The Hong Kong - Singapore Mountain Battery in action
Hong Kong-Singapore Royal Garrison Artillery
In 1847 the British authorities in Hong
Kong began using Indians as gun lascars, or general workers, because the
climatic conditions were unsuitable for white soldiers, and also because
Indians were much more economical to employ and to administer. The practice spread throughout the British
possessions in the Far East and by 1908 all the gunners were Sikhs or Muslims recruited
from the Punjab. The quality of recruit
was excellent as the pay was higher than that offered by the Indian Army, and
also there was prestige involved in manning field or larger guns that were not
used by Indian Army units. In that year
a British Army Imperial (1) unit
named The Hong Kong-Singapore Battalion Royal Garrison Artillery was formed
with three companies in Hong Kong and one company each in Singapore and
Mauritius. The gunners were focused
towards coastal defence duties but some of them had been employed as machine
and mountain gunners during operations in China in 1900 and 1901. After that conflict (2) ended
permission was requested to maintain a mountain battery in Hong Kong, but
London dismissed the idea. Eleven years
later action was taken and the 24th Hazara Mountain Battery,
Frontier Force, Indian Army, arrived in Hong Kong in 1912. When that battery departed in 1914 it left
behind a trained company of mountain gunners, No. 1 Company, in the Hong
After war had commenced in 1914 the
commander of No. 1 Company requested an overseas operational deployment for his
sub-unit. This was granted in September
1915 when the War Office requested a four 10-pounder gun (3)
battery be deployed to Egypt; the number of guns required was then increased to
six. No. 1 Company was the nucleus of
this new battery but drafts were allotted from No. 4 Company in Mauritius and
No. 5 Company in Singapore; there was keen competition throughout the battalion
to be selected for this deployment. The
battery strength was: 3 British officers, 3 Indian officers, 205 Rank and File
and a few British non-commissioned-officer (NCO) specialists. Initially mules were the pack animals. The battery embarked at Hong Kong on 8th
November 1915, called in at Singapore to collect the draft from that station,
and disembarked at Suez; the draft from Mauritius joined in Moascar near
Ismailia where the battery was attached to the Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade.
Initially the Right and Centre Sections
were employed along the line of the Suez Canal.
Above: Hong Kong-Singapore Mountain Battery with pack-camels
Senussi invasion of the Egyptian Western Desert
The first threat that the Hong Kong-Singapore
gunners faced did not come from the east (4)
but from the west, where Turks and Germans had incited the Senussi to invade
western Egypt from Libya (5). Fighting had started in December 1915 and the
Hong Kong-Singapore Mountain Battery was deployed to Sidi Barrani on 7th
March 1916. However by now the Senussi along
the coast had lost too many men and too much ground and they were
dispirited. The battery joined in the
British advance towards the Libyan border but did not fight although the
experience of operating in the desert on long marches was excellent preparation
for the battlefields that lay ahead. In
April most of the British Western Frontier Force moved back towards the Canal,
but a small detachment including a section of the battery remained for a time to
action in the Eastern Desert
As 1916 developed the British commenced
advancing over and occupying the coastal areas of the desert east of the Suez
Canal. A railway was constructed and
also a water pipeline, whilst wire netting stretched over the sand alongside
the rail line provided a suitable road for both vehicles and marching men. British aeroplanes made reconnaissance
flights, but had to be careful because of the superior performance of the
German planes used by the enemy (6). The Turks reacted to the British pressure,
capturing a Yeomanry garrison at Qatiya in April whilst unsuccessfully
attacking Romani in July; they then withdrew their main force eastwards to El
Arish, leaving outposts at waterholes.
In an attempt to demonstrate British
superiority in the northern Sinai Desert two small raids were mounted on
isolated Turkish positions during the Autumn of 1916, and the Hong Kong-Singapore
Mountain Battery was involved in both raids.
On 17th August two Australian Light Horse brigades, three
companies of Imperial Camel Corps, with two horse artillery batteries and one
section of the Hong Kong-Singapore battery in support, attacked Bir (well) El
Mazar on the track to El Arish. But the
Turks were prepared and the British horse batteries were misled by a guide so
the British commander, Major General Sir H.G. Chauvel KCMG CB, broke off the
action and returned to base. Shortly
afterwards the Turks withdrew their post from Bir El Mazar.
