Topic: Diary - Schramm
Diaries of AIF Servicemen
30 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, 27 September to 1 October 1918
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Monday, September 30, 1918
Bert Schramm's Location - Khan esh Shiha; Dumar
Bert Schramm's Diary - We pushed on all day towards Damascus and we had sharp fighting all day. Tonight we are on the outskirts of Damascus. Enemy has been burning all dumps, wireless station etc. It is a great sight to see tonight. We have been firing into a village north west of the town which is pretty full of the enemy.
9th Light Horse Regiment War Diary
9th Light Horse Regiment Location - Khan esh Shiha; Dumar
9th Light Horse Regiment War Diary - 0300, a fresh Brigade now passed through the 3rd Light Horse Brigade which, after concentrating, moved off about 0330 to Sasa where a halt was made for one hour and horses watered.
0730 The brigade moved towards Damascus preceded by 5th and 4th Light Horse Brigades.
0900 Arrived Khan esh Shiha. From this place the first sight of Damascus was obtained. 4,000 enemy were reported in vicinity of Kaukab. At Khan esh Shiha the Division deployed for the final advance on Damascus. 4th Light Horse Brigade on the right, 5th Light Horse Brigade on the left with 3rd Light Horse Brigade immediately in rear. Each Brigade in columns of squadrons in line, a very imposing sight. 11/2 miles south west of Kaukab 5th and 3rd Light Horse Brigades turned slightly to the left and advanced rapidly north eastwards along the foot of the ridge on the western side of the orchards south of Damascus. 4th Light Horse Brigade were meeting opposition in country south east of Kaukab. Enemy artillery and machine guns were firing but our batteries soon opened up. Part of the 4th Light Horse Brigade were observed to charge and their advance of that Brigade continued. Meanwhile the 5th and 3rd Light Horse Brigades continued to advance rapidly until about one mile south west of El Mezze was reached. At this place further advance was strongly opposed by the enemy who had mounted machine guns on the outskirts of the village orchards.
1400 The French Regiment of the 5th Light Horse Brigade were observed to move west into hills followed later by another portion of that Brigade.
1540 Orders received were for 9th Light Horse Regiment to supply advance guard for 3rd Light Horse Brigade to cross over Damascus - Beirut railway and endeavour to get astride the main road in vicinity of Jobar.
1600 The Regiment moved with A Squadron in advance. Country was extremely difficult being high stony hills without roads.
1645 A Squadron had seized the high ground overlooking Dumar and the Damascus - Beirut road and railway. The only means of entering the village was down a narrow rocky track. A Squadron made two attempts to force this route but found it strongly commanded by many enemy machine guns placed in and around the village of Dumar. This squadron with two machine guns attached then took up a position overlooking village, road and railway. The road was packed with enemy troops and transport. A heavy fire was brought to bear on those and heavy casualties inflicted. Portion of 5th Light Horse Brigade were in position on left of A Squadron.
1700 Remainder of Regiment and machine gun squadron arrived. B Squadron and all machine guns were put into the line and concentrated their fire on road and railway. Before nightfall a fresh attempt was made to force the track into village but it was found to be still impassable without heavy casualties.
1830 Orders received to hold present position containing main road for remainder of night and the Brigade would advance at 0500 following morning. 9th Light Horse Regiment to detail two Troops dismounted reconnoitre village and railway early as possible.
1910 Hargrave, Lieutenant LMS, MC and Masson, Lieutenant GG, with their troops from C Squadron and Regimental interpreter moved out on this duty. It was a difficult mission and great credit is due to these two troops for their boldness and daring in successfully reconnoitring the village and railway. Two troops reported back to Regiment at 2100. Hargrave, Lieutenant LMS, reporting that the village was free from enemy except bodies of stragglers. Six Hospitals were in village and believed full of wounded and sick. The main road to Amara was blocked with transport but believed passable for mounted troops. A Turkish guard was on duty at the railway station. A large running creek surrounded the village on three sides but all bridges observed were intact. The Regiment remained in position during remainder of night. Intermittent fire was maintained on road and railway. During the night an enemy train from direction of Beirut entered the station and was captured when the Brigade advanced the following morning.
1930 The Commanding Officer on account of a recurrence of malaria was obliged to halt and rest. Daly, Major TJ, DSO assumed command of the Regiment.
