A typical desert patrol

Here is an interesting description of a mounted patrol in the desert. It offers little of direct use on the Great War Spearhead 'gaming table, but it does help us to understand the reconnaissance role in this theatre. Those who 'game at the lower command levels (that is, with smaller unit sizes) might find the description of the patrol formation of interest. The description is taken directly from 'The History of the Canterbury Mounted Rifles 1914-1919" by Col C G Powles.

"Ordinary troop patrols, carried out by an officer and twenty to twenty-five men, were varied by an occasional reconnaissance by the whole brigade, entailing long tiring days in the hot sun, and heavy responsibilities. On the information they brought in, the safety of the whole force might rest. Small parties of men left camp in the darkness of the early morning bound for Katia, Oghratina or Mageibra. Once clear of the camp they spread out in one line, riding three or four yards apart, with a section of four men in a diamond formation in front and two men far out on each flank. As day-light increased the men in front and on the flanks spread out and kept further away from the main body, but never so far that they could not communicate by signals. The distance varied in broken country; sometimes they might be within a couple of hundred yards of the troop, on open plains eight hundred to a thousand yards away. 

Corporal Austin Edwards, his horse Taffy, and all equipment. Corporal Edwards was seriously wounded at the Battle of Romani. During the battle, Taffy stood still for his wounded rider to remount and escape. www.lighthorse.org.au/ histbatt/batrom.htm

The section in front took their direction from the troop; as the latter turned, so did they. out in the desert where the different landmarks constantly changed, the compass and map carried by the troop leader were the only guide. Riding on, halting only to spell their horses for a few short minutes, they would probably reach the particular spot they were bound for by 11.00a.m. Posting a lookout with a pair of field glasses on the most prominent ridge, the rest of the party would make a thorough search through the palms for any trace of the enemy, such as camel tracks, footmarks, or signs of fires. Nothing being discovered, sections would then go out a couple of miles south and east on further reconnaissance. ...... About 2 o'clock the troop would start to return to camp. The formation was still the same, except for a rear section who now watched behind them. At dusk they would still be some distance from camp, and then the stars were used as a guide. Riding on, the deep silence of the desert broken only by the swish of the horse's feet in the sand, or the howl of a desert dog, the patrol would listen with anxious ears for the challenge from the night post in front of the camp. The answer given, the patrol passes through. Half an hour's ride brings it to its own lines, where a welcome and hot tea awaits the tired men The troop leader goes to make his report, and the day is ended. Very few of these patrols covered less than thirty miles a day, and sometimes considerably more."

Australian Light Horse in 15mm (Eureka figures) from the collection of Simon Dennan


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