Away from the Western Front : 27th November – 17th December 1917

Wilhelma

Templers
Children of Wilhelmia outside the community  centre.

 

The Ottoman forces had retreated further north to the area around Wilhelma. This was  a successful agricultural colony founded in 1902 by the German Templar movement and named for the Emperor of Germany,  Wilhelm II.  For the Finsbury Rifles a return to trench warfare and artillery bombardment seemed likely. They were fortunate not to suffer any casualties during this engagement unlike their sister battalion, the 1/5 BEDS (5th Battalion, The Bedfordshire Regiment).

While the Ottoman forces had simply requisitioned whatever foodstuffs they needed, the policy of the EEF was to buy additional supplies on the open market while on campaign. Prices were consequently often high but meant that there was no lingering resentment towards the army.

The loyalty of the German residents of Wilhelma towards the EEF was not taken for granted.  The following year they were interned in Egypt and not released till 1921.

 

Date 27/11/17

Orders received for battn to move into a more forward position. Heavy Turkish artillery fire on our front line and German colony of WILHEMIA. Bn moved forward 1130 and occupied WADI KEREIKAK. Bn ordered to dig a forward line to the wadi and to hold at all costs.

Date 28/1/17

Location WADI KEREIKAK

Reciprocal shelling at intervals. Bn at work on new line. Lt Robertson and 16 other ranks rejoined from 75th Divisional training.

Date 29/11/17

Reciprocal shelling at intervals. Bn at work on new line. Enemy aircraft very active and flying low and gunning front line and bivouac areas. Work on new line proceeding. Heavy reciprocal shelling at night.

Date 30/11/17

Bn still engaged in digging new line. Reciprocal shelling at intervals. Orders received for Bn to relieve ¼ NORTHANTS reg in front line. Lts SANDERCOCK and HEILGERS to hospital.

Date 1/12/17

Preparing to move forward into WILHEMINA line and relieve 1/14 NORTHANTS. Bn moved 1730. Relief completed and line taken over by 2000. Night quiet.

Location WILHELMA Date 2/12/17

Slight enemy shelling of WILHELMA and front line. Work on trench line during night. Patrols to TE twice nightly from left and right patrolling Bn front.

Date 3 to 7/12/17

Reciprocal shelling during each day. Work on trench line continued with assistance of strong working parties from 2nd ALH and 1/14th NORTHANTS. Work only possible at night. Reserve company in town digging in and engaged in fatigues. Movement restricted in town during daylight owing to enemy having observation from 3 sides. Weather unsettled and much rain. Mail begins to arrive from England. Rations improved by issue of fresh meat and bread,  butter eggs and milk being purchasable in the town from the German inhabitants who have displayed a more or less friendly attitude.

Date 8/12/17

Weather very bad- heavy rain all day making transport work very difficult. Work on trenches still continued with our own and outside working parties. Lieut D ROBERTSON entered hospital. Enemy and our patrols active during the night, slight reciprocal shelling.

Date 9/12/17

Celebration of Holy Communion by Regt chaplain in village schoolroom at 0645. Weather wet and unsettled. Bn order no 5 in moves for 9/10 attached.

Date 10 to 14/12/17

Usual working parties by night on front line trenches. Reciprocal shelling by day, night patrols carried out by companies in line. CAPT AT LEWTHWAITE returned from English leave (14.12.17) WILHELMA defence scheme attached and marked.

Date 15/12/17

Usual reciprocal shelling during the day. Work at night on front line trenches assisted by working parties from NEW ZEALAND MOUNTED RIFLES. Night patrols as usual. 2nd LT LS LEE 7th MIDDLESEX Rgt reported for duty with the Bn.

Date 16/12/17

Celebration of Holy Communion in village school room at 0700. Quiet day. Preliminary orders to move into reserve received.

Date 17/12/17

Preparations for move from WILHELMA.

Away from the Western Front : 17th – 26th November 1917

Marching North

 

Q12813 Village of Ludd c1918
The village of Ludd near which was the British railhead from February 1918. This is the ancient “Lydda”. Ludd was entered by the 1st Light Horse Regiment, 15th November 1917.© IWM (Q 12813)

 

While other divisions of the EEF advanced east into the Judean Hills, the 54th (East Anglian) Division now marched north along the coastal plain.  It was now the rainy season which at least gave the Finsbury Rifles a chance to catch up with some long overdue laundry.

