The Royal New South Wales Lancers

Battle Honour 15th

Jordan (Es Salt)

The raid to Es Salt in the Jordan Valley on 3 and 4 May 1918 was somewhat of a military disaster. Conceived as an attempt to advance into east Jordan, it became a raid in force where the town of Es Salt was first captured, then relinquished to fervent Turkish opposition.

It began brilliantly Brigadier-General Wilson’s 3rd Australian Light Horse Brigade taking the town of Es Salt on in 1 May. Their speed being such that the HQ Australian Mounted Division was unaware of what had happened. They were also unaware that the Turkish Army had made elaborate plans to attack on the 4 May, and were concentrating their forces at Damieh 16 km north east of Es Salt, and Amman 16 km south east of Es Salt.

As the troops of the 1st and 5th Mounted Brigades, and the 1st and 2nd Australian Light Horse Brigades moved to take the commanding heights, in particular the 2900 feature about 8km east of Es Salt, they ran into very strong opposition. The Camel Brigade consisting of an Australian, an ANZAC and a British Battalion formed part of the mounted force. By this time the fighting was not in open desert where the endurance of the Camel could compensate for a lack of speed when compared to the horse. The Camel Brigade seldom found itself in the front line.

The Turkish forces fought well and bravely. Wave after wave of grenadiers storming forward, prepared to attack anything including machine-gun posts. At 16:00 on 3 May 1918 Lieutenant-General Chauvel commander of the Desert Mounted Corps ordered withdrawal. The withdrawal was well conducted, with casualties for the entire operation (around 3,000 in total killed and wounded) favouring the Allies.

The Turkish attack on the Desert Mounted Corps, however, did not eventuate. German and Turkish commanders concluding that after the raid on Es Salt, “the enemy will shortly make a renewed attempt to capture the east Jordan region” (General Djemal, commander 4th Turkish Army May 1918).

Summarised from H.S. Gullett, Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-18 Vol 8, 1923, by John Howells – NSW Lancers Museum, 2001.

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