End of the Imperial Camel Corps

The New Zealand camel companies served with the Imperial Camel Corps Brigade in Palestine until it was disbanded in June 1918. At that point the Kiwi cameliers were reorganised as the horse-mounted 2nd New Zealand Machine Gun Squadron.

The Fallen Cameliers 

Imperial Camel Corps Deaths

  • Total number dead – 346
  • New Zealand dead – 41
  • Australian dead – 84

At the same time the personnel of the Australian camel companies also reverted to horses, forming the basis of the newly raised 14th and 15th Australian Light Horse regiments. These Australian and New Zealand ex-camelier units, together with the French Sipahis and Chasseurs d'Afrique of the 1er Régiment Mixte de Marche de Cavalerie du Lavant, were in turn combined to form the 5th Australian Light Horse Brigade. This is the only occasion in the history of the three countries that New Zealand, Australian and French soldiers have officially served together in the same unit.

The six British camel companies were retained for longer, with two of them carrying out sabotage operations in conjunction with the Arab Army against the Hejaz railway in July 1918. After that they were allowed to run down, receiving no new reinforcements and gradually being reduced in operational strength to two companies before finally being disbanded in 1919.

When the Imperial Camel Corps Brigade was disbanded the surplus camels were originally going to be handed over to the Camel Transport Corps. But Colonel T. E. Lawrence – better known to posterity as Lawrence of Arabia – convinced the commander of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, Lieutenant-General Edmund Allenby, that they would be put to better use by the Arab Army.

We were sorry for the camels. Although we often cursed them, when they were to be taken away from us, we found that we had become quite attached to our ugly, ungainly mounts. The Arabs would not treat them as kindly as we had done, and we reckoned they were entitled to a long spell in country that suited them better than the rough and slippery mountain tracks of Palestine.

Trooper Frank Reid, No 12 (Australian) Company, 3rd Battalion, Imperial Camel Corps

In 1921 a memorial to the Imperial Camel Corps was unveiled at Victoria Gardens, Thames Embankment, London. Inscribed on the memorial are the names of all the members of the Corps who died. On the lower part of the base are the words: 'To the Glorious and Immortal Memory of the Officers, N.C.O's and Men of the Imperial Camel Corps – British, Australian, New Zealand, Indian – who fell in action or died of wounds and disease in Egypt, Sinai, and Palestine, 1916, 1917, 1918.'

How to cite this page: 'End of the Imperial Camel Corps', URL: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/war/camel-corps/end, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 7-Feb-2013