31 May 1916

At 3:30 am I warned the detachments to stand by and dismissed then at 6:30 as all was well, and came back to camp for breakfast.

At seven o’clock the major, Franklyn, and I rode off on a reconnaissance. We started off along the edge of Lake Bardawil. The bed of the lake is quite dry, it is like gypsum; it looks just like a glacier and is as hard as a rock. We reconnoitred all the ground very carefully to find the best going for the guns if a section has to go out. We rode on past Blair’s Post and up onto Hill 100 where we had a good view of all the country round El So– and Bir Abu Ha– two small oasises on the edge of Sabkhet El Romani, and away to Katia in the distance. We never saw a sign of a Turk or a Bedouin all the time. We saw several jackal tracks, and some large ones which were probably hyenas as there are said to be plenty of them round this district.

At work on the gun emplacements into this evening.

30 May 1916

We had half a dozen camels working most of the morning and moved our camp up closer to the guns. I had a bathe this afternoon, there were some splendid breakers today.

This evening I rode out with the major on a small reconnaissance in front of the barb wire entanglements. We were looking for the best going to take the mobile section out, as one section has got to go out if Railhead is attacked, and get in rear of the Turks.

The Anzac division went out on a big reconnaissance today, they took the mountain battery with them and one subsection of the Ayrshire Horse Battery which is attached to them, also eleven hundred camels with forage and rations. They expect to be out about three days, and hope to get some way beyond Bin El Abd.

Just off to the O.Pip as I am on duty there tonight.

29 May 1916

Working on the emplacements from six till ten this morning, then went and had a bathe. The colonel went down to Railhead this morning to have lunch with Elliott and Kenning at the wagon line and left for Kantara about four.

This evening, the major has refused to let Kitty leave the battery, so the colonel is baulked for the present, though he offered any horse in brigade headquarters in exchange, though none of them came up to the mare.

Digging hard again from five this evening till eight. A mail came in this evening – I had a good budget of letters from home.

28 May 1916

I warned the left section to stand by at three thirty, and dismissed them at six as all was clear. From seven till ten we worked hard on the new emplacements and they are beginning to grow. Too hot to go on digging after ten so we went down and had a glorious bathe. A troop of Anzacs came down and swam their horses.

From five o’clock this evening till ten we were hard at work on our new gun positions. A fatigue party of the Scottish Horse came and filled sandbags for us for an hour or so. It will take several days before the emplacements are properly finished and the men’s dugouts and ammunition pit dug, but the general said it was most important that the guns should be in them tonight, so we had the teams up, twelve horses to a team, and got them in as soon as it was dark and about a hundred rounds of ammunition to each gun.

The colonel is going to stay on with us tonight and go back to Kantara tomorrow.

I am a bit sleepy tonight as I’ve hardly had any at all the last three nights.

27 May 1916

Up before dawn this morning and Bombardier Manning and I laid out a telephone line from the right section position to its new O.Pip at the infantry trenches overlooking the beach and the dry bed of Lake Bardawil, which is a good hard surface for the enemy to attack over. We stood by there till six o’clock. Badcock and B then went up to the new positions for the left sections and had another look around.

Bathed during the afternoon. At five o’clock this evening we went up to the new gun positions for the left section and began making the emplacements and filling sandbags. The colonel came up from Kantara this evening and is going to spend the night with us. He rode Kitty up from Railhead and told me he thought she was a very nice ride and then dropped a dark hint that he didn’t think his own chargers were good enough and that he was going to get better over from the brigade. I do hope he isn’t thinking of taking Kitty. I should be most awfully sorry if I had to give her up.

The colonel told us that he has had reliable news from Port Said that we are collecting a large force at Cyprus, so it looks rather as if we are going to try and make a landing at Alexandretta and cut the Turkish railway there

I am going up to the left section O.Pip for the night.

26 May 1916

I had to get into communication with the battery at 3:30 am and also with the camp, and warned all to stand by till 6 am. We’ve got to stand by at the guns from dawn (about 3:30) till six every morning as that is the Turks’ favourite hour for attack. There was a glorious sunrise this morning, a lovely sight over the sea at the back of the sand dunes. I was relieved about eight o’clock and came down to breakfast.

We spent most of the morning improving the gun emplacements with sandbags and making ammunition dugouts. We stretched nets over the gun emplacements and covered them with scrub to hide them from aircraft, as it is of greatest importance that the Turks shan’t know there are guns here, and so with luck will walk into the trap.

Headquarters told the major this morning that we wouldn’t move our camp closer to the guns. They also said that water is too scarce for any horses to be kept up here, but as they must be able to make us mobile, all the horses will come up here from seven o’clock every evening and go back to Romani at six every morning. As the Turks aren’t likely to try anything on in the daytime, it won’t matter the horses being at Romani then, but we’ve got to have them here at night. They are rather afraid, too, that Railhead may be attacked at night and if all our horses were there and got scuppered, it would be a nice look out.

General Koe, who is in command of the forces, told the major that the Turks are in a position to attack us here with a force nearly double our own at anytime within five hours from where they have their base, as they have got thousands of trotting camels to bring their infantry up. But we are making this place pretty strong here.

Badcock and I had a heavenly bathe this afternoon, it really is lovely surf for bathing. After tea we went out with the major and chose another O.Pip for the right section alone, having a good field of view of the inundation and the beach. The right section is to be responsible for that zone alone. Then we went and looked out a much better position for the left section, which will be responsible for the zone at Railhead, Blair’s Post, and the right section’s extreme right switch at the edge of the inundation. We also chose a good O.Pip for the left section at the infantry trenches, and it may be necessary to have an F.O.O.

