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MOUNTED STRETCHER BEARER
A Trooper of the NZMR Field Ambulance shows off his rather meager tools of trade. The heroic actions of these unarmed men during combat is a story of true courage.
Below excerpts from: "With the R.A.M.C. in Egypt" published 1918 (the Royal Army Medical Corps)
"On a battlefield you often have to deal with a wounded man single-handed—get him unaided upon your own back and carry him to the zone of safety, may be a quarter of a mile away or more. Then a Field Ambulance moves with an unavoidable mass of necessarily heavy things—tents, medical and surgical panniers, bedding, and what not : all these must be loaded and unloaded, tents pitched and struck, the water and food needed by the patients and staff fetched and carried, animals and vehicles cared for, cleansed; scarce anything we do but needs muscle as well as mind.
Our total admissions of wounded from the Rafa stunt were 309. The system we worked upon was to evacuate all the less gravely wounded cases at the earliest opportunity, while the more serious cases, such as thorax or abdominal wounds, were retained in the hospital and treated until fit to stand the journey in the train."
In regard to this Rafa engagement, the following extract from an eye-witness's article published in the Egyptian Press at the time, will be of interest :
"Special mention deserves to be made of the gallantry of the stretcher-bearers. They went out into this absolutely open country (the exposed ground in front of the enemy position, over which our troops had charged). They took no notice of the heaviest fire, but coolly picked up the wounded, and bore them away to the ambulance wagons. It is pleasant to be able to add that, in spite of the great distance at which the Force was operating (nearly thirty miles), the hospital arrangements were admirable.
Our wounded and the Turkish wounded prisoners travelled comfortably to El Arish, and 24 hours after the capture of the Rafa position, all were housed under canvas."
21st Anniversary issue
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90th Anniversary of
THIRD PHOTOGRAPH FROM CAPTAIN H.S. WHITE
Photograph H.S. White Family Collection
(Nov 17th 09) Third photograph in the series taken by Captain H.S. White, Somerset RHA circa 1917. CLICK HERE FOR THE THIRD LARGE IMAGE (NOTE this image is over half a megabyte in size, download delays with dial-up speeds). Above is a cropped section of the panoramic photo which you will be able to see in a larger scale once downloaded. (Arrow 1) This appears to be an NZ Infantryman's style hat, also used by other units in the New Zealand Army in WW1. (Arrow 2) Certainly no leather leggings here, but maybe no puttees either, as this soldier wears shorts. (Arrow 3) This man's hat is a mystery - but one might even think it might be the headwear on an Indian trooper, the man behind may well be wearing a peaked hat. (Arrow 4) This man is wearing an English Worsely pith helmet. (Arrow 5) I at first thought these lines were scratches on the film negative, but I see they are the team traces hanging down now that the team has closed up on itself - big wide flat tyres on the Red Cross wagon.
(Nov 15th) Continuing the discussion on the three photographs taken by Captain H.S. White of the Somerset RHA circa 1917. CLICK HERE FOR THE SECOND LARGE IMAGE (NOTE this image is over half a megabyte in size, download delays with dial-up speeds). Above is a cropped section of the panoramic photo which you will be able to see in a larger scale once downloaded.
The question is: Are these men the Australian Light Horse or New Zealand Mounted Rifles. Aussie or Kiwi? Fortunately we have a nice debate going on, and we would like to hear from you.
Points to consider in this section of the image are: (Arrows 1&3) It has been suggested in the first photograph that the bags slung about the horse's necks are "water buckets" - However these two arrows point to bags that are too shallow to be water buckets! - On closer inspection, both these bags indicated have holes in the front half way down. In my view this bag type is a "Muzzle" device , the holes are there to allow the horse to breathe freely once the bag is fitted over the lower jaw, but the bag itself stops a bad habit of the horses' sucking at the sand to extract the salt when they are standing unattended on the horse-lines. (Arrow 2) this trooper could well be wearing leather leggings - the area appears darker with a spot of light around the knee area looks like a highlight reflection from a smooth surface - in contrast, three of the others men's legs that are in direct sunlight reflect no highlights, which would be consistent with cloth puttees.
