Away from the Western Front: 1st -31st May 1918

Q2469 Ras El -Ain James McBey
Ras-el-Ain: Jiljulie in the distance on the left (Art.IWM ART 2469) image: a view across a British rear battle area before an old stone fort on a mound at Ras-el-Ain. There are two field gun positions, both guns covered with camouflage netting, immediately before the mound. Small clouds of black smoke in the sky show anti-aircraft fire. Copyright: © IWM.

The EEF spent much of the summer of 1918 training the troops who had arrived from India to replace those sent to the Western Front. Although  the 54th (East Anglian) Division stayed in Palestine,there were skills to be maintained and new techniques to be learned.

The battalion padre, Captain the Rev Wilson had joined the Finsbury Rifles after his predecessor, Captain the Rev Dixon-Spain, returned to England. Retreats for military chaplains were held regularly in Jerusalem during 1918. One of the speakers was  Lieutenant -General Chetwode, the commander of XX Corps who  addressed the chaplains on their role and what soldiers expected of them.

Although there were skirmishes between the Ottoman troops and the 54th Division during May, there was no major action. The enemy had lost too many troops and materiel.

Date: 1/5/18

Training under Coy arrangements. Bayonet fighting, Gas training musketry. Specialist classes. MAJOR HAMMOND and Coy commanders visited posts of 1/4th NORFOLKs.

Location F 24 G 6 8 Date: 2/5/18

Training. Coy arrangements Gas and specialist training. LT W E GOSLING appointed Gen Intelligence Officer.Bn took over posts of 1/4th NORFOLKS at RASELAIN ELMIRA (WEST) MAJOR HAMMOND commanding post at RAS EL AIN and Lt H G SANDERCOCK commanding EL MIRA WEST. Move carried out at four Bn Orders attached of which copies were issued to all concerned. Relief was complete by 2300.

Date: 3/5/18

Training and Post improvements under Post Commanders. Gas training. 2 officers 15 ORs returned from short leave in Egypt. CAPT AT LEWTHWAITE took over command of EL MIRA WEST POST. Situation quiet on Bns front.

Date: 4/5/18

Training and post improvements under Post Comders. Gas training 6.77 mm shells fired on RAS EL AIN POST. No damage or casualties.

Date: 5/5/18

Holy Communion 0930 Bn HQ Evening service 1700 RAS EL AIN

Date: 6/5/18

Specialist and Gas training. Post improvements under Post Comders. Platoon of 3 coy in reserve working on securing the EL MIRR road. 7.4.2 Fixed on RAS EL AIN

Date: 7/5/18

Specialist and Gas training. Post improvements under Post Comders.Patrol of 1 officer and 20 OR went out from RAS EL AIN 0100 Object to get a prisoner, returned at 0335 unsuccessful.

Date: 8/5/18

Specialist and Gas training. Post improvements under Post Commanders. 2 platoons of B Coy in reserve working on securing the EL MIRR road. Party of 40 working on Battn HQ of 162 Bde to 2230. 2100 Enemy over two parties approx. 25 men each party attacked no 1 Post G 29 with bombs until they were driven off. Our casualties. 1 OR wounded. Enemy casualties unknown. Party of 40 working on Bde HQ 1830 to 2230.

Date: 9/5/18

Specialist and Gas training. Post improvements under Post Comders. 1705 6 fired on RAS EL AIN POST no damage or casualties. 1/10th LONDON REGT relieved RAS EL AIN POST. Relief complete by 0200 10.5.18. Relief carried out as per Bn Orders attached. 430481 (CPL) GH  KAPPS awarded medallion militaire for gallantry on the field at GAZA. 40 ORs on Bde Battle HQ.

Date: 10/5/18

Specialist and Gas training. Post improvements under Post Comders.1 coy working on defences at EL MIRR POST 1900 to 2300. Party of 40 ORs on Bde Battle HQ.

Date: 11/5/18

Specialist and Gas training. 1 Coy working on defences EL MIRR POST. Party of 40 ORs on Bde Battle HQ.

