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.”
The Battalion took up an outpost line to the east of the camp in a fig grove about three miles from the seashore. They were six miles north of Rafah and approximately ten miles from the front line. The terrain here was quite different to what they had become accustomed, as Thomas Minshall noted; “Leaving behind the grey sandy wastes of Sinai, the crop bearing land and prosperous orchards, and the huge cactus hedges are a fine sight.”

In addition to outpost duty, protection of Khan Yunis was taken over from the 24th Royal Welsh Fusiliers on 12 April. Again, Thomas Minshall provided some further insight into daily life: “During early April our duties varied considerably, out-post at important points, trench digging, and guarding wells and reservoirs all over the country to within sight of Gaza. Our long marches in all directions gave us every opportunity to study the country.”

On 14 April 1917 there was a move to Deir el Belah, the concentration area for the 74th Division. There the Battalion met for the first time its fellow Yeomen in the 229th and 230th Brigades.

from 'The Shropshire Yeomanry' by E.W. Gladstone (1953)

T.B. Minshall, 10th Bn. KSLI, ‘Notes on Palestine’, 1917 (unpublished)

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