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.
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.
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.
Brigade conference at Bde HQ. Weather very wet and unsettled. Orders received for battalion to attack BALD HILL night of 21/22nd.
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.
Continuation of salvage operations in and around BALD HILL very wet and cold.
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.
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.
Location WADI KEREIKAK
Reciprocal shelling at intervals. Bn at work on new line. Lt Robertson and 16 other ranks rejoined from 75th Divisional training.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Celebration of Holy Communion in village school room at 0700. Quiet day. Preliminary orders to move into reserve received.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Bn in reserve. Day spent in bathing and washing and kit inspections.
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
Holy Communion at Bn HQ at 0800 Quiet day in bivouac. Voluntary camp fire service in evening at 17.30
Company and specialist training
After the fighting and an all too brief time to recuperate the Finsbury Rifles were directed to support the Royal Engineers – providing labour for the construction of prisoner of war camps. While this work was often resented by the men of the EEF it was a welcome change from the horrendous noise of the artillery barrage that had preceded the third battle for Gaza.
Portion of Bn left behind at 54 Div, details rejoined.
Bn bathing and resting – quiet day.
Holy Communion at Bn HQ 0800. Quiet day. Bn Bathing and resting.
Orders received for Bn to move to Beit Hanun for construction work under RE. Bathing parades and preparing to move.
Bn moved to Beit Hanun 1300. A&B Coys sent onto DEIR SINEID for work under RE. D&C Coys employed constructing P of W compound at BEIT HANUN.
½ Bn employed on building P of W compound. 40 prisoners arrived during afternoon from front line.
Work on P of W compound continued. No further prisoners, previous 40 sent onto A.P.M GAZA. Orders received to move forward.
Bn HQs moved 1230 and proceeded to DEIR SINEID leaving 2 companies to received and guard further P of W. Remaining 2 companies being picked up at SINEID the whole proceeding to MEJDEL where Bivouac for the night was formed
It was no secret that casualties in fighting were highest in the rifle companies of the army . The 54th (East Anglian) Division had had to rebuild itself twice – after the Gallipoli Campaign and more recently after the disasters of the first two battles for Gaza.
The changes brought in under General Allenby also aimed to avoid this happening again. Units were required to keep a nucleus of officers and men in the rear so that a battalion could be rebuilt if necessary. Reinforcements would take too long to train and in any case, the Western Front was swallowing up much of the available manpower.
Although the Finsbury Rifles suffered some casualties during the Third Battle of Gaza, they were not as high as before. They were fortunate that the Ottoman forces on Belah Ridge were withdrawn to pre-arranged positions further north. This undoubtedly saved many lives – on both sides.
Location GUN HILL AREA Date: 6/11/17
Consolidation work still proceeding. MAJOR HAMMOND visited Bde Battle HQ and received orders to attacks and take BELAH Ridge with this Bn at all costs 161 Bde co-operating on our right the 1/5 BEDFORDs on our left. Enemy heavily shelled our positions during the day up to about 1500. Rumours received of Turkish retreat – arrangements for attaching BELAH completed and the Bn relieved in the trenches by the ¼ ESSEX and brought down on the beach to rest by 2100.
Attack on Belah Ridge by the 54 Divs at 0100. 1/11 London attacked the Northern position as for orders attached to appendix.A.X
Attack carried out with great dash. Enemy trenches reached and enemy found to have fired leaving only a few snipers. Consolidation at once proceeded with.0430. Consolidation work stopped. General Turkish retreat. ¼ Essex withdrawn from GUN HILL and position taken over by 1 company 1/11 London Rgt ,other companies of this Bn withdrawn to beach for breakfast after which Bn to move to 300 yards NE of SHEIKH HASSAN. 1030 Bn move into Reserve of 162 Bde outward line received – Bn moved on to beach at G22 A Nuzzle 1/20000. And bivouac formed. Lt Col A.H WINDSOR CMG
Bn resting and squaring up Bivouac. Moving baggage re: from various dumps formed after the equipment. Quiet day bathing parades only.
Orders by Major F.S.Hammond commanding 1/11 London Regt. Order No 3. 6/11/17
Reference Gaza 1: 20000. A
Enemy dispositions have not materially changed.
The 54th Divn is attacking the line RAFA BELAH RIDGE – TURTLE HILL. 161 Bde on the night. 162 Bde on the left. The dividing line will be the wire running from RICHARD to BELAH.
The 11th London Regt (les 1 Coy) will attack BELAH works from P8d88 to Pqa 2.4.
On relief tonight at 1900 by ¼ Essex Regt this Battn will bivouac over the beach for the night just below present Battn HQ.
