Classic History Books

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

another complete and absolute justification of a plan drawn up several months previously, and it is
doubtful if, supposing the Turks had succeeded in doing what their German advisers advocated, namely

forestalling our blow by a vigorous attack on our positions, there would have been any material alteration

in the working out of the scheme. The staff work of General Headquarters and of the staffs of the three

corps proved wholly sound. Each department gave of its best, and from the moment when Beersheba was

taken in a day and we secured its water supply, there was never a doubt that the enemy could be kept on

the move until we got into the rough rocky hills about Jerusalem. And by that time, as events proved, his

moral had had such a tremendous shaking that he never again made the most of his many opportunities.

The soundness of the plan can quite easily be made apparent to the unmilitary eye. Yet the Turk was
absolutely deceived as to General Allenby's intentions. If it be conceded that to deceive the enemy is one

of the greatest accomplishments in the soldier's art, it must be admitted that the battle of Gaza showed

General Allenby's consummate generalship, just as it was proved again, and perhaps to an even greater

extent, in the wonderful days of September 1918, in Northern Palestine and Syria. A glance at the map of

the Gaza-Beersheba line and the country immediately behind it will show that if a successful attack were

delivered against Gaza the enemy could withdraw his whole line to a second and supporting position

where we should have to begin afresh upon an almost similar operation. The Turk would still have his

water and would be slightly nearer his supplies.

Since the two unsuccessful attacks in March and April, Gaza had been put into a powerful state of
defence. The houses of the town are mostly on a ridge, and enclosing the place is a mass of gardens fully

a mile deep, each surrounded by high cactus hedges affording complete cover and quite impossible for

infantry to penetrate. To reduce Gaza would require a prolonged artillery bombardment with far more

batteries than General Allenby could ever expect to have at his command, and it is certain that not only

would the line in front of the town have had to be taken, but also the whole of the western end of the

Turks' trench system for a length of at least 12,000 yards. And, as has been said, with Gaza secured we

should still have had to face the enemy in a new line of positions about the wadi Hesi. Gaza was the

Turks' strongest point. To attack here would have meant a long-drawn-out artillery duel, infantry would

have had to advance over open ground under complete observation, and, while making a frontal attack,

would have been exposed to enfilade fire from the 'Tank' system of works to the south-east. It would

have proved a costly operation, its success could only have been partial in that it did not follow that we

should break the enemy's line, and it would not have enabled us to contain the remainder of the Turkish


Nor would an attack on the centre have promised more favourably. Here the enemy had all the best of the
ground. At Atawineh, Sausage Ridge, Hareira, and Teiaha there were defences supporting each other on

high ground overlooking an almost flat plain through which the wadi Ghuzze runs. All the observation

was in enemy possession, and to attack over this ground would have been inviting disaster. There was

little fear that the Turks would attack us across this wide range of No Man's Land, for we held secure

control of the curiously shaped heaps of broken earth about Shellal, and the conical hill at Fara gave an

uninterrupted view for several miles northward and eastward. The position was very different about

Beersheba. If we secured that place with its water supply, and in this dry country the battle really

amounted to a fight for water, we should be attacking from high ground and against positions which had

not been prepared on so formidable a scale as elsewhere, with the prospect of compelling the enemy to

abandon the remainder of the line for fear of being enveloped by mounted troops moving behind his

weakened left. That, in brief outline, was the gist of General Chetwode's report, and with its full

acceptance began the preparations for the advance. These preparations took several months to complete,


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