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World War 1 at Sea - Naval Battles in outline

 

 

DEFENCE OF THE SUEZ CANAL - 1915-1916

 

 

Suez Canal in 1904 (US Library of Congress, click to enlarge)

 

 
 

Contents

 

Action in Outline
London Gazette Army  Despatches
Royal Navy Casualties - killed and died
Royal Navy Gallantry Awards

 


 

Relevant chapter from "History of the Great War - Naval Operations"

 

Volume 2 by Corbett

 

VII. The Attack on Egypt, January 27 to February 11

 

including plan, lower right

 


 

also log books of the following ships, which include
 the Defence of the Suez Canal

HMS Clio, 1913-20

HMS Minerva, 1914-18

HMS Proserpine, 1914-19

HMS Swiftsure, 1914-15, 1916-17

 

Royal Navy Battle Honour - SUEZ CANAL 1915, to 4th February.

(Awarded to  Clio, Dufferin (RIM), Hardinge (RIM),

Himalaya, Minerva, Ocean, Proserpine, Swiftsure,

TB.043)

 


Eastern Mediterranean

 

 

Suez Canal

(links to chapters in text)

 
       

 
 

ACTION IN OUTLINE

Only some of the Royal Navy and Royal Indian Marine's involvement in the defence of the Canal in 1915/16 are covered here

 

Wednesday 3 February 1915

Turkish attack on Suez Canal repulsed with the support of British and French warships, battleships Swiftsure, Ocean, old light cruisers, Minerva, Proserpine, sloop Clio, armed merchant cruiser Himalaya, torpedo boat No.043, Royal Indian Marine armed troopships Dufferin and Hardinge took part.

 

RIMS Hardinge (Photo Ships)

 

Hardinge, armed troopship (RIM), 7,457t, 1900, c8-4in/8-3pdr, Cdr T Linberry, taking part in defence of Suez Canal, providing naval support for British-Indian counter-attack 3 miles S of Tussum. Under fire from 4in and heavier guns from 0700, could not locate them, so concentrated firing on infantry. About 0825 both funnels damaged and ship so badly hit, had to slip and move out of channel into Lake Timsah to avoid sinking in the channel; no one killed (Rn/D)

 

 

Sunday 9 May 1915

 

Suez Canal area

 

FANNY, tug, no further information, probably civilian vessel but crew included at least three ratings from armoured cruiser HMS Euryalus. Lost in accidental sinking; three ratings drowned, two of them buried at Ismailia, near Suez (dk)

 

(click for source abbreviations)

 

 

LONDON GAZETTE DESPATCHES

With thanks to the London Gazette

 

 

Gazette No. 29632 - 20 JUNE 1916

 

EGYPTIAN CAMPAIGN

ARMY DESPATCHES dated 16 February 1915 to 9 April 1916

including Defence of the Suez Canal and Western Desert Operations

 

War Office, 21st June, 1916.

 

The following despatches have been, received by the Secretary of State for War from General Sir John Maxwell, K.C.B., on military operations in the Egyptian Command:

 

DESPATCH No. I.

 

From Lieut.-General Sir J. G. Maxwell, K.C.B., C.V.O., C.M.G., D.S.O., Commanding the Force in Egypt.

Army Headquarters, Cairo, 16th February, 1915

 

Sir: 

I have the honour to forward for the information of the Secretary of State for War the accompanying report from Major-General A. Wilson, C.B., Commanding the Suez Canal Defences, who has conducted the operations to my complete satisfaction. He has been ably assisted by Brigadier-General A. H. Bingley, C.I.E.

 

I fully endorse what General Wilson says of the conduct of the regimental officers and men, both British and Indian.

 

The French Hydroplane Squadron and the detachment Royal Flying Corps have rendered very valuable services. The former, equipped with hydroplanes with floats, ran great risks in undertaking land reconnaissance, whilst the latter were much handicapped by inferior types of machines. Notwithstanding these drawbacks, they furnished me regularly with all information regarding the movements of the enemy.

 

I take this opportunity of bringing to the notice of the Secretary of State for War the great services rendered by the Count de Serionne and the officials of the Suez Canal Company; they have one and all been most helpful, and have unreservedly placed their own personal services and the entire resources of the Suez Canal Company at my disposal. The success of our defence was greatly assisted by their cordial co-operation.

 

Also Sir George Macauley, K.C.M.G., Major Blakeney and Captain Hall, of the Egyptian State Railways. In addition to building two excellent armoured trains, these officers worked most assiduously in organizing and superintending the railway arrangements, both along the Canal and in the transportation of reinforcements from Cairo. No difficulties of any sort were made, and such difficulties as existed were speedily overcome, and I cannot sufficiently express my obligation to them. Also Major Liddell, late Royal Engineers, Director of Telegraphs under the Egyptian Government. This official was largely responsible for the excellent system of intercommunication which prevailed throughout the Canal Defences.

 

It is needless for me to add that from Admiral Peirse and the ships of His Majesty's Navy, as well as those of France under his command, most important and valuable assistance was received.

 

I have the honour to be, Sir, Your obedient servant,

J. G. MAXWELL, Lieut.-General, Commanding the Force in Egypt.

________

 

Headquarters, Canal Defences, to the General Staff, Headquarters, Cairo.

Ismailia, 11th February, 1915.

 

Sir: 

I have the honour to submit the following report on the recent attack on the Suez Canal. In order to make the narrative' complete, I will preface it with a brief account of what has taken place since I took over command of the Canal Defences.

 

2. I landed at Suez on the 16th November, 1914, and went to Ismailia the same day, having been preceded ten days before by Brigadier-General A. H. Bingley, my Chief Staff Officer, who was sent from India in advance of the troops to make preliminary arrangements for their landing and despatch to destination. I there took over command of the Canal Defences from Colonel W. G. Walker, Commanding 9th Indian Brigade, which had been detached from the 3rd (Lahore) Division for temporary duty in Egypt.

 

3. In accordance with the instructions received from the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief,. the Canal Defences were organized in three sections, with headquarters at Suez, Ismailia Ferry, and Kantara, respectively, my own headquarters and the general reserve being placed at Ismailia, with the advanced base at Zagazig and base general hospital at Cairo.

 

These arrangements were completed by the 5th December, 1914, when the last units of the force arrived from India.

 

4. Preparations for defence. The months of November, December and January were devoted to a systematic development of the naturally strong line of defence afforded by the Canal, thus completing the work which had been initiated previous to my arrival. A number of defensive posts were prepared on the east bank, to cover the more important ferries and provide facilities for local counterattacks. Trenches were dug on the west bank to cover the intervals between posts and frustrate attempts at crossing. Communications were improved by the construction of landing stages and removable pontoon bridges for use at important points. A flotilla of armed launches, manned by the Royal Navy, was organized, for canal patrols. A complete System of telegraph, telephone, and wireless communication was installed, linking up all the posts with headquarters. A system of defence was established for the protection of the railway, the telegraph lines, and the sweet water canal. The detachment of the Royal Flying Corps was organized, staffed with observers, and equipped with accommodation for its planes.

 

5. The resources of the Suez Canal Company in tugs, launches, lighters, &c., were carefully examined, so as to utilise them for military purposes. Arrangements were made with the Railway Administration for the collecting of rolling stock at convenient places, in. order to expedite the dispatch of reinforcements to threatened points. Provision was also made for the organization of the water supply of the troops and the formation of supply depots, as well as for the rapid collection and evacuation of the sick and wounded. A system of intelligence, censorship and police surveillance was established, and plans were devised, in consultation with the Canal Authorities, for the control of shipping in the event of an attack. Last, but not least, a scheme for making inundations, and so limiting the front over which the enemy could attack, was carried out successfully, by the Irrigation Department at Port Said and the engineering staff of the Canal Company at EL Cap, Kantara and Ballah.