Above: Map of Eastern Desert
The second raid, on 15th
October, was a more daunting proposition against Bir El Maghara, which was 80
kilometres south-east of Romani and surrounded by difficult ground. Major General A.G. Dallas CB CMG commanded
two regiments of Australian Light Horse, the 1st City of London
Yeomanry, 300 men of the Imperial Camel Corps and a section of the Hong
Kong-Singapore battery. The British
force deployed from Bir Bayud and made two night marches before attacking. An advanced enemy post was taken and 18 Turks
captured, but the enemy main body was in a well-fortified position on the steep
slopes of Jebel (mountain) El Maghara.
After exchanging fire for a couple of hours General Dallas broke off the
engagement and withdrew. Both Generals
commanding these raids had been ordered not to become involved in heavy
fighting with strong enemy positions, but the Hong Kong- Singapore gunners had come
into action and had been able to test their drills and operational procedures. The Battery then moved to Abbasia where the
mules were handed in and replaced by camels; each of the three sections
receiving an animal strength of 3 horses, 73 riding camels and 47 pack camels.
Above: Maghdaba Action sketch
actions at El Maghdaba and Rafa
The next British objective along the coast
was El Arish but as the Turks had a railhead at El Kossaima the British decided
to also attack El Maghdaba in between El Arish and the railhead. On 19th December 1916 the Imperial
Camel Brigade was formed from the Imperial Camel Corps. In the brigade were four battalions (7) of
camel infantry, a machine gun company (8),
an engineer troop, a field ambulance (9),
a signal section and administrative and logistic elements; the gunners in the
Brigade were the Indians of the Hong Kong-Singapore Mountain Battery. Each infantry battalion had a section
equipped with three Lewis light machine guns. The Brigade Commander was Temporary Brigadier
General C.L. Smith VC (10)
MC, of the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry.
On 20th December the British
occupied El Arish which had been abandoned by the enemy, and then advanced up
the El Arish Wadi (valley) to attack Maghdaba three days later. The attack was commanded by General Chauvel who
used most of his Australian & New Zealand Mounted Division and the Imperial
Camel Brigade. The Turks manned five
strong redoubts on dominating ground above both sides of the wadi and the
British plan of attack engaged every redoubt and cut-off likely enemy retreat
routes. The Turks held strong positions
but a large number of their Arab soldiers fled from the battlefield during the
action, lowering the morale of those that stayed to fight. After some tense moments throughout the day,
especially as regards the very limited water supplies carried by the British
troops, Chauvel’s men seized all the enemy positions by 1630 hours, having lost
146 men and 51 horses killed or wounded.
Turkish losses were 97 killed and 1,282 taken prisoner. The Hong Kong-Singapore Mountain Battery had
performed well, advancing as the battle developed from its initial gun position
north of the wadi to come into action again in a second position south of the
Above: Camel Corps at Maghdaba by H.S. Power
The following four gallantry awards can be
attributed to the Maghdaba action:
Service Order to the Battery Commander, Major William Agnew Moore,
Royal Garrison Artillery: For
conspicuous gallantry in action. He handled
his battery during the action with marked skill, thereby clearing a redoubt
which was checking the infantry advance.
Imperial Distinguished Conduct Medal (11).
Three awards to
No. 712 Havildar Piran Ditta. For
conspicuous gallantry in action. He displayed great courage
and determination throughout the engagement under very heavy fire. He has at all times set a fine example.
No. 722 Havildar Nawab Khan. For
conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty.
On two occasions he displayed great courage and coolness under heavy
fire. He has at all times set a splendid
No. 1050 Havildar Fatteh Singh. For
conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty.
He displayed great coolness under fire, and set a fine example of
determination on the night marches which the operations entailed.
The occupation of El Arish allowed the
Royal Navy to land supplies on the beaches there until the railway and water
pipeline construction teams reached the town.
The commander of the British Desert Column that was spearheading the
British advance, Temporary Lieutenant General Sir P. Chetwode, Baronet, CB DSO,
decided to personally lead an attack on Rafah on the Palestinian border. The Australian & New Zealand Mounted
Division, the Imperial Camel Brigade and the 5th Mounted Brigade (12)
were the attacking troops who advanced during the night of 8th-9th
January 1917. Security was maintained
until dawn when the inhabitants of Arab desert encampments saw the British
advance and passed the information across the desert from camp to camp and to
the enemy by verbal ululations.
