I- Report II- Plan of night action dispositions (missing) III- Map of Gibeon and surroundings (missing) IV- Return of our casualties V- Return of enemy casualties
Divisional Headquaters Central Force Gibeon, 15th May 1915.
The Minister for Defence.
1) I have the honour to report that after leaving Aus with the three Mounted Brigades, the last of which left that place on the 17th April I pushed on with all speed via KUIBIS and BETHANY to BERSHEA where I arrived at dawn on the morning of the 22nd April with the 8th and 9th Mtd. Brigades and a section of the 12th Battery. 2) On approaching the village my advanced scouts were fired upon by a small German outpost which turned and fled through the village. I at once surrounded Berseba and in the chase captured 20 prisoners and a large number of cattle sheep and goats as well as a number of Military and other wagons. 3) I halted at Berseba on the 22nd April as intelligence was to the effect that an enemy battery of artillery was moving from the South and would probably pass through Berseba, and to allow the 7th Mtd. Brigade and XIIth Battery (less one section) to come up. 4) The natives of Berseba under the Chief Christian professed great joy at our arrival and offered us all possible assistance and at once provided me with men to gain information of movements of the enemy in the vicinity. 5)a) Before daylight the following morning 23rd April we were awakened by a number of shots being exchanged on the outpost line and upon a patrol proceeding to the scene it was found that a body of the enemy was passing along the North East side of Berseba in the direction of Koker Boomnaute. The 8th Mtd. Brigade and one Squadron N.L.H. immediately proceeded out in chase and followed them some thirteen miles to a position overlooking the Fish River but as the enemy had got a good start our troops had small chance of coming up with them. 5)b ) Owing to the very nature of the ground the progress of our troops which were required to advance on an extended front was very much impeded. The enemy on the other hand retired along the road and simply extended a rear guard at intervals where the ground was suitable. Our casualties on this occasion were one man severely wounded and one sergeant captured. The enemys losses were one killed, three wounded and five captured. 6) The 7th Mtd. Brigade and the XIIth Battery less one section arrived at Berseba at 8 a.m. on the 23rd but the Supply Convoy which was required to ration men and horses was still some distance away and did not arrive until 8 p.m. in the evening. 7) Preparations had been made for the whole force to move on as soon as supplies could be obtained from the convoy and the 8th Mtd. Brigade was therefore ordered not to return to camp but to join the column en route. 8) At 9:30 on the 23rd April the force left Berseba leaving one squadron of the 2nd M.R. and the convoy to follow later. 9) The 8th Mtd. Brigade in making their way to the road on which they were required to join the force came on a party of five German Signallers, on foot, who having been left on the Gr. Brukkaros mountain 7 miles North of Berseba were attempting to make their way North, but after shooting one of our horses they surrendered. 10) At Kokerboomnaute information was obtained of a body of the enemy having passed North along the route following the railway and on the evening of the 24th I pushed on with my whole force in pursuit. 11) On the 26th April upon the arrival at Grundorns the telegraph line was tapped and it was soon found that the line was still in circuit with the result that a number of messages were taken off, one of which it was reported to me indicated that troops at Gibeon Station were under orders to march that night to the North. 12) Added to the above information my advanced outposts had previously reported late in the afternoon, recieved at 6 p.m. that at Gibeon Station a train could be seen and that three columns, the dust of which could be observed, were proceeding rapidly northwards apparently heading for Gibeon Station. 13) My force was at this time at the Railway Siding about midway between Grundorns and Gibeon Stations and upon reciept of this latter information we moved on as soon as possible 6:45 p.m. 14) As it was important we should, if possible, capture the train which was observed at the station I decided to try and blow up the railway North of the Station as early as possible in order to prevent the escape of the train which my information showed was to leave during the evening. 15) Also as I feared the enemy would move off during the night I decided to despatch a force to work round the enemys eastern flank to a position astride his line of retreat, to prevent if possible, the enemys escape during the night before it would be possible for me to come up with him in the morning. 