South Africans in North Africa Jan 1916

times jan 1916 south africans in north africa

1916 Jan 20. 2nd South African Infantry arrived at Alexandria in Egypt from England, and the 2nd Regiment was immediately moved to join his column. For lack of railway transport, they moved from Alexandria by boat, landing at Mersa Matruh on 21 January

1916 Jan 22 The British force left Matruh to attack Sanusi camped at Halazin & covered 12 miles to Bir Shola, a night bivouac was made with no camp fires allowed.

23 Jan 1916 Before dawn two columns were formed with the infantry on the right and cavalry on the left. The Sikhs were in the forward attack formation with the 2nd South African Infantry and New Zealand battalions to the rear in support. The Sanusi army was in a crescent shape half a mile long.

10am The Sikhs advanced on the centre of the Sanusi army, while the 2nd South African Infantry and New Zealanders followed. The advance stalled in face of fire from 5 Turkish machine guns. The Notts Battery RHA returned fire at 1200 yards. At Midday the Sanusi were observed moving along both flanks of the column, two companies of 2nd South African Infantry were sent to cover the right flank, but were checked by machine gun fire, one company of New Zealanders with machine guns sent to reinforce the2nd South African Infantry, but the column continued to be outflanked. A company of Royal Scots sent to reinforce the 2nd South African Infantry as well. These moves greatly extended the Sanusi front, but the flanking threat was eventually stopped. The 2nd South African Infantry was then able to join the Sikh front line and then worked their way through the Sanusi camp to the final line of trenches, the Sanusi army was in full retreat to the west., by mid afternoon battle over. Allied casualties 31 dead and 291 wounded, and the Sanusi & Turkish casualties estimated at 200 dead and 500 wounded.

1916 Feb 26 Two days after the victory at al-Aqaqir which the 2nd Battalion did not take part in, Sidi Barani was occupied without opposition. They marched along the coast and engaged the enemy at Agagia. With the aid of the Dorsetshire Yeomanry's cavalry the Senussi were routed and Gaafer Pasha and his staff captured. After successfully bringing this brief campaign to a close, Brig Gen Lukin and his brigade were transferred to France.

1916 Mar 8 the whole force had assembled at Sidi Barani for an advance on Sollum.

1916 Mar 9 The 4 South African battalions left Sidi Barani

1916 Mar 11 A group of armoured cars led by the Duke of Westminster left Sidi Barani for Alam al Ribiya to the plateau to reach Sollum. The force bivouacked at Baqbaq and reports arrived that the well water was insufficient and of bad quality. The force proceeded with two of the South African battalions only to the Medean pass with a company of Australian Camel Corps bearing water. The remaining two South African battalions were sent back to Baqbaq to become a 3rd column and it would take the route along the coastal track. A cavalry column would also move along the coast. The three columns would reunite at Halfaya Pass 3 miles SE of Sollum

1916 Mar 12.The armoured cars reached the Medaen Pass just as the first South Africans reached the Plateau, dehydrated and gasping for water. Most stayed below until water arrived the next day the 13th.

1916 Mar 13. The Australian Camel Corps arrived at the foot of the pass. Day spent getting men, supplies, water and camels on the plateau. Late afternoon column on plateau moved to Bir Siwiat and set up camp. Infantry on plain below was at Alam Tajdid where there was water, and the cavalry column was at nearby Baqbaq.

1916 Mar 14 At 4am the cavalry column left Baqbaq and united with the infantry at Alam Tajdid and the combined columns moved down the Khedival Road. . The convergence of the force took place at mid morning. At this time areoplane reconnaissance reported that the Sanusi had evacuated their positions at Bir War’r and Solluum 7 miles away. The armoured cars set off in pursuit and headed into Libya for 25 miles and fought a battle against the Sanusi at Bir Aziz. Of the Turkish and Sanusi 50 were killed, 40 surrendered and the rest fled into rocky terrain. It was over by 1pm. Genral Lukin’s infantry marched into Sollum without opposition led by a band of South African Scots playing bagpipes. The main objectives had been achieved with the Sanusi defeated along the coast and Sollum occupied.

William Lorraine King