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Official History of the Otago Regiment, N.Z.E.F. in the Great War 1914-1918

Turkish Advance on Suez Canal

Turkish Advance on Suez Canal.

On January 25th orders were received for the move of certain troops to the Suez Canal area to support the Indian troops already holding that line against an expected attack by the Turks, who were reported to be advancing on the Canal in three columns. The entrainment of the New Zealand Infantry Brigade commenced on the following morning—Otago and Wellington Battalions were ordered to Kubri, about 12 miles north of Suez; Brigade Headquarters and Auckland and Canterbury Battalions proceeding to Ismailia. The defences which were entrusted to Otago and Wellington Battalions, in conjunction with Indian troops already established there, comprised a series of posts, Baluchistan, Kubri, Ghurka, and Shalouf, disposed along the eastern bank of the Canal between Suez northwards to the Little Bitter Lake, a distance of about 15 miles. Preparations were at once made for an expected attack in strength by the Turks.

The attack on the Canal and its defences developed on February 3rd, The attempts made to cross the Canal failed signally; a large number of the enemy were killed and 650 taken prisoners; and at the close of the fighting on February 4th the enemy was in retreat all along the line, The only point at which the New Zealand Force became seriouslypage 12 involved in these operations was in the locality of Serapeum, where the Turks unsuccessfully attempted to effect a crossing of the Canal by means of pontoons; and at a later stage in the day's operations the first and only casualties, one death from wounds and one slightly wounded case, were sustained by the New Zealanders. Otago Battalion was in reserve and was not involved in the attack.

On Thursday, January 28th, the 2nd New Zealand Reinforcements, comprising 34 officers and 1,189 other ranks, under Major A. B. Charters, arrived at Suez. Disembarkation was effected and the journey continued by rail to the New Zealand Camp at Zeitoun. The arrival of the 3rd New Zealand Reinforcements, comprising 62 officers and 2,147 other ranks, followed on March 26th.

On March 29th the Division, complete with reinforcements, paraded for inspection by General Sir Ian Hamilton. From this date events immediately commenced to shape themselves in a direction fraught with great and far-reaching consequences.