Topic: BatzJ - Abu Tellul
Jordan Valley 1918
The Battle of Abu Tellul, Palestine, 14 July 1918
Map highlighting the troop movements during The Battle of Abu Tellul, Palestine, 14 July 1918
[Click on map for enlarged version.]
Abu Tellul, a prominent hill on the west bank of the Jordan River in Palestine, was the scene of a strong attack upon Australian outposts on the night of 14 JuIy 1918. The height, and another called Musallabeh immediately north of it, formed a crucial bastion at the junction of the British defensive line running both west and south from here along the Jordan Valley Covering this important ground was a line of posts which were either dug or built up with stone sangars, and protected by curtains of barbed wire; these were situated 400-1,000 metres apart, and often separated by ravines. An attack was fully anticipated, and it was also recognised that when such an attempt was made the position might for a time be surrounded and isolated. The Australian light horsemen who held it - men of the 1st Brigade commanded by Brig. General Charles Cox - were, however, confident of their ability to hold out in such circumstances.
When the attack came at about 3.30 a.m., following a heavy artillery barrage, it was spearheaded by two battalions of the German Asia Corps (about 1,000 men) ahead of three Turkish regiments. Although one of the posts quickly became untenable and was abandoned under heavy pressure, elsewhere the Australians held firm and when ground was lost - as at Musallabeh for a time-made spirited counter-attacks. Sunrise revealed all the posts now isolated and under repeated assault by waves of enemy infantry, but with the defenders unwavering in their resistance. The position became critical once the Germans, having penetrated the outpost line, began climbing Abu Tellul's slopes. In savage fighting, which took place in temperatures already exceeding 38°C in the shade at 7 a.m., they succeeded in overwhelming one group of defenders, and reduced another to just three unwounded men.
The barren heights of Abu Tellul in the Jordan Valley.
At this juncture, however, Cox's reserve regiment counter-attacked with the bayonet, catching the Germans off balance and chasing them down into the valley between the two main ridge lines. Here the retreating enemy were caught in crossfire from the outposts they had bypassed and were effectively trapped. A similar bayonet charge at about 8 a.m. on a feature between the two heights met with equal success, and by 9 a.m. the enemy had been pushed back out beyond the outpost line and the situation restored.
The attack cost the enemy at least 105 dead and 45 wounded (these being found within the Australian-held ground), and as well 425 prisoners were taken; 358 of the latter were Germans. This was, in fact, the only time in which the Asia Corps was known to have carried the primary role in an attack, or - as the Official History puts it – the German infantry was used as 'stormtroops' in Palestine. As well, 41 machine-guns were taken from the enemy as a result of the action. Australian losses amounted to 31 killed and 46 wounded.
Germans captured at Abu Tellul marched through the Jordan Valley.
Extracted from the book produced by Chris Coulthard-Clark, Where Australians Fought - The Encyclopaedia of Australia's Battles, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1998, pp. 149-150.
Additional References cited by Chris Coulthard-Clark:
H.S. Gullett (1944) The Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine, Sydney: Angus & Robertson.
Citation: Jordan Valley 1918, The Battle of Abu Tellul, Palestine, 14 July 1918, Outline