Topic: AIF - Cars
1st AUSTRALIAN ARMOURED CAR SECTION, AIF
THE BATTLE OF MEGIDDO
This is a transcription from a manuscript submitted by Captain E.H. James called "The Motor Patrol". It is lodged in the AWM as AWM 224 MSS 209. This is Part 1.
THE BATTLE OF MEGIDDO - Part 1.
It was the morning of the 19th September, 1918. Our orders were to stand to at 3.30 a.m. and have everything ready to move off at a moments notice. We were attached to the 11th Cavalry Division for these operations and we were to protect and convoy the whole of the divisional motor oars and transport. Our starting point was to be one mile east of El Jeliel. The bombardment on the enemy's front line began at 4.30 a.m. and it was the best thing in the way of a bombardment that any of us and ever seen.
Every gun, howitzer and mortar in existence seemed to be going off at once and all the batteries from the 13 pounders up to the big sixtys seemed to be working overtime. For about an hour or so the air appeared to be filled with fire and shrieking shells, after that there was a lull and in a little while the sound of cheering could be heard in the distance as the infantry did their part of the job and cleared a gap through the trenches.
At 8 o'clock the road was clear mid we got the word to go. Every horse in the division went forward at the trot with the motors alongside them. The barbed wire entanglements were trampled down by hundreds of hoofs and wheels, the trenches filled in and crossed; and away went the whole division complete into the North via Tabsor never slowing down once until after midday when a brief stop for half an hour for lunch and a spell for the horses was made.
Then on again till 6 p.m. when Kakon was reached where another brief stop for tea was made. The division then pushed on with all speed throughout the night as it was very important to get through the Mus Mus pass before the enemy had time to collect reinforcements and hold us up there. This we were able to do and the dawn breaking found us through the hills with the plains of Esdraelon at our feet.
At 7 a.m., 20th Sept. we entered Leggun, where the division rested for a couple of hours. The night travelling had been more trying for the motor drivers than for the horsemen. The only light we had was what we got from the moon and it was impossible to see the ground owing to the clouds of dust from the horses hoofs. The motor drivers had to just drive blindly on and trust to luck which generally was with us. Both our motor cyclists came to grief early the first evening and smashed their machines on rough ground and they had to drop out of the chase. Shortly afterwards one of our gun cars crashed on to a huge boulder in the dark which went through the sump of the engine making a complete stop. We hastily transferred the gun and ammunition off this car on to one of our transport vehicles and left our corporal mechanic with the driver and his assistant to make the best repair possible while we pushed on with the division. The cyclists and this car overtook us a day or two later, so they must have made good use of their time in repairing their machines which were all working again. After a couple of hours at Leggun we pushed on towards El Afule an important Railway town and Junction, also signal station and German Aerodrome. Here we met our first serious opposition.
The enemy had hastily rushed some troops forward with machine guns but they had not received enough notice of our coming to entrench properly.
The division halted momentarily while the 11th Light Armoured Motor battery was rushed forward. This battery was equipped with Rolls Royce Armour plated cars and Light Vickers Machine Guns. The battery drove down the main road and simply mowed down all the machine gun sections sent up to oppose the advance. A detachment of Indian Lancers then went forward at the gallop to mop up what was left. That ended the opposition and the enemy machine guns were all abandoned in the fields. Shortly afterwards we drove into Afule where everything was in a state of chaos.
Much war material was captured including a number of German motor lorries which we put out of action by dismantling the magnetos etc. We promptly pushed forward to the Aerodrome as petrol was a very important item for us. Our tanks were getting low and we did not wish to wait for the supply train which was following. Fortunately we managed to get enough to fill all the tanks of the Patrol and Armoured Cars.
While we were engaged on this a German aeroplane unsuspectingly landed in the aerodrome and the pilot was promptly made a prisoner to his surprise and anger. Shortly afterwards another plane was seen to be landing but just as he reached the ground something aroused his suspicions and he rose again. One of our Armoured Cars promptly opened fire on him then and the pilot was killed. The observer was wounded in the head and taken prisoner. He told us afterwards that it was the felt hats of the Australians in the Aerodrome that made them suspicious that something was wrong.
As soon as we had got enough petrol, oil and water for our cars, we had a hurried lunch at the German Officers mess where the late occupants had very obligingly set the table for us before they left for other parts. After lunch a couple of us wandered down the road for a few hundred yards to stretch our legs when we noticed a number of motor lorries coming along and we remarked that our supply column must have made wonderfully good time in following up so soon. Just then the vehicles drew up alongside us when we found that they were filled with armed Germans who immediately jumped out of their vehicles and held up their hands as a token of surrender. We did not know what to do with such a large number of prisoners so we jumped up into the leading vehicle and directed the driver to drive into the town where we had plenty of men to disarm them.
We signalled the remaining vehicles to follow which they did. On arriving in the town we handed over the convoy to the APM who was responsible for collecting the prisoners of war. I don't suppose any haul of prisoners was so easily made before. The prisoners seemed to be quite contented with their lot and were apparently not looking for any fight.
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Further Reading:The Australian Light Horse - Structure
Citation: 1st Australian Armoured Car Section - Megiddo - Part 1