Topic: BatzP - Sheria
The Battle of Sheria
Palestine, 7 November 1917
Turkish Trench System at Sheria prior to the battle.
[Click on map for larger version.]
While the infantry seized Tel el Sheria and the Hareira Redoubt, Chauvel's mounted troops, skirting the flank or driving through the Turkish resistance, were to seize the water, first at Jemmameh and then at Huj. The 60th Division, after taking Tel el Sheria, was also to fight its way forward to Huj, for which operation it had been placed under the command of Desert Mounted Corps. The 10th Infantry Division rushed the Hareira Redoubt in the early morning, despite heavy opposition from machine-guns, and the 60th Division after a hard fight seized the great mound at Sheria. The attacking force, however, was light, breathless, and spent; the enemy, sweeping the slope with shrapnel, machine-guns, and rifle-fire, brought it to a standstill, and the Londoners were compelled to lie down on their advanced line and wait for assistance.
Austrian field artillery at Sheria before the battle.
Meanwhile the Anzac and the Australian Mounted Divisions were in readiness for an opportunity to deliver a mounted blow. At that time Hodgson, with the 4th Light Horse Brigade and the 5th Mounted Brigade, was about three miles behind Tel el Sheria. Chaytor, with the 1st and 2nd Light Horse Brigades (less two squadrons and eight machine-guns), was, after a heavy night march, a few miles away to the west. If accepted, it meant a day's delay at least to Shea's advance towards Huj, and also delay to Chauvel's mounted divisions. Hodgson's obvious line of advance against the Turkish resistance was to move by the east, make touch with the Anzacs, and take the enemy on his exposed flank.
The destroyed 5 Arch Bridge outside Sheria being passed by the Light Horsemen.
The desperate mission was entrusted to Grant's 4th Light Horse Brigade, which was ordered to cross the wadi mounted and strike hard for Khurbet Buteihah. Chauvel, when he gave his order, had expected that Hodgson's horsemen would move immediately; but it was nearly 11 o'clock before the 11th and 12th Light Horse Regiments rode towards the crossing over the wadi. As the Australians approached the wadi, shrapnel burst freely over the trotting horses. On the left two squadrons of the 11th, deploying as they cleared the wadi, went forward at the gallop. Careless of the heavy fire, and riding hard, they passed many dead Londoners who had fallen earlier in the morning, and dashed on through the advanced riflemen beyond. The rifle-fire was terrific, but the pace saved the Australians, and when they came within a few horse-lengths of the advanced line the Turks raised their hands. Bailey, fearing the Turks would close in overwhelming numbers ran back to the line of the Londoners and persuaded a young officer to dash forward with a machine-gun. Crossing the wadi on his horse Dunbar rode forward under heavy fire, the one horseman on the landscape, to some little straw-stacks, where he engaged in dressing a number of wounded men. As Forster ran, the German machine-gunners opened fire. Towards sunset the light horsemen rejoiced to see waves of the reserve brigade of the 60th Division advancing from their left rear. The brigade came on steadily despite heavy Turkish shelling.
Sheria Station littered with the debris of the destroyed ammunition dump.
Had Allenby's plan been carried through, had the Anzac and Australian Mounted Divisions reached Huj that day, complete disaster might have overtaken the enemy. But the holding up of the 60th Division and Australian Mounted Division at Sheria prevented these troops from joining up with the Anzacs; and Chaytor, with only the 1st Light Horse Brigade and part of the 2nd Light Horse Brigade, less most of its machine-gun squadron, was obliged to advance alone.
Allied and Turkish Situation at Sheria, 6pm, 7 November 1917.
[Click on map for larger version.]
Produced by Bill Woerlee
H.S. Gullett, (1944), The Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine, Sydney: Angus & Robertson.
A.J. Hill, (1978), Chauvel of the Light Horse, Carlton, Vic.: Melbourne University Press.
Citation: The Battle of Sheria, Palestine, 7 November 1917, Outline