 

6. During this period no active operations took place, except a Bedouin raid made by the enemy in the direction of Kantara. A patrol of the Bikanir Camel Corps under Captain A. J. H. Chope, 2nd Gurkha Rifles, consisting of one Indian officer and twenty other ranks, encountered a force of some 200 Bedouins and Turks on the 20th November, 1914, near Bir-el-Nuss, and in spite of the enemy's treacherous attack, due to the abuse of the white flag, extricated itself successfully from a somewhat difficult position. Our patrol, which lost one Indian officer and twelve other ranks killed and three Sepoys wounded, inflicted some sixty casualties on the enemy. For their gallant conduct on this occasion, No. 1534 Sepoy Ali Khan was awarded the Indian Order of Merit, 2nd Class, and No. 115 Sepoy Faiz Ali Khan the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

 

7. General summary of events.- During the first fortnight in January little direct news of the enemy's advance was forthcoming, though reports of considerable preparations in Syria were constant, and information was received to the effect that advanced posts and depots had been formed at Khan Tunis, El Arish, El Auja, and Kosseima. The country to the east of the Canal within the radius of our aeroplane reconnaissances remained clear of formed bodies of hostile troops, though frequently visited by Bedouin patrols which, in some cases, were accompanied by German officers in Arab dress.

 

About 15th January, however, it became clear that hostile forces of some strength had entered Sinai, and on the 20th the Canal Defence troops were reinforced from Cairo by the 1st and 3rd Brigades R.F.A., East Lancashire Division, T.F., which proceeded at once to previously prepared positions.

 

8. On 18th January a hostile force of 8,000-10,000 was located near Bir-es-Saba by a French naval hydro-aeroplane, and on 22nd a Turkish force was reported to be at Moiya Harab, having arrived there from Gifgaffa. This was confirmed by aerial reconnaissance the next day, and about the same time reports of the presence of hostile troops at Ain Sadr were received, and our mounted troops obtained touch with hostile patrols near Bir-el-Duiedar.

 

9. On the 22nd small detachments were told off from the reserves to hold lightly the trenches prepared along the west bank. On the 26th forces of some 2,000-3,000 men each were located at Bir Mabeuik, Moiya Harab, and Wadi Muksheib, and; the enemy, advanced and engaged our covering troops near Kantara, retiring at 3.30 p.m.. On the same day two battalions 32nd Brigade (33rd Punjabis and 4th Gwalior Infantry), were sent to hold the trenches along the west bank from Bench Mark post to Ballah; while G.O.C.'s of sections reinforced the west bank trenches in their sections from local reserves. The New Zealand Infantry Brigade arrived from Cairo, the Otago and Wellington battalions proceeding to reinforce Kubri, while Headquarters and the Auckland and Canterbury battalions detrained; at Ismailia. H.M.S.  "Swiftsure,"  “Clio," "Ocean," and "Minerva" entered the canal, taking station near Kantara, Ballah, El Shatt, and Shalouf respectively.

 

HMS Swiftsure (Photo Ships)

 

10. During the 27th and 28th the enemy was further reinforced, and established himself in an entrenched position about five miles east of Kantara, astride the El Arish road. On the morning of the 27th attacks on the Baluchistan and El Kubri posts in No. 1 Section were made at about 3 a.m. Both were beaten off without loss. On the morning of the 28th the outposts at Kantara were attacked, and the enemy was driven off with little difficulty. One battalion from 31st Brigade (2nd Rajputs) was sent to reinforce Serapeum.

 

11. From the 29th-31st the enemy closed towards the Canal, the largest concentration appearing in the vicinity, of Gebel Habeita. The 5th Battery, Egyptian Artillery, was sent to Toussoum..

 

12. On the 1st February an advance from the north-east towards the Ismailia Ferry post was detected, and that post, as well as Bench Mark post, was reinforced under the orders' of the General Officer Commanding No. 2 Section. On the 2nd February our advanced troops from Ismailia Ferry encountered the enemy at some distance from the post, and a desultory action ensued. This was broken off at 3.30 p.m., and the enemy then entrenched himself about 2 ½  miles south-east of our defences. In the course of the day considerable bodies of  troops were also seen on the move iri front of El Ferdan, Bench Mark, Toussoum and Serapeum. During.the night of the 2nd-3rd.some firing at El Kubri took place, but nothing further of note occurred in No. 1 Section.

 

13. At about 3.30 a.m. on the 3rd a determined attempt was made to effect a crossing some 2,000 yards south of Toussoum. The enemy brought up a number of pontoons and rafts, several of which they succeeded in launching, while two, if not more, actually crossed the Canal. This attack was covered by heavy rifle and machine-gun fire from the east bank. It was met by parties of the 62nd Punjabis under Major Skeen and Captain Morgan, as well as by fire from the 5th Battery, Egyptian Artillery. Several pontoons were sunk, and all the men who crossed were disposed, of, except twenty, who hid under the west bank and surrendered to the 2nd Rajputs next morning.

 

14. At daylight the enemy were found to have closed on the. Toussoum post, and a counter-attack pushed forward from Serapeum encountered a large force about half a mile from camp. The enemy's attack was not pushed closer than three-quarters of a mile from our position, and they retired about 2 p.m. after shelling our positions intermittently up to that time. Seven officers and 280 men were taken prisoners opposite Toussoum during the course of the fight. A large number of the enemy's dead were found outside Toussoum post, and along the east bank of the Canal.

 

15. At 4.30 p.m. two battalions 31st-Brigade (27th Punjabis and 128th Pioneers) arrived at Serapeum, and Major-General A. Wallace, Commanding 11th Division, took over command of the Section from the Great Bitter .Lake to Lake Timsah. During the morning H.M.S. "Hardinge" was struck by two 6-inch shells, her funnel being split and forward steering gear disabled. She moved into Lake Timsah; and later in the day to Kantara, her place being taken by H.M.S. "Swiftsure." H.M.S. "Ocean" also moved up into this section of the defence. At Ismailia Ferry post the enemy were found at daylight to be entrenching some 700-800 yards from the defences, and two hostile batteries opened fire shortly afterwards. The infantry attack was not pushed home, and no casualties occurred, though many shells burst in the camp and in the vicinity of the town. Shipping detained in Lake Timsah was under fire and suffered slight damage, but no loss of life.

 

16. Circumstances were similar at El Ferdan, where a considerable number of shells were fired, chiefly at the Canal Gare and railway station, both of which were damaged. No casualties occurred.

 

17. At Kantara the outposts were attacked between 5 and 6 a.m., the enemy being driven off, leaving many killed and wounded and unwounded prisoners. Later in the day a partial attack from the south-east was stopped some 1,200 yards from the position.

 

18. During the day H.M.S. "Swiftsure," "Clio," "Hardinge,” and the French ships "Requin" and "D'Entrecasteaux" were engaged, as were also the torpedo boats and armed launches, all rendering valuable services. The bulk of the fighting fell to the 22nd and 29th Infantry Brigades, but the 28tih, as well as portions of. the 31st, 32nd, and New Zealand Infantry Brigades, the Artillery and Engineers of the Lancashire Division, T.F., and No. 3 Field Company Australian Engineers, were also engaged. Very efficient service was rendered by the detachment Royal Flying Corps, several reconnaissances over the. enemy's lines being undertaken during the day.