HISTORY LESSON INSIDE THE LENS
Photograph H.S. White Family Collection
This panoramic photograph of the NZMR on the march is one of a series of dramatic images captured by Englishman, Captain H.S. White, of the Somerset Royal Horse Artillery (RHA). The Somersets were continual companions and brothers in arms to the Anzacs during the advance from Egypt across the Sinai and into Turkish Palestine from 1916 to war's end 1918. This photograph not seen in any New Zealand resources before.
The photos have been sent in this week (Nov 12th) by David Porter who resides in England, and who is researching the history of the Somerset RHA. He has been fortunate enough to come across a number of photographic collections from families of ex-artillerymen from the war, and is interested in what our members would be able to tell by viewing these images.
Although this photograph is undated there are a number of interesting features that bring me to make some assumptions as to the time and place of this event. CLICK HERE FOR LARGE IMAGE - (NOTE this image is over half a megabyte in size, download delays with dial-up speeds)
And to start the ball rolling, I am prepared to put my neck on the block and make a few statements that may stimulateyou all to offer your own thoughts.
I believe this photo was taken by Captain White on the morning of November 1st 1917.
Yes, I know this is pushing the bounds a little to shout out an exact date right from the start - Or, my next "Guess" is that this scene is taken a few days later on the 6th November at Khuwilfeh where the Brigade had been in action after Tel el Saba and Beersheba of October 31st.
My reasons are these:
These are New Zealand Mounted Riflemen, as opposed to Australians, as the deeper shade of grey on the mens' hat puagrees is clearly visible. This denotes the dark green coloured band that sets the NZMR apart.
(Further Update: " No" says Johnathan, "These are Australians" - please read our FORUM)
The terrain is not the undulating soft sand of the Sinai Desert which the troops had left during their night march from Khalasa on the 29th of October to make the advance to take Beersheba. This firmer plain makes me think this is Turkish Palestine.
On November 1st the NZMR Brigade immediately left Beersheba after camping overnight at the base of Tel el Saba. Their orders were to seek out and come in contact with the retreating enemy's next prepared position. The Turkish Forces had retreated North. This photo was taken in the morning, as the Squadrons are still packed together and parts of the Headquarters tent camp is still being broken down (see arrow 3). (Arrow 4) This landmark has all the appearances of being Tel el Saba, it is the highest point in the region and overlooks a secondary hill that rose from the other side of the plain where the ALH made their famous charge. The base of this highpoint appears to be the "Start point" of this Squadron in the foreground as I believe also at the point of (arrow 4) is the massed line of a second NZMR Squadron. (Arrow 1) Denotes a line of horsemen also moving North, or North-East -perhaps the third Squadron of the Brigade's three Squadrons? (Arrow 2) is an interesting point. These are Camel Transports kneeling while they await the Squadrons to pass. A mounted Officer appears to be acting as points man to allow the fighting men through. In subsequent photos of this series of three images - when the last men pass(members of the the NZMR Field Ambulance) it is noted in the background that the camels have been stood up and are proceeding to cross from behind. (Arrow 5) Many of the Troopers have leather bucket-type pieces of tack hanging from their horses necks. These are too large to be rifle buckets and I am sure they are too short and stiff looking to be canvas feed bags - rather these are the robust leather nose bags that are strapped about the horses mouth to stop the animal sucking at the desert sand to get salt. Apparently quite a problem for horses on the lines at night. Here again this is a little sign that the men have only just come out of the desert - these "salt-sucker bags" were discarded once the Brigade reached the fertile lands of Palestine. (Arrow 6) Has nothing to do with our detective work, but I was interested to see this horse is one of a few "Greys" in this Squadron, also variations of hat styles - at least one peaked "Taranaki" style and one slouch hat can be seen here.
Lieutenant Colonel James McCarroll writes in his diary November 1st: "
Two of our Regiments are following up the Turk who is about six miles away. We found the outposts. But nothing doing here about. Good results at Gaza. Our casualties were fairly heavy. Captain Ashton and six men, numerous wounded." Look forward to your input.
EGYPTIAN SIGHTSEERS - A WORLD WAR APART
Photographs: Left: 3/829 Jack Peat, NZMR Field Ambulance- circa 1916 - Auckland War Memorial.
