The Wellington Mounted Rifles Regiment (WMR) 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 as part of a general offensive reaches Amman and takes 7000 Ottoman prisoners. An armistice with the Ottoman Empire comes into effect on 31 October.
- 12th – The WMR moves north from Nahr Sukereir to Richon le Zion.
- 13th – The WMR receives 400 horse blankets that will be needed to ward off the cold in the Judean Hills.
- 24th – The WMR receives one officer and 21 other ranks as reinforcements.
- 31st – The strength of the WMR is 20 officers, 472 other ranks and 546 horses.
- 4th – In a break from training, the men of the WMR use the hot baths at Richon le Zion.
- 9th – 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 defenders will abandon their defences along the road, avoiding the need for a potentially costly assault.
In preparation for its role in this operation, the WMR is to move to Bethlehem, where the NZMR is concentrating. The WMR rides to Latrun in heavy rain. It is ordered to remain in bivouac until the weather clears.
- 11th – The rain stops and the WMR continues its trek. The regiment leaves bivouac at 7 a.m. and rides to Mar Elias, between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. 6th (Manawatu) Squadron is sent 8 km east to Ibn Obeid to provide patrols for the 179th Brigade.
- 17th – The WMR concentrates in Ibn Obeid and is temporarily attached to the 179th Brigade.
- 18th – The WMR is ordered to assist an infantry attack on El Muntar hill, 8 km east of Ibn Obeid, the following morning.
- 19th – During the attack on El Muntar the WMR has two roles on the right flank of the infantry advance: to cut off any retreat by Ottoman forces, and to conduct reconnaissance.
At 5 p.m. the WMR comes back under the command of the NZMR and rejoins the mounted rifles column.
- 20th – The NZMR leaves bivouac at 4 a.m. and continues to move towards the floor of 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 WMR attacks Tubk el Kuneitra and the Canterbury Mounted Rifles assaults Jebel el Kalimun. When the Canterburys climb the wrong ridge, the Auckland Mounted Rifles is brought up from reserve to bolster the attack. Jebel el Kalimun is eventually taken.
The NZMR continues to push forward during the afternoon and regiments bivouac on the line they hold at dusk.
- 21st – The NZMR resumes the advance at 6 a.m. It is quickly discovered that the Ottoman forces have withdrawn overnight and the WMR moves into the Jordan Valley. The 1st Australian Light Horse Brigade occupies the village of Jericho, 12 km north-east of Tubk el Kuneitra. The 9th (Wellington East Coast) Squadron moves east to Rujm el Bahr on the northern shore of the Dead Sea to secure the landing there.
That night the WMR bivouacs near Jericho.
- 22nd – The WMR and the Canterbury Mounted Rifles are ordered to return to the Bethlehem area.
The WMR starts to move out of the Jordan Valley at 6 p.m.
- 23rd – The WMR reaches its bivouac at Mar Elias at 3 a.m.
- 24th – Parties of men under the command of an officer are sent to Jerusalem and Bethlehem on leave.
- 25th – The WMR starts a two-day ride to its old bivouac at Richon le Zion. It bivouacs at Zakariye overnight.
- 26th – The WMR arrives at Richon le Zion and begins a period of rest and training.
- 28th – The strength of the WMR is 20 officers, 480 men and 517 horses.
- 3rd – The men of the WMR spend the day disinfecting their clothes.
- 13th – The WMR and the Canterbury Mounted Rifles move to Junction railway station.
- 16th – The WMR moves to Zakariye.
- 17th – The WMR moves to Mar Elias and sets up a bivouac. Arrangements are made for 250 men to sleep in a monastery.
- 20th – The WMR leaves Mar Elias at 6.30 p.m. for Talaat ed Dumm, a village halfway between Jerusalem and Jericho.
- 21st – The WMR arrives at Talaat ed Dumm.
