22 April 1916 – Salmond’s Warning

In Egypt, the RFC no longer has its own way as German aeroplanes have started to appear in the area. The 300th Squadron has recently arrived from Homburg with 14 Rumpler C1s with 150hp Mercedes engines and a couple of Fokker Monoplanes. Both these aircraft easily outclass the RFCs BE2cs It is an indication that German policy is to allocate new machines even to secondary theatres, in contract to the RFC who tend to reserve the best aircraft for the Western Front. This put the German Air Service here at a distinct technical advantage, though this is somewhat lessened by the harsh conditions and long distances.

Since early March the British forces have been constructing a rail line eastwards from their base at Qantara towards Qatiya where they hope to establish a forward base to help protect the Northern route across the Sinai Peninsula. In the meantime protective posts have been set up at the Qatiya oasis.

During the first three weeks in April 14 Squadron RFC has been carrying out air reconnaissance to detect Turkish movement towards the Suez Canal. Further south this, led to the successful raid on Jifjafa between 11-14 April.

Reconnaissance has also detected westerly movements of Turkish forces towards Qatiya with a build-up of men and camels some 20 miles east of Qatiya at Bir el Mazar and Bir el Abd. One aircraft was heavily fired on by ground troops

This morning, new reconnaissance suggests a further build-up of troops at Bir el Mageibra, south-east of Qatiya. As well as this, German aircraft have been carrying out their own reconnaissance of Qatiya.

In light of all this, RFC Commander Lieutenant-Colonel Salmond made a special report at Army General Headquarters that ‘Qatiya would be attacked on the night of the 22nd/23rd of April, or on the morning of the 23rd, by a force estimated at 1,000 men and three guns’. Unfortunately, as is often the case, Headquarters has not bothered to pass on this intelligence to the forward commanders.

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