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155th Brigade - Crossing the Auja

 
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michaeldr



Joined: 25 Dec 2006
Posts: 32

PostPosted: Mon Dec 25, 2006 1:23 pm    Post subject: 155th Brigade - Crossing the Auja Reply with quote

The memorial to the crossing of the Auja is situated at what is now-a-days an important road junction in the city of Ramat Gan.
New glass and steel towers have gone up on opposite corners and the third leads off to the national stadium probably known to any football fans.

The fourth and last corner of the junction has been spared redevelopment. It has however been reseeded and replanted at the time of the recent building close by, and remains a patch of green with lawns and trees surrounding the column erected by Major-General J. Hill to commemorate the crossing of the Auja

The wadi is immediately behind the first line of trees

It has inscriptions in Hebrew and English; the latter reads

"On the night
20th-21st Dec 1917
the 155th Brigade
52nd (Lowland) Div
crossed the Auja
at this spot by
rafts and a light
bridge & took the
Turkish positions
on Kh Hadrah"



From "HOW JERUSALEM WAS WON - BEING THE RECORD OF ALLENBY'S CAMPAIGN IN PALESTINE"
By W.T. MASSEY - OFFICIAL CORRESPONDENT OF THE LONDON NEWSPAPERS WITH THE EGYPTIAN EXPEDITIONARY FORCE


"The officer who was mainly responsible for the success of the Auja crossing was Major-General J. Hill, D.S.O., A.D.C., commanding the 52nd Division. His plan was agreed to by General Bulfin, although the Corps Commander had doubts about the possibility of its success, and had his own scheme ready to be put into instant operation if General Hill's failed. In the state of the weather General Hill's own brigadiers were not sanguine, and they were the most loyal and devoted officers a divisional commander ever had. But despite the most unfavourable conditions, calling for heroic measures on the part of officers and men alike to gain their objectives through mud and water and over ground that was as bad as it could be, the movements of the troops worked to the clock. One brigade's movements synchronised with those of another, and the river was crossed, commanding positions were seized, and bridges were built with an astoundingly small loss to ourselves. The Lowland Scots worked as if at sport, and they could not have worked longer or stronger if the whole honour of Scotland had depended upon their efforts. At a later date, when digging at Arsuf, these Scots came across some marble columns which had graced a hall when Apollonia was in its heyday. The glory of Apollonia has long vanished, but if in that age of warriors there had been a belief that those marble columns would some day be raised as monuments to commemorate a great operation of war the ancients would have had a special veneration for them. Three of the columns marked the spots where the Scots spanned the river, and it is a pity they cannot tell the full story to succeeding generations……………………………………………………………………………….
[In at least one case Gen Hill seems to have remedied this]
……………………………………………………
…the 155th Brigade moved up to the mill and dam at Jerisheh, where it was to secure the crossing and then swing to the right to capture Hadrah. The advance was slow, but that the Scots were able to move at all is the highest tribute to their determination. The rain-soaked canvas of the boats had so greatly added to their weight that the parties detailed to carry them from the Sarona orange orchards found the task almost beyond their powers. The bridge rafts for one of the crossings could not be got up to the river bank because the men were continually slipping in the mud under the heavy load, and the attacking battalion at this spot was ferried over in coracles. On another route a section carrying a raft lost one of its number, who was afterwards found sunk in mud up to his outstretched arms. The tracks were almost impassable, and a Lancashire pioneer battalion was called up to assist in improving them. The men became caked with mud from steel helmet to boots, and the field guns which had to be hauled by double teams were so bespattered that there was no need for camouflage. In those strenuous hours of darkness the weather continued vile, and the storm wind flung the frequent heavy showers with cutting force against the struggling men. The covering party which was to cross at the ford found the bar had shifted under the pressure of flood water and that the marks put down to direct the column had been washed away. The commanding officer reconnoitred, getting up to his neck in water, and found the ford considerably out of position and deeper than he had hoped, but he brought his men together in fours and, ordering each section to link arms to prevent the swirling waters carrying them out to sea, led them across without a casualty. In the other places the covering parties of brigades began to be ferried over at eight o'clock. The first raft-loads were paddled across with muffled oars. A line was towed behind the boats, and this being made fast on either side of the river the rafts crossed and recrossed by haulage on the rope, in order that no disturbance on the surface by oars on even such a wild night should cause an alarm. As soon as the covering parties were over, light bridges to carry infantry in file were constructed by lashing the rafts together and placing planks on them. One of these bridges was burst by the strength of the current, but the delay thus caused mattered little as the surprise was complete. When the bridges of rafts had been swung and anchored, blankets and carpets were laid upon them to deaden the fall of marching feet, and during that silent tramp across the rolling bridges many a keen-witted Scot found it difficult to restrain a laugh as he trod on carpets richer by far than any that had lain in his best parlour at home. He could not see the patterns, but rightly guessed that they were picked out in the bright colours of the East, and the muddy marks of war-travelled men were left on them without regret, for the carpets had come from German houses in Sarona. How perfectly the operation was conducted--noiselessly, swiftly, absolutely according to time-table--may be gathered from the fact that two officers and sixteen Turks were awakened in their trench dug-outs at the ford by the river mouth two hours after we had taken the trenches. The officers resisted and had to be killed. Two miles behind the river the Lowlanders captured the whole garrison of a post near the sea, none of whom had the slightest idea that the river had been crossed. An officer commanding a battalion at Muannis was taken in his bed, whilst another commanding officer had the surprise of his life on being invited to put his hands up in his own house. He looked as if he had just awakened from a nightmare. In one place some Turks on being attacked with the bayonet shouted an alarm and one of the crossings was shelled, but its position was immediately changed and the passage of the river continued without interruption. The whole of the Turkish system covering the river, trenches well concealed in the river banks and in patches of cultivated land, were rushed in silence and captured. Muannis was taken at the point of the bayonet, the strong position at Hadrah was also carried in absolute silence, and at daylight the whole line the Scots had set out to gain was won and the assailants were digging themselves in. And the price of their victory? The Scots had 8 officers and 93 other ranks casualties. They buried over 100 Turkish dead and took 11 officers and 296 other ranks prisoners, besides capturing ten machine guns.

