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

and we knew that what we saw and heard of were but fragments in the silent records of great things done.
Much that was accomplished was far behind our visual range, high up over the bleak hills of Judea,

above even the rain clouds driven across the heights by the fury of a winter gale, or skimming over the

dull surface of the Dead Sea, flying some hundreds of feet below sea level to interrupt the passage of

foodstuffs of which the Turk stood in need.

All through the Army's rapid march northwards from the crushed Gaza-Beersheba line the airmen's
untiring work was of infinite value. When the Turkish retreat began the enemy was bombed and

machine-gunned for a full week, the railway, aerodromes, troops on the march, artillery, and transport

being hit time and again, and five smashed aeroplanes and a large quantity of aircraft stores of every

description were found at Menshiye alone. The raid on that aerodrome was so successful that at night the

Germans burnt the whole of the equipment not destroyed by bombs. Three machines were also destroyed

by us at Et Tineh, five at Ramleh and one at Ludd, and the country was covered with the debris of a

well-bombed and beaten army. After Jerusalem came under the safe protection of our arms airmen

harassed the retiring enemy with bombs and machine guns. The wind was strong, but defying treacherous

eddies, the pilots came through the valleys between steep-sloped hills and caught the Turks on the

Nablus road, emptying their bomb racks at a height of a few hundred feet, and giving the scattered troops

machine-gun fire on the return journey.

A glance at the list of honours bestowed on officers and other ranks of the R.F.C. serving with the
Egyptian Expeditionary Force in 1917 is sufficient to give an idea of the efficiency of the service of our

airmen. It must be remembered that the Palestine Wing was small, if thoroughly representative of the

Flying Corps; its numbers were few but the quality was there. Indeed I heard the Australian squadron of

flying men which formed part of the Wing described by the highest possible authority as probably the

finest squadron in the whole of the British service. This following list of honours is, perhaps, the most

eloquent testimony to the airmen's work in Palestine:

Victoria Cross . . . . . 1
Distinguished Service Order . . . 4

Military Cross . . . . . 34

Croix de Guerre . . . . 2

Military Medal . . . . . 1

Meritorious Service Medal . . . 14

Order of the Nile . . . . 2

The sum total of the R.F.C. work was not to be calculated merely from death and damage caused to the
enemy from the air. Strategical and tactical reconnaissances formed a large part of the daily round, and

the reports brought in always added to our Army's store of information. In Palestine, possibly to a greater

extent than in any other theatre of war, our map-makers had to rely on aerial photographs to supply them

with the details required for military maps. The best maps we had of Palestine were those prepared by

Lieutenant H.H. Kitchener, R.E., and Lieutenant Conder in 1881 for the Palestine Exploration Fund.

They were still remarkably accurate so far as they went, but 'roads,' to give the tracks a description to

which they were not entitled, had altered, and villages had disappeared, and newer and additional

information had to be supplied. The Royal Flying Corps - it had not yet become the Royal Air Force -

furnished it, and all important details of hundreds of square miles of country which survey parties could

not reach were registered with wonderful accuracy by aerial photographers.

 

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