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.

Away from the Western Front : 25th January 1918 – 25th February 1918

Visiting Jerusalem 

 

Allenby entering J'lem 1918 Mc Bey
The Entry of the Allies into Jerusalem on 11th December 1917. James McBey © IWM (Art.IWM ART 2929)
After fierce fighting  over the previous weeks, Jerusalem had been captured by the Allied Forces on 9th December 1917 . This  tremendous boost for Allied morale and public opinion   was a massive blow for the Ottoman Empire which had now  lost control of three holy sites in spite of German military support.
The painting above shows General Allenby’s formal entry to the city on foot two days later. This ceremony was carefully planned to be the opposite of a triumphant victory parade.  The message to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, Palestine and the world was that the Allies were not coming as Christian conquerors but to take over stewardship of the all holy sites  and to administer justice impartially.

Leave in the EEF was limited but there were a few opportunities to visit Jerusalem after it passed into British control. Soldiers toured the holy sites of the city but were often disillusioned with what they saw. A small city with a highly inadequate sanitation system, surrounded by modern buildings, and highly decorated churches maintained according to Eastern Christianity,  did not match up to their mental vision of Jerusalem, built up by  largely Protestant church and Sunday School education.

Leave to Jerusalem was stopped later on in the campaign. The city could not cope with crowds of rowdy Anzac troops seeking  ‘rest and relaxation’.

Date: 25/1/18

Companies engaged in defence works. Specialist training. 2nd Lt FLAVELL and 86 O/Rs reinforcements from England and details from hospital in Egypt reported. Draft isolated for 14 dys under orders from Divd.

Date: 26/1/18

Companies engaged in defence works. Specialist training. LT HEAVER 1/4 London Regt attached 1/11 London Regt reported for duty.

Date: 27/1/18

Holy Communion at the Bn HQ 0800. Lt Pearse and a party from RE with 30 other ranks this Bn proceeded to front to blow up enemy shells and salvage 3 wagons. Enemy shells … (60 4:2)..1 stuck in mud and 1 broken sword brought in. CAPT GOSLING and 11 other ranks proceeded to Jerusalem on special leave.

Date: 28/1/18

Companies engaged in defence works. A coy from reserve relieved and B coy in the line.

Date: 29/1/18

Companies engaged in defence works. Specialist training. Lieut DISNY HERBERT 9th London Regt attached 1/11 London reported for duty with 38 other ranks from BASE DEPOT

Date: 30/1/18

Defence works. Specialist training. Slight reciprocal shelling during afternoon.

Date: 31/1/18

Defence works. Specialist training. Drafts training during morning. CAPT HEILGER and 10 other ranks reported to Bn for duty. Slight reciprocal shelling during day and our artillery active during night.

Date: 1/2/18

Defence works and specialist training. CAPT SANDERCOCK rejoined from hospital.

Date: 2/2/18

Defence works and specialist training. Slight reciprocal shelling.

Date: 3/2/18

Holy Communion at Bn HQ at 0800. Draft of 28 other ranks returned wounded cured from hospital rejoined for duty.

Date: 4/.2/18

Defence works and specialist training.

Date: 5 to 6/2/18

No work. Weather very wet and stormy. LT READ appointed Transport Officer. LT ROBERTSON in hospital.

Date: 7/2/18

No work. Weather very wet and stormy. LT ROBERTSON returned from hospital and returned to company duty.

Date: 8/2/18

Very little work performed. Very wet.

Date: 9/2/18

2nd LT ICKE EAST LANCS reported for duty with 11 other ranks from hospital.

Date: 10/2/18

Communion service Bn HQ 0800 Quiet day. Weather improved.

Date: 11/2/18

Work on defences and specialist classes. 2nd LT WELLS attending Bde HQ. Course on signalling.

Date: 12-13/2/18

Work on defences and specialist classes.

Date: 14/2/18

Orders received for relief of 1/5  NORFOLK

Date: 15/2/18

Work on defences and  Specialist training. Advanced Parties 1/5 NORFOLK arrived to take over. Bivouac area allotted for this Bn at F28D2.2 (Selinsh 1/20000).

Date: 16/2/18

Bn relieved by 1/5 NORFOLK Regt – relief completed by 12.30. Bn moved into allotted Bivouac area. MAJOR F.S. HAMMOND left Bn on 12 day Egyptian leave, proceeding to Luxor. 162nd INF Brigade in reserve

Date: 17/2/18

Holy Communion at Bn HQ 0800. Brigade Church Parade 1000.

Date: 18 to 20/2/18

Bn carrying out training. Company Training. Route Marches and 3 O/Ranks reported from Hospital 20.2.18

Date: 21/2/18

Bn Training. 33 of Ranks reported for duty for Base Depot. Also Capt PERKINS 12th LONDON, 2nd Lt Jones Lancs Fusiliers reported for duty on attachment.

Date: 22 to 25/2/18

Bn and Company Training.

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.

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.

 

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.

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

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