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The Diary of Lieutenant-Colonel McCarroll
11th North Auckland Mounted Rifles - NZMR

Diary part 4
Steve Butler's notes to read before starting the diary.
The original documents were hand written in pencil and pen, and then pages photocopied before transcription began. There has been sections on different pages where the copy is difficult or impossible to read. In these cases I have used either - straight brackets = [ ] with a guessed word - e.g. [many] or shown as [***** ******], in this second example the straight brackets holds two words that I have no idea what the lost words are meant to say. Where brackets occur = ( ) they are used by the Colonel himself and are not my additions.
Place name spellings change as English speaking soldiers attempt variants, many maps of the day have villages and topography unrecorded..

 
24th
December 1916

[Note: there seems to be a big gap here between to this third book and the last - however I will research later where that book - or any book- has gone - but in the meantime.]

24th December 1916  MAGDABA
This had been a very good action, great cooperation between units, well planed and carried out.  All ranks very tired.
We escorted the wounded into safety and then turned west to find our bivouac and Brigade.  Our A G seem to have taken the wrong turn and I decided to halt until daylight.
We arrived Xmas morning very cold and showery overnight

 
26th
December 1916

26th
At Bin el Masrni good water for the horses, moved to the beach but swimming not popular.  Met Brigadier General Sir ---- Doubel at Brigade H.Q., a fine soldierly like man who promised us plenty of work.

 
28th
December 1916

28th December 1916
A day of rest

 
29th
December 1916

29th December
We were inspected by Lieutenant-General Sir Phillip Chetwood of Desert Column, he complimented us on our recent exploits and pointed out that:- It was the first time in history that mounted troops had reconnoitered, attacked assaulted and carried a position.  Such a fine response to his first orders was most gratifying.  He being a cavalry man was able to appreciate what we could do – he admired our horses.

 
30th
December 1916

30th
A gale sprang up during the night and a mine sweeper was driven ashore.

 
31st
December 1916

31st December 1916
Railway progressing, expected here next week.

 
1st
January 1917

1st January 1917 at El Arish
Moved back to the railhead plenty of fresh water.  First time for months no tents, weather very bad and we left for El Arish.

 
4th
January 1917

4th
To our old Camp, where recent storms had altered the shape.  Poor sort of town, mud, buildings stone, Mosque, signs of French outposts in old buildings and population.
We found the river in flood, this was in olden times called the “River of Egypt”

 
8th
January 1917

8th January
Orders for an attack on Rafa, what a grand sight of troops all mounted and fit.  We carried an extra days rations for both man and horse.
Left late afternoon reached Sheikii-Zowiid at 9.30 pm, rested four hours, left at 0130 hours, traveled over grass country, the first time for months, reaching Arab village Karmibn musleh just at dawn.

 
9th
January 1917

9th January
Two of our troops were away in front, Reid and Ruddock, reconnoitering the position.  Turks reported holding Rafa Hill on our left front.  We were now in Palestine and received orders at 10 am to attack.
We were to encircle the hill which we could now see the Turkish position.  I was sent with two squadrons to get right behind the position.  We went off at a trot, as we neared the position the shelling and machine gun fire increased.  Our pace increased to a steady gallop, the horses seemed to enter into the spirit of the job and to the music of the guns we galloped – on over green crops, it was a beautiful sight – the lines regular just like on parade.  We raced over an outer trench and a number of Turks surrendered.  An officer and three or four men made back for their units, I swung out and galloped after them drawing my sword – I enduced them to halt and return to us, one of them caught my horse by the bridle, but I hit him on the back of the neck with the sword back.
We reached a hollow behind a small hill where we advanced and dismounted about 800 yards from the Turkish trenches.  From here I could see most of the position, and we seemed to have surrounded the enemy position. The C.M.R. was on our right, soon after a general advance was ordered.
Colonel Mackesy now came up with the other Squadron, the 11th was sent in to help the 4th and the 3rd was withdrawn from its first position.  The artillery had now got into position carrying the advance.
The Light Horse was on our left, we watched them advancing across the open plain in long straight lines dismounted.  I pointed out the position to the 11th Squadron, they were well led by Whitehorn, Finlayson and Manners, every man worked with a will and had confidence in their leaders.
Munro with the 4th had now reached a sunken road and was covering the advance of the 11th and [me in general].
We were now very close to the trenches.  The 3rd Squadron had taken up a position in the center of the Regiment and was doing great work, our Brigade was in great positions.  C.M.R. on our right, W.M.R. part on our left and part protecting our rear, which Turks by now had come to the relief of Rafa from the East.
The position was critical, the guns had gone quiet, our ammunition was getting low, we had got some from the horse holders, the machine guns were hot.  The Brigade on the right seemed to be pulling out.
About 4 pm got orders to advance.  We were now 300 yards of the enemy last trenches.  The Brigade line moved – what a sight- the three Regiments moved as one, covered by a portion of each Regiment – the glistening steel, the dark forms, the green slopes with not a bit of cover – steady as a rock, here and there a man dropped.  Your brother Jack was among the first line – full of go.  Then the whole line up as one man for the final rush, firing had increased, it was here we got a number of casualties.
Oh that picture will never fade from my memory.  Men fell, quickly the others pressed on, and with a cheer they reached the top of the hill where they had a business interval with the Turk.  It was here that Jack fell, and such splendid leaders as Alldread, Finlayson, Rudd and Collbeck – the 11th got it very bad here.  The appearance of our Brigade on top of the hill altered the whole position. The other Brigades renewed the attack and in ten minutes the Turk was beaten.
I now turned my attention to the wounded.  Doctors and ambulance men working hard.  The wounded were very cheerful.  We collected them in heaps for the carts to pick up.  Firing was still going on the south and west, but gradually died down.  Firing could be heard going away to the east and we saw the signals of the Turks marching to the assistance of Rafa.
Orders were issued to get away as quickly as possible.  Some of the Light horse  were left behind to see the wounded and prisoners of war away.
It is very hard to mention anyone in particular as everyone did such splendid work.  We went back 12 miles and our horses had a drink. (no water for 30 hours.)

 
11th
January 1917

11th January 1917
General Chauvel came to see us and thanked us for our work.  He said success was primarily due to the New Zealand Brigade.  This was the last stand of the Turks in Egypt.

 
12th - 17th
January 1917

12th to 17th January 1917
Resting, and doing it well.  The Band is with us, we can now enjoy a swim.
Fritz pays us regular visits.
General Chaytor has got a C.M.B. and Regiment Command, and a D.S.O. and I got some of the Champagne.

 
20th
January 1917

20th
Still resting and light training.  I got a few days leave.  Doctor Widowson and I left for Cairo, we travel by desert railway to Kantara, 95 miles, very rough and very cold, but on arriving at Cairo we forgot all about the desert.

 
24th
January 1917

24th January 1917
Visited all the hospitals, all sick and wounded doing well, except Captain Alldread who may return to New Zealand.
Football is played everyday between Regiments, and the railway is being pushed on, it is being built at about one mile to one and a half miles per day.

 

1917

Date obscure.
Still light training going on.  Played the Light Horse at football, a great crowd of troops watching.
Quite a number of men returning.

 
19th
February 1917

19th February
Mobilisation Parade indicates something will be doing soon.
There has been some heavy gales here, they like the rain, cause a lot of trouble on the railway line on the banks where the wind is across.  A hole will start between two sleepers, and the wind goes through drying the sand and soon the hole is large – and before long the line is swinging.
We left for the East to see what Johnny is doing.  The Hamsheen had rubbed out all our tracks to Rafa.  We halted at Sheik-Zowad, here the horses could get a bit of grass.

