Classic History Books


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

November a new decision was taken and Jerusalem was to be defended to the last. German officers came
hurrying south, lorries were rushed down with stores until there were six hundred German lorry drivers

and mechanics in Jerusalem. Reinforcements arrived and the houses of the German Colony were turned

into nests of machine guns. The pains the Germans were at to see their plans carried out were reflected in

the fighting when we tried to get across the Jerusalem-Nablus road and to avoid fighting in the

neighbourhood of the Holy City. But all this effort availed them nought. Our dispositions compelled the

enemy to distribute his forces, and when the attack was launched the Turk lacked sufficient men to man

his defences adequately. And German pretensions in the Holy Land, founded upon years of scheming

and the formation of settlements for German colonists approved and supported by the Kaiser himself,

were shattered beyond hope of recovery, as similar pretensions had been shattered at Bagdad by General

Maude. The Turks had made their headquarters at the Hospice of Notre Dame in Jerusalem, and, taking

their cue from the Hun, carried away all the furniture belonging to that French religious institution. They

had also deported some of the heads of religious bodies. Falkenhayn wished that all Americans should be

removed from Jerusalem, issuing an order to that effect a fortnight before we entered. Some members of

the American colony had been running the Red Crescent hospital, and Turkish doctors who appreciated

their good work insisted that the Americans should remain. Their protest prevailed in most cases, but just

as we arrived several Americans were carried off.

I have asked many men who were engaged in the fight for Jerusalem what their feelings were on getting
their first glimpse of the central spot of Christendom. Some people imagine that the hard brutalities of

war erase the softer elements of men's natures; that killing and the rough life of campaigning, where one

is familiarised with the tragedies of life every hour of every day, where ease and comfort are forgotten

things, remove from the mind those earlier lessons of peace on earth and goodwill toward men. That is a

fallacy. Every man or officer I spoke to declared that he was seized with emotion when, looking from the

shell-torn summit of Nebi Samwil, he saw the spires on the Mount of Olives; or when reconnoitring from

Kustul he got a peep of the red roofs of the newer houses which surround the old City. Possibly only a

small percentage of the Army believed they were taking part in a great mission, not a great proportion

would claim to be really devout men, but they all behaved like Christian gentlemen. One Londoner told

me he had thought the scenes of war had made him callous and that the ruthless destruction of those

things fashioned by men's hands in prosecuting the arts of peace had prompted the feeling that there was

little in civilisation after all, if civilisation could result in so bitter a thing as this awful fighting. Man

seemed as barbaric as in the days before the Saviour came to redeem the world, and whether we won or

lost the war all hopes of a happier state of things were futile. So this Cockney imagined that his condition

showed no improvement on that of the savage warrior of two thousand years ago, except in that

civilisation had developed finer weapons to kill with and be killed by. The finer instincts had been

blunted by the naked and unashamed horrors of war. But the lessons taught him before war scourged the

world came back to him on getting his first view of the Holy City. He felt that sense of emotion which

makes one wish to be alone and think alone. He was on the ground where Sacred History was made,

perhaps stood on the rock the Saviour's foot had trod. In the deep stirring of his emotions the rougher

edges of his nature became rounded by feelings of sympathy and a belief that good would come out of

the evil of this strife. That view of Jerusalem, and the knowledge of what the Holy Sites stand for, made

him a better man and a better fighting man, and he had no doubt the first distant glimpse of the Holy City

had similarly affected the bulk of the Army. That bad language is used by almost all troops in the field is

notorious, but in Jerusalem one seldom heard an oath or an indecent word. When Jerusalem was won and

small parties of our soldiers were allowed to see the Holy City, their politeness to the inhabitants,

patriarch or priest, trader or beggar, man or woman, rebuked the thought that the age of chivalry was

 

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