At 0545 on 22nd April 1916, the Regiment moved out of Salhia towards Kantara, enroute to Katia.
The following morning, orders were received from General Lawrence that the British camp at Bir-El- Dueidar was under attack. At 0800 “C” Squadron was sent at once, followed by the balance of the regiment.
At 0800, “C” Squadron, under Major Cameron, moved out. They reported to Lieutenant Colonel Leggett and were instructed to proceed to Bir-El-Dueidar and to pursue the enemy.¹
The sharp clickety-clack of horses’ hooves echoed on the metalled surface of the road that led the squadron of troopers out of the large Kantara Camp. Willing horses carried their eager masters through the maze of small redoubts and entanglements of barbed wire, and onward to the open desert.
“Load Rifles Men!”
Upon hearing Major Cameron’s order, William loaded his rifle with the deftness of a seasoned soldier. His body tingled as his subconscious snapped into action, inhabiting his being like an old trusted friend who was vital for survival. He was his eyes, ears and decision maker rolled into one. He was that automatic finger on the trigger.
A mood of excitement rippled down the line of new reinforcements. Eagerly they urged each other and their horses towards the faint distant gunshots.
“Can you hear that?” Said one, his voice a little shaky.
“Guns at last!” Answered another.
“The poor beggars,” William thought solemnly as he absorbed their conversations in silence. “Their joy will soon turn to fear, even terror…”
Turning his head, William placed his forefinger to his lips to cut the chat, and then turned back to contemplate the imminent threat.
The bang bang bang of rifle fire was soon thundering across the sky. Heads turned, eyes widened and horses’ manes swished in a mood of discord, as a blanket of deathly silence fell upon the squadron.
Gripped by that old cold familiar feeling, William felt the metal trigger against his finger. His eyes scanned back and forth across the sandy desert floor, watching for movement behind the prickly shrubs; a flutter of birds; or a shaking branch. His horse followed the path in and out of bushes and once they reached the top of a sandy rise, the tents of the Dueidar Camp gleamed against the desert below.
William listened to the fierce argument of life and death that fired, back and forth beneath the sparse covering of date palms. His loaded bandolier tightly squeezed his chest as it expanded with each rapid breath. One minute, then two, the waiting was tense. What will it be? A charge? William knew that only one movement of a hand or a single spoken word would instantaneously seize the moment to spur his horse into galloping rage.
As the men of the “C” squadron waited nervously for orders, they were oblivious to the presence of a black vulture circling the sky above their target. Once, twice and thrice it soared, a lone pilot biding time in the giant blue sky. Then in one swift decisive moment, it swooped downward, disappearing beneath the covering of date palms that shaded Bir-El-Dueidar.
- Fifth Light Horse Regiment War Diaries