Battle of Romani
Overview
 
The Battle of Romani was fought 23 miles (37 km) east of the Suez Canal
Suez Canal
The Suez Canal , also known by the nickname "The Highway to India", is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. Opened in November 1869 after 10 years of construction work, it allows water transportation between Europe and Asia without navigation...

, near the Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

ian town of Romani and the site of ancient Pelusium
Pelusium
Pelusium was a city in the eastern extremes of Egypt's Nile Delta, 30 km to the southeast of the modern Port Said. Alternative names include Sena and Per-Amun , Pelousion , Sin , Seyân , and Tell el-Farama...

 on the Sinai Peninsula
Sinai Peninsula
The Sinai Peninsula or Sinai is a triangular peninsula in Egypt about in area. It is situated between the Mediterranean Sea to the north, and the Red Sea to the south, and is the only part of Egyptian territory located in Asia as opposed to Africa, effectively serving as a land bridge between two...

 during the First World War. This British Empire
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

 victory over a joint Ottoman
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 and German
German Empire
The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...

 force marked the end of the Defence of the Suez Canal campaign on the Eastern Frontier which had begun on 26 January 1915, and while the Defence of Egypt campaign continued, it also marked the beginning of the Sinai and Palestine campaign
Sinai and Palestine Campaign
The Sinai and Palestine Campaigns took place in the Middle Eastern Theatre of World War I. A series of battles were fought between British Empire, German Empire and Ottoman Empire forces from 26 January 1915 to 31 October 1918, when the Armistice of Mudros was signed between the Ottoman Empire and...

.

From late April 1916, after a German-led Ottoman force attacked British Yeomanry
Yeomanry
Yeomanry is a designation used by a number of units or sub-units of the British Territorial Army, descended from volunteer cavalry regiments. Today, Yeomanry units may serve in a variety of different military roles.-History:...

 in the battle of Katia, British Empire forces in the region at first doubled and then grew as rapidly as the developing infrastructure could support them; the railway and a water pipeline soon enabled an infantry division
Division (military)
A division is a large military unit or formation usually consisting of between 10,000 and 20,000 soldiers. In most armies, a division is composed of several regiments or brigades, and in turn several divisions typically make up a corps...

 to join the light horse and mounted rifle brigade
Brigade
A brigade is a major tactical military formation that is typically composed of two to five battalions, plus supporting elements depending on the era and nationality of a given army and could be perceived as an enlarged/reinforced regiment...

s at Romani.
Encyclopedia
The Battle of Romani was fought 23 miles (37 km) east of the Suez Canal
Suez Canal
The Suez Canal , also known by the nickname "The Highway to India", is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. Opened in November 1869 after 10 years of construction work, it allows water transportation between Europe and Asia without navigation...

, near the Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

ian town of Romani and the site of ancient Pelusium
Pelusium
Pelusium was a city in the eastern extremes of Egypt's Nile Delta, 30 km to the southeast of the modern Port Said. Alternative names include Sena and Per-Amun , Pelousion , Sin , Seyân , and Tell el-Farama...

 on the Sinai Peninsula
Sinai Peninsula
The Sinai Peninsula or Sinai is a triangular peninsula in Egypt about in area. It is situated between the Mediterranean Sea to the north, and the Red Sea to the south, and is the only part of Egyptian territory located in Asia as opposed to Africa, effectively serving as a land bridge between two...

 during the First World War. This British Empire
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

 victory over a joint Ottoman
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 and German
German Empire
The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...

 force marked the end of the Defence of the Suez Canal campaign on the Eastern Frontier which had begun on 26 January 1915, and while the Defence of Egypt campaign continued, it also marked the beginning of the Sinai and Palestine campaign
Sinai and Palestine Campaign
The Sinai and Palestine Campaigns took place in the Middle Eastern Theatre of World War I. A series of battles were fought between British Empire, German Empire and Ottoman Empire forces from 26 January 1915 to 31 October 1918, when the Armistice of Mudros was signed between the Ottoman Empire and...

.

From late April 1916, after a German-led Ottoman force attacked British Yeomanry
Yeomanry
Yeomanry is a designation used by a number of units or sub-units of the British Territorial Army, descended from volunteer cavalry regiments. Today, Yeomanry units may serve in a variety of different military roles.-History:...

 in the battle of Katia, British Empire forces in the region at first doubled and then grew as rapidly as the developing infrastructure could support them; the railway and a water pipeline soon enabled an infantry division
Division (military)
A division is a large military unit or formation usually consisting of between 10,000 and 20,000 soldiers. In most armies, a division is composed of several regiments or brigades, and in turn several divisions typically make up a corps...

 to join the light horse and mounted rifle brigade
Brigade
A brigade is a major tactical military formation that is typically composed of two to five battalions, plus supporting elements depending on the era and nationality of a given army and could be perceived as an enlarged/reinforced regiment...

s at Romani. During the heat of summer, regular mounted patrols and reconnaissance were carried out from their base at Romani, while the infantry constructed an extensive series of defensive redoubts. On 19 July, the advance of a large German, Austrian and Ottoman force across the northern Sinai was reported. From 20 July until the battle began, the Australian 1st
1st Light Horse Brigade
The 1st Light Horse Brigade was a mounted infantry brigade of the First Australian Imperial Force which served in the Middle Eastern theatre of World War I. The brigade first saw action during the Dardanelles Campaign in the Battle of Gallipoli. After being withdrawn to Egypt in February 1916 they...

 and 2nd Light Horse Brigade
2nd Light Horse Brigade
The 2nd Light Horse Brigade was a mounted infantry brigade of the First Australian Imperial Force which served in the Middle Eastern theatre of World War I. The brigade first saw action during the Dardanelles Campaign in the Battle of Gallipoli. After being withdrawn to Egypt in February 1916 they...

s took turns pushing forward and clashing with the advancing enemy column.

During the night of 3/4 August 1916, the force including the German Pasha I formation and the Ottoman 3rd Infantry Division launched an attack from Katia on Romani. Forward troops quickly became engaged with the 1st Light Horse Brigade's screen
Cavalry tactics
For much of history , humans have used some form of cavalry for war. Cavalry tactics have evolved over time...

. During fierce fighting before dawn on 4 August, the light horsemen were forced to slowly retire. At daylight, their line was reinforced by the 2nd Light Horse Brigade, and about mid morning, the 5th Yeomanry Mounted Brigade and the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade
New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade
The New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade, consisting usually of four units of mounted infantry, fought in World War I and World War II. Initially a milita, under the instruction of Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Henry Banks they formed the core of the New Zealand Army following successful service in the...

 joined the battle. Together these four brigades managed to contain and direct the determined attackers into deep sand which was also within range of the strongly entrenched 52nd (Lowland) Division defending Romani and the railway. Coordinated resistance by all these British Empire formations, the deep sand, the heat and thirst prevailed, and the German, Austrian and Ottoman force's advance was checked. During the next morning, the attacking force fought strongly to maintain its positions, but by nightfall they had been pushed back to their starting point at Katia. From 6 to 9 August, the Ottomans and Germans fought a number of strong rearguard actions against the advancing Australian, British and New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

 mounted brigades. Hostilities ceased on 12 August, when the German and Ottoman force abandoned their base at Bir el Abd and retreated back to El Arish.

This substantial British Empire victory was the first against the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 in the war. By ensuring the complete safety for the Suez Canal
Suez Canal
The Suez Canal , also known by the nickname "The Highway to India", is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. Opened in November 1869 after 10 years of construction work, it allows water transportation between Europe and Asia without navigation...

 from ground attacks, this victory ended the Central Powers
Central Powers
The Central Powers were one of the two warring factions in World War I , composed of the German Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Bulgaria...

' ambitions of gaining control of the strategically important northern approaches to and disrupting traffic through the canal. Thereafter, the British Empire mounted forces were on the offensive, pushing the German and Ottoman army back many miles across the Sinai Peninsula and reversing in a most emphatic manner the defeat suffered in the Affair of Katia three months earlier.

Background

At the beginning of the First World War, the Egyptian police controlling the Sinai Peninsula had withdrawn, leaving the area largely unprotected. In February 1915, a German and Ottoman force unsuccessfully attacked
First Suez Offensive
The First Suez Offensive took place between the Ottoman Empire and the British Empire in the Sinai and Palestine Campaign of World War I...

 the Suez Canal. Minor Ottoman and Bedouin
Bedouin
The Bedouin are a part of a predominantly desert-dwelling Arab ethnic group traditionally divided into tribes or clans, known in Arabic as ..-Etymology:...

 forces operating across the Sinai continued to threaten the canal from March through the Gallipoli Campaign until June, when they practically ceased until the autumn. Meanwhile, the German and Ottoman Empires supported an uprising by the Senussi (a political-religious group) on the western frontier of Egypt which began in November 1915.

By February 1916, however, there was no apparent sign of any unusual military activity in the Sinai itself, when the British began construction on the first 25 miles (40.2 km) stretch of 4 in 8 in (1.42 m) standard gauge railway and water pipeline from Kantara to Romani and Katia. Reconnaissance aircraft of the Royal Flying Corps
Royal Flying Corps
The Royal Flying Corps was the over-land air arm of the British military during most of the First World War. During the early part of the war, the RFC's responsibilities were centred on support of the British Army, via artillery co-operation and photographic reconnaissance...

 and seaplanes of the Royal Naval Air Service
Royal Naval Air Service
The Royal Naval Air Service or RNAS was the air arm of the Royal Navy until near the end of the First World War, when it merged with the British Army's Royal Flying Corps to form a new service , the Royal Air Force...

 found only small, scattered Ottoman forces in the Sinai region and no sign of any major concentration of troops in southern Palestine.
By the end of March or early in April 1916, the British presence in the Sinai was growing; 16 miles (26 km) of track, including sidings, had been laid. Between 21 March and 11 April, the water sources at Wady Um Muksheib, Moya Harab and Jifjafa along the central Sinai route from southern Palestine were destroyed. In 1915, they had been used by the central group of about 6,000 or 7,000 Ottoman soldiers who moved across the Sinai Desert to attack the Suez Canal at Ismailia. Without these wells and cisterns, the central route could no longer be used by large forces.

In retaliation for this growing British presence, a raiding force commanded by Kress von Kressenstein attacked the widely scattered 5th Mounted Yeomanry Brigade on 23 April, Easter Sunday and also St George's Day
St George's Day
St George's Day is celebrated by the several nations, kingdoms, countries, and cities of which Saint George is the patron saint. St George's Day is celebrated on 23 April, the traditionally accepted date of Saint George's death in AD 303...

