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Battle of Romani

World War I

Battle before: Battle of Gallipoli
Battle after: Battle of Magdhaba
'''Battle of Romani'''
ConflictWorld War I
DateAugust 3 - August 5, 1916
PlaceSinai peninsula, Egypt
ResultAllied victory
Britain, Australia, New Zealand Turkey
Sir Archibald Murray ??

The Egyptian town of Romani lies 23 miles east of the Suez Canal near the Mediterranean shore of the Sinai peninsula. On the night of 3 August, 1916, the Turkish army, having advanced from southern Palestine, attacked the British defenses at Romani which controlled the northern approach across the Sinai to the canal. After a night and day of fighting, the Turkish assault was defeated and thereafter the Allies were on the offensive, pushing the Turks back across the Sinai, through Palestine and into Syria.

Table of contents
1 Prelude
2 The Battle
3 Aftermath
4 Resources


The Turkish goal was to control or destroy the Suez Canal, thereby denying the use of the waterway to the Allies and in doing so aiding Turkey's Central Powers allies fighting in Europe. A Turkish raid in early 1915, travelling through the central Sinai via the Wady Um Muksheib, succeeded in reaching the canal but was driven off by the British defenders.

The commander of the Allied forces in Egypt was General Sir Archibald Murray. At the time of the battle, his available forces comprised two British infantry divisions (the 42nd Division and the 52nd (Lowland) Division) and the Anzac Mounted Division, under General H.G. Chauvel, containing the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Australian Light Horse Brigades, the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade and the 5th Mounted Brigade (British Yeomanry).

Due to the lack of reliable water in the central Sinai, Murray was confident that any Turkish attack would be made via the northern approach and so he concentrated his defence at Romani which would hold the Turks out of artillery range of the canal.

In July, 1916, the commander of the northern sector of the canal defences, General Sir H.A. Lawrence, had the 52nd Division entrenched on the eastern edge of the Romani sand hills and was using the mounted brigades to patrol the oasis to the east. He also had detached the New Zealand Mounted Rifle Brigade and the 5th Mounted Brigade to act as corps troops. They were position west of Romani at Hill 70, commanded by General Chaytor.

On July 18, a large Turkish force, mainly from the Turkish 3rd Division, reached the oasis area at Oghratina, east of Romani, having advanced undetected by marching at night from El Arish near the southern border of Palestine. Over the next few weeks the Turks consolidated their position and prepared for a large scale assault on the British defences.

The Battle

General Murray had anticipated a Turkish attack to the south of the fortified line and the Turks obliged. On the night of August 3 a Turkish force, believed to be 8000 strong, followed behind the 2nd Light Horse Brigade as it was returning to Romani from a day reconnaissance. Having detected that the attack was imminent, Chauvel had positioned the 1st Light Horse Brigade on a loose defensive line running from Katib Gannit at the southern tip of the infantry entrenchment, heading south-west along the edge of the sand hills, passing through a large sand hill called Mount Meredith and ending at Hod el Enna.

Though vastly outnumbered, the light horsemen fought an effective delaying action at close quarters. They relinquished ground slowly. Around 2.30am on August 4, after the moon had set, the Turks made a bayonet charge on Mount Meredith and the light horsemen evacuate the position at 3am. The Australians are eventually forced back to a large east/west sand dune called Wellington Ridge at the southern edge of the Romani encampment.

Having been held south of Romani, the Turks attempted a further outflanking maneuver to the west and concentrate 2000 troops around another sand hill called Mount Royston, south-west of Romani. At dawn Chauvel sent the 2nd Light Horse Brigade back into action in front of Mount Royston. The Turkish advance was everywhere at a standstill. After a long night march the Turkish troops now faced a difficult day under the desert sun without a source of water and exposed to the Romani artillery.

Shortly after dawn the Turks succeeded in forcing the Australians off Wellington Ridge which placed them within 700 metres of the Romani camp but depleted, exhausted and exposed to shelling from the horse artillery, they were unable to press the attack further.

As soon as General Lawrence was certain a major attack was in progress, he instructed Chaytor's brigades to advance from Hill 70 to counter-attack against the Turkish flank. The Turks at Mount Royston are checked to the north by the 3rd and 6th Light Horse Regiments, are under constant bombardment from the horse artillery and the heavy artillery of the 52nd Division and when Chaytor's force attacks from the west, they surrender on mass, around 6pm on August 4.

Both sides are content to rest on the night of August 4. At dawn on August 5 the Australian light horse regiments and the New Zealand Wellington Mounted Rifle Regiment that had been holding the line opposite Wellington Ridge mounted an attack on the Turkish positions and by 5am had captured 1000 prisoners and driven off the remainder. Everywhere along the front the Turks were either retreating or surrendering.

The fight for Romani, and ultimately the Suez Canal, had been won, largely by the Australian and New Zealand mounted troops.


An opportunity to encircle and annihilate the retreating Turks west of Katia was missed when the 52nd Division failed to advance promptly to coincide with the recapture of Wellington Ridge. The New Zealand, 1st & 2nd Light Horse and 5th Mounted Brigades attacked the Turks at Katia at 3.30pm on August 5 but were unable to dislodge them. Chauvel ordered a withdrawal back to Romani. Some of the light horse had been in constant combat for 59 hours.

However, the Turks were now retreating their entire force, from Katia to Oghratina and then to Bir El Abd. By August 12 the Turks had evacuated Abd and ultimately retreated back to El Arish from where they had originally started their advance.

By the time the Turks were driven out of Katia, their casualties were 1250 dead (buried by the British after the battle) and an estimated 4000 wounded. The British had taken 3950 Turkish prisoners. Total British casualties were 1130 of which 202 were killed. The 52nd Division incurred 195 of these casualties, the rest came from the Australian and New Zealand mounted regiments.


Ch.10, 11 & 12, Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-18: Sinai and Palestine, H.S. Gullett, 1923