 
23rd
February 1917

23rd
On the 23rd we passed Rafa on our left and crossed I\over the Palestine border, after about three miles I found Johnny Turk strongly entrenched, entertained them with some of our guns, got all the information we wanted then returned to Rafaeh.
It looked a very strong position, makes one wonder how men ever advanced over it, just looks like lawn, there is a plant growing on the hill top, very heavy foliage near the ground, the Turks had dug deep holes behind these plants and the men were out of sight.  In some cases machine guns had been placed in the higher up trenches. We rode all round the position and decided that if the Turks had had some more time the place would have been much stronger.

 
25th
February 1917

25th February 1917
Had a Presbyterian Church Parade, first time since Padre Grant performed the service on the “Grantully Castle” on the way to Gallipoli – and the Scots rejoiced.
A patrol SSE of Rafa over nice country, good crops, one of the pleasant trips so far, got in touch with the Turkish Cavalry.

 
28th
February 1917

28th
Occupied Khan Yunis but did not stay long.  This is the first Turkish town with a fine Mosque of the time of Sultan Barkor.

 
3rd
March 1917

3rd March 1917
Reconnoitered plan of attack on Turk position at Weiy-Shiek Muran Sise.  No cover, very open country.  Arabs lit fires on our approach.

 
7th
March 1917

7th
On the 7th we went to Khan Yunis, this town is cut up into sections, surrounded by cactus hedge with boulders in the center.  Bought some good oranges, evidently from Jafa.

 
8th
March 1917

8th March 1917
Sent to Cairo to school of instruction.  Held up on the desert railway by storms, now running to Sheik-Zoward.  Stayed at a camp at Kantara run by a Mrs Chisholm, an Aussie, well run – all tents but good.
The school is not very hard work 10 am to 4 pm.  Good work being done by young officers and N.C.O.’s. – Work also being done by wounded officers unfit for the frontline.
Visited hospitals and convalescent homes, all doing well.
Left Cairo for Kantara, which we left at 6 am 18th March arrived Rafa at 8 pm.
This was the first train through to here.   A historic step it took two weeks to do this journey [on horseback] and we did it in two days by rail from Cairo.

 
19th
March 1917

19th March 1917
I must have slept very sound all night, at daylight I saw my kit some distance away from where I was laying.  During the night someone had moved it away from beside me.  He had taken my belt, another officer had his field glasses taken, also belt and other things, also two horses were taken off the lines.  A pretty daring thing to do, and our post must have been asleep.

 
20th
March 1917

20th March
A working party fixed up the graves at Rafieh.  This place is now an up to date Railway Station.  Canteens etc. very much different from what it looked like when we fought the battle.

 
21st
March 1917

21st March
Not much doing, we held a race meeting at Rafa.  The Aussies won most, a totalisator was operating.  Other sports were held and we are now ready and waiting for an early move.

 
25th
March 1917

25th March
Left at 0800 hours for Diere Belah along the beach.  There is a lake of fresh water here and horses enjoyed a drink.  Reconnoitered some miles East.  Looked well, nice green crops, towards Gaza.  A very heavy fog helped us to get quite near the position.  Our job was to get round the right side of the position while the Infantry did a frontal attack.
We got into position about 1000 hours and came under shell-fire, but we could not hear our Infantry.  At 1130 we could hear our Infantry and the Turks.  We continued to advance under small opposition and at 1400 hours we got orders:-  The success of the day depended on the attack of the ANZAC Mounted Division, so we moved at 1600 hours.  We trotted two miles over a beautiful valley without much trouble.  The Light Horse were leading, and they were to go right round the position to the sea.  Then the New Zealand Brigade [was to follow?].
We could see the Infantry advancing on our left.  We were now closing on the town and at Jebel el Muntar lay in front of us.  We dismounted and very soon this hill was ours.  From here we had a very good view of the town from the East, also of the sea.  This is supposed to be where Samson took the gates of the Philistines. (Judges XVI)

Hand drawn map by James McCarroll in his notebook diary dated 26th March 1917. Script from following page showing through.

It was now getting late, communications were disorganised.  Turkish replacements reported coming.  The town and position seemed to be in our hands.  We could see the whole town and the noise had died down.  A number of prisoners were in our hands.  The Wellington Mounted Rifles had captured two guns, and at last at 8 pm orders came to pull out and return to [base].
We were very pleased with our days work, now in the dark we had to find our way back.  We halted at 3 am not sure where we were, but as daylight came we were able to see landmarks.  We halted at the Wadi, which is crossable in a few places.
News from our detached Squadron indicated a Turkish force advancing from the SSE and they had quite a job getting away.
Considerable firing was heard from Gaza, we were unable to understand as we thought our infantry were in possession.  But it seems they could not hold on owing to the arrival of Turkish reinforcements, and about noon our Infantry pulled back.
Casualties were coming in and wild rumours were flying round.  By afternoon the Turks had regained the town.  I can’t understand what has happened, some one has blundered.
This was the Infantry’s first battle, and had been saved for them.

 
26th
March 1917

26th March 1917
The Gaza Battle has ended.  The other Mounted Division returned after holding back reinforcements from the SSE, orders came from someone for them to retire.

 
26th
March 1917

27th March
We have settled down at Deir El Bejah, a beautiful Mosque stands on the site of an old Chapel.  Plentiful supply of fresh water and sea bathing.

 
29th
March 1917

29th
Joined the Australian Brigade and marched to Tel El Fara, this is a flat topped hill about 50 feet above surrounding country, strongly trenched on the north and west sides.  The east side falls steeply to a river.  Evidently a very old fort, a fine view of the surrounding country.  Some good pools in the stream.

 
30th
March 1917

30th March 1917
Went with the Brigadier to see the Turkish position, it was very strong.  The Turks had dug some obstacles, “Tour de Loup” by name, about 6 feet wide and 8 feet deep, four to six rows in front of their trenches.  This is an old method of defense against Cavalry, but no good against artillery.

 
31st
March 1917

31st March 1917
Still patrolling.  Our horses get some green feed and are in great nick, nice country and not very dusty.  Large working parties making roads over the Wadi El Ghuzeh.
Issue of blankets and are now able to shelter from the sun.
Having a sports meeting soon.  Some very interesting and old sports here.

 
1st
April 1917

1st April 1917 Deirej El Belah.
Continued patrols to Jazz El Taire and other places, large working party at Tel El Jimmi.  Enemy reported – Infantry and Cavalry.

 
10th
April 1917

10th April
Some indications of further movements.  One Squadron carrying water storage 60,000 gallons in one day.
Johnny got our range and shelled us freely.

 
16th
April 1917

16th
Orders for a move, all spare kit dumped and we moved at 1830 and moved to El Shellal.  Aircraft very active, we advanced at 0900.  Saw enemy trench at Harera and Sheria, saw Turkish railway.
Returned to Shellal very dark, only one crossing at wadi and a mix up took place. 

 
18th
April 1917

18th April
The Infantry had attacked at Abbas ridge.  Tanks were used for the first time.  We demonstrated against the Turks with the object of drawing troops off at Gaza. 23rd we went to El Mendura then to Rism el Atawineh, we could hear very heavy firing at Gaza and we came under very heavy shell-fire, a battery on our left gave some troubles to the Turk.
Soon some planes came and the Turkish guns opened and the Taubes dropped bombs.  Our troops at Gaza seemed to be held and fire at our point was slowing up, but we had broken the counter attack.  So we pulled out and retired, we heard our Infantry were digging in.
It was now very dark and quite a job to find the crossing and watering place, we had to keep very close.  One Squadron got misplaced.

 
21st
April 1917

21st April
We took up position at Wedi Shiek Woran.  This had been a Turkish flank at one time, so we had to alter it a bit.  The missing Squadron turned up this morning, they had some casualties and a rough time.
We bivouacked at Hisea covering the crossing.
Colonel Mackesy went to East Force and I take over the Regiment.
Very heavy Kanseen from the East  and very hot.  An attack is expected.

 
27th
April 1917

27th April
Had to supply 200 men for works.  Moved to Fara.

