25 January 1917 – A sneaky Wejh

The seaplane carrier HMS Anne is on her way back to Port Said after assisting British forces to take the town of Wejh on the Red Sea coast.

hmsanneOn 18 January 1917 an Arab advance had begun along the coast with the object of capturing Wejh, 180 miles north-west of Yenbo. The capture of Wejh would threaten the rear of the enemy forces in Medina, as well as the Hejaz railway.

At the same time the British planned to land a small Arab force at Wejh. The Anne arrived on 16 January the Anne had gone to the Red Sea to co-operate with the naval forces.

Anne’s seaplanes made reconnaissances down the coast to check if any Turks were marching south to reinforce the garrison in Wejh. None were seen and the landing was made on the morning of the 23 January by a force of about 500 Arabs carried in the ships and by a naval landing party.

When the Arab force coming up the coast did not arrive, Captain Boyle decided to attack with the few troops at his disposal before the Turks escaped.

His attack plan was based on air photographs of Wejh which had been taken from seaplanes in December 1916, but before giving his final orders he flew over the port in one of the Anne’s seaplanes and made a careful reconnaissance.

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Nathaniel William Stewart

Two of the bombarding ships, the Fox and Hardinge, were spotted for by two seaplanes, the range being indicated by smoke bombs and corrections being sent by wireless. Unfortunately, one of the observers Lieutenant Nathaniel William Stewart, a Royal Flying Corps officer attached for observing duties, was killed by rifle-fire from the ground In his Short 184 (8004). The pilot Flight Sub Lieutenant Elliot Millar King was unhurt.

Following the bombardment, the main body of the Turkish garrison slipped away from the port during the night and Wejh was occupied by naval and Arab forces on the morning of 24 January.

The advanced guard of the Arab tribesmen who had marched along the coast to take Wejh eventually arrived today capturing many of the escaping Turks – only about one-third of the Turkish force which had garrisoned Wejh eventually escaped.

The fall of the port marked the end of the co-operation of the Anne in the Arab revolt operations and the carrier will now return to Port Said.

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