16) Accordingly at 8 p.m. whilst on the march I despatched a party of scouts under Capt. Nicholson together with one of engineers under Capt. Grier to undertake the destruction of the railway. 17) At 8:45 p.m. a force consisting of the 9th Mtd. Brigade plus one regiment of the 8th Mtd. Brigade was despatched under the command of Lt. Col. Royston, C.M.G., D.S.O., with verbal orders to widely outskirt the enemys camp at Gibeon Station on the eastern flank and get astride the enemys line of retreat to the North along the railway line in order to prevent his escape, and that his force would be required to cooperate with me in the morning, as I would attack from the South at dawn. 18) Lt. Col. Royston was also informed that a party had proceeded him for the purpose of destroying the railway line. 19) The main body moved on and upon arrival at Kilo 157 the Advanced Guard reported having observed lights in the direction of Gibeon Station. At 10 p.m. the main body reached a point some two miles South of Gibeon Station where the force halted until 5 a.m. the following morning. 20) At 11 p.m. the party detailed to destroy the railway arrived at a point some two miles North of Gibeon Station and blew up sixteen raoils. This party in its return fortunately escaped the detection of patrols which are observed attempting to cut off the retreat which was successfully accomplished. 21) The force under Lt. Col. Royston, C.M.G., D.S.O., arrived at a point on the railway some 2.5 miles North of Gibeon Station at 1 a.m. 22) The ground at this point is flat bare, and no sort of cover.The railway is raised on an embankment and no cover against enfilade fire is availible in the burow trench alongside. 22)a) Although a bright moonlight night it was unfortunate that the presence of a culvert across the line and some 80 yards South of the position selected was not discovered by our troops when they first arrived at the railway. This was later turned to good account by the enemy who were able to conceal and find good cover for their maxims and a large number of men under the protection of the water course embankment on either side of the line. This culvert is shown on the map at Kilo 173. 23) The troops were disposed as shown on the attached rough plan marked A, from which it will be seen that three squadrons of the N.L.Horse were aligned on the embankment facing West, a fourth squadron lying in reserve a short distance in rear. 24) Two squadrons of the 2nd I.L.H. were at first extended on the right and in support of the Natal Light Horse but later these together with the remaining two squadrons of this Regiment were moved into line as shown, facing South from whence the enemys fire came. 25) The U.M. Rifles were dismounted in rear nd to the left of the 2nd I.L.H. as shown. 26) Whilst the disposition of the troops was in progress at 2 a.m. the enemys scouts appeared along the line on the left of the N.L.H., they were allowed to approach in order, if possible that they might be captured without disclosing the position but as these scouts apparently became aware of the presence of our troops and retired they were fired upon and almost at once the enemy replied with machine gun and rifle fire. 27) The 2nd I.L.H. were then extended facing South whence the heaviest fire came. 28) By 3 a.m. the enemys fire was so heavy and accurate that a large number of casualties had occured and in the absence of Lt. Col. Royston who had proceeded to the U.M. Rifles to extend this regimemt to connect with the 2nd I.L.H. Lt. Col. Davies, who finding the position untenable ordered a retirement of the N.L.H. and I.L.H. to their horses and later a geneal retirement was ordered by Lt. Col. Royston. In this retirement owing to a gap having occured in the lines a number of men some 70 in all did not recieve this order and were left behind on the railway bank and were forced to surrender at daylight when they found themselves surrounded. 29) In addition to these 70 officers, N.C.O.s and men were of course the casualties which occured, details of which are shown on the attached Casualty list. The gap referred to was caused by 10 men of the N.L.H. having been withdrawn from the line to occupy the western side of the railway and hence the continued line of men on the railway bank was broken and the order failed to reach these on the enemy side of this gap. 30) It was thought at the time the probailities were that these missing men had retired but become detached in the scrub in the vicinity of the horses and would be picked up in the morning. 