Classic History Books


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

shortly before the battle began, and they borrowed guns from other batteries in order to train the gun
crews. So desirous was General Bulfin to conceal the concentration of heavies that the wireless code

calls were only those used by batteries which were in position before his Corps was formed, and the

volume of fire came as an absolute surprise to the enemy. It came as a surprise also to some of us in

camp at G.H.Q. one night at the end of October. Suddenly there was a terrific burst of fire on about four

miles of front. Vivid fan-shaped flashes stabbed the sky, the bright moonlight of the East did not dim the

guns' lightning, and their thunderous voices were a challenge the enemy was powerless to refuse. He took

it up slowly as if half ashamed of his weakness. Then his fire increased in volume and in strength, but it

ebbed again and we knew the reason. We held some big 'stuff' for counter battery work, and our fire was

effective.

The preliminary bombardment began on October 27 and it grew in intensity day by day. The Navy
co-operated on October 29 and subsequent days. The whole line from Middlesex Hill (close to Outpost

Hill) to the sea was subjected to heavy fire, all the routes to the front line were shelled during the night

by 60-pounder and field-gun batteries. Gas shells dosed the centres of communication and bivouac areas,

and every quarter of the defences was made uncomfortable. The sound-ranging sections told us the

enemy had between sixteen and twenty-four guns south of Gaza, and from forty to forty-eight north of

the town, and over 100 guns were disclosed, including more than thirty firing from the Tank Redoubt

well away to the eastward. On October 29 some of the guns south of Gaza had been forced back by the

severity of our counter battery work, and of the ten guns remaining between us and the town on that date

all except four had been removed by November 2. For several nights the bombardment continued without

a move by infantry. Then just at the moment von Kress was discussing the loss of Beersheba and his

plans to meet our further advance in that direction, some infantry of the 75th Division raided Outpost

Hill, the southern extremity of the entrenched hill system south of Ali Muntar, and killed far more Turks

than they took prisoners. There was an intense bombardment of the enemy's works at the same time. The

next night - November 1-2 - was the opening of XXIst Corps' great attack on Gaza, and though the

enemy did not leave the town or the remainder of the trenches we had not assaulted till nearly a week

afterwards, the vigour of the attack and the bravery with which it was thrust home, and the subsequent

total failure of counter-attacks, must have made the enemy commanders realise on the afternoon of

November 2 that Gaza was doomed and that their boasts that Gaza was impregnable were thin air. Their

reserves were on the way to their left where they were urgently wanted, there was nothing strong enough

to replace such heavy wastage caused to them by the attack of the night of November 1 and the morning

of the 2nd, and our big gains of ground were an enormous advantage to us for the second phase in the

Gaza sector, for we had bitten deeply into the Turks' right flank.

Like the concentration of the XXth Corps and the Desert Mounted Corps for the jump off on to
Beersheba, the preparations against the Turks' extreme right had to be very secretly made. The XXIst

Corps Commander had to look a long way ahead. He had to consider the possibility of the enemy

abandoning Gaza when Beersheba was captured, and falling back to the line of the wadi Hesi. His troops

had been confined to trench warfare for months, digging and sitting in trenches, putting out wire, going

out on listening patrols, sniping and doing all the drudgery in the lines of earthworks. They were hard

and strong, their health having considerably improved since the early summer, but at the end of

September the infantry were by no means march fit. Realising that, if General Allenby's operations were

successful, and no one doubted that, we should have a period of open warfare when troops would be

called upon to make long marches and undergo the privations entailed by transport difficulties, General

Bulfin brought as many men as he could spare from the trenches back to Deir el Belah and the coast,

 

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