"At a mile distant their thousand hooves were stuttering thunder, coming at a rate that frightened a man - they were an awe inspiring sight, galloping through the red haze - knee to knee and horse to horse - the dying sun glinting on bayonet points..." Trooper Ion Idriess
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Saturday, 27 March 2010
The First Battle of Amman, Palestine, 27 to 30 March 1918, Outline Topic: BatzJ - 1st Amman
The First Battle of Amman
Palestine, 27 to 30 March 1918
Pontoon bridges were the primary means of crossing the Jordan. This bridge at Hajleh was built in March 1918 specifically to facilitate troop movement for the oncoming raid to Amman.
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.
The First Amman field of operations.
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.
Retribution was swift and cruel by the Ottomans. Public hangings in Nablus of suspected collaborators from Es Salt.
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.
Tired Light Horsemen returning from the Amman Raid, April 1918.
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.
The Battle of Hébuterne, France, 27 March to 5 April 1918, Outline Topic: BatzWF - Westn Front
The Battle of Hébuterne
France, 27 March to 5 April 1918
Hébuterne village in August 1918.
Hébuterne, lying toughly midway between Arran and Amiens in northern France, was the scene, of several sharp actions fought between 27 March and 5 April 1918, This was the first of many battles involving Australians during the great German offensive launched on 21 March against the thinly spread British Fifth and Third armies in this region. Since November 1917 the five Australian divisions had been holding the relatively quiet Messines sector in Flanders, and at this time they were formed into an Australian Corps under command of General Sir William Birdwood. In response to the grave news of enemy breakthroughs which had forced the front-line back onto the old battlefields of the Somme, however, by 25 March the 3rd and 4th Australian divisions were dispatched south towards Amiens. Here they were committed piecemeal to plugging gaps in the disintegrating British line and helping to stem the German tide.
Map detailing the area of operations around Hébuterne.
At dusk on 26 March the 4th Brigade (Brig.-General Charles Brand), the leading element of the 4th Division, was sent into the ruined village of Hébuterne to relieve exhausted remnants of the British 19th Division. The first German attack came at noon the next day from the south-west, aimed at passing between the positions occupied by the Australians and the New Zealand Division posted further south. This was beaten back, as were several half-hearted attempts the following day. While the Australians were able to hold their ground with relative ease, the security of their position was threatened by German efforts to drive in the flank of the British 62nd Division north of them and thereby open a gap. The task of the defenders was, however, partly assisted by rain which began falling from about 4 p.m. on the 28th and served to seriously impede the enemy's movements.
Older wire entanglements laid by Germans in previous years form the defensive barrier to the AIF 4th Brigade trenches, 27 March 1918.
In fighting over the next few days, the position around the village was progressively stabilised. On 5 April the Australians took part in an early morning attack aimed at clearing the enemy from a wood on its left (northern) flank, and several hours later repelled a heavy German attack aimed at both themselves and the New Zealanders on their right. The ability of the tired and fully extended German advance-guard to brush aside the defensive line hastily thrown up here, and continue to push on, had clearly been reduced. The 4th Brigade stayed for nearly a month, remaining separated from the rest of its parent division and passing under command of the British 37th Division.
Former foes become the final occupants of Nameless Trench, Hébuterne.
[Left to right: Second Lieutenant V. E. Hall, KIA, 30 March 1918; 7332 Private Edward Cuthbert Ernest Williams, KIA, 30 May 1918; 7455 Private Donald Alexander Teasdale, KIA, 30 March 1918. Beside them were English graves, eight Londoners 1 July 1916 and W.Yorks 2 March 1917, and those of unknown German soldiers, of a much earlier date, are also scattered in this area. Lest we forget.]
Extracted from the book produced by Chris Coulthard-Clark, Where Australians Fought - The Encyclopaedia of Australia's Battles, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1998, pp. 137-138.
Additional References cited by Chris Coulthard-Clark:
C.E.W. Bean (1937) The Australian Imperial Force in France during the Main German Offensive, 1918, Sydney: Angus & Robertson.
