Battle of Mughar Ridge - Prelude - Allenby Prepares For Battle As Kress Counter-attacks - Ottoman Counter-attack Australian Mounted Division, 12 November

Ottoman Counter-attack Australian Mounted Division, 12 November

Meanwhile the Australian Mounted Division advanced in the direction of Tel es Safi to press the left flank of the Ottoman forces as strongly as possible. About 4,000 Australian and British mounted troops of 3rd and 4th Light Horse and 5th Mounted Brigades moved northwards in a conspicuous demonstration of aggression. At first it appeared that the Ottoman formations had retired altogether; the 9th Light Horse Regiment (3rd Light Horse Brigade) rode through Berkusie, one troop pressing on to occupy Tel es Safi. The 5th Mounted Brigade also found Balin unoccupied, and rapidly advanced northwards towards Tel es Safi and Kustineh. By 12:00 the Australian Mounted Division was spread over at least 6 miles (9.7 km) facing the north and east when four divisions of the Ottoman 7th Army (about 5,000 soldiers) began their advance southwards from the railway.

The Ottoman infantry divisions began moving south from El Tineh 3 miles (4.8 km) east of Kustineh from the Ottoman controlled branch line of the railway line running southwards in the direction of Huj. Here and further north along the railway trains were stopping to allow huge numbers of troops to take to the field. Soon after the 11th Light Horse Regiment (4th Light Horse Brigade) was forced to retire from Kustineh as Ottoman units occupied the place in strength. Then at 12:00 three separate columns (of all arms) were seen advancing towards Tel es Safi from the north and north-east. Ten minutes later the British Honourable Artillery Company mountain battery opened fire, but was hopelessly out shot, outnumbered, and out ranged by Ottoman guns of greater power and weight.

The approach of the Eighth Ottoman Army's XX Corps (16th, 26th and 54th Divisions) as well as the British XXI Corps' 53rd (Welsh) Division was at first unknown to the 5th Mounted Yeomanry Brigade in Balin. But at about 13:00 a force estimated at 5,000 Ottoman soldiers suddenly attacked and almost surrounded the mounted brigade. The attack was made by two Ottoman columns, one coming down the track from Junction Station to Tel el Safi and the other by rail to El Tineh Station. It was by far the heaviest counterattack experienced since the break through by the Egyptian Expeditionary Force at Sharia on 7 November. The Royal Gloucestershire Hussars and Warwickshire Yeomanry regiments of 5th Mounted Yeomanry Brigade, were pushed back out of Balin before being reinforced by the Worcester Yeomanry. The 3rd Light Horse Brigade was sent up at a canter from Summeil, followed by the remaining two batteries of the Australian Mounted Division. One light horse regiment occupied Berkusie but was forced to retire by an attack from a very strong Ottoman force supported by heavy artillery fire from several batteries. All available troops of the Australian Mounted Division were now engaged and the Ottoman attack continued to be pressed. The counterattack forced the mounted division to concede the territory gained during the day, before fighting the Ottoman Army to a standstill in front of Summeil.

The 4th Light Horse Brigade could render no effective aid to the 3rd Light Horse or the 5th Mounted Yeomanry brigades. It was strung out to the west as far as the Deir Sineid railway line and was being heavily attacked. Ottoman units managed to advance to within 100 yards (91 m) of the 4th Light Horse Brigade's position; only at the end of the day was this strong Ottoman attack repulsed by machine-gun and rifle fire. Hodgson (commander of the Australian Mounted Division) ordered a slow withdrawal by 3rd Light Horse and 5th Mounted Brigades to high ground on the line Bir Summeil–Khurbet Jeladiyeh. The order had only just been given when another Ottoman train was sighted moving to the south. It stopped west of Balin and disgorged a fresh force of Ottoman soldiers who deployed rapidly to advance against the left flank of the 5th Mounted Brigade. Two batteries of Australian Mounted Division were in action on the high ground north-west of Summeil firing on this fresh Ottoman force moving over the open plain in full view of the gunners. The artillery fire was so effective the attacking Ottoman advance was halted, forcing them to fall back a little where they dug trenches. Fighting steadily and withdrawing skilfully, the 3rd Light Horse and 5th Mounted Brigades had reached the edge of Summeil village where the Ottoman attack was finally held. The attack ended at 18:00 in darkness.

The Ottoman attackers dug themselves in on a line through Balin and Berkusie while the line taken up by the Australian Mounted Division began with the 3rd Light Horse Brigade facing east on a line running due north from about half way between Iraq el Menshiye and Summeil. The line then turned westward so the 5th Mounted Yeomanry Brigade faced northwards in front of Summeil with the 4th Light Horse Brigade to their left in front of Ipseir and connecting with the right of the infantry division; the 75th Division at Suafir esh Sharqiye. A critical situation created by the strong Ottoman attacking forces had been controlled by the coolness and steadiness of the troops, especially the machine-gun squadrons of the 5th Mounted and the 4th Light Horse Brigades. The Australian Mounted Division suffered about 50 casualties mainly from the 5th Mounted Yeomanry Brigade.

To the east von Falkenhayn, held his reserve force of 3rd Cavalry Division (Seventh Army's III Corps) and 19th Division (Eighth Army reserve) in front of Beit Jibrin. They waited throughout the day for the main attack to make progress before beginning their own advance, but the opportunity never eventuated. This powerful Ottoman counter-attack had been contained and had not forced any rearrangement of the invading forces, whose preparations and concentration on the plain were now complete. But von Falkenhayn was forced to halt his Seventh Army's attack and then to take away from it the 16th Division plus one regiment.

Read more about this topic:  Battle Of Mughar Ridge, Prelude, Allenby Prepares For Battle As Kress Counter-attacks

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