London Irish Rifles Association

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1917/18 - Egypt/Palestine.

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The 2nd Battalion landed at Alexandria on 12th June 1917, where they joined a train for Ismalia. From there, they moved by stages to Kantara, Sheik Nuran and El Shauth. At the last named, the Battalion spent three months training in desert conditions, without meeting the enemy, which was, of course, the Turks. Their first action was on the last day of October during the attack on Beersheba, when the London Irish were in the reserve brigade. The first battle honour for the regiment in this campaign was 'El Mughar', awarded for the Battle of Sheria on the 6th November, 1917. Stiff fighting continued until the 8th but then the enemy withdrew. In nine days, the whole Turk defences from Gaza to Beersheba had been captured.

JERUSALEM.

On 29th November took place the Battle of Nebil Samwill, a high point about five miles north of Jerusalem. The fighting lasted until 1st December after which the London Irish rested until 7th December.  On that day, they moved up to assault positions for the capture of Jerusalem, which fell on December 9th : General Allenby making his formal entry two days later.

On 17th December, orders were received for the London Irish to occupy Kherbet Adasseh, a large hill believed to be a Turkish observation post but strongly held. One platoon was detailed for this task on the 18th, but met with strong opposition and had to withdraw. Five days later, a full Battalion attack went in, but resistance was overwhelming, with some enemy fire coming from an adjoining hill believed to be occupied by our own troops. The London Irish lost Capt Whyte, Lieut Burke, Lieut Thompson, 2/Lieut Godsill, 2/Lieut Brayden and 50 other ranks killed. Allowing for the wounded, the Battalion was reduced to about 130 after the battle. It had not been appreciated that the Turks had brought two new divisions from Anatolia in an attempt to re-capture Jerusalem. This attempt came on 27th December when the other two brigades of 60th Division held off a strong Turkish assault, inflicting heavy casualties. The next day, the British advance continued and the London Irish moved forward to Beitin, with Jerusalem safely behind by ten miles. The vital road from Jerusalem to Jericho is dominated by Talaat ed Dumm, a strong defensive position. The battle began with a stiff climb but 'B' Company quickly captured their objective, although Capt Standrick, OC of 'C' Company and six other ranks were killed.

FINAL BATTLES.

Further operations were carried out across the Jordan against the Hedjaz Railway at Amman starting on 22nd March 1918 and lasting until 3rd April. The last action of the war for the 2nd London Irish began on 29th April, and involved operations east of the Jordan again. This operation in the wild country ended on 5th May but was not so unsuccessful as the one a month before as the Turks had taken measures to stop a repetition. Casualties include 22 other ranks killed.

At the end of May, the Battalion was informed that it was to be disbanded. The men were to reinforce battalions in the 10th (Irish) Division, which was to become an Indian Division. These battalions were the 1st Leinster Regiment, 1st Royal Irish Regiment, and 2nd Royal Irish Fusiliers.

(Courtesy of the 'Emerald').

Read Sergeant Wallin's account of the 2nd Battalion in Palestine here.

Read Signal Corporal, the story of the 2nd Battalion during the First World War here.