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Official War History of the Wellington Mounted Rifles Regiment 1914-1919

Criticism on the Battle of Romani

Criticism on the Battle of Romani

The Battle of Romani furnishes many instances of golden opportunities lost Although the battle was won, the full fruits of victory were not reaped. In face of the fact that the enemy's advance had been reported as early as 19th July (vide Brigadier-General Chaytor's aeroplane reconnaissance report and mounted patrol's reports), the Infantry in the vicinity, apart from those already at Romani, were not ready to participate in the fight on 4th August. The result of this two week's delay on the part of those responsible was that the already overworked Australian and New Zealand Division had to do the Infantry's job—viz., to dig and hold some of the most important trenches. This debarred the mounted troops from doing their legitimate work round the flanks and rear of the enemy. A great opportunity to cut off his retreat was thus lost.

The very small percentage of honours awarded to the Australian and New Zealand Mounted Division at the conclusion of the Romani operations also caused some comment and criticism.

page 108

A perusal of the offical records proves conclusively that these troops bore the brunt of the fighting and the bulk of the pioneering work during the operations. From the month of May till August they ceaselessly patrolled and reconnoitred areas threatened by the enemy, miles from their base, in a burning desert. They provided parties to procure water in these arid regions, kept the enemy under observation, and checked his advance; finally, when the Turkish force of 18,000 men made its determined attack to destroy and dislocate shipping and communication on the Suez Canal on 4th August, and later at Katia and Bir El Abd, it was opposed and repulsed principally by the A. and N.Z. Division, which also captured most of the prisoners.

The W.M.R. rested at El Maler for some days whilst arrangements were being made for it to have a change from desert life, an advance party proceeding to Swing Bridge, near Kantara, to prepare a camp there, the regiment following on the 31st.

On 27th August Lieut.-Colonel Meldrum relinquished command of the 2nd A.L.H. Brigade and resumed command of the Regiment, vice Major Spragg. During the time he had temporarily commanded the 2nd Brigade, two other W.M.R. officers were on his staff—Major J. H. Whyte as Brigade-Major, and the Regimental Quarter-master as temporary Staff-Captain.