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The Great War in the Middle East: 1

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The Great War in the Middle East: 1
Leonaur Original
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Author(s): W. T. Massey
Date Published: 2009/05
Page Count: 368
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-681-6
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-682-3

The first two books in an excellent trilogy of the Great War in the Middle East

W. T Massey was the foremost accredited journalist reporting on behalf of the London newspapers covering the Great War in the Middle East as it was fought against the Ottoman Turkish Empire, its German ally and the tribes of the region who threw in their lot with them. He possessed a deeply held conviction that this theatre of operations was far more important than those who only concerned themselves with the conflict in Europe believed. He was particularly aware of the hardships suffered by British and Colonial troops serving in difficult climates and over unrelenting terrain and he became, through his long association with the entire campaign, a champion of those who fought in it. This volume in the two book Leonaur edition—which covers the complete conflict from the war in the Western Desert against the Senussi to the actions at Aleppo and beyond—begins appropriately with the first book, ‘The Desert Campaigns’ and follows with the campaign that culminated in Allenby's historic walk into Jerusalem in ‘How Jerusalem was Won.’ Part history, part first hand account this is a valuable history imbued with the insight of one who was there.

It was a hot bright afternoon. The dispositions having been made, the Bucks Hussars and Dorset Yeomanry got out of the wadi and commenced their mounted attack, the Berks battery in the meantime having registered on certain points. The Bucks Hussars, in column of squadrons extended to four yards interval, advanced at a trot from the wadi, which was 3000 yards distant from the ridge which was their objective. Two machine guns were attached to the Bucks and two to the Dorsets, and the other guns under Captain Patron were mounted in a position which that officer had chosen in the wadi El Ghor from which they could bring to bear a heavy fire almost up to the moment the Bucks should be on the ridge. This machine-gun fire was of the highest value, and it unquestionably kept many Turkish riflemen inactive. ‘B’ squadron under Captain Bulteel, M.C., was leading, and when 1000 yards from the objective the order was given to gallop, and horses swept over the last portion of the plain and up the hill at a terrific pace, the thundering hoofs raising clouds of dust. The tap-tap of machine guns firing at the highest pressure, intense rifle fire from all parts of the enemy position, the fierce storm of shells rained on the hill by the Berks battery, which during the charge fired with splendid accuracy no fewer than 200 rounds of shrapnel at a range of 3200 to 3500 yards, and the rapid fire of Turkish field guns, completely drowned the cheers of the charging yeomen. ‘C’ squadron, commanded by Lord Bosebery’s son, Captain the Hon. Neil Primrose, M.C., who was killed on the following day, made an equally dashing charge and came up on the right of ‘B’ squadron. Once the cavalry had reached the crest of the hill many of the Turks surrendered and threw down their arms, but some retired and then, having discovered the weakness of the cavalry, returned to some rocks on the flanks and continued the fight at close range. Captain Primrose’s squadron was vigorously attacked on his left flank, but Captain Bulteel was able to get over the ridge and across the rough, steep eastern side of it, and from this point he utilised captured Turkish machine guns to put down a heavy barrage on to the northern end of the village. ‘A’ squadron under Captain Lawson then came up from Yebnah at the gallop, and with his support the whole of the Bucks’ objectives were secured and consolidated. <br>
The Dorset Yeomanry on the left of the Bucks had 1000 yards farther to go, and the country they traversed was just as cracked and broken. Their horses at the finish were quite exhausted. At the base of the hills Captain Dammers dismounted ‘A’ squadron, which charged on the left, and the squadron fought their way to the top of the ridge on foot. The held horses were caught in a cone of machine-gun fire, and in a space of about fifty square yards many gallant chargers perished. ‘B’ squadron (Major Wingfield-Digby) in the centre and ‘C’ squadron (Major Gordon, M.C.) on the right, led by Colonel Sir Randolf Baker, M.P., formed line and galloped the hill, and their horse losses were considerably less than those of the dismounted squadron. The Berks Yeomanry moved to the wadi El Ghor under heavy machine-gun and rifle fire from the village and gardens on the west side, and two squadrons were dismounted and sent into the village to clear it, the remaining squadron riding into the plain on the eastern side of the ridge, where they collected a number of stragglers. Dotted over this plain were many dead Turks who fell under the fire of the Machine-Gun Squadron while attempting to get to Ramleh. The Turkish dead were numerous and their condition showed how thoroughly the sword had done its work. I saw many heads cleft in twain, and Mughar was not a sweet place to look upon and wanted a good deal of clearing up. The yeomanry took 18 officers and 1078 other ranks prisoners, whilst fourteen machine guns and two field guns were captured. But for the tired state of the horses many more prisoners would have been taken, large numbers being seen making their way along the red sand tracks to Ramleh, and an inspection of the route on the morrow told of the pace of the retirement brought about by the shock of contact with cavalry. Machine guns, belts and boxes of ammunition, equipment of all kinds were strewn about the paths, and not a few wounded Turks had given up the effort to escape and had lain down to die.<br>
The casualties in the 6th Mounted Brigade were 1 officer killed and 6 wounded, 15 other ranks killed and 107 wounded and 1 missing, a remarkably small total. Among the mortally wounded was Major de Rothschild, who fell within sight of some of the Jewish colonies which his family had founded. Two hundred and sixty-five horses and two mules were killed and wounded in the action.