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1/4 and 1/5 Norfolk at El-Midieh & Shilta


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#1 Eran

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Posted 13 December 2011 - 08:28 PM

I have been asked by a friend to speak in a few days about the events that happened during the Great war in a place called Shilta, North-East of Lod (Lydda) of today. I looked into this a couple of years back and wrote about it at the time in a local Newspaper.

This is a good opportunity to try to solve a few unsolved points I encountered back then.

The events involving Shilta are all connected to the first advance on Jerusalem better known as the 'Battle of Nebi-Samuel'.

The first British force to reach Shilta was the 22nd Mounted Brigade, Yeomanry Mounted Division, on the evening hours of Nov. 18th, 1917.

As the 22nd brigade continued to advance to the East, the 7th Mounted Brigade took their place and patrolled a huge area between Na'alin (North of Shilta) and Wilhelma. Already at this stage, a gap was formed between the Eastern point of the 7th patrols and the Western posts of the YMD at Beit Ur a-Thachta (Lower Beit Horon).

On Nov. 22nd the 163 Brigade, 54th Division, replaced the 7th Brigade and on Nov. 24th the 1/4 Norfolk Btn established posts at El-Midieh (Some people believe this is the location of Modi'in – The ancient hometown ofJudas Maccabeus). At this stage, the gap was widened as El-Midieh is located West of Na'alin and Shilta.

During Nov. 24th a Turkish force was seen entering Na'alin. 3 patrols of 1/4 Norfolk tried to force the Turks out of Na'alin, unsuccessfully. This event is not recorded in the British OH, and is recorded in the Norfolk OH. There are several mismatches between these two sources regarding the following events to be discribed. Most of the finer details are coming from the Norfolk OH.

During the evening hours of Nov. 27th the British Command finally paid attention to the great gap in the line and several forces moved from all directions to close the gap. For the event I'm relating to, 2 are relevant:

The 1/4 Royal Scots Fusiliers (RSF), 155th Brigade, 52 (Scottish) Division moved to the area of El-Burg. Owing to the large area to be covered, the 1/4 Royal Scots (RS), 156th Brigade, was also sent to this area and was put under the command of 155th Brigade. Apparently they were sent just West of El-Burj.

The second force was planned to be a Company of 1/5 Norfolk that was due to take over Shilta by daylight of Nov. 28th.

As the 1/5 Norfolk was delayed, B Com. Of the 1/4 Norfolk arrived at Shilta at 05.15 without opposition and laid communication lines to Btn HQ. At 05.30 the Com. Of the 1/5 Norfolk arrived and was ordered to advance to Shilta and replace the Com. there. This was carried out at 09.30. Communication lines were laid also Eastwards, to the 1/4 RSF HQ.

The next stage is bit confused – It appears that 1/4 Norfolk HQ were ordered to assist the 155th Brigade on their right. Two officers (C.O. and Adt – Unknown of which unit) went forward to arrange that assistance and on arrival at one of the Scots HQ's were informed (Either the officers or the 1/4 Norfolk HQ) that the a Com. of the 1/4 RS will replace the Com. of the 1/5 Norfolk at Shilta.

As the Scots didn't arrive till 17.00, just before sunset, it was decided that the best way to assist the 155th Brigade was to continue to hold Shilta.

During Nov. 28th the Turks lunched a heavy counter-attack along the line, the heaviest one on the Eastern side of the great gap, near Saffa, about a mile and a half East of Shilta. After a long day of fighting it seemed in the evening that the British line was secured. However, then Shilta was stormed.

At 18.35 a Turkish force, estimated 200-300 strong, stormed Shilta after successfully taking advantage of the dark early evening hours to close in on Shilta undetected. At 18.50 the attacked Norfolk Com. reported by phone about the attack but the report was cut in the middle. The Com. left of Shilta sent a patrol that reported at 19.45 more details.

It seems that after 3 hours of fierce battle during which the Norfolk's attempted two counter-attacks and the Turks tried again and again to encircle the British force, the remaining officer, 2nd-Liut. Gordon, led his men to a ridge some 800 yards West-South-West of Shilta (Today in the modern city of Modi'in). With him or just next to him were some Royal Scots (Not clear when and where they joined).

