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

Chapter Twenty-Nine — The Final Fight at Amman

page 228

Chapter Twenty-Nine
The Final Fight at Amman

On the morning of 24th September the advance was resumed to Suweileh, where preparations were made during the day to attack Amman, the other brigades of the Anzac Division having arrived in the vicinity, the Wellington Mounted Rifles taking up an outpost line to cover the New Zealand Brigade.

The prospect of again attacking Amman acted like a tonic on the men. Spurred by recollections of the desperate fighting of the previous raid—of the bitter cold and blinding rain and of the ingratitude of the treacherous Circassians—the men were eager to avenge themselves on the enemy.

Towards evening a demolition party of the A.M.R., under Major Herrold, proceeded to cut the Hadjaz railway line ten miles east. The work was successfully performed, and the party rejoined its regiment early next morning. All the party returned safely. It was a difficult task well done.

On the 25th, the Brigade was ordered to move forward at 6 a.m. to attack Amman from the north with its right resting on the Amman-Es Salt Road, and to co-operate with the 2nd A.L.H. Brigade, which was ordered to attack the town from the west, the 1st Brigade to protect the north and to co-operate with the other brigades if required. The 29th Indian Battery was the only artillery available to support the Division.

A stubborn defence of the town was anticipated, as its possession was of great importance to enable the Turks to extricate the garrison of Maan and the posts along the railway.

At the time appointed the W.M.R., as advance guard to the Brigade, moved forward, and at 7.45 the screen of the 9th Squadron encountered machine-gun and rifle fire and a few shells on a line two miles in length with its right on the Es Salt-Amman Road, two miles north-west of Amman, and its left two miles due north of the town. From this position, posts were advanced and machine-gunners dealt with enemy snipers. At this time touch had not been gained with the 2nd Brigade, which was advancing from the west, and enemy cavalry were observed moving in a southerly direction two miles south-west of the road. One section page 229of the 29th Indian Mountain Battery was then ordered further forward to support the W.M.R.

At 8.10 the 2nd W.M.R. Squadron (less one troop) was sent forward to the left of the 9th Squadron, where it later occupied a position two and a-half miles north by east of Amman, but it was held up by rifle and machine-gun fire from two redoubts to the east. From the position occupied, however, our machine guns brought enfilade fire to bear on the redoubts in the vicinity and severely dealt with enemy reinforcements massing to attack.

At ten o'clock the 2nd A.L.H. Brigade occupied high ground on which the 9th Squadron W.M.R. posts had been placed, and the latter were withdrawn.

Enemy cavalry were then observed endeavouring to work round the left flank and a troop of the 2nd W.M.R. Squadron was placed in position two and a-half miles to the north of Amman to check them. Half an hour later the A.M.R., with a section of the Indian Mountain Battery, pressed forward, the C.M.R. remaining in Brigade reserve.

About this time the enemy advanced posts were driven in towards strong redoubts on a line which ran through a stone tower about three-quarters of a mile north-west of Amman, where our advance was held up.

The C.M.R. were then ordered forward to a suitable position, with a view to breaking through the enemy's line and taking his defences in the rear.

At 11.30 the W.M.R. received orders to press the attack vigorously and to co-operate with the C.M.R. The latter Regiment, however, reported to Brigade Headquarters that two strong enemy posts dominated the road leading to Amman—one in the Stone Tower and one on the right about a mile due west of the town.

The C.M.R. were accordingly to force the main entrance to Amman, dismounted, and on that being done to mount and gallop through. Meantime the A.M.R. were at a point about one mile due north of Amman, from which position their two guns were directed against redoubts in an easterly direction, and two squadrons were advanced to positions closer to Amman on the right of the 2nd W.M.R. Squadron, in front of which were cleverly-concealed nests of enemy machine guns

Meanwhile perseverance and continuous pressure by the W.M R. and C.M.R. were taking effect on the right, and a C.M.R. Squadron thrust forward, under cover of machine-gun fire, towards the town, in the face of strong opposition, and by 2.30 the C.M.R. and the 9th W.M.R. Squadron had advanced the general page 230line with its right north of and close to Amman, and its left further to the north-east, facing the Wadi Amman, which ran in a north-easterly direction to Amman railway station.

At 2.40 a C.M.R. Squadron had occupied a hill immediately in front of the Stone Tower, assisted by machine-gun fire from the 9th W.M.R. Squadron, and from the machine guns attached to the C.M.R., which were directed with good effect.

Meanwhile a dismounted troop of the C.M.R. had entered the western end of the village, where it met a party of about two troops of the 2nd A.L.H. Brigade. At the same time two C.M.R. Squadrons stormed the Stone Tower at the bayonet point and three troops of the same Regiment galloped into the town at 3 p.m. The Tower was captured at 3.15, many of its defenders being taken prisoners.

A general advance then took place, covered by artillery and machine-gun fire, and the enemy facing the W.M.R. and A.M.R. were driven into the main wadi, where they met the fire of the C.M.R., advancing towards the station. During this advance the A.M.R., with a W.M.R. party, under Lieutenant Scholes, captured three field guns, hot from recent firing, which had been most active during the day. Two Howitzer guns were taken close to the main wadi, and a 4.5 was captured by the A.M.R. on the eastern bank of the wadi. Five machine guns were also taken.

