Topic: Diary - Schramm
Diaries of AIF Servicemen
29 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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Sunday, September 29, 1918
Bert Schramm's Location - El Kuneitra
Bert Schramm's Diary - We left Kuneitra about 5 pm and travelled along the Damascus road about 5 miles and were held up by the enemy. Had some hard fighting and the night was very dark. Our casualties were not heavy but the 9th had eight men taken prisoner, Bert King [Author's note: King, 552 Sergeant AE] amongst them.
9th Light Horse Regiment War Diary
9th Light Horse Regiment Location - El Kuneitra
9th Light Horse Regiment War Diary - 1345 B Squadron moved out as escort to engineers proceeding to Nahr Mughaniye to develop the water supply. Remainder of Regiment as advanced guard to Brigade moved out at 1430.
B Squadron were now ordered to push on and reconnoitre enemy position reported astride road in vicinity of Kanakir and Sasa. The Brigade arrived at Nahr Mughaniye at 1830 and after watering the Regiment moved forward to B Squadron who were in touch with enemy in vicinity of Kanakir.
Parsons, Major HM, reported enemy holding very strong positions astride road approximately between Kanakir and about 2½ miles south east of Sasa. Earlier in the evening B Squadron engaged the enemy to find out his strength and dispositions of flanks. They came under very severe machine gun and rifle fire and sustained several casualties and unfortunately on of the flanking patrols was cut off and captured. Casualties sustained were Wounded 3, wounded and taken prisoner 3, and taken prisoner 6.
2030 A and C Squadrons with Daly, Major TJ, DSO in charge moved around the left flank of enemy position with orders to fire a green flare when hill on extreme left of enemy position was gained and cleared. It was a difficult movement over extremely bad country composed of larva formations with large crevasses eight to ten feet deep and the leaders were at a great disadvantage in not having had an opportunity of making a daylight reconnaissance. B Squadron were ordered to clear the hill nearest the main road and to fire a red flare when the first crest was cleared of the enemy. When the red flare was fired it was found that the enemy were still holding the intervening higher ground on about a mile frontage and the least movement on the road started heavy enemy machine gun fire, the guns having been laid during daylight.
2220 Green flares were observed in direction of A and C Squadrons and at 2230 Daly, Major TJ, reported by telephone that he had gained the ridge on the extreme left of enemy position and A Squadron were working along ridge and eventually joined up with A Squadron of 10th Light Horse Regiment.
2300 8th and 10th Light Horse Regiments were ordered to attack between flanking squadrons of 9th Light Horse Regiment. Captured about twelve Germans some of whom stated that on seeing his green flares the German Officers realised that they had been outflanked having previously deemed it impossible for mounted troops to put in an attack on flank owing to the extreme roughness of the ground. The whole position was cleared of enemy by 0300. Most of the enemy were reported to have retreated south east. German prisoners taken by A Squadron stated that their force commenced to retire on seeing our green flares fired.
Mann, 899 Corporal GN, died of wounds.
3rd Light Horse Brigade War Diary
At 1500 the Brigade moved off, remainder of the Division following at 1700. The 9th Light Horse Regiment and six machine guns were advanced guard. The objective was Damascus in order to cut off the Turkish 4th Army retreating through that place from the south. The general situation was that Chaytor's force had on the 27th September 1918, captured Amman and on the evening of this day - the 29th September 1918 - captured 4,654 prisoners 20 miles south of Amman, being the southern part of the 4th Turkish Army. Our 4th Cavalry Division and the Sherifian army were pursuing the remainder of the 4th Turkish Army northward along the railway towards Damascus. The 5th Cavalry division was moving in rear and in support of the Australian Mounted Division. A reconnaissance in the morning by armoured cars had reported a force of enemy estimated at 300 with machine guns and two guns astride the road about four miles south of Sasa. One squadron of the 9th Light Horse Regiment and two machine guns were pushed on in advance to reconnoitre enemy's position. The remainder of the Brigade reached the Nahr Mughaniye and there watered. From here it could be seen that enemy were shelling the advance squadron with at least one battery and a report was received that the enemy were in position, and had at least six machine guns. It afterwards appeared from statements of officer prisoners that their strength was one company of German machine gunners, about 300 strong, 1,200 Turkish infantry and four guns. They considered that they would undoubtedly hold the Division up as they thought it impossible for mounted men to travel anywhere off the road. On one part of the road they had laid five machine guns with the centres of their cones of fire 50 yards apart. They were sure that nothing alive could pass through that. Parsons, Major HM, Officer in Command, B Squadron, 9th Light Horse Regiment, reported enemy holding very strong position astride road approximately between Kanakir and about 2½ miles south west of Sasa. Earlier in the evening this squadron engaged the enemy to find out his strength and dispositions of flanks. The enemy were occupying a low chain of hills astride the main road on a frontage of about a mile. On approaching this position over extremely rocky country, B Squadron came under very heavy machine gun fire and the right flank was cut off. This action had the effect of making the enemy expose the position of his left flank. At 2030 A and C Squadrons, with Daly, Major TJ, DSO, in charge, moved around the left flank of enemy position with orders to fire a green flare when the hill on extreme left of enemy position was gained and cleared. It was a difficult .movement over extremely rough country composed of lava formations with large crevices several feet deep, and the leaders were at a great disadvantage in not having had an opportunity of making a daylight reconnaissance. B Squadron were ordered lo clear the hill nearest the main road on the right of the enemy position and to fire a red flare, when the first crest was clear of the enemy. When the red flare was fired it was found that the enemy were still holding the intervening higher ground on about a mile frontage and the least movement on the road started heavy enemy machine gun fire, the guns having been laid during the daylight. At 2200 green flares were observed in direction of A and B Squadrons and at 2230 Daly, Major TJ, reported by telephone that he had gained the ridge on extreme left of enemy position, and A Squadron were working along ridge. The enemy were too strong for the 9th Light Horse Regiment to deal with and the 10th Light Horse Regiment were sent forward to support the 9th Light Horse Regiment by attacking the enemy's right flank. The main strength of the enemy lay in his machine guns, with which he was able to put a very effective barrage on the road. At 2200 two troops of C Squadron 10th Light Horse Regiment went forward to get in touch with the 9th Light Horse Regiment. In doing so, they encountered an enemy post on an advanced crest line. This post they captured with one machine gun. Three of the enemy were killed. Gwynne, Lieutenant, DCM, was here wounded.
