Assault on Heart and Liver Redoubt

The Brigade Group less artillery marched by half coys to the concentration area starting 1200 hours on 7th Dec by 1730 hrs, the Group was disposed a follows:

Brigade HQ, 2/17th – 2/19th – 2/20th Bttns, 3 Sections MGC B2d. 2/18th Bttn with 1 Sec 180th MGC and 519th Field Coy RE B3a99 – A – B – C Echelons, 1st Line Transport, 1 section 2/5th London Field Ambulance and 180th TR Battery B1 a

The move of the right and centre Bttns (2/19th and 2/17th Bttns) from B2d to the position of deployment inB11 was commenced at midnight 7th/8th Dec. This was a most difficult operation owing to the blackness of the night, the rain and the nature of the country. No opposition except some desultory shelling on the part of the enemy was however encountered and both Bttns were formed up ready for the assault by 0500 hrs.

The left (2/18th) moved from B3a at 0016hours on 8th Dec to their position of deployment in B6a. The advance guard encountered some Turkish posts in Kulonieh, which were silently dealt with without delaying the Bttn. Considerable machine gun fire was also experienced and some shelling.

The reserve Bttn (2/20th) moved to a position in the Wadi (b11a) by 0430 hrs.

At 0515 hours, the assault of the 3 attacking Bttns up the steep rocky slopes of the spurs on which the Turkish Works of the 1st objective were sited, commenced. The men advanced with splendid dash and enthusiasm in spite of the extraordinarily difficult going. Y 0545, the 2.18th Bttn on the left had carried the Turkish Works in B6a, known as Liver Redoubt, capturing a machine gun and 7 prisoners. Their advance was continued without a pause, with the result that Heart Redoubt was captured at 0605.

The 2/17th Bttn in the centre advancing through the mist completely took the garrison of Work o13 by surprise. The work was captured at 0530, 3 machine guns, a number of rifles and a large quantity of SAA and Bombs being amongst the booty. Pressing on immediately, the capture of this Bttn’s 1st objective was complete by 0630 but owing to the 2/19th Bttn on their right being held up by machine gun fire, the right flank was exposed from the direction of H8a. A threated counter attack on this exposed flank was successfully quashed by the determined action of the coy.

The advance of the 2/19th Bttn on right was delayed by the nature of the ground, an enemy forward post which had to be dealt with and very heavy machine fire. At 0705 hours however, they carried the work in B12d. In the face of heavy machine gun fire. The village of Deir Yesin as carried without much difficulty, the advance being greatly assisted by the covering enfilade fire brought to bear on the enemy by the 2/17th Bttn and 2/18th Bttn. The right flank of the 2/17th Bttn was thus made secure.

The 2/18th Bttn having gained its first objective commenced reorganising preparatory to a further advance, pushing 2 platoons out to H1B Central. At about 0900 hours, a body of the enemy, estimated at 200 with baggage mules was seen retiring down the Wadi from Beit Iska. When the head of this column reached the Wadi junction in Y25b. The 2/18th Bttn opened heavy rifle and Lewis gun fire on them from Heart Redoubt. The enemy were completely surprised and endeavoured to get away. Considerable casualties were inflicted and fire was kept up until the survivors displayed a white flag. Five officers and about 50 other ranks were taken prisoner.

The further advance of the 2/17th Bttn was held up until 1200 hours when one coy was pushed forward on the valley running east and went the ought H1c to try and assist the advance of the /19th Bttn and this coy reached the houses on the forward slope of the ridge in B2c and clean them of snipers but was unable to get forward on account of the intense rifle and MG fires coming from the ridge in front of them.

The fire from the above ridge also held up the advance of the 2/19th Bttn past the quarries in H7c in spite of the most determined efforts to push on.

In the meantime, Brigade HQ had moved forward to B12a Central and touch gained with all Bttns. The 2/22nd Bttn in reserve had by this time also moved forward to a position about B12 central.

