Tag: Egypt

5 December 1917

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!

Advertisements

31 October 1917

Extract from the diary of Maj P K Glazebrook, Cheshire Yeomanry, Egypt Expeditionary Force

“Zero day”, or the day of our attack on the Turkish trenches. There was a good deal of bombardment in the night, mostly towards Gaza. We saw a distant bombardment on the right, towards Beersheba, at about 6 AM, & then it ceased & dust arose, as of big forces going forward. From the cessation of fire we judged things were going well. We had to move in the morning to Imara, about four miles. We heard that “Hill 1070” was taken at about 8.30 this morning, with slight casualties, & were also told that the Turks cheered our men who went forward to cut the wired! What the foundation for this strange rumour is, I cannot say. The absence of reliable news here is absolutely damnable.

[follow-on] In this damned re-inforcement [sic.] camp, where a few officers & about 120 to 150 men of each battalion of the division are assembled, perhaps 1500 altogether, we are derelicts, utterly without any importance in the operations. The whole lot are pooled, & if a re-inforcement [sic.] is wanted for any part of the division, any of us may be sent at a moment’s notice. We send off officers & men as escort to camel convoys going up, and provide parties for any purpose, for instance to fetch up horses from Rafa to replace those killed. There is practically no organization for our transport as we follow the troop, & no arrangement for giving us any news of our friends & our men. We have parades and inspections of the lines, even as we have done all the time, & of course I have to do everything for our lot, while the old C.O. sits in his chair roorkee [sic.] chair, or rides about on his infernal grey pony. Somehow I hate that pony, for while the men are sweating under their packs in the dust, & I with them, the C.O rides along on it, carrying his stalking glass & nothing else, & talks afterward about march discipline, & not drinking out of their water-bottles. The men are on short rations of water, nominally half a gallon a day, though usually we have got a bit more. A cup of tea (1 pint) at 6 AM breakfast & again at 5 PM tea, & a water-bottle, always tepid, for the rest of the 24 hours, including shaving, is very little, & then there are orders about being sure of having the waterbottle full at night in case of moving etc etc.

We heard practically nothing on Oct 31st, the opening day, but on Nov 1st were told that Beersheba had been taken, & that our 20th Army Corps had only had 400 casualties. As 1400 prisoners are said to have been taken, with nine guns, this is extraordinarily good, if true. Some of the Welsh Horse are reported to have got knocked about, having four officer casualties, but not a word can we hear of the 10th KSLI. They were only in reserve & ought not to have suffered except from shell-fine, so I hope they are all right. When we shall be allowed to re-join is quite unknown to us, & I am afraid that if we are pressing hard upon the Turk, nobody will think of us, for they have matters so much more important to occupy them. Probably the Turk will have retired to his Hareira & Sheria positions, reported to be very strong. Of the left of our line, near the sea, where we were digging four weeks ago, we have not heard a single word, though the guns have been firing very hard at times. I believe an attack will have taken place there at about the same time as ours, but do not know. Nov 2nd . Rumours of the taking of Umbrella Hill, Rafa trench & other trenches near the sea reached us today.

24 October 1917

Extract from the diary of Maj P K Glazebrook, Cheshire Yeomanry, Egypt Expeditionary Force

I went to the dentist at the hospital at Belah, & had four teeth stopped. I hunted round to get more definite information about Noel, but the bacillus had not yet been identified. Trying to get leave to see him, & to unearth the right doctor to apply to, I came on Noel in an “infectious” tent & had a talk to him. The poor boy is utterly miserable but full of pluck. He had been told it was a three month job & was diphtheria, & so knew that he is out of the whole show – & anxious about Tom in it. It was absolutely pathetic to see him making an effort to smile & talk cheerfully, & I did not like leaving him there alone. He is due to go to Cairo today. The Colonel was rather scared about ‘infection’, as I have started a sore throat. The doctor took a “swab” of Tom & me, to satisfy the C.O, & I avoided a night route march for my own satisfaction!

