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Monday, 9 November 2009
The Battle of Khuweilfe, Palestine, 1 - 8 November 1917, 3rd Battalion ICC Account
Topic: AIF - 5B - ICC

The Battle of Khuweilfe

Palestine, 1 - 8 November 1917

3rd Battalion ICC Account

 

Photograph 1, 3rd Battalion ICC Account, detailing dispositions.

[Click on picture for larger version.]

 

The following was the plan of attack of General Officer Commanding, 158th Brigade, and detailed first by him in Operation Order No. 45, 5 November 1917 at 1815, to Officer Commanding 3rd Battalion, and afterwards modified and altered by him verbally as far as the 3rd Battalion was concerned before the attack took place.

 

Hand drawn map detailing the plan of attack for 6 November 1917.

[Click on map for larger version.]

 

The 158th Brigade - 3 Battalions in the firing line and one in reserve.

The three battalions in the firing line - 1/1st Herefords on the right, 1/6th Royal Welch Fusiliers in the centre and 1/7th Royal Welch Fusiliers on the left, were to form up at 0310 on 6 November 1917, covering a frontage of 500 yards each; making a total frontage of 1,500 yards, and at the time arrange (0421) the Brigade was to advance under the cover of an artillery barrage and take by storm the Turkish position, moving forward as the barrage lifted. The 3rd Battalion Imperial Camel Battalion was to follow up in rear of the right of the 1/1st Herefords, and as that Brigade made good its first objective (viz Flat Topped Hill) this hill was to be occupied by the 3rd Battalion with the view of protecting the right flank against a probable counter attack, whilst the 1/1st Herefords were to continue the advance.

 

Hand drawn map detailing the situation at 8.30 am, 6 November 1917.

[Click on map for larger version.]

 

The advance commenced at the appointed time (0421) but for unforseen reasons one of the three Battalions of the 158th Brigade was late in assembling at the point arranged, and the right hand battalion got orders, when on the move, to extend to its left and take up a total frontage of 1,000 yards. In the dark they lost direction and while doing this did a complete left wheel, leaving the 3rd Battalion in the air, and in front of the original line.

The Commanding Officer of the 1/1st Herefords had pointed out his first objective (viz "Flat Topped Hill") to the Officer Commanding 3rd Battalion, and asked the latter to occupy it after it had been taken by the Herefords under the artillery barrage.

 

Photograph 2, 3rd Battalion ICC Account, detailing dispositions.

[Click on picture for larger version.]

 

The night was very dark, and when the 1/1st Herefords lost direction it was not at first reported by the Intelligence Section of the 3rd Battalion.

Just before dawn broke, Lieutenant Moore, the Battalion Intelligence Officer however succeeded by a personal reconnaissance in discovering that the 1/1st Herefords had deviated very far from the original plan of attack and line of advance, although their actual direction and the reasons for it was still most obscure. The Battalion was then lying down in the open, in front of what proved a very strongly held hill, impregnable from a frontal attack.

As the artillery barrage had lifted and no fighting had taken place on this hill, realizing the opportunity to attack - while the defenders were still demoralized from the barrage- had gone, and something was amiss, the 3rd Battalion was moved round behind a low spur, which faced the "Flat Topped Hill", and ran parallel to it (See Sketch 1) to wait until it became light enough to see how the situation stood.

 

Hand drawn map detailing the situation during 6 November 1917.

[Click on map for larger version.]

 

The Battalion had only just cleared the point of the spur, when a terrible outburst of machine gun fire took place from "Flat Topped Hill" and the ground the Battalion had just cleared was swept with a devastating fire so severe that nothing could have lived in it. The Battalion was only saved from being exterminated by the orderly way in which Officers Commanding Companies changed direction in the growing light and moved their companies to the flank ordered without loss of time.

Two companies (11 and 12) were placed behind the spur named, and at once came under a very heavy machine gun fire from the Turks on "Flat Top Hill", who were about 300 yards distant.