 
1st
May 1917

1st May 1917
The railway is coming along well and with plenty of water we are much better but we have not advanced.  The Gaza stint was not successful.  The Turks must have a large force there.
Horses get plenty of green feed.
Went to Shellal and saw the ruins we had found, evidently a floor of a temple made in mosaic, about 25 foot, different characters represented, peacocks, dogs, birds, vines and fruit.  A Guard has been put on it as it is intended to be excavated.
Big patrols and working parties.
Went to Kasief – Fritz dropped 15 bombs.

 
11th
May 1917

11th May
Moved out as A G [Advanced Guard] towards Birsheba [Beersheba].  Sports and the Band livened us up a bit – rivalry between Regiments.

 
13th
May 1917

13th
My Birthday, small gathering at night.
Regiment went through Gas Test

 
16th
May 1917

16th May 1917
Still patrolling, came in touch with the enemy.  Saw a fight between two planes, ours landed quite close to us and we were able to chase Fritz.  The plane was slightly damaged and one Squadron stayed until it was returned.
A large patrol south of Birsheba [Beersheba] damaged the railway and blew up a bridge.

 
1st
June 1917

1st June
This month was a series of patrols to find out about their strength about Ber Sheba [Beersheba] where the water was natural of ground etc.
Met enemy patrols but they generally disappeared when we tried to surround them.  Found water in cisterns at Khan Khasil and El Bugar.
Trining in the use of Gas.  New rifles the [Enfield] Mark 7 were issued and some practice.
Moved back to Tel Maraked near Khan Yunis.  Caverns abound in the hills, some used as cisterns storing water.  Others look like Churches, but not time to explain, had a few days in Cairo, much the same as ever.
Light Horse made an advance on Beersheba, we went in support, but nothing doing.  Went as far as Wadi Emlerl – very interesting country all historic, plenty of room for study of the ancient

 

July 1917

Date obscure – July 1917
After the Second Gaza we have steadily pushed the Turk back and he has taken up a line Gaza-Beersheba, this is a very strong position and commands the view of our advance, he is supplied by a railway system right to Beersheba.  We kept working our way to find the end of the line.  Our railway was now close up to us.  We could see the Turk Camp and sometimes their Cavalry – we capture a few of them, they are armed with a rifle, lance and sword and mounted on small ponies.
We continue to find water and know every hollow and shrub between Fara and Beersheba [where] water has also been located, we can see buildings, Mosque etc. now quite plainly.
Back in the front line again doing long patrols, some saw a very strong Turkish force and we moved out to try and intercept it, but they had too much start for us.  Next day we had a section of artillery with us and they were able to reach the Turkish protection and gave Johnny a hot time.  We had some small patrols fanned out in front and they came under fire and they had to retire quickly.  One man’s horse fell and the rider broke his arm.  Corporal Coleman caught the horse and returned and got the man on his horse again.  I recommended this corporal for some recognition.
This was the first time a section of artillery had been sent out with a patrol – they enjoyed it very much, and they used their guns to their full range.
Covered the Yeomanry’s patrol to Wadi Emly.  Night outposts had to be sent out as well and it is fairly hot.  We established a redoubt at El Ghabi and one at El Jezariye and Um.Ajua.
A large force is collecting about here and our men are having a hard time on duty day and night.  Quite a lot of sickness, our Regiment needs rest.
It seems we have found the flank of the Turkish position on the high ground round Beersheba, where there is supposed to be plenty of water.  Once it was reported that the Turks were evacuating the town but a patrol soon found they were still holding it.
Corporal Coleman has been awarded the Military Medal, this gave great satisfaction to the Regiment.
Patrol well to the South but no sign of the enemy.  This indicates we are at the flank of the Turks.  Still very hot and dusty.

 
1st
August 1917

1st August 1917
Carried out big patrol to Sheria and Wadi Emeli.

 
5th
August 1917

5th
Went for a reconnaissance to Kalasa, found plenty of good water at Isanni, caught some armed Bedouins and got some valuable information.

 
8th
August 1917

8th August
A special party was required and plenty of volunteers.  I selected Magnus Johnson and three men with a troop in support.  They had a long walk on foot and returned with some valuable information.

 
11th
August 1917

11th August
Went in support of Light Horse Brigade who were making a night attack, before the artillery on both sides got going – rifle and machine gun fire added to the music.  Soon we got a message that the Light Horse Brigade had done its job – they had rushed a trench and captured a few Turks.

 
13th
August 1917

13th August
Supported the Light Horse who were raiding the Turkish railway, made an attack on Beersheba.  Very heavy fog, no stars visible and quite a few men got lost.  The object of the attacks is to make the Turk think we will make the main attack at this point.
Our horses had no water for 30 hours.

 
18th
August 1917

18th August
We were relieved by the Bucks. Regiment and we left for the back for a well earned rest – men and horses soon in swimming, resting and sports fill in time.  Fritz came to see us, we carried out a musketry course and generally turned up.

 
1st
September 1917

1st September
Liberal leave to the older men.
The Band has come under the control of the Brigade by arrangement with me.  Each Regiment to supply men.
Held a rifle meeting C.M.R. wins.
Inspected by the Corps Commander who was well pleased at the sight.

 
13th
September 1917

16th September 1917
Our stay here is nearly over, orders to go.
A terrific storm and dust everywhere.
We had been sending regular quotas of men to Port Said where they have a good time – weather much cooler.
Inspected by the Commander in Chief who was well pleased with us.  General Butler inspected our horses and complimented us on how well our horses were.
Nothing of importance to report.

 
1st
October 1917

1st October 1917
Seem to be filling in time so we guess that means.  Full strength now and well equipped.  Packed up and dumped surplus gear, we are ready.
Fritz (Air Force) are very active.
Box respirators have been issues – General Chaytor has returned.

 
28th
October 1917

28th October 1917
Big movements of troops.  We were to go to Aslug but the Turks had destroyed the wells, so moved to Kalasa, it was a goodly night, the whole force moving on four parallel lines.

 
29th
October 1917

29th  October 1917
Fritz came but our planes chased him, we tucked into all the hollows we could find and no movements by day.
On to Beersheba.

Photograph circa 1917 - Turkish Cavalry carried Lance, Rifle and sword.
Masson Collection

Moved at night to Aslug and again scattered about among the small hills.  We saw the railway the Germans had built and we destroyed some good station buildings.

 
30th
October 1917

30th October 1917
We moved off at 1430 [note: time hard to read and debatable].  A starting point was found and each unit came in like the spokes of a wheel and formed in place – it was a great sight.
We moved off in three columns.  Wheeled units on the road, New Zealand and Australian [Division] on the right and Aussie Division on the left.  Never before had such a force moved off.  We were now south of Beersheba – we are to have a business interlude with the Turk tomorrow.  We carried two days rations for men and horses on the wagons.  So with water available for horses we could last four days.  Never before had the moon looked down on such a force in size and brightness, everyone was in great spirits.  We would have sung if we were allowed.  At every halt we lay down with our horses and slept.
We had to cross some very soft ground, result of previous rain, considerable area of cultivated land.  We were to halt at 2400 for two hours, so we had something to eat and a sleep.  I went along the Regiment, the whole force was asleep except a horse blowing something out of his nose – not another sound.

