Finsbury Rifles

Away from the Western Front : 27th December 1917 – 24th January 1918

Football, Salvage and Training


Army football Q32613 balkan front 1918
A football match on Christmas Day  on the Balkan Front. IWM Q32613

Football was a popular form of recreation in the army and was often used as a morale booster.. The battalion diary mentions several organised games like the one between the officers and sergeants on New Year’s Eve. Of course, leather footballs would have been low on the list of essential supplies for units on the move and in action…hence the unexpectedly early end to the game.

After the unpleasant conditions during the Battle of Jaffa the hope of leaving muddy and damp bivouacs for more comfortable billets was dashed. The agricultural settlement of Petach Tikva (marked on the map as Mulleibis) was not large enough to house the entire battalion.

Meanwhile there was no rest and little recuperation after the battle. As the Ottoman forces withdrew to regroup further north,  plans for the next phase of the campaign were put in action.Work parties were sent out to recover equipment and materiel from the abandoned trenches, new roads were constructed to allow motorised transport to  supply the EEF and pursue the enemy.


Location BALDHILL Date 27/12/17

Platoon specialist training during morning.

Date 28/12/17

Company training during morning. Orders received for Bn to move into BILLETS in Jewish colony of MULLEIBIS.

Location MULLEIBIS Date 29/12/17

Bn moved into MULLEBIS. Only sufficient billets for 2 companies, remaining 2 companies under Bivouac (1030). Remainder of day spent in squaring up and settling down. Weather fine and dry.

Date 30/12/17

Celebration of Holy Communion at Bn HQ at 0830. Voluntary service at local town hall at 1730. Small English mail received. 2nd Lt PARRY and other ranks rejoined from hospital.

Date 31/12/17

Bn furnishing a working party of 2 officers and 100 men on road improvement work. LT WINDSOR proceeded to NEBY KUNDA with Bn surplus transport. LT WINDSOR having been appointed to take charge of all Bde Transport detailed submitted there. Football match officers v serjeants played. Result game not finished owing to ball bursting.

Location MULLEBIS Date 1 to 5/1/18

Bn furnishing working parties of 50 men daily at 0800 and 1400 to RE for road improvements. Work on their rifle range commenced. Remainder of Bn training. Specialist classes held on bombing.

Date: 6/.1/18

Bn furnishing working parties of 50 men daily at 0800 and 1400 to RE for road improvements. CAPT JONES returned from hospital.

Date: 7 to 9/1/18

Bn furnishing working parties of 50 men daily at 0800 and 1400 to RE for road improvement. Also salvage work on battlefield of BALDHILL.

Date: 10 to 12/1/18

Bn furnishing working parties of 50 men daily at 0800 and 1400 to RE for road improvement. Also RE work on MULLEBIS roads.

Date: 13/1/18

Divine service in town hall. Orders received to relieve ¼ ESSEX in the line. Wet day

Date: 14/1/18

Bn moved to relieve ¼ ESSEX. Relief completed by 1200. 3 coys in line and 1 in reserve.

Location IN THE FIELD FMD9.9 (Ref map JILJULEIN 1/2000 Date 15/1/18

Bn in the line. Companies in communications. Village of MULLEBIS heavily shelled by Turkish artillery with 4.2. Some damage to buildings and about 14 casualties inflicted on the inhabitants.

Date: 16 to 19/1/18

Bn in the line. Companies engaged in defence. Specialist training (Lewis gun).

Date: 20/1/18

Holy Communion at Bn HQ 0800. Quiet day. Left defence scheme received by CO and attached herewith.

Date: 21 to 24/1/18

Companies in the line engaged in defence work. Specialist and scouts training. Slight reciprocal shelling at intervals daily.

Finsbury Rifles

Away from the Western Front : 25th – 26th December 1917.

Merry Christmas ?

Army Biscuits ww1 IWM
British Army issue ration biscuit, ‘Huntley & Palmers Army No 4’, made under government contract by the famous biscuit manufacturers Huntley and Palmers. This thick specimen (10cm square) is typical of the robust mass-produced comestibles that challenged the dental health of British Army personnel in both world wars. A typical way of rendering the product more edible was to grind or crumble the biscuit and add water to make a paste or ‘duff’ which could be added to mixed vegetables or stew. 


