Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales
G. T. Birk beck diary, 30 September 1915 - 23 April 1919
MLMSS 810/Item 1
Gordon T. Birkbeck;
1st Aust. Machine Gun Squadron;
1st Light Horse Brigade;
Anzac Mounted Division
From September 30th - 1915
To…..April 14th 1919
30: Left Liverpool camp at 4 a.m., embarked at 9 a.m., steaming out to Watson’s Bay, anchoring till 5 p.m. Heads cleared at 7 p.m., heavy sea.
1: Up at 5.30, physical jerks one hour before breakfast & two hours before lunch, afternoon free. All beds full of seasick men.
3: Heavy seas running. "A" deck flooded, troops had to be sent to boat deck. Mumps cases isolated & had to boil all utensils in consequence. 2,700 troops on board.
6: Eighty mumps cases to date & only two MOs & twenty "AMC" on board. Since leaving port, no less than 27 cases of venereal disease reported. Having a busy time with patients.
9: A message received to return to Albany to land patients, but the authorities would not permit it owing to the nature of the diseases. Stayed in harbor for two hours, steaming out at 4 p.m.
10: C.M. on board, three infantry men sentenced to 21 days cells for stealing medical comforts whilst on guard duty
15: Aussie bunny for lunch. Very hot 107.3 at noon, men wearing only shorts & singlets. Hospital & deck full of sick.
17: Pte. Sellars fell down hold 50 ft., dying four hours later, buried at sea 7 p.m.
19: Mishap to steering gear, drifted for three hours till engineers righted matters.
20: Crossed the line; no sports out of respect to Pte. Sellars.
27: Funeral service conducted by troops; dixies of tainted meat buried, funeral March played on mouth organs. Steward received a hot time from mess orderlies. Dry canteen out of stock & no smokes to be had on board.
29: Paid today & C.O wanted to deduct 1/- from each man to pay for shortages, but all hands created a noise & that was the end of it.
30: Reached Suez at 7.30a.m., fine fun with Arabs hawking goods in feloukas. Remaining on board till tomorrow, to be medically examined by M.O.
31: Towed to wharf 9 a.m. sending sick men by first train. Left at noon in cattle trucks, officers in first class cars with dining saloon. Reached Helmich 9.30 p.m., Marching to Zietoun camp. 50,000 under canvas here.
1: Leave granted to Cairo, a wonderful city, but people & houses very dirty. Went to Kursaal at night, reaching camp at midnight, after a good day.
2: Attached to Hdqrs. as galloper to Capt. Edwards. Visited No. 1 Heliopolis, glorious building, marble & bronze built by some European syndicate as a casino; 2,000 rooms, costing two millions to build. Every possible comfort for patients & beautifully appointed.
3: Went to Virgins well & tree. Beautiful church in grounds, fine paintings said to be thousands of years old on walls. Natives sell pieces of carved tree for a couple of piastres & believe the whole thing is a myth.
4: Rode to Zoo gardens, Giza; fine gardens & many Aust. animals that were brought over by various units are to be seen here. Two pontoons
used by Turks on Suez canal during their attack in 1915 are to be seen here.
5: Went to museum, wonderful things on exhibition; mummies galore, including ancient Kings & Pharaohs, also some beautiful pieces of jewellery & pottery .Lunch at C ontinental, a fine hotel inhabited by officers only, other ranks not admitted unless in company of an officer (with Capt. Edwards.)
6: Witnessed the arrival of Sultan at Cairo. Bands & thousands of native troops, who presented a fine sight. Society maintain all colours of the rainbow – present to pay homage to their chief.
7: Went to the Pyramids & Citadel & saw some wonderful works of art.
8: - Left Hdqs., joining transport section of ambulance at Aerodrome camp. Went alone as Head & Victorsen developed cold feet on leaning of our departure for Gallipoli. Head volunteered for the police but was turned down, Victorsen going to hospital with rheumatics.
Met many old pals from [indecipherable] whom I had played football with. Easy time, best of food & could go where we wished from 5 p.m. till midnight every day.
9: Visited No. 2 A.G.H. Fine place & the patients looked after in fine style. Hundreds of wounded here from Gallipoli.
10: Went to the Mohammed Ali mosque, a glorious place , containing 3000 lights. Boots must be removed before entering & no photographs allowed to be taken.
11: Trips on the Blue Nile in felouka, fine time, having tea on the river.
12: Drafted for Peninsular & glad to get away at last. Sent Xmas parcels home & had a final flutter in town.
13: Left camp at 4 a.m., leaving Helmick 9 a.m., reaching Alexandria 4 p.m. & embarked on same boat as I came over on. Stayed in harbour all night.
14: Steamed out 5 a.m. in glorious weather, lot of my old pals on board.
15: Rather exciting day. All hands on upper boat deck at 2 p.m. took off our boots & and ordered to stand by for orders. Four ships’ boats sighted, containing 34 of crew of Orange Prince which had been torpedoed at noon. Three lives lost through explosion. Picked up survivors & cast their boats adrift. Wireless sent at 3 p.m. for escort.
16: Destroyer picked us up at daybreak. Anchored outside Lemnos at 10 p.m., the illuminated hospital ships presenting a fine sight. Cold & sleet falling. Our boat dragged her anchors owing to heavy sea & caused her propellor to become entangled in the harbour nets. Collided with hospital ship Gloucester Castle, carrying away her gangway & boats. Immediately after this, we ran into the Knight Templar & we received a severe shaking, carrying away our boats & causing a huge dent amidships. Divers went down to repair the screws.
17: Harbour crowded with shipping of every description, scores of submarines gliding in & out of the nets. Orders to stay on board, living on bully & biscuits & men discontented.
20: Still on board; very cold & snow fell at noon. Food very scarce, one tin of bully for two men for 48 hours.
22: Men caused a disturbance owing to scarcity of food & at 5 p.m. the authorities had heaps of provisions on board & plenty of smokes, so everything went smoothly again. Boat alive with vermin & one has to change the clothing every day, but plenty of hot water available for bathing & washing clothes.
26: Still on board & men far from satisfied at being kept here.
30: Reinforcements for L.H. regts. Were transhipped to cruiser "Mars" & taken back to Egypt to go with a regt.to Matruh on account of the Senussi trouble.
2: Orders to be ready to move at 7 a.m. tomorrow, shall be glad to get off.
3: After 18 days on board we transferred to the "Hendon", thinking that at last we were going to the Peninsular, but were disgusted when told to get off at Lemnos landing stage. Marched to Anzac camp – 4 miles- carrying all our gear, officers gear carried in wagons. Pitched our own tents & after learning that tea would not be provided, turned in at 7 p.m.
4: Food filthy in camp, having our meals in canteen. Lemnos is a fair sized island, occupants mostly Greeks & charge exhorbitant prices for food & fruit. Three of us tried to get away with men for Gallipoli, but were caught on the parade & sent back to camp.
6: Moved off at 5 a.m., reaching to L.H. camp at Sarfsi – 5 miles – before breakfast, but could not obtain food here & all hands "broke". We repeatedly asked to be sent away, but could not go without orders.
7: Visited Greek Orthodox church, fine building; many of our boys & a few sisters buried in cemetery in the grounds of the church.
9: Managed to be taken on the ration strength of 1st regt. details, so we had plenty to eat now. Play with 1st against 2nd details (rugby) winning by 9 to nil.
12: Troops arriving in thousands; rumour of evacuating Peninsular. Sports to-day, our team second in relay race & I fell when leading in 100 yards , smashing my elbow & kneecap.
13: Woke up & found I had a dose of mumps; sent to No. 3 A.G.H., Lemnos. Good treatment & best of food.
24: Discharged from hospital & as all L.H. men had left for Egypt, was attached to 1st infantry camp. Mr. Jones, M.P. for Wales lectured in [indecipherable] on the war & we had a good sing-song to finish up.
Owing to lack of accommodation, a few of us had to sleep in the open, with only two blankets & a waterproof.
25: Bitterly cold & raining heavily. The boys had not received their parcels or billies, so we had bully & rice for lunch. Had not been paid for a month & everyone else was bankrupt. Worst Xmas I have ever spent & had to turn in under wet blankets. Goodness knows when we will get away from here, as all troops from Gallipoli are going daily.
31st: Camp fire concert; Gen. Forsyth presiding & some of the nurses in the audience. Boys had a fine days football & sports, ending up with a huge log fire at night. Stayed up to welcome in the new year.
1: Busy day, preparing to move to-morrow for Egypt. Glad to get away.
2: Left Lemnos at 10 a.m., boarding "The Empress of Britain" – 4000 on board. Good quarters & food for all. Stayed in harbour all night.
3: Steamed out at 9 a.m. Word that Persic had been sunk that day.
6: Reached Alexandria 4 p.m. after a good trip. Baggage guard on wharf.
7: Left at 3 a.m. in cattle trucks with baggage; officers in first class cars & a dining car. Reached Tel el Kebir at noon. 100,000 under canvas here. This is where the battle between the British & Dervishes took place on Sept. 13; 1882. Many British men & officers are buried here in the cemetery specially erected by the British.
9: Rations very poor, dry bread, date & tea which get monotonous. Went to the old trenches used in the action of 1882 & the boys unearthed a few ancient coins & other interesting souvenirs.
20: Went to Wardan to try to get back with my unit as I am fed up with this ambulance. Made arrangements to get back within a week.
21: Fined 5/- for overstaying leave for two hours, owing to the train not connecting with Cairo line to time.
28: Left Kebir at 7 a.m., rejoining my unit at Beni Salama, where 1st Bde. is under canvas. Received 50 odd letters; first mail since leaving Sydney. Parcels had gone to Gallipoli & given to the boys, so someone benefited from them.
1: Getting rough again regarding rations, half pound of bread; 2 ozs dates & tea for 24 hours. Canteen doing good trade as we buy our own food here.
9: Rugby 2nd. regt. won by 12 –nil.
12: Orders to move at midnight. Boys visited a Tommy camp where they had a lad tied to a crucifix in the sun, for taking a tin of milk from the dumps. Guard turned out, but our boys took them in hand a chopped down the cross with an axe,
taking the posts away with them. This lad was strapped to the cross in the open & everyone – even the natives – could gaze at him. Tommy brass hats running every where, but frightened to interfere.
13: Left camp at 3 a.m. & loaded trucks with wagons & horses, pulling out at 7 a.m. Reached Minia (197 miles) at 4 p.m., camping near the town. Branch of the Nile running through the camp but teeming with bellhasia germs & unfit for human use.
14: Went to town, rather decent & visited Coptic church with two merchants, who took me to dinner & sight seeing per gharry.
17: Left Minia for Pamlit el Abid with 2nd regt. Good camp & people treat us very well.
18: Water is drawn from the "Yusef" & as the niggers bathe in it, we have to boil the water before drinking it. Dead animals also float by our camp, but it is the only water available.
22: Two bellhasia patients sent away to Minia. Doctors busy
attending the scores of natives whom come to be treated by the "white medicine men". The Omdah keeps us well supplied with poultry, eggs etc. & cannot do too much for us.
26: Great commotion in village, the Omdah arrived to get our boys in to quell the disturbance caused by the people in the market place. Our batteries were practising in Minia & thought that the Senussi had arrived. It was a hard job to pacify the natives, who cleared to their homes from the town.
29: One of our boys drowned in the "Yousef" today, being washed off the bridge whilst on patrol duty.
11: Left Pazlit 7 a.m. reaching Rhoda (23 miles) 6 p.m. People flocked from the villages & gave us a fine welcome. Over 1000 mounted men on the March was a fine sight.
12: Left Rhoda 9 a.m. , arriving at Darout (19) 6p.m. Fair town & had a lively few hours there. Fine carriages & glorious avenues of palm & wattle trees through village.
13: Left Deirout 8 a.m. reaching Manpalout (20) 5 p.m. Very dirty village & inhabitants likewise.
14: Off again at 9 a.m. reaching Assiut 5 p.m. Fine town, buildings of modern design & plenty of Europeans here. Nice public gardens & clean streets, English & Armenian colleges which we visited & received a hearty welcome.
15: Day in the town, met Abou Elkir Agaiby who entertained six of us at the Gov. medical officer’s home with lunch. Had a fine time.
16: Trek continued by mounted men, left me with baggage etc. to come on by train. 5000 Tommies left here for Sohag this morning.
17: Left at 4 a.m. by train, arriving at Sohag (70 miles) 9 p.m. camping on the station for the night.
18: Went to town, which is a filthy place & low class of people. Fearfully hot & dust blowing every where. Worst camp we have had.
24: Violent dust storms, tents blown down & dust inches thick on everything in camp. Millions of flies & insects on the ground.
3: Sgt. Weir died of smallpox. Wagon supplied to convey body to the cemetery, as a hearse could not be obtained, though gun carriages were easily procurable. Funeral a disgrace to those responsible as the grave was only three feet deep & we had to put the body aside whilst we dug the grave again. Human bones were scattered about the cemetery & the whole affair was scandalous.
10: Fire in camp of Lovat Scouts, result of a drunken spree. 50,000 rounds & five machine guns lost in the fire. Whole of the guard placed under close arrest.
15: Action at Girga between 3rd rgt. patrols & party of Bedouins. Fearful weather; 115 in shade at noon.
16: Birthday; received an injection of para typhoid as gift from quack.
25: Cricket match & concert to celebrate the landing. Good dinner & concert, which was attended by notables of the town. Ambulance defeated Hdqrs. in cricket match by 56.
2: Parcels from home (4) first I have received since leaving Sydney.
6: Duty leave to Cairo; met Roy Stratton & Lieut. Symonds in town.
10: After a good time, returned to Sohag by mail train.
14: Left with Bde. by special train at 9 p.m. with horses in trucks.
15: Reached Kantara (430 miles) 5 p.m. Good camp near Suez Canal, but very hot, 123 in the shade, so we had a few hours swimming in the canal.
18: Left Kantara 3 a.m. reaching Hill 70 at noon. This is our last line of defence & strongly fortified with wire entanglements.
26: Left at 4 a.m. & after a March of 25 miles across the sand, came to Mt. Gala ( Romani) at 4 p.m. Clean camps & palm groves for sheltering man & beast.
28: Rode to Mahomedayieh for a surf & swimming horses. About five miles either way.
29: Our first stunt east of canal. NZ mounteds & 1st Bde. left Romani at midnight; 2000 camels carrying rations, ammunition & water & about 3000 troops made up the column, which was about a mile long.
30: Reached Hod de Babbas (20 miles) at 9 a.m. & stayed here till 11 p.m.
31: After a ride of 10 miles reached Bir Salmana at 9 a.m. Action at dawn, but the main enemy force got away on camels, leaving only a few Turks & machine guns on the post. 14 enemy killed & 7 wounded were brought in & 6 Bedouin women. ‘Planes bombed retreating enemy & after setting fire to their camps, we moved off at 10 a.m., for Bir el Abd, where we gave our horses their first drink in 24 hours. Men & horses were dead beat after this long, tiresome ride.
1: After 60 hours riding, we reached camp at 2 a.m. Four hours later we had our first aerial raid, 6 bombs being dropped, killing 9 & wounding 23 of 3rd. regt., besides mutilating 40 of their horses
Wireless station was hit, killing Lt. Kerr & wounding Lt. Smith. Bostock recommended for re-erecting wireless during the raid.
9: Moved camp near water at Romani wells.
10. Left Romani 3 a.m. reaching Bir el Sigia 4 p.m. Moved off at 7 p.m. but lost our way owing to a dense fog, being ten miles out of our course.
