"At a mile distant their thousand hooves were stuttering thunder, coming at a rate that frightened a man - they were an awe inspiring sight, galloping through the red haze - knee to knee and horse to horse - the dying sun glinting on bayonet points..." Trooper Ion Idriess
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The Battle of Jisr Benat Yakub, Palestine, 27 September 1918, Contents Topic: BatzP - JB Yakub
The Battle of Jisr Benat Yakub
Palestine, 27 September 1918
Jisr Benat Yakub (The Bridge of Jacob's Daughters)
The Battle of Jisr Benat Yakub (The Bridge of Jacob's Daughters)
Shortly after midnight orders were received that Division would move at 0600 with the object of relieving Damascus on the 29th September 1918. At 0730, 3rd Light Horse Brigade moved off, following 5th Light Horse Brigade as far as Rosh Pina, after which the 3rd Light Horse Brigade, with 9th Light Horse Regiment - Regiment and six machine guns as advance guard, took the lead. It had been reported that the Jordan River bridge at Jisr Benat Yakub had been blown up. Orders had therefore been given for the squadron 9th Light Horse Regiment at Rosa Pina to push forward at dawn and reconnoitre the fords as far as Lake Huleh. The 3rd Field Troop were pushed on ahead to collect material and repair the bridges.
Map illustrating the region around Jisr Benat Yakub
Our orders were to reach the high ground overlooking Kuneitra before dark. At 0030 while on the march a message was received from advanced squadron, 9th Light Horse Regiment that the enemy were holding Jisr Benat Yakub and the Jordan River crossings with machine guns and at least one field gun and were entrenching. Aeroplane reconnaissance confirmed this - the total enemy force facing was estimated at 600 - 800. The Division halted at Rosh Pina, the balance of the 9th Light Horse Regiment with Notts Battery, Royal Horse Artillery being sent on to clear up the situation. It soon became apparent that the enemy were determined to vigorously dispute the crossing of the river. Hannaford, Lieutenant E, reported a crossing not held by the enemy about two miles south of the bridge, at El Min. The enemy no doubt recognised that every hour he could hold the Division it was of vital importance. His 4th Army was now in full retreat from Deraa towards Damascus. He no doubt hoped that if those 20,000 fugitive's could get a little rest at Damascus, he could organise a defence of that place against our purely cavalry force. It was imperative that they should not get that rest and chance to reorganise. The Divisional Commander therefore decided on an immediate general attack. The 5th Light Horse Brigade were to cross the river to the south of Jisr Benat Yakub bridge at El Min and work round the enemy's flank while the 3rd Light Horse Brigade were to engage the enemy in front, and if possible gain round his right flank by crossing immediately south of Lake Huleh. The 9th Light Horse Regiment moved and engaged the enemy between the lake and the bridge, pinning him to his ground and forcing him to disclose his dispositions and strength. The Notts Battery early in the fight silenced the enemy guns, obtaining a direct hit upon one of them, and effectively kept down the fire of enemy machine guns which had been located by the 9th Light Horse Regiment. The 3rd Machine Gun Squadron took up positions along the western bank from which effective covering fire could be given to troops crossing the river. Vigorous reconnaissances under heavy rifle and machine gun fire for a crossing of the river was carried out by the 10th Light Horse Regiment, and a ford was located half a mile south of the southern end of the lake. 8th Light Horse Regiment were sent to join the 9th Light Horse Regiment, the plan being for the 8th and 9th Light Horse Regiments 3rd Machine Gun Squadron and Notts Battery, Royal Horse Artillery to give covering fire while 10th Light Horse Regiment crossed. After this Regiment had established itself on the eastern bank, the remainder of the Brigade would cross. It was expected that the operation would be facilitated by the fact that the 5th Light Horse Brigade at 1630 were reported to be crossing the river at El Min without opposition and would therefore soon make themselves felt on the enemy's flank. It turned out, however, that the country to the east of the 5th Light Horse Brigade crossing place was so rough that they were unable to get on to the main road until after daylight next morning. Up to 1700 the enemy hung on to his positions with determination, at times developing considerable rifle and machine gun fire, causing us a few casualties. By 1730 all covering troops were in position and the 10th Light Horse Regiment moved forward to cross at the ford previously located under heavy covering fire from the remainder of the Brigade. The water was about 2'6" in depth. The 10th Light Horse Regiment were all across by 1915 and were followed at once by the 8th Light Horse Regiment. These two Regiments were directed to make for Deir es Sarass, the 10th Light Horse Regiment detaching “B” Squadron to move south along the river to clear up any enemy still in position. This squadron encountered a party of enemy in the dark who opened fire at a few yards range causing casualties. Without hesitation the leading troop under Macnee, Lieutenant MH, flung themselves off their horses - it was too rough to charge mounted - and with fixed bayonets rushed the flashes. A sharp fight took place and for a time the enemy fought with great determination inflicting several casualties on us. The balance of the squadron soon supported the leading troop and the enemy surrendered. The post included twelve Germans, 41 Turks, one field gun and one machine gun, and one motor lorry.
