Lancers' Despatch 34
Website of the Royal New South Wales Lancers Lancer Barracks and Museum
The Regiment 1918
In the Benning
Photos and text by the editor unless historical, submitted to the editor without attribution or otherwise noted. Thanks very much to all contributors
The last 12 months represented a major challenge to the Regiment, one which I am happy to report was met with the enthusiasm expected of the Lancers. In March, after receiving the first of our fleet back from the Joint Logistical Unit at Moorebank (having been there since November undergoing technical inspection), we were told all vehicles had to head north to be fitted out for the digital communications suite. The digital communications suite would include the capability to run the Battlefield Management System, as well as adding a tracking device. This means that we are visible to other friendly units, as well as being able to track the battle and receive direction from high headquarters – both of which are essential when working with our assigned Regular brigade.
Unfortunately, the vehicles were required to move in April, and we were told not to expect them back before September.
Responding to this challenge, both squadrons approached the training year with an emphasis on their specific taskings. A Squadron, under Major Colin Bigger, concentrated on the dismounted aspects of Light Cavalry. This culminated with an exercise in May which say the Squadron providing valuable reconnaissance information to one of the infantry battalions moving into the AO, as well as a Vital Asset Protection task at 6 Aviation Regiment. The latter was made more realistic through the use of “civilian protestors” and a “media crew”. The requirements to meet the stated objectives with limited resources against a free play enemy really tested the soldiers, and some very valuable lessons were learnt.
For B Squadron in Canberra, CAPT Ian Goodwin was able to secure the 2 Div simulation equipment, as well as the assistance of an old member of the Regiment, LTCOL Mark Gibson. Mark provided the subject matter expertise in setting up and using the system, and the soldiers got a lot out of the training. The simulation system allowed crews to “drive” the PMV and respond to a computer based enemy. If a driver decided to move the vehicle without any regard for the tactical situation, they would quickly find that their vehicle was “destroyed” and they would be out of the simulation. Radio chatter was improved, as well as reporting and radio orders. When we eventually got our vehicles back, this form of training really showed it’s worth.
Reflecting the increase in the size of the Regiment, we received our seven PMV plus an additional seven – 14 vehicles all up (2 x Command Variants and 12 x Troop Carrying Variants).
From 1 Jan this year, the Regiment returns back to three squadrons, with C Squadron being raised at Holsworthy. C Squadron will be commanded by MAJ Alex Baczocha, and will initially consist of a troop from A Squadron. We have been fortunate in having been given the old Jordan Lines, and have moved both A and C Squadrons there (although A Squadron had been parading out there since April 2017). We have approached the SADFO of Holsworthy, BRIG Michael Bond, about renaming the Lines to Balikpapan Lines, but unfortunately this has been rejected; we can, however, name each depot.
This year sees the Regiment supporting HAMEL with the PMV lift, and EX DIAMOND STRIKE with the Cavalry Scouts. It will also be the first year that any RAAC Regiment has been tasked to support HAMEL without the assistance of any other ARes RAAC units. With the move of our sister Regiment, 12/16 Hunter River Lancers to 11 Bde, the Lancers are now the only “NSW” RAAC unit.
The year is starting off well with our first exercise being conducted in mid-January at Majura Range in Canberra. We will be fielding 12 PMV, plus Cavalry Scouts, over a 4 day period as a “shake-out” for the soldiers as we enter one of the busiest periods for the Brigade for some time. Our Adjutant, CAPT Christopher Cox, is currently on deployment in Afghanistan, and SSM of A Squadron, WO2 Andrew Moore, will be heading off to Iraq later this year with 7 Bde.
It promises to be another big year for the Regiment.
Tenax In Fide
ACE Homecoming Ceremony
On Sunday 4 November 2017, we held a special ceremony to welcome back ACE, now fully restored, ACE was the first tank to land at Balikpapan on 1 July 1945. The old girl did well, driving out of the compound with just a puff of exhaust smoke. A tribute to the years of effort by our team of dedicated volunteers. Geoff Francis a Matilda driver at Balikpapan, 1945 helped Colonel John Arnott unveil the dedication plaque.
Our honoured guests included: Brigadier Neil Sweeney, HQ 2 Div; The Hon Julie Owens MP, Federal Member for Parramatta; The Hon Alex Hawke MP, Federal Member for Mitchell; The Hon Dr Geoff Lee MP, State Member for Parramatta; Andrew Wilson, Lord Mayor of Parramatta and The Hon Phillip Ruddock, Mayor of Hornsby, a long term friend of the Regiment.
Our thanks go out to the donors from major corporations like Jaycar, RSL clubs across the state down to individual donors all of whom helped. An amount in excess of $100,000 was raised. Many thanks too to our local politicians at all levels and from all major parties who supported us in this venture and continue to support the Regiment and Museum. It was also great to see so many future Lancers from 203 ACU there to support us.
Colonel John Arnott, a former Commanding Officer of the Regiment, veteran of the war in Vietnam and a post-WW2 Matilda crewman gave the dedication speech, the video above caught a bit of it but there was much more heartfelt rhetoric, the full speech appears below:
"Distinguished Guests, ladies Fellow Lancers, and gentlemen,
We are here today to do two things firstly to welcome back to the regiment 'ACE' a Matilda Infantry CS tank Mklll, now some 80 years old, and secondly to pay tribute to the dedicated team from the Museum who found her as a pile of rust hidden under a gum tree in the Moss Vale area some 20 years ago and have worked tirelessly to restore her to the almost new condition that you see today, despite many setbacks along the way.
And a very special welcome to a Veteran, Geoff Frances of 2 troop A sqn, he landed on Balikpapan on 1 July 1945 as a Matilda driver along with the rest of the Sqn, and he is now a grand 94 years young, and he is here today along with his lovely wife, Margarite.
Ace is a Regimental tank that fought the Japanese, on Balikpapan, in 1945, when as a member of 1 troop, 1st Armoured Regt (Royal New South Wales Lancers) (AIF), the late Les Betts was her driver, and was amazed that his tank had survived, and returned to Australia, as so many had been just been pushed into the Sea as the War ended. How did Ace get from Balikpapan to under a gum tree in Moss Vale? Well Lady Luck stepped in, Ace was in LAD Workshops with two other A Sqn vehicles when they were returned to Australia while the remaining Regimental Matilda's were despatched to a watery grave off Borneo.
Ace was sold to a timber mill in Moss Vale, who wanted to remove the engines to power their mill when, in the nick of time, mains electricity was connected. It remained discarded in the bush until 1997 when members of the Museum were told of a Matilda somewhere near Moss Vale. A recon party travelled down there and found it with help from some locals in the Moss Vale pub. The Museum purchased the hulk and arranged for the Army to move it to the School of Military Engineering Barracks at Moorebank.
In late 1934 in England, Lieutenant General Sir Hugh Elles KCB KCMG KCVO DSO, Master General of the Ordnance asked Vickers to design a new tank.
The design was done by Sir John Carden and his first attempt was not good, the tank was small, had only a Machine Gun for armament, and as the General observed, waddled like Matilda, the comical duck, of a contemporary strip - cartoon, in the Press of the time, the name stuck, and so a tank was named, officially Infantry Tank All. Unofficially-'Matilda'.
Upon receiving many objections, including from the Royal Tank Corps, a much heavier model was then designed, the A12, which appeared in 1938 and is basically the tank you see today; the name Matilda stuck. For its time it was a good tank, well armoured, a 37 mm gun or 80mm Howitzer and a co-ax 7.92 mm Besa MG, it weighed 26 tonns, had 20 (side) to 78 mm (glacis plate) armour and was powered by two Leyland 6 cyl, diesel engines, total 142 kW, it was a good Infantry Support tank that served well in early battles in France and North Africa, it became known as "The Queen of the Desert" until the Germans produced their 88 mm flack gun in a Anti-Tank role.
In 1942 some 350 Matilda's were sent to Australia, to assist in the Pacific War and Ace was one of these, her number was: WDN29923. The Matilda Tank was the only British tank, to serve right through the War 1939-1945
The wreckage of Ace was originally moved from Moss Vale to School of Military Engineering (SME) at Moorebank, as they had Workshop facilities, and a good wash area. However, in 2011 the Army decided to move SME to Holsworthy, so Ace had to go elsewhere, but where? Gordon Muddle came to the rescue with a site at the Barilda Pistol Club at Cecil Park, very primitive but at least a home, no concrete floor, no overhead gantry's, no proper cover, only canvas, and a shipping container for components and tools. Somehow the team made it work, not easy in bad weather. They worked there for the next 6 years in what was really 3rd world conditions; during this the vehicle was transport to Oberon, and return, on two occasions so that Matthew McMahon’s excellently equipped (if cold in the winter) could be used. Thanks Matthew for your generosity.
Some 64 years ago in 1953 as a newly minted Cpl crew commander I was sitting in the Gunner’s seat of a Matilda Tank on the firing range at Singleton, we were firing 37mm APDS and Besa MG at old bren gun carrier hulls used as targets. We had moved from the old H Block at Singleton Camp onto the then Tank Range, it was the second last year that the regiment was equipped with Matilda Tanks then we were then equipped with Staghound Armoured Cars, followed by Centurion Tanks.
