Rather a hard day today. Reveille 1:15 am, breakfast at 2 am. We moved off soon after four with ten horses in each team, and they worked splendidly and although the going was atrocious, we got to Bir El Rabah within four hours. When we got there the engineers seemed to have made no effort at all to find any water. The major found a likely looking place and made them dig, and with the help of a pump and a canvas trough within a few hours there was enough water for the horses. It was brackish but they were thirsty and most of them drank it well. The camel transport brought enough drinking water for half a gallon per man so we didn’t do so badly.
We didn’t get any food from two o’clock breakfast till after four in the afternoon, so the bully went like smoke when we got at it. Towards evening General Laurence came out and said the columns were too far forward and must move back half a mile, and then later orders came in that we were to go to Romani for the night, so it ended with the horses having another very hard three hours work over, if anything, worse going than this morning, and it was a very hot evening. The horses couldn’t have worked better and we got here soon after nine.
General Parker came out to see us this evening and told us they are going to give us mules for draft instead of horses, much better for these conditions, and I wonder they haven’t done it before, but we shall be very sad at parting with the horses we’ve had so long now and they are by no means a bad lot.
Reveille at 4:30 this morning, then digging a signalling pit from five till eight. I didn’t get a bathe in till this evening, and the water was almost too warm by then to be really nice.
Orders came in this evening that the mobile column has got to turn out at some unearthly hour tomorrow morning. We’ve got to get to Kilo 48, which is about eight miles from here near Bir El Rabah. It will be a very hard job for the horses as the going is awful, very damp sand in some places and wet salt marshes in others where it is ten to one we shall go through the top crust and get hopelessly bogged. But still, we hope for the best. I’ve got to be battery guide tomorrow for the first eight miles or so out, as I know the country pretty well now. Hope is running high that we may be going on a strafing expedition as an unofficial report came though from Port Said last night that we had landed troops at Jaffa, which is just above El Arish. Anyhow I believe we are to bivouac for the first night somewhere near Katia, and the general himself doesn’t know yet whether we shall be going on further the next day. The mobile column of the 155th Brigade at Romani is also going out, so it looks as though there may be something up.
An Anzac mounted division and the Bikaner Camel Corps are going out before dawn tomorrow to screen our advance. We are only taking three guns out tomorrow; Badcock is staying here with the other one to support the infantry if things go badly with us and the place is attacked.
Buckley of the Essex Battery came up from Kantara tonight to see the positions line.
Section gun drill this morning, followed by a bathe. A very hot day today and no sea breeze. Section gun drill this evening. I walked down by the line tonight; they are getting on at a tremendous pace and it’s all ready for laying the lines. The light railway round the coast from Port Said (32 miles) has reached here too.
The Australians got back from a reconnaissance today with two Turks. They came on a patrol of eight of them, but their trotting camels streaked away from the Anzac horses, and they only managed to wing these two.
Worrall went back to Kantara today.
Stood by at three o’clock this morning and being a clear morning I was able to dismiss the detachments at four-thirty. Improving the right section alternative gun position during the morning. I bathed later on in the morning. The water was exceptionally warm today. One of the men bathing caught a turtle, although not a very large one.
At two o’clock this afternoon General Koe and his staff, several officers of the Scottish Horse and Royal Scots, Major Jeans, Worrall, and myself went on a reconnaissance. When we got to Hill 90 we were joined by the general and staff of the 153rd Brigade at Romani, and all rode on escorted by a troop of the Glasgow Yeomanry, and also a troop of the Bikaner Camel Corps, to a small oasis called Bir El Rabah about a mile north of Katia. There it is intended for the mobile columns of the 156th and 153rd Brigades to meet if we have to move out. I think they are going to give us one practice turnout shortly to see that everything works alright.
I had my hair cut this evening and it needed it badly. The colonel and Elwiss left today. We had one of the Scottish Horse majors in to mess this evening.
