2 RUR under enemy fire, Palestine.

Thursday, 10 March, 1938
Lewis Gun in action, Palestine.©

When 2 RUR arrived in Palestine on 28 November 1937, its role was to uphold law and order and to deal with both Jew and Arab fairly and impartially. At that time, the Arab Revolt had begun. A British Royal Commission, in July 1937, had recommended the region be partitioned and, due to the Arab reaction, martial law was declared in September 1937.

The Battalion was responsible for central Palestine, or Samaria, which included the important towns of Jenin and Nablus, the latter being the responsibility of the 'Nabcol' detachment consisting of B Company with attachments of mortars, signals and medics. Nabcol was ordered to take part in an operation in the Safad district, the first time it had operated outside its own area. The night of 9/10th March was spent at Er Rama, on the Acre-Safad road. On the morning of 10 March, the company moved to the Druze village of Bayt Jann at a height of over 3,000 feet. The climb was very steep and, as the company had eight donkeys carrying ammunition, mortars and wireless, progress was slow. It was accomplished without difficulty by having frequent short halts.

When Nabcol reached Bayt Jann at 1000 hours and began to establish positions, the sound of firing was heard from Al Buquiea to the west. The company immediately concentrated and began to advance towards Al Buquiea. By this time Royal Air Force (RAF) aircraft could be seen diving over a distant wadi, and the sound of their machine guns and bombs could be clearly heard. At noon the company was about halfway between Bayt Jann and AI Buqiea when it was ordered to halt and watch for any enemy movement in its direction. At 1530 hours, the company was ordered to move back to Bayt Jann for the night. Orders were given to concentrate the widely dispersed column, but at 1555 hours the lead section came under fire and launched a red Very light. The Nabcol commander then requested air support, at the same time sending forward a platoon and the Mortar detachment to assist his lead platoon in engaging the enemy.

As Nabcol came under effective fire, one mile to the north the RAF began attacking the enemy with bombs and machine-gun fire. As Nabcol pressed forward the enemy retreated northwards and by last light no further contact was made. The company then formed a perimeter some forty yards by forty yards. A heavy frost fell, and at some three thousand feet, the Riflemen spent a miserable night dressed in overalls with only ground sheets to keep them warm. Sleep was impossible. However, dawn broke and the day was begun by 'drumming up' tea in mess tins to revive cold bodies. A search for enemy bodies revealed only bloodstains in two places, indicating that the enemy fighters had either been wounded, or killed and removed. Nabcol returned to Bayt Jann, eventually returning to Nablus by 13 March. Thus concluded the operation in which B Company 2 RUR had been under fire for the first time since the First World War.