The Desert Ride of the ALHA riders along the Anzac Trail

 Draft of the ride along the AnzacTrail
 (schedule updated 25 July 2016)

Fryday 27/10/17
14:30  Arrival at Park Eshkol
Addressing the horses
Evening: welcome party & concert

Saturday 28/10/17:
Horse riding display for local families and non-riders by the Australian riders.
Launching the ride towards Park Golda.
Evening: Bedouin party at Farhan resort.

Sunday 29/10/17:
Second Horse riding display for local residents, school children and non-riders  by the Australians.
Rride towards Nevatim

Monday 30/10/17:
Launching  the ride towards Tel Sheva (Tel  e Saba).
Saluting the New Zealanders who captured  the Tel.
Continuing the ride on  to Bet Eshel.
Rehearsal for the Charge.
overnight at Leonardo Hotel.

Tuesday 31/10/17:
Morning: Ride through the Old City to the Cemetery.
Memorial  Ceremony and inauguration of Anzac Museum.
Memorial  Ceremony at the Turkish Monument.
Riders on horse back to Bet Eshel via the Wadi.
!4:00 Launching the Charge.
!5:00  Final ceremony of the Charge and distributing certificates.
16:00 Welcome ceremony at the Australian Soldier Park.

The Tzemach railway station.   1918

The First World War ended with a knock-out blow over 10 days in September 1918. Most people think that the massive and horrendous killing machine of the trenches of Northern France was the main cause. It is true that the German attempt to cancel out the Trench warfare with their Spring Offensive in June 1918: that failed   was a significant factor, and certainly the entry of fresh American troops, this time well led by better Generals  stopped the Kaiser and his Generals in their ‘dreams’……

BUT……..a series of RED flashing lights actually stopped the War; and these came from Palestine!

The Turkish Generals finally woke- up to the obvious  that their southern Empire could not survive. The Sultan in Constantinople relied on his Government to run the Empire.  The Government relied on  three major legs to survive. 1… Massive Armies [made up of over 20 different ethnic sub-nations, led by Turkish generals (The Pashas)]),  2…strict, aggressive and painful collection of taxes, food and young men from the villages, and 3…brutal suppression of any spark of revolt by any ethnic group [e.g.  The Armenians or the Greeks].

Furthermore, their secret weapon was their German Generals and small German units that could “scientifically” out-whit the “dumb” British Generals: Their stars were generals, Falkenhymn, Kressenstein and Sanders.

Over “Turkish-coffee” the Ottoman leaders, the Turkish Generals and the German officers all discussed the tremendous success of their Gallipoli defense, [1915], the outright win at Kut [South of Bagdad] against two British Generals.  And now, that their ‘quality” army -The Yildiriim Army Group-led by General Liman Sanders would soon crush the Allenby-led British invasion of Palestine.  General Sanders had planned to start his Palestine Campaign in October 1918.

Suddenly, on the 25th of September 1918, it all changed.

Allenby rested his army from about 20th December till mid- September 1917/1918.   Allenby had to deal with three major problems.

  1. The War cabinet in London took away his best divisions to deal with the June 1918 German Spring Offensive that almost took Paris.
  2. Allenby got new Divisions from India -and they had to be trained and re-equipped. [also from Singapore and Hong Kong.]
  3. Allenby had to re-align his officers after they failed—twice– to take East Palestine, the Hejaz railway, Es Salt and Amman. The Turkish 4th Army in East Palestine was still a serious force and they fought well. (Es Salt was a small town and Amman was a tiny hill-top town.)

By September Allenby had convinced General Sanders and his Turkish staff that the main thrust would be up Palestine, through the Bika and up the railway to the East of the Jordan river. ([the Turks were fearful of a naval attack and landing North of Haifa-British Marines were in the Eastern Mediterrian).

Quickly, and with the usual deception, Allenby transferred his mobile force to the West, and on the 19th September at 04.30  launched his main attack. [From North of Tel Aviv].

Four Divisions, [The 75th , near the coast,  the 54th,  the 10th ,  the 60th  and  the 53rd in the foothills of the Shomron], with the help of a coordinated and a moving artillery barrage [385 big guns] and bi-planes bombing Turkish targets;   attacked the Turkish lines. Facing the attacking Empire troops [Indian, Australian and New Zealand], and some small French units and an even smaller Italian unit; were two Ottoman Armies-the 8th near the coast and the 7th in the foothills.

A gap, appeared in the Turkish line [where Ra’anna is today], and General Chauvel and his DMC [ Desert Mounted Corps] soon took up the moment and rode through. Ninety Four mounted Squadrons, each made up of 100 men, three officers and 8 sergeants [about 12000 men including the ambulance and supporting crews] were soon, performing the last military charge of history. This mass of moving men and horses soon broke up into three Divisions. The Third went right and entered the top of the Shomron and took the nerve-center Nablus-and much equipment and prisoners .

