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

(continued)

THE BATTLE OF ABU TELLUL - 1st Australia Light Horse Regiment Diary [6]

Sunday 14th July, 1918

JORDAN VALLEY

 

3.15am The 1st L.H. Regiment received orders from the Brigade to “Stand to Arms” as the enemy were attacking the 2nd and 3rd L.H. Regiments. At the same time shelling commenced on the area. As soon as General Cox [Commander of the 1st Light Horse Brigade] became aware that a large body of German troops, 1000 strong, were advancing on Abu Tellul he immediately ordered the 1st Light Horse Regiment into the fray. “Get to them Granny” was his order to Colonel Granville.

 

3.45am. “B” Squadron under Lieutenant Gregory was ordered forward to Abu Tellul Left No.3 and 4 Posts to prevent German troops from occupying the posts. Finding the posts already occupied by troops of the 3rd L.H. Regiment the squadron was diverted to give covering fire to “A” Squadron attacking Abu Tellul Right where enemy were reported to be holding The Bluff in strength.

 

“A” Squadron under Major Weir was ordered forward to counter attack against Abu Tellul Right. They moved forward at a gallop but were forced to dismount as the Germans were within a few hundred yards of their batteries. Abu Tellul Right was captured at 5am.

 

6am. The enemy were reported to be holding The Bluff in strength. “C” Squadron was ordered forward to operate a mounted attack, with bayonets fixed, against The Bluff on the right of “A” Squadron who were now operating dismounted. Gullett reported:

 

Now ready with fixed bayonets for the charge ... with an eager shout the light horsemen topped the crest and followed their leaders in a rushing charge upon the Germans ... [who] trapped and distracted ... (in a light horseman’s words) “ran about like a lot of mad rabbits”. [7]

 

7.30am. “C” Squadron was unable to get forward owing to heavy shell fire from enemy Howitzers and eventually were forced to reinforce “A” Squadron dismounted on Abu Tellul.


 

Trooper Rhoades continues his story:

 

Further on up the support trench the boys of the  2nd A.L.H and the Huns lay thickly ... I saw eleven of the 2nd dead in one place all piled up together and one little officer, Lieutenant King, lay dead with his hand and bandolier over his shoulder. The poor little chap must have made a big fight of it as did the men around him ... after our immediate front became clear there came a call for twenty men to reconnoitre The Bluff ... I volunteered. We worked along the support trench in which the gallant 2nd had made their last stand ... the first dead Huns I saw had the ribbons for the Iron Cross ... storm troopers with exceptionally fine gear and equipment.

 

The shelling from both sides was terrible and we expected to be blown to pieces any minute. When we neared The Bluff we could see the Huns firing like fury at “A” and “B” Squadrons so we tried to creep closer unobserved to make a certainty of every target. I was fired on and the bullet burst the butt of my rifle and shattered half of it, and tore my wrist. There were automatic rifles lying around so I found a Mauser with a cartridge in breech and pulled the trigger ... the Hun never had time to fire and his head jerked over and he rolled on his side.

 

As we neared The Bluff we found that “A” Squadron and the Huns opposing us had drawn back onto it. Then the enemy’s artillery concentrated an accurate and terrific fire on The Bluff killing great numbers of the Huns. The rest ran. A chap from “A” Squadron went down and disarmed them and marched them back. [4]         

A sketch map of Abu Tellul drawn by Trooper Rhoades

7.45am. One troop of “A” Squadron under Lieutenant Macfarlane gained a footing on The Bluff and enemy, who were all Germans belonging to 702 and 703 German Battalions, began to surrender as they were completely surrounded. The outer posts had been surrounded but they had all held out and turned their machine guns on the attacking forces.

8am. Lieutenant Gregory reported having recaptured Vale Post and one enemy machine gun. Reinforcements from the Wellington Mounted Rifles and the 1st L.H. Regiment were pushed along both sides of the Abu Tellul Ridge.

 

6pm. After a heavy day of fighting orders were received for The Bluff, Abu Tellul Right and Vale Posts to be held by this Regiment tonight: “C” Squadron to hold The Bluff, “A” Squadron Abu Tellul and “B” Squadron Vale Posts. After a quiet night our troops were withdrawn to the Bivouac area.

One hundred and seventy German prisoners were captured including a percentage of officers belonging to 702 and 703 German Battalions, chiefly Storm Troopers. Three machine guns and 17 automatic rifles and 100 rifles were taken.

 

7.15pm “C” Squadron under Lieutenant Rogers left the bivouac to bury the Australian men killed, together with the slain Germans. The Australian men were buried in the field by Chaplains H.J. Clarke and P.J. Donovan. Their graves are now located in the Jerusalem War Cemetery.

 

1st Light Horse Regiment casualties during the attack were six other ranks killed with  Lieutenants Taylor, Macfarlane and 2/Lieutenant Goodchild and 30 other ranks  wounded.