1916 - Auckland Mounted Rifles Regiment timeline

The Auckland Mounted Rifles Regiment (AMR), like the rest of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade (NZMR), soon recouped its strength after returning to Egypt from Gallipoli. When most of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force sailed for France in April 1916, the NZMR remained in Egypt as part of an Anzac Mounted Division which was helping defend Egypt against the Ottoman Turks. A rethink of British strategy in the region saw this defensive effort changed into an offensive one designed to take the fight to the enemy and destroy or neutralise his bases in the Sinai Peninsula.

The advance this new strategy required was made feasible by the construction of a railway and water pipeline eastwards from the Suez Canal across the Sinai Desert. This would supply the food, ammunition and most importantly water needed to keep the British forces – the ‘Egyptian Expedtionary Force’ (EEF) – fighting in a harsh environment.

By the end of the year the EEF had won a series of actions against Ottoman forces, driven them out of the Sinai, and reached the border of Palestine in one of the most successful Allied campaigns of the war.

January

Reinforcements bring the regiment up to full strength plus 10% of establishment. The regimental Machine Gun Section is reorganised and strengthened from one to two sections (two to four machine guns).

  • 23rd – The AMR and the rest of the NZMR leave Zeitoun Camp for the Suez Canal, 140 km to the east. The AMR bivouacs overnight at the village of Nawa. The journey takes seven days in all.
  • 29th – The AMR completes its journey with a 5½-hour trek from Moascar to Serapeum, near the canal. A camp is set up and the AMR resumes training alongside the rest of the brigade.

February

The AMR spends the month training, playing sport and swimming in the Suez Canal.

  • 18th – The AMR convenes a Court of Enquiry. This decides that 41 men missing since the Gallipoli campaign should be reported as dead.

March

  • 4th – The 3rd (Auckland) and 4th (Waikato) Squadrons return to camp after being attached to the 1st Australian Division.
  • 5th – The AMR moves north from Serapeum to the railhead near Ismailia. Its strength is 28 officers and 489 other ranks.
  • 6th – The AMR moves into the Suez Canal defences and relieves the 5th Brigade, Australian Imperial Force (AIF).
  • 11th – The ‘Australian and New Zealand Mounted Division’ is officially established. Commanded by an Australian officer, Major-General ‘Harry’ Chauvel, it comprises:
    • Divisional Headquarters
    • 1st Australian Light Horse Brigade
    • 2nd Australian Light Horse Brigade
    • 3rd Australian Light Horse Brigade
    • New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade

  • The Australian and New Zealand Mounted Division is soon routinely referred to as the ‘Anzac Mounted Division’ by its officers and men.
  • 31st – The AMR is relieved from the Suez Canal defences by the 8th Brigade, AIF, and moves back to the railhead at Ferry Post.

April

  • 1st – The AMR is relieved by Australian troops and moves back to Serapeum.
  • 6th – The AMR and the rest of the WMR ride for 5 hours to Moascar to farewell the men of the New Zealand Division, who are soon to embark for France.
  • 7th – The AMR and the rest of the WMR ride for 8 hours to Salhia, in the desert north-west of Ismailia.
  • 8th – Major James McCarroll assumes temporary command of the AMR while Lieutenant-Colonel Charles. Mackesy is in Cairo.
  • 9th – Four officers from the AMR are attached to the NZMR Training Regiment (TR) that is formed at Moascar Camp.
  • 17th – Lieutenant-Colonel Mackesy returns from Cairo and resumes command of the AMR.
  • 23rd – The AMR and the rest of the Anzac Mounted Division are ordered to respond to an Ottoman raid on British outposts near Katia. The regiment leaves Salhia at 10 p.m., and covers the 40 km to Kantara overnight.
  • 24th – The AMR arrives at Kantara at 9.15 a.m. and sets up a camp at Hill 70, 10 km north-east of Kantara. Three troops of 3rd (Auckland) Squadron move out into the desert to conduct reconnaissance. By now the Ottoman raiders have withdrawn.
  • 25th – The AMR’s camp at Hill 70 is moved to the west of the Wellington Mounted Rifles’.
    Now that the NZMR is in an area where contact with Ottoman forces is possible at any time, routines change. As a rule, the AMR spends every third day as duty regiment, manning the outposts around the NZMR’s camp and patrolling locally.
  • 29th – Lieutenant-Colonel Mackesy takes temporary command of the Anzac Mounted Division. Major McCarroll assumes temporary command of the AMR.

