Hi everybody! I’m on a deadline that may keep me from posting anything else today (stay tuned if you like), but in anticipation of just such a thing I’ve been holding on to Michael Collins Dunn’s two-part look at the Battle of Rafah, which took place 100 years ago this month. Rafah wasn’t a huge engagement, but it marks the end of World War I’s Sinai Campaign and the last time Ottoman soldiers found themselves in Egypt. As such, it prefaces the resulting Palestine Campaign (these are sometimes lumped together as the “Sinai and Palestine Campaign”) and the British push north toward Syria. It was also an important battle for Britain’s ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps), and particularly for the New Zealanders, whose mounted rifle division’s bayonet charge–undertaken after a general order to retreat had been issued–broke what had been a pretty staunch Ottoman resistance and won the battle.
Part one covers the lead up to the battle:
On December 20, 1916, the Allied force reached El ‘Arish, where they discovered the Ottoman force had evacuated the town and withdrawn up the Wadi El ‘Arish to the vicinity of Magdhaba to the southeast. (See map above. Illustrations are from Wikimedia.) Unwilling to advance beyond El rish while leaving Turkish and German forces behind their right in a fortified position at Magdhaba (not far from the big Turkish support base at Hafr al-‘Auja, just inside the Palestinian side of the border).
The Commander of the Desert Column, Sir Phillip Chetwode, arrived at El ‘Arish with supplies from Port Said, and prepared to dispatch the ANZACs under Sir Harry Chauvel. The German Commander of the Ottoman Desert Force, Kress von Kressenstein, had constructed a series of fortified redoubts at Magdhaba which he thought could resist attack, but he reckoned without the high mobility of the Light Horsemen.
I highly recommend all of Dunn’s World War I accounts if you feel like poking around his blog. They’re really good.
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