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Title: How Jerusalem Was Won - Being the Record of Allenby's Campaign in Palestine
Author: Massey, W.T.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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HOW JERUSALEM WAS WON

BEING THE RECORD OF ALLENBY'S CAMPAIGN IN PALESTINE

by

W.T. MASSEY

OFFICIAL CORRESPONDENT OF THE LONDON NEWSPAPERS WITH THE EGYPTIAN
EXPEDITIONARY FORCE



WITH ILLUSTRATIONS AND MAPS



LONDON 1919



PREFACE


This narrative of the work accomplished for civilisation by General
Allenby's Army is carried only as far as the occupation of Jericho.
The capture of that ancient town, with the possession of a line of
rugged hills a dozen miles north of Jerusalem, secured the Holy City
from any Turkish attempt to retake it. The book, in fact, tells
the story of the twenty-third fall of Jerusalem, one of the most
beneficent happenings of all wars, and marking an epoch in the
wonderful history of the Holy Place which will rank second only to
that era which saw the birth of Christianity. All that occurred in the
fighting on the Gaza-Beersheba line was part and parcel of the taking
of Jerusalem, the freeing of which from four centuries of Turkish
domination was the object of the first part of the campaign. The Holy
City was the goal sought by every officer and man in the Army; and
though from the moment that goal had been attained all energies were
concentrated upon driving the Turk out of the war, there was not a
member of the Force, from the highest on the Staff to the humblest
private in the ranks, who did not feel that Jerusalem was the greatest
prize of the campaign.

In a second volume I shall tell of that tremendous feat of arms which
overwhelmed the Turkish Armies, drove them through 400 miles of
country in six weeks, and gave cavalry an opportunity of proving that,
despite all the arts and devices of modern warfare, with fighters
and observers in the air and an entirely new mechanism of war, they
continued as indispensable a part of an army as when the legions
of old took the field. This is too long a story to be told in this
volume, though the details of that magnificent triumph are so firmly
impressed on the mind that one is loth to leave the narration of them
to a future date. For the moment Jerusalem must be sufficient, and if
in the telling of the British work up to that point I can succeed in
giving an idea of the immense value of General Allenby's Army to the
Empire, of the soldier's courage and fortitude, of his indomitable
will and self-sacrifice and patriotism, it will indeed prove the most
grateful task I have ever set myself.

_April 1919._



CONTENTS


Chap.

    I. PALESTINE'S INFLUENCE ON THE WAR

    II. OLD BATTLEGROUNDS

    III. DIFFICULTIES OF THE ATTACK

    IV. TRAINING THE ARMY

    V. RAILWAYS, ROADS, AND THE BASE

    VI. PREPARING FOR 'ZERO DAY'

    VII. THE BEERSHEBA VICTORY

    VIII. GAZA DEFENCES

    IX. CRUSHING THE TURKISH LEFT

    X. THROUGH GAZA INTO THE OPEN

    XI. TWO YEOMANRY CHARGES

    XII. LOOKING TOWARDS JERUSALEM

    XIII. INTO THE JUDEAN HILLS

    XIV. THE DELIVERANCE OF THE HOLY CITY

    XV. GENERAL ALLENBY'S OFFICIAL ENTRY

    XVI. MAKING JERUSALEM SECURE

    XVII. A GREAT FEAT OF WAR

    XVIII. BY THE BANKS OF THE JORDAN

    XIX. THE TOUCH OF THE CIVILISING HAND

    XX. OUR CONQUERING AIRMEN

    APPENDICES

    INDEX


LIST OF MAPS


PLAN OF SOUTHERN PALESTINE

PLAN OF GAZA-BEERSHEBA LINE

PLAN OF THE BETH-HORON COUNTRY

PLAN OF THE BATTLE OF JERUSALEM


LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

OFFICIAL ENTRY INTO THE HOLY CITY. GENERAL ALLENBY RECEIVED BY THE
MILITARY GOVERNOR OP JERUSALEM, DECEMBER 11, 1917

KANTARA TERMINUS OF THE DESERT MILITARY RAILWAY

EAST FORCE H.Q. DUG-OUTS NEAR GAZA

WADI GHUZZE NEAR SHELLAL

OUR WATERWORKS AT SHELLAL

ON THE MOVE IN THE DESERT

THE GREAT MOSQUE AT GAZA

TURKISH HEADQUARTERS AT GAZA. Note the Crusader Lion in Wall.

A DESERT MOTOR ROAD NEAR SHELLAL

TURKISH DUG-OUTS AT GAZA

BEERSHEBA RAILWAY STATION WITH MINED ROLLING STOCK

LIEUT.-GEN. SIR HARRY CHAUVEL OUTSIDE BEERSHEBA MOSQUE, NOVEMBER 1,
1917

EL MUGHAR. THE SCENE OF A YEOMANRY CHARGE

BURIAL-PLACE OF ST. GEORGE, PATRON SAINT OF ENGLAND (AT LUDD)

YEOMANRY GRAVES AT BETH-HORON THE UPPER, WHERE JOSHUA COMMANDED
THE SUN TO REMAIN STILL TO ENABLE THE ISRAELITES TO OVERTHROW THE
PHILISTINES

IN THE JUDEAN HILLS

A ROMAN CENTURION'S TOMB, KURYET EL ENAB

ONE OF KING SOLOMON'S POOLS

A TYPICAL NEW ZEALANDER

WADI SURAR, CROSSED BY LONDON TERRITORIALS ON THE MORNING OF THEIR
ASSAULT ON THE JERUSALEM DEFENCES

THE DEIR YESIN POSITION WEST OF JERUSALEM

EASTERN FACE OF NEBI SAMWIL MOSQUE, SHOWING DESTRUCTION BY TURKISH
SHELL-FIRE

OFFICIAL ENTRY INTO THE HOLY CITY. GENERAL ALLENBY ARRIVING OUTSIDE
THE JAFFA GATE

OFFICIAL ENTRY. GENERAL ALLENBY RECEIVING THE MAYOR OF JERUSALEM (A
DESCENDANT OF MAHOMET)

JERUSALEM FROM MOUNT OF OLIVES

JERUSALEM FROM GARDEN OF GETHSEMANE

PANEL IN THE CHAPEL OF THE KAISERIN AUGUSTA VICTORIA HOSPICE ON THE
MOUNT OF OLIVES

BETHLEHEM

CHURCH OF THE NATIVITY, BETHLEHEM

AIN KARIM, PART OF THE JERUSALEM DEFENCES

RIVER AUJA, CROSSED AT NIGHT BY LOWLAND TERRITORIALS

JERISHEH MILL, RIVER AUJA, ONE OF THE LOWLANDERS' CROSSINGS

BARREL BRIDGE OVER THE RIVER AUJA

DESTROYED BRIDGE ON THE JERICHO ROAD

THE WILDERNESS, WITH A GLIMPSE OF THE DEAD SEA

LONDONERS' BRIDGE OVER THE JORDAN. THE RIVER IS IN FLOOD

GERMAN PRISONERS CROSSING THE JORDAN

NEW ZEALAND MOUNTED RIFLES AT BETHLEHEM

A HAIRPIN BEND ON THE JERUSALEM ROAD



CHAPTER I

PALESTINE'S INFLUENCE ON THE WAR


In a war which involved the peoples of the four quarters of the globe
it was to be expected that on the world's oldest battleground would
be renewed the scenes of conflict of bygone ages. There was perhaps a
desire of some elements of both sides, certainly it was the unanimous
wish of the Allies, to avoid the clash of arms in Palestine, and to
leave untouched by armies a land held in reverence by three of the
great religions of the world. But this ancient cockpit of warring
races could not escape. The will of those who broke the peace
prevailed. Germany's dream of Eastern Empires and world domination,
the lust of conquest of the Kaiser party, required that the tide of
war should once more surge across the land, and if the conquering
hosts left fewer traces of war wreckage than were to be expected in
their victorious march, it was due not to any anxiety of our foes
to avoid conflict about, and damage to, places with hallowed
associations, but to the masterly strategy of the British
Commander-in-Chief who manoeuvred the Turkish Armies out of positions
defending the sacred sites.

The people of to-day who have lived through the war, who have had
their view bewildered by ever-recurring anxieties, by hopes shattered
and fears realised, by a succession of victories and defeats on a
colossal scale, and by a sudden collapse of the enemy, may fail to see
the Palestine campaign in true perspective. But in a future generation
the calm judgment of the historian in reviewing the greatest of all
wars will, if I mistake not, pay a great tribute to General Allenby's
strategy, not only as marking the commencement of the enemy's
downfall, but as preserving from the scourge of war those holy places
which symbolise the example by which most people rule their lives.
Britons who value the good name of their country will appreciate what
this means to those who shall come after us--that the record of a
great campaign carried out exclusively by British Imperial troops was
unsullied by a single act to disturb the sacred monuments, and left
the land in the full possession of those rich treasures which stand
for the principles that guided our actions and which, if posterity
observes them, will make a better and happier world.

A few months after the Turks entered the war it was obvious that
unaided they could never realise the Kaiser's hope of cutting the Suez
Canal communications of the British Empire. The German commitments in
Europe were too overwhelming to permit of their rendering the Turks
adequate support for a renewed effort against Egypt after the failure
of the attack on the Canal in February 1915. There was an attempt
by the Turks in August 1916, but it was crushed by Anzac horse and
British infantry at Romani,[1] a score of miles from Port Said, and
thereafter the Turks in this theatre were on the defensive. Some
declare the Dardanelles enterprise to have been a mistake; others
believe that had we not threatened the Turks there Egypt would
have had to share with us the anxieties that war brings alike upon
attackers and defenders. Gallipoli and Mesopotamia, however we regard
those expeditions in the first years of the struggle, undoubtedly
prevented the Turks employing a large army against Egypt, and the
possibilities resulting from a defeat there were so full of danger to
us, not merely in that half-way house of the Empire but in India and
the East generally, that if Gallipoli served to avert the disaster
that ill-starred expedition was worth undertaking. We had to drive
the Turks out of the Sinai Peninsula--Egyptian territory--and, that
accomplished, an attack on the Turks through Palestine was imperative
since the Russian collapse released a large body of Turkish troops
from the Caucasus who would otherwise be employed in Mesopotamia.

[Footnote 1: _The Desert Campaigns_: London, Constable and Co., Ltd.]

When General Allenby took over the command of the Egyptian
Expeditionary Force the British public as a whole did not fully
realise the importance of the Palestine campaign. Most of them
regarded it as a 'side show,' and looked upon it as one of those minor
fields of operations which dissipated our strength at a time when it
was imperative we should concentrate to resist the German effort on
the Western Front. They did not know the facts. In our far-flung
Empire it was essential that we should maintain our prestige among
the races we governed, some of them martial peoples who might remain
faithful to the British flag only so long as we could impress them
with our power to win the war. They were more influenced by a triumph
in Mesopotamia, which was nearer their doors, than by a victory in
France, and the occupation of Bagdad was a victory of greater import
to the King's Indian subjects than the German retirement from the
Hindenburg line. If there ever was a fear of serious trouble in India
the advance of General Maude in Mesopotamia dispelled it, and made it
easier not only to release a portion of our white garrison in India
for active service elsewhere, but to recruit a large force of Indians
for the Empire's work in other climes. Bagdad was a tremendous blow to
German ambitions. The loss of it spelt ruin to those hopes of Eastern
conquest which had prompted the German intrigues in Turkey, and it was
certain that the Kaiser, so long as he believed in ultimate victory,
would refuse to accept the loss of Bagdad as final. Russia's
withdrawal as a belligerent released a large body of Turkish troops
in the Caucasus, and set free many Germans, particularly 'technical
troops' of which the Turks stood in need, for other fronts. It was
then that the German High Command conceived a scheme for retaking
Bagdad, and the redoubtable von Falkenhayn was sent to Constantinople
charged with the preparations for the undertaking. Certain it is that
it would have been put into execution but for the situation created by
the presence of a large British Army in the Sinai Peninsula. A large
force was collected about Aleppo for a march down the Euphrates
valley, and the winter of 1917-18 would have witnessed a stern
struggle for supremacy in Mesopotamia if the War Cabinet had not
decided to force the Turks to accept battle where they least wanted
it.

The views of the British War Cabinet on the war in the East, at any
rate, were sound and solid. They concentrated on one big campaign,
and, profiting from past mistakes which led to a wastage of strength,
allowed all the weight they could spare to be thrown into the Egyptian
Expeditionary Force under a General who had proved his high military
capacity in France, and in whom all ranks had complete confidence, and
they permitted the Mesopotamian and Salonika Armies to contain the
enemies on their fronts while the Army in Palestine set out to crush
the Turks at what proved to be their most vital point. As to whether
the force available on our Mesopotamia front was capable of defeating
the German scheme I cannot offer an opinion, but it is beyond all
question that the conduct of operations in Palestine on a plan at once
bold, resolute, and worthy of a high place in military history saved
the Empire much anxiety over our position in the Tigris and Euphrates
valleys, and probably prevented unrest on the frontiers of India and
in India itself, where mischief makers were actively working in the
German cause. Nor can there be any doubt that the brilliant campaign
in Palestine prevented British and French influence declining among
the Mahomedan populations of those countries' respective spheres of
control in Africa. Indeed I regard it as incontrovertible that the
Palestine strategy of General Allenby, even apart from his stupendous
rush through Syria in the autumn of the last year of war, did as much
to end the war in 1918 as the great battles on the Western Front,
for if there had been failure or check in Palestine some British and
French troops in France might have had to be detached to other fronts,
and the Germans' effort in the Spring might have pushed their line
farther towards the Channel and Paris. If Bagdad was not actually
saved in Palestine, an expedition against it was certainly stopped by
our Army operating on the old battlegrounds in Palestine. We lost many
lives, and it cost us a vast amount of money, but the sacrifices
of brave men contributed to the saving of the world from German
domination; and high as the British name stood in the East as the
upholder of the freedom of peoples, the fame of Britain for justice,
fair dealing, and honesty is wider and more firmly established to-day
because the people have seen it emerge triumphantly from a supreme
test.

In the strategy of the world war we made, no doubt, many mistakes, but
in Palestine the strategy was of the best, and in the working out of a
far-seeing scheme, victories so influenced events that on this front
began the final phase of the war--once Turkey was beaten, Bulgaria and
Austria-Hungary submitted and Germany acknowledged the inevitable.
Falkenhayn saw that the Bagdad undertaking was impossible so long as
we were dangerous on the Palestine front, and General Allenby's attack
on the Gaza line wiped the Bagdad enterprise out of the list of German
ambitions. The plan of battle on the Gaza-Beersheba line resembled
in miniature the ending of the war. If we take Beersheba for Turkey,
Sheria and Hareira for Bulgaria and Austria, and Gaza for Germany,
we get the exact progress of events in the final stage, except that
Bulgaria's submission was an intelligent anticipation of the laying
down of their arms by the Turks. Gaza-Beersheba was a rolling up from
our right to left; so was the ending of the Hun alliance.



CHAPTER II

OLD BATTLEGROUNDS


It was in accordance with the fitness of things that the British Army
should fight and conquer on the very spots consecrated by the memories
of the most famous battles of old. From Gaza onwards we made our
progress by the most ancient road on earth, for this way moved
commerce between the Euphrates and the Nile many centuries before the
East knew West. We fought on fields which had been the battlegrounds
of Egyptian and Assyrian armies, where Hittites, Ethiopians, Persians,
Parthians, and Mongols poured out their blood in times when kingdoms
were strong by the sword alone. The Ptolemies invaded Syria by this
way, and here the Greeks put their colonising hands on the country.
Alexander the Great made this his route to Egypt. Pompey marched over
the Maritime Plain and inaugurated that Roman rule which lasted for
centuries; till Islam made its wide irresistible sweep in the seventh
century. Then the Crusaders fought and won and lost, and Napoleon's
ambitions in the East were wrecked just beyond the plains.

Up the Maritime Plain we battled at Gaza, every yard of which had
been contested by the armies of mighty kings in the past thirty-five
centuries, at Akir, Gezer, Lydda, and around Joppa. All down the ages
armies have moved in victory or flight over this plain, and General
Allenby in his advance was but repeating history. And when the
Turks had been driven beyond the Plain of Philistia, and the
Commander-in-Chief had to decide how to take Jerusalem, we saw the
British force move along precisely the same route that has been taken
by armies since the time when Joshua overcame the Amorites and the day
was lengthened by the sun and moon standing still till the battle
was won. Geography had its influence on the strategy of to-day as
completely as it did when armies were not cumbered with guns and
mechanical transport. Of the few passes from the Maritime Plain over
the Shephelah into the Judean range only that emerging from the green
Vale of Ajalon was possible, if we were to take Jerusalem, as the
great captains of old took it, from the north. The Syrians sometimes
chose this road in preference to advancing through Samaria, the Romans
suffered retreat on it, Richard Coeur de Lion made it the path for his
approach towards the Holy City, and, precisely as in Joshua's day and
as when in the first century the Romans fell victims to a tremendous
Jewish onslaught, the fighting was hardest about the Beth-horons, but
with a different result--the invaders were victorious. The corps which
actually took Jerusalem advanced up the new road from Latron through
Kuryet el Enab, identified by some as Kirjath-jearim where the
Philistines returned the Ark, but that road would have been denied to
us if we had not made good the ancient path from the Vale of Ajalon to
Gibeon. Jerusalem was won by the fighting at the Beth-horons as
surely as it was on the line of hills above the wadi Surar which
the Londoners carried. There was fighting at Gibeon, at Michmas, at
Beeroth, at Ai, and numerous other places made familiar to us by the
Old Testament, and assuredly no army went forth to battle on more
hallowed soil.