11: Reached Bir Bayoud 9 a.m. – action two hours later, inflicting heavy casualties on enemy post & brought in 17 prisoners. We had 3 horses killed. Left at noon, as main body had again succeeded in getting away. Witnessed a duel between our plane & a taube, which caused our pilot to make off, Abdull having a superior plane & well armed with machine guns. Back to camp at midnight.
12: Three taubes bombed today, killing 4 & wounding 9 men. We have no guns to use against them, so they come & go when they wish. Our machines are like tubs compared to enemy taubes.
15: Eleven of our planes bombed El Arish, blowing up an aerodrome & inflicting heavy casualties on troops. One machine shot down & captured, another coming to grief in Red sea, killing pilot & observer.
20: Taubes over bombing, but no damage done.
28: Exciting duel which lasted 20 minutes, the taube bringing our plane down with petrol tank perforated, both men uninjured.
2: 48 hours leave to Port Said. Filthy town & people. Native quarters disgusting. Stayed at the Continental & enjoyed the change of diet.
4: Returned to Romani by light railway from Port Said along the seashore to Mahomdayich.
15: One of our boys, Pte. Tucker died today. Went to Kantara to attend funeral.
21: Left Romani 2 a.m. reaching Katia ( 6 miles) at daybreak. Our patrols in touch with the enemy, brining in 16 prisoners. Returned at 9 p.m.
23: Left Romani for Katia at 11 p.m. This stunting to & from Katia was carried out by the 1st & 2nd Bde on alternate days, so as to keep in touch & watch any enemy movements. Rumour has it that the enemy will attack very soon.
25: Taube brought down & we were in action at noon, 5 of our boys wounded & 35 Turks captured.
29: Two batteries accompanied us today & gave Abdul a lively time. 7 of our boys wounded & one killed in the action today. Five of our planes bombed enemy troops causing heavy casualties. Reached Romani again at midnight.
1: Left Romani 3 a.m. for Katia. Monitors bombarded Oghratina from Bay of Tineh. Our planes & artillery also gave Abdul a lively time, 70 surrendering to our men. Left at 10 p.m. reaching Romani at midnight.
3: Saddled up at 9 p.m., moving to El Mala, 1st Bde lining the ridges & Kathi Gannet. Few shots fired 11 p.m., between outposts.
4: Enemy attacked at 4 a.m. en masse 2nd & 3rd regts holding them at bay on a 3 mile front till 5 a.m. when 1st regt. & 2nd Bde came up in support. Abdul put up some fine charges, supported by scores of guns, but our boys hung on & the 1st M.G.S. played havoc amongst the advancing force. Taubes over & bombing & caused many casualties. Our infantry were digging in whilst we held the line, then when our guns came on the scene, we retired, gradually falling to rear of the entrenched infantry, thus causing the enemy to advance & fall into the trap already laid for them. Bringing in wounded was no easy task, as we were often between ours & the enemy’s line during the retirement. Robertson was wounded with a bullet & four other bearers hit with shrapnel, leaving only nine men to carry for the Bde. My pony hit in neck & fetlock during our gallop to El Mala at noon. Infantry easily held the Turks & at 3 p.m. a fine flanking movement was carried out by mounted men towards Polusuim & Royston’s Ride, putting the enemy to route. Yeomanry made some fine charges & the combined
captured 3000 prisoners during the charge. By 7 a.m. we had also captured a gun section, 4 guns & 5 Hun officers, ambulance & personel & 70 camel loads of ammunition. Instead of being sent after the retiring enemy, we went to Polusium at 10 p.m., drawing rations & camped for the night, thus allowing the enemy to escape after having them beaten & on the run.
5: At daybreak we scoured the field for wounded, seeing hundreds of enemy dead & bringing in two hundred enemy wounded. Not one of our wounded had been left out overnight. Our casualties in Bde. yesterday were 18 killed, 357 wounded. Picked up 3rd Bde. coming from Duedar & pushed on to Katia, going into action again at noon. Mounted men charged with fixed bayonets over half a mile of country through gun & rifle fire, which was too strong to break through. Enemy made things lively with 6" howitzers & at 7 p.m. we were forced to retire, as the 3rd Bde. failed to reach their objective on our right flank. Returned to camp & gave our horses their first drink since 6 p.m. on the 3rd. Infantry had come up & taken over from us in case of an enemy counter attack. We brought in 2000 prisoners & 400 camels. Our casualties were 27 killed, 180 wounded. Camped out for the night at Romani.
6: Turks shelled our camps from Oghratina throughout the night putting a couple through our hospital rents. A mountain battery &200 prisoners brought in today. Things very quiet today & no doubt the enemy is getting well away with his guns & supplies; whilst we are here instead of chasing them on our mounts.
7: Left Romani 3 a.m. pushing on to Oghratina getting into action once more. Taubes bombed our redoubts at Romani killing 15 Tommies. Our planes heavily bombed the retreating enemy, whilst we just annoyed them from the ridges. At 9 p.m. we were again withdrawn much to our surprise, as it gave the enemy a chance to form another line at Bin el Abd. Men & horses were played out when we reached Romani.
8: Left Romani 2 p.m., reaching Katia 5 p.m., camping here for the night.
9: Left Katia 4 a.m., pushing on to Abd, again coming in contact with the enemy. This was hot, as Abdul had put up a strong force to meet our attack. N.Z. gun section chopped an enemy charge to pieces, but we had heavy casualties & carrying wounded about ½ mile through the heavy sand. Four shells landed among our artillery, killing 4, wounding 8 men & 30 horses. Just as we had
them beaten, a general retirement was ordered at 6 p.m. We had 40 wounded to get away & only 3 wagons available, so we double banked & put men on the N.Z. spare horses. Reached clearing station at De Babbas & had to get over 100 wounded away on camel conveys & cacolets. Major Chisholm said they had decided to leave 12 men & an officer with the wounded, as they expected a heavy counter attack from the enemy. We were left without an escort but Col. Dixon stayed with us & by 9 p.m. we had every man away & leaving the tent s & gear, we reached Oghratina with the wounded at midnight. Dixon did fine work yet was only mentioned in despatches.
10: Stand to at 3 a.m., leaving Oghratina at 6, halting at Hod Khirba, where we found an enemy dump of grain, etc. Boys had a good time amongst the dates, olives & flour left by the enemy. Standing in readiness to move all day, but nothing occurred.
11: Stand to at 3 a.m. Taubes over, killing 3 & wounding 5, also brought down one of our planes at Abd, killing the pilot. Observer wounded, but after walking 6 miles for assistance died an hour later in our hospital. No action took place & camped for the night.
12: Left Khirba 3a.m. searching the field for wounded and burying the dead. Seven bodies found & buried by our padre at Abd. These bodies were frightfully mutilated and stripped of all clothing by the Bedouins. Thirteen wounded Turks brought in to our station. Hundreds of enemy graves at Abd, near Turkish hdqrs, mostly deaths from cholera. Dumps still smouldering & not a relic of the action could be found. Went Salmana, but Turks had disappeared. Back at Katia at midnight & turned in.
13: Left Katia at noon, reaching Romani at 4, after 5 days & nights without greatcoats or blankets and living on half rations of bully & biscuits & one bottle of water for 24 hours. Fourteen cases of cholera reported today through drinking water from enemy wells. Sgt. Storey D.C.M. & Pte Robertson M.M. during Romani action. Mail delivered when we reached camp, getting four from mum.
14: Cholera inoculation. Address by Gen. Chauvel
19: Swim in Med. Sea with ponies. Concert to Gen. Chauvel at night.
24: Rugby v. Cumberland battery, won by 9 to nil.
4: Inspected by Gen. Cox who has returned from England & taken over the Bde.from Bob Meredith.
10: Aust. Imp. Camel Corps arrived today, 1000 strong & presented a fine sight.
17: Left Romani at 6 p.m. reaching Abd on the 18th, pushing on to Salmana at 5 p.m., camping for the night with our Bde. 2nd & 3rd Bdes. rode on to Mazar.
19: Mazar attacked by light horse at daybreak, but our force was too weak & had to retire at noon; returning to Salmana , leaving here with wounded at 11 p.m. 17 killed & 43 wounded.
20: Reached Kilo 47 at 6 a.m., handing wounded to clearing station. These had been transported across 40 miles of desert & were under canvas in 14 hours. Left here at midnight,
21: Arrived in camp at noon & glad to have a few hours rest.
27: Presentation of decorations won on Gallipoli. Cpl. McRae received D.C..M. & received a fine ovation from the boys.
28: Left Romani at 5 a.m. reaching "Hill 70" at 3 p.m. Our Bde. to have eight days rest at Alexandria, after 5 months work in the desert.
1; Left Hill 70, 9 a.m. reaching Kantara at 2, camping within 100 yds. of canal.
5: Left by special train for Sidi [indecipherable], reaching Alex at 5 p.m. We were lined up in camp whilst a juveNile Tommy officer wear a gold bangle read out orders onwhat to do amp what not to do etc. whilst under his command. This was our first spell so it fell on deaf ears, so contrary to orders we left for town at 7 p.m., having a good dinnerat the Windsor & then a night at the Muroaal which show the boys counted out ;It was awful.
6: After a lecture by medical officers, we left for town at noon. Pretty place, but troopers treated as dirt by the people & all decent hotels out of bounds.
7: Day at Nouzah gardens finishing up at the Casino.
8: Visited the catacombs, which were very interesting. Went to pictures at night.
9: Skating at Rue Rosette, had a good time & had supper with American naval men who were in Alex.
10: Driving around town in gharry,sight seeing Went toSultans Palace but could not get inside.
11: Went to Alhambra to see an English company; had a good night.
12: Left Sid Bishr 9 a.m., reaching Kantara 5 p.m., after a good holiday.
17: English ladies visited camp, serving fruit salad to the boys. Funny to see them Marching up with dixies, etc., & we gave the ladies some rousing cheers for their generosity.
27: Rugby v. 1st regt., lost by 6 nil, this being our first defeat.
2: Left Kantara 6 a.m. halting at Duedar for the night. Moved on at 9 a.m. the next morning, arriving at Romani in pouring rain at 4 p.m., carrying one blanket only – no oil sheets. Left Romani on the 4th at noon; camping at Hod Anders for the night. This hod was named after a Hun officer, whose carcass
was buried here by the Turks, the grave being marked with a huge wooden cross. Fearful night & wet to the skin.
5: Left Anders 8 a.m., reaching Abd at noon, being inspected by General Chaytor whist on the March. Rode on to Hod Sawarka, Bir [indecipherable], where we built a magnificent "home" – Mansion of Aching Hearts. Good camp & plenty of water.
9: Taubes bombed Div. hdqrs. killing 5 Tommies, 8 nigers & 30 camels, also wounding nine.
12: Owing to our camps becoming "chatty", all men had a hot bath at Abd & clothing fumigated. Moved our homes to the hills.
24: Left Sawarka 7 a.m. reaching Bir Arnusi (25) 6 pm. This hod was occupied by Turks three days ago till driven out by N.Z. mounteds
27: Taubes bombing again, few casualties. Rumour of attack on El Arish. Red cross issue of comforts & regiments received a good supply from War Chest & Aust comforts fund.
3: Left Arnusi9 am reaching Gererat Valley at noon pitching camp here about 20 miles from El Arish.
5: Taubes bombed this morning, putting an anti gun out of action, besides killing 2 & wounding 8 of [indecipherable].
7: Patrols within 3 miles of Arish, but no water could be found. Thousands of infantry here now & the railway is going down at a rate of a mile each day. 15,000 Turks said to be Arish.
9: Taubes come & go when they wish, as we have no anti guns closer than Mazar at present. Two over whilst we were watering our horses dropping 5 bombs with causing damage.
12: Fleet of our ‘planes bomber Bir Sheba one of our machines failed to return, being brought down in enemy lines. One of the pilots (McNamara) landed and picked up the other two men & was successful in getting away, the rescued men riding on the engine covering.
16: Day patrols within 2 miles of Arish & report the enemy preparing to evacuate the base he has held for over two tears.
20: Orders to move off at 4 p.m. for Arish. We buried goods we had bought at Mazar, as we could not carry them on our ponies, being well loaded with personal gear & horse feed. Rode all night through very heavy sand.
21: Reached Wadi Arish at 4 a.m. & much to our surprise, rode into the town without a shot being fired, our planes reporting that they were at Magdhaba. Filthy mud villages, donkeys, people & fowls under the one roof. Turks had taken everything possible out of the place & women were brutally treated before they left the place. Had a swim during the afternoon in the Med. Sea, where Shepherd & Struthers of 1st regt. were killed through a mine exploding on the beach. Within 7 hours of reaching here, the boats were landing stores at an improvised pier which was erected by the Aust naval bridging team. 57 Bedouins brought in by our patrols.
22: Saddled up at 6 p.m., but kept in wadi till midnight waiting for ration convoy to arrive, not leaving until the 23rd at 1.15 a.m. doing 20 miles without a spell reaching Magdhaba at 4.30 a.m.
after a gallop of 5 miles at the end of the journey. Column consisted of N.Z. mounteds, 1st & 3rd Bdes, Imperial Camel Corps, two 18 pounder batteries & an Indian mountain battery. ‘Planes bombing enemy positions flying only a few hundred feet up in the air in spite of anti & machine gun fire. N.Z. & 3RD Bde. on left & Big. Cox led the1st in a charge across the flat, within 500 yards of the enemy, but impossible to break their strong line. Retired to the Wadi & came in dismounted with the "camelerios". N.Z. & 1st Bde brought off some fine bayonet charges & at 5 p.m. they had [indecipherable] enough. 1200 prisoners, two batteries, hospital & staff of Armenian doctors. We were out till 10p.m. collecting wounded, our casualties being 14 killed & 270 wounded.
24: Left Magdhaba 2 a.m. reaching El Arish just as two taubes were over bombing the 3rd Bde., slight casualties. Heavy rain fell & went to bed 7 p.m.
25: Xmas Day!! Awful weather & food; biscuits, bully & cheese for dinner; worse day than the last at Lemnos.
26: Address by Gen Chetwode in pouring rain, told us we were wonders & a
heap of other things. Kept us in the rain for half an hour whilst he threw boquets about.
28: Reconnaisance to Sheikh Zowaiid (16 miles) but nothing seen by our night patrols. Large Bedouin village, well laid out with fig trees & orange groves. Inhabitants seem rather hostile to our troops, but we have them well in hand. Stayed here for the night in pouring rain.
29: Left Zowaiid 8 a.m., reaching Arish at 2 p.m. after an uninteresting trek.
31: Quiet New Years Day; munga very scarce. Went to bed at 7 p.m. Cruel weather & during the storm tonight a supply ship was washed ashore & wrecked. No parcels from home to date.
1: New Years day & a good one too. After a starve of six days, received a good issue from Red Cross, so we got busy & made up for Xmas day.. Taubes paid us a visit, but only wounded one man & 4 horses with six bombs. Still raining & bitterly cold.
4: Heavy rain & sand storms: only got out of our bivies for feed & water our horses. No lights allowed, owing to expected night air raids.
6:Taubes over at 9 p.m., orders to lead our horses away from the lines. 23 bombs dropped & m.g. playing a lively tune, keeping us out in the cold for over half an hour. Archies opened out to make things worse, caps & cases falling every where & utterly impossible to see the machines. Not a soul or animal was hit, though some of the bombs went rather close to big targets.
7: First church parade at Arish, but in the midst of it we were ordered to get back to our horses & take them off the lines, outposts having reported hostile machines
making for Arish. Twelve bombs dropped, killing 27 E.L.C. niggers & wounding 7 of the Tommy artillery.