17 October 1917

Extract from the diary of Maj P K Glazebrook, Cheshire Yeomanry, Egypt Expeditionary Force

A rotten night, with little sleep I have been in poor form in that way for some time. Even at Shepherd’s, with a good bed, I was not sleeping at all well. I am also being sick after breakfast, which is most inconvenient in these places where there is not privacy! At present I go inside the ruined Sheikh’s Tomb. A dull parade as usual in the morning, and nothing in the afternoon, except private instruction from Noel for me & Kynaston with the bayonet. Tom had gone off on another reconnaissance, lucky devil! We had a night march which was less unpleasant than usual, as we got back at 9 PM, and did not go very far. Much skin off my hands from bayonet work.

[follow-on] The depression of our life is by no means diminishing, & my own actually increases. The dust & dirt of our surroundings, the swarms of flies & the constant little worries of military life & discipline, make even the time off parade a positive hell. The nights would be a relief if I could sleep better, but now they seem terribly long, & lying on the dusty ground is not luxury. Reading is nearly impossible, & driving weary men in packs to repeat monotonous attacks, in which interest ceased long, long ago, is damnable. Contempt for the Lonsdales does not improve matters, & I can say that the 24 hours contain no moment of enjoyment or recreation for me. “The days have come & the time draweth nigh, when I can say, ‘I have no pleasure in them’.” I am exactly in that condition described by Swinburne – “To say at dusk, would God the day were here – to say at dawn, would God the day were done”. In every walk of life man has some pleasure to look forward to daily, or even weekly, for instance, his night’s rest, his good food, his game of cards or golf, his comfortable half hour with his daily papers by the fire, his Sunday’s quiet, or some hobby or interest. Here we have absolutely none, & nothing to look forward to until the end of the war, & for England’s sake one is even afraid of to early a peace. The Brooks boys alone make life tolerable.

10 October 1917

Extract from the diary of Maj P K Glazebrook, Cheshire Yeomanry, Egypt Expeditionary Force

I went down to Alexandria in the morning & met Sam Ashton at the Savoy Hotel, where I took a room. He and Bennett, who was looking after Sam when I saw them last, had lunch with me. Bennett has now had a nervous collapse too, & is out of the Flying Corps. Sam is a lot better, but his future is very uncertain, as he is out of both Flying & in a way, the battalion as well. Most of the shops shut because of the Sultan’s funeral today. I dined with Bennett & Dobson. The latter was quite interesting on the subject of position in Arabia, especially the doings of Lawrence.

[Follow-on] Dobson, a bimbashi [sic.] of the Egyptian army, was rather interesting about Wej & the Hedjaz. He has been at Wej for some time, & we are holding it with Egyptian troops. The Turks at Medina, about 7000, are cut off at present, & so of course are those in Yemen. The Hedjaz is full of English gold, Four sovereigns being given for a sheep. The King, late Sherif of Mecca get £250,000 a month! Lawrence, a young fellow who is blowing up railways etc like Hornby, & who destroyed the line at Maan, has done wonders, & has been within two miles of Damascus from Akaba, which latter place we hold. The Turks are said to have put a price of £50,000 on Lawrence’s head, but he is well served by Arab Sheikhs, & has had £200,000 to play with. He has been made a major & give a C.B already.

1 October 1917

Extract from the diary of Maj P K Glazebrook, Cheshire Yeomanry, Egypt Expeditionary Force

We had some Lewis gun shooting in the morning for all the company. The reconnaissance of tomorrow necessitated all those taking part in it going off after lunch, to sleep on the way. It is hell being out of it, & I have applied for leave, to get away from it all. We had an idle afternoon with the sand blowing about abominably, covering everything we possess. Eason was on the afternoon digging and Kynaston at night. I heard from Perkins, of the second line, whom I am trying to get out here, as he is a friend of Noel’s.