Date: 12/5/18

Voluntary service 0915 Holy Communion 0945 Battle HQ 1000 Holy Mass 2 Officers and 16 ORs proceeded on short leave in Egypt. I Coy working on defence of EL MIRR POST 1900 to 2300 1 platoon B Coy moved to A Coy to be in reserve.

Date: 13/5/18

1 Officer and and 68 ORs cleaning.1 Coy working on defences EL MIRR POST 1900 to 2300.

Date: 14/5/18

Specialist and Coy training.

Date: 15/5/18

1 Officer and and 68 ORs cleaning. 1 Coy working on defences at EL MIRR POST 1900 to 2300

Date: 16/5/18

Specialist and gas training. 2 Coys less 2 platoons working on Defences on Battle Front. 1 Platoon demolishing GREY HOUSE 12699.

Date: 17/5/18

Specialist and gas training. 2 Coys less 2 platoons working on Defences on Battle Front. 1 platoon demolishing GREY HOUSE  xxx of 1 officer and 3 ORs from EL MIRR POST left 2100 proceeded to Tomdge D34 d, thence to JILTOLIEH object to locate enemy picquets. No enemy picquets located and returned 0100.

Date: 18/5/18

Specialist and Gas training.

Date: 19/5/18

Voluntary service at Battn HQ followed at 0945 by Holy Communion. 1115 GANIM for transport dump. 3 platoons working on defences on Battle Front 1900 to 2200. 1 platoon demolishing GREY HOUSE 1900 t 2200. Armenian attached to Battn for Intelligence work.

Date: 20/5/18

Specialist and Gas training. 2 Coys less 2 platoons working on defences on Battle Front . 1 platoon demolishing GREY HOUSE. 16 ORs rejoined from PANOS. 12 ORs proceeded to Rest Camp EL ARISH Capt JM Wilson Chaplain, left to attend conference at JERUSALEM.

Date: 21/5/18

Specialist and Gas training. 2 Coys less 2 platoons working on defences on Battle Front. C Coy relieved D Coy at EL MIRR POST Relief complete by 2000. Capt WG COMBER taking over at CC POST. 2 Officers and 40 OR proceeded to short leave in Egypt.

Date: 22/5/18

Specialist and Gas training. 2 Coys less 2 platoons working on defences on Battle Front. 2 deserters came in at EL MIRR POST.

Date: 23/5/18

Specialist and Gas training. 1 Coys working on defences on Battle Front. B Coy relieved A Coy, Relief complete by 2200. 2nd Lt Walter returned from course at EL ARISH. Capt J M WILSON returned from conference of chaplains at JERUSALEM.

Date: 24/5/18

Specialist and Gas training. 1 Coys working on defences on Battle Front. Patrol of 1 officer and 60 ORs left EL MIRR POST 2000, proceeded to Bridge D34 d thence along W side of railway to D24 d 10.10Object to watch JILJULIEH and picquets No enemy seen 0800 MAJOR GENERAL S W HARE CB GOC 54th DIV presented  ribands of decorations to 162 Bde. Cpl KAPPS receiving the “medaille militaire” ribbon. 2 officers and 14 ORs returned from leave in Egypt. 59 ORs reinforcements from Base. 14 ORs rejoined from Base.

Date: 25/5/18

Specialists and Gas Training. 2 Coys less 1 platoon working on Defences in Battle Front. 3 Officers returned from courses.

Date: 26/5/18

Holy Communion 0415 and 0945 at Battn HQ. Voluntary Service 0915 at HQ. . 1 Coy less 1 platoon working on Defences in Battle Front. Battn supplied parties for 1/6th ESSEX working in WADI RABAH.

Date: 27/5/18

1 Coy less 1 platoon working on Defences in Battle Front. Patrol1 officer 6 OR left 5y POST 2100 and discovered 2 groups of enemy on railway. Lt E W PEARSE and 2nd LT O>W PAGE to hospital.

Date: 28/5/18

Specialist and Gas training. 2 Coys working on defences on Battle Front and digging cable trenches. Patrol of 1 officer and 6 ORs left EL MIRR POST 2100 located sentries D36 C 55. Battn supplied covering parties to 1/6 Essex working on WADI RABAH.