8: Left Arish at 4 p.m. with the whole of the Desert Corps minus 2nd Bde. - 6 batteries four mounted ambulances & three camel trains, each nearly a mile long, carrying rations & ammunition. Reached Zowaiid midnight, where Col. Dixon erected a clearing station. Capt. Parry being in charge of we 14 bearers to the whole Bde. Bitterly cold night; moving on to Rafa.
9: N.Z. mounted had gone on ahead to round up all Bedouins, as we did not know how they would receive us. After about 100 Bedouins had been taken to the rear, we moved on a couple of miles to await orders. One of our planes brought down by enemy fire, the pilot being found in a Bedouin humpy stripped of his clothing. After wrapping him in a blanket, he went to Zowaiid none the worst for his experience except a slight wound. Our guns opened up at 8 a.m. & were answered by Abdul’s mountain guns; then our troops galloped over flat country void of any cover & dismounted for action, their horses being brought to the rear again. Heavy fighting continued to 3 p.m., our troops
having made very little progress, owing to the nature of country & enemy machine guns. Things did not look too promising for our troops, as we had to do the job in one day, owing to water & transport difficulties. At 4.15orders came to collect all wounded & retire, as enemy reinforcements were on the way from Kahn Yunis & Shellal. The Yeomanry who had been fighting all day received the order & retired on the tick, but through a very fortunate error, the N.Z. or our General did not receive it, so kept at the enemy. Gen. Cox was not more than a mile from the firing line during the whole action & his Bde. were doing fine work under his orders. The N.Z. mounted under Gen. Chaytor brought off a fine charge & carried two redoubts, then the whole line advanced & Rafa was in our hands with all hands, including 20 Hun officers & men; 30 Turkish officers, 1500 other ranks; 4 guns; 15 machine guns; 3000 rifles, stores, ammunition & the whole of their camel & other transport. Fully 300 Turkish dead were in the trenches & redoubts & 260 wounded went through our hands. Our casualties were 93 killed, 11 died of wounds & 370 wounded. We had a busy time on the field with wounded, having to gallop within 200 yds. of the firing line with the wagons for the wounded. My mate, Robinson hit in the
abdomen whilst carrying & died two hours later. Davis hit on the back whilst dressing wounded on the field. Taubes over bombing, but did very little damage. N.Z. mounted & 8th regt. sent out to meet the enemy reinforcements & with a little help from our planes, turned them back again. The N.Z. troops turned certain defeat into a glorious victory & proved themselves to be the finest fighters on this front. 1st Bde. returned to Zowaiid at 7 p.m. whilst we were left to collect & dress the wounded who were lying everywhere, owing to the lack of accommodation & transport. Outposts out in our rear as escort convoy.
10: Left Raffa 2.30 a.m. with convoy reaching Zowaiid 7 a.m. giving our ponies their first drink since the 8th & had our first meal for 48 hours. Went to landing ground to meet plane that brought dressings, cocoa & milk from Kantara for wounded. N.Z. captured 127 Turks near Raffa when on patrol. Our planes dropped a ton of bombs on Shellal & Ber Sheba. today. Evacuated the serious wounds to day & stayed here all night.
11: Up at 5, getting remainder of wounded to Arish. Dr. Sutton giving whisky to the Huns, but none to our own wounded, this causing very caustic remarks to be uttered. Left at noon, when two
taubes flew over, dropping 5 bombs but did not hit the column. Two men died on the way & we brought them to Arish for burial. Reached "152" at 9 p.m. handing wounded over to Lowland amb. the C.O. refusing to admit the Huns, who had to go to the Egyptian native hospital. Back to camp at midnight.
13: Patrols brought in 14 Turks & two Hun N.C.O.s who were found at El Birge. Three mines exploded with machine guns on the beach this morning.
19: M.O. & 4 men drowned in the surf today, bodies washed ashore & decently buried.
24: Rugby & officers of 156 Scottish Bde., ambulance won 13-3. Fine fellows & we had an enjoyable game. During the match taubes were over & owing to shell cases falling we hadto cease playing; one Scotty having a leg broken by a nose cap.
9: Left Romani 10 a.m., reaching Kilo 143 at 6 p.m. camping for the night. Moved on next day to Mazar, then on to Tilul. Left here on the 12th reaching Abd at 3 p.m. taking over
from 22nd Yeomanry, acting as clearing station. Plenty of drill here & one is always with the horses & polishing rusty irons & bits. Capt. Parry counted out on parade the boys being fed up with the way they are going on during parades.
25: Still at Abd & every one anxious to get away from the dismal place.
16: Left Abd at 10 a.m. for Arish, halting for a night at Tilul Mazr, reaching our new camp on the beach at noon on the 19th. Camped about one hundred yards from the surf & plenty of water for men & horses.
25: Rugby 1st regt.; scoreless draw.
26: British forces under Gen. Murray attacked Gaza this morning. Murray’s hdqrs. being at Gaza, whilst he was at Arish in his special railway car. This attack was unsuccessful, the infantry being forced to retire after the action was going for 40 hours. Mounted men gained their objectives, getting in enemy’s rear & capturing the town & Turkish commander & entire staff with carriage & outriders. Two 4.7 guns captured & used against the enemy by N.Z. mounteds, who sighted
the gun down the barrel, not knowing how to fire them & shells bursting 100 yds in front of gun when it was fired. The 53rd. Welsh division failed miserably & left 400 wounded on the field. Our casualties were 600 killed & 2000 odd wounded, nearly all of them infantry. This was a fearful bungle, as the mounted men were on the beach holding the town, when they had to gallop away owing to the failure at Ali Muntar of our infantry. Everybody who took part in it say the infantry never stood a chance owing to enemy’s strong position & we attacked with a very small chance, backed up with seven batteries against about 40 used by the enemy. Murray never left Arish during the whole action, we being with him as reserve Brigade, yet were not called upon in spite of the way things went with our troops. Wounded going down all day in cattle & goods trucks, the medical arrangements were disgraceful, many wounded being out in the open on the sand for 12 hours, owing to lack of hospital accommodation.
31: Things normal again; unit sports at Marsaaid – second in 100 yds & relay race.
2: Rugby v 1st reg. being another scoreless draw, though we played an extra 10 minutes either way.
6: Left Arish 8 a.m., camping at Gowaiid for the night; leaving for Rafa at 9 a.m. next day; had lunch in the field where the action took place last Jany. Took the opportunity during the halt to visit Robinson’s grave. Many wooden crosses marked the resting places of those who fell in that action & the graves have been well looked after by the boys. Pushed on to Khan Unis – native village, the first we have seen in Palestine. Well cultivated country, almond & fig trees in abundance. Camped here on the night of the 8th, being 9 miles from Gaza. Planes over all night watching for Taubes but nothing sensational occurred.
9: Went to the village, which is fairly clean, but inhabitants very cheeky to our men. Saw ruins of chapel built by Richard Coeur de Lion in 1165; fine Gothic archway & specimens of masonry on outside walls. Taubes bombed Rafa 5 a.m., killing 7 & wounding 28. Anti guns have now been brought up & manage to annoy enemy planes.
12: Left Khan Unis at noon on outpost at Tel el Gemmi, being able to get a good view of position at Gaza.
13: Stand to at 3 a.m., leaving at dusk for Khan Unis, just settling down when enemy shelled our hospitals, dumps & railhead at Bela, killing 7 & wounding 23 troops.
14: Turks still shelling & killed many of the patients at a Tommy clearing station, besides 14 niggers & 70 camels, everything being moved to safer position.
16: Left Khan Unis 8 p.m.., camping at Tel el Fara for the night.
17: Monitors bombarded Gaza at daybreak & the action commenced on the whole front. Our Bde. reconnoitring around Shellal, when we had 5 killed & 17 wounded by bombs from Taubes. Clearing station erected at Shellal, where Yeomanry & 3rd Bde. made a demonstration, but enemy was too strong & caused our men to retire with 37 wounded. Bombed again at 4 p.m., 2 killed & 5 wounded, all of the Inverness Battery. Regts. on outpost & patrol all night.
18: Heavy fighting going on at Gaza, & & the A.M.D. sent to enemy’s left flank position, riding all night, reaching Khirbet el Erk at 4 a.m., erecting our station in the wadi. Turks gave our troops a lively time, the I.C.C. being cut to pieces when advancing in rear of an old worn out tank. The 1st Bde. being the only unit to reach their objective on the whole front, 5 killed & 23 wounded. Things were very bad with our infantry & at dusk the enemy was strongly reinforced & had
succeeded in getting a force at our rear. Our Bde. had a very hot time, the machine gunners doing fine work & saved the whole lot from being captured by the enemy. They fed their guns at ranges from 22 yds. on the enemy reinforcements Marching up to counter attack. Enemy heavily shelled our station containing wounded, as the Ayrshire guns had rushed into action under the hospital flag, causing us to make a hurried departure with the wounded. Enemy attack caused our infantry to retire at 7 p.m. all troops had been withdrawn to a line 2 miles back. Our force had very heavy casualties, over 600 passing through our station alone, 40% of I.C.C. either killed or wounded & Infantry suffered as bad as on March attack. Again Murray & his staff sent an inadequate for to capture the position. Our guns fired over 2000 gas shells, but did not launch the attack until two hours after they were fired, thus giving the enemy time to reorganise his line with fresh troops. We reached Tel el Gemmi at midnight – stand to till daylight.
20: Left Gemmi at 7 a.m. & when approaching Wadi Shiekh Paraan, five planes came over, catching us dismounted in mass formation. Gruesome sights bombs & bullets whistling through the air & we had 9 men killed, 30 wounded & 70 horses killed. Flesh & blood everywhere, presenting fearful sight. Buried those killed on the spot,
sending wounded to Bela. Doing outpost duty in the wadis, being again bombed at 4 p.m. only losing 9 horses. Stood to arms all night, patrol captured Turkish outpost.
21: Left Shellal at noon, returning to the Yeomanry’s camp at Ablassan el Bedir; all dead beat & had our first sleep in 4 nights.
22: Five bombs dropped by taube wounding 7 men & 20 camels. Left Kelir at 2 p.m. pushing on to Shellal wadi, our Bde. taking over position & digging in.
25: Moved on to Abu Suitta owing to scarcity of water for our horses, which are only watered every 24 hours. Brigade still on outpost & patrol duties.
27: Returned to Shellal , second regt. captured two officers & twenty men of Turkish cavalry, armed with American rifles & ammunition. Camping in Wadi, erecting hospital & clearing station.
3: Still in wadi Shellal; voting day for Federal elections. We stand to arms & saddle up each morning at 3 a.m., but the enemy has retired a mile or so & nothing has occurred during the past week or so. Few prisoners captured by our patrols
5: Third regt. bombed, wounding 7 men & 14 horses had to be destroyed. At 9.30 p.m. they carried out a night raid on our hospitals at Bela; dropping 20 odd bombs & using machine guns. 17 killed & 43 of the patients & staff wounded this in spite of the hospital showing red lights.
6: Twenty of our machines bombed the enemy for two hours, from 10 p.m. to midnight, this in retaliation for last night’s dastardly raid.
7: Hospitals again bombed at Bela: killing 4 & wounding seven; men had dug in for safety, causing bombs to do only slight damage. Orders to remove hospital lights & flags, as enemy signified his intention of bombing hospitals, as our guns wiped out a mosque near an ammunition dump at Gaza on 19th.
10: Taube brought down one of our planes at Shellal, pilot badly burned. Still at wadi Shellal – standing to at 3 a.m.
14: Another of our machines brought down to earth, smashing to pieces, but pilot & observer only received slight injuries.
22: Left Shellal at noon; the A.M.D. moving on to Khalassa (27 miles); pushed on to Asluz the following day, when the engineers destroyed two concrete bridges & 15 miles of enemy railway, which connects with Arish & Magdhaba. Met with slight enemy resistance, Bedouins causing a little
trouble, but these were soon quietened & we helped ourselves to their poultry & eggs. We only had one man wounded & after setting fire to enemy fodder dumps & crops , left at noon, reaching camp at Shellal on the 24th at 10 p.m. after a weary trek.
26: Gas demonstration, going through fumes & firing rifles with helmets on.
28: Left Shellal at 9 a.m. going as reserve Bde to Division at Abbassan el Kebir.
2: Transferred to gun squadron. Taubes bombed today, without doing any damage.
9: 1st Bde. & Camel Corps made a mock attack on Raffa field for benefit of French general. Galloped over the flat 2 miles before dismounting & paraded a fine sight during the March past.
17: - Left Abbassan 8 a.m. reaching Tel el Makeab-Raffa beach for a spell. Good surfing & plenty of inspections & cleaning rusty bits & irons with wet sand.
20: Witnessed a duel between our monoplane & a taube, both coming to grief with Hun pilot killed.
24: After a week’s cleaning up, inspected by Gen. Chauvel who called one of our boys out – Ross- & gave him a star! Congratulated on cleanliness of our gear, the C.O. purchasing [indecipherable] & brasso with our regimental funds, causing nasty remarks from the boys.
29: Left Makeab at noon, relieving 2nd Bde. at Kibir. Good camp but 3 miles to water.
1: Three of our planes attacked a taube, but it succeeded in getting away without being hit.
3: Left Kebirat midnight, reaching "Hill 709" (10 miles from Sheba) at 5 a.m. next day, taking up a position on outpost whilst the "heads" rectified maps & enemy’s positions. Heavily shelled all day, but only 17 casualties in Bde. We were not allowed to fire a shot though we had guns mounted & only 3000 yds. from enemy line. Enemy gave us a very lively time & we retired at 5 p.m. the amb. having to leave 3 wagons owing to horses being hit: returned to Gandi at 11 p.m. on 4th.
8: Left Gandi 5 a.m., reaching Tel el Buggar in reserve to N.Z. mounteds who were on reconnaissance duty at "709". Saw two of our machines brought down in enemy’s lines, one by rifle fire, the other by a taube. Back to Gamli at 11p.m. Received 23 letters first for 5 weeks
13: Left Gamli at 2 a.m., patrolling wadi Ghuzze, returned to camp at midnight.
18: Turks shelled our railhead at Shellal, all mounted troops ordered out to wadi Emli, but the guns had been withdrawn. Bombed in the wadi, 7 killed, 17 wounded & 60 horses destroyed. Patrols exchanged a few shots with enemy, then returned to Gamli at 7 p.m. drawing rations & fodder, moving out at midnight to Buggar on outpost. Men disgusted at being sent out where we can see the enemy yet not allowed to fire a shot. Reach Gamli at midnight on 19th.
20: Stand to arms 3 a.m.
21: Left Gamli at 10p.m. on outpost with 1st regt. Nothing occurred during the night, but at 5 a.m. the next day, we sighted enemy cavalry at 3000 yds. & were being moved to outflank them, when the 2nd regt. came across the flat galloping, which caused the enemy to retire & we went to rejoin the Bde which was on the way to Ber Sheba, our planes reporting it being evacuated by the enemy. The 2nd regt. received a hot reception & found all the Turks they wanted, being forced to retire at noon; reaching our camp at Gamli by 9 p.m. Disgusted with the whole stunt. 22nd to the 25th
standing to arms each morning at 3 a.m., moving out on the 25th at midnight, going on outpost with 1st regt. to hill 320. Patrols fired few shots, captured a Turkish officer & 7 men. Back on the 26th to Gamli.
29: Reconnaissance to El Buggar, seeing scores of enemy troops, but not allowed to fire a shot. N.Z. patrolling on our right. After receiving a good ration of shells from Abdul, returned to Gamli at 10 p.m.
