War Memoir of Robert Ellwood

Turnbull: Could I ask you something about the Turks themselves and the Turkish prisoners that you took.

Ellwood: I was more-or-less responsible that the crowd we collected at Magdhaba were escorted back from after the engagement. But apart from that they were – no, in Palestine they were inclined to, on the Peninsula they were inclined to be a very fine type of soldier and good soldiers but by the time we got through into Palestine they were a very ragged lot and they were badly dressed, very raggedly dressed and they weren’t – of course their lines of communication were being folded up all the time and they were having a tough time and it was more or less over you see. But apart from that – on one occasion we were out on reconnaissance of some description and we ran across a Turkish reconnaissance parties in possibly numbers of twos and threes and like that and they were brought in with their ponies, they only had ponies, they weren’t horses. As far as I was concerned they were a very small weedy looking type of animal and on this particular occasion there were a number of them. And I can remember at night time I’d done my 12 hours on and I used to do the early watch until midnight. And, at headquarters, you see and then the Colonel would take over at midnight.

And this night I remember the Colonel waking me, I don’t know what time, one or two o’clock in the morning and told me that the reports were coming in that the Turkish were here and the Turks were there and Turks were found on this flank and they saw the signs of them and this sort of business. We were in contact with them and he rather was a little bit panicky about the whole thing. Well then the next day, this is just an instance, the next day he sent out instructions that a certain officer was to return to headquarters immediately with his squadron as we had been – the Turk reconnaissance were that close that they were behind our likes, they’d infiltrated our observation people and our scouts and one thing and another and they rode up – we were in a valley, in a sandy valley, and they rode up, a party of them onto a hill, a sandhill, within a hundred or say two hundred yards or three hundred yards of our headquarters. And this rather put the – when they saw us they simply turned and went for galloped away again you see.

Now this rather put up the wind up the old chap and he shot out an order immediately for a certain squadron to come back into headquarters more or less as a reserve or a support or look after us and this officer and his crowd was enjoying himself so much chasing these Turkish patrols and capturing them and with their horses and one thing and another that he was very, very slow in doing it. And in the meantime the old man panicked a bit and we had the whole of the division back who were in reserve and more or less resting and one thing and on their toes, expecting to be called out at any moment to salvage what was left of us. And I can remember the officer concerned being pulled over the coals about it and he was very what shall I say – not exactly arrogant, but very sly and very untruthful about the whole business with the result that nothing… But for a long time our behaviour was laughed about by other portions of the division.