Classic History Books


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

position, but with the aid of a detachment of the Gloucester Yeomanry and the 1/4th Royal Scots
Fusiliers the enemy was driven out at daybreak and six officers and 106 unwounded and 60 wounded

Turks, wearing steel hats and equipped like German storming troops, were taken prisoners. The attack

was pressed with the greatest determination, and the enemy, using hand grenades, got within thirty yards

of our line. During the latter part of their advance the Turks were exposed to a heavy cross fire from

machine guns and rifles of the 9th Light Horse Regiment, and this fire and the guns of the 268th Brigade

Royal Field Artillery and the Hong Kong and Singapore battery prevented the retirement of the enemy.

The capture of the prisoners was effected by an encircling movement round both flanks. Our casualties

were 9 killed and 47 wounded. That storming battalion left over 100 dead about our trenches. At the

same time a violent attack was made on the Tahta defences held by the 157th Brigade; the enemy,

rushing forward in considerable strength and with great impetus, captured a ridge overlooking Tahta - a

success which, if they had succeeded in holding the position till daylight, would have rendered that

village untenable, and would have forced our line back some distance at an important point. It proved to

be a last desperate effort of the enemy at this vital centre. No sooner were the Scots driven off the ridge

than they re-formed and prepared to retake it. Reinforced, they attacked with magnificent courage in face

of heavy machine-gun fire, but it was not until after a rather prolonged period of bayonet work that the

Lowland troops got the upper hand, the Turks trying again and again to force them out. At half-past four

they gave up the attempt, and from that hour Tahta and the rocks about it were objects of terror to them.

Nor did the Turks permit Nebi Samwil to remain in our possession undisputed. The Londoners holding it
were thrice attacked with extreme violence, but the defenders never flinched, and the heavy losses of the

enemy may be measured by the fact that when we took Jerusalem and an unwonted silence hung over

Nebi Samwil, our burying parties interred more than 500 Turkish dead about the summit of that lofty hill.

Their graves are mostly on the eastern, northern, and southern slopes. Ours lie on the west, where Scot,

Londoner, West Countryman, and Indian, all equally heroic sons of the Empire, sleep, as they fought,

side by side.

The last heavy piece of fighting on the XXth Corps' front before the attack on Jerusalem was on
December 3, when a regiment of yeomanry, which like a number of other yeomanry regiments had been

dismounted to form the 74th Division, covered itself with glory. The 16th (Royal Devon Yeomanry)

battalion of the Devon Regiment belonging to the 229th Brigade was ordered to make an attack on Beit

ur el Foka in the dark hours of the morning. All the officers had made reconnaissances and had learned

the extreme difficulties of the ground. At 1 A.M. these yeomen worked their way up the wadi Zeit to the

head of that narrow watercourse at the base of the south-western edge of the hill on which the village

stands. The attack was launched from this position, the company on the right having the steepest face to

climb. Here the villagers, to get the most out of the soil and to prevent the winter rains washing it off the

rocks into the wadi, had built a series of terraces, and the retaining walls, often crumbling to the touch,

offered some cover from the Turkish defenders' fire. With the advantage of this shelter the troops on the

right reached the southern end of the village soon after 2 o'clock, but the company on the left met with

much opposition on the easier slope, and had to call in aid the support of a machine-gun section posted in

the woods on a ridge north-west of the village. By 3 o'clock the whole battalion was in the village, using

rifle and bayonet in the road scarcely more than a couple of yards wide, and bombing the enemy out of

native mud and stone houses and caves. Two officers and fifteen unwounded men were taken prisoners

with three machine guns, but before any consolidation could be done the Turks began a series of

counter-attacks which lasted all day. As we had previously found, Foka was very hard to defend. It is

overlooked on the north, north-east, and east by ridges a few hundred yards away, and by a high hill

 

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