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

Crusader ruins stand, dominated a broad flat across which our troops must move. This position the 180th
Brigade attacked at dawn. The guns opened before the sun appeared above the black crest line of the

mountains of Moab, and well before long shadows were cast across the Jordan valley the batteries were

tearing to pieces the stone walls and rocky eyries sheltering machine-gunners and infantry. This

preliminary bombardment, if short, was wonderfully effective. From where I stood I saw the heavies

pouring an unerring fire on to the Crusader Castle, huge spurts of black smoke, and the dislocation of big

stones which had withstood the disintegrating effect of many centuries of sun power, telling the Forward

Observing Officer that his gunners were well on the target and that to live in that havoc the Turks must

seek the shelter of vaults cut deep down in the rock by masons of old. No enemy could delay our

progress from that shell-torn spot. Lighter guns searched other positions and whiffs of shrapnel kept

Turks from their business. There are green patches on the western side of Talat ed Dumm in the early

months of the year before the sun has burned up the country. Over these the infantry advanced as laid

down in the book. The whirring rap-rap of machine guns at present unlocated did not stop them, and as

our machine-gun sections, ever on the alert to keep down rival automatic guns, found out and sprayed the

nests, the enemy was seen to be anxious about his line of retreat. One large party, harried by shrapnel and

machine-gun fire, left its positions and rushed towards a defile, but rallied and came back, though when it

reoccupied its former line the Londoners had reached a point to enfilade it, and it suffered heavily. We

soon got this position, and then our troops, ascending some spurs, poured a destructive fire into the defile

and so harassed the Turks re-forming for a counterattack as to render feeble their efforts to regain what

they had lost.

By eight o'clock we had taken the whole of the Talat ed Dumm position, and long-range sniping
throughout the day did not disturb our secure possession of it. Immediately the heights were occupied the

guns went ahead to new points, and armoured cars left the road to try to find a way to the south-east to

protect the flank of the right column. They had a troublesome journey. Some of the crews walked well

ahead of the cars to reconnoitre the tracks, and it speaks well for the efficiency of the cars as well as for

the pluck and cleverness of the drivers that in crossing a mile or two of that terribly broken mountainous

country no car was overturned and all got back to the road without mishap.

Throughout the night and during the greater part of the day of February 20 the right column were fighting
under many difficulties. In their march from the hill of Muntar they had to travel over ground so cracked

and strewn with boulders that in many parts the brigade could only proceed in single file. In some places

the track chosen had a huge cleft in the mountain on one side and a cliff face on the other. It was a

continual succession of watercourses and mountains, of uphill and downhill travel over the most uneven

surface in the blackness of night, and it took nearly eight hours to march three miles. The nature of the

country was a very serious obstacle and the column was late in deploying for attack. But bad as was the

route the men had followed during the night, it was easy as compared with the position they had set out

to carry. This was Jebel Ekteif, the southern end of the range of hills of which Talat ed Dumm was the

northern. Ekteif presented to this column a face as precipitous as Gibraltar and perhaps half as high.

There was a ledge running round it about three-quarters of the way from the top, and for hours one could

see the Turks lying flat on this rude path trying to pick off the intrepid climbers attempting a precarious

ascent. Some mountain guns suddenly ranged on the enemy on this ledge, and, picking up the range with

remarkable rapidity, forced the Turks into more comfortable positions. The enemy, too, had some

well-served guns, and they plastered the spurs leading to the crest from the west, but our infantry's

audacity never faltered, and after we had got into the first lines on the hill our men proceeded

methodically to rout out the machine guns from their nooks and crannies. This was a somewhat lengthy

 

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