Topic: Diary - Schramm
Diaries of AIF Servicemen
19 September 1918
2823 Private Herbert Leslie SCHRAMM, a 22 year old Farmer from Whites River, South Australia. He enlisted on 17 February 1916; and at the conclusion of the war Returned to Australia, 10 July 1919.
During part of the course of his military service with the AIF, Bert Schramm kept a diary of his life. Bert was not a man of letters so this diary was produced with great effort on his behalf. Bert made a promise to his sweetheart, Lucy Solley, that he would do so after he received the blank pocket notebook wherein these entries are found. As a Brigade Scout since September 1918, he took a lead part in the September Offensive by the Allied forces in Palestine. Bert's diary entries are placed alongside those of the 9th Light Horse Regiment to which he belonged and to the 3rd Light Horse Brigade to which the 9th LHR was attached. On this basis we can follow Bert in the context of his formation.
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Bert Schramm's Handwritten Diary, 18 - 22 September 1918
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Thursday, September 19, 1918
Bert Schramm's Location - J31
Bert Schramm's Diary - Terrific bombardment started at 4.30 this morning and the infantry gained all their objectives. All the mounted troops moved forward and are keeping them moving. We have been travelling all day and will probably travel all night. Fair numbers of prisoners and guns have been taken.
9th Light Horse Regiment War Diary
9th Light Horse Regiment Location - J31
9th Light Horse Regiment War Diary - At about 0430 a short but terrific bombardment commenced in the Coastal sector. The regiment reveilled at 0500, fed the horses, breakfasted and remained off-saddled until 0935 when orders were received to move in half an hour.
Information was received that our infantry had been successful in breaking through the enemy lines. At 0905 the Regiment together with remainder of Brigade moved north through Sarona travelling at the rate of five miles an hour until El Jelil was reached at 1100 when the Brigade watered and on completion moved towards Tabsor. About one mile south of our wire 1/2 hours halt was made to feed up. The Brigade passed through the enemy wire in vicinity of Tabsor at 1400 and continued north along sand hills. Ten minutes halt in every hour was observed and no wheeled transport accompanied the Regiment. 4th Cavalry Division and 5th Cavalry Division preceded the 3rd Light Horse Brigade up the coast. Few traces of the mornings fight were observed. Two or three small parties of prisoners and a few abandoned guns were noticed. Nothing was seen of our infantry who after smashing through the enemy lines in accordance with prearranged plans, had swung to the right facing in an easterly direction leaving the gap made open for the three Cavalry Divisions to pass through and advance north along the coastal sand hills.
The Brigade passed El Mughair at 1600 and had crossed Nahr Iskanderune near Esh Sheikh Muhammed by 1900 where horses were watered, fed and off-saddled.
3rd Light Horse Brigade War Diary
At 0900 on 19th September the Brigade left the bivouac and marched six miles per hour to El Jelil crossing the Auja River at Yellow House Bridge. Horses were watered at El Jelil and the Brigade moved two miles east to a position of readiness to await orders to cross the enemy trench system northwards. At noon a Despatch Rider on his way from Corps to Division was intercepted. He was carrying orders tor an immediate move forward for the Division, so in anticipation of instructions the Brigade moved off following the route taken by the 4th Cavalry Division passing the battlefield where Richard the 1st of England signally defeated Saladin in 1192.
This route led through Tabsor - Khirbit Ez Zerkie - El Mughair - to Esh Sheikh Muhammed on the Iskanderune River where the Brigade arrived at 1930 and watered. Advice was received from Divisional Headquarters that the Brigade would probably move on for El Lejjun at 0100. The 19th Brigade Royal Horse Artillery had so far been detached.
