Jump to content
Great War Forum

Remembered Today:

Battle of Jaffa – 5th Royal Scots Fusiliers at Sheikh Balluta


Recommended Posts

Eran Tearosh

Recently my attention was drawn to a tiny place in the Sharon Hills. I was given information regarding an Ottoman military cemetery at that place, info that sounded wrong for several reasons, but still  I managed to find the place, today in the middle of an agricultural area. It is defiantly the remnants of an old cemetery, but no way that is an Ottoman military cemetery! At the place theres a strange combination of Bedouin & Arab burial practices. However, even before visiting the place, I was very suspicious about it being connected to an Ottoman military cemetery, as it was too far (A few miles) from the line held by the Ottomans up to December 19th 1917 (Eve of the Battle of Jaffa), and it was already in British hands on December 22nd.  When I reached the place, I suddenly remembered that in this area should be a place called Sheikh Balluta, and that many times, especially with Bedouin tribes, the traditional burial place of a notable sheikh will become a cemetery. I contacted a friend who is an expert about the spread-out and local culture of the Arabs of the Sharon, and he confirmed that this place is indeed Sheikh Balluta, on the western edge of the area where a Bedouin tribe called Abu-Kishak was dwelling. Im still trying to find the original source of the info that this place was an Ottoman military cemetery. Maybe (A huge maybe) some ottoman soldiers were buried there by the 5th Royal Scots Fusiliers, after the event Im about to describe.

 

As I mentioned above, I had this vague memory of coming across the name Sheikh Balluta in connection to The Battle of Jaffa. Bingo!

 

Im starting with the OBH (Falls, Egypt & Palestine, Vol. 2, Part 1, p. 274-275): The establishment of the general line QibyeRantyeFejjaMulebbisTell el MukhmarSheikh BallutaJlil, the objective set to the XXI Corps by G.H.Q., was to be carried out on the 22nd December (p. 274). The following refers to the 52nd (Lowland) Division on December 22nd - At 9 a.m. the division, with all three brigades in line, moved forward in artillery formation, followed by the artillery. The latter was obliged (Because of deep mud  Eran) to use eight-horse teams, so that only four guns or three howitzers per battery could take part in the advance. The line FerrikhiyeJlil was reached without opposition (p. 275). Ferrikhiye is on the south bank of the Auja stream, North of Mulebbis (Petach Tikva), near Tell el Mukhmar. The reason I highlighted without opposition will become clear in a minute.

 

Then I moved to the 52nd Divisional History (Thompson, p 498). Double Bingo!! The general direction of the 155th Brigade was to the east-north-east (Starting from Hadrah  Eran) across the new northern line of the 54th Division. In the centre, the 156th Brigade was advancing to the north-east, and on the left, the 157th Brigade to the north-north-east. And a few lines below: Here and there the enemy were entrenched, but in a few places was there any opposition. Heavy rifle-fire was opened on the 155th Brigade by some Turks on high ground at Sheikh el Balluta to its left. Gen. Pollok-MCall sent the 5th R.S.F. at them, under Lt.-Col. R. W. Paton, excellent covering fire given by a section of the 155th Companys machine-guns under Lieut. Anderson. The Fusiliers went straight up the slopes under a harassing fire, and dislodged 400 Turkish cavalry, a force as strong as themselves, which made off to some woods a mile away.

 

The History of the Royal Scots Fusiliers was a disappointment. Very general, covering a vast span of years, which explains why the description of the Great War is very poor as far as details are concerned. I dont know if the RSF in general or the 5th R.S.F. in particular published a Great War history. Does anyone know about that? And/or are their War Diaries available?

 

Here a few maps. The first is an excellent one, from the 52nd Divisional History (Sorry, had to reduce it...):

491072702_52divisionbook.jpg.07df81d18b27fb77b26c2cbdb3cac0e7.jpg

 

 

Section of the above map:

925570447_SheikhelBallutah.jpg.8914eaefb63c045a9b5f35179a6c9bea.jpg

 

 

Sheikh Balluta (or el Balluta) can be seen in later maps, including maps 19 and 20 of the BOH (Falls). However, I chose to bring this part of a July 1918 map. For reference - El Jlil is on the left (Kibutz Glil-Yam today), Sabiyeh (Upper right) was the name used for the Jewish colony of Kfar Saba (Probably to separate it from nearby Arab Kufr Saba. Today Sabiyeh is in the center of modern Kfar Saba). Sheikh Balluta is at this stage (July 1918) a bit behind the front line, underneath the C in the center of the map. 