Later, the Royal Scots positioned themselves to the right of the 1/5 Norfolk. At 03.30 of Nov. 29th a Com. of the 1/4 Norfolk took positions to the left of 1/5 Norfolk and the line was once again continuous and secured.

Shilta continued to play a role in the events of the next few days in this area. In the morning hours of Dec. 5th patrols have discovered that the Turks retreated a bit back in this sector. The following day several strategic locations were taken over, including Shilta.

The casualties of the 1/5 Norfolk during the Turkish attack on Shilta were reported as 1 officer and 27 other ranks missing and 6 other ranks wounded.

Today the site of Shilta is called 'The Hasmonean Village' - A reconstructed ancient village where visitors can experience day to day activities of the ancient world.


Does anyone know about this missing officer and missing other ranks, their names and what happened to them? Were some of them reported later as P.O.W.'s, were some reported dead and if so – were they berried and where? In addition, If anyone can add more details about the events described - I would appreciate that.

Eran

#2 SFayers

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Posted 13 December 2011 - 09:01 PM

Hi Eran,

I've just checked my copy of The History of the 1/5th Battalion The Suffolk Regiment to see if I could add any further insight to the events from the perspective of another battalion in the brigade. Alas, from the 27th November to 1st December the battalion was attached to 162nd Brigade so I'm afraid there is nothing in the text that may help you, save to say that on the return of the battalion to 163rd Brigade on December 1st it was camped "near the oil refinery and Jewish Farm Colony at Ludd" and that four bullocks killed by a Turkish shell on the same day provided the fist issue of fresh meat since Gaza!

All the best

Steve



#3 Eran

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Posted 13 December 2011 - 10:51 PM

I've just checked my copy of The History of the 1/5th Battalion The Suffolk Regiment to see if I could add any further insight to the events from the perspective of another battalion in the brigade. Alas, from the 27th November to 1st December the battalion was attached to 162nd Brigade so I'm afraid there is nothing in the text that may help you, save to say that on the return of the battalion to 163rd Brigade on December 1st it was camped "near the oil refinery and Jewish Farm Colony at Ludd" and that four bullocks killed by a Turkish shell on the same day provided the fist issue of fresh meat since Gaza!


Hi Steve,

The "Oil refinery and Jewish Farm Colony at Ludd" refers to a place called Ben-Shemen, located about 5 Km North-West of Shilta and just about a mile East of Ludd.

Some details about Ben-Shemen, including reference to WW1 can be found for example in this link:

http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0003_0_02538.html

Thanks for the attempt. Most appreciated.

Eran

#4 rob carman

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Posted 06 January 2012 - 06:06 PM

Eran

Though from your text I think it possible you have seen the material already, I have 6 pdf files copied from the 1/4th Norfolk's diary for you. The biggest file is about 550 kb, the smallest about 250 kb. If you are interested in them let me know and I'll send you them by private email.

There is no mention of the action you are interested in any of the three following 163rd-centric books:

Mortlock MJ. 2011. The Egyptian Expeditionary Force. A History of the British-led Campaigns in Egypt Palestine and Syria. McFarland & Co Inc, Jefferson, North Carolina, 302 pp. ISBN 978 0 7864 4871 5. This book is a blend of family and military history. The family connection is that Motlock is the son (or g/son) of a 1/5th Suffolk soldier.

Storey NR. 2009. The Pride of Norfolk. An Illustrated History of the Territorials. Halsgrove. Wellington, Somerset. 160 pp. ISBN 978 1 84114 877 9. This is a recent work blending Storey’s family ties to the 1/5th Norfolks and the history of Norfolk's Territorioal Forces (not limited to WW1).

Harvey, Lt Col JR. Unpublished. A History of the 4th Battalion the Norfolk regiment (Territorial) from 1859 to 1921. Harvey was the CO from 4/8/1915 to Suvla.

