Away from the Western Front: 7th February – 22nd February 1917

The Advance across the Desert : Romani to El Arish

 

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Q57770 Desert Column on way to El Arish. note separation between the camels, mules and men.l

The Desert Column on the way to El Arish. Note the separation between the men, the mules and the camels in the distance. ©IWM (Q57770)

Captain FH Garraway, the adjutant of the Finsbury Rifles, wrote the daily entries in the battalion’s war diary in the approved style – terse and strictly factual. His counterpart in the 1/5 Bedfordshire Regiment, another battalion in 162 Brigade, included more detail and often mentioned the weather. For example, on 11.2.17 he recorded that there had been heavy rain and hail late at night following ‘brilliant lightning and some thunder’.

With the entire brigade on the move, the animals were kept in strictly separate parts of the supply columns to avoid a stampede. The British forces had often learnt the hard way the age-old fact that mules and camels do not mix. Mules were tethered at night on metal chains. This was to prevent them chewing through rope picket lines and wandering over to tents in search of food or water. Meanwhile, there were casualties amongst the camels because of exposure and illness.  Having dead animals near the evening camp increased the amount of flies and added to the general challenges of sanitation and health.

 

The brigade halted half-way across the desert at Mazar for a week. The ‘rest’ routine there included more training and lectures. The EEF was now within range of enemy aircraft. German squadrons were based near Beersheba so the brigade practised ‘in four files extend’. This procedure ‘on seeing hostile enemy aircraft’ aimed to limit casualties in case of a bombing attack. Parades and inspections continued as well as the ominously named ‘route march for bad marchers’.

Q57769 Dead Camel in the desert on march

Dead Camel in the Desert.  IWM© (Q57769)

 

 

Date: 7/2/17

Bathing Parade and usual fatigues and Camp Routine. 2nd Lt Perrin and 80 other ranks are from Base Depot Mustapha.

Date: 8/2/17

Orders received to proceed. Battl engaged packing and sorting kit for move.

Location RABAH Date: 9/2/17

Battn proceeded by Route March to Rabah, arrive 1600. Camping area allotted and bivouac prepared.

Location RABAH/KHIRBA Date: 10/2/17

Battn proceeded by March Route to Khirba, arrived noon. Camping area allotted and bivouac prepared.

Location BIR EL ABD Date 11/2/17

Battn proceeded by March Route to Bir El Abd, arrived noon. Camping area allotted and bivouac prepared.

Location SALMANA Date 12/2/17

Battn proceeded by March Route to Salmana, arrived noon. Camping area allotted and bivouac prepared.

Location TILUL Date 13/2/17

Battn proceeded by March Route to Tilul, arrived noon. Camping area allotted and bivouac prepared.

Location MAZAR Date 14/2/17

Battn proceeded by March Route to Mazar, arrive noon. Camping area allotted and bivouac prepared.

Date: 15/2/17

General Fatigue, Tents issued. 2 Companies finding Outpost line.

Date: 16/2/17

Under Company arrangements. Usual Routine.

Date: 17/2/17

Under Company arrangements. Usual Routine. Zeitoun Party reported.

Date: 18/2/17

Brigade Church Parade, 2nd Lieut Cane proceeded to Base Camp Romani to join details surplus to establishment.

Date: 19/2/17

Outpost Schemes under Company arrangements. Routine as usual

Date: 20/2/17

Outpost Schemes under Company arrangements. Routine as usual

Date: 21/2/17

Battl striking Camp. Proceeding by March Route to Maadun arrived

Location: MAADUN Date: 21/2/17

Noon camping ground attacked and bivouac prepared.

Date: 22/2/17

Battl proceeds by quick march to Bardawill, arrived 1 pm Camping area arranged and prepared for night.

Location: BARDAWIL Date: 23/2/17

Battl. March Route proceeded to EL ARISH arrives. 2 pm

Q57824 El Arish from the lines of the 1 10th London

 El Arish from the lines of the 1/10th London Regt., 162nd Brigade, 54th East Anglian Division, February 1917.  © IWM (Q 57824). 

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