Of all the armies which earned a place in history in Palestine,
General Allenby's was the greatest--the greatest in size, in
equipment, in quality, in fighting power, and not even the invading
armies in the romantic days of the Crusades could equal it in
chivalry. It fought the strong fight with clean hands throughout, and
finished without a blemish on its conduct. It was the best of all the
conquering armies seen in the Holy Land as well as the greatest.
Will not the influence of this Army endure? I think so. There is an
awakening in Palestine, not merely of Christians and Jews, but of
Moslems, too, in a less degree. During the last thirty years there
have grown more signs of the deep faiths of peoples and of their
veneration of this land of sacred history. If their institutions and
missions could develop and shed light over Palestine even while the
slothful and corrupt Turk ruled the land, how much faster and more in
keeping with the sanctity of the country will the improvement be under
British protection? The graves of our soldiers dotted over desert
wastes and cornfields, on barren hills and in fertile valleys, ay, and
on the Mount of Olives where the Saviour trod, will mark an era more
truly grand and inspiring, and offer a far greater lesson to future
generations than the Crusades or any other invasion down the track of
time. The Army of General Allenby responded to the happy thought of
the Commander-in-Chief and contributed one day's pay for the erection
of a memorial near Jerusalem in honour of its heroic dead. Apart from
the holy sites, no other memorial will be revered so much, and future
pilgrims, to whatever faith they belong, will look upon it as a
monument to men who went to battle to bring lasting peace to a land
from which the Word of Peace and Goodwill went forth to mankind.

In selecting General Sir Edmund Allenby as the Palestine Army's chief
the War Cabinet made a happy choice. General Sir Archibald Murray
was recalled to take up an important command at home after the two
unsuccessful attempts to drive the Turks from the Gaza defences. The
troops at General Murray's disposal were not strong enough to take
the offensive again, and it was clear there must be a long period of
preparation for an attack on a large scale. General Allenby brought to
the East a lengthy experience of fighting on the Western Front, where
his deliberate methods of attack, notably at Arras, had given the
Allies victories over the cleverest and bravest of our enemies.
Palestine was likely to be a cavalry, as well as an infantry,
campaign, or at any rate the theatre of war in which the mounted arm
could be employed with the most fruitful of results. General Allenby's
achievements as a cavalry leader in the early days of the war marked
him as the one officer of high rank suited for the Palestine command,
and his proved capacity as a General both in open and in trench
warfare gave the Army that high degree of confidence in its
Commander-in-Chief which it is so necessary that a big fighting force
should possess. A tremendously hard worker himself, General Allenby
expected all under him to concentrate the whole of their energies
on their work. He had the faculty for getting the best out of his
officers, and on his Staff were some of the most enthusiastic soldiers
in the service. There was no room for an inefficient leader in any
branch of the force, and the knowledge that the Commander-in-Chief
valued the lives and the health of his men so highly that he would not
risk a failure, kept all the staffs tuned up to concert pitch. We
saw many changes, and the best men came to the top. His own vigour
infected the whole command, and within a short while of arriving at
the front the efficiency of the Army was considerably increased.

The Palestine G.H.Q. was probably nearer the battle front than any
G.H.Q. in other theatres of operations, and when the Army had broken
through and chased the enemy beyond the Jaffa-Jerusalem line, G.H.Q.
was opened at Bir Salem, near Ramleh, and for several months was
actually within reach of the long-range guns which the Turks
possessed. The rank and file were not slow to appreciate this. They
knew their Commander-in-Chief was on the spot, keeping his eye and
hand on everything, organising with his organisers, planning with
his operation staff, familiar with every detail of the complicated
transport system, watching his supply services with the keenness of a
quartermaster-general, and taking that lively interest in the medical
branch which betrayed an anxious desire for the welfare and health of
the men. The rank and file knew something more than this. They saw the
Commander-in-Chief at the front every day. General Allenby did not
rely solely on reports from his corps. He went to each section of the
line himself, and before practically every major operation he saw the
ground and examined the scheme for attack. There was not a part of the
line he did not know, and no one will contradict me when I say that
the military roads in Palestine were known by no one better than the
driver of the Commander-in-Chief's car. A man of few words, General
Allenby always said what he meant with soldierly directness, which
made the thanks he gave a rich reward. A good piece of work brought a
written or oral message of thanks, and the men were satisfied they
had done well to deserve congratulations. They were proud to have the
confidence of such a Chief and to deserve it, and they in their turn
had such unbounded faith in the military judgment of the General and
in the care he took to prevent unnecessary risk of life, that there
was nothing which he sanctioned that they would not attempt. Such
mutual confidence breeds strength, and it was the Commander-in-Chief's
example, his tact, energy, and military genius which made his Army a
potent power for Britain and a strong pillar of the Allies' cause.

Let it not be imagined that General Allenby in his victorious campaign
shone only as a great soldier. He was also a great administrator. In
England little was known about this part of the General's work, and
owing to the difficulties of the task and to the consideration which
had, and still has, to be shown to the susceptibilities of a number of
friendly nations and peoples, it may be long before the full story of
the administration of the occupied territory in Palestine is unfolded
for general appreciation. It is a good story, worthy of Britain's
record as a protector of peoples, and though from the nature of his
conquest over the Turks in the Bible country the name of General
Allenby will adorn the pages of history principally as a victor, it
will also stand before the governments of states as setting a model
for a wise, prudent, considerate, even benevolent, administration of
occupied enemy territory. In days when Powers driven mad by military
ambition tear up treaties as scraps of paper, General Allenby observed
the spirit as well as the letter of the Hague Convention, and found
it possible to apply to occupied territory the principles of
administration as laid down in the Manual of Military Law.

The natives marvelled at the change. In place of insecurity,
extortion, bribery and corruption, levies on labour and property and
all the evils of Turkish government, General Allenby gave the country
behind the front line peace, justice, fair treatment of every race and
creed, and a firm and equitable administration of the law. Every man's
house became his castle. Taxes were readily paid, the tax gatherers
were honest servants, and, none of the revenue going to keep fat
pashas in luxury in Constantinople, there came a prospect of
expenditure and revenue balancing after much money had been usefully
spent on local government. Until the signing of peace international
law provided that Turkish laws should apply. These, properly
administered, as they never were by the Turks, gave a basis of good
government, and, with the old abuses connected with the collection
of revenue removed, and certain increased taxation and customs dues
imposed by the Turks during the war discontinued, the people resumed
the arts of peace and enjoyed a degree of prosperity none of them had
ever anticipated. What the future government of Palestine may be is
uncertain at the time of writing. There is talk of international
control--we seem ever ready to lose at the conference table what a
valiant sword has gained for us--but the careful and perfectly correct
administration of General Allenby will save us from the criticism of
many jealous foreigners. Certainly it will bear examination by any
impartial investigator, but the best of all tributes that could be
paid to it is that it satisfied religious communities which did not
live in perfect harmony with one another and the inhabitants of a
country which shelters the people of many different races.

The Yilderim undertaking, as the Bagdad scheme was described, did not
meet with the full acceptance of the Turks. The 'mighty Jemal', as the
Germans sneeringly called the Commander of the Syrian Army, opposed it
as weakening his prospects, and even Enver, the ambitious creature and
tool of Germany, postponed his approval. It would seem the taking over
of the command of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force by General Allenby
set the Turks thinking, and made the German Military Mission in
Constantinople reconsider their plans, not with a view to a complete
abandonment of the proposal to advance on Bagdad, as would have been
wise, but in order to see how few of the Yilderim troops they could
allot to Jemal's army to make safe the Sinai front. There was an
all-important meeting of Turkish Generals in the latter half of
August, and Jemal stood to his guns. Von Falkenhayn could not get
him to abate one item of his demands, and there can be no doubt that
Falkenhayn, obsessed though he was with the importance of getting
Bagdad, could see that Jemal was right. He admitted that the Yilderim
operation was only practicable if it had freedom for retirement
through the removal of the danger on the Palestine front. With that
end in view he advocated that the British should be attacked, and
suggested that two divisions and the 'Asia Corps' should be sent from
Aleppo to move round our right. Jemal was in favour of defensive
action; Enver procrastinated and proposed sending one division to
strengthen the IVth Army on the Gaza front and to proceed with the
Bagdad preparations. The wait-and-see policy prevailed, but long
before we exerted our full strength Bagdad was out of the danger zone.
General Allenby's force was so disposed that any suggestion of
the Yilderim operation being put into execution was ruled out of
consideration.

Several documents captured at Yilderim headquarters at Nazareth in
September 1918, when General Allenby made his big drive through Syria,
show very clearly how our Palestine operations changed the whole of
the German plans, and reading between the lines one can realise how
the impatience of the Germans was increasing Turkish stubbornness
and creating friction and ill-feeling. The German military character
brooks no opposition; the Turks like to postpone till to-morrow what
should be done to-day. The latter were cocksure after their two
successes at Gaza they could hold us up; the Germans believed that
with an offensive against us they would hold us in check till the wet
season arrived.[1]

[Footnote 1: See Appendices I., II., and III.]

Down to the south the Turks had to bring their divisions. Their line
of communications was very bad. There was a railway from Aleppo
through Rayak to Damascus, and onwards through Deraa (on the Hedjaz
line) to Afule, Messudieh, Tul Keram, Ramleh, Junction Station to Beit
Hanun, on the Gaza sector, and through Et Tineh to Beersheba. Rolling
stock was short and fuel was scarce, and the enemy had short rations.
When we advanced through Syria in the autumn of 1918 our transport was
nobly served by motor-lorry columns which performed marvels in getting
up supplies over the worst of roads. But as we went ahead we, having
command of the sea, landed stores all the way up the coast, and unless
the Navy had lent its helping hand we should never have got to Aleppo
before the Turk cried 'Enough.' Every ounce of the Turks' supplies had
to be hauled over land. They managed to put ten infantry divisions and
one cavalry division against us in the first three weeks, but they
were not comparable in strength to our seven infantry divisions and
three cavalry divisions. In rifle strength we outnumbered them by two
to one, but if the enemy had been well led and properly rationed he,
being on the defensive and having strong prepared positions, should
have had the power to resist us more strongly. The Turkish divisions
we attacked were: 3rd, 7th, 16th, 19th, 20th, 24th, 26th, 27th, 53rd,
and 54th, and the 3rd Cavalry Division. The latter avoided battle, but
all the infantry divisions had heavy casualties. That the moral of the
Turkish Army was not high may be gathered from a very illuminating
letter written by General Kress von Kressenstein, the G.O.C. of the
Sinai front, to Yilderim headquarters on September 29, 1917.[1]

[Footnote 1: See Appendix IV.]

The troops who won Palestine and made it happier than it had been for
four centuries were exclusively soldiers of the British Empire.
There was a French detachment and an Italian detachment with General
Allenby's Army. The Italians for a short period held a small portion
of the line in the Gaza sector, but did not advance with our force;
the French detachment were solely employed as garrison troops. The
French battleship _Requin_ and two French destroyers cooperated with
the ships of the Royal Navy in the bombardment of the coast. Our Army
was truly representative of the Empire, and the units composing it
gave an abiding example that in unity rested our strength. From over
the Seven Seas the Empire's sons came to illustrate the unanimity
of all the King's subjects in the prosecution of the war. English,
Scottish, Irish, and Welsh divisions of good men and true fought side
by side with soldiers of varying Indian races and castes. Australia's
valiant sons constituted many brigades of horse and, with New Zealand
mounted regiments, became the most hardened campaigners in the
Egyptian and Palestine theatre of operations. Their powerful support
in the day of anxiety and trial, as well as in the time of triumph,
will be remembered with gratitude. South Africa contributed good
gunners; our dark-skinned brethren in the West Indies furnished
infantry who, when the fierce summer heat made the air in the Jordan
Valley like a draught from a furnace, had a bayonet charge which
aroused an Anzac brigade to enthusiasm (and Colonial free men can
estimate bravery at its true value). From far-away Hong Kong and
Singapore came mountain gunners equal to any in the world, Kroomen
sent from their homes in West Africa surf boatmen to land stores,
Raratongas from the Southern Pacific vied with them in boat craft and
beat them in physique, while Egypt contributed a labour corps and
transport corps running a long way into six figures. The communion of
the representatives of the Mother and Daughter nations on the stern
field of war brought together people with the same ideals, and if
there are any minor jealousies between them the brotherhood of arms
will make the soldiers returning to their homes in all quarters of the
globe the best of missionaries to spread the Imperial idea. Instead of
wrecking the British Empire the German-made war should rebuild it
on the soundest of foundations, affection, mutual trust, and common
interest.



CHAPTER III

DIFFICULTIES OF THE ATTACK


General Allenby's first problem was of vital consequence. He had to
pierce the Gaza line. Before his arrival there had been, as already
stated, two attempts which failed. A third failure, or even a
check, might have spelt disaster for us in the East. The Turks held
commanding positions, which they strengthened and fortified under the
direction of German engineers until their country, between the sea and
Beersheba, became a chain of land works of high military value, well
adapted for defence, and covering almost every line of approach.
The Turk at the Dardanelles had shown no loss of that quality of
doggedness in defence which characterised him in Plevna, and though we
know his commanders still cherished the hope of successfully attacking
us before we could attempt to crush his line, it was on his system of
defence that the enemy mainly relied to break the power of the British
force. On arriving in Egypt General Allenby was given an appreciation
of the situation written by Lieut.-General Sir Philip Chetwode, who
had commanded the Desert Column in various stages across the sands of
Sinai, was responsible for forcing the Turks to evacuate El Arish,
arranged the dash on Magdaba by General Sir Harry Chauvel's mounted
troops, and fought the brilliant little battle of Rafa. This
appreciation of the position was the work of a master military mind,
taking a broad comprehensive view of the whole military situation in
the East, Palestine's position in the world war, the strategical and
tactical problems to be faced, and, without making any exorbitant
demands for troops which would lessen the Allies' powers in other
theatres, set out the minimum necessities for the Palestine force.
General Allenby gave the fullest consideration to this document, and
after he had made as complete an examination of the front as any
Commander-in-Chief ever undertook--the General was in one or other
sector with his troops almost every day for four months--General
Chetwode's plan was adopted, and full credit was given to his
prescience in General Allenby's despatch covering the operations up to
the fall of Jerusalem.

It was General Chetwode's view at the time of writing his
appreciation, that both the British and Turkish Armies were
strategically on the defensive. The forces were nearly equal in
numbers, though we were slightly superior in artillery, but we had no
advantage sufficient to enable us to attack a well-entrenched enemy
who only offered us a flank on which we could not operate owing to
lack of water and the extreme difficulty of supply. General Chetwode
thought it was possible the enemy might make an offensive against
us--we have since learned he had such designs--but he gave weighty
reasons against the Turk embarking upon a campaign conducted with
a view to throwing us beyond the Egyptian frontier into the desert
again. If the enemy contemplated even minor operations in the Sinai
Desert he had not the means of undertaking them. We should be retiring
on positions we had prepared, for, during his advance across the
desert, General Chetwode had always taken the precaution of having his
force dug in against the unlikely event of a Turkish attack. Every
step we went back would make our supply easier, and there was no water
difficulty, the pipe line, then 130 miles long, which carried the
purified waters of the Nile to the amount of hundreds of thousands
of gallons daily, being always available for our troops. It would be
necessary for the Turks to repair the Beersheba-Auja railway. They
had lifted some of the rails for use north of Gaza, and a raid we had
carried out showed that we could stop this railway being put into a
state of preparedness for military traffic. An attack which aimed at
again threatening the Suez Canal was therefore ruled as outside the
range of possibilities.

On the other hand, now that the Russian collapse had relieved the Turk
of his anxieties in the Caucasus and permitted him to concentrate his
attention on the Mesopotamian and Palestine fronts, what hope had he
of resisting our attack when we should be in a position to launch it?
The enemy had a single narrow-gauge railway line connecting with the
Jaffa-Jerusalem railway at Junction Station about six miles south-east
of Ramleh. This line ran to Beersheba, and there was a spur line
running past Deir Sineid to Beit Hanun from which the Gaza position
was supplied. There was a shortage of rolling stock and, there being
no coal for the engines, whole olive orchards had been hacked down to
provide fuel. The Hebron road, which could keep Beersheba supplied if
the railway was cut, was in good order, but in other parts there were
no roads at all, except several miles of badly metalled track from
Junction Station to Julis. We could not keep many troops with such
ill-conditioned communications, but Turkish soldiers require far less
supplies than European troops, and the enemy had done such remarkable
things in surmounting supply difficulties that he was given credit for
being able to support between sixty and seventy battalions in the line
and reserve, with an artillery somewhat weaker than our own.

