Topic: BatzJ - 1st Amman
The First Battle of Amman
Palestine, 27 to 30 March 1918
First Amman, scene of a strong British raid on Turkish forces on 27-30 March 1918, aimed at cutting the Hejaz railway line running south from Damascus. The operation began on 22 March with the building of bridges across the River Jordan, by which the British 60th (London) Division and Anzac Mounted Division-the latter commanded by Major-General Edward Chaytor, a New Zealander-were able to cross onto the east bank and push into the precipitous hills which rose 1,200 metres to the plateau on which the objective lay. Rain made going extremely difficult along two of the three main tracks by which the raiding force moved, but by the evening of the 25th the village of Es Salt (at the head of the northernmost route) had been taken.
On the morning of the 27th Chaytor ordered his division to begin the attack on Amman itself. The 2nd Australian fight I Horse Brigade under Brig.-General Granville Ryrie attacked from the north-west, while the Imperial Camel Brigade (which also included large numbers of Australians) came in from the west, and the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade from the south. In total, the three brigades numbered about 3,000 rifles in the firing line, and were supported by a single battery of mountain guns; against this strength the Turks presented about 4,000 men in well-prepared positions, well supported by machine-guns and fifteen artillery pieces.
During two days of stiff fighting, the raiders succeeded in blowing up large sections of the railway line south of Amman, and a two-span stone bridge on the track north of the town (which was, however, speedily repaired and enabled a troop train to bring reinforcements for the garrison on 29 March). Turkish resistance, bolstered by a battalion of the German Asia Corps (actually only of brigade strength), proved impossible to overcome, even after British infantry arrived and entered into the fight. On 30 March the attacking force was ordered to pull back, this movement being commenced that night. Withdrawal proved to be an especially difficult undertaking, after large numbers of local inhabitants who had welcomed the troops and now feared retribution by the Turks joined in.
By 2 April the raiders were safely back across the Jordan. The venture had cost a total of 1,200 British casualties; 724 were in the Anzac Mounted Division, of whom 118 were killed and 55 missing. The Turks were estimated to have suffered an equal number of killed and wounded, a claim which may well he exaggerated, but in addition were known to have lost 615 officers and men who were taken prisoner.
Extracted from the book produced by Chris Coulthard-Clark, Where Australians Fought - The Encyclopaedia of Australia's Battles, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1998, p. 137.
Additional References cited by Chris Coulthard-Clark:
H.S. Gullett, (1944), The Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine, Sydney: Angus & Robertson.
Citation: The First Battle of Amman, Palestine, 27 to 30 March 1918, Outline