Today is Remembrance Day and at 11am our country pauses for a minute’s silence to remember those who died or suffered in all wars and armed conflicts.
One of the most prized possessions here at Summer Land Camels is this Australian Army bugle that was carried into the Battle of Magdhaba by the Imperial Camel Corps on 23 December 1916. The figure of the camel that sits on the Rising Sun badge makes the bugle unique, as does the inscription:
CAMEL CORPS - MAGDHABA BATTLE – 23 DECEMBER 1916
The Battle of Magdhaba was significant as it was the first major battle that the Imperial Camel Corps was involved in. The Sinai and Palestine Campaign of the Middle East Theatre of WW1 was fought between the British Empire and the Ottoman Empire, supported by the German Empire.
The Imperial Camel Corps was formed in January 1916 and the first four companies were made up of Australian troops recuperating after Gallipoli. In June another four Australian companies were raised from reinforcements intended for the Australian Light Horse regiments. The ICC ended up being one battalion each from Great Britain and New Zealand and two battalions from Australia.
The commanders leading the attack on Magdhaba were New Zealander Brigadier-General Edward Chaytor and Major General Harry Chauvel. Interestingly, Chauvel once lived on the property where Summer Land Camels now exists. Chauvel was a strong leader and a very proficient horseman who was well respected by all the men.
General Harry Chauvel
On 23rd December, following two nights of marching, the ANZAC Mounted Division including the ICC launched an attack on Magdhaba. The Australian, British and New Zealand troops fought against well-entrenched Ottoman forces who were defending a series of six well-camouflaged redoubts, or forts.
As Chauvel’s plan of envelopment unfolded, the troops surrounding the village cut off any possible lines of retreat for their enemy. The mounted troops advanced, found cover and dismounted – some getting as close as 370m from the redoubts.
During this time, the units of the ICC were moving in, advancing straight in on Magdhaba, following the telegraph lines. The dismounted battalions advanced over flat ground for 820m, section by section, each section providing covering fire in turn.
All brigades involved were hotly engaged by 12:00 and one hour later, the ICC reached the 1st Light Horse Brigade who had taken cover. Within another hour, their fierce fighting was beginning to make an impact.
No 2 redoubt was captured by the 1st Light Horse Brigade by 16:00 and pressure continued to be exerted, followed by an attack by all units at 16:30. The Ottoman garrison held until the dismounted attackers were within 20m, at which time they began to surrender. As night closed in, all fighting ceased. Chauvel rode into Magdhaba and gave the order to clear the battlefield.
After the battle, Chaytor addressed the troops and expressed his appreciation for the mounted rifle and light horse method of attack. He said that it was the first time in the history of warfare that cavalry not only located and surrounded an opponent’s position, but also dismounted to fight with rifle and bayonet.
General Henry Chauvel later wrote to General Headquarters expressing his displeasure that the ANZAC troops received such little recognition. He said that with the exception of the (British) Yeomanry brigade and companies, the Australian and New Zealand troops “were absolutely the only troops engaged with the enemy on this front and yet they see that they have again got a very small portion indeed of the hundreds of Honours and Rewards (including mentions in Despatches) that have been granted.”
We will remember them.