Classic History Books

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

accustomed to fighting the elements as well as the Turks, but here was a situation where rain might have
made all the difference between success and failure. General Bulfin saw General Hill and his brigadiers

on the afternoon of the 20th. The brigadiers were depressed owing to the floods and the state of the

ground, because it was then clear that causeways would have to be made through the mud to the river

banks. General Hill remained enthusiastic and hopeful and, the Corps Commander supporting him, it was

decided to proceed with the operation. For several nights, with the object of giving the enemy the

impression of a nightly strafe, there had been artillery and machine-gun demonstrations occurring about

the same time and lasting as long as those planned for the night of the crossing. After dusk on December

20 there was a big movement behind our lines. The ferrying and bridging parties got on the move, each

by their particular road, and though the wind was searchingly cold and every officer and man became

thoroughly drenched, there was not a sick heart in the force. The 157th Brigade proceeded to the ford at

the mouth of the Auja, the 156th Brigade advanced towards the river just below Muannis, and the 155th

Brigade moved up to the mill and dam at Jerisheh, where it was to secure the crossing and then swing to

the right to capture Hadrah. The advance was slow, but that the Scots were able to move at all is the

highest tribute to their determination. The rain-soaked canvas of the boats had so greatly added to their

weight that the parties detailed to carry them from the Sarona orange orchards found the task almost

beyond their powers. The bridge rafts for one of the crossings could not be got up to the river bank

because the men were continually slipping in the mud under the heavy load, and the attacking battalion at

this spot was ferried over in coracles. On another route a section carrying a raft lost one of its number,

who was afterwards found sunk in mud up to his outstretched arms. The tracks were almost impassable,

and a Lancashire pioneer battalion was called up to assist in improving them. The men became caked

with mud from steel helmet to boots, and the field guns which had to be hauled by double teams were so

bespattered that there was no need for camouflage. In those strenuous hours of darkness the weather

continued vile, and the storm wind flung the frequent heavy showers with cutting force against the

struggling men. The covering party which was to cross at the ford found the bar had shifted under the

pressure of flood water and that the marks put down to direct the column had been washed away. The

commanding officer reconnoitred, getting up to his neck in water, and found the ford considerably out of

position and deeper than he had hoped, but he brought his men together in fours and, ordering each

section to link arms to prevent the swirling waters carrying them out to sea, led them across without a

casualty. In the other places the covering parties of brigades began to be ferried over at eight o'clock. The

first raft-loads were paddled across with muffled oars. A line was towed behind the boats, and this being

made fast on either side of the river the rafts crossed and recrossed by haulage on the rope, in order that

no disturbance on the surface by oars on even such a wild night should cause an alarm. As soon as the

covering parties were over, light bridges to carry infantry in file were constructed by lashing the rafts

together and placing planks on them. One of these bridges was burst by the strength of the current, but

the delay thus caused mattered little as the surprise was complete. When the bridges of rafts had been

swung and anchored, blankets and carpets were laid upon them to deaden the fall of marching feet, and

during that silent tramp across the rolling bridges many a keen-witted Scot found it difficult to restrain a

laugh as he trod on carpets richer by far than any that had lain in his best parlour at home. He could not

see the patterns, but rightly guessed that they were picked out in the bright colours of the East, and the

muddy marks of war-travelled men were left on them without regret, for the carpets had come from

German houses in Sarona. How perfectly the operation was conducted - noiselessly, swiftly, absolutely

according to time-table - may be gathered from the fact that two officers and sixteen Turks were

awakened in their trench dug-outs at the ford by the river mouth two hours after we had taken the

trenches. The officers resisted and had to be killed. Two miles behind the river the Lowlanders captured

the whole garrison of a post near the sea, none of whom had the slightest idea that the river had been


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