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.