The Turks, with a few German advisors, held
strong fortified positions at Rafah on the western side of the border. The British surrounded the enemy posts and
commenced attacking over very open ground at 0930 hours. Again water supply was a major distraction
for the British, as the wheeled supply transport had been left 15 kilometres to
the rear at Sheikh Zowaiid. The British
attacks made little progress against effective enemy shrapnel and machine gun
fire, and reconnaissance patrols reported that Turkish troops were advancing
from the north-east to relieve Rafah. In
the mid-afternoon General Chauvel sent his mounted New Zealanders to make a
fresh attack on the key enemy position, the Reduit, and he was discussing the
likely necessity of a withdrawal (13)
by field telephone with General Chetwode when New Zealand bayonets were
observed going in hard over the Reduit slopes.
Turkish hands swiftly rose in surrender and the crisis was over. The other enemy positions then fell, the
Imperial Camel Brigade taking its objectives in another bayonet charge; the
British troops now accessed the water sources previously denied to them by
The British wounded (14)
and the guns of a captured Turkish mountain battery were brought in and General
Chetwode withdrew his exhausted force.
However British air patrols the following morning reported that the
enemy had not re-occupied Rafah so a return was made to the battlefield to
recover the abandoned Turkish material (15)
that had not already been removed by local Arab looters. Enemy prisoners taken at Rafah numbered 1,635 (16)
including the Turkish commander and eleven Germans. The British casualty total was 71 officers
and men killed, and 414 officers and men wounded with 1 man missing; Rafah had
proved to be a much tougher nut to crack than El Maghdaba. After Rafah the battery replaced its old
10-pounder guns with six 2.75-inch guns (17).
Above: Turkish artillery in Palestine
First Battle of Gaza
The British theatre commander, Lieutenant
General Sir A.J. Murray KCB GCMG CVO DSO, was under instructions from London
not to advance into Palestine and capture Jerusalem until the Autumn of
1917. However both he and General
Chauvel wished to attack Gaza and destroy the enemy garrison there before the
Turks withdrew it. Gaza was just over 30
kilometres distant from Rafah. The
British commander of the Eastern Force, Temporary Lieutenant General Sir C.M.
Dobell (18) KCB CMG DSO, was ordered to seize Gaza and its garrison by a coup de main; the resources with which he
had to achieve this task were two mounted divisions, three infantry divisions
and the Imperial Camel Brigade. However General
Dobell had an inadequate number of both staff officers and artillery guns, and he
had the normal problems associated with water and ammunition supplies that
occurred when British forces advanced beyond their railhead (19).
A preliminary British objective was the
occupation of the line of the Wadi El Ghazze, which was to be held to protect
the advancement of the railroad, and this was achieved before first light on 26th
March 1917. However dawn saw dense fog
rolling up the wadi from the sea, reducing visibility to around 15 metres
distance, causing confusion for a time amongst the advancing troops. The timetable in the battle plan was
permanently disrupted as the scheduled hours for reconnaissance and the issuing
of orders had been lost due to the fog, resulting in the loss of valuable hours
of daylight for Dobell’s formation commanders to deploy and attack. But
the mounted troops pressed on, the fog started lifting at around 0800 hours,
and by 1030 hours Gaza was enveloped.
The Turkish general commanding the enemy 53rd Division was
captured by Australian light horsemen during this envelopment, but the
general’s division was behind him and it continued marching towards Gaza.
Above: 4 Camel Ambulances att to ICC at Rafa for Gaza attack
By noon General Chetwode’s mounted troops
were well forward but he became concerned at the slow deployment of the British
marching infantry divisions. This
concern was compounded by information from a prisoner that the Gaza garrison
was not just two battalions as the British had believed, but that six
battalions were holding the town; reconnaissance patrols reported that Turkish reinforcements
were on their way. However the battle
proceeded at its own pace, and by nightfall the enemy positions at Ali Muntar
immediately south-east of the town had been taken despite some fierce
resistance. Gaza was surrounded but
Turkish reinforcements were closing-in from the north-east.