If we made another frontal attack at Gaza we should find ourselves up
against a desperately strong defensive system, but even supposing we
got through it we should come to another halt in a few miles, as
the enemy had selected, and in most cases had prepared, a number of
positions right up to the Jaffa-Jerusalem road, where he would be in
a land of comparative plenty, with his supply and transport troubles
very considerably reduced. No one could doubt that the Turks intended
to defend Jerusalem to the last, not only because of the moral effect
its capture would have on the peoples of the world, but because its
possession by us would threaten their enterprise in the Hedjaz, and
the enormous amount of work we afterwards found they had done on the
Judean hills proved that they were determined to do all in their
power to prevent our driving them from the Holy City. The enemy, too,
imagined that our progress could not exceed the rate at which our
standard gauge railway could be built. Water-borne supplies were
limited as to quantity, and during the winter the landing of supplies
on an open beach was hazardous. In the coastal belt there were no
roads, and the wide fringe of sand which has accumulated for centuries
and still encroaches on the Maritime Plain can only be crossed by
camels. Wells are few and yield but small volumes of water. With the
transport allotted to the force in the middle of 1917 it was not
possible to maintain more than one infantry division at a distance of
twenty to twenty-five miles beyond railhead, and this could only be
done by allotting to them all the camels and wheels of other divisions
and rendering these immobile. This was insufficient to keep the enemy
on the move after a tactical success, and he would have ample time to
reorganise.

General Chetwode held that careful preliminary arrangements, suitable
and elastic organisation of transport, the collection of material at
railhead, the training of platelaying gangs provided by the troops,
the utilisation of the earthwork of the enemy's line for our own
railway, luck as regards the weather and the fullest use of sea
transport, should enable us to give the enemy less breathing time than
appeared possible on paper. It was beyond hope, however, whatever
preparations were made, that we should be able to pursue at a speed
approaching that which the river made possible in Mesopotamia. General
Chetwode considered it would be fatal to attempt an offensive with
forces which might permit us to attack and occupy the enemy's Gaza
line but which would be insufficient to inflict upon him a really
severe blow, and to follow up that blow with sufficient troops. No
less than seven infantry divisions at full strength and three cavalry
divisions would be adequate for the purpose, and they would be
none too many. Further, if the Turks began to press severely in
Mesopotamia, or even to revive their campaign in the Hedjaz, a
premature offensive might be necessitated on our part in Palestine.

The suggestion made by General Chetwode for General Allenby's
consideration was that the enemy should be led to believe we intended
to attack him in front of Gaza, and that we should pin him down to
his defences in the centre, while the real attack should begin on
Beersheba and continue at Hareira and Sheria, and so force the enemy
by manoeuvre to abandon Gaza. That plan General Allenby adopted after
seeing all the ground, and the events of the last day of October and
the first week of November supported General Chetwode's predictions to
the letter. Indeed it would be hard to find a parallel in history for
such another complete and absolute justification of a plan drawn up
several months previously, and it is doubtful if, supposing the Turks
had succeeded in doing what their German advisers advocated, namely
forestalling our blow by a vigorous attack on our positions, there
would have been any material alteration in the working out of the
scheme. The staff work of General Headquarters and of the staffs of
the three corps proved wholly sound. Each department gave of its best,
and from the moment when Beersheba was taken in a day and we secured
its water supply, there was never a doubt that the enemy could be kept
on the move until we got into the rough rocky hills about Jerusalem.
And by that time, as events proved, his moral had had such a
tremendous shaking that he never again made the most of his many
opportunities.

The soundness of the plan can quite easily be made apparent to the
unmilitary eye. Yet the Turk was absolutely deceived as to General
Allenby's intentions. If it be conceded that to deceive the enemy is
one of the greatest accomplishments in the soldier's art, it must be
admitted that the battle of Gaza showed General Allenby's consummate
generalship, just as it was proved again, and perhaps to an even
greater extent, in the wonderful days of September 1918, in Northern
Palestine and Syria. A glance at the map of the Gaza-Beersheba line
and the country immediately behind it will show that if a successful
attack were delivered against Gaza the enemy could withdraw his whole
line to a second and supporting position where we should have to begin
afresh upon an almost similar operation. The Turk would still have his
water and would be slightly nearer his supplies.

Since the two unsuccessful attacks in March and April, Gaza had been
put into a powerful state of defence. The houses of the town are
mostly on a ridge, and enclosing the place is a mass of gardens fully
a mile deep, each surrounded by high cactus hedges affording complete
cover and quite impossible for infantry to penetrate. To reduce
Gaza would require a prolonged artillery bombardment with far more
batteries than General Allenby could ever expect to have at his
command, and it is certain that not only would the line in front of
the town have had to be taken, but also the whole of the western end
of the Turks' trench system for a length of at least 12,000 yards.
And, as has been said, with Gaza secured we should still have had to
face the enemy in a new line of positions about the wadi Hesi. Gaza
was the Turks' strongest point. To attack here would have meant a
long-drawn-out artillery duel, infantry would have had to advance over
open ground under complete observation, and, while making a frontal
attack, would have been exposed to enfilade fire from the 'Tank'
system of works to the south-east. It would have proved a costly
operation, its success could only have been partial in that it did not
follow that we should break the enemy's line, and it would not have
enabled us to contain the remainder of the Turkish force.

Nor would an attack on the centre have promised more favourably. Here
the enemy had all the best of the ground. At Atawineh, Sausage Ridge,
Hareira, and Teiaha there were defences supporting each other on high
ground overlooking an almost flat plain through which the wadi Ghuzze
runs. All the observation was in enemy possession, and to attack over
this ground would have been inviting disaster. There was little fear
that the Turks would attack us across this wide range of No Man's
Land, for we held secure control of the curiously shaped heaps of
broken earth about Shellal, and the conical hill at Fara gave an
uninterrupted view for several miles northward and eastward. The
position was very different about Beersheba. If we secured that place
with its water supply, and in this dry country the battle really
amounted to a fight for water, we should be attacking from high ground
and against positions which had not been prepared on so formidable
a scale as elsewhere, with the prospect of compelling the enemy to
abandon the remainder of the line for fear of being enveloped by
mounted troops moving behind his weakened left. That, in brief
outline, was the gist of General Chetwode's report, and with its full
acceptance began the preparations for the advance. These preparations
took several months to complete, and they were as thorough as the
energy of a capable staff could make them.



CHAPTER IV

TRAINING THE ARMY


Those of us who were fortunate enough to witness the nature of the
preparations for the first of General Allenby's great and triumphant
moves in Palestine can speak of the debt Britain and her Allies owe
not merely to the Commander-in-Chief and his Headquarters Staff,
but to the three Corps Commanders, the Divisional Commanders, the
Brigadiers, and the officers responsible for transport, artillery,
engineer, and the other services. The Army had to be put on an
altogether different footing from that which had twice failed to drive
the Turks from Gaza. It serves nothing to ignore the fact that the
moral of the troops was not high in the weeks following the second
failure. They had to be tuned up and trained for a big task. They knew
the Turk was turning his natural advantages of ground about Gaza into
a veritable fortress, and that if their next effort was to meet with
more success than their last, they had to learn all that experience on
the Western Front had taught as to systems of trench warfare.

And, more than that, they had to prepare to apply the art of open
warfare to the full extent of their powers.

A couple of months before General Allenby took over command, General
Chetwode had taken in hand the question of training, and in employing
the knowledge gained during the strenuous days he had spent in France
and Flanders, he not only won the confidence of the troops but
improved their tone, and by degrees brought them up to something
approaching the level of the best fighting divisions of our Army in
France.

This was hard work during hot weather when our trench systems on a
wide front had to be prepared against an active enemy, and men could
ill be spared for the all-important task of training behind the front
line. It was not long, however, before troops who had got into that
state of lassitude which is engendered by a belief that they were
settling down to trench warfare for the duration of the war--that,
in fact, there was a stalemate on this front--became inspired by the
energy of General Chetwode. They saw him in the front line almost
every day, facing the risks they ran themselves, complimenting them
on any good piece of work, suggesting improvements in their defences,
always anxious to provide anything possible for their comfort, and
generally looking after the rank and file with a detailed attention
which no good battalion commander could exceed.

The men knew that the long visits General Chetwode paid them formed
but a small part of his daily task. It has been said that a G.O.C. of
a force has to think one hour a day about operations and five hours
about beef. In East Force, as this part of the Egyptian Expeditionary
Force was then called, General Chetwode, having to look months ahead,
had also six worrying hours a day to think about water. For any one
who did not love his profession, or who had not an ardent soldierly
spirit within him, such a daily task would have been impossible. I had
the privilege of living in General Chetwode's camp for some time, and
I have seen him working at four o'clock in the morning and at nine
o'clock at night, and the notes on a writing tablet by the side of his
rough camp-bed showed that in the hours when sleep forsook him he was
planning the next day's work.

His staff was entirely composed of hard workers, and perhaps no
command in this war ever had so small a staff, but there was no
officer in East Force who laboured so long or with such concentration
and energy and determination as its Chief. This enthusiasm was
infectious and spread through all ranks. The sick rate declined,
septic sores, from which many men suffered through rough life in the
desert on Army rations, got better, and the men showed more interest
in their work and were keener on their sport. The full effects had not
been wholly realised when the War Cabinet selected General Allenby
for the control of the big operations, but the improvement in the
condition of the troops was already most marked, and when General
Allenby arrived and at once directed that General Headquarters should
be moved from Cairo, which was pleasant but very far away from the
front, to Kelab, near Khan Yunus, there was not a man who did not see
in the new order of things a sign that he was to be given a chance of
testing the Briton's supremacy over the Turk.

The improvement in the moral of the troops, the foundations of which
were thus begun and cemented by General Chetwode, was rapidly carried
on under the new Chief. Divisions like the 52nd, 53rd, and 54th, which
had worked right across the desert from the Suez Canal, toiling in a
torrid temperature, when parched throats, sun-blistered limbs, and
septic sores were a heavy trial, weakened by casualties in action and
sickness, were brought up to something like strength. Reinforcing
drafts joined a lot of cheery veterans. They were taught in the
stern field of experience what was expected of them, and they worked
themselves up to the degree of efficiency of the older men.

The 74th Division, made up of yeomanry regiments which had been doing
excellent service in the Libyan Desert, watching for and harassing the
elements of the Senussi Army, had to be trained as infantry. These
yeomen did not take long to make themselves first-rate infantry, and
when, after the German attack on the Somme in March 1918, they went
away from us to strengthen the Western Front, a distinguished General
told me he believed that man for man the 74th would prove the finest
division in France. They certainly proved themselves in Palestine,
and many an old yeomanry regiment won for itself the right to bear
'Jerusalem, 1917' on its standard.

The 75th Division had brought some of the Wessex Territorials from
India with two battalions of Gurkhas and two of Rifles. The 1/4th Duke
of Cornwall's Light Infantry joined it from Aden, but for some months
the battalion was not itself. It had spent a long time at that dreary
sunburnt outpost of the Empire, and the men did not regain their
physical fitness till close upon the time it was required for the Gaza
operations.

The 60th Division came over from Salonika and we were delighted to
have them, for they not only gave us General Bulfin as the XXIst Corps
Commander, but set an example of efficiency and a combination of dash
and doggedness which earned for them a record worthy of the best
in the history of the great war. These London Territorials were
second-line men, men recruited from volunteers in the early days of
the war, when the County of London Territorial battalions went across
to France to take a part on a front hard pressed by German legions.
The 60th Division men had rushed forward to do their duty before
the Derby scheme or conscription sought out the cream of Britain's
manhood, and no one had any misgivings about that fine cheery crowd.

The 10th Division likewise came from Salonika. Unfortunately it had
been doing duty in a fever-stricken area and malaria had weakened its
ranks. A little while before the autumn operations began, as many as
3000 of its men were down at one time with malaria, but care and tonic
of the battle pulled the ranks together, and the Irish Division, a
purely Irish division, campaigned up to the glorious traditions of
their race. They worked like gluttons with rifle and spade, and their
pioneer work on roads in the Judean hills will always be remembered
with gratitude.

The cavalry of the Desert Mounted Corps were old campaigners in
the East. The Anzac Mounted Division, composed of six regiments of
Australian Light Horse and three regiments of New Zealand Mounted
Rifles, had been operating in the Sinai Desert when they were not
winning fame on Gallipoli, since the early days of the war. They had
proved sterling soldiers in the desert war, hard, full of courage,
capable of making light of the longest trek in waterless stretches of
country, and mobile to a degree the Turks never dreamed of. There were
six other regiments of Australian Light Horse and three first-line
regiments of yeomanry in the Australian Mounted Division, and nine
yeomanry regiments in the Yeomanry Mounted Division. The 7th Mounted
Brigade was attached to Desert Corps, as was also the Imperial Camel
Corps Brigade, formed of yeomen and Australians who had volunteered
from their regiments for work as camelry. They, too, were veterans.

All these divisions had to be trained hard. Not only had the four
infantry divisions of XXth Corps to be brought to a pitch of physical
fitness to enable them to endure a considerable period of open
fighting, but they had to be trained in water abstinence, as, in the
event of success, they would unquestionably have long marches in a
country yielding a quite inadequate supply of drinking water, and this
problem in itself was such that fully 6000 camels were required to
carry drinking water to infantry alone. Water-abstinence training
lasted three weeks, and the maximum of half a gallon a man for all
purposes was not exceeded, simply because the men had been made
accustomed to deny themselves drink except when absolutely necessary.
But for a systematic training they would have suffered a great deal.
The disposition of the force is given in the Appendix.[1]

[Footnote 1: See Appendix v].



CHAPTER V

RAILWAYS, ROADS, AND THE BASE


To ease the supply problem a spur line was laid from Rafa to Shellal,
on the wadi Ghuzze. In that way supplies, stores, and ammunition were
taken up to our right flank. Shellal was a position of great strategic
importance. At one time it appeared as if we should have to fight hard
to gain it. The Turks had cut an elaborate series of trenches on
Wali Sheikh Nuran, a hill covering Shellal, but they evacuated
this position before we made the first attack on Gaza, and left an
invaluable water supply in our hands.

At Shellal the stony bed of the wadi Ghuzze rests between high mud
banks which have been cut into fantastic shapes by the rushing waters
descending from the southern extremities of the Judean range of hills
during the winter rains. In the summer months, when the remainder
of the wadi bed is dry, there are bubbling springs of good water at
Shellal, and these have probably been continuously flowing for many
centuries, for close above the spot where the water issues Anzac
cavalry discovered a beautiful remnant of the mosaic flooring of an
ancient Christian church, which, raised on a hundred-feet mound, was
doubtless the centre of a colony of Christians, hundreds of years
before Crusaders were attracted to the Holy Land. Our engineers
harnessed that precious flow. A dam was put across the wadi bed and at
least a million gallons of crystal water were held up by it,
whilst the overflow went into shallow pools fringed with grass (a
delightfully refreshing sight in that arid country) from which horses
were watered. Pumping sets were installed at the reservoir and pipes
were laid towards Karm, and from these the Camel Transport Corps were
to fill fanatis--eight to twelve gallon tanks--for carriage of water
to troops on the move.

The railway staff, the department which arranged the making up and
running of trains, as well as the construction staff, had heavy
responsibilities. It was recognised early in 1917 that if we were to
crush the Turk out of the war, provision would have to be made for a
larger army than a single line from the Suez Canal could feed. It
was decided to double the track. The difficulties of the Director of
Railway Transport were enormous. There was great shortage of railway
material all over the world. Some very valuable cargoes were lost
through enemy action at sea, and we had to call for more from
different centres, and England deprived herself of rolling stock she
badly needed, to enable her flag of freedom to be carried (though it
was not to be hoisted) through the Holy Land. And incidentally I may
remark that, with the solitary exception of a dirty little piece of
Red Ensign I saw flying in the native quarter in Jerusalem, the only
British flag the people saw in Palestine and Syria was a miniature
Union Jack carried on the Commander-in-Chief's motor car and by his
standard-bearer when riding. Thus did the British Army play the game,
for some of the Allied susceptibilities might have been wounded if the
people had been told (though indeed they knew it) that they were under
the protection of the British flag. They had the most convincing
evidence, however, that they were under the staunch protection of the
British Army. The doubling of the railway track went on apace. To save
pressure at the Alexandria docks and on the Egyptian State railway,
which, giving some of its rolling stock and, I think, the whole of
its reserve of material for the use of the military line east of the
Canal, was worked to its utmost capacity, and also to economise
money by saving railway freights, wharves were built on the Canal at
Kantara, and as many as six ocean-going steamers could be unloaded
there at one time. By and by a railway bridge was thrown over the
Canal, and when the war was over through trains could be run from
Cairo to Jerusalem and Haifa. Kantara grew into a wonderful town with
several miles of Canal frontage, huge railway sidings and workshops,
enormous stores of rations for man and horse, medical supplies,
ordnance and ammunition dumps, etc. Probably the enemy knew all about
this vast base. Any one on any ship passing through the Canal could
see the place, and it is surprising, and it certainly points to a lack
of enterprise on the part of the Germans, that no attempt was made to
bomb Kantara by the super-Zeppelin which in November 1917 left its
Balkan base and got as far south as the region of Khartoum on its way
to East Africa, before being recalled by wireless. This same Zeppelin
was seen about forty miles from Port Said and a visit by it was
anticipated. Aeroplanes with experienced pilots and armed with the
latest anti-Zeppelin devices were stationed at Port Said and Aboukir
ready to ascend on any moonlight night when the hum of aerial motor
machinery could be heard. The super-Zeppelin never came and Kantara's
progress was unchecked.