At zero – 60 the Battn will move forward to a position at about P8 6 1.8. At zero – 15 it will move forward to take up a position immediately in front of our own trenches. At zero it will advance to the attack.
When the positions have been won, they will be immediately consolidated a strong work being established in each objective: at the same time a second line will be consolidated on the reverse slopes. The front line will only be held lightly during the day.
The Battn will be dressed and equipped in only those articles actually required for fighting purposes plus one day’s water and rations.
Each officer will carry a Very Pistol sights. Bombers and rifles Grenadiers will each carry 10 bombs. Lewis gun teams will carry 20 magazines per team. The balance of bombs L/G. Magazines will be carried by carriers detailed from ¼ Northants Regt and will move in near of the Battn during the attack dumping their loads with the last Coy who will be digging in on the reverse slope of BELAH RIDGE. The O.C of this Coy will at once take steps to push forward the bombs and magazines brought up. Ground flares will be carried by the leading Coys.
Each Coy will detail runner to report to Battn signal office before Coys leave the beach.
Watches will be synchronised at Battn H.Q at 1815 and 2115 tonight.
Battn H.Q will remain at P7 6 7.5 to-morrow with an advanced station established by P8 and 2.5 (near B Boys’s present HQ) to which place all messages and runners must be sent.
Barrages. The positions to be assaulted will be heavily bombarded the final 18 pds protective barrage lighting from all objectives except FRED at zero and 15 when the infantry will assault in accordance with details already arranged. At zero and 20 the barrage will lift from FRED enabling the first wave to complete their work on WALTER. A protective barrage will remain in front of the position till zero and 120. MG barrage from RICHARD and CRICKET WELL will give overhead covering fire during the assault and will lift to form a protective barrage at zero and 10.
Collecting points for wounded are being formed at SEA POST and SHEIKH HASSAN to either of which wounded will be evacuated. The Battn and post will remain into present position.
Two stokes guns will follow in near of the third wall and dig in on reverse slope as arranged.
Join us for messy play and imaginative storytelling sessions.
£2 donation per child. Wear old clothes!
Messy Play: World War I Centenary
12th June, 10.00-11.30 am.
Join us to learn about Islington’s World War I collection and engage in some creative and messy play.
Storytelling: Fighting Apartheid in Islington
19th June, 10.00-11.30 am.
Join storyteller Dani as she explores the inspiring ways in which the people of Islington fought against injustice during Apartheid in South Africa.
Messy Play: Victorian Medicine
28th June, 10.00-11.30 am.
Make a mess at our Victorian Medicine themed session! Inspired by the museum’s pharmacy collection, come and concoct strange mixtures, consider interesting ingredients and get creative.
Sing-a-Long: Entertaining Islington!
12th July, 10.00-11.30 am.
Sing and dance your way through the history of entertainment here in Islington! Crack jokes like Grimaldi the clown, roar like a lion from the Agricultural Hall, and belt out show tunes like the performers of yesteryear.
Messy Play: Entertaining Islington!
17th July, 10.00-11.30 am.
Join us for messy art about the Arts! Hide your face behind mysterious masks, create your own instruments and use your imagination to jump into the wondrous world of the theatre.
Storytelling: 53 Cross Street House
7th August, 10.00-11.30 am.
Storyteller Dani takes us on a journey through time, unearthing layers of history at local house, 53 Cross Street.
Messy Play: Archaeology
16th August, 10.00-11.30 am.
It’s time to grab your shovel and pail and dig in to the history of Islington! Discover ancient artefacts at our archaeological dig, create your own cave paintings, and get your hands dirty as you use your imagination to discover the stories beneath your feet.
The 3rd battle for Gaza lasted for over a week. This time the bombardment from the Royal Navy and the Royal Artillery was calculated correctly and began ahead of the actual attack. As the 54th Division moved up along the coastal strip to the west, they came under heavy fire from the Ottoman defences. In spite of the disorientating effects of the artillery barrage and thanks to the effective supply lines, food & the all important water rations were able to reach the Finsbury Rifles & the other units in 162 Brigade. Lessons had been learned from previous failures….
Location REGENTS PARK AREA Date: 31/10/17
Bn: Squaring up bivouac, drawing clothing for forthcoming operations. Enemy lines heavily bombarded from land and sea batteries. Bn order no II in connection with forthcoming attack on Gaza attacked.
Location REGENTS PARK AREA and Gun Hill area ref Gaza 1/20000 P.Y.B-57.Date: 1/11/17
Bn preparing for move forward on enemy’s left. Objective of this Bn – the Turkish position of Gun Hill. Bn moved forward 0245 to the attack. Bn under the command of MAJOR FS HAMMOND.
