, were often unreliable. At dawn the brigade deployed and helped form a cordon which completely enveloped the enemy's earth-works, the New Zealand Brigade being closest to the sea, on the north. To their left and on the east of the enemy position was the 1st Australian Light Horse Brigade, with the 2nd Light Horse Regiment on the right of the 1st Light Horse Regiment. The enemy reserved his fire until the regiment got within 1,000 metres: then a sunken road was made use of and good progress was made under cover of the Ayrshire Battery's fire until 11:45, when the line was held up.

At 13:00 the regiment pushed on to the ridge known as C3 where Major Irwin, in making a forward reconnaissance, was successful in surprising a party of Turks in a concealed trench. Though severely wounded himself, he, with the assistance of Sergeant Menzies, Corporal O'Connor, Troopers Pearce, Manning, Erickson, Ferris and Harvey of A Troop, A Squadron, secured 30 prisoners.

At 14:00. the advanced troops of the regiment were shelled by guns on the right. Casualties by now were 22, with another officer, Lieutenant Hordern, wounded. By this time the New Zealand Mounted Rifles had got well into the enemy's rear at Hill 255, while the 1st Light Horse Regiment had advanced beyond the available telephone cable length, and communication was kept up by helio until a mile of wire was obtained from the brigade signal officer. More small arms ammunition was brought up at 16:00, rapid fire was ordered, and the regiment charged the Turks who surrendered trench by trench, but kept up fire on the left until dark. As reinforcements were reported on the march from Shellal and Gaza, the Turkish prisoners were hurriedly formed up and marched off. Little war material could be collected, and as soon as the dead were buried the regiment marched back to Sheikh Zowaüd. Casualties numbered 34.

El Arish was reached on 10 January 1917, men and horses showing signs of fatigue. During the absence of the brigade (at Rafa) the enemy had bombed the camp, his airmen keeping a few bombs to drop near the Camel Corps during the battle of Rafa.

PV Vernon Royal New South Wales Lancers 1885–1985 Parramatta 1985

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