- First Raid on Amman: 24th – The WMR, as part of the Anzac Division, rides down into the Jordan Valley. It crosses the Jordan River at Hijla and enters a bridgehead established by the 2/19th London Battalion on 22 March. The WMR, with 181st Brigade on the left flank and Canterbury Mounted Rifles on the right flank, attacks Ottoman positions at Shunet Nimrin, 12 km east of the river. These are taken by midday and at 2.40 p.m. the NZMR column moves into the hills via 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 routes. The intentiona is for the separate Allied columns to quickly converge upon and seize the Ottoman garrison town and strategically vital logistical centre of Amman. The attack must be executed swiftly and completed before Ottoman relief forces can intervene in strength.
The NZMR’s initial route of march encounters little organised Ottoman resistance but 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.
6th (Manawatu) Squadron is detached to 181st Infantry Brigade for the attack on Es Salt.
- First Raid on Amman: 25th – The NZMR reaches Ain es Sir (25 km north-east of Shunet Nimrin) at noon, having had very little rest overnight. The column bivouacs at 1.30 p.m. and waits for the 2nd Australian Light Horse Brigade and the Imperial Camel Corps to arrive.
- First Raid on Amman: 26th – A WMR troop undertakes a demolition of the railway line south of Amman.
- First Raid on Amman: 27th – The NZMR, the Imperial Camel Corps and the 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. These hold the ground that has been taken during the day while waiting for the infantry column.
The WMR is not directly involved in the assault. The 2nd (Wellington West Coast) Squadron is sent to high ground 5 km south-east of Ain es Sir to watch for Ottoman reinforcements, while 9th (Wellington East Coast) Squadron is sent with a demolition party to Quseir railway station, 5 km south of Amman.
The WMR bivouacs outside Amman that night.
- First Raid on Amman: 28th – 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 headway is made.
The WMR spends the day as the NZMR reserve and is not committed to the attack.
- First Raid on Amman: 29th – 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 against the outlying Amman defences will be undertaken.
- First Raid on Amman: 30th – The Auckland Mounted Rifles, Canterbury Mounted Rifles and two troops of the WMR attack Point 3039, just south of Amman, 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 inner defensive works of Amman. The rest of the WMR reinforces Point 3039 and the New Zealanders in as a precaution against expected Ottoman counter-attacks against the newly captured position.
- The assault on Amman by the Imperial Camel Corps and the infantry fails.
Throughout the day the NZMR defends Point 3039 against Ottoman counter-attacks. But the commander of the raid, Major-General Chaytor, decides that the window of opportunity to take Amman has passed and his raiding force has run out of time. To continue to try and press home the attack now would risk his entire force being cut off by the Ottoman relief forces moving in to the area, so Chaytor orders a withdrawal back over the mountains to the existing British lines in the Jordan Valley.
The WMR withdraws from Point 3039 after dark and moves back to Ain es Sir, where it bivouacs at 3.15 a.m.
- First Raid on Amman: 31st – The WMR sets up an outpost line west of Ain es Sir at 3.15 p.m. It is to hold this line until the Canterbury and Auckland regiments, who are mounting a rearguard, have passed through it.
The 6th (Manawatu) Squadron rejoins the WMR at Ain es Sir at 9 p.m.
- First Raid on Amman: 1st – The WMR maintains its rearguard position after the Auckland and Canterbury regiments move down the trail towards the Jordan River. It opens fire on approaching Ottoman forces at 7.45 a.m. The 2nd (Wellington West Coast) Squadron must also fight Circassian locals. The WMR extricates itself at the cost of 14 men dead and eight wounded.
The rest of the withdrawal goes without incident for the WMR. Shunet Nimrin is reached at 8.15 p.m. and a bivouac is set up for the night.
- 2nd – The WMR withdraws to the Jordan River, which it crosses before setting up a bivouac near Jericho. Over the coming days the regiment provides men to help man the outpost line overlooking the Jordan River.
- 7th – The WMR begins providing daily working parties to improve the defences in the bridgehead on the east bank of the Jordan River at Ghoraniyeh.
- 15th – The WMR receives 21 reinforcements and 24 remount horses.