The doubled railway track was laid as far as El Arish by the time
operations commenced, and this was a great aid to the railway staff.
Every engine and truck was used to its fullest capacity, and an
enormous amount of time was saved by the abolition of passing stations
for some ninety miles of the line's length. Railhead was at Deir el
Belah, about eight miles short of Gaza, and here troops and an army
of Egyptian labourers were working night and day, week in week out,
off-loading trucks with a speed that enabled the maximum amount of
service to be got out of rolling stock. There were large depôts down
the line too. At Rafa there was a big store of ammunition, and at
Shellal large quantities not only of supplies but of railway material
were piled up in readiness for pushing out railhead immediately the
advance began. A Decauville, or light, line ran out towards Gamli from
Shellal to make the supply system easier, and I remember seeing
some Indian pioneers lay about three miles of light railway with
astonishing rapidity the day after we took Beersheba. Every mile the
line advanced meant time saved in getting up supplies, and the radius
of action of lorries, horse, and camel transport was considerably
increased.

To supply the Gaza front we called in aid a small system of light
railways. From the railhead at Deir el Belah to the mouth of the wadi
Ghuzze, and from that point along the line of the wadi to various
places behind the line held by us, we had a total length of 21
kilometres of light railway. Before this railway got into full
operation horses had begun to lose condition, and during the summer
ammunition-column officers became very anxious about their horses. The
light railway was almost everywhere within range of the enemy's guns,
and in some places it was unavoidably exposed, particularly where it
ran on the banks of the wadi due south of Gaza. I recollect while the
track was being laid speaking to an Australian in charge of a gang of
natives preparing an earthwork, and asked why it was that a trench was
dug before earth was piled up. He pointed to the hill of Ali Muntar,
the most prominent feature in the enemy's system, and said that from
the Turks' observation post on that eminence every movement of the
labourers could be seen, and the men were often forced by gunfire to
the refuge of the trenches.

When the railway was in running order trains had to run the gauntlet
of shell-fire on this section on bright moonlight nights, and no
camouflage could hide them. But they worked through in a marvellously
orderly and efficient fashion, and on one day when our guns were
hungry this little line carried 850 tons of ammunition to the
batteries. The horses became fit and strong and were ready for the war
to be carried into open country. In christening their tiny puffing
locomotives the Tommy drivers showed their strong appreciation of
their comrades on the sea, and the 'Iron Duke' and 'Lion' were always
tuned up to haul a maximum load. But the pride of the engine yard was
the 'Jerusalem Cuckoo'--some prophetic eye must have seen its future
employment on the light line between Jerusalem and Ramallah--though in
popularity it was run close by the 'Bulfin-ch,' a play upon the
name of the Commander of the XXIst Corps, for which it did sterling
service.

The Navy formed part of the picture as well. Some small steamers of
1000 to 1500 tons burden came up from Port Said to a little cove north
of Belah to lighten the railway's task. They anchored about 150 yards
off shore and a crowd of boats passed backwards and forwards with
stores. These were carried up the beach to trucks on a line connected
with the supply depôts, and if you wished to see a busy scene where
slackers had no place the Belah beach gave it you. The Army tried all
sorts of boatmen and labourers. There were Kroo boys who found the
Mediterranean waters a comparative calm after the turbulent surf on
their own West African shore. The Maltese were not a success. The
Egyptians were, both here and almost everywhere else where their
services were called for. The best of all the fellows on this beach,
however, were the Raratongas from the Cook Islands, the islands from
which the Maoris originally came. They were first employed at El
Arish, where they made it a point of honour to get a job done well and
quickly, and, on a given day, it was found that thirty of them had
done as much labourers' work as 170 British soldiers. They were men of
fine physical strength and endurance, and some one who knew they had
the instincts of sportsmen, devised a simple plan to get the best out
of them. He presented a small flag to be won each day by the crew
accomplishing the best work with the boats. The result was amazing.
Every minute the boats were afloat the Raratongas strained their
muscles to win the day's competition, and when the day's task was
ended the victorious crew marched with their flag to their camp,
singing a weird song and as proud as champions. Some Raratongas worked
at ammunition dumps, and it was the boast of most of them that they
could carry four 60-pounder shells at a time. A few of these stalwart
men from Southern Seas received a promotion which made them the
most envied men of their race--they became loading numbers in heavy
howitzer batteries, fighting side by side with the Motherland gunners.

However well the Navy and all associated with it worked, only a very
small proportion of the Army's supplies was water borne. The great
bulk had to be carried by rail. Enormously long trains, most of them
hauled by London and South-Western locomotives, bore munitions, food
for men and animals, water, equipment, medical comforts, guns, wagons,
caterpillar tractors, motor cars, and other paraphernalia required for
the largest army which had ever operated about the town of Gaza in the
thousands of years of its history. The main line had thrown out from
it great tentacles embracing in their iron clasp vital centres for the
supply of our front, and over these spur lines the trains ran with
the regularity of British main-line expresses. Besides 96,000 actual
fighting men, there was a vast army of men behind the line, and there
were over 100,000 animals to be fed. There were 46,000 horses, 40,000
camels, 15,000 mules, and 3500 donkeys on Army work east of the
Canal, and not a man or beast went short of rations. We used to
think Kitchener's advance on Khartoum the perfection of military
organisation. Beside the Palestine expedition that Soudan campaign
fades into insignificance. In fighting men and labour corps, in
animals and the machinery of war, this Army was vastly larger and more
important, and the method by which it was brought to Palestine and was
supplied, and the low sick rate, constitute a tribute to the master
minds of the organisers. The Army had fresh meat, bread, and
vegetables in a country which under the lash of war yielded nothing,
but which under our rule in peace will furnish three times the produce
of the best of past years of plenty.

A not inconsiderable portion of the front line was supplied with Nile
water taken from a canal nearly two hundred miles away. But the Army
once at the front depended less upon the waters of that Father of
Rivers than it had to do in the long trek across the desert. Then all
drinking water came from the Nile. It flowed down the sweet-water
canal (if one may be pardoned for calling 'sweet' a volume of water
so charged with vegetable matter and bacteria that it was harmful for
white men even to wash in it), was filtered and siphoned under the
Suez Canal at Kantara, where it was chlorinated, and passed through
a big pipe line and pumped through in stages into Palestine. The
engineers set about improving all local resources over a wide stretch
of country which used to be regarded as waterless in summer. Many
water levels were tapped, and there was a fair yield. The engineers'
greatest task in moving with the Army during the advance was always
the provision of a water supply, and in developing it they conferred
on the natives a boon which should make them be remembered with
gratitude for many generations.

In the months preceding our attack Royal Engineers were also concerned
in improving the means of communication between railway depôts and the
front line. Before our arrival in this part of Southern Palestine,
wheeled traffic was almost unknown among the natives. There was not
one metalled roadway, and only comparatively light loads could be
transported in wheeled vehicles. The soil between Khan Yunus and Deir
el Belah, especially on the west of our railway line, was very sandy,
and after the winter rains had knitted it together it began to crumble
under the sun's heat, and it soon cut up badly when two or three
limbers had passed over it. The sandy earth was also a great nuisance
in the region between Khan Yunus and Shellal, but between Deir el
Belah and our Gaza front, excepting on the belt near the sea which was
composed of hillocks of sand precisely similar to the Sinai Desert,
the earth was firmer and yielded less to the grinding action of
wheels. For ordinary heavy military traffic the engineers made good
going by taking off about one foot of the top soil and banking it
on either side of the road. These tracks lasted very well, but they
required constant attention. Ambulances and light motor cars had
special arrangements made for them. Hundreds of miles of wire netting
were laid on sand in all directions, and these wire roads, which,
stretching across bright golden sand, appeared like black bands to
observers in aircraft, at first aroused much curiosity among enemy
airmen, and it was not until they had made out an ambulance convoy on
the move that they realised the purpose of the tracks.

The rabbit wire roads were a remarkable success. Motor wheels held
firmly to the surface, and when the roads were in good condition cars
could travel at high speed. Three or four widths of wire netting were
laced together, laid on the sand and pegged down. After a time loose
pockets of sand could not resist the weight of wheels and there became
many holes beneath the wire, and the jolting was a sore trial alike to
springs and to a passenger's temper. But here again constant attention
kept the roads in order, and if one could not describe travelling over
them as easy and comfortable they were at least sure, and one could
be certain of getting to a destination at an average speed of twelve
miles an hour. In sand the Ford cars have performed wonderful feats,
but remarkable as was the record of that cheap American car with
us--it helped us very considerably to win the war--you could never
tell within hours how long a journey would take off the wire roads.
Once leave the netting and you might with good luck and a skilful
driver get across the sand without much trouble, but it often meant
much bottom-gear work and a hot engine, and not infrequently the
digging out of wheels. The drivers used to try to keep to the tracks
made by other cars. These were never straight, and the swing from side
to side reminded you of your first ride on a camel's back. The wire
roads were a great help to us, and the officer who first thought out
the idea received our daily blessings. I do not know who he was, but I
was told the wire road scheme was the outcome of a device suggested
by a medical officer at Romani in 1916, when infantry could not march
much more than six miles a day through the sand. This officer made a
sort of wire moccasin which he attached to the boot and doubled the
marching powers of the soldier. A sample of those moccasins should
find a place in our War Museum.



CHAPTER VI

PREPARING FOR 'ZERO DAY'


About the middle of August it was the intention that the attack on the
Turks' front line in Southern Palestine should be launched some time
in September. General Allenby knew his force would not be then at
full strength, but what was happening at other points in the Turkish
theatres of operations might make it necessary to strike an early blow
at Gaza to spoil enemy plans elsewhere. However, it was soon seen that
a September advance was not absolutely necessary. General Allenby
decided that instead of making an early attack it would be far more
profitable to wait until his Army had been improved by a longer period
of training, and until he had got his artillery, particularly some of
his heavy batteries, into a high state of efficiency. He would risk
having to take Jerusalem after bad weather had set in rather than be
unable, owing to the condition of his troops, to exploit an initial
success to the fullest extent. How wholly justified was this decision
the subsequent fighting proved, and it is doubtful if there was ever a
more complete illustration of the wisdom of those directing war policy
at home submitting to the cool, balanced calculations of the man on
the spot. The extra six weeks spent in training and preparation were
of incalculable service to the Allies. I have heard it said that
a September victory in Palestine would have had its reflex on the
Italian front, and that the Caporetto disaster would not have assumed
the gigantic proportions which necessitated the withdrawal to Italy
of British and French divisions from the Western Front and prevented
Cambrai being a big victory. That is very doubtful. On the contrary, a
September battle in Palestine before we were fully ready to follow
the Turks after breaking and rolling up their line, even if we had
succeeded in doing this completely, might have deprived us of the
moral effect of the capture of Jerusalem and of the wonderful
influence which that victory had on the whole civilised world by
reason of the sacrifices the Commander-in-Chief made to prevent any
fighting at all in the precincts of the Holy City. Of this I shall
speak later, giving the fullest details at my command, for there is no
page in the story of British arms which better upholds the honour and
chivalry of the soldier than the preservation of the Holy Place from
the clash of battle.

That last six weeks of preparation were unforgettable. The London
newspapers I had the honour to represent as War Correspondent knew
operations were about to begin, but I did not cable or mail them one
word which would give an indication that big things were afoot. They
never asked for news, but were content to wait till they could tell
the public that victory was ours. In accordance with their practice
throughout the war the London Press set an example to the world by
refraining from publishing anything which would give information of
the slightest value to the enemy. It was a privilege to see that
victory in the making. Some divisions which had allotted to them the
hardest part of the attack on Beersheba were drawn out of the line,
and forming up in big camps between Belah and Shellal set about a
course of training such as athletes undergo. They had long marches
in the sand carrying packs and equipment. They were put on a short
allowance of water, except for washing purposes. They dug, they had
bombing practice, and with all this extra exercise while the days were
still very hot they needed no encouragement to continue their games.
Football was their favourite sport, and the British Tommy is such a
remarkable fellow that it was usual to see him trudge home to camp
looking 'fed up' with exercise, and then, after throwing off his pack
and tunic, run out to kick a ball. The Italian and French detachments
used to look at him in astonishment, and doubtless they thought his
enthusiasm for sport was a sore trial. He got thoroughly fit for
marches over sand, over stony ground, over shifting shingle. During
the period of concentration he had to cross a district desperately bad
for marching, and it is more than probable the enemy never believed
him capable of such endurance. He was often tired, no doubt, but he
always got to his destination, was rarely footsore, and laughed at the
worst parts of his journey. The sand was choking, the flies were an
irritating pest, equipment became painfully heavy; but a big, brave
heart carried Tommy through his training to a state of perfect
condition for the heavy test.

To enable about two-thirds of the force to carry on a moving battle
while the remainder kept half the enemy pinned down to his trench
system on his right-centre and right, it was necessary to reinforce
strongly the transport service for our mobile columns. The XXIst Corps
gave up most of its lorries, tractors, and camels to XXth Corps. These
had to be moved across from the Gaza sector to our right as secretly
as possible, and they were not brought up to load at the supply depôts
at Shellal and about Karm until the moment they were required to carry
supplies for the corps moving to attack.

It is not easy to convey to any one who has not seen an army on the
move what a vast amount of transport is required to provision two
corps. In France, where roads are numerous and in comparatively good
condition, the supply problem could be worked out to a nicety, but in
a roadless country where there was not a sound half-mile of track, and
where water had to be developed and every gallon was precious, the
question of supply needed most anxious consideration, and a big margin
had to be allowed for contingencies. It will give some idea of the
requirements when I state that for the supply of water alone the XXth
Corps had allotted to it 6000 camels and 73 lorries. To feed these
water camels alone needed a big convoy.

We got an impression of the might and majesty of an army in the field
as we saw it preparing to take the offensive. The camp of General
Headquarters where I was located was situated north of Rafa. The
railway ran on two sides of the camping ground, one line going to
Belah and the other stretching out to Shellal, where everything was in
readiness to extend the iron road to the north-east of Karm, on the
plain which, because the Turks enjoyed complete observation over it,
had hitherto been No Man's Land. We saw and heard the traffic on this
section of the line. It was enormous. Heavily laden trains ran night
and day with a mass of stores and supplies, with motor lorries, cars,
and tractors; and the ever-increasing volume of traffic told those of
us who knew nothing of the date of 'Zero day' that it was not far off.
The heaviest trains seemed to run at night, and the returning empty
trains were hurried forward at a speed suggesting the urgency of
clearing the line for a fully loaded train awaiting at Rafa the signal
to proceed with its valuable load to railhead. Perfect control not
only on the railway system but in the forward supply yards prevented
congestion, and when a train arrived at its destination and was split
up into several parts, well-drilled gangs of troops and Egyptian
labourers were allotted to each truck, and whether a lorry or a
tractor had to be unshipped and moved down a ramp, or a truck had to
be relieved of its ten tons of tibbin, boxes of biscuit and bully, or
of engineers' stores, the goods were cleared away from the vicinity of
the line with a celerity which a goods-yard foreman at home would have
applauded as the smartest work he had ever seen. There was no room for
slackers in the Army, and the value of each truck was so high that
it could not be left standing idle for an hour. The organisation was
equally good at Kantara, where the loading and making up of trains had
to be arranged precisely as the needs at the front demanded. Those
remarkable haulers, the caterpillar tractors, cut many a passage
through the sand, tugging heavy guns and ammunition, stores for the
air and signal services, machinery for engineers and mobile workshops,
and sometimes towing a weighty load of petrol to satisfy their
voracious appetites for that fuel. The tractors did well. Sand was no
trouble to them, and when mud marooned lorries during the advance in
November the rattling, rumbling old tractor made fair weather of it.
The mechanical transport trains will not forget the service of the
tractors on the morning after Beersheba was taken. From railhead to
the spot where Father Abraham and his people fed their flocks the
country was bare and the earth's crust had yielded all its strength
under the influence of the summer sun. Loaded lorries under their own
power could not move more than a few yards before they were several
inches deep in the sandy soil, but a Motor Transport officer devised
a plan for beating down a track which all lorries could use. He got a
tractor to haul six unladen lorries, and with all the vehicles using
their own power the tractor managed to pull them through to Beersheba,
leaving behind some wheel tracks with a hard foundation. A hundred
lorries followed, the drivers steering them in the ruts, and they made
such good progress that by the afternoon they had deposited between
200 and 300 tons of supplies in Beersheba. The path the tractor cut
did not last very long, but it was sound enough for the immediate and
pressing requirements of the Army.