 

19. The enemy engaged at different points along the Canal on the 3rd appeared to number some 12,000 to 15,000 men in the aggregate, and six batteries, with at least one 6-inch gun, were located. It appears from accounts received from prisoners that the attacking force consisted of the VIIth and portions of the IIIrd, IVth, and VIth Turkish Army Corps and .that Djemal Pasha was in chief command. The enemy's plan contemplated simultaneous attacks on Kantara, Ferdan, Ismailia, Shalouf, and Suez, coupled, with the main effort to cross the Canal near Toussoum. At the first three of the above-mentioned places their efforts, were only half-hearted, while at Shalouf and Suez no attacks materialised, though forces are known to have been in the vicinity of those places. Headquarters, with the 7th and 8th Battalions, 2nd Brigade, 1st Australian Imperial Force, arrived at Ismailia during the evening of the 3rd February.

 

20. On the 4th February, as some firing had taken place from the east bank during the night, two companies of the 92nd Punjabis were sent out at 8 a.m. to clear that bank, and located a body of some 200 to 250 men still entrenched there. On the approach of this detachment the enemy made signs of surrender, but subsequently reopened fire. Supports of one double company each of the 27th and 67th Punjabis and 128th Pioneers were despatched under the command of Major Maclachlan, 92nd Punjabis, who concentrated his men, opened a heavy fire, and then charged. This time the enemy threw away their rifles and surrendered, six officers, 251 men, and three machine guns being captured; 59 men, including a German officer (Major von den Hagen), were found killed at this point.

 

21. The trenches in front of Ismailia and Kantara were found to have been deserted, and the Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade, supported by infantry, moved out from the Ismailia Ferry post. A large body of enemy, estimated at three to four brigades, were encountered seven miles east of Toussoum, and another body some miles to the north. Twenty five prisoners and ninety camels were captured. No other incident occurred along the front.

 

Reinforcements, consisting of the Herts Yeomanry, 2nd County of London Yeomanry (Westminster Dragoons), and one squadron Duke of Lancaster's Own Yeomanry, arrived at Ismailia the same evening.

 

22. On the 5th instant our aeroplanes reported that the enemy were retiring towards Katia, while those who had been in front of No. 2 Section appeared to have concentrated about Gebel Habeita. Mabeuik was still occupied, and a reconnaissance from No. 1 Section encountered some of the enemy's infantry near Gebel Murr during the day. There was no change during the 6th, the enemy being still in strength near Gebel Habeita. A reconnaissance by a mixed force, which had been contemplated this day, was cancelled owing to information gathered from prisoners to the effect that considerable reinforcements of the enemy were expected and might be at hand about this time. On the 7th, however, our aeroplanes found this camp deserted. Mabeuik was also found to have been vacated, and the nearest enemy on the northern line appeared at Bir-El- Abd. On the 9th the only enemy located were in camps at El Rigum, Wadi Muksheib, and Moiya Harab. On the 10th instant only some 400 men were left at Rigum camp, and these appeared to be moving eastwards.

 

23. The actions at Toussoum and Kantara - I will now supplement the general summary of events given in the foregoing paragraphs with a more detailed account of the fighting that took place at Toussoum on 3rd February, and at Kantara on 28th January and 3rd February.

 

24. The troops in the Toussoum-Serapeum -Deversoir portion of No. 2 Section on the morning of 3rd February were as follows:

The 19th Lancashire Battery, R.F.A., T.F. (four guns), commanded by Major B. Palin Dobson.

The 5th Battery, Egyptian Artillery (four mountain guns and two maxims), commanded by Major I. D'E. Roberts, R.A.

1st Field Company, East Lancashire Royal Engineers, T.F. (two sections), under Captain J. G. Riddick.

Canterbury Battalion, New Zealand Infantry (two platoons), under Major C. B. Brereton.

2nd Queen Victoria's Own Rajputs, under Lieut.-Colonel F. P. S. Dunsford.

62nd Punjabis, under Lieut.-Colonel E. W. Grimshaw.

92nd Punjabis, under Major T. R. Maclachlan.

2/10th Gurkha Rifles, under Lieut.-Colonel F. G. H. Sutton.

128th Pioneers (two platoons, acting as escort to 5th Battery, Egyptian Artillery), under Lieutenant R. A. Fitzgibbon.

137th Field Ambulance, under Major R. W. Knox, I.M.S.

25. These troops were disposed as follows:

(a) On the east bank, in the posts of Toussoum, Serapeum, and Deversoir, a half battalion in each, furnished by the 92nd, 62nd, and 2/10th Gurkha Rifles, respectively.

 

(b) On the west bank, from the entrance to Lake Timsah to Deversoir inclusive, 12 posts, each held by two platoons. Each platoon was allotted some 600 yards of front and found three sentry groups, about 200 yards apart.

 

(c) In reserve at Serapeum, three double companies.

26. At about 3.25 a.m. on 3rd instant, the enemy were seen on the east bank near mile 47.4. As the firing was heavy, a double company of the 62nd Punjabis was sent from the reserve to support this point, and this double company was subsequently reinforced by six platoons of the 2nd Rajputs.

 

27. The enemy made three distinct attempts to cross the Canal at points between miles 47.4 and 48.4. One boatload of the enemy landed opposite mile 48.3, and were charged by a small party under Major O. St. J. Skeen, 62nd Punjabis. All were killed or wounded. Two more boatloads landed opposite mile 47.6, and these were promptly attacked by Captain M. H. L. Morgan, 62nd Punjabis, who was wounded. Six Turks were killed and four captured at this point, and some 20 who got away and hid themselves under the west bank were captured later by a party of the 2nd Rajputs.

 

28. At 8.40 a.m. Colonel S. Geoghegan, commanding 22nd Brigade, after a personal reconnaissance of the enemy's positions, sent a detachment consisting of four double companies drawn from the 2nd Rajputs and the 2/10th Gurkha Rifles to clear the east bank. As this counter-attack developed, the enemy fled in large numbers from the broken ground whence they had made their attempt to cross. Meanwhile the enemy, from their camp at Kateid El Khel, deployed a force estimated at two brigades with at least six guns, and formed a line about two miles north-east of Serapeum, and facing that post. Our troops, delivering a counterattack, now occupied a ridge about half a mile north-east of  Serapeum, and formed a line facing the enemy with their left flank drawn back to the Canal. They consisted of two double companies 92nd Punjabis facing northeast, two platoons 2nd Rajputs facing north, with six platoons 2/10th Gurkha Rifles in support. The whole was under command of Lieut.-Col. F. G. H. Button, 2/10th Gurkha Rifles.

 

29. The advance northward on the east bank of the two platoons, 2nd Rajputs, was checked short of the broken ground by fire from the enemy posted there, aided by the fire of small parties which were still hidden at the foot of the west bank. It was here that Captain R. T. Arundell was killed while gallantly leading his men.

 

30. While this attack was in progress, the Commander of H.M. T.B. No. 043, Lieutenant-Commander G. B. Palmes, R.N., was asked by Colonel Geoghegan to destroy the enemy's pontoons which were lying on the east bank. Those on shore were destroyed by shell fire, and a party then landed from the boat to see whether there were any others lying behind the bank. The leading party found themselves in front of a trench full of the enemy, and on getting back to their boat Lieutenant-Commander G. B. Palmes, R.N., and Sub- Lieutenant C. V. Cardinall, R.N.V.R., were wounded.