- 18th – The WMR moves into the Ghoraniyeh bridgehead.
- 19th – The WMR remains saddled up in the Ghoraniyeh bridgehead in case the Canterbury Mounted Rifles, which is conducting a reconnaissance, requires support. At dusk the WMR withdraws across the Jordan and returns to its bivouac near Jericho.
- 23rd – The WMR moves to a bivouac in the foothills south of Jericho.
- Second Raid on Amman: 30th – The WMR moves into the Ghoraniyeh bridgehead at 4 a.m. The 6th (Manawatu) Squadron is the right flank guard for the 180th Infantry Brigade in an attack on Shunet Nimrin. To the north, an attack is launched against Es Salt, the main town in the region. The 180th makes no progress during the day. The WMR suffers no casualties in its support role. The squadron continues to provide the right flank guard for the 180th Infantry Brigade overnight.
The strength of the WMR is 16 officers, 385 other ranks and 521 horses.
- Second Raid on Amman: 1st – The attack against Shunet Nimrin resumes, with the WMR again in a supporting role. The attack has no more success than on the previous day. While Es Salt has been taken, the lack of progress against Shunet Nimrin leaves the Allied forces over-extended. Es Salt is abandoned and the offensive grinds to a halt.
- 3rd – The WMR receives 15 reinforcements.
- 4th – The infantry are pulled back into the Ghoraniyeh bridgehead. The WMR remains outside the wire as a cavalry screen.
- 5th – The WMR moves back into the Ghoraniyeh bridgehead at 6 a.m.
- 6th – The WMR receives 19 reinforcements and 11 remount horses.
- 11th – The WMR moves into bivouac on the west bank of the Jordan River.
It receives 55 reinforcements.
- 16th – The NZMR leaves bivouac at 7 p.m. At 6 a.m. it arrives at Talaat ed Dumm, 300 m above sea level, and sets up a bivouac.
- 18th – The WMR receives 18 reinforcements.
- 19th – One officer and 19 other ranks are taken on as reinforcements.
- 20th – The WMR receives 18 reinforcements.
- 22nd – The WMR receives 16 reinforcements.
- 23rd – The WMR receives eight remount horses.
- 25th – The WMR receives 10 remount horses.
- 27th – The WMR receives three remount horses.
- 28th – The WMR receives two reinforcements.
- 29th – The NZMR leaves for Bethlehem at 7.30 p.m.
- 30th – The WMR arrives at Solomon’s Pools (south of Bethlehem) at 6 a.m. The regiment rests and trains here for two weeks.
- 31st – 24 reinforcements bring the strength of the WMR to 24 officers, 516 other ranks and 568 horses.
- 13th – The NZMR begins moving back to Talaat ed Dumm at 6.30 p.m.
- 14th – The WMR arrives at Talaat ed Dumm at 1 a.m. and sets up a bivouac.
At 5.15 p.m. the WMR leaves for Ain ed Duk, 3 km north of Jericho in the Jordan Valley. Here it relieves the 10th Australian Light Horse Regiment and takes over its bivouac. The WMR will now have to live and patrol in extreme mid-summer heat.
- 16th – The WMR takes over the Jordan Valley’s No. 4 sub-section defences. Each squadron rotates through this defensive position while the other two remain in bivouac and provide patrols.
- 30th – The WMR is relieved by the Auckland Mounted Rifles and takes over the latter’s bivouac at Wadi Abeid. The WMR is now in reserve.
The strength of the WMR is 21 officers, 503 other ranks and 537 horses.
- 2nd – Major Arthur Batchelor assumes command of the regiment.
- 5th – Each man is issued 10 grams of quinine as a precaution against malaria.
- 9th – A further 10 grams of quinine per man is issued.
Major Charles Dick assumes command of the regiment.
- 10th – The WMR receives 13 reinforcements.
- 14th – A German battalion launches an attack against the 1st Australian Light Horse Brigade. As the reserve, the WMR is called upon to assist and takes part in counter-attacks which push back the Germans.