May

  • 7th – The AMR rides for 7 hours to Romani, near the coast 40 km north-east of Kantara, and takes over posts there from the 2nd Australian Light Horse.
  • 8th – While the 4th (Waikato) Squadron remains in the defences at Romani, the rest of the AMR returns to the camp at Hill 70.
  • 9th – The 4th (Waikato) Squadron rejoins the regiment at Hill 70.
  • 12th – The AMR and the rest of the NZMR ride for 5½ hours to Bir Etmaler, just south of Romani, to protect the wells at Katia and conduct reconnaissance further out in the desert.
  • 14th – From 4 a.m. each AMR squadron carries out a reconnaissance task in the vicinity of Umm Aisha. The day’s work is not complete until after the regiment returns to camp at 7.30 p.m.
  • 22nd – The AMR leaves camp at 6 p.m. After halting at Katia between 8.30 and 10 p.m. it rides towards Debabis, nearly 20 km to the south-east. It is to support the 2nd Australian Light Horse Brigade, which is conducting reconnaissance around Hod el Gedaidia.
  • 23rd – Hod el Gedaidia is reached at 2.45 a.m. The 3rd (Auckland) Squadron is immediately sent on patrol to the south and south-east to see if any Ottoman forces are in the vicinity.
    At 9.45 a.m. fresh orders are received. The AMR begins its trek back to Bir Etmaler, where it arrives at 5.30 p.m.
  • 24th – Lieutenant-Colonel Mackesy leaves for Cairo. Major McCarroll assumes command of the AMR.
  • 29th – The NZMR is ordered to attack Ottoman  forces reported at Bir el Abd and Salmana, 40 km east of Romani. The brigade leaves camp at 10 p.m.
    Lieutenant-Colonel Mackesy returns from Cairo and resumes command of the AMR.
  • 30th – The AMR arrives at Debabis at 7 a.m. and spends the day resting.
    The NZMR leaves Debabis at 9 p.m. The AMR leaves the column at 10 p.m. and moves south-east. The 3rd (Auckland) Squadron is sent east of Bir el Abd to cut the telegraph wires and prevent the withdrawal of Ottoman forces. No enemy are found at Bir el Abd and the AMR rejoins the brigade on its ride towards Salmana.
  • 31st – The AMR is in position to attack Salmana within 30 minutes of receiving verbal orders to do so. The attack begins at 4.45 a.m. and soon overwhelms an Ottoman rearguard. The 3rd (Auckland) Squadron inflicts further casualties on the Ottoman column as it retreats eastwards. At 6 a.m. the squadron is ordered to break contact and return to Salmana. 13/2007 Sergeant Arthur Parrish is wounded in the arm during this operation.
    The AMR leaves Salmana at 8 a.m. for Debabis, which is reached at 11.15 a.m. Resuming at 3 p.m., the AMR reaches Oghratina at 4.45 p.m. and feeds and waters the horses. The regiment, along with the Canterbury Mounted Rifles, moves off again at 7 p.m. and reaches the camp at Bir Etmaler around 11.30 p.m.

June

  • 1st – Lieutenant-Colonel Mackesy takes temporary command of the NZMR. Major McCarroll assumes temporary command of the AMR.
  • 2nd – Captain Ramstead, the Pioneer Troop and one troop from each squadron ride to Oghratina to dig wells.
  • 3rd – Captain Ramstead’s force returns to camp at Bir Etmaler.
  • 5th – The AMR and the rest of the NZMR leave Bir Etmaler at 2 p.m. and ride for 4 hours to Oghratina.
  • 6th – The AMR and the rest of the NZMR leave Oghratina at 3 a.m. and move towards Bir el Abd, 20 km to the east, to clear the area of Ottoman troops.
    By 7 a.m. it is clear that there are no Ottoman forces in Bir el Abd. The AMR is ordered to move independently back to camp at Bir Etmaler. This is a difficult journey for the horses, as the wells at Oghratina and Er Rabah have run dry. By the time Bir Etmaler is reached at 3.30 p.m., the horses are extremely thirsty.
  • 7th – Major McCarroll departs for Port Said on leave.
  • 10th – The AMR and the Wellington Mounted Rifles move to Oghratina to support reconnaissance patrols by the 1st Australian Light Horse.
  • 11th – The AMR arrives back at Bir Etmaler at 5 p.m.
  • 12th – Major McCarroll returns from leave and resumes command of the AMR.
  • 15th – The AMR and the rest of the NZMR move to Katia to assist a reconnaissance by the Australian Light Horse.
  • 16th – The NZMR returns to Bir Etmaler.
  • 24th – The AMR, along with the NZMR’s Brigade Headquarters and the Mounted Field Artillery, leaves Bir Etmaler at 10 p.m. for Hill 70.
  • 25th – The AMR arrives at Hill 70 at 4.15 a.m. and settles into camp.
  • 29th – The 3rd (Auckland) Squadron leaves for a rest camp in Kantara. A squadron of Warwick Yeomanry temporarily takes its place.