 
31st
October 1917

31st October 1917

Beersheba - photograph circa 1917, before the NZMR and Light Horse attack which cumulated with the famous Light Horse Charge on Turkish town defenses. (right rear Turkish Camp under canvas).
Masson Collection

The advance guard ran into a Turkish patrol but they got away, on we went and as we reached the high country the sun broke through we saw Beersheba on our left about five miles away.  The Commanding Officers joined the Brigadier and from a hill looking out we could see the position.
The Turkish Cavalry were on the move, evidently they were in a hurry to make defense against us.
Our plan was to cross the Wadi Saba.  The Auckland Mounted Rifles in advance to take the hill Tel el Saba – Canterbury Mounteds on the right with the Wellington Mounteds in Reserve, Light Horse Regiment was on the right of the Canterbury Mounteds astride the Hebron-Beersheba Road.  The scheme of attack was by laying down objectives, we gained ours first [A.M.R.].
Established the fact of water in the wadi, the second was the hill, a very prominent round hill close to the wadi.
At 0800 I got orders to take it – about two miles away – very open ground.  11th [North Auckland Mounted Rifles] went in first and came under very heavy fire as soon as they got to the wadi.  Soon the Turks put in shells.  The 4th [Waikato Mounted Rifles] was to go on the right, but it was too open. 
The Brigadier was pushing us on, so I went forward to investigate, to go up out of the wadi was difficult open ground and the banks were about twenty feet high.  It looked to me, by keeping close to the North bank the men could get up in single file, then the bend in the wadi gave us some cover.  I sent for the other Squadrons while the 11th advanced.
It took some time to get up the hill in single file, machine guns were working hard and soon the 11th were climbing out of the wadi and up the hill.  Some of the Light Horse came along and I arranged with Colonel Bill to go over to the left, as we took the hill we dismounted in the wadi and took the hill on foot.
I got the artillery to open fire and directed their fire onto the Turkish machine guns – this ensured our men [were able to] get up the hill.  The artillery were doing a great work, we were in good line near one giving covering fire.  I signaled the Artillery to lift up 200 yards and we advanced very quickly, the ground was very rough, large boulders covered the ground, we were now near the second position, Turks were shelling hard, this hill was the key position – then the final rush we took the hill.  My signalers got in touch with Brigade and reported that we had gained the hill – the Turks lashed at us with shells and it was quite impossible to stay on top.
I got to a position where I could see ahead and a great sight suddenly sprung up – on our left lines and lines of horsemen moving.  The Turks were on the run and the Aus Division was after them – we could see the horses jumping the trenches – dust everywhere.  The fire slackened and it seemed that Beersheba was ours.
We came in for a very heavy shelling.  The country on our front was too rough for horses, there was no doubt Tel el Saba was the key to the position, when the Turk lost that he had to retire.  If the Turk had had another week he would have made this position much stronger.  Evidently they did not expect such a force to attack him in the rear.  Our men were very tired, good news from Gaza all positions have been taken.
We held this hill to night.  We were allowed to rest, so we did.  The horses were in a good position – there was a large force gathered round this hill.
During our advance while spotting for the artillery I directed them onto good targets, a nest of machine guns – I said “That’s the stuff to give them” – Hatrick sent [this message] by signal, the Artillery knew what it meant and they pumped in all guns.
The Artillery commander came along tonight and was telling me that he was a very pleased man, they did great work – so did our men. 
General Chaytor and Meldrum were in great heart too.

 
1st
November 1917

November 1st 1917
Two of our Regiments are following up the Turk who is about six miles away.  We found the outposts. But nothing doing here about.
Good results at Gaza.  Our casualties were fairly heavy.  Captain Ashton and six men, numerous wounded. 

 
2nd
November 1917

Water for horses now a problem, what we have had so far was holes in the river bed caused by recent rains.
Moved to Biremsahah about ten miles East of Beersheba.
Wells do not look very promising, a large number of Arabs are camped here, they seem a better type and friendly, a considerable tract of cultivated land.  Wood and water very scarce.  3rd water [third grade water not fit for troops of horses to drink] very hard to get – sending the horses in small lots to different wells – water for men is carried by transport horses, got one drink today.
Orders to move to Abu Jerwal, we crossed the Hebron road.
The Brigadier had gone ahead and I was taking the Brigade, left the Regiment to water the horses, Fritz dropped some bombs.
[Received] a message that the Turks were attacking at Rasel Nagb, very rough country, no guide – so we advanced to the sound of guns.  It was now dark and I disliked going any further, so halted and put out outposts – we had about reached the place assigned to us.

 
5th
November 1917

5th November
Daylight brought on a terrific bombardment from the Turks and our Infantry attacked Khuwilfeh.  With regards, this is a fair sized hill and commanding position, and we had a good view of the Infantry attacking.  Both sides working their artillery very hard.  Then as the shelling ceased a tremendous cheer went up and our Infantry rushed the position.  The Turks fled.  The Turks made a determined counter attack without result – The Canterbury Mounteds and the Wellington Mounteds got the hottest part.  Fritz gave us some bombs and some shells dropped among the horses.
The Turks wanted this hill so they made another attempt, the Wellington Mounteds and our own 11th Squadron [North Auckland Mounteds] were put in to assist and the attack was beaten off.
Our horses had had no water for thirty hours, rations have not reached us and small parties took water bottles about five miles and filled them.  Q[uartermaster’s] branch had much difficulty getting rations to us in the darkness.
No sign of relieving force and at 10 pm the Brigadier conferred with commanding officers and we sent the horses back for a drink.  They had to go about 12 miles.  All but the machine gun packhorses went – we felt quite lonely without them.

 
5th
November 1917

6th November
No relief has arrived although they were hourly expected.
Daylight and the Turk came together, but were easily beaten off.
About midday the Camel Corps arrived to relieve us and very generously gave us 150 gallons of water, this was about one pint per man – it was worth its weight in gold and we were very pleased to get it.
Had to make a long detour over rough country to get away from Turkish shells.  Bombed on the way.  We reached a supply depot and our Quartermaster had the “billy boiled”.  Our pack horses were about done in, no water for 72 hours and 12 miles further to go to get a drink.
While men were filling their bottles one of the packhorses was lying down and nearly out – someone suggested to give him a pint.  He struggled to his feet and drank it out of a Dixie lid and we gave him another – he showed his appreciation by walking 12 miles where he was rewarded with a good drink and a month in hospital.
Near here were some Infantry who guarded this water with fixed bayonets, our men tried to get some by fair means, but no success.
Our horses returned during the night.

 
7th
November 1917

7th November
At laikllat in support.
We just heard that Gaza had fallen to us.  Fritz flew over us very low but want some information.

photograph Lib of Congress - circa 1917
German Ace "Felmy" with his rear gunner and Albatross Biplane stationed at Huj, Palestine.
Oberleutnant Gerhardt Felmy earned the admiration of his adversaries. It was not uncommon for him to drop messages and photographs from recently captured airmen on their home field. In reply the Allied airman did the same for the Germans and drank toasts to Felmy in their mess.
At home the German population kept abreast of Felmy's adventures in the "Kriegs-Chronik der Leipziger Neuesten Nachrichten" (War Chronicle of the latest news from Leipzig).
On one occasion Felmy dropped a note with a photograph of himself and his third "Kill" captured Australian Pilot Claude H.Vautin. The letter expressed a wish that the photo be sent to Vautin's parents to assure them their son was well. He also stated that he wished the matter to remain confidential between the pilots only when he wrote: " I beg, this letter not to send in a newspaper."

Former Australian Light Horseman, Captain Ross M. Smith became the greatest ace in the Palestine-Syria theatre with 11 "Kills".
Photo Masson Collection

 
8th
November 1917

8th
Very quiet this morning, guns sound a long way off, very satisfactory reports from all parts – 11th Squadron [NAMR] are in the front line and returned to us on the 9th.

 
9th
November 1917

9th
[NAMR] reported the enemy retiring.  Horses are recovering fast.  Brigade was ordered to leave one Regiment and return to B.S [Beersheba].
We were the mugs.  We were attached to 53 Division and they allotted us a well at El Makrunea.  I suspect that the water was bad [and] sent the horses to Beersheba – found the well 150 feet deep with better water.  I objected to this and we were to be relieved punctually, the relief took over and we joined the Brigade at Beersheba and got orders to be ready to leave at 1600 – drew rations and were ready on time.

 
11th
November 1917

11th November 1917
March from Beersheba to Yibna.

