Classic History Books


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

though they were with boulders, than the hill slopes, which generally rose in steep gradients from the
sides of watercourses. During every step of the way across this saw-toothed country one appreciated to

the full the defenders' advantage. If dead ground hid you from one hill-top enemy marks-men could get

you from another, and it was impossible for the division to proceed unless it got the enemy out of all the

hills on its line of advance. The infantry on the right were very helpful, but the brigade on the left flank

had many difficulties, which were not lessened when, on the second day of the movement, all Royal

Horse Artillery guns and all wheels had to be sent back owing to the bad country. Up to this point the

fight against Nature was more arduous than against the enemy. Thenceforward the enemy became more

vigilant and active, and the hills and stony hollows more trying. All available men were set to work to

make a road for the Hong Kong and Singapore gunners, a battery which would always get as far into the

mountains as any in the King's Army. The road parties laboured night and day, but it was only by the

greatest exertions that the battery could be got through. The heavy rain of the 19th added to the troubles.

The 8th Brigade, having occupied Beit ur et Tahta (Beth-horon the Lower) early on the morning of the

19th, proceeded along the wadi Sunt until a force on the heights held them up, and they had to remain in

the wadi while the 6th Mounted Brigade turned the enemy's flank at Foka. The 22nd Mounted Brigade on

the north met with the same trouble - every hill had to be won and picqueted - and they could not make

Ain Arik that day. As soon as it was light on the following morning the 6th Mounted Brigade brushed

away opposition in Foka and entered the village, pushing on thence towards Beitunia. The advance was

slow and hazardous; every hill had to be searched, a task difficult of accomplishment by reason of the

innumerable caves and boulders capable of sheltering snipers. The Turk had become an adept at sniping,

and left parties in the hills to carry on by themselves. When the 6th Brigade got within two miles of the

south-west of Beitunia they were opposed by 5000 Turks well screened by woods on the slopes and the

wadi. Both sides strove all day without gaining ground. Divisional headquarters were only a short

distance behind the 6th, and the 8th Brigade was moved up into the same area to be ready to assist. By

two o'clock in the afternoon the 22nd Brigade got into Ain Arik and found a strong force of the enemy

holding Beitunia and the hill of Muntar, a few hundred yards to the north of it, thus barring the way to

Ramallah and Bireh. Rain fell copiously and the wind was chilly. After a miserable night in bivouac, the

6th Brigade was astir before daylight on the 21st. They were fighting at dawn, and in the half light

compelled the enemy to retire to within half a mile of Beitunia. A few prisoners were rounded up, and

these told the brigadier that 3000 Turks were holding Beitunia with four batteries of field guns and four

heavy camel guns. That estimate was found to be approximately accurate. A regiment of the 8th Brigade

sent to reinforce the 6th Brigade on their left got within 800 yards of the hill, when the guns about Bireh

and Ramallah opened on them and they were compelled to withdraw, and a Turkish counter-attack forced

our forward line back slightly in the afternoon. The enemy had a plentiful supply of ammunition and

made a prodigal use of it. While continuing to shell fiercely he put more infantry into his fighting line,

and as we had only 1200 rifles and four mountain guns, which the enemy's artillery outranged, it was

clear we could not dislodge him from the Beitunia crest. The 22nd Mounted Brigade had made an

attempt to get to Ramallah from Ain Arik, but the opposition from Muntar and the high ground to the

east was much too severe. Our casualties had not been inconsiderable, and in face of the enemy's

superiority in numbers and guns and the strength of his position it would have been dangerous and

useless to make a further attack. General Barrow therefore decided to withdraw to Foka during the night.

All horses had been sent back in the course of the afternoon, and when the light failed the retirement

began. The wounded were first evacuated, and they, poor fellows, had a bad time of it getting back to

Foka in the dark over four miles of rock-strewn country. It was not till two o'clock on the following

morning that all the convoys of wounded passed through Foka, but by that time the track to Tahta had

been made into passable order, and some of these helpless men were out of the hills soon after daylight,

 

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