Eight years earlier on 1 July 1945 Les Betts was sitting in the driver’s seat of his Matilda tank, aboard a Landing barge heading for the beach at Balikpapan in his tank ACE no 29923 of 1Troop A Sqn 1 Armoured Regt (Royal New South Wales Lancers). Ace was the first ashore, and so began an intense action period until 25 July when the by then defeated Japanese garrison broke contact. It was this campaign for which the Regiment was awarded the Battle Honour ‘Balikpapan’ and it sits proudly on the bottom right hand corner of the Regimental Guidon. Les and ACE both survived and returned to Australia and into history.
In doing so they may have created a World First in that it may be the first time that any unit of any Army has recovered, restored and displayed, a tank that took place in one of its Battle Honour engagements in WW2. In this case, the largest single deployment of Australian tanks in combat.
A quotation that I am rather fond of and which would appeal to all the true tankies here today
‘Armour, is that force which on the field of battle adds tone to what would otherwise be a uncouth brawl’
There have been many people associated with the ACE project. Support and encouragement came from many sides, includingi long suffering wives and families. I want to name the eight, from the museum who did the hard work, in some very tough conditions and alphabetically they are, Dave Crisp, George Glass, Ray Jones, Len Koles, Gordon Muddle, Mike McGraw, Paul Martyn-Jones and Joe Tabone, who was also Project Director. My congratulations on a great job very well done.
I must also pay tribute to another, one Matthew McMahon from Oberon, who is probably the most knowledgeable person, in Australia on Matilda Tanks. At Oberon he has a very large shed full of Matilda spare parts, he is also an expert mechanic, and has spent many hours at Oberon working on Ace alongside members of the team, with his friend Peter Scully.
ON Behalf of the NSW Lancers Association I hereby dedicate this restored Matilda Tank ‘ACE’ in memory of the members of the Regiment who died in Training and in Battle in New Guinea and Borneo."
1 and 2 Troops A Squadron were the first troops in to land at Balikpapan arriving on the beach around 0900. The run in was uneventful but the extent of the damage at the beach and in the surrounding areas had to be seen to be believed. I have read the amount of bombing done to such a confined area was only exceeded by that at Stalingrad. This damage was of course done before we arrived.
The beach was heavily mined by the Japanese and the movement of the tanks from the beach could only be done by following white tapes that had been laid by engineers. Shortly after arriving we received orders from Captain Cummings to assist the 2/16th Battalion which had been held up by a machine gun post cut into the side of a hill on Hobson Road. To reach this position we had to move along a dirt road littered with bomb craters, care had to be exercised in driving around them. Nevertheless, *Atlas, the lead tank of 2 troop slipped into one such crater when the ground gave away. To extricate the tank took a great deal of time and when we were all working I happened to look up and saw a ring of American soldiers with rifles at the ready moving towards where we were stuck. In the centre of the circle was General Douglas MacArthur and General Blamey who came across) and spoke to me, (MacArthur) asking if we were having trouble and Blamey asking me where I came from. After remaining for about a minute they moved on. The time was around 1100. Eventually we got Atlas out of the crater and reached Hobsons Road, which ran inland. Again great difficulty was encountered in moving forward due to·deep ditches the Japanese had dug across the road; we did finally arrive at the scene where a platoon of the 2/16th Battalion was held up. This platoon was commanded by a Sgt. He pointed out to me a tunnel which the Japanese had cut into the side of the hill and from which they were firing a machine gun that had already killed two of his men. We could see the tunnel had been reinforced with timber and was about thirty metres away. The tanks could not be taken closer as another ditch had been dug across the road.
The infantry platoon then attacked the position with the tanks providing covering machine gun fire. The infantry threw a number of grenades into the tunnel but apparently the Japanese survived this attack, they were killed later that night when trying to leave the tunnel. With hindsight it would have been better if we had used HE. to destroy the tunnel but the infantry commenced their attack before we could open fire and we could only use the Besas. Later that afternoon two troop returned to Squadron Headquarters. Early the following morning we were again sent up Hobson Road to give further support to the 2/16th Battalion. Just after passing the scene of the previous day's action a wooden bridge was encountered over a very shallow creek. There was some doubt about the strength of the bridge and it was decided to try and cross with one side of the lead tank on an embankment · and the other on the bridge. Atlas almost got across when the bridge collapsed resulting in the tank becoming badly bogged. *Athlone under Bill Lynch found another crossing and went further up Hobson Road in support of 2/16th Battalion. After some hours they were not required and came back to assist *Avenger under Geoff Francis in pulling Atlas from the creek bed. Whilst we were doing this the Japanese lobbed several mortar shells in the immediate vicinity, fortunately no one was hurt. 2 Troop then returned to Squadron Headquarters and were not required again.
There was the occasional Japanese bombing raid. I recall one funny incident during one such raid. Murgy Hobbs and I were sharing a slit trench and looking out saw the cooks Harry Meagher and Pat Stark walking around with a sheet of galvanised iron over their heads. I am not certain it would have protected them.
After the war finished and the Dutch returned, relations between them and the Indonesians became really sour. Most members of the regiment had already gone home or had been transferred to other units. The Indonesians were keen to get at our tanks and eventually we were forced to place those tanks that were to be taken back to Australia in a compound where they were guarded. The remainder of tanks that were not required. Their main armament was destroyed by gelignite and the vehicles were driven over the cliffs into the sea.
One other incident remains in my mind it relates to the Communist bogey and the Indonesians. Shortly after the war had finished Jack Curtayne and I were called to Regimental Headquarters and told to get a revolver each, a jeep and to watch the activities of a man said to be the leader of the local Communist Party who lived out in the hills. Early each morning for three or four days we drove out to where the man resided, hide the jeep, then climb up a hill from where we could look down on his house. We would stay for a few hours. All we ever saw him do was to go to the toilet and then wash his clothes. We gave up as it was obvious he was aware we were there, or he was completely innocent.
Bill Halliday served with 2 Troop A Squadron at Balikpapan.
In 2017, our Regimental Reunion on 4 November 2017 welcomed ACE home to Lancer Barracks. The function was attended by many current and former Lancers, a great day was had by all. Check-out the photos below and see if you are featured.
Photos - Alan Hitchell
We pick up the story of the First Light Horse Regiment, Australian Imperial Force on 1 January 1918, the final year of World War 1.
The regiment remained at Esdud until 11 January; it was raining most of the time but fortunately the camp was on a sand hill. The horses were carrying a long coat and those which had not previously been clipped were clipped at Esdud. The usual inspection was held by the brigade commander.
New Year's Day was cold and wet. From 4 January to 9 January Lieutenant Colonel Granville acted as brigade commander and Major Irwin took command of the regiment. Major Weir returned from the Senior Officers' School and took over A Squadron. Detachments of men suffering from debility were sent in turn to the Port Said rest camp. On 8 January Captain (Chaplain) Boardman was evacuated sick. It was about this time that the brigade was first photographed by the official photographer, and cinematograph pictures were made of the regiment on the move.
On the 12 January the 1st LH moved with the brigade at 1000 for Ras Deiran. A and B Echelon transport accompanied the brigade, but rain fell heavily and only four limbers from A Echelon got through, the remainder being forced to camp at Beshshit, arriving in camp at daylight. The regiment stayed at Ras Deiran for six days and then moved nearer the coast to Ayun Kara where it remained until February 16. A syllabus of training was carried out, and during this period junior officer and NCO classes were held. Major Harris represented the brigade at a meeting at divisional headquarters to organise sports. Volunteers for the Australian Flying Corps were called for, and Lieutenant L. H. Smith was transferred to that arm on 21 January. Captain 0B Ryrie, who had been ADC to General Chaytor, the divisional commander, since his return from France, rejoined the 1st LH on January 24 and was posted to the command of B Squadron. On 2 February the commanding officer and squadron leaders attended a field day of the 2nd LH demonstrating a dismounted attack in depth, which was also practised later on by the 1st LH.
Beyond training, the regiment had few duties at this time. It provided a mounted relay post at GHQ, another at the town of Ramleh and a third at Naaneh. No survey map of the area had been completed, and Major Weir, Captains Ryrie and Battye and officers from the 2nd LH under Captain McLean commenced a topography class to complete the survey. The weather continued to be bad and parades had frequently to be cancelled owing to rain. On February 15 General Butler inspected the horses, which had improved a great deal in condition. On the same day Lieutenant James moved with the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade to Bethlehem in preparation for guiding the 1st Australian Light Horse Brigade which moved on the 16th. And so came to an end a period of resting, refitting and training, and the regiment started out, with Jericho its first objective, as part of Lord Allenby's plan to occupy the western side of the Jordan valley from the Dead Sea to Wady el Auja. Brigadier General Cox reviewed the brigade as it passed brigade headquarters. The regiment, following the railway towards Jerusalem, camped the first night at Junction Station and next morning, moving with the brigade, it marched to Zakaryia. Large areas of cultivated land were passed; the Bedouins used an old-fashioned type of plough, drawn by a camel, ox or asses, seed being supplied by the British Government. The country was quite un-fenced, boundaries being marked by single stones at intervals. Herds of fat-tailed sheep and goats were being shepherded by women and children. The troops did not molest the inhabitants in any way and care was taken not to ride on the crops. Wild flowers were in full bloom, many old favourites being recognised among them.