Date: 29/5/18

Specialist and Gas training. 2 Coys working on defences on Battle Front and digging cable trenches. Patrol 1 officer and 6 ORs left D POST 2100 located group of enemy on railway approach D34d, also 2 other groups approx. KB1c returned after daybreak. Battn supplied covering parties to 1/6th ESSEX working on WADI RABAH.

Date: 30/5/18

Specialist and Gas training. 2 Coys working on defences on Battle Front and digging cable trenches. Patrol of 1 officer and 6 ORs left EL MIRR POST 2100 located enemy groups K31c and D306 returned after daybreak.

Date: 31/5/18

Specialist and Gas training. 2 Coys working on defences on Battle Front and digging cable trenches. Patrol of 1 officer and 6 ORs left Dy POST 2100 double sentries seen K21 and 5.5 enemy movement at K21 and 5 5 returned after daybreak. 2 Officers and 14 ORs left Battn for short leave in EGYPT.

Finsbury Rifles, Away from the Western Front: 22nd January to 27th January 1916

In this passage we can see the impact of weather conditions on the routine of the Regiment, with a violent hurricane blowing down numerous tents in the middle of the night.

We are also introduced to the 3/11 London Regiment (Finsbury Rifles), which was formed after the outbreak of war. Its purpose was to supply trained soldiers to the first line Battalion and second line Battalions  to replace losses, either through death, injury or illness. After the 1/11 Battalion’s horrendous experiences at Gallipoli, two separate drafts of men joined them in Egypt to help bring the Battalion up to its full strength of 1007 men.

WW1 Finsbury Rifles NCOs (1915)
© Darren O’Brien.The 3/11th London Regiment (Finsbury Rifles)

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Date: 22/1/16

Normal camp routines.

Date: 23/1/16

Church parade under Brigade arrangements.

Date: 24/1/16

Normal routine. Violent hurricane and many tents blown down during night.

Date: 25/1/16

Brigade Route march. Battalion on duty. Weather still very bad. 6 Officers and 151 other ranks reported from England from 3/11 Battalion. 

Date: 26 to 27/1/16

Normal routine.


Explore our Glossary for an explanation of any unknown terms.

Finsbury Rifles, Away from the Western Front: 15th January to 21st January

Date: 15/1/16

Staff Ride for mounted Officers. Battalion on duty. Routine as usual.

Date: 16/1/16

Church parade. Routine as usual. 1 man to hospital.

Date: 17/1/16

Normal Camp Routine. Battalion on duty.

Date: 18/1/16

Orders received that battn would return to SIDI BISHR following day. Advance party sent over to DAMAN HOUR

Location: SIDI BISHR

Date: 19/1/16

Battalion entrained at 10 am and proceeded to SIDI GABER marching from there to SIDI BISHR camp. Lt. Moreton returned from hospital.

Date: 20/1/16

Normal camp routine. Lt. Sandercock and 14 other Ranks rejoined from Base Detail Camp together with 2nd Lieutenants Barry and Selby from 3rd Battalion. 2nd Lieut. Radloff  to hospital.

Date: 21/1/16

Normal camp routines.


Explore the Glossary to discover any unfamiliar terms.

Finsbury Rifles, Away from the Western Front: 8th January to 14th January 1916

This portion of the diary illuminates the routine and repetition which defined much of the soldiers’ experience.

The 1/11th London Regiment was not operating in isolation but belonged to the 162nd Brigade, itself part of the larger 54th (East Anglian) Division. Many of the military exercises and duties mentioned in the battalion diary such as route marches,  working parties and guard duties were carried out alongside or taking turns with the other battalions in the brigade; the 1/10 (Hackney) London Regiment, the 1/4 Northamptonshire Regiment and the 1/5 Bedfordshire. All were Territorial units.

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Date: 8/1/16

Brigade Route March. Battalion on duty.

Date: 9/1/16

Church parade at 11am under Brigade arrangements. Lieutenant Monckton and 3 men to hospital.

Date: 10/1/16

Brigade Route March.

Date: 11/1/16

Battalion on duty.

Date: 12 to 13/1/16

Normal Camp Routine. 2 men to hospital.

Date: 14/1/16

Brigade Route March. Routine as usual.


