CHAPTER XI. TWO YEOMANRY CHARGES
In front of the mud huts of Mughar, so closely packed together on the southern slope of the hill that the dwellings at the bottom seemed to keep the upper houses from falling into the plain, there was a long oval garden with a clump of cypresses in the centre, the whole surrounded by cactus hedges of great age and strength. In the cypresses was a nest of machine guns whose crews had a perfect view of an advance from Katrah. The infantry had to advance over flat open ground to the edge of the garden. The Turkish machine-gunners and riflemen in the garden and village were supported by artillery firing from behind the ridge at the back of the village, and although the brigade made repeated efforts to get on, its advance was held up in the early afternoon, and it seemed impossible to take the place by infantry from the south in the clear light of a November afternoon. The 6th Mounted Brigade commanded by Brigadier-General C.A.C. Godwin, D.S.O., composed of the 1/1st Bucks Hussars, 1/1st Berkshire Yeomanry, and 1/1st Dorset Yeomanry, the Berkshire battery Royal Horse Artillery, and the 17th Machine Gun Squadron - old campaigners with the Egyptian Expeditionary Force - had worked round to the left of the Lowlanders and had reached a point about two miles south-west of Yebnah, that place having been occupied by the 8th Mounted Brigade, composed of the 1/1st City of London Yeomanry, 1/1st County of London Yeomanry, and the 1/3rd County of London Yeomanry. At half-past twelve the Bucks Hussars less one squadron and the Berks battery, which were in the rear of the brigade, advanced via Beshshit to the wadi Janus, a deep watercourse with precipitous banks running across the plain east of Yebnah and joining the wadi Rubin. One squadron of the Bucks Hussars had entered Yebnah from the east, co-operating with the 8th Brigade. General Godwin was told over the telephone that the infantry attack was held up and that his brigade would advance to take Mughar. This order was confirmed by telegram a quarter of an hour later as the brigadier was about to reconnoitre a line of approach. The Berks battery began shelling Mughar and the ridge behind the village from a position half a mile north of Beshshit screened by some trees. Brigade headquarters joined the Bucks Hussars headquarters in the wadi Janus half a mile south-east of Yebnah, where Lieut.-Colonel the Hon. F. Cripps commanding the Bucks Hussars had, with splendid judgment, already commenced a valuable reconnaissance, the Dorset and Berks Yeomanry being halted in a depression out of sight a few hundred yards behind. The Turks had the best possible observation, and, knowing they were holding up the infantry, concentrated their attention upon the cavalry. Therein they showed good judgment, for it was from the mounted troops the heavy blow was to fall. Lieut. Perkins, Bucks Hussars, was sent forward to reconnoitre the wadi Shellal el Ghor, which runs parallel to and east of the wadi Janus. He became the target of every kind of fire, guns, machine guns, and rifles opening on him from the ridge whenever he exposed himself. Captain Patron, of the 17th Machine Gun Squadron, was similarly treated while examining a position from which to cover the advance of the brigade with concentrated machine-gun fire. It was not an easy thing to get cavalry into position for a mounted attack. Except in the wadis the plain between Yebnah and Mughar offered no cover and was within easy range of the enemy's guns. The wadi Janus was a deep slit in the ground with sides of clay falling almost sheer to the stony bottom. It was hard to get horses into the wadi and equally troublesome to get them to bank again, and the wadi in most places was so narrow that horses could only move in single file. The Dorsets were brought up in small parties to join the Bucks in the wadi, and they had to run the gauntlet of shell and rifle fire. The Berks were to enter the wadi immediately the Bucks had left it. Behind Mughar village and its gardens the ground falls sharply, then rises again and forms a rocky hill some 300 yards long. There is another decline, and north of it a conical shaped hill, also stony and barren, though before the crest is reached there is some undulating ground which would have afforded a little cover if the cunning Turks had not posted machine guns on it. The Dorset Yeomanry were ordered to attack this latter hill and the Bucks Hussars the ridge between it and Mughar village, the Berks Yeomanry to be kept in support. There seems to be no reason for doubting that Mughar would not have been captured that day but for the extremely brilliant charge of these home counties yeomen. The 155th Brigade was still held fast in that part of the wadi Janus which gave cover south-west and south of Mughar, and after the charge had been completely successful and the yeomanry were working forward to clear up the village a message was received - timed 2.45 P.M., but received at 4 P.M. - which shows the difficulties facing that very gallant infantry brigade: '52nd Division unable to make progress. Co-operate and turn Mughar from the north.'