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The action of Semakh - Indian involvement


Eran Tearosh
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All,

Over the last few years, we conduct an annual event, to commemorate The Action of Semakh. Usually, it's on the date of the action, September 25th, but sometimes we have to change, when this date overlaps with Shabbat or a Jewish religious holiday (Jewish calendar is different from the general one). This year it will happen on September 30th. 

Although there are very good sources about the details of this action, there is one part that so far I found nothing about - The Indian involvement in this action. A day before, on September 24th 1918, a squadron of the Central India Horse made a reconnaissance to Semakh to blow up the railway east of the town.  They encountered heavy fire and retreated, however, supplying important information about the nature of the ground and details regarding the enemy forces there. This information assisted the Australians when they attacked Semakh on the 25th. 

However, on a sketch from the Australian Official History we see that on the far left flank of this action, west of the River Jordan, a squadron of Indian troops were operating. The route is fascinating - from the Jewish village of Melhamie (later called Menahamie), west of the Arab village of Abeidie, to the tiny Jewish farm of Beitania and from there to the Jewish village of Kinnereth. Near Beitania there's a small enemy force. 

I tried to find reference to this squadron and it's actions. So far - nothing. 

The sketch of this action in the British OH is less detailed, and the Indian squadron is not included.  

Any details will be welcomed. 

Thanks, Eran

 

 

2044090039_TheactionofSemakh.jpg.051f87053ee08490bc285041e9c53a45.jpg

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Anglesey [vol.5, page 308] quotes from Watson's book 'King George's Own Central Indian Horse' page 397 when describing their attempt on Semakh

This squadron also attempted to blow up the railway to the east of the village. 'The attempt was opposed and unsuccessful, for just as preparations were on the point of completion the mule carrying the gun-cotton broke loose from its driver and disappeared into the blue. Lieutenant Coster, who had been attached to the squadron for this operation, and one Indian soldier were killed.'”

I don't have Watson's book, but he may well mention what happened the next day to this Indian squadron. If you have a subscription to Fold3 then it is available there https://www.fold3.com/browse/hTGb85NZ8EamDdOvshrnF8p6f?military.conflict=World+War+II&place=rel.148838:United+States+of+America

The War Diary is alas, not yet digitised - https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C4557666

 

Good luck

Michael

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Hi Michael,

I have Watson's book. Not a single word about actions during September 25th...

"On the 25th the other units of the Tenth Brigade joined the Central India Horse at Jisr Mujamieh, and next morning the whole brigade was again on the move" (p. 398)

Eran

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Mate,

Likewise I can find no mention by our Histories other then the mention of the CIH recce the day before, and what the found before we attacked.

S.B

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Earn,

The ‘A brief Record of the Advance of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, July 1917 to October 1918’, records the Central Indian Horse as the 38th Central India Horse (38th King George’s Own Central Indian Horse), 4th Cavalry Division, 10th Cavalry Brigade, page 46.

Pages 48 & 49 cover from the 23rd to 25th September, but there is no mention of the reconnaissance to Semakh by the squadron of the 38th Central India Horse, nor its advance from Melhamie to Kinnereth, as indicated on the sketch map. The advance is covered by Plate 47, but not as detailed as the AO History map.

Jeff

Edited by Jeff Pickerd
To correct spelling.
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22 hours ago, michaeldr said:

'... ... Lieutenant Coster, who had been attached to the squadron for this operation, and one Indian soldier were killed.'

For the record this is from the CWGC website

doc5701676.JPG.33618869fae1d8701cdd6463e87bcb40.JPG

 

EDIT to add - This is as close as I've been able to get in respect of an ID for the one Indian soldier were killed (if correct then he too died of wounds)

1780960173_doc5701629crop.jpg.89e324b6ccc7ddc4d25aab8efc4f582f.jpg

 

 

 

 

Edited by michaeldr
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Mate,

 

Just to help the 12 LHR History by Ken Hollis page 80

"The CIH (10th Bde) had relieved the 19th Lancers at Jisr Mejamie on the 23rd, the reconnoitred the village on the following day and found it to be strongly held. The 4th LH Bde was ordered to capture the place and then rejoin the AMD at Tiberias."

The rest is the fighting and capture of the place but no mention of the Indians

 

The 11th LHR by Hammond page 129 

"A regiment of the CIH occupied the Bridge head at Jisr Mejamie, and an officer of that Regiment was commisioned to guide us into Semakh"

The War Diary for the HQ Desert Mounted Corps Part 1 Sept 19th page 24

"2305hrs 23rd Sept - CIH at Mejamie reported railway except for small demolition just N of Mejamie intact to Semakh road fit for MT Mejamie to Semakhwith exeption for Jordan and Yarmuk bridges which need surface repairing."

 

The war diaries for the 12th adn 11th ALHR fail to mention the Indians in them, while the 4th LH Bde war Diary shows page 11 dated 24th Sept

"2100hrs Bde arrived Jisr Mejamie bivacked near was the HQ CIH"

The appendix 266 for the battle at Semakh failed again to mention the Indians 

Sorry not much there?