3rd Light Horse Brigade War Diary
At 0200 as the 9th and 10th Light Horse Regiments were making only slow progress, 6th Light Horse Regiment, less two Squadrons was sent in dismounted to storm the enemy position frontally from the road. Cooperation by the 9th and 10th Light Horse Regiments was arranged for as far as darkness time, and the exceedingly rough nature of the ground permitted. By 0200 the 8th Light Horse Regiment had captured the enemy position with five machine guns and a few German prisoners. During the advance, the Regiment was subjected to a heavy rifle and machine gun fire. The enemy beat a hasty retreat towards Damascus, vigorously pursued along the road by the 10th Light Horse Regiment. The advance was again held up temporarily about one mile south of Sasa. The vanguard with two machine guns attached dismounted and rushed the enemy, who then broke and made off towards Sasa in motor lorries, which had been brought up behind their lines. In the course of this pursuit the 10th Light Horse Regiment captured two 77mm field guns, two machine guns, one motor lorry and about 20 prisoners. The Brigade had orders that from dawn onwards the 4th Light Horse Brigade would form the Divisional advance guard, while the 3rd Light Horse Brigade assembled after the action just concluded. Shortly after the 4th Light Horse Brigade took up the pursuit they overtook and captured several hundred fugitives. At 0645 all troops of rhe Brigade had reached Sasa, and at 0730 the Brigade marched following the remainder of the Division. On arrival at Khan esh Shiha, Divisional orders for the approach on Damascus were received. The 5th Light Horse Brigade closely followed by the 3rd Light Horse Brigade were to outflank the town by moving via Katana, north easterly along the foothills of Kalabat el Mezze. Bourchier's force, [two Regiments of the 4th Light Horse Brigade], were to move directly on the town via Daraya. Soon after this movement commenced enemy machine gun fire was heard directed against Bourchier's force from the vicinity El Kaukab. The 19th Brigade, Royal Horse Artillery engaged these machine guns, the 5th and 3rd Light Horse Brigade meantime pressing on to their objective at the trot. When a point half a mile north of Mudhamiye had been reached, troops of Bourchier's force were observed galloping the enemy's position supported by the fire of the Royal Horse Artillery batteries. Away to the east could be seen shrapnel bursting, no doubt; from the artillery of the 14th Brigade of the 5th Cavalry Division sent across to intercept the Turkish third Cavalry division retreating on Damascus. The 5th and 3rd Brigades pressed on, until at a point about 11/2 miles south west of El Mezze the French Cavalry Regiment which was leading was held up by machine gun fire from the garden west of the southern end of the town. The Royal Horse Artillery batteries were brought up and engaged these, machine guns - the 3rd Light Horse Brigade remaining halted ready to support the 5th Light Horse Brigade when and where required. The enemy machine guns concealed in the gardens were difficult to locate and swept the open ground over which any direct advance would have to be made. About 1530 orders were received that the 5th Light Horse Brigade were to turn into the hills on their left and cut the road and railway leading north west to Beirut along which the main line of retreat of enemy troops to Damascus lay, while the 3rd Light Horse Brigade, were to make their way to the north east road leading to Homs and Aleppo and block that line of retreat. The Brigade at once moved off, 9th Light Horse Regiment and six machine guns forming the advance guard. After a short advance over rough hilly country the Brigade reached a point about one mile south west of the village of Dumar. Reconnaissances soon showed that the nature of the terrain was such that an advance across country over Jebel Kasiun was impossible. The only alternative was the main road from Dumar through Er Rabue and then through the northern end of Damascus itself. In preparation of this the leading squadron of the 9th Light Horse Regiment and four machine guns took up a position on the high ground immediately south west of Dumar. Large bodies of the enemy were seen to be retreating along the road from Damascus to Beirut. They were in a closely formed column of infantry, transport and guns. This column was caught at effective range by the fire of our rifles and machine guns. Those who had passed before our occupation of the high ground commanding the road above Dumar were caught by the fire of the 5th Light Horse Brigade further to the west, while still further west again a squadron of the 8th Light Horse Regiment was also in position commanding road and railway. It is estimated that at least 700 casualties were inflicted on the enemy in this gorge of the Barada, in addition hundreds of animals were killed; horses, cattle, donkeys, sheep and dogs. The remainder of the column lost heart and returned back to Damascus and no doubt formed the bulk of the 12,000 prisoners which were collected there next morning. The Beirut road was thus closed at sunset on 30th September 1918. A visual station had been sent out to get communication with Division and through it orders were now received for the Brigade to bivouac in its present position for the night and march for the Homs road at 0500 the next day in pursuit of enemy retreating to the north east. Loud explosions were heard in Damascus and the flames of burning stores lit up the skies throughout the night.