On the morning of 18 February the regiment left Zakaryia and after watering, proceeded to Kudr, situated in the stony hills not far from Bethlehem. Here Lieutenant Colonel Granville rejoined after acting as brigadier. The main supply dump was at Kilo 1 near Jerusalem railway station, and next morning Lieutenant WFM Ross and his troop, after picking up rations at Kilo 1, proceeded to Mukmas and reported to the 181st Infantry Brigade as scouts. A Squadron less two troops left at the same time and reported to the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade, moving with it in the attack on Jericho. The regiment formed up and after watering at Solomon's Pools marched with the brigade via Bethlehem to Khurbet Deir Ibn Obeid, where it drew rations, and moved on to el Muntar. The road was almost impassable, being barely a goat track, and the column had to proceed dismounted in single file throughout most of the journey.
B Squadron under Captain Ryrie proceeded at 1300 to el Aziryh as escort to the two 18-pounder batteries. Next morning the regiment moving at 0400 proceeded to the support of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade, 1.5 kilometres south of Jebel Kahmum.
The enemy were strongly entrenched in all the ground commanding roads to Jericho and it was the cavalry's job to try and get 'round their left flank near the Dead Sea. With this object in view Lieutenant Parbury and troop were detailed to reconnoitre the road along Wady Kumran; they found it clear of the enemy to the level plain near the Dead Sea, and reported it passable for mounted troops. Major Weir with two troops rejoined from the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade, having had three men wounded and two horses killed by shell fire. Early next morning the regiment moved towards Nebi Musa in support of the 3rd LH.
Portion of the brigade was now behind the enemy's trenches and the Turks, appreciating the danger when a brigade of horse was free to strike at their communications on the Jordan plain, withdrew their whole force in the dark from both sides of the Jericho road.
After a halt for breakfast, the regiment marched on Jericho, which had also been evacuated. One NCO and four men were detailed to accompany the Intelligence officers into Jericho to arrest undesirables and one NCO and eight men were detailed to escort prisoners. The outpost line that night, from Kabur Ailharb to Wady ed Nejmeh, was held by the 2nd LH, and the 1st LH bivouacked in support. Two troops were digging trenches all night, returning to camp at 400 The weather on the hills was bitterly cold and wet, and although light showers fell in the Jordan valley it was very much warmer there. "Old man" salt bush was seen growing and hares and partridges were plentiful. As the enemy had retired across the Jordan, orders were issued to withdraw to the foothills and return to Kudr by way of the main Jerusalem-Jericho road, which was now clear of the enemy, though blown up in several places. Rations were drawn at Talat ed Dumm ("Field of Blood", named from the colour of the soil). After a meal there the unit marched all night, back past Bethany and Jerusalem, arriving wet and cold at 0430 Two days were spent at Kudr in trying to dry kit, but it rained all the time and the regiment was pleased to get orders to return to Richon, via Junction Station. Richon was reached on February 27; there Lieutenant CA Hordern and 12 men were taken on strength. On March 1 the unit was inspected by Major-General Chaytor who praised the condition of the horses after traversing such country as they had and the horsemastership of the men.
On 5 March the 1st LH moved with the brigade for operations with the 159th Infantry Brigade against the enemy at Taiyibeh and el Munatir, The brigade marched in column of route along the main Jaffa-Jerusalem road, with intervals of 150 metres between squadrons, as the traffic - motor lorries and camel convoys carrying food and ammunition -was very heavy. The enemy railway at this time had not been converted to the Egyptian standard gauge nor linked up with the desert line. The brigade's transport was in charge of Lieutenant]. A. Markwell, and moved in groups of six vehicles with 150 metres between groups. The regiment was short of horses and 2nd Lieutenant Kingsford and 41 men were left in camp dismounted.
At Enab on the morning of 7 March the regiment left the main road and branched off to Betunia which was reached at 1300. At midnight an order was received to move on to Rummon. The enemy line was roughly from Taiyibeh along Wady Auja to the hill called el Munatir.
The commanding officer, accompanied by Major Harris and Lieutenant Frost, went forward at 0800 to reconnoitre roads with the brigade major. The regiment followed at midday to Rummon, with two sections of the 1st MG Squadron under Lieutenants Ahearn and Greatorex, a detachment of engineers under Lieutenant Jones, and two sand carts. On arrival, the 1st LH came under the orders of the 159th Brigade. Rations were drawn at Rahm Alla, as beyond this point wheeled transport could not go. The weather was cold and wet and the rocky country was rough on the feet of both men and horses, the farriers having a very busy time while on the march. On the evening of 8 March the regiment received orders to be in position 900 metres south of Taiyibeh by 0500 next morning.
Camp was struck at 0400, A Squadron being detailed to escort the 10th Mountain Battery over the Wady Jerir and hand it over to a battalion of the Cheshire Regiment. There was no road or track, and the battery and its escort had to zig-zag down hill through scattered olive trees and slippery rocks. The battery was handed over at 1615 and A Squadron moved forward to operate on the infantry's right flank. Contact with the enemy was gained on Wady Auja and casualties inflicted. A troop under Lieutenant Macfarlane relieved the 1st/7th Cheshires on the top of Nejmeh at 1700 and an outpost line was held for the night from Nejmeh to el Munatir by A and C Squadrons and a section of machine guns under Lieutenant Ahearn. Horses were watered from a native cistern developed by the engineers. Splendid observation of the Jordan valley was obtained from the top of Nejmeh and Jerusalem could be seen quite plainly in the distance.
The enemy was driven across the Auja and C Squadron under Major Harris went towards the wady with orders to reconnoitre it and get in touch with the New Zealand Mounted Rifles who were operating on the left of the 60th Division in the Jordan valley; touch was obtained at 1600. A Squadron left bivouac at 0600 and moved to water pools in Wady Dare Serir; it then proceeded along Wady Simieh in the direction of Ain Simieh on the right flank of the infantry with which touch was maintained. At 1100 A Squadron was holding a hill, and was unable to advance further because of the enemy fire from the high ground across the Wady Simieh. At dusk A Squadron withdrew and B Squadron took over the line from Nejmeh to Pear Hill inclusive.
As transport could not be brought forward, every pack-horse, including the Hotchkiss gun pack-horses, was requisitioned and sent to Rummon to draw rations. Next morning B Squadron moved forward at 0615 to keep touch with the right flank of the infantry, which had advanced during the night. The squadron advanced as far as Wady el Akhraf but was there held up by machine gun fire from across the Wady Simieh; it was found impossible to advance owing to the enemy fire. One troop from A Squadron under Lieutenant Macfarlane was ordered forward at 700 to protect the right flank of B Squadron; the line was not advanced and it was held for the night by C Squadron.
Next morning observation posts were pushed forward at 0545 on to the high ground west of the Wady Simieh to watch the enemy on the opposite hill, who were holding the high ground on the east of the wady with machine guns and a mountain battery. By this time word was received that no further advance would be made, and the infantry dug in; the outpost line on the night of 12-13 March was held by A Squadron.
On 13 March the enemy was still holding the high ground east of the wady in strength. The weather was very wet and bitterly cold, and the squadron pack-horses were the only transport available to draw rations for horse and man from Rummon, until the 53rd Infantry Division made available 56 camels. The engineers were busy improving the roads and parties from the regiment were detailed to assist. On the 14 March Captain Otton was detailed to guide the commander of the 53rd Division to Nejmeh. Day and night outposts were continued until the unit was relieved on 15 March by the Westminster Dragoons.
Next day the 1st LH moved to Rummon, drew rations in the pouring rain and proceeded to Bettin, arriving in bivouac at 1700. Transport had great difficulty in moving; eight horses died from exposure, and next morning six more horses and many camels died. The regiment left the bivouac at 0930 in pouring rain and marched to Bethlehem, arriving at 1700 and going into billets at an old college, on the hill Beit Jala, which the Germans had used as barracks. This was the first and only occasion during the war when the whole of the 1st Light Horse Regiment was under a roof. As there was no wood available, charcoal was bought and braziers lit, all ranks being very wet and a number sick from exposure.
The next day was spent in drying clothes and blankets indoors. Two more horses died, while 61 riding and four draught horses were evacuated to the MVS (Mobile Vetinary Section - allocated one per brigade), and 33 men were sent to the Field Ambulance. Later Lieutenant Frost and two men were evacuated to hospital and 11 more riding horses to the MVS. A quantity of equipment was drawn from Ordnance, including boots which were urgently needed.
On 19 March orders were received to be ready to move with the brigade in another night march via Talat ed Dumm to Jericho. Four half-limbers were kept to carry small arms ammunition and 54 camels were supplied for baggage and water in lieu of other transport. The dismounted men and men off duty were left under Lieutenants James and Markwell, Major Weir being in charge of all brigade details which were moved to another billet in Bethlehem, at the Carmelite Monastery.
Talat ed Dumm was reached at 0330 after a long and slow march and the regiment moved on again at 1800 to the Jordan Valley. The horses were watered on 22 March at Nebi Musa and the regiment proceeded next day with the brigade to Ain Hajla. That night the Jordan River was crossed for the first time by a pontoon bridge at Makhadet Hajla. The bivouac area was reached at 0200 and the horses were kept saddled, being watered at Wady Nimrin.
