Geoff was honoured to attend the Redhill Anzac Day Service this year. Mick Hammill, performed the flag-raising ceremony, his grandfather Edward James Hammill, and his father, Douglas Hammill fought in both World War I and World War II.
Edward James Hammill, served with the 9th Light Horse Brigade. Following the outbreak of World War I, the 9th Light Horse Regiment was formed in Adelaide and trained in Melbourne between October 1914 and February 1915. Approximately three-quarters of the regiment hailed from South Australia and the other quarter from Victoria. As part of the 3rd Light Horse Brigade, it sailed from Melbourne on 11 February and arrived in Egypt on 14 March 1915.
The Light Horse were considered unsuitable for the initial operations at Gallipoli but were subsequently deployed without their horses. The 3rd Light Horse Brigade landed in late May 1915 and was attached to the New Zealand and Australian Division. The 9th was fortunate to be the reserve regiment for the brigade’s disastrous attack on the Nek on 7 August, but the commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Albert Miell, and several soldiers were killed in their reserve position.
The regiment was committed to the last phase of the August offensive battles. Attacking Hill 60 on 27 August, the 9th Light Horse subsequently suffered 50 per cent casualties, including its new commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Carew Reynell. Exhausted and understrength, the 9th then played a defensive role until it finally left the peninsula in December 1915.
Back in Egypt, the 3rd Light Horse Brigade became part of the ANZAC Mounted Division and in March 1916 joined the forces defending the Suez Canal from a Turkish drive across the Sinai Desert. The Turks were turned at Romani. Although it did not take part in the actual battle, the 9th Light Horse was involved in the advance that followed the Turks’ retreat back across the desert. By December 1916, this advance had reached the Palestine frontier, and the 9th was involved in the fighting to secure the Turkish outposts of Maghdaba on 23 December and Rafa on 9 January 1917, both of which were captured at bayonet point.
The next Turkish stronghold to be encountered was Gaza. The 3rd Light Horse Brigade, now part of the Imperial Mounted Division (later renamed the Australian Mounted Division) was involved in two abortive battles to capture Gaza directly on 27 March and 19 April 1917 and then the operation that ultimately led to this fall—the wide outflanking move via Beersheba that began on 31 October.
With the fall of Gaza on 7 November 1917, the Turkish position in southern Palestine collapsed. The 9th participated in the pursuit that followed, which led to the capture of Jerusalem in December. The focus of British operations then moved to the Jordan Valley. In early May 1918, the 9th was involved in the Es Salt raid. It was a tactical failure but it did help to convince the Turks that the next offensive would be launched across the Jordan.
Instead, the offensive was launched along the coast on 19 September 1918. The mounted forces penetrated deep into the Turkish rear areas severing roads, railways and communications. While awaiting to embark for home, the 9th Light Horse was called back to operational duty to quell the Egyptian revolt that erupted in March 1919. Order was restored in little over a month. The regiment sailed home on 10 July 1919.
Mick’s father, Douglas Hammill, served in the 2nd/27th Division. The 7th Division was raised in 1940 at the instigation of the British War Cabinet, with the intention of forming an Australian Corps with the 6th and 9th divisions. The 2nd/27th was raised at Woodside in the Adelaide Hills in May 1914 and sailed for overseas in October. The battalion disembarked in Egypt before moving to duties in Palestine. After services on the Egyptian/Libya front, the 2nd/27th participated in the invasion of Syria and Lebanon, which at the time was held by the Vichy French. The battalion fought in several major actions, remaining in Lebanon until January 1942.