Classic History Books


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

fighting hard about Latron, where the Turks held the monastery and its beautiful gardens and the hill
about Amwas until late in the morning. Having driven them out, the 75th pushed on to gain the pass into

the hills and to begin two days of fighting which earned the unstinted praise of General Bulfin who

witnessed it. For nearly three miles from Latron the road passes through a flat valley flanked by hills till

it reaches a guardhouse and khan at the foot of the pass which then rises rapidly to Saris, the difference in

elevation in less than four miles being 1400 feet. Close to the guardhouse begin the hills which tower

above the road. The Turks had constructed defences on these hills and held them with riflemen and

machine guns, so that these positions dominated all approaches. Our guns had few positions from which

to assist the infantry, but they did sterling service wherever possible. In General Palin the Division had a

commander with wide experience of hill fighting on the Indian frontier, and he brought that experience to

bear in a way which must have dumb-founded the enemy. Frontal attacks were impossible and suicidal,

and each position had to be turned by a wide movement started a long way in rear. All units in the

Division did well, the Gurkhas particularly well, and by a continual encircling of their flanks the Turks

were compelled to leave their fastnesses and fall back to new hill crests. Thus outwitted and outmatched

the enemy retreated to Saris, a high hill with a commanding view of the pass for half a mile. The hill is

covered with olive trees and has a village on its eastern slope, and as the road winds at its foot and then

takes a left-handed turn to Kuryet el Enab its value for defence was considerable.

The Turks had taken advantage of the cover to place a large body of defenders with machine guns on the
hill, but with every condition unfavourable to us the 75th Division had routed out the enemy before three

o'clock and were ready to move forward as soon as the guns could get up the pass. Rain was falling

heavily, the road surface was clinging and treacherous, and, worse still, the road had been blown up in

several places. The guns could not advance to be of service that day, and the infantry had, therefore, to

remain where they were for the night. There was a good deal of sniping, but Nature was more unkind

than the enemy, who received more than he gave. The troops were wearing light summer clothing, drill

shorts and tunics, and the sudden change from the heat and dryness of the plain to bitter cold and wet was

a desperate trial, especially to the Indian units, who had little sleep that night. They needed rest to

prepare them for the rigour of the succeeding day. A drenching rain turned the whole face of the

mountains, where earth covered rock, into a sea of mud. On the positions about Saris being searched a

number of prisoners were taken, among them a battalion commander. Men captured in the morning told

us there were six Turkish battalions holding Enab, which is something under two miles from Saris.

The road proceeds up a rise from Saris, then falling slightly it passes below the crest of a ridge and again
climbs to the foot of a hill on which a red-roofed convent church and buildings stand as a landmark that

can be seen from Jaffa. On the opposite side of the road is a substantial house, the summer retreat of the

German Consul in Jerusalem, whose staff traded in Jordan Holy Water; and this house, now empty,

sheltered a divisional general from the bad weather while the operations for the capture of the Holy City

were in preparation. I have a grateful recollection of this building, for in it the military attaches and I

stayed before the Official Entry into Jerusalem, and its roof saved us from one inclement night on the

bleak hills. On the 20th November the Turks did their best to keep the place under German ownership.

The hill on which it stands was well occupied by men under cover of thick stone walls, the convent

gardens on the opposite side of the highway was packed with Turkish infantry, and across the deep valley

to the west were guns and riflemen on another hill, all of them holding the road under the best possible

observation. The enemy's howitzers put down a heavy barrage on all approaches, and on the reverse of

the hill covering the village lying in the hollow there were machine guns and many men.

Reconnaissances showed the difficulties attending an attack, and it was not until the afternoon that a plan

 

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