The fighting takes place in extreme heat. A temperature of 54ºC is recorded at the hospital and a number of WMR men faint or fall sick.
The regiment loses four men killed and nine wounded. Eight horses are killed and seven wounded.
- 19th – The WMR is relieved, and at 7.30 p.m. begins to move up to Talaat ed Dumm.
- 20th – The WMR arrives at Talaat ed Dumm at 1 a.m. and moves into bivouac. The regiment resumes training. Special squads are organised to combat mosquitoes.
- 25th – The WMR receives 52 reinforcements.
- 27th – The WMR and the rest of the NZMR leave bivouac at 5.30 p.m. and move to Bethlehem.
- 31st – Despite the reinforcements, the strength of the WMR has fallen to 20 officers, 437 other ranks and 544 horses, mainly because of malaria.
- 2nd – Lieutenant-Colonel James Whyte resumes command of the regiment.
- 11th – Major Charles Dick assumes temporary command of the regiment.
- 13th – The WMR receives 45 reinforcements.
- 16th – The NZMR leaves bivouac at 3 p.m. for Jericho. The WMR rides via Jerusalem and bivouacs for the night near Bethany, 2½ km east of the city.
- 17th – The WMR resumes its ride 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 WMR leaves bivouac at 3 a.m., rides 12 km to Jericho and sets up a bivouac. The regiment is in reserve and focuses on training.
- 31st – The strength of the WMR is 21 officers, 456 other ranks and 544 horses.
- 5th – The WMR moves to Wadi Abeid.
- 19th –The last major offensive against the Ottoman Turks is launched along the Mediterranean coast. Careful planning, a sound logistical build-up and a comprehensive intelligence effort help produce one of the most stunning Allied victories of the entire war. The most intensive artillery bombardment ever seen in the Middle East along with British and Empire infantry assaults and, for the first time, the decisive use of strategic and tactical air support by the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, shatter the Ottoman front line at multiple points in a matter of hours. The Desert Mounted Corps exploits these gaps and charges deep into the Ottoman rear echelon areas towards Haifa while the infantry advances north along the Judean Hills and the coastal plain mopping up pockets of Ottoman resistance.
The forces remaining in the Jordan Valley are now known as ‘Chaytor Force’. They comprise the Anzac Mounted Division (including the NZMR), the 20th Indian Brigade, British West Indies Regiment, and two battalions of Royal Fusiliers. With their supply lines to the north about to be cut, the Ottoman troops opposite them will be forced to withdraw. Chaytor Force is to wait until this withdrawal begins, then advance up the western side of the Jordan River and take the bridge at Damieh. They are then to cross the Jordan and advance on Amman in order to cut off the Ottoman Fourth Army’s line of retreat from its outposts along the Hejaz Railway and Arabian Peninsula to the south.
The WMR’s normal daily patrols find no signs of an Ottoman withdrawal.
- 20th – Late in the day the anticipated Ottoman Fourth Army withdrawal is detected and the WMR prepares to move.
- 21st – The WMR moves out of bivouac at 7.30 p.m. and follows the Auckland Mounted Rifles up the western side of the Jordan Valley. The WMR’s objective is to cut off the Turks at Nablus by capturing Makhruk, then cross the Jordan River at Damieh.
- 22nd – The WMR captures Makhruk at 4.30 a.m. with little resistance. Much material and 400 Ottoman and German prisoners are captured. The 6th (Manawatu) Squadron is sent to occupy Tel el Mazar, 2 km to the north-west. The bridge at Damieh is secured by the Auckland Mounted Rifles. Units start crossing the Jordan River for the next stage of the operation.
- Third Raid on Amman: 23rd – The 9th (Wellington East Coast) Squadron is detached and ordered to remain at Damieh. The rest of the NZMR crosses the Jordan at 9 a.m., and rides to Es Salt, 25 km south-east of Damieh. The Turks flee and the brigade bivouacs for the night.