I did check the casualties for this time period on Geoff’s search engine. The info maybe significant in terms of what you are asking. There were no deaths on 26/11, nor any of 29/11.

On 27/11 there were 4 deaths:

J Bowen (was 503) 241137 1/5th DOW and was buried in Ramleh.
JH Bullen (was 4723) 241018 1/5th DOW b.ramleh
AJ Woodward (was 4492) 241015 1/5th DOW b. Ramleh
EE Hague (was 4719) 200916 1/4th KIA No grave, Jerusalem Memorial

On 28/11 there were 3 more:

S Craske (was 1788) 240121 1/5th No grave, Jerusalem Memorial
SV Dowe 241065 1/5th DOW b. Ramleh
HW Redding 33096 1/5th KIA b. Ramleh – oddly there is a second Herbert Redding in the Norfolks with a very close number (33108 vs. 33096)


Rob.

#5 Eran

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Posted 09 January 2012 - 12:33 AM

Rob,

Thanks for all the details. Yes, I would love to receive the documents you mentioned by Email.

It does seem a bit strange that there were deaths on November 27th – As far as I know, the 1/5 Norfolk was not in the line yet, but I'm not certain of that. Do you think it's possible that they got the date wrong and these deaths accrued during the 28th?

I'll try to get to Ramleh War Cemetery and see what I can find there. It's still quite puzzling that there were 28 missing in this action and even if all 7 names relate to the same event – What happened with the others?

Thanks again,

Eran



#6 T8HANTS

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Posted 09 January 2012 - 05:35 PM

Eran
The Brigade war diary for the 27th states;

"Five hostile planes bombed the bivouac area of the 5th Suffolks and 5th Norfolks causing 27 casualties of which nine were killed. A number of transport animals were also killed and wounded. 4th Norfolk patrol to Nalin had a sharp encounter with enemy patrol, and one officer and four OR were wounded and 1 OR killed."

Line held by 163 Brigade was J13 central - H12c - H12a - H11b - H5d - Sheikh el Gharbawy - Kh of Kherbet Harmush - Y8c, on Palestine maps 13, 14

Gareth

#7 Eran

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Posted 11 January 2012 - 08:18 AM

Hi Gareth,

Although I dealt in the past quite a lot about this area, strangely I skipped looking into the area West of El-Midyeh/ Sheikh el Gharbawy between the arrival of the 54th Division to this sector on Nov. 22nd till the 75th Division took over the Eastern part of this sector of the line at the end of the month. The info you sent helps me closing that 'gap' – Many thanks.

I have access to the original map of the PEF (Palestine Exploration Fund) which was used by the EEF during the Palestine Campaign, but thats the civilian map and not the Military version that hade a grid. So from the spots you mentioned I can only identify Sheikh el Gharbawy and Kherbet Harmush. I guess the line stretched West, to the vicinity of Hadita, where the 162nd Brigade's sector started.


Some photos of excavated Kherbet Harmush can be seen here:

http://www.neot-kedumim.org.il/?CategoryID=168&ArticleID=94



Photo of Sheikh el Gharbawy:

http://www.tiuli.com.../keverSeich.JPG


Two questions/requests:

Do you have a copy of the military map (with the grid) of this area that can be scanned and sent by the GWF site or Email?

What is mentioned in the 163rd War Diary regarding the events of Nov. 28-29th and if there is any info of the fate of those missing people from 1/5 Norfolk from Shilta? Is there web access to these War Diaries? If not, could you possibly scan for me the entries for these dates?


Thanks again,

Eran

#8 T8HANTS

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Posted 11 January 2012 - 08:22 PM

Hi Eran

Can't help with the military maps I am afraid, perhaps someone on the Forum has copies.

This is what 163 Brigades War Diary has to say about the 28th

Owing to the length of line to defend, it was only possible to occupy certain tactical positions with considerable gaps.