, in the battle of Katia. The Yeomanry had been sent to guard the water pipeline and railway as they were being extended beyond the protection of the Suez Canal defences into the desert towards Romani. The Yeomanry were surprised and overwhelmed at Katia and Oghratina east of Romani.

In response to this attack, the British Empire presence in the region doubled; the next day, the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade
New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade
The New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade, consisting usually of four units of mounted infantry, fought in World War I and World War II. Initially a milita, under the instruction of Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Henry Banks they formed the core of the New Zealand Army following successful service in the...

 and the 2nd Light Horse Brigade
2nd Light Horse Brigade
The 2nd Light Horse Brigade was a mounted infantry brigade of the First Australian Imperial Force which served in the Middle Eastern theatre of World War I. The brigade first saw action during the Dardanelles Campaign in the Battle of Gallipoli. After being withdrawn to Egypt in February 1916 they...

 of the ANZAC Mounted Division
Anzac Mounted Division
The ANZAC Mounted Division was a mounted infantry and mounted rifles division formed in March 1916 in Egypt during World War I following the Battle of Gallipoli when the Australian and New Zealand regiments returned from fighting dismounted as infantry...

 (also known as the Australian and New Zealand or A. & N. Z. Mounted Division), reoccupied the Katia area unopposed.

Prelude

On 24 April, the day after the battle of Katia, Major General H. G. Chauvel, commander of the ANZAC Mounted Division, was placed in command of all the advanced troops: the 2nd Light Horse Brigade and the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigades at Romani and the 52nd (Lowland) Division at Dueidar. The infantry division moved to Romani between 11 May and 4 June 1916.
The building of the railway and pipeline had not been greatly affected by the battle of Katia. By 29 April, four trains a day were running regularly to the railhead, manned by No. 276 Railway Company, and the main line to Romani was opened on 19 May. A second standard gauge railway line from Romani to Mahamdiyah on the Mediterranean coast was completed by 9 June. But conditions on the ground were extreme; after the middle of May and in particular from mid June to the end of July, the heat in the Sinai Desert ranged from extreme to fierce when temperatures could be expected to be in the region of 123 °F (50.6 °C) in the shade. The terrible heat was not as bad as the Khamsin
Khamsin
Khamsin, khamseen, chamsin or hamsin , also known as khamaseen refers to a dry, hot and dusty local wind blowing in North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Similar winds in the area are sirocco and simoom...

 dust storms which blow once every 50 days for between a few hours and several days; the air is turned into a haze of floating sand particles flung about by a strong, hot southerly wind.

No major ground operations were carried out during these midsummer months, the Ottoman garrisons in the Sinai being scattered and out of reach of the British forces. But constant patrolling and reconnaissance were carried out from Romani to Ogratina, to Bir el Abd and on 16 May to Bir Bayud, 19 miles (30.6 km) south-east of Romani, on 31 May to Bir Salmana 22 miles (35.4 km) east north-east of Romani by the New Zealand Mounted Rifle Brigade, when they covered 100 kilometres (62.1 mi) in 36 hours. These patrols concentrated on an area of great strategic importance to large military formations wishing to move across the Sinai along the northern route. Here water was freely available in a large area of oases which extends from Dueidar, 15 miles (24.1 km) from Kantara along the Darb es Sultani (the old caravan route), to Salmana 52 miles (83.7 km) away.

Between 10 and 14 June, the last water source on the central route across the Sinai Peninsula was destroyed by the Mukhsheib column. The column, consisting of engineers and units of the 3rd Light Horse Brigade
3rd Light Horse Brigade
The 3rd Light Horse Brigade was a mounted infantry brigade of the First Australian Imperial Force which served in the Middle Eastern theatre of World War I....

, the Bikaner Camel Corps
Bikaner Camel Corps
The Bikaner Camel Corps was a unit of Imperial Service Troops from India that fought for the allies in World War I and World War II.The Corps was founded by Maharaja Ganga Singh of the Indian state of Bikaner, as the Ganga Risala after the British government of India accepted his offer to raise a...

, and the Egyptian Camel Transport Corps
Egyptian Camel Transport Corps
The Egyptian Camel Transport Corps were a group of Egyptian camel drivers who supported the British Army in Egypt during the First World War's Sinai and Palestine Campaign...

 drained 5000000 gal of water from pools and cisterns in the Wadi Mukhsheib and sealed the cisterns. This action effectively narrowed the area in which Ottoman offensives might be expected to the coastal or northern route across the Sinai Peninsula.In June, as a result of the start of the Arab Revolt
Arab Revolt
The Arab Revolt was initiated by the Sherif Hussein bin Ali with the aim of securing independence from the ruling Ottoman Turks and creating a single unified Arab state spanning from Aleppo in Syria to Aden in Yemen.- Background :...

, William Robertson, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff
Chief of the General Staff (United Kingdom)
Chief of the General Staff has been the title of the professional head of the British Army since 1964. The CGS is a member of both the Chiefs of Staff Committee and the Army Board...

 in London, directed Murray to seriously consider an advance to El Arish. [Falls 1930 p. 178]

Ottoman aircraft attacked the Suez Canal twice during May, dropping bombs on Port Said. British aircraft bombed the town and aerodrome at El Arish on 18 May and 18 June, and bombed all the Ottoman camps on a front of 45 miles (72.4 km) parallel to the canal on 22 May. By the middle of June, the No. 1 Australian Squadron
Squadron (aviation)
A squadron in air force, army aviation or naval aviation is mainly a unit comprising a number of military aircraft, usually of the same type, typically with 12 to 24 aircraft, sometimes divided into three or four flights, depending on aircraft type and air force...

, Australian Flying Corps, had begun active service, with "B" Flight at Suez performing reconnaissance. On 9 July, "A" Flight was stationed at Sherika in Upper Egypt, with "C" Flight based at Kantara.

German and Ottoman force

At the beginning of July, it was estimated there were at least 28,000 Ottoman troops in the Gaza
Gaza
Gaza , also referred to as Gaza City, is a Palestinian city in the Gaza Strip, with a population of about 450,000, making it the largest city in the Palestinian territories.Inhabited since at least the 15th century BC,...

Beersheba
Beersheba
Beersheba is the largest city in the Negev desert of southern Israel. Often referred to as the "Capital of the Negev", it is the seventh-largest city in Israel with a population of 194,300....

 area of southern Palestine
Palestine
Palestine is a conventional name, among others, used to describe the geographic region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and various adjoining lands....

, and that just before the battle began at Romani, there were 3,000 troops at Oghratina (not far from Katia), another 6,000 at the forward base of Bir el Abd (east of Oghratina), 2,000 to 3,000 at Bir Bayud (to the south-east), and another 2,000 at Bir el Mazar, some 42 miles (67.6 km) to the east, not far from El Arish.
Von Kressenstein's 4th Ottoman Army was made up of the 3rd (Anatolian) Infantry Division's three regiments, the 31st, 32nd and 39th Infantry Regiments, totalling 16,000 men, of whom 11,000 to 11,873 were combatants, Arab ancillary forces; and one regiment of the Camel Corps. Estimates of their arms range from 3,293 to 12,000 rifles, 38 to 56 machine guns, and two to five anti-aircraft gun sections
Section (military unit)
A section is a small military unit in some armies. In many armies, it is a squad of seven to twelve soldiers. However in France and armies based on the French model, it is the sub-division of a company .-Australian Army:...

; they also fielded four heavy artillery
Artillery
Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...

 and mountain gun batteries (30 artillery pieces) and the Pasha I formation. This last consisted of eight machine gun companies, the 601st to 608th Machine Gun Companies (Maschinengewehr-Kompanien 601-608); four defence machine gun platoon
Platoon
A platoon is a military unit typically composed of two to four sections or squads and containing 16 to 50 soldiers. Platoons are organized into a company, which typically consists of three, four or five platoons. A platoon is typically the smallest military unit led by a commissioned officer—the...

s, the 133rd, 134th, 135th and 136th Balloon Machine Gun Defence Platoons; as well as the 60th Foot Artillery Battalion and the 350th, 351st and 352nd Trench Mortar Battalions (Minenwerfer Batallion 350-352) of Austrian artillery. Pasha I also included the 103rd Telephone Detachment, the 105th Wireless Command and the 300th Flying Squadron (Fliegerabteilung 300 "Pascha"). An aircraft squadron provided a strong aerial reconnaissance capability, and increased the numbers of aircraft available to support the advance across Sinai. These Pasha I aircraft were faster and more effective than the "hopelessly outclassed" British aircraft and were able to maintain air superiority over the battleground.

The objectives of the German, Austrian and Ottoman advance were to capture Romani and to then establish a strongly entrenched position opposite Kantara, from which place their heavy artillery would be within range of the Suez Canal. The attacking force assembled in the southern Ottoman Empire at Shellal
Shellal
Shellal is a small ancient village on the banks of the Nile, south of Aswan in Egypt. It was the traditional north frontier of the Nubian region with both the Egyptian Empire and the Roman Empire. During the period of ancient Egypt it was a very important quarry area for granite production...

, north-west of Beersheba, and departed for the Sinai on 9 July 1916; they reached Bir el Abd and Ogratina ten days later.

British forces

General Sir Archibald Murray
Archibald Murray
General Sir Archibald James Murray, GCMG, KCB, CVO, DSO was a British Army officer during World War I, most famous for his commanding the Egyptian Expeditionary Force from 1916 to 1917.-Army career:...

, the commander of the Allied forces in Egypt, formed the Egyptian Expeditionary Force
Egyptian Expeditionary Force
The Egyptian Expeditionary Force was formed in March 1916 to command the British and British Empire military forces in Egypt during World War I. Originally known as the 'Force in Egypt' it had been commanded by General Maxwell who was recalled to England...

 (EEF) in March 1916 by merging the Force in Egypt, which had protected Egypt since the beginning of the war, with the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force which had fought at Gallipoli. The role of this new force was to both defend the British Protectorate of Egypt and provide reinforcements for the Western Front
Western Front
Western Front was a term used during the First and Second World Wars to describe the contested armed frontier between lands controlled by Germany to the east and the Allies to the west...

. Murray had his headquarters in Cairo
Cairo
Cairo , is the capital of Egypt and the largest city in the Arab world and Africa, and the 16th largest metropolitan area in the world. Nicknamed "The City of a Thousand Minarets" for its preponderance of Islamic architecture, Cairo has long been a centre of the region's political and cultural life...

 to better deal with his multiple responsibilities, although he was at Ismailia
Ismaïlia
-Notable natives:*Osman Ahmed Osman, a famous and influential Egyptian engineer, contractor, entrepreneur, and politician, was born in this town on 6 April 1917....

 during the battle for Romani.

