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The New Zealanders in Sinai and Palestine

Formation of the Anzac Mounted Division

Formation of the Anzac Mounted Division

On March 21st the front line was inspected by H.R.H. the Prince of Wales, whose quiet unassuming manner, keen interest in everything he saw, and utter absence of "side" quite captured the hearts of our men.

On March 15th the Australian and New Zealand Mounted Division was formed, consisting of the following Brigades:—
  • 1st Australian Light Horse Brigade.
  • 2nd Australian Light Horse Brigade.
  • 3rd Australian Light Horse Brigade.
  • New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade.
  • 4 Territorial R.H.A. Batteries—2 Scottish and 2 English.—(The Ayrs and Inverness and the Somersets and Leicesters).

These batteries were at this time armed with 18 pounders and were as keen and efficient as any regular batteries and were magnificently horsed.

The Australian and New Zealand Mounted Division which now and hereafter became known as the Anzac Mounted Division, was placed under command of Major-General H. G. Chauvel, who commanded the 1st Light Horse Brigade on Gallipoli, and also the 1st Australian Division, and who afterwards so successfully commanded the "Desert Mounted Corps"—the largest body of mounted troops commanded by one man in the Great War; and which was destined to break the Turkish Armies.

Headquarters of the Division was established at Serapeum and the formation of the necessary divisional units—Field Squadron, Signal Squadron, Divisional Train—was taken in page 13hand, the requisite personnel being found from Light Horse and N.Z.M.R. reinforcements.

The Divisional Headquarters was also formed from Light Horsemen and New Zealanders. Major-General H. G. Chauvel (now Sir Harry Chauvel, K.C.B., K.C.M.G.), who commanded for the first year was an Australian, and for the rest of the war the Division was commanded by a New Zealander, Major-General E. W. C. Chaytor (now Sir Edward Chaytor. K.C.M.G., K.C.V.O., C.B., A.D.C.).

The A.A. and Q.M.G. and the D.A.D.M.S. were also New Zealanders and so were several of the clerical staff.

The New Zealand Division under the Mounted Brigade's old commander, Major-General Russell, was now leaving for France, and many sad farewells were taken of old and tried friends. A feeling of being "left" took possession of all and any move was welcomed. This came in an order for the Division to concentrate at Salhia, and the Brigade marched there via Moascar on April 6th. Salhia is the place from whence Napoleon set forth upon his attempt to conquer Palestine, and where he organized the Army that reached Acre. It is the extreme eastern town of the Delta and was the "jumping-off" place for all pilgrims journeying to the East in the olden days; and from there in all probability that mighty general, Moses, led forth his people to the Promised Land.

At 4 p.m. on April 23rd, 1916, Easter Day and St. George's Day, the Brigade received an urgent message to move as soon as possible to Kantara, the Pilgrims' stopping place on the Suez Canal. It transpired that a Turkish Force under cover of a fog had attacked and driven in, with heavy casualties, the Yeomanry advanced posts in the Desert at the wells of Katia and Ogratina.