The infantry were to advance astride the metalled road to Es Salt, while the 1st Light Horse Brigade was to protect their left flank; the remainder of the Anzac Division and the Imperial Camel Brigade were to move direct on Amman through Ain es Sir and Naaur.
Next morning Lieutenant Gregory was detailed as liaison officer to the 181st Infantry Brigade. The regiment remained in camp all day with B Squadron holding the day observation line. The following officers were taken on strength from the Imperial School of Instruction, Zeitoun: 2nd Lieutenants RG Fawcett, CE Upton, AS Goodchild and RR Matheson.
On March 26 the 1st LH relieved the 2nd LH near Umm es Shert, about eight kilometres north up the Jordan from Wady Nimrin. Umm es Shert was held by the enemy in strength, and any troops who exposed themselves were shelled. The outpost line was held by A Squadron, one troop from B Squadron under Lieutenant Upton, one troop from C Squadron under Lieutenant Parbury, and two machine guns under Lieutenant Ahearn. Early morning patrols reported enemy holding a line covering the front and B Squadron was ordered to get in touch with the
XXth Corps Cavalry who were working up the right (west) bank of the Jordan. B Squadron experienced considerable opposition near Umm es Shert but after two hours of fighting the enemy was driven off the high ground and the ford was made good; touch was gained with the XXth Corps Cavalry at 1100 but considerable shelling from Red Hill (6.5 kilometres north of Umm es Shert) prevented further advance. The 1st LH were relieved by the 2nd LH later in the day, and returned to water in the Wady Nimrin. By 1100 the following day the unit had completed a relief of the 2nd LH at Umm es Shert. Ten aeroplanes bombed the surrounding area but only one man of the 1st LH was wounded.
A Squadron was pushed forward to secure the high ground held by the enemy, and this objective was made good by midday. Two men were killed, 3008 Trooper P Mann and 2889 Lance Corporal WC Roseback; 2nd Lieutenant Kingsford and one man were wounded; three horses were sent to the MVS, one being shot later on. A Squadron reported that the enemy were reinforcing their line and two machine guns were sent up under Lieutenant Ahearn. Lieutenant Parbury and his troop pushed forward towards Wady Ishkarara where they gained information and brought effective fire to bear on the flank of the enemy. Visual touch was obtained with the Middlesex Regiment across the Jordan at 1500 B Squadron held the outposts during the night, and was relieved by A Squadron in the morning.
The holding of this line of advanced Posts had allowed the 3rd LH to seize Es Salt by a swift stroke on 25 March; it also covered the rest of the division who had struck east from the Jordan bridgehead towards Amman, and it allowed the development of the bridgehead where trenches were being dug.
The Inverness Battery crossed the Jordan and took up a position well forward. The regiment was making touch with the 2nd LH, on the right, by patrols every two hours. The enemy held a lot of high ground and were sniping along the whole front, with occasional bursts of shrapnel and high explosive. Captain Otton was wounded. The situation remained unchanged during the following day, early morning patrols reporting many enemy dead in front of our trenches. A few horses were killed, and one wounded man was evacuated.
On 1 April, 2nd Lieutenant Goodchild proceeded to reconnoitre the El Mandesi ford across the Jordan, and found it impassable for mounted troops. The Jordan at this time had a very strong current and the water was muddy in colour. The enemy continued their sniping, and at 1430 on 2 April orders were received to fall back on the prepared bridgehead line. Troops under Lieutenants Jarrett and Matheson covered the regiment's right flank and B Squadron withdrew from the front line, which was immediately occupied by the enemy. After watering the horses in Wady Nimrin, the regiment withdrew across the Jordan and moved into a bivouac area on the west bank with a few casualties.
By evening the whole force had recrossed the Jordan, except troops left to hold the bridgehead, for the attempt to capture Amman had been unsuccessful. Nevertheless there had been minor demolitions on the railway south of Amman, and the affair, though with heavy casualties to the British, did influence the enemy to maintain a larger force in that area, fearing, perhaps, a greater attack while Allenby was really planning to strike hard up the coast.
On 2 April, after drawing rations, orders were received to re-cross the Jordan and relieve the infantry on the left bank who were covering the bridgehead. The 1st LH right flank was posted on the river, and the left was in touch with the 2nd LH. All camel transport and limbers were sent back to the west bank of the Jordan. That evening an enemy patrol was sighted 2,000 metres in front, and a party sent in pursuit succeeded in capturing two cavalrymen.
The regiment stood to arms each morning at 0400 and sent out early morning patrols as usual. Trenches were improved and machine and Hotchkiss gun emplacements made. A few enemy deserters came through the lines and were sent on to brigade headquarters.
On the morning of 5 April, Lieutenant Upton and his troop took up a position in some undergrowth in front of the lines to try and ambush an enemy patrol, but were unsuccessful. The enemy were becoming more active. Barbed wire was drawn and erected during the night in front of the 1st LH lines, and work in improving the trenches was continued. During the evening Lieutenant Markwell and 25 men with 7 riding and 10 draught horses, 9 mules, 3 G.S. wagons, 2 G.S. limbers, 1 Maltese cart and 6 donkeys marched in from the brigade detail camp at Bethlehem. They reported that the Bedouins had stolen six valuable collapsible water troughs and a large tarpaulin used as a tank from the protection of the Royal Engineers' guard at Bethlehem; also two horses, some stores and rifles from the 2nd LH details. The early morning patrol on 6 April discovered an enemy patrol lying in ambush about 1,000 metres away, in front of our trenches. The enemy reserved their fire until the patrol was on top of them; their shots missed our men, who inflicted some casualties on them, causing them to withdraw. More barbed wire was erected in front of C Squadron.
On 7 April the GOC 60th Division inspected the sector of the line held by the 1st Light Horse Brigade and decided to make more barbed wire available, so next day four limber loads arrived for the regiment. Lieutenant LW Rogers reported from the 1st Training Regiment, and 14 other ranks from the brigade details, Bethlehem, this latter camp having been made into a divisional detail camp. Work on barbed wire entanglements was continued, and the Somerset Battery registered on to ground in front of C Squadron's trenches. At 1530 a large enemy column was reported passing our front, five kilometres away, and was shelled effectively by the 60-pounders a few minutes later. The regimental transport delivered 700 hand grenades for the trenches and also brought AIF Canteen stores from Jericho. During the day three Bedouins and two deserters entered the regiment's lines and through the interpreter told the staff that the Turks would attack soon.
Lieutenant Macfarlane, on the morning of 9 April, while on patrol, sighted an enemy mounted patrol. Giving chase, he captured a Turkish artillery officer and three other ranks who were mounted on good Turkish ponies but who were easily caught by the light horsemen.
Next day the enemy heavily shelled the regiment's left sector with a light battery and one large gun, using shrapnel and high explosive, but little damage was done as the trenches were now very good, with overhead cover in parts, while all the horses were on the other side of the Jordan. More barbed wire arrived and work was continued during the night in improving the entanglements. At 0100 sharp rifle and machine gun fire opened in the enemy's lines, lasting for 15 minutes. This was caused, it was learned later, by two parties of advancing Turks mistaking each other for the enemy.
The regiment stood to arms at 0400 on 11 April and at 0425 the Turks commenced an attack on the sector held by the 2nd LH, which developed into heavy rifle and machine gun fire by 0440. Heavy shelling, mostly in the rear of the 2nd LH, did little damage. At 0700 the enemy shelled the 1st LH sector, and the 2nd LH reported at 0730 that the enemy were attacking in force. By this time the artillery on the right bank of the Jordan had got the enemy's range and were shelling them very effectively. The big guns did great execution among the enemy during an intense bombardment from 1230 to 1245. At 1245 A Squadron was ordered forward to try and envelop the enemy in front of the 2nd LH, combining with the 3rd LH who were moving south. The enemy proved to be holding a line too strong for any sweeping movement to be carried out, so A Squadron opened fire on the flank, until ordered to withdraw at 1450; its casualties had been slight. A patrol sent to the south chased an enemy patrol, killing one man and capturing another, after shooting several horses.
The enemy withdrew after suffering heavy losses and next day early morning patrols reported all clear for a distance of three kilometres in front of the 1st LH sector. Lieutenant Jarrett's patrol captured 11 prisoners and saw a number of enemy dead, mostly killed by shell fire on the 11th. A patrol under Lieutenant Ross to the east during the afternoon saw no enemy movement beyond a few patrols. Deserters came in during the day, and the nearest enemy dead were buried.
Next morning, 13 April, the early patrol saw no Turks; a working party was detailed to bury the dead and the regimental limbers were sent to Jericho for supplies from the AIF Canteen, which were then sold to the men under regimental arrangements. Lieutenant 0N Hayes and 60 men with 63 horses marched in from details on 14 April, and the regiment was further strengthened by having a squadron of the Hyderabad Lancers and a company of the Alwar Infantry attached for duty. These men were instructed in patrolling so as to be able to take over the line in a few days and leave the light horse free for an intended raid on Es Salt.
