A Little-known Battle in the Jordan Valley: Abu Tellul

by Anne Flood

The First and Second Trans-Jordan actions in April and May 1918 were known by the British as “raids” while Von Sanders, commander of the German and Turkish armies, referred to them as ‘The Battles of Jordan’. Both raids on Amman had been decisive defeats for the British, the first since Gaza in 1917. Casualties had been high amounting to 3,132 including more than 400 deaths.

Major General Chauvel, who had headed up the Second Trans-Jordan Raid, was now given the option of withdrawing from the Jordan Valley. Chauvel’s biographer, Alec Hill, records his words:

 

He (Allenby) practically gave me the option of withdrawing from the actual valley if I thought it better but told me that if I did so I would have to retake the bridgeheads over the Jordan before the Autumn advance. I considered that I would lose more lives retaking the Valley than I would through sickness in holding it and, furthermore, there was neither room nor water for large bodies of cavalry in the jumble of hills overlooking the Southern end of the Valley and the climate was precious little better. I told him I considered it better to hold the Valley. He agreed and I was instructed to do so. [2]

The plan was for the Anzac Mounted Division and the Australian Mounted Division to rotate in garrison of the Western side of the Jordan River during the Summer months. The Anzac Division now consisted of the 1st, 2nd L.H. Brigades and New Zealand Mounted Rifles plus XVIII Royal Horse Artillery. The Australian Mounted Division consisted of the 3rd, 4th L.H. Brigades and 5th Mounted Division Artillery.

 

Australian soldiers of the 2nd Light Horse Regiment at a reserve post at Musallabeh, West Bank, 1914 - 19181 (Names written on photograph are thought to be Sullivan, Sutton, Lansdowne and one tent entitled “My Home”.) [1]

The 1st L.H. Brigade, the first Brigade that Chauvel had commanded at Gallipoli, returned to garrison the West Bank of the Jordan around the Wady Auja on 6th June, taking over the line from the 4th L.H. Brigade.

 

Corporal Maurice Pearce of the 1st L.H. Regiment wrote in his diary:

 

I went back with the Regiment to the lowest place on Earth, 1100 feet below sea level – the Jordan Valley. For heat, mosquitoes, dust and pests of all nature I do not think the Jordan Valley has a parallel. It was said that white men could not live there however we proved that hardened soldiers could for our troops occupied the Valley for seven of the hottest months of the year ... seldom refreshed by a breeze. It is a strange place with a touch of unreality; almost weird. It recalls Dante and Edgar Allen Poe. [3] The heat was oppressive, rarely below 38°C in the shade and reaching up to 49°C in the operating tents.