1088924279_SheikhelBallutaharea.jpg.6eb542bcb0de82d6b3dc3635b745541d.jpg

 

If anyone can add details (battalion books, personal diaries, war diaries etc') - Please!!

 

Keep well and healthy!

 

Eran 

Edited by Eran Tearosh
Link to post
Share on other sites
Gareth Davies

Shalom Eran

 

Interesting find. As we have both said many times, the 52nd Div history is an excellent source (unlike the 53rd Div history!). Which War Diaries have you looked at?

Link to post
Share on other sites
Eran Tearosh

Hi Gareth!

 

Long time! How are you passing these strange times?

 

Didn't have access to any war diaries of the 52nd (Division, brigades or battalions). In this case, I'm mostly interested in the

war diaries of the 5 Royal Scots Fusiliers for the months November 1917 till March 1918 (The most important month is December

1917 and the second one is November 1917). As you know, I'm interested in war diaries of all the various units who served and

fought in the Palestine campaign, so anything that can be shared is welcomed.

 

Looking forward to seeing you again soon!

 

Eran

 

 

 

 

Link to post
Share on other sites
Gareth Davies

I have been keeping myself busy but I am fast getting to the stage that I need to get back out on the ground that Allenby's forces fought over. I haven't been there for over a year.

 

I will see what I can find.

 

I will be back, hopefully this year.

2 hours ago, Eran Tearosh said:

Didn't have access to any war diaries of the 52nd (Division, brigades or battalions). In this case, I'm mostly interested in the

war diaries of the 5 Royal Scots Fusiliers for the months November 1917 till March 1918 (The most important month is December

1917 and the second one is November 1917). As you know, I'm interested in war diaries of all the various units who served and

fought in the Palestine campaign, so anything that can be shared is welcomed.

 

 

They should be available online at the National Archives - and they are available for free right now. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
12 hours ago, Eran Tearosh said:

Recently my attention was drawn to a tiny place in the Sharon Hills. I was given information regarding an Ottoman military cemetery at that place, info that sounded wrong for several reasons, but still  I managed to find the place, today in the middle of an agricultural area. It is defiantly the remnants of an old cemetery, but no way that is an Ottoman military cemetery! At the place theres a strange combination of Bedouin & Arab burial practices. However, even before visiting the place, I was very suspicious about it being connected to an Ottoman military cemetery, as it was too far (A few miles) from the line held by the Ottomans up to December 19th 1917 (Eve of the Battle of Jaffa), and it was already in British hands on December 22nd.  When I reached the place, I suddenly remembered that in this area should be a place called Sheikh Balluta, and that many times, especially with Bedouin tribes, the traditional burial place of a notable sheikh will become a cemetery. I contacted a friend who is an expert about the spread-out and local culture of the Arabs of the Sharon, and he confirmed that this place is indeed Sheikh Balluta, on the western edge of the area where a Bedouin tribe called Abu-Kishak was dwelling. Im still trying to find the original source of the info that this place was an Ottoman military cemetery. Maybe (A huge maybe) some ottoman soldiers were buried there by the 5th Royal Scots Fusiliers, after the event Im about to describe.

 

 

Hello Eran,

 

Turkish General Staff had asked for information about Ottoman military cemeteries abroad from veteran WWI officers in 1923. Officers' reports published in Magazine of Military History Documents (Askerî Tarih Belgeleri Dergisi) in 2018. Although lots of burial places mentioned in reports (I can share them if you are interested), there is no mention of any military cemeteries at or near Sheikh Ballut. But of course it is always possible that there are unknown burial places, and this may be one of them.

 

Attached is part of a table in which Ottoman burial places in the region listed. I also attached a simple map showing the locations of cemeteries.

 

20200504_154806.jpg.c2a54fcbe3ef844d54b8b28466446943.jpg

20200504_160752.jpg.095c85597fdec09befc68b0b8707bcce.jpg

 

Edited by emrezmen
Link to post
Share on other sites
Eran Tearosh

 

Thank you Gareth & Emrezmen.

 

Gareth - Just tried to enter the National Archives. Tried a couple of war diaries, but nothing came online. You're sure about that? Maybe I'm doing this wrong...

Emrezmen - Thank you so much! This list and map are very important for me, and for all Great War enthusiasts over here. So far, we have very little information about Ottoman military burials here. This could be the beginning of the setting this issue straight. Just sent you a PM.  