The 9th Light Horse Regiment and six machine guns remained all night in position above Dumar sweeping the roads by fire and preventing any escape along this route by the enemy. Such targets are more dreamed of than realised by machine gunners.
At 1900 two troops of the 9th Light Horse Regiment, [Hargrave, Lieutenant LMS, MC and Masson, Lieutenant GG], reconnoitred the village of Dumar and found same clear of enemy, except for dead, sick and wounded and a few stragglers. The main road to Damascus was packed with transport but with little trouble would be passable to mounted troops. The bridge over the Barada was intact. A Turkish guard was still on sentry at the railway station.
Not withstanding rough country and the delaying action fought by the enemy south of Sasa the Brigade had covered 34 miles in 26 hours without off saddling, except for one hour at Sasa.
9th LHR AIF War Diary, 30 September
Darley, TH, With the Ninth Light Horse in the Great War, Adelaide, Hassell Press, 1924, pp 158 - 162.The Fall of DamascusAs day broke on the 1st October, 1918, the beautiful city of Damascus, the Jewel of the East, came into view. Many splendid buildings could be seen, including the main railway station and the military barracks, now used as a hospital, from the staff of which the red crescent was flying. The Barada River wound like a silver thread through the town and surrounding country, with numerous small water channels passing through the beautiful orchards and vineyards which enclosed the city on all sides.At 5 a.m. the Regiment, with the remainder of the Brigade, crossed the river by the bridge at Dumar and proceeded along the main road towards Damascus. As the advance continued the terrible execution of the previous day became apparent, the road being completely blocked with piles of dead and dying men and animals, and disabled transport. The advance troops reported that for nearly a mile ahead the road was practically impassable, and parties were sent forward to clear a track. It was gruesome task. The wounded Germans and Turks were carried, with as much care as possible, to the grassy bank of the river, where they were left to be collected by our ambulances, which were in rear of the Brigade, whilst the dead were removed to the side of the road to await burial.Wounded animals were shot and dragged to the side of the road, as were also the vehicles. Many of the vehicles had overturned into the river during the attempt to break through, and had been abandoned.The advance Regiment, 10th Light Horse Regiment, pushed forward and captured the railway station together with the train which had passed through the previous night. About 1,000 prisoners were also taken at this point. A few Germans made an attempt at resistance, but were soon overpowered and taken prisoner. At the barracks a huge force of Turks could be seen on the parade ground, and appeared to be in a state of great confusion. After a slight show of resistance they surrendered to the advance guard.As the column reached the centre of the city dense crowds filled the streets and squares. A large number of these people carried firearms of some description, and as a sign of rejoicing they proceeded to discharge them into the air, so that what was really a peaceful entry sounded more like a desperate battle. The crowds were composed of all classes: Arabs in their long galabiehs, Syrians mostly in European dress, Greek and Turkish civilians, Jews, Armenians, and French. Cheering wildly they lined the streets and offered gifts of fruit and cigarettes to the passing troops.This wonderful welcome was somewhat difficult to understand, and many doubted its genuineness. It was, however, ascertained from a guide that a rumour had been circulated the previous afternoon to the effect that in the event of the British Cavalry approaching nearer to Damascus the Germans intended burning the city, a threat they were determined to carry out. Not only had we approached, but we had actually entered the city which was thus saved from destruction. No doubt our rapid advance had frustrated the plans of the Germans, much to the delight of the inhabitants.Passing through the narrow alleyways of the Bazaar the head of the column reached the French quarter, where it received a great reception. The inhabitants turned out in force, almost blocking the narrow streets, and evidence of their great joy was apparent on all sides. Gifts were showered on the troops as they passed, whilst many of the women and girls shouted greetings and blew kisses from the windows along the route.The Brigade moved along the Aleppo road to Jobar, at which place a halt was called. After a short spell the advance was continued, the advance Regiment coming in contact with the enemy rear guard in the vicinity of Marista el Basal. The Regiment moved up in support, and the opposition was speedily overcome. At 1 p.m. information was received to the effect that a large enemy force, protected by a strong rearguard, was