Sinai and Palestine Campaign - Spring 1918 Operations - Action of Berukin, 9–11 April

Action of Berukin, 9–11 April

General Allenby intended to follow the cutting of the Hedjaz Railway at Amman with an advance to Tulkarm and Nablus and despite the failure of the Amman attack proceeded with plans to capture Tulkarm.

Known by the Ottomans as the action of Berukin, the attack between 9 and 11 April, was planned to begin with the 75th Division capturing the villages of Berukin, Sheikh Subi and Ra-fat together with the high ground at Arara. The 7th (Meerut) Division would then advance 2,000 yards (1,800 m) on a 5 miles (8.0 km) front and prepare gun positions from which to shell Jalijulye and Tabsor. The 54th and 75th Divisions would then advance to the Wadi Qarna with their left flank towards Qalqilye and Jaljulye with the 54th (East Anglian) Division sweeping westward along the Ottoman defences as far as Tabsor. As soon as Jaljulye and Qalqilye were cleared the Australian Mounted Division would ride hard for Et Tire and pursue vigorously the enemy as far as Tulkarm.

The 75th Division's preliminary attack, launched at 05:10 on 9 April ran into fierce Ottoman resistance supported by three German field batteries and German battalions were active in counterattacks using mortars and machine guns.

All three infantry brigades carried out the initial assault in line against Berukin, El Kufr, Ra-fat and Three Bushes Hill which were successfully captured, while Berukin was finally captured at 16:00. The delay in capturing Berukin slowed the attack of the other infantry brigades and gave the German and Ottoman defenders time to strengthen their defences, and as a result the attacks on Mogg Ridge, Sheikh Subi and Arara were postponed till the next day. During the night there were almost constant counterattacks, but the attack was continued at 06:00 on 10 April when the 2/3rd Gurkhas (232nd Brigade) reached the western edge of Mogg Ridge. Fighting here continued all day and at Sheikh Subi the attack broke down, while further west the attack on Arara had by 09:30 been partly successful. Almost the whole of Mogg Ridge was eventually captured but was successfully counterattacked, the German and Ottoman infantry being caught by determined British defence and a heavy British artillery barrage which prevented them following up their success. Again during the night determined Ottoman and German counterattacks continued and were partly successful. On 11 April it was clear determined defence would strenuously contest all attacks and it decided that the cost of continuing would be too high, but for the next seven days a long-range artillery duel between British and Ottoman/German guns continued. Finally on 21 April Three Bushes Hill was evacuated while Berukin, El Kufr and Ra-fat were retained and consolidated, including the Ra-fat salient.

At the end of two day's bitter hand-to-hand fighting the 75th Division was still to gain its objectives and was having difficulty holding on to the little it had gained because of fatigue and depleted numbers. Three days' fighting from 9 to 11 April proved once again that in the Judean Hills German and Ottoman machine guns could make any advance slow and expensive.

This action of Berukin occurred in a section of the line which would become part of the final offensive five months later, when the infantry attack would pivot on Ra-fat salient which would at that time be held by the Détachment Français de Palestine et de Syrie. In this case, the losses were heavy: 1,500 British casualties with about 200 Ottoman dead on the battlefield and 27 Ottoman and German prisoners.

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