On 15 April Major-General Chaytor invested with decorations the following: Captain and Adjutant ME Wright, Order of the Nile, 4th Class; 1567 Corporal JW Poole, 3065 Trooper CE Kelleher, and 2649 Trooper W West, Military Medals. Trooper West was later commissioned.
Two sections of the Hyderabad Lancers accompanied the 1st LH early morning patrols at 400, the Indian cavalry being very keen to take part in all "stunts". A troop accompanied Lieutenant Ross and his troop on patrol at 0700; moving east towards an enemy patrol of 12 men, the light horsemen gave chase and captured five Turks. Each day ambushes were laid for enemy patrols, but they were not always successful. The enemy appeared to be well supplied with shells as their artillery would fire if only a couple of scouts ventured to the foothills.
On 18 April orders were received to hand over trenches to the Alwar Infantry and to be ready to move at short notice. Next morning at 0300 the 1st Australian Light Horse Brigade moved across the Wady Nimrin and, with the New Zealand Mounted Rifles on the right, demonstrated against the foothills where the enemy were found to be strongly entrenched, with good sangars built along the main approaches. After crossing the wady, the regiment moved along the north bank. Eventually B Squadron reported a squadron of cavalry on the left flank, and C Squadron, which had advanced up the wady, reported that the enemy were firing on the screen from the left bank of Wady Nimrin.
When a 115 mm howitzer sub-section opened fire on the sangars at Shunet Nimrin, the enemy shelled the regiment's front line heavily, inflicting casualties. Heavy batteries from the right bank of the Jordan replied, and kept the enemy's fire down until dark when a withdrawal was ordered. The regiment's casualties were one killed and seven wounded - Corporal Metcalfe and Corporal Hagley died from wounds next day - while nine horses were killed and 11 wounded. The Military Medal was awarded to 1642 Trooper A. Mclnnes for gallantry in the field.
On 20 April Major Irwin, the regimental second-in-command, returned from a Senior Officers' School of Instruction at Zeitoun. The usual patrols were sent out, getting into touch each morning with the enemy patrols who kept further afield and did not show much fight. An aeroplane flew low over the camp, and rifle and Hotchkiss guns opened fire on it, without result. As the Indian cavalry had no Hotchkiss guns, two were taken from B and C Squadrons and placed in the trenches until further orders.
Lieutenant Colonel Granville left camp at 0830 on 25 April with the light cars of the brigade staff and, accompanied also by an armoured car, proceeded to the head of the Dead Sea, he saw no enemy there. A few old boats had been recovered, and a detachment of the Naval Brigade patrolled the Dead Sea with two armoured launches.
Meanwhile the Hedjaz Arabs under the Emir Feisal and Lieutenant Colonel TE Lawrence were operating against the Mecca (Hedjaz) railway, and were reported to have reached as far as Madeba, a village east and slightly south from the northern end of the Dead Sea; its distance in a straight line from the Ghoraniye bridgehead was about 30 kilometres. Lieutenant AI McDonald, brigade intelligence officer, accompanied by Lieutenant Cundy and a troop of 30 other ranks from the 1st LH, set out from Ghoraniye on the night of 25-26 April to get in touch with the Hedjazis at Maain, a few kilometres beyond Madeba. They marched all night through hostile country, by compass bearing only, and reached Maain before dawn. At 1115 a messenger reached the regiment from Lieutenant Cundy stating that he was held up by a superior enemy force. Lieutenant Ross was out patrolling and intercepted the message, so he immediately pushed forward to Lieutenant Cundy's assistance. The regiment was ordered out at the gallop, C Squadron being sent direct to a certain crossroads, B Squadron acting as left flank guard, and A Squadron following as support. At 1240 another messenger arrived from Cundy, who stated he had pushed his way through the enemy and was making for a ford across the Jordan. He requested the sand carts to be sent out to pick up his wounded. A and B Squadrons were ordered to stand by, and the CO pushed forward with C Squadron to the ford where he met Cundy and his troop. Cundy reported having reached Maain where he learned that the enemy knew of his whereabouts and were advancing to cut off his retreat. Feisal's people had not got this far, as had been reported. The Arabs interviewed appeared to be friendly, but immediately he started on the return journey, they commenced to fire their rifles as they dreaded retaliation by the Turks if they were known to be friendly to the British. The track was over precipitous rocks and the little force was held up for some time by infantry and cavalry, but eventually drove them off with casualties. The 1st LH casualties were two men wounded, three horses killed and three wounded.
That night orders were received that the regiment was to be ready to go to the relief of the 2nd Brigade in the morning; later this order was cancelled, and day and night patrols were continued, inflicting casualties on the enemy.
On 28 April the 2nd Light Horse Brigade took over the sector from Makhadet Hajla to Buthnet Halhul, which included the regiment's position, and Captain Wright remained with the 2nd Brigade until 1 May, Lieutenant Rogers taking over the duties of adjutant for the 1st LH. Next day the 1st LH crossed to the west bank of the Jordan and bivouacked; it had orders to attack Umm es Shert at dawn. This was to be one of the first moves in the raid about to be made on Es Salt.
The enemy had over 8,000 troops in the Amman-Es Salt-Shunet Nimrin area. Of these about 5,000 were at Shunet Nimrin, with headquarters at Es Salt. There were two roads connecting Amman (which was on the Hedjaz railway line) and Shunet Nimrin. One was a metalled road through Es Salt; the other, further south, was a track through Ain es Sir, which had recently been made passable for wheeled traffic by the Turks, and which at the time of the raid was liable to attack by the Beni Sakhr tribe, allies of Emir Feisal. General Chauvel's scheme amounted to this: while the infantry attacked the Shunet Nimrin position from the Jordan valley, the mounted troops would move northwards along the valley from el Ghoraniye, turn east along the tracks leading from Umm es Shert and Jisred Damieh and seize Es Salt. The Beni Sakhr would cut the road through Ain es Sir. Having taken Es Salt, the Australian Mounted Division was to send a mounted force down the road to Shunet Nimrin to take the Turks in rear when they had been forced back by the infantry. There appeared a fair chance, therefore, of capturing the Turkish force at Shunet Nimrin.
The 1st Light Horse Regiment recrossed the Jordan at midnight, 29-30 April, and while B Squadron under Major 0B Ryrie moved directly on Umm es Shert, C Squadron under Major Harris, with two machine guns, swept round on the right to prevent the enemy retiring on to Red Hill and to make all possible effort to capture the guns at the rear of Red Hill. Umm es Shert was occupied. RHQ moved forward, B Squadron occupied Red Hill and C Squadron was ordered forward towards the north end of Red Hill. The Turks, without offering resistance, retreated across the river to the right bank where they occupied a good defensive position, with a battery of guns and a number of machine guns, so that direct observation of the neighbouring ford was denied to us.
A Squadron under Major Weir was sent to relieve B whilst the latter watered their horses. Later, orders came from the Brigade that the 1st LH was to take part in the raid on Es Salt itself, so B Squadron with a section of machine guns was left to hold Red Hill and cover the ford. The remainder of the regiment moved independently to the foothills of Jebel um Aawe. It was learned by heliograph from B Squadron that the enemy were advancing on Red Hill, and at 1730 another message stated that the advance had stopped. Casualties up to this time were seven men wounded, one horse killed and several wounded. On 1 May the regiment less B Squadron rejoined the brigade, and Captain Wright returned as adjutant from the 2nd Light Horse Brigade. Moving on at 0945 the regiment reached Es Salt, which had been taken the day before by 3rd Australian Light Horse Brigade. The regiment, fed and watered and at 1530 moved with brigade headquarters about three kilometres south, towards Shunet Nimrin. A Squadron with a sub-section of machine guns was ordered to attack the enemy holding el Howeij and to co-operate with the 5th Mounted Brigade (Yeomanry) on their left. As the yeomanry could not be seen, A Squadron pushed forward and drove back the enemy's advanced posts. Later C Squadron moved up on the left of A Squadron, and as it was now dark, with still no sign of the yeomanry, an outpost line was held by the two squadrons, horses being watered from a native cistern. The country was so rough that it was impossible for even a camel cacolet to reach the outpost line and one man had to be carried by mates all the way to Es Salt, a distance of about seven kilometres.
The Beni Sakhr failed entirely to play their part, but although that was upsetting to the plans, it was of small concern compared to the smashing attack made on 1 May on the 4th Australian Light Horse Brigade and on B Squadron guarding the rear in the Red Hill area.
Meanwhile the Australian Mounted Division had collected many prisoners at Es Salt and Lieutenant Markwell and his troop were detailed to escort them down to the plain near Jericho. Next day, May 2, orders were received for the regiment to take over the defence of a certain road (Road No. 7), and to patrol the west and south so as to keep the road clear for all convoys and to closely watch any enemy movements. A Squadron took over this line, but an hour later fresh orders were received for the 1st LH to return to Es Salt. At 1615 the regiment reported at divisional headquarters at Es Salt and were ordered to stand by. Later on the same night, after fresh orders had been given and cancelled, C Squadron eventually proceeded along Road No. 6 and at 4.5000 became engaged with the enemy who appeared to be strongly entrenched. There were no signs of the infantry, nor sound of their firing.