Unfortunately the British chain of command
across the battlefield, its reporting systems, its battle procedures and its
required liason between formation commanders were all not functioning effectively,
and the senior British commanders became pessimistic because of the paucity of corroborated
information. British intelligence
officers back in Sinai possessed the Turkish cypher key and they intercepted
and translated most enemy messages speedily, but the British telegraph system
then failed to quickly forward them to General Dobell. Lack of water for the horses weighed heavily
on the minds of senior officers, as did the fear of Turkish reinforcement
arriving. Despite significant gains by
the infantry and the mounted troops a decision was made to withdraw back across
the Wadi El Ghazze if Gaza had not been seized by last light, and although
hindsight shows that much of the ground taken did not have to be surrendered,
the British troops left the battlefield during 27th March. The British force had lost 523 officers and
men killed, 2,932 wounded and 512 missing.
The enemy casualty figure totalled 2,447 Turks, Germans and
Austro-Hungarians killed, wounded and missing.
Unfortunately in his report to London the
British theatre commander, who had been following events from a train on the
new Eastern Desert railway line, down-played the various difficulties that had
overwhelmed the British command and control system, and predicted that a swift second
attempt would unhesitatingly take Gaza. This
resulted in a change of attitude in London and General Murray was authorized to
advance on and capture Jerusalem, but sadly his Egyptian Expeditionary Force
was not either ready or competent to undertake such a task.
During the First Battle of Gaza the Hong
Kong-Singapore gunners had been involved in some fierce fighting as the
Imperial Camel Brigade fought the rearguard actions on 27th March that
allowed other formations to safely withdraw across the Wadi El Ghazze.
Above: Camel Cacolets for casualty evacuation
Second Battle of Gaza
A three-week pause occurred whilst the
British prepared for a second attack on Gaza; during this breathing-space the
Turks positioned good units forward of and to the east of Gaza, resulting in
18,000 men being ready to meet the next British move. The British Eastern Desert rail line was
extended to a railhead just behind Wadi El Ghazze and more artillery was
deployed forward, however there was insufficient ammunition available although 4,000
gas shells were distributed to some of the British artillery units. Again British air reconnaissance was subject
to interdiction by superior German planes (20)
but successful aerial photography resulted in a new partially-contoured map
being produced for British commanders.
Off the coast the French navy positioned ships to provide fire support,
as this part of the Mediterranean coastline was in the French naval zone.
General Dobell did not attempt to turn the
enemy inland flank, presumably because of perceived water-supply restrictions,
and he rejected the view of some of his infantry commanders who wanted to punch
powerfully up the coastline, as he saw no influential employment for his
mounted troops in that tactic. On 17th
April the British force of two mounted and three infantry divisions advanced to
locations from where it could launch frontal attacks. On 18th April the attacking troops
halted whilst the British artillery and the French navy bombarded Turkish
positions, using gas (21)
to try to neutralize enemy gun lines. On
the 19th the attacks went in but it was immediately obvious that the
previous day’s bombardments had done very little to disrupt the Turkish
artillery or to cow the Turkish defenders of strong-points. British attacks were repulsed or only made
ground at a high cost in casualties.
In this battle the Imperial Camel Brigade
was attached to, and attacking on the right flank of, the British 54th
Division. The Brigade objective was a
redoubt 1.5 kilometres north-west of Khirbet (ruins) Sihan. A British tank (22)
supported the assault on the redoubt but it was hit repeatedly and burst into
flames. Then infantrymen got into the
redoubt, now nick-named ‘Tank Redoubt’, but most of them were killed by enemy
fire or counter attacks. Other
infantrymen of the Brigade crossed the Gaza-Beersheba road and temporarily
established themselves on two hummocks nick-named ‘Jack’ and ‘Jill’; the
mountain battery provided close fire support throughout these actions and took
casualties. Lieutenant Ben Fletcher
Chapman of the battery was killed in action whilst acting as a Forward
Observation Officer; Gunners 1704 Kishn Singh and 1745 Saudagar Singh were also
killed and several others were wounded.
