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.

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