- Third Raid on Amman: 24th – The WMR moves out at 8.30 a.m. and assists the Auckland Mounted Rifles on its advance to Suweile, 15 km further east. The town is occupied by midday and a bivouac is set up there.
- Third Raid on Amman: 25th – The WMR leaves its bivouac at 5.35 a.m. to act as the advance guard for the NZMR and the 2nd Australian Light Horse Brigade on the ride to Amman, 15 km to the south-east. It is anticipated that the mounted brigades 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 WMR comes under fire. At 10.30 a.m. the Auckland Mounted Rifles is sent forward 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, assisted by the WMR, 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 Turkish 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 three troops of the 9th (Wellington East Coast) Squadron patrol in the hills east of Amman, while the rest of the WMR bivouacs in Wadi Amman.
- Third Raid on Amman: 26th – The WMR moves to a new bivouac east of Amman’s railway station, which is 4 km north-east of the settlement.
- Third Raid on Amman: 28th – Lieutenant-Colonel James Whyte resumes command of the Regiment.
- Third Raid on Amman: 29th – 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 Turks surrounded by a large Arab irregular force who are keen to loot them. The Turks are unwilling to surrender until an Allied force large enough to protect them arrives. Two Australian regiments join the Turks in the Ziza defences.
- Third Raid on Amman: 30th – The WMR, along with the rest of the NZMR, marches out of bivouac at 1.30 a.m. and advances south to El Kastal station to complete the surrender of some 4500 Turks of the Ottoman Fourth Army. When the 2nd Australian Light Horse arrived the previous day, the Turks were surrounded by a large Arab irregular force who were threatening to massacre them. They were unwilling to surrender until an Allied force large enough to protect them arrived. That night Turkish soldiers and Australian Light Horse troopers manned the defences of El Kastal station alongside each other to guard against any attempt by the Arab irregulars to overrun the position under cover of darknesss.
The WMR bivouacs at El Kastal station that night
- Third Raid on Amman: 1st – The NZMR moves back to Amman. The WMR bivouacs at Point 3039.
- 3rd – The WMR moves to Ain es Sir, where it is rejoined by the 6th (Manawatu) Squadron. A number of local men suspected of involvement in the 1 April attack on the regiment are detained for escort to Jerusalem to stand trial.
- 4th – The NZMR moves to Shunet Nimrin.
- 5th – The NZMR crosses the Jordan River at Ghoraniyeh and bivouacs 3 km north-west of Jericho.
- 6th – The WMR receives 56 reinforcements.
- 8th – The NZMR rides up to Talaat ed Dumm and sets up a bivouac. By now malaria has decimated its ranks.
- 9th – The WMR moves to Mar Elias and sets up a bivouac.
- 10th – The strength of the WMR is 18 officers, 255 other ranks and 490 horses.
- 13th – The NZMR moves 25 km to Latrun.
- 14th – The NZMR resumes its journey at 8 a.m. and rides 25 km to Richon le Zion.
The WMR receives 138 reinforcements.
- 15th – The WMR receives 10 reinforcements.
- 30th – The Ottoman Turks sign an armistice.
- 31st – The armistice comers into effect at midday.
- The strength of the WMR is 17 officers, 410 other ranks and 539 horses.
- 11th – The WMR holds a sports day.
- 16th – The WMR holds a day of riding competitions.
- 30th – The strength of the WMR is 21 officers, 440 other ranks and 567 horses.
- 10th – Squadrons of the WMR and the Auckland 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 murder of a New Zealander, 21 year old Trooper Leslie Lowry of the New Zealand Mounted Machine Gun Squadron, by a thief the previous night. The WMR 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 Majdal.
- 20th – The NZMR reaches Gaza.
- 21st – The NZMR reaches Deir el Belah.
- 22nd – The NZMR reaches Rafah at 3 p.m.
- 29th – Major Charles Dick is promoted to lieutenant-colonel and takes command of the WMR.
- 31st – The strength of the WMR is 16 officers, 376 other ranks and 545 horses.