The New Zealand Cameliers of the I. C. C.

Read about Trooper John Roberstson's life with the Imperial Camel Cops (I.C.C.) during the Great War.

Serving first with the New Zealand Mounted Rifles, Trooper Robertson volunteered for the Cameliers after arriving in Egypt. It is here that troops were raised from the British Isles, India, Australia and New Zealand to form this unique fighting unit.
CLICK ON THE PDF ICON ABOVE to download this enthralling saga of the Cameliers - (the eBook size 374 kbs) - Please note: No Photographs or maps from the original publication are included in this E-BOOK as they were removed to make the text easily downloadable over the internet.


The Imperial Camel Corps
was made up of Troops from
New Zealand, Australia, India
and the United Kingdom.
Above a New Zealander on patrol.

Cameliers set out across the Sinai 1916
The Cameliers Led-out into the Sinai Desert. The New Zealand Mounted Rifles became a feeder unit to supply troops for the newly formed unit destined to become the I.C.C. [Imperial Camel Corps] in 1916. This photograph above has never been published before and had remained in a private collection until being released here in 2007. This photo from the Jack Baker Collection shows members of the 4th ANZAC Battalion moving across the Sinai. Like their Mounted Rifles predecessors the Cameliers rode into position, dismounted and then attacked the enemy as Infantry.
Leaving New Zealand shores as a Trooper with the NZMR, John Francis Turnwald, Reg No 13/1103, was originally with the 3rd Auckland Mounted Rifles.
Like a number of his comrades he later became a member of the Imperial Camel Corps.
He died of wounds in Palestine on 6 June 1917. aged 23 years.
Son of Bartly and Annie Turnwald, of Puhoi, Auckland, New Zealand.

Section B Grave 111
  • 4th (ANZAC) Battalion of the Imperial Camel Corps was created:
    • No. 15 Company, raised 24 July 1916 from New Zealand Mounted Rifles
    • No. 16 Company, raised 17 Oct. 1916 from New Zealand Mounted Rifles
    • No. 17 Company, raised from Australian mounted reinforcement drafts
    • No. 18 Company, raised from Australian mounted reinforcement drafts
The Cameliers : The NZMR needed strong support in the field. Not only did the Imperial Camel Corps Brigade go into action as fighting troops but the camel was a beast of burden carrying water, ammunition and stores to the ANZAC mounted riflemen. The camel was also one of the means used to carry the wounded from the battlefield. This camelier saddle is on display at the War Memorial Museum in Auckland.

Above: Camelier veteran "Beet" Beethoven Algar gained further recognition in a 1989 with a front page story in the "New Zealand Herald" where he was acknowledged as New Zealand's oldest surviving "All Black" at 95 years. Born 28th May 1894 - Died 28th November 1989
Left: 11/1884 Beet Algar as a young man in 1916. This image sent in 20th July 2008 - So we still have keen eyed researchers hard at work re-discovering our WWI history.

"Beet", named after the German composer Beethoven by his classical music loving mother, departed for the Great War with the 8th Reinforcements - New Zealand Mounted Rifles - Wellington Mounted Rifles. Sailing on the 13th November 1915 to the Middle East. He was to be recruited in Egypt to serve with the Imperial Camel Corps from 1916 where he rose to the rank of sergeant.
Beet saw action with the "15th" (New Zealand 15th Company, ICC) during actions across the Sinai, including Magdabah and then the three attacks on Gaza. During the third attack on Gaza that began 31st October 1917 he was twice wounded. He was evacuated by chacholet (camel stretcher) and sent to a Cairo hospital where he remained for many months before finally being sent home in 1918.
Beet had served on occasion as bodyguard and camel escort to Colonel Lawrence, the Englishman who was to become famous as 'Lawrence of Arabia", as he made visits to scattered Arab tribes looking to gain military support against the Turk.
"His job was to unite the Arabs, and he has to travel round seeking out all the Sheiks. Our job was to escort him and stand by in case anything ever happened", commented Beet in an interview with Jack Baker in 1989.
Jack Baker had a few months earlier published a number of photos of the Cameliers he had discovered in a long lost and undisturbed family cabinet draw. A printed column in the "RSA Review" (Returned Servicemen's Ass) asked members interested in the photos to contact him. Beet was one of a number of the old Cameliers who responded. Many of the men met again with Jack and the RSA's help - the subsequent newspaper article (photo above) was part of the result of that meeting.
Regaining fitness after the war Beet went on to gain the ultimate Kiwi sportsman's accolade when he was selected as an All Black in 1920. He had previously in 1913 represented Wellington at provincial level before the Great War.

A Camelier of the 4th Battalion prepares for his morning shave while his bored camel becomes resigned to the fact she has to wait motionless while her master balances his shaving mirror on her rump. The Camelier lathers up, with shaving brush in his left hand and cut-throat razor in the other. In the foreground by the camel's rear leg sits the soldier's shaving mug, at the left of photo rear, a camel saddle lays waiting to be saddled-up in the series of early morning rituals.

A further picture from the previously unseen Jack Baker collection of photographs.

15th Company Imperial Camel Corps


Right: Trooper Anderson taken circa 1915, this computer colourised image shows the camelier in the uniform of the NZMR. Troopers volunteered to make up the newly formed Camel Corp after they arrived in Egypt.

Below: One of the better restored "Anderson photographs" showing two of the Cameliers in the Sinai (probably 1917). Of special interest is the number "15" branded on the left camels neck - this signifies the animal is part of the New Zealand 15th Company I.C.C.

15th coy

CLICK on the Cameliers Badge to see the new "Slideshow" of the Jack Baker Collection of the ICC
Imperial Camel Corps slide show