Auckland Mounted Rifles Regiment

Page 6 – 1918 - Auckland Mounted Rifles Regiment timeline

The Auckland Mounted Rifles Regiment (AMR) and the rest of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade (NZMR) move east across Palestine into the Jordan Valley in early 1918 as part of the Anzac Mounted Division. Two raids into the highlands east of the Jordan are costly failures. A third raid in September reaches Amman and takes 7000 Ottoman prisoners. An armistice with the Ottoman Empire comes into effect on 31 October.

January

  • 12th – The AMR moves north from Nahr Sukereir to a new bivouac at Richon le Zion.
  • 15th – Lieutenant-Colonel James McCarroll returns from hospital and resumes command of the AMR.
  • 31st – The AMR has a strength of 22 officers and 486 other ranks. During the month it has received 74 reinforcements.

February

  • 4th – The AMR provides a guard of two non-commissioned officers and nine men for the brewery at Richon le Zion.
  • 15th – After a pause in operations, General Sir Edmund Allenby wants the Anzac Mounted Division to take the shortest route east from Bethlehem, 9 km south of Jerusalem, to the northern end of the Dead Sea, then clear the Jordan Valley west of the Jordan River as far north as Wadi el Auja. Meanwhile the infantry will advance down the main road from Jerusalem to Jericho. Allenby hopes that with the Mounted Division threatening to cut off their line of retreat, the Ottoman Turks will abandon their defences along the road, avoiding the need for a potentially costly assault.  
    In preparation for its role in this operation, the AMR is to move to Bethlehem, where the NZMR is concentrating. The AMR reaches Junction railway station and bivouacs there for the night.
  • 16th – The AMR leaves bivouac at 9.30 a.m. and rides to Zakariye, where it rests for the night.
  • 17th – The AMR reaches Bethlehem and sets up a bivouac.
  • 19th – The NZMR leaves Bethlehem to travel through an area known as the ‘Wilderness’ on its way to the Jordan Valley. The AMR is at the rear of the advancing force and has no contact with Ottoman forces. After riding for nearly 20 km the AMR passes through El Muntar at lunchtime. It continues during the afternoon before stopping and setting up a bivouac.
  • 20th – The AMR, as part of the NZMR, leaves bivouac at 4 a.m. and continues to move towards the Jordan Valley. During the morning contact is made with Ottoman forces defending two hills 4 km apart and about 10 km north-east of El Muntar. The Wellington Mounted Rifles attacks Tubk el Kuneitra and the Canterbury Mounted Rifles assault Jebel el Kalimun. When the Canterburys climb the wrong ridge, the AMR is brought up from reserve to bolster the attack. Heavy Ottoman fire holds the Aucklanders at bay for most of the morning. Just before midday 11th (North Auckland) Squadron rushes the first Ottoman position, causing a partial withdrawal. A mounted charge by the AMR drives the Ottoman Turks off Jebel el Kalimun.
    The NZMR continues to push forward during the afternoon and bivouacs on the line it holds at dusk.
  • 21st – The NZMR resumes the advance at 5 a.m. It is quickly discovered that Ottoman forces have withdrawn overnight and the force moves into the Jordan Valley. The 1st Australian Light Horse Brigade occupies Jericho, 12 km north-east of Tubk el Kuneitra. Major Munro of the AMR is appointed Military Commandant of the village.
    The AMR bivouacs under Jebel Kuruntul, the biblical Mount of Temptation, 3 km north-west of Jericho.
  • 22nd – Most of the Anzac Mounted Division returns to Bethlehem. The AMR, a battery of field guns and a section of machine guns remain in the Jordan Valley to observe the Ottoman forces.
    The AMR moves to a new bivouac and devises a defensive scheme. Each squadron in turn mans an outpost line and watches for Ottoman movement across the Jordan River, while the other two squadrons rest and conduct patrols.

