some of the Royal Navy and Royal Indian Marine's
involvement in the defence of the Canal in
1915/16 are covered here
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
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)
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)
ARMY DESPATCHES dated 16
to 9 April 1916
including Defence of
the Suez Canal
War Office, 21st
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
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,
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.
fully endorse what General Wilson says of the conduct of
the regimental officers and men, both British and
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.
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.
Sir George Macauley, K.C.M.G., Major Blakeney and
Captain Hall, of the EgyptianState
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 tothem.
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
needless for me to add that from Admiral Peirse and the
ships of His Majesty's Navy, as well as those of
under his command, most important and valuable
assistance was received.
have the honour to be, Sir, Your obedient servant,
G. MAXWELL, Lieut.-General, Commanding the Force in Egypt.
Defences, to the General Staff, Headquarters, Cairo.
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.
landed at Suez
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.
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.
arrangements were completed by the 5th December, 1914,
when the last units of the force arrived from India.
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.
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.
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.
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
were constant, and information was received to the
effect that advanced posts and depots had been formed at
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.
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
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 thenext 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
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 .
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
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
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
and El Kubri posts in No. 1 Section were made at about
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
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..
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
The troops in the Toussoum-Serapeum -Deversoir portion
of No. 2 Section on the morning of 3rd February were as
19th Lancashire Battery, R.F.A., T.F. (four guns),
commanded by Major B. Palin Dobson.
5th Battery, Egyptian Artillery (four mountain guns
and two maxims), commanded by Major I. D'E. Roberts,
Field Company, East Lancashire Royal Engineers, T.F.
(two sections), under Captain J. G. Riddick.
Battalion, New Zealand Infantry (two platoons), under
Major C. B. Brereton.
Queen Victoria's Own Rajputs, under Lieut.-Colonel F.
P. S. Dunsford.
Punjabis, under Lieut.-Colonel E. W. Grimshaw.
Punjabis, under Major T. R. Maclachlan.
Gurkha Rifles, under Lieut.-Colonel F. G. H. Sutton.
Pioneers (two platoons, acting as escort to 5th
Battery, Egyptian Artillery), under Lieutenant R. A.
Field Ambulance, under Major R. W. Knox, I.M.S.
These troops were disposed as follows:
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,
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
In reserve at Serapeum, three double companies.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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:
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)
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.
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.
DESPATCH No. II.
Cairo, 19th August, 1915.
the honour to forward the accompanying despatch of
Major-General A. Wilson, C.B., Commanding the Suez Canal
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.,
MAXWELL, Lieut.-General, Commanding the Force in Egypt.
the General Officer Commanding, Canal Defences, to The
General Staff, Army Headquarters, Cairo.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
reconnaissances, principally to Abu Zenima (by sea),
El Haitan, Wadi Muksheib; Moiya Harab and Katia, were
pushed out, but no enemy encountered.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
During the month of June there was little change in the
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
as I am aware, no detailed mention of the services
performed has been made in any other Despatch.
entire resources of Egypt, Military and Civil, were
unstintingly given to further the necessities of that
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
OPERATIONS ON THE
(Egyptian) WESTERN FRONT TO 31ST JANUARY, 1916)
have the honour to be, Your Lordship's obedient Servant,
MAXWELL, General, Commanding the Force in Egypt.
- 22 SEPTEMBER 1916
DESPATCH dated 1 June 1916
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
Headquarters, Egyptian Expeditionary Force, 1st June,
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
I have the honour to be, Sir, Your
most obedient Servant,
A. J. MURRAY, General,
Commander-in-Chief, Egyptian Expeditionary Force.
With thanks to Don Kindell
Not all casualties directly linked
to the Defence of the Suez Canal have been identified.
HMS Ocean (Photo Ships)
Thomas H, Petty Officer 1c, 122442, illness
Samuel J, Chief Yeoman of Signals, 180636 (Ch), died in Egypt
tug, lost in accidental sinking in Suez Canal area,
casualties attached from Euryalus, cruiser, all drowned
Richard H, Petty Officer, 228392 (Ch)
George J, Stoker Petty Officer, 287074 (Ch), buried at Ismailia,
Wallace H, Stoker 1c, SS 112334 (Ch), buried at Ismailia,
HMS Minerva (Naval
old light cruiser
Thomas J, Shipwright 2c, 346111, illness
William R, Able Seaman, 239343, died in Suez
old light cruiser
Henry, Private, RMLI, 15174 (Ply), accident in Suez
thanks to the London Gazette
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
29123 - 9 APRIL 1915
Companions of the Distinguished Service Order
services in command of Torpedo Boat 043 during
the operations on the Suez Canal, 3rd February, 1915:
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
TB.057, close sister to 043
receive the Distinguished Service Cross
services in H.M.S. "Hardinge" during the
operations on the Suez Canal, 3rd February, 1915:
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.
receive the Distinguished Service Medal
services in the operations on the Suez Canal,
3rd February, 1915:
Arthur Colgate, Petty Officer, O.N. 212763.
29292 - 10 SEPTEMBER 1915
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.