 

31. The enemy's main attack from the north-east did not get within 1,200 yards of our line. They, however, shelled our positions on the west bank intermittently until about 2 p.m., when their main body retired eastwards, and our forces withdrew to the positions held in the morning. A small party of the enemy reached the ridge which we had vacated, but they were shelled off it by our artillery, and soon disappeared.

 

32. In the attack on the Toussoum post, about 350 of the enemy managed to establish themselves during the night in some of the outer trenches which are only occupied by the garrison by day. A number of this party were killed as soon as it was light by the fire of our machine guns, and the remainder were either driven out or killed, and some 80 prisoners captured by a local counter-attack which was skilfully led by Lieutenant J. W. Thomson-Glover, 92nd Punjabis. Seven Turkish officers and 280 other ranks, with much material, were taken on this occasion.

 

33. At 4.30 p.m. reinforcements from the 31st Infantry Brigade began to arrive at Serapeum, and in the course of the evening four double companies were placed in support at various points on the west bank, and the garrison of the Serapeum post was strengthened. The armed launches commanded by Lieutenants W. H. B. Livesay and E. H. Daughlish, R.I.M., rendered valuable service in this section during the day, and were frequently under fire of the enemy's snipers.

 

34. On the morning of the 4th instant, as there was no sign of the enemy's main body to the east, and as the armed launch "Mansura" had been fired upon on the previous evening and some sniping had taken place during the night from the east bank, Major-General A. Wallace, who had taken over command at Serapeum from Colonel S. Geoghegan, ordered two double companies of the 92nd Punjabis to move north along the east bank of the Canal to examine this locality. This party, which was commanded by Captain L. F. A. Cochran, got to the south edge of this area, which they found to be held by the enemy, and then extended round to the east and north-east to round the latter up. The enemy held up a white flag and made signs of surrender, whereupon Captain Cochran and some of hie party advanced towards them. After three Turks had surrendered, fire was re-opened by the enemy, and our troops had to fall back. Major-General Wallace then ordered out reinforcements, consisting of one double company each of the 27th and 62nd Punjabis and the 128th Pioneers, the whole under Major T. R. Maclachlan, 92nd Punjabis. The latter collected his men and charged, and the enemy immediately threw down thedr arms. The prisoners taken here numbered six officers and 251 men, of whom 52 were seriously wounded. The enemy's killed numbered 59, and among them was a German officer, Major von den Hagen. Three machine guns were captured, as well as a quantity of miscellaneous stores. It was in this second attack that Captain Cochran was killed.

 

35. Turning from events at Toussoum to those at Kantara, the only engagements that need be referred to are the attacks made by the enemy on our outposts on the 28th January and 3rd February. In the attack of the 28th January, the enemy advanced along the telegraph line on one of our piquets, consisting of a detachment of the 14th Sikhs under Captain Channer, which they attacked about 2.45 a.m. The action continued for about half an hour, and the enemy attempted to advance, but was unable to do so. Firing gradually ceased, and by daylight the enemy had withdrawn gradually to Point 70 on the Kantara-El Arish road, from which they were driven out by five rounds of lyddite shell fired by H.M.S. "Swiftsure."

 

36. The attack of the 3rd February was conducted on much the same lines, and was directed on two of our piquets furnished by the 89th Punjabis. The enemy's advance was stopped without difficulty, and at daylight 36 unwounded prisoners were found in our entanglements. The enemy left 20 dead on the ground, but their casualties were very much heavier, as they removed many of their killed and wounded.

 

37. As the events described may represent, but the opening phase of the campaign, I do not propose; at this stage, to mention the staff and departmental officers who have rendered specially good service. I, however, submit the names of the following regimental officers whose conduct is deserving of notice:

 

(Army list)

 

38. I submit a list of the non-commissioned officers and men whose names have been brought to notice for gallant conduct, with particulars of the services they have rendered. (not included here)

 

39. All the units engaged proved cool under fire and did their duty in a highly satisfactory manner, the conduct of officers and men being all that could be desired.

 

40. In conclusion I desire to express my high appreciation of the valuable work done by the pilots and observers of the French hydroaeroplane squadron and the detachment Royal Flying Corps in the numerous reconnaissances carried out by them previous to and during the advance of the enemy. They were constantly under shrapnel and rifle fire and carried out their difficult and dangerous duties with courage, resourcefulness and success.

 

I have, &c.,

ALEX. WILSON, Major-General.

________

 

DESPATCH No. II.

 

Army Headquarters, Cairo, 19th August, 1915.

 

Sir: 

I have the honour to forward the accompanying despatch of Major-General A. Wilson, C.B., Commanding the Suez Canal Defences.

 

The troops under General Wilson's command have been on service for over eight months, and though the actual fighting they have experienced has not been severe, yet their work has been heavy and monotonous owing to the large amount of patrolling necessitated by the enemy's attempts at minelaying and to cross the Canal.

 

Owing to the withdrawal of troops to other theatres of war, and to sickness incidental to the hot season, this patrolling has become very arduous, especially at night.

 

The list of recommendations for rewards in which I concur and forward is not, I submit, excessive, having regard to the strength of the force, which rose in February and March to 30,000 men.

 

A considerable number of the officers mentioned are now serving either in the Dardanelles, Aden or France, some have been killed and many wounded, but, none the less, I feel it my duty to mention their services in Egypt.

 

It will be seen that a good many recommendations on behalf of the administrative staff have been made, especially; the Medical Branch, but as Egypt has developed into an Intermediate Base and Clearing Station for the Indian Forces serving in France and in the Mediterranean, the work and responsibilities of the administrative staff and services have greatly increased, and are consequently specially deserving of consideration.

 

In conclusion I would like very specially to bring to the notice of the Secretary of State for War the eminent services of Major-General A. Wilson, C.B., who has commanded the Canal defences with ability, tact, and resource since the 16th November, 1914.

 

I have, &c.,

J. G. MAXWELL, Lieut.-General, Commanding the Force in Egypt.

 

From the General Officer Commanding, Canal Defences, to The General Staff, Army Headquarters, Cairo.

 

Headquarters, Canal Defences, Ismailia, 1st August, 1915.

 

Sir: 

On the 11th February, 1915, I submitted a report on the operations which took place early in the month in the Canal zone, and also a brief resumé of events since I assumed command of the Canal Defences on 16th November, 1914.

 

At the time this report was made it appeared from information at our disposal that the operations under reference might only be a preliminary to further hostilities, and that a more determined attack on the Canal would be undertaken in the near future. These anticipations have, however, not been realised, and though the enemy has continued to hold the Sinai Peninsula in. some strength and has undertaken several minor enterprises, with a view to causing damage to the Canal and the shipping using it, no further advance in force has taken place. This result may be attributed to the fact that the losses suffered by the enemy in the attack on the Canal were, according to subsequent reports from Turkish sources, heavier than had been originally estimated, while the demoralisation of the force, consequent on its retreat across the desert, necessitated a considerable pause for reorganization.

 

2. Now that the hot season is well-established, and also as considerable forces of the enemy have been withdrawn to other theatres of operations, it is probable that the existing state of affairs will continue for some months. I therefore consider it a suitable opportunity to forward a narrative of events subsequent to my last report, and also to submit the names of officers whose services during the past eight months are, in my opinion, worthy of mention.

 

3. My last report dealt with the operations in the vicinity of the Canal up to 10th February, 1915, by which date  hostilities in its immediate neighbourhood had ceased for the time being.