The forcing of the passage of the Auja was a magnificent achievement, planned with great ability by General Hill and carried out with that skill and energy which the brigadiers, staff, and all ranks of the Division showed throughout the campaign. One significant fact serves to illustrate the Scots' discipline. Orders were that not a shot was to be fired except by the guns and machine guns making their nightly strafe. Death was to be dealt out with the bayonet, and though the Lowlanders were engaged in a life and death struggle with the Turks, not a single round of rifle ammunition was used by them till daylight came, when, as a keen marksman said, they had some grand running-man practice. During the day some batteries got to the north bank by way of the ford, and two heavy pontoon bridges were constructed and a barrel bridge, which had been put together in a wadi flowing into the Auja, was floated down and placed in position. There was a good deal of shelling by the Turks, but they fired at our new positions and interfered but little with the bridge construction."

[From http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/10098]
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michaeldr



Joined: 25 Dec 2006
Posts: 32

PostPosted: Tue Dec 26, 2006 8:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The photo mosaic below is based on British aerial shots taken at 11.00 hours on 10th December 1917 and in all probability they were in preparation for the 155th Brigade's crossing on the night of the 20-21st December 1917.

North is at 12 o'clock. The Nahr el-Auja [today's River Yarkon] flows from right to left in this picture. The second water course which flows into the Auja at the left edge of the photograph is the Musrara [today called the Ayalon, but shown on British WWI maps as Nahr el-Baride]. The outline formed by these two rivers clearly forms the shape of a bird's head, and today the area within that peninsula is a public park known the Bird Head. The confluence of the two rivers is about 3kms from the sea.

At the base of the bird's neck you will find the village of Jarisha on the southern bank, and the fields on the northern [top] bank of the Auja belong to the village of Muwannis.

In the bottom right-hand corner is a straight stretch of river with a road running parallel to it; Gen Hill's column to the 155th Brigade is today on the river's southern bank at the right end of that straight stretch, just before the bend.

The photo moasic is from the collection of the Israel Antiquities Authority. It and the information above are taken from Mr. Benjamin Z. Kedar's book "Between the Jordan and the Sea" [sub-titled 'Aerial photographs from 1917 to the present'] published by the MoD & Yad Ben-Zvi Press in 1999 [ISBN: 965-05-0975-5]


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michaeldr



Joined: 25 Dec 2006
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 26, 2006 10:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Part of the British OH map covering the action of the 155th Brigade on the night of the 20-21st December 1917 which is commemorated by Gen. Hill's inscribed column

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DerekR
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Joined: 19 Dec 2006
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Location: Hawick, Scotland

PostPosted: Wed Dec 27, 2006 4:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Michael,
Thank you for the thread.
I'm afraid that I must hold my hands up in shame that I had only a cursory knowledge of this action you described and never knew anything of the memorial.
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Adam Brown
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Joined: 14 Dec 2006
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Location: Edinburgh (From Sutherland)

PostPosted: Wed Dec 27, 2006 4:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Michael

This memorial is new to me too. Thanks for posting the photo and all the extra information as well.

Regards

Adam
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michaeldr



Joined: 25 Dec 2006
Posts: 32

PostPosted: Thu Dec 28, 2006 10:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Derek & Adam,

The pleasure's mine.
I keep a regular eye on this memorial as when I am being a good wee chap and obeying doctors orders, my jogging route around the park takes me to within a few yards of it 3 or 4 times a week.
The plum duff was finished off on the 25th but we still have some cake to get through, so I suppose that I will be back to the jogging routine very soon.

The season's greetings to one and all
and very best wishes for New Year
Michael
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Stewartry



Joined: 19 Dec 2006
Posts: 274
Location: nr Nottingham

PostPosted: Thu Jan 11, 2007 1:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Michael,

A long time since I've said hello. Thank you for this thread. Of course being a devotee of the 5th KOSB I am naturally biased, but it was a magnificent feat both in technical and soldiering terms.

The map you give has also sorted the action where Sgt, 1231/240173, William Richardson (Moffat) was awarded the Military Medal, ".... for bombing at Pink House."

Cheers,

Stuart
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michaeldr



Joined: 25 Dec 2006
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 17, 2007 3:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Stuart,

Glad to have been of some help


best regards
Michael
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michaeldr



Joined: 25 Dec 2006
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 01, 2007 4:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

quote from the first post above: "…the 155th Brigade moved up to the mill and dam at Jerisheh, where it was to secure the crossing..."

The picture below is an Official Egyptian Photograph from the IWM collection. It shows the 'Mill at Jerishoh [Jerisheh] on the Auja where one of the British crossings was made.'
Today one can still see the lower courses of the stonework of the water-mill, including the arches where the water rushes through as it returns to the river.

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DerekR
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 02, 2008 8:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

From an edition of the "Hawick Express" @ 1926:


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michaeldr



Joined: 25 Dec 2006
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 03, 2008 7:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Derek

Many thanks for adding that newspaper clipping
Good to see that care was taken from such an early stage
though many miles from home

best regards
Michael
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