retreating north east along the main Aleppo road."B" and “C” Squadrons were therefore pushed forward to strengthen the flanks of the 10th Light Horse Regiment, and later “A” Squadron was moved up to the left flank. At 2 p.m. Daly, Major TJ, DSO, with the balance of the Regiment also moved up to the left flank and pushed rapidly forward to within one mile of Khan Ayash. At this point touch was gained with “B” Squadron, who were holding a position approximately one mile west of the village, the 10th Light Horse Regiment being astride the main road one and a half miles south-west, and with advanced troops in the village.The enemy were now moving up the pass leading into the hills north of Kubbet i Asafur, thus securing their retreat. At 6 p.m. the Regiment concentrated on the main road two miles south-west of Khan Ayash, and moved to Khan Kusseir where it bivouacked for the night. Hogan, Lieutenant LR; and, ten other ranks were moved out as a night outpost, being posted on the edge of the olive grove in which the Regiment was bivouacked, with orders to watch the main road.The following members of the Regiment, who had been taken prisoners at Sasa on the 29th September 1918, were reported to be in the German hospital at Damascus: King, 552 Sergeant AE; Betteridge, 262 Corporal AL; Down, 921 Corporal AC; Clark, 1528 Lance Corporal CB, Hanrahan, 2116 Lance Corporal EP; O'Donnell, 2140 Trooper DV; and, Adams, 702 Corporal HG.At 6.15 a.m. on the 2nd October 1918, Hogan, Lieutenant LR, Officer in Command outpost, reported that a large force of enemy infantry were moving north, one mile east of his post. Doubt existed as to whether the advancing troops were actually enemy or Sherifian troops, and a mounted patrol of “B” Squadron was rushed out to investigate and report. A message was despatched to Brigade Headquarters reporting the presence of approximately 2,000 infantry, and asking for information.The Regiment was at breakfast when the report from Hogan, Lieutenant LR, was received, but within ten minutes horses had been saddled and the Regiment paraded ready to move. At 6.30 a.m. a few shots were heard from the direction of the column, and shortly afterwards a galloper from the outpost reported that the column was composed of Turkish infantry.Orders were at once issued, and the Regiment moved out to the attack, and as the head of the Regiment cleared the olive grove the following message was received from Brigade Headquarters; "Party believed to be Germans; move and investigate at once; 8th Light Horse Regiment with four machine guns will be ready to support, if required."With “B” Squadron in advance and Sharp, Lieutenant RC; and, his troop of “A” Squadron as right flank guard, the Regiment moved at a rapid pace north-east along the main road for about half a mile, then swung to the left among the vineyards. The rear of the enemy column was now observed about one mile along the road.By increasing the pace and moving towards the foothills the Regiment rapidly gained on the enemy, who had now mounted several machine guns, and pushed out several small parties to their left flank, in an endeavour to hold up our advance. In spite of the heavy machine gun fire the Regiment pushed forward and reached a favourable position about one mile to the left, and opposite the centre of the enemy column.Orders were given to “A” Squadron to move rapidly and seize Khan Ayash, and to “C” Squadron to seize the main road in the vicinity of Kubbet i Asafur. “C” Squadron immediately galloped forward, followed by “A” Squadron, under heavy fire, whilst “B” Squadron dismounted and opened a heavy fire on the centre of the enemy column. Regimental Headquarters established themselves near the water channel and gained touch with Brigade Headquarters by heliograph.The two squadrons who had been sent forward were now seen to be well ahead of the enemy advance guard, and to be swinging in towards the main road to seize the villages, thus cutting off all chances of escape for the enemy. The head of the main body of the enemy seemed to hesitate as if doubtful of its next move, and their leaders appeared to be holding a conference.As the two squadrons swung round the remainder of the Regiment under orders from Daly, Major TJ, mounted, and with drawn swords, charged the main enemy column, detaching a small party of “B” Squadron to move round the flank. This move had the desired effect; the main body of the enemy promptly hoisting the white flag before the charging troops reached them.In conjunction with this move, A and “C” Squadrons drew swords and charged the enemy cavalry advance guard. This was the first time the Light Horse, armed as cavalry, had the chance to try conclusions with the Turkish cavalry who were armed with sword and lance, and it was expected that they would put up a fight. The determined front shown by our men must have taken all the heart out of the enemy cavalry, as they surrendered without the slightest show of resistance.