At 0630 A Squadron, with two machine guns, was ordered forward to take up a position on the left of C Squadron and this line was held throughout the day. At night orders were received to withdraw to the Jordan valley in the morning, as the Turks had crossed from the west bank of the Jordan and in a strong attack forced back the defending force, capturing eight guns and seriously threatening the Umm es Shert - Es Salt track which was the only means of supplying, reinforcing or withdrawing the four brigades at Es Salt. The New Zealand Mounted Rifles and a yeomanry brigade had been rushed to support the 4th Australian Light Horse Brigade, while B Squadron had, on 1 May, been forced back from Red Hill.
Next morning, 4 May, the regiment commenced to withdraw. As a number of other units were using the same road, leap frogging back by turns, traffic was very congested and a number of planes came over and dropped bombs; the enemy, who had been reinforced, kept up pressure on the rearguard. Many fat cattle and sheep, the property of Bedouins, were left behind, the only damage done being to a few hectares of green barley which was used to feed the horses. As it was impossible to bring away captured stores (units having to move a great part of the way in single file), many machine guns and rifles were broken up and left at Es Salt.
On reaching the Jordan valley, the regiment spread out owing to shell fire, and after watering in the Jordan received orders to return to the foothills and help to cover the withdrawal of the Anzac Divisional Group. By midnight the last of the Anzac Division had passed the outpost line, and the regiment marched independently to the bivouac area on the west bank of the Jordan, Major Ryrie rejoining with his squadron from Umm es Shert.
Reinforcements now came in from the 1st Training Regiment, Moascar: 29 men and 29 horses. The Croix de Guerre was awarded to 1740 Lance-Corporal C McLeod for his gallantry and work in the action at Umm es Shert, and 1392 Trooper W Goodwin was awarded the Military Medal for his conduct in the patrol under Lieutenant Cundy, that went to Maain to make contact with the Hedjaz allies.
On the morning of 7 May hostile aircraft flew over the camp, bombing and using their machine guns; the bombs fell wide and only a few horses were injured. The unit was busy digging trenches for protection against bombs. This proved to be useful work as on the following day the area was again bombed, though with little success. During May grazing was good, and every opportunity was taken to let the horses feed on the natural grasses. From the high hills across the Jordan occupied by the enemy direct observation was possible, and every movement could be plainly seen; later on, big naval guns frequently shelled the whole valley.
The unit remained in this Jordan valley camp until 10 May, doing various wiring jobs at Ghoraniye bridgehead, making roads, and so on. At 0500 on 10 May orders were received to move to a camp site near Talat ed Dumm. The regiment moved along the old Roman road and arrived by sundown. The transport arrived about midnight, having moved by the pilgrim road which was not so steep as the other. Both roads met at Talat ed Dumm where water had been developed and the Anzac Mounted Division had its headquarters. The camp site, being some hundreds of metres higher than the Jordan valley, was cooler, but even so the heat was terrific and caused large sick parades. The horses were watered in Wady el Kelt, a swift-running trout stream not far from the road. While in this camp 60 cases of comforts were received from the Australian Comforts Fund at Cairo, and needless to say were appreciated. Four days later, starting at sundown, the regiment marched all night along the old Roman road to a camp named Ramadam, about five kilometres past Solomon's Pools, a little to the south of Jerusalem, the New Zealand Mounted Rifles taking over the camp at Talat ed Dumm.
In the new camp, the sunny days were cool, and at night men who had known little sleep down on the Jordan rejoiced in the mountain mists. The horse lines, however, were put down in very stony ground; there was fairly good grazing in the vicinity, the only drawback being that the camp was too far from water. Later on, water was discovered in some old native wells and working parties were put on to develop it, and the Anzac Engineers attached to 1st Light Horse Brigade erected power pumps. Unfortunately, on the night of 20 May Bedouins stole oil, spare parts and some troughing. Major Ryrie was sent with the interpreter and a troop to investigate in the local villages, but without success. Two GS wagons were sent to Kilo 1, Jerusalem, to draw gift stores from the Comforts Fund, which were distributed to all ranks. From this camp leave parties proceeded daily to Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Working parties continued daily to develop the water supply. It was found that the wells or cisterns ran back into the hills and connected up with very old workings credited to King David. A Divisional School of Instruction was opened at Beit Jala, a Christian village near Bethlehem, and a Descorps School of Instruction at Jaffa, Lieutenant WFM Ross being detailed as adjutant at the latter.
The YMCA under Mr TE Jones, which had been attached to the 1st Brigade since el Arish, erected its big marquee on the flat, and a working party was told to clear the stones in the vicinity to make a cricket ground, materials being supplied by the YMCA. Lime juice and cocoa were made available to the men free of charge, and stationery could always be had; the men were grateful for the shade and comforts provided.
Leave to Egypt was now granted for batches of one officer and four other ranks. The unit stayed in this camp until 7 June, the horses improved in condition, saddlery was cleaned and equipment overhauled. In an attempt to decrease the casualties caused by malaria mosquitoes, an issue of mosquito nets was made, one to every two men, the nets being made to be put inside a "bivvy" made from two men's canvas sheets. On June 1 there was an exchange of chaplains, Captain PJ Donovan reporting from the 3rd LH, and Captain RJ Clark marching out to the 2nd LH.
The water from No. 1 and No. 2 wells was now being lifted by centrifugal pumps, but the supply was not sufficient to water the whole of the brigade, so the regiments took it in turns to water at Solomon's Pools, which consisted of three large reservoirs of cemented rock. The so-called Pools of Solomon were situated in a valley at the rear of the ancient castle, and served as a reservoir for the old aqueduct of Jerusalem, which had recently been restored. They owed their name to the supposition that the Gardens of Solomon were in the Wady Ortas. There were three pools, at intervals of 50 metres, the second being 6 metres above the first, and the third the same height above the second. At the lower end of each pool a wall was built across the valley.
The King's Birthday, 3 June, was celebrated by a procession in Bethlehem which finished up at the Church of the Nativity, where the regiment was represented by Lieutenant Colonel Granville, Captain SM Moore, Lieutenant CS Frost and 60 other ranks. Next day the unit was inspected by Major-General Chaytor, GOC Anzac Mounted Division. Orders were now received to prepare to move back to the Jordan valley on the night of 6-7 June, via Talat ed Dumm. It may be explained that the task of holding the Jordan valley and of containing the Turkish Fourth Army east of the Jordan, from May until September, was given to Descorps. Throughout the summer, while two cavalry divisions suffered the heat and dust of the valley, the other was resting in the Judaean mountains or the coastal plain. The Australian Mounted Division and the Anzac Mounted Division alternately held the northern sector, from el Mandesi, up Wady el Mellahah and through Musallabeh to the foot of the mountains. The maintenance of this force in the Jordan helped to create in the Turkish mind the belief that Allenby would ultimately strike east, i.e. at Amman; he did this, but of course his main blow was in the west, along the coast.
The 1st LH moved at 1800 on 6 June but, owing to the water failing at No. 1 well, it had to water at Solomon's Pools. At midnight Bethany was reached, and the brigade halted to let the 2nd Brigade pass. The weather was very cold and windy. The Jordan was reached by 900 on the 8th and the horses were watered in Wady el Auja. The commanding officer proceeded with the brigade commander to inspect the line to be taken over from the 4th ALH Brigade; the 1st LH in Sector No 3 was to have the 3rd LH on its left and the 5th Mounted Brigade on its right. The relief was completed at midnight and the horses were returned to a bivouac area some distance behind. The line was held thus: A Squadron, post at The Bluff, on el Maskerah, and Musallabeh Posts Nos 1 and 2; C Squadron, Musallabeh Posts Nos 3 and 4, and Vyse Post; B Squadron in reserve.
Musallabeh formed the apex of a sharp local salient based on the Auja. South-east from Musallabeh, about 2,000 metres, was the post on the rocky hill of el Maskerah; behind that, to the west, about 1,500 metres away, was the high rocky eminence, The Bluff. Down the western side of the apex, across a rough valley and about 1,000 metres from Musallabeh, was Vyse Post; then, divided by sharp ravines and running south-west and south, the posts known as Vale, View, Vaux, Zoo, Zeiss; thence a further chain into the hills to the south-west. Behind the Vyse-Zeiss line of posts rose the stony ridge of Abu Tellul which, owing to its commanding situation, was the key to the situation.
The country was so rugged that it was impossible to eliminate all the dead ground by the siting of posts. There were quite wide gaps between the posts but the tactics were to use, in the event of penetration, a strong mobile reserve, which would pivot on the defended localities in carrying out their counter-offensive.
When the regiment took them over, the trenches were well dug and the front line partially wired. Shelling by the enemy was intermittent during the day and night, and as the position was under direct observation rations and water were brought up by camels at night. The unit stood to arms each morning and waited for an "all clear" message from brigade before standing down. Early morning patrols covered the overgrown saline swamp, between 5th Mounted Brigade and el Maskerah.
