Sunday, 2 March 2014

Beau Geste Digest: New WW1 Release

New from BG, a lovely set of British Camel Corps figures representing Imperial troops stationed in Egypt in 1916

A brief background. The Imperial Camel Corps Brigade (ICCB) was a camel-mounted infantry brigade that the British Empire raised in December 1916 during the First World War for service in the Middle East.

From a small beginning the brigade eventually grew to four battalions, one battalion each from Great Britain and New Zealand and two battalions from Australia. Support troops included a mountain artillery battery, a machine gun squadron, Royal Engineers, a field ambulance, and an administrative train.

The ICC became part of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF) and fought in several battles and engagements, in the Senussi Campaign, the Sinai and Palestine Campaign and in the Arab Revolt. The brigade suffered 246 men killed. The ICC was disbanded after the end of the war in May 1919.

The advantages of camels in a desert environment are well known, and the British Army had raised the Somaliland Camel Corps in 1912. However the British Army forces serving in Egypt at the start of the First World War did not possess their own camel formation.

The first units of what became the Imperial Camel Corps were four company-sized formations that conducted long-range patrols around the Suez Canal and the Sinai Desert. The companies were raised in Egypt in January 1916, from Australians returning from the failed Gallipoli Campaign.

The Indian princely state of Bikaner supplied the first camels as the Bikaner Camel Corps already used camels. These camels were later only used as draught animals and the lighter Egyptian camel became the mount chosen for carrying troops. The camels could cover an average distance of 3 miles (4.8 km) an hour, or 6 miles (9.7 km) an hour trotting, while carrying a soldier, his equipment and supplies.

The camel companies consisted of a small headquarters and four sections, each of seven groups of four men.

The four companies were expected to operate as independent units that travelled by camel but then dismounted to fight as infantrymen. Following the practice of cavalry and mounted infantry units, one man of each group of four held the camels when the team was in action, which reduced a team's firepower by a quarter.

However it was soon discovered that camels were not as nervous as horses when faced with artillery and rifle fire, and one man would look after twelve to sixteen camels once the troopers had dismounted.

 Happy hunting!

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