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Major Lafone VC action at Point 720. 27 Oct 1917


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#1 iain mchenry

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Posted 26 October 2010 - 09:44 AM

I am after locating on the map the two points 720 and 630 held by the 1st County of London (Middx) Yeomanry when they were attacked by the Turkish on 27th October 1917. The 8th Mounted Brigade held a 12 mile line from El Buggar - 720 - 630 - 510.

Major Lafone who was OC B Sqn, Middlesex Yeomanry, was KIA during the attack, later awarded a posthumous VC for his actions in the face of the Turkish attack.

I was in Beersheba last week visiting a few sites in and around the city in relation to its capture during 3rd battle of Gaza. I visited Major Lafones grave at Beersheba Commonwealth War Cemetery, but unfortunatley didnt have the time or the maps to go a bit further out to look at where the action resulting in his death, took place.

I have the N and MP Map disc for Other Theatres 1914-18 and can find El Buggar, west of Beersheba. I just cant find the points held by the 8th Mounted Bde.

Could anyone help with map extracts old or new or other info please?

Many thanks

Iain

#2 ArthurWO

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Posted 26 October 2010 - 10:57 AM

'The Advance of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force under the Command of General Sir Edmund H H Allenby' offers the following on this action -

"On Oct. 27 the line of observation (the Rashid Bek-El Buggar-Point 720-Point 630 ridge), was held by the 8th Mounted Brigade, and at dawn the enemy launched a determined attack on Points 630 and 720. and eventually succeeded in occupying the crests of both hills, despite the very gallant and determined resistance of the 1st County of London (Middlesex) Yeomanry. The garrison on Point 720 were, save for three men, all killed or wounded, and that on Point 630 held on in a support trench close behind the crest, in spite of heavy casualties and though almost surrounded. It was eventually relieved by 158th Brigade, and the whole line re-occupied in the evening, enemy withdrawing."

There are almost daily situation maps in this book starting from 28 October which might be of help. I haven't spotted the precise positioning of this action on them yet - the print is tiny and really needs a magnifying glass! I'm afraid, it also doesn't scan well, or I'd be able to sent you a copy. Originals of the book are a bit pricey, but there is a decent reprint available (if you haven't already got it that is).

And for better news, there is a fold-out map at the back of Wavell's Palestine Campaigns which shows the position at 30th October, and shows el Buggar, plus points 630 and 720 quite clearly. I'd be happy to photograph this section of the map for you if you could let me have contact details (I can't post it on this site as the space available for photos is too small I'm afraid).

I hope this is of some help?

Eljo
(ps - I probably won't be on the pc again till Thursday)

#3 VinceB

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Posted 26 October 2010 - 11:32 AM

Iain

Have a look at:

The Battle of El Buggar Ridge, Palestine, 27 October 1917, British Maps of El Buggar Ridge

http://alh-research....qar-ridge-maps/


For a good outline of El Buggar Ridge

The Battle of El Buqqar (Buggar) Ridge, Palestine, 27 October 1917

http://alh-research....opic_id=1106205



Vince

#4 iain mchenry

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Posted 26 October 2010 - 02:11 PM

Eljo and Vince,

Many thanks chaps for the pointers. Eljo - I have the book you mention. Some of the maps are great but others are just too small as you say.

Vince, Thanks very much for the links. Can I just double confirm with you for my own sanity! that Hill 720 is the one marked in Gridsquare 13 slightly north-east of El Buggar.

I have Hattons "Yarn of a Yeoman" and must say I find it a very well written, humurous and at times moving personal account of the Palestine Campaign.

Best regards

Iain

#5 VinceB

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Posted 26 October 2010 - 09:23 PM

Iain

Next to S 18, directly south of Square 7 Wadi Hanafish and marked "720". This was the start of Falkenheyen's Offensive to drive the British out of Palestine. Obviously it worked a treat.

Vince









#6 iain mchenry

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Posted 27 October 2010 - 07:30 AM

Many thanks for the confirmation Vince.

Iain

#7 wroclaw

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Posted 27 October 2010 - 01:35 PM

I am after locating on the map the two points 720 and 630 held by the 1st County of London (Middx) Yeomanry when they were attacked by the Turkish on 27th October 1917. The 8th Mounted Brigade held a 12 mile line from El Buggar - 720 - 630 - 510.

Major Lafone who was OC B Sqn, Middlesex Yeomanry, was KIA during the attack, later awarded a posthumous VC for his actions in the face of the Turkish attack.