Mail in tonight – had all the news from home. Jo’s division have been inspected by the King on Salisbury Plain and expect to go soon now.
A fairly quiet day. When the major was bathing this morning he saw two sharks come in within fifty yards of the shore so he made a hasty exit. They told us there were plenty of them about here – we shall be keeping our weather eyes open more now.
A Boche aeroplane appeared shortly after lunch, flying very high. He circled over us and Railhead for about half an hour, in spite of our machine guns, but he was evidently on a reconnaissance as he didn’t drop any bombs. He looked like the same one who visited us before, painted white except for the two black crosses on the lower wing. White is a very hard colour to see in this bright light.
Elwiss of the West Riding Battery and Worrall of the Essex came up this afternoon to have a look round and spend the night.
On duty in the O.Pip tonight.
Battery gun drill this morning. Bathed about midday. The colonel arrived for lunch; he has come up from Kantara for a day or two.
Practicing for night firing this evening with lamp signalling.
Got a little news today: the Russians seem to be giving the Austrians a bit of a dressing down in the Pripet Marshes.
A small mail in tonight – heard from Bill Broadhurst.
The intelligence report tonight says the Turks at El Arish have been further reinforced by two ‘taburs’ (about 2000) of Afghan troops. I wonder who they will get for us next?
I warned the gun detachments to stand to at three o’clock this morning. We had to keep standing by until six as there was a very heavy mist, just the morning for an attack, but all was quiet.
Battery gun drill this morning. Bathed about midday.
At 2:30 pm the major, Elliott, Franklyn, and myself rode out on a reconnaissance. We went on practically the same ground as the day before yesterday, and a mile or two further on. The Glasgow Yeomanry provided us with an escort.
We saw a jackal jump out of a patch of scrub about fifty yards ahead of us and we galloped him for two or three hundred yards, but we couldn’t get a shot in, and he went like a flash of lightening straight towards Katia. On the way back we started a fox out of some scrub, but didn’t have a hunt. We came back along the shore, and it was alive with crabs, literally thousands; a sort of land crab that live in holes in the sand. They have very long legs and eyes that stick up like periscopes, and they run like blazes as soon as they see you coming, either into their holes or into the sea.
A very interesting intelligence report tonight, I think we shall have plenty to do shortly. The Admiralty have confirmed the report about Kitchener, it is a great blow.
Nothing much doing today except odd jobs. Our report about the Russians getting hold of thirty thousand Turks is all a myth – it sounded to good to be true. Another rumour in tonight says that the ‘Hampshire’ has been sunk with Kitchener on board, who was on his way to Russia. We are still in hopes it is only an empty rumour.
The intelligence bulletin in tonight was very full of information. The Turks apparently intend to attack us after Ramadan (some sort of religious feast or fast) which takes place in few days time. The sooner they do attack the better for them as the place is getting stronger every day with wire and trenches.
On duty in the O.Pip tonight.
At work at the guns this morning; bathed about midday. At two thirty General Koe, the brigade major, and Major Jeans, Franklyn, and myself, rode out on a reconnaissance. We were escorted by a troop of the Glasgow Yeomanry. We were reconnoitring the ground for the flying column; I only hope we get the chance of being able to use one. We rode about five miles due East of this position, a great deal of it through big dry gypsum lakes, then we turned and went into Bir Abu Haura from the northeast and then back here by way of Blair’s Post.
This morning a large flock of fifty goats was captured by a yeomanry patrol on the shore about half a mile in front of our entanglements, but they could find no sign of anyone with them. They brought the flock in, and the general thinks it is the forerunner of the Turks’ attack, as they send on large flocks for supplies under the care of would-be shepherds who are really spies, having the excuse that they are shepherds if they are found. I only wish the patrol had got hold of those with this flock; they are probably back in El Arish with a good deal too much information about our position.
A very cheering official report has come in tonight, if it is true, that the Russians have captured thirty thousand Turks and are within six miles of Baghdad.