However, the retreating Ottoman army was not a spent force. They had engaged the New Zealand Mounted Rifles near Ayun Kara only a few days before 162 Brigade arrived.

 

War_memorial_for_New_Zealanders_at_Ayun_Kara
A memorial erected by the people of Richon Le Zion to the memory of the New Zealanders who fell at Ayun Kara on November 14, 1917.

 

Date: 17/11/17
Bn (here 2 companies) left MEJDEL 0830 for ESDUD arriving 1245 Bivouac formed and rations for meal issued. Bn preceded again 1500 for JEBNAH.
Location IN THE FIELD Date 18/11/17
Bn arrived JEBNAHIGOO and bivouac formed for the night. Men and animals much fatigued after long march but all ranks extraordinary cheerful. Weather fine but overcast. Brigade group overtaken.
Date 18/11/17
Brigade packed up and proceeded with Bde Column for AJUN KARA further 9 miles northwards. Left bivouac at 13.30 reached destination 17.30 and bivouac formed for the night. AJUN KARA a French Jewish settlement (ZIONIST) of modern and European appearance. Good rye bread obtained for all ranks from the inhabitants who welcomed the appearance of a BRITISH force. Turks reported as having commenced retiring through township fourteen days previously.
Date 19/11/17
Bn proceeded with brigade group eastwards to LUDD leaving Bivouac at 0845 reaching LUDD 1230 and bivouacking in olive groves NORTH of the town. Men much fatigued. Remainder of day spent in squaring bivouacs and washing.Very wet night.
Location LUDD Date 20/11/17
Bn resting. Kit inspection and washing during morning. Weather dull and overcast much rain about at intervals. 2 companies from BEIT HANUN caught up with the Bn and reported (1200) Bde on an advanced outpost here. 1/11 London in reserve.
Date 21/11/17
Bn in reserve. Day spent in bathing and washing and kit inspections.
Date 22/11/17
Bn in reserve. Day spent in bathing and washing and kit inspections. Company training for 1 hour during morning. Quiet day. Weather fine but cold. 2nd Lieut Tierce and 20 of other ranks rejoined the Bn from BEIT HANUM.
Date 23 to 24/11/17
Company and specialist training
Date 25/11/17
Holy Communion at Bn HQ at 0800 Quiet day in bivouac. Voluntary camp fire service in evening at 17.30
Date 26/11/17
Company and specialist training

Away from the Western Front : 9th – 16th November 1917

After the 3rd Battle of Gaza

 

Q12897 carts and limbers captured after 3 Gaza George Westmoreland
Turkish guns and limbers captured in the Third Battle of Gaza, November 1917. George Westmoreland © IWM (Q 12897).

 

After the fighting and an all too brief time to recuperate the Finsbury Rifles were  directed to support the Royal Engineers  –  providing labour for the construction of prisoner of war camps. While this work was often resented by the men of the EEF it was a welcome change from the horrendous noise of the artillery barrage that had preceded the third battle for Gaza.

Date: 9/11/17

Portion of Bn left behind at 54 Div, details rejoined.

Date: 10/11/17

Bn bathing and resting – quiet day.

Date: 11/11/17

Holy Communion at Bn HQ 0800. Quiet day. Bn Bathing and resting.

Date: 12/11/17

Orders received for Bn to move to Beit Hanun for construction work under RE. Bathing parades and preparing to move.

Date: 13/11/17

Bn moved to Beit  Hanun 1300. A&B Coys sent onto DEIR SINEID for work under RE. D&C Coys employed constructing P of W compound at BEIT HANUN.

Date: 14/11/17

½ Bn employed on building P of W compound. 40 prisoners arrived during afternoon from front line.

Date: 15/11/17

Work on P of W compound continued. No further prisoners, previous 40 sent onto A.P.M GAZA. Orders received to move forward.

Date: 16/11/17

Bn HQs moved 1230 and proceeded to DEIR SINEID leaving 2 companies to received and guard further P of W. Remaining 2 companies being picked up at SINEID the whole proceeding to MEJDEL where Bivouac for the night was formed

 

 

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