The action of El Mughar, 13 November 1917, was part of the wider battle of Junction Station, which saw the British capture the railway junction that linked the Turkish Seventh Army around Jerusalem with the Eighth Army on the coast.
The original plan had been for the infantry of XXI corps to capture the villages of El Mughar and Katrah, west of Junction Station. By early morning the 52nd Division had reached those positions, but had been unable to make progress. The same was true of the cavalry attack further north, which also came to a halt against strong Turkish positions.
At 2.30 pm it was decided to try a cavalry attack on the position at El Mughar. The Turkish position was a ridge than ran north from the Wadi Mughar, with the village of El Mughar at the southern end of the ridge. It was a well chosen position, and the Turks were well entrenched on the ridgeline, but barbed wire was in short supply, and the trenches at El Mughar were unwired.
The attack was made by two cavalry regiments – the Buckinghamshire Yeomanry and the Dorset Yeomanry, supported by the Berkshire Battery of the Royal Horse Artillery, six machine guns, with the Berkshire Yeomanry in reserve and help from a field artillery brigade of the 52nd Division.
The attack began at 3.00 pm. The attacking forces had to cross 3,000 yards of open ground, sloping up towards the ridgeline. After trotting for the first 2,000 yards, the cavalry galloped across the last 1,000 yards, and soon gained their objectives on top of the hill. The long uphill advance took its toll on the cavalry horses, preventing a pursuit down the eastern side of the hill.
Further south El Mughar village remained in Turkish hands. It was attacked by two battalions from the 52nd Division and the dismounted Berkshires. Fighting continued until 5 p.m. when the village was in British hands.
The victory at El Mughar helped to clear the way to Junction Station, which fell on the next day. The three cavalry regiments involved lost 16 dead and 114 wounded, as well as 265 horses (one third of the total). The heaviest losses amongst the horses were suffered by the Dorsets, after they dismounted, losing the advantage of speed. The Turks lost 400 dead and 1,100 captured.
The attack at El Mughar was only one of a series of cavalry charges that were a feature of the campaign in Palestine. The British army in Palestine had an overwhelming advantage in cavalry (mostly from Australia and New Zealand although the regiments that fought at El Mughar were all English). They were also helped by a general lack of barbed wire on the Turkish side, which allowed the cavalry to keep up the momentum of its charge right into the Turkish lines.
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