Classic History Books


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

sand, tugging heavy guns and ammunition, stores for the air and signal services, machinery for engineers
and mobile workshops, and sometimes towing a weighty load of petrol to satisfy their voracious appetites

for that fuel. The tractors did well. Sand was no trouble to them, and when mud marooned lorries during

the advance in November the rattling, rumbling old tractor made fair weather of it. The mechanical

transport trains will not forget the service of the tractors on the morning after Beersheba was taken. From

railhead to the spot where Father Abraham and his people fed their flocks the country was bare and the

earth's crust had yielded all its strength under the influence of the summer sun. Loaded lorries under their

own power could not move more than a few yards before they were several inches deep in the sandy soil,

but a Motor Transport officer devised a plan for beating down a track which all lorries could use. He got

a tractor to haul six unladen lorries, and with all the vehicles using their own power the tractor managed

to pull them through to Beersheba, leaving behind some wheel tracks with a hard foundation. A hundred

lorries followed, the drivers steering them in the ruts, and they made such good progress that by the

afternoon they had deposited between 200 and 300 tons of supplies in Beersheba. The path the tractor cut

did not last very long, but it was sound enough for the immediate and pressing requirements of the Army.

Within a month of his arrival in Egypt, General Allenby had visited the whole of his front line and had
decided the form his offensive should take. As soon as his force had been made up to seven infantry

divisions and the Desert Mounted Corps, and they had been brought up to strength and trained, he would

attack, making his main offensive against the enemy's left flank while conducting operations vigorously

and on an extensive scale against the Turkish right-centre and right. The principal operation against the

left was to be conducted by General Chetwode's XXth Corps, consisting of four infantry divisions and

the Imperial Camel Brigade, and by General Chauvel's Desert Mounted Corps. General Bulfin's XXIst

Corps was to operate against Gaza and the Turkish right-centre south-east of that ancient town. If the

situation became such as to make it necessary to take the offensive before the force had been brought up

to strength, the XXIst Corps would have had to undertake its task with only two divisions, but in those

circumstances its operations were to be limited to demonstrations and raids. By throwing forward his

right, the XXIst Corps Commander was to pin the enemy down in the Atawineh district, and on the left

he would move against the south-western defences of Gaza so as to lead the Turks to suppose an attack

was to come in this sector. That movement being made, the XXth Corps and Desert Mounted Corps were

to advance against Beersheba, and, having taken it, to secure the valuable water supply which was known

to have existed there since Abraham dug the well of the oath which gave its name to the town. Because

of water difficulties it was considered vital that Beersheba should be captured in one day, a formidable

undertaking owing to the situation of the town, the high entrenched hills around it and the long marches

for cavalry and infantry before the attack; and in drawing up the scheme based on the

Commander-in-Chief's plan, the commanders of XXth Corps and Desert Mounted Corps had always to

work on the assumption that Beersheba would be in their hands by nightfall of the first day of the attack.

General Barrow's Yeomanry Mounted Division was to remain at Shellal in the gap between XXth Corps

and XXIst Corps in case the enemy should attempt to attack the XXth Corps' left flank. Having dealt

with the enemy in Beersheba, General Chetwode with mounted troops protecting his right was to move

north and north-west against the enemy's left flank, to drive him from his strong positions at Sheria and

Hareira, enveloping his left flank and striking it obliquely.

While the XXth Corps was moving against this section of the enemy line, Desert Mounted Corps was to
bring up the mounted division left at Shellal, and passing behind the XXth Corps to march on Nejile,

where there was an excellent water supply, and the wadi Hesi, so as to threaten the left rear and the line

of retreat of the Turkish Army.

 

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