 

On the 12th February, in accordance with instructions from Army Headquarters, a battalion 2/7th Gurkha Rifles, under Lieut.-Colonel Haldane, embarked at Suez on board H.M.S. "Minerva" to proceed to Tor, with a view to dispersing a force which had been threatening that place for some time past. This force landed at Tor during the night of the 12th/13th, and, in conjunction with 150 men of the 2nd Egyptian Battalion, which had been in garrison at Tor, attacked the enemy at dawn on the 13th. The attack was completely successful, the enemy losing some 60 killed and 102 prisoners; our losses were 1 killed and 1 wounded. Since this occasion no further forces of the enemy have appeared near Tor.

 

4. For the remainder of February and till the 22nd March no incident of note took place. The Imperial Yeomanry Brigade, as well as the Australian and New Zealand Infantry, who had reinforced the troops on the Canal, returned to Cairo.

 

Several reconnaissances, principally to Abu Zenima (by sea), El Haitan, Wadi Muksheib; Moiya Harab and Katia, were pushed out, but no enemy encountered.

 

From information received from agents and through aerial reconnaissances, it appeared that during this month the Turks had concentrated mainly at El Arish and Nekhl, while considerable bodies of the beaten troops were withdrawn to Syria, being, it was rumoured, replaced by fresh formations from the north.

 

5. On 22nd March an infantry patrol moving from Kubri Post encountered a force of some 400 men north-east of that post at dawn. The enemy withdrew on being engaged by troops from the nearest posts, and a subsequent aerial reconnaissance discovered a force of some 800 infantry and 200 mounted men with guns about 10 miles east of the Canal.

 

From the report furnished it appeared that the Turks were entrenching and intended to stay, and, consequently, orders were issued for a column, consisting of 2 squadrons Hyderabad Lancers, 1/5th Lancashire Battery R..F.A. (T.F.), detachment Bikanir Camel Corps, 51st and 53rd Sikhs, and ½ battalion 1/5th Gurkhas, to move out next day to engage and drive off the enemy.

 

This column, under the command of Lieut.-Colonel Boisragon, V.C., moved out from Kubri at daylight (23rd), and attacked the enemy in an entrenched position some 10 miles east of the Canal. After some resistance the enemy fled hastily, leaving behind a quantity of equipment and rifle ammunition, the heavy going across the sandhills preventing our cavalry from cutting off their retreat. Our casualties on 22nd and 23rd were 5 killed and 19 wounded (Indian ranks). The enemy's losses were estimated at about 50.

 

6. The only other incident of note during the course of the month was the departure of the 30th Brigade for the Persian Gulf on 23rd. Its place in No. 1 Section was taken by the 28th (F.F.) Brigade, which in turn was relieved by the 31st Brigade from the reserve. Towards the end of the month reports were received of a considerable concentration of the enemy near Es Sirr, some 80 miles due east of Ballah. These reports were verified later by aeroplane observation, which estimated the hostile force as some 4,000, with guns.

 

7. On the 7th April our mounted patrols from Kantara encountered a hostile force, estimated at 1,200 men, which withdrew after shots had been exchanged. On the same day an aerial reconnaissance reported considerably fewer numbers retiring through Dueidar. The Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade was moved up to Kantara the same day, and on the 8th moved out in conjunction with part of the Kantara garrison. No enemy was encountered and the cavalry moved back to Ismailia, reconnoitring the country for some distance east of the Canal. On the 8th April, owing to suspicious tracks having been noticed on the east bank of the Canal between El Kap and Kantara, the Canal was dragged and a mine discovered and destroyed. The mine had evidently been placed in the Canal under cover of the demonstration of the previous day. Owing to this occurrence it became necessary greatly to increase our patrols. Intermediate night piquets were established between Posts and a system of hourly patrols along the east bank instituted. Arrangements were made for a thorough search of the Canal bank at daylight every morning, and Officers Commanding Posts were authorized to stop shipping in case of any suspicious circumstances being detected.

 

8. On the 28th April a reconnaissance of 90 rifles, Bikanir Camel Corps, encountered a hostile force estimated at some 200 men, with guns, about 12 miles due east of Ismailia Ferry Post. After a short skirmish the patrol withdrew to the Ferry Post with the loss of 3 killed, 4 wounded, and 2 missing; the enemy did not follow up their retirement. Later in the day an aerial reconnaissance located a body of the enemy in bivouac near El Hawawish, and the Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade (eight squadrons), supported by half-battalion 27th Punjabis and one section Egyptian Artillery, crossed the Canal after dark with a view to engaging the enemy at his camp next morning; or, should he have moved towards the Canal during the night, to cut off his retreat. During the night 28th/29th a hostile party, evidently from Hawawish, opened fire on a dredger in the Canal north of Bench Mark Post, but retired when engaged by one of our piquets. At daylight on 29th an aeroplane found Hawawish evacuated, but later on located the hostile force moving into Mahadat from the southwest, and the cavalry were directed on that place. Our column, however, only succeeded in engaging the rearguard at about 2 p.m., by which time the enemy had left Mahadat and was moving on Bada. The pursuit was carried on for three to four miles, but the great exhaustion of men and horses, owing to the heat and heavy going through the sandhills, prevented it from being carried further.

 

Our losses were one British, one Indian, officer, and one sowar killed; one British officer and seven rank and file wounded. The enemy's losses in killed were about 20, and 13 prisoners were taken. The column returned to Ismailia early on the 30th.

 

9. On 7th April, the 7th Indian Mountain Artillery Brigade left the Canal Defences to join the Mediterranean Force, and on 26th, the 29th Indian Infantry Brigade left for the same destination, being replaced in No. III Section by the East Lancashire Brigade (Territorial Force).

 

10. On 1st May a half battalion 56th Rifles were despatched from Suez to Abu Zemins owing to rumours of an attack on the Egyptian garrison of that place. This detachment returned on 3rd, no enemy having appeared in the vicinity. On several occasions during the month hostile patrols were located at some distance from the Canal, but these all retired eastwards as soon as forces moved against them. On the 29th a small party reached the shore of the Little Bitter Lake, and, wading; out, boarded a Suez Canal pile driver, destroying one small boat and taking prisoner an Italian employee of the company. Pursuit was undertaken from the nearest Post as soon as the occurrence was reported, but without result.

 

On the night of the 30th/31st a party of Turks was detected trying to approach the Canal between El Ferdan and Ballah. On being fired on they retired, leaving behind a mine, which was discovered and brought in next morning. The next night the party returned with the evident intention of recovering the mine, but hastily retired on being fired on by a piquet which had been left near the spot to deal with any such attempt.

 

On the night of the 2nd/3rd June, parties, of the enemy opened fire on the Posts of Kantara and El Ferdan, but withdrew hastily when engaged. Small columns from the above Posts moved out in pursuit, but were unable to come up with the raiders, who appeared to be all mounted men. One Turkish officer was taken prisoner.

 

11. Several changes in the garrisons of the Canal Defences took place during the month, of May. Early in the month the Artillery and Engineers, as well as the East Lancashire Brigade of the Lancashire Division (T.F.), left, to join the Mediterranean Force; the 4th Mounted Brigade and Divisional Artillery, 2nd Mounted Division, arriving in replacement. On the 29th May orders were received for the 1/5th and 2/10th Gurkha Rifles to reinforce the 29th Indian Infantry Brigade with the Mediterranean Force, and these battalions left on the 31st May and 1st June respectively.

