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Official War History of the Wellington Mounted Rifles Regiment 1914-1919

Chapter Twenty-One — On to Jaffa

page 172

Chapter Twenty-One
On to Jaffa

After having buried the dead at Ayun Kara on November 15th, the Brigade advanced northwards and bivouacked beyond the Jewish village at Richon-le-Zion, famous for its wine. Here the troops were warmly welcomed by the inhabitants. Released from the tyranny of the Turk, as the result of the flight on the previous day, the Jews were beside themselves with joy. The dawn of a new era of light and freedom was before them, and they gratefully acclaimed the New Zealanders as their "deliverers."

On the morning of 16th November the New Zealand Brigade reconnoitred towards Jaffa, and at 9.30 patrols of the W.M.R. entered the town without opposition. Only civilians were found there, and at eleven o'clock Lieutenant-Colonel Whyte took possession of the Government Buildings, and guards were posted over the German and Austrian Consulate and Post Office. On the outbreak of war, the population of Jaffa had been about 24,000, composed of mixed races, but in the meantime all those who were not sympathetic to the Turkish cause had been expelled. On the occupation of the town by our troops the population numbered only about eight thousand, and these were orderly and quiet.

Jaffa, "the beautiful," the port of Jerusalem, is famed the world over for its orange groves which cover the country for miles around. As Joppa, it is one of the oldest known cities of the world, and Phiny says it existed before the flood. The historian Strabo makes it the scene of Andromeda's exposure to the sea monster, and the rock to which she is said to have been tied is still to be seen. It was from Joppa that Jonah set sail before he was swallowed by the whale. According to the Book of Acts, Dorcas was raised from the dead there. The traditional house of Simon the Tanner, overlooking the sea from the south-west, is one of the show places of the town, whilst close to the Latin hospice, which dates from the year 1654, is the Armenian Monastery, where it is said that Napoleon, during his Palestine campaign of 1799, poisoned all those suffering from plague. Further north-east stands the German colony of Sarona, which, page 173like Richon, is famous for its wines, and whose huge cellars are the largest in the world.

On the 18th November the W.M.R. took up an outpost line south of the river facing the enemy, with the 1st A.L.H. Brigade on its right and the Camel Corps on its left. Next day, with the object of advancing the line and securing a crossing over the river, the W.M.R., with a troop of the 2nd W.M.R. Squadron, under Lieutenant Sutherland, in advance, reconnoitred towards a dam and bridge to the north-east, the troop halting on approaching its objective, while Lieutenant Sutherland and two other ranks advanced to within one hundred yards of the bridge. The latter was held by a strong post, and during the firing which occurred one of the reconnoitring party, Trooper Currie, was wounded and subsequently captured, his horse being killed and another wounded. The remainder of the Regiment, covered by the fire of the Somerset Battery, then moved forward.

The position was then reviewed by Lieut.-General Chauvel and Major-General Chaytor, with the result that the W.M.R. were ordered to hold an outpost line covering the river from the south. Next day the Auckland and Canterbruy Regiments relieved the W.M.R., the last-named taking over police and picket duties at Jaffa for a few days.

At this time many refugees were returning to the town as the result of the protection afforded under British administration. The streets became congested with camels and other live stock carrying all manner of merchandise, furniture, and household utensils. Confidence had been restored, and trading recommenced.

The W.M.R. rejoined its Brigade in the outpost line on the 21st.