March

  • 2nd – Four 60-pounder guns are brought into the valley to support the AMR in a reconnaissance towards one of the bridges over the Jordan River. The Ottoman defences on the western side of the river are strong and the bridge is not reached.
  • 6th – The 11th (North Auckland) Squadron makes another unsuccessful attempt to approach the bridge. That night the Ottoman Turks withdraw across the Jordan and blow up the bridge behind them.
  • 23rdFirst Raid on Amman: The AMR crosses a pontoon bridge over the Jordan River at Hijla (10 km south-east of Jericho) at 7.30 a.m. Two bridges have been built in the previous two days with the aim of establishing a bridgehead on the eastern side of the river before launching a raid against the Hejaz railway at Amman. Two battalions of the London Regiment on the eastern bank have been unable to make any headway. The AMR is ordered to cross the river, then move 6 km north to Ghoraniyeh so that another bridge can be built there.
    Once the AMR clears the infantry outposts, the 3rd (Auckland) and 4th (Waikato) squadrons gallop north towards Ghoraniyeh, while 11th (North Auckland) guards their eastern flank. A number of Ottoman posts are overrun and a troop of cavalry is routed before the AMR reaches Ghoraniyeh and forces the garrison from its positions. This charge kills 50 Ottoman Turks and captures 60 for the loss of one man killed and two wounded – a spectacular achievement for a unit neither trained nor equipped for cavalry work
  • 24thFirst Raid on Amman: The AMR joins the NZMR column and moves into the hills along the Ain es Sir track. The 2nd Australian Light Horse Brigade, the Imperial Camel Corps and an infantry column are approaching Es Salt and Ain es Sir along different tracks. The intention is to then attack Amman.  
    The NZMR’s advance is not impeded by the Ottoman Turks, but the weather is miserably wet and cold (the hills are 600–900 m above sea level). With the track unsuitable for wheeled vehicles, the column is not supported by artillery.
  • 25thFirst Raid on Amman: The NZMR reaches Ain es Sir (35 km from Ghoraniyeh) at noon, having had very little rest the night before. The column bivouacs at 1.30 p.m. and waits for the 2nd Australian Light Horse Brigade and the Imperial Camel Corps to arrive.
  • 27thFirst Raid on Amman: The NZMR, Imperial Camel Corps and 2nd Australian Light Horse Brigade launch a raid on Amman, which is 12 km east of Ain es Sir. The defenders, well equipped with artillery and machine guns, are too strong for the mounted troops. They decide to hold the ground that has been taken during the day while waiting for the infantry column.
  • 28thFirst Raid on Amman: The British infantry battalions and mountain guns arrive to reinforce the attack on Amman. The assault is renewed at 1 p.m., but the plan is very similar to that for the previous day and little progress is made.
  • 29thFirst Raid on Amman: More British troops arrive outside Amman. An Ottoman force is now threatening to cut the line of retreat at Es Salt, and two of the three bridges across the Jordan River have been swept away by floods. With the situation now urgent, a night attack will be undertaken.
  • 30thFirst Raid on Amman: The AMR starts to move towards the NZMR’s objective, Point 3039, at 1.30 a.m. Heavy rain assists a silent approach. At 4.30 a.m. the defences on the hill are overrun by a bayonet charge, and by dawn the brigade overlooks the defences of Amman. The bulk of the WMR now arrives and the New Zealanders prepare defences on Point 3039 against Ottoman counter-attacks that continue throughout the day.
    The assault on Amman by the Imperial Camel Corps and the infantry fails. The leader of the raiding force, Major-General Edward Chaytor, decides that Amman cannot be taken quickly enough and orders a withdrawal.
    The AMR withdraws from Point 3039 after dark and moves back to Ain es Sir, where it bivouacs at 4 a.m.
  • 31stFirst Raid on Amman: The AMR remains at Ain es Sir to help the Canterbury Mounted Rifles mount a rearguard that allows other units to withdraw in good order.

