Friday 4 May 2007 by Robyn Van-Dyk. No comments
Exhibitions, Lawrence of Arabia and the Light Horse, The Arab Revolt, The Light Horse

A force of nearly 5,000 from the Turkish Maan garrison was encountered by elements of the 5th Australian Light Horse Regiment at Ziza on 29 September 1918. This dramatic painting, Ziza by H. Septimus Power, depicts the unique event where members the Australian Light Horse for one night shared food and fire with soldiers of the Turkish Army and joined forces with the Turks against Arabs from the Beni Sakhr tribes.

H Septimus Power’s Ziza 1935 oil on canvas H Septimus Power’s Ziza 1935 oil on canvas

The extraordinary event at Ziza occurred towards the end of Major General Chaytor’s successful campaign east of the Jordan. The Maan garrison was hopelessly cut off and had been fleeing northwards to Amman. On the morning of the 29 September 1918, their hasty defensive position at Ziza station was contacted by two squadrons of the 5th Light Horse Regiment under Lieutenant Colonel Donald Cameron. Thousands of Beni Sakhr tribesmen had gathered in the hills surrounding the Turkish Garrison, threatening to strike against them. The Turkish commander wanted to surrender but was unwilling to lay down their arms to the small Australian force since that might mean their annihilation by the Arabs. General Chaytor himself came forward late in the afternoon to consult with Cameron about the situation and decided that the Turks should remain in their trenches and keep their arms until stronger reinforcements arrived the following morning. The 7th Light Horse Regiment assisted in the defence of the position overnight and this unlikely coupling of Turkish and Australian troops stood guard until daylight. By the next morning the New Zealand Mounted Rifle Brigade had arrived and it was safe to disarm the Turks and formally take them prisoner.

The original official surrender document, signed by “Ottoman Company Commander at Djezir, Ali Housain,” Commander of the Ziza Garrison, ceding troops, guns and other stores to the Australian Forces, is held at the Australian War Memorial and will be on display in the exhibition.

A detailed narrative account of the surrender at Ziza written by Donald Cameron can be read in the appendices of the war diaries for the 5th Australian Light Horse here. Cameron notes in the war diary that the Turkish forces, although having great superiority of numbers, were terrified of the Bedouins and seemed "worn out".

Further reading:

Damien Fenton, 'Standoff at Ziza' Wartime, 2003, Issue 24. View PDF file here.

H S Gullett, The Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine, 1914–1918 Volume VII – (10th edition, 1941). Chapter 42, pp 724-727.