2: Once again cleaning irons etc. though we are up each morning at 3 a.m. standing to arms & likely to go out at any moment.
6: Left camp at 10 p.m. reaching Khurbet el Erk at 5 a.m. next day, occupying wadi Emli till dusk. Reconnaissance stunt. Five N.Z. troops left in wadi to make a reconnaissance of enemy positions, going out on foot armed Indian knives & revolvers. Patrolled the wadi till 10 p.m., when N.Z. men returned, having succeeded in passing between enemy’s redoubts, reporting large enemy force in occupation. Their’s was a brave action bringing in valuable information to Divisional hdqrs. as to position of guns etc. Reached camp at Gamli at midnight on the 7th.
Rugby at Gamli, v. 1st regt. lost by 5 -0. Our camp is about 15 miles from enemy, different Bdges patrolling wadi Emli & enemy positions day & night; units in camp still standing to arms & saddling up ready to move each morning at 3 a.m.
12:- Stand to 3 a.m., moving off at 2 p.m. reaching Hassini at 6 p.m. moving on after tea, halting at Rhalassa on the 13th. Reconnaissance to Ber Sheba with 1st regt, had abusy time rounding up hostile Bedouins, who wounded four of our patrol. One troop galloped to an enemy post, which was too strong & were forced to retire. Kept in touch with the enemy all day & were heavily shelled – no guns with our troops. Two killed & 7 wounded. Brought in 37 prisoners & got a good haul of fowls & eggs from Bedouins camps. Returned to Gamli at noon on the 14th after a tiresome stunt; but had to move off again at 4 p.m. after drawing horse feed & rations. After 14 hours in the saddle, we halted 6 miles south of Ber Sheba on the 15th at 6 a.m. having a minor action – capturing 43 prisoners. During enemy shelling, Generals Allenby, Chetwode, Chauvel & staff rode round our line viewing enemy positions; having a squadron of 1st rgt as body guard. Retired at 2 p.m., reaching Gamli at midnight after three days & nights of solid work.
18: Since July 20th we have been saddling up & standing to arms at 3 a.m. each morning when in camp & the men seem to be worn out; the "hats" sending our Bdge to Tel el Makeab at noon today for a well earned rest.
23: After much cleaning of gear, Gen. Chaytor inspected us this morning; irons & bits polished for the occasion; been working on our gear for the last four days & scarcely have a moment to ourselves, so we are enjoying the "spell". Good camp & fearful rations, these having been reduced 5 per cent as we are not in the firing line.
25: Cholera & T.A.B. inoculations to day, one in either arm. Lost 7 men to hospital leaving us with four horses to look after.
4: Brigade boxing tournament, good nights fun; Bdr. Cox & Ryrie entering ring & challenging one another, but the boys could not induce them to don the gloves.
10: Another inspection by red tabbed artists, Gen. Chauvel inspected; being counted out by the New Zealanders, who had to polish up for the occasion & got fed up with the stunt. Chauvel is in command of the Desert mounted column.
13: Raymond of 3rd regt. killed by premature bursting of a bomb. Had only been over for weeks. Getting plenty of work & gun classes; regiments drilling daily in the sand.
17: Left Makeab 6 a.m. & glad to get away from the "rest camp". Pitched camp at kilo 9", dirty, dusty camp. Div. reserve Brigade.
19: Horses of 1st regt. stampeded owing to a taube over bombing; seven horses killed.
20: Dorset yeomanry bombed by taubes five killed, 17 wounded & 30 horses mutilated.
24: Another mock action; capturing a redoubt for benefit of a few brass hats. Had to advance about two miles on foot, with our guns & loaded gun belts.
26: Alarm sounded; Bde. called out at 10 a.m. only to find that it was another of their demonstrations for the benefit of some foreign heads. Inspected on the parade ground by Gen Cox, the vet condemning many of our horses owing to their poor state.
28: Still at "Kilo 9" & all are fed up with the place; nobody knows what is going to happen, but many rumours to the effect that we are going to make a big push on this front shortly.
1: Inspected by Gen. Allenby. All men of our unit who were not supplied with decent clothing not allowed on parade. Some of our boys have been going about with the knees out of their breeches for weeks & good boots seem to be a luxury. I only had shorts on, as it is over a month since my breeches had to be thrown away, being threadbare. The state of things regarding food & clothing is scandalous & a disgrace to the heads. We feed ourselves on our 2/- per day pay, as we get enough for only one decent meal as our 24 hrs. rations.
3: Left "Kilo 9" at 8 a.m. again camping on the beach at Raffa, to spell our horses, who are on fearfully scanty issue of feed & the recent heavy stunting has knocked many of the poor animals out.
7:Mail today, first we have had for nine weeks. Taube brought down at Kebir, both occupants being uninjured & machine captured by light horsemen intact.
10: More cleaning up; but our boys were not too particular with it this time; and we have had a good spell so far. Food is much better now after all our complaining. Decent concert by 2nd Bde. in Y.M.C.A.: rained heavily all night.
24: After a spell of 21 days on the sand, we moved off at 8 a.m., halting at Fukhari at 4 p.m. & camped for a couple of days; taking over from N.Z. mounteds.
26: Left Fukari at 4 p.m. reaching Bir Harssana at midnight & pitched camp. Rumour of attack at Ber Sheba.
28: Left Harssana 6 p.m. halting at Khalasa till the following night, when we joined the rest of our Div. at Asluj at 10 p.m., halting for the night.
30: Left Asluj at 6 p.m., thousands of troops were concentrated here, with seven 18 pndr. Batteries. Gen. Chauvel in command.
31: After a weary all night ride, we reached our position south of Ber Sheba attacking at daybreak, infantry pushing on to the main frontal attack. Our guns simply made the enemy positions look as though they were made of paper, tearing the works apart with every shell fired. N.Z. men had first success of the day; capturing enemy supplies & wagons with escort, also captured their main wells, which was their objective. Our Bde. met with stubborn enemy resistance, & to make matters worse the [indecipherable] guns opened on the 2nd regt. killing Markwell & three others;
wounding five men before they stopped firing. After solid fighting all day, the N.Z. & Aust mounted brought off a fine bayonet charge, carrying the enemy’s main redoubts . The 12th made a fine mounted charge, but the main positions had already fallen, so they swept on, capturing 20 guns & 400 prisoners. By 5 p.m. it was over, the first regiment entering the town at 5.50 p.m. How our men ever took the position is wonderful, as the Turks had very strong posts, well manned & supplied by plenty of guns. Total captives; 3000 prisoners; 49 guns; hospital & staff, also rolling stock, war materials & ammunition dumps. At dusk four taubes flew over bombing; 23 of 3rd [indecipherable] wounded [indecipherable] & killed, 9 men killed & 17 wounded of our Brigade transport column, also destroyed 70 horses. Fearful sight; men’s remains lying everywhere. Our squadron only had 2 men hit all day. Camped in wadi on outpost duty.
1: Stand to arms at2 a.m. Taubes bombed at day break, only one hit by rifle fire. 4th L.H. [indecipherable] had 9 wounded & 5 killed. Still in wadi, 1st regt. on outpost.
2: Stand to 3 a.m. Taubes bombed N.Z. ambulance causing 7 casualties. At 10 p.m. we saddled up after drawing 48 hours food for man & beast. Ber Sheba area is now clear of all enemy posts.
3: Reached [indecipherable] on the Hebron road at 4 a.m., our section going into action at 6 with "A" & "B" squadron of 1st regt. We had to advance across a flat, no cover whatever, a distance of 1500 yds. dismounted & carrying our guns & gear. Many men were lost during the advance, including Mjr. White our leader. Turks firing from three sides of us & we soon found out we were in a lively quarter. After rushing the first ridge we halted a while, then going on to another, only 300 yds. from the enemy, who forced us to retire to our first position. Got the guns into action, losing our officer, Harris, immediately after; & pegged away at the enemy throughout the day. Orders came through to carry out a bayonet charge, at 4 p.m., but we only had two m. guns & 27 rifles in the line & only one officer – Mjr. Irwin – left; three others were killed & four wounded. Our gun section had 5 wounded & the 1st rgt.16 killed & 27 wounded in two squadrons. Owing to the fatigued men the charge was cancelled & as well, for they were 20 to 1 against us. At 3 p.m. the sand carts came up under a hail of lead for the wounded & abdul gave them a lively time; killing seven horses in the wagons & 3 wounded men had to be left in the wagon till dusk, as the enemy were using m.g. fire on it: one of the occupants receiving another wound
whilst in the wagon. Men volunteered to go out & bring the wagon in, but Mjr. Irwin would not allow them, as it was sure death to anyone who approached it in daylight the enemy ignoring the red cross flag. The Turks were concentrating to counter attack at & at 7 p.m. we left our position, going back to our horses, with 17 bodies for burial, the other man being left as he was too close to the enemy, though 4 men offered to go out for the body. Had the heel of my boot shot off, one through my hat & the pony hit, whilst carrying ammunition over the flat to our guns. Ammunition carriers doing wonderful work, one man going no less than nine trips with s.a.a. crossing the flat under heavy fire 18 times. Left Rhuweilfeh at 8 p.m., reaching Ber Sheba at midnight, after the hottest crap we have ever had, the boys saying it was worse than they ever had on the Peninsular.
4: Stand to 3 a.m., water very scarce, as the enemy had destroyed many of the wells. Aust. Division had to go about ten miles either way to water their animals. The 53rd Division captured Rhuweilfeh today, the position they tried to take with less than 100 light horse.
5: Stand to 3 a.m., still in the wadi; mail delivered with our rations: none from home. Rations & fodder very scarce & we were told that to-days issue would have
last an indefinite period & to get food when & where we can, so hope to capture some enemy dumps very soon.
6: Stand to at 3 a.m. standing by ready to move at 4 p.m., when we rode to the wadi Sharieh, taking over the trenches from the Yeomanry at midnight on outpost duty.
7: At daybreak our horses were brought up to us under heavy gun fire, as the Turks were making their last stand against the 74th & 53rd Div. who were the main attacking force on our left. The infantry got Abdul on the run & we gave chase, down the wadi to cut them off. Heaps of gun ammunition & scores of guns & wagons were left by the Turks, who were now making a stand at Sharieh station, but the men soon had this in our hands, suffering heavily from enemy shelling. After leaving the wadi, we had a galop of 8 miles through Sharieh, causing a break in the enemy lines. We captured a dump with 75,000 shells & 3 billion round of S.A.A. At 4 p.m. we mounted again, charging an enemy redoubt after a 3 mile gallop, but they succeeded in getting away before we could reach it & their guns gave us a very sultry time, and impossible for us to to pursue the retreating force till the guns had been captured by the 2nd Bde. We were on outpost, still in
touch with the enemy, waiting for the infantry to come up & straighten our line again. At midnight we returned to Sharieh station & found some fodder for horses, their first feed for 30 hrs. All we got here was raisins from an enemy bakery, all bread & other eatables had been taken before our arrival. Saddled up all night standing by.
8: Moved off at 4 a.m. with 1st regt. on reconnaissance duty to Khirbet Barata, where we found water for our horses, their first drink since noon on the 6th. We had to water whilst under fire; having two men hit & four horses wounded. Had slight action, without casualties, till our own planes bombed the 3rd regt., wounding eight. At 4 p.m. we moved to [indecipherable] ; where the yeomanry had made a fine charge, 600 prisoners, 5 howitzers & their water works falling into their hands. We reached there at dusk & had one killed & 2 wounded by a sniper who was hiding in the trees. Our boys wanted to bayonet him, but Major Hudson would not allow it. Stayed for the night. Got three biscuits & a tin of bully here, the first issue since the 5th & ate it all in one meal.
9: After standing to all night, we moved off at 6 a.m. reaching Medjel at noon, where we found 8 officers & 42 men in the village. Indian cavalry charged at no. 2 section, but no damage done thought they were Turks outpost at Edzud (Butani) all night
10: Moved off again at daybreak, but were greeted by a heavy shelling from the enemy at Burka, so were forced to gallop for cover. At 10 a.m. the 1st Bde. entered Ezdood a native mud village, which is well supplied with clear spring water. The natives give grain to the wellkeeper in exchange for water, which of course was free to our men & horses. 2nd & 3rd regts on patrol duty & keeping in touch with the enemy at Burka. The 52nd Div. (Scotties) Marched in at 5 p.m., after 3 days & nights of continuous Marching, fighting two minor actions en route, on half issue rations. Left at 6 p.m., going two miles up the wadi on outpost. At 9 p.m. the 52nd raided an enemy post, killing all hands, but had 5 killed & 17 wounded in the stunt.
11: After an uneventful night, we received orders to remain on the post until noon, when we returned to Ezdud & drew our first ration issue since the 8th & we soon made the scanty supply look sick; this being our first meal since tea on 8th. No [indecipherable] to be had & we have not had any since the 5th. At 3 p.m. we moved off to Tel el Murra (6 miles) on reconnaissance, where we found a fresh water stream 12 ft deep & about 40 ft wide, running into the Med. Sea from the hills. At 7 p.m.
We were back in Ezdud, but had to return to Murra with 1st regt on out post on the watch for enemy cavalry on the coast. Rained heavily all night.
12: Nothing occurred during the night & after catching & killing three stray sheep, we left Murra at 9 a.m., going into action two hrs. later on the left of the Scotties at El Burka. Infantry advanced across the flat in six waves under heavy shell fire, many falling killed or wounded during the advance. Finest sight I have seen on this front. After heavy fighting, the position was won at dusk, the infantry holding the line & relieving us. Reached Ezdud at 9 p.m., issued with 2 pkts of [indecipherable] which were a godsend. Left again at 10 p.m. camping on the beach for the night, having a good sleep.
13: Up at 5, had a good swim & swam our horses, then moving out at noon to same position at Burka (12 miles). Pushed on to Tebna moving on to the coastal sector. Stayed at Tebna for the night.
14: Stand to 3 a.m., moved off at 9, reaching [indecipherable] at noon; enemy retreating & our guns put in some fine shooting on their force. People gave us a royal welcome, many speaking perfect English. Inhabitants mostly Jews & a treat to see people dressed in European fashion. The
orange groves were thrown open to the units in reserve & we managed to get a good supply before moving on again. Brown bread & grape jam in abundance, so we had a good feed during the halt. Whilst mounting our guns in the orchard the enemy deliberately shelled the town, wounding 3 people. We had one post at the wine cellars & some of the boys made hay whilst they had the chance. N.Z. mounted on our left had a hot scrap at Ayunkara leaving over 300 Turks on thefield, our casualities27killed & 140 wounded. During the night the enemy succeeded in getting away in spite of our outposts & patrols. On outpost in the orchard all night.
15: Moved on at daybreak, reaching Ludd (via Ramle) at 5 p.m. Road littered with transport & shells, left by the enemy during their hurried retreat. "B" sqdn. 1st regt. & our two sections charged a party on the flat, capturing 350 all ranks including 40 huns & 7 machine guns. We had 8 eight wounded in this charge. Second regt. found remains of 5 planes & tons of bombs at Ramla. Camped at Ludd for the night, on outpost.
16: Left Ludd at 9 a.m., halting at [indecipherable] at noon, linking up with N.Z. mounteds, who entered Jaffa
without opposition this morning. A native was shot for cutting our phone wires at this post. No trace of the enemy today & he must be on the run. Camped here during the night doing outpost. We stayed at Sapirize till 4 a.m. on the 18th when we took over a post from the 4th regt. 5 miles ahead. At 3 p.m. we were ordered to Tagur (5 miles from Jaffa) doing outpost in pouring rain.
