Battle of Agagia, 26 February 1916

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The battle of Agagia (or Aqqaqia), 26 February 1916, saw the defeat of the Senussi Uprising along the Egyptian coast. The original three-pronged plan for the uprising had involved attacks on the narrow coastal strip west of the Nile, on the line of oases in the Western Desert and a revolt in Darfur aimed at Khartoum. The Turks and the Germans hoped to inspire a wider revolt in Egypt at a time when the British garrison of Egypt was particularly weak. In the event the two attacks on Egypt were separated by four months. The attack along the coast began in November 1915, that on the oases in February 1916.

The Senussi army on the coast consisted of a core of 5,000 troops that had received a limited amount of training as regular infantry, a larger number of irregular tribesmen, and a small number of Turkish manned mountain guns and machine guns. The force was commanded by Jaafar Pasha, an Arab officer in the Turkish army.

The British had responded to the Senussi attacks by evacuating the coastal settlements and concentrating their Western Frontier Force around Mersa Matruh. A series of small scale encounters in later 1915 reduced the threat, but the final clash did not come until February 1916. The Western Frontier Force was now commanded by Major General W.E. Peyton, and had been reinforced by the South African Brigade under Brigadier-General H. T. Lukin.

Lukin was sent west to reoccupy Sollum, close to the western border of Egypt. His force contained two regiments of South African infantry, the Dorset Yeomanry, detachments from the Hussars and the Royal Scots and a battery from the Nottinghamshire Royal Horse Artillery.

The clash came at Aqaqia, east of Sidi Barrani, in an area that would earn more fame during the Second World War. The South Africans captured the Sennusites’ main position, forcing them into an orderly retreat. The Dorset Yeomanry then charged the retreating troops, and broke up the retreat. This charge, across 1,000 yards of open ground and under heavy fire, cost the Yeomanry 32 dead and 28 wounded, 58 casualties out of the total of 184 men who took part in the charge.

The Yeomanry captured Jaafar Pasha and broke up the Sennusi army. Sollum was reoccupied on 14 March. This did not end the threat from the Sennusi, whose attack on the western oases started in the same month, but did allow the British to concentrate on one threat at a time. Jaafar Pasha was held captive in Cairo until the outbreak of the Arab Revolt. He then volunteered to join the forces under Feisal, became commander of the Arab regulars during the revolt and then served as Minister of War and Prime Minister of Iraq under the then king Feisal.

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How to cite this article:Rickard, J (9 September 2007), Battles of Agagia, 26 February 1916 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_agagia.html

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