M.C (GV) reverse engraved ‘George Herbert Whyte Before Jerusalem Decr 8th 1917″, 1914 Star (Haden Guest Unit), B.W.M., Victory (Lieut.)
George Herbert Whyte
Together with his original book ‘Reincarnation, A Riddle to the Key of Life’ written whilst in military hospital following a fall into a ravine in the Balkans in 1917 and published following his death.
M.C. L.G. 24/08/1918 (Operations before Jerusalem 7-8/12/1917 according to Battalion records) prior to it’s surrender the following day 9/12/1917.
‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. Whilst acting as a company commander, the capture of the first objective, in the face oh heavy machine gun fire, was chiefly due to his determination and skilful leadership. Quickly grasping the situation, he at once pushed on to his second objective, the capture of which was also largely due to his initiative and dash. He exhibited soldierly qualities of a high order, and set a splendid example to his men.’
From Battalion sources
“Liver and Heart Redoubts
For the next week, the battalion would again rest before, on the evening of 7th/8th December, they started moving up to their positions in preparation for the attack on Jerusalem. The two defensive strong points of Liver and Heart Redoubts were vitally important in enabling the capture of Jerusalem and their capture was entrusted to 2/18th Battalion. After capturing Liver Redoubt at 0545 hours, they only took a further 30 minutes to capture the second objective. The three other infantry battalions of 180th Brigade were all involved in assaults to the right of 2/18th Battalion and the divisional actions that day would be completed by a bayonet charge. These successful assaults would cause all the Turkish forces in the area to hastily retire from their defensive positions and led to an immediate withdrawal from Jerusalem.
Entry into Jerusalem
The following morning, on 9th December, the 180th Brigade Commander, Brigadier CF Watson would accept the surrender of Jerusalem from its Mayor near the Jaffa Gate. In stark contrast to this glorious event, the war diaries of 2/18th Battalion noted that the Battalion HQ was established that night “in an old tomb”. Two days later, General Allenby would make his formal entry into the city, one that has historic resonance to this day.”
Lieut Whyte was killed in action some 2 weeks later on the 23rd leading his company in the assault on the heights at Kherbet Adasseh
From the same source
In the course of five weeks, the battalion had passed from the great heat and water scarcity of the desert to days and nights of continuous rain and it had now become bitterly cold. The area north of Jerusalem was a nightmare of rocky hills and no frontline was obvious. Some of the high points were held by the Turks, others not. One of the highest hills, midway between each Army’s position and thought to contain an enemy observation post, was one called Kherbet Adasseh. On 18th December, a failed attempt had been made by the battalion to take Kherbet Adasseh before, on the night of 22nd/23rd December, the 2/18th Battalion was again ordered to take and hold the position.
The following hours were a tale of almost complete disaster for the battalion. Only one out of 14 officers would return and the battalion strength of nearly 700 would be reduced to 130.
One of those killed at Kherbet Adasseh was Lt Whyte MC. In his last letter home to his wife Ethel in London on 18th December, he had written in a typically understated soldierly manner: “These last days have been pretty strenuous, and now that we are slack and more of less waiting for a few days, there is an inevitable reaction…”
It later emerged that two fresh Turkish divisions had recently arrived from Anatolia in preparation for an attempt to retake Jerusalem and it was these that the 2/18th Battalion had unexpectedly crashed into on the morning of 23rd December. A further unfortunate additional coda to the events at Kherbet Adasseh was that, when Battalion Chaplain Hickey helped to collect bodies a week later, he had noted that “practically every corpse had been stripped naked” and later it was found that some of Turkish dead were found “wearing uniforms and clothing taken from men of the London Irish.” A most regrettable outcome.
Born in Weston Super Mare in 1878 into a family of Theosophists and for a number of years was assistant manager of the Theosophist Publishing House in London. In 1908 , Whyte established the International oder of the Round Table, with his wife as co-founder. He was Senior Knight until his death in 1917. A pacifist, teetotal, non-smoking vegetarian Whyte volunteered on the outbreak of war to the Haden Guest Unit becoming one of the 62 to earn a 1914 Star. In 1915 faced with the realities of war he retuned to London and enrolled with the Inns of Court OTC and awarded his commission in the 2/18th London Regiment (London Irish Rifles).
Extract from his last letter home referring to the forthcoming fall of Jerusalem on the 9th.
‘I am taking the chance of a quiet half hour before I go off to reconnoitre for the attack this afternoon. These operations should lead to the capture of Jerusalem . I shall be in command of my company and the soldier side of me is proud of the honour, because we have the priviledge of being one of the leading companies. If I fall, it will be a soldier’s end, and a fitting onefor the Senior Knight of the Round Table. I have thought of things from a rather detached point of view …Nothing can come of us which is not in the Plan, and so I face whatever may come with complete equanimity…I shall be with you often…I know that love is deathless.’