Training, road-building and enemy fire…
In March 1918 the Germans launched a major offensive in France and Flanders. This had an immediate effect on the Southern Palestine campaign . The War Office ordered General Allenby to send 2 infantry divisions to France as soon as possible although they acknowledged this would ‘entail loss of efficiency and a temporary reduction in strength’ . At the same time the Indianisation of the EEF was speeded up. The Indian Army was providing replacements for the troops transferred to the Western Front but these new units had to be trained and brought up to battle readiness. This major reorganisation meant that the advance northward had to be halted.
The experiences of the Finsbury Rifles during April reflect events elsewhere. The night operations and shelling from the 9-11 April were part of the 1st phase of the plan to advance north and cut off the rail junction at Tulkarm on the Hedjaz Railway which was the key supply route for the Ottoman Forces.
The 75th and 54th Divisions met unexpected opposition from the Ottoman forces who were supported by three German field batteries. After 3 days fighting it became clear that any advance would be slow and cost too many lives.Ttroops would withdraw.
The artillery barrage continued for the next week.
Bn engaged on RE work. Morning and afternoon. Quiet day. Weather unsettled as ever.
½ Bn engaged on RE work during morning. Remaining ½ Bn carrying out proactive night operations. Marking on compass Bearings, 1900-2100. Slight reciprocal shelling.
½ Bn engaged on RE work during morning. Remaining half Bn on night operations marching on bearings. Specialists training as usual. Enemy shelled left flanks of Bn with 77 mm guns. No casualties. No damage.
1 Coy. RE work. 1 Coy Route march. Specialists training as usual.
1 Coy RE work. 1 Coy. Route March. Specialist training.
16 ORs joined Unit from Hospital and Base Depot.
1 Coy. RE work. 1 Coy. Route March. Specialists training.
Holy Communion. HQ 0800. A Coy Bivouac area 0900. 13 ORs rejoined unit from Hospital.
1 Coy RE work. 1 Coy. Route March. Specialists training. Await Board for purpose of examining accounts PRI. Btn on night Operations from 1845 to 0100. Demonstration by artillery and infantry at 1900 with a view to causing loss to enemy, and ascertain points on which he was likely to fire if attached. Enemy did not reply.
1 Coy RE work. Specialists training.
1 Coy RE work. Specialists training. 1 Coy Route March. 2 boys. Night operations. Bn. Bivouac area heavily shelled during the day with 77mm. 4.2. HE and shrapnel. No casualties. No damage. Capt GARRAWAY (ADJT) to Hospital. Duties of Adjt assumed by 2ne Lt ET PICKETT.
1 Coy RE work. 1 Coy. Route March. Specialist training. Bivouac area subjected to hurricane bombardment about 0400. Lt CARRUTHERS 7th London attd 1/11th London Right and CORS wounded.
1 Coy RE work. 1 Coy Route March. Specialists training. Bivouac area shelled about 0215. No casualties.
1 Coy RE works. 1 Coy. Route March. Specialist training. CAPT NM Cummins. MC RAMC to Hospital. Capt WH Brown RAMC reported to unit for Duty as MO.
Bn Bivouac area. Heavily shelled about 0445. Three shell storms of about 5 to 10 minutes duration, with intervals of about 5 minutes. No casualties. Holy Communion. 0800 HQ. Voluntary Service followed by Holy Communion.0900 in C.Coy Bivouac. Area.
R.E work 1 Coy. Route march. Specialist training
1 Coy RE work. Bn relieved by 1/5th Essex, relief complete by 2115 and Bn moved to Q4687 (1:40000Jeffe) arriving near bivouac area 2345.
Location Q4687 Date 17/.4/18
Arranging and cleaning bivouac areas.
Erecting billets, tents and football etc.
Battn carried out training> Physical drill,Coy drill, musketry. Specialist training.
Battn training – Physical drill, Coy drill, musketry, specialist classes 1 coy working RE at Div School
Parade service 0830 am. Holy Communion afterwards. Voluntary service 170
Battn route march to SELMEH. Working party 100 CRs to RE Div school. 2 officers, 15 ORs proceeded for 10 days leave in Egypt.
Battn training NCOs of two companies under RSM.Bayonet fighting Coy drill. Musketry, specialist classes 2 0fficers 240 OR rejoined battn from Base and hospital. Working party of 260 to Div School.
B Coy relieved 1 Coy 1/5th BEDFORDS at MEZEIRIAH and C Coy relieved 1 Coy. 1/5th BEDFORDS at ORANGE POST. 320 ORs in working parties.
LT COL WINDSOR CMG assumed command of 162 Infantry Bde during temporary absence of Brig Gen A Mudge. MAJOR HAMMOND in charge of bn, during absence of CO at 162 Bde.
Working parties to RE at RANTIEH POST. 4 officers 4OR attended gas lecture at WILHELMA. 2 officers and 14 OR proceeded to RAFA on Gas Course.
Working parties to RE at RANTIEH POST. 6 Officers and 19 ORs proceeded to Base to attend courses.
Working parties to RE at RANTIEH POST. Training bayonet fighting Coy Drill
1 Coy attended church parade in 1/4th NORTHANTS area. I Coy proceeded to Disinfecting Station WILHEMA to be disinfected. LT COL WINDSOR CMG reassumed command of Bn on his return from 162 Bge on the return of Brig Gen A MUDGE. 1 officer rejoined from course.
Location P14C Date: 29/4/18
Bn concentrated at ORANGE POST. B Coy being relieved at MEZEIRIAH by coy of 1/10th LONDON regiment. Concentration compete by 1230 9 ORs arrived at Bn from Base. 1 Off rejoined from Course.
Company and specialist training. Gas training. LTs GOSTLING and WINDSOR rejoined Bn after English leave. LT CARRUTHERS rejoined from hospital.