 

Consequent on the above changes and reductions certain modifications in organisation became necessary, and were carried into effect during the month. It was decided to abolish the divisional organisation of the 10th and 11th Divisions and to include the whole of the forces in the Canal zone in one command with a Headquarter Staff approximating to that of  a division. These changes were brought into effect from the 1st June.

 

12. During the month of June there was little change in the situation.

 

Early in the month the 9th Bhopal Infantry and 125th Rifles arrived from France and were taken on the strength of .the Canal Defence Force in replacement of the 1/5th and 2/10th Gurkha Rifles.

 

On the 11th and 12th five Turkish deserters arrived at El Shatt saying that they had deserted from a force of some 300 men who had reached the vicinity of Mabeiuk with a view to attacking the Canal. A column was at once organised at Kubri to deal with the threat, but nothing materialised, the enemy withdrawing to Nekhl.

 

A party of somewhat similar strength was located by an aeroplane near Katia about the middle of the month, but retired on El Arish without undertaking any offensive.

 

On the 30th of the month the British s.s. "Teresias" struck a mine laid in the Naval Section of the Canal Defences, near the South end of the Little Bitter Lake. From investigations it appeared that a party had reached the East bank of the lake, waded out to the main channel, and succeeded in evading the naval launches which patrol this section and in placing a mine. Thanks to the skilful handling of the ship and the prompt action of the Canal Company's officials, the accident only blocked the Canal for 14 hours, and the ship, though seriously damaged, has since been towed into Alexandria for repair.

 

13. During July nothing of any note occurred. On two occasions, owing to the reported presence of Turkish patrols in the neighbourhood of Katia, a small column was moved out from No. III Section to engage or cut them off should they approach the Canal; but on each occasion the hostile party retired without toucli having been obtained. The extreme heat in the desert made military operations very difficult, and practically confined all movements to the night time.

 

On the 8th July orders were received for two batteries R.H.A. (T.F.) and one infantry brigade to proceed urgently to Aden, and accordingly "B" Battery, H.A.C., the Berkshire Battery, R.H.A. (T.F.), and the 28th (T.F.) Brigade (51st, 53rd Sikhs, 56th Rifles and 62nd Punjabis) left Suez on the 12th and following days.

 

The Artillery were replaced by the 1/15th and 1/17th Batteries, E. Lancs. R.F.A. (T.F.), while the Derbyshire Yeomanry (dismounted) were also sent to the Canal Zone.

 

14. From the foregoing it will be seen that no fighting of any importance has taken place during the past six months, and it appears evident that, owing to the lack of water, climatic conditions and inability to prosecute campaigns on so many fronts, the Turks will be unable to undertake serious operations in this region till the cold weather arrives and a considerable change in the strategical situation takes place.

 

At the same time there is no doubt of their intention to detain as many of our troops as possible on the defence of the Canal by attempts to endanger navigation, and, if possible, to block the Canal by sinking, a ship in the fairway. Consequently the chief danger that has had to be guarded against, since the main attack in February, has been that of minelaying in the Canal; and, to meet this danger, it has been necessary to employ a large number of men on night patrol duty, especially along the east bank. Up to date, however, except during the actual attack, traffic has continued practically as in times of peace.

 

15. During the period under review the morale and, with certain exceptions, the health of the troops has been well maintained. During March an outbreak of dysentery occurred in one battalion, while one or two others were less seriously affected. A great improvement has, however, taken place lately, and the health of the Force may now be taken: as normal for the conditions under which it is serving.

 

When it became apparent that a large force would have to be kept on the Canal during the hot weather, a scheme for providing shelter against the sun was initiated and efficiently carried out. It has proved of great value, especially in the case of the British mounted troops.

 

I have, &c.,

ALEX. WILSON, Major-General, Commanding Canal Defences.

 

(included in Army lists)

 

Headquarters Staff.

 

Kitson, Comdr. H. K., R.N.

Macdonald, Comdr. W. B., R.N.

________

 

DESPATCH No. III.

 

Army Headquarters, Cairo. 1st March, 1916.

 

MY LORD:

I have the honour to submit this report on Military Affairs in the Egyptian Command since the Turks attacked the Suez Canal in February, 1915, which attack was made the subject of a separate Despatch. I feel it my duty to make this report because so much of the arduous work done in Egypt by the Force under my Command, with the cordial assistance of the Egyptian Government, was in connection with the operations of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force in the Dardanelles.

 

So far as I am aware, no detailed mention of the services performed has been made in any other Despatch.

 

The entire resources of Egypt, Military and Civil, were unstintingly given to further the necessities of that expedition.

 

The operations in the Gallipoli Peninsula by threatening Constantinople drew off the bulk of the Turkish forces belonging to Djemal Pasha's command, which had already been beaten back from the vicinity of the Suez Canal. It was therefore possible, whilst retaining just sufficient force to safeguard the Canal, to move troops to other theatres: where their presence was most required. (Senussi Campaign) ....  But throughout the summer and autumn of 1915, my principal cause of anxiety was the possibility of trouble on the Western Frontier, which might lead to serious religious and internal disorders. The attitude of Sayed Ahmed the Senussi was becoming more and more truculent notwithstanding my efforts to preserve peaceful relations; everything possible was done to avoid hostilities, and they were avoided until late in the year, when hostile acts on his part led to the withdrawal of the Egyptian Frontier post at Sollum and subsequent operations.

 

Suez Canal Zone. The duty of guarding the Suez Canal was allotted to the Indian Expeditionary Force "E" under the command of Major-General Sir A. Wilson, K.C.B.

 

This force was gradually reduced by calls on it for other theatres; thus the 29th Brigade under Major-General Sir H. Cox, K.C.M.G., C.B., C.S.I., was sent to Gallipoli; subsequently the Punjabi-Mohammedan battalions of that brigade were withdrawn from the Peninsula and replaced by Gurkha battalions taken from brigades on the Canal; two double companies of Sikhs from the Patiala Imperial Service Regiment were sent to replace losses in the 15th Sikhs, and every British and Indian officer who could be spared was sent to replace casualties; the 30th Brigade under Major-General C. J. Melliss, V.C., K.C.B., was sent to Basrah, the 28th Brigade under Major-General Sir G. Younghusband, K.C.I.E., C.B., was sent first to Aden and then to Basrah; the force was further weakened by the exchange of tired units from the Indian divisions in France with some of the best battalions on the Canal.

 

To this force fell the tiresome and onerous duty throughout the entire summer of exercising ceaseless vigilance over the 100 miles of Canal front. Great credit is due for the way this duty was performed; indifferent troops would have been demoralised. Though small bodies of the enemy were constantly endeavouring, occasionally with success, to place mines in the Canal or damage the railway, yet no accident of importance occurred except that one merchant ship, the s.s. "Teresias," struck a mine. She fortunately escaped with but little damage. The passage of the Canal was interrupted on this one occasion for only a few hours.

 

A little affair, creditable to the Imperial Service Troops engaged, occurred on the 23rd November, when a squadron of the Mysore Lancers operating 15 miles east of El Kantara came upon a force of 60 or 70 Turks, the advance party of a raiding party 200 strong. These they pursued for 7 miles, killing seven, capturing 12 and wounding many others. Amongst the dead was a Bedouin leader named Rizkalla Salim, who was responsible for most of the raids on the. Canal; since his death they entirely ceased.

 

Part of 30th Squadron Royal Flying Corps, under the command of Brevet Major S. D. Massy, I.A., with Headquarters at Ismailia, carried out daily reconnaissances without a single important accident.

