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W.T. Massey - How Jerusalem Was Won. Allenby's Campaign in Palestine

enemy should be driven across the Jordan as soon as possible. General Allenby decided that the
operations should be carried out in two phases. The first was an easterly advance to thrust the enemy

from his position covering Jericho, to force him across the Jordan, and to obtain control of the country

west of the river. The northerly advance to secure the line of the wadi Aujah was to follow. This river

Aujah which flows into the Jordan must not be confused with the Auja on the coast already described.

The period of wet weather was prolonged, and the accumulation of supplies of rations and ammunition
did not permit of operations commencing before February 19. That they started so early is an eloquent

tribute to the hard work of the Army, for the weather by the date of the attack had improved but little,

and the task of getting up stores could only be completed by extraordinary exertions. General Chetwode

ordered a brigade of the 60th Division to capture Mukhmas as a preliminary to a concentration at that

place. On the 19th the Division occupied a front of about fourteen miles from near Muntar, close to

which the ancient road from Bethlehem to Jericho passes, through Ras Umm Deisis, across the

Jerusalem-Jericho road to Arak Ibrahim, over the great chasm of the wadi Farah which has cliff-like

sides hundreds of feet deep, to the brown knob of Ras et Tawil. The line was not gained without fighting.

The Turks did not oppose us at Muntar - the spot where the Jews released the Scapegoat - but there was a

short contest for Ibrahim, and a longer fight lasting till the afternoon for an entrenched position a mile

north of it; Ras et Tawil was ours by nine in the morning. Tawil overlooks a track which has been

trodden from time immemorial. It leads from the Jordan valley north-west of Jericho, and passes beneath

the frowning height of Jebel Kuruntul with its bare face relieved by a monastery built into the rock about

half-way up, and a walled garden on top to mark the Mount of Temptation, as the pious monks believe it

to be. The track then proceeds westwards, winding in and out of the tremendous slits in rock, to

Mukhmas, and it was probably along this rough line that the Israelites marched from their camp at Gilgal

to overthrow the Philistines. On the right of the Londoners were two brigades of the Anzac Mounted

Division, working through the most desolate hills and wadis down to the Dead Sea with a view to

pushing up by Nebi Musa, which tradition has ascribed as the burial place of Moses, and thence into the

Jordan valley. Northward of the 60th Division the 53rd was extending its flank eastwards to command

the Taiyibeh-Jericho road, and the Welsh troops occupied Rummon, a huge mount of chalk giving a good

view of the Wilderness. This was the position on the night of 19th February.

At dawn on the 20th the Londoners were to attack the Turks in three columns. The right column was to
march from El Muntar to Ekteif, the centre column to proceed along the Jerusalem-Jericho road between

the highway and the wadi Farah, and the left column was to go forward by the Tawil-Jebel Kuruntul

track. The 1st Australian Light Horse Brigade and the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade were, if

possible, to make Nebi Musa.

The infantry attack was as fine as anything done in the campaign. I had the advantage of witnessing the
centre column carry out the whole of its task and of seeing the right column complete as gallant an effort

as any troops could make, and as one saw them scale frowning heights and clamber up and down the

roughest of torrent beds, one realised that more than three months' fighting had not removed the 'bloom'

from these Cockney warriors, and that their physique and courage were proof against long and heavy

trials of campaigning. The chief objective of the centre column was Talat ed Dumm which, lying on the

Jericho road just before the junction of the old and the new road to the Jordan valley, was the key to

Jericho. It is hard to imagine a better defensive position. To the north of the road is the wadi Farah, a

great crack in the rocks which can only be crossed in a few places, and which a few riflemen could cover.

Likewise a platoon distributed behind rocks on the many hills could command the approaches from all

directions, while the hill of Talat ed Dumm, by the Good Samaritan Inn, and the height whereon the

 

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