 

S.B

Edited by stevebecker
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Liman von Sanders in his 'Five Years in Turkey' mentions [page 296] “On September 24th Captain von Keyserlingk at Semakh came into contact with British cavalry that came from the south. For the defence of the defile and of the town of Semakh, he had in all 120 Germans, eighty Turks, eight machine guns and one gun.”

By the 'British cavalry' he must be referring here to the Indians

Going on to the next day, September 25th, LvS has "Under pressure of the enemy, the town of Tiberias had to be relinquished that day, after a stout defence under Major Schmidt-Kolbow, with the loss of all machine guns."

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All,

As I feared, seems there is no mention of this action in the wider books, like the OH’s. So, I guess the only way of finding out will be via War Diaries. Desert Mounted Corps doesn’t go the squadron level resolution, so the search now is for the War Diaries of the 4th Cavalry Division, or the 10th &  12th Cavalry Brigades or the regimental War Diaries of the 4 following Indian Regiments (first two from the 10th Cavalry Brigade and the two others from the 12th Cavalry Brigade. The division’s third brigade (The 11th Cavalry Brigade) was returning that day from the fierce fighting at the River Jordan crossings, south of Beisan):

38th King George’s Own Central India Horse

2nd Lancers (Gardner’s Horse)

6th King Edward’s Own Cavalry

19th Lancers (Fane’s Horse)

 

Can anyone help with these War Diaries?

 

Eran

Edited by Eran Tearosh
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Mate,

I record the the two German officers mentioned by Michael as;

Keyserlingk Karl Alwin von or Albin-Karl Graf von (also shown as Freiherr von and Keizerling or Kaiserling)    ObLtzS Marine    Sdr-Kdo (Sonderkommando) Türkei 1-15 to Naval Shore Det RTG 1916 returned to Kapt HQ Sonderkommando Pascha at Nazereth     1915-16 1918-    (1887 at Thorn - ) from Garde Regiment zu Fuß No 4 1907 to SMS Hertha 1913-14 to Marine Infanterie Regiment No 1 in 1914-15 to Sonderkommando Türkei 1915-16 RTG Ordonannz-Offz. b. St. d. Mar. K 1-16 to Adjt Marine Infanterie Regiment No 3 to France 9-16 rtn Capt Sonderkommando Pascha Turkey 10-16 - The force in his hands to defend the path of Dar Samah (semakh) was 120 German and 80 Turkish soldiers There were also 8 machine guns and a cannon On September 25 the British attacked a cavalry brigade. After an hour and a half of heroic defense the Kaiserling platoon was completely destroyed or captured. (Sanders page.s.354) captured PoW 25-9-18 at Semakh awarded Duke of Saxony-Ernestine House Order 2nd Class and Albrechts- Order 2nd Class and EK II & EK I brother Harald U Boats KIA shown in Klaus Wolf's Book
 

Schmidt-Kolbow Karl    Capt (Maj) (LtCol)    Deutsche Militär-Mission in der Türkei - Artillery Officer 5th Army HQ - 5. Ordu ve Yildirim Ordu. Topçu Birlik komutani (5th Army and Yildirim Army Artillery Unity Commander) - shown in türkischen Diensten; dort Kommandeur einer schweren Artillerie-Abteilung einer Division der Heeresgruppe F    1915-18    (1875 at Saargemünd died 15-10-57) from 1. Pommersches Fußartillerie-Regiment "von Hindersin“ No 2  shown his Artillery sunk the British Seaplane carrier HMS "Ben My Chree" around Meis (Castello Rosso) Island 9-1-17 to Maj 3-18 Von Sanders wrote town of Tiberias stout defence under Major Schmidt-Kolbow Sept 1918 awarded EK II & EK I later WWII Kommandant Kriegsgefangenen-Bezirk XI to Gen-Maj z.D Armeegebiets 590 (Korück 590) in Frankreich bei AOK 1 1940 to 43 to Gen-Lt 1942 to Führerreserve 1943 Retired shown in book by Klaus Wolf
 

S.B

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  • 2 weeks later...

All,

As so far there's no luck regarding War Diaries, I'm trying an additional and different approach. I'm trying to find some local testimonies from the archives of those 3 Jewish colonies along the route taken by that Indian squadron, and of personal memoirs of people from the colonies - Melhamie (Now called Menahamiya), Beitania (A tiny communal farm then, today something different) and Kinnereth.

It will take some time, but there's already one quote which is quite helpful. In a memoirs book of a lady from Menahamiya, this paragraph says (My translation from Hebrew):

"The Turks and Germens that were in Semakh and retreated, wanted to rob the people of Melhamie the animals and wagons, the remnant that was left after all the years of the war. To their luck, British officers in the head of mounted Indian soldiers surrounded the colony by getting to commanding spots around the colony and entered in an organized manner. A guard was placed, and so the colony was formally annexed to the British occupied territory".

My guess is that this happened on September 24th, and that's why Melhamie becomes the starting spot of the advance of the ''mysterious Indian squadron' I'm after, the following morning, September 25th, the day of the action of Semakh. Now, if this assumption is right, so it's almost certain that this squadron belonged to the 38 Central India Horse, operating at Melhamie parallel to the actions of their other squadron, that was attempting unsuccessfully to blow the railway east of Semakh on September 24th. 

Eran

 

 

 

 

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