April

  • 1stFirst Raid on Amman: The AMR holds the rearguard position until 4 a.m., then moves west. It reaches Shunet Nimrin at 8 p.m. and bivouacs.
  • 2nd – The AMR withdraws across the Jordan River at 6.45 a.m. and sets up a bivouac near Jericho. The regiment provides men for the outpost line overlooking the Jordan River on a regular basis over the coming days.
  • 3rd – The AMR is bombed by aircraft at 6 a.m. Six men are wounded; 18 horses are killed and four wounded.
  • 5th – The AMR receives 21 remount horses.
  • 18th – The AMR moves into the bridgehead east of the Jordan River at Ghoraniyeh.
  • 19th – The AMR saddles up for the day in the Ghoraniyeh bridgehead in case the Canterbury Mounted Rifles, which is conducting a reconnaissance, needs support. At dusk the AMR recrosses the Jordan and returns to its bivouac near Jericho.
  • 30thSecond Raid on Amman: The AMR moves into the Ghoraniyeh bridgehead at 3.15 a.m. At 8 a.m. it joins the Canterbury Mounted Rifles in supporting the 180th Infantry Brigade in an attack on Shunet Nimrin. The attack makes no progress and at nightfall the AMR moves back to Ghoraniyeh and bivouacs.
    Seven men have been wounded by shelling during the day (four of them remained on duty). Six horses have been killed and five wounded.
    The strength of the AMR is 23 officers and 416 other ranks. During the month one officer and 80 men have been evacuated to hospital. Four officers and 87 other ranks have been received as reinforcements.

May

  • 1stSecond Raid on Amman: The AMR is sent forward at midday to support the 4th Australian Light Horse Brigade. The attack has ground to a halt. By 6 p.m. the AMR has constructed an outpost line which it holds until the 5th.
  • 5th – The AMR moves to the ford at El Auja, 6 km north of Ghoraniyeh, where a new bridge is being built across the Jordan. The regiment spends the day building defences. Relieved at 6 p.m., it withdraws across the river and returns to its bivouac near Jericho.
  • 6th – The AMR receives 12 remount horses.
  • 12th – The AMR receives eight remount horses.
  • 16th – The NZMR moves to new bivouacs near Talaat ed Dumm, 300 m above sea level.
  • 17th – The AMR receives four remount horses.
  • 23rd – The AMR receives 23 reinforcements and eight remount horses.
  • 25th – The AMR receives 10 remount horses.
  • 26th – The AMR receives four reinforcements.
  • 28th – The AMR receives three reinforcements.
  • 29th – The NZMR leaves Talaat ed Dumm at 7 p.m. for new bivouacs near Bethlehem.
  • 30th – The AMR arrives at El Khudr at 4 a.m. and sets up a bivouac.
  • 31st – The AMR has a strength of 23 officers and 482 other ranks. Two officers and 60 other ranks are at the rest camp in Port Said, at the Mediterranean end of the Suez Canal.
    During the month one officer and 29 other ranks have been evacuated to hospital. Six officers and 184 other ranks have arrived as reinforcements.

June

  • 14th – The AMR rides back down to Jericho. It bivouacs under Jebel Kuruntul.
  • 15th – The AMR moves to Wadi Abeid. With its rest period over, the regiment will now live and patrol in extreme mid-summer heat.
  • 30th – The AMR relieves the Wellington Mounted Rifles at Ain ed Duk, 3 km north of Jericho.
    From 19 June the maximum shade temperature is recorded each day. This varies between 38°C (25th) and 43°C (22nd).
    The strength of the AMR is 24 officers and 530 other ranks. During the month three officers and 37 other ranks have been evacuated to hospital. Eight officers and 97 other ranks have arrived as reinforcements.

July

  • 19th – The 18th Lancers relieves the AMR, which joins the NZMR in moving back to Talaat ed Dumm. Daily maximum temperatures have ranged from 36°C (8th) to 46°C (14th).
  • 27th – The NZMR leaves bivouac at 5.30 p.m. for Bethlehem.
  • 28th – The AMR reaches El Khudr and sets up a bivouac.
  • 31st – The strength of the AMR is 20 officers and 442 other ranks. During the month the regiment has had four officers and 166 other ranks evacuated to hospital, most with malaria. Two officers and 132 other ranks have arrived as reinforcements.

