Classic History Books


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

I was with the Division the night after they had taken Huj. It was their first day of rest for some time, but
the men showed few signs of fatigue. No one could move among them without being proud of the

Londoners. They were strong, self-reliant, well-disciplined, brave fellows. I well remember what Colonel

Temperley, the G.S.O. of the Division, told me when sitting out on a hill in the twilight that night.

Colonel Temperley had been brigade major of the first New Zealand Infantry Brigade which came to

Egypt and took a full share in the work on Gallipoli on its way to France. He had over two years of active

service on the Western Front before coming out to Palestine for duty with the 60th Division, and his

views on men in action were based on the sound experience of the professional soldier. Of the London

County Territorials he said: 'I cannot speak of these warriors without a lump rising in my throat. These

Cockneys are the best men in the world. Their spirits are simply wonderful, and I do not think any

division ever went into a big show with higher moral. After three years of war it is refreshing to hear the

men's earnestly expressed desire to go into action again. These grand fellows went forward with the full

bloom on them, there never was any hesitation, their discipline was absolutely perfect, their physique and

courage were alike magnificent, and their valour beyond words. The Cockney makes the perfect soldier.'

I wrote at the time that 'whether the men came from Bermondsey, Camberwell or Kennington, or

belonged to what were known as class corps, such as the Civil Service or Kensingtons, before the war, all

battalions were equally good. They were trained for months for the big battle till their bodies were

brought to such a state of fitness that Spartan fare during the ten days of ceaseless action caused neither

grumble nor fatigue. The men may well be rewarded with the title "London's Pride," and London is

honoured by having such stalwarts to represent the heart of the British Empire. In eight days the

Londoners marched sixty-six miles and fought a number of hot actions. The march may not seem long,

but Palestine is not Salisbury Plain. A leg-weary man was asked by an officer if his feet were blistered,

and replied: "They're rotten sore, but my heart's gay." That is typical of the spirit of these unconquerable

Cockneys. I have just left them. They still have the bloom of freshness and I do not think it will ever

fade. Scorching winds which parched the throat and made everything one wore hot to the touch were

enough to oppress the staunchest soldier, but these sterling Territorials, costers and labourers, artisans

and tradesmen, professional men and men of independent means, true brothers in arms and good Britons,

left their bivouacs and trudged across heavy country, fearless, strong, proud, and with the cheerfulness of

good men who fight for right.' What I said in those early days of the great advance was more than borne

out later, and in the capture of Jerusalem, in taking Jericho, and in forcing the passage of the Jordan this

glorious Division of Londoners was always the same, a pride to its commander, a bulwark of the XXth

Corps, and a great asset of the Empire.

 

CHAPTER X. THROUGH GAZA INTO THE OPEN

On the Gaza section of the front the XXIst Corps had been busily occupied with preparations for a
powerful thrust through the remainder of the defences on the enemy's right when the XXth Corps should

have succeeded in turning the main positions on the left. The 52nd Division on the coast was ready to go

ahead immediately there was any sign that the enemy, seeing that the worst was about to happen,

intended to order a general retirement, and then it would be a race and a fight to prevent his establishing

himself on the high ground north of the wadi Hesi. Should he fail to do that there was scarcely a

possibility of the Turks holding us up till we got to the Jaffa-Jerusalem road, though between Gaza and

that metalled highway there were many points of strength from which they could fight delaying actions.

It is very doubtful whether the Turkish General Staff gave the cavalry credit for being able to move

across the Plain in the middle of November when the wadis are absolutely dry and the water-level in the

wells is lower than at any other period of the year. Nor did they imagine that the transport difficulties for

infantry divisions fed as ours were could be surmounted. They may have thought that if they could secure

 

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