Classic History Books

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

centres, and England deprived herself of rolling stock she badly needed, to enable her flag of freedom to
be carried (though it was not to be hoisted) through the Holy Land. And incidentally I may remark that,

with the solitary exception of a dirty little piece of Red Ensign I saw flying in the native quarter in

Jerusalem, the only British flag the people saw in Palestine and Syria was a miniature Union Jack carried

on the Commander-in-Chief's motor car and by his standard-bearer when riding. Thus did the British

Army play the game, for some of the Allied susceptibilities might have been wounded if the people had

been told (though indeed they knew it) that they were under the protection of the British flag. They had

the most convincing evidence, however, that they were under the staunch protection of the British Army.

The doubling of the railway track went on apace. To save pressure at the Alexandria docks and on the

Egyptian State railway, which, giving some of its rolling stock and, I think, the whole of its reserve of

material for the use of the military line east of the Canal, was worked to its utmost capacity, and also to

economise money by saving railway freights, wharves were built on the Canal at Kantara, and as many

as six ocean-going steamers could be unloaded there at one time. By and by a railway bridge was thrown

over the Canal, and when the war was over through trains could be run from Cairo to Jerusalem and

Haifa. Kantara grew into a wonderful town with several miles of Canal frontage, huge railway sidings

and workshops, enormous stores of rations for man and horse, medical supplies, ordnance and

ammunition dumps, etc. Probably the enemy knew all about this vast base. Any one on any ship passing

through the Canal could see the place, and it is surprising, and it certainly points to a lack of enterprise on

the part of the Germans, that no attempt was made to bomb Kantara by the super-Zeppelin which in

November 1917 left its Balkan base and got as far south as the region of Khartoum on its way to East

Africa, before being recalled by wireless. This same Zeppelin was seen about forty miles from Port Said

and a visit by it was anticipated. Aeroplanes with experienced pilots and armed with the latest

anti-Zeppelin devices were stationed at Port Said and Aboukir ready to ascend on any moonlight night

when the hum of aerial motor machinery could be heard. The super-Zeppelin never came and Kantara's

progress was unchecked.

The doubled railway track was laid as far as El Arish by the time operations commenced, and this was a
great aid to the railway staff. Every engine and truck was used to its fullest capacity, and an enormous

amount of time was saved by the abolition of passing stations for some ninety miles of the line's length.

Railhead was at Deir el Belah, about eight miles short of Gaza, and here troops and an army of Egyptian

labourers were working night and day, week in week out, off-loading trucks with a speed that enabled the

maximum amount of service to be got out of rolling stock. There were large depots down the line too. At

Rafa there was a big store of ammunition, and at Shellal large quantities not only of supplies but of

railway material were piled up in readiness for pushing out railhead immediately the advance began. A

Decauville, or light, line ran out towards Gamli from Shellal to make the supply system easier, and I

remember seeing some Indian pioneers lay about three miles of light railway with astonishing rapidity

the day after we took Beersheba. Every mile the line advanced meant time saved in getting up supplies,

and the radius of action of lorries, horse, and camel transport was considerably increased.

To supply the Gaza front we called in aid a small system of light railways. From the railhead at Deir el
Belah to the mouth of the wadi Ghuzze, and from that point along the line of the wadi to various places

behind the line held by us, we had a total length of 21 kilometres of light railway. Before this railway got

into full operation horses had begun to lose condition, and during the summer ammunition-column

officers became very anxious about their horses. The light railway was almost everywhere within range

of the enemy's guns, and in some places it was unavoidably exposed, particularly where it ran on the

banks of the wadi due south of Gaza. I recollect while the track was being laid speaking to an Australian


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