The movements of the Brigade, timed and executed with clocklike precision, trapped the retreating Turks, 1700 of whom were then captured.

The simultaneous attack along the whole line had broken the enemy resistance, and Amman railway station was captured at 4.30, together with many prisoners, a complete wireless plant, and much booty. In addition, hundreds of prisoners were captured in the trenches, and others who attempted to escape were cut off by our troops. Posts were then established on the hills around the town and the victory was complete.

For gallant conduct during the capture of guns near the Wadi Amman, Lieutenant Scholes, of the W.M.R., was awarded the Military Cross.

In addition to the prisoners mentioned, the New Zealand Brigade's captures during the day included:—One 4.2 Howitzer, three 75-c.m. mountain guns, two 75-c.m. howitzers, twenty-five machine guns, two automatic rifles, three wireless sets, 298 horses, and a large amount of ammunition, stores, etc.

All ranks fought with determination throughout the day, and valuable assistance was given by the two sections of the 29th page 231 Indian Mountain Battery, which early in the fight were ordered to an advanced position, from which they fired with open sights moost effectively at close range, particularly against machine-gun positions.

Little then remained to be done to complete the capture or destruction of the whole Turkish force—the remnants of the IVth, VIIth, and VIIIth Turkish Armies being taken at Kastal and Damascus before the end of the month.

On the fall of Amman the N.Z.M.R. Brigade had fought its last battle of the Great War, its achievements during the final phases of the campaign being of a particularly brilliant nature, the important tasks entrusted to the Brigade and its attached troops being accomplished to the entire satisfaction of the Commander-in-Chief.

The boldness, speed, and initiative in attack of all ranks were outstanding characteristics throughout. Delivered at unexpected points with deadly precision, these attacks overwhelmed the Turks and contributed materially to the destruction of the Turkish armies and the deliverance of Palestine and Syria from Turkish misrule and oppression.

General Allenby was naturally elated with the wonderful successes which had been achieved by the forces under his command, and to mark his appreciation of their efforts he issued the following order on September 26th:—

"I desire to convey to all ranks of the Force under ray command my admiration and thanks for their great deeds of the past week, and my appreciation of their gallantry and determination, which have resulted in the total destruction of the VIIth and VIIIth Turkish Armies opposed to us. Such a complete victory has seldom been known in all the history of war."

Return to the Jordan Valley

On September 26th the W.M.R. moved with the Brigade to a new bivouac site, close to Amman station, where Lieut-Colonel Whyte rejoined and took charge of the regiment, with Major Dick as second in command. Outpost duties were carried out till the 29th, when the regiment, less the 6th Squadron, moved with the 2nd A.L.H. Brigade railway station, en rôute to Ziza to support the 2nd A.L.H. Brigade in guarding some five thousand prisoners.

On approaching Ziza next evening (the 30th), rifle and machine-gun fire was heard ahead. It was known that a strong force of Turks had surrended to a single Australian Brigade, and treachery was at first suspected, but the cause of the firing page 232was soon ascertained. The Bedouin, ever ready to pounce on a wounded prey, was about in large numbers looking for loot, but the cosmopolitan Australians made common cause with the Turks, and the marauders were driven off.

The N.Z. Brigade relieved the 2nd L.H. Brigade in the line during the night, and the following day (October 1st) it commenced the return journey to the Valley.

The 6th W.M.R. Squadron, which had been detached at Damieh, rejoined at Ain Es Sir, having meanwhile captured the following:—Fifteen prisoners, three 77-m.m. guns and one mountain gun, besides two British thirteen-pounders which the Turks had captured during the second operation against Es Salt.

The march was continued on the 4th, and Jericho was reached early next morning, the W.M.R. bivouacking two miles north-west of the town.

Now commenced a long series of casualties from an invisible enemy—the parasite of malignant malaria. The disease had previously appeared in the Jordan Valley, but the evacuations then were insignificant, compared with those which the Medical Corps had now to cope with and transport safely and in comfort across the Mountains of Moab and the Jordan Valley after Amman fell. It was a tragic sight to see the men who had fought so gallantly, and held on so tenaciously through years of fighting, suddenly stricken, and swaying in and sometimes falling from their saddles. As these were evacuated their horses were left to their comrades to lead, and by the time the Valley was reached there was a long line of horses, but few riders.

The Brigade remained in the Valley till October 8th, when it began to march out of it for the last time, and there were no regrets.

Next day the W.M.R. took up its old quarters near the Mar Elias Monastery, where it remained till the 13th, on which date it moved with the Brigade to Latron, proceeding next day to Richon le Zion.

On its arrival there the Brigade took up its old bivouac area, and, although the war was practically ended, general training was continued, intermingled with sports and horse races, the W.M.R. meeting being held on Armistice Day.

The C.M.R. having been ordered to proceed to a destination which ultimately proved to be Gallipoli, to represent the N.Z.M.R. Brigade there, on November 13th the W.M.R. assisted in transporting the personnel of that Regiment as far as Ludd, and gave a hearty send-off to those with whom they had fought for so page break
The Final Break Through Situation at 10 p.m. on 27-9-18 as known at G.H.Q.E.E.F.

The Final Break Through
Situation at 10 p.m. on 27-9-18 as known at G.H.Q.E.E.F.

page 233long and to whom they were united by links of comradeship forged on the heights of Gallipoli and on the arid plans of Sinai and Palestine.