19: Moved on to Mellebus (9 miles) with 3rd regt. on patrol & outpost, keeping in touch with the retreating enemy. Rained all day & night – no bivvy sheets or waterproofs carried on this stunt.
20: Enemy outposts sighted 3 miles distant. People came in from for our protection, as officers (Turks) had been in demanding food & wine & creating a disturbance in the peoples houses. Our patrols went out, but Abdul gave them a hot reception & had to retire. We had to keep in touch till the infantry came up & remained here until relieved by 1st regt., our unit going to [indecipherable] for our rations & fodder. Received 17 letters. Still pouring & mud up to our horses knees, black soil & sticks like glue.
21: Stand to 3 a.m. I.C.C. taking over our sector, the Bde. returning to Ezdud at
noon for reorganisation purposes. Very short of men, as we have been on the move since 24th of last month & many have been wounded & evacuated sick. Got our bivvy sheets today & erected a "home". Rain has now ceased.
23: Four parcels today & the contents were repulsed with heavy losses by our mess. N.Z. mounted forced to retire after a hot scrap against a large enemy force at Wilhelmslia ( a Hun colony), infantry also suffered heavy casualties in this scrap.
27: Taubes dropped bombs on Aust. Div. at Ramle, causing heavy casualties amongst men & horses. Left Ezdud 8a.m. reaching Ayumkara (15 miles) at 2 p.m. Fine Jewish colony, but bread & jam very dear here, 1/- per small loaf. Town immediately placed out of bounds to men, though officers going in & out at their leisure. Taubes over using their machine guns at night, without doing any material damage.
Heavy bombardment all this day on this flank, standing to arms each morning at 3 a.m.. Taubes visit our camps every night machine gunning the roads and transport of our column. In reserve to N.Z. mounted in trenches at Aalebbus.
3: Stand to at 3 a.m., N.Z. mounted had a hot fight near Jaffa, having to retire owing to the infantry not being strong enough to gain the objective. Enemy counter attacked, the .N.Z. men serving machine guns at a range of 30 yds, and having to swim the river to escape, only two being hit, but they managed to get all guns away in time.
5: Left Ayumkara at midnight, reaching Jaffa at 2 a,m. in support of Auckland regt. Though town was out of bounds we managed to attend a concert given by a Romanian violinist on the 6th. Town is rather nice, well laid out & fine buildings. Camped in an orange grove, but it has been raining since last night, making things unpleasant.
7: Stand to 3 a.m. Left Jaffa at dusk, relieved by 54th Div., rode to Ayumkara in pouring rain, clothes & maps being soaked. Reached camp at 10 p.m., place flooded out & mud inches deep. Moved on to the sand & camped.
8: Stand to at 3 a.m., exercising horses at 5 still raining & country in a fearful condition, transport cannot cross the flats owing to mud. Canteen goods & wine on hand today.
9: Stand to 4 a.m. rain has fallen incessantly since the 5th. Jerusalem fell today with 3000 prisoners & 60 guns.
10: Fine day at last; able to dry our clothes & maps. Here for a spell.
11. Third Bde. had 57 horses & 3 men killed by bombs at Ludd today. Taube brought down by our ‘planes at Ramle.
14: Address by Gen. Chauvel who congratulated us on recent work.
15: Worked on conscription referendum.
17: Left Ayumkarra at 4 p.m. relieving the 52nd Div. in the trenches at Melebbus. Trenches & dugouts flooded, Scotties had one blanket for two men; no greatcoats or ground sheets & begging for fags. Our horses taken back to Ayumkarra camps. Four hour shifts on the gun, two on at a time, the enemy 2500 yds. distant entrenched. Rain fell at 10 p.m. continued all night.
18: Stand to 4 a.m., dugouts & trenches flooded, using duckboards in the line. Enemy keeps us under cover with continuous shelling.
19: Stand to 3 a.m. still raining & cannot get any sleep at night owing to wet [indecipherable] & dugouts flooded. Mail today.
20.Artillery bombarded enemy positions all night, causing a fearful din. 17 batteries of various calibre rear of our position.
21: 52nd Div. attacked on our left, supported by guns of the navy, gaining all objectives with slight casualties; capturing 400 prisoners & 9 machine guns. Our guns advanced & bombarded the new line at Bald Hill occupied by the enemy across the wadi. Sun out again today.
22: At midnight a terrific bombardment opened up on Bald Hill, ceasing 10 mins later, when 1st Bde. attacked & captured the position in four hours. 300 ded & wnd Turks were found at daybreak & they put up a strong fight whilst it lasted. We had 7 killed & 53 wounded. The Scotties took up the attack on our left & by 7 p.m. had advanced 6 miles on the 23rd. The enemy were on the run & we would have made a big haul, but our horses could not be sent up in time, thus letting a large force to slip through our fingers. Raining heavily. Left Melebuss at 2 p.m., reaching Ayumkarra at 5 p.m. wet through.
24: Pitched our bivvy, which soon came to grief owing to a strong gale blowing. All our gear drenched. Got it up again, just as our parcels came to camp & had a good feed in bed, retiring at 6 p.m.
25: Xmas Day!! Rain pouring through the bivvies, but we had heaps of good things, thanks to the parcels & feel as happy as schoolkids. Had tongues, plum pudding, cakes & sweets for lunch, finishing off with a cigar. Enjoyed it thoroughly despite being wet through & not a dry blanket in the camp. Went to bed at 7 p.m., getting up to do my shift on horse piquet from 10 to 12.30 p.m. Boys had a good issue of wine & had a fine time, being wet inside & outside.
26: Left Ayumkarra in pouring rain at 9 a.m. riding through a sea of mud to Ezdud, where we camped on the sand. The whole Division is here, as it was impossible to convey rations to our previous camp owing to the state of the country. Have a good camp, plenty of water & canteens in the vicinity.
31: Rain has now ceased & weather is glorious. Having a good spell, though we get a lot of fatigue work to-day. This close another year & hope it is my last Xmas on active service.
January – 1918
1: Rained heavily all day, only coming out of our bivvies to feed & water our horses.
4: Section went to Paylon with the 2nd regt. taking over the line from the 4th Bde. I left for Zietoun gun school at 4 p.m. from Ezdud.
5: Reached Cairo at 6 p.m. stayed at National hotel, Kursaal at night "Girl in the Taxi" – poor show.
6: Left National as it was placed out of bounds to N.C.O.s & men at 9a.m. Went to school camp to report at 2 p.m.
7: Classes commenced at 9 a.m., after lectures on saluting etc., camp in charge of Imperial officers & failure to salute then means being sent back to the unit. Leave granted 3 days per week; 4 .p.m. to midnight, but we go out every night without a pass.
9: Madame Bey’s to dinner, had an enjoyable evening.
12: Heliopolis races, winding up at the Kursall, seeing the Million Dollar Girl, which some people would have handed the bird.
13: Zoological gardens in afternoon, then dinner at Zietoun.
16: Boys had a dinner at St. James; Kirsall, ‘Girl in the Train’ fair show.
18: Zietoun – musical evening, had a fine time.
19: Gezirich races – Picadilly vaudeville at night, fair show.
20: Trip to Barrage, Zietoun at night.
22: First exam this morning. Sent parcels & shell casings away.
23: Mena Pyramids - Zietoun for diner.
25: End of school, received a first-class pass, average - 89.
26: Left Zietoun camp at 9 a.m. on five day’s school leave. Stayed at Rossmore House. Heliopolis races.
27: Motor to Helouan in afternoon. Zietoun for diner.
28: Trips up the Nile on a felouka, tea on the river & Kursaal at 9 p.m.
29: Presentation of colours to Sultan’s cavalry in Abdin Square.- Zietoun.
30: Spent afternoon with friends at Heliopolis – Diner at Zietoun. Had a fine time, my last night in town.
31: After a fine holiday, left Cairo at 11 a.m., transferring to trucks east of Canal at Kantara 6 p.m., spent a miserable night travelling – Bed very hard after Cairo hotels.
1: Reached Richon 5 p.m., Brigade camping area, having returned from the line yesterday, after a month’s hard graft.
5: Evening at the Mayor’s home – Messr. Bendsiff – had a fine evening.
9: Birthday party at Richon, celebrating S.M. Tancred"s (1st rgt.) 27 birthday – also one of the Mayor’s daughters natal day. Had good food dance & music, returning after midnight.
12: Measles in unit, one of our latest men taken ill, camp moved from Brigade area & everyone quarantined on the sand. During the afternoon one of our boys went for water to the canteen & was fined £2 by C.O., but our officers left the quarantine camp riding the N.Z. sports & nothing was said regarding their actions – Boys fed up with rank treatment.
16: Though we were supposed to be isolated for 21 days, we were ordered to saddle up & move out with Brigade on a stunt. Left at 10 a.m. camping at Junction station (15 miles) for the night.
17: Left Junction at 9 a.m. reaching Zacharich (where David is said to have slain Goliath) at 5 p.m., & camped for the night.
18. Left Zacarich at 6 a.m. & after 10 hrs. riding through mountainous country, camped at El Khuddu , near Solomon’s Pools, all containing tons of water. The pools supply water to Jerusalem, largest being 200 yds. long 60 yds. wide & 35 ft. deep.
19: Left Khuddr at 9, riding through Bethlehem, which is a very pretty place, thickly populated. Pushed on through the Judean hills, where our artillery had to be drawn by men of the regt. owing to rough country. Led our horses through these hills, the goat tracks only wide enough for one at a time in single file. Reached El Munta at 10 p.m. 3 miles from Dead sea & camped for the night.
20: Stand to at 3 a.m. moving off at 9, leading our horses down the treacherous tracks, after 4 hours walking, we reached flat country at the foothills & patrolled till 9 p.m. & stood by in readiness all night.
21: Pushed on at 4 a.m., but our patrols entered Jericho – a dirty mud village – at daybreak unopposed, except for a few shells from east of the Jordan, where the enemy had taken up his position after evacuating Jericho, which they did last night, before we could cut them off. Five Taubes over bombing but no damage done. Disappointed in the town, people mostly Arabs & Bedouins. 2nd. regt. on outpost, our section being with first in reserve. Saddled up & standing by at Mount of Temptation.
22: Nothing startling occurred & the enemy have left all positions round Jericho. Visited Quarantain monastery, which is built 2000feet above the flat, on face of the rocks. They showed us the stove was Sahan handed Christ to make bread up & portion of the cross which He was crucified upon; also the stone He sat upon during His fast. The Greek monks did well, as our boys paid a shilling or two to visit the chapel etc. Moved off at 6 p.m. after handing the town over to the 60th Div. Rode along the Jerusalem road, all bridges & culverts had been blown up during the Turk’s retreat. Halted at Tel el Dumm at 11 p.m., had a feed & moved off at midnight in pouring rain – off & on during the past five days. Rode through
the Holy City at 3 a.m. on the following morning – the place presented a glorious sight in the bright moonlight. After a weary ride during the night of 23 miles, we reached Khuddr at 6 a.m., place inches deep with mud & water & still pouring. Camped here till the 25th, when we moved on to Zacharich reaching here at 6 & camped for the night.
26: Left Zacharich 7 a.m. arriving at Bichon in pouring rain at 5 p.m., after 10 days weary stunting..
3: Fine weather again; rugby v. 1st regt., our squadron winning 5 –nil. Elected captain.
4: Defeated 1st regt. second team 3-nil.
5: Left Richon 9 a.m, camping at Ras Ramle for the night, moving on next day at 8 a.m., for Reyrut el Enab & staying till 9 a.m. on the 7th, when we moved off to Ramallah camping here from 4 p.m. till noon on the 8th when the Bde. pushed on to Rommon, reaching here at 9 p.m. after riding 70 odd miles.
9: Moved off from Rommon at 3 a.m., moving to our position as cavalry to 53rd Division . Whilst awaiting orders,
witnessed a fine bayonet charge by the Choshires, who launched an attack on Pear Hill, gaining all their objectives. At 2 p.m. we took over from our infantry post, remaining here during the night.
10: Stand to 3 a.m., moving into the wadi at noon. Our infantry still on the enemy’s heels & causing them to retire across the wadi Auju. Scores of wounded Tommies coming through our lines, only serious cases on stretchers, any who could possibly walk, had a three mile journey ahead, owing to the nature of the country, impossible to get waggons up to the line. 470 prisoners taken to-day by infantry, including 54 Huns. Outpost at night, Mjr. Weir just saving one of our mountain howitzer batteries from falling into enemy hands. They had lost their way when coming up to support & our outpost rescued them after seven men & a few mules had been hit by enemy gunfire. We stayed on Pear Hill doing duty day & night, - holding the post with 20 men of the regt. & 4 of our gunners with one gun – till noon on the 16th – when the Yeomanry relieved us. Men were glad to get away, as we could not erect bivys, as we were only 2,500 yards from the enemy, & no cover except a small cave. During the past four days the rain has hardly ceased & our gear is soaking wet. We left at 2 p.m., reaching Beitin at 9 p.m. on 16th. This place was under water & we could not lay down, the men sitting on
boulders, having a wink. This was the worst stunt we have yet had and the natives of the E.L.C. & C.T.C. were dying in scores between here & Jerusalem owing to the cold & wet. Camels & horses were lying dead on the line of March, the natives cutting up the camels for their flesh.
17: After spending an awful night, we left Beitin at 9 a.m., losing no less than four of our twenty horses en route, owing to the cold. Men were leading horses which had gone lame & I had to walk & lead two horses – owing to them knocking up – a distance of 9 miles to Bethlehem, reaching here at 6 p.m. Rain ceased during the night, so we lit a fire & sat around drying our clothes & nap
18: Word came through of a stunt to Jericho, but the Jordan banks are under water & impossible to cross the river; so it was cancelled.
20: Left Bethlehem at 6 p.m. in fine weather, carrying 48 hours rations for men & horses & a days food on camels. Reached Tel-at-ed Dumm at 2 a.m. next morning, staying here till 6 p.m., when we moved on to the wadi Kelt, camping here till 4 a.m. on the 23rd.
Stand to arms at 4 a.m., halting west of the Jordan till 10 p.m. when we went over the river by the Anzac bridge, riding till 4 a.m. next morning, halting at Makhadet el Hajla, which had just been cleared of enemy troops. At 9 a.m. the infantry advanced in the centre, with our Bde. on their left 270 prisoners & 4 guns captured at day-break, also 47 Huns & Austrians. At 5 p.m. we moved on about 4 miles, on out-post duty all night.
25: Took up position on Howie Ridge, whilst 2nd & 3rd regts. moved on to Es Salt, supporting 60th Division of infantry. Held our line on the left flank, about 1,200 yards from the enemy, getting plenty of sniping. Stayed here during the night, in touch with the enemy & our listening post coming in contact with Turkish patrol, bombs used, but no casualties on our side.
26: 60th Div. & mounted men occupied Es Salt & N.Z. Mounted; 2nd Bde. & I.C.C. captured Amman outskirts, blowing up portion of Hedjaz railway. Heavy casualties at Amman, many wounded being left owing to heavy enemy counter attack. Still on Howie Ridge & had some excitement with enemy patrols who got within 100 yds. of our post, but beat them off with machinegun fire & bombs.
27: Relieved by 2nd regt. at 9 a.m. Except for heavy enemy shelling things were quiet in the line. Westminster Dragoons attacked on western side of Jordan but were repulsed by heavy shellfire. Camped for the day & night amongst bushes on the river bank, being screened from enemy aircraft. 2nd regt. captured a post & 30 men tonight in the line.