I was in Beersheba last week visiting a few sites in and around the city in relation to its capture during 3rd battle of Gaza. I visited Major Lafones grave at Beersheba Commonwealth War Cemetery, but unfortunatley didnt have the time or the maps to go a bit further out to look at where the action resulting in his death, took place.

I have the N and MP Map disc for Other Theatres 1914-18 and can find El Buggar, west of Beersheba. I just cant find the points held by the 8th Mounted Bde.

Could anyone help with map extracts old or new or other info please?

Many thanks

Iain


Ian good day

As mentioned above, there had been already a detailed discussion here which asked the same questions, and let to the same answer, or parts of answers. To the best of my understanding, and I had searched for this point specifically at least twice (spending several hours in each occasion), “point 720” is to be found somewhere right on the border, or even inside the fenced area, of the “Hatzerim” IAF base. Several problems will prevent, to my opinion, the identification of that very specific spot, unless new maps will emerge OR I will have the time to look into the old RAF aerials from 1944-5 (or German aerials from 1917, which is less likely):

The El Buqqar ridge is not a sharp topographical element, as you may imagine. It is an elevated height, separating between a flat area to its west (Where Kh. “Khasif” is to found, for instance) and the maze of Wadi’s and their tributaries gradually making their way generally to the east. The “Ridge” is not much more then an imaginary line connecting many points from where moderate slopes run to the west and east. I never clearly understood point 720 was the highest in its vicinity (actually some details point it wasn’t) so it would be hard to determine which point was the actual “Point 720”.

There was a ruined stone house on top of point 720 – that we know. It was not well built, but rather looks like some old ruin. I was not able to find any clear trace of this house (there are 2 pictures showing small details of this structure) at any suspected point. A house being totally vanished is not a rare case, as building stones were often re used, but it might be that the 1944-5 aerials will reveal the location of this ruin. One suspected point (at least) suffered from later development so only old aerials will help here.

Point 720 should have been re occupied by element of the EEF later that week, as well as many other points. This time the trenches should have been better dug (The trenched that the MS Yeomanry inherited are described as poorly dug and short). Even these late Oct. trenches are mostly vanished, or hardly noticed, but they mislead several people who tried to locate “point 720”.

I believe that some work, not even thanks to miracles, will uncover the “true” location. This can be thanks to the mentioned 1944-5 aerials, pictures taken in hill 720 after the battle, or pictures of the MS Yeomenary’s men’s graves, in their original location that might have been near the hill. I am pretty sure the answer is somewhere out there…

#8 iain mchenry

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Posted 27 October 2010 - 01:56 PM

Wroclaw,

Many thanks for the info. I had suspected that 720 may be in the vicinity of what is now Hatzerim IAF Base, strangely enough I was also at the base last week as well at the IAF museum!

It would be very interesting to be able to geo reference the old maps with modern maps, in effect a Linesman app for the Palestine campaign. I had also wondered if anything would survive of the ruin of the house at 720. If it is now part of Hatzerim Air Base then I doubt it.

Regards

Iain

#9 wroclaw

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Posted 27 October 2010 - 02:39 PM

Wroclaw,

Many thanks for the info. I had suspected that 720 may be in the vicinity of what is now Hatzerim IAF Base, strangely enough I was also at the base last week as well at the IAF museum!

It would be very interesting to be able to geo reference the old maps with modern maps, in effect a Linesman app for the Palestine campaign. I had also wondered if anything would survive of the ruin of the house at 720. If it is now part of Hatzerim Air Base then I doubt it.

Regards

Iain


Ian hello again

The AIF museum is quite far from the ridge, which is located in the vicinity of the AIF base’s northern entrance (The Museum is approached from the city of Beersheba: without knowing the road you drive on actually crosses the Old Turkish trenches on the way (Near a big area with Fuel tanks on your left when driving to the museum).

