Classic History Books


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

the fourth day we were on the Ramallah-Bireh line and secured for Jerusalem an impregnable defence.
Prisoners told us that they had been promised, as a reward for their hoped-for success, a day in Jerusalem

to do as they liked. We can imagine what the situation in the Holy City would have been had our line

been less true. The Londoners who had won the City saved it. Probably only a few of the inhabitants had

any knowledge of the danger the City was in on December 27. Their confidence in the British troops had

grown and could scarcely be stronger, but some of them were alarmed, and throughout the early morning

and day they knelt on housetops earnestly praying that our soldiers would have strength to withstand the

Turkish onslaughts. From that day onward the sound of the guns was less violent, and as our artillery

advanced northwards the people's misgivings vanished and they reproached themselves for their fears.

It will be remembered how the troops of the XXth Corps were disposed. The 53rd Division held the line
south-east and east of Jerusalem from Bir Asad through Abu Dis, Bethany, to north of the Mount of

Olives, whence the 60th Division took it up from Meshari, east of Shafat to Tel el Ful and to Beit

Hannina across the Jerusalem-Nablus road. The 74th Division carried on to Nebi Samwil, Beit Izza to

Beit Dukku, with the 10th Division on their left through Foka, Tahta to Suffa, the gap between the XXth

Corps to the right of the XXIst Corps being held by the 3rd Australian Light Horse Brigade of the

Australian Mounted Division. Against us were the 27th Turkish Division and the 7th and 27th cavalry

regiments south of the Jericho road, with the 26th, 53rd, 19th, and 24th Divisions on the north of that

road and to the west of the Jerusalem-Nablus road, one division being in reserve at Bireh, the latter a new

division fresh from the Caucasus. The 6th and 8th Turkish cavalry regiments were facing our extreme

left, the estimated strength of the enemy in the line being 14,700 rifles and 2300 sabres. Just as it was

getting dark on December 11 a party of the enemy attacked the 179th Brigade at Tel el Ful but were

repulsed. There was not much activity the following day, but the 53rd Division began a series of minor

operations by which they secured some features of tactical importance. On the 13th the 181st Brigade

made a dashing attack on Ras el Kharrabeh and secured it, taking 43 prisoners and two machine guns,

with 31 casualties to themselves.

It was about this time the Corps Commander framed plans for the advance of our front north of
Jerusalem. There had been a few days of fine weather, and a great deal had been done to improve the

condition of the roads and communications. An army of Egyptian labourers had set to work on the

Enab-Jerusalem road and from the villages had come strong reinforcements of natives, women as well as

men (and the women did quite as much work as the men), attracted by the unusual wage payable in cash.

In Jerusalem, too, the natives were sent to labour on the roads and to clean up some of the filth that the

Turks had allowed to accumulate for years, if not for generations, inside the Holy City. The Army not

merely provided work for idle hands but enabled starving bodies to be vitalised. Food was brought into

Jerusalem, and with the cash wages old and young labourers could get more than a sufficiency. The

native in the hills proved to be a good road repairer, and the boys and women showed an eagerness to

earn their daily rates of pay; the men generally looked on and gave directions. It was some time before

steam rollers crushed in the surface, but even rammed-in stones were better than mud, and the lorry

drivers' tasks became lighter.

General Chetwode's plan was to secure a line from Obeid, 9000 yards east of Bethlehem, the hill of
Zamby covering the Jericho road three miles from Jerusalem, Anata, Hismeh, Jeba, Burkah, Beitun, El

Balua, Kh. el Burj, Deir Ibzia to Shilta. The scheme was to strike with the 53rd and 60th Divisions

astride the Jerusalem-Nablus road, and at the same time to push the 10th Division and a part of the 74th

Division eastwards from the neighbourhood of Tahta and Foka. The weather again became bad on

December 14 and the troops suffered great discomfort from heavy rains and violent, cold winds, so that

 

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