Classic History Books


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

artillery, and the warships' guns carried out an intense bombardment. The land guns searched the Turks'
front line and reserve systems, while the Navy fired on Fryer's Hill to the north of Ali Muntar, Sheikh

Redwan, a sandhill with a native chief's tomb on the crest, north of Gaza, and on trenches not easily

reached by the Corps' guns.

During the night of November 6-7 General Palin's 75th Division, as a preliminary to a major operation
timed for the following morning, attacked and gained the enemy's trenches on Outpost Hill and the whole

of Middlesex Hill to the north of it, the opposition being less serious than was anticipated. At daylight the

75th Division pushed on over the other hills towards Ali Muntar and gained that dominating position

before eight o'clock. The fighting had not been severe, and it was soon realised that the enemy had left

Gaza, abandoning a stronghold which had been prepared for defence with all the ingenuity German

masters of war could suggest and into which had been worked an enormous amount of material. It was

obvious from the complete success of XXth Corps' operations against the Turkish left, which had been

worked out absolutely 'according to plan,' that General Allenby had so thoroughly mystified von

Kressenstein that the latter had put all his reserves into the wrong spot, and that the 53rd Division's stout

resistance against superior numbers had pinned them down to the wrong end of the line. There was

nothing, therefore, for the Turk to do but to try to hold another position, and he was straining every nerve

to reach it. The East Anglian Division went up west of Gaza and held from Sheikh Redwan to the sea by

seven o'clock, two squadrons of the Corps' cavalry rode along the seashore and had patrols on the wadi

Hesi a little earlier than that, and the Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade, composed of troops raised and

maintained by patriotic Indian princes, passed through Gaza at nine o'clock and went out towards Beit

Hanun. To the Lowland Division was given the important task of getting to the right or northern bank of

the wadi Hesi. These imperturbable Scots left their trenches in the morning delighted at the prospect of

once more engaging in open warfare. They marched along the beach under cover of the low sand cliffs,

and by dusk had crossed the mouth of the wadi and held some of the high ground to the north in face of

determined opposition. The 157th Brigade, after a march through very heavy going, got to the wadi at

five in the afternoon and saw the enemy posted on the opposite bank. The place was reconnoitred and the

brigade made a fine bayonet charge in the dark, securing the position between ten and eleven o'clock. On

this and succeeding days the division had to fight very hard indeed, and they often met the enemy with

the bayonet. One of their officers told me the Scot was twice as good as the Turk in ordinary fighting, but

with the bayonet his advantage was as five to one. The record of the Division throughout the campaign

showed this was no too generous an estimate of their powers. After securing Ali Muntar the 75th

Division advanced over Fryer's Hill to Australia Hill, so that they held the whole ridge running north and

south to the eastward of Gaza. The enemy still held to his positions to the right of his centre, and from

the Atawineh Redoubt, Tank Redoubt, and Beer trenches there was considerable shelling of Gaza and the

Ali Muntar ridge throughout the day. A large number of shells fell in the plantations on the western side

of the ridge; our mastery of the air prevented enemy aviators observing for their artillery, or they would

have seen no traffic was passing along that way. We were using the old Cairo 'road,' and as far as I could

see not an enemy shell reached it, though when our troops were in the town of Gaza there were many

crumps and woolly bears to disturb the new occupation. But all went swimmingly. It was true we had

only captured the well-cracked shell of a town, but the taking of it was full of promise of greater things,

and those of us who looked on the mutilated remnants of one of the world's oldest cities felt we were

indeed witnesses of the beginning of the downfall of the Turkish Empire. Next morning the 75th

Division captured Beer trenches and Tank and Atawineh Redoubts and linked up with the Irish Division

of XXth Corps on its right. They were shelled heavily, but it was the shelling of rearguards and not

attackers, and soon after twelve o'clock we had the best of evidence that the Turks were saying good-bye

 

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