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

the wadi Hesi line before we got into position to threaten it in flank they would immobilise our Army till
the rains began, and there was a possibility of sitting facing each other in wet uncomfortable trench

quarters till the flowers showed themselves in the spring, by which time, the Bagdad venture of the

German Higher Command proving hopeless before it was started, a great volume of reinforcements

might be diverted to Southern Palestine with Turkish divisions from the Salonika front and a stiffening of

German battalions spared from Europe in consequence of the Russian collapse.

Whatever they may have been, the Turkish calculations were completely upset. The cavalry's water
troubles remained and no human foresight could have smoothed them over, but the transport problem

was solved in this way. During the attack on Beersheba XXIst Corps came to the aid of XXth Corps by

handing over to it the greater part of its camel convoys and lorries, so much transport, indeed, that a vast

amount of work in the Gaza sector fell to be done by a greatly depleted supply staff. When Beersheba

had been won and the enemy's left flank had been smashed and thrown back, the XXth Corps repaid the

XXIst Corps, not only by returning what it had borrowed, but by marching back into the region of

railhead at Karm, where it could live with a minimum of transport and send all its surplus to work in the

coastal sector. The switching over of this transport was a fine piece of organisation. On the allotted day

many thousands of camels were seen drawn out in huge lines all over the country intersected by the wadi

Ghuzze, slowly converging on the spots at which they could be barracked and rested before loading for

the advance. The lorries took other paths. There was no repose for their drivers. They worked till the last

moment on the east, and then, caked with the accumulated dust of a week's weary labour in sand and

powdered earth, turned westward to arrive just in time to load up and be off again in pursuit of infantry,

some making the mistake of travelling between the West and East Towns of Gaza, while others took the

longer and sounder but still treacherous route east of Ali Muntar and through the old positions of the

Turks. These lorry drivers were wonderful fellows who laughed at their trials, but in the days and nights

when they bumped over the uneven tracks and negotiated earth rents that threatened to swallow their

vehicles, they put their faith in the promise of the railway constructors to open the station at Gaza at an

early date. Even Gaza, though it saved them so many toilsome miles, did not help them greatly because

of a terrible piece of road north-east of the station, but Beit Hanun was comfortable and for the relief

brought by the railway's arrival at Deir Sineid they were profoundly grateful.

But this is anticipating the story of Gaza's capture. The XXIst Corps had not received its additional
transport when it gained the ancient city of the Philistines, though it knew some of it was on the way and

most of it about to start on its westward trek. On the day of November 4 and during the succeeding night

the Navy co-operated with the Corps' artillery in destroying enemy trenches and gun positions, and the

Ali Muntar Ridge was a glad sight for tired gunners' eyes. The enemy showed a disposition to retaliate,

and on the afternoon of the 4th he put up a fierce bombardment of our front-line positions from Outpost

Hill to the sea, including in his fire area the whole of the trenches we had taken from him from Umbrella

Hill to Sheikh Hasan. Many observers of this bombardment by all the Turks' guns of heavy, medium, and

small calibre declared it was the prelude not of an attack but of a retirement, and that the Turks were

loosing off a lot of the ammunition they knew they could not carry away. They were probably right,

though the enemy made no sign of going away for a couple of days, but if he thought his demonstration

by artillery was going to hasten back to Gaza some of the troops assembling against the left of his main

line he was grievously in error. The XXIst Corps was strong enough to deal with any attack the Turks

could launch, and they would have been pleased if an attempt to reach our lines had been made.

Next day the Turks were much quieter. They had to sit under a terrific fire both on the 5th and 6th
November, when in order to assist XXth Corps' operations the Corps' heavy artillery, the divisional

 

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