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

difficulties from the sure base provided by the XXIst Corps line. The crossing of the Auja was a great
feat of war, and this is the first time I am able to mention the names of those to whom the credit of the

operation is due. It was one of the strange regulations of the Army Council in connection with the

censorship that no names of the commanders of army corps, divisions, brigades, or battalions should be

mentioned by correspondents. Nor indeed was I permitted to identify in my despatches any particular

division, yet the divisions concerned - the 52nd, 53rd, 54th, 60th, and so on - had often been mentioned

in official despatches; the enemy not only knew they were in Palestine but were fully aware of their

positions in the line; their commanders and brigadiers were known by name to the Turks. On the other

hand, in describing a certain battle I was allowed to speak of divisions of Lowland troops, Welshmen and

Londoners, allusions which would convey (if there were anything to give away) precisely as much

information to the dull old Turk and his sharper Hun companion in arms as though the 52nd, 53rd, and

60th Divisions had been explicitly designated. This practice seemed in effect to be designed more with

the object of keeping our people at home in the dark, of forbidding them glory in the deeds of their

children and brothers, than of preventing information reaching the enemy. Some gentleman enthroned in

the authority of an official armchair said 'No,' and there was an end of it. You could not get beyond him.

His decision was final, complete - and silly - and the correspondent was bound hand and foot by it.

Doubtless he would have liked one to plead on the knee for some little relaxation of his decision. Then he

would have answered 'No' in a louder tone. Let me give one example from a number entered in my

notebooks of how officers at home exercised their authority. In January 1917 the military railway from

the Suez Canal had been constructed across the Sinai Desert and the first train was run into El Arish,

about ninety miles from the Canal. I was asked by General Headquarters to send a cablegram to London

announcing the fact that railhead was at El Arish, the town having been captured a fortnight previously

after a fine night march. That message was never published, and I knew it was a waste of time to ask the

reason. I happened to be in London for a few days in the following August and my duties took me to the

War Office. A Colonel in the Intelligence Branch heard I was there and sent for me to tell me I had sent

home information of value to the enemy. I reminded him there was a G.H.Q. censorship in Egypt which

dealt with my cablegrams, and asked the nature of the valuable information which should have been

concealed. 'You sent a telegram that the railway had reached El Arish when the Turks did not know it

was beyond Bir el Abd.' Abd is fifty miles nearer the Suez Canal than El Arish. What did this officer care

about a request made by G.H.Q. to transmit information to the British public? He knew better than

G.H.Q. what the British public should know, and he was certain the enemy thought we were hauling

supplies through those fifty miles of sand to our troops at El Arish, an absolutely physical impossibility,

for there were not enough camels in the East to do it. But he did not know, and he should have known,

being an Intelligence officer, that the Turks were so far aware of where our railhead was that they were

frequently bombing it from the air. I had been in these bombing raids and knew how accurately the

German airmen dropped their eggs, and had this Intelligence officer taken the trouble to inquire he would

have found that between thirty and forty casualties were inflicted by one bomb at El Arish itself when

railhead was being constructed. This critic imagined that the Turk knew only what the English papers

told him. If the Turks' knowledge had been confined to what the War Office Intelligence Branch gave

him credit for he would have been in a parlous state. While this ruling of the authorities at home

prevailed it was impossible for me to give the names of officers or to mention divisions or units which

were doing exceptionally meritorious work. Unfortunately the bureaucratic interdict continued till within

a few days of the end of the campaign, when I was told that, 'having frequently referred to the work of

the Australians, which was deserved,' the mention of British and Indian units would be welcomed. We

had to wait until within a month of the end of the world war before the War Office would unbend and

realise the value of the best kind of propaganda. No wonder our American friends consider us the worst

 

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