The Story of Two Campaigns: Official War History of the Auckland Mounted Rifles Regiment, 1914-1919
Chapter XXXVI. Second Raid into Gilead
Chapter XXXVI. Second Raid into Gilead.
A second raid into Gilead was started on April 29. On this occasion the New Zealanders were in reserve, and did what fighting they had to do between the river and the foothills on the eastern side. The general plan was to envelope the right of the enemy's main force about Shunet Nimrin, capture Es Salt, and advance to a line beyond. Infantry were to attack Nimrin at 2 a.m. on April 30, while Australian Light Horse Brigades rapidly pushed north to get astride of the Umm Esh Shert-Jisr Ed Damie and Es Salt-Jisr Ed Damie tracks, thence moving on Es Salt from the north and north-west. This force was known as Hodgson's Force. Simultaneously Shea's Force was to advance over the southern tracks, one of which the New Zealanders knew only too well.
At midnight, the New Zealand Brigade left bivouac and remained in reserve to the 180th infantry, who attacked the first positions at Nimrin at 2 a.m. The W.M.R. and the C.M.R. were ordered to support the right flank of the attack early in the day, but the A.M.R. remained in support for an hour or two. At 9.30, the 4th squadron was sent forward to the right of the C.M.R., but a barrage was put in front of them (the enemy had at least four batteries in action), and the squadron had to take what cover could be found. Soon after the 3rd and 11th squadrons had to be sent back to a spot where cover could be found for the horses. By this time it had become apparent that the Turks were in too great strength page 215to allow the infantry and mounted rifles to make any headway, and all that could be done was to lie low until darkness. The New Zealanders then withdrew to the bridge at Ghoraniyeh, and there bivouacked. Some six officers and men were wounded, including Major Herrold, O.C. 11th squadron, but he remained on duty. The hold up had not affected the raid on Es Salt, however. The Australians, operating over what were little more than goat tracks, got the mountain town and a large number of prisoners.
The next day enemy reinforcements arrived and started to push from the north-west against the line which commanded the Jisr Ed Damie-Es Salt track. During the forenoon, the Turks in great strength pushed south, and although suffering heavily under artillery and machine-gun fire at point-blank range, continued the movement, and compelled the two British batteries to abandon their guns, for which there was no passable road. About this time the A.M.R. was ordered to gallop north to support the sorely pressed line. Soon the Regiment was in position over a distance of two miles, with its left flank resting on the ford. Trooping back were the gunners who had lost their guns, and other disturbing evidences of hurried retreat. The position looked bad, but the men were heartened to see fresh batteries come up at the gallop and go into action. The fact that mattered most was that the track leading from Es Salt to Umm Esh Shert, the only line of retirement for the Australians at Es Salt, lay behind the British position. That night the page 2163rd and 11th squadrons moved forward to the outpost line, and, with the Camels on the left and the Dorset Yeomanry on the right, toiled like Trojans on earth works. No fighting took place during the night. At Nimrin the Turks still held up the infantry. The Beni Sakhr tribe of Arabs had failed, not unexpectedly, to take its promised action against the enemy down the Wadi Es Sir, and therefore this track was being used by the Turks to reinforce at Nimrin, which therefore became "the southern claw of a formidable pair of pincers," with which the enemy threatened to cut off the cavalry at Es Salt.
May 2 passed "quietly" in the valley and foothills, but at Es Salt the Australians were attacked, and their withdrawal was ordered. May 3, a day of intense heat, saw no action by the river except the continuation of the artillery duel. A feeling of great relief swept over the forces in the valley when at dawn the next morning the Australians, who had raided Es Salt, were seen winding down from the mountains. They had captured no less than 942 prisoners and 29 machine-guns, a very satisfactory "bag" indeed. But the operation achieved much more than this result; it convinced the enemy High Command that the push for Damascus would be made on this flank.
Dummy Horses in The Jordan Valley, Which Helped to Mislead the Turks into Believing the Great Blow was to Fall There.
The Jordan Valley. 1. A.M.R. ready to leave. 2. The Mount of Temptation, showing: monastery on face. 3. Last glimpse of the valley.
An Interesting Group. Reading from left to right, the names are: Lieutenant-Colonel McCarroll (A.M.R.), Brigadier-General Meldrum (O.C. N.Z.M.R. Brigade), Lieutenant-Colonel White (O.C. W.M.R.), General Allenby (Commander-in-Chief), General Chaytor (O.C. Anzac Division).
The Remaining Original Officers of the A.M.R. inDecember. 1918: Major W. Haeata, Lieut.-Colonel Mccarroll, and Lieut. W. Stewart.