Moreover, the right flank was in the air, owing tom a gap of some miles between this brigade and the Yeomanry Division operating on our right, and there were no troops in this gap. This danger was recognised, and a Company of the 5th Norfolk Regt was sent up by the Division from Divisional Reserve to re-join 163 Bde. On arrival at Brigade H.Q. Jimzu the company was sent forward to join 4th Norfolks, and was sent by O.C., this Battalion to ShiIta. The instructions regarding the occupation of Shilta were that this place was to be evacuated as soon as gap on our right was filled by other troops.


On 28th November, information was received that 155 Bde together with a battalion 156 Bde was coming up on our right to fill the gap, and the Brigade was ordered to assist in every possible way.


The only assistance which appeared could be given was to hold on to Shilta since the 155 Bde were encountering strong resistance and indications pointed to the enemy endeavouring to drive a wedge into the gap which still remained a considerable one.


Shilta had been occupied on the 28th November without opposition and during this day all was quiet on the front of this Brigade. At about 6:50 pm however, the enemy succeeded in getting close up unobserved, and a force estimated at about a Battalion succeeded in rushing Shilta.

The Company 5th Norfolks, in spite of severe casualties and in face of greatly superior numbers, held on to the outskirts of the village for about 3 hours during which two counter attacks were made, but, the Company Commander and 27 Other ranks having become casualties, the remaining officer and the Company decided to withdraw to a position about 800 yards west south west of the village in order to avoid being completely surrounded and cut off. This retirement was effected during darkness by successive withdrawals of part of the company covered by fire from the remainder until a position was finally taken up when this Company was in touch with 4th Royal Scots Fusiliers on the right and with 4th Battalion Norfolk Regt on the left. A machine gun with the company was also successfully brought away. No reinforcement of the Company was possible during this action, and a subsequent proposal to retake the village was negatived by the Division.


Not much more then you already know I believe, but I hope it helps.

Thanks for the photo link.




Gareth




#9 Eran

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Posted 12 January 2012 - 12:42 AM

Hi Gareth,

Yes, most of these details are already known, yet there are a couple of new little details – The fact that the Company of the 5th Norfolk Regiment was sent up by the Division from Divisional Reserve to re-join 163 Brigade and the location of 163 Brigade HQ at Gimzu (Fascinating high place with rich history and remarkable view in all directions – You should come and visit these sites…).

In addition – It's always good to have and relate to another source.

The biggest mystery remains the faith of those 28 people reported in this source as 'casualties'. Any ideas how to find out more about them?


Thanks for everything,


Eran

#10 tempaire78

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Posted 15 February 2012 - 01:04 PM

Good morning Eran and Steve

I had decided to purchase the sword of Captain BE Oliver of the 1/5th Suffolk and Steve very kindly in another thread confirmed that this officer served in Gallipoli with the Battalion. I see in the above thread that Eran refers to the History of the1/5th. I was wondering if someone could kindly see if there is a photo of BEO and what is mentioned about him in the war history. If its a lot of work then don't bother.

I was rather excited to see that he was at Gallipoli.

Thanks all

Tempaire

#11 SFayers

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Posted 15 February 2012 - 04:20 PM

Good morning Eran and Steve

I had decided to purchase the sword of Captain BE Oliver of the 1/5th Suffolk and Steve very kindly in another thread confirmed that this officer served in Gallipoli with the Battalion. I see in the above thread that Eran refers to the History of the1/5th. I was wondering if someone could kindly see if there is a photo of BEO and what is mentioned about him in the war history. If its a lot of work then don't bother.

I was rather excited to see that he was at Gallipoli.

Thanks all

Tempaire


I'll have a look for you this evening. If I recall correctly (which I don't always!) he was one of the company commanders. There's a group photo of the officers in the book, taken during the last battalion camp before the war; chances are your man may be present.

Cheers

Steve

#12 tempaire78

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Posted 15 February 2012 - 07:19 PM

I'll have a look for you this evening. If I recall correctly (which I don't always!) he was one of the company commanders. There's a group photo of the officers in the book, taken during the last battalion camp before the war; chances are your man may be present.

Cheers

Steve






Hi Steve!



Yes I look forward to seeing them. Thanks!



