The 1916 war diary of 2nd Lieut. Dick Willis Fleming


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This page contains a single entry by Dick published on March 18, 1916 11:59 PM.

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18 March 1916

Posted by Dick on March 18, 1916
Woke up about six this morning; we were going through some very pretty country indeed, all palm groves and cultivation, with little villages of mud huts at intervals. Hooded crows were as common as sparrows - saw hundreds of them - also saw a lot of great big birds like very big hawks, they say they are carrion birds of sorts but I haven't found out their name yet.

After a bit we began to get into the desert and saw lots of camels. We stopped at one small station, where we had a big camp, but I don't know what units. We saw a camel corps there.

The next place we stopped at was Kantara (8:30 am) just where the line joins the Suez Canal. I saw Kenning on the platform and he told me the Brigade has been in a rest camp at Port Said and were moving to this place on the canal today, so we got the men and kits out there instead of going on to Port Said. Went up to the camp which is just back behind the canal in the desert. I spent the rest of the day getting straight in camp. I believe we are to move over to the other side of the canal in a day or so. This is just where the Turks attacked last year, but I think it improbable we shall get any scraping here, though the Turks have got a post 50 miles away.

There are two squadrons of Mysore Lancers here, fine looking fellows, they've been out occasionally and had a skirmish with the Turks, but I think it's pretty quiet now. It's very funny seeing nothing but sand all round; we had a beastly sandstorm this afternoon and it gets in everything. We are a very cheery little mess, though only six officers now, as Powell and Poulteney mess with the Col., and Gassell, who is vet to the Brigade, messes with headquarters. I am in a tent with Badcock and we are getting quite snug.

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Meanwhile, the main Battery of the Hants Royal Horse Artillery, as part of the 1/5th Lowland Brigade R.H.A., had travelled to Egypt on the troopship "Manitou", arriving in Port Said on 2nd March.

Land was sighted at 9 a.m. on the 2nd, and the ship passed through the long breakwaters of the Suez Canal Harbour shortly afterwards. British and French destroyers; British, French, Swedish, and Dutch trading steamers seemed to almost fill the canal entrance. The ship put in on the right-hand side, where another troopship was being loaded with stores, bound for France.

The Battery was hailed with the cry of "Are you down-hearted?" The usual reply was given in concert. "Well, you very soon will be" was the comment from those who had experienced six months in Egypt - and they were not far wrong in their prophecy.

On disembarkation. a small advanced party of one officer, Lieutenant Kenning, and a few men proceeded to the camp allotted to the Battery to investigate the facilities for watering, to draw forage, and to see that the camp generally was in order.

The baggage was off-loaded and placed on lighters. It was necessary for the men to have their blankets with them, also their kit-bags. These were taken in G.S. wagons to the camp, and a guard left with the rest of the baggage, as it was uncertain whether the Battery would remain at Port Said or not. Guns were left at the quay under the guard. The cleaning and coaling of the ships by natives afforded a good deal of interest. The speed at which they carried the coal in baskets up the narrow gangway, and threw it into the ship (not stopping if one of them fell down and was buried alive), was a remarkable sight.

On 4th March, a small party proceeded to Kantara to take over a camp there. This camp had been vacated by a brigade of a division known as the "dirty worst". The condition of the camp fully justified the appellation. On Sunday, 5th, there was Church Parade at 9 am at Port Said, and two short exercises for the horses. The party under Captain Pulteney at Kantara continued the arduous duty of cleaning the camp. On 6th, the horses were exercised for the first time since disembarking, with the men mounted. Their condition was improving. To guard against sand colic, muzzles were obtained. During this week there were several bathing parades, and drill clothing and helmets were issued. Mosquitoes were much in evidence, and a sandstorm was experienced. News was prevalent that the Turks were about to sue for peace. On 11th the Brigade was inspected by Major-General Horne. The Battery found great difficulty in manoeuvring in the sand. In the evenings football was played, and a visit was paid to the camp of the Mysore Lancers.

On 17th, a move was made to the camp at Kantara and on the following day the first reinforcements, under Lieutenant Fleming, arrived from Alexandria.

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