Classic History Books


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

north of Ain Jeruit, 1200 yards to the north, by another hill 1000 yards to the east, and by the famous
Zeitun ridge about 1500 yards beyond it, and attacks from these directions could be covered very

effectively by overhead machine-gun fire. To enlarge the perimeter of defence would be to increase the

difficulties and require a much larger force than was available, and there was no intention of going

beyond Foka before the main operation against Jerusalem was started. To hold Foka securely a force

must be in possession of the heights on the north and east, and to keep these Beitunia itself must be

gained. Before daylight arrived some work on defences was begun, but it was interfered with by snipers

and not much could be done. Immediately the sun rose from behind the Judean hills there was a violent

outburst of fire from machine guns and rifles on three sides, increasing in volume as the light improved.

The enemy counter-attacked with a determination fully equal to that which he had displayed during the

past fortnight's battle in the hills. He had the advantage of cover and was supported by artillery and a

hurricane of machine-gun fire, but although he climbed the hill and got into the small gardens outside the

very houses, he was repulsed with bomb and bayonet. At one moment there was little rifle fire, and the

two sides fought it out with bombs. The Turks retired with heavy losses, but they soon came back again

and fought with the same determination, though equally unsuccessfully. The Devons called for artillery,

and three batteries supported them splendidly, though the gunners were under a great disadvantage in that

the ground did not permit the effect of gunfire to be observed and it was difficult to follow the attackers.

The supplies of bombs and small-arms ammunition were getting low, and to replenish them men had to

expose themselves to a torrent of fire, so fierce indeed that in bringing up two boxes of rifle ammunition

which four men could carry twelve casualties were incurred. A head shown in the village instantly drew a

hail of bullets from three sides. Reinforcements were on the way up, and the Fife and Forfar Yeomanry

battalion of the Royal Highlanders were prepared to make a flank attack from their outpost line

three-quarters of a mile south-east of Foka to relieve the Devons, but this would have endangered the

safety of the outpost line without reducing the fire from the heights, and as the Fife and Forfar men

would have had to cross two deep wadis under enfilade fire on their way to Foka their adventure would

have been a perilous one. By this time three out of four of the Devons' company commanders were

wounded and the casualties were increasing. The officer commanding the battalion therefore decided,

after seven hours of terrific fighting, that the village of Foka was no longer tenable, and authority was

given him to withdraw. In their last attack the enemy put 1000 men against the village, and it was not

until the O.C. Devons had seen this strength that he proposed the place should be evacuated. His men had

put up a great fight. The battalion went into action 762 strong; it came out 488. Three officers were killed

and nine wounded, and 49 other ranks killed and 132 wounded. Thirteen were wounded and missing and

78 missing. In Foka to-day you will see most of the battered houses repaired, but progress through the

streets is partially barred by the graves of Devon yeomen who were buried where they fell. It was not

possible to hew a grave in rock, therefore earth and stone were piled up round the bodies, so that in at

least two spots you find several graves serving as buttresses to rude dwellings. On one of these graves,

beside the identification tablet of two strong sons of Devon, you will find, on a piece of paper inserted in

a slit cut into wood torn from an ammunition box, the words 'Grave of unknown Turk.' Friend and foe

share a common resting-place. The natives of this village are more than usually friendly, and those

graves seem safe in their keeping.

Between the 4th and 7th December there was a reshuffling of the troops holding the line to enable a
concentration of the divisions entrusted with the attack on the defences covering Jerusalem. The 10th

Division relieved the 229th and 230th Brigades of the 74th Division and extended its line to cover Beit

Dukku, a point near and west of Et Tireh, to Tahta, and when the enemy retired from the immediate front

of the 10th Division's left, Hellabi and Suffa were occupied. The Australian Mounted Division also

 

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