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

a night with cheerfulness was unbeatable. One section of the force did regard the prospects with rueful
countenances. This was the Divisional artillery. Tractors, those wonderfully ugly but efficient engines

which triumphed over most obstacles, had got the heavies into position. The 96th Heavy Group,

consisting of three 6-inch howitzer batteries, one complete 60-pounder battery, and a section of another

60-pounder battery, and the Hong Kong and Singapore Mountain Battery, were attached to and up with

the 74th Division. The 10 and B 9 Mountain Batteries were with the 60th Division waiting to try their

luck down the hills, and the 91st Heavy Battery (60-pounders) was being hauled forward with the 53rd.

The heavies could get in long-range fire from Kustul, but what thought the 18-pounder batteries? With

the country in such a deplorable state it looked hopeless for them to expect to be in the show, and the

prospect of remaining out of the big thing had more effect upon the gunners than the weather. As a

matter of fact but few field batteries managed to get into action. Those which succeeded in opening fire

during the afternoon of December 8 did most gallant work for hours, with enemy riflemen shooting at

them from close range, and their work formed a worthy part in the victory. The other field gunners could

console themselves with the fact that the difficulties which were too great for them - and really field-gun

fire on the steep slopes could not be very effective - prevented even the mountain batteries, which can go

almost anywhere, from fully co-operating with the infantry.

The preliminary moves for the attack were made during the night. The 179th Infantry Brigade group
consisting of 2/13th London, 2/14th London, 2/15th London, and 2/16th London with the 2/23rd London

attached, the 10th Mountain Battery and B 9 Mountain Battery, a section of the 521st Field Coy. R.E., C

company of Loyal North Lancashire Pioneers, and the 2/4th Field Ambulance specially equipped on an

all-mule scale, moved to the wadi Surar in two columns. The right column was preceded by an advance

guard of the Kensington battalion, the Loyal North Lancashire Pioneers, and the section of R.E., which

left the brigade bivouacs behind Soba at five o'clock on the afternoon of the 7th to enable the pioneers

and engineers to improve a track marked on the map. For the greater part of the way the track had

evidently been unused for many years, and all traces of it had disappeared, but in three hours' time a way

had been made down the hill to the wadi, and the brigade got over the watercourse just north of Setaf a

little after midnight. As a preliminary to the attack on the first objective it was necessary to secure the

high ground south of Ain Karim and the trenches covering that bright and picturesque little town. At two

o'clock, when rain and mist made it so dark it was not possible to see a wall a couple of yards ahead, the

Kensingtons advanced to gain the heights south of Ain Karim in order to enable the 179th Brigade to be

deployed. A scrambling climb brought the Kensingtons to the top of the hill, and, after a weird fight of an

hour and a half in such blackness of night that it was hard to distinguish between friend and foe, they

captured it and beat off several persistent counter-attacks. The 179th Brigade thus had the ground secured

for preparing to attack their section of the main defences. The 180th Infantry Brigade, whose brigadier,

Brig.-General Watson, had the honour of being the first general in Jerusalem, the first across the Jordan,

and the first to get through the Turkish line in September 1918 when General Allenby sprang forward

through the Turks and made the mighty march to Aleppo, was composed of the 2/17th London, 2/18th

London, 2/19th London, and 2/20th London, 519th Coy. R.E., two platoons of pioneers, and the 2/5th

Field Ambulance. It reached its position of assembly without serious opposition, though a detachment

which went through the village of Kulonieh met some enemy posts. These, to use the brigadier's phrase,

were 'silently dealt with.'

It was a fine feat to get the two brigades of Londoners into their positions of deployment well up to time.
The infantry had to get from Kustul down a precipitous slope of nearly a thousand feet into a wadi, now a

rushing torrent, and up a rocky and almost as steep hill on the other side. Nobody could see where he was

 

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