Within a month of his arrival in Egypt, General Allenby had visited
the whole of his front line and had decided the form his offensive
should take. As soon as his force had been made up to seven infantry
divisions and the Desert Mounted Corps, and they had been brought up
to strength and trained, he would attack, making his main offensive
against the enemy's left flank while conducting operations vigorously
and on an extensive scale against the Turkish right-centre and right.
The principal operation against the left was to be conducted by
General Chetwode's XXth Corps, consisting of four infantry divisions
and the Imperial Camel Brigade, and by General Chauvel's Desert
Mounted Corps. General Bulfin's XXIst Corps was to operate against
Gaza and the Turkish right-centre south-east of that ancient town.
If the situation became such as to make it necessary to take the
offensive before the force had been brought up to strength, the XXIst
Corps would have had to undertake its task with only two divisions,
but in those circumstances its operations were to be limited to
demonstrations and raids. By throwing forward his right, the XXIst
Corps Commander was to pin the enemy down in the Atawineh district,
and on the left he would move against the south-western defences of
Gaza so as to lead the Turks to suppose an attack was to come in this
sector. That movement being made, the XXth Corps and Desert Mounted
Corps were to advance against Beersheba, and, having taken it, to
secure the valuable water supply which was known to have existed there
since Abraham dug the well of the oath which gave its name to the
town. Because of water difficulties it was considered vital that
Beersheba should be captured in one day, a formidable undertaking
owing to the situation of the town, the high entrenched hills around
it and the long marches for cavalry and infantry before the attack;
and in drawing up the scheme based on the Commander-in-Chief's plan,
the commanders of XXth Corps and Desert Mounted Corps had always to
work on the assumption that Beersheba would be in their hands by
nightfall of the first day of the attack. General Barrow's Yeomanry
Mounted Division was to remain at Shellal in the gap between XXth
Corps and XXIst Corps in case the enemy should attempt to attack the
XXth Corps' left flank. Having dealt with the enemy in Beersheba,
General Chetwode with mounted troops protecting his right was to move
north and north-west against the enemy's left flank, to drive him from
his strong positions at Sheria and Hareira, enveloping his left flank
and striking it obliquely.

While the XXth Corps was moving against this section of the enemy
line, Desert Mounted Corps was to bring up the mounted division left
at Shellal, and passing behind the XXth Corps to march on Nejile,
where there was an excellent water supply, and the wadi Hesi, so as to
threaten the left rear and the line of retreat of the Turkish Army.

It was always doubtful whether XXth Corps would be able to close up
the gap between it and the XXIst Corps owing to the length of its
marches and the distance it was from railhead, and the scheme
therefore provided that the XXIst Corps should confirm successes
gained on our right by forcing its way through the tremendously strong
Gaza position to the line of the wadi Hesi and joining up with Desert
Mounted Corps. A considerable number of XXth Corps troops would then
return to the neighbourhood of railhead and release the greater
part of its transport for the infantry of XXIst Corps moving up the
Maritime Plain.

This, in summary form, was the scheme General Allenby planned before
the middle of August, and though the details were not, and could not
be, worked out until a couple of months had passed, it is noteworthy
as showing that, notwithstanding the moves an enterprising enemy had
at his command in a country where positions were entirely favourable
to him, where he had water near at hand, where the transport of
supplies was never so serious a problem for him as for us when we got
on the move, and where he could make us fight almost every step of
the way, the Commander-in-Chief foresaw and provided for every
eventuality, and his scheme worked out absolutely and entirely
'according to plan,' to use the favourite phrase of the German High
Command.

When the Corps Commanders began working out the details two of the
greatest problems were transport and water. Only patience and skilful
development of known sources of supply would surmount the water
difficulty, and we had to wait till the period of concentration before
commencing its solution. But to lighten the transport load which must
have weighed heavily on Corps Staffs, the Commander-in-Chief agreed to
allow the extension of the railway east of Shellal to be begun sooner
than he had provided for. It was imperative that railway construction
should not give the enemy an indication of our intentions. If he had
realised the nature and scope of our preparations he would have done
something to counteract them and to deny us that element of surprise
which exerted so great an influence on the course of the battle.
General Allenby, however, was willing to take some risks to simplify
supply difficulties, and he ordered that the extension to a railway
station north-east of Karm should be completed by the evening of the
third day before the attack, that a Decauville line from Gamli, not to
be begun before the sixth day prior to the attack, was to be completed
to Karm by the day preceding the opening of the fighting at Beersheba,
and that a new Decauville line should be started at Karm when fighting
had begun, and should be carried nearly three miles in the Beersheba
direction early on the following morning. These new lines, though of
short length, were an inestimable boon to the conductors of supply
trains. The new railheads both of the standard gauge and light lines
were well placed, and they not only saved time and shortened the
journeys of camel convoys and lorry transport columns, but prevented
congestion at depôts in one central spot.

A big effort was made to escape detection by enemy aircraft. For the
first time since the Egyptian Expeditionary Force took the field we
had obtained mastery in the air. On the 8th and 15th October two enemy
planes were shot down behind our lines, and the keenness of our airmen
for combat made the German aviators extremely careful. They had been
bold and resolute, taking their observations several thousand feet
higher than our pilots, it is true, but neither anti-aircraft fire nor
the presence of our machines in the air had up to this time deterred
them. However, just at the moment when airwork was of extreme
importance to the Turks, the German flying men, recognising that our
pilots had new battle planes and were full of resource and daring,
showed an unusual lack of enterprise, and we profited from their
inactivity. The concentration of the force in the positions from which
it was to attack Beersheba was to have taken seven days, but owing
to the difficulties attending the development of water at Asluj and
Khalasa the time was extended to ten days. During this period the
uppermost thought of commanders was to conceal their movements. All
marching was done at night and no move of any kind was permitted till
nearly six o'clock in the evening, when enemy aircraft were usually at
rest and the light was sufficiently dull to prevent the Fritzes seeing
much if they had made an exceptionally late excursion. All the tents
and temporary shelters which had been occupied for weeks were left
standing. Cookhouses, horse lines, canteens, and so on were untouched,
and one had an eerie feeling in passing at night through these
untenanted camping grounds, deserted and lifeless, and a prey to the
jackal and pariah dog. A vast area of many square miles which had held
tens of thousands of troops and animals almost became a wilderness
again, and the few natives hereabouts who had made large profits
from the sale of eggs, fruit, and vegetables looked disconsolate and
bewildered at the change, hoping and believing that the empty tents
merely denoted a temporary absence. But the great majority of the Army
never came that way again.

When the infantry started on the march, divisions and brigades had
allotted to them particular areas for their march routes, and all over
that country, where scarcely a tree or native hut existed to make
a landmark, there were dotted small arrow-pointed boards with the
direction 'A road,' 'B road,' 'Z road,' as the case might be. Marching
in the dark hours when a refreshing air succeeded the heat of the day,
the troops halted as soon as a purple flush threw into high relief the
southern end of the Judean hills, and they hid themselves in the wadis
and broken ground; and on one unit vacating a bivouac area it was
occupied by another, thus making the areas in which the troops rested
as few as possible.

The concentration was worked to a time-table. Not only were brigades
allotted certain marches each night, but they were given specified
times to cover certain distances, and these were arranged according to
the condition of the ground. In parts it was very broken and covered
with loose stones, and the pace of infantry by night was very slightly
more than one mile per hour. The routes for guns were not chosen
until the whole country had been reconnoitred, and it was a highly
creditable performance for artillery to get their field guns and
heavy howitzer batteries through to the time-table. But the clockwork
precision of the movements reflected even more highly on the staff
working out the details than on the infantry and artillery, and it may
be said with perfect truth that the staff made no miscalculation
or mistake. The XXth Corps staff maps and plans, and the details
accompanying them, were masterpieces of clearness and completeness.
The men who fought out the plans to a triumphant finish were glad to
recognise this perfection of staff work.[1]

[Footnote 1: See Appendix VI.]



CHAPTER VII

THE BEERSHEBA VICTORY


The XXth Corps began its movement on the night of 20-21st October.
The whole Corps was not on the march, but a sufficient force was sent
forward to form supply dumps and to store water at Esani for troops
covering Desert Mounted Corps engineers engaged on the development of
water at Khalasa and Asluj. Some of the Australian and New Zealand
troops engaged on this work had previously been at these places.

In the early summer it was thought desirable to destroy the Turkish
railway which ran from Beersheba to Asluj and on to Kossaima, in order
to prevent an enemy raid on our communications between El Arish and
Rafa, and the mounted troops with the Imperial Camel Corps had had
a most successful day in destroying many miles of line and several
bridges. The Turks were badly in need of rails for the line they were
then constructing down to Deir Sineid, and they had lifted some of the
rails between Asluj and Kossaima, but during our raid we broke every
rail over some fifteen miles of track. Khalasa and Asluj being water
centres became the points of concentration for two mounted divisions,
and the splendid Colonials in the engineer sections worked at the
wells as if the success of the whole enterprise depended upon their
efforts, as, indeed, to a very large extent it did. Theirs was not an
eight hours day. They worked under many difficulties, often thigh deep
in water and mud, cleaning out and deepening wells and installing
power pumps, putting up large canvas tanks for storage, and
making water troughs. The results exceeded anticipations, and the
Commander-in-Chief, on a day when the calls on his time were many and
urgent, made a long journey to thank the officers and men for the work
they had done and to express his high appreciation of their skill and
energy.

The principal work carried out by the XXth Corps during the period of
concentration consisted in laying the standard gauge line to Imara
and opening the station at that place on October 28; prolonging the
railway line to a point three-quarters of a mile north-north-east
of Karm, where the station was opened on November 3; completing by
October 30 the light railway from the east bank of the wadi Ghuzze at
Gamli _via_ Karm to Khasif; and developing water at Esani, Malaga, and
Abu Ghalyun for the use first by cavalry detachments and then by the
60th Division. Cisterns in the Khasif and Imsiri area were stocked
with 60,000 gallons of water to be used by the 53rd and 74th
Divisions, and this supply was to be supplemented by camel convoys.
Apparently the enemy knew very little about the concentration until
about October 26, and even then he could have had only slight
knowledge of the extent of our movements, and probably knew nothing at
all of where the first blow was to fall. In the early hours of October
27 he did make an attempt to interfere with our concentration, and
there was a spirited little action on our outpost line which had been
pushed out beyond the plain to a line of low hills near the wadi
Hanafish. The Turks in overwhelming force met a most stubborn defence
by the Middlesex Yeomanry, and if the enemy took these London yeomen
as an average sample of General Allenby's troops, this engagement must
have given them a foretaste of what was in store for them.

The Middlesex Yeomanry (the 1st County of London Yeomanry, to give
the regiment the name by which it is officially known, though the men
almost invariably use the much older Territorial title) and the 21st
Machine Gun Squadron, held the long ridge from El Buggar to hill 630.
There was a squadron dismounted on hill 630, three troops on hill 720,
the next and highest point on the ridge, and a post at El Buggar. At
four o'clock in the morning the latter post was fired on by a Turkish
cavalry patrol, and an hour later it was evident that the enemy
intended to try to drive us off the ridge, his occupation of which
would have given him the power to harass railway construction parties
by shell-fire, even if it did not entirely stop the work. Some 3000
Turkish infantry, 1200 cavalry, and twelve guns had advanced from the
Kauwukah system of defences to attack our outpost line on the ridge.
They heavily engaged hill 630, working round both flanks, and brought
heavy machine-gun and artillery fire to bear on the squadron holding
it. The Royal Flying Corps estimated that a force of 2000 men attacked
the garrison, which was completely cut off.

A squadron of the City of London Yeomanry sent to reinforce was held
up by a machine-gun barrage and had to withdraw. The garrison held
out magnificently all day in a support trench close behind the crest
against odds of twenty to one, and repeatedly beat off rushes,
although the bodies of dead Turks showed that they got as close as
forty yards from the defenders. Two officers were wounded, and four
other ranks killed and twelve wounded.

The attack on hill 720 was made by 1200 cavalry supported by a heavy
volume of shell and machine-gun fire. During the early morning two
desperate charges were beaten off, but in a third charge the enemy
gained possession of the hill after the detachment had held out for
six hours. All our officers were killed or wounded and all the men
were casualties except three. At six o'clock in the evening the Turks
were holding this position in strength against the 3rd Australian
Light Horse, but two infantry brigades of the 53rd Division were
moving towards the ridge, and during the evening the enemy retired and
we held the ridge from this time on quite securely. The strong defence
of the Middlesex Yeomanry undoubtedly prevented the Turks establishing
themselves on the ridge, and saved the infantry from having to make a
night attack which might have been costly. Thereafter the enemy made
no attempt to interfere with the concentration. The yeomanry losses in
this encounter were 1 officer and 23 other ranks killed, 5 officers
and 48 other ranks wounded, 2 officers and 8 other ranks missing.

On the night of October 30-31 a brilliant moon lit up the whole
country. The day had been very hot, and at sunset an entire absence of
wind promised that the night march of nearly 40,000 troops of all
arms would be attended by all the discomforts of dust and heat. The
thermometer fell, but there was not a breath of wind to shift the pall
of dust which hung above the long columns of horse, foot, and guns.
Where the tracks were sandy some brigades often appeared to be
advancing through one of London's own particular fogs. Men's faces
became caked with yellow dust, their nostrils were hot and burning,
and parched throats could not be relieved because of the necessity
of conserving the water allowance. A hot day was in prospect on the
morrow, and the fear of having to fight on an empty water-bottle
prevented many a gallant fellow broaching his supply before daybreak.
Most of the men had had a long acquaintance with heat in the Middle
East, and the high temperature would have caused them scarcely any
trouble if there had been wind to carry away the dust clouds. The
cavalry marched over harder and more stony ground than the infantry.
They advanced from Khalasa and Asluj a long way south of Beersheba to
the east of the town. It was a big night march of some thirty miles,
but it was well within the powers of the veterans of the Anzac Mounted
Division and Australian Mounted Division, whose men and horses were in
admirable condition.

The infantry were ordered to be on their line of deployment by four
o'clock on the morning of October 31, and in every case they were
before time. There had been many reconnaissances by officers who were
to act as guides to columns, and they were quite familiar with the
ground; and the guns and ammunition columns were taken by routes which
had been carefully selected and marked. In places the banks of
wadis had been cut into and ramps made to enable the rough stony
watercourses to be practicable for wheels, and, broken as the country
was, and though all previous preparations had to be made without
arousing the suspicions of Turks and wandering Bedouins, there was no
incident to check the progress of infantry or guns. Occasional rifle
fire and some shelling occurred during the early hours, but at a
little after three A.M. the XXth Corps advanced headquarters had the
news that all columns had reached their allotted positions.

The XXth Corps plan was to attack the enemy's works between the
Khalasa road and the wadi Saba with the 60th and 74th Divisions, while
the defences north of the wadi Saba were to be masked by the Imperial
Camel Corps Brigade and two battalions of the 53rd Division, the
remainder of the latter division protecting the left flank of the
Corps from any attack by enemy troops who might move south from the
Sheria area. The first objective was a hill marked on the map as
'1070,' about 6000 yards south-west of Beersheba. It was a prominent
feature, 500 yards or perhaps a little more from a portion of the
enemy's main line, and the Turks held it strongly and were supported
by a section of German machine-gunners. We had to win this height in
order to get good observation of the enemy's main line of works, and
to allow of the advance of field artillery within wire-cutting range
of an elaborate system of works protecting Beersheba from an advance
from the west. At six the guns began to bombard 1070, and the volume
of fire concentrated on that spot must have given the Turks a big
surprise. On a front of 4500 yards we had in action seventy-six
18-pounders, twenty 4.5-inch howitzers, and four 3.7-inch howitzers,
while eight 60-pounders, eight 6-inch howitzers, and four 4.5-inch
howitzers were employed in counter battery work. The absence of wind
placed us at a heavy disadvantage. The high explosive shells bursting
about the crest of 1070 raised enormous clouds of dust which obscured
everything, and after a short while even the flames of exploding
shells were entirely hidden from view. The gunners had to stop firing
for three-quarters of an hour to allow the dust to settle. They then
reopened, and by half-past eight, the wire-cutting being reported
completed, an intense bombardment was ordered, under cover of which,
and with the assistance of machine-gun fire from aeroplanes, the 181st
Infantry Brigade of the 60th Division went forward to the assault.
They captured the hill in ten minutes, only sustaining about one
hundred casualties, and taking nearly as many prisoners. A German
machine-gunner who fell into our hands bemoaned the fact that he had
not a weapon left--every one of the machine guns had been knocked out
by the artillery, and a number were buried by our fire.

