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The Story of Two Campaigns: Official War History of the Auckland Mounted Rifles Regiment, 1914-1919

Chapter XXXV. Jordan Recrossed

page 211

Chapter XXXV. Jordan Recrossed.

The next day the brigade moved across the Jordan, the pontoon bridges of which had had a very severe buffeting through floods during the raid, and camped a mile south-east of Jericho on the banks of the Wadi Kelt.

After this very arduous raid not a few men could be found who were in perfect agreement with Terence Mulvany, immortalised by Kipling. That distinguished character, when describing a "war" on the Indian frontier, said: "Thin the Tyrone, wid the Ould Rig'mint in touch, was sint maraudin' an' prowlin' acrost the hills promishcuous an' onsatisfactory. 'Tis my privit opinion that a gin' ral does not know half his time fwhat to do wid three-quarters his command. So he shquats on his hunkers an' bids them run round an' round forninst him while he considhers on it. Whin by the process av nature they get sejuced into a big fight that was none av their seekin' he sez' Obsarve my shuperior janius. I meant ut to come so.' "Mulvany, of course, voiced the eternal plaint of the ranks, who may not be taken into the confidence of the Commander-in-Chief. It was a pity, a very great pity, that the rank and file, and more than the rank and file for that matter, did not know that their raid to Amman meant much more than aiding the Arabs of Hedjaz. That was the present and obvious purpose, but it and subsequent operations on the left flank of the Turkish line were all part of the plan to convince the Turks that the next great page 212blow would be delivered there. Events proved that the Turk was so convinced, and no one can say how much was the gain to the British when, towards the end of the year, they smashed his line near the coast, and swept through to final victory. One definite fact, however, is that the enemy kept the whole of his Fourth Army east of the Jordan.

The morning after the Regiment bivouacked near Jericho, enemy aeroplanes came over, and the Aucklanders awakened by the crash of anti-air-craft guns. Within a few seconds a bomb exploded nearby, and the doctor was heard to remark, in that impersonal style common to his kind, "If I am any judge, the next one will be damn close." The doctor had proof that he was right as soon as he got out of his bivvie. The next bomb had landed among the headquarters' horses. Eight men were wounded, and 18 horses were killed and four wounded. The doctor was one of the many who had a narrow escape, a piece of metal striking the earth between him and his bivvie mate.

Nothing of much moment occurred during the month of April. The Regiment had its share of patrolling the Jordan, improving the bridgehead defences, and burying Turkish dead. A good number of awards were announced, the chief of which was that Lieutenant-Colonel McCarroll had received a bar to his D.S.O. The double decoration won by the colonel gave the Regiment very great satisfaction. Then came another "honour" which literally filled the cup to the brim. This was the cup received by the Rugby football team of the A.M.R. as the champion team of the Anzac Mounted Division. The final contests had taken place before the first Jericho stunt, but the cup had not been presented. The prize was formally page 213presented at a brigade parade on April 8 by Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Chauvel, G.O.C. Desert Mounted Corps. With him was General Chaytor. The cup was filled with wine, and full honours were done by the generals, the colonel of the Aucklands, and the team. But it was not the full team. Since the final game of football, they had played the game of war, and war had taken its toll. General Chauvel said a number of flattering things about the New Zealand Brigade, and he particularly mentioned the exploit of the A.M.R. when it made its dash across the Jordan.

He mentioned that a very high authority had rung him up on the telephone on the morning of the Jordan gallop, and in excited tones had said: "The Aucklands are across and riding hell for leather," which, of course, goes to show that generals were once lieutenants, and do not always speak in the language of despatches. It might be mentioned that two of the spectators of the ride across the river were General Allenby and the Duke of Connaught. During the second week of the month the Turks attacked the Ghoraniyeh bridgehead, but were severely dealt with, and they retired, leaving hundreds of dead. Another attack was made further north at Auja, but it met with a similar fate. The New Zealanders had no hand in these defensive actions.

As the month wore on the heat increased, and with it came the flies and mosquitoes and sickness. Malaria did not become very bad, but most of the men were being prepared for it when they should again leave the valley for the hills. A little less discomfort was realised by shifting camp to a spot 200 feet higher, but it can hardly be said that there was much pleasure in this sojourn in the ancient valley.