August

  • 16th – The NZMR moves out of bivouac at 3 p.m. and starts to ride back to Jericho. The AMR travels via Jerusalem and bivouacs for the night near Bethany, 2½ km east of the city.
  • 17th – The AMR resumes the journey at 3 a.m., reaches Talaat ed Dumm (12 km north-east of Bethany) at 7 a.m., and sets up a bivouac.
  • 18th – The AMR leaves bivouac at 3 a.m., rides 12 km to Jericho, and sets up a bivouac.
  • 19th – The AMR moves to a new bivouac and relieves the 18th Lancers at 7.30 p.m. The next two weeks is spent training and squashing mosquitoes.
  • 20th – The temperature in the Jordan Valley reaches 39°C.
  • 31st – The strength of the AMR is 21 officers and 452 other ranks. During the month nine officers and 100 other ranks have been evacuated to hospital. Nine officers and 117 other ranks have arrived as reinforcements.

September

  • 5th – The AMR relieves the 3rd Light Horse Regiment at El Madhbeh. Its task is to patrol the surrounding district.
  • 19th – A major offensive against the Ottoman Turks is launched along the Mediterranean coast. The Ottoman Army in Palestine, weakened by illness and desertion, is unable to resist effectively. The Ottoman front line is soon ruptured. The Desert Mounted Corps advances towards Haifa and infantry moves north along the Judean Hills.
    The troops remaining in the Jordan Valley are now known as ‘Chaytor Force’. This comprises the Anzac Mounted Division (including the NZMR), the 20th Indian Brigade, the British West Indies Regiment, and two battalions of Royal Fusiliers. With their supply lines about to be cut, the Ottoman Turks opposite them will soon have to withdraw. Chaytor Force is to wait until this withdrawal begins, then advance up the western side of the Jordan Valley and take the bridge at Damieh. They are then to cross the Jordan, advance on Amman and cut off the Ottoman Turks to the south.
    An AMR patrol down to the Jordan River finds no signs of a Ottoman withdrawal.
  • 20th – An AMR patrol in the morning is met by heavy shelling. This turns out to be a bluff by the Ottoman rearguard and Chaytor Force prepares to advance. The infantry will advance along the hills west of the Jordan Valley, while the AMR leads the advance along the valley floor.
  • 21st – The AMR moves north along the Old Roman Road at 12.15 a.m. By 3.30 a.m. it has occupied Faisal and Meteil Edh Dhib. At 6 a.m. Talat Amrah is occupied by 11th (North Auckland) Squadron. As the drive north continues, small groups of Ottoman troops are quickly overcome.
  • 22nd – The AMR resumes the advance at midnight. By dawn the regiment is in sight of the bridge at Damieh, which a large Ottoman force retreating from Nablus is trying to cross. The 3rd (Auckland) Squadron is sent to capture the bridge but held up on the heights above it. When the Ottoman Turks counter-attack, 4th (Waikato) Squadron, some Indian troops and a squadron of Canterbury Mounted Rifles are sent to reinforce the position. At 11 a.m. another attack is launched and the bridge is secured.
    The AMR moves into a bivouac above the bridge at 4 p.m.
  • 23rdThird Raid on Amman: The AMR crosses the Jordan at 8 a.m. and along with the NZMR rides 25 km to Es Salt, which is reached at 5 p.m. The AMR bivouacs outside the town.
  • 24thThird Raid on Amman: The AMR moves out at 8.30 a.m. and occupies Suweile, 15 km further east, at midday. In the afternoon a 100-strong party under Major John H. Herrold moves towards Amman to sabotage the Hejaz railway. The rest of the regiment sets up a bivouac for the night.
  • 25thThird Raid on Amman: Major Herrold’s party returns at 5.30 a.m. after removing a section of railway track. The regiment moves towards Amman at 6 a.m. with the NZMR and the 2nd Australian Light Horse Brigade. It is anticipated that the mounted force will lack the strength to take the village. A full-scale assault will begin once the slower column of British infantry and artillery arrives.
    At 7.45 a.m. the Wellington Mounted Rifles, which is leading the advance, comes under fire. The AMR is sent forward at 10.30 a.m. to help clear the advanced defensive posts.
    At 10.40 a.m. the situation changes dramatically. A British aircraft drops a message stating that the Ottoman Turks are abandoning Amman. Chaytor now orders a full-scale assault. The Canterbury Mounted Rifles, supported by the 4th (Waikato) Squadron, push towards the village and capture the ‘Stone Tower’, a key feature of the defences. This allows the NZMR to move into Amman itself and clear out the last Ottoman resistance. At the same time the 2nd Australian Light Horse Brigade clears Point 3039 behind the village. By 4.30 p.m. Amman is secure.
    That night the AMR sets up a bivouac in Wadi Amman.
  • 29thThird Raid on Amman: The NZMR advances to the Quseir railway station, 5 km south of Amman, and bivouacs for the night there.
    The 5th Australian Light Horse Regiment arrives at Ziza railway station, 20 km south of Quseir, to find 4600 Ottoman Turks surrounded by a large Arab irregular force who are keen to loot them. The Ottomans are unwilling to surrender until an Allied force large enough to protect them arrives. Two Australian regiments join the Ottoman forces in the Ziza defences.
  • 30thThird Raid on Amman: The NZMR leaves bivouac at 1.30 a.m. and rides to Ziza to complete the Ottoman surrender.
    The AMR bivouacs at Ziza.
    The strength of the AMR is 22 officers and 473 other ranks. During the month five men have been killed in action and three officers and 86 other ranks evacuated to hospital. Six officers and 96 other ranks have arrived as reinforcements.

