With the Cameliers in Palestine
Chapter XXIV — Final Movements
At 6 a.m. on October 1, Wilson’s Third A.L.H. Brigade rode into Damascus from the north while the Sheriffian force entered from the south. The Australians passed on to the north-east by the Homs road, and overtook another retiring force of Turks at Duma, Kusseir and Kubbeth i Asafir, capturing 1,500 prisoners and all their equipment. These engagements on September 30 and October 1 and 2 north of Damascus were the last serious encounters with the Turks, whose remaining forces consisted only of parties of troops in full retreat toward the north.
During the twelve days between September 19 and October 1, the Australian Division had advanced over a hundred and fifty miles. Its casualties during this time were twenty-one killed and seventy-one wounded, while the prisoners captured by it amounted to 31,335.
The ex-Cameliers during that hectic fortnight had lived and fought and ridden at such a pace, through so many interesting places of historic and Biblical fame that the mind was left bewildered by the wonder of it all. The tiring, sleepless rides, the desperate though spasmodic fighting, the daylight and the moonlight treks, the grim duels in pitch darkness, seemed so confusingly intermingled, that, after it was all over, it was difficult to place in the mind in anything like their proper sequence, the stirring events of the past fourteen days. But each man realized that he had taken part in one of the most successful and spectacular cavalry drives in the history of his nation, if not of the world.
Then came a brief period of inaction; camping in the Barada Gorge, the Brigade, like a wounded animal, rested in its lair, and as it were, licked its wounds. page 230During this period rain fell, and the weather became colder, and as, during the exciting days of the preceding fortnight, men and horses had been drawing on their reserve strength, so it was not surprising that a reaction set in. Many men had become infected with malaria germs, and now, no longer buoyed up by excitement, gave way to the dread disease. Evacuations to hospital became more and more frequent, until there were scarcely enough men left to carry out the necessary camp duties. It was no uncommon sight to see officers, n.c.o’s and troopers alike, leading as many as seven horses apiece to water. One troop at this stage was reduced to one officer and one sergeant. The horses, too, gallant creatures that they were, became emaciated and dispirited, and it was a touching sight to see the men, who had such a genuine affection for their mounts, searching along the gorge and up the side wadis for bits of "bukshee" fodder, and tit-bits for them. A patch of sugar-cane discovered in the vicinity soon became a casualty.
The Fifth A.L.H. Brigade, along with the rest of the Australian Division, concentrated in and around Damascus until October 26, when it moved north by stages to Horns, over a hundred miles to the north, which it reached on the 31st, to act as reserve troops for the Fifth Cavalry Division which had moved by forced marches of mounted troops and armoured cars to Rayak, the railway junction with the Beirut railway, through Baalbek, Horns, and Hama, until it finally entered Aleppo on October 26, passing on two days later to Mus-limie Station, the junction with the railway running from Constantinople towards Baghdad. Since leaving its starting-point on September 19, this Division had travelled a distance of over three hundred miles, and had captured over 10,000 prisoners.page break
View of Damascus
View of Baalbek
At noon of October 31 the Armistice between the Allies and Turkey came into force.
During November the New Zealand Second Machine-gun Squadron moved with the Fifth A.L.H. Brigade south to Baalbek, and for four months provided guards at Homs, Baalbek, and Rayak, until on March 4 they moved to Beirut, from which port they embarked in the Ellenga for Port Said.
When the N.Z. Machine-gunners arrived from Syria at the N.Z. Detail Camp at Chevalier Island, Ismailia, the natives of Egypt were still unsettled after the outbreak of the Egyptian Insurrection early in 1919, and in the middle of April, the squadron was sent to the town of Tanta on the railway to Alexandria, and patrolled part of the Delta as far as Zifta and Mehallal Kubra until June 20, when the majority of the men proceeded to Chevalier Island, and at the end of the month embarked on the Ulimaroa at Suez for the return to New Zealand. The remainder of the squadron, after handing in horses and equipment, followed a few weeks later in the Ellenga.