Anzacs mark centenary of Romani

By Max Blenkin

For the Australian and New Zealand soldiers training members of the Iraqi military in Taji, Iraq, the centenary of the Battle of Romani is a big deal. Photo / Supplied
For the Australian and New Zealand soldiers training members of the Iraqi military in Taji, Iraq, the centenary of the Battle of Romani is a big deal. Photo / Supplied

As Australian troops fought and died in the bloody battle of Pozieres in France, another Anzac force was confronting their old foe the Turks in the sand dunes of the Sinai Desert - and winning.

This was the Battle of Romani, the first of a succession of victories by the Anzac Mounted Division which took them from the Suez Canal to the suburbs of Damascus.

For the Australian and New Zealand soldiers training members of the Iraqi military in Taji, Iraq, the centenary of the Battle of Romani is a big deal.

There are some similarities.

Task Group Taji Commander Colonel Andrew Lowe said they shared their task force emblem - a boomerang and silver fern - with the Australian and New Zealand Mounted Division which fought and won the Battle of Romani, the British Empire's first major victory of World War I.

As well, Task Force Taji has adopted the Mounted Division motto "Kia Tupato" ("Be Cautious").

The Mounted Division which fought in the Sinai comprised three Australian Light Horse Brigades and one New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade.

In Iraq, the task force comprises one New Zealand and three Australian training teams.

"They served in Egypt, Palestine and Syria and we are next door in Iraq. We are experiencing the same conditions, the same climate and the same cultures as they did 100 years ago," Colonel Lowe said.

He said the task force was conscious of the traditions and reputations of the Australian and New Zealand armies, earned over the last century.

"We may not be in combat, but we are training proud soldiers who are fighting to regain the sovereignty of their nation and defeat a terrorist scourge which threatens the rest of the globe," he said.

Light horse units sailed with the Australian Imperial Force when it departed Australia in 1914, fighting as infantry on Gallipoli.

When the Anzacs withdrew from Gallipoli in December 1915, they returned to Egypt. The light horsemen were reunited with their steeds and in March 1916, the Australian 1st, 2nd and 3rd Light Horse Brigades and the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade formed the Anzac Mounted Division.

The brunt of fighting in Romani in early August 1916 fell on the Anzacs who suffered more than 900 of the 1130 allied casualties, including 202 dead.

Turkish losses were estimated at 9000 with nearly 4000 taken prisoner.

- AAP

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