The highest point of the ridge in the relevant area covered by the 1917 map frequently used by EEF HQ’s (Member Bill Woerlee brought to this forum segments of that old map, scanned/photographed, but these are not detailed enough to determine where the point was in terms of 300-500 meters distance between several points) is right on the edge of the base, and quite “messed up”, definitely with no old stone house ruin on it. That point, to the best of my judgment, might not be the actual point, which seems to be little to the east of the ridge’s “peak”, on top of one of the many “sausage” shaped hills created when two tributaries of Wadi Hanafish run parallel to the east, then merging. I speculate that “top of a ridge” would not have been considered the best location for a key position, but rather a somewhat lower hill, on the shade of the peak – not clearly in the focus of enemies artillery. There are several such hills, actually well covered with thick chunks of shrapnel. Two books with detailed descriptions of this action (I suspect both come from the same writer) actually mention, written between lines, the post was poorly prepared, with the garrison being almost “blind” against an enemy attacking it from close range. Also reading between lines one could understand that in early stages of the battle many of the garrison managed to retreat. Maj Lafone and some of his men remaining and eventually presenting the desperate fight. There are also some hints about dissatisfaction from the way that post was previously handled by other forces (ALH?) and the very pattern of the mission. Bottom line: still much to look into this topic. I have in on the back on my head to find time and have a deep look, but still got no chance.

Some of the “hilltop circular entrenched posts” seen on the OBWH map presenting the Oct. 31 positions (2 Arched formations of separate such posts facing the Turkish line in Beersheba) can still be seen, however.

#10 iain mchenry

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Posted 27 October 2010 - 04:13 PM

Once again Wroclaw, many thanks for the information. I am going to try and get back to the Beersheba area early next year and want to see what I can find in terms of maps of the area in the meantime, as I would like to cover some of this ground, where possible, on foot. Do you know if there are any good modern Israeli 1:20,000 maps available of the area, showing desert tracks etc, and if so where I could get them from? I have tried the Mapa.co.il website but cant seem to get an English version of it. Any pointers would be appreciated.

Best regards

Iain

#11 wroclaw

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Posted 28 October 2010 - 11:47 AM

Once again Wroclaw, many thanks for the information. I am going to try and get back to the Beersheba area early next year and want to see what I can find in terms of maps of the area in the meantime, as I would like to cover some of this ground, where possible, on foot. Do you know if there are any good modern Israeli 1:20,000 maps available of the area, showing desert tracks etc, and if so where I could get them from? I have tried the Mapa.co.il website but cant seem to get an English version of it. Any pointers would be appreciated.

Best regards

Iain


Dear Ian

Web sites such as the one you mention show road maps, not detailed topographical maps, so the lack on English version is of no importance.

1:20,000 maps are usually (over here) not more then 1:50,000 maps enlarged. The 1:50,000 are the standard used by almost all levels of hikers and researchers. There is an online site which gives open access to this map, and could be found here:

www.amudanan.co.il. As you cant print in Hebrew, you cannot focus immediately on a segment according to a place name, but what you can do is to press the tab of “1:250” (right side of the screen) which transfer you to a small scale road map on which you can easily “drag” the sheet south to the relevant area, then change again to 1:50 in order to do the “fine tuning”. Anyway I have “cut” the relevant segment of the discussed area and posted it underneath. This would be the map you will get when asking for detailed topographical maps. The mark circled in red, little above the “207” point is a spot which I assume to be in the close vicinity of any suspected “hill 720” (or it might be actually it). The road seem to end at that place, but in reality it just continues into the IAF base. The area that seems for be a forest is actually an experimental zone for desert forestry and agriculture and mostly covered with small plants, not woods. The black line under which I encircled in red a line of writing is the path and remains of the old Gaza-Beersheba rail line which was constructed in 1917, and was in service till the late 1920th. It is encircled as it appears in old maps, as in some GW maps. The 3rd circle, just to the left of the previous one, shows a massive iron bridge on top of which this train used to run. As it still exists (actually being some type of an attraction for visitors) it is regarded as a main landmark.

Also attached is a segment of a 1940 British detailed map. It shows some houses in this area.

Anyway: the best tool for navigating according to dirt roads in the semi desert area is Google Earth. Jeeps and ATV’s occasionally create new roads, which others that look as main ones on the map, go out of use. A good set of printed google earth aerials is the suggested tool.

Best regards

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#12 iain mchenry

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Posted 29 October 2010 - 07:20 AM

Hi Worclaw,

Many thanks indeed for the modern local map info. It has been very helpful.

Best regards

Iain

#13 STSEVERWALKER

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Posted 04 November 2010 - 04:34 PM

Hi Iain
I'm quite a rookie here.... don't no how send you a picture from the text you let on my profile...
So you asked me about ST Sever Cemetery address:
- Boulevard Stanislas Girardin 76140 PETIT QUEVILLY
- opening hours: pls see attached pix.
Happy to help you in planing your trip.
Best regards from Rouen


Bertrand
=======


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#14 iain mchenry

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Posted 04 November 2010 - 05:54 PM

Many thanks for the info Bertrand.

Regards

Iain



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