Hi folks, thanks again for reading my blog.
Part I of this article covered some history about my Grandfather. Part II covered the interesting discovery of handwritten notes hidden on the back of a treasured picture. Part III covered the brilliant full-text search capabilities of Google and Archive.org used to identify a location.
Part IV now looks at historical events chronicled in books that aren’t (yet) digitized.
Yes, you heard it here first. It’s 2017 and there are still books out there that aren’t digital!
Sometimes it’s necessary to spend a buck/quid to get new information. From buying a birth certificate through Ancestry (£22.99) or buying the same certificate through the UK General Records Office (£9), you sometimes hit a brick wall and can go no further without shelling out some dosh (or visiting a records office in person).
In my case, I wanted to know more about my Grandfather’s military history and that of his unit. Luckily Mum and I found a excellent book in two volumes entitled The Devonshire Regiment 1914-1918 by C.T. Atkinson.
Having found out that my Grandfather had won his Military Medal fighting the Turks at El Jib near Nebi Samwil outside Jerusalem in Nov-Dec 1917, I was pretty sure I would find details of his unit and their movements in this book if it was going to be anywhere. It wasn’t long before I was able to isolate a section on Jerusalem and Beersheba that detailed the 5th Devons.
On November 23rd, 1917 a small detachment were ordered to take El Jib with no artillery support. This was a strategic Turkish machine gun placement on high ground, additionally supported by further machine gunners on a ridge at Nebi Samwil. Effectively a suicide mission:
They had fearful country to cross: rugged hills, precipitous in places, rising to nearly 3,000 ft at Nebi Samwil, and traversed only by the merest mule-tracks up narrow gullies …
… About eleven o’clock General Colston sent for Colonel Windeatt and told him that his battalion must attack El Jib from the Westward, as the main attack from the South was completely held up. It was a direct frontal attack with two miles of open ground to cross to reach the foot of the hill, a flat-topped height 2,500 ft above sea-level, which rose rather abruptly from a belt of trees at its base…
… The advance started about 11.30… for the first 500 yards there was no firing, then the Turkish guns opened, and shells of all calibres up to “5.9’s” were showered on the little columns which moved steadily forward …
… The leading lines did the only possible thing, and broke into a run. The leading line met a tremendous fire as they came over the skyline, to find a gentle incline extending 500 yards to their front, after which El Jib rose up sheer in a succession of terraces. From front and flanks guns, rifles and machine-guns caught them, the latter being specially effective …
… Without support on either flank to press on was hopeless; there was nothing to be done but to hang on and hope for reinforcements or more artillery support… Only six officers and approximately 120 men were left …
The 5th Devons received one M.C. (2nd-Liet. Best), an Order of the Nile (Capt. Windeatt), two D.C.M.’s (C.M.S. Stallard and Sergt. Andrews, the Signalling Sergeant), and seven M.M’s (Sergt Hayward, Cpl. Yolland, Lce.-Cpl. French, and Ptes. Collier, Tull, Miller and Williams).
The near impossible mission to attack El Jib with no artillery support had cost the 5th Devons 19 men and left 120 men wounded. Several weeks elapsed before El Jib was finally taken, diverting much of the Turkish forces and enabling the Seventy-Fifth Division to successfully take Jerusalem.
Now as far as the Military Medals are concerned p306 lists a Pte Tull as a recipient. This is a typo, as my Grandfather is listed correctly on p495 of Vol II Honours and Awards, and there is no Tull listed.
So I now have a regimental number… 240893 to cross-reference, correlate and confirm.
This part of his story is now clear, though one must remember that it only represents a day or two out of his 4 years of World War I service.
It is time to search for records.
In part V, I try to utilise as many search engines and record sites as I can to exhaustively search for records.