Romani had become part of the Northern or No. 3 Sector of the Suez Canal defences, which originally stretched along the canal from Ferdan to Port Said; No. 2, the Central Sector, stretched south from Ferdan to headquarters at Ismailia and on to Kabrit, where the No. 1 or Southern Sector extended from Kabrit to Suez.

Murray considered it very unlikely that an attack would occur anywhere other than in the northern sector and therefore was prepared to reduce the troops in No.s 1 and 2 Sectors to a minimum. He decided not to reinforce his four infantry brigades, but to increase the available fire-power at Romani by moving up the 160th and 161st Machine Gun Companies of the 53rd and 54th Infantry Brigades. He also ordered the concentration of a small mobile column made up of the 11th Light Horse Regiment (less one squadron), the City of London Yeomanry (less one squadron) with the 4th, 6th and 9th Companies of the Imperial Camel Corps Brigade in No. 2 Sector. He calculated that the whole of the defensive force, including the camel transport necessary to enable the 42nd Division to advance into the desert, would be fully equipped and the camels assembled by 3 August. Approximately 10,000 Egyptian Camel Transport Corps
Egyptian Camel Transport Corps
The Egyptian Camel Transport Corps were a group of Egyptian camel drivers who supported the British Army in Egypt during the First World War's Sinai and Palestine Campaign...

 camels concentrated at Romani prior to the battle.About this time, Murray discussed with Vice Admiral R. E. Wemyss
Rosslyn Wemyss, 1st Baron Wester Wemyss
Admiral of the Fleet Rosslyn Erskine Wemyss, 1st Baron Wester Wemyss GCB, CMG, MVO , known as Sir Rosslyn Wemyss between 1916 and 1919, was a British naval commander...

, the commander of the East Indies Station
East Indies Station
The East Indies Station was a formation of the British Royal Navy from 1865 to 1941.From 1831 to 1865 the East Indies and the China Station were a single command known as the East Indies and China Station...

, the possibility of landing an infantry brigade of 3,000 to destroy the Ottoman base at El Arish. CIGS approved the proposal and only reluctantly abandoned the scheme after the victory at Romani. [Falls 1930 p. 182]
British monitors
Monitor (warship)
A monitor was a class of relatively small warship which was neither fast nor strongly armoured but carried disproportionately large guns. They were used by some navies from the 1860s until the end of World War II, and saw their final use by the United States Navy during the Vietnam War.The monitors...

 in the Mediterranean Sea
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

 off Mahamdiyah got into position to shell the assembling Ottoman force, while an armoured train at Kantara was ready to assist the defence of the right flank
Flanking maneuver
In military tactics, a flanking maneuver, also called a flank attack, is an attack on the sides of an opposing force. If a flanking maneuver succeeds, the opposing force would be surrounded from two or more directions, which significantly reduces the maneuverability of the outflanked force and its...

, and all available aircraft were on standby at Ismailia, Kantara, Port Said and Romani.
As part of No. 3 Section Canal Defences, the Romani position was commanded by Major General H. A. Lawrence, who had his headquarters at Kantara. Stationed at Kantara were the 42nd (East Lancashire) Division
42nd (East Lancashire) Division
The 42nd Division was a Territorial Force division of the British Army. Originally called the East Lancashire Division, it was redesignated as the 42nd Division on 25 May 1915. It was the first Territorial division to be sent overseas during the First World War. The division fought at Gallipoli,...

, a brigade of the 53rd (Welsh) Division with 36 guns and the 3rd Light Horse Brigade
3rd Light Horse Brigade
The 3rd Light Horse Brigade was a mounted infantry brigade of the First Australian Imperial Force which served in the Middle Eastern theatre of World War I....

 (detached from the ANZAC Mounted Division). Lawrence moved two battalion
Battalion
A battalion is a military unit of around 300–1,200 soldiers usually consisting of between two and seven companies and typically commanded by either a Lieutenant Colonel or a Colonel...

s of the 42nd Division from No. 2 Section Canal defences to Kantara, and sent the 158th Brigade of the 53rd Division to Romani on 20 July.
The deployments on 3 August on and near the battlefield were as follows:

At Hill 70, 12 miles (19.3 km) from Romani, the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade (less the 2nd Light Horse Brigade's 5th Light Horse Regiment, temporarily attached to the New Zealanders), commanded by E. C. W. Chaytor
Edward Chaytor
Major General Sir Edward Walter Clervaux Chaytor KCMG, KCVO, CB was a farmer, and a military commander of New Zealand troops in the Boer War and World War I....

, and the 5th Mounted Yeomanry Brigade, under the direct command of Lawrence, were joined on the railway by the 126th Brigade (42nd Division). Together with the 5th Light Horse Regiment (New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade) at Dueidar to the east of Hill 70, this force was to stop or delay von Kressenstein's attack should he attempt to bypass Romani and advance directly towards the Suez Canal.

At Hill 40, the 125th Brigade with the 127th Brigade (42nd Division) were also on the railway line at Gilban Station.

The Mobile Column was based in the Sinai at the end of the El Ferdan railway, while the 3rd Light Horse Brigade was at Ballybunion, also in the Sinai at the end of the Ballah railway.

The force at Romani, responsible for its defence when the battle began, consisted of the British 52nd (Lowland) Division, commanded by Major General W. E. B. Smith, and two Australian light horse brigades led by Major General Chauvel - the 1st and 2nd Light Horse Brigades (less the 5th Light Horse Regiment, but with the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade's Wellington Mounted Rifle Regiment attached), under Lieutenant Colonels J. B. H. Meredith and J. R. Royston respectively.

Development of defensive positions

The 52nd (Lowland) Division joined the two mounted brigades at Romani between 11 May and 4 June, when the development of the railway made it possible to transport and supply such a large number of soldiers. The infantry occupied a defensive position known as Wellington Ridge, facing a tangle of sand dunes. The area favoured defence; sand dunes, stretching about 6 miles (9.7 km) inland, covered an area of 30 square miles (77.7 km²), including, to the south of Romani, the northern route from El Arish. On the southern and south-eastern edges, a series of dunes of shifting sand with narrow sloping lanes led to a tableland of deep soft sand. The 52nd (Lowland) Infantry Division developed a strong defensive position at Romani which had its left flank on the Mediterranean Sea, here a series of redoubts were built running southwards from Mahamdiyah along the line of high sand hills about 7 miles (11.3 km) to a dune known as Katib Gannit 100 feet (30.5 m) high. This line of sand hills, which were high enough to see Katia oasis from, marked the eastern edge of an area of very soft and shifting sand beyond which were lower dunes and harder sand where movement by both infantry and mounted forces was considerably easier. Between the shore at the western end of the Bardawil Lagoon and Katib Gannit (the principal tactical point on the eastern slopes of the Romani heights), the infantry constructed a line of 12 redoubts about 750 yards (685.8 m) apart, with a second series of redoubts covering the Romani railway station and the right of the defensive position which curved like a hook westward, then northward. A total of 18 redoubts were constructed, which when fully garrisoned held from 40 to 170 rifles each, with Lewis guns and an average of two Vickers guns allotted to each position; they were well wired on the right side of each of the positions, although there was no wire between the redoubts. This defensive line was supported by artillery.
The threat of an Ottoman attack towards the canal had been considered by Lawrence in consultation with his divisional commanders, and a second defensive area was developed to address their concerns. Their plans took into account the possibility of an Ottoman army at Katia moving to attack Romani or following the old caravan route to assault Hill 70 and Dueidar on their way to the Suez Canal. Any attempt to bypass Romani on the right flank
Flanking maneuver
In military tactics, a flanking maneuver, also called a flank attack, is an attack on the sides of an opposing force. If a flanking maneuver succeeds, the opposing force would be surrounded from two or more directions, which significantly reduces the maneuverability of the outflanked force and its...

 would be open to attack from the garrison, which could send out infantry and mounted troops on the hard ground in the plain to the south-west. The New Zealand Mounted Rifle Brigade was stationed at Hill 70 at the end of June and the 5th Light Horse Regiment at Dueidar to prevent such an Ottoman force from reaching the Suez Canal.

Light Horse patrols before the battle

Active patrolling by mounted troops continued throughout the period leading up to the battle, but by early July, there were no indications of any imminent resumption of hostilities. The nearest Ottoman garrison of 2,000 men was at Bir el Mazar 42 miles (67.6 km) east of Romani, and on 9 July, a patrol found Bir Salmana unoccupied. However, greatly increased aerial activity over the Romani area began about 17 July, when faster and better-climbing German aircraft quickly established superiority over British aircraft. But they could not stop British aircraft from continuing to reconnoitre the country to the east, and on 19 July, a British aircraft, with Brigadier General E. W. C. Chaytor (commander of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade) acting as observer, discovered an Ottoman force of about 2,500 at Bir Bayud. A slightly smaller number were detected at Gameil and another similar sized force at Bir el Abd with about 6,000 camels seen at the camps or moving between Bir el Abd and Bir Salmana. The next morning, 3,000 men were found to be entrenched at Mageibra, with an advance depot for supplies and stores at Bir el Abd. A small force was spotted as far forward as the oasis of Oghratina, which by the next day, 21 July, had grown to 2,000 men.

On 20 July, the 2nd Light Horse Brigade with two guns mounted on ped-rails of the Ayrshire Battery demonstrated against Oghratina, capturing several prisoners, and beginning a series of patrols which, together with the 1st Light Horse Brigade, they continued until the eve of battle. Every day until 3 August, these two brigades alternated riding out from their base at Romani towards Katia at about 02:00 and bivouacking until dawn, at which time they advanced on a wide front until German or Ottoman fire was provoked. If the enemy position was weak, the light horse pushed forward, and if a counter-attack began, the brigade retired slowly, thereafter to return to camp at Romani at nightfall. The following day, the other brigade carried out similar manoeuvres in the direction of Katia and the advancing Ottoman columns, picking up the officers
Officer (armed forces)
An officer is a member of an armed force or uniformed service who holds a position of authority. Commissioned officers derive authority directly from a sovereign power and, as such, hold a commission charging them with the duties and responsibilities of a specific office or position...

 patrols which had been left out during the night to monitor enemy movements. During this period, one of many clashes occurred on 28 July at Hod Um Ugba, 5 miles (8 km) from the British line. Two squadrons of the Wellington Mounted Rifle Regiment, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel W. Meldrum, made a bayonet assault, supported by several machine guns and two 18-pounder guns. They drove the Ottomans from the Hod, leaving 16 dead and taking eight prisoners from the Ottoman 31st Infantry Regiment.
The tactic of continuous forward patrolling was so successful that the advancing force's every move was known to the defenders, but the light horsemen were substantially outnumbered and could not stop the advance. By daylight on 3 August, the German, Austrian and Ottoman force had occupied Katia and were within striking distance of Romani, Dueidar, Hill 70 and the Suez Canal. Their line ran north-east and south-west from the Bardawil Lagoon to east of Katia, with their left flank thrown well forward.