Above: Sapper Arthur Rogers, Royal Engineers- circa1941
Within the collection of photographs bequeathed to the Auckland War Memorial Museum from NZMR Field Ambulance man, Sergeant Jack Peat, is this rather intriguing shot of him posed on the back of the neck of the Sphinx. Photographed from such an unusual angle that the famous statue is unrecognisable. This shot would be impossible to repeat in this modern day where millions of tourists visit the Nile and its attractions each year. This photograph taken circa 1916.
The second photograph is from a family collection of Sapper Arthur Rodgers, of the Royal Engineers, and taken in another World War a quarter of a century later. A traditional photo repeated of what soldiers do when on leave in a foreign land - taking in the sights, and recording the adventure for the family back home.
Thank you Lareen from Adelaide, Australia, who contacted us once she read about our interest in collecting old photos of the Anzac Memorial in Port Said. She states:
This is a photo of my grandfather (who I never knew), my mother's dad - he died when she was only 13, and she never really knew him either as he was away in WW2 for most of her childhood. He is Arthur John Rogers, born 1892 in England, lived Chelmsford, Essex. He was in both WW1 and WW2.
INDIAN COMPANY - IMPERIAL CAMEL CORPS
Soldiers of an Indian Company of the Cameliers get ready to mount up. Haze blurs the horizon in the midday sun. Interesting to note the troopers wear traditional leg putties, but wear no shoes or footwear. One can only wonder what amount of heat is radiating from the desert sand up through the soles of their feet.
The Imperial Camel Corp was mainly made up from troopers from Australia, but many battalions were made up with combinations of troops from India, The British Isles and New Zealand.
The I.C.C. saw its first major action at the Battle of Magdabah, in the Sinai December 1916, and were again in action a few days later at the Turkish Palestinian police outpost at Rafa, January 1917.
The Association has two free eBooks on the Cameliers available for Download.
"With The Cameliers in Palestine" by New Zealander John Robertson and
"The Cameliers" by Australian Oliver Hogue.
In a book published in 1918, titled "With the R.A.M.C. in Egypt" (the Royal Army Medical Corps), a Medical Sergeant Major makes his observations clear about the "Ship of the Desert":-
"In addition to the large number of relapsing fever
cases treated in this widely comprehensive system of
native hospitals, there were a great many cases of
eye trouble, skin diseases, and of injuries due to
accidents and to camel bites. The camel has been
of the utmost service to us in this Desert war. Indeed
it is difficult to see how we would ever have got
our army through the Sinai Wilderness without his
aid. We owe him a heavy debt, but we have this to
lay to his charge as a usurer. He has proved himself
a very Shylock among quadrupeds, never failing
literally to take his pound of flesh whenever the chance
presented itself. These cases of camel bites are constantly
occurring among the native drivers. They
are always serious, the cruel jaws crushing through
everything, flesh and bone, resistlessly ; and the
wounds thus caused are nearly always septic, the
camel being a particularly unclean beast about the
I am always interested to see any photographs of the ANZAC MEMORIAL that was erected to honour of the men and women who served with Anzac forces in the Middle East during World War One.
Unfortunately because the monument was destroyed by Egyptian rioters in 1956 there are very few images of the monument available.
Martin was kind enough to send in a photograph taken of his grandfather, James Gregory (right), who was stationed in Egypt and the English Mandated Territory of Palestine for a number of years. In his covering email Martin gives a good indication of how life was for his grandfather in the 1930-40's in the Middle East.
My Grandfather, James Gregory, was born in 1909 in Bolton, England and served in the British Army, Loyal Regiment, 1st Battalion from 1926. In 1936 his Regiment was posted to Palestine and in 1938 he left the Army to join the Palestine Police Force, serving as a British Constable in the PPF between 11.8.1938 until 18.10.1946. After this service, as a member of the Palestine Supernumerary Police, he worked for the Iraq Petroleum Company in Haifa. During his time in Palestine he met and married my Grandmother, who also worked in the Palestine Police Force and they returned to Bolton, England at the time of the partition of Palestine in May 1948.
Unfortunately I do not know exactly when the photograph was taken or the name of the other man. My initial reaction was that it was taken between 1936 and 1938 due to the uniforms, however, I do have other photographs of him in Egypt dated 1941, which leads me to believe this photograph could have been taken at this time. Without doubt the photograph would have been taken between 1936 and 1948 when my Grandfather was living this region.