31) Lt.Col. Royston then retired out some three miles and awaited daylight at which time the column headed back towards Gibeon Station in order to co-operate with me, however as this force was some little distance away when at dawn I attacked the enemy and as the attack was followed by a rapid retirement of the enemy these troops were unable to do more than assist with two squadrons one of each of the N.L.H. and I.L.H. 32) At 11.30 p.m. the explosions on the railway were heard by me and later at 2 a.m. the heavy firing North of Gibeon Station. 33) Reference attached 0.5 mile to the inch map of Gibeon and surrounding marked B. 34) At 5 a.m. (27th April) I moved off with the main body towards Gibeon Station and at dawn sighted the enemy immediately West of the railway about 2.5 miles North of Gibeon Station from which point his guns opened fire on the advanced troops. The 1st M.R. were disposed on the West of the road the 2nd M.R. on the East and the 3rd M.R. were in the centre. The course followed by each of these units is shown on the map marked B. The XIIth Battery quickly picked up the range and this together with the rapid advance of the Mounted men caused the enemy to fall back North to the high ground one mile South of point 3465 which is on the Siding - Kranzplatz road. 35) Here the enemy had apparently intended holding the above mentioned high ground and for which his force was disposed but as our troops moved with such rapidity round his flanks and as our guns were making such good practice this purpose was abandoned after a short but stubborn resistance and the retirement was continued under cover of a strong rear guard. 36) It was in this retreat from the high ground that the enemy having had had several of his gun teams killed as a result of gun and rifle fire, that he was forced to abandon his two field and two machine guns. Following the abandonment of this high ground the enemy finding retreat along the Kranzplatz Road was cut off by the 1st M.R. proceeded across country in a northerly direction to the Gibeon-Marienthal Road. 37) The whole surface of the ground over which the operations took place is thickly covered with loose round stones and this made our progress extremely difficult and the fact of denying the enemy the road at this point and being able to make use of it ourselves enabled us to quickly come up with him again although he had apparently taken the shorter route. 38) Together with the loss of his guns, the enemy was forced to abandon the N.L.H. prisonners who were recovered just South of the point 3465. 39) From now onwards the operations resolved themselves into a running fight the pursuit being continued until 11:30 a.m. when a point some 8 or 10 miles North East of point 3600 on the North Eastern extremity of the map was reached at which time I found Further pursuit fruitless and ordered a halt after which the troops collected at Gibeon Villge. 40) The A.D.M.S. and his medical units were untiring in their efforts to give the wounded immediate attention and get them removed to buildings in the vicinity where they were made as comfortable as circumstances would permit. This however was extremely difficult owing to the extended area over which the operations took place. 41) Our losses as already reported by wire amounted to three officers and 19 other ranks killed 10 officers and 56 other ranks wounded. Of the wounded 5 N.C.O.s and men have since died of wounds. Particulars of the above are shown in the attached Casualty List. 42) As a result of the operations at Gibeon Station the enemys losses found on the field amounted to 11 killed, 30 wounded and 188 officers, N.C.O.s and men captured. A train consisting of engine with tender, water tank and six trucks, two Field Guns, with 100 rounds, four machine guns, a quantity of ammunition and a number of wagons and stock were also captured. 43) It is thought that the enemy removed a number of his casualties during the night and information goes to show that a number of wounded were removed by rail from Marienthal on the night of the 27th April. 44) The enemy was under the command of Major von Kleist and his force is reported to have consisted of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Reserve Companies, 1st and 4th Regular Companies, sections of Abteilung Schoneri, von Radeln, Godeke and Lomanoffski, 4th Veldt Company, Engineer Company, Section of Field Guns, six machine guns and the Gibeon and Keetmanshoop Garrisons, totaling in all some 800 men. 45) The behaviour of all ranks was excellent and I have the honour to bring to your notice the good work performed by the following officers during the operations of the 27th April
Lt.Col. D.W. Mackay commanding 7th Mtd.Bde., Lt.Col. J.A.P. Woods 2nd Mtd. Rifles, Lt. Col. J.W.V. Montgomery 1st Mtd. Riles:- For service in pushing home the attack and pursuit of the enemy at Gibeon, 27th April.