The Fifth was advancing towards Nazareth. The Fourth was moving Eastwards, past Afula, Bet ‘Shaan and then up to the Kinneret lake.

Other units were taking Haifa, and then Akko.

And Chaytors Force led by M.G. [major General] Edward Chaytor, that included The 38th and 39th Battalions of Jewish-Palestinian volunteers was crossing the hill-country of North Jerusalem and taking the Jordan River, the Hejaz railway and then towards Amman.

The speeding Australian and New Zealand horse-men were been followed by a massive train of 90000 support troops and servicemen.

Trucks, Model T cars and vans, camel caravans, wagons and railway lines were bringing up extra men, medical services, maintance and food. Ammunition, shells and  fuel were also on the way.

British and French Ships were using ports and beaches to land extra supplies and also shell Turkish targets between Netanya and Tzor.

General Sanders, General Mustafa Kemal of the 7th Ottoman army and other Turkish officers were in shock. This ‘Blitzkrieg’ was a new form of warfare. In Northern France, the whole concept was unknown. Some Australian units were travelling 100 kilometers a day.

Sanders and some of his Generals fled, to Tzemach, then to Daara, across the river, and then to Damascus. Masses of Turkish units were surrendering.  Large quantities of military equipment were been recovered.

Liman Sanders gave orders to stop the advancing Mounted troops at Tzemach. Small attempts had been made to oppose the advancing forces at Tulkarem, Nablus, Nazareth and on the Hejaz railway. The Australians just rode through the enemy and after a small skirmish the hungry and worn out Ottoman troops surrendered.

British and Australian air-planes were bombing enemy concentrations and especially machine-gun nests. The official German  military manual placed a great deal of emphasis on using the machinegun as an effective defense system to stop attacking infantry. The new weapon of war: the Aeroplane, was neutralizing the murderous machine-gun.

Finally, just before the 25th of September, Sanders ordered his German and Ottoman garrison in Tzemach to stop the advancing forces.

He knew that the ‘valley” railway always stopped at Tzemach to take on water, fuel and the Tzemach station was well-known as a safe and defensive station. It could be easily defended.

Furthermore, the Northern  way to get past the Kinereth lake was only across the top of the lake-this was swampy ground, the road was narrow and muddy and wild animals had this area to themselves. The ‘Gesher Bnot-Yakov’ bridge [later to become the Jisr Benat Yakub, skirmish] covered a deep canyon, and this was also an effective barrier to the advancing enemy. The Hula region was regarded as “unsuitable Jungle”.

He expected the mounted squadrons to only use the ‘South-of-the -lake’ road. This was the Tzemach road and rail area. Retreating units from the 7th Ottoman army, were stopped and under German officers, integrated into  the new defense line at Tzemach.

The Valley Railway Line was built from Haifa-the port-  to Daara on the main Hejaz rail line. From 1901 till 1905 the building process was fairly simple on the flat plain that made up the Jezreel valley: sleepers and tracks were laid. The problems began from Tzemach. The German engineer, Heinrich Meissner faced a 73 kilometer section that dropped 530 meters, into the swampy and wet Hamat Gader canyon, and then had to climb another 530 meters to reach the Daara plain. It took building eight tunnels, 329 bridges  !!  and a massive switchback rail-gradient, first down and then the same, up. Thus, automatically The Tzemach station became a major train terminus. By 1905 The Tzemach Station had a 2 story stone Station building, three platforms, 5 sets of parallel tracks, a giant water tower, a locomotive shed, a secure warehouse, maintenance sheds, side tracks and even a rail siding leading down to the lake, to supply boats, or equipment for the lake. The tracks ran some 70 meters on the wooden pier. All the tracks of the Hejaz and Valley line were 1050mm gauge on wooden sleepers. (The British used 1435mm gauge).

To the North of the station  was a small town, in two sections .

The German officers and their staff [and servants] had set up a tent- camp just to the North-West of the Station. They also had 8 touring cars with them to allow their escape towards the safety of Kunetra and then Damascus….. If necessary.

The Fourth Australian Light Horse Brigade of the DMC, {M.G. [major -General]  William Grant } and some squadrons of the 12th Australian Light Horse regiment {L.C [Lutenient Colonel] Donald Cameron} and some smaller squadrons from the 5th Light Horse Brigade of B.G.[Brigadier General] George MacArthur Onslow ,  had come up from Bet Shaan -following the railroad. A night conference between DMC officers quickly made-up the plan of attack. It was September, The 25th.

