Official War History of the Wellington Mounted Rifles Regiment 1914-1919
The Katia Fight
The Katia Fight
At noon the mounted troops were concentrated in the vicinity of Katia, where at a conference of brigadiers it was decided to attack—at 2.30 p.m.—the enemy line extending from Bir El Hamisah on our right, through Katia and Er Rabah to Abu Hamra, the respective objectives of the Mounted Brigades to be as follows:—The 5th (Yeomanry) Brigade on the left of Er Rabah, the 2nd A.L.H. Brigade (including the W.M.R.), 1st A.L.H. Brigade, and N.Z. Brigade direct on Katia, and the 3rd Brigade on their right on Hamisah. At the same time the 52nd Infantry Division was to advance against Abu Hamra on the left of the mounted troops.
Meanwhile the Turks continued with feverish haste to improve their defences, their trenches—invisible to us—being sited with great skill and nests of machine guns being placed to give a clear field of fire to cover the flat ground in front. Their guns maintained a vigorous bombardment, and when the advance commenced stout opposition was encountered. The Yeomanry were late in arriving and the 3rd Brigade was some distance away on the right, but the three centre brigades advanced, mounted, till the artillery and machine-gun fire became too intense and the ground too swampy, whereupon the men dismounted to attack on foot.
The 2nd Brigade pressed forward with the W.M.R. on the left of the line, and the 6th A.L.H. Regiment on their right, the advance being continued under heavy fire till they took up a line five hundred yards from Katia, when they engaged in a fire fight with the enemy, the 7th A.L.H. Regiment being in support. Simultaneously the 1st A.L.H. Brigade and the N.Z. Brigade had advanced on the right of the 2nd Brigade to the fringe of a palm grove six hundred yards from the enemy, where they were held up The Turks were obviously in considerable strength, and, taking advantage of the splendid cover afforded, they maintained a murderous machine-gun and rifle fire across the flat ground in front, whilst their batteries bombarded persistently the led horses in the rear. Meanwhile the Yeomanry Brigade had arrived on the left of the Wellington Regiment, and page 101the whole line continued a vigorous fire from machine guns, Lewis guns, and rifles, and a constant pressure was brought to bear on the enemy. In this connection Lieutenant A. Herrick, of the W.M.R., and his Lewis gun crew were most active, having advanced to a position on the left front of our line, close to the enemy. The volume of fire increased, and in the midst of a hail of bullets flying from both sides across "No Man's Land" a particularly gallant act was performed by Captain Wood, Medical Officer of the W.M.R., and his assistant, Sergeant Moseley. A Lewis gunner of the W.M.R. had been seriously wounded in close proximity to the Turkish line, and the doctor and Moseley galloped forward to render medical aid. These gallant fellows performed their noble work under the most trying circumstances, but they were so severely wounded in doing so that both died a few days later.
Whilst efforts were being made to extricate the wounded from the forward position referred to, the troops on the left of the W.M.R. line gave ground, and it became necessary for Major Spragg to bend the left of his line back to meet the Turks, who thrust forward across the vacated ground to take advantage of the exposed flank of the W.M.R. and to enfilade our line. The enemy were in considerable strength at this point, but the fire from our men broke the attack, and the Turks were driven back. Major Spragg's activities along the firing line of the W.M.R. at this stage, and his disregard of the heavy fire which was brought to bear on it, were most favourably commented on by the Australian officers with whom he co-operated.
Meanwhile the 3rd Brigade had been held up at Hamisah on the extreme right and had failed to work round the enemy's flank there. It therefore became evident towards evening that no further advance could be made. The horses were sorely in need of water, and when the evacuation of the wounded had been completed the engagement was broken off, the troops returning to camp. The W.M.R.'s casualties—one officer and nine other ranks wounded—were light when it is taken into account that the Regiment had been fighting all day from four o'clock in the morning, when it stormed Wellington Ridge, and that it had captured about 1000 prisoners.