Away from the Western Front: 1st – 30th April, 1918.

Training, road-building and enemy fire…

Q12693 Repairing rds nr Jericho 60th Div Feb 18 Westmoreland
Men of 60th Division repairing the road to Jericho, February  1918 .© IWM (Q 1269)

 

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.

1/4/18

Bn engaged on RE work. Morning and afternoon. Quiet day. Weather unsettled as ever.

Date: 2.4.18

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.

Date: 3/4/18

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.

Date: 4/4/18

1 Coy. RE work. 1 Coy Route march. Specialists training as usual.

Date: 5/4/18

1 Coy RE work. 1 Coy. Route March. Specialist training.

16 ORs joined Unit from Hospital and Base Depot.

Date: 6/4/18

1 Coy. RE work. 1 Coy. Route March. Specialists training.

Date: 7/4/18

Holy Communion. HQ 0800. A Coy Bivouac area 0900. 13 ORs rejoined unit from Hospital.

Date: 8/4/18

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.

Date: 9/4/18

1 Coy RE work. Specialists training.

Date: 10/4/18

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.

Date: 11/4/18

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.

Date: 12/4/18

1 Coy RE work. 1 Coy Route March. Specialists training. Bivouac area shelled about 0215. No casualties.

Date: 13/4/18

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.

Date: 14/4/18

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.

Date 15/4/18

R.E work 1 Coy. Route march. Specialist training

Date 16/4/18

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.

Date: 18/4/18

Erecting billets, tents and football etc.

Date: 19/4/18

Battn carried out training> Physical drill,Coy drill, musketry. Specialist training.

Date: 20/4/18

Battn training – Physical drill, Coy drill, musketry, specialist classes 1 coy working RE at Div School

Date: 21/4/18

Parade service 0830 am. Holy Communion afterwards. Voluntary service 170

Date: 22/4/18

Battn route march to SELMEH. Working party 100 CRs to RE Div school. 2 officers, 15 ORs proceeded for 10 days leave in Egypt.

Date: 23/4/18

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.

Date: 24/4/18

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.

Date: 25/4/18

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.

Date: 25/4/18

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.

Date: 26/4/18

Working parties to RE at RANTIEH POST. 6 Officers and 19 ORs proceeded to Base to attend courses.

Date: 27/4/18

Working parties to RE at RANTIEH POST. Training bayonet fighting Coy Drill

Date: 28/4/18

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.

Date: 30/4/18

Company and specialist training. Gas training. LTs GOSTLING and WINDSOR rejoined Bn after English leave. LT CARRUTHERS rejoined from hospital.

 

 

 

Away from the Western Front : 13th-31st March, 1918

Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught reviews the troops

Q12527 Taking the Royal Salute Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught 12.3.18 Ismailia
Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, receives the Royal Salute at the Investiture Parade at Moascar Camp near Ismailia, 12th March 1918.© IWM (Q 12527)

 

Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught toured bases of the EEF in Egypt and Southern Palestine during March 1918. A career soldier for over 40 years, the Duke’s visit was calculated to raise morale amongst all the troops .

L/Cpl Jock  Christie should have been decorated with his recently awarded Victoria Cross on this occasion but he had been wounded in the action a few days earlier and evacuated to hospital.  While he did receive his medal from the Duke of Connaught in hospital, this was not officially recorded in the Finsbury Rifles battalion diary.

 

Location KB DIKERIN Date: 13/3/18

Bn in Bivouac – Bn employed on road making.

Date: 14/3/18

Bn moved into new Bivouac area on NORTH side of WADI DEIR BALLUT. Reciprocal shelling during day. Strong working parties found during afternoon to assist RE on road making.

Date: 15/3/18

Bn (less details) engaged on road making throughout the day. Heavy wind with squalls of rain all day and previous night.

Date: 16/3/18

Presentation by Duke of Connaught at Jasur of Decoration to Officers 10 Officers and men of 54th Div. With following of this Bn were decorated. LT COL AM WINDSOR The CMG  A/Capt HG SANDER and Capt NM CUMING (RAMC) Attached this Bn. The MC, 450206 T/RM. RM. CALLENDER and 400 430 CSMG CANTWELL the MC. 451 330 ST H H CARTER DCM 451 73 R for J Boughton 453120 Rfn W DARE and 450 520  Alridge E. The MM.