July

  • 3rd – Major McCarroll, 4th (Waikato) Squadron, two squadrons of the Canterbury Mounted Rifles and a section of machine guns move to Dueidar, 8 km east of Hill 70, to support operations by the 5th Australian Light Horse Brigade.
  • 4th – Lieutenant-Colonel Mackesy resumes command of the AMR.
  • 5th – Major McCarroll’s force returns to the camp at Hill 70.
  • 7th – The 3rd (Auckland) Squadron returns to Hill 70 from Kantara Rest Camp, where it is replaced by the 4th (Waikato) Squadron.
  • 13th – The AMR receives 35 reinforcements from the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Training Regiment at Moascar.
  • 14th – The 4th (Waikato) Squadron returns to Hill 70 from Kantara Rest Camp and is replaced by the 11th (North Auckland) Squadron.
  • 15th – The three separate regimental machine-gun sections are reorganised as a single autonomous unit, the New Zealand Machine Gun Squadron. Lewis guns are issued to the regiments of the NZMR.
  • 19th – A large Ottoman force is discovered advancing westwards on a 12-km front in the vicinity of Bir el Abd and Bayud, 30 km east of Romani.
    The AMR stands by at Hill 70 as numerous reports of combat between units of the Anzac Mounted Division and Turks come in.
  • 21st – The 11th (North Auckland) Squadron returns to Hill 70 Camp from Kantara Rest Camp.
  • 22nd – Two officers and 30 men drawn from the 3rd (Auckland) and 4th (Waikato) squadrons patrol towards Ottoman forces at Mageibra, 12 km south of Katia. The remainder of the AMR continues to wait at Hill 70.
  • 23rd – The AMR receives 30 reinforcements from the Training Regiment at Moascar.
  • 26th – Lieutenant Carr and 29 other ranks leave Hill 70 with 59 remounts for the Wellington Mounted Rifles.
  • 27th – The AMR receives three Lewis guns, one for each squadron.
  • 30th – The AMR receives 12 reinforcements from the Training Regiment.