We floundered through trenches and lots of [very bush] rough country and sometimes [had to travel in] single file.  Very difficult to keep the line intact.  Two men bumbled into a hole and of course halted the behind them [and they] could not connect the break.
A message came to me and I returned and found the break and the men turned in.  The Squadron leaders had a job to rouse the men and get under way [again].
Colonel Finlay told me he had ordered a halt.  I told him he could do what he liked but I was taking my men on.  My old horse led the way and he found his mates.  The Canterbury Mounteds did not like [us] moving off, [and of] course they blamed the Auckland Mounteds for breaking the line.
In the early morning we reached Jemameh [with] orders to continue on to Tel El Hesi and then Boreir.  8000 population at El Mesil.  Halted for the night at Hamume after a march of 62 miles in 32.5 hours

 
13th
November 1917

November 13th
Marched to the sound of guns, rations finished, water short.  Had straw, the sand out of it for horses.
Urgent orders to move.  Yeomanry captured 1,600 Turks.
Bivouacked for the night without any posts to let everybody get sleep.  Near Es Dud and Yebna, plenty of water at last and population of 5,000.
Wadi El Sorek plenty of water.  Passed through some Scottish troops who gave us a great welcome.

 
notes:

[transcribers note: On turning the page I find this next entry un-numbered and appears not to be relevant here , however including this short paragraph until I find out where it goes.  All wording seems to be James McCarroll’s in the second para but first appears to be someone making a reference note]
Put in at 47 more about Ludd and Ranluh [?] Geyer etc (page 11 Badn). One of the cites mentioned in the letters found at Tel El Amara, sounds important.

Recent excavations reveal five main epochs in its history to wit care dwelling with blunt instruments 3,000 – 2,000 BC next Egyptian seal rings.  Cannanitish next 2,000 – 1,000 BC show how great was the influence of Egyptian culture, higher up show Jewish influence before [going into] exile.

 

November 1917

November [day obscured but page numbered 37 from Museum records this entry may need to go back a few entries as it related to Beersheba – seems to repeat a lot from a few days before?]

We moved through BSA [Beersheba] floundering through trenches, dust very bad, the Brigade was strung out.  About 2340 we were going in single file when two men and horses fell into a hole, next man stopped to help, then the contact was lost in the dark.  This was reported to me and I reported to Bd [the Brigadier] who halted.
I went back and found the broken link.  I found the Colonel turned in, so I had to get him on the move again.  I felt a bit mad as the breakdown [came from] my Regiment.  It was very dark and I am sure it was my horse that led us to the other part of the Regiment.  I missed my sleep.

 

November 1917

[Date obscure probably doubling up in new notebook of 11th November entry before as next entry below is readable as the 13/11/17]


We saw ending of a battle the previous day.  On we go to find Jemameh, where we halt and boil up.  Orders to continue as the enemy were returning, halted at Tel El Hesi.  Watered our horses with brackish water, moved on again running parallel with a Turkish position they had not long vacated.  On the village of Bureir then to El Mejel, fair size 8,000 population pre-war, some nice orchards, to Hamume where we halted for the night, very very tired.  This was a record march of 60 miles in 32.5 hours. Horses carrying heavy load.  Only one man fell out – no horses.  Our horses came through with great style, shows good horsemanship.

 
13th
November 1917

13th   November
Daylight to the sound of guns.  We had to find water for our horses, we have ended the last of our rations and water for breakfast.  Horses returned at 1230.  Had to go to the beach and a bit back, made holes in the sand, lifted [the water] out with mugs and when the sand settled the horses drank it.
Orders to move up as fast as we can – drew rations and moved.
A big battle is going on, we are in reserve.  Towards [evening] fire slackened and we move on.  Yeomanry on our right, who make a big swing and surround 1,100 prisoners and some guns. 
Bivouac for the night, no outposts and all hands get good sleep.

 
14th
November 1917

14th November
We are now about Es Dud, enemy are falling back as soon as we can draw rations we are to pursue.  We have now come from Beersheba to Es Dud – from one flank to the other.
[Diagonally?] we reach the wadi NW of Yebna, here is a plentiful supply of water at last – the horses did enjoy themselves.
The town of Yebna has two Mosques, one was a church built by the Crusaders.
Good water in the Wadi es Sorek.  It one time it had been a sea port more important than Joppa.  Es Dud is larger with 5,000 population.
Oranges in good supply.

 

November 1917

15th November
Reported to the Brigadier who gave us all the news he had, which was very good.  We could hear the battle ahead.
His orders were “Find the enemy and smash him.”
Passed through some Scotch [sic] troops, who gave us a good cheer.  My regiment was on the left flank nearest the sea supported by the Navy.
We soon found Johnny Turk in small groups retiring.
3rd Squadron was A G [advance guard] and pushed on towards a ridge.  WMR were engaged on our right and were soon held up.  We pushed on to get on the enemies flank and thus help the WMR.
The 3rd Squadron was holding the position and I sent the 11th through them to take another forward position.  I saw a horseman appear away to our left, so sent a troop of the 4th to protect our left.
WMR was attacking a trench position, and it was a fun sight to see, them Turk machine guns and artillery very hard at [it].
We were now in the thick of it dismounted.  WMR had gained the position.  I received a message that the Turks were massing for another attack to retake the trenches, this was a very strong position for the Turks.
A machine gun on the WMR left was troubling [them] and I directed all I could on this [position]
I sent for the 3rd Squadron, they came up at the gallop, dismounted within 100 yards of

[note: On turning page of diary and James has rubbed out the 15th and written in the date the 14th  - page continues…]

The position.  We now come under terrific fire and later artillery found us.  Movement was impossible and we scratched into the sand.
We were loosing men and most of my regiment was engaged.
I found the nest of machine guns that were giving us trouble and concentrated machine guns on them.  The WMR saw we were getting it hard and helped us by moving a troop up.  My left flank was threatened and I wanted to move the 4th, but the shelling was hard.  Eventually I got a message through to Munro (4th) and he came across, and the sight of these stalwarts was indeed to be remembered.  I was more to the left and three or four men came back, and they came to me, I told them they must not go back.  They said the Turks were just over the hill, but they returned [to the line] at once – I gave orders to fix bayonets.  The Turk shelling had ceased as they were quite close to us.   I moved a machine gun and we could see the body of Turks, but our direct fire was too much for them, my officers could be heard urging our men to shoot, which they did, and the Turks fled.
The whole regiment was in the firing line.   WMR had gained their second objective, and we held the main ridge.  This was a big fight, horse-holders were reduced to very few, and Signalers were helping to carry wounded.  Doc was very busy.  Padre was busy among the wounded.  We were now able to get our breath and it was getting late.  I had called up the Squadron loaders, we were discussing the position when I got a smack like a sledgehammer on the shoulder, I was spitting blood.
Munro gave me some Morphia, Johnson tied me up.
I discussed with Whitehorn and addressed him to say where he was [in the battle].  It was now almost dark so I decided to ride back to Brigade H.Q. and tell them the position and get reinforcements sent up – which they did.
They had watched the whole performance and ambulances were on their way, also Camel Corps.
{My strength] was still with me, and I did not get off my horse, my shoulder was very painful, so I got piloted to the Field Ambulance.  I had been on the horse for an hour and was about all in when I reached the dressing station.
Captain Rhodes and a big Aussie lifted me off my horse and I collapsed.  After a rest and a cup of tea I recovered.  The Doctor got to work on me and found a bullet had gone through my neck, round the windpipe; another [round] had hit me and broke my collar-bone.  They soon trussed me up.  I had to look after some of my men they had in bed.  So I found myself also in bed after a most exciting day, my men did great work, wounded men returned to the firing line when they heard their comrades were having a hard time.
Our horses did well, unfortunately a shell struck a group and knocked out about a dozen. [J**** a name of trooper] was holding my horse and his, and was killed.
D. [space for name left blank] and Padre Wilson did great work with the wounded, there is not room to give all the names, never a man flinched.
WMR were now in a good position and did their job.