Plans

The German and Ottoman objective was not to cross the canal, but to capture Romani and establish a strongly entrenched heavy artillery position opposite Kantara, from which to bombard shipping on the canal. Kress von Kressenstein's plan for the attack on Romani was to bombard the line of defensive redoubts with heavy artillery and employ only weak infantry detachments against them, while his main force launched attacks against the right and rear of the Romani position.
The defenders expected the German and Ottoman attack to be one of containment against their prepared line of defence, and an all-out attack on the right south of Katib Gannit. They also appreciated that such an attack would expose the German and Ottoman left flank. Murray's plan was to firstly delay the attackers and make it very difficult for them to gain ground south of Katib Gannit, and secondly, only when the German and Ottoman force was totally committed, to then disorganise their flank attack with an attack by Section Troops at Hill 70 and Dueidar, with the 3rd Light Horse Brigade and the Mobile Column operating more widely against the flank and rear.

Chauvel had selected a position which stretched for 4 miles (6.4 km) between Katib Gannit and Hod el Enna, with a second fall-back position covering a series of parallel gullies running south-east and north-west which gave access to the area of soft sand to the rear of the Romani defences. No visible works were constructed, but the commanders of the two light horse brigades, whose task it would be to hold the attackers on this ground until the flank attack could begin, studied the area closely.

Battle on 4 August

Just before midnight on 3/4 August, three columns of the German Pasha I and 4th Ottoman Army, consisting of about 8,000 men, began their attack on an outpost line held by the 1st Light Horse Brigade three and a half hours after the return of the 2nd Light Horse Brigade from their regular daytime patrol.The regularity of the movements of these two light horse brigades has been blamed for the midnight attack, 'the enemy had followed the 2nd Light Horse in its usual evening retirement.' But the advance began three and a half hours later.[Falls 1930 p. 185 and Carver 2003 p. 190. See also AWM4-10-1-25 1st LHB War Diary August 1916, AWM4-10-2-19 2nd LHB War Diary August 1916] In addition to the usual officers patrols left out overnight to monitor the enemy's positions, Chauvel decided to leave out for the night the whole of the 1st Light Horse Brigade to hold an outpost line of about 3 miles (4.8 km), covering all entrances to the sandhill plateau which formed the Romani position and which were not protected by infantry posts. A shot or two fired out in the desert to the south-east of their position put the long piquet line of the 1st and 2nd
2nd Light Horse Regiment (Australia)
The 2nd Light Horse Regiment was a mounted infantry regiment of the Australian Army during the First World War. The regiment was raised in September 1914, and by December as part of the 1st Light Horse Brigade had moved overseas. During the war the regiment only fought against the forces of the...

 Light Horse Regimnet's (1st Light Horse Brigade) on alert about midnight, when the 3rd Light Horse Regiment
3rd Light Horse Regiment (Australia)
The 3rd Light Horse Regiment was a mounted infantry regiment of the Australian Army during the First World War. The regiment was raised in September 1914, and by December as part of the 1st Light Horse Brigade had moved overseas. During the war the regiment only fought against the forces of the...

 (1st Light Horse Brigade) was called up to the front line. The enemy advance paused after finding the gullies held by the light horsemen, but at about 01:00, a sudden heavy burst of fire along the whole front began the attack of the considerably superior Ottoman and German forces, and by 02:00 they had in many places advanced to within 50 yards (45.7 m) of the Australian line.
The Ottoman centre and left columns were skilfully led round the open flank of the infantry's entrenchments and on towards the camp and railway. After the moon had set at around 02:30, the Germans and Ottomans made a bayonet charge on Mount Meredith. Although vastly outnumbered, the light horsemen fought an effective delaying action at close quarters, but were forced to relinquish ground slowly and to ultimately evacuate the position at 03:00. Without the benefit of moonlight, the light horsemen had fired at the flashes of the enemy's rifles until they were close enough to use bayonets. The 1st Light Horse Brigade was eventually forced back; withdrawing slowly, troop covering troop with steady accurate fire, staving off a general attack with the bayonet to their fall-back position: a large east/west sand dune called Wellington Ridge at the southern edge of the Romani encampment. During the retirement to Wellington Ridge, the covering squadrons on the left near Katib Gannit were also attacked, as was the squadron on the right, which was taken in the flank and suffered considerable loss, but managed to hold its ground until the position in its rear was occupied. At 03:30, all light horsemen south of Mount Meredith had been forced back to their led horses and had succeeded in disengaging and falling back to their second position. Soon after, an Ottoman machine gun was shooting down on the light horse from Mount Meredith.

Chauvel had relied on the steadiness of the 1st Light Horse Brigade, which he had commanded during the Gallipoli campaign, to hold the line against greatly superior numbers for four hours until dawn, when the general situation could be assessed. Daylight revealed the weakness of the light horse defenders in their second position on Wellington Ridge and that their right was outflanked by strong German and Ottoman forces. At 04:30, the 2nd Light Horse Brigade, commanded by Colonel J. R. Royston, was ordered up by Chauvel from Etmaler and went into action in front of Mount Royston to support and prolong the 1st Light Horse Brigade's right flank by moving up the 6th and 7th Light Horse Regiments into the front line. German, Austrian or Ottoman artillery now opened fire on the infantry defences and the camps in the rear; shrapnel inflicted some losses, but the high explosive shells were smothered by the soft sand. The attackers succeeded in forcing the light horse off Wellington Ridge, which placed them within 700 metres (2,296.6 ft) of the Romani camp. However, they were unable to press further, as they now became exposed to machine gun and rifle fire from the entrenched 52nd (Lowland) Division and shelling from the horse artillery
Horse artillery
Horse artillery was a type of light, fast-moving and fast-firing artillery which provided highly mobile fire support to European and American armies from the 17th to the early 20th century...

, supporting the light horsemen's determined defence.

Having been held south of Romani, the German and Ottoman force attempted a further outflanking manoeuvre to the west, concentrating 2,000 troops around Mount Royston another sand dune, south-west of Romani. At 05:15, the Ottoman 31st Infantry Regiment pushed forward; then the 32nd and the 39th Infantry Regiments swung around the left and into the British rear. This outflanking movement was steadily progressing along the slopes of Mount Royston and turning the right of the 2nd Light Horse Brigade, whose third regiment, the Wellington Mounted Rifles, was now also committed to the front line. The two brigades of light horse continued to gradually withdraw, pivoting on the extreme right of the infantry position, which covered the left flank and rear of Romani. They were pushed back between Wellington Ridge and Mount Royston, about 2.25 miles (3.6 km) west of the former; the attackers continually forced back their right flank. Between 05:00 and 06:00, they were compelled to retire slowly from this ridge, although the 6th and 7th Light Horse Regiments (2nd Light Horse Brigade) still held the western edge. At 06:15, Meredith was ordered to withdraw the 1st Light Horse Brigade behind the line occupied by the 7th Light Horse Regiment north of Etmaler camp. At 07:00, the 6th and 7th Light Horse Regiments retired, squadron by squadron, from the remainder of Wellington Ridge. At about 08:00, German, Austrian and Ottoman fire from the ridge top was directed into the camp only a few hundred yards away, but the Ayrshire and Leicester Batteries quickly stopped this artillery attack.
It became apparent that the German and Ottoman right column (31st Infantry Regiment) was attempting a frontal attack on the 52nd (Lowland) Division's redoubts. The defenders were able to hold on, but were subjected to severe artillery shelling during the day. Frontal attacks began with heavy German or Austrian attempts by their artillery to breach the infantry defensive line. At 08:00, attacks were made on Numbers 4 and 5 redoubts which began with heavy artillery fire in an attempt to breach the line, but the attacks broke completely when the 31st Ottoman Infantry Regiment were within 150 yards (137.2 m) of No. 4 redoubt; subsequent attempts were less successful. At about 10:00, Chauvel contacted Brigadier General E. S. Girdwood, commanding 156th Infantry Brigade, requesting his brigade temporarily relieve the light horse brigades until they had watered their horses in preparation for a mounted counter-attack. Girdwood refused because his brigade was being held in reserve to support an intended attack eastward by the 52nd (Lowland) Division.

The light horse had gradually withdrawn back until, at about 11:00, the main Ottoman attack was stopped by well directed fire from the Royal Horse Artillery batteries of the ANZAC Mounted Division and by light horse rifle and machine gun fire, to which the 52nd (Lowland) Division contributed considerable fire-power. The attackers appeared to have exhausted themselves, but they held their ground while Austrian and Ottoman artillery of various calibres, including 5.9" and 10.5 cm guns, fired on the defenders and their camps, and German and Ottoman aircraft severely bombed the defenders. The attacking German, Austrian and Ottoman in three columns were brought to a standstill by the determination of the 1st and 2nd Light Horse Brigades and the 52nd (Lowland) Division's coordinated and concerted defence.Falls states the Ottoman attack was stopped for two hours when a squadron of Royal Gloucestershire Hussars
Royal Gloucestershire Hussars
The Royal Gloucestershire Hussars was a unit of the British Army.Raised in 1795 following William Pitt's 1794 order to raise volunteer bodies of men to defend Great Britain, through various re-organisations, the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars remain today on the establishment of the Territorial...

 (5th Mounted Yeomanry Brigade) marched towards the attacking force. [Falls 1930 pp. 186–7]
It has been suggested the British counter-attack halting the Ottoman advance occurred three hours later and that the Ottoman attacks stalled later still. [Erickson 2001 p. 155]

The Ottoman advance was at a standstill everywhere. After a long night's march, the German and Ottoman troops faced a difficult day under the desert sun without being able to replenish their water and exposed to artillery fire from Romani. At this time, the attacking forces held a line running from the Bardawil (on the Mediterranean coast) southward along the front of the 52nd (Lowland) Division's entrenchments and then westward through and including the very large sand dunes of Mount Meredith and Mount Royston. But from their position on Mount Royston, the German, Austrian and Ottoman force dominated the camp area of Romani and threatened the railway line.

