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

across the sand without much trouble, but it often meant much bottom-gear work and a hot engine, and
not infrequently the digging out of wheels. The drivers used to try to keep to the tracks made by other

cars. These were never straight, and the swing from side to side reminded you of your first ride on a

camel's back. The wire roads were a great help to us, and the officer who first thought out the idea

received our daily blessings. I do not know who he was, but I was told the wire road scheme was the

outcome of a device suggested by a medical officer at Romani in 1916, when infantry could not march

much more than six miles a day through the sand. This officer made a sort of wire moccasin which he

attached to the boot and doubled the marching powers of the soldier. A sample of those moccasins should

find a place in our War Museum.

 

CHAPTER VI. PREPARING FOR 'ZERO DAY'

About the middle of August it was the intention that the attack on the Turks' front line in Southern
Palestine should be launched some time in September. General Allenby knew his force would not be then

at full strength, but what was happening at other points in the Turkish theatres of operations might make

it necessary to strike an early blow at Gaza to spoil enemy plans elsewhere. However, it was soon seen

that a September advance was not absolutely necessary. General Allenby decided that instead of making

an early attack it would be far more profitable to wait until his Army had been improved by a longer

period of training, and until he had got his artillery, particularly some of his heavy batteries, into a high

state of efficiency. He would risk having to take Jerusalem after bad weather had set in rather than be

unable, owing to the condition of his troops, to exploit an initial success to the fullest extent. How wholly

justified was this decision the subsequent fighting proved, and it is doubtful if there was ever a more

complete illustration of the wisdom of those directing war policy at home submitting to the cool,

balanced calculations of the man on the spot. The extra six weeks spent in training and preparation were

of incalculable service to the Allies. I have heard it said that a September victory in Palestine would have

had its reflex on the Italian front, and that the Caporetto disaster would not have assumed the gigantic

proportions which necessitated the withdrawal to Italy of British and French divisions from the Western

Front and prevented Cambrai being a big victory. That is very doubtful. On the contrary, a September

battle in Palestine before we were fully ready to follow the Turks after breaking and rolling up their line,

even if we had succeeded in doing this completely, might have deprived us of the moral effect of the

capture of Jerusalem and of the wonderful influence which that victory had on the whole civilised world

by reason of the sacrifices the Commander-in-Chief made to prevent any fighting at all in the precincts of

the Holy City. Of this I shall speak later, giving the fullest details at my command, for there is no page in

the story of British arms which better upholds the honour and chivalry of the soldier than the

preservation of the Holy Place from the clash of battle.

That last six weeks of preparation were unforgettable. The London newspapers I had the honour to
represent as War Correspondent knew operations were about to begin, but I did not cable or mail them

one word which would give an indication that big things were afoot. They never asked for news, but

were content to wait till they could tell the public that victory was ours. In accordance with their practice

throughout the war the London Press set an example to the world by refraining from publishing anything

which would give information of the slightest value to the enemy. It was a privilege to see that victory in

the making. Some divisions which had allotted to them the hardest part of the attack on Beersheba were

drawn out of the line, and forming up in big camps between Belah and Shellal set about a course of

training such as athletes undergo. They had long marches in the sand carrying packs and equipment.

They were put on a short allowance of water, except for washing purposes. They dug, they had bombing

practice, and with all this extra exercise while the days were still very hot they needed no encouragement

 

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