 

Eran

Edited by Eran Tearosh
Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't think the Palestine Diaries have been digitised yet and are not online. You would need to get someone to photograph them for you; and not possible until Corona Virus lockdown lifted. I could put you in touch with someone who does this (if that's allowed Forum rules?), and am sure tjhere are others wjo could do this.

 

Mike

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 04/05/2020 at 16:23, emrezmen said:

 

Hello Eran,

 

Turkish General Staff had asked for information about Ottoman military cemeteries abroad from veteran WWI officers in 1923. Officers' reports published in Magazine of Military History Documents (Askerî Tarih Belgeleri Dergisi) in 2018. Although lots of burial places mentioned in reports (I can share them if you are interested), there is no mention of any military cemeteries at or near Sheikh Ballut. But of course it is always possible that there are unknown burial places, and this may be one of them.

 

Attached is part of a table in which Ottoman burial places in the region listed. I also attached a simple map showing the locations of cemeteries.

 

20200504_154806.jpg.c2a54fcbe3ef844d54b8b28466446943.jpg

20200504_160752.jpg.095c85597fdec09befc68b0b8707bcce.jpg

 

Emrezmen, thank you for the list and the map.

I believe that Eran is looking for a tomb that was dug right after the battle, once the Ottomans retreated and the British buried the dead.

similar to this one, from the Matson collection:

spacer.png

 

 

On 04/05/2020 at 20:11, Eran Tearosh said:

 

Thank you Gareth & Emrezmen.

 

Gareth - Just tried to enter the National Archives. Tried a couple of war diaries, but nothing came online. You're sure about that? Maybe I'm doing this wrong...

Emrezmen - Thank you so much! This list and map are very important for me, and for all Great War enthusiasts over here. So far, we have very little information about Ottoman military burials here. This could be the beginning of the setting this issue straight. Just sent you a PM.  

 

Eran

 

On 04/05/2020 at 20:41, Skipman said:

I don't think the Palestine Diaries have been digitised yet and are not online. You would need to get someone to photograph them for you; and not possible until Corona Virus lockdown lifted. I could put you in touch with someone who does this (if that's allowed Forum rules?), and am sure tjhere are others wjo could do this.

 

Mike

 

The war diaries from the Palestine front were not digitized and that is why they are not available for free.

Sadly, i did not photographed the 5th RSF and not in this time frame.

Their history, as far as i recall, is a history book of all the battalions in all the fronts so don't expect to see a better description than the one Thompson gave.

 

If the Ottomans had Dead in this encounter, there is a good chance they were buried there.

The main problem with sheikh tombs is, that in many cases there are burials all around it, since the deceased is an important / holy person.

It will be hard to Id even a mass grave of 5 people, 100 years later and if they had only 1 dead it would be a very small needle in a huge hay stack.

 

Assaf

Edited by assafx
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 11 months later...
On 04/05/2020 at 16:23, emrezmen said:

 

Hello Eran,

 

Turkish General Staff had asked for information about Ottoman military cemeteries abroad from veteran WWI officers in 1923. Officers' reports published in Magazine of Military History Documents (Askerî Tarih Belgeleri Dergisi) in 2018. Although lots of burial places mentioned in reports (I can share them if you are interested), there is no mention of any military cemeteries at or near Sheikh Ballut. But of course it is always possible that there are unknown burial places, and this may be one of them.

 

Attached is part of a table in which Ottoman burial places in the region listed. I also attached a simple map showing the locations of cemeteries.

 

20200504_154806.jpg.c2a54fcbe3ef844d54b8b28466446943.jpg

20200504_160752.jpg.095c85597fdec09befc68b0b8707bcce.jpg

 

 

sorry for hijacking the thread for a different reason but i don't see Jerusalem, Bir Asluj or Auja El-Hafir.

I was expecting war graves near hospitals or medical centers, just as in the western front.

 

Assaf

Link to post
Share on other sites
emrezmen

Dear Assaf, the sketch map does not show all the cemeteries/burial places mentioned in officers' reports. "12" marks the cemetery near Jerusalem. Burials in the other two places are probably included in those reports as well (I have to check). As for the list, it's not a complete or official one. I shared it as an example.

Edited by emrezmen
Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Dear emrezmen,

 

I thought that number 12 was Nebi Musa abd missed Kudus (Jerusalem).

I would appreciate if you could search on the list for these places.

 

Thank You,

Assaf

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...