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

because it was the way by which they hoped to get to the Suez Canal. Other portions of the road required
renewing, and the labour which the Welshmen devoted to the work helped the feeding of the Division not

only during the march to Jerusalem but for several weeks after it had passed through it to the hills on the

east and north-east. The rations and stores for this Division were carried by the main railway through

Shellal to Karm, were thence transported by limber to a point on the Turks' line to Beersheba, which had

been repaired but was without engines, were next hauled in trucks by mules on the railway track, and

finally placed in lorries at Beersheba for carriage up the Hebron road. At this time the capacity of the

Latron-Jerusalem road was taxed to the utmost, and every bit of the Welshmen's spadework was repaid a

hundredfold. The 159th Brigade got into Hebron on the night of the 5th of December, but instead of

going north of it - if they had done so an enemy cavalry patrol would have seen them - they set to work

to repair the road through the old Biblical town, for the enemy had blown holes in the highway. Next day

the infantry had a ten-miles' march and made the wadi Arab, a brigade being left in Hebron to watch that

area, the natives of which were reported as not being wholly favourable to us. There were many rifles in

the place, and a number of unarmed Turks were believed to be in the rough country between the town

and the Dead Sea ready to return to take up arms. Armoured cars also remained in Hebron. The infantry

and field artillery occupied the roads during the day, and the heavy guns came along at night and joined

the infantry as the latter were about to set off again.

On the night of the 6th the Division got to a strong line unopposed and saw enemy cavalry on the
southern end of Sherifeh, on which the Turks had constructed a powerful system of defences, the

traverses and breastworks of which were excellently made. In front of the hill the road took a bend to the

west, and the whole of the highway from this point was exposed to the ground in enemy hands south of

Bethlehem, and it was necessary to make good the hills to the east before we could control this road.

Next morning the 7th Cheshires, supported by the 4th Welsh, deployed and advanced direct on Sherifeh

and gained the summit soon after dawn in time to see small parties of enemy cavalry moving off; then

the fog and rain enveloped everything. The 4th Welsh held the hill during the night in pouring rain with

no rations - pack mules could not get up the height - and the men having no greatcoats were perished

with the cold. Colonel Pemberton, their C.O., came down to report the men all right, and asked for no

relief till the morning when they could be brought back to their transport. The General went beyond

Solomon's Pools and was within rifle fire from the Turkish trenches in his efforts to reconnoitre, but it

was impossible to see ahead, and instead of being able to begin his attack in the Beit Jala-Bethlehem area

on the morning of the 8th, that morning arrived before any reconnaissance could be made. He decided to

attack on the high ground of Beit Jala (two miles north-west of Bethlehem) from the south, to send his

divisional cavalry, the Westminster Dragoons, on the infantry's left to threaten Beit Jala from the west

and to refuse Bethlehem.

Before developing this attack it was essential to drive the enemy off the observation post looking down
upon the main road along which the guns and troops had to pass. The fog enabled the guns to pass up the

road, although the Turks had seven mountain guns in the gardens of a big house south of Bethlehem and

had registered the road to a yard. They also had a heavy gun outside the town. The weather cleared at

intervals about noon, but about two o'clock a dense fog came down again and once more the advance was

held up. Late in the afternoon the Welsh Division troops reached the high ground west and south-west of

Beit Jala, but the defences of Bethlehem on the south had still to be taken. Advance guards were sent into

Bethlehem and Beit Jala during the night, and by early morning of the 9th it was found that the enemy

had left, and the leading brigade pressed on, reaching Mar Elias, midway between Bethlehem and

Jerusalem, by eleven o'clock, and the southern outskirts of Jerusalem an hour later.

 

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