Transjordan Frontier Force

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Trans Jordan Frontier Force units. Photo taken in 1934-1939

The Transjordan Frontier Force was formed, on 1 April 1926, as a para-military border guard to defend Trans-Jordan's northern and southern borders. The TJFF was also an Imperial Service regiment whose Imperial Service soldiers agreed to serve wherever required and not just within the borders of their own colony, protectorate or, in the case of the Transjordan, mandate. This was in contrast to the Arab Legion, which was seen more as an internal security militia, deriving from the troops of the Arab Revolt and closely associated with the Hashemite cause. The Amir Abdullah was an Honorary Colonel of the Trans-Jordan Frontier Force from its inception.

History[edit]

The Transjordan Frontier Force (TJFF) was established at Sarafand on 1 April 1926 with a cadre drawn from the Arab Legion and quickly grew to three cavalry squadrons, each of 120 men each, and an infantry unit. Its first commander was Lieutenant-Colonel FW Bewsher, DSO, OBE, MC,Other units, such as a camel squadron and mechanised units, were added subsequently.

The TJFF would be equipped in a conventional manner, with modern weapons, whilst the Arab Legion would, initially, remain a traditional force, looser in structure and without training in alien technology. Accordingly, the Arab Legion transferred its inventory of machine guns, artillery, and radios.

The TJFF replaced the disbanded British Gendarmerie which previously had the task of protecting Transjordan's borders.

In the post-war era, with the independence of the Transjordan and of Palestine looming, there was no longer a requirement for an Imperial Service unit in the region. On 9 February 1948 the 3,000 man Trans-Jordan Frontier Force was disbanded and most of its members transferred to the Arab Legion.

Organization[edit]

The TJFF served under Headquarters, British Forces in Palestine and Trans-Jordan, from 3 Sep 1939 till 9 Feb 1948. The O.C. TJFF was a British lieutenant colonel, with Headquarters at Zerqa. Second-in-command was a British major, responsible for administration, workshops, quartermaster's stores and pay. The adjutant, another British major, was responsible for training and personnel and was aided by an assistant adjutant who was an Arab officer.

The squadrons and companies were all commanded by British majors, with another British officer as second-in-command. The cavalry squadrons were organised into three rifle troops (36 men) and one machine gun troop (36 rifles and 4 MGs). The normal tactical and reconnaissance unit however, was the half-squadron or half-company and these were commanded by local captains. Each half-squadron or company consisted of two troops, led by local lieutenants and captains.

By the end of 1927 there were 39 officers, including 17 British, 12 British warrant officers, three staff sergeants and 676 other ranks. In 1930 there were 17 British officers, two in each of the four squadrons and companies with the remainder at Force HQ. In 1935 there were 24 British officers - the OC, seven majors and sixteen captains.

The TJFF spent its first six months training in Palestine at Sarafand then at Shunet Nimrinfrom (from October 1926) in the Jordan Valley. TJFF HQ moved to Zerqa east of the Jordan River in Trans-Jordan. The cavalry squadrons were based at Zerqa and the camel company was based at Ma'an. In 1929, the TJFF was called upon to help deal with Arab unrest in Palestine. The camel company moved to Jericho and a cavalry squadron went to Jisr el Majamie. A second cavalry squadron was raised and dispatched as reinforcement in early 1930.

In 1930, the mechanised company, based at Ma'an, was formed and later that year the camel companies were disbanded. Motorisation extended the range of the TJFF further out into the desert. In 1930 the TJFF had 980 men, including 28 Jews.

Officers Commanding[edit]

  • Lieutenant-Colonel FW Bewsher, DSO, OBE, MC, 1 April 1926 to 1928
  • Major (local Lt-Col) CA Shute, CBE, Indian Army, previously second-in-command. 1928 to 1933
  • Major (local Lieutenant-Colonel) CH Miller, 13/18th Hussars, 1933 to 1936
  • Lt Col JI Chrystall, 1936 to May-40
  • Lt Col PL Wilson, May 1940 to 1946
  • Colonel JW Hackett, Jr (later General Sir John Hackett) former OC of 4th Parachute Brigade which fought at Sicily, Taranto and Arnhem), 1946 to 9 February 1948. J Hackett was previously seconded to TJFF from 1937-1941.

TJFF Units[edit]

HQ Wing, 1 Apr 1926 till 9 Feb 194848

A Squadron (cavalry), 1 Apr 1926 till 1 Jan 1941

B Squadron (cavalry), 1-Apr-26 till 1 Jan 1941

C Squadron (cavalry), 1-Apr-26 till 1 Jan 1941

Camel Company, 1 Apr 1926 till 1930, replaced by Mechanised coy

D Company (Mechanised), 1930 till Feb 1941, Based at the H4 pumping station on the Iraq Petroleum Company pipeline

E Company (Mechanised), 1933 till Feb 1941

Line of Communication Squadron, Feb 1941 till May-41, raised to protect the Baghdad-Haifa Road, reformed as L Coy in 1st Mech Regt May 1941

Mobile Guard Squadron, 1 May 1941 till 9 Feb 1948, formed to replace Line of Communication Squadron in May 1941 and to take over the line of communication duties

By 1929 there were also four Troops of Reservists

TJFF Regiments

1st Cavalry (Horsed) Regiment, 1 Jan 1941 till 9 Feb 1948, based at Jisr el Majamie with A, B, and C Squadrons (Cavalry)

1st Mechanised Regiment, Feb 1941 till 9 Feb 1948, based at Irbid with D, E, and L Squadrons (Mechanised)

Ethnicity[edit]

Arab peasants called fellahin from rural villages made up around 70 percent of the other ranks and there were some Sudanese in the camel company before 1930 when the company was replaced by a mechanised company. Jews and town Arabs, being better educated, served in the technical and administrative posts. By 1935 just under 25 percent of the Force were Circassians (a small ethnic, Muslim minority living in Trans-Jordan). The senior commanders were all British Army officers, however junior officers were Arabs, Circassians, Sudanese and a few Jews.

References[edit]

  • Roubicek, Marcel, Echo of the Bugle, extinct military and constabulary forces in Palestine and Trans-Jordan 1915,1967, Franciscan (Jerusalem 1974)
  • P.J. Vatikiotis, (1967). Politics and the Military in Jordan: A Study of the Arab Legion, 1921–1957, New York, Praeger Publishers. ISBN
  • The Arab Legion (Men-at-arms) (Paperback) by Peter Young, 48 pages, Osprey Publishing (15 Jun 1972) ISBN 0-85045-084-5 and ISBN 978-0-85045-084-2
  • Farndale, Sir Martin, History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery, The Years of Defeat, 1939–41, Brassey’s (1996)
  • Dupuy, Trevor N, Elusive Victory, The Arab-Israeli Wars, 1947–1974, Hero (1984)
  • Glubb, John Bagot, The Arab Legion, Hodder & Stoughton, London (1948)
  • Pal, Dharm, Official History of the Indian Armed in the Second World War, 1939-45 - Campaign in Western Asia, Orient Longmans (1957)
  • A. Isseroff, Kfar Etzion Remembered: A history of Gush Etzion and the Massacre of Kfar Etzion, 2005.
  • I. Levi, Jerusalem in the War of Independence ("Tisha Kabin" – Nine Measures – in Hebrew) Maarachot – IDF, Israel Ministry of Defence, 1986. ISBN 965-05-0287-4
  • Jordan – A Country Study, US Library of Congress

External links[edit]