The Battle of Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, 25 April 1915, Lt-Col. Sefik Aker Account - Part 1 Topic: Tk - Bks - 27th IR
The Battle of Anzac Cove
Gallipoli, 25 April 1915
Lt-Col. Sefik Aker Account - Part 1
Map 2 Accompanying the Text
[Click on map for larger version]
In 1935, Lieutenant Colonel Sefik Aker, erstwhile commander of the 27th Infantry Regiment, produced a small book called: Canakkale - Ariburnu savaslari ve 27 alay (The Dardanelles - The Ariburnu Battles and the 27th Regiment). This book was an account of his regiment which was the first to confront the Australians as they landed at Anzac Cove. This is a very moving account from the other side of the trench. The book was published in Ankara in 1935. There is no official translation of the book into English. This translation is from the Rayfield Papers.
Lieut Col Sefik Aker, Canakkale - Ariburnu savaslari ve 27 alay, (Ankara), 1935, pp. 20 - 28:
The Turkish Force which Engaged the British Landing Forces
34. The measures which the Battalion concerned took in order to watch and protect their long coast are shown on Map No. 2. According to this plan, Ariburnu and a post of the Anafartalar coast extending for 4 kilometres from the mouth of the Azmakdere in the north as far as Cakaldere to the west of the Kanlisirt, was allocated to No. 4 Company. The coast from Cakaldere as far as the mouth of the Azmakdere, due south of the Kabatepe headland, was allocated to No. 3 Company. One platoon from this Company was stationed at Keltepe south west of the Kanli range. The coast bordering the Palamutlu range, stretching south as far as Camtepe was allocated to No. 2 Company. No. 1 Company was placed as a reserve behind the ridges to the east of the Kabatepe headland. Detachments from two reserve Companies, each comprising half a platoon (i.e., two sections) were posted on the Hain north of Kabatepe and on the Azmakdere to the south. The Battalion Commanding Officer, Major Ismet, stayed with the reserve Company. This point was connected by telephone to an exchange in Divisional Headquarters at Maidos.
Let us turn to No. 4 Company which had the good fortune to defend the Ariburnu area, of Reservist Second Lieutenant Ibradili Ibrahim Hayrettin, of the Fisherman's Hut (Balikci Damlaci). Since this platoon was to be entrusted with the defence of the coast from the north of the Azmakdere to the north as far as North Ariburnu, two observation sections were detached, one to the north and the other to the south. The coast was given the name "Agildere Area".
No. 2 Platoon, under the command of Second Lieutenant Muharrem, was in the trenches at Haintepe (Plugge's Plateau) adjoining North Ariburnu. this platoon was entrusted with the defence of the piece of coast between north and south Aribunu which the British named Anzac, together with the two sides of these headlands as far as Caraldere to the south. Observation forces, each consisting of one section from this platoon were detached to North Ariburnu, South Ariburnu and to the adjoining high ground.
No. 3 Platoon, under the command of Gallipoli Sergeant Major Suleyman, was stationed at Boyun and formed the Company's reserve. One section from this Platoon was detached to Cakaldere.
The Company Commanding Officer, Captain Faik, was with the reserve platoon at Boyun. This point was linked by telephone to Battalion Headquarters at Kabatepe.
35. The Companies were made up of three platoons, the platoons each had nine sections and these were nine riflemen in each section. Thus the strength of a Company was 250 men. At that time there was only one Machine Gun Company having four machine guns, in each regiment. Thus in a Battalion there were neither light nor heavy machine guns.
How did the Turkish Detachments engage the enemy landing forces?
36. Operations of the 3rd Platoon which was in reserve and with which the Company Commanding Officer was stationed and the statement of Captain Faik:
We have learned from the British themselves how they came ashore. Now let us hear from Captain Faik of No. 4 Company, which occupied the landing are, how the Turkish detachments engaged them.