The first phase of the operations having thus ended successfully quite
early in the day, the second stage was entered upon. Field guns were
rushed forward at the gallop over ground broken by shallow wadis and
up and down a very uneven stony surface. The gun teams were generally
exposed during the advance and were treated to heavy shrapnel fire,
but they swung into action at prearranged points and set about
wire-cutting with excellent effect. The first part of the second phase
consisted in reducing the enemy's main line from the Khalasa road to
the wadi Saba, though the artillery bombarded the whole line. The 60th
Division on the right had two brigades attacking and one in divisional
reserve, and the 74th Division attacking on the left of the 60th
likewise had a brigade in reserve. The 74th, while waiting to advance,
came under considerable shell-fire from batteries on the north of the
wadi, and it was some time before their fire could be silenced. As
a rule the enemy works were cut into rocky, rising ground and the
trenches were well enclosed in wire fixed to iron stanchions.
They were strongly made and there were possibilities of prolonged
opposition, but by the time the big assault was launched the Turks
knew they were being attacked on both sides of Beersheba and they must
have become anxious about a line of retreat. General Shea reported
that the wire in front of him was cut before noon, but General
Girdwood was not certain that the wire was sufficiently broken on the
74th Division's front, though he intimated to the Corps Commander
that he was ready to attack at the same time as the 60th. It
still continued a windless day, and the dust clouds prevented any
observation of the wire entanglements. General Girdwood turned this
disadvantage to account, and ordering his artillery to raise their
fire slightly so that it should fall just in front of and about the
trenches, put up what was in effect a dust barrage, and under cover
of it selected detachments of his infantry advanced almost into the
bursting shell to cut passages through the wire with wire-cutters. The
dismounted yeomanry of the 231st and 230th Infantry Brigades rushed
through, and by half-past one the 74th Division had secured their
objectives. The 179th and 181st Brigades of the 60th Division had won
their trenches almost an hour earlier, and about 5000 yards of works
were in our hands south of the wadi Saba. The enemy had 3000 yards of
trenches north of the wadi, and though these were threatened from the
south and west, it was not until five o'clock that the 230th Brigade
occupied them, the Turks clearing out during the bombardment. During
the day, on the left of the 74th Division, the Imperial Camel Corps
Brigade and two battalions of the 53rd Division held the ground to
the north of the wadi Saba to a point where the remainder of the 53rd
Division watched for the approach of any enemy force from the
north, while the 10th Division about Shellal protected the line of
communications east of the wadi Ghuzze, and the Yeomanry Mounted
Division was on the west side of the wadi Ghuzze in G.H.Q. reserve.
The XXth Corps' losses were 7 officers killed and 42 wounded,
129 other ranks killed, 988 wounded and 5 missing, a light total
considering the nature of the works carried during the day. It was
obvious that the enemy was taken completely by surprise by the
direction of the attack, and the rapidity with which we carried his
strongest points was overwhelming. The Turk did not attempt anything
in the nature of a counter-attack by the Beersheba garrison, nor did
he make any move from Hareira against the 53rd Division. Had he done
so the 10th Division and the Yeomanry Mounted Division would have
seized the opportunity of falling on him from Shellal, and the Turk
chose the safer course of allowing the Beersheba garrison to stand
unaided in its own defences. The XXth Corps' captures included 25
officers, 394 other ranks, 6 guns, and numerous machine guns.

The Desert Mounted Corps met with stubborn opposition in their
operations south-east and east of Beersheba, but they were carried
through no less successfully than those of the XXth Corps. The mounted
men had had a busy time. General Ryrie's 2nd Australian Light Horse
Brigade and the Imperial Camel Corps Brigade had moved southwards
on October 2, and on them and on the 1st and 2nd Field Squadrons
Australian Engineers the bulk of the work fell of developing water and
making and marking tracks which, in the sandy soil, became badly cut
up. On the evening of October 30 the Anzac Mounted Division was at
Asluj, the Australian Mounted Division at Khalasa, the 7th Mounted
Brigade at Esani, Imperial Camel Brigade at Hiseia, and the Yeomanry
Mounted Division in reserve at Shellal. The Anzac Division commanded
by General Chaytor left Asluj during the night, and in a march of
twenty-four miles round the south of Beersheba met with only slight
opposition on the way to Bir el Hamam and Bir Salim abu Irgeig,
between five and seven miles east of the town. The 2nd Australian
Light Horse Brigade during the morning advanced north to take the high
hill Tel el Sakaty, a little east of the Beersheba-Hebron road, which
was captured at one o'clock, and the brigade then swept across
the metalled road which was in quite fair condition, and which
subsequently was of great service to us during the advance of one
infantry division on Bethlehem and Jerusalem. The 1st Australian Light
Horse Brigade commanded by General Cox, and the New Zealand Mounted
Rifles Brigade under General Meldrum, moved against Tel el Saba, a
1000-feet hill which rises very precipitously on the northern bank
of the wadi Saba, 4000 yards due east of Beersheba. Tel el Saba is
believed to be the original site of Beersheba. It had been made into a
strong redoubt and was well held by a substantial garrison adequately
dug in and supported by nests of machine-gunners. The right bank of
the wadi Khalil was also strongly held, and between the Hebron road
and Tel el Saba some German machine-gunners in three houses offered
determined opposition. The New Zealanders and a number of General
Cox's men crept up the wadi Saba, taking full advantage of the cover
offered by the high banks, and formed up under the hill of Saba. They
then dashed up the steep sides while the horse artillery lashed the
crest with their fire, and driving the Turks from their trenches had
captured the hill by three o'clock. At about the same time the 1st
Light Horse Brigade suitably dealt with the machine-gunners in the
houses. Much ground east of Beersheba had thus been made good, and
the Hebron road was denied to the garrison of the town as a line of
retreat. The Anzac Mounted Division was then reinforced by General
Wilson's 3rd Australian Light Horse Brigade, and by six P.M. the
Division held a long crescent of hills from Point 970, a mile north
of Beersheba, through Tel el Sakaty, round south-eastwards to Bir el
Hamam.

General Hodgson's Australian Mounted Division had a night march of
thirty-four miles from Khalasa to Iswawin, south-east of Beersheba,
and after the 3rd Light Horse Brigade had been detached to assist the
Anzac Division, orders were given to General Grant's 4th Australian
Light Horse Brigade to attack and take the town of Beersheba from the
east. The orders were received at four o'clock, and until we had
got an absolute hold on Tel el Saba an attack on the town from this
direction would have been suicidal, as an attacking force would have
been between two fires. The shelling of the cavalry during the day had
been rather hot, and enemy airmen had occasionally bombed them. It was
getting late, and as it was of the greatest importance that the town's
available water should be secured that night, General Grant was
directed to attack with the utmost vigour. His brigade worthily
carried out its orders. The ground was very uneven and was covered
with a mass of large stones and shingle. The trenches were well manned
and strongly held, but General Grant ordered them to be taken at the
gallop. The Australians carried them with an irresistible charge;
dismounted, cleared the first line of all the enemy in it, ran on and
captured the second and third system of trenches, and then, their
horses having been brought up, galloped into the town to prevent any
destruction of the wells. The first-line eastern trenches of Beersheba
were eight feet deep and four feet wide, and as there were many of the
enemy in them they were a serious obstacle to be taken in one rush.
This charge was a sterling feat, and unless the town had been occupied
that night most, if not all, of the cavalry would have had to withdraw
many miles to water, and subsequent operations might have been
imperilled. Until we had got Beersheba there appeared small prospect
of watering more than two brigades in this area.

Luckily there had been two thunderstorms a few days before the attack,
and we found a few pools of sweet water which enabled the whole of the
Corps' horses to be watered during the night. These pools soon dried
up and the water problem again became serious. The Commander-in-Chief
rewarded General Grant with the D.S.O. as an appreciation of his work,
and the brigade was gratified at a well-earned honour. The 7th Mounted
Brigade was held up for some time in the afternoon by a flanking fire
from Ras Ghannam, south of Beersheba, but this was silenced in time
to enable the brigade to assist in the occupation of Beersheba at
nightfall. The 4th Light Horse Brigade's captures in the charge were
58 officers, 1090 other ranks, and 10 field guns, and the total 'bag'
of the Desert Mounted Corps was 70 officers and 1458 other ranks.

The loss of Beersheba was a heavy blow to the Turk. Yet he did not
even then realise to the full the significance of our capture of the
town. He certainly failed to appreciate that we were to use it as
a jumping-off place to attack his main line from Gaza to Sheria by
rolling it up from left to right. In this plan there is no doubt that
General Allenby entirely deceived his enemy, for in the next few
days there was the best of evidence to show that General Kress von
Kressenstein believed we were going to advance from Beersheba to
Jerusalem up the Hebron road, and he made his dispositions to oppose
us here. It was not merely the moral effect of the loss of Beersheba
that disturbed the Turks; they had been driven out of a not
unimportant stronghold.

All through the many centuries since Abraham and his people led a
pastoral life near the wells, Beersheba had been a meanly appointed
place. There were no signs as far as I could see of any elaborate
ruins to indicate anything larger than a native settlement. Elsewhere
we saw crumbling walls of ancient castles and fortresses to tell of
conquerors and glories long since faded away, of relics of an age when
great captains led martial men into new worlds to conquer, of the
time when the Crusading spirit was abroad and the flower of Western
chivalry came East to hold the land for Christians. Here the native
quarter suggested that trade in Beersheba was purely local and not
ambitious, that it provided nothing for the world's commerce save a
few skins and hides, and that the inhabitants were content to live the
rude, simple lives of their forefathers. But the enterprising German
arrived, and you could tell by his work how he intended to compel a
change in the unchanging character of the people. He built a handsome
Mosque--but before he was driven out he wired and mined it for
destruction. He built a seat of government, a hospital, and a
barracks, all of them pretentious buildings for such a town, well
designed, constructed of stone with red-tiled roofs, and the gardens
were nicely laid out. There were a railway station and storehouses on
a scale which would not yield a return on capital expenditure for many
years, and the water tower and engine sheds were built to last longer
than merely military necessities demanded. They were fashioned by
European craftsmen, and the solidity of the structures offered strange
contrast to the rough-and-ready native houses. The primary object of
the Hun scheme was, doubtless, to make Beersheba a suitable base for
an attack on the Suez Canal, and the manner of improving the Hebron
road, of setting road engineers to construct zigzags up hills so that
lorries could move over the road, was part of the plan of men whose
vision was centred on cutting the Suez Canal artery of the British
Empire's body. The best laid schemes....

When I entered Beersheba our troops held a line of outposts
sufficiently far north of the town to prevent the Turks shelling it,
and the place was secure except from aircraft bombs, of which a number
fell into the town without damaging anything of much consequence. Some
of the troops fell victims to booby traps. Apparently harmless whisky
bottles exploded when attempts were made to draw the corks, and
several small mines went up. Besides the mines in the Mosque there
was a good deal of wiring about the railway station, and some rolling
stock was made ready for destruction the instant a door was opened.
The ruse was expected; some Australian engineers drew the charges,
and the coaches were afterwards of considerable service to the supply
branch.



CHAPTER VIII

GAZA DEFENCES


Meanwhile there were important happenings at the other end of the
line. Gaza was about to submit to the biggest of all her ordeals. She
had been a bone of contention for thousands of years. The Pharaohs
coveted her and more than 3500 years ago made bloody strife within the
environs of the town. Alexander the Great besieged her, and Persians
and Arabians opposed that mighty general. The Ptolemies and the
Antiochi for centuries fought for Gaza, whose inhabitants had a
greater taste for the mart than for the sword, and when the Maccabees
were carrying a victorious war through Philistia, the people of Gaza
bought off Jonathan, but the Jews occupied the city itself about a
century before the Christian era. Later on the place was captured
after a year's siege and destroyed, and for long it remained a mass
of mouldering ruins. Pompey revived it, making it a free city, and
Gabinius extended it close to the harbour, whilst under Caesar and
Herod its prosperity and fame increased. In succeeding centuries
Gaza's commerce flourished under the Greeks, who founded schools
famous for rhetoric and philosophy, till the Mahomedan wave swept
over the land in the first half of the seventh century, when the town
became a shadow of its former self, though it continued to exist as a
centre for trade. The Crusaders made their influence felt, and many
are the traces of their period in this ancient city, but Askalon
always had more Crusader support. Napoleon's attack on Gaza found
Abdallah's army in a very different state of preparedness from von
Kress's Turkish army. Nearly all Abdallah's artillery was left behind
in a gun park at Jaffa owing to lack of transport, and though he had
a numerically superior force he did not like Napoleon's dispositions,
and retreated when Kleber moved up the plain to pass between Gaza and
the sea, and the cavalry advanced east of the Mound of Hebron, or Ali
Muntar, as we know the hill up which Samson is reputed to have carried
the gates and bar of Gaza. For nearly a century and a quarter since
Napoleon passed forwards and backwards through the town, Gaza pursued
the arts of peace in the lethargic spirit which suits the native
temperament, but in eight months of 1917 it was the cockpit of strife
in the Middle East, and there was often crammed into one day as
much fighting energy as was shown in all the battles of the past
thirty-five centuries, Napoleon's campaign included.

Fortunately after the battles of March and April nearly all the
civilian population left the town for quieter quarters. Some of them
on returning must have had difficulty in identifying their homes. In
the centre of the town, where bazaars radiated from the quarter of
which the Great Mosque was the hub, the houses were a mass of stones
and rubble, and the narrow streets and tortuous byways were filled
with fallen walls and roofs. The Great Mosque had entirely lost its
beauty. We had shelled it because its minaret, one of those delicately
fashioned spires which, seen from a distance, lead a traveller to
imagine a native town in the East to be arranged on an artistic and
orderly plan, was used as a Turkish observation post, and the Mosque
itself as an ammunition store. I am told our guns were never laid on
to this objective until there was an accident within it which exploded
the ammunition. Be that as it may, there was ample justification for
shelling the Mosque. I went in to examine the structure a few hours
after the Turks had been compelled to evacuate the town, and whilst
they were then shelling it with unpleasant severity. Amid the wrecked
marble columns, the broken pulpit, the torn and twisted lamps and
crumbling walls were hundreds of thousands of rounds of small-arms
ammunition, most of it destroyed by explosion. A great shell had cut
the minaret in half and had left exposed telephone wires leading
direct to army headquarters and to the Turkish gunners' fire control
station. Most of the Mosque furniture and all the carpets had
been removed, but a few torn copies of the Koran, some of them in
manuscript with marginal notes, lay mixed up with German newspapers
and some typical Turkish war propaganda literature. That Mosque, which
Saladin seized from the Crusaders and turned from a Christian into
a Mahomedan place of worship, was unquestionably used for military
purposes, and the Turks cared as little for its religious character or
its venerable age as they did for the mosque on Nebi Samwil, where the
remains of the Prophet Samuel are supposed to rest. Their stories of
the trouble taken to avoid military contact with holy places and sites
were all bunkum and eyewash. They would have fought from the walls of
the Holy City and placed machine-gun nests in the Church of the Holy
Sepulchre and the Mosque of Omar if they had thought it would spare
them the loss of Jerusalem.

Gaza had, as I have said, been turned into a fortress with a mass of
field works, in places of considerable natural strength. If our force
had been on the defensive at Gaza the Germans would not have attacked
without an army of at least three times our strength. It is doubtful
if the Turks put as much material in use on Gallipoli as they did
here. Their trenches were deeply cut and were protected by an immense
amount of wire. In the sand-dune area they used a vast quantity of
sandbags, and they met the shortage of jute stuffs by making small
sacks of bedstead hangings and curtains which, in the dry heat of the
summer, wore very well. Looking across No Man's Land one could easily
pick out a line of trenches by a red, a vivid blue, or a saffron
sandbag. The Turkish dug-outs were most elaborate places of security.
The excavators had gone down into the hard earth well beneath the
deep strata of sand, and they roofed these holes with six, eight, and
sometimes ten layers of palm logs. We had seen these beautiful
trees disappearing and had guessed the reason. But an even greater
protection than the devices of military engineers had been provided
for the Turks by Dame Nature. Along the southern outskirts of the town
all the fields were enclosed by giant cactus hedges, sometimes with
stems as thick as a man's body and not infrequently rearing their
strong limbs and prickly leaves twenty feet above the ground. The
hedges were deep as well as high. They were at once a screen for
defending troops and a barrier as impenetrable as the walls of a
fortress. If one line of cactus hedges had been cut through, infantry
would have found another and yet another to a depth of nearly two
miles, and as the whole of these thorny enclosures were commanded by
a few machine guns the possibility of getting through was almost
hopeless. There were similar hedges on the eastern and western sides
of Gaza, but they were not quite so deep as on the south. On the
western side, and extending south as far as the desert which the Army
had crossed with such steady, methodical, and one may also say painful
progression, was a wide belt of yellow sand, sometimes settled down
hard under the weight of heavy winds, and in other places yielding to
the pressure of feet. The Turks had laboured hard in this mile and
a half width of sand, right down to the sea, to protect their right
flank. There was a point about 4000 yards due west from the edge of
the West Town of Gaza which we called Sea Post. It was the western
extremity of the enemy's exceedingly intricate system of defences. The
beach was below the level of the Post. From Sea Post for about 1500
yards the Turkish front line ran to Rafa Redoubt. There were wired-in
entrenchments with strong points here and there, and a series of
communication trenches and redoubts behind them for 3000 yards to
Sheikh Hasan, which was the port of Gaza, if you can so describe an
open roadstead with no landing facilities. From Rafa Redoubt the
contour of the sand dunes permitted the enemy to construct an
exceedingly strong line running due south for 2000 yards, the
strongest points being named by us Zowaid trench, El Burj trench,
Triangle trench, Peach Orchard, and El Arish Redoubt, the nomenclature
being reminiscent of the trials of the troops in the desert march.
Behind this line there was many a sunken passageway and shelter from
gunfire, while backing the whole system, and, for reasons I have
given, an element of defence as strong as the prepared positions, were
cactus hedges enclosing the West Town's gardens.