Badcock is sleeping at the left section’s O.Pip tonight and I am going out before dawn tomorrow to lay out a telephone line from the right section to the new O.Pip we chose for it, and stand by with that section till six o’clock.

Elliott and Kenning came up with the horses this evening and go back with them again tomorrow morning.

Franklyn is a bit rough tonight, but I think it is only ‘tummy’ trouble and will soon blow over. The rest of us are feeling awfully fit, the sea air is topping. The intelligence report came in tonight with some very interesting information about the enemy – he doesn’t seem to be being idle.

25 May 1916

The Ross Mountain Battery got away soon after five this morning but our guns didn’t appear till nearly ten. They had got stuck in the sand – the sand tyres which we’ve been issued with to put on the wheels aren’t a great deal of use. The sand is very deep indeed here and it was all ten horses in a beam could do to get the guns along at all. We’ve got to keep twenty four draft horses (six teams) and four riding horses here, so that one section of the battery can be mobile, at least that is what the authorities seem to think, but we think we shall be very lucky if we can keep one gun and firing battery wagon mobile with that number in this heavy sand. All the other horses are at Romani; Elliott and Kenning are with them, I have left “Kitty” and Houghton there too.

The guns are in position about half a mile from our camp in an emplacement, but the major is going to try and get them to let us move the camp up close to the guns and also change the gun positions. Only one detachment have got to sleep at the guns at night as we have got outposts out in front and should be warned in time if the Turks are on the move. The battery is connected up by telephone line to the camp, and the O.Pip is also connected up to the battery in the camp.

The orderly officer has got to sleep at the O.Pip each night with one replacement. I am orderly dog today, so I’ve got to go out to the O.Pip for the night after mess. It is a sandbag dugout about a thousand yards to the right flank of, and in front of, the guns, just behind the infantry first line trenches. Garside turned up for mess this evening, he’d been seeing the horses of the Glasgow Yeomanry at Romani and they had to come and see these here. He is having the loan of my flea bag tonight as I am in the O.Pip.

24 May 1916

I woke up with a start about one o’clock with a feeling that the horses were coming along. I got up and funnily enough they were just coming along a few hundred yards away.

I got on “Kitty” who was being led and went with them to Romani to show them the wells. After watering we came back and bivouacked for the night. The forage train came in about four o’clock and we drew rations and forage as soon as it was light. The guns, baggage, and the rest of the men came along by train about eight o’clock and began detraining straight away.

I rode over to the headquarters of the Anzac Mounted Division at Romani and arranged for our horses to water there during the day. They are going to try and sink some wells at Railhead if the water is good enough. About ten o’clock I was sent on to Mahamdiya which is four miles to a flank of Railhead and practically on the shore. The guns are going to be in a position there but the majority of the horses will have to be at Railhead as all the water has to be taken to Mahamdiya on camels. I took twenty camels on, loaded with baggage and tents, and myself and four men rode on five other camels.

We are taking over at Mahamdiya the position that up till now has been led by the Ross Mountain Battery, and they are going to join the Anzac Mounted Division. The Mountain Battery have been awfully kind to me today, had me into their mess, and done all they can to help. I went down to the shore to have a bathe this afternoon and it was a treat after the canal; nice clean water and quite big breakers and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is hard sand and you can walk out for some way without getting out of your depth.

The water is going to be a great difficulty here, they are only going to let us have three quarters of a gallon a day per man, but still with the battery we shan’t do so badly. All the water has to be brought up by train from Kantara to Railhead, and then brought by camels from Railhead to here. It is carried in fantasses (zinc cisterns), and each holds 10 gallons and each camel can carry two fantasses. So it will be some business supplying us up here with rations and water, etc., besides supplying the 156th Infantry Brigade who are holding the place too.


23 May 1916

I left Kantara with Houghton, four men, and a cook by the midday forage train for Railhead, which is now level with Romani. Elliott and Kenning were to leave Kantara at 4:30 this evening with the horses and expect to get here at 4 o’clock tomorrow morning. I got here about two thirty and we’ve been busy putting up the temporary horse lines and getting forage, etc.

The water for the horses is over a mile away at Romani – some wells in an oasis. I walked over there this afternoon to have a look at them and met a patrol of Anzacs coming in with a Turkish prisoner. They had come upon a party of about sixteen of them, but all had got away on camels except this one. He was a tough hardy looking ruffian, dressed in a sort of light khaki uniform with baggy breeches and puttees, a red sash, and a red and yellow handkerchief on his head which hung a good way down his back.

I hope our move is genuine this time and we shan’t have orders to go back to Kantara as soon as the horses arrive here.

Bombardier Davy has left us today, he is going back to England as he has been given a commission in the East Anglian R.F.A. He will be a great loss to the battery staff.

I shall curl up now for a nap, but it will have to be with one eye open as the horses may arrive any time between two and four.

22 May 1916

Reveille 3:30 this morning and the whole brigade moved off and took up a position southeast of the aerodrome, and shot off about fifty rounds per battery. The General was watching and seemed satisfied with the results of the shoot. I had a glorious bathe later in the morning. As we were passing the Bikanir Camel Corps camp on the way back, the Indians brought out four black sheep and killed them in rather a revolting way and seemed to gloat over it too.

Orders came in this evening that our battery is to move out about thirty miles into Sinai in a day or two. To start with we shall be fairly near Romani, but I am pretty certain that the ultimate plan of campaign is a combined attack by land, sea, and air at El Arish. We’ve got some busy days ahead.