28: Relieved 2nd regt. at 6 a.m. Turks opened up a severe bombardment of our lines & at noon was moving up to launch an attack, guns could be seen moving into position & troops concentrating on either side of the Jordan. Only 70 men & 4 guns holding our line of over a mile & warned to keep a good lookout to-night. Infantry east of the river repulsed a heavy enemy attack at dusk. We had 3 killed & 5 wounded during the day.
29: Relieved at daybreak moving back for the day & then taking over a post at 7 p.m. 16 planes bombed the Tommies, killing 14 & wounding 27. Rained all night during outpost.
30: Left our position at 6 a.m. returning to hdqrs, going out again at 5 p.m.
to Howie ridge & taking over front line troops from Amman & Es Sal forced to retreat owing to superior enemy forces being encountered & were trying to cut off our only way out to the valley. At midnight we repulsed a reconnaissance party, then things settled down to normal once again.
31: Enemy made another reconnaissance at 4 a.m. getting to within 200 yds. of the post, but was given a warm reception & repulsed. Relieved at 5 p.m. & had a swim in the Jordan being 2 miles from the line. Stayed with hdqrs. for the night.
1: Back in the line at 6 p.m. Had two encounters with enemy bombing parties at 10 p.m. & midnight but knocked them back on each occasion. All our machine guns opened out on the second patrol & the enemy made a demonstration lasting for a couple of hours, then all was quiet once again. We expect them to attack, yet by appearances the enemy awaiting our arrival with the bayonet.
2: At daybreak the enemy sent across a few salvoes, causing us to dismount our gun as it could be seen by them. Only two hit during the shelling.. The enemy seemed to be sneaking in our left, as the rifles were shooting right in from
the river, causing some anxiety amongst our leaders, only 42 men in the line. Our troops coming back from Es Salt in great haste, so at 2 p.m. we got orders to evacuate & return to hdqrs. Just as we left, the enemy gave us a sultry time with gunfire & swarmed our posts five minutes after we left, hundreds of cavalry supporting them. Fought a rearguard for 3 hours, then crossing the Jordan at 7 p.m., camping for the night on the Jordan plain. 5th regt. holding the line, allowing the infantry to return from Es Salt.
3: Stand to 3 a.m. ten planes over causing heavy casualties amongst native transport columns. Moved off at noon, taking over trenches from 60th Div. at El Ghoraniyeh east of Jordan bridgehead. On duty day & night; horses just in rear of our position & have them to look after also, watering in Wadi Nimrin.
4: Stand to 3 a.m., had a swim in the Jordan when off post. Have not seen soap since leaving Bethlehem. Our clothing in fearful condition many men without shirts & britches in ribbons, yet we are forbidden to wear shorts. Nothing startling to report; enemy entrenched 2 miles distant & patrols always in touch.
6: Mail today, soap & weed in parcels which were a godsend. Humorous wireless message received from enemy, saying British being deafeated on all fronts.
7: Heads of Division inspected our position, men with ragged clothing being sent to the Jordan river banks with the horses, so that they would not be seen by the General. Bread issue, first since March 8th;, four loaves to 12 men.
10: Enemy reported to be advancing near Dead Sea on our right. Two regts. went out on reconnaissance, which caused Abdul to retire. Our patrol captured an Austrian artillery officer, who had plans of our trenches & gun position; and the escort of thirty men. Enemy expected to attack, according to information given by this officer. Shelled heavily by the enemy all day & night.
11: Enemy launched an attack at 4 a.m. on our left, 3,000 strong, and though they made three fine charges, reaching our wire entanglements, our boys beat them off & caused them to beat a hasty retreat before noon, leaving over 200 dead on the field and 300 odd wounded. Our casualties under 100, Lt. Kemp & Trpr. Kidd killed & 5 wounded
in our gun squadron. 400 prisoners were taken by us during the day. Mjr. Chisholm of Bde wounded when visiting the line. Our heavy guns gave the enemy a severe hiding during his retirement. Enemy also attacked the I.C.C. west of the Jordan, suffering heavy casualties, not gaining a solitary objective on the whole front.
12: All is peaceful again, except for a few enemy shells, one accounting for our bivvy, but nobody hit. Buried enemy dead, bringing in their wounded & 47 more prisoners.
15: Parcels from Ruby today, raining heavily; swimming in the Jordan.
16: Birthday; still raining heavily.
18: Battalion of Indians came up to reinforce our position, doing duty with our boys, who take their cavalry out on each patrol. Rain ceased during the night.
19: Left the trenches at 2 a.m., carrying out a reconnaissance stunt to Shunet Nimrin., under heavy shell fire. Did not fire a shot, yet we had 2 killed 14 wounded & 30 horses hit during the day. Our men rode within range of enemy rifle fire, yet ordered to retire
when the enemy opened fire. Cpl. Metcalfe my pal, being killed when on screen duty. We made a demonstration, attempting to draw enemy reinforcements east of Jordan whist our infantry attacked Nalulus, this attack being a failure. Left Ninnin at 9 p.m., reaching our position occupied by Indians at midnight; doing post with them day & night.
20: Nothing doing today; except our patrols capturing 14 Turkish cavalry.
21: Amount of sickness is alarming, caused through wadi water. Horses & men drink from this stream, which passes through enemy lines from Es Salt, and Indians & horses are being washed in it further up from our position. Canvas tanks erected & water chlorinated for drinking purposes today, the heads having awakened to the seriousness of affairs. Though the weather is frightfully hot, we are still forbidden to wear shorts & riding breeches must always be worn when riding or otherwise.
22: "B" troops 1st rgt, C sqd. left with 4 day’s rations, making an attempt to link up with Sherif of Mecca’s men.
26: "B" troops surrounded by enemy in hills of Gilead, on their way back from the sherif’s army, being betrayed by
Bedouins who at first acted in a friendly manner to our men. Message was first received by Mount of Olives sig. station, announcing the trouble. 1st & 2nd regt. went out at the gallop from the trenches to their assistance, but Lts. MacDonald & Cundy managed to get their men away, having 4 men & 8 horses hit.
28: After being in the trenches for 25 days & having a scrap & reconnaissance in between & standing to arms day & night, we were relieved from Ghoraniyeh by infantry at 9 p.m., camping near the river with our horses for the night.
29: Moved off at 3 a.m., camping at Jericho till 10 p.m., when we again crossed the Jordan & moved up to our position during the night. At daybreak on the 30th, "B" squadron & our gun section attacked Howie bridge (Uhumershurt), advancing about three miles, meeting with slight opposition. Made a new line & stayed on outpost; party out setting fire to enemy crops. 60th Div. at Shunet Nimrin got many prisoners this morning . 4th Bde. holding position near enemy bridgehead; remainder of our Div. & 3ed Bde captured Es Salt with 700 prisoners. New Zealanders supporting. Held Red hill all night, but had to move our horses owing to heavy enemy shelling, also shelled our line all night.
1: After a strenuous night, sniping at enemy troops who had moved within 400 yds. of post before daylight during heavy enemy shelling – we were without artillery support – we managed to hold our post until the Turks attacked the 4th Bde. en masse. The 4th had all their transport in a wadi & a small post in the foothills – with their guns – and nothing across the flat where the enemy made his attack. The Turks had captured all their transport & two days rations; including ours; before they knew what was the disturbance. The H.A.C. guns fought a wonderful action, their shells bursting at 300 yds., making the enemy retire to the wadi. Instead of making another line during the lull in the firing, the 4th got the order ‘every man for himself’, leaving the guns without an escort or horses & became completely demoralised, men galloping back to Ghoraniyeh bridge in every direction, not making any attempt to stop the advancing enemy . The sand carts of the 4th amb & their drivers were left in the wadi & the 4th made no attempt to get them away. During this action our post was heavily attacked & Major Ryrie would not give up the fight till we had the enemy on three sides of our position & they were at
least twenty to one. We were holding the flank for the 4th Bde. & were only 37 strong in the line & 4 m. guns. The 4th absolutely showed the white feather, losing 9 guns & making no attempt to go to their batteries relief, the result being 32 of 4th Bde. & gun crew captured. This retirement caused an awful mess as the Turks held the main wadi to Es Salt, thus causing much anxiety to our men operating in the hills. We had to fight a rearguard for a squadron of the 11th, then returned 2 miles to another post, holding this till we were relieved by 6th mtd. Bde. then going into the hills with the N.Z. troops, as we had to hold a line so that our men from Es Salt would not be cut off. Held our post all night, the enemy being only a mile from our only road of escape from Es Salt. Gen. Allenby & staff came out this afternoon directing operations for the retirement. Enemy attacked 4th post & again they retired, having to rely on the guns to knock the Turks off during the night. Rations are scarce & have not had any rest for two days & nights of constant fighting.
2: Still on post with N.Z. who have gone in as infantry digging a new track to allow our men to get through from Amman & Es Salt. Duty all night.
3: Enemy still being held in check; moved to Jordan river escorting two batteries, which bombarded Red Hill at daybreak. Moved to support line at 7 a.m. watering our horses & drew our first feed for 3 days. Stayed in support for the night. N.Z. men holding the line.
4: Moved off at 4 a.m., fighting a rearguard for men from Es Salt & 4th Bde; the whole line being withdrawn to bridgehead owing to failure of 4th Bde. Stayed in the hills until 10 p.m., being the last to get away, all our men from Es Salt coming through safely with 900 prisoners & 26 machine guns. Crossed Jordan at midnight & camped on Jericho flats.
4: Nine Taubes over bombing, causing heavily casualties to our troops, 14 wounded & 8 killed, also annihilating many of our horses.
7: Still camped in the valley, very hot & dusty. Mail brought out on ration convoy & glad to get news again from home.
10: Moved to new camp in hills at noon, but have 5 miles to ride either way to water, down goat tracks. Fearful weather, 109 in the shade at 3 p.m.
12: Moved to Talat ed Dumm at noon,
camping here until the 14th, when we moved off at 6 p.m., riding all night, bitterly cold, reaching Solomon’s pools at 9 a.m. on the15th, camping 4 miles from water which means 16 miles daily to water our horses & grooming 2 times daily.
19: Still at the Pools, mail came today.
24: Twelve hours in Jerusalem (14 miles) on leave; wonderful sights in Dome of the Rock & Holy Sepulchre, but many of the legends attached to these Holy places are a myth. Town & people are filthy & one has to pay exorbitant prices for goods. Had a good day, dinner at the Grand Hotel, lounge & smoking room out of bounds to N.C.O.s & men.
29: Cricket match v 2nd regt,, won by our team by 80 runs.
6: After twelve days of what they term a spell, left the Pools at 4 p.m. riding all night, bitterly cold in Jerusalem reaching Dumm at 9 a.m. on the 7th. Left Dumm at 6 p.m. riding through the valley & taking over the valley sector from 4th Bde. at midnight, our section in reserve post. Mosquitoes in millions, impossible to sleep.
8.Enemy about 2 miles from our line, but patrols in touch day & night. Fearfully hot, but camped within ½ mile from the wadi & can enjoy a cool bath. Horses taken back 5 miles from our front line.
9: Enemy gives us a lively time with shells & we have dug in on the hills. Standing to 3 a.m. each morning in reserve position, but nothing startling has occurred so far. We are supported by 5 batteries of 4.5 guns, which shell the enemy from daybreak to dark.
12: First regt. bivouac area shelled, two men killed. Enemy is now shelling our camps & dumps at Jericho with 9.2 guns, distance of nine miles, doing considerable damage.
14: Moved out at 6 p.m. taking over no.1 &2 posts at Maskareh. Taube shot down by gunfire in our lines today, both men killed & machine smashed. Four hours duty on guns for each man every night; moving to cover at daybreak.
17: Enemy attempted to raid Manelabah post but was repulsed, leaving four dead in front of our position.
19: First regt. hdqrs shelled, one killed & two wounded.
Shelled heavily by enemy all day, making us keep under cover. Five snakes killed in our camp since the 14th. Issued with one mosquito net to two men, & we can now have an enjoyable sleep when off shift.
24: First regt. were unsuccessful in a raid on enemy post to night, being met by a strong enemy outpost in no man’s land. We were forced to retire with two killed & four wounded. Our artillery gave enemy a lively time when getting back to their line again. Up all night on watch.
26: Enemy came in at 10 p.m. after a heavy bombardment, but their small party was easily repulsed by our gun & rifle fire.
27: Enemy shells killed one & wounded three of 1st regt. Relieved at 9 p.m. moving back to reserve post again.
29: Camps & batteries were heavily shelled by enemy today, doing considerable damage to our horses & wounding seven men. The heads anticipate an attack on our lines & supports have been sent up from Dumm in readiness for it.
1: Enemy raided our outpost, but was beaten off with grenades, leaving two dead in front of the post.
3: Our camps have been heavily shelled during the past week, but we have good cover & little damage has been done, except for the horses when at the troughs.
4: Back to Malaria post ( Maskareh) at 8 p.m., lost two men sick – doing duty with only three on each gun.
7: Except for continuous shelling by either force, day & night, nothing startling has occurred of late. We cannot move from our bivouacs during the day, as we always receive a good supply of shells if moving about & rocks fly every where.
11: Murray killed & Bradley wounded by a 5.9 shell, which exploded just at the opening of their bivvy. This occurred at 5 a.m. just as we came off post. Buried Murray in cemetery behind Musselabah, having to carry his body about 3 miles from our post. Impressive burial at 9 p.m. about 40 all ranks present.
12: Pascoe wounded by shrapnel this afternoon during a strafe.
13: Relieved from our post by No. 2, going back two miles to reserve position. Enemy guns very active all day & the shelling tonight is the heaviest we have yet had. Our roads to the line & horses are having scores of shells cutting them up & difficult for our ration & transport to make any progress. Issue of foods from War Chest & very acceptable. Bed at 11 p.m., but received orders to have guns & everything ready to move at any moment. Of course we always sleep in our uniform & gear handy, only removing our clothes when washing.
14: At 2 a.m. a very heavy enemy bombardment opened, shells screeching overhead & bursting on every ridge. Orders to stand by for instructions. At 3 a.m. the Huns attacked Vaux post, knocking our men (14) out of it in half an hour. Fire was used to attack Mussallabah from the rear, but our boys simply turned around in the post & fought them, leaving their main front to our artillery. We reinforced the 3rd regt on Vaux post, going in at 3 a.m. The
shell fire was heavy & we had a lively few hours after firing our first shot on the advancing enemy; our guns were mounted on the skyline & presented a good target for artillery. Main attack was launched by the Huns, with a division of Turks split up on each flank. Hun infantry left Vice, then taking he Bluff, cutting off Maskareh & the men holding the post, but our machine guns & artillery soon got amongst them, causing a hasty retreat to the wadi, but still holding the Bluff. 1st regt. rushed up with fixed bayonets, taking the Bluff in their first charge, then recapturing Vice post, cutting off the Hun force that had penetrated our line at these points, result being the capture of 600 Huns & 70 odd dead enemy troops on the field. When the Turks saw that our counter attack was successful, they would not advance on our post or that held by N.Z. mounted & even turned their own guns on the remainder of the Huns who were supporting the main attacking party. Fahey, one of our boys, brought in 27 Huns & 6 automatic rifles, going out & ordering them to surrender, being only armed with a revolver. At 9 a.m. all was over in the wadi in front of his position, leaving over 1000 troops & numerous
machine guns & automatic rifles. It was a fearful day, 117 in shade & we were in the open all day, wearing steel helmets, this being an order. Shelled all day & was glad when it was over, so we could dig a gunpit under cover of darkness. The Huns got all the 2 regt’s. gift stuff & issue beer when they took the Bluff, but our boys got it all back from them after the action taking it from the Huns, who had filled their haversacks with the good things. Over £1000 were at hdqrs. in the line, as we were to be paid this morning, but the orderly men were sent to our led horses camp with money, as soon as the action commenced. Our horses were heavily shelled during the day, having to take cover in the wadi & could not get near water troughs. N.Z. troops patrolled the Aujur at 9 p.m., causing the enemy to move to his original line, 270 prisoners being brought in by N.Z. When the Huns were being taken to hdqrs., the Turks turned their artillery on them, unfortunately only wounding two of them & three of our boys who were escorting them. Seven of 2nd regt. were captured by the Huns but recaptured by 1st regt. during
their bayonet charge. This action was the severest we have yet had, the brunt of it falling to our Bde. who held the main position in line, & only 173 strong with 8 machine guns. Our casualties were very light. Huns & Turks would not mix with one another in our lines, the Turks continually jeering at the Huns. When the prisoners left for Jerusalem, the Huns only were allowed to strip & bathe in the wadi Aujir, yet for doing this, our men have received severe punishment & a few N.Z. as our drinking water is pumped from this same stream. A staff officer was responsible for this action, which was the means of causing strong remarks from our men. Stayed on post all night only three men on a gun. Enemy shelled our line, causing few casualties.