Just as the right flank was secured, about 200 infantry, of the 1/1st Herefords, who had lost all their officers and had got out of touch with the attacking force and had been slightly demoralised, came rushing back on our left, giving up to the Turks the point of the ridge which dominated all that held by the 3rd Battalion, and which was the key of the position. The position was almost lost, but Lieutenant (Now Captain) Dixon, taking in the crisis at a glance, rushed to the front with about 20 of his men, and taking off his hat cheered the demoralised infantry back in a most gallant manner, retaking the point and holding on to it throughout the fight. About 0830 the Turks again made a most determined attack round our left flank and left rear driving back the infantry in places and endeavoured to seize a hill to the rear of the Battalion, which dominated that held by us and which would - if occupied by the enemy - have completely encircled our position not only by fire - as they now did at this time - but by men also.

 

Photograph 3, 3rd Battalion ICC Account, detailing dispositions.

[Click on picture for larger version.]

 

The position looked again very critical, but the infantry rallied in our rear and the Turkish encircling movement was checked (vide sketch for the position at 0830).

Although the Turks were prevented from surrounding the 3rd Battalion altogether by men, they now swept every approach to its position by machine gun, rifle and shrapnel fire.

At about 1000, representations were made by the 3rd Battalion to the General Officer Commanding of the 150th Brigade for the infantry to come up and drive the Turks off the ridge which they held to the left rear (vide Sketch 2)  and over which the infantry held the commanding ground. This for reasons unknown they were not ordered to do, but the 2nd Brigade Light Horse Machine Gun Squadron were ordered to gallop up a little valley commanded by the Turks and secure the left of the ridge they held. They charged in a very gallant manner, and at once came under a murderous machine gun and shrapnel fire, but very gallantly led by Captain Caine the reached their objective, at which pint the hill rose so abruptly as to give cover from the Turkish firing line above and slightly to their right. They rushed their guns up the hill within forty yards of the Turks, and although the teams were shot down almost to a man, their very gallant action caused the Turks to pause and gave the 3rd Battalion breathing time to size up their position.

The Battalion held on in a critical position all day, the enemy giving no quarter to wounded or stretcher bearers alike.

Throughout the night the position was grave but morning broke to see the Battalion still holding to its ground.

Lieutenant Bickford succeeded in obtaining water and rations under cover of darkness, although a previous attempt by another party had failed under a heavy fire.

 

Photograph 4, 3rd Battalion ICC Account, detailing dispositions.

[Click on picture for larger version.]

 

Before dawn on the 7th the 2nd Battalion Light Horse Machine Gun Squadron were withdrawn under cover of darkness, and two infantry platoons which had joined the battalion during the night were put into the position they evacuated by an officer of the 3rd Battalion. These platoons lost very heavily as it became light.

The Battalion held on during the 7th and an enemy counter attack upon Dixon's Post was successfully driven off. Sniping fire became more deadly as the day went on.

About 1500 the Artillery were directed on the ridge to our left rear (vide sketch 3) with marked affect. About 1630 Lieutenant Dixon assisted by rifle grenades, and also by artillery fire, moved against the Turkish positions to his left and left rear and with fixed bayonets cleared the ridge.

The Battalion held to the ground during the night of the 7/8th and next morning it was discovered that the Turks had withdrawn leaving us masters of the position.

 

Photograph 5, 3rd Battalion ICC Account, detailing dispositions.

[Click on picture for larger version.]

 

 

Sources:

See: 3rd ANZAC Battalion, Imperial Camel Corps War Diary, November 1917, AWM4, Sub-class 11/8
Australian Light Horse Studies Centre, AIF War Diaries of the Great War, Site Transcription Policy

 

 

Further Reading:

The Imperial Camel Corps Brigade

The Battle of Khuweilfe, Palestine, 1 - 8 November 1917

The Battle of Khuweilfe, Palestine, 1 - 8 November 1917, Roll of Honour

The Third Battle of Gaza, Palestine, 26 October 1917 - 2 January 1918

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920

 


Citation: The Battle of Khuweilfe, Palestine, 1 - 8 November 1917, 3rd Battalion ICC Account

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
Updated: Tuesday, 9 November 2010 9:08 AM EAST

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