From El Arish Redoubt the line ran east again to Mazar trench with
a prodigal expenditure of wire in front of it, and then south for
several hundred yards, when it was thrown out to the south-west to
embrace a position of high importance known as Umbrella Hill, a dune
of blazing yellow sand facing, about 500 yards away, Samson's Ridge,
which we held strongly and on which the enemy often concentrated his
fire. This ended the Turks' right-half section of the Gaza defences.
Close by passed what from time immemorial has been called the Cairo
Road, a track worn down by caravans of camels moving towards Kantara
on their way with goods for Egyptian bazaars. But there was no break
in the trench system which ran across the plain, a beautiful green
tinted with the blooms of myriads of wild flowers when we first
advanced over it in March, now browned and dried up by absolutely
cloudless summer days. In the gardens on the western slopes of the
hills running south from Ali Muntar the Turk had achieved much
spadework, but he had done far more work on the hills themselves, and
these were a frame of fortifications for Ali Muntar, on which we once
sat for a few hours, and the possession of which meant the reduction
of Gaza. By the end of summer the hill of Muntar had lost its shape.
When we saw it during the first battle of Gaza it was a bold feature
surmounted by a few trees and the whitened walls and grey dome of a
sheikh's tomb. In the earlier battles of 1917 much was done to ruffle
Muntar's crest. We saw trees uprooted, others lose their limbs, and
naval gunfire threatened the foundations of the old chief's burying
place. But Ali Muntar stoutly resisted the heavy shells' attack. As
if Samson's feat had endowed it with some of the strong man's powers,
Muntar for a long time received its daily thumps stoically; but by
degrees the resistance of the old hill declined, and when agents
reported that the sheikh's tomb was used as an observation post,
8-inch howitzers got on to it and made it untenable. There was a bit
of it left at the end, but not more than would offer protection from a
rifle bullet, and the one tree left standing was a limbless trunk. The
crest of the hill lost its roundness, and the soil which had worked
out through the shell craters had changed the colour of the summit.
Old Ali Muntar had had the worst of the bombardment, and if some
future sheikh should choose the site for a summer residence he will
come across a wealth of metal in digging his foundations.

To capture Gaza the Formidable it was proposed first to take the
western defences from Umbrella Hill to Sea Post, to press on to Sheikh
Hasan and thus turn the right flank of the whole position. That would
compel the enemy to reinforce his right flank when he was being
heavily attacked elsewhere, and if he had been transferring his
reserves to meet the threat against the left of his main line after
Beersheba had been won for the Empire he would be in sore trouble.
Gaza had already tasted a full sample of the war food we intended it
should consume. Before the attack on Beersheba had developed, ships of
war and the heavy guns of XXIst Corps had rattled its defences. The
warships' fire was chiefly directed on targets our land guns could
not reach. Observers in aircraft controlled the fire and notified the
destruction of ammunition dumps at Deir Sineid and other places. The
work of the heavy batteries was watched with much interest. Some were
entirely new batteries which had never been in action against any
enemy, and they only arrived on the Gaza front five weeks before the
battle. These were not allowed to register until shortly before the
battle began, and they borrowed guns from other batteries in order to
train the gun crews. So desirous was General Bulfin to conceal the
concentration of heavies that the wireless code calls were only those
used by batteries which were in position before his Corps was formed,
and the volume of fire came as an absolute surprise to the enemy. It
came as a surprise also to some of us in camp at G.H.Q. one night at
the end of October. Suddenly there was a terrific burst of fire on
about four miles of front. Vivid fan-shaped flashes stabbed the sky,
the bright moonlight of the East did not dim the guns' lightning, and
their thunderous voices were a challenge the enemy was powerless to
refuse. He took it up slowly as if half ashamed of his weakness. Then
his fire increased in volume and in strength, but it ebbed again and
we knew the reason. We held some big 'stuff' for counter battery work,
and our fire was effective.

The preliminary bombardment began on October 27 and it grew in
intensity day by day. The Navy co-operated on October 29 and
subsequent days. The whole line from Middlesex Hill (close to Outpost
Hill) to the sea was subjected to heavy fire, all the routes to the
front line were shelled during the night by 60-pounder and field-gun
batteries. Gas shells dosed the centres of communication and bivouac
areas, and every quarter of the defences was made uncomfortable. The
sound-ranging sections told us the enemy had between sixteen and
twenty-four guns south of Gaza, and from forty to forty-eight north of
the town, and over 100 guns were disclosed, including more than thirty
firing from the Tank Redoubt well away to the eastward. On October 29
some of the guns south of Gaza had been forced back by the severity of
our counter battery work, and of the ten guns remaining between us and
the town on that date all except four had been removed by November
2. For several nights the bombardment continued without a move by
infantry. Then just at the moment von Kress was discussing the loss of
Beersheba and his plans to meet our further advance in that direction,
some infantry of the 75th Division raided Outpost Hill, the southern
extremity of the entrenched hill system south of Ali Muntar, and
killed far more Turks than they took prisoners. There was an
intense bombardment of the enemy's works at the same time. The next
night--November 1-2--was the opening of XXIst Corps' great attack on
Gaza, and though the enemy did not leave the town or the remainder of
the trenches we had not assaulted till nearly a week afterwards, the
vigour of the attack and the bravery with which it was thrust home,
and the subsequent total failure of counter-attacks, must have made
the enemy commanders realise on the afternoon of November 2 that Gaza
was doomed and that their boasts that Gaza was impregnable were thin
air. Their reserves were on the way to their left where they were
urgently wanted, there was nothing strong enough to replace such heavy
wastage caused to them by the attack of the night of November 1 and
the morning of the 2nd, and our big gains of ground were an enormous
advantage to us for the second phase in the Gaza sector, for we had
bitten deeply into the Turks' right flank.

Like the concentration of the XXth Corps and the Desert Mounted Corps
for the jump off on to Beersheba, the preparations against the Turks'
extreme right had to be very secretly made. The XXIst Corps Commander
had to look a long way ahead. He had to consider the possibility of
the enemy abandoning Gaza when Beersheba was captured, and falling
back to the line of the wadi Hesi. His troops had been confined to
trench warfare for months, digging and sitting in trenches, putting
out wire, going out on listening patrols, sniping and doing all the
drudgery in the lines of earthworks. They were hard and strong, their
health having considerably improved since the early summer, but at the
end of September the infantry were by no means march fit. Realising
that, if General Allenby's operations were successful, and no one
doubted that, we should have a period of open warfare when troops
would be called upon to make long marches and undergo the privations
entailed by transport difficulties, General Bulfin brought as many
men as he could spare from the trenches back to Deir el Belah and the
coast, where they had route marches over the sand for the restoration
of their marching powers. Gradually he accumulated supplies in
sheltered positions just behind the front. In three dumps were
collected seven days' mobile rations, ammunition, water, and
engineers' material. Tracks were constructed, cables buried, concealed
gun positions and brigade and battalion headquarters made, and from
the 25th October troops were ready to move off with two days' rations
on the man. Should the enemy retire, General Hill's 52nd (Lowland)
Division was to march up the shore beneath the sand cliffs, get across
the wadi Hesi at the mouth, detach a force to proceed towards Askalon,
and then move eastward down to the ridge opposite Deir Sineid, and, by
securing the bridge and crossings of the wadi Hesi, prevent the enemy
establishing himself on the north bank of the wadi. The operations
on the night of November 1-2 were conducted by Major-General Hare,
commanding the 54th Division, to which General Leggatt's 156th
Infantry Brigade was temporarily attached. The latter brigade was
given the important task of capturing Umbrella Hill and El Arish
Redoubt. Umbrella Hill was to be taken first, and as it was
anticipated the enemy would keep up a strong artillery fire for a
considerable time after the position had been taken, and that his fire
would interfere with the assembly and advance of troops detailed
for the second phase, the first phase was timed to start four hours
earlier than the second. For several days the guns had opened intense
fire at midnight and again at 3 A.M. so that the enemy should not
attach particular importance to our artillery activity on the night of
action, and a creeping barrage nightly swept across No Man's Land to
clear off the chain of listening posts established 300 yards in front
of the enemy's trenches. Some heavy banks of cloud moved across the
sky when the Scottish Rifle Brigade assembled for the assault, but the
moon shed sufficient light at intervals to enable the Scots to file
through the gaps made in our wire and to form up on the tapes laid
outside. At 11 P.M. the 7th Scottish Rifles stormed Umbrella Hill with
the greatest gallantry. The first wave of some sixty-five officers and
men was blown up by four large contact mines and entirely destroyed.
The second wave passed over the bodies of their comrades without a
moment's check and, moving through the wire smashed by our artillery,
entered Umbrella Hill trenches and set about the Turks with their
bayonets. They had to clear a maze of trenches and dug-outs, but they
bombed out of existence the machine-gunners opposing them and had
settled the possession of Umbrella Hill in half an hour.

The 4th Royal Scots led the attack on El Arish Redoubt. It was a
bigger and noisier 'show' than the Royal Scots had had some months
before, when in a 'silent' raid they killed with hatchets only, for
the Scots had seen the condition of some of their dead left in Turkish
hands and were taking retribution. Not many Turks in El Arish Redoubt
lived to relate that night's story. The Scots were rapidly in the
redoubt and were rapidly through it, cleared up a nasty corner known
as the 'Little Devil,' and were just about to shelter from the shells
which were to answer their attack when they caught a brisk fire from a
Bedouin hut. A platoon leader disposed his men cleverly and rushed
the hut, killing everybody in it and capturing two machine guns. The
vigorous resistance of the Turks on Umbrella Hill and El Arish Redoubt
resulted in our having to bury over 350 enemy dead in these positions.

The second phase was to attack the enemy's front-line system from El
Arish Redoubt to the sea at Sea Post. At 3 A.M., after the enemy
guns had plentifully sprinkled Umbrella Hill and had given it up as
irretrievably lost, we opened a ten-minutes' intense bombardment of
the front line, exactly as had been done on preceding mornings, but
this time the 161st and 162nd Infantry Brigades followed up our shells
and carried 3000 yards of trenches at once. Three-quarters of an
hour afterwards the 163rd Infantry Brigade tried to get the support
trenches several hundred yards in rear, but the difficulties were too
many and the effort failed. Having secured Sea Post and Beach Post the
162nd Brigade completed the programme by advancing up the coast and
capturing the 'port' of Gaza, Sheikh Hasan, with a considerable body
of prisoners.

The enemy's guns remained active until seven o'clock, when they
reserved their fire till the afternoon. Then a heavy counter-attack
was seen to be developing by an aerial observer, whose timely
warning enabled the big guns and warships to smash it up. Another
counter-attack against Sheikh Hasan was repulsed later in the day, and
a third starting from Crested Rock which aimed at getting back El
Burj trench was a complete failure. After the second phase our troops
buried 739 enemy dead. Without doubt there were many others killed and
wounded in the unsuccessful counter-attacks, particularly the first
against Sheikh Hasan, when many heavy shells were seen to fall in the
enemy's ranks. We took prisoners 26 officers, including two battalion
commanders, and 418 other ranks. Our casualties were 30 officers and
331 other ranks killed, 94 officers and 1869 other ranks wounded, and
10 officers and 362 other ranks missing. Considering the enormous
strength of the positions attacked, the numbers engaged, and the fact
that we secured enemy front 5000 yards long and 3000 yards deep, the
losses were not more severe than might have been expected.

The Turks clung to their trenches with a tenacity equal to that which
characterised their defences on Gallipoli, and officer prisoners told
us they had been ordered to hold Gaza at all costs. That was good
news, though even if they had got back to the wadi Hesi line it is
doubtful if, when Sheria was taken, they could have done more than
temporarily hold us up there. During the next few days the work
against the enemy's right consisted of heavy bombardments on the line
of hills running from the north-east to the south of Gaza, and on the
prominent position of Sheikh Redwan, east of the port. The enemy made
some spirited replies, notably on the 4th, but his force in Gaza was
getting shaken, and prisoners reluctantly admitted that the heavy
naval shells taking them in flank and rear were affecting the moral
of the troops. The gunfire of Rear-Admiral Jackson's fleet of H.M.S.
_Grafton_, _Raglan_, Monitors 15, 29, 31, and 32, river-gunboats
_Ladybird_ and _Amphis_, and the destroyers _Staunch_ and _Comet_, was
worthy of the King's Navy. They were assisted by the French battleship
_Requin_. We lost a monitor and destroyer torpedoed by a submarine,
but the marks of the Navy's hard hitting were on and about Gaza, and
we heard, if we could not see, the best the ships were doing. On one
day there was a number of explosions about Deir Sineid indicating the
destruction of some of the enemy's reserve of ammunition, and while
the Turks were still in Gaza they received a shock resembling
nothing more than an earthquake. One of the ships--the _Raglan_, I
believe--taking a signal from a seaplane, got a direct hit on an
ammunition train at Beit Hanun, the railway terminus north of Gaza.
The whole train went up and its load was scattered in fragments over
an area of several hundred square yards, an extraordinary scene of
wreckage of torn and twisted railway material and destroyed ammunition
presenting itself to us when we got on the spot on November 7. There
was another very fine example of the Navy's indirect fire a short
distance northward of this railway station. A stone road bridge had
been built over the wadi Hesi and it had to carry all heavy traffic,
the banks of the wadi being too steep and broken to permit wheels
passing down them as they stood. During our advance the engineers had
to build ramps here. A warship, taking its line from an aeroplane,
fired at the bridge from a range of 14,000 yards, got two direct hits
on it and holed it in the centre, and there must have been thirty or
forty shell craters within a radius of fifty yards. The confounding of
the Turks was ably assisted by the Navy.



CHAPTER IX

CRUSHING THE TURKISH LEFT


Now we return to the operations of XXth Corps and Desert Mounted Corps
on our right. After the capture of Beersheba this force was preparing
to attack the left of the Turkish main line about Hareira and Sheria,
the capture of which would enable the fine force of cavalry to get
to Nejile and gain an excellent water supply, to advance to the
neighbourhood of Huj and so reach the plain and threaten the enemy's
line in rear, and to fall on his line of retreat. It was proposed
to make the attack on the Kauwukah and Rushdi systems at Hareira on
November 4, but the water available at Beersheba had not been equal
to the demands made upon it and was petering out, and mounted troops
protecting the right flank of XXth Corps had to be relieved every
twenty-four hours. The men also suffered a good deal from thirst. The
weather was unusually hot for this period of the year, and the dust
churned up by traffic was as irritating as when the khamseen wind
blew. The two days' delay meant much in favour of the enemy, who was
enabled to move his troops as he desired, but it also permitted our
infantry to get some rest after their long marches, and supplies were
brought nearer the front. 'Rest' was only a comparative term. Brigades
were on the move each day in country which was one continual rise and
fall, with stony beds of wadis to check progress, without a tree to
lend a few moments' grateful relief from a burning sun, and nothing
but the rare sight of a squalid native hut to relieve the monotony of
a sun-dried desolate land.

The troops were remarkably cheerful. They were on their toes, as the
cavalry told them. They had drawn first blood profusely from the Turk
after many weary months of waiting and getting fit, and they knew that
those gaunt mountain ridges away on their right front held behind them
Bethlehem and Jerusalem, goals they desired to reach more than any
other prizes of war. They had seen the Turk, and had soundly thrashed
him out of trenches which the British could have held against a much
stronger force. Their confidence was based on the proof that they were
better men, and they were convinced that once they got the enemy into
the open their superiority would be still more marked. The events of
the next six weeks showed their estimate of the Turkish soldier was
justified.

The 53rd Division with the Imperial Camel Corps on its right moved to
Towal Abu Jerwal on November 1 to protect the flank guard of the XXth
Corps during the pending attack on the Kauwukah system. The infantry
had some fighting on that day, but it was mild compared with the
strenuous days before them. The 10th Division attacked Irgeig railway
station north-west of Beersheba and secured it, and waited there with
the 74th Division on its right while the Welsh Division went forward
to fight for Khuweilfeh on November 3. The Welshmen could not obtain
the whole of the position on that day, and it was not until the 6th
that it became theirs. Khuweilfeh is about ten miles due east of
Sheria, the same distance north of Beersheba, and some five miles west
of the Hebron road. It is in the hill country, difficult to approach,
with nothing in the nature of a road or track leading to it, and there
was no element in the position to suggest the prospect of an easy
capture. When General Mott advanced to these forbidding heights the
strength of the enemy in these parts was not realised. Prisoners
taken during the day proved that there were portions of three or four
Turkish divisions in the neighbourhood, and the strong efforts made to
prevent the Welsh troops gaining the position and the furious attempts
to drive them out of it suggested that most of the Turkish reserves
had been brought over to their left flank to guard against a wide
movement intended to envelop it. It afterwards turned out that von
Kressenstein believed General Allenby intended to march on Jerusalem
up the Hebron road, and he threw over to his left all his reserves to
stop us. That was a supreme mistake, for when we had broken through at
Hareira and Sheria the two wings of his Army were never in contact,
and their only means of communication was by aeroplane.

The magnificent fight the 53rd Division put up at Khuweilfeh against
vastly superior forces and in the face of heavy casualties played a
very important part in the overwhelming defeat of the Turks. For four
days and nights the Welsh Division fought without respite and with the
knowledge that they could not be substantially reinforced, since the
plan for the attack on Hareira and Sheria entailed the employment of
all the available infantry of XXth Corps. Attack after attack was
launched against them with extreme violence and great gallantry, their
positions were raked by gunfire, whilst water and supplies were not
over plentiful. But the staunch Division held on grimly to what it had
gained, and its tenacity was well rewarded by what was won on other
portions of the field.