“A” Squadron, moving forward, rushed a machine gun just as it was mounted and ready to open fire, whilst C seized the pass into the hills, and captured two 75 cm. guns near Kubbet i Asafur.The Regiment collected together the various portions of the enemy force and proceeded to take stock of the bag, which gave the following totals: 91 officers, 318 cavalry, 1,064 infantry, eight German machine gunners, 26 machine guns, one mountain gun [No. F 7524], two 75 cm. [M 15, G.K.N.] guns, twelve automatic rifles, 264 rifles, and 285 animals. This force was captured within one hour of leaving the bivouac at Khan Kusseir, seven miles distant.Amongst the officers captured was the General who commanded the Turkish Division defending Shunet Nimrin in the Jordan Valley, against our attack in May, 1918. The standard of the 46th Regiment was also captured, and is believed to be the only enemy standard captured during the war. That such a force could be taken in open country in such a short time and with so few casualties, appears astounding, but the fact must not be lost sight of that they had been driven from pillar to post for the past three weeks, with no rest and little food, facts which had, no doubt, taken the heart out of them.The rapidity of our movements contributed largely to the success of the operations, but great credit is due to both, Charley, Major WT; and, Bleechmore, Major C, for the manner in which they manoeuvred their squadrons, in seizing the pass and main road ahead of the enemy columns. Daly, Major TJ, who conducted the operations, deserves special mention for his quick decisions and plan of operations, in which he was ably seconded by Shaw, Lieutenant OJ, the Adjutant,In spite of the hard work of the past three weeks, the horses responded bravely to this additional call, and covered the ground in fine style. The ground passed over was devoid of cover and fairly rough, being covered with stones and broken by numerous small wadis.When the main column surrendered Smyth, 902 Signaller JM; and, Halliday, 1458 Signaller NC, who were moving to the Regimental signalling station, in galloping over a rise were suddenly confronted by a party of the enemy composed of three Germans and 85 Turks, who were taking up a position within a few hundred yards of the signal station. A German officer was mounting a machine gun when Smyth, 902 Signaller JM; and, Halliday, 1458 Signaller NC, with great gallantry, and under a shower of bombs, rushed at the officer and snatched his revolver, which he had hastily drawn, from his hand. With this revolver they fired into the enemy and seized the machine gun, the prompt action so surprising the enemy that they surrendered.Smyth, 902 Signaller JM; and, Halliday, 1458 Signaller NC, were both awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for this gallant act, which prevented the enemy establishing a post from which a destructive fire could have been turned on the rear of the Regiment.Freebairn, Lieutenant DT, with one troop, escorted the prisoners to Brigade Headquarters, where they were handed over. After collecting the captured war material into one dump, which was placed under a guard, the Regiment returned to bivouac to finish its breakfast, which had been so rudely interrupted. At 2 p.m. “A” Squadron was sent out to reconnoitre the country six miles east of the bivouac for stragglers, returning at 5 p.m. and reporting "all clear."At 2 p.m. on the 3rd October Freebairn, Lieutenant DT, with a troop of “B” Squadron, moved out and mounted an outpost in the Wadi Maraba to guard the approaches to Damascus from the north. The inhabitants of these parts were very friendly disposed towards our men, bringing baskets of grapes, eggs, etc., into our lines. The country surrounding the bivouac was covered with flourishing vineyards and orchards which were abundantly watered. The grapes were ripe and of exceptionally good quality and flavour, being grown chiefly for drying into raisins.On the following day “C” Squadron moved out at 9 a.m. to relieve “A” Squadron of the 8th Light Horse Regiment who were holding the pass at Kubbet i Asafur. Hahn, Lieutenant HJ, with a working party, and with A echelon of the transport, collected the captured war material, which filled five wagons. The captured guns were also brought in and sent to Damascus. At 11 a.m. orders were received for the Brigade to move to a point south-west of Damascus, leaving “C” Squadron of the Regiment at Duma to hold the main Aleppo road, and the Wadi Maraba.At 3 p.m. the Regiment, less “C” Squadron, moved via the main. Aleppo road, through Damascus to a point two and a half miles south-west of El Mezze, where it bivouacked for the night. Four of the men who had been taken prisoner at Sasa on the 29th September 1918 and who had been recaptured on the fall of Damascus, rejoined the Regiment at this bivouac.
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Citation: Diaries of AIF Servicemen, Bert Schramm, 30 September 1918