CHAPTER XIV. THE DELIVERANCE OF THE HOLY CITY
The preliminary moves for the attack were made during the night. The 179th Infantry Brigade group consisting of 2/13th London, 2/14th London, 2/15th London, and 2/16th London with the 2/23rd London attached, the 10th Mountain Battery and B 9 Mountain Battery, a section of the 521st Field Coy. R.E., C company of Loyal North Lancashire Pioneers, and the 2/4th Field Ambulance specially equipped on an all-mule scale, moved to the wadi Surar in two columns. The right column was preceded by an advance guard of the Kensington battalion, the Loyal North Lancashire Pioneers, and the section of R.E., which left the brigade bivouacs behind Soba at five o'clock on the afternoon of the 7th to enable the pioneers and engineers to improve a track marked on the map. For the greater part of the way the track had evidently been unused for many years, and all traces of it had disappeared, but in three hours' time a way had been made down the hill to the wadi, and the brigade got over the watercourse just north of Setaf a little after midnight. As a preliminary to the attack on the first objective it was necessary to secure the high ground south of Ain Karim and the trenches covering that bright and picturesque little town. At two o'clock, when rain and mist made it so dark it was not possible to see a wall a couple of yards ahead, the Kensingtons advanced to gain the heights south of Ain Karim in order to enable the 179th Brigade to be deployed. A scrambling climb brought the Kensingtons to the top of the hill, and, after a weird fight of an hour and a half in such blackness of night that it was hard to distinguish between friend and foe, they captured it and beat off several persistent counter-attacks. The 179th Brigade thus had the ground secured for preparing to attack their section of the main defences. The 180th Infantry Brigade, whose brigadier, Brig.-General Watson, had the honour of being the first general in Jerusalem, the first across the Jordan, and the first to get through the Turkish line in September 1918 when General Allenby sprang forward through the Turks and made the mighty march to Aleppo, was composed of the 2/17th London, 2/18th London, 2/19th London, and 2/20th London, 519th Coy. R.E., two platoons of pioneers, and the 2/5th Field Ambulance. It reached its position of assembly without serious opposition, though a detachment which went through the village of Kulonieh met some enemy posts. These, to use the brigadier's phrase, were 'silently dealt with.'
It was a fine feat to get the two brigades of Londoners into their positions of deployment well up to time. The infantry had to get from Kustul down a precipitous slope of nearly a thousand feet into a wadi, now a rushing torrent, and up a rocky and almost as steep hill on the other side. Nobody could see where he was going, but direction was kept perfectly and silence was well maintained, the loosened stones falling into mud. The assault was launched at a quarter-past five, and in ten minutes under two hours the two brigades (the 181st Brigade being in reserve just south of Kustul) had penetrated the whole of the front line of the defences. The Queen's Westminsters on the left of the Kensingtons had cleared the Turks out of Ain Karim and then climbed up a steep spur to attack the formidable Khurbet Subr defences. They took the garrison completely by surprise, and those who did not flee were either killed or taken prisoners. The Queen's Westminsters were exposed to a heavy flanking fire at a range of about a thousand yards from a tumulus south-east of Ain Karim, above the road from the village to the western suburbs of Jerusalem. Turkish riflemen were firmly dug in on this spot, and their two machine guns poured in an annoying fire on the 179th Brigade troops which threatened to hold up the attack. Indeed preparations were being made to send a company to take the tumulus hill in flank, but two gallant London Scots settled the activity of the enemy and captured the position by themselves. Corporal C.W. Train and Corporal F.S. Thornhill stalked the garrison. Corporal Train fired a rifle grenade at one machine gun, which he hit and put out of action, and then shot the whole of the gun team. Thornhill was attacking the other gun, and he, with the assistance of Train, accounted for that crew as well. The two guns were captured and Tumulus Hill gave no more trouble. Both these Scots were rewarded, and Train has the unique honour of wearing the only V.C. awarded during the capture of Jerusalem.