Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Fighting Along the Jordan River

From the history of Indian Army troops in World War I in The Jordan Valley, 23rd September 1918

From General E. H. H. Allenby's Despatch of 31st October 1918:

Item 18: "……….Numerous bodies of Turks surrendered to the 4th Cavalry Division. One column attempted to escape across the Jordan at Makhadet abu Naj, five miles south-east of Beisan, but was intercepted by the 11th Cavalry Brigade. Part of the column had already crossed to the east bank. It was charged by the 36th (Jacob's) Horse, and broken up, few escaping. On the west bank the remainder of the column was charged by the 29th Lancers and Middlesex Yeomanry, who killed many and captured the remainder, together with twenty-five machine guns."

At 0600 hrs the 11th Cavalry Brigade of the 4th Cavalry Division moved south along both banks of the River Jordan to cut off the retreat eastwards of the Turkish VIIth Army. The Turks were attempting to escape across the Jordan at Makhadet Abu Naj, five or six miles south-east of Beisan, and indeed some of this column had already crossed over.

Patrols of the 29th Lancers and the Middlesex Yeomanry were fired upon at 0830 hrs by a Turkish force covering the ford. This force, comprised several machine guns and about 200 infantry, and caused fearful casualties before being overcome. In this action Badlu Singh, Ressaidar, of the 14th (Murray's Jat) Lancers attached 29th Lancers, won the last VC of the Palestine campaign and the last awarded to a member of the Indian Army during World War I.

Ressaidar Badlu Singh was killed whilst winning the VC; he is remembered on the Heliopolis (Port Tewfik) Memorial. Details of his action were given in the Second Supplement to the London Gazette, dated 26th Nov., 1918 and in the Gazette of India No.263, dated 31st January 1919:-

"For the most conspicuous bravery and self-sacrifice on the morning of the 23rd Sept., 1918, when his squadron charged a strong enemy position on the West bank of the Jordan between the river and Khan-es-Sumariveh Village. On nearing the position Ressaidar Badlu Singh realised that the squadron was suffering casualties from a small hill (Khanes Hill) on the left front occupied by machine guns and 200 infantry. Without the slightest hesitation he collected six other ranks and with the greatest dash and utter disregard of danger charged and captured the position, thereby saving very heavy casualties to the squadron. He was mortally wounded on the very top of the hill when capturing one of the machine guns single-handed, but the machine guns and infantry had surrendered before he died. His valour and initiative were of the highest order."

According to the custom of his faith, Badlu Singh was cremated where he fell.

and this, Posted 29 September 2007 - 03:50 PM

Meanwhile on the east bank of the Jordan, the 36th Jacob's Horse was also making contact with the retreating column of Turks and Germans. Captain Braithwaite, with one saber troop and one Hotchkiss troop, was sent off to get a footing in the hilly ground just half a mile from the river, in order to enfilade the hostile line.  They went too far however, and were almost surrounded by Germans. Only four or five of his men made it back to their comrades that afternoon and Maunsell gives their casualties as

1 British Officer (Braithwaite)
2 Indian Officers (Jemadar Atta Ullah and Jemadar Sultan Ahmed)
6 Indian Other Ranks
6 Indian Other Ranks
15 Indian Other Ranks

Maunsell adds the comment that, at this time, these losses represented two complete troops.

The Hampshire Battery (20th Brigade RHA) was then called up from Beisan and went into action in the open 100 yards south-west of Tell Abu Naj, establishing observation from a hillock which also contained HQ, 29th Lancers. Fire was at once opened on machine-guns concealed in rough ground on the opposite bank, which were holding up the squadrons at the fords. The enemy returned accurate fire on the battery from eight well concealed guns. Shells burst all around and between the guns and in this exchange the Hampshires had every one of their guns hit. A squadron of Middlesex Yeomanry crossed over the Jordan at Makhadet Fatahallah ford, charged the Turkish guns and with this the 36th Jacob's Horse were able to break up the escaping column. About 25 machine guns and over 3,000 prisoners were captured. Large amounts of stores were abandoned by the Turks, who also suffered heavy casualties.

The body of Lieutenant (acting Captain) Philip Pipon Braithwaite, Indian Army Reserve of Officers, attached 36th Jacob's Horse, was brought to Haifa War Cemetery for burial.


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