Capt. Nicholson, intelligence Officer and Capt. Grier, O.C.S.A.Eng.Corps:- For services performed in the destruction of the Railway on the night of 26th April.
Major Edwards, for good work performed by his Battery (XIIth) in the attack and pursuit of the enemy.
46) The following Officers and N.C.O.s are commended for good service by the O.C. 9th Mtd. Brigade and I have pleasure in bringing their names to your notice.
Capt. J.F. Messer, N.L.H.:- Consistently courageous exposure of himslef in order to ascertain enemys position and direct his mens fire till he was wounded.
Capt. H.E. Bamford N.L.H.:- Tenaciously held his position when completely enfiladed at 80 yards by Machine Gun despite frequent appeals from officers and men, only surrendered after daylight, being without cover and another gun being posted in rear the destruction of all details was only a matter of time.
Lt. H.R. Jones N.L.H. :- Ably seconded Capt. Bamford as above. No.243 Sergt. J.S. Pressley N.L.H. :- Moved about freely under galling fire affording all relief he could to the wounded. No. 231 Sergt. A.B. Stewart N.L.H.:- Carrying orders repeatedly under heavy fire
I have the honour to be, Sir, Your obedient Servant, Duncan McKenzie Brigadier General Commanding Central Force.
Casualties Central Force Operations, Gibeon, 26th-27th April 1915
Killed Natal Light Horse Major J.R. Watt Lieut. R.T. Matheson,H.B. Brokensha. Sergt 250 H.M. Fletcher, 106 J.S. Hardie. Corpl.242 N. Franke,192 H. Lister. Pte. 336 W.A. Hill, 544 C.L. Nicholls, 148 F.D. Pascoe, 199 A.R. Tapp, 315 C.J. Kenthorne, 516 A.J. Greyling, 610 A. Jackson, 341 C.H. Pearce.
S.A.F.T. and Postal Corps (1st Eastern Rifles) Corpl. F.E. Spargo
N.L.H. Captain C.A. de la Salle (x) Lieut. J.W. Pearce, J. McDougall Sergt. 235 W.S. Payne (died of wounds 19th May 1915), 197 W. English, 44 E.M. Waugh (x). Corpl. 492 R. McLean, P.W. Williamson, 484 C. Hammer, 464 A. Haines, 187 S.H. Coleman Tpr. 112 A.W.James, 558 R.P.G. Cane, 102 R.G. Griffiths, 413 M. Matthews, 527 E.W. Bands, 632 W.R. Wilson, 250 E. Rush, 488 J. Porter
Sergt. 132 A. Gullett Corpl. 123 H. Cox. Tpr. 86 S.C. Moore, 195 G. Matthews, 515 R. Wilson, 338 Pitt, 358 R. Hill, 165 W.C. Thompson, 453 N. McQueen, 49 B.E. Pollard
1st M.R. Tpr. 3143 E.W. Fly (x), 229 B. Adie (x) 2nd M.R. Tpr. 813 R.N. Nicholson (x) , 799 M.R. Richards (x) 4th M.R. Tpr. 470 J. Middlemass Slightly Wounded N.L.H. Lt.Col. Park Gray Major E. Warby Lt. M.C. Blacket (x) Sergt. W. Hargreaves, A.B.Stewart.
491 G.L. Norcombe, 127 D.F. Parkin, 134 W. Reeder 2 I.L.H. Lt.Col. W. Davies Pte. 173 M. Reedy, D. Frazer 1st M.R. Sergt. 94 W. Pavey, 129 P. Chandley
XIIth Cit. Battery. Native drivers Percy Welch (x), A. Jacobs (Both severely injured, run over by guns) N.B. The names marked with a cross are those who were killed or wounded in the chase after daylight, the remaining casualties took place during the night action.