On the morning of 10 June the GOC inspected the regiment's front line. Two days later 45 reinforcements marched in from Jerusalem; the evacuations to hospital were now averaging two or three per day, chiefly through malaria. In the swamp the mosquitoes were so bad that the patrols were given a repellent paste to smear on arms and face. The mosquito nets were sufficient to keep out the mosquitoes, but were no protection against the sandflies which were particularly bad at the el Maskerah posts. There was plenty of game in the swamp; gazelles, hares, partridges, and also wild pigs, which frequently caused the sentries to be on the alert. Great care had to be taken that no lights by night or smoke by day could be seen by the enemy, as the smallest movement caused a heavy bombardment. Each post was self-contained as to water and iron rations, and all trenches were well supplied with bombs. Two machine guns were sited on the right flank and two on the left. The heat was intense and the air felt very heavy, due to the valley being hundreds of metres below sea level.
On the nights of 17 and 19 June Lieutenant Matheson led patrols on foot from Musallabeh towards Grant Hill, and on the night of 20 June Lieutenants Frost and Matheson, each with a troop, raided the enemy post on Grant Hill, the former from the south-east and the latter from the north-east. Although they inflicted casualties with hand grenades they were beaten back by heavy rifle and machine gun fire, Lieutenant Matheson and two men being wounded. The Inverness Battery put down a barrage on to the enemy position, and the raiding parties returned with their wounded.
Up to 30 June, during which period General Allenby visited this sector, the unit suffered daily shelling and a few casualties. The enemy had the best of the observation; a heat haze rose in the valley each day and dense clouds of dust rolled up from the horses going to water. On 25 June, 2nd Lieutenant HC Menzies marched in from the Cadet School and Lieutenant WG Drummond from the School of Instruction at el Arish. On the 29th, Captain Moore, who had been acting as assistant-adjutant, went to hospital, and Lieutenant Drummond was slightly wounded.
On 30 June, the 1st LH handed over the sector to the 2nd LH; the relief was finished by 2235 and the bivouac into which the regiment moved was violently shelled in the morning and again in the afternoon, three men and 12 horses being wounded and eight horses killed. About 70 horses stampeded when a shell burst among them, but they were all subsequently recovered. Major 0B Ryrie was evacuated to the field ambulance.
The evacuations were now becoming heavy owing to sickness, the older men seeming to stand the conditions the best. Working parties were nightly sent to improve the wiring around el Maskerah, generally under shell fire. On 3 July the enemy again shelled the bivouac area, but beyond blowing "bivvies" about did not do much damage. Next day the unit was reinforced by 2nd Lieutenant WH Scott from the Cadet School and 59 other ranks from Moascar. Wiring in the line was being carried out by the 1st LH nightly.
TO BE CONTINUED
Extracted from the Regimental History the account was assembled by members of the Regiment en transit from Egypt to Australia in 1919.
Colonel Granville carried a camera on campaign and made an album of the images when he returned to Australia. The album is now part of the Museum’s collection, the images were digitised by Ray Williams so you can now browse that album below at your leisure:
The final part of the story of the Regiment in World War 1 will be published in the August 2018 edition of Lancers’ Despatch.
Extracts from the Sydney Morning Herald
Saturday 10 January 1885, page 12
The Government have accepted the offer of the services of the proposed Cavalry Corps on the reserve or voluntary basis. A meeting of those gentlemen who have signified their intention of joining the corps will be held at the Oxford Hotel at 8 p.m. on Tuesday next. The business will be to consider the terms of enlistment, the details of the uniform, and the general formation of the corps. The proprietor of the Oxford Hotel, Mr William Hession is thanked for providing the venue.
Friday 13 February 1885, page 5
The enrolment of persons desirous of becoming members of the cavalry corps will begin this evening at 8 o'clock, at the offices of the 1st and 2nd Regiments, No. 10, O'Connell-Street. An adjutant will be in attendance to receive applications.
Tuesday 24 February 1885, page 7
The Sydney Light Horse paraded at Moore Park yesterday, under the command of Captain Macdonald, for mounted drill, and were taken through their exercise by Sergeant-Major Thompson. The men were well mounted, and acquitted themselves creditably. Several movements executed at a walk on Saturday were performed at the trot and the gallop. His Excellency the Governor, who has always advocated the formation of a cavalry corps here, has kindly given the troop the use of Government Home grounds, known as the Inner Domain, for their next drill, which takes place to-morrow afternoon at 4 o'clock. An effort is being made by the men to make themselves as efficient as possible before the 3rd pros., and all members of the corps who intend to take part in the demonstration are requested to be present at Wednesday's parade. Arrangements are in progress for securing swords and accoutrements for the troops from a neighbouring colony, there being no cavalry arms or equipments in New South Wales.
Thursday 23 April 1885, page 7
The Sydney Light Horse paraded on Tuesday evening at the Exhibition Building, and although most of the members reside in the suburbs, there was an excellent muster. The corps was put through a variety of movements in two troops by Sergeant-Major Thompson, the majority of the movements being executed with precision and smartness. The smart and soldierlike bearing of the troop, on the occasion of the departure of the New South Wales Contingent for the Sudan has come under the notice of an Indian contemporary in Allahabad, which, in referring to the corps, says,-" They are described as a fine lot of young fellows, showing an efficiency, precision of movement, and better horsemanship than is usually displayed by Volunteer cavalry.
Monday 16 August 1897
LONDON, 16 July . From every part of the spacious sports arena at the Crystal Palace the visitors were able to watch the yeomanry and volunteer tournament, in which a large number of colonials took part Not many contests, however, were decided, because the displays| formed, the chief feature of the programme. In tent pegging several colonial troopers displayed their smartness, and Trooper Harkus, Now South Wales Lancers, one of the most popular competitors, won the first prize. Another colonial, Sergeant O'Grady, of the same regiment, took the sword prize, defeating Sergeant-major De Vassey of the South Australian Mounted Rifles, and Trooper Lee. The New South Wales Lancers, in addition to taking part in several competitions, gave a characteristic display of frontier life, which consisted of an exciting rescue of a stolen child from a supposed savage tribe. The colonial troops have undertaken to carry out various movements which are peculiar to themselves, and which will give an idea of the special work they may be called upon to undertake in colonial warfare. The tournament committee have decided to present the colonial competitors with bronze medals and those who have won prizes with silver ones, and these will be pleasing souvenirs of their visit to the Palace.
*Note that after four weeks on a ship from Europe, despatches were then telegraphed from Albany in WA to Sydney. This was far cheaper that sending direct from London by telegraph and cut a week off the time it took to get news into print.
Paper clippings and illustrations provided by David Brown.
2017 saw two centenaries for Armour. They were commemorated at the RAACA NSW Annual Dinner on 11 November 2017 in Sydney.
Third Battle of Gaza – 31 October 1917
The first and of primary concern for Australia was the third battle of Gaza. It was October 1917, the Allied Eastern Expeditionary Force 75% of which were Australian and New Zealand mounted troops had twice, in March and April 1917, attempted to break the Turkish defensive line that ran from Gaza on the Mediterranean coast to Beersheba in the east. This time the line would be broken. The commander General Allenby chose to make feints against the coastal defences encouraging the Turks and their German advisors to accept this would be the point of battle and commit their reserves whilst making the actual breakthrough in the east, outflanking the main position and leaving it neutralised.
It was to this eastern attack that the Regiment was committed. The Regiment, part of the 1 LH Bde (1 LH, 2 LH, 3 LH) commanded by Brigadier General Charlie Cox was in the Anzac Mounted Division along with the 2 LH Bde (5 LH, 6 LH, 7 LH), the NZMR Bde (Auckland, Canterbury and Wellington Mounted Rifles Regiments) and 18th Brigade, Royal Horse Artillery (Inverness, Ayrshire and Somerset Batteries) with supporting troops under Major General Chaytor, a New Zealander. Lieutenant General Chauvel, commander the Desert Mounted Corps committed the ANZAC Mounted Division to take Tel el Sakati and Tel el Saba to clear the way for a corps attack on Beersheba from the East. The British 60th and 70th Divisions having secured the south western approaches. Light horse and NZMR units were organised as cavalry, this organisation meant a regiment was half the size of a mounted infantry battalion with a similar command structure. The soldiers carried a .303 (7.7 mm) rifle and 46 cm bayonet, the rifles were carried slung on the soldier's back when mounted so they could be quickly brought into action on dismount.
The Second Light Horse Brigade was first into the fray. It was tasked with taking Tel el Sakati, more a rise than a tel (hill) on the Hebron road 8 kilometres north east of the town, to cut-off Turkish withdrawal. The brigade moved at the gallop, the opposition being confined to Turkish artillery deployed in the area. The guns were without protection, were unable to direct fire on the fast moving light horsemen and withdrew in disarray. O930 saw the area secure and blocking force in place.
The First Light Horse Brigade commenced their attack on Tel el Saba, a craggy outcrop at 1000 with a preliminary bombardment by the Somerset Battery from the dead ground 3,000 metres from the objective. The 2 and 3 LHRs were tasked with the assault, 1 LHR was in reserve. The approach afforded dead ground within 1,000 metres of the objective where the horsemen could dismount. The NZMR Brigade was despatched in a flanking move to the north east, hemming in the defenders.
