Classic History Books


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

in charge of a gang of natives preparing an earthwork, and asked why it was that a trench was dug before
earth was piled up. He pointed to the hill of Ali Muntar, the most prominent feature in the enemy's

system, and said that from the Turks' observation post on that eminence every movement of the labourers

could be seen, and the men were often forced by gunfire to the refuge of the trenches.

When the railway was in running order trains had to run the gauntlet of shell-fire on this section on bright
moonlight nights, and no camouflage could hide them. But they worked through in a marvellously

orderly and efficient fashion, and on one day when our guns were hungry this little line carried 850 tons

of ammunition to the batteries. The horses became fit and strong and were ready for the war to be carried

into open country. In christening their tiny puffing locomotives the Tommy drivers showed their strong

appreciation of their comrades on the sea, and the 'Iron Duke' and 'Lion' were always tuned up to haul a

maximum load. But the pride of the engine yard was the 'Jerusalem Cuckoo' - some prophetic eye must

have seen its future employment on the light line between Jerusalem and Ramallah - though in popularity

it was run close by the 'Bulfin-ch,' a play upon the name of the Commander of the XXIst Corps, for

which it did sterling service.

The Navy formed part of the picture as well. Some small steamers of 1000 to 1500 tons burden came up
from Port Said to a little cove north of Belah to lighten the railway's task. They anchored about 150 yards

off shore and a crowd of boats passed backwards and forwards with stores. These were carried up the

beach to trucks on a line connected with the supply depots, and if you wished to see a busy scene where

slackers had no place the Belah beach gave it you. The Army tried all sorts of boatmen and labourers.

There were Kroo boys who found the Mediterranean waters a comparative calm after the turbulent surf

on their own West African shore. The Maltese were not a success. The Egyptians were, both here and

almost everywhere else where their services were called for. The best of all the fellows on this beach,

however, were the Raratongas from the Cook Islands, the islands from which the Maoris originally came.

They were first employed at El Arish, where they made it a point of honour to get a job done well and

quickly, and, on a given day, it was found that thirty of them had done as much labourers' work as 170

British soldiers. They were men of fine physical strength and endurance, and some one who knew they

had the instincts of sportsmen, devised a simple plan to get the best out of them. He presented a small

flag to be won each day by the crew accomplishing the best work with the boats. The result was amazing.

Every minute the boats were afloat the Raratongas strained their muscles to win the day's competition,

and when the day's task was ended the victorious crew marched with their flag to their camp, singing a

weird song and as proud as champions. Some Raratongas worked at ammunition dumps, and it was the

boast of most of them that they could carry four 60-pounder shells at a time. A few of these stalwart men

from Southern Seas received a promotion which made them the most envied men of their race - they

became loading numbers in heavy howitzer batteries, fighting side by side with the Motherland gunners.

However well the Navy and all associated with it worked, only a very small proportion of the Army's
supplies was water borne. The great bulk had to be carried by rail. Enormously long trains, most of them

hauled by London and South-Western locomotives, bore munitions, food for men and animals, water,

equipment, medical comforts, guns, wagons, caterpillar tractors, motor cars, and other paraphernalia

required for the largest army which had ever operated about the town of Gaza in the thousands of years

of its history. The main line had thrown out from it great tentacles embracing in their iron clasp vital

centres for the supply of our front, and over these spur lines the trains ran with the regularity of British

main-line expresses. Besides 96,000 actual fighting men, there was a vast army of men behind the line,

and there were over 100,000 animals to be fed. There were 46,000 horses, 40,000 camels, 15,000 mules,

and 3500 donkeys on Army work east of the Canal, and not a man or beast went short of rations. We

 

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