 

The French Naval Seaplane detachment, with Headquarters at Port Said, under the command of Capitaine de Vaisseau de-l'Escaille, whose services were placed at my disposal for Intelligence purposes, was continually employed in reconnoitring the Syrian, and Anatolian Coast from the requisitioned vessels "Raven" and "Anne" The results of their work were invaluable. The "Anne" was torpedoed near Smyrna during an armistice while employed by the Royal Navy, but was fortunately able to reach Mudros, where she was patched up and returned to Port Said. I cannot speak too highly of the work of the seaplane detachment. Lengthy land flights are extremely dangerous, yet nothing ever stopped these gallant French aviators from any enterprise. I regret the loss of  two of these planes whilst making dangerous land flights over Southern Syria.

 

I would be failing in my duty were I not to bring to Your Lordship's notice the valuable and whole-hearted assistance always readily given by the Count de Serionne and his able assistants of the Suez Canal Company. The whole of the resources of this Company were put unreservedly at my disposal.

 

It is perhaps needless for me to report that His Majesty's Royal Navy, under Vice-Admiral Sir R. Peirse, K.C.B., Commander-in-Chief, East Indies, were always ready and anxious to help and facilitate the duty of protecting the Canal and advising in any enterprise that needed Naval assistance. To the Navy fell the duty of guarding the Bitter Lakes.

 

To the Vice-Admiral Commanding the French Syrian Squadron I am especially indebted, in that he and the Officers and ships under his command maintained a constant watch throughout on the Syrian and Anatolian Coasts. They supplied me with the fullest information of enemy movements that it was possible to obtain by means of agents, etc. I had only to express a wish and it was at once carried out.

 

(Continues with OPERATIONS ON THE (Egyptian) WESTERN FRONT TO 31ST JANUARY, 1916)

 

I have the honour to be, Your Lordship's obedient Servant,

J. G. MAXWELL, General, Commanding the Force in Egypt.

 

____________________

 

 

29763 - 22 SEPTEMBER 1916

 

EGYPTIAN CAMPAIGN

ARMY DESPATCH dated 1 June 1916

(Suez Canal-related excerpts)

 

War Office, 25th September, 1916.

 

The following Despatch has been received by the Secretary of State for War from General Sir Archibald Murray, Commander-in-Chief, Egyptian Expeditionary Force:

 

General Headquarters, Egyptian Expeditionary Force, 1st June, 1916.

 

Sir,

I have the honour to submit a report on the operations of the Force under my command from the date on which I assumed command to the 31st May, 1916.

 

1. ..... The instructions which I had received from the Secretary of State for War placed under my command all organized formations then in. Egypt, or on their way to Egypt, with the exception of such troops as might be considered necessary for the defence of Egypt and the Nile Valley against attack from the west, or for maintaining order in the Nile Valley and the Nile Delta. The function assigned to me was that of protecting Egypt against attack from the east, and the westward limit of my command was roughly fixed by a line running north and south approximately five miles west of the Suez Canal. The British Force at Salonica was also placed under my general supervision. .....

  

3. When I arrived in Egypt the intentions of the enemy as regards an attack on the Suez Canal were by no means certain. Though his new means of communication in southern Syria and Sinai, commenced with this end in view, were still in a backward state, he undoubtedly had at his disposal the troops, amounting to 250,000 men or more, necessary for such an attack. The adequate defence of the Canal was, therefore, a matter of serious importance. The outline of a scheme of defence had already been prepared; certain works were being constructed, railways and pipe-lines and roads commenced, and troops were being concentrated in the three sections of the Canal defences, which were based on Suez, Ismailia and Port Said respectively. A satisfactory agreement was arrived at between Sir John Maxwell and myself regarding the delimitations of our respective spheres of command and the troops to be allotted to him. On 22nd January General Headquarters opened at Ismailia.

 

My chief concern was now the defence of the Canal. The work on the stationary defences was backward. Difficulties of water supply on the east bank were increased by shortage of piping; labour troubles had delayed the progress of roads and railways. Guns had still to be emplaced, and no part of the front defence line was actually occupied by troops. Nevertheless, as there were no signs of an imminent advance on the part of the enemy, the question of the stationary defences caused me no serious anxiety, though everything possible was done to hasten on their completion. The organisation of the offensive defence, which time has proved to be paramount, was, however, a pressing matter hitherto untouched. Practically nothing had been done towards the organisation of mobile forces. The collection of a large number of riding and transport camels had to be undertaken at once and a plan of campaign to be devised. Moreover, time was short, for it was plain that any offensive on a large scale by the enemy must be commenced before the middle of March. For the force under my command the only possible line of advance was along the northern line from Qantara towards Qatia and El Arish, and the task was at once taken up of examining the possibilities of an offensive on this line and solving the problem of maintaining a considerable force at Qatia during the summer months. The result of these investigations is to be seen in my memorandum of 15th February addressed to the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, in which I stated that the first step towards securing the true base for the defence of Egypt was an advance to a suitable position east of Qatia and the construction of a railway to that place.

 

Up to the middle of February aeroplane reconnaissance was the only active military operation possible, owing to the need for reorganising the units of the Force and for pushing on the work of laying roads, pipe-lines and railways to enable an adequate force to be maintained on, and beyond, the front lines. The magnitude of the latter task may be judged from the fact that, during the period covered by this despatch, 114 miles of road, 154 miles of pipe-lines, and 252 miles of railway were laid. The work of the Royal Flying Corps, most actively and gallantly pursued, enabled me to keep the enemy's posts at Hassana, Nekhl and El Arish under close observation, and neither their reports nor those of the equally gallant and efficient Naval Air Service, which observed by seaplane the garrisons of southern Syria, showed any concentration of enemy troops for a big attack on the Canal. On February 16th the Russian Army entered Erzerum, inflicting a heavy defeat on the Turkish Army opposed to it. It seemed likely then that all the enemy's schemes for attacking the Canal in force must, for the present, fall to the ground, and such has proved to be the case. The garrisons in Syria were gradually reduced, until it was estimated that not more than 60,000 men were available for an attack on Egypt. During the latter half of February the work of reconnaissance beyond the front line began in earnest, especially in the northern section, where the 15th Corps patrolled as far as Bir El Nuss and Hod Um Ugba, establishing the fact that the country was all clear and practically deserted. At this period, too, a reconnaissance was undertaken from Tor. This post, and that of Abu Zeneima, both on the Sinaitic coast south of Suez, were then garrisoned by a battalion of the Egyptian Army -  subsequently by the 14th Sikhs - and had, by arrangement with General Maxwell, come under my direction. The reconnaissance from Tor was undertaken against a concentration of a small body of the enemy at Wadi Ginneh, some miles distant from the coast. This minor operation was in every way successful, though the enemy had fled before their camp was reached, leaving behind their baggage, which was destroyed. The troops then returned without further incident. .....

  

7. During the month of April reconnaissance was active all along the Eastern Front, with the result that by the middle of the month all water supplies of any importance within thirty miles of the Canal were patrolled by our troops, and mobile columns were ready to go out and deal with enemy parties approaching them, or, in the event of serious threat, to demolish the rock cisterns. In No. 1 Section, on 20th April, a patrol from Bir Mabeiuk came in contact with an enemy patrol, fifty strong, on the sand hills near the mouth of the Wadi Hamatha, some eighteen miles W.S.W. of Suez. A squadron and fifty rifles endeavoured to cut the enemy off, but he at once retired and scattered among the hills. Our casualties were two men killed. On 23rd April and the following days four columns, each composed of mounted troops and infantry, carried out reconnaissances of the approaches from the west to Ain Sudr and Sudr El Heitan. The columns returned to their respective posts on 26th April. .....