 At 3 am, the mounted forced attacked. After a night battle, some 1.5 kilometers South of the Tzemach position they captured several Turkish prisoners and then the advance continued into Tzemach. They came upon the German/Turkish defenders too quickly to allow an effective defense. Finally after a two hour skirmish, most of it was in the dark just before dawn,  the only resistance was from Turkish snipers in the forest/shrubs to the South and a wooden railway carriage  standing to one side of the rail-complex. Soon a white flag was put-out from the carriage. An Australian officer, Captain Whitfield  came forward to accept their surrender: he was shot and killed at point-blank range.

An angry Queenslander, Sergeant Rooper King and his squadron attacked, with vigor  and soon all the Germans and Ottomans were dead. The angry Australians refused to bury the enemy bodies [it was usual for EEF troops to bury enemy bodies]. The 98 German bodies were looted by the Bedouin of the area. The German cars were placed under guard and later transferred to logistic units in the rear.

During this ‘train-carriage’ battle, Major Loynes and his troop, came up  and helped clear our any other remaining resistance, especially further along the tracks to the East..

By midday, the regiment had moved North and Westward, to bivouac and feed their horses. That afternoon , at 3 PM they were in Tiberius.

With the successful battle of the Tzemach Railway Station, the 77kms defense line from the  Kinneret lake to Daara had been broken. Turkish resistance collapsed and in fact the big battle of The Sharon/Megiddo [from the 19th till 25th September]  was now over.

The next 5 days was a massive advance of DMC [ Desert Mounted Corps] forces and  also Captain/Colonel Lawrence and Emit Feisal’s Arab army from the South upon Damascus. On the early morning of October first 1918   Australian troopers were in Damascus. The DMC was enveloping Damascus from the South West and from the North West.

Liman Sanders, still in shock, informs his superiors in Germany that the Palestine front is collapsing.  Similarly, the Turkish Generals are informing their Ministers in Constantinople that thousands of Ottoman troops have been captured and they need re-enforcements.

On the 30th of September, Bulgaria—one of Germany’s pillars to the East, pulled out of the War, and signs an armistice with the allies.

The Ottoman Defense minister—Enver Pasha, now sees his problem. He has an Ottoman Army in the North fighting the new Russia—under the Bolsheviks, and his reservoir of Young recruits is sadly lacking. Many talented mid-level army NCOs -who were Armenia, have been killed and many have fled. He has no men to offer.

The message, begins to seep into the Ottoman Government and also the German military hierarchy, that the ‘enemy’ is winning and he has a ‘full shop’ of available manpower.

On 1st October Allenby, and his Australians  have Damascus.

After a few days the Australians advance 170 kms  and take  Homs-to the North. Malaria and a ‘strange flu’ have reduced the DMC forces by 30%.

Sea-side Beirut fall on the Third of October to advancing cavalry and then infantry. The Austrian defenders flee.

Aleppo falls on the 25th October. The military in the capitol could now see that the wave of Allenby’s horsemen will be in Constantinople in a few days. Feisal and his Arabs were running Damascus. The Turks had fled, or were killed.

On the 30th October 1918 -the Turks sign their surrender-with the Armistice of Mudros. Ottoman Minister Rauf Bey, acting on instructions of his government signs this agreement/treaty on a British ship, just off the Greek island of Lemnos, with his now, new, supervisor Admiral Somerset Gough-Calthorpe. The next day, Turkish military and air forces lay down their arms.    The war in the Middle East was over.

 It took 58 months. Surprisingly, the Allenby movements and attacks in Palestine are the most efficient, effective  and have the least death and injuries of all the battles in WW1.

Meanwhile, out of left field; The new flu, [later called The Spanish Flu: Censorship forbade any mention of this battle-field flu, and only Spain-a neutral country- could tell the World that a flu was killing thousands, in Spain.]  German troops, Allied troops and the citizens of Paris were dying or filled the hospitals, or hospital- trains with infected victims. The half-alive soldiers were infecting others with this virus, as they were moved from one place to another. Medical staff-including doctors were also dying at the same rate as their patients.

The Bulgarians, the Austrian government and the German Generals all saw the “end”.

The Austro-Hungarian Empire is broken-up on the  12th November.  Austria became a Republic.

29th September:  Field-Marshal Paul von Hindenburg tells the Kaiser that the war was lost. We must accept the 14 points of President Woodrow Wilson. President Wilson was a theoretical idealist and his plan to “create” Peace was ‘on the table’. (He was the father of The League of Nations.)

9th Nov 1918:    The Armistice to end WW1 is signed and on 11th Nov comes into effect, at 11 am.

From Mid-September till early November 1918, an avalange of events hits the ‘enemy’ but it was the lightening attack, like a steam roller, that crossed Palestine, hit Damascus, Aleppo and threatened to continue into the heart of The Ancient Ottoman Empire that lit up all the RED-LIGHTS.  The war was over!

Allenby and his Australians were the trigger that ended “THE GREAT WAR”. Palestine was the fabric and Tzemach was the pin-point.

Steve Sattler

April 2017                    Jerusalem.

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