 
15th
November 1917

15th November 1917
At 6 am General Chaytor came to see me and congratulated me on the splendid stand the regiment made.   Colonel Powles also came, told me he had seen our movements.  I now felt very stiff and sore and not worth [much].
Later on General Chauvel and an American officer came and was very pleased, he told me there was a large Turkish force, and if we had given way to them it would have been disaster.  We had inflicted heavy losses on the Turk, and 400 dead where they countered [attacked] on our front.
We were moved by cars to Yebna.  I was a cot case, but there were some empty trucks, so I became a sitting case and got sent with the driver.  There was a large number of wounded collected here.
It was a rough ride in the cars over the desert, but in a truck on a dark night was something to remember.
We arrived at the C.C. [Casualty Clearing] Station at 9 pm at Dules.

 
16th
November 1917

November 16th 1917
After a good breakfast we went in cars to the 22nd Brigade Clearing Station, had lunch and another car took us to Belah.  Here is an advanced Hospital, we had a good time, they asked us what we would like to eat.  I chose bread and butter and a bottle of beer.

 
17th
November 1917

17th
Moved on by Hospital Train to El Arish, then by road and train to Kantara on the 18th.  At El Arish we were in hospital there were some nurses there, one a New Zealand girl came to see me about her boy[friend] who was killed in the last action.  Our next stop was Kantara where a hospital under canvas was established.  While we were here a heavy rain storm came on and canvas and ropes tightened – out came the pegs, canvas ripped and down came the tents – we were able to get between the beds and the floor, so we were all right.
Found Sinclair Reid here going on, well quite a number of our men were here all well looked after

 
20th
November 1917

20th November 1917
We were put on another train and this time to Cairo where we were distributed to various base hospitals.  Reid and I sent to Nazareih.  Numerous ladies met us at the station.  Colonel Mackesy was there and I got some mail and news.
Hospital is very nice and cheerful nurses, and indicates a good home for a month.

 
21st
November 1917

21st November
I am sent to doctors for X-ray and examination.  This disclosed that collar bone is setting well and they found a bullet lodged in the shoulder and the wound in the neck nearly healed.  They wont consider taking the bullet out until the bone has set.
The last seven days has been written up later as I was unable to write [at the time.]  I have a type writer and I play out notes with the left hand so well – fill you in later.
Life in hospital is very good for some and we had some very bad cases.  There was three of us in one room.  There was a young officer very bad, and the doctor asked if he could put him in with us as he took no interest in anything.  We cheered him up and in a few days he began to take some interest in life.  The doctor [said later] that it saved his life.
I got Jagt [ this could also be Sagt, meaning “Sergeant”] Singh down from the Regiment, he was a great help to the nurses.
I am now able to get about with my arm in a sling – time marches on.

 
20th
December 1917

About the 20th December I was moved to a convalescent home, it was a nice place, and at one time was the home of the Sirdar of Egypt, beautiful grounds and the staff A1.
There are a number of English officers here. All good fellows.  I am now able to use my arm a bit and I get some massage – They have decided to leave the bullet in until it gives some trouble.

I got hold of Bill Palmer RSM and we visited every man in hospital and made them think of Xmas.  Quite a number of men are at Aotea Home for New Zealanders and are having a good time.  A committee of ladies work up inter-liasement for the men.

photographer unknown - circa 1917 - duotone treatment 2010.

Barrels of beer arrive for the Mounted Rifles to take part in holiday cheer. This photograph insert is probably taken in Turkish Palestine 1917. The five unnamed men are all troopers from the Auckland Mounted Rifles Regiment.
 
1st
January 1918

1st January 1918
Races at Helliopolis.  The Sultan was there, came on course in great style.  Beautiful Arab ponies racing.  The women come in closed in cars.

 
12th
January 1918

12th January
Discharged from hospital and left to join the Regiment, but had a few days off at the Continental Hotel and enjoyed myself.
Went on the night train to join up., through the desert into Palestine as far as Es Dud where the railway is blocked with a train off the line.
There had been a lot of rain and water was everywhere.  Some of us went to R.A. Force Camp near by and had a good dinner.  There were about fifty here, the oldest 28 and the C.O. all Aussies – fine lot of men.

 
15th
January 1918

15th January 1918
We left next morning, track repaired, went to Kilo 393 thence to the Regiment.  Arrived at 5 pm found all well.

 
16th
January 1918

16th
I took over command of the Regiment and General Chauvel inspected.  He was pleased.
The Regiments officers entertained me to a dinner at Richon Le Sion.  The fare was plain but the wine was good.

 
18th
January 1918

18th
General Meldrum inspected next day, we visited Richon Le Zion a Jewish settlement – 900 inhabitants 1882.  Financed by Rothchild’s large wine cellars.  The people are pleased to see us as they had a bad time with the Turks.

 
22nd
January 1918

22nd January
Colonel Wylie, Major Wilkie and self left at 6 am for Jerusalem the place we have been looking for.  We got a car from somewhere, road very rough, recently repaired, we climb to a height of 2440 feet – here the city is built.  The old city surrounded by a huge wall.  Dirty narrow streets and dirty people.  One enters at the Jaffa Gate through the wall and finds a large hotel, very short of food.
We secure a guide who starts to say his piece.

January 22nd 1918
Starts to say his piece all connected to the Bible.  Churches abound.  The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a wonderful place.  Several sects worship here, not always in harmony.
The Crucifixion story is told, places pointed out etc, and of course the Temple site is worth visiting.  Ruins everywhere.  Jews abound.  The town is quite unharmed, we did not shell it.  From a hill we see the Dead Sea.  The whole place is intensely interesting.
Visited the 2nd Light Horse for sports – very good.

 
22nd
January 1918

25th
Went with General Chaytor up the coast from Jaffa as far as Caesarea.  I think we were very close to the Turkish lines and did not know.  We got back quick.

 
26th
January 1918

26th
Weather has turned cold.  Heavy firing not far away and two Fritz aeroplanes fell.

 
30th - 31st
January 1918

30th – 31st January
Went to Ramileh and Ludd two very old towns 7,000 population each.  2,000 Greeks at Ludd, the church of St George was built here.  It really was built and destroyed four times – St George is buried here.
Ramleh has schools.  It looks forlorn.
Orchards very luxuriant and rich crops grow.  Very ancient, lots of ruins, mostly Arab.  All the Christians had churches before the Crusaders.  Ekron one of the Philistine cities is now a Jewish settlement flourishing

 
1st
February 1918

Feb 1st
Football is played regularly [Rugby].  A mail arrived, very welcome, weather improving.  First round of the ANZAC football tournament, must keep fit so all sorts of training in between.  Very heavy rain brings us to the 11th.

 
11th
February 1918

11th February 1918
Great excitement over football we had a good win.
An early move is expected, hear it is very rough country and we have to keep off the roads.

 
15th
February 1918

15th February
Left Ayun Kara with the Canterbury Mounteds and bivouacked at Junction Station, passing through some good country, orchards and crops.  Old historic grounds

 
16th
February 1918

16th
Struck some stony ground, reaching Zakarieh, only one well, so we took some time to water the horses.  The Valley of Elah runs along here.  Tel El Zakarieh commands the whole valley.  Near by village of same name.  Arabs show us the old fellow’s tomb, also some big caves, but no time to explore.

 
17th
February 1918

17th February
Climbing hills now, rough country, we passed the place where Davis slew Goliath with a stone etc.  Had to lead our horses up the stony hills, looking backwards is a splendid view right to the Mediterranean.  We reach the top of the hill some time and camp two miles from Bethlehem, a storm is on.  We water our horses at the Pools of Solomon.

 
18th
February 1918

18th February 1918
Found B.H.Q. at Beihleam, an old historic town in the midst of rough hills.  The Church of the Nativity is the Center.  Hills of the Shepherds.  Greeks – Armenians and Arabs abound, narrow streets, not at all a cheerful looking place.