During the night of November 5-6 and the day of the 6th, the 74th,
60th, and 10th Divisions concentrated for the attack on the Kauwukah
system. The enemy's positions ran from his Jerusalem-Beersheba railway
about five miles south-east of Hareira, across the Gaza-Beersheba road
to the wadi Sheria, on the northern bank of which was an exceedingly
strong redoubt covering Hareira. The eastern portion of this line
was known as the Kauwukah system, and between it and Hareira was
the Rushdi system, all being connected up by long communication and
support trenches, while a light railway ran from the Rushdi line to
dumps south of Sheria. At the moment of assembly for attack our line
from right to left was made up as follows: the 158th Infantry Brigade
was on the right, south of Tel Khuweilfeh. Then came the 160th Brigade
and 159th Brigade. The Yeomanry Mounted Division held a long line
of country and was the connecting link between the 53rd and 74th
Divisions. The latter division disposed from right to left the 231st
Brigade, the 229th Brigade, and 230th Brigade, who were to march from
the south-east to the north-west to attack the right of the Kauwukah
system of entrenchments on the railway. The 181st Brigade, 180th
Brigade, and 179th Brigade of the 60th Division were to march in the
same direction to attack the next portion of the system on the left of
the 74th Division's objectives, then swinging to the north to march
on Sheria. The 31st Brigade, 30th Brigade, and 29th Brigade were to
operate on the 60th Division's left, with the Australian Mounted
Division watching the left flank of XXth Corps. The Turkish VIIth
Army and 3rd Cavalry Division were opposing the XXth Corps, another
Division was opposite the 53rd Division and the Imperial Camel Corps
with the 12th Depôt Regiment at Dharahiyeh on the Hebron road, the
16th Division opposite our 74th, the 24th and 26th Divisions opposite
our 69th, and the 54th against the 10th Division. The 3rd, 53rd, and
7th Turkish Divisions were in the Gaza area.

At daybreak the troops advanced to the attack. The first part of the
line in front of the 231st Brigade was a serious obstacle. Two or
three small outlying rifle pits had to be taken before the Division
could proceed with its effort to drive the enemy out of Sheria and
protect the flank of the 60th Division, which had to cross the railway
where a double line of trenches was to be tackled, the rear line above
the other with the flank well thrown back and protected by small
advanced pits to hold a few men and machine guns. The Turks held on
very obstinately to their ground east of the railway, and kept the
74th Division at bay till one o'clock in the afternoon, but the
artillery of that Division had for some time been assisting in the
wire-cutting in front of the trenches to be assaulted by the 60th
Division, and the latter went ahead soon after noon, and with the
assistance of one brigade of the 10th Division, had won about 4000
yards of the complicated trench system and most of the Rushdi system
by half-past two. The Londoners then swung to the north and occupied
the station at Sheria, while the dismounted yeomanry worked round
farther east, taking a series of isolated trenches on the way, the
Irish troops relieving the 60th in the captured trenches at Kauwukah.
The 60th Division, having possession of the larger part of Sheria,
intended to attack the hill there at nightfall, and the attack was in
preparation when an enemy dump exploded and a huge fire lighted up the
whole district, so that all troops would have been exposed to the
fire of the garrison on the hill. General Shea therefore stopped the
attack, but the hill was stormed at 4.30 next morning and carried at
the point of the bayonet. A bridgehead was then formed at Sheria, and
the Londoners fought all day and stopped one counter-attack when it
was within 200 yards of our line. On that same morning the Irish
troops had extended their gains westwards from the Rushdi system till
they got to Hareira Tepe Redoubt, a high mound 500 yards across the
top, which had been criss-crossed with trenches with wire hanging
about some broken ground at the bottom. Here there was a hot tussle,
but the Irishmen valiantly pushed through and not only gave XXth Corps
the whole of its objectives and completed the turn of the enemy's left
flank, but joined up with the XXIst Corps. The working of XXth Corps'
scheme had again been admirable, and once more the staff work had
enabled the movements to be timed perfectly.

The Desert Mounted Corps was thus able to draw up to Sheria in
readiness to take up the pursuit and to get the water supply at
Nejile. This ended the XXth Corps' task for a few days, though the
60th Division became temporarily attached to Desert Mounted Corps.
XXth Corps had nobly done its part. The consummate ability, energy,
and foresight of the corps commander had been supported throughout by
the skill of divisional and brigade commanders. For the men no praise
could be too high. The attention given to their training was well
repaid. They bore the strain of long marches on hard food and a small
allowance of water in a way that proved their physique to be only
matched by their courage, and that was of a high order. Their
discipline was admirable, their determination alike in attack and
defence strong and well sustained. To say they were equal to the
finest troops in the world might lay one open to a charge of
exaggeration when it was impossible to get a fair ground of
comparison, seeing the conditions of fighting on different fronts
was so varied, but the trials through which the troops of XXth
Corps passed up to the end of the first week of November, and their
magnificent accomplishments by the end of the year, make me doubt
whether any other corps possessed finer soldierly qualities. The men
were indeed splendid. The casualties sustained by the XXth Corps from
October 31 to November 16 were: killed, officers 63, other ranks 869;
wounded, officers 198, other ranks 4246; missing, no officers, 108
other ranks--a total of 261 officers and 5223 other ranks.

During the period after Beersheba when the XXth Corps troops were
concentrating to break up the Turks' defensive position on the left,
the Desert Mounted Corps was busily engaged holding a line eight or
ten miles north and north-east of Beersheba, and watching for any
movement of troops down the Hebron road. The 2nd Australian Light
Horse Brigade and 7th Mounted Brigade tried to occupy a line from
Khuweilfeh to Dharahiyeh, but it was not possible to reach it--a fact
by no means surprising, as in the light of subsequent knowledge it was
clear that the Turks had put much of their strength there. A patrol
of Light Horsemen managed to work round to the north of Dharahiyeh,
a curious group of mud houses on a hill-top inhabited by natives who
have yet to appreciate the evils of grossly overcrowded quarters as
well as some of the elementary principles of sanitation, and they saw
a number of motor lorries come up the admirably constructed hill road
designed by German engineers. The lorries were hurrying from the
Jerusalem area with reinforcements. Prisoners--several hundreds of
them in all--were brought in daily, but no attempt was made to force
the enemy back until November 6, when the 53rd Division, which for the
time being was attached to the Desert Mounted Corps, drove the Turks
off the whole of Khuweilfeh, behaving as I have already said with
fine gallantry and inflicting severe losses. There were also
counter-attacks launched against the 5th Mounted Brigade, the New
Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade, and the Imperial Camel Corps Brigade,
but these were likewise beaten off with considerable casualties to
the enemy. When the XXth Corps had captured the Khauwukah system, a
detachment for the defence of the right flank of the Army was formed
under the command of Major-General G. de S. Barrow, the G.O.C.
Yeomanry Mounted Division, consisting of the Imperial Camel Corps
Brigade, 53rd Division, Yeomanry Mounted Division, New Zealand Mounted
Rifles Brigade, and two squadrons and eight machine guns of the 2nd
Australian Light Horse Brigade. The Australian Mounted Division
marched from Karm, whither it had been sent on account of water
difficulties, to rejoin Desert Mounted Corps to whom the 60th Division
was temporarily attached. The Desert Corps had orders on November 7 to
push through as rapidly as possible to the line wadi Jemmameh-Huj, and
from that day the Corps commenced its long march to Jaffa, a march
which, though strongly opposed by considerable bodies of troops, was
more often interfered with by lack of water than by difficulty in
defeating the enemy.

The scarcity of water was a sore trouble. There was an occasional pool
here and there, but generally the only water procurable was in deep
wells giving a poor yield. The cavalry will not forget that long
trek. No brigade could march straight ahead. Those operating in the
foothills on our right had to fight all the way, and they were often
called upon to resist counter-attacks by strong rearguards issuing
from the hills to threaten the flank and so delay the advance in
order to permit the Turks to carry off some of their material. It was
necessary almost every day to withdraw certain formations from the
front and send them back a considerable distance to water, replacing
them by other troops coming from a well centre. In this way brigades
were not infrequently attached to divisions other than their own, and
the administrative services were heavily handicapped. Several times
whole brigades were without water for forty-eight hours, and though
supplies reached them on all but one or two occasions they were often
late, and an exceedingly severe strain was put on the transport.
During that diagonal march across the Maritime Plain I heard infantry
officers remark that the Australians always seemed to have their
supplies up with them. I do not think the supplies were always there,
but they generally were not far behind, and if resource and energy
could work miracles the Australian supply officers deserve the credit
for them. The divisional trains worked hard in those strenuous days,
and the 'Q' staff of the Desert Mounted Corps had many a sleepless
night devising plans to get that last ounce out of their transport men
and to get that little extra amount of supplies to the front which
meant the difference between want and a sufficiency for man and horse.

On the 7th November the 60th Division after its spirited attack on
Tel el Sheria crossed the wadi and advanced north about two miles,
fighting obstinate rearguards all the way. The 1st Australian Light
Horse took 300 prisoners and a considerable quantity of ammunition
and stores at Ameidat, and with the remainder of the Anzac Division
reached Tel Abu Dilakh by the evening, and the Australian Mounted
Division filled the gap between the Anzacs and the Londoners, but
having been unable to water could not advance further. The 8th
November was a busy and brilliantly successful day. The Corps' effort
was to make a wide sweeping movement in order first to obtain the
valuable and urgently required water at Nejile, and then to push
across the hills and rolling downs to the country behind Gaza to
harass the enemy retreating from that town. The Turks had a big
rearguard south-west of Nejile and made a strong effort to delay the
capture of that place, the importance of which to us they realised
to the full, and they were prepared to sacrifice the whole of the
rearguard if they could hold us off the water for another twenty-four
hours. The pressure of the Anzac Division and the 7th Mounted Brigade
assisting it was too much for the enemy, who though holding on to the
hills very stoutly till the last moment had to give way and leave the
water in our undisputed possession. The Sherwood Rangers and South
Notts Hussars were vigorously counter-attacked at Mudweiweh, but they
severely handled the enemy, who retired a much weakened body.

By the evening the Anzacs held the country from Nejile to the north
bank of the wadi Jemmameh, having captured 300 prisoners and two guns.
The Australian Mounted Division made an excellent advance round
the north side of Huj, which had been the Turkish VIIIth Army
Headquarters, and the 4th Australian Light Horse Brigade was in touch
with the corps cavalry of XXIst Corps at Beit Hanun, while the 3rd
Australian Light Horse Brigade had taken prisoners and two of the
troublesome Austrian 5.9 howitzers.

It was the work of the 60th Division in the centre, however, which
was the outstanding feature of the day, though the Londoners readily
admitted that without the glorious charge of the Worcester and
Warwickshire Yeomanry in the afternoon they would not have been in the
neighbourhood of Huj when darkness fell. The 60th were in the centre,
sandwiched between the Anzacs and Australian Mounted Division, and
their allotted task was to clear the country between Sheria and Huj, a
distance of ten miles. The country was a series of billowy downs with
valleys seldom more than 1000 yards wide, and every yard of the way
was opposed by infantry and artillery. Considering the opposition the
progress was good. The Londoners drove in the Turks' strong flank
three times, first from the hill of Zuheilika, then from the
cultivated area behind it, and thirdly from the wadi-torn district
of Muntaret el Baghl, from which the infantry proceeded to the high
ground to the north. It was then between two and three o'clock in the
afternoon, and maps showed that between the Division and Huj there was
nearly four miles of most difficult country, a mass of wadi beds and
hills giving an enterprising enemy the best possible means for holding
up an advance. General Shea went ahead in a light armoured car to
reconnoitre, and saw a strong body of Turks with guns marching across
his front. It was impossible for his infantry to catch them and,
seeing ten troops of Warwick and Worcester Yeomanry on his right about
a mile away, he went over to them and ordered Lieut.-Colonel H. Cheape
to charge the enemy. It was a case for instant action. The enemy were
a mile and a half from our cavalry. The gunners had come into action
and were shelling the London Territorials, but they soon had to
switch off and fire at a more terrifying target. Led by their gallant
Colonel, a Master of Foxhounds who was afterwards drowned in the
Mediterranean, the yeomen swept over a ridge in successive lines and
raced down the northern slope on to the flat, at first making direct
for the guns, then swerving to the left under the direction of Colonel
Cheape, whose eye for country led him to take advantage of a mound on
the opposite side of the valley. Over this rise the Midland yeomen
spurred their chargers and, giving full-throated cheers, dashed
through the Turks' left flank guard and went straight for the guns.
Their ranks were somewhat thinned, for they had been exposed to a
heavy machine-gun fire as well as to the fire of eight field guns and
three 5.9 howitzers worked at the highest pressure. The gunners were
nearly all Germans and Austrians and they fought well. They splashed
the valley with shrapnel, and during the few moments' lull when the
yeomanry were lost to view behind the mound they set their shell fuses
at zero to make them burst at the mouth of the guns and act as case
shot. They tore some gaps in the yeomen's ranks, but nothing could
stop that charge. The Midlanders rode straight at the guns and sabred
every artilleryman at his piece. The Londoners say they heard all the
guns stop dead at the same moment and they knew they had been silenced
in true Balaclava style. Having wiped out the batteries the yeomen
again answered the call of their leader and swept up a ridge to deal
effectively with three machine guns, and having used the white arm
against their crews the guns were turned on to the retreating Turks
and decimated their ranks. This charge was witnessed by General Shea,
and I know it is his opinion that it was executed with the greatest
gallantry and élan, and was worthy of the best traditions of British
cavalry. The yeomanry lost about twenty-five per cent. of their
number in casualties, but their action was worth the price, for they
completely broke up the enemy resistance and enabled the London
Division to push straight through to Huj. The Warwick and
Worcester Yeomanry received the personal congratulations of the
Commander-in-Chief, and General Shea was also thanked by General
Allenby.

During this day General Shea accomplished what probably no other
Divisional Commander did in this war. When out scouting in a light
armoured car he was within 500 yards of a big ammunition dump which
was blown up. He saw the three men who had destroyed it running away,
and he chased them into a wadi and machine-gunned them. They held up
their hands and were astonished to find they had surrendered to a
General. These men were captured in the nick of time. But for the
appearance of General Shea they would have destroyed another dump,
which we captured intact.

I was with the Division the night after they had taken Huj. It was
their first day of rest for some time, but the men showed few signs
of fatigue. No one could move among them without being proud of the
Londoners. They were strong, self-reliant, well-disciplined, brave
fellows. I well remember what Colonel Temperley, the G.S.O. of the
Division, told me when sitting out on a hill in the twilight that
night. Colonel Temperley had been brigade major of the first New
Zealand Infantry Brigade which came to Egypt and took a full share in
the work on Gallipoli on its way to France. He had over two years of
active service on the Western Front before coming out to Palestine for
duty with the 60th Division, and his views on men in action were based
on the sound experience of the professional soldier. Of the London
County Territorials he said: 'I cannot speak of these warriors without
a lump rising in my throat. These Cockneys are the best men in the
world. Their spirits are simply wonderful, and I do not think any
division ever went into a big show with higher moral. After three
years of war it is refreshing to hear the men's earnestly expressed
desire to go into action again. These grand fellows went forward
with the full bloom on them, there never was any hesitation, their
discipline was absolutely perfect, their physique and courage were
alike magnificent, and their valour beyond words. The Cockney makes
the perfect soldier.' I wrote at the time that 'whether the men came
from Bermondsey, Camberwell or Kennington, or belonged to what were
known as class corps, such as the Civil Service or Kensingtons, before
the war, all battalions were equally good. They were trained for
months for the big battle till their bodies were brought to such a
state of fitness that Spartan fare during the ten days of ceaseless
action caused neither grumble nor fatigue. The men may well be
rewarded with the title "London's Pride," and London is honoured by
having such stalwarts to represent the heart of the British Empire. In
eight days the Londoners marched sixty-six miles and fought a number
of hot actions. The march may not seem long, but Palestine is not
Salisbury Plain. A leg-weary man was asked by an officer if his feet
were blistered, and replied: "They're rotten sore, but my heart's
gay." That is typical of the spirit of these unconquerable Cockneys. I
have just left them. They still have the bloom of freshness and I do
not think it will ever fade. Scorching winds which parched the throat
and made everything one wore hot to the touch were enough to oppress
the staunchest soldier, but these sterling Territorials, costers
and labourers, artisans and tradesmen, professional men and men of
independent means, true brothers in arms and good Britons, left their
bivouacs and trudged across heavy country, fearless, strong, proud,
and with the cheerfulness of good men who fight for right.' What I
said in those early days of the great advance was more than borne out
later, and in the capture of Jerusalem, in taking Jericho, and in
forcing the passage of the Jordan this glorious Division of Londoners
was always the same, a pride to its commander, a bulwark of the XXth
Corps, and a great asset of the Empire.



CHAPTER X

THROUGH GAZA INTO THE OPEN


On the Gaza section of the front the XXIst Corps had been busily
occupied with preparations for a powerful thrust through the remainder
of the defences on the enemy's right when the XXth Corps should have
succeeded in turning the main positions on the left. The 52nd Division
on the coast was ready to go ahead immediately there was any sign that
the enemy, seeing that the worst was about to happen, intended to
order a general retirement, and then it would be a race and a fight to
prevent his establishing himself on the high ground north of the wadi
Hesi. Should he fail to do that there was scarcely a possibility of
the Turks holding us up till we got to the Jaffa-Jerusalem road,
though between Gaza and that metalled highway there were many points
of strength from which they could fight delaying actions. It is very
doubtful whether the Turkish General Staff gave the cavalry credit for
being able to move across the Plain in the middle of November when the
wadis are absolutely dry and the water-level in the wells is lower
than at any other period of the year. Nor