October

  • 1stThird Raid on Amman: The NZMR moves back to Amman.
  • 3rd – The NZMR moves to Ain es Sir.
  • 4th – The NZMR moves to Shunet Nimrin.
  • 5th – The NZMR crosses the Jordan River at Ghoraniyeh and bivouacs near Jericho.
  • 8th – The NZMR rides to up Talaat ed Dumm and bivouacs for the night.
  • 9th – The NZMR moves to Mar Elias, 5 km south of Jerusalem, and sets up a bivouac. Malaria is now hitting the AMR hard.
  • 13th – The NZMR rides 25 km to Latrun.
  • 14th – The NZMR resumes its journey at 8.30 a.m. and rides 25 km to Richon le Zion.
  • 30th – The Ottoman Turks sign an armistice.
  • 31st – The armistice comes into effect at noon.

The strength of the AMR is 19 officers and 355 other ranks. During the month 11 officers and 331 other ranks have been evacuated to hospital, and 22 have died of disease. Nineteen officers and 239 other ranks have arrived as reinforcements.

November

  • 14th – A party of officers and 100 other ranks travels to Ayun Kara to commemorate the first anniversary of the battle there. The New Zealanders buried in the vicinity are exhumed and buried at the Ayun Kara Cemetery. The local Jewish community formally takes over the care of the New Zealand graves.
  • 30th – The strength of the AMR is 26 officers and 461 other ranks. During the month 29 other ranks have been evacuated to hospital. Eleven officers and 142 other ranks have arrived as reinforcements.

December

  • 3rd – The AMR holds a race meeting.
  • 10th  – Squadrons of the AMR and the Wellington Mounted Rifles are ordered to the village of Surafend, near Richon le Zion, where about 40 Arab men have just been killed by men of the Anzac Mounted Division angered at the killing of a comrade by a thief the previous night. The Wellington squadron briefly patrols the perimeter of the village, then withdraws. No soldiers are charged over these deaths.
  • 18th – Following the Surafend massacre, the NZMR is ordered to move south. After its first day on the road it bivouacs at Yebna.
  • 19th – The NZMR reaches Majdel.
  • 20th – The NZMR reaches Gaza.
  • 21st – The NZMR reaches Deir el Belah.
  • 22nd – The NZMR reaches Rafah at 3 p.m.
  • 31st – The strength of the AMR is 18 officers and 395 other ranks. During the month three officers and 21 other ranks have been evacuated to hospital. Five officers and 23 other ranks have arrived as reinforcements. Seven officers and 65 men have been detached to other units and depots for training.
How to cite this page

'1918 - Auckland Mounted Rifles Regiment timeline', URL: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/war/auckland-mounted-rifles/1918, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 20-Dec-2012