9th LHR AIF War Diary, 19 September
Darley, TH, With the Ninth Light Horse in the Great War, Adelaide, Hassell Press, 1924, pp 147 - 152.The Dash through JeninAt 10 p.m. on the 18th September 1918, the Regiment reached a point near Sarona and bivouacked. All ranks were advised to get as much rest as possible in view of the hard task in front of them, and to be ready to march at 6.30 a.m. on the following morning.At 4.30 a.m. on the 19th September 1918, a furious bombardment to our left announced that the great offensive had begun. The roar of the masses of guns was deafening, and it was clear to all that this particular position would soon be taken.Horses were saddled and all ranks hastily prepared to move. Some anxious moments ensued before the great tidings came through to the effect that the Infantry had broken the enemy line at Tabsor, and a few minutes later orders were received for the Regiment to move to the point of assembly two miles east of El Jelil. After watering the horses the Regiment moved towards Tabsor.About one mile south of our wire a halt was made to feed, after which the Brigade moved through the enemy's wire in the vicinity of Tabsor, and continued north along the sand hills. Few traces of the morning's fight could be seen, but two or three small parties of prisoners were met and a few captured guns which were awaiting removal.Nothing was seen of our Infantry who, after smashing their way through the enemy line had, in accordance with pre-arranged plans, swung to the right in an easterly direction. The Brigade passed through Khirbit es Zerkie and El Mughair to the Nahr Iskanderune near Esh Sheikh Muhammed, which was reached at 7 p.m.The wheeled transport of the Division had been formed into three echelons, A, B, and C, for the operations, A consisting of ammunition, water and medical carts accompanied the troops; B consisting of supplies [about 100 wagons] followed in rear of the Division, whilst C [baggage] brought up the rear. The supply echelon of the Division, 3rd, 4th, and 5th Light Horse Brigades, Corps Troops, Divisional and French Troops, were placed under the orders of Darley, Major TH, whilst the baggage echelon was placed under the orders of Ragless, Captain BB.The Regiment bivouacked for the night at Esh Sheikh Muhammed and at 1 a.m. on the 20th September 1918, moved off in a north-easterly direction, via Zelefeh es Sumra, arriving at Khirbit Shumrah at 5 a.m. The 5th Cavalry Division had continued to move along the coast, whilst the 4th Division, preceding the 3rd Light Horse Brigade by about twelve hours, had moved east to El Lejjun, with orders to push on and occupy El Affule and Nazareth.At Khirbit Shumrah, near the railway line, a party of about 100 Turkish prisoners were observed under escort of Indian Cavalry, and many enemy transport animals and vehicles were found abandoned along the road. From Khirbit Shumrah the Regiment followed the metalled road leading up the valley of the Wadi Ara and passed Musmus. Shortly after passing the latter place the road passed over a steep rise from the top of which the Plain of Esdraelon, with Mount Tabor [Jebel et Tur] and the Nazareth Hills, could be plainly seen.On this same road in 1479 B.C. King Thotmes III, with an army of Egyptians, marched to attack the King of Kedesh on the Plain of Esdraelon.The Brigade arrived at El Lejjun at 11 a.m., watered, fed, and off-saddled. Water was obtained from a good stream, and during the short halt all ranks enjoyed a refreshing bath and rest. It was found that one thousand prisoners had been taken at this point by the 4th Division, and a little later, steady streams of prisoners, moving towards El Lejjun, told the tale of the splendid work of the Indian Cavalry. Two thousand Germans and Turks who had been specially despatched by the enemy high command in a desperate effort to seize the pass, and by so doing delay our advance, were now prisoners in our hands on the very ground they had been sent to hold. Things were indeed going well, and here on the actual field of Armageddon, the Regiment was eagerly waiting orders to strike its first blow in the present operations.At 3.30 p.m. orders were issued to saddle up, and to be ready to move rapidly and seize all northern exits of Jenin. At 4 p.m. the Brigade, less 8th Light Horse Regiment, who were left to hold El Lejjun, advanced on Jenin in which direction many huge fires could be seen. Small parties of enemy troops could be seen on the right flank, and were immediately charged by a troop of “C” Squadron under Cruddas, Lieutenant GF, DCM, the whole party being captured.McDonald, Lieutenant JM, with two troops was sent out to reinforce Cruddas, Lieutenant GF, and located a large force camped amongst the olive groves immediately north east of Kefr Adan. Drawing swords, the two troops formed line and charged, but the astonishment of the Turks at being so suddenly confronted by our men was so great that they surrendered without firing a shot. The officers who were amongst the prisoners stated openly that they had no idea we had broken through their line.The troops had a very busy time rounding up the stragglers, which included a number of Turkish cavalry. Prisoners on being formed up and counted were found to number 1,800, including many Germans, over 200 horses, 200 mules, and many donkeys. This small affair did not delay the Brigade, which moved on to its objective.The railway was crossed at 6 p.m. and by 6.30 all roads leading north from Jenin had been blocked. “A” Squadron sent out strong patrols north to the vicinity of Mukeibeleh, and 29 prisoners