August

  • 1st – The 11th (North Auckland) Squadron leaves Hill 70. Some troops go to Bir en Nuss, 10 km east of Dueidar, to establish a strong post and dig sufficient wells to provide water for a brigade of horses. The others ride another 5 km to observe Ottoman troops at Bir Nagid.
  • 3rdBattle of Romani: The 3rd and 4th squadrons of the AMR leave camp at 10 p.m. At midnight they relieve the 5th Australian Light Horse at Dueidar.
    Shortly before midnight the outpost lines of the 1st Australian Light Horse report that a large Ottoman force is moving in front of them.
  • 4thBattle of Romani: The first wave of Ottoman attacks begins shortly after midnight. Concentrated against a sandhill known as Mount Meredith, it is repulsed by 1st Australian Light Horse Brigade.
    The second wave of Ottoman infantry assaults begins around 2 a.m. and is pressed home with much more determination than the first. Intense fighting takes place all along the line. By daybreak the Ottoman Turks have forced the Australians off Mount Meredith and back towards Wellington Ridge.
    At 9 a.m. the AMR receives orders for 3rd (Auckland) Squadron and two troops of 4th (Waikato) Squadron to move back towards Canterbury Hill, joining the main body of the NZMR en route. The two other troops of 4th (Waikato) Squadron are to defend Dueidar.
    The NZMR reaches a point 2½ km south of Canterbury Hill at 11.30 a.m. It is decided to attack the Ottoman forces holding Mount Royston, a large sandhill at the western end of Wellington Ridge. The AMR is in the centre, with the Canterbury Mounted Rifles on the right flank and some British Yeomanry on the left flank. This force advances steadily throughout the afternoon.
    A general attack is ordered for 4.45 p.m. in an attempt to clear Mount Royston before dark. The 5th Australian Light Horse Regiment joins in on the left. The Ottoman Turks withdraw or surrender, and by 5.30 p.m. the summit has been taken. By 6.30 p.m. most of the Ottoman Turks still in the area have surrendered.
    Two men of the AMR have been killed and six wounded. The regiment bivouacs at Pelusium railway station, 2 km west of Canterbury Hill.
  • 5thBattle of Romani: The NZMR moves off at 6 a.m. in pursuit of the Ottoman forces, which are now retreating. The 11th (North Auckland) Squadron and the two detached troops of the 4th (Waikato) Squadron rejoin the AMR at 7.30 a.m.
    The NZMR, the 1st and 2nd Light Horse Brigades and the 5th Mounted Brigade are ordered to attack the Ottoman  rearguard at Katia. The attack begins at 2.30 p.m. The Ottoman soldiers defend a strong position resolutely, and at 7 p.m. the attack is abandoned. The AMR withdraws 3 km and bivouacs for the night.
    Seven men of the AMR are wounded during the day.
  • 6th – The AMR, acting as the advance guard for the NZMR, leaves the bivouac at 6.30 a.m. Katia is found to be empty of enemy forces, and the Ottoman rearguard is located at Oghratina at 11.30 a.m. After spending the afternoon observing and avoiding shellfire, the AMR is ordered at 7 p.m. to withdraw to Er Rabah, where it spends the night in bivouac.
  • 7th – The AMR leaves camp with the rest of the NZMR at 4.30 a.m. but remains in reserve. The regiment withdraws to the bivouac at Er Rabah at 7 p.m.
  • 8th – The NZMR leaves bivouac at 4.30 a.m. and moves forward to Oghratina. The enemy forces have withdrawn overnight, and patrols make contact with the main Ottoman position 3 km west of Bir el Abd. The AMR bivouacs at Debabis.
  • 9th – The AMR leaves bivouac at 4.30 a.m. to take part in an attack on Bir el Abd by the Anzac Mounted Division. From 5.20 a.m. the AMR advances along the south telegraph line. Steady progress is made initially, but counter-attacks eventually halt the advance, and at 11.20 a.m. enfilading fire forces the left flank to retire. With counter-attacks continuing, the division receives orders to withdraw at 4.15 p.m. The AMR pulls back successfully while in close contact with enemy forces, and bivouacs at Oghratina. The day’s fighting has cost 12 men killed and 21 wounded.
  • 10th – The AMR mounts an outpost line and keeps watch on the Ottoman positions at Bir el Abd. The regiment is relieved from the outpost line at 7 p.m. and bivouacs at Debabis.
  • 11th – The AMR rests at Debabis during the day, then moves into the outpost line at 6.30 p.m. for 24 hours’ duty.
  • 12th – Canterbury Mounted Rifles patrols confirm that the Ottoman Turks have pulled out of Bir el Abd and retreated to Salmana. At 11.45 a.m. the AMR and the Wellington Mounted Rifles move east to support the Canterburys’ reconnaissance of Salmana. They return to Debabis to bivouac that night.
  • 13th – The AMR leaves Debabis at 3.30 p.m. and relieves the 5th Australian Light Horse Regiment in the outpost line at Bir el Abd.
    Lieutenant-Colonel Mackesy becomes the temporary commander of the NZMR. Major McCarroll reassumes command of the AMR.
  • 14th – The AMR now covers a longer outpost line. While the 3rd (Auckland) Squadron remains at Bir el Abd, 4th (Waikato) moves 3 km north to Hod el Hisha and 11th (North Auckland) 3 km south to Hod el Bada.
  • 20th – Relieved from the Bir el Abd outpost line by the Canterbury Mounted Rifles at 7.30 a.m., the AMR moves to Hod el Amara and rejoins the rest of the NZMR.
  • 25th – The 4th (Waikato) and 11th (North Auckland) squadrons, along with the rest of the NZMR, leave Hod el Amara at 2 a.m. on reconnaissance to the island of El Galss, north of Salmana. The force returns to Hod el Amara at 8 p.m.
    The AMR receives 56 other ranks from Hill 70.

