With the Cameliers in Palestine

And I know, “Cameliers” should be spelled “Cameleers” but hey, it is the English of 1938 and there were not too many spellings of Cameleers in New Zealand at the time, unlike in Australia where we had and continue to have a reasonable population of the beasts.

Anyway, the point of this post is not the misspelling of a word on the title of the book With the Cameliers in Palestine by John Robertson ((Robertson was formerly of the Fourth battalion of the Imperial Camel Brigade, temporary Major of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles and the Assistant-Director of Education to the New Zealand Mounted Brigade in Egypt)) but rather to highlight an online resource provided by the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand called the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre. This is a wonderful resource with some fine research material available, especially for World War 1 and World War 2 and the role of New Zealand in those conflicts. The resource centre has placed books online as well as making some of them available as downloads in XML format or Microsoft eReader format. As an example, two excerpts from With Cameliers in Palestine which writes about the Imperial Camel Corps (I.C.C.) are below:

During a part of 1916 and 1917, an Australian detachment of the I.C.C. patrolled the Oases of Baharia, Dakhla, and Kharga, which are situated west of the River Nile, and some two hundred, and three hundred and seventy miles from its mouth. They are a part of the Great Sahara Desert that extends across the whole of Africa to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. It was across this country that Cambyses, the Persian conqueror of Egypt, in 525 b.c. sent an army of fifty thousand men to try to capture Siwa. The whole force disappeared into the desert waste, and from that day to this no trace of it has ever been discovered. The desert as well as the ocean can keep its secrets. The Persians were either overwhelmed by a violent sandstorm, or lost their way and died of hunger and thirst in the desert.

Some of the Australians came up to the I.C.C. Detail Camp at Abbassia in March, 1917, after having been on desert patrols for some months, during which time they had very few opportunities of drawing or spending their pay. Their clothes and equipment were faded and worn out; they were dying with thirst, and the joys of Cairo awaited them. The camp wet canteen ran dry in an hour or two, and then they adjourned to the city. A double guard had to be put on the guardroom that night in the camp, and the accommodation was taxed to its utmost before morning. In a short time the camp authorities decided it would be best for all concerned if these troops once more adjourned to the silent wastes, and the Cameliers moved off into the unknown.

This sort of fits well with the reputation of the Australian troops in the conflict. A further note in this work that ties back to the exhibition at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra earlier this year about Lawrence of Arabia and the Light Horse:

Another detachment of the I.C.C., consisting of fifty Australians with two machine-guns, made an interesting reconnaissance to Jebel Musa (Mount Sinai) in the south of the Sinai Peninsula, while in July, 1918, two British companies, three hundred strong under Colonel Buxton, marched across the Sinai Peninsula to Akaba on the eastern branch of the end of the Red Sea. There they joined up with Colonel Lawrence and his Arab forces, and trekked north parallel with the Hedjaz railway to the neighbourhood of Amman, and from there made their way back to Beersheba in the south of Palestine.

So, a site well worth visiting. Tomorrow’s lunch reading will be The Samoa (N.Z.) Expeditionary Force 1914–1915 by Stephen John Smith.

Enjoy the reading!


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