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

(continued)

Tuesday 16th July, 1918

 

6.15am. The enemy shelled the Bivouac area with 4.5 inch Howitzers firing 120 shells in 30 minutes. While attempting to lead the horses out of firing range, Captain E.C. Battye and one other rank were killed and 2/Lieutenant O’Connor and five other ranks were wounded. Fifty eight horses were killed and twenty seven wounded – some of the oldest and original horses. Captain Eric Charles Battye, a Grazier of Strathfield, NSW, enlisted as a Lieutenant in the 12th reinforcements and fought at Romani, Gaza, Beersheba and in the Jordan Valley.

 

Casualties for the 1st Light Horse Brigade  1st – 17th July

 

The total number of casualties for the 1st L.H. Brigade was 129 casualties including 35 killed in action in defence of Abu Tellul.

 

1st L.H. Regiment (NSW) – one officer and ten other ranks killed and five officers and forty-five other ranks wounded.

 

2nd L.H. Regiment (Queensland) – two officers and seventeen other ranks killed and four officers and twenty-four other ranks wounded. Casualties included Lieutenant King who was killed: all of his troop were killed or wounded.

 

3rd L.H. Regiment (South Australia and Tasmania) – one officer and two other ranks killed and one officer and ten other ranks wounded.

 

1st Machine Gun Squadron - Two other ranks were killed and four were wounded

 

The names of the fallen are listed at the end of the article.

 

In addition, in July alone seven officers and 334 other ranks were taken out of the Jordan Valley with sickness, chiefly malaria that had been contracted through Anopheles Mosquitoes that bred in the swamps adjacent to the River. These numbers brought the total numbers of casualties to 470 men close to one third of a full strength of a Light Horse Brigade.

The Abu Tellul “Affair” was a crushing victory for Chauvel and his Light Horsemen, particularly the 1st Light horse Brigade that Chauvel had commanded at Gallipoli. The victory had significance beyond the defeat over superior numbers of the enemy.

 

Abu Tellul was the last offensive move against the British in Palestine and the only time that German troops were employed as Storm Troopers in Palestine. The attack was planned to be the preliminary blow to overwhelm Chauvel’s entire Desert Corps in the Jordan Valley. Had the attack succeeded it would have effectively broken the British Line between the “Two Aujas”, and denied the British a presence in the Jordan Valley. Ultimately defeat at Abu Tellul would have had a resounding impact on the September advance North to Damascus across the Coastal Plains of Sharon.