9th LHR AIF War Diary, 29 September
Darley, TH, With the Ninth Light Horse in the Great War, Adelaide, Hassell Press, 1924, pp 153 - 157.
The Dash through Sasa
A bitterly cold night spent on the rocky ground near Jeba was followed by a dull and gloomy morning, but all ranks were in good heart at the wonderful success met with at every stage of the operations. Damascus was near at hand, and everything pointed to a successful attack, and its early capture.
The general situation on this day, 29th September, 1918, was that the Anzac Mounted Division, under Chaytor, Brigadier General EWC, had captured Amman and the southern portion of the Turkish Army below Amman. The remainder of this army, still a formidable force, were retiring northwards on Damascus along the Hejaz railway, and was being pursued by the 4th Cavalry Division and the Sherifian troops.
The 5th Cavalry Division was now moving in rear, and in support of the Australian Mounted Division, the objective being the capture of Damascus and its garrison, and the cutting of the retreat of the Turkish 4th Army. The Turkish 7th Army and Turkish 8th Army, with the exception of a few stragglers, had ceased to exist, therefore, there only remained the Turkish 4th Army and the garrison of Damascus to deal with. These troops were to be given no respite, but were to be driven as fast as possible, until finally captured, thus completing one of the most wonderful undertakings of any army.
Whilst the troops were having breakfast a distinct earthquake shock was felt, lasting several seconds. At 1.45 p.m. B Squadron were sent out as an escort to a party of Engineers to Nahr Mughaniye, at which place a water supply was to be developed. At 2.30 p.m. the Brigade, with the Regiment acting as advance guard, continued the advance. B Squadron were ordered to push forward and reconnoitre the enemy position which was reported astride the road in the vicinity of Kanakir and Sasa.
The Brigade arrived at Bahr Mughaniye at 6.30 p.m., where it watered. The Regiment now moved forward to the support of B Squadron, who had gained touch with the enemy in the vicinity of Kanakir. Parsons, Major HM, reported the enemy to be holding a very strong position astride the road, about two and a half miles south-west of Sasa. The position consisted of a chain of small hills, almost solid rock, and covered with huge boulders, the position having a frontage of a little over a mile.
Earlier in the evening B Squadron had engaged the enemy to find out his strength and disposition as to flanks, but immediately came under heavy rifle and machine gun fire, and sustained a number of casualties. A patrol which had been pushed forward was allowed to pass through by the enemy, and after a brisk fight was captured.
It was imperative that the enemy be driven out of his position without delay, as the whole of the Australian Mounted Division were being held up, and at 8.30 p.m. A and C Squadrons, under the command of Daly, Major TJ, DSO, moved across country to work round the left flank of the enemy position. They were instructed to fire a green flare when the hill on the extreme left of the enemy position had been taken. It was a difficult movement in the darkness, over extremely rough country, composed of lava formations, with deep crevasses from eight to ten feet in depth, besides, the leaders being at the disadvantage of not having had the opportunity of making a daylight reconnaissance.
B Squadron were ordered to clear the hill nearest the main road and to fire a red flare when the crest had been cleared of the enemy. When this flare was seen it was found that the enemy were still holding the intervening high ground on a frontage of about one mile, the least movement on our part being met with heavy bursts of fire from machine guns which had been laid on the road during daylight.
At 10.20 p.m. green flares were seen in the direction of the two squadrons, and a few minutes later Daly, Major TJ, reported, by telephone, that he had gained the ridge on the extreme left of the enemy position, and that A Squadron were working their way along the ridge. At 11 p.m. the 8th and 10th Light Horse Regiments were ordered to attack between the flanking squadrons of the Regiment. The 8th Light Horse Regiment came forward dismounted and formed up on the right of the 10th Light Horse Regiment, the two Regiments moving forward in line to the attack, with bayonets fixed.
As the 8th Light Horse Regiment reached the crest of the hill, the hum of motor lorries could be distinctly heard, and it was evident that the enemy had kept these close at hand, in order to get their force away at the last possible moment, and to avoid pursuit by our mounted troops.
A Squadron succeeded in capturing twelve Germans, some of whom stated that on seeing the green flares the German officers had realized that they had been outflanked. They had considered it impossible for mounted men to move across such country during the night, and had therefore taken no special steps to guard their flanks. They also stated that their force had commenced to retire immediately the green flares were seen. The whole position was clear of the enemy by 3 a.m.
The operations had been hard and difficult, owing to the darkness and the state of the surrounding country. The position held by the enemy was splendidly chosen for defence, and covered a good field of fire. The enemy force was stated to have consisted of 300 German machine gunners and 1,200 Turkish infantry, with four field guns.
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Citation: Diaries of AIF Servicemen, Bert Schramm, 29 September 1918