"At about 0200 hours that night the moon was still shining. The patrols on duty from my reserve platoon were Idris from Biga and Cemil from Gallipoli. They reported having sighted many enemy ships in the open sea. O got up and looked through the binoculars. I saw, straight in front of us, but rather a long way off, a large number of ships the size of which could not be distinguished. It was not clear whether or north they were moving.
I reported immediately to the Battalion Commanding Officer, Major Ismet, first by telephone and then by a written report. He said to me 'There is no cause for alarm. At worst, the landing will be at Kabatepe' and told me to continue watching these ships. I went to a new observation point and kept watch. This time I saw them as a great mass, which, I decided, seemed to be moving straight towards us. In the customary manner, I went to the telephone to inform Divisional Headquarters. That was about 0230 hours.
I got through to Second Lieutenant Nuri at Divisional Headquarters and told him about it.
He replied, 'Hold the line. I will inform the Chief of Staff.' He came back a little later and said, 'Of these ships, how many are transports and how many warships?' I replied, 'It is impossible to distinguish them in the dark but the quantity of ships is very large.' With that our conversation closed. A little while later the moon sank below the horizon and the ships became invisible in the dark. The reserve Platoon was alerted and ordered to stand by. I watched and waited. In a little while the sound of gun fire broke out. I saw in front of north Ariburnu a machine gun firing from a small boat which I thought was probably a torpedo boat and some of the shots were passing over us. I immediately ordered the platoon to take action to occupy the trenches on the high ridge which dominates north Ariburnu. I sent only two sections under the command of Sergeant Ahmed, to the trenches on the central hill overlooking the beach. At the same time I wrote a report to the Battalion Commanding Officer stating that the enemy was about to begin landing at Ariburnu and that I was going with the reserve platoon to a position on the far side. I ordered the withdrawal by telephone and set off immediately with the platoon. On the way, we came under fire from the ships. We arrived at Yuksek Sirt and occupied the trenches opposite the northern beach of Ariburnu. I ordered firing to opened from 1300 metres. The two Battalions in the Haintepe trenches a little way in front of us had been drawn into the fighting from the start. Torpedo boats towed the enemy craft which they had been towing. The torpedo boats then withdrew, firing continuously. The craft at which we were firing remained from the shore because the coastal waters were shallow. Some of the enemy troops were hit and stayed in the craft. Those who were not hit jumped into the sea and only five or ten men escaped by getting into our dead area. A little while later news was received that the enemy was coming up from Korkudere [Shrapnel Valley] in our rear. I sent two bombardiers under Sergeant Lapsekili Muharrem. They threw grenades from one of the trenches overlooking the valley. At that moment we came under fire from the enemy who was climbing up to the ridge where we were from a slope 100 metres to our left. We began to escape him on this side. In this fighting, the Platoon Officer Commanding Gallipoli Sergeant Suleyman was wounded. Some of our private soldiers were also hit. I too received a severe wound in the groin and was reduced to a state where I could no longer command the platoon. I handed over command to Sergeant Lapsekili Muharrem and withdrew. Dawn had not yet broken. The platoon continued to fight for some further time and after Sergeant Muharrem had also been hit, the few privates who remained, realising that their retreat was being cut off, joined up with No. 1 Platoon at the Fisherman's Hut (Balikei Damlari) from between the steep slopes. When I reached the village of Kocadere I heard sounds such as "Halt, Mehmed!" being shouted at us from Kanlisirt. We realised this was the British and they had occupied the Kanlisirt (Lone Pine).
37. The operation of No. 2 Platoon at Haintepe (Ani Burnu)
Whilst Captain Faik was being treated at Biga hospital, he says he heard the following account from Second Lieutenant Muharrem, Officer Commanding No. 2 Platoon which occupied the Haintepe trenches to the rear of and immediately adjoining Ariburnu.
"He stated that on first sighting the enemy ships a long way off, they occupied the trenches and awaited the enemy. On seeing the craft approaching they opened fire and the enemy replied with fire from the sea. In this battle, the Platoon Officer Commanding Second Lieutenant Muharrem was wounded in both shoulders from shots fired from the sea and as he was withdrawing on account of his injury he was wounded again, this time in the arm making three wounds in all."
