Wednesday, 19 April 2017

"Earth Shook" - 10th KSLI & the Second Battle of Gaza

Early in 1917 Turkish troops defending a line stretching from Gaza and south east to Beersheba, blocked the only viable passage for British forces advance into the heart of Palestine.

On 14 April 1917, the 10th (Shropshire & Cheshire Yeomanry) Bn. King’s Shropshire Light Infantry (10th Bn KSLI), moved from Khan Yunis to Deir el Belah the concentration area for the 74th (Yeomanry) Division. The Division comprised three Infantry Brigades, the 229th, 230th and 231st, the 10th Bn KSLI being part of the latter.

These moves were preliminary to the Second Battle of Gaza, in which the 10th Bn KSLI was to play a supporting role. The First Battle of Gaza took place on 26 March, and was unsuccessful, although Sir Archibald Murray presented it as a victory. Murray’s despatches resulted in the War Cabinet ordering a second attempt on Gaza.

The Second Battle of Gaza began on 17 April, with three infantry divisions, the 52nd, 53rd and 54th advancing and gaining a line from the Sheikh Abbas – Mansura Ridge to the coast. The 18th was then spent in consolidation and the main attack on the town launched on the 19th.

Map showing the movement of the 10th Bn KSLI
At 0030 hours on the 17th, the 10th Bn KSLI marched from Deir el Belah to a camp 3 miles to the north at Raspberry Hill, arriving at 0300 hours, and dug in. There they remained until 2030 hours on 18 April, when they marched out with the 231st Brigade, reaching a position 2000 yards south east of the Mansura Ridge at 0400 hours on the 19th, and again dug in. There they remained in reserve throughout the day.

The attack on the 19th began with a bombardment at 0530 hours after which the three infantry divisions moved forward. Serving with 10th Bn KSLI, and in reserve, Lance Sergeant Thomas Minshall in his ‘Notes on Palestine’ recorded his what he saw:
“We were aroused by the roar of guns after being on the march all night; everybody was very tired but the booming of the guns from land and sea very soon made us realise a great battle had begun. The air and earth fairly shook, shells of all calibres up to 11 inches, tore slits into the elaborate Turkish defences, the battleships pouring a deadly fire into the forts on the hills around the city.”

Monday, 3 April 2017

Into Palestine with the 10th Bn. KSLI

On 1 March 1917 Shropshire Yeomanry arrived from Sherira at Helmieh Camp, Zeitoun, near Cairo. The following day Cheshire Yeomanry arrived at the camp from Alamein. Here the regiments amalgamated to form 10th (Shropshire & Cheshire Yeomanry) Bn. King's Shropshire Light Infantry.

The first three weeks of March were spent in reorganising and equipping, followed by strenuous training in infantry work. During this time reinforcement of 69 O.R. arrived from King's Shropshire Light Infantry (KSLI) base in England. On 24 March the Battalion moved to Kantara, where a further reinforcement of 16 O.R. arrived.

Zeitoun had not been popular with the men and the move to Kantara brought a considerable improvement, including bathing in the Suez Canal. At Kantara the Battalion formed the 231st Brigade with the 24th and 25th Royal Welsh Fusiliers, and the 24th Welsh Regiment.

On 2 April 1917 at 17:50, the 10th Bn. KSLI entrained at Kantara East. As they were going into an operational zone all kit had to be strictly limited to 50lbs and the remainder left behind at Kantara. Their destination was Khan Yunis, and the Battalion War Diary simply notes that they arrived there at 15:30hrs on 3 April, encamping 1 mile east of the station. Lance Sergeant Thomas Minshall, 10th Bn. KSLI, provides some insight into the journey:
“After 22 1/2 hours packed like sardines in open trucks, we arrived at the rail head on April 3rd/17, unloaded our trucks, marched inland a short distance, and bivouaced for the night on the side of a high ridge from which we had a splendid view of the surrounding country and the Mediterranean Sea.”