Right: Disabled British tank after the 2nd Battle of Gaza
By now the British ammunition shortage was
being felt and effective Turkish counter-attacks were being delivered including
a spirited cavalry attack on the Desert Column operating on the British right
flank. It was obvious to the British divisional
commanders that there was no chance of a success on the battlefield and that
more casualties would be taken for little gain if the fighting went on next day. From Khan Yunis in the rear the theatre
commander, General Murray, wanted the ground that had been taken to be held and
General Dobell ordered his troops to dig-in where they were. The Second Battle of Gaza ended at this
point, the British having lost 509 men killed, 4,259 wounded and 1,576 missing;
the Imperial Camel Brigade had taken 345 casualties. Three British tanks were lost out of the
eight deployed and 2,129 British animals were casualties. The triumphant Turkish defenders had lost 402
men killed, 1,364 wounded and 247 missing, but they had ensured that the
British Eastern Force was not in a fit state to take Jerusalem.
On 21st April General Murray moved
quickly to focus the blame elsewhere, dismissing General Dobell on health
grounds and sending him back to England; General Chetwode was appointed as the
new commander of the Eastern Force. But
on 11th June General Murray himself was ordered to return to England
and he was replaced as Theatre Commander by General Sir. E.H.H. Allenby.
Above: Situation at 1400 hours on 19th April in 2nd Battle of Gaza
General Allenby, a cavalry expert,
re-vitalized the British force after its misfortunes at Gaza, and he created a
new Desert Mounted Corps under Lieutenant General Chauvel that included the
Imperial Camel Corps. Allenby decided to
prize the Turks out of Gaza by first taking Beersheba in the desert on the
enemy eastern flank. The Desert Mounted
Corps took Beersheba in a charge on 31st October 1917 but the
Imperial Camel Corps was on detached duty further to the west and the Hong
Kong-Singapore Mountain Battery was not involved in the fighting. A third attack on Gaza was then successfully
launched on 6th November; after a heavy British bombardment the
Turks slipped away in the night leaving behind only a few worn-out guns.
The next British objective was
Jerusalem. During this operation the
Hong Kong-Singapore Mountain Battery was attached to the Australian Mounted
Division as the ground to be crossed was too rough for the division’s wheeled
artillery and transport. The ground was also rough for camels. When on 21st November the East
Riding Yeomanry from 22nd Brigade was ordered to advance on Ram
Allah Hill, a section of the battery was attached in support; the ground was
rocky, boulder strewn, often precipitous and was slippery from regular
rainfall. The Official History contains
an eye-witness account of the Hong Kong-Singapore gunners in action:
section attached to the 22nd Brigade by sheer determination got
their little gun as forward as El Muntar (23). Their
camels’ feet were bleeding, and as they progressed by the narrow wadi beds it
was not an uncommon sight to see them practically lifting their animals laden
with ammunition over high boulders and rock which obstructed the path. They started dauntless and remained undaunted
. . . Even when they were actually in action, each time they fired their gun a
cloud of black smoke gave away their position, and they were replied to by
batteries which they could not reach with shells that came over them like
coveys of partridges. . . . Yet, despite
the fact that on account of range they could really do little damage, they
continued to invite destruction all through the afternoon. (24)
This particular operation was aborted but
the battery remained up in the hills; however it was doubtless cheered-up by
the sight and companionship of Indian Army units who were now reinforcing the
British troops in Palestine. On 1st
December a Turkish attack penetrated the line north-east of El Burj held by the
8th Australian Light Horse.
The situation was saved by a fierce Australian defence, the rapid
arrival of aggressive reinforcements and the steady fire of the Hong Kong-Singapore
gunners. Seven days later the successful
British attack on Jerusalem commenced, the battery proving its worth up in the
hills with its ability to closely follow the infantry and the mounted troops – a
decisive factor that the wheeled batteries could not emulate.
Right: Imperial Camel Corps crosses the River Jordan to attack Amman.
Three more awards of the Imperial
Distinguished Conduct Medal can be attributed to the Jerusalem area actions:
No. 762 Havildar Sultan Mohamed: For conspicuous gallantry
and devotion to duty. When his section
was subjected to very heavy shell fire, which eventually made it necessary to
withdraw the guns, his gallantry, fine example, and devotion to duty were most
No. 1081 Havildar Piran Ditta: For conspicuous gallantry
and devotion to duty. He showed great
coolness and determination when an ammunition convoy of which he was in charge
came under heavy shell fire during an action.
His cheerfulness and good example have been an inspiration to his
section on several occasions.
No. 1213 Havildar Chajja Singh: For
conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty.