During these operations it was apparent that the enemy were extensively using motor lorries as a means of withdrawing the troops, comprising their rear guard on this sector. In the morning a large, number of these had been seen moving down to the river positions. Similar tactics were two days later adopted by them at Sasa.
Extracted from the 3rd Light Horse Brigade War Diary.
The Battle of Polygon Wood, Belgium, 26 September 1917, Outline Topic: BatzWF - Westn Front
The Battle of Polygon Wood
Belgium, 26 September 1917
Polygon Wood by Louis McCubbin, 1919.
Polygon Wood, fought on 26 September 1917, following the successful outcome of the British attack at Menin Road (q.v.). The two Australian divisions used in that attack were quickly relieved - on the right the 5th replacing the 1st, on the left the 4th replacing the 2nd - and preparations were put in train for the next blow in the sequence. Another advance of some 1,500 metres was intended, this time through the shattered remains of a young plantation.
Map detailing the area of action at Polygon Wood.
The day before the scheduled operation, a German counter-thrust fell upon the British 10th Corps immediately south of the 5th Division's Flank. This was a potentially disastrous event, because although the 15th Brigade helped its neighbouring British units to fight off the attack and secure its own start-line for the next day, it was not possible to clear all the enemy from this area. Thus the Australian right faced the prospect of having its flank insecure when the time came for the advance.
The Mound at Polygon Wood.
At 5.50 a.m. on the 26th the protective artillery barrage descended as planned, and the two Australian divisions went forward behind it at the centre of a front extending nearly ten kilometres. All the objectives along the Australian front and points north were, with minor exceptions, quickly captured. On the exposed southern flank, the 15th Brigade - reinforced by two battalions of the 8th Brigade - managed to take not only its own final objective but also part of that of the 10th Corps. Again, any German counterattack was thwarted by the curtain of artillery fire lowered as soon as the troops had reached their positions. Australian losses in the action amounted to 5,770 men.
How the men saw Polygon Wood after the war, an oil painting by George Edmund Butler.
Extracted from the book produced by Chris Coulthard-Clark, Where Australians Fought - The Encyclopaedia of Australia's Battles, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1998, p. 131.
Additional References cited by Chris Coulthard-Clark:
C.E.W. Bean, (1933), The Australian Imperial Force in France 1917, Sydney: Angus & Robertson.
The Battle of Semakh, Palestine, 25 September 1918, Outline Topic: BatzP - Semakh
The Battle of Semakh
Palestine, 25 September 1918
The Semakh Rail Station House
Semakh, at the southern end of Lake Tiberias in northern Palestine, was the scene of a short sharp action on 25 September 1918 in which Australian light horsemen were pitted against a mixed forced of Turks and Germans. Being eager to prevent the enemy from occupying effective blocking positions west and south of the lake, from where movements against Damascus or the important railway junction at Deraa might be opposed, the commander of the Desert Mounted Corps, Lieut.-General Sir Harry Chauvel, sent the 4th Light Horse Brigade under Brig.-General William Grant to seize Semakh. The importance of the place had already been appreciated by the German commander of Turkish forces in Palestine, Field Marshal Liman von Sanders, and the small garrison available for defence had been stiffened by the addition of German machine-gunners and command entrusted to a German officer.
Map of North Palestine
Marching by moonlight with only one regiment and part of another, Grant was approaching Semakh from the south shortly before dawn on the 25th when his leading troops were heavily fired on. Although the situation was obscure the order was immediately given to charge, whereupon the men drew swords and set off at the gallop towards the flashes of the enemy machine guns - two squadrons of the 11th Regiment heading for the eastern end of the town, two squadrons of the 12th Regiment making for the western end. The fight which followed in and around the railway station and other buildings lasted an hour.
Once it was over at 5.30 a.m., 100 of the town's defenders were dead and 365 captured-nearly all those killed and half those taken prisoner (many of whom were wounded) being found to be German. The Australians suffered 78 casualties (including fourteen killed) and had nearly half their horses hit. Although costly, the affair could have only been worse had Grant delayed to bring up more of his brigade, as daylight revealed that the town's buildings dominated approaches over bare open plain for several kilometres.
Bodies of the 11th LHR men after the battle
Extracted from the book produced by Chris Coulthard-Clark, Where Australians Fought - The Encyclopaedia of Australia's Battles, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1998, p. 162.
Additional References cited by Chris Coulthard-Clark:
H.S. Gullett (1944) The Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine, Sydney: Angus & Robertson.
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