Archaeologists have discovered bullet cartridges, shell fragments and military items used during the First World War in Israel – evidence of fierce battles between the British and Ottoman armies. In addition to these items, two military outposts were also discovered that were used by the Ottoman army. One was located inside an ancient field tower and the other was adjacent to an agricultural terrace.
“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,” said Yossi Elisha, director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
“These finds constitute evidence of one of the major battles that was fought in Palestine between the British forces and the Turkish forces during the First World War,” said Elisha. At the beginning of the excavation, a fragment of a British army cap insignia was discovered at one of the outposts, and next to it were bullets and Ottoman rifle cartridges.
“It was extremely exciting, because this is concrete evidence of the fighting between the forces in the area,” said Assaf Peretz, researcher at the Israel Antiquities Authority.
“Our excitement increased even more when we identified the name of the unit to which the soldier belonged whose insignia was found – the Norfolk Regiment,” Peretz said.
“The fighting on this site was part of the Battle of Megiddo that took place on September 19, 1918,” he said.
Two battalions, 1/4 and 1/5 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.
“Finding the British cap insignia inside the Ottoman outpost vividly illustrates the historical event,” Peretz said.
“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,” said Alexander Glick, a weapons expert at the Israel Antiquities Authority.
“Fragments of artillery shells and shrapnel balls were found in the excavation. It seems that the Turkish forces sustained serious casualties from this barrage,” said Glick.
“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,” he said.
“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,” he added.