The Company Commander Captain Faik learnt from enquiries he made on rejoining the Regiment that this platoon had encountered firing both from sea and land and that only three or four men had escaped.
In addition to the above statement which Second Lieutenant Muharrem made to Captain Faik the Commanding Officer of No. 3 Company, Lieutenant Asim, which was at Kabatepe also made the following observations.
"We saw in the distance the enemy ships and some lights. We kept a close watch on them and got ready. Only when the craft were quite close to Ariburnu did our troops there open fire on them. There was reciprocal fire with machine guns from the landing craft as we opened up with the Mantelli Gun."
38. According to these statements:-
a. Although it is certain that the platoon at Ariburnu was not taken by surprise, it is clear that the platoon did not open fire until the landing craft were about to put the troops ashore. Only when the craft drew near did they open fire. This was a mistake. If this platoon at Ariburnu had engaged the landing craft with fire at a distance of 100 metres there is no doubt that getting the Australians ashore would have been a very costly operation. But the firing that was opened from afar off on the close landing craft that first approached came from not more than 60 rifles at Haintepe (Ariburnu) and it is most unlikely that of this fire power, dispersed among the twelve landing craft in the darkness, could have been effective in preventing all these boats from approaching land. It is clear that the cause of the Australian forces getting ashore with so few losses were withholding fire until the craft got near to the beach, the fact that the motor boats towing the craft fired back with machine guns and the dispersal of the fire power weakly among the twelve craft.
b. It is clear that the craft laden with troops, after unloading, were not towed back but were left on their own. It may be that the craft that the craft that tried to approach to the north of Ariburnu were abandoned because they came under fire both the Fisherman's Hut (Balikci Damlari) and from the 3rd Reserve Platoon on Yuksek Sirt.
c. It is also clear that the troops in the craft which tried to approach north of Ariburnu suffered very heavy losses and so the British refrained from making landings on that side.
d. It is clear that the incident in which the British were quoted as saying "When No.'s 11 and 12 Companies who had landed to the left climbed a steep slope they encountered a Turkish position and suffered heavy losses ... etc" this was the incident in which Captain Faik was wounded.
e. Before the battle in which the landing and defence forces came face to face, No. 2 Platoon at Haintepe and later No. 3 Platoon which was in reserve had already entered the struggle. The losses of both these platoons showed a splendid example of self sacrifice to the point of annihilation.
39. No. 1 Platoon at the Fisherman's Huts (Balikci Damlari)
The strength of the platoon was 60 to 70 men. When, by the light of the moon, they saw the enemy approaching, they occupied the trenches and waited. After the moon had set they saw the landing craft carrying the first landing forces coming straight towards them. They waited for them to approach before opening fire but the craft veered off in the direction of Ariburnu. They saw that as they approached Ariburnu both sides began firing in the dark and they, too, began firing despite the darkness. When dawn began to break, as stated in the British documents and quoted verbatim in paragraphs 2 and 6, they kept under fire with accurate shooting, the landing forces who tried to approach north of Ariburnu and later the forces who were trying to come straight towards them. As they drew near they continued to fire at a number of enemy troops who were desperately trying to get ashore and compelled them to flee under cover in the direction of Ariburnu. [Although the British account states that their troops who were able to get ashore occupied the Turkish trenches without difficulty (see paragraph 6), in fact they did no such thing. Perhaps British troops may have taken cover in one of the many trenches which had previously been prepared there and the above statement may have been based on this.] Where upon they inflicted further losses upon them. [The British account states that out of 140 men, in six rowing boats, who tried to land against this platoon, only 18 were able to escape.]