September

  • 2nd – The AMR receives 11 reinforcements from the Mounted Training Regiment at Moascar.
  • 11th – The NZMR leaves Hod el Amara at 5.30 a.m. and reaches Bir Etmaler at 11.30 a.m.
  • 20th – The headquarters of the AMR, and 97 other ranks, depart for a new rest camp at Sidi Bishr (on the coast near Alexandria) at 3.25 p.m. The rest of the AMR comes under the command of the Canterbury Mounted Rifles.
  • 23rd – A second draft of three officers and 46 other ranks of the AMR arrives at the rest camp in Sidi Bishr from Bir Etmaler.
  • 29th – The headquarters of the AMR returns to Bir Etmaler.
  • 30th – Major McCarroll takes command of a composite regiment of AMR and Canterbury Mounted Rifles men while the latter’s headquarters is at Sidi Bishr.
    A third draft of two officers and 75 other ranks of the AMR leaves for Sidi Bishr.

October

  • 1st – The second draft returns from the rest camp at Sidi Bishr, where they are replaced by a fourth draft of three officers and 65 other ranks.
  • 2nd – The AMR receives 26 reinforcements from the Mounted Training Regiment at Moascar.
  • 6th – The AMR receives 11 reinforcements from the Mounted Training Regiment.
  • 7th – The Canterbury Mounted Rifles’ headquarters arrives back at Bir Etmaler and resumes command of its men.
  • 8th – The remaining leave parties return to Bir Etmaler and rejoin the AMR.
  • 23rd – The AMR, along with the NZMR, rides to Bir el Abd and bivouacs for the night.
  • 24th – The AMR rides to Bir el Ganadil, 6 km south-east of Salmana, and relieves the 3rd Australian Light Horse Regiment in the forward outpost line. They maintain a defence against enemy incursion and mount patrols to gain information about Ottoman troop movements and find sources of water.
  • 27th – The AMR moves to Bir el Kasseiba to occupy a new forward outpost line.

November

  • 5th – A 15-minute downpour is the first rain the AMR has seen since February.
  • 8th – The AMR receives one officer and seven other ranks from the Mounted Training Regiment.
  • 13th – After being relieved by the Imperial Camel Corps, the AMR rejoins the rest of the NZMR on a new outpost line at Mazar.
  • 22nd – The AMR receives 44 remount horses.
  • 23rd – The AMR receives seven reinforcements from the Mounted Training Regiment.
  • 25th – The AMR and the rest of the NZMR leave Mazar at 5.45 a.m. for Mustagidda, where they set up a new outpost line.
  • 27th – The AMR receives 30 reinforcements from the Mounted Training Regiment.
  • 28th – The AMR receives six reinforcements from the Mounted Training Regiment.
  • 29th – The AMR receives 29 remount horses.

December

  • 9th – The 3rd (Auckland) Squadron and D Field Troop spend the day looking for sources of water to the east of Mustagidda.
  • 11th – The AMR receives eight reinforcements from the Mounted Training Regiment.
  • 15th – The AMR receives 26 reinforcements from the Mounted Training Regiment.
  • 19th – Lieutenant-Colonel Mackesy resumes command of the AMR.
  • 20th – The AMR and the rest of the NZMR leave Mustagidda at 1.30 p.m. After pausing at Ghurfan el Gimal for 1½ hours, this force rides through the night for 35 km to get into position to attack El Arish.
  • 21st – The attacking force arrives at El Arish to find that the Ottoman garrison has abandoned the town three days ago. The AMR bivouacs at Masmi, 5 km to the west.
  • 22nd – Scottish soldiers of the 52nd (Lowland) Division arrive at El Arish to relieve the Anzac Mounted Division. This allows the Anzac Division to attack the Ottoman garrison – two battalions of the 27th Arab Division – at Magdhaba, 40 km inland. The NZMR concentrates in Wadi el Arish for this task.
  • 23rd – The NZMR leaves bivouac at 1.10 a.m. and arrives at a point 6 km outside Magdhaba at 4.50 a.m. After a reconnaissance, the village is attacked. Ottoman resistance is overcome late in the afternoon.
    The AMR remains in reserve throughout the day. It bivouacs at Magdhaba.
  • 24th – The AMR remains at Magdhaba until 3 p.m., collecting enemy weapons and burying the dead. The AMR rides towards El Arish until 9.30 p.m., when it bivouacs in the open desert.
  • 25th – The AMR reaches El Arish at 8 a.m. and spends a cold and wet Christmas Day in bivouac.
  • 27th – As the AMR moves to a bivouac near the beach west of El Arish, a storm that will rage for 12 days begins.
  • 31st – Gales heap sand over fresh meat that has just been landed from a small steamer. The AMR troopers’ stew is more gritty than usual.

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How to cite this page: '1916 - Auckland Mounted Rifles Regiment timeline', URL: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/war/auckland-mounted-rifles/1916, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 20-Dec-2012