When his section was forced to retire over very difficult country and
during a period which became increasingly critical owing to enemy pressure, his
gallantry, coolness, and devotion to duty proved of inestimable value during
final year in Palestine
On 5th January 1918 the battery
rejoined the Imperial Camel Brigade at Rafa where a period of rest and
refurbishment was programmed. All
equipment was thoroughly overhauled; saddles were taken to pieces and the pads
re-stuffed and fitted to suit the backs of the camels, whilst all leather work
was renewed as necessary and oiled, dubbined and polished. Camels were inspected by veterinary
specialists and the guns were meticulously stripped, cleaned, inspected and
serviced. Casualty replacements joined
In March the Imperial Camel Brigade moved
north and entered a region full of significance to the Christian infantry soldiers
who were familiar with biblical tales.
On the 23rd of that month Jericho was reached, the Jordan
Valley crossed, and a point less than a kilometer from the Dead Sea reached. Gunfire from ahead signaled where fighting
was taking place and dead Turks, stripped of every piece of clothing by the
local inhabitants, lay beside the tracks.
As the hills on the east side of the Jordan Valley were climbed the
wheeled artillery started to turn back to find other routes, but the battery
camels maintained their pace with the infantry.
The author (25) of
The Australian Imperial Force
in Sinai and Palestine, 1914–1918 later wrote:
Immediately after leaving the foothills,
General Smith was obliged to dismount his force, and all night the men of the
three Battalions (and
of course the battery) dragged their camels up the mountain-side. The men hauled and urged, the camels slipped
and fell, but still fought steadily on.
The Brigade straggled in single file almost from the valley to the
Plateau, winding its fantastic course along crooked and flooded wadi beds, and
treading narrow ledges round the sides of hills. In peace time such a feat would have been
deemed impossible by any Eastern master of caravanning; but under the brutal
lash of war the Brigade went surely up to the tableland.
The purpose behind
this trek was for one battalion to demolish a portion of the Hedjaz railway
south of Amman whilst the remainder of the brigade took part in a raid designed
to seize the city. Several kilometres of
rail track were disrupted by the demolition battalion blowing culverts but the
attacking force soon had its hands full with fierce Turkish resistance; the
Hong Kong-Singapore battery was the only artillery unit firing in support. The Imperial Camel Brigade advanced to within
230 metres of the enemy trenches defending Amman but was then held up by heavy
machine gun fire. British reinforcements
were sent but also so were fresh Turkish troops, and enemy aircraft
successfully bombed the British logistical tail. In the final attack on 30th March
British troops penetrated the trenches around Amman but the defensive fire from
the Citadel fortress made the captured positions untenable, and the British
were forced to withdraw in appalling weather conditions back down into the
As General Allenby’s
force fought northwards camel country was left behind and in June 1918 the
infantry battalions in the Imperial Camel Brigade were re-mounted on horses as mounted
light infantry units. What happened to
the Hong Kong-Singapore Mountain Battery is not clear, but it is probable that
it was re-issued with pack mules for the guns and horse-drawn wagons for the
ammunition and stores.
The final mention of
the Hong Kong-Singapore Mountain Battery in the Official History is made during
an account of the fierce fighting for Megiddo on 21st September
1918. The battery fired in close support
of the 1st Royal Irish and the 38th Dogras, Indian Army,
as those battalions drove back Turks holding positions 50 kilometres south of the
Sea of Galilea. Megiddo was the final
victory for General Allenby as he successfully concluded the Palestinian
Campaign. As usual since its arrival in
the theatre, the Hong Kong-Singapore Mountain Battery was up with the infantry
and in the thick of the fighting.
Distinguished Conduct Medal was awarded to a British specialist with the
battery for the Megiddo action:
No. RGA/13318 Serjeant (Assistant in Gunnery) M.J.
Muldowny: He has done invaluable work with the
battery since its formation. He behaved with conspicuous coolness and gallantry
during the operations from the 19th to the 22nd September, 1918, and on one
occasion when the battery wagon lines came under considerable hostile shell
fire he was conspicuous in superintending the removal of the animals.
And two further
similar awards were made to Havildars, the respective actions could have
occurred from the First Battle of Gaza onwards:
No. 1178 Havildar Kishen Singh: For
conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty.
When the officer of his section was wounded, he took his place, and
though subsequently slightly wounded himself, performed the duties thoroughly
and capably. By his cheerfulness and
efficiency he was a fine example to the men of his section, and greatly
contributed to the success of the action.
conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty, cheerfulness and never failing
keenness throughout active operations.