They saw that the enemy was no longer putting his plan into effect but they [the Turks] had run out of ammunition. Realising that the enemy had occupied Yukseksirt (Russell's Top) and that they intended to advance to Kocacimen, they handed over the duties of vigilance and area security to pickets at the mouth of the Azmakdere and proceeded towards Duztepe following the Sazlidere track. The object of the platoon Officer Commanding was to bar the way to the enemy at this point and using every single round of ammunition which he had left he made his presence known to the enemy and kept a close watch. At the same time he saw that a battle was raging in the South [the attack of the 27th Regiment]. He sent two patrols to ask for ammunition and to enquire about the situation. When they returned a little later, without ammunition, they were accompanied by General Officer Commanding 19th Division (Attaturk) and his personal staff followed by the Advance Guard of the 57th Regiment. They joined up with that Regiment.
This platoon carried out its duties with success. They prevented the enemy from approaching their area of fire. It is confirmed from British sources, quoted in paragraphs 2 and 6, that those who tried to approach suffered heavy losses.
This platoon, which represented the losses of its Company which no longer existed, took part, under the command of the 57th Regiment in the battle of 25 April 1915. The platoon carried out its duties in this battle and suffered losses and Ibrahim Hayreddin amongst others, was wounded and sent to hospital.
40. Thus No. 4 Company, 2nd Battalion, 27th Regiment, which was made the nation's doorkeeper against the enemy at Ariburnu, sacrificed itself fully in the execution of its duties. In spite of this both the Company Commanding Officer and the Officers Commanding all Platoons involved in this sacrifice returned to their regiments after recovering from the severe wounds they received, took over the duties of commanding distinguished companies which had been re-formed and took part in the subsequent fighting.
41. Operations of the Platoon commanded by Second Lieutenant Ismail Hakki of No. 3 company which was positioned at Keltepe to the south west of Kanlisirt.
This platoon, as soon as they saw the approach of the landing craft occupied the trenches overlooking the beach. They opened horizontal fire in a southerly direction (Ariburnu), halted, with rifle fire, the enemy troops who were trying to advance straight towards them and forced them to Buyukdere (Korkudere - Shrapnel Gully). They tried to get news from the Company at Ariburnu. They knew that the enemy was advancing. At that time they were kept under fire from the right and from the rear. They suffered one dead and two wounded but they fought back and in order to prevent their retreat being cut off they held the more dominating ridge to the rear, and from there held the enemy advance with rifle fire. After the start of 27th Regiment's offensive this Platoon established communication with the Regiment and secured the Regiment's left flank south of Kanlisirt (Lone Pine).
In paragraph 4 it was stated, quoting British documents,
"Two companies of Australians who had occupied Kanlisirt moved on and were sent for mopping up operations in the direction of Kabatepe, These two companies encountered fire from a Turkish detachment and the Commanding Officers of both Companies as well as several officers, were wounded. Since the Companies became very dispersed they could not reach Kabatepe."
The platoon confirmed this incident.
42. Let us now turn to the operations, and its consequences, of the quick firing mountain battery positioned on Kanlisirt opposite Kabatepe and shown on the maps.
It was mentioned in Captain Faik's battle report that this battery went to Kocacimen and the Battery Commander, Captain Sadik, was asked by the Commanding Officer of No.4 Company to open fire on the enemy landing forces. The fact that the Battery Commander did not accept this proposal may have been due to their desire to engage a landing force that was expected on the Kabatepe beaches which was their basic area. This battery was under the command of Battalion Headquarters. The Battalion Commanding Officer had stated that, in case of necessity, the Battery could open fire only when he gave the order by telephone to Captain Faik. There is documentary evidence to prove this. But since the Battery Commander had not received orders directly from the Battalion Commanding Officer, he was in a position of doubt and stuck to his prescribed duties in the Kabatepe direction failing to take on his own initiative, the action which the occasion demanded. Finally he learnt that the enemy was getting close and although he tried to hide the guns, three of these famous guns, whose horses had been struck down, fell into the enemy's hands as a result of a surprise attack. One other gun and the battery's spare parts were saved. This single gun was attached to 27th Regiment which had come on the scene. The British statement about how they captured these three guns was quoted in paragraph 3. But the British account made no reference to how these guns were re-captured by 27th Regiment in their offensive the same day.