Reinforcements

Chaytor, commander of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade, had been advised of the Ottoman advance against Romani at 02:00. By 05:35, Lawrence at his headquarters of the Northern No. 3 Canal Defences Sector at Kantara, had been informed of the development of the enemy attack. He recognised that the main blow was falling on Romani and ordered the 5th Mounted Yeomanry Brigade at Hill 70 to move towards Mount Royston. They were led by the Composite Regiment, which moved off at once, the remainder of the brigade preparing to follow. At 07:25, Lawrence ordered the New Zealand Mounted Rifle Brigade, consisting of the headquarters and the Canterbury Mounted Rifle Regiment (less the Auckland Mounted Rifles and the 5th Light Horse Regiments), to move towards Mount Royston via Dueidar to pick up the Auckland Mounted Rifles Regiment. Both brigades had been stationed at Hill 70, 12 miles (19.3 km) from Romani, when their orders to move were received. The New Zealanders were to "operate vigorously so as to cut off the enemy, who appears to have got round the right of the A. & N. Z. Mounted Division."

Meanwhile, the 3rd Light Horse Brigade at Ballybunion was directed to move forward to Hill 70 and send one regiment to Dueidar, while the Mobile Column was ordered by GHQ to march towards Mageibra.Smith's Mobile Column had no part to play in the battle, as it was never even on the fringes of operations.[Hill 1978 p. 77]

Mount Royston counterattack

The German, Austrian and Ottoman attack on Mount Royston was checked to the north by the 3rd and 6th Light Horse Regiments (1st and 2nd Light Horse Brigades), and under constant bombardment from the horse artillery and the heavy artillery of the 52nd (Lowland) Division. At 10:00, the front held by the two light horse brigades faced south from a point 700 yards (640.1 m) northwest of No. 22 Redoubt north of Wellington Ridge to the sand hills north of Mount Royston. As the line had fallen back, the 2nd and 3rd Light Horse Regiments (1st Light Horse Brigade) had come in between the 6th and 7th Light Horse Regiments (2nd Light Horse Brigade); from right to left, the line was now held by the 6th, 3rd, 2nd and 7th Light Horse and the Wellington Mounted Rifles Regiments, while 1 miles (1.6 km) north north-west of Mount Royston, "D" Squadron of the Yeomanry Gloucester Hussars held its ground.
The plan called for the 1st and 2nd Light Horse Brigades, the 5th Mounted and the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigades to swing round the attackers' left flank and envelop them. The first reinforcements to arrive were the Composite Regiment of the 5th Mounted Brigade; they came up on the flank of the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars' "D" Squadron 1500 yards (1,371.6 m) west of Mount Royston, which was being attacked by a strong body of Ottoman soldiers. The regiment attacked the Ottomans in enfilade
Enfilade and defilade
Enfilade and defilade are concepts in military tactics used to describe a military formation's exposure to enemy fire. A formation or position is "in enfilade" if weapons fire can be directed along its longest axis. A unit or position is "in defilade" if it uses natural or artificial obstacles to...

 and forced them back.

When the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade's headquarters and the Canterbury Mounted Rifle Regiments were within 1 miles (1.6 km) of Dueidar on the old caravan road, they were ordered to move directly to Canterbury Hill, the last defensible position in front of the railway, east of Pelusium Station, as the strong Ottoman attack was threatening to take the railway and Romani. The Auckland Mounted Rifles Regiment arrived with its brigade between 11:00 and 11:30 to find the Composite Yeomanry Regiment (5th Mounted Yeomanry Brigade) in contact with the German and Ottoman forces on the south-west side of Mount Royston.
The 1st and 2nd Light Horse Brigades first made contact with the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade by heliograph
Heliograph
A heliograph is a wireless solar telegraph that signals by flashes of sunlight reflected by a mirror. The flashes are produced by momentarily pivoting the mirror, or by interrupting the beam with a shutter...

. Colonel Royston, commanding the 2nd Light Horse Brigade, galloped across to explain the situation. Chaytor then moved the Auckland and Canterbury Mounted Rifles Regiments, supported by the Somerset Battery, onto high ground between the right of the light horse and the Yeomanry, which was shortly afterwards joined by the remainder of the 5th Mounted Yeomanry Brigade under the command of Brigadier General Wiggin. At the most critical period of the day's fighting, when the German and Ottoman force of 2,000 dominated the Romani area from Mount Royston, the five mounted brigades (still less the 5th Light Horse Regiment) began their counterattack at 14:00 from the west towards Mount Royston.According to the war diary of the 5th Light Horse Regiment, the Regiment had marched out from Dueidar at 12:30 on the night of 3/4 August to find the left flank of the enemy force and report their strength. They moved through Nuss and onto Nagid both places being clear of the enemy, but 2,000 yards south of Nagid two battalions (about 1500) enemy were seen marching towards Hod el Enna. The Regiment was fired on by machine guns and mountain guns and it was understood that the firing from this clash resulted in a cessation for two hours of reinforcements to the Ottoman firing line. This Regiment picked up a squadron of Auckland Mounted Rifles Regiment near Dhaba on the way back from Nuss to Dueidar where they became attached to the 3rd Light Horse Brigade.[AWM4-10-10-20 War Diary of the 5th Light Horse Regiment August 1916]

The New Zealand riflemen soon gained a footing on Mount Royston, aided by accurate and rapid shooting from the Somerset Royal Horse Artillery Battery. By 16:00, the attack had proceeded to a point where Chaytor arranged with the 5th Mounted Yeomanry Brigade for a squadron of Royal Gloucestershire Hussars and two troops of the Queen's Own Worcestershire Hussars
Queen's Own Worcestershire Hussars
-History:The Queen's Own Worcestershire Hussars were formed in 1794, as the Worcestershire Yeomanry, when King George III, was on the throne, William Pitt the Younger was the Prime Minister of Great Britain, and across the English Channel, Britain was faced by a French nation that had recently...

 to gallop against the southern spur of Mount Royston. They easily took the spur, the defenders not waiting for the onslaught of the mounted charge. From the crest of the spur, the Gloucester squadron shot down the horse teams of an Austrian, German or Ottoman battery
Artillery battery
In military organizations, an artillery battery is a unit of guns, mortars, rockets or missiles so grouped in order to facilitate better battlefield communication and command and control, as well as to provide dispersion for its constituent gunnery crews and their systems...

 of pack guns concentrated in the hollow behind the spur, and the attacking force began to surrender. The New Zealand Mounted Rifle and 5th Mounted Yeomanry Brigades were supported by leading battalions of the 127th Infantry Brigade (which had just arrived) when Ottoman and German soldiers began to surrender en masse. At about 18:00, 500 prisoners, two machine guns and the pack battery were captured, and the outer flank of the attacking force was completely routed.

Meanwhile, the inner flank of the German and Ottoman force on Wellington Ridge made a last effort to advance across the ridge, but was driven back by artillery fire. Fresh frontal attacks launched against the main British infantry system of redoubts broke down completely. At 17:05, Major General Smith ordered the 156th Infantry Brigade to attack the enemy force on Wellington Ridge on the left of the light horse and in coordination with the counterattack on Mount Royston. An artillery bombardment of Wellington Ridge began at 18:45. Just before 19:00, the 7th and 8th Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) moved south from behind No. 23 Redoubt; the 8th Battalion advancing to within 100 yards (91.4 m) of the crest of Wellington Ridge, before being stopped by heavy rifle fire.

When darkness put an end to the fighting, the 1st and 2nd Light Horse Brigades established an outpost line and spent the night on the battlefield, while the New Zealand Mounted Rifles and 5th Mounted Brigades withdrew for water and rations at Pelusium Station, where the newly arrived brigades of the 42nd (East Lancashire) Division were assembling. The 3rd Light Horse Brigade halted at Hill 70, while the Mobile Force had reached the Hod el Bada, 14 miles (22.5 km) south of Romani station.The war diary of the 3rd Light Horse Brigade describes their move from Ballybunion two hours after receiving orders to move and arriving at Dueidar at 20:30 with Supply and Ammunition Columns arriving at 22:00.[AWM4-10-3-19 War Diary of the 3rd Light Horse Brigade August 1916] At 19:30, when the New Zealand Mounted Rifle and 5th Mounted Yeomanry Brigades moved from the positions they had won to water and rest at Pelusium, the area was consolidated by the 127th Infantry Brigade, 42nd (East Lancashire) Division. Brigadier General Girdwood ordered the 7th and 8th Battalions, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) to hold their ground on Wellington Ridge until daylight, but to keep close contact with the enemy during the night in the hope of capturing large numbers of tired and disorganised soldiers in the morning. Approximately 1,200 unwounded prisoners were captured during the day and sent to the Pelusium railway station.

Battle on 5 August

Within 24 hours, British commanders were able to concentrate a force of 50,000 men in the Romani area, a three to one advantage. This force included the two infantry divisions – the 52nd and the newly arrived 42nd – four mounted brigades, two of which had been on active duty since 20 July, and two heavily engaged on the front line the day before, and may have included the 3rd Light Horse Brigade, although it was still at Hill 70, and the Mobile Column at Hod el Bada. At this time, command of the 5th Mounted Yeomanry Brigade passed from the ANZAC Mounted Division to the 42nd (East Lancashire) Division, it being suggested that orders required the ANZAC Mounted Division to remain in position, and that the 3rd Light Horse Brigade alone was to make a flank attack.According to the war diary of the 3rd Light Horse Brigade, they left Dueidar at 05:00 for Bir el Nuss, arriving at 09:00 to join the New Zealand Mounted Rifle Brigade. The war diary describes the brigade successfully encircling the enemy's left and capturing 439 prisoners and three machine guns, while coming under heavy enemy howitzer fire. They retired at nightfall to one mile west of Nagid, leaving out officers patrols.[AWM4-10-3-19 3rd Light Horse Brigade War Diary August 1916]

However, Lawrence's orders for a general advance on 5 August beginning at 04:00 included an advance by the Anzac Mounted Division. His orders read:
  • ANZAC Mounted Division to press forward with its right on the Hod el Enna and its left in close touch with the 156th Brigade (52nd (Lowland) Infantry Division) advancing on the line Katib Gannit to Mount Meredith.
  • 3rd Light Horse Brigade to move towards Bir el Nuss and attack Hod el Enna from the south keeping in close touch with the Anzac Mounted Division.
  • 5th Mounted Yeomanry Brigade, under orders of 42nd (East Lancashire) Division to assist the 3rd Light Horse Brigade's link with the Anzac Mounted Division's right.
  • 42nd (East Lancashire) Division to move on the line Canterbury Hill–Mount Royston–Hod el Enna and drive back any opposition to the advance of the mounted troops in close support of Anzac Mounted Division's right flank.
  • 52nd (Lowland) Division to move in close support of ANZAC Mounted Division's left flank towards Mount Meredith and to prepare for a general advance towards Abu Hamra which was not to be undertaken until further orders from Lawrence at No. 3 Section Headquarters.Keogh makes two observations about these orders: a) the GOC 52nd (Lowland) Division was told to operate in a southerly direction and at the same time be ready to advance in an easterly direction. For troops inexperienced at movement in the desert, that order was not going to be easy to execute, and b) two infantry divisions, a mounted division and a mounted brigade were being sent into an attack on confusing terrain without anyone close at hand to co–ordinate their actions and control the planned counterattack.[Keogh 1955 p. 55] By moving the two infantry divisions to the ANZAC Mounted Division's right and left flanks, Lawrence may have been ordering a general dismounted attack, as this deployment reverses the normal placement of mounted troops on the flanks of infantrymen.