 
19th
February 1918

19th
Left Bethlehem for to find the Turks, who are towards the Jordan Valley.  We soon have to move in single file, just goat tracks.  We see the shepherd boys with their sheep, and while he watches he is spinning wool or playing his whistle.
Pass a large Monastery then Obeid.  Pass a high hill Muntar.  The Infantry are holding this and a number of Scottish troops in kilts are on duty and in the lines we pass through.  We halt here for the night, the first idea was that the Mounted Troops would travel by night, but Johnny Turk is fairly plentiful about here early on.

 
20th
February 1918

20th
We move off, Wellington Mounteds on the right, Canterbury Mounteds on the left forming the A [advance] guard, very rough country, all in single file miles long and as daylight comes we issue from a pass to an open plateau.  We can now see the enemy positions.  The Canterbury Mounteds has taken the wrong direction and we are pushed into the A.G. [advanced guard].  I have to have a look at the position, the Turks start shelling us.  We had now closed up somewhat so I decided on a line of action.  The Turk was holding strong positions just as we emerged from the pass – both sides.  Our machine guns got to work, no artillery could come with us.  I worked our men in a few at a time, eventually we got close to them and they departed, it was not possible to move very rapidly or widely, a large building is on our right Nebi Musa and we can see the Turkish positions.
I reported to Brigade H.Q. and after consultation it was decided to halt for the night on the spot.  No water available, one Squadron went looking but found nothing.  Men slept beside their horses.

 
21st
February 1918

21st February
Early we moved off, we had to go through another pass, fortunately the Turk pulled out during the night.  We are in single file again, the Brigade was five miles long and moving in the dark and as daylight came we could see an opening in the hills and at 9 am we sort of tumbled into the Jordan Valley.  What a glad sight that was, we now have to close up.  We in the front get a rest while the rear is getting up.  Then orders are to follow the Turk, at present he is getting away.  He is going fast to cross the Jordan, and we move fast, but we are unable to catch him as he got his guns into position and we had none.
We set off to overtake him, but he got to the main road in the valley and we missed him by a mile or two.  We got into Jericho – The first New Zealanders, but the Light Horse beat us by ten minutes.
Horses were now able to get plenty of water and men boiled up.  We have go to the valley, few expected us to get through such country, it is called the Wilderness, truly so, only goat tracks – but there you are the impossible done again!
The Jordan Valley is an immense plain, right from the Dead Sea it extends for miles.  Northwards crops grow, but very little shrub [cover, the] heat is terrific.

 
22nd
February 1918

22nd
We bivouac on the site of old Jericho, ancient ruins about.  I sent Major Munro and an escort to be Military Governor for awhile.  The Brigade moved back to Bethlehem as transport is difficult we are attached to the XXth Corps to patrol the Valley.
We can see the Turkish Camp East of the Jordan.  Jericho is very dirty and a number of sick and wounded billeted about.  A Turk [Christian] Church and a Mosque are here, a few shops.  Overlooking the town is “The [****] of Temptation”.  A Monastery is near by [*****] by the Greeks caves abound and access very difficult.

 
23rd
February 1918

23rd
Camped in ruins of some Roman building built to defend the wood loading to Jerusalem, now we are doing the same thing – water from Wadi Kelt.  Near here remains of aqua ducts and a Monastery named after St George, we found the inside much destroyed.  The Turks have a great dislike for anything St George.
Patrols report bridge strongly held.

 
24th
February 1918

24th Church Parade on the site of old Jericho.  1,100 feet below sea level.  This is a most interesting place and abounds in Biblical incidents.
Went to the Dead Sea.  It is dead alright if smell tells anything.  Thirty miles long by ten miles wide.

 
25th
February 1918

25th
Our patrols in contact with Johnny Turk.
Saw the Monastery of Kasaei Yehud this is near Mahadet Halleh the bathing place, numerous stores about this place.

 
27th
February 1918

27th
We are seeing the Jordan Valley as few have seen it.  The river is fordable in a few places, mostly mention in Samuel XIII.

 
2nd - 6th
march 1918

March 2nd – 6th
Turks are trying to find out what we are doing.  We made a reconnaissance in force.  He shelled us hard, he is holding the bridge very strongly.  We got a heavy Battery down and gave him a bad time.  We find he is going back a bit, smaller patrols indicate that he is pulling out and has blown up the bridge.

 
7th
march 1918

7th March 1918
Patrols go out and find bridge destroyed and no Turks West of Jordan.

 
8th
march 1918

8th
Attached to 60 Division Brigade for a movement North, we cover the advance, seems more like an exercise for the Infantry.
I sent a patrol NE to connect with Division on our right, country very steep.  Camped in Wadi Obied, gained touch with the enemy.

 
11th
march 1918

11th
Big move by the Infantry, we get to a flank when they start to shell.

 
13th - 17th
march 1918

13th
Moved to Tel El Sultan, this is the site of ancient Jericho and very interesting.
13th – 17th
Infantry are still training but they expect us to keep the enemy off them.
We found two bottle of Fizz for St Pats birthday [St Patrick’s Day], and heavy rain not far away.  It is very nice here, but cold as one gets higher.  Saw the river Jordan for the first time.

 
18th
march 1918

18th
Infantry increasing, evidently a move soon, they send out large patrols and come to us for guides.

 
20th - 21st
march 1918

20th – 21st
The crossing of the Jordan is to be done tomorrow, river is fast deep and muddy.  A Brigade of Infantry is to cross in two places, they have pontoon bridges on wagons.
I got an order to cross next morning at daylight, or as soon as the bridge was ready.  We lay at Mathadet Hajla waiting, some of our men had managed to swim over [**** *****] were now able to cross on the bridge.  I was informed that the bridge was ready to cross on.  There is very heavy scrub on the bank of the river and the Turk was waiting.  The Adjutant and I went and had a look at the situation.  We found the Infantry held up about 50 yards over the river, no road for the horses and no room to concentrate. 
I told them [the Infantry] they would have to push on out of our way, but they seemed to be undecided.
They decided to wait until night.  I reported to the Brigade Commander and explained the position.  As I came away from the river we found a pack Battery lost.  So I told him there was good shooting, but he said he would [require] an order to open fire – I soon gave him some, we could see the Turkish machine guns just over the river and I directed the fire and the Battery did some good work, completely destroying [the enemy] holding up the river crossing.
It was reported that the Infantry at the other crossing at Ghoraniye were unable to swim over, so [we] all had to concentrate on this one.
With the result of a conference [we decided] to cross early at 0500 on the 23rd.
The position is rather serious, the one at Ghoraniye has a wadi leading to it and the Commander in Chief is depending on the crossing here and the Turk has a very strong position covering the crossing.

 
23rd
march 1918

23rd November 1918
0500 we were ready and I found the Brigade Commander shaving his face, he had no orders for me except that the pontoon bridge was ready to cross over and find the enemy.
We crossed in single file.  I went on ahead to find out the position, a few Infantry were lined on top of the slope up from the river, and from there I could see a vast plain – it was five miles on the map to the other crossing which the Turk was holding.  So I decided to have a go for it.
When all got over the Regiment assembled in a hollow.  Whitehorn assembled all the pack horses and guns, his orders were to follow up [behind.]
I sent the 11th Squadron [NAMR] out on our right, while the 3rd [AMR] and 4th [Waikato] went straight up the valley.  Numerous enemy posts about and we galloped straight at them – most of them put up their hands, horses were in good form, and in open order, in a good swing canter we battled along.  I overtook the advance guard and called to them to move faster – we were going for a new flank as they [the Turk] were moving out.
One troop moved close to the river as the enemy were driven out – a bridge [we attacked] was so built [defended that ] we came in for machine gun and artillery fire, so we had to steady up.  The Regiment H.Q. reached a small knoll and we dismounted and had a look and here was the whole Turkish force on the move back – we were within a hundred yards of them, so I ordered all to retrieve to the horse mount and get back.  I could not find my horse and I saw the Turks on the hill and we got some heavy fire.  I was running back, bullets flopping round me, so I fell behind a bush, then Sagt Sing* came up with my horse.  I can tell you I got mounted in record time.
We retired and assembled about half a mile away.
The other Squadron on the right ran into the Turkish right and in a running fight, **Tait a troop leader was killed, but our men gave them a bad time.
Our men fired as they galloped along.  The Turkish Cavalry were poorly mounted on small ponies – they will keep away from us in the future.
We assembled and came back, found our pack horses and soon our transport got over the river, so we rested.
We had a great day, cleared the river bank for five miles – helped get the bridge built at Ghoraneay and the Infantry let our transport over as soon as possible.  The Infantry were now proceeding over the bridge and we could not do much more and bivouacked for the night.