About 1315 hours, the BGC saw OCs 2/17th and 2/20th Bttns and ordered one coy 2/20th Bttn to go up on right of 2/19th Bttn and HQ and 2 Coys 2/17th Bttn to go up on the left of 2/19th Bttn. The Coys 2/17th Bttn moved to H6d at 1330.

At 1330 hrs, the BGC went forward with the HQ of the 2/17th Bttn to reconnoitre and ordered a combined attack to be made on the ridge in E2c and H8 from which the enemy was holding up the advance. The following were the dispositions for the assault. 3 ½ Coys 2/19th Bttn were to make the frontal attack with 2 Coys 2/17th Bttn and 1 ½ Coys 2/18th Bttn working round the left flank and one Coy 2/20th Bttn round the right flank. The charge was made at 1545 under cover of the fire of 2/18th and 2/20th Bttns and overhead fire of the guns of 180th MG Coy. One section howitzers also satisfied.

In spite of very heavy machine gun, rifle fire and shrapnel, the ridge was carried in magnificent style under the eyes of the Corps and Divisional Commanders who have signified their high appreciation. The enemy hastily retired towards Jerusalem. The right flank of the Brigade was however somewhat exposed owing to the deep ravine that separated it from the left of the 179th Infantry Brigade. A second coy of the 2/20th Bttn was sent as a reserve to the 2/19th who had sent their last two platoons n the exposed right flank.

No further advance was attempted and in accordance with orders received from 60th Division at 1509 hours. The line now held now held was as follows: Y25c central (in touch with 74th Div on left) H 1b central – H2c – H8a and c with a fused right flank.

Frequent patrols were sent out during the night which was quiet except for desultory sniping in the enemy’s part.

Patrols from 2/19th Bttn sent forward at dawn on 9th found no signs of the enemy in front of the Brigade.

At 0900, the BGC rode into Jerusalem and heard that the Turks had cone. One Coy 2/17th Bttn was sent to take over the PO and placed guards over hospitals etc as looting had commenced. At 0935, he ordered the 2/02th Bttn to advance on to the 3rd Objective and block to Nablus Rd about Y29d and the remaining Bttns to concentrate in H9a, H2d, H8a.

Subsequent orders were received at 1017 hours to advance on to the original objectives at 1030 hrs.

This advance was carried out by the 2/20th Bttn followed by 2/17th, 291th, 2/18th Bttn in that order. Little resistance was encountered.

Shafat was occupied by 1330 hrs by 1 Coy 2/20th Bttn which had pushed on rapidly in advance and Tel el Full at 1400 hours by this and another Coy of 2/20th Bttn where touch was gained with the 74th Div. At this point.  Rifle and MG fire was opened by the enemy from the hills east of Shafat on the rear of the 2/20th Bttn and right flank of /17th Bttn who were following them. The enemy was attacked in front by 1 Coy 2/17th Bttn at the same time as 1 ½ Coys, 2/20th Bttn and 2 Vickers Guns worked on to the high ground north of enemy’s right flank. By this time, the 181st Infantry Brigade had worked up from the south and about 1600 the enemy was dislodged. The coy of the 2/17th being relieved by 181st Infantry Brigade.

The Outpost Line then occupied by 2/20th was on the original Fourth objective and in touch with 181st Infantry Brigade on right and 229th Infantry Brigade on left.

The 2/18th and 2/19th Bttns remained in Brigade Reserve in Y29b and Y23c respectively. Twenty prisoners and one 5.9 howitzer were taken in this operation. The total casualties sustained during these two days twelve officers, 145 other ranks.

The cooperation between the various units of the brigade has been marked and has very materially contributed to the success of the operations.

I cannot speak too highly of the determination and endurance of all ranks over extremely difficult country and under very severe climatic conditions. For three nights in succession few men had any sleep.

A great debt is due to the administrative personnel of the Brigade in bringing up rations and water, to the RAMC for the speedy evacuation of wounded under most difficult circumstances and last but not least to the invaluable hep render by the artillery.

A list of recommendations in connection with the above actions will be forwarded later.

CK Watson.

Brigadier General, Commanding 180th Infantry Brigade.