The HAC in December 1916

December in the Great War

The 1st Battalion was out of the line for most of December. After the heavy casualties in November it absorbed 373 reinforcements, trained hard but managed to find time to play some sport, beating 4th Bedfords at football and the rest of the division at Rugby on Christmas Eve. The battalion enjoyed a very festive Christmas Day but practised new techniques for attack on Boxing Day. It is a testament to the spirit and strength of the battalions’ identity that it could absorb reinforcements totalling a third of its strength and yet operate cohesively almost immediately.

The 2nd Battalion was in the line from 5th to 9th December: “For sheer misery there had been nothing during the war quite equal to what the men went through in the following four days. It was impossible to get to the line without being soaked to the knees and equally impossible to get to the outposts without being soaked to the waist” (Goold Walker) (see Photograph). The German lines were only 70 metres away and there was incessant sniping. Lieutenant Murray and his runner shared a £10 prize by venturing out to no-mans’ land and seizing a German prisoner. They were also given ten days special leave! There was rest for the battalion between the 8th and 17th but the it was in the line on Christmas day.

B Battery spent the month in the Sinai Desert with its: “huge rolling sand waves and its dark green shady groves of palms” advancing on El Arish on 21st December as part of a force of 10,000 men and 15,000 camels. Turkish Forces evacuated El Arish before the column reached them. German aeroplanes attacked the force every day; particularly when the horses were being watered. A Battery was at Kubri, as part of the Imperial Mounted Division. The month was spent training, hunting (there were no hounds so foxes were chased by sight) and relaxing.