On one occasion when the battery was compelled to withdraw under heavy
fire his coolness and total disregard of personal danger was worthy of the
highest praise. General Allenby’s troops rode on to capture
Damascus and Aleppo, but by 2nd November 1918 the
Turkish Government had accepted surrender terms and ceased fighting, as the
surrender of Bulgaria had broken the communications link between Germany and
On the 5th
November an announcement in the London Gazette stated: The
KING has been pleased to approve of the Hong Kong-Singapore Battalion, Royal
Garrison Artillery, being in future designated "Hong Kong-Singapore Royal
The weary but
triumphant Punjabi Gunners handed in their surplus Palestine equipment and were
shipped back to a garrison routine with their batteries in Hong Kong and
Singapore (26). Every other soldier who had seen them in
action, and especially their British, Australian and New Zealand colleagues in
the Imperial Camel Corps, had regarded them with respect as professional
gunners who fought their guns well forward and who put rounds on the target,
whatever the personal risks.
Other Awards In addition to the
Distinguished Service Order and the nine Imperial Distinguished Service Medals
already described, these other awards were made to battery members:
Jemadar (Acting Subadar) Iman Din Khan: For
conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. On two occasions he displayed great
coolness and courage under heavy fire. He has at all times set a fine example
to his men. Jemadar (Acting Subadar) Alim Sher; Lieutenant
(Acting Captain) Francis Lisney Skilton, Royal Garrison Artillery; Temporary Lieutenant
Leonard Benjamin Tyler, Royal Garrison Artillery. (No citations published.)
Major William Agnew Moore, Royal Garrison
Artillery. No. 15682 Company Quarter Master Serjeant H.H.
Waldren, Royal Garrison Artillery. Jemadar (Acting Subadar) Iman Din Khan. No.1050 Havildar Fatteh Singh. No. 699 Gunner (Acting Naik) Karam Din. No. 722 Havildar Nawab Khan. No. 1081 Havildar Piran Ditta. No. 1255 Naik Rahmahtullah. No. 1159 Havildar Rur Singh. No. 1828 Havildar Sher Muhammed. No. 1390 Naik Tika Khan.
Indian Distinguished Service Medal
As a British Imperial unit members of the
Hong Kong-Singapore Mountain Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery, were not
eligible for awards specific to the Indian Army. Despite this fact two recipients of the
Indian Distinguished Service Medal have been found, and the reasons for the
award of this medal are a matter for conjecture:
No. 1623 RGA Gunner (Acting Naik) Jinder
Singh and Senior Sub Assistant Surgeon Chaudri Maula Baksh.
These ten names are inscribed on the
Heliopolis (Port Tewfik) Memorial in Egypt:
These two British Royal Garrison Artillery soldiers
attached to the battery lie buried in Kantara War Memorial Cemetery, Egypt:
No. 69539 Saddler Donald Gillies and No.
9850 Gunner (Wheeler) V.A. Sykes.
Second Lieutenant Ben Fletcher Chapman is
buried in Gaza War Cemetery in Palestine.
Imperial Camel Corps Memorial in London
On 22nd July 1921 a memorial to the
Imperial Camel Corps was unveiled on the Thames Embankment in London. On the front of the base is the sentiment: 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.
SOURCES: de Rouen Forth, Nevill. A Fighting Colonel of Camel Corps.
(Merlin Books Ltd, UK 1991). Farndale, General Sir Martin. History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery.
The Forgotten Fronts and the Home Base, 1914-18. (The Royal Artillery
Institution 1988). Graham, C.A.L. Brigadier General. The History of the Indian Mountain Artillery.
(Gale & Polden Ltd, Aldershot, UK 1957 and downloadable here: https://archive.org/details/IndianMountainArtillery
). Lucas, Sir Charles. The Empire at War. (Oxford University Press 1926). MacMunn, Sir George and Falls, Captain
Cyril. History of the Great War. Military
Operations Egypt & Palestine, three volumes. (Imperial War Museum and
The Battery Press 1996). Renfrew, Barry. Forgotten Regiments. Regular and Volunteer Units of the British Far East.