The battalion’s arrangements for Christmas 1917 were a far cry from the warmth and hilarity of the seasonal celebrations of the year before.

Not only was it the rainy season when temperatures could be more like those back in London but festive meals were impossible to organise. As Ottoman forces had occupied the area so recently and requisitioned whatever extra food was available from the nearby villages, there was little apart from oranges to supplement basic field rations.



Xmas day. Weather conditions very bad. Wet and cold. Bns Xmas fare. Bully beef, biscuits and oranges. Small mail received.

Location BIVOUAC AREA Date 26.12.17

Boxing Day. Weather wet and unsettled.


Finsbury Rifles

Away from the Western Front : 18th – 24th December 1917.

The battle of Jaffa – Bald Hill


Q12297 Battle of Jaffa Auja River and Mullebis near where JC won VC
The Battle of Jaffa. The village of Sheikh Muannis (Al-Shaykh Muwannis) with the Auja River in the foreground on 20/12/17 © IWM (Q 12297)


The key port of Jaffa, some 40 miles north of Gaza, had been captured by the Allied forces in November. However, Ottoman & German forces still controlled the River Auja which reached the Mediterranean Sea near the port. From their system of defensive trenches in the higher ground to the north of the river, they were able to fire on Allied troops and harrass shipping.

After the failure of a preliminary raid across the river in late November, military tactics changed. The river was crossed in a night assault on 20/21 December. Without the advance warning of an artillery barrage, the enemy was caught by surprise.

The Finsbury Rifles were among the units detailed to take and hold   Bald Hill beyond the river. Ottoman forces were known to be in the area north of this well defended  ridge near the village of Mulebbis (today Petach Tivka). It was for his bravery during this attack that  L/Cpl Jock Christie was later awarded the Victoria Cross much to the pride of his regiment.

Sketch map of the Nahr el-Auja


Date 18/12/17

Relieved by 8th HANTS Rgt and moved into reserve area at KEFR-ANA. Very wet.

Location KEFR-ANA Date 19/12./17

Squaring up bivouac area. CO and 2nd in command reconnoitred BALD HILL from our front line. Very wet. Wadi in flood.

Date 20/12/17

Brigade conference at Bde HQ. Weather very wet and unsettled. Orders received for battalion to attack BALD HILL night of 21/22nd.

Date 21/12/17

Preparing to move forward to point of assembly. One company proceeded at dusk to dig reserve trenches for Bn Hill. Bn less one company moved off at 2355 to attack Turkish positions at BALDHILL. Night fine and clear, bright moon.

Location BALDHILL Date 22/12/17

Barrage by our artillery on BALDHILL from 0010 -15 which brought down Turkish barrage on west side of hill. Our attack developing from SOUTH EAST side. Turkish positions carried and held in spite of three very determined enemy counter attacks to retake the Hill. All forces were repulsed with severe enemy losses. Australian bombing parties throughout the night defeated attempts being made to burn away the communication trenches and also all failed and the Hill remained in our hands. Enemy artillery were also very active throughout night, BALD HILL being heavily shelled also the area occupied by the reserve company and Bn HQ. Bn Signal officer being blown in and men buried and all wires cut. Men survived unhurt. At 0430 2 companies withdrawn from positions won and brought into reserve area, leaving one company under CAPT GM HOOPER to garrison the HILL. At 0530 Bn less one company marched by circuitous route to allotted part of assembly due west of BALD HILL and breakfasted.

At 0830 Bn advanced to attack Turkish positions at FEJJA, this comprising the 2nd phase of the operations. Bn deployed on a 500 yard front with 1/14 NORTHANTS on the right and 161 Bde on the left. FEJJA taken with slight opposition and new line reconnoitred and consolidation commenced by 1045.

Bm withdrawn into reserve during the afternoon at a point about 800 yards south of BALDHILL after handing the line over to ¼ NORTHANTS. Bn casualties during the 2 operations. 1 officer wounded CAPT L H NEWTON 9 O/R killed and 26 wounded.

Location Bivouac on BALDHILL Date 23/12/17

Squaring up Bivouac. Bn engaged scouting enemy and our trenches for salvage during the afternoon. Large quantities of enemy material brought in, including about 2000 pounds of SAA. Enemy dead buried on BALDHILL. 2 officers and 40 other ranks.

Date 24/12/17

Continuation of salvage operations in and around BALD HILL very wet and cold.