  

10. In Egypt during the month of May there was no major operation to record. Intelligence received earlv in the month showed that the Turks had materially increased their numbers in Sinai, doubtless with the view of detaining troops in Egypt. The enemy's main concentrations were too far away for me to strike at them, and I was in hopes that he might be induced to cross the barrier of hills which extends from north to south some sixty miles from the Canal: he would then have been exposed to attack with the denies behind him. However, he made no such advance, and, during the hot weather in the middle of May, there were indications that he was drawing in his advanced posts. On the 8th and 21st May enemy aircraft attacked Port Said with bombs, doing no material damage. On the first occasion three civilians were wounded; on the second two civilians were killed, five soldiers and thirteen civilians were wounded. In each case the attack was answered by prompt and successful retaliation by the Royal Flying Corps. In all sections of the Eastern front reconnaissances were frequent, particularly in No. 3 Section, to which were now allotted three brigades of the Anzac Mounted Division. During the month the Mahemdia-Romani district has been occupied in some force, and at a conference, held on 17th May, at which General Lawrence, commanding No. 3 Section, was present, further decisions regarding the occupation of the Qatia district were arrived at. .....

 

On the 18th May a very successful bombardment of El Arish from the sea and the air was carried out. A sloop and two monitors of His Majesty's Navy bombarded the town, reducing the fort S.W. of the town to ruins and damaging the aerodrome. The seaplanes of the Royal Naval Air Service then attacked with bombs, being followed later by 6 machines of the Royal Flying Corps, who had orders to attack any enemy aircraft that appeared and to bomb the enemy's camp and troops. The camps were effectively bombed, and three bombs exploded in the middle of a body of a thousand men who were on the march south of the town. A close reconnaissance of El Arish from the air was made, and many valuable photographs taken at the same time. All ships and aircraft returned safely. On 22nd May the Royal Flying Corps carried out a highly effective bombardment of all enemy camps on a 45 mile front roughly parallel to the Canal, during which severe damage was done to the waterworks at Rodh Salem and to buildings at El Hamma and Bir Mazar. On 23rd May the 2nd Australian Light Horse Brigade reconnoitred Hod el Gedaidia, 15 miles east of Qatia, where shots were exchanged with a patrol of 40 men on camels, who retired. Finally, on 31st May, the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade, one regiment of Australian Light Horse, and a sub-section of the Ayrshire Battery R.H.A., attacked the enemy's post at Bir Salmana, 20 miles E.N.E. of Qatia. The post was surrounded before dawn, and an enemy post on the Ganadil road was rushed, while a camel detachment was seen making off to the south-east. The enemy lost 15 men killed and 2 men captured. Our cavalry pursued till 8 a.m. when the pursuit was taken up by aeroplanes which bombed scattered parties with effect, killing 20 camels and 8 more men. The force returned, having covered 60 miles in 36 hours besides fighting an engagement. The only casualties were two men slightly wounded. .....

  

11. ..... I am very greatly indebted to Vice-Admiral Sir R. E. Wemyss, K.C.B., C.M.G., M.V.O., and the naval forces under his command for constant assistance and active co-operation.

 

The construction of Roads, Waterworks, and kindred tasks in connection with the Canal Defences, which I have described to you, owe their accomplishment in a very large measure to the admirable services of Colonel Sir Murdoch Macdonald, K.C.M.G., of the Public Works Department of Egypt. His wide experience and capacity have been an indispensable asset to me in dealing with these important problems. .....

  

I beg to bring to notice the valuable services rendered to the Canal Defences by the representative and principal officer of the Suez Canal Company, Charles Comte de Serionne, Agent Superieur de la Compagnie du Canal de Suez, and by the staff of that company. .....

  

I have the honour to be, Sir, Your most obedient Servant,

A. J. MURRAY, General, Commander-in-Chief, Egyptian Expeditionary Force.

 

 
 

ROYAL NAVY CASUALTIES

With thanks to Don Kindell

Not all casualties directly linked to the Defence of the Suez Canal have been identified.

 

 

Wednesday, 20 January 1915

 

HMS Ocean (Photo Ships)

 

Ocean, pre-Dreadnought battleship

 TABBS, Thomas H, Petty Officer 1c, 122442, illness

 

 

Thursday, 4 February 1915

  

 

Swiftsure, pre-Dreadnought battleship

 SMITH, Samuel J, Chief Yeoman of Signals, 180636 (Ch), died in Egypt

 

 

Sunday, 9 May 1915

Fanny, tug, lost in accidental sinking in Suez Canal area, casualties attached from Euryalus, cruiser, all drowned

 MARSH, Richard H, Petty Officer, 228392 (Ch)

 OVERALL, George J, Stoker Petty Officer, 287074 (Ch), buried at Ismailia, near Suez

 SMITH, Wallace H, Stoker 1c, SS 112334 (Ch), buried at Ismailia, near Suez

 

 

Tuesday, 25 May 1915

 

HMS Minerva (Naval Photos)

 

Minerva, old light cruiser

 O'BRIEN, Thomas J, Shipwright 2c, 346111, illness

 

 

Sunday, 4 July 1915

 

 

Hardinge (RIM), troopship

 REEVE, William R, Able Seaman, 239343, died in Suez

 

 

Tuesday, 16 November 1915

 

Fox, old light cruiser

 BURDEN, Henry, Private, RMLI, 15174 (Ply), accident in Suez

 

 
 

ROYAL NAVY GALLANTRY AWARDS

With thanks to the London Gazette

 

Many of the honours and gallantry awards listed in the London Gazette, do not identify ships or battles/campaigns. Therefore the following listings will be incomplete

 

Gazette No. 29123 - 9 APRIL 1915  

To be Companions of the Distinguished Service Order

 

For services in command of Torpedo Boat 043 during the operations on the Suez Canal, 3rd February, 1915:

 

Lieutenant Commander George Bryan Palmes, Royal Navy. Lieutenant Commander Palmes disabled a number of the enemy's boats intended to be used for crossing the Canal, and showed coolness and bravery under fire. He was severely wounded.

 

TB.057, close sister to 043 (Photo Ships)

 

To receive the Distinguished Service Cross

 

For services in H.M.S. "Hardinge" during the operations on the Suez Canal, 3rd February, 1915:

 

Temporary Lieutenant George Carew, RNR. A shell struck the fore funnel of H.M.S. "Hardinge," and completely shattered one of Lieutenant Carew's legs from the knee down and broke one arm, besides inflicting other wounds. Notwithstanding this, he continued to advise on the piloting of the ship with coolness and equanimity.

___

 

To receive the Distinguished Service Medal

 

For services in the operations on the Suez Canal, 3rd February, 1915:

 William Arthur Colgate, Petty Officer, O.N. 212763.

 

 

29292 - 10 SEPTEMBER 1915

 

The KING has further been graciously pleased to give orders for the award of the Distinguished Service Cross to the following Officers:

 

Monsieur le Lieutenant de vaisseau Henri Julien Paul de 1'Escaille, de la Marine francaise. For his services in command of the French Seaplane Squadron in Egypt. During the earlier part of this year, when hostile patrols were in touch with the Allied forces holding the Suez Canal, Lieutenant de vaisseau de 1'Escaille, as pilot, made some brilliant and daring reconnaissances over long stretches of the Sinai Peninsula, where engine failure meant certain destruction to plane and to pilot. On these occasions, although under fire, by his skill and courage, he never failed to secure valuable information as to the enemy's movements.

 
 

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