Tempaire

#13 SFayers

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Posted 15 February 2012 - 08:01 PM

Hi Tempaire,

Captain Brian Edward Oliver was originally the OC of D Company 1/5th Battalion before the original 8 companies were distilled down to 4 in January 1915 (the original D and B Companies then formed the 'new' B Company, which Oliver was in command of when the battalion embarked from Liverpool).

The photo in the book I was thinking of was actually taken at Thetford circa April / May 1915; Oliver is seated centre in the cropped scan (sorry I can't get a better quality - it's as good as the original will allow!).

Attached File  BEOliver.jpg   80.59KB   1 downloads

I've found no other direct reference to him by name in the battalion history, though he does appear again as a Major in a final group photo of the officers taken in Cairo after the Armistice. (Because of file size I'll attach this in a separate post.)

Cheers

Steve

#14 SFayers

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Posted 15 February 2012 - 08:08 PM

Here's a cropped scan of the Cairo photo (Oliver seated centre); again, apologies for the resolution, it's the best the quality of the original in the book will allow!

Attached File  BEOliver_Cairo.jpg   84.68KB   0 downloads

All the best

Steve

#15 tempaire78

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Posted 15 February 2012 - 08:25 PM

This is great stuff and I deeply record my thanks to you. I'm Sudanese background but have a profound interest in British military history as my grandfather was an MC winner at Keren with the Sudan Defence Force. His father fought at Omdurman as a native officer in the 9th Sudanese Regiment so you. An see my interest! Thank you again and it certainly brings alive the sword and when it comes I shall post pictures of it.

Many thanks

Tempaire

#16 SFayers

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Posted 15 February 2012 - 08:33 PM

Not a problem Tempaire, glad to be of help!

All the best

Steve

#17 tempaire78

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Posted 15 February 2012 - 08:49 PM

Not a problem Tempaire, glad to be of help!

All the best

Steve




One more thing which I forgot to ask Steve, I read on your site that he was invalided out of Gallipoli. Was he wounded or sick? I downloaded his medal card but it doesnt show this record (if it should)


T

#18 SFayers

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Posted 15 February 2012 - 10:08 PM

I think you may have me confused with another forum member, Joatmon, who has written a website dedicated to 1/5th Battalion Suffolk Regiment. On his website he has published details such as this, which he has transcribed from the battalion casualty returns.

It wouldn't surprise me that Oliver was invalided out of Gallipoli, as by October 24th 1915 only four of the original officers who landed on the 10th August were still present (and Oliver is not one of those listed). Medal Index Cards would not normally give this sort of information. You might want to try hiring a researcher who can visit the National Archives to trace Oliver's officer service papers - if they survive (and most seem to) they should be found under the NA catalogue reference WO/339.


All the best

Steve

#19 tempaire78

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Posted 16 February 2012 - 01:13 AM

Hello and sorry for the confusion. Indeed, it was Joatmon who refered me to the site. My apologies. :closedeyes:

However thanks to both you and Joatmon your enthusiam has bitten me. I went immediately to Abebooks and got an orginal 1/5th Suffolks book whose photographs you kindly scanned for me today. I wait abated breath and give me more information on this TF battalion I had never had cause to read about until today. Thank you all.:D

#20 tempaire78

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Posted 16 February 2012 - 01:26 AM

Look at what I found: Forgive me if its old hat.

http://www.dailymail...ust-lovely.html

#21 SFayers

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Posted 17 February 2012 - 08:00 AM

Hello and sorry for the confusion. Indeed, it was Joatmon who refered me to the site. My apologies. :closedeyes:

However thanks to both you and Joatmon your enthusiam has bitten me. I went immediately to Abebooks and got an orginal 1/5th Suffolks book whose photographs you kindly scanned for me today. I wait abated breath and give me more information on this TF battalion I had never had cause to read about until today. Thank you all.:D


Well done tempaire - that's a good find; there's not too many of the books around on the market these days!

Thanks for the link. I do remember reading that previously - but nice to see it again!


All the best

Steve

#22 tempaire78

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Posted 17 February 2012 - 05:25 PM

Here is the sword of Colonel Brian Edward Oliver, 1/5th Suffolks

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