Explore the Glossary to learn more about some of the terms used, including Route March.

Finsbury Rifles, Away from the Western Front: 1st January to 7th January 1916

In this passage we learn about how the Battalion established their camp at Sidi Bishr, including building trenches in the sand.

Although taken at a later point in the year, when the Regiment was located at Ashton Post along the Suez Canal, the image below illustrates some of the challenges facing soldiers building trenches in desert conditions, including shifting sands. We also learn about the diverse weather conditions facing the men and how these impacted daily life at camp.

image of trench reparing.jpg
© IWM (Q 57749)  Image shows a Fatigue Party from the 1/11th London Regiment repairing a trench which had given way.

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Date: 1/1/16

Routine parades and inspection in camp. Surroundings inspected by Brigade Commander and Commanding Officers and defence scheme settled.

Date: 2/1/16

Church parade at 11 am and Brigade arrangements. Battalion duty and provided all guards and duties. Nil report from patrol.

Date: 3/1/16

Violent rainstorm all day, all parades cancelled and start on defence works postponed. Nil to hospital.

Date: 4/1/16

Weather still bad parades under standing orders. In afternoon work commenced on trenches around camp. 5 officers from 3/11th London reported for duty.

Date: 5/1/16

Battalion route march routine as usual. Battalion on Brigade duty. 2 officers temporarily attached 1/10 London returned to duty. 2 men to hospital.

Date: 6 to 7/1/16

Normal camp routine.


Remember to explore our Glossary to find out what any unfamiliar terms mean!

Finsbury Rifles, Away from the Western Front: 19th December to 31st December 1915

Having arrived in Egypt, from the Gallipoli campaign, the Rifles pitched camp in Sidi Bishr, a large camp near to Alexandria.

While the Diary does not log a delousing and cleaning session on arrival in Egypt, Joe Guthrie, Machine Gun Sargent for the Finsbury Rifles, recalls his experiences on arrival in his Oral History recording at the Imperial War Museum:

‘Yes went to the Suez. We gave up Gallipoli and the boat landed at Alexandria where we went into Egypt. We was deloused and we needed it! Very funny, the chap when we got to Alexandria…the RMC Corporal, he was like ‘Come on boys come and have a nice hot bath!’ and we had to take all our clothes off, chuck ‘em down, get rid of them, and then with no clothes on at all then we went up to this bloke and he’d shove a bucket cold carbolic over us and into the next tent you’d put clean clothes on new clothes on that’s the way they did it. Cor blimey it was yes…And that was when we started our Egyptian career. Mena camp, that’s where we went from there.’ 

 


Location: SIDI BISHR

Date: 19/12/15

Day spent in re-pitching camp.

Date: 20/12/15

From the 20th of this date Battalion on duty responsible for Brigade fatigues and policing of camp. Parade during morning. Commanding Officer inspection of tents.

Date: 21/12/15 to 27/12/15

From week 20th to this date Battalion engaged on routine parades, fatigues etc. Lt. H. G. Sandercock to hospital with jaundice. 23.12.15 two officers and 79 other ranks rejoined unit from 54th Division Base Details Camp.

Date: 28/12/15

Received detailed orders from BHQ for moving to HOSH ISA on 30th. Camp routine parade as usual.

Date: 29/12/15

Battalion baggage. 17 Bell Tents and one EP Tent dispatched to HOSH ISA with exception of Officers’ valises. 1 N.C.O. (Sergeant) and 12 men rejoined Battalion from 54th Division Base Detail Camp. Routine as before.

Date: 30/12/15

Battalion entrained at SIDI GABER station from HOSA ISA. A, B and C Corps* entrained at 0920 and arrived HOSA ISA at midday. D Corp entrained at 12-20 and arrived at HOSA ISA at 1700. Battalion on duty responsible for protection of Camp during night. Numerous guard piquets provided.

Location: HOSH ISA

Date: 31/12/15

Day spent in re-pitching camp. Day and night uneventful. News received that 5 officers from 3/11th Battalion stationed at Ismalia would join Battalion at once.

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* for a comprehensive description of Battalions and Companies, please explore excellent resource The Long Long Trail, and remember you  can use our glossary to demystify any new terms!

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