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The Kia ora coo-ee : the magazine for the ANZACS in the Middle East, 1918

Our Allies. — I. — The Londoners

page 16

Our Allies.
The Londoners.

Most of them are only little fellows. Their big packs fit them from neck to loin. They never know the road to anywhere; they seem to make a hobby of setting lost. But there is one road they have an instinct for, and that is the road that leads to "Jacko." And in fight after fight, from Sheria to Shunet Nimrin and Amman, we have seen them plodding along this road in their dogged Cockney way, and going home with the bayonet.

We saw them come out through the mud to Amman their packs sodden from the rain, their big boots carrying pounds of the sticky soil of the land of Moab Our Light Horse fellows were used up when they sot to Amman, and their advance across the pitilessly bare boggy slopes to the concealed Turkish positions was dangerously laboured and slow. But they had ridden to the battleground, and they went into action relatively light to the Infantry. The Londoners had come up by forced marches, extending over days and nights, across country unspeakably rough and heavy. They seemed not to have a kick remaining. But it was no time for a rest. Straight off their terrible struggle in the mud they were led in towards the enemy position, across a registered zone which the Turks had turned into a hell with artillery, machine gun and rifle fire. We watered them go, wave after have, now enshrouded in the smoke of the barrage, now emerging again, the thin lines still thinner, but the slow pace no slower and the direction unchanged. Gallant little Londoners, me great wads swallowed them up as the roll of the machine guns, echoing like the grim language of Death thro' the close packed range beyond, became more excited and sinister.

Once since then, as we cleared the Jordan on the second raid, we saw them again. It was just before midnight. They were halted in their fours, their packs up, waiting for the order to march east across the plain to the attack on Shunet Nimrin. As our horses walked swiftly past in the darkness, regiment after regiment and brigade following brigade, we smothered and half cooked them with the fine white clay dust of the Valley. There was no exchange of greetings. We rode by in silence. But we were thinking hard, and we thought that, although our gallop up the plain under the Turkish guns at dawn would be no joy ride, we were lucky not to be those little Cockney Infantrymen. And a few hours later, as shortly before the dawn we cleared our bivouac, we heard, miles away on our right, a splutter of rifle fire, and then a wild outburst of bombing and shafts of these und of machine guns. The Londoners had again got home with bomb and bayonet. Marching all night, and with no artillery preparation, they has, with all their bad sense of direction, once more found "Jacko"; and this time they had surprised him in his blankets. They killed 60 or 70 before the Turk was fully awake, and by sunrise they had sent back above 250 prisoners. And carrying their great packs and only their legs to ride upon! Then daylight exposed them, and for days they but eo at successive enemy positions, flinging away their brave Cockney lives so that things might be made as easy as possible for us up at Es Salt.

Back at Sheria in early November, after Beersheba had been galloped, but when the main Turkish line still held, the advancing Infantry was temporally checked. The Light Horse were ordered to endeavour to clear their front. They raced mounted through the Infantry line. Bat the task was beyond them; and after a troop had been wiped out, they were stopped a few hundred yards in front of the British Infantry position. All day little parties of our men lay out there suffering severe punishment, and prayed for support. It came in the evening. In the failing light a long line of steadily marching Londoners went stolidly through our posts.

"How far to the.…?" asked a sergeant of the London Scottish. "About 700 yards". "Then in seven minutes", replied the Cockney, "we'll be into them". The darkness covered them, and save for an occasional rifle shot, all was quiet. Then came a shout, growing into a roar, and the Australians knew that bayonets had been fixed and that the Londoners were going home. And in one of those strange lulls which come sometimes in the tumult of a fight, a voice cried 'Kill the swine; kill them." The Turks had broken, the line was pierced, and Palestine was ours.

The Londoners are no better perhaps than many other British troops with whom we have fought in the long campaign. Our admiration and affection for them are due, in a large measure, to our knowledge of the disabilities over which they have so magnificently triumphed. They are made up of every class in the great city, but most of them come from offices and shops
"The Dinkum Oil."

"The Dinkum Oil."

in which 10 or 12 hours and more were a normal day's work, and from lives, as a whole, which were not calculated to breed great fighters. They are the complete answer to the old belief that the men of the Empire's big cities were poor in spirit and low in physique. These little Cockneys, whose feet in the old davs seldom left the pavement, whose lanes rarely tasted fresh air, whose employment was, to the Australian mind, little short of slavery, have proved in the hour of crisis among the greatest fighters of us all.