15: Small bodies about, taking in the wounded, leaving the dead for our men to bury. Col. Bell & Mjr. Hudson got a good haul of notes from the wounded & captured this morning. 9.2 naval gun has been brought up to Red Hill & is causing a lot of damage round the camps & dumps in our rear. Remained on post but no sign of movement except enemy bearers collecting their wounded.
16: Enemy shelled 1st regt. led horses,300 odd shells exploding in their camp killing 68 & wounding 40 wounded horses. Eric Battye & 5 other ranks killed. Our casualties since the beginning of the action are 43 killed, 87 wounded. Still in the line, 35 more prisoners brought in today by our patrols.
17: Relieved by 3rd Bde. at 10 pm, after being in the line for 40 days, continuous duty. Left the valley at midnight riding straight out.
18: Reached Dumm 6 a.m., staying here to be addressed by Chauvel, who congratulated the men on their recent victory. Left Dumm at 9 p.m., after losing 6 men through malaria, reaching Akrat at 5 a.m. on the 20th; six miles from Solomon’s Pools. Two more went away today with malaria. Mail arrived today.
21: Had to turn out with guns & all arms for C.O.’s inspection. Unit 40% under strength & men played out through recent solid work.
22: Another inspection of horses; we have four each to look after, yet we are always on parades or fatigues, the boys calling this camp Tel el fatigue.
23: Left Akrat (Sol. Pools) 3 p.m. halting at Jerusalem for tea. Feel very queer, went to ambulance for quinine; temp. 103.4. Reached Reyrut el Enab at midnight feeling ill after the long ride.
24: My first sick parade since Dec. 1915. refused to go away, as I have the gun & only eight men to 34 horses. Left Enab 7 p.m. feeling better, reaching Latron at midnight & camped here.
25: Left Latron at 6 p.m., feeling very queer again. During the ride Fox collapsed & had to be put on limber for rest of the journey. After a tiresome ride, reached Wadi Hinnane,Richon on 26th at 3 a.m. when I also went out to it. Evacuated to 26th C.C.S. Ludd at 9 a.m.got a rough spin & no medical attention or food for 9 hours, till I asked for the doctor, who gave me a quinine injection, before testing my blood & put me on quinine 3 times daily.
28: Left Ludd at 7 a.m. being put on a truck on the floor; reached 36th Gaza at 2 p.m. feeling queer after the train journey. Put to bed & blood test proved negative, but I have been on quinine 5 days before the test was taken. Receiving good treatment & every attention from English sisters.
1: After 4 days leave, felt much better, but still on quinine though they diagnosed my case as pyrexia & debility. Left at 2 a.m. in a nicely appointed hospital train as a walking case arriving at 24th G.H. Kantara 10 a.m. This place was filthy, the sheets & linen in a disgusting condition & took all linen off my bed, using only my blankets. Place in charge of a V.A.D. & did not see a doctor all day.
2: Doctor visited the ward at 8 a.m., sending me to the base an hour later & glad to get away from the filthy place. Reached Cairo after a comfortable trip at noon, going to 3rd Gen. Hosp. where Sister Briggs was in charge of the ward G7. Still down as pyrexia, another test proving negative. Taken off quinine by the lady doctor who gave me a good overhauling. Feeling much better & had a clean comfortable bed.
3: Doctor allowed me to get up on the verandah & am anxious to get out of the Tommy place. Doctors & Orderlies are English, but the Sisters are Aussies. Food is disgusting, bread & dripping for breakfast, tea &
supper, meat for lunch minus bread or tea. Have my food brought from Cairo by boys from convalescent camp. Doctor would not let me out, saying I was under observation for a week or two. Sisters do all they can for us, but the food & bacon dripping is the same as ever. The Sisters say they get the same as we & have to purchase their own bread, the issue is native brown bread with a good supply of sand in it.
10: Things have gone on in the same old manner, during the past week & today. I had a relapse, the test proving positive M.T. malaria. Back to bed, feeling very much off colour. Temp. rose to 102.3 & received an injection of quinine 15 gms, receiving three of these in 51st & one at Ludd.
12: Wholesale clearance of patients today, the lady quacks sending men out in spite of their condition. Four sent back to bed by C.O. who examines all men prior to their discharge. The doctors treat the poor Tommies in a shameful manner, but do not come with any of their Tommy jokes on our boys, who are continually asking to be discharged as the food is not fit for healthy men, let alone the sick.
18: After many attempts, the doctor allowed me up for a few hours on the balcony & am feeling much better though very thin & weak. Buying my food from Cairo & since my admission, have spent about #163;5 to keep myself alive, the food is just as bad as ever.
22: Asked to be discharged, the doctor letting me go at last, not even feeling my pulse & my temperature was exactly 100. Glad to get out on good food & can treat myself better than the doctor has done to me. Had a hard job to pass the C.O. who said I looked too weak, but let me out on condition I went to the seaside at Alex. for fourteen days & put me on the A.I.F. sick allowance of 4/- per day. Put up at Rossmore House.
24: Went to Alexandria, stayed at the Windsor, near the sea, plenty of surfing & feeling first rate now.
26: Went to Nouzah Gardens had a good day with some French people of Alex., who made us very welcome in their homes. Amusements poor in Alex., not an English show – except pictures in the town.
1: Left Alex. 9 a.m., staying at Rossmore, Cairo; feeling in good health again.
5: Had Sister Briffs in to dinner.
14: Leave finished today, after having a good, quiet holiday. Col Dawson put me in A.I.F., but only stayed at the job for four hours & asked to be sent to my unit again.
15: Left Cairo 11 a.m. reporting at Moasiar details 3 p.m. Good camp & plentiful food, have my meals at the canteen.
18: Up at 3 a.m., left at 10, changing to trucks at Kantara 2 p.m. Reached Jerusalem on the night of the 20th & everyone without rations. Visited Miss McPhiillamy at their canteen & had a good hot meal. Stayed in camp for one night, leaving by motor lorry at 9 a.m. 21st, reaching Jericho 3 p.m. Left here at 3 a.m. on the 22nd on ration lorries, arriving at Amman at 5 p.m. in pouring rain after a tiresome journey. 1st Bde. camped here, rest of Div. at Richon.
27: Town of Amman handed over to Sherif of Mecca’s third son, who was escorted by a crowd of his soldiers, mounted on anything that could walk.
1: Unit 40% under strength, men going away daily with malaria, 3 of our boys died during the past twelve days. Left Amman at 8 a.m. reaching Es Salt (24 miles) for tea & camped there for the night. We then moved on to Shunet Nimrin, Tel at el Dunm, Jerusalem, Latron, stopping at each place for the night, all travelling being done during the day. Had a good night’s fun at Mrs. Chisholm’s canteen at Jerusalem, as she made all preparations for our meals & placed a room & a piano at our disposal for a musical evening.
7: Reached Richon at 5 p.m. after a journey of about 125 miles. Good camp. Rations reduced 10% as we are not in the line at present.
8: Gave 1914 men a hearty send off- twenty one from our gun squadron.
11: News through of an armistice with Huns. Flares & Verry lights of various colours illuminated the camp for miles & presented a very pretty sight. Boys had a good issue of Richon wine & made merry when the news came through. Batteries opened up, making one think war had commenced instead of ending.
13: Rained heavily, four men of the 3rd regt. struck by lightening two seriously injured & tent torn to ribbons. Bivvy blew down during the night & got wet to the skin whilst putting it up again during the storm.
14: Still raining & had to wash our saddles & gear today. Memorial erected in honour of N.Z. troops who fell in action at Ayimkara twelve months ago. People from the town came over in military wagons to do honour to the dead.
16: Veterinary officers culling out horses over 12 years of age. So that they will not fall into unkind hands after faithfully doing their bit, orders were received to shoot them. 847 were shot this morning near the sea, all from Second Bde. & N.Z. Bde. It is better for them to be shot than sold to the Jews who work animals to the death ploughing etc. in Palestine.
18: Rugby comp. started today.
20: Musical evening at Richon, had good lively night.
23: Mail arrived today, first we have had during the past month, got 18 letters.
25: Football comp. won by "B" squadron of 1st regt. who were undefeated.
29: Inspection by Gens. Chauvel [indecipherable] & Chaytor,"A.M.D", Dressed & waiting for their arrival from 10 a.m. to 2.30p.m.
30: Boys counted out the officers of the unit, picquet having to fall in at 5 p.m. without having their tea & on duty for 13 ½ hours.
3: Brigade sports, our section placed third in Lloyd Lindsay race.
5: Fearful weather; three inches fell in six hours; horse lines & camps flooded.
8: Fine weather again; rugby v. "A" sqdn.; we won by 11- nil. Bits & irons to be kept polished & two hours drill each morning, so all the time we have for pleasure is from noon to 3.30 p.m.; feed again at 7 p.m. Daily routine: Stables 6 to 6.45 a.m. watering parade 9 to 10 a.m. Drill from 10 to noon, when we feed our horses. Lunch & we are free till 3.30 p.m. – having to clean our steel gear during these hours at our leisure – stables from 3.45 to 5 p.m., have tea & feed up again at 7 p.m. when we may retire unless on horse picquet
9: N.Z. trooper shot dead by Bedouin who was stealing gear from the tent. Buried in N.Z. cemetery this afternoon.
10: Men of N.Z. D. raided the Bedouin village, as the inmates refused to hand over the murderer after getting 24 hours warning. 36 Bedouins killed, but all women, children & aged men were taken from the village before the raid was carried out. Picquet is now armed, as the natives have been thieving from our camps for the past week. The villages were burnt down during the raid & nobody could interfere, as it was properly organised by the N.Z. men.
11: Picquet – armed – doing patrol around the camps, keeping all natives from our area.
14: Divisional race meeting at Richon. Good day’s sport & £7000 went through the totalisator on 7 races.
15: Rained heavily all day.
16: Division paraded for address by Gen. Allenby , who lectured us about the recent riot. He called us murderers & that he was no longer proud of us, at which the boys laughed & he
immediately rode away from the parade. We had to March in full order over a mile either way for this affair; and the boys would have sounded him out if he had not galloped away.
18: Raining heavily; moved off 9 a.m. gear & blankets soaked with rain. Anzac Div. moving back to Raffa. Camped at Wadi Sukeriyah ( Yabenah) for the night, moving to Medjel on 19th. Camped at Gaza on 20th; many nurses from the hospitals coming out to see us on the March. Had a view of the tank that was put out of action by the Turks in second Gaza stunt on April19th, 1917. On the 21st we reached Bela, moving on next day to Raffa, in good camps, on the spot where we fought on Jany. 9th 1917. 6000 odd horses to water, which takes 3 hours.
24: Christmas gifts from War Chest; food issue. £50 spent by officers in foodstuffs from our unit funds.
25: Good weather & best Xmas day spent on active service.
27: Parade & farewell speech to our Brigade by Major Gen. Chauvel who has now gone to England on a month’s holiday.
Dismounted dill commenced today, from 9.30 to noon. Lectures each afternoon, so we do not get an hour’s respite during the day. Fatigue parties filling in all the old Rafa redoubts & trenches.
30: Very quiet night; band played a few carols & fireworks at One Tree Hill, but our Division were not allowed to participate in the fun. Went to bed at 7 p.m., being on horse piquet from 10-12 – and 2-4 a.m. so did not wait to see entry of the new year.
1: No drill today; rugby match N.Z. v. Aust., won by former, eight to nil. Men who wished to see match had to parade in leave dress, & were inspected by officers, then walk to ground while officers rode.
4: Men of the unit refused to fall in at 2 p.m., lecture parade, lying in the tents & counting out the officers, as they will not allow us to play football of an afternoon. Owing to our strike, the "heads" sent around word that drill would take place three mornings and lectures twice weekly, giving us from noon to 4 p.m. for sport so we are now content.
6: Guns v. 1st Regt, scoreless draw.
8: 1st Guns v. 2nd Guns – lost 11 – nil
10: Guns v. Div. Train, scoreless draw
11: Inspection by Gen. Cox, irons & bits had to be polished.
12: Guns v. 1st Regt, scoreless draw
15: Guns v. Div. train, won 3 nil.
20: Div. competition; appointed hon. Sec. of 1st Bde. composite team. Lost to Wellington Rifles in our first match, 9 – nil.
24: Played Div. Train, scoreless draw.
28: Match v. 2nd Bde. won 9-3
30: Played 6th Regt., lost 6 – 5. Left Raffa at 9 p.m. for Moasiar, en route for home. 17 from the unit were given a fine send off by the boys. Everybody well oiled & I carried a couple of bottles of whisky for a revivor in the morning. About 200 men mounted came to the station giving men of the Brigade (170) a hearty send off at 10.30 p.m.
31:Arrived "A" details camp, Moascar at 10 a.m.
1: Good clean camp, but fearful food, majority of men having meals at the canteens.
3: An English sergeant doing his final stunt prior to receiving his commission, crashed in remount camp & was burnt to death.
9: Eighty left for Aussie this morning. 1000 men under canvas awaiting embarkation & are discontent owing to poor food & so many duties, armed guards requiring 100 men
on duty daily & town picquets each night. Men for Aussie do all duties & fatigues for the whole of the Moasicar camp.
18: Sixty more left for Aussie today. Men are fed up & we are not allowed to rejoin our unit unless our C.O. claims us from here.
25: Aerodrome alight, three hangars destroyed, but our boys managed to get all planes out of the danger zone.
28: Rumour that we are to sail on "Port Sydney" on 4th ult.
5: Party of 650 left Moascar at 9 p.m. for Kantara east, where we boarded "Port Sydney" at noon. Aust. Flying corps on board, met Hassall who landed in Egypt on Dec. 16th last & already returning. Steamed out at 4 p.m. through Suez Canal. Glad to be returning at last, & shall be pleased when I see the old home & people again.
6: Anchored at Suez at 4 a.m. leaving again at 9 a.m. Very clean boat & excellent food; so far there is no cause for complaint, though the 20 officers on board have more deck space than the men. Trp. Frost of 2nd Guns attempted suicide at 4 p.m., shooting himself in two places in the chest with a revolver
but did not finish it off. Operation was performed, but one bullet could not be located, though he is still alive in a very critical condition. No motive has been stated as to the reason for his act..
7: Two cases measles reported to-day & a dozen contacts isolated.
