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

donkeys the front-line fighting men in the hill country owe much. They were saved a good deal of
exhausting labour in manhandling stores from the point where camels had to stop, and they could

therefore concentrate their attention on the Turk.

By December 2 the fine exertions of the troops on the line of communications had enabled the XXth
Corps Commander to make his plans for the capture of Jerusalem, and at a conference at Enab on the

following day General Chetwode outlined his scheme, which, put in a nutshell, was to attack with the

60th and 74th Divisions in an easterly direction on the front Ain Karim-Beit Surik and, skirting the

western suburbs of Jerusalem, to place these two divisions astride the Jerusalem-Nablus road, while the

53rd Division advanced from Hebron to threaten the enemy from the south and protect the right of the

60th Division. I will not apologise for dealing as fully as possible with the fighting about Jerusalem,

because Jerusalem was one of the great victories of the war, and the care taken to observe the sanctity of

the place will for all time stand out as one of the brightest examples of the honour of British arms. But

before entering upon those details I will put in chronological sequence the course of the fighting on this

front from the moment when the XXth Corps took over the command, and show how, despite enemy

vigilance and many attacks, the preparations for the outstanding event of the campaign were carried

through. It is remarkable that in the short period of ten days the plans could be worked out in detail and

carried through to a triumphant issue, notwithstanding the bad weather and the almost overwhelming

difficulties of supply. Only the whole-hearted co-operation of all ranks made it possible. On the day after

the XXth Corps became responsible for this front General Chetwode had a conference with Generals

Barrow, Hill, and Girdwood, and after a full discussion of the situation in the hills decided to abandon

the plan of getting on to the Jerusalem-Nablus road from the north in favour of attempting to take

Jerusalem from the west and south-west. The commanders of the Yeomanry Mounted Division and the

52nd Division were asked to suggest, from their experience of the fighting of the past ten days, what

improvement in the line was necessary to make it certain that the new plan would not be interfered with

by an enemy counter-attack. They were in favour of taking the western portion of the Beitunia-Zeitun

ridge. Preparations were made immediately to relieve the Yeomanry Mounted Division by the Australian

Mounted Division, and when the 10th Division arrived - it was marching up from Gaza - the 52nd

Division was to be returned to the XXIst Corps. The hard fighting and the determined attacks of the

Turks had made it unavoidable that some portions of the divisions should be mixed, and the reliefs were

not completed till the 2nd of December.

The Yeomanry Mounted Division troops gave over the Tahta defences to the 157th Infantry Brigade on
the night of November 29-30, and the enemy made an attack on the new defenders at dawn, but were

swiftly beaten off. A local effort against Nebi Samwil was easily repulsed, but the 60th Division reported

that the enemy had in the past few days continued his shelling of the Mosque, and had added to his

destruction of that sacred place by demolishing the minaret by gunfire. The 231st Infantry Brigade with

one battalion in the front line took over from the 8th Mounted Brigade from Beit Dukku to Jufna, and

while the reliefs were in progress there was continual fighting in the Et Tireh-Foka area. The former

place was won and lost several times, and finally the infantry consolidated on the high ground west of

those villages. Early on the 30th a detachment of the 231st Brigade took Foka, capturing eight officers

and 298 men, but as it was not possible to hold the village the infantry retired to our original line. On

December 1 the 10th Division relieved the 52nd in the sector wadi Zait-Tahta-Kh. Faaush, but on that

day the 155th Brigade had had another hard brush with the Turks. A regiment of the 3rd Australian Light

Horse on a hill north of El Burj in front of them was heavily attacked at half-past one in the morning by a

specially prepared sturmtruppen battalion of the Turkish 19th Division, and a footing was gained in our

 

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