The fight was hard, the Turkish defenders were well dug in and had good fields of fire. At around mid-day it was decided to engage the hill with direct fire artillery. The Regiment was taken from reserve and deployed to protect the Inverness Battery in a slight fold of ground about 1000 metres from the Turkish position. General Chauvel placing the 3 LH Bde under command the Anzac Division to reconstitute the reserve and reinforce the attack. It was not until 1500 that the tel was secured and the Regiment could be released from its securing role and tasked with elements of the 3 LH Bde to give chase to the retreating Turks and move toward the town. Eye witness accounts tell of the Regiment using its horsed mobility for fast movement over open ground, then dismounting to dislodge pockets of enemy resistance as they moved into the town. The men by this time had their bayonets permanently fixed, the dying sun glinting on them as the inexorable advance progressed.
The 4 LH Bde had so far been left out of battle, the flanks had been secured, but the town with its much needed wells was not yet in our hands, and demolition of the important water sources had commenced. At 1630 with only an hour of light left this brigade was launched at the town 4th and 12th LH leading, 11th in reserve. The brigade dismounted on and beyond the Turkish trenches securing the town and wells. Members of the Regiment reported that they saw and heard the charge go in whilst engaged with an enemy who quickly became demoralised and retreated rapidly once it became apparent that the town had fallen.
At the commemoration at Beersheba on 31 October 2017 it was sad to note that only the coup de grace units and the New Zealanders were honoured. At Pozzieres all of the colours and guidons of the units involved were present. At Beersheba only the guidons of the 4th and 12th were present the other units that took part and are still on the order of battle 1, 2, 3 and 10 were effectively snubbed. No guidons or other mention of their efforts in the official ceremony. The New Zealanders took over Tel el Saba (Tel Beersheba) on 31 October; no room for those representing the Australian units that took part. At least your editor and his party that included Lancer Association members Roger Gellett, Bob Stenhouse and Brian Walters had visited the site a few days before.
Do note that I will be taking a group to Beersheba again in 2018, this time to mark the occasion of the Armistice of Mudros, 31 October 2018, CLICK HERE for details.
The Regiment took part in a special ceremony at the Light Horse Memorial, Anzac Parade, Canberra on 31 October 2017 to mark the centenary.
Battle of Cambrai
When you drive from town of Cambrai down what was once a Roman road to the battle Memorial; you are passing through low rolling chalk hills that even today is good tank country. On the morning of 20 November 1917 1,000 silently registered guns opened up on the unsuspecting Germans and 378 Mk IV tanks rolled out of the mist. En masse for the first time the tanks cut the wire, and rolled through the defences in depth. On previous occasions when tanks were deployed in small numbers, reliability of the vehicles and lucky shots by the enemy quickly negated shock action; not so when numbers could ensure the juggernauts would roll-on regardless. The infantry had but to mop up taking 7,500 prisoners. By mid-day, the tanks were by then 6.5 km into the enemy defences. Then the weather turned bad; this excused the waiting cavalry their task to exploit gains. There was not enough infantry to secure the won perimeter; the cavalry untrained in light horse tactics did not dismount and do the job. By the end of the first day, the MK IV’s mechanical reliability became an issue, about half the tanks were unable to proceed further.
On 29 November the offensive halted after an advance of 10 km. It was then the Germans who showed their innovation. In preparation for Operation Michael in early 1918, German infantry trained in close fire and manoeuvre; and the newly minted storm troopers were deployed for the first time at Cambrai. Storm troopers were trained to scout for weak points in the enemy’s position, then lead infantry in striking at and exploiting the vulnerable locations. 20 Divisions attacked, driving the British back to the line they struck from on 20 November. Both sides equally suffered around 43,000 casualties.
These innovations: the tank, accurate silent artillery registration, and close fire and manoeuvre by infantry, picked up by the Australian genius Monash were to eventually end the stalemate of trench warfare.
VERONICA ANN ALGIE Age 77 passed away at Thirroul after a two year battle with cancer on 24 October 2017. Veronica was the wife of SSGT Brian (Mick) Algie. [Bob Gay]
REG SAINTY of Wentworthville passed away on Saturday, 30 December 2017. He had turned 95 on 3 October. Reg had been married to Elsie for 75 years on 1 October. Reg was our last surviving pre-war lancer, he joined the Regiment in 1937 when it had just been mechanised. He had obviously put his age up, because he would have only been 15 at the time. He joined the AIF on 4 October 1943 and served in combat in the South Pacific, not in the Regiment.
The last Regimental Association function that he attended was the centenary of the formation of the 1st Light Horse AIF parade on 30 August 2014 in Parramatta. He was a special guest and was very proud to meet the Governor General. [Norm Sainty]
The funeral was attended by Dave Crisp, Tony Fryer and Len Koles. The association provided a slouch hat with plumes for Reg's coffin.
Reg’s son Norm served with the Regiment in the 1960s and is a member of the Lancers’ Association.
ALFRED (Snow) MCEWAN of Southport Queensland. Snow passed away on Thursday 24 August 2017 after a long illness in a Gold Coast Nursing Home.
Snow is survived by his nearest relatives, his wife Noreen, son Gary and daughter Lynette.
Snow was born on 4 September 1942 at Cessnock. He joined the Regiment on 19 July 1942 serving as a Matilda Tank crew member (loader operator), under Lieutenant Noel Rossiter in New Guinea 1943/44 and in action at Balikpapan Borneo in July 1945. No 5 Troop B Squadron. until his discharge on 22 January 1946.
Snow was a well known and admired lawn bowler on the Gold Coast. [Reg Gunn]
MICHAEL (Chalky) WHITE. Chalky passed away on 14 September 2017, his funeral was held at 12 noon Friday 22 September 2017 at North Chapel, Pine Grove, Minchinbury, a number of Lancers were present. Michael "Chalkie" White was a side drummer with the band in the early to mid 1980's. He rode the drum horse "Charlie" in the Regiment's centenary parade and was a great bloke. He worked at Prospect Electricity with fellow bandies Warren Thurtell and Felix Sanchez. I remember him as a dedicated family man, an accomplished drummer and a real team player. Rest In Peace Chalkie. Thanks for your service. [Chris Lawley and Peter Giudes]
Thank you all very much for your assistance in supporting the Museum and Association financially in the 2017/18 financial year to date. Our records (and they may not be perfect, human data entry has been involved) show the following supported by donation, the Association:
Michael Alexander, Douglas Black, Tony Blissett, Joseph Camilleri, John Carruthers, Paul Degiorgio, Glen Eaves, Tony Fryer, Brian Hanlon, Alan Hitchell, Graham Hodge, Graham Horsfall, Michael Krause, Doug Pollard, Joyce Sharpe, Eric Stevenson, Gloria Warham, Graham Yee, Albert Zehetner,
and the following the Museum:
Michael Alexander, Douglas Black, Tony Blissett, Cynthia Booth, Joseph Camilleri, John Carruthers, Paul Degiorgio, Glen Eaves, Tony Fryer, Warren Glenny, Brian Hanlon, Alan Hitchell, Graham Hodge, Michael Krause, Mary Lamb, James McCann, Kevin Regan, Joyce Sharpe, Eric Stevenson, Wellington RSL Sub-Branch, Gloria Warham, Graham Yee, Albert Zehetner,
Yes we really do need your financial assistance. No amount too large, no amount too small.
Click Here to go to the donation page. Donations to the Museum are tax deductible.
Don't forget your memorabilia, the online shop now has Regimental Centenary Beret Badges for sale; we have secure payment facilities available using your credit card (now including AMEX) or your PayPal account. Click Here for the Museum Shop.
Membership of the RAACA NSW is free to all applicants over 75. The RAACA NSW newsletter complements Lancers' Despatch, providing news of events in the wider corps community. If you wish to join the RAACA and receive the newsletter, drop a line to the Association at Building 96, Victoria Barracks, Paddington NSW 2071, or visit the website: www.raacansw.org.au.
The Museum will have a number of commitments this year as part of the WW1 conclusion centenary. This will stretch our available A vehicle crewmen, some of whom now find their agility; that needed to crawl into a crew position is not what it was. So if you are a trained A vehicle crewman, and have the time to up-skill to a Ferret, Centurion or Matilda, driver or gunner and participate in parades this year, call Bill Prosser 0417 248 863.
"A regiment is not solely the men who presently comprise its strength. It is an entity stretching back in time to its beginnings. It is all the men who have served in its ranks, with their traditions and achievements. The serving unit, like the tip of an iceberg, may be the only part you see, but underneath, supporting it, there is a great deal more." (These words, often quoted, were introduced by our Patron, Major General Warren Glenny, AO RFD ED, during his term as 2IC of 1st/15th Royal NSW Lancers in the 1960s)
Lancers' Despatch is Published in February and August each year by the New South Wales Lancers Memorial Museum Incorporated ABN 94 630 140 881 and the Royal New South Wales Lancers Association. All material is copyright. John Howells - Editor, New South Wales Lancers Memorial Museum Incorporated, Linden House, Lancer Barracks, 2 Smith Street, PARRAMATTA NSW 2150, AUSTRALIA, firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: +61 (0)405 482 814, Fax: +61 (0)2 4733 3951.
© New South Wales Lancers Memorial Museum Incorporated
ABN 94 630 140 881 - - - Site Updated December 2018
Lancer Barracks, 2 Smith Street, Parramatta NSW 2150, Australia
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For Regimental enquiries call: +61 (0)2 9635 7822