photograh: Lewis Larrson - LOC American Colony Collection - 1916
Above: A Red Crescent Doctor and Orderly pose near the hospital Camp erected at Hafir Aujah in the desert south of Jerusalem 1916. This image part of the great collection of photographs taken by photographers of the "American Colony" and gifted by its Board of Directors to the Library of Congress.
The American Colony was and is
a non-denominational utopian Christian community founded by a small group of American expatriates in Ottoman Palestine in 1881. The bulk of manuscripts, photos and documents collected between 1870 to 1968.
American Colony photographer Lewis Larsson served as an official photographer of the Red Crescent and along with assistants produces the bulk of images taken in Palestine and Syria and its political aftermath.
Another member of the Colony, John D. Whiting served undercover as an Intelligence Officer with British Headquarters Advance Field Intelligence, under Lieutenant Colonel Deedes. Whiting was a fluent Arabic speaker - and continued in British Intelligence employment throughout his life.
21st Anniversary issue
penny and half-penny
50th Anniversary issue
4 penny and 5 penny
90th Anniversary of
photograph: Corporal Albert Anderson - Richon le Zion 1918 - Duotone treatment NZMRA 2011
After morning inspection, six close friends pose for the camera of Auckland Mounted Rifleman Corporal Albert Anderson. This photograph never before published, is part of a series taken by Albert of the three men and their trusty steeds, probably at Richon le Zion Camp November/December 1918.
The men are left to right: Sergeant Bill Stevens, Corporal J. Miller and Corporal J. Mitchell.
Brigade Squadron flashes displayed on the men's hat pugarees date this photo to have been taken after the attack on Beersheba October 31st 1917. Below: and excerpt from Englishman, Lieutenant Colonel Preston's book. An officer who served with the Australian Mounted Division during operations of the Desert Mounted Corps in Palestine 1917 - 18.
While this officer only fleetingly makes any comment about New Zealanders involved with the Desert Mounted Corps we may well assume that his comments about Australian horses include the mounts of the NZMR Brigade as well. (Many books written after the Great War that were published in England made little or no reference to New Zealand participation).
"The majority of the horses in the Corps were Walers, and there is no doubt that
these Australian horses make the finest cavalry in the world. For many years
past the Australians have been building up the well-bred failures out of English
Turf racing, and buying them cheap; not for racing purposes, but to breed saddle
horses for sheep stations. As a result of this policy, they have now got types
of compact, well built, saddleharness horses that no other part of the world can
Rather on the light side, according to some ideals, but hard as nails, and with
beautifully formed legs and feet, their record in this war places them far above the cavalry horses of any other nation.
The Australians themselves can never understand our partiality for the half-bred,
weight-carry-Hunter, which looks to them like a cart horse. Their contention
has always been that good blood will carry more weight than big bone, and the
experience of this war has converted the writer completely to their point of view.
It must be remembered that the Australian countrymen are far heavier men than
their English brothers, who formed just half the Corps, and it is probable they
averaged not far short of twelve stone each man. To this weight must be added
another nine and a half stone, for saddle, ammunition, sword, clothes and
accoutrements, so that each horse had a weight of over twenty-one stone, all
day every day for seventeen days, on less than half normal ration of forage, and
with only one drink every thirty-six hours!
The weight-carrying English hunter had to be brought back to fitness after these
operations, over a long period, while the little Australian horses, with no special
care other than good food and of water, were soon fit to go through another
campaign as arduous as the last one."
Page 94 THE DESERT MOUNTED CORPS - published 1921 -
Lieutnant Colonel Preston. Royal Horse Artillery.
CAMELIERS ON THE MARCH
photograph: Lieutenant-Colonel Guy Powles NZMR circa 1917 - Duotone treatment NZMRA 2011
Tens of thousands of horses were sent from Australia and New Zealand for our nations troopers to ride into battle in the Middle East during the Great War. 10,000 horses sent from New Zealand alone from a population of just over 1 million citizens was a major achievement. But as the war continued on, the losses of horses through combat, sickness and fatigue caused grave concern. It became apparent by late 1915 that even with the acceptance of the many remounts being purchased from South America there would be shortages of horses to keep the fighting "Mounted Infantry" fully mobile.
With so many local camels available a decision was made to form a fighting force mounted on the often irritable "The Ship of the Desert".
Volunteers from within the Anzacs, Indian and British mounted troops were called for, and along with new reinforcements arriving from home intakes the Imperial Camel Corps (I.C.C.) was created. The men calling themselves "Cameliers".
By late 1916 the new force was ready for action. New Zealander, John Robertson describes the first days in the Cameliers:-
This was a good try-out for the newly formed Camel Brigade (in which was included the 15th N.Z. Company), which received its title as a Brigade on December 19, as within eighty-four hours afterwards it took part in two night advances of a total distance of fifty miles, the capture of El Arish, a successful all-day battle (resulting in the capture of the whole of the Turkish force at Magdhaba) and a retirement of thirty miles to its base.
During the advance on Magdhaba the Cameliers found that the nature of the ground over which they were riding in the dark, was in marked contrast to that in the desert with which they had been so long accustomed. Here the ground was firm, with, scattered tufts of scrub growing on its dry surface, and as the column moved on steadily in the cold night, the unusual sounds were heard of the plop, plop, plop of the pads on the feet of the camels. The big brown Bikanir camels made good pace, and before daylight the bivouac fires of the enemy were seen in the distance, a sure sign that the Turks were not anticipating an attack to be made on them so soon after the British advance on El Arish.