43. The operations of the Battalion Commanding Officer at Kabatepe and the firing of a single Mantelli gun and a Nordanfeld.
The Battalion Commanding Officer Major Ismet, mentions that he received news, by telephone, of the first landing from Officer Commanding No. 4 Company at Ariburnu in the following terms: "A number of enemy troops have landed at Ariburnu." He replied [to Captain Faik] with orders to launch an immediate attack on the enemy and that if necessary the quick firing mountain battery should also be used. [There is a discrepancy here with the statement of Captain Faik reported in paragraph 36 above.] The Battalion Commanding Officer said that he immediately passed this information on, in the same form, to Divisional Headquarters at Maydos and gave instructions for the Mantelli gun at the Kabatepe headland to open fire.
It was after 0500 hours when the Battalion Commanding Officer learnt that the landing was on a considerable scale and he reported to Divisional Headquarters at 0520 hours in the following terms, "Although Captain Faik has stated that a number of enemy troops have landed, it is clear that the enemy operations are on a considerable scale. Reinforcements are urgently needed.
44. Because the Battalion Commanding Officer Major Ismet, had received no news about how No. 4 company was fairing at Ariburnu, at about 0600 hours he sent a reserve platoon from No. 1 Company under the command of Second Lieutenant Mustufa to the rear of Ariburnu. This platoon went to the ridges to the west of the village of Kocadere, learnt about the situation from Captain Faik who had been wounded and then pressed on to Artillery Ranger further forward. They made plans to halt the enemy advance north of Kemalyeri. They came under the command of 3rd Battalion 27th Regiment which arrived there a little later and took part in the counter-attack.
45. The Mantelli gun at Kabatepe although slow firing, caused trouble to the enemy landing forces and inflicted heavy losses on them. Other slow firing Howitzers behind Palamutlusirt were also effective in keeping the transport ships away from the shore and thus delaying the landing. The Mantelli gun alone fired 114 shrapnel and 37 shells. A ship which infiltrated between Ariburnu and Kabatepe was able to silence this gun. In the British account, quoted in paragraphs 2 and 6, it is seen that the effect of the fire power of this Mantelli gun is mentioned with respect.
The first phase of the Ariburnu landing battle was completed. Documents of both sides show that this phase involved the following:
It shows that the burden of stopping the landing of the first 4,000 men fell on not more than 160 men comprising only the 1st and 2nd Platoon of No. 4 Company. Although the 1st Platoon of this Company, from the Fisherman's Hut (Balikci Damlari) and a platoon of No. 4 Company, also did their duty by joining the battle on the south western slopes of the Kanlisirt, their positions were comparatively remote from the pint where the basic struggle was raging. But the 2nd and 3rd Platoons fought with the aggressors from headland to headland under fire from sea and land until they were annihilated. Their conduct, which was worthy of the highest praise, consisted in having fought to the bitter end, proving that there was no reserve force in the neighbourhood which could come to their aid. Thus did they strive to do their duty. This being so, it would be a grave injustice to seek among our handful of defenders the causes for the enemy's having succeeded in landing at Ariburnu. On the contrary, we read in the newspapers that in En gland the Anzac landing was considered a success and at every anniversary it is commemorated with a ceremony. Does not this mean that even the attackers value highly and pay tribute to the resistance of this company of ours in this operation? In that case, the duty of bowing in veneration before all the dead and wounded of our Company falls on us. This zealous defence on the part of this Company in all probability confused the aggressors so that they hesitated to advance quickly to carry out their main task which was to capture, before sunrise, the high line of Artillery Range which stretched down from Conkbayiri to Kagatepe. It was as a result of this that our reserve forces, coming up from far in the rear, held off the aggressors from this important and dominating line.
First Gaza, Palestine, March 26 to 27, 1917 Topic: BatzP - 1st Gaza
The First Battle of Gaza
Palestine, 26 to 27 March 1917
Ali el Muntar from Mansura Ridge.