Meanwhile the German, Austrian and Ottoman force was now spread from Hill 110 almost to Bir en Nuss, but with their left flank unprotected. They could not have been in good shape after fighting all the previous day in intense midsummer heat and having to remain in position overnight, far from water and harassed by British infantry. Their situation was now precarious, as their main attacking force was well past the right of the main British infantry positions; the 52nd (Lowland) Division was closer to the nearest enemy-controlled water source at Katia than most of the attacking force. Had the British infantry left their trenches promptly and attacked in a southeasterly direction, von Kressenstein's force would have had great difficulty escaping.

British capture Wellington Ridge

At daybreak, the 8th Scottish Rifles (52nd (Lowland) Division) advanced with the 7th Light Horse and the Wellington Mounted Rifles Regiments (2nd Light Horse Brigade), covered by the 7th Scottish Rifles (52nd (Lowland) Division) on the left, who had brought 16 machine guns and Lewis guns into a position from which they could sweep the crest and reverse slopes of Wellington Ridge. The Wellington Mounted Rifle Regiment, with the 7th Light Horse Regiment and supported on the left by Scottish Rifles' infantry posts, fixed bayonets and stormed Wellington Ridge. They encountered heavy rifle and machine gun fire, but rushed up the sandy slope and quickly broke through the German and Ottoman front line. After clearing Wellington Ridge, the mounted riflemen, light horsemen and infantrymen pressed forward from ridge to ridge without pause. These troops swept down on a body of about 1,000 to 1,500 Ottoman soldiers, who became demoralised. As a result of this attack, a white flag was hoisted and by 05:00 the soldiers who had stubbornly defended their positions on Wellington Ridge, dominating the camps at Romani, were captured. A total of 1,500 became prisoners in the neighbourhood of Wellington Ridge; 864 soldiers surrendered to the 8th Scottish Rifles alone, while others were captured by the light horse and mounted rifles regiments. By 05:30, the main German and Ottoman force was in a disorganised retreat towards Katia, with the 1st and 2nd Light Horse Brigades and the Ayrshire and Leicestershire batteries not far behind. At 06:00, a further 119 men surrendered to the infantry in No. 3 Redoubt; while these prisoners were being dealt with, it became apparent that they were part of a rearguard and that a full retreat was underway. At 06:30, Lawrence ordered Chauvel to take command of all troops and to initiate a vigorous general advance eastwards.

British advance on Ottoman rearguard at Katia

The 42nd (East Lancashire) Division had arrived during the battle the day before by train from Hill 70, Hill 40 and Gilban Station, and along with the 52nd (Lowland) Division, was ordered to move out in support of the mounted Australian, New Zealand and Yeomanry brigades. The 42nd (East Lancashire) Division was ordered to advance to Hod el Enna; the 127th Brigade marched out at 07:30 and reached Hod el Enna between 09:30 and 10:00, while the 125th Brigade arrived at 11:15. They were supported by the Egyptian Camel Transport Corps, which worked with the Army Service Corps to supply them with drinking water.Some of the difficulties McPherson experienced in attempting to support the 127th Brigade are described by Woodward and Private R. Bethel of the Army Service Corps who worked to support the 125th Brigade, as quoted in Carver 2003 pp. 191–2. In much distress in the scorching midsummer sands, the 42nd (East Lancashire) Division marched very slowly and far in the rear. The 52nd (Lowland) Division also experienced difficulties; although Lawrence ordered the division to move at 06:37, the men did not leave their trenches until nearly midday, reaching their objective of Abu Hamra late in the evening. As a result, von Kressenstein was able to extricate most of his troops and heavy guns from the immediate battle area during the day.It has also been claimed the Ottoman rearguard had been routed and largely captured without the assistance of the 42nd (East Lancashire) Division being required. [Falls 1930 p. 192] Although it has been stated that "British reserves hammered" the Ottomans to a halt on 5 August, it appears the two infantry divisions were reluctant to leave their defences; they were not trained for desert warfare and found the sand dunes extremely difficult to negotiate. They could not match the pace and endurance of the well-trained Ottoman force and were hampered by water supply problems.

At 06:30, when Lawrence ordered Chauvel to take command of all mounted troops (excluding the Mobile Column), the New Zealand Mounted Rifles, the 5th Mounted and the 3rd Light Horse Brigades were somewhat scattered. By 08:30, the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade had reached Bir en Nuss; there they found the 3rd Light Horse Brigade, which had been ordered to move first on Hamisah and then left towards Katia to cooperate in a general attack.According to the war diary of the 5th Light Horse Regiment, on the morning of 5 August, the regiment with the 3rd Light Horse Brigade to which it became attached on arrival at Dueidar, moved back to Nuss from Dueidar, where the 5th Light Horse Regiment rejoined the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade. [AWM4-10-10-20 War Diary of the 5th Light Horse Regiment August 1916] The advance guard moved to fulfill these orders at 09:00. At 10:30, the general mounted advance began and by midday, was on a line from west of Bir Nagid to south of Katib Gannit; in the centre the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade were approaching the south-west edge of the Katia oasis; on their left the 1st, the 2nd Light Horse, the 5th Mounted Yeomanry Brigades and the 52nd (Lowland) Division were attacking Abu Hamra, to the north of the old caravan road, while the 3rd Light Horse Brigade was away to the New Zealander's right, south of the old caravan road, attacking German and Ottoman units at Bir el Hamisah.

Between 12:00 and 13:00, the commanders of the New Zealand Mounted Rifle, 1st and 2nd Light Horse and 5th Mounted Brigades reconnoitred the German, Austrian and Ottoman rearguard position 2 miles (3.2 km) west of Katia. It was decided that the three light horse brigades would advance mounted with the Yeomanry to attack the German and Ottoman right flank. The rearguard force made a very determined stand on a well-prepared line, stretching from Bir El Hamisah to Katia and on to Abu Hamra. Their artillery and machine guns were well placed in the palms fringing the eastern side of a great flat marsh, which stretched right across the front of their position, giving them an excellent field of fire.

A general mounted attack commenced at 14:30. By 15:30, the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade and the 1st and 2nd Light Horse Brigades were advancing at the gallop on Katia, with the Yeomanry on the far left. When they had reached the edge of the white gypsum, they formed a line, fixed bayonets, and charged over the exposed country. The 5th Light Horse Regiment (2nd Light Horse Brigade) galloped in this long line of charging horses, holding fixed bayonets through shell fire and bullets until the troops dismounted to engage in fierce fighting. All the brigades were eventually forced to attack dismounted when the ground became too swampy (in the case of the light horse) and when the intensity of fire from the rearguard made it necessary to send back the horses (in the case of the Yeomanry).While fighting on foot, one in four of the troopers held four horses each behind the firing line, leaving three quarters of the brigade which was equivalent in rifle strength to an infantry battalion, to form the firing line. [Preston 1921 p.168] They were met by well-directed, heavy German, Austrian and Ottoman artillery fire, which completely outgunned the supporting Ayrshire and Somerset Batteries; by sunset, the advance of the British Empire mounted brigades had been stopped. The 9th Light Horse Regiment (3rd Light Horse Brigade) on the extreme right was held up by a determined German and Ottoman rearguard and was unable to work round the right flank of that position. But after galloping to within a few hundred yards of the rearguard's line, they made a dismounted bayonet attack under cover of machine gun fire and the Inverness Battery. As a result, the German and Ottoman force abandoned their position, leaving 425 men and seven machine guns to be captured. But, instead of holding their ground, they drew off, and this withdrawal led to a strong German and Ottoman counterattack falling on the Canterbury Mounted Rifle Regiment.

Darkness finally put an end to the battle. During the night, the Germans, Austrians and Ottomans withdrew back to Oghrantina, while the ANZAC Mounted Division watered at Romani, leaving a troop of the Auckland Mounted Rifle Regiment as a listening post on the battlefield.

The two-day battle for Romani and the Suez Canal had been won by the British infantry and Australian, British and New Zealand mounted troops. They captured approximately 4,000 German and Ottoman combatants and killed more than 1,200, but the main enemy force was able to escape with all their artillery, except for one captured battery and retreat back to Oghratina as a consequence of fighting a successful rearguard action at Katia.

Having borne the burden of the long days of patrolling, reconnaissance and minor engagements with the advancing enemy columns prior to the battle, the 1st and 2nd Light Horse Brigades had alone withstood the attack from midnight on 3/4 August and into the early morning of 4 August, as well as continuing to fight during the long days of battle. By the end of 5 August, they were completely exhausted; their depleted ranks stumbling back to their bivouac lines at Romani and Etmaler to be given one day's rest.

Chauvel's force advance on Ottoman rearguards

Von Kressenstein had prepared successive lines of defence during his advance towards Romani, and despite losing one artillery battery and more than one third of his soldiers, fought a series of effective rearguard actions which slowed the advance of the British Empire mounted troops and enabled his force to retreat back to El Arish.
During the night of 5/6 August, the 155th and 157th Brigades (52nd (Lowland) Division) were at Abu Hamra, the 127th Brigade (42nd (East Lancashire) Division) at Hod el Enna, the 125th Brigade (42nd (East Lancashire) Division) on its left in touch with the 156th Brigade (52nd (Lowland) Division), which had its left on Redoubt No. 21. The next morning, the 42nd Infantry Division was ordered to advance eastwards at 04:00 and occupy a line from Bir el Mamluk to Bir Katia, while the 52nd (Lowland) Division was to advance from Abu Hamra and prolong the line of the 42nd (East Lancashire) Division to the north-east. Although they carried out their orders during their two-day march from Pelusium Station to Katia, the 127th Brigade lost 800 men, victims to thirst and the sun; other infantry brigades suffered similarly. It became clear that the infantry could not go on, and they ceased to be employed in the advance. Indeed, it was necessary for the Bikanir Camel Corps and Yeomanry detachments, as well as the medical services, to search the desert for those who had been left behind.