9: Case of small-pox on board, all troops & crew inoculated. Having a good trip & plenty of good food, also an issue of comforts daily.
13: Small-pox patient died at 10.30 p.m. & was buried at midnight, only a padre & two doctors present
17: Reached Colombo at 5 p.m., no men allowed off; though [indecipherable] went ashore; also 5 other officers at 9 p.m. Orders were read out to troops that the Defence Minister had sent word that no person was to go ashore on account of influenza epidemic.
18: O.C. again went ashore & the boys threw potatoes & turnips at him. Steamed out at 10 a.m. Had a relapse of malaria, but would not go to hospital, as it is on the living deck & fearfully hot in wards.
25: Wireless communication with Australia today.
1: Arrived Fremantle 10 p.m. anchoring outside.
2: Men from this state went straight into quarantine: no person allowed ashore. Steamed out at 4 p.m.
4: Fine weather in Bight. Harrison A.F.C. buried at sea 10 a.m., died of pneumonia. Beautifully conducted burial; firing party & the whole of the ship present.
5: Admitted to ships hospital, malaria. Reached Port Adelaide 7 p.m., heavy rain.
6: S.A. troops disembarked 10 a.m., coaling till midnight, when we steamed out for Tasmania with only 20 on board for that state & men discontented at being taken home in such a roundabout manner.
9: Reached outer harbour of Tas. 7 p.m., anchoring at quarantine station. Health officials stated it to be a clean ship. Very pretty coastal scenery.
10: Tas. men went off at 9 a.m., steaming out at 11 a.m. Message received at 10 p.m. stating men for Tas. to be taken off at Melbourne, after they had been taken ashore at their own state.
11: Left hospital this morning, heavy seas running passing through Bass Straight.
12: Reached Portsea, Melbourne 3 a.m., men disembarking at 9 in pouring rain. C.O. left to return to Hobart, owing to death of his brother. Received wire from Melbourne. Sailed at 2 p.m. heavy seas.
14: Steamed through the Heads at 10 a.m. Pleased to see the old place again.
15: Disembarked at 3 p.m., proceeding to quarantine station. Good camp & food. War chest had fine picture show ready after tea.
16: Birthday; received 5 parcels. Having a fairly decent time under the circumstances. A man from S.S.Anchisis hanged himself on board in the bay.
17: Funeral of soldier from boat to-day; men from our camp had to attend.
18: Big washing day. Fishing during the evening; had a fair catch.
21: Left North Head 9 a.m., receiving a great welcome in Sydney.
23: Admitted to hospital for treatment & malaria tests.
This ancient city to a stranger is a wonderful place, & practically impossible for one to describe things to be seen here. The population is nearly twice that of London & is said to be the oldest civilized country in the world & no record has yet been found to say how ancient the place is.
The Persians, Greeks & Romans successfully dominated it & these conquering races have now disappeared, whilst Egypt goes on in the same old fashioned way & its people remain. It was during the Roman occupation that Christianity became a recognised religion & the Copts (descendents of the ancient Egyptians), are said to be the oldest Christian church in existence, yet they are a bad sect, backed up with moneyed men of the city.
The bazaars & streets present a very picturesque picture & one can hear every known language of the world spoken here. In the streets one comes across hundreds of native cafes, where they go & sit cross legged on high benches & enjoy coffee or a smoke from a long pipe containing "hashish" ( opium) which is supposed to be prohibited from being brought into the country, and very seldom are chairs used, except by the upper classes of Egyptians. Most of the natives wear a "jlelabieh" (long gown) & a tarbush is always worn on the back of the head: coloured leather shoes, generally carried in
their hands, which seems amusing to us boys from Aussie. The natives of the superior class dress in European fashion, but always wear the inevitable tarbrush in preference to a hat of the English style. This class of people lounge in cafes from noon to night, drinking or playing dice or cards, & seem to have a very easy life.
Many & varied trades are carried on in the streets, the most prominent being the shoe blacks who chase one for miles to clean ones boots for half a piastre – then comes the water sellers. Cairo is a hot & thirsty city & these water-sellers must find their calling very profitable, as 2 millemes is charged for a glass of iced water. Thousands of donkeys are for hire in the streets; the animals bodies are shaved by the natives in such a way as to leave fancy designs on the legs & snout which gives the donkeys a peculiar appearance.
Flies!! Thousands of them & cause no end of annoyance & these pests seem to be the cause of the eye & many other diseases prevalent amongst the lower class of natives. I have seen children’s eyes covered with flies, yet neither they or the mother would brush them off & the youngsters eyes suffer in consequence. The Egyptians are a filthy race & raid dust bins for particles of food rather than work for it. Their homes are of mud bricks, & donkeys, dogs & fowls seem contented living in the same rooms as their master & his family.
Egypt is purely an agricultural country as the "fellahin" (soil worker) its dominant type. Cotton is the principle product and the fields present a fine sight when this plant is in bloom. Cotton was introduced in this country by Mohammed Ali in 1820 & is said to be the finest and dearest quality in the world. In these fields one notices many enclosures, built with cornstalks; mats are laid on the ground wherein the devout Moslem may chant his curious prayers. One must admire the lower cast of Egyptian, as he always kneels to pray when he thinks fit & is not ashamed to do this in sight of passes by, & can show the so called Christians a few points of a few points on how to be faithful to our church & religion, especially those who work in the fields.
The majority of the women of the upper class are very handsome & their "burka or jasmuk" (veil) seems to add charm to their appearance. Always well dressed in jet black; pretty eyes well –shaped hands & small feet encased in neat footwear. Of the course the women of the harem are never seen in public unless accompanied by their lord & master, though a few visit the races in carriages under the care of servants who never allow them out of the vehicles. One meets women from every corner of the globe, who speak every known language, yet they cannot be compared to Aussie girls for looks, manners or neatness of dress.
It is astonishing the number of mosques one comes across in Cairo, no less than 500 are said to be scattered about the city.
When a dome is on one of these mosques, it denotes it is the "mausoleum" of some great one of the country & acts as a canopy over his resting place. The interior of theses mosques present a glorious sight, but of course one is not allowed to enter before removing one’s footwear, as these mosques are looked upon as holy ground by Moslems. Placed in a recess in the wall is a ‘hanafieh" or tank, where the faithful wash before praying. In the centre of the wall on the eastern side is the "mirhab" (niche), which is in the direction of Mecca & towards which the Moslem prayers. The Mohammed Ali is the finest mosque I have seen in Egypt & contains over 3000 lights & beautiful carvings & ancient writings on its walls. I was not allowed to take a photograph of the interior of this mosque, the guards rushing to stop me when they saw me produce a camera.
The Muskey & bazaars are well worth a visit, the silk shops; brass workers of "Suken-Nahassin" amply repay one for the time spent visiting them, as they turn out glorious work of wonderful designs, which are all hand beaten & engraved. The native store keepers always put a high price on their goods & it is great fun arguing & beating them down til you purchase the goods at about half the original price & even then the vendor can always show a good profit.
The Museum is the most wonderful place one would see in a world’s travel, as it contains a fine collection of curios to feast the eyes upon & I spent a day & a half seeing the mummies, ancient statues, Pharaoh’s barge & other items which one cannot describe. The mosque covers an area of 23 acres & the buildings & grounds present a fine sight.
The Pyramids are one of the chief items of interest in this country & the boys always avail themselves of an opportunity to visit Mena. The great pyramid of Cheops was commenced in 3733 B.C. & yet is not the oldest monument in Egypt, as the step pyramids of Sakhara is of earlier date. Cheops is of immense size as originally each of its sides were 755 ft. in length & 480 ft. high,taking groups of men(100,000 in each)20 years to build. At one time the pyramids were covered with polished stone, wqhich has been removed and used in building mosques in Cairoso now it is simply a series of steps about 6ft high each step formed of huge blocks - of limestone of which it is built & takes some climbing. The second pyramid was built by [indecipherable] 3666 B.C. & is smaller, but this one still has a little of the beautiful polished stone on its apex. The rocks surrounding these pyramids is honeycombed with tombs & many bodies have been laid to rest there many years ago. The Sphinx is an interesting monument & is so ancient that no one knows its actual origin..
The head is much battered & it is said to be caused by Mohammed Ali’s guns during one of the wars of Egypt. From here one gets a lovely view of the surroundings with the pyramids of Abousir, Sakkana & Darshur & a very curious pyramid called Medun. The work that has been put into these buildings & monuments is wonderful & how the stones were lifted to their positions no one is able to say.
Sakhana has many tombs of interest, the finest of these being "[indecipherable]" or Tomb of the Bulls + the "Tomb of Thi". In the Serapeun tomb each encased in huge granite coffins, the mummies of the sacred bulls; which for many years were worshiped at Memphis. The tomb is a long gallery in the rock; beneath the ground & on either side are recesses just large enough to contain the coffins, each of which is composed of a block stone of enormous weight, about 13 ft. × 11 ft. yet they were lowered to the vaults without damage & in the days when machinery was not thought of. This tomb is said to have been rifled by Napoleon’s troops & every bit of the sarcophagus is now empty. The tomb of Thi is of rare beauty, the walls being covered with beautiful carvings, representing agricultural pursuits, fishing & hunting scenes, also carvings & drawings of animals which are perfectly finished.
Close to Sakkana are the beautiful palm groves of Bedrasha which cover the site of ancient Memphis. This at one time was the most important of Egypt’s capitals but has now almost disappeared into sof earth, &
little trace of the ancient city remains beyond a few stones & the colossal statue of Rameses 11; one of the oppressors of Israel, which now lies prostrate & broken on the ground.
The Nile is Egypt’s mainstay & one of the world’s great rivers, being 3,400 miles long. Each year it overflows its banks, filling the canals & reservoirs sufficient for the year’s needs & so the "fellahin" are able to produce three & often four crops per year. "Garkeens" (water wheels) "shedoups" are also used for irrigating the land & no one toils harder than the men who work the shedoup in irrigating the land day & night. At one time the Egyptians worshipped the Nile as a god & it is only a few years since the usual sacrifice of a young girl to the Nile in flood was prohibited by the Kheidive. It varies in width from ¼ to 2 miles & the scenery along its banks is very picturesque, small villages & fields alive with natives adding colour to the scene. The Nile is a very historic river as it was known to the ancients as navigable & formed the trade route by which gold from Sheba, ivory & ebony & many other things were brought into the country. Pharaoh’s armies were brought to Egypt by it on many expeditions & by its means the Roman legions penetrated to the known limits of the world. From the [indecipherable] bridge the Blue Nile presents a fine
spectacle, with scores of house boats & feloukas adding to the scene. The Nile is used by the natives for bathing, washing & drinking purposes, so one cannot wonder at the diseases being so prevalent among the people. A germ known as ‘behlhasia’ abounds in all rivers in Egypt, which has been the cause of many deaths among our troops, who have either bathed in, or used this water for drinking. Women & girls carry the water from the Nile in stone jars or "balasses" & it is wonderful how they carry them on their heads, as they are very heavy when containing about five gallons of water. Along the Nile & canal banks are beautiful fields of poppies, which the natives cultivate for "hashish" opium.
This ancient city is of much interest & many quaint buildings & relics are to be seen here, which is within an hours journey from modern Cairo. In olden days merchants brought their wares from Persia, India & China overland to Old Cairo & many of the "khans" or inns are still intact, though they were used thousands of years ago as markets for the sale of imported goods. The Citadel was built by Saladin - who fought against the Crusaders in Palestine - & contains numerous mosques of great interest, but the authorities would not allow men to take photographs of the interior during the war. The well of Joseph is here, & by means of steps, one descends into the heart of the rock upon
which the Citadel is built. Close by is the parapet upon which the last of the Mamluks made his desperate bid for freedom & became the sole survivor of his class so treacherously murdered by Mohammed Ali. On the Mokattam Hills is the post which Napoleon built to command the city & a fine point to view the sights of the city. In the vicinity – to the east – is a beautiful garden island on which banks tradition has it that the infant Moses was found.
This is a pretty seaport town & by far the most enjoyable place to spend a holiday in Egypt. One meets scores of English people here & they treat soldiers better than Europeans in Cairo. At [indecipherable] is one of the Sultan’s palaces & also the port which figures prominently in the bombardment of Alexandria during the Nile battle in 1798 when Nelson destroyed the French fleet in Aboukir Bay, thus securing for England the command of the Med. Sea. During October, 1916 I spent eight days in this town, where one can find dozens of ways to put in a pleasant holiday, also first class accommodation is obtainable at 12/- per day on the water front.
This is a filthy town & very disappointing to a man on leave, as there is only one picture show & that is very poor; not a theatre of any description the only amusement to be obtained here is provided
by army concert parties. The [indecipherable] situated here makes men pay through the nose for refreshments & if the Empire Club was not here, the place would not be worth visiting by rank & file. The three best hotels are reserved for officers , though the Continental is a fair hotel for meals – where most of the men congregate. Soldiers receive a glassy eye in this place, the other ranks being out of the fun & the people seem to ignore us & forget that we are human beings in khaki. De Lessep’s statue is erected on the esplanade, which runs about half a mile out in the Med. Sea. He built the Suez Canal & also of Panama fame. Scores of aero & sea planes are flying about daily & no less than five gun boats were anchored here. Taubes visited this town on Sept.19th. 1916, killing 7 & wounding 20. The native portion of this place is disgusting & impossible for one to describe.
This town of upper Egypt is a fine place, very pretty & we spent a happy week under canvas on the racecourse. This was during the Senussi scare & we went to various outlying villages with the regiments as medical personnel. I went with a detachment to [indecipherable], 18 miles from Minia & we were able to get an insight into the lives of the Egyptians. They were very hospitable to us & delighted to see our troops enter their villages, one fellow giving us a show with his trained horses whilst we halted for lunch. The villages have the appearance of rude fortification, as the houses & huts were built in
a heap & only a small door for entering them, which is the only ventilation for the house. The huts are very small, the roofs being covered with corn stalks & palm branches, whist the house is composed of mud. Donkeys, goats, fowls & dogs make their home inside these huts with the inhabitants & the places are reeking with dirt; yet they make no attempt to keep the animals out. A few palm leaf mats, water vessels & crude working utensils comprise the furniture & effects, but they seem to live very happy in these circumstances. The upper class live in luxury, occupying well appointed dwellings & treat visitors to the best obtainable. Each village has its sheik or Omdah, who acts as governor of the place, but invariably they rob & sweat the poorer class to death & the word of the Omdah is law.
A few of us were invited to a land-owners home for dinner & there had the finest meal I ever had in this country. The places for the guests were marked by small flat loaves of bread & dishes of salad, but before sitting down, each person washes the hands & mouth basin, which was brought in by a servant & kept solely for that purpose. The first course was soup, for which a spoon was provided, each person dipping into the same bowl, which was in the centre of a small round table. This over, fish & pigeons were brought in & we waited in vain for knives & forks & plates. Our host gave us the lead by picking up the food from the dish with his fingers, so of course we did likewise, & made the best of a bad job. He would pick out choice portions
of the food & present them to his guests, so we then returned the complement a proceeding what seemed very humorous to we boys. Our final course was rice, flavoured with honey & milk, the most delicious sweets I have ever tasted. We ate this with the spoon we used for the soup. As the meal progressed, we were served with iced water in porous jars, the water flavoured with rose & verbena leaves. Coffee was then served & after a chat we left, convinced that the wealthy native knows how to entertain his guests in a delightful manner. We were sorry to leave this camp, as we were always well supplied with eggs & milk whilst camped in this ancient village of Abid.
[Transcribed by John Brooker and Betty Smith for the State Library of New South Wales]