* Although the spelling looks like "Jagt" Sing the name is probably the abbreviated rank "Sergeant" Sing. There are two surnames "Sing" on the Nominal Roll. This man is probably one of two brothers - 12/1096 Frank Sing or 12/1097 Albert Sing - both of the Auckland Mounted Rifles and 1 Browning Street, Grey Lynn, Auckland.
** 1/185 Captain Kenneth James Tait M.C.

 
24th
march 1918

24th March 1918
Our Brigade turned up here during the night, so we joined them at 0800, we moved out for the attack on Shunit – Nimrod and onto Es Salt.  A good road runs to the East, but not for us, we have to take the tracks on the right, we move into the hills of Moab.
These hills up the valley were a beautiful sight with wild flowers of many colours.  There had been no sheep on them and they were truly a beautiful sight.
It now began to get cold, and rain came on as we got nearer the top of the range, the tracks becoming very slippery, and messages reached us that our Camel Transport were having a bad time – we have to halt with our outpost on the top of the range.
Our Camels are unable to reach us.

 
25th
march 1918

25th March 1918
Left at 0800, ground very soft and streams in flood, we are up in the clouds and very cold.  We lead our horses, we descend into the Wadi Es Salt which is now in flood, steep huge hills on both sides, we would be very easily held here, but evidently they are not expecting us.
We pass some caves and Mills driven by water power, as we go to turn a corner and there was a village with numerous troops.  Ain Es Sir it was called and our Advanced Guard was through the village before the Turk knew and the whole lot surrendered  - our entrance so far is a complete surprise.
This is a Circasian Village, so I sent for the Headman and told him to bring all his arms.  Went on about another mile reaching the top of the hill and [saw] open country.  Brigade H.Q. came up, but no transport, one meal left, but horses have plenty of grazing.  We wait for orders.
We have done a great march, a long way ahead of the Infantry which is moving parallel.  It is still wet so we park for the night and hope to get our rations.

 
26th
march 1918

26th
We had advanced in three parallel columns, we are in the center, information is that the left column Infantry has reached the Plateau and the right one is just dribbling in.  They are mostly Camels and they are having a bad time with wet and mud.
Just got a message our Camel Transport unable to move, so we collect all available pack horses and send them back for rations, we had eaten our last meal last night.  Men are very cheerful but concerned about their horses.  Our Padre has a tin of oatmeal and we had some porridge.
Our pack horses have returned with rations – camp here for the night.

 
27th
march 1918

27th
We are to advance East and reach the railway at Amman and smash the line and block a tunnel.
We are the Advance Guard and start on a road, but soon have to move a bit South.  Country all in crops.
Jacko has found us and we come under gun fire, ground very soft, and hard on the horses with all the crops, too bad, we force them on, they want to eat.
We are seen again by the Turk and soon his guns find us, we are going up a valley with a good stream and can see the enemy positions, so we work to the right and seized a hill Rujmtahim from which we see the railway.
A Battalion of Camels are endeavouring to cut the railway South of us.
We reach a railway station Abu Aianda with a Turkish post.  Enemy Cavalry is reported East of the railway.  I did not think they were Turks, but were friendly Arabs.
I sent the 4th [Waikato Mounteds] Squadron to attack the railway station – Just then the Cavalry came galloping straight for us and the Turkish Post surrendered.
The Arabs came up and said they had come to help fight the Turks.
This caused delay and the main Turks were concentrating on the hill we wanted.  We swung to the left and attacked the Turks main position, this gave us cover for our horses and we then attacked on foot.
The huge hill 3039 was a strong position and the Arabs were no good to us, as they were exposing the position and Turkish guns were spraying us.  A Battalion of Camels came and took a position on our right.  We bivouacked on the spot for the night.
The Arabs cleared out and I was very pleased.  They were good horsemen but poor soldiers.

 
29th
march 1918

29th March 1918
Orders came to hold on.  Jacko watched every movement and shelled accordingly.  Rations arriving and having an easy day holding.  Our Infantry is due to attack the front on our left.  Sent out patrols East and West no sign of enemy in force.
Our Arab friends came back and I sent them to guard the South.
Conference at Brigade H.Q., enemy reinforcements had joined up and our Infantry failed to reach the position.  We made a plan to attack at night while our Infantry attacked the front – they arrived soon [after.]
I did not like it and thought out a plan which worked well and silently.  We had no artillery.

 
30th
march 1918

30th
Our captures were very satisfactory – At daylight Jacko attacked us, but we were in a strong position and easily repelled it – we had chose not to dig in but built sangiers with stones.  Under shell-fire all morning.
I was in command of the attack – Auckland Mounteds, Canterbury Mounteds, Infantry, Camel Battalion, Vth [Battery?] – all worked together well.
Our Infantry had failed and we were in a tight corner.  Orders now came to withdraw, but I resolutely sat on any move before dark and move back in daylight would have been disastrous.
The Adjutant had found a “Better Hole” and we and H.Q. moved in and had something to eat about 1700.  Turks launched another attack, but our machine guns being in position held true.
Our right flank was in the air and constant watch was required to prevent this.  The whole position was good.  We held the top of this hill and the Turk had to advance up hill, but under artillery cover.  At one stage of the attack on the Camel and Canterbury Mounted sector – suddenly a large number of Turks appeared near the hill top and our line shook, and a number of men moved back.  An officer took in the position and very quickly and got them turned round again, it was a very plucky action and I am sorry I could not identify him, a quick decision saved the position.
Plans had to be made for retiring as soon as it was dark enough.  I timed the withdraw of each unit so that we would all meet on another position, men had to make no noise.  The wounded had all to be got away and the Field Ambulance did good work, as the wounded had to be tied to their horses and escorted away.
The moon rose at 8.30 pm, the order was given and silently the units moved, horses were brought nearer, and just as the moon was rising we were down the hill and the rest was easy.  Camels moved first – this was the tightest place we have been in, and had the weather been better we would have succeeded.  The failure of the Infantry to carry out their task was due to weather conditions.  Rations could not be got up on time, a long march full of difficulties

 
30th
march 1918

31st March
We traveled last night, many men were asleep on their horses.  Reached Ain Es Sir at 0430.  I think I slept on my horse after we got clear of the hill 3039.
We had to let the Camels and the wounded men keep ahead.  Canterbury Mounteds were covering the withdrawal and we were next, we had to withdrawal down the hills on three tracks – we unwounded moved quicker.
It turned very cold on the hills, the most severe weather, reminded us of the blizzard on Gallipoli.  We seemed to be clear of the Turk now – our tracks are getting blocked – it will be nasty if the Turks get us here.
Firing starts, the Rear Guard has been attacked and we go to their assistance.  The people in the village we just came through attacked [us] – them Circassians are bad people.  We at last reach Shunit Nimron.  Left at 0630 saw General Shea, he congratulated the Regiment on the good work.
Crossed over the pontoon bridge over the Jordan.  We had reached the main road, it was nearly blocked with refugees coming from the Turks.

 
DIARY ENDS.

 

So ends the three batches of papers that were handed to me by the Kauri Museum that make up sum total number of pages of James McCarroll's Diaries. Obviously areas of interest seem to be missing in 1916 and later in the attacks on Amman. Attempts to find further material continues. Also I will go back now and rescan a number of pages that were too difficult to read on the first time through.
regards
Steve Butler