The Mobile Column in the south, consisting of the Imperial Camel Corps Brigade, the 11th Light Horse, and the City of London Yeomanry Regiments (less two squadrons), advanced from Ferdan and the Ballah railhead to attack the German and Ottoman left flank, working through Bir El Mageibra, Bir El Aweidia and Hod El Bayud. They found Mageibra evacuated on 5 August. After camping there for the night, they fought strong Ottomam forces between Bayud and Mageibra the following day, but could make no impression. Some days later, on 8 August, the Mobile Column did succeed in getting round the Ottoman flank, but was too weak to have any effect and retired to Bir Bayud.

Advance towards Oghratina – 6 August

During the previous night, the German and Ottoman force evacuated Katia and was moving towards Oghratina when Chauvel ordered the Anzac Mounted Division to continue the attack. The New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigades and the 5th Mounted Brigade were ordered to capture Oghratina. Despite attempts by these two brigades to turn the enemy flank, they were forced to attack strongly entrenched rearguards in positions which favoured the defenders and which were supported by carefully positioned artillery. Meanwhile the two infantry divisions moved to garrison Katia and Abu Hamra and Lawrence moved his headquarters forward from Kantara to Romani. The 3rd Light Horse Brigade on the right advanced towards Badieh, which was similarly securely held by German and Ottoman forces, and made little progress.
The New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade had moved out at dawn, followed by the 5th Yeomanry Brigade without ambulance support, as the New Zealand Field Ambulance had not returned from Romani and the 5th Mounted Field Ambulance had not yet arrived. Fortunately, casualties were light, and both ambulances arrived in the evening. The 3rd Light Horse Field Ambulance, which had formed a dressing station at Bir Nagid to the south of Romani, treated wounded from 3rd Light Horse Brigade's engagement at Bir el Hamisah; a convoy brought in wounded Ottomans from a hod to the south of Romani, and 150 cases of heat exhaustion from the 42nd Infantry Division were treated during the day.

Oghratina entered on 7 August

The same three brigades - one mounted rifle, one light horse and one Yeomanry, with the 10th Light Horse Regiment (3rd Light Horse Brigade) supporting the Yeomanry - moved to attack the German and Ottoman position at Oghratina, but the rearguard position was again found to be too strong. Lacking the support of infantry or heavy artillery, the mounted force was too weak to capture this strong rearguard position, but the threat from the mounted advance was enough to force the enemy to evacuate the position. During the night, the German and Ottoman forces retreated back to Bir el Abd, where they had been three weeks previously on 20 July, when they established a base with a depot for supplies and stores.

On 7 August the Greater Bairam (a feast day celebrating the end of the Islamic year) coincided with the Egyptian Camel Transport Corps at Romani being ordered to move out with supplies for the advancing troops, but 150 men, most of whom were past the end of their contracts and entitled to be discharged, refused orders to fill their water bottles, draw their rations and saddle up. One man was hit about the head with the butt of a pistol and the dissenters were dispersed into small groups and reassigned to various units of the 52nd (Lowland) Division.

Debabis occupied on 8 August

The New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade reached Debabis on 8 August. As the 3rd Light Horse Brigade came up, they passed many dead Ottomans and Yeomanry; one dead Ottoman sniper had a heap of hundreds of rounds of empty cartridge shells beside him. Meanwhile, the Bikanir Camel Corps and a squadron of aircraft continued searching the desert sands for missing men.

Action of Bir el Abd – 9 to 12 August

Chauvel planned, with Lawrence's approval, to capture the Ottoman rearguard at their forward base of Bir El Abd, 20 miles (32.2 km) to the east of Romani. The position was strongly held by greatly superior numbers of Germans, Austrians and Ottomans, supported by well-placed artillery, but the garrison was seen burning stores and evacuating camps.
Chauvel deployed the ANZAC Mounted Division for the advance, with the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade in the centre following the telegraph line. On their right, with a gap of 1 miles (1.6 km), was the 3rd Light Horse Brigade, which was in touch with a small flying column; the Mobile Column of the City of London Yeomanry, 11th Light Horse Regiments and the Imperial Camel Corps Brigade, and was to attempt to get round the German and Ottoman left flank and cut off their retreat.According to the British official historian, the Mobile Column were not directed to participate in the attack on Bir el Abd, but on the morning of 9 August engaged an Ottoman force at Hod el Bayud, where they killed 21 soldiers; the column proved to be too small to act independently, and was never under Chauvel's command. [Falls 1930 pp. 189, 201] The advance of the 3rd Light Horse and the New Zealand Mounted Brigades from Oghratina to Bir el Abd was to begin at daylight on 9 August, with the 5th Mounted Yeomanry Brigade formed the reserve. On the left of the New Zealanders, Royston's Column; a composite of the depleted 1st and 2nd Light Horse Brigades, had gone to Katia to water and then march through the night to the Hod Hamada 4 miles (6.4 km) north-west of Bir el Abd, where they arrived at 03:00 on 9 August. They were to bivouac for one and a half hours before advancing to a point 2 miles (3.2 km) north-east of Bir el Abd, to cooperate with the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade in the attack on the rearguard position at 06:30. Since the attack, supported by only four horse artillery batteries, was on a prepared position held in superior strength, strong in machine guns, and covered by double the number of guns, including heavy howitzers, it was something of a gamble. The attacking force's only advantage was its mobility.

Attack on 9 August

The 3rd Light Horse Brigade set out to find and turn the German and Ottoman left, while at 04:00 the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade headed directly towards Bir el Abd along the old caravan route. By 05:00, they had driven in enemy outposts and reached high ground overlooking Bir el Abd. Royston's Column moved off at 05:00 with the intention of enveloping the Ottoman right, while the New Zealanders attacked in the centre; the four brigades covering a front of 5 miles (8 km).

The forward troops of the German and Ottoman rearguard, which held a front of about 10 miles (16.1 km), were driven back to Bir el Abd by the New Zealanders; at this time, the attackers appeared likely to succeed, as they had firmly established themselves across the telegraph line and the old caravan road, supported by the Somerset and Leicester batteries. But the German, Austrian and Ottoman rearguard quickly realised how thin the attacking line was, and at 09:00 advanced out of their trenches to counterattack. This aggressive move was only checked by artillery fire from the Somerset Battery effectively combined with fire from machine guns. The subsequent firefight made it extremely difficult for the mounted riflemen to maintain their position, and on the flanks the light horse were also held up. The German and Ottoman infantry renewed their attack towards a gap between the New Zealanders and the 2nd Light Horse Brigade, but the 5th Light Horse Regiment covered the gap, and the German and Ottoman advance was halted.

Chauvel ordered the 3rd Light Horse Brigade, which had been unable to turn the German and Ottoman flank, to move towards the New Zealanders who renewed their efforts, but they only succeeded in exposing their flanks, as the Australians were unable to conform to their movement. By 10:30, all progress had stopped. The New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade continued to hold on in the centre, while both flanks were bent back by pressure from the strong German and Ottoman force. The result was that the New Zealanders ended up holding a very exposed salient
Salients, re-entrants and pockets
A salient is a battlefield feature that projects into enemy territory. The salient is surrounded by the enemy on three sides, making the troops occupying the salient vulnerable. The enemy's line facing a salient is referred to as a re-entrant...

 line on the forward slopes of the hills overlooking the Hod. Then fresh German or Ottoman reinforcements from El Arish launched a fierce counterattack on a front of about 2.5 miles (4 km) on the centre. This fell on the Canterbury and Auckland Regiments and a squadron of Warwickshire Yeomanry of the 5th Mounted Yeomanry Brigade under Chaytor's command. The New Zealanders were supported by machine guns; one section, attached to the Canterbury Mounted Rifles Regiment, fired all their guns directly on the advancing soldiers and were able to stop them when they were within 100 yards (91.4 m) of the New Zealand position.

By midday, the advance had been completely held up by determined counterattacks supported by fresh German or Ottoman troops from El Arish. Even more than at Katia on 5 August, these soldiers were more numerous, ready, full of fight and more strongly supported by well-placed Austrian and Ottoman guns delivering both heavy and accurate fire. At this time, the rearguard launched another heavy counterattack with two columns of 5,000 and 6,000 German and Ottoman soldiers against the Canterbury and Auckland Regiments and the squadron of the Warwickshire Yeomanry. By 14:00, the attack had extended to the mounted force's left flank where the Ayrshire Battery with Royston's Column was badly cut up by this fire, losing 39 horses killed and making it extremely difficulty to move the guns. They were forced to retire nearly 1 miles (1.6 km) and the 3rd Light Horse Brigade, after advancing well up on the right flank, was also forced to give ground by the accuracy of enemy shellfire.

A further withdrawal by the 3rd Light Horse Brigade made the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade's position critical and at 17:30, Chauvel gave orders for a general retirement. Disengagement proved to be a challenge; it was only the tenacity of the New Zealanders and nightfall which saved them from certain capture. At the last, the Machine Gun Squadron had all its guns in line, some of them firing at a range of 100 yards (91.4 m); they were supported by squadrons of the 5th Mounted Yeomanry Brigade, which together, successfully covered the New Zealanders' withdrawal.

After this day of fierce fighting, which has been described as the hardest-fought action of the whole Sinai campaign, the ANZAC Mounted Division was effectively stopped. Chauvel ordered the division to return to water at Oghratina, despite Lawrence's wish for them to bivouac close to Bir el Abd but Chauvel concluded that his force was in no condition to remain within reach of this strong and aggressive enemy force. Further, the Anzac Mounted Division had lost a significant proportion of their strength: over 300 casualties, including eight officers and 65 other ranks killed.

Strong patrols – 10 August

At daylight on 10 August, strong patrols went forward and remained in touch with the force at Bir el Abd throughout the day, but without fresh troops, an attack in force could not be made.

Planned attack – 12 August

No serious fighting took place on 11 August, but von Kressenstein's force at Bir el Abd was watched and harassed, and plans were made for an attack on 12 August. The advance of the ANZAC Mounted Division began at daylight, but soon afterwards, forward patrols reported that the garrison at Bir el Abd was retiring. The mounted force followed the Austrians, Germans and Ottomans as far as Salmana, where another rearguard action delayed the mounted force, while the enemy withdrew back to El Arish.

