Classic History Books

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

very uneven and was covered with a mass of large stones and shingle. The trenches were well manned
and strongly held, but General Grant ordered them to be taken at the gallop. The Australians carried them

with an irresistible charge; dismounted, cleared the first line of all the enemy in it, ran on and captured

the second and third system of trenches, and then, their horses having been brought up, galloped into the

town to prevent any destruction of the wells. The first-line eastern trenches of Beersheba were eight feet

deep and four feet wide, and as there were many of the enemy in them they were a serious obstacle to be

taken in one rush. This charge was a sterling feat, and unless the town had been occupied that night most,

if not all, of the cavalry would have had to withdraw many miles to water, and subsequent operations

might have been imperilled. Until we had got Beersheba there appeared small prospect of watering more

than two brigades in this area.

Luckily there had been two thunderstorms a few days before the attack, and we found a few pools of
sweet water which enabled the whole of the Corps' horses to be watered during the night. These pools

soon dried up and the water problem again became serious. The Commander-in-Chief rewarded General

Grant with the D.S.O. as an appreciation of his work, and the brigade was gratified at a well-earned

honour. The 7th Mounted Brigade was held up for some time in the afternoon by a flanking fire from Ras

Ghannam, south of Beersheba, but this was silenced in time to enable the brigade to assist in the

occupation of Beersheba at nightfall. The 4th Light Horse Brigade's captures in the charge were 58

officers, 1090 other ranks, and 10 field guns, and the total 'bag' of the Desert Mounted Corps was 70

officers and 1458 other ranks.

The loss of Beersheba was a heavy blow to the Turk. Yet he did not even then realise to the full the
significance of our capture of the town. He certainly failed to appreciate that we were to use it as a

jumping-off place to attack his main line from Gaza to Sheria by rolling it up from left to right. In this

plan there is no doubt that General Allenby entirely deceived his enemy, for in the next few days there

was the best of evidence to show that General Kress von Kressenstein believed we were going to

advance from Beersheba to Jerusalem up the Hebron road, and he made his dispositions to oppose us

here. It was not merely the moral effect of the loss of Beersheba that disturbed the Turks; they had been

driven out of a not unimportant stronghold.

All through the many centuries since Abraham and his people led a pastoral life near the wells,
Beersheba had been a meanly appointed place. There were no signs as far as I could see of any elaborate

ruins to indicate anything larger than a native settlement. Elsewhere we saw crumbling walls of ancient

castles and fortresses to tell of conquerors and glories long since faded away, of relics of an age when

great captains led martial men into new worlds to conquer, of the time when the Crusading spirit was

abroad and the flower of Western chivalry came East to hold the land for Christians. Here the native

quarter suggested that trade in Beersheba was purely local and not ambitious, that it provided nothing for

the world's commerce save a few skins and hides, and that the inhabitants were content to live the rude,

simple lives of their forefathers. But the enterprising German arrived, and you could tell by his work how

he intended to compel a change in the unchanging character of the people. He built a handsome Mosque -

but before he was driven out he wired and mined it for destruction. He built a seat of government, a

hospital, and a barracks, all of them pretentious buildings for such a town, well designed, constructed of

stone with red-tiled roofs, and the gardens were nicely laid out. There were a railway station and

storehouses on a scale which would not yield a return on capital expenditure for many years, and the

water tower and engine sheds were built to last longer than merely military necessities demanded. They

were fashioned by European craftsmen, and the solidity of the structures offered strange contrast to the

rough-and-ready native houses. The primary object of the Hun scheme was, doubtless, to make


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