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

driven home with unerring certainty by his magnificent men, General Chetwode may well have felt
thankful that he had been given such troops with which to deliver Jerusalem from the Turks. The 74th

Division, having taken the whole of its first objectives early in the morning and having throughout the

day supported the left of the London Division, was ready to commence operations against the second

objective. The dismounted yeomanry, whose condition through the wet and mud was precisely similar to

that of the 60th Division troops, for they, too, had found the hills barren of shelter and equally cold, did

extremely well in forcing the enemy from his stronghold on the hill covering Beit Iksa and the

Kulonieh-Jerusalem road, from which, had he not been ejected, he could have harassed the Londoners'

left. The Beit Iksa defences were carried by a most determined rush. A gallant attempt was also made to

get the El Burj ridge which runs south-east from Nebi Samwil, but owing to strong enfilade fire from the

right they could not get on.

There was no doubt in any minds that Jerusalem would be ours, but the difficulties the 53rd Division
were contending with had slowed down their advance. Thus the right flank of the 60th Division was

exposed and a considerable body of Turks was known to be south of Jerusalem. Late in the afternoon the

advance was ordered to be stopped, and the positions gained to be held. With a view to continuing the

advance next day the 181st Brigade (2/21st London, 2/22nd London, 2/23rd London, and 2/24th London)

was ordered to get into a position of readiness to pass through the 179th Brigade and resume the attack

on the right of the 180th Brigade. On the evening of December 8 the position of the attacking force was

this. The 53rd Division (I will deal presently with the advance of this Division) was across the

Bethlehem-Hebron road from El Keiseraniyeh, two miles south of Bethlehem, to Ras el Balua in an east

and west direction, then north-west to the hill of Haud Kibriyan with its flank thrown south to cover Kh.

el Kuseir. The 10th Australian Light Horse were at Malhah. The 179th and 180th Brigades of the 60th

Division occupied positions extending from Malhah through a line more than a mile east of the captured

defences west of Jerusalem to Lifta, with the 181st Brigade in divisional reserve near Kustul. The 229th

and 230th Brigades of the 74th Division held a due north and south line from the Jaffa-Jerusalem road

about midway between Kulonieh and Lifta through Beit Iksa to Nebi Samwil. The 53rd Division had not

reached their line without enormous trouble. But for the two days' rain and fog it is quite possible that the

whole of the four objectives planned by the XXth Corps would have been gained, and whether any

substantial body of Turks could have left the vicinity of Jerusalem by either the Nablus or Jericho roads

is doubtful. The weather proved to be the Turks' ally. The 53rd Division battled against it. Until fog came

down to prevent reconnaissance in an extremely bad bit of country they were well up to their march

table, and in the few clear moments of the afternoon of the 7th, General Mott, from the top of Ras esh

Sherifeh, a hill 3237 feet high, the most prominent feature south of Jerusalem, caught a glimpse of

Bethlehem and the Holy City. It was only a temporary break in the weather, and the fog came down

again so thick that neither the positions of the Bethlehem defences nor those of Beit Jala could be

reconnoitred.

The Division, after withstanding the repeated shocks of enemy attacks at Khuweilfeh immediately
following the taking of Beersheba, had had a comparatively light time watching the Hebron road. They

constructed a track over the mountains to get the Division to Dharahiyeh when it should be ordered to

take part in the attack on the Jerusalem defences, and while they were waiting at Dilbeih they did much

to improve the main road. The famous zigzag on the steep ridge between Dharahiyeh and Dilbeih was in

good condition, and you saw German thoroughness in the gradients, in the well-banked bends, and in the

masonry walls which held up the road where it had been cut in the side of a hill. It was the most difficult

part of the road, and the Germans had taken as much care of it as they would of a road in the Fatherland -

 

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