30 June 1916

A very thick wet fog this morning, so I couldn’t dismiss the detachments till 6:30. Bathed this morning.

General Casson has taken command up here in place of General Koe. Our water ration has now been increased to 1.5 gallons a day per man, as a lot comes up on the railway now it is finished.

The intelligence report tonight reports a considerable increase of enemy troops at all their advanced posts, and the R.F.C. think it is quite probable we shall be attacked in about four days time.

29 June 1916

Digging this morning. After breakfast Badcock and I rode along the shore to the ruins of the Roman fort and on about a mile to where a gang of natives are cutting a channel through from the sea to try and flood the gypsum. It doesn’t look as if it will be a success. Found a big turtle on the shore, but he was dead; he was about two ft long and one and a half across. Bathed when we got back.

Intelligence report this evening reports a good deal of activity at Hassana where there are now about three thousand mixed Germans, Austrian, Turks and Syrians, also guns. Agents report that El Arish, El Anja, and Bir El Saba have about three to five thousand men at each place, and nine aeroplanes at the latter place. Up in the O.Pip tonight.

28 June 1916

Out early this morning digging an observing station.

About nine o’clock the same Boche plane as yesterday flew over, but one of our battle planes, which had been waiting about on the chance of his turning up was soon after him, and we saw a thrilling air fight over the camp. The Boche was about five thousand feet up and our battle plane was a bit above him, and chased him over the camp. Both machines blazing away with their machine guns and they disappeared in the direction of El Arish. Our machine came back about an hour later, flying very badly and made a very bad landing on the shore near the sea – but they managed to right her alright and got off with just a shaking.

The plane had sixty bullet holes in her, and the oil tank shot through, but neither the pilot or observer were touched. They told us they had chased the Boche for 30 miles but his machine was an Aviatik with a machine gun mounted so as to be able to shoot astern, and our plane was so badly hit about they had to give up the chase.

One of the Scottish Horse came into the mess tonight; he brought a rumour that on the Western Front we’ve advanced and broken the German line in nine places.

But we’ve heard so many rumours before.

27 June 1916

Stood by before dawn as usual, dismissed at four thirty.

At six thirty our old friend the white raider appeared, flying very high. He circled round a bit and flew off in the direction of Kantara, but I don’t think he would have got so far as he was back again within 20 minutes flying much lower, and looked very pretty with the sun on him – much more graceful lines than our machines too. He was just circling over us when to our great delight we saw one of our machines coming from the direction of Port Said and flying about the same height as the raider. As soon as the Boche saw him he turned tail and there was a thrilling chase right over the camp. Our machine seemed to catch up a bit and then the Boche opened fire on him with his machine gun and it looked as if our own plane was hit, as he turned off at once and went away over the sea towards Port Said. The raider disappeared too, but about ten minutes later came back again much higher, finished his reconnaissance, and cleared off.

Bathed this morning, but the water was too hot for pleasure.

25 June 1916

Stood by at three this morning and dismissed at four thirty. A quiet day.

A report was sent in to us tonight that the enemy forces at Bir El Mazar have been greatly increased. It is an oasis about forty miles east of us and the authorities are rather expecting the enemy to try a reconnaissance in force shortly, so we may have an attack soon. But I think they will find they are up against it when they come here as, besides our battery, there are fifteen machine guns and seventeen Lewis guns, while the brigade at Romani have got the Ross mountain battery and the Anzac division.

I don’t suppose the Turks will be able to bring anything heavier than mountain guns against us.

23 June 1916

As soon as it was light, had a look round to see who was in the oasis besides ourselves and the escort. I found the Light Horse had not come back, so I went and pinched a sack of barley and a bale of tabin from their supply, and after a little difficulty got hold of a fantasse of filtered water.

We found two wells in the oasis – only one was so brackish the horses wouldn’t look at it, but they drank from the other one.

No one seemed to know what we were wanted for till about ten o’clock – when a message came through that it was one of our aeroplanes down near Bir Al Abd and they had wanted me to try and drag it in. But as they had found it was bashed about they were going to burn all except the engine and Lewis gun etc which they were going to bring in from there on camels.

We stayed in the oasis all day, and went and had a look at the place where our yeomanry post was cut up about a month ago. Nothing to be seen except graves and litter. The Bedouins had been there before the Anzacs and even stripped all the clothes off the bodies – and actually taken the food and water, which the Turk like a gentleman had left with the wounded. They are brutes these Bedouins.

The 7th Light Horse came in about three o’clock, pretty done up; neither they nor their horses had had any water for 24 hrs. They brought in what was worth saving of the aeroplane, also four Bedouin prisoners who they’d found sitting round the aeroplane waiting to hand over to the first Turk patrol. The Anzacs told me that these four had tried to clear off as soon as they saw them coming, but as where they fired at them the Bedouins stopped and took off their baggy white trousers and waved them over their heads as a sign of surrender.

I borrowed two ambulance sand carts from the Light Horse, got the aeroplane engine onto one, and the Lewis gun wheels and seat etc onto the other. Started off about five o’clock in the evening as I wanted to save as much daylight as possible as last night was the first time I’d been out this way and didn’t fancy getting lost. An R.F.C. observer who’d been out with the Anzacs to dismantle the machine rode back with me. It was only the second time he’d ever been on a horse, so wasn’t exactly happy and got rather sore. We got a bit sore too as we’d not had time to put on breeches when ordered out, so were riding in shorts.

We got to Katia at seven, just as the sun was going out of sight, and halted for ten minutes. There were about thirty dead horses still on the lines, just as they’d been shot down, also a few odd camels, so there were flies innumerable and a stink indescribable.

We passed on again heading straight for Katib Gannit, the big sand hill above Romani which we could see in the distance, and luckily hit a camel track.

Eventually, after one or two short breathers, we got to the Romani wells about nine, and from there down to our wagon line camp near Railhead and stayed the night there with Elliott and Kenning. The remains of the plane is going down by rail to Kantara tomorrow.

22 June 1916

Buxton left this morning.

A wire came in this afternoon that an officer was to go down and report at Romani at once. I went down and when I got there I was ordered to go out with two teams with an Australian convoy of three hundred camels to Ogratina. They were taking out supplies to the 7th Australian Light Horse, who’ve been out on a stint to Bir Al Abd and are going to bivouac at Ogratina. But no further orders as to what our share in the stint was to be were forthcoming, so I just had time to get together rations for 24 hrs and had to start straight away.

We got to Katia about seven pm and halted there for a few minutes, which was quite long enough as the stink of dead horses was awful. We then pushed on the remaining six miles to Ogratina and got there at midnight. It was a very slow march but the camels can’t get along very fast and I had to go at their pace as there was only a rather limited escort and we all had to keep together.
Watered the horses at a well at Ogratina and tied them up to some palms for the rest of the night. It was pitch dark and no moon.