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5th Light Horse Battle of Nablus

19 SEP 1918: World War I and the 5th Light Horse Brigade captures Nablus in Palestine some fifty kilometres north of Jerusalem. Nablus fell to the Australians during the final period of the war against Turkey. British Empire troops also made impressive advances and destroyed several Turkish armies between the Mediterranean coast and the Jordan River. Nablus, the action following the British breakthrough at Sharon on 19 September 1918 which saw the Turkish Seventh Army under Mustafa Kemal (later known as Kemal Attatürk) put to flight and forced to male a hasty and costly retreat north-east across the Jordan. After creating the gap in the Turkish defences on the coastal plain for the cavalry to pass through, the British 21st Corps wheeled north-east towards the hills to attack Tul Keram which contained the headquarters of the already overwhelmed Turkish Eighth Army. The left flank of this advance was protected and pressed ahead by the 5th Light Horse Brigade under Brigadier General George Macarthur-Onslow. Passing north of the town, the task of cleaning out the pockets of resistance was left to the infantry and the light horsemen concentrated on the column of Turks fleeing east along the road to Anebta and Nablus. By 1800hrs the Australians had captured 2,000 prisoners and fifteen guns.

Moving during the early hours of 20 September, Macarthur-Onslow’s brigade pressed on across the trackless hills northeast of Tul Keram. The purpose was to reach Ajjeh, a point on the railway line running north to Jenin, and to destroy the track to cut off this avenue of escape for Turks in the area around Samaria and Nablus. By 0700 the leading Australian elements had achieved this objective. After re-assembling at Tul Keram, the 5th Brigade was ordered to resume an easterly advance the next morning down the road from Anebta towards Nablus. Troops from several British infantry divisions were already moving up against these places from the south, so that the route of the Australian horsemen effectively brought them in upon the enemy rear. Enemy resistance – already weakened by masses of troops in disorganised flight – quickly began to collapse in the face of this vice-like movement, so that by nightfall the Seventh Army was in full retreat. Photo: Australian Light Horse waits outside Nablus.

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