Action at Tell 'Asur, Judean Hills, Palestine.

Wednesday, 20 March, 1918
Advance of 6th Battalion The Royal Irish Rifles, Palestine.

There were many significant ‘actions’ listed by our antecedent Regiments at the end of the First World War. Each of the ‘Regimental Committee on Battle Honours’ considered actions that could be awarded as a ‘Battle Honour’. The Royal Irish Rifles listed some forty actions that led to the award of ten Battle Honours; one of the actions was TELL ‘ASUR in Palestine.

The 6th Battalion The Royal Irish Rifles began the month of March 1918 as 29 Brigade's reserve battalion during the 10th (Irish) Division’s pursuit of the Turks across the Judean Hills. The advance was over difficult and arduous terrain. The Battalion moved forward to lead the advance as the Turks took a stand in an area known as Hill 30. Turkish artillery and machine-gun fire disrupted the Rifle’s attacks, especially from the machine-guns sited in enfilade positions. It was difficult to engage such a target with artillery fire as shells could not, due to a low flight trajectory, be dropped into these enfiladed positions. Modern warfare would deploy a highly mobile medium or light mortar with its high trajectory capable of dropping a bomb into a steep-sided feature (such as a wadi river bed).

IWMQ12554Any advance was achieved by a series of short rushes and a tenacity to defend against Turkish counter attacks. Leadership by courage was displayed, especially by the officers of B Company, constantly forward and exposed to the enemy, as the company crept on beyond its flanking support. Such was the proximity to the enemy that any movement by the Company’s Runners (messengers) also attracted accurate and deadly rifle fire. Eventually, after several days of action, the forward recce discovered that the Turks had withdrawn. The Battalion advanced and occupied Hill 30. The Turkish artillery shelled the feature heavily on 12 March and as the Battalion patrolled forward they discovered that the Turks chose not to occupy set defensive positions but rather to skirmish in strength and attack the Battalion's advance posts at night.

The Battalion was relieved on 20 March 1918 and moved into wadis to the rear. There, the Duke of Connaught visited the 10th (Irish) Division and presented medals for the gallant conduct by many individuals during the recent fighting.

Above, Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught. (© IWM Q12554)