Classic History Books


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

tower, a silent, deserted outpost of the land the Crusaders set their hearts on gaining and preserving for
Christianity, but behind it is many centuries' accumulation of sand encroaching upon the fertile plain, and

no effort has been made to stop the inroad. The gallant half-dozen having reported to the 156th Brigade

that Askalon was open to them - the Brigade occupied the place at noon - rode across the sand-dunes to

the important native town of Mejdel, where there was a substantial bazaar doing a good trade in the

essentials for native existence, beans and cereals in plenty, fruit, and tobacco of execrable quality. At

Mejdel the six accepted the surrender of a body of Turks guarding a substantial ammunition dump and

rejoined their units, satisfied with the day's adventure. The Turks had retired a considerable distance

during the day. The principal body was moving up what is called the main road from Deir Sineid,

through Beit Jerjal to Julis, to get to Suafir esh Sherkiyeh, Kustineh, and Junction Station, from which

they could reach Latron by a metalled road, or Ramleh by a hard mud track by the side of their railway.

They were clearly going to oppose us all the way or they would lose the whole of their material, and their

forces east and west of the road were well handled in previously selected and partially prepared

positions.

They left behind them the unpleasant trail of a defeated army. Turks had fallen by the way and the
natives would not bury them. Our aircraft had bombed the road, and the dead men, cattle and horses, and

smashed transport were ghastly sights and made the air offensive. There they lay, one long line of dead

men and animals, and if a London fog had descended to blind the eyes of our Army the sense of smell

would still have carried a scout on the direct line of the Turkish retreat.

I will break off the narrative of fighting at this point to describe a scene which expressed more eloquently
than anything else I witnessed in Palestine how deeply engraved in the native mind was the conviction

that Britain stood for fair dealing and freedom. The inhabitants, like the Arabs of the desert, do not allow

their faces to betray their feelings. They preserve a stolid exterior, and it is difficult to tell from their

demeanour whether they are friendly or indifferent to you. But their actions speak aloud. Early on the

morning after the Lowlanders had entered Mejdel I was in the neighbourhood. Our guns banging away to

the north were a reminder that there was to be no promenade over the Plain, and that we had yet to make

good the formidable obstacle of the wadi Sukereir, when I passed a curious procession. People whom the

Turks had turned out of Gaza and the surrounding country were trekking back to the spots where they

and their forefathers had lived for countless generations. All their worldly goods and chattels were

packed on overloaded camels and donkeys. The women bore astonishingly heavy loads on their heads,

the men rode or walked carrying nothing, while patriarchs of families were either held in donkey saddles

or were borne on the shoulders of younger men. Agriculturists began to turn out to plough and till the

fields which had lain fallow while the Turkish scourge of war was on the land, and the people showed

that, now they had the security of British protection, they intended at once to resume their industry. The

troops had the liveliest welcome in passing through villages, though the people are not as a rule

demonstrative; and one could point to no better evidence of the exemplary behaviour of our soldiers than

the groups of women sitting and gossiping round the wells during the process of drawing water, just as

they did in Biblical days, heedless of the passing troops whom they regarded as their protectors. The man

behind a rude plough may have stopped his ill-matched team of pony and donkey to look at a column of

troops moving as he had never seen troops march before, a head of a family might collect the animals

carrying his household goods and hurry them off the line of route taken by military transport, but neither

one nor the other had any fear of interference with his work, and the life of the whole country, one of the

most unchanging regions of the world, had suddenly again become normal, although only yesterday two

armies had disputed possession of the very soil on which they stood. The moment we were victorious old

 

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