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The Western Desert

  • Major Reeves
    Major Reeves
  • The Western Desert
    The Western Desert
  • The Senussi Leader
    The Senussi Leader
  • Turkish Artillery
    Turkish Artillery
  • Mounted Dorset Yeoman
    Mounted Dorset Yeoman

Meanwhile, in the vastness of the Western Desert and along the coastal strip the Turks were successfully fermenting resistance to the British. Advanced posts at Sidi Berani and Sollum were forced to withdraw to Mesa Matruh in the face of raids mounted by the Senussi Arab tribesmen and their Turkish advisors.

In mid-November, a composite squadron of Dorset Yeomen from the rear details, under command of Major Reeves, had been ordered to Alexandria to join General Wallace's hastily assembled all arms Western Field Force. From here, they marched west to deal with a reported concentration of Senussi west of Matruh. The enemy were duly engaged in the area of Wadi Seneb and Ras Manaa from which they withdrew to the west. In the period that followed, Major Reeves and his men endured numerous changes of plan but fought further small engagements with smaller bands of Senussi in the Matruh area.

In January 1916, torrential rain throughout the month created a lull in the campaign. On 19 January, however, air reconnaissance located a substantial enemy force encamped at Halazin, 25 miles from Mersa Matruh. Estimating that there were some 100 European and 250 Bedouin tents it was clear that this was a large enough force for General Wallace to call for reinforcements, before striking into the desert again.

Back in Cairo, reorganised and now under command of Lieutenant Colonel Souter, the main body of the QODY was ordered to reinforce the Western Field Force in January 1916. Arriving in Matruh, the regiment took Major Reeve's Squadron back under command, bringing the Dorset Yeomen up to a strength of 21 officers, 293 other ranks and 297 horses.