Bn employed on road making under RE DIRECTION. BAD weather. WET.

Date: 17/3/18

Holy Communion at Bn at 0800. No work. Very wet and unsettled all day.

Date: 18/3/18

Bn employed on road making under RE direction. Specialist training.

Date: 19/3/18

Bn employed on road making under Res. Specialist training. Enemy airwalk active, one bomb dropped near Bivouac area. No damage.

Date: 20/3/18

Enemy aircraft active, four bombs dropped near pack mules– 3 mules slightly injured.

Date: 21/.3/18

Bn engaged all day on road construction under RE – specialist classes. Reims gun and signalling. Leave party of 3 officers and 14 of ranks proceeded for 10 days leave.

Draft 10 men reported from Base depot.

Date: 22/3/18

Bn engaged on road making under RE, specialists training. LT Col WINDSOR CMG assumed companies of 162 Bnf Bde during temporary absence of CO of 162 Bde.

Date: 23/3/18

Bn on Rfe Road work. Specialist training. MAJOR HAMMOND ADUTA proceeded to KULAT RASELAM on orders of OP.

Date: 24/3/18

Captain Revd Dixon Spain Life Empire for ALEXANDRIA to ENGLAND for 3 weeks leave of absence.

Date: 25/3/18

Half Bn..W.E work.

Date: 26/3/18

Bn engaged on R E Specialist training as usual. Lt Col WINDSOR from 162 Bde on the return of MUDGE from XXI Corps.

Date: 27/3/18

Bn engaged on RE work. Bn Bivouac area heavily shelled Turkish artillery with 42s and 59s. Left Bivouac area for an area about 500 yards move forward. Total Bn casualties 24 ORs.

Date: 28/3/18

Bn engaged squaring up Bivouacs. Quiet day. Slight reciprocal shelling of front lines contd REV Wilson CF reported for duty via Capt Rev Dixon. Spain to England.

Date: 29/3/18

½ Bn engaged morning and afternoon on road making under direction of RE.

Date: 30/3/18

Easter Sunday. Holy Communion at the Bn 0800. in company areas 1000. Quiet day. No working parties. Front line and surrounding areas heavily shelled by Turkish artillery 1600 1730. No damage to the Rm. 1 casualty only.

Date: 31/3/18

½ Bn engaged during morning on RE work and ½ at night between 2300 and 0300 road making under RE.

Candy 1/11 London. Rgt.

Location U.I.D.59 Sheet 14. Palestine Map Date:

Away from the Western Front: 9th – 12th March 1918.

Operations in the Jordan Valley

1.11 mule and limbeer at Kantara

Mule drawn limber 1/11th London Regiment. El Kubri, December 1917. © IWM (Q 57790)

At this stage in the campaign it was increasingly hard to replace transport animals and their equipment. During the action at Mejdel Taba, artillery fire killed and wounded some of the brigade mules (the 1/5 Bedfordshire Regiment recorded this in their battalion diary) so finding mules and pack saddles amongst the abandoned Ottoman positions was a real boon.

Date: 9/3/18

Company and specialists training.

Date: 10/3/18

Holy Communion at Bn Hill 0830. Orders perceived from Bde for the Advancement of night of XXI Corps line to a line N of MEJDEL TABA. Bn orders issued as per copies annexed to all concerned. A attached.

Date: 11/3/18

Company and specialist training during morning. Preparation for the advance being made.

Date: 12/3/18

Bn paraded at 0500 and moved to the delaying point. Advance commenced at 0745 with artillery co-operation, by 0830 the line ZIMMEL LEBED-MEZEIRAM had been captured without opposition 0930 Advance assured and by 1230 MEJDEL JABA was in our hands after slight opposition 162 Bde Casualties 1 of Rank killed and 18 wounded. 1 enemies issues 1 officer and 37 of ranks taken prisoner also 4 wounded prisoners. 2 MGS and 1 automatic rifle, 8 mules and 5 pack saddles and other valuable material also taken. Bn went into Bivouac 500 yards SW KB DIKERIN. (Sheet XIV Palestine 1st  map). Enemy aircraft active during afternoon. Bombed artillery and working parties infiltrating. slight casualties.

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