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


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This page contains a single entry by Dick published on May 8, 1916 11:59 PM.

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8 May 1916

Posted by Dick on May 8, 1916
I got up at three o'clock this morning and we got aboard a truck on the 4:30 "works" train for Railhead. It was pretty cold too until the sun got up - the sunrise over the sand hills was a gorgeous sight. There were horses to meet us at Railhead and also the Colonel of the infantry brigade who are going to hold Mahamdiya with us, and several engineer officers. We left Railhead about seven with a troop of Anzacs as escort; they were chiefly for flank guards to prevent us being fired on unexpectedly by Turks or Bedouins, as there are several parties of them about in that district. 

We first rode due East to Romani, very heavy going through deep sand and under a hot sun. We passed just to the north of Romani. There it is intended to make Railhead, and at the rate they are laying the line at present (half to three quarters of a mile a day) they ought to reach it in a week or so.

From there we rode pretty well due North till we came to Mahamdiya, which is nothing more than a big sand ridge and some old ruins of a roman fort on the coast, but a very good defensive position as it is pretty well a certainty the Turks will attack by the Northern Route because the sand is harder and there is more water. We ought to give them a pleasant surprise. There are some splendid gun positions there and the camp will be on the sea shore behind the ridge. The great trouble is water: there are several oases dotted about, a little clump of date palms among the sand dunes, but the water in most of them is brackish. But there is one oasis three miles south of our position where the R.E. think they might sink a well and find good water, but it is a long way to take the horses.

We spent about an hour at Mahamdiya and then rode back to Railhead. By the time we got there we'd done just over twenty miles. We got a train back from there at four thirty and got back to Kantara soon after six.

Our orders at present are that our battery leaves here Wednesday evening, the guns to go up by train and the horses march. It is about twenty odd miles. We are to spend all Thursday at Railhead, and on Thursday evening are to hook double teams - that is to say twelve horses - into each gun and wagon and make the best of our way to Mahamdiya. It is a good eight miles through very heavy sand, but I expect we shall strike due North till we reach the coast, and then go East following along the coast on the harder sand. They are giving us twenty odd camels to take all our tents and stores. The idea is that the other two batteries of the brigade wait for a week or two till the railway is more advanced and the water supply more certain, and then join us there. But I shouldn't be surprised if our orders are cancelled and we all have to wait for the railway, as it would be asking for trouble to send only a small force out with us with no chance of getting reinforcements up quickly. The old Turk is no fool and will probably try and mop up every small detached force we send out, and Bir-El-Adb is not very many miles away and we know he's got a strong force there. But still ours is not to reason why.

I found a mail in when we got back to camp this evening, heard good news from all at home. Someone was sent some of the daily papers of April 25th and there was the account of the Katia and Duedar fight of April 23rd in them. It's really scandalous they don't tell people more - our accounts are quite as bad as the German ones.

Elliott caught a bass tonight, quite two pounds. He went out last night again after we'd turned in and got three more small ones with a landing net made of a mosquito net and an electric torch. The fish that come into the shallows seem to get dazed by the light and are fairly easy to catch.

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