(Terrier Press, Amersham, UK 1909). Robertson, John. With the Cameliers in Palestine. (A.H. & A.W. Reed, Dunedin,
New Zealand, 1938, or Naval & Military Press reprint). Rollo, Denis. The Guns and Gunners of Hong Kong. (Gunners Roll of Hong Kong,
1991). Walker, R.W. Recipients of the Distinguished Conduct Medal 1914-1920. (Midland
Medals, Birmingham, UK 1981). Wavell, Lieutenant General A.P. The
Palestine Campaigns. (Constable, London 1941). London
Gazette entries and Medal Index Cards.
1) Paid for
and directed from London. 2) Known as
the Boxer Rebellion or Uprising, or the Yihetuan Movement.
breech-loading 10-pounder mountain gun had been hurriedly introduced in 1903
after the failure of the 2.5-inch muzzle-loading mountain gun during the South
Africa war. The new gun weighed 183
kilograms and the barrel was jointed for easy animal-packing. The caliber was 2.75-inches and the length of
the assembled gun was 1.94 metres.
Shrapnel ammunition and star shell were issued; the range was 5,486
metres but the gun sights were only engraved to 3840 metres. The recoil was controlled by a ‘check rope’
round the trail.
details of the initial Turkish attack on the Suez Canal refer to the article Turks Across the Canal in Durbar Volume 27, No. 1, Spring 2010
further details of the Senussi invasion refer to the article The 15th Ludhiana Sikhs and the
Senussi in Durbar Volume 27, No.
2, Summer 2010. 6) German
planes from El Arish attacked Port Said on 1st September 1916. 7) The 1st,
3rd and 4th Battalions were composed of Australians and
New Zealanders whilst the 2nd Battalion was recruited from British
Yeomanry Regiments 8) The
machine gunners came from the Scottish Horse, the Lanarkshire Yeomanry and the
Ayrshire Yeomanry. 9) Australian. 10) For
details of the VC award please refer to the article: http://www.kaiserscross.com/188001/487401.html
was one other medal for military distinguished conduct, the African
Distinguished Conduct Medal that was awarded specifically to troops in the West
African Frontier Force and the King’s African Rifles. 12) Comprised
of the 1/1st of each of the Warwick, Gloucester and Worcester
Yeomanry Regiments, the 16th Machine Gun Squadron and a Mounted
Signal Troop. The Brigade Commander was
Temporary Brigadier General E.A. Wiggin DSO. 13) Besides
the water shortage one British artillery battery had been withdrawn from the
action as it had only 19 rounds remaining. 14) As an example of casualty evacuation at that time in desert
conditions the Australian & New Zealand Mounted Division allotted to each
field ambulance: 10 pairs of litters, 15 pairs of cacolets (stretchers slung on
each side of a camel), 12 sand carts, 12 cycle stretchers, and 6 sledges. All were animal-drawn except the cycle
stretchers, and each field ambulance could concurrently evacuate 92 patients. But soon, when the desert sands had been left
behind, motor ambulances would appear. 15) The
British seized 4 mountain guns, 4 machine guns, 578 rifles with considerable
quantities of ammunition, 83 camels and 54 mules and horses. 16) These
men had belonged to the 31st Regiment of the Turkish 3rd
Division 17) These
2.75-inch guns were 10-pounders without trunnions, recoiling through a cradle
after firing to the extent allowed by the piston of a hydraulic buffer, and
forced back to the firing position by the energy of springs compressed during
the recoil. 18) Charles
Macpherson Dobell was of Canadian extraction and had been the British commander
during the successful Allied invasion of German Kamerun in West Africa. 19) Some
batteries had to deploy some of their gun numbers on ammunition column duties. 20) German
pilots were flying Halberstadts against the British BE2’s and Martinsydes. 21) The
first use of gas in this theatre. 22) A few
tanks, formerly used for training, were sent out from Britain and arrived in time
for this action; it was found that if the traditional grease was not used on
the tracks then the tanks could move through and on sand. 23) 1.5
kilometres north of Beitunye and 2.5 kilometres from Ram Allah from which
Turkish batteries were engaging them over open sights 24) Footnote
at page 200 of the second volume of the Official history. 25) Sir
H.S. Gullett. 26) In 1915
the Hong Kong-Shanghai gunners serving in Singapore had helped in suppressing
the mutiny of the 5th Light Infantry, Indian Army, in Singapore.