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

their last card. It was trumped; and when we had won the trick there was not a soldier in General
Allenby's Army nor a civilian in the Holy City who had not a profound belief in the coming downfall of

the Turkish Empire.

Troops in the line and in bivouac spent the most cheerless Christmas Day within their memories. Not
only in the storm-swept hills but on the Plain the day was bitterly cold, and the gale carried with it heavy

rain clouds which passed over the tops of mountains and rolled up the valleys in ceaseless succession,

discharging hail and rain in copious quantities. The wadis became roaring, tearing torrents fed by

hundreds of tributaries, and men who had sought shelter on the lee side of rocks often found water

pouring over them in cascades. The whole country became a sea of mud, and the trials of many months

of desert sand were grateful and comforting memories. Transport columns had an unhappy time: the

Hebron road was showing many signs of wear, and it was a long journey for lorries from Beersheba

when the retaining walls were giving way and a foot-deep layer of mud invited a skid every yard. The

Latron-Jerusalem road was better going, but the soft metal laid down seemed to melt under the unceasing

traffic in the wet, and in peace time this highway would have been voted unfit for traffic. The worst piece

of road, however, was also the most important. The Nablus road where it leaves Jerusalem was wanted to

supply a vital point on our front. It could not be used during the day because it was under observation,

and anything moving along it was liberally dosed with shells. Nor could its deplorable condition be

improved by working parties. The ground was so soft on either side of it that no gun, ammunition, or

supply limber could leave the track, and whatever was required for man, or beast, or artillery had to be

carried across the road in the pitch-black hours of night. Supplies were only got up to the troops after

infinite labour, yet no one went hungry. Boxing Day was brighter, and there were hopes of a period of

better weather. During the morning there were indications that an enemy offensive was not far off, and

these were confirmed about noon by information that the front north of Jerusalem would be attacked in

the night. General Chetwode thereupon ordered General Longley to start his offensive on the left of the

XXth Corps line at dawn next morning. Shortly before midnight the Turks began their operations against

the line held by the 60th Division across the Nablus road precisely where it had been expected. They

attacked in considerable strength at Ras et Tawil and about the quarries held by our outposts north of that

hill, and the outposts were driven in. About the same time the 24th Welsh Regiment - dismounted

yeomanry - made the enemy realise that we were on the alert, for they assaulted and captured a hill quite

close to Et Tireh, just forestalling an attack by a Turkish storming battalion, and beat off several

determined counter-attacks, as a result of which the enemy left seventy killed with the bayonet and also

some machine guns on the hill slopes.

The night was dark and misty, and by half-past one the Turks had developed a big attack against the
whole of the 60th Division's front, the strongest effort being delivered on the line in front of Tel el Ful,

though there was also very violent fighting on the west of the wadi Ed Dunn, north of Beit Hannina. The

Turks fought with desperate bravery. They had had no food for two days, and the commander of one

regiment told his men: 'There are no English in front of you. I have been watching the enemy lines for a

long time; they are held by Egyptians, and I tell you there are no English there. You have only to capture

two hills and you can go straight into Jerusalem and get food. It is our last chance of getting Jerusalem,

and if we fail we shall have to go back.' This officer gave emphatic orders that British wounded were not

to be mutilated. Between half-past one and eight A.M. the Turks attacked in front of Tel el Ful eight

times, each attack being stronger than the last. Tel el Ful is a conical hill covered with huge boulders, and

on the top is a mass of rough stones and ruined masonry. The Turks had registered well and severely

shelled our position before making an assault, and they covered the advance with machine guns. In one

 

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