Action at Magdhaba, 23 December 1916

The action at Magdhaba, 23 December 1916, was a minor British victory during their advance across the Sinai in 1916. The target of the British advance was El Arish, from where they could both block Turkish moves towards Egypt and advance into Palestine. The Turks had 1,600 men at El Arish, with detachments at Magdhaba and Abu Aweigila, on the Wadi El Arish. On 20 December the British were ready to attack El Arish, but before they could attack the Turks abandoned the place. Some of the troops from El Arish moved to Rafah, others to Magdhaba.

The British advance was being led by the Desert Column, commanded by Lieutenant-General Sir Philipe Chetwode. His command included the 42nd and 52nd infantry divisions, the Anzac Mounted Division and the Imperial Camel Corps Brigade. On 21 December the two mounted units occupied El Arish without resistance.

Chetwode then decided to send them to attack the Turkish position at Magdhaba, which threatened the right flank of the British advance. Under the command of General Chauvel the two units made a night march, arriving at Magdhaba at dawn on 23 December.

The Turks were in a strong position at Magdhaba. The 80th Turkish Regiment, 1,400 strong, and occupied a strong position in a circle of redoubts. The Turks were outnumbered, but the light guns carried by the mobile cavalry and camel units were of limited use against the Turkish fortifications. Although the Turkish position was surrounded by noon, little progress was made, and at 2 p.m. Chauvel issued an order to withdraw. However, at the same time one of the redoubts finally fell to a cavalry charge, and Chauvel cancelled the order. The Turks resisted for another two and a half hours, but finally surrendered at 4.30 p.m.

Turkish casualties were 97 dead and 1,282 captured. British losses were 22 killed and 124 wounded. With the fall of Magdhaba, the only Turkish position left in Egypt was at Rafah.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (1 September 2007), Action at Magdhaba, 23 December 1916 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/action_magdhaba.html

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