First Gaza, fought on 26-27 March. 1917, was the first British attempt to capture the major Turkish centre lying 32 kilometres inside the border of Palestine having captured Rafa (q.v.) at the start of the year and subsequently cleared out the remaining garrisons of Turks within Sinai, the British were now ready to strike deep into the enemy's own territory. Available for this operation were three British infantry divisions, two mounted divisions and a Camel brigade - a total of about 22,000 men. Each of the mounted divisions contained two Australian light horse brigades, comprising half their strength; the Anzac Mounted Division was under the command of Major-General Larry Chauvel, the Imperial Mounted Division under a British officer, Major-General Henry Hodgson.
Map detailing the stages of the First Battle of Gaza.
In the pre-dawn hours of 26 March, Chauvel's division led off the march from the attacking force's advanced base around Deir el Belah, some sixteen kilometres southwest of Gaza. Its route took it ten kilometres east of the town, then west towards the Mediterranean, so that the Anzac Mounted was effectively astride the enemy's rear and able to join in the assault From both north and east. Hodgson's division, with the Camel Brigade and a New Zealand armoured car patrol also moved out onto the eastern flank, to prevent any attempt at reinforcement of the enemy garrison (thought to number about 4,000) from that quarter. With Gaza thus cut off, the 53rd Infantry Division - supported by the 54th Division - moved up on the town's southern approaches to complete its encirclement.
Delays experienced by the infantry due to unseasonal fog meant that it was nearly noon before the attack began, and nearly sunset before the heights of Ali Muntar which commanded the town from the southeast were in British hands. Meanwhile the men of Chauvel's division had captured other high ground to the north and were pressing on the town's outskirts. Even though the enemy's resistance was clearly crumbling, the failure to have achieved a decisive success before nightfall prompted the British high command to call off the assault, as had happened at Magdhaba (q.v.) and Rafa, for fear of the mounted troops being left without water. With the discovery that the Gaza garrison was larger than believed, and several large columns of Turkish reinforcements - one reported as 3,000 strong-sighted approaching from the north-east, east and south-east, the order for Chauvel and Hodgson's divisions to withdraw was given at about 6 p.m.
The Light Horse on the march to attack Gaza.
Although some of the mounted troops had already penetrated into the town's northern and eastern streets, this time there was no question of defying the recall order. Chauvel himself protested, but for his men there was nothing to do but shoulder their dismay and disgust at being Forced to surrender a victory which they considered had already been won. After collecting their wounded and some of their dead, they come away in the darkness without any hostile follow-up by the enemy, bringing with them over 460 prisoners and two captured guns. Even the reinforcements which had earlier seemed so threatening on the flanks were held off with ease.
The British infantry maintained their positions on Gaza's southern outskirts for the night, but vacated the Ali Muntar heights. Ordered to re-occupy (his position the next morning, the infantry initially found it unoccupied by the enemy but were unable to properly secure it before the Turks forced them off again. They, too, were withdrawn by dawn on 28 March, finally confirming the failure of the coup de main against Gaza essentially due to a command fiasco. The attempt had cost the British nearly 4,000 casualties, 3,000 of these in the infantry; the Turks had lost perhaps 2,500.
British casualties from the First Battle of Gaza passing through the 1st/3rd East Anglian Field Ambulance.
Extracted from the book produced by Chris Coulthard-Clark, Where Australians Fought - The Encyclopaedia of Australia's Battles, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1998, pp. 124-125.
Additional References cited by Chris Coulthard-Clark:
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.
The Battle of Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, 25 April 1915, The Landing Topic: BatzG - Anzac
The Battle of Anzac Cove
Gallipoli, 25 April 1915
Convoy Layout on arrival at Gallipoli, 25 April 1915
[From Bean, p. 246.]
[From Bean, p. 251.]
The above illustrations were extracted from Bean, C.E.W., The Story of Anzac from the outbreak of war to the end of the first phase of the Gallipoli Campaign, May 4, 1915, Sydney: Angus & Robinson, 1941.
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