The Turks had established six strong redoubts and numerous rifle-pits, with mountain guns to support them. The broken nature of the ground was wholly in favour of the enemy whose concealed positions were difficult to detect.
The 15th N.Z. Company of the I.C.C. had marched all night as a part of the Third Battalion and dismounted at 5 a.m. some four and a half miles from Magdhaba. The Company advanced in extended order as a dismounted attack, and formed the first wave of the battalion. The First Light Horse Brigade advanced along the dry bed of the wadi on the right of the I.C.C. while on the left of the latter were the New Zealand Mounted Rifles, and farther to their left was the Third Australian Light Horse Brigade, of which the 10th Regiment made a wide detour and attacked the position in the rear. The Turks resisted stubbornly, and by shell, machine-gun and rifle fire held off the attack all the forenoon...
...However, about this time the Camel Brigade in the centre with the Third Australian Light Horse Regiment of the First Brigade on their right, made a spirited charge, the former over a wide level stretch of ground perfectly free from cover, and the latter along the level bed of the wadi. With loud cheers the Cameliers rushed forward on the higher ground, while the Light Horsemen co-operated on the lower ground in the wadi, and although met by a strong fire they carried the position at the point of the bayonet, capturing the force of ninety-five Turks in the redoubt. This success turned the scale in favour of the British, and General Chauvel ordered the attack to be pressed forward at all points, with the result that by 4 p.m. the N.Z.M.R. and Third L.H. Brigades had captured other redoubts, and as the 10th L.H. Regiment had captured the Aulad Ali position in the rear along with three hundred prisoners, by 4.30 p.m. the whole of Magdhaba was in our hands with a loss to the Turks of 1,282 prisoners and all their arms, equipment and stores. The British loss
amounted to 22 killed and 124 wounded. The 15th Company I.C.C. suffered a loss of ten casualties, all wounded, in this, their first engagement.
IN THE WORDS OF THE NZMR REGIMENTS
Gordon Sylvester has transcribed the first of the NZMR WAR DIARIES released by The Australian War Memorial Museum - First document transcription Starting Today.
From the long-hand script written by the soldiers in the “Field” to digitally readable text is a massive task. Many of these documents are virtually unreadable, yellowed with age, mostly written in pencil, smudged and smeared from being moved about combat zones. Each line requiring the patience of a saint. We can now, thanks to ardent work by Gordon, enter computer search strings for topics and dates relative to the actual actions carried out by our men. There are no frills here - just dates, time, position, sickness and figures of death and hardship as it happened and recorded for Regimental Archives.
PLAN "B" FOR ADVANCE ON BEERSHEBA
The attack to take the Gaza-Beersheba defensive line was to be the third offensive by the British Forces in the area during 1917. It is no surprise to find this order prepared in case of a further failure (left), prepared by the General Staff at Headquarters ANZAC Division.
The preparation to finally take Gaza from the Turko-German Forces began in a series of political and military moves. With two failed attempts to take Gaza General Murray was removed from his post by the British Cabinet in London. Sent out to replace him was General Allenby, a man who had not been that successful in the European trench warfare - but at least, considered the Anzacs, a Cavalryman that would understand the very different situation in the Holy land.
Allenby looked favourably at a mounted attack coming from deep within the desert at Asluj to surprise the Turks at Beersheba, a ploy he hoped would split the enemies defensive strength between the two key positions at each end of an extended line.
Secrecy was the key - but what if the Turk knew the Anzacs were coming?
The signal of the 28th October leaves no-one in doubt that Parramatta born Brigadier General Charles Fredric Cox of the 1st ALH Brigade is to take command of an orderly defensive retreat.
WAITING IN SUPPORT
photograph tel el Saba - Lieutenant Col Powles 1917 - duotone NZMRA 2011
It is unclear whether Lieutenant Colonel Guy Powles took this photograph at the start of the attack on Beersheba on the 31st October or the following morning as the NZMR Brigade moved off to harry the Turk further north. The image shows the last of the fighting men advancing to the right, leaving a cloud of dust hanging in the air kicked up from the desert floor. It is just a few weeks before Christmas 1917, the Northern Hemisphere dropping into winter and the mornings in the desert are very cold before the sun climbs. The teams of Sand Carts wait patiently for the Brigade to pass. Unfortunately in the next four weeks the NZMR medical teams will be well used. The Brigade will advance across the whole of ancient Philistia and by the 9th December Jerusalem will fall into Allenby's hands - From the fall of Beersheba to the surrender of Jerusalem took place over a period of just over five weeks, the greatest distance advanced by any troops during the whole of World War One.
"On November 1st the Australian Division was withdrawn into reserve at Beersheba and the Anzac Mounted Division ordered to occupy the line Bir el Makruneh—Towal Abu Jerwal, to the north-east of Beersheba. This was done by nine o'clock and the New Zealand Brigade captured some prisoners and a machine gun and was relieved after dark by the 1st L.H. Brigade. For the next few days the Division carried on a mountain warfare against the Turks’ left which, with fresh reinforcements brought into the strong position at Tel Khuweilfeh and into the town of Dhaheriyeh on the Hebron road, put up a very stubborn fight. Water was the great difficulty and our troops could not have carried out these operations if it had not been for several providential thunderstorms which occurred on the two or three days previous to the advance from Asluj." From Lieu-Col Guy Powles - "The New Zealanders in Sinai and Palestine" - 1922