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

holding this position in strength against the 3rd Australian Light Horse, but two infantry brigades of the
53rd Division were moving towards the ridge, and during the evening the enemy retired and we held the

ridge from this time on quite securely. The strong defence of the Middlesex Yeomanry undoubtedly

prevented the Turks establishing themselves on the ridge, and saved the infantry from having to make a

night attack which might have been costly. Thereafter the enemy made no attempt to interfere with the

concentration. The yeomanry losses in this encounter were 1 officer and 23 other ranks killed, 5 officers

and 48 other ranks wounded, 2 officers and 8 other ranks missing.

On the night of October 30-31 a brilliant moon lit up the whole country. The day had been very hot, and
at sunset an entire absence of wind promised that the night march of nearly 40,000 troops of all arms

would be attended by all the discomforts of dust and heat. The thermometer fell, but there was not a

breath of wind to shift the pall of dust which hung above the long columns of horse, foot, and guns.

Where the tracks were sandy some brigades often appeared to be advancing through one of London's

own particular fogs. Men's faces became caked with yellow dust, their nostrils were hot and burning, and

parched throats could not be relieved because of the necessity of conserving the water allowance. A hot

day was in prospect on the morrow, and the fear of having to fight on an empty water-bottle prevented

many a gallant fellow broaching his supply before daybreak. Most of the men had had a long

acquaintance with heat in the Middle East, and the high temperature would have caused them scarcely

any trouble if there had been wind to carry away the dust clouds. The cavalry marched over harder and

more stony ground than the infantry. They advanced from Khalasa and Asluj a long way south of

Beersheba to the east of the town. It was a big night march of some thirty miles, but it was well within

the powers of the veterans of the Anzac Mounted Division and Australian Mounted Division, whose men

and horses were in admirable condition.

The infantry were ordered to be on their line of deployment by four o'clock on the morning of October
31, and in every case they were before time. There had been many reconnaissances by officers who were

to act as guides to columns, and they were quite familiar with the ground; and the guns and ammunition

columns were taken by routes which had been carefully selected and marked. In places the banks of

wadis had been cut into and ramps made to enable the rough stony watercourses to be practicable for

wheels, and, broken as the country was, and though all previous preparations had to be made without

arousing the suspicions of Turks and wandering Bedouins, there was no incident to check the progress of

infantry or guns. Occasional rifle fire and some shelling occurred during the early hours, but at a little

after three A.M. the XXth Corps advanced headquarters had the news that all columns had reached their

allotted positions.

The XXth Corps plan was to attack the enemy's works between the Khalasa road and the wadi Saba with
the 60th and 74th Divisions, while the defences north of the wadi Saba were to be masked by the

Imperial Camel Corps Brigade and two battalions of the 53rd Division, the remainder of the latter

division protecting the left flank of the Corps from any attack by enemy troops who might move south

from the Sheria area. The first objective was a hill marked on the map as '1070,' about 6000 yards

south-west of Beersheba. It was a prominent feature, 500 yards or perhaps a little more from a portion of

the enemy's main line, and the Turks held it strongly and were supported by a section of German

machine-gunners. We had to win this height in order to get good observation of the enemy's main line of

works, and to allow of the advance of field artillery within wire-cutting range of an elaborate system of

works protecting Beersheba from an advance from the west. At six the guns began to bombard 1070, and

the volume of fire concentrated on that spot must have given the Turks a big surprise. On a front of 4500

yards we had in action seventy-six 18-pounders, twenty 4.5-inch howitzers, and four 3.7-inch howitzers,

 

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