Battle Honour JERUSALEM.

Wed, 12/12/1917
General Allenby at the steps of the Citadel (entrance to David's Tower) listening to the reading of the Proclamation of Occupation in seven languages on the day of his official entry to Jerusalem, 11th December 1917.

During the month-long Third Battle of Gaza, the Turkish defensive line along the Gaza-Beersheba road was breached in the first week of November. From then on, the enemy was in retreat, but General Allenby’s pursuit was hampered by water supply problems. Nevertheless, Allenby split the Turkish army in two following an action some 20 miles to the west of Jerusalem and forced its parts to retreat east and north. The culmination of the Third Battle of Gaza would be the fall of Jerusalem. The event would be marked by the distinction JERUSALEM, a Battle Honour that was awarded to our antecedent regiments and is emblazoned on the King's Colour of The Royal Irish Regiment.

BH JerusalemThe 10th (Irish) Division, including the 6th Battalion The Royal Irish Rifles (6 RIR), had arrived in theatre via Egypt in early October from the malarial infested Struma Valley of Salonika. The Battalion’s training for the Third Battle of Gaza began in Rafa, Palestine on 5 October and by early December 6 RIR and 7 RIR were together supporting 29 Brigade in the front line north of Jerusalem. Their task was to escort parties of refugees southwards and on 9 December, Jerusalem fell. Local native prophets had predicted that when the Nile flowed to the holy city, a great king from the west would drive out the Ottoman Turks. But it was Allenby, with his fresh water pipe line following, that fulfilled their prophecies.

On 12 December 1917, 6 RIR relieved the 2nd Battalion The Royal Irish Fusiliers at Suffa and for the first time found itself on the front line. Wet weather made the tracks impassable and 36 hours of continuous dry weather would be needed before they could support traffic for any advance by Allenby. As Christmas approached, the Riflemen, surviving on scanty rations, were less than 20 miles from Bethlehem and living in outposts on the bleak and stony hills with little or no shelter from the weather. Away to their right flank was Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives and beyond that Jericho and the Hill of Temptation. To their front lay Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee. Ironically, there was little in their conditions to remind them of traditional seasonal celebrations, save these biblical names, and their thoughts must have been with their families as Christmas drew near.

It would not be until 27 December that 29 Brigade would advance to attack the Turks with the 6th Battalion The Royal Irish Rifles, the 5th Battalion The Connaught Rangers and the 1st Battalion The Leinster Regiment. Despite heavy Turkish machine-gun fire and difficulties with supporting artillery fire, the Brigade seized its objectives around 1020 hours. The 6 RIR casualties amounted to one officer and one man killed with one officer and eight men wounded. This would be the Battalion's last action of 1917.