Classic History Books

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

to continue their games. Football was their favourite sport, and the British Tommy is such a remarkable
fellow that it was usual to see him trudge home to camp looking 'fed up' with exercise, and then, after

throwing off his pack and tunic, run out to kick a ball. The Italian and French detachments used to look at

him in astonishment, and doubtless they thought his enthusiasm for sport was a sore trial. He got

thoroughly fit for marches over sand, over stony ground, over shifting shingle. During the period of

concentration he had to cross a district desperately bad for marching, and it is more than probable the

enemy never believed him capable of such endurance. He was often tired, no doubt, but he always got to

his destination, was rarely footsore, and laughed at the worst parts of his journey. The sand was choking,

the flies were an irritating pest, equipment became painfully heavy; but a big, brave heart carried Tommy

through his training to a state of perfect condition for the heavy test.

To enable about two-thirds of the force to carry on a moving battle while the remainder kept half the
enemy pinned down to his trench system on his right-centre and right, it was necessary to reinforce

strongly the transport service for our mobile columns. The XXIst Corps gave up most of its lorries,

tractors, and camels to XXth Corps. These had to be moved across from the Gaza sector to our right as

secretly as possible, and they were not brought up to load at the supply depots at Shellal and about Karm

until the moment they were required to carry supplies for the corps moving to attack.

It is not easy to convey to any one who has not seen an army on the move what a vast amount of
transport is required to provision two corps. In France, where roads are numerous and in comparatively

good condition, the supply problem could be worked out to a nicety, but in a roadless country where

there was not a sound half-mile of track, and where water had to be developed and every gallon was

precious, the question of supply needed most anxious consideration, and a big margin had to be allowed

for contingencies. It will give some idea of the requirements when I state that for the supply of water

alone the XXth Corps had allotted to it 6000 camels and 73 lorries. To feed these water camels alone

needed a big convoy.

We got an impression of the might and majesty of an army in the field as we saw it preparing to take the
offensive. The camp of General Headquarters where I was located was situated north of Rafa. The

railway ran on two sides of the camping ground, one line going to Belah and the other stretching out to

Shellal, where everything was in readiness to extend the iron road to the north-east of Karm, on the plain

which, because the Turks enjoyed complete observation over it, had hitherto been No Man's Land. We

saw and heard the traffic on this section of the line. It was enormous. Heavily laden trains ran night and

day with a mass of stores and supplies, with motor lorries, cars, and tractors; and the ever-increasing

volume of traffic told those of us who knew nothing of the date of 'Zero day' that it was not far off. The

heaviest trains seemed to run at night, and the returning empty trains were hurried forward at a speed

suggesting the urgency of clearing the line for a fully loaded train awaiting at Rafa the signal to proceed

with its valuable load to railhead. Perfect control not only on the railway system but in the forward

supply yards prevented congestion, and when a train arrived at its destination and was split up into

several parts, well-drilled gangs of troops and Egyptian labourers were allotted to each truck, and

whether a lorry or a tractor had to be unshipped and moved down a ramp, or a truck had to be relieved of

its ten tons of tibbin, boxes of biscuit and bully, or of engineers' stores, the goods were cleared away

from the vicinity of the line with a celerity which a goods-yard foreman at home would have applauded

as the smartest work he had ever seen. There was no room for slackers in the Army, and the value of

each truck was so high that it could not be left standing idle for an hour. The organisation was equally

good at Kantara, where the loading and making up of trains had to be arranged precisely as the needs at

the front demanded. Those remarkable haulers, the caterpillar tractors, cut many a passage through the


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