The ANZAC Mounted Division's lines of communication were now at their most extended, and the difficulties of supplying the mounted troops from Romani made it impossible for the British Empire force to consider any further advance at that time. Arrangements were made to hold and garrison the country decisively won by this series of engagements, from Katia eastwards to Bir El Abd.

Von Kressenstein had succeeded in withdrawing his battered force from a potentially fatal situation; both his advance to Romani and the withdrawal were remarkable achievements of planning, leadership, staff work and endurance.

Casualties

According to the Australian official medical history, the total British Empire casualties were:
Killed Died of wounds WoundedTotal
British 79 27 259 365
Australian 104 32 487 623
New Zealand 39 12 163 214
Total 222 71 909 1202


Other sources put the total killed at 202, with all casualties at 1,130, of whom 900 were from the Anzac Mounted Division.

Ottoman Army casualties have been estimated to have been 9,000; 1,250 were buried after the battle and 4,000 were taken prisoner.
Casualties were cared for by medical officers, stretcher bearers, camel drivers and sand–cart drivers who worked tirelessly, often in the firing line, covering enormous distances in difficult conditions and doing all they could to relieve the suffering of the wounded. The casualties were transported on cacolets on camels or in sand carts back to the field ambulances, as the heavy sand made it impossible to use motor- or horse-drawn ambulances. Between 4 and 9 August, the ANZAC Mounted Division's five field ambulances brought in 1,314 patients, including 180 enemy wounded.

In the absence of orders coordinating evacuation from the field ambulances, the Assistant Directors of Medical Services made their own arrangements. The A.D.M.S. ANZAC Mounted Division arranged with his counterparts in the other two infantry divisions to set up a clearing station at the railhead 4 miles (6.4 km) beyond Romani. This station was formed from medical units of the ANZAC Mounted, the 42nd and the 52nd (Lowland) Divisions. With no orders from No. 3 Section Headquarters as to the method of evacuation of casualties of the three divisions, prisoners of war were transported back to Kantara by train before the wounded, generating amongst all ranks a feeling of resentment and distrust towards the higher command which lasted for a long time.

Aftermath

The Battle of Romani remains the first large-scale mounted and infantry victory of the British Empire in the war. It occurred at a time when the Allied nations had experienced nothing but defeat, in France, at Salonika and at the capitulation of Kut in Mesopotamia. The battle has been widely acknowledged as a strategic victory and a turning point in the campaign to restore Egypt's territorial integrity and security, and marked the end of the land campaign against the Suez Canal.
These successful British infantry and mounted operations resulted in the complete defeat of the 16,000 to 18,000 strong German, Austrian and Ottoman force, about half of whom were killed or wounded, and nearly 4,000 taken prisoner. Also captured were a mountain gun battery of four heavy guns, nine machine guns, a complete camel–pack machine gun company
Company (military unit)
A company is a military unit, typically consisting of 80–225 soldiers and usually commanded by a Captain, Major or Commandant. Most companies are formed of three to five platoons although the exact number may vary by country, unit type, and structure...

, 2,300 rifles and a million rounds of ammunition, two complete field hospitals with all instruments, fittings and drugs, while a great quantity of stores in the depot at Bir el Abd was destroyed. All the captured arms and equipment were made in Germany, and the camel–pack machine gun company's equipment had been especially designed for desert warfare. Many of the rifles were of the latest pattern and made of rustless steel. Murray estimated the total German and Ottoman casualties at about 9,000, while a German estimate put the loss at one third of the force (5,500 to 6,000), which seems low considering the number of prisoners.

The tactics employed by the ANZAC Mounted Division were to prove effective throughout the coming campaigns in the Sinai and in the Levant
Levant
The Levant or ) is the geographic region and culture zone of the "eastern Mediterranean littoral between Anatolia and Egypt" . The Levant includes most of modern Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories, and sometimes parts of Turkey and Iraq, and corresponds roughly to the...

 (also known at the time as Palestine). The key to the mounted rifles and light horse's approach was to quickly move onto tactical ground and then to effectively operate as infantry once dismounted. In defence, the artillery and machine guns wrought havoc on enemy attacks, and during the mounted advance, they covered and supported the British Empire mounted force. This battle was fought under extreme conditions in the Sinai desert in midsummer heat over many days, causing much suffering to man and beast and demanding tenacity and endurance on the part of all who took part.

The Battle of Romani marked the end of the German and Ottoman campaign against the Suez Canal; the offensive had passed decisively into the hands of the British Empire force led by the ANZAC Mounted Division. After the battle, von Kressenstein's force was pushed back across the Sinai Peninsula, to be beaten at the Battle of Magdhaba
Battle of Magdhaba
The Battle of Magdhaba took place on 23 December 1916 south and east of Bir Lahfan in the Sinai desert, some inland from the Mediterranean coast and the town of El Arish...

 in December 1916 and back to the border of Ottoman Empire-controlled Palestine to be defeated at the Battle of Rafa
Battle of Rafa
The Battle of Rafa took place on 9 January 1917 at el Magruntein to the south of Rafa, close to the frontier between the Sultanate of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula and the Ottoman Empire, and in the area to the north and east of Sheikh Zowaiid...

 in January 1917, which effectively secured the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula. This spectacularly successful, seven-month-long British Empire campaign which began at Romani in August ended at the First Battle of Gaza
First Battle of Gaza
The First Battle of Gaza was fought in and around the town of Gaza on the Mediterranean coast in the southern region of Ottoman Palestine on 26 March 1917, during World War I...

 in March 1917.

Some criticisms

The Battle of Romani has, however, been surrounded with controversy and criticism. It has been suggested that, like the attack on the Suez Canal in 1915, it was merely a raid to disrupt maritime traffic rather than a determined attempt to gain control of the canal. That the Ottoman Empire's intention was to strongly occupy Romani and Kantara is supported by the very thorough preparations in the southern territory of Palestine adjacent to, and extending into, the Sinai. These included extending the Palestine railway system to Wadi El Arish, with a good motor road beside the railway. Cisterns and other works were constructed along this route to store water and at Wadi El Arish, enormous rock cut reservoirs were under construction in December 1916 when the ANZAC Mounted Division reached that place just before the Battle of Magdhaba.
Murray, Lawrence and Chauvel have all been criticised for letting von Kressenstein's force escape. Further, it has been asserted that the tactics of the mounted troops actually helped their withdrawal by concentrating on direct assaults rather than flank attacks. The official British historian acknowledges the disappointment caused by the successful retirement of the German, Austrian and Ottoman force but he also notes the quality of the successive rearguard positions constructed during the advance, and the strength, determination and endurance of the enemy. The rearguards had been very strong and, when the mounted force attempted to outflank the force as at Bir el Abd on 9 August, they failed because they were greatly outnumbered. Indeed, if the ANZAC Mounted Division had succeeded in getting round the flank without infantry support, they would have been faced with vastly superior forces and could have been annihilated.

It has been suggested that an opportunity was lost on 5 August to encircle and capture the invading force when it was allowed to withdraw to Katia. The infantry's difficulties regarding the supply of water and camel transport combined with their lack of desert training, together with Lawrence's confusing orders for the 52nd (Lowland) Division to move south and east, stopped them from promptly advancing to cut off the retreating force in the early hours of the second day's battle. General Lawrence was criticised for taking a grave and unnecessary risk by relying on one entrenched infantry division and two light horse brigades to defend Romani. The strong enemy attack on the 1st and 2nd Light Horse Brigades during the first night's battle pushed them so far back that the planned flanking attack by the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade became almost a frontal attack. Lawrence was also faulted for remaining at his headquarters at Kantara, which was considered to be too far from the battlefield, and that this contributed to his loss of control of the battle during the first day, when the telephone line was cut and he was out of contact with Romani. Lawrence was also criticised for not going forward to supervise the execution of his orders on 5 August, when there was a failure to coordinate the movements of the 3rd Light Horse Brigade and the Mobile Column.

Chauvel responded by pointing out that the criticisms of the battle were in danger of obscuring the significance of the victory.

Battle honours

Murray lavished praise on the Anzac Mounted Division in cables to the Governors General of Australia and New Zealand and in his official despatch and in letters to Robertson, writing:

Every day they show what an indispensable part of my forces they are ... I cannot speak too highly of the gallantry, steadfastness and untiring energy shown by this fine division throughout the operations ... These Anzac troops are the keystone of the defence of Egypt.

But he failed to ensure the fighting qualities of these soldiers earned them a proportionate share of recognition and honours. Further, despite claims that Chauvel alone had a clear view of the battle, that his coolness and skill were crucial in gaining the victory, his name was omitted from the long list of honours published on New Year's Day 1917. Murray did offer Chauvel a lesser award (a second DSO
Distinguished Service Order
The Distinguished Service Order is a military decoration of the United Kingdom, and formerly of other parts of the British Commonwealth and Empire, awarded for meritorious or distinguished service by officers of the armed forces during wartime, typically in actual combat.Instituted on 6 September...

) for Romani which he declined.

On reading Murray's description in his official despatch covering the battle, and reprinted in a Paris edition of the 'Daily Mail', Chauvel wrote to his wife on 3 December 1916,

I am afraid my men will be very angry when they see it. I cannot understand why the old man cannot do justice to those to whom he owed so much and the whole thing is so absolutely inconsistent with what he had already cabled.


It was not until after the victory at the Battle of Rafa
Battle of Rafa
The Battle of Rafa took place on 9 January 1917 at el Magruntein to the south of Rafa, close to the frontier between the Sultanate of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula and the Ottoman Empire, and in the area to the north and east of Sheikh Zowaiid...

 that Chauvel was made a Knight of the Order of St Michael and St George
Order of St Michael and St George
The Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George is an order of chivalry founded on 28 April 1818 by George, Prince Regent, later George IV of the United Kingdom, while he was acting as Prince Regent for his father, George III....

, but this particular order is awarded for important non-military service in a foreign country. It was not just his military service at Romani which had not been unambiguously and properly recognised, but also the service of all those who fought in the ANZAC Mounted Division at Romani, at El Arish, at Magdhaba
Battle of Magdhaba
The Battle of Magdhaba took place on 23 December 1916 south and east of Bir Lahfan in the Sinai desert, some inland from the Mediterranean coast and the town of El Arish...

and at Rafa. In September 1917 not long after General Allenby became Commander in Chief of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, Chauvel wrote to GHQ to point out the injustice done to his front-line troops; he acknowledged that it was "difficult to do anything now to right this, but consider the Commander-in-Chief should know that there is a great deal of bitterness over it."

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