Classic History Books


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

Akir until they could be relieved by units of the 54th Division advancing from Gaza. To enable the 54th
to move, the transport lent to the 52nd and 75th Divisions had to be returned, which did not make the

supply of those divisions any easier. The main line of railway was still a long way in the rear, and the

landing of stores by the Navy at the mouth of the wadi Sukereir had not yet begun. A little later, and

before Jaffa had been made secure enough for the use of ships, many thousands of tons of supplies and

ammunition were put ashore at the wadi's mouth, and at a time when heavy rains damaged the newly

constructed railway tracks the Sukereir base of supply was an inestimable boon. Yet there were times

when the infantry had a bare day's supply with them, though they had their iron rations to fall back upon.

It speaks well for the supply branch that in the long forward move of XXIst Corps the infantry were

never once put on short rations.

While the 54th were coming up to take over from the 52nd, plans were prepared for the further advance
on Jerusalem. The Commander-in-Chief was deeply anxious that there should be no fighting of any

description near the Holy Places, and he gave the Turks a chance of being chivalrous and of accepting

the inevitable. We had got so far that the ancient routes taken by armies which had captured Jerusalem

were just before us. The Turkish forces were disorganised by heavy and repeated defeats, the men

demoralised and not in good condition, and there was no hope for them that they could receive sufficient

reinforcements to enable them to stave off the ultimate capture of Bethlehem and Jerusalem, though as

events proved they could still put up a stout defence. We know from papers taken from the enemy that

the Turks believed General Allenby intended to go right up the plain to get to the defile leading to

Messudieh and Nablus and thus threaten the Hedjaz railway, in which case the position of the enemy in

the Holy City would be hopeless, and the Turks formed an assault group of three infantry divisions in the

neighbourhood of Tul Keram to prevent this, and continued to hold on to Jerusalem. General Allenby

proposed to strike through the hills to the north-east to try to get across the Jerusalem-Nablus road about

Bireh (the ancient Beeroth), and in this operation success would have enabled him to cut off the enemy

forces in and about the Holy City, when their only line of retreat would have been through Jericho and

the east of the Jordan. The Turks decided to oppose this plan and to make us fight for Jerusalem. That

was disappointing, but in the end it could not have suited us better, for it showed to our own people and

to the world how after the Turks had declined an opportunity of showing a desire to preserve the Holy

Places from attack - an opportunity prompted by our strength, not by any fear that victory could not be

won - General Allenby was still able to achieve his great objective without a drop of blood being spilled

near any of the Holy Sites, and without so much as a stray rifle bullet searing any of their walls. That

indeed was the triumph of military practice, and when Jerusalem fell for the twenty-third time, and thus

for the first time passed into the hands of British soldiers, the whole force felt that the sacrifices which

had been made on the gaunt forbidding hills to the north-west were worth the price, and that the graves of

Englishman, Scot and Colonial, of Gurkha, Punjabi, and Sikh, were monuments to the honour of British

arms. The scheme was that the 75th Division would advance along the main Jerusalem road, which cuts

into the hills about three miles east of Latron, and occupy Kuryet el Enab, and that the Lowland Division

should go through Ludd, strike eastwards and advance to Beit Likia to turn from the north the hills

through which the road passes, the Yeomanry Mounted Division on the left flank of the 52nd Division to

press on to Bireh, on the Nablus road about a dozen miles north of Jerusalem. A brief survey of the

country to be attacked would convince even a civilian of the extreme difficulties of the undertaking.

North and east of Latron (which was not yet ours) frown the hills which constitute this important section

of the Judean range, the backbone of Palestine. The hills are steep and high, separated one from another

by narrow valleys, clothed here and there with fir and olive trees, but elsewhere a mass of rocks and

boulders, bare and inhospitable. Practically every hill commands another. There is only one road - the

 

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