The Battle of Romani took place during World War I (1914-1918).
Ottoman forces assaulted Murray's position on August 3-5, 1916.
Armies & Commanders:
- General Sir Archibald Murray
- approximately 10,000 men
- Friedrich Freiherr Kress von Kressenstein
- approximately 18,000 men
Battle of Romani Summary:
In the summer of 1916, Friedrich Freiherr Kress von Kressenstein began pushing Turkish troops across the Sinai with the goal of attacking the Suez Canal. Aware of Turkish intentions, British forces led by Sir Archibald Murray began preparing defensive positions in the area. As water in the southern Sinai desert was scarce, Murray's line only blocked the northern route across the peninsula and ran from the Mediterranean coast south to Romani. Anticipating that the main Turkish attack would come on his right flank, Murray ordered Romani strengthened.
When completed, the British line consisted of eighteen redoubts and was manned by the 52nd (Lowland) Division. These troops were later reinforced by the 42nd Division and the ANZAC Mounted Division. To the south of Romani, the line ended at a large sand hill known as Katib Gannit. From here it turned west along a rise dubbed Wellington Ridge. As Murray believe the Turks would attempt to turn his right flank, his plan for the coming battle called for allowing them to advance into the hilly terrain south of Wellington Ridge where they could be attacked by infantry from the north and cavalry from the south.
Arriving at Oghratina, approximately ten miles east of Romani, on July 18, Kressenstein paused for ten day to allow his heavy artillery to arrive. On the evening of August 3, he moved forward with 8,000 men and followed the 2nd Australian Light Horse Brigade as it returned from a patrol. Alerted to an impending Turkish attack, General Sir H.G. Chauvel advanced the 1st Australian Light Horse Bridge to a line running southwest from Katib Gannit and including a hill known as Mount Meredith. Digging in, the outnumbered horsemen fought a valiant delaying action.
Around 2:30 AM on August 4, the Turks launched a massive bayonet attack on Mount Meredith. After thirty minutes of fighting, the 1st Australian Light Horse was forced to fall back to Wellington Ridge. Displeased with the slow progress, Kressenstein pressed 2,000 men further west to take a hill known as Mount Royston. To block this Turkish thrust, Chauvel dispatched the 2nd Australian Light Horse to the hill. As the sun started to rise, the Turks were able to dislodge the 1st Light Horse from Wellington Ridge, but were unable to occupy it themselves.
Under fire from British troops and artillery, the Turkish assault had stalled on all fronts. At Mount Royston, the 2nd Light Horse was reinforced by the 3rd and 6th Light Horse Brigades. Late in the day, the New Zealand Mounted Rifle Brigade and the 5th Mounted Brigade arrived and were ordered to strike the Turkish flank. Attacking, they routed the Turks at Mount Royston and captured a significant number of prisoners. While both sides rested during the night, the mounted brigades were ordered to advance again around dawn.
Hitting the tired Turkish troops, they forced them to flee the field and captured 1,000 prisoners. With his offensive broken, Kressenstein rallied his men at Katia. Though they had won a victory, British forces were slow to exploit it. Moving forward, they missed a chance to encircle the Turkish forces at Katia on August 5th when the 52nd Division failed to advance in a timely fashion. A subsequent attack by the ANZAC Mounted Division was beaten off by the Turks.
The victory at Romani cost Murray 202 killed and 928 wounded. Turkish losses were more severe with 1,350 killed, approximately 4,000 wounded, and 3,950 captured. Despite the failure to capitalize on the triumph, British forces had regained the initiative in the Sinai. Kressenstein withdraw back across the peninsula to El Arish. That October, British forces began moving across the Sinai, building a railway and water pipeline as they advanced. Fighting resumed in earnest on December 23 when Chauvel's men fought the Battle of Magdhaba.