0245 Bn moving to the attack along the Beach, came under heavy shrapnel fire at about 0330, 200 yards NE of SHEIKH AJLIN. Several casualties sustained, 2/LT BRIMFIELD signalling officer being killed. Bn halted under cliff ……pack animals, all animals were then sent back to starting point. Bn proceeded along the Beach under heavy shrapnel, rifle G fire. Very little cover was attainable and in some place none at all. Seaport in front of which the Bn had to deploy was reached at about 0400 and found to be in our hands. Bn HQ formed and Bn drawn up in readiness for the advance. 0430 Bn deployed D company leading and advanced on objectives,…..objectives taken 0500 2nd objective taken 0505 final objective occupied by D Company at 5.10 (GUN HILL). Slight opposition, enemy retired to usage our artillery tarry to SHEIKH HASSAN and there fell into the hands of 1/5 BEDFORD who had advanced along the Beach and the left of our positions. Our casualties slight – all companies engaged on consolidation work, enemy heavily shelling the captured positions all day. Rations and water reached the Bn about 2030 in spite of the beach being in enemy view and constantly sniped in consequence. Everyone very cheerful and satisfied 1/5 Bedfords at HASSAN. Casualties for the day about 55 NCOs and men and 5 officers killed and wounded.
Consolidation work proceeded with all day under heavy shell and rifle fire.
Date: 3/11/17 (contd)
Several casualties incurred. Attack at dawn on Turkish position of BELAH Trench Line by ¼ Essex. This work the final objective of the 1/10 London was strongly resisted by TURKS, and was not taken during the initial attack or by a subsequent attack during yesterday afternoon by ¼ NORTHANTS. The Essex attack at dawn failed with heavy loss and the position remained in the hands of the Turk who sniped and MG [ machine gunned] GUN HILL positions and the beach from it all day. Enemy heavily shelled by both land and sea batteries day and night. Rations and water reached us in excellent time. Also large quantities of REM admiral for consolidation work.
Bn engaged on consolidation work, several casualties incurred from enemy shell fire. GOC 162 Brigade visited and inspected the GUN HILL area – our ships busily engaged shelling enemy works and positions in rear of GAZA.
GUN HILL and area heavily shelled by enemy 5.9 batteries from an easterly and north easterly direction. Several direct hits attained on our trenches, no casualties or damage done. Consolidation still proceeding and 4 guns from LTMB attached for ……CRICKET VALLEY.
Training intensified in the lead up to Gaza. In October those skills learned and practised in platoons and companies during the summer, were developed at battalion and brigade level. The message for the soldiers of the EEF whether they were peacetime territorials or wartime conscripts was that bravery and courage alone would not bring success. The key to victory would come through training as an efficient fighting force being able to put everything they had learned into action whatever the circumstances .
Practice attacks were carried out in the Belah area. A model of the El Arish redoubt was constructed and used by the 54th (East Anglian) Division – nothing would be left to chance!
Date: 16/10/17Bn Parade 0745, operations on prepared area 1600-1700 specialists training.
Bn Parade 0645. For Brigade operations on prepared area. Specialists training 1600-1700
Specialists and company training (6.15-700)(800-1100) 1100 Kit Inspections.
Combined brigade operations on prepared area (0700-1200) Specialist training 1600-1700.
Brigade operations at dawn on prepared area. Bn paraded 0245 returned to Bivouac area 0800. Address by GOC to all officers, W.Officers and sergeants in the Brigade 1645.
Brigade Parade for divine service 0830 Remainder of day quiet.
Company and specialist training during morning. Bathing for all ranks during the afternoon. Lt HHA GOLDSCHMIDT entered hospital.
Date: 23 to 24/10/17 (24)
Company and specialist training. Inter platoon competitions in Lewis gun, bombing and rifles, signalling and s(tretcher) bearers competitions. Conference.
Company and specialist training. Final competitions in various specialist branches. Regt Boxing Tournament during afternoon. GOC and staff of 162 Brigade present.
Practice attack on prepared position by Bn (0700-1200) Bathing parades during afternoon. 2 LT HORDER attached 486 CORE to hospital.
Company and specialist training during morning. Regimental sports and concerts. Heavy thunder storm with torrential rain. 1st rain of the season.
Celebration Holy Communion 0730. Confirm of C.O at Bde HQ. Capt L.H Newton rejoined from Delta and W.Force HC Cairo.
Company and specialist training during morning. Orders received for Bn to move to Regents Park area prior to operations.
Company and specialist training (830-1100) remainder of day spent getting ready to move. Bn moved 1800 by March Route to Regents Park area. Enemy lines heavily bombarded by our artillery.