Extract from the diary of Maj P K Glazebrook, Cheshire Yeomanry, Egypt Expeditionary Force
The Leinsters, 10th Division, came to relieve us at about 2 AM instead of 8 PM last night. My coat & things had already gone down the big hill to the wadi below, so I had a cold wait. When all their posts were out & we were free to go, we had to hurry to get over the next sky-line before dawn. We went about a mile beyond Beit Amon, where we tried to settle down but soon got orders for C.O. & company commanders to go to Kubeibeh, where we saw a brigadier whom we are going to relieve, and then went to reconnoitre Beit Izza, where are battalion are to hold a line. Warde Aldam, who was at Eton with me, was the Colonel there. The enemy were shelling Beit Izza while we were there, & hit one man. After six hours, very tired, we got back to the battalion, & had to move with it two hours later. Got up to Beit Izza at about 8 PM, & as my company were in the front line, I was busy till nearly midnight, taking over in a mist, wet, tired & miserable. Peel, a new officer of No 1 Coy has been lent to me.
[follow-on] We hastily got every man with a rifle to line the village, gave out our last ammunition, got away our last wounded, & tried to hold on until out two platoons of No 1 Coy got off Hill 1750. This they managed to do, bringing Rufenniac, who had broken his leg coming down, & been left by his own men. I got together an officer or two, synchronized watches & sent them to the flanks to order our retirement at a fixed moment. The wadi behind us, desperately steep each & terraced, would have been an awful death-trap had the Turks been better led. We got down, & I organized parties & put them under every officer I could see, to halt & fire back to cover the retreat. We were fired at very little on our way up the deadly slope & reached the top, utterly exhausted, men dragging up wounded friends, I had received orders from Lonsdale by flag to leave Tireh, & I obviously could not do anything else, but as we got up the other side I got belated orders to hold it at all costs, & met Lonsdale & a weak company of Denbighs advancing to retake it, by the General’s orders. He can have had no idea of the position, as it was clearly impossibly. Still we called on our exhausted men to turn again, & down we went to the bottom, knowing it was fatal. The men were too magnificent for words, & at the bottom practically every man who could still stand was present. I saw Col Lonsdale there & told him my opinion, & he ordered us to retire again, and quite rightly. Again we started up that accursed hill, about 1000 feet, & I had carried a Lewis gun out first time! Hardly had we gone five minutes than my runner Shiers, heard somebody at the bottom. It was nearly dark, but he heard voices & recognized that it was a wounded man left behind. Back we went again & found two men trying to get one of my company, called Gittings, up the hill. We tried to carry him, expecting the Turks behind us, & the four of us could not do it until we had made a rough stretcher of coats and rifles. We toiled up, falling about once every ten yards on the rough stones, & got him nearly to the top before we collapsed. It was easy then to get fresh volunteers from camp to go back, with Shiers as a guide, & bring him in. I was too beat to do anything but stagger into camp & drink whiskey! Beit Izza is a ruinous & filthy village, inhabited by one dog, on top of a hill, with similar rocky hills, divided by very deep wadis, all round it. The line is almost impossibly to form, and enemy might push through anywhere. Still we could defend our isolated hills well, behind rough stone walls & sangars, & by daylight could probably hold the line. The cold & wet are abominable, and the men are having a very hard time, & many are going sick. The rations are not easy to get up, and we have to creep about under cover on our hills, as we are observed from many places, & are in easy range of enemy guns, & occasionally get shells fired at us. The large majority whistle over us and burst on the hills behind, for ours is a very advanced post, Mud & slippery wet stones, mist & wind are part of our troubles, but nobody is much depressed. We hope it is not for long – that is all. If the big attack on our right, of which we are the pivot, goes well, we should not have long to wait before the Turk retires or counter-attacks us. Either would be better than a prolonged sojourn in Beit Izza under our present conditions!