World War I Battlefield Exposed in Israel

Findings testifying to the fierce fighting between the British and Ottoman forces were exposed in the center of Israel.

Dozens of bullet cartridges, shell fragments, and military items from World War I testifying to the fierce battles fought between the British and Ottoman armies were recently exposed in an archaeological excavation by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) near Rosh Ha’ayin, in the center of the country.

Representatives of the IAA and young volunteers, who participated in the excavation, presented the findings to the Defence Attaché in the British embassy in Israel, Colonel Ronnie Westerman, and the chairman of the Society for the Heritage of World War I in Israel Eran Tearosh.

The first rifle cartridge was discovered by a member of the Melach Ha’aretz pre-military preparatory program, a project participant.

“I was surprised to discover that it was a rifle cartridge, and I was even more surprised when it turned out to be a World War I cartridge,” Yossi Elisha, director of the excavation on behalf of the IAA, said. “As archaeologists we expect to discover ancient finds from hundreds and thousands of years ago, whereas here we have a relatively ‘young’ one hundred year old artifact, but we were all drawn to the fascinating story of the battle.”

In addition to the various military items discovered, two Ottoman military outposts were exposed. One was located inside an ancient field tower and the other was adjacent to an agricultural terrace.

A fragment of a British army cap insignia was discovered at one of the outposts and was identified as belonging to the Norfolk Regiment.

“Finding the British cap insignia inside the Ottoman outpost vividly illustrates the historical event,” said Assaf Peretz, a researcher at the IAA.

The fighting on this site was part of the Battle of Megiddo that took place on September 19, 1918. Two battalions of the British Norfolk Regiment attacked the ridge where the excavated site is located in order to assist another battalion that attacked the Ottoman fortifications

A Brutal Clash

Alexander Glick, a weapons expert at the IAA, reconstructed the battlefield in accordance with the finds.

“The British forces shelled the Turkish positions with their 18-pounder guns, which were the standard field artillery piece in the British Army during World War I. Fragments of artillery shells and shrapnel balls were found in the excavation. It seems that the Turkish forces sustained serious casualties from this barrage. Nevertheless, they responded with massive light arms fire aimed at the British forces, as can be seen from the bullet cartridges of the Mauser rifles that were discovered in the Turkish positions. It is interesting to note that the rifles and cartridges were manufactured in Germany and were supplied shortly before the battle, evidence that the Turks were dependent upon their German allies for weapons and ammunition,” Glick explained.

The battle, known as the Battle of Sharon, was fought between 19 and 25 of September 1918 and began the Battle of Megiddo. The UK’s Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF) XXI Corps with the French brigade Détachment Français de Palestine et de Syrie attacked the Ottoman’s Yildirim Army Group Eighth XXII Corps and German Asia Corps.

By: Aryeh Savir, World Israel News