were taken; 30 motor lorries and a number of motor ambulances were located abandoned on the El Affule Jenin road, and two motor ambulances, one being fitted with a combination dynamo and motor set, were located by “B” Squadron.At 10 p.m. the Regiment concentrated north east of the town, one troop under Masson, Lieutenant GG, being left in position. Charley, Major WT, with “C” Squadron was detailed to take charge of the prisoners who were being collected at the point where the main road crossed the railway. At 1 a.m. on the 21st September 1918, the Regiment moved to assist the 10th Light Horse Regiment in collecting prisoners who were surrendering in large numbers, and by daylight about 7,000 had been rounded up at Brigade Headquarters.At 5 a.m. the Regiment moved to the west of the town and occupied the aerodrome. “A” Squadron rejoined and together with B were sent into the town to clear it of stragglers. About 300 were collected and sent to the concentration point near the railway. An enormous quantity of war material was captured, in spite of the fact that the enemy had set fire to their stores, but most of the aeroplanes had been destroyed. One small scouting aeroplane was found intact on the outskirts of the town. The narrow streets of the town were choked with enemy transport wagons, most of which were in a dilapidated condition. The stores in the town had been looted, chiefly by the natives, and later in the day this matter became so serious that it was made known to them that anyone found looting would be shot.A very fine monument to some of the German airmen who had been killed on this front was found on the north side of the town.Cozens, 396 Armourer Sergeant EL, located an enemy gun, 10.4 centimetre, No. M 15, K.A.N. 342, near the railway station, and “B” Squadron made the capture of the day by taking 120 cases of champagne from a cave near the station, without a casualty. A guard was promptly mounted over this last batch of prisoners, but a large quantity of it escaped before it could be taken over.At 11 a.m. the Regiment moved to the northern side of the town and bivouacked on the outskirts of the orchards, sending guards into the town, and patrols in various directions. Nelson, Captain AH, was detailed to carry out the duties of Military Governor of Jenin. Many of the German and Turkish officer prisoners admitted being taken completely by surprise at our unexpected appearance across the northern side of Jenin, stating that they thought we must have been landed at Haifa, never believing it possible that we could have moved along the coast so rapidly. The Regiment moved to a position about one mile north of the town and bivouacked. The prisoners taken by the Brigade during the past 24 hours reached the huge total of 8,000.At 4.30 a.m. on the 22nd September 1918, Parsons, Major HM, DSO, with a composite squadron consisting of two troops each of A and “B” Squadrons, moved along the Jenin-Beisan road to endeavour to capture a large party of Turkish infantry who were reported to be retreating in a northerly direction. By 9 a.m. he had reached Tel esh Shok and sent back word that he was on a rise two miles distant from and overlooking the town of Beisan, and that he had observed our Cavalry entering that place from the direction of El Affule.No trace had been seen of the retreating enemy, who had evidently changed their direction. At the village of Jelbon, Tod, 769 Corporal AH, of “A” Squadron, with a small patrol on the right flank, discovered a party of the enemy concealed behind a large cactus hedge. He skilfully reconnoitred their position and manoeuvred his patrol to their flank. Drawing swords, he formed his few men in line, and made a dashing charge, capturing three officers and 28 Turkish infantry. At 2.30 p.m. the Brigade moved to a position about two miles north of El Affule, and Parsons, Major HM, with the composite squadron, rejoined at 10 p.m.In the early hours of the 25th September 1918, orders were received to hold the Regiment in readiness to advance on Tiberias and to attack that place at dawn on the following day. One squadron of the 8th Light Horse Regiment was sent out to make a vigorous reconnaissance of that place. At 5 p.m. the Brigade moved out, leaving the Regiment to follow as soon as the various detached parties had returned, and at 6.45 the Regiment followed suit, passing through Nazareth at 10.30 p.m. Some delay was caused in passing through the narrow streets of this ancient city owing to the congested nature of the traffic and dust, but at 11.30 the Regiment arrived at Kefr Kenna [Cana of Galilee] and after a short halt continued the march at midnight.At 5 a.m. on the 26th September 1918, the Brigade arrived on the high ground overlooking Tiberias. The enemy were reported to have evacuated the town, and to be retiring to the Jordan River south of Lake Huleh. A small party of Germans had crossed the Sea of Galilee in a motor boat and escaped into the hills on the other side. Horses were fed and the men breakfasted, after which the Brigade moved through the town along the western shore of the Sea of Galilee to El Mejdel. At this place the horses were off-saddled, and men and horses enjoyed a good swim.At 1.15 p.m. “A” Squadron marched out, with orders to move into the hills and occupy Safed, which task was accomplished by 5 p.m. In the last 24 hours this squadron had marched close on 50 miles, mostly on metalled roads, many miles of which were through the hilly country of Galilee. Both men and horses stood the test admirably, and appeared ready for any demands made on them. The Jewish population of the various towns in this district were overjoyed at our occupation, and were astonished to learn that both Haifa and Nazareth had been captured by our troops.At 7.45 a.m. on the following day the Brigade moved from El Mejdel to Rosh Pina, a prosperous Zionist town, arriving at 11.30 a.m. and halting. The Regiment was pushed forward with orders to force the crossing of the Jordan River, word being received as they moved off to the effect that the bridge across the river at Jisr Benat Yakub [the bridge of Jacob's daughter] had been blown up, and that the enemy were holding the crossings in force.Bleechmore, Major C, with one squadron was sent forward to reconnoitre the crossings, and reported that the enemy were holding an entrenched position on the eastern bank, commanding the river from where it flowed out of Lake Huleh to just south of the bridge, which had been considerably damaged by explosives. The strength of the enemy was estimated at about 1,000, with one or two field guns. Strong patrols had been pushed north and south, and into the village of Mishmar Hayarden.Hannaford, Lieutenant E, later reported having found a crossing not held by the enemy, about two miles south of the bridge. At 12.30 p.m. the Regiment received orders not to become involved with the enemy, as the Division intended an alteration of plans. By this time the Notts Battery, Royal Horse Artillery, had opened fire on the enemy position, personally indicated to the Battery Observation Officer by Bleechmore, Major C. The battery made splendid practice, and succeeded in knocking the enemy gun, which had been placed in position to cover the bridge, off its mounting with its second shot.At 3 p.m. orders were received that a combined effort would be made to force the crossing. The plan was that the 5th Light Horse Brigade would force the crossing south of the bridge, whilst the Regiment made a demonstrative attack, with its right flank resting at the bridge and its left on a clump of trees at the ford. During this movement the 10th Light Horse Regiment were to rush the ford, mounted, supported by covering fire from the 3rd Machine Gun Squadron and the 8th and 9th Light Horse Regiments.With this object in view the Regiment and 3rd Machine Gun Squadron moved forward and took up their positions under heavy fire. By 3.15 p.m. A and “C” Squadrons were in position overlooking the river and ready to support the 10th Light Horse Regiment with their fire. At 4 p.m. the 5th Light Horse Brigade were observed crossing unopposed at El Min, but the ford in our sector was still strongly held by the enemy, who were in a good position and had the use of good cover.At 5.30 p.m. the 10th Light Horse Regiment succeeded in crossing the river, followed by the 8th Light Horse Regiment, and took up a position on the high ground on the eastern bank. At 9.15 p.m. the Regiment, together with the 3rd Machine Gun Squadron, concentrated at Regimental Headquarters, then moved via Mishmar Hayarden to the ford at Jisr Benat Yakub, which was crossed at 10.45 p.m. The casualties of the day consisted of one officer [Wastell, Lieutenant MF] and four men wounded.After crossing the ford a halt was made for half an hour to feed the horses, after which the Brigade pushed on with the intention of surrounding Deir es Sarass before dawn. This move was made across country, B and “C” Squadrons furnishing the advance and flank guards. The going here was particularly bad, the country being rocky, hilly, and trackless; horses having to be led up some of the steep rocky goat tracks for the first couple of miles, after which the conditions slightly improved.At 5 a.m. on the 28th September 1918, the Regiment was astride the main road, a little to the' east of Deir es Sarass, but the enemy were found to have retreated towards Kuneitra. At 6.30 a.m., three enemy planes, flying low, passed over the Brigade and dropped bombs near the bridge over the Jordan River. At 7.30 a.m. the Brigade continued the advance along the main road towards Kuneitra, the remainder of the Division following, as each unit crossed the river. Aerial reconnaissance reports showed that the high ground covering the approaches to El Kuneitra to be held by a mixed force of roughly 1,000 of the enemy.The country being passed through consisted of a high tableland, crossed by a solitary road, on both sides of which, as far as the eye could see, were masses of loose boulders, making progress, off the road, practically impossible. The inhabitants of these parts were Circassians, and friendly to the enemy, with whom they fought, chiefly as cavalry, on their stout little Arab ponies. Several of their patrols were seen in the distance, but these took great care to keep well out of range.As the high ground overlooking Kuneitra was gained large numbers of Circassian cavalry could be seen retiring in the direction of Sasa; El Kuneitra being occupied without resistance at 2.30 p.m. The mayor of the town with an escort came out under cover of an immense white flag and surrendered the town to Hodgson, Major General W. After watering the horses on the outskirts of the town, the Brigade moved to a position two and a half miles south of Jeba, where it bivouacked.This advance had brought the Brigade to within 34 miles of Damascus, the intervening country being open tableland, broken by deposits of lava and basalt. It was, however, abundantly watered by running streams and possessed a good main road.
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Citation: Diaries of AIF Servicemen, Bert Schramm, 19 September 1918