Finsbury Rifles

Away from the Western Front: 23rd February to 3rd March 1917

At El Arish 

q54679 El Arish from the south west
El Arish from the south-west. ©IWM (Q54679)
Q57803 1 11 in camp at El Arish
1/11th London Regiment, 162nd Infantry Brigade, 54th East Anglian Division, in camp at El Arish, February 1917.  © IWM (Q 57803).

Once the brigade reached the small town of El Arish on the Mediterranean coast, bathing parades provided welcome relief from the heat and the accumulated dirt and sand of the march across the desert.

El Arish had been occupied by Ottoman forces from 1914 -1916. They had only retreated 2 months earlier just ahead of the Battle of Magdhaba. The RAMC who arrived there with the EEF shortly afterwards reported that the Ottoman forces

… on their departure, had not only carried off with them all men of military age, but had entirely denuded the town of foodstuffs. Those of the people who remained were practically starving, and to feed them was the first duty that confronted us on our entry. Our next was to cleanse the place. El Arish consisted of a wide-spreading jumble of houses … intersected by a
labyrinth of narrow lanes, courtyards, and cul-de-sacs. Human excrement, filth and garbage of all kinds, were heaped in every corner, and met the eye and the nostrils at every turn… latrine-pits, full to the brim with the accumulation of months, were spread indiscriminately over the whole town- area, each adding its stench to the already over- burdened air. There was a plague of flies in the place, and little wonder…..

Lt-Col Byrne’s photographs of the town provide a valuable record of  what life was like for its permanent residents at this time. The town itself was strictly out of bounds for Other Ranks.



Q57825 Women drawing water from well at El Arish
  Women drawing water from the well at El Arish. Men of the 1/10th London Regiment returning from a bathe in the sea. Others playing football on extreme right. February 1917.  © IWM (Q 57825) . 





Location EL ARISH Date: 23/2/17

Camping area allotted + Tents of 53 Divs. taken over. Remainder of day in usual fatigues

Date: 24/2/17

Bathing Parades by Companies. Usual Camp fatigues

Date: 25/2/17

Battl. Employed and Fatigue work + preparing defences.

Date: 26/2/17

Platoon + Company Training. Usual Routine.

Date: 27/2/17

General Camp Fatigue defining roads etc. 100 men working on defences.

Date: 28/2/17

Company Training + Usual Camp Routine.

 March and April 1917

Date 1 to 2/3/17

Company Training. Usual Camp Routine. L. Tubbs late to report to R.F.C. Abukir.

Date: 3/3/17

Company Training. Bathing Parades + Usual Routine.

Q57789 camouflaged gun emplacements outside El Arish
Guns and emplacements camouflaged by violet dyed nets outside El Arish, February 1917. Copyright: © IWM (Q 57789)
Q57734 talking to shopkeepers in El Arish
Lt. Colonel John Brown, 2nd officer from right, speaking to shopkeepers in El-Arish. 1917 © IWM (Q 57724)

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