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Dmitry Yudo aka Overlord, jack of all trades
David Lister aka Listy, Freelancer and Volunteer

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Best Laid Plans

A few weeks ago I covered an action of C Coy, 6th Battalion, Royal Tank Regiment in 1936 when deployed to Palestine for the Arab Revolt. Well the file that came had several other reports, so here's more accounts from those actions.

During the start of June the Jewish settlement of Ben Sherman had been repeatedly attacked by snipers. The Arabs normally used a wooded hill to the north of Ben Sherman, and then fired upon the town. The attackers were presumed to be from the settlement of Lydda.
To prevent these attacks a plan was drawn up. A subsection of two MKIII Light Tanks would take up position to the west of the colony. Upon an attack being launched they would move up to a Wadi short of the wood and open fire. This would force the attackers either to head south into the colony, where a force of infantry would be stationed, or to try to flee over open ground to the south east, which was covered by another two tanks.
The tricky part of the plan was getting four tanks into position unobserved and camouflaging them. Both sub-sections made wide detours to reach the area, hoping the Arabs very good intelligence network wouldn't warn the locals. One subsection made a normal road march then as darkness fell turned off the road in the middle of nowhere.
After 2.5 km it reached a Wadi which then took half an hour to find a crossing point to use, it also successfully navigated irrigated fields, and cactus hedges up to 12 feet high. They even encountered one electrified fence. This subsection was in position only ten minutes late, had covered 6 km in just over an hour though very dense and difficult terrain. However both subsections of tanks were in position and camouflaged very well, as you will see.
On the 12th of June three Arab snipers were spotted crawling through the maize field, the same one in which one of the subsections was camouflaged! They were coming from the village of Beit Nabala to the west, not Lydda to the north. This of course caused some issues with the British plan, as the route of advance for the Arabs was directly over the British position. The three Arabs carried on crawling closer and closer. Eventually they reached a point about 30 yards away, luckily this was the closest their course took them. This scout party was allowed to pass to ensure the British caught the main body of attackers.

 Shortly afterwards the main body of attackers was seen advancing on Ben Sherman. At the sight of the main body one of the NCO's in the subsection used his radio to warn the other tanks. However the noise of the radio and the NCO's voice gave the position away, the Arabs were that close and the tanks that well camouflaged. Immediately the Arabs took the tanks under fire, who quickly replied with their machine guns. The Arabs fired 21 rounds and the tanks 117. After this brief fire fight the Arabs dispersed and were never caught.

The original map submitted by the commanding officer in his report to describe the action
On 15th of July a section of three light tanks was escorting a patrol of infantry in the same area when it came under attack. This patrol had a 3" Stokes Mortar with it which opened fire immediately, however, this was before the enemy positions had been located, and caused the Arabs to immediately disengage. They were pursued by the tanks and although the Arabs positions were overrun, no enemy casualties were caused as the area is criss-crossed with old Roman ruins and caves, giving the Arabs plenty of cover to break contact,. So despite fleeting glimpses of Arabs none were caught. During the patrols around the area one of the tank commanders was badly injured, when his foot became stuck between a turret control pedal and the wall of the turret. As this happened the gun caught on a tree as the tank drove past. The tree forced the turret to rotate wrenching the leg of the commander. This left the man in hospital for two months.

Image credits:
http://www.aviarmor.net and http://www.oocities.org