Topic: AIF - 3B - 9 LHR
Palestine, 1 December 1917
9th LHR, AIF, Unit History Account
Major Thomas Henry Darley produced a unit history of the 9th Light Horse Regiment, AIF, called With the Ninth Light Horse in the Great War, in which included a section specifically related to the Battle of El Burj and is extracted below.
Darley, TH, With the Ninth Light Horse in the Great War, Adelaide, Hassell Press, 1924, pp. 111 - 112.
At 4 p.m. orders were received to the effect that the 4th Light Horse Brigade would take over a portion of the line, and these troops relieved the 8th Regiment which in turn took over the position occupied by the Regiment.
As soon as these moves were effected "A" Squadron relieved the Gloucester Yeomanry and "B" took up a new position 800 yards to the north-west. The new position was splendidly placed, as in the event of attack both these posts could direct their fire right across the front of the central position occupied by the 8th Regiment.
All these posts were quickly joined up by duplicate telephone lines with Regimental Headquarters and from there to the 54th Division. A section of the Machine Gun Squadron was attached to both "A" and "B" Squadrons. During the night enemy shelling was intense, the telephone wires being repeatedly cut, but owing to the foresight of Lieut. A. Burns, Signalling Officer, in duplicating the wires communication was never lost, whilst the 8th Regiment, using single wires, were often compelled to send their messages through our lines. As the night advanced the shell fire of the enemy increased, and by midnight had reached a stage which clearly indicated that an infantry attack was pending.
Our men had made the most of the short time they had occupied these positions by building stone sangars and getting a good knowledge of the nature of the ground in their immediate front, especially with reference to points of concentration for enemy attacks.
On the 1st December, at 1.20 a.m., an enemy force of approximately 1,000 made a most determined attack. The night was very dark and strong gusty winds were blowing, thereby greatly assisting them in concealing their advance. On getting to close quarters, a sudden rush was made against the small hill held by a flank post of the 8th Regiment, who were compelled to fall back to a position about 300 yards in rear. The enemy immediately occupied the position and opened a heavy rifle, bomb, and machine gun fire on the 8th Light Horse Regiment.
"A" Squadron of the 9th were ordered to put down as heavy a barrage as possible across the front of the position held by the 8th Regiment. Fire was immediately opened and inflicted severe casualties on the enemy and also prevented reinforcements moving up in support. It also prevented the enemy advanced troops from withdrawing. Lying behind the stone sangars which had been erected across the tops of the hills held by the Regiment, the squadrons poured a destructive fire on the enemy who had advanced bravely across the open and had actually taken up positions on the small hills held by our troops. Lying as low as possible they contented themselves with throwing stick bombs, of which an enormous number had been carried forward.
Frequent calls were made on the Regiment by the 8th Light Horse for supplies of ammunition as their reserves were not at hand, and RSM Aikman, who had his supplies well organised, was able to meet all demands.
A party of the 4th Royal Scots closed up to the support of the Brigade and did excellent work, their bombers being exceptionally good. Gradually the fire of the enemy died down, and all movement in front seemed to have ceased, but in spite of this all ranks remained at their posts until daybreak. At dawn the 8th Regiment moved forward and took the surrender of 150 unwounded Turks amongst whom was their Commanding Officer. A large number of automatic rifles and bombs were also collected.
The determination of the Turkish attack was established by the fact that large numbers of dead were lying within 30 yards of our sangars, where they had taken cover to throw their bombs. The liberal use they made of their stick bombs, which have a cap on the handle that must be taken off before the cord which sets the mechanism in motion can be pulled, was shown by the fact that one dead Turk, who was seen to be a wearer of the famous Iron Cross, had 60 caps lying in a heap by his side. The enemy dead numbered 200 whilst 300 wounded were stated to have passed back to their dressing station.
Information was gained from an officer prisoner to the effect that their commander was determined to drive the Brigade from its position at all costs, and with this end in view had sent forward a body of picked troops, recent arrivals from the Galician Front. Then were certainly a fine body of men, their physique being the best we had seen amongst the enemy forces. They were well dressed and wore the new pattern German steel helmet. Their equipment appeared to be a recent issue, and all carried the latest pattern Mauser rifle.
The enemy maintained a heavy shell fire throughout the day, whilst the Regiment cleared up the position and buried the dead. Towards evening the fire slackened and died away, the following day was spent in peace and quietness. Our casualties had been slight but the 8th Light Horse suffered severely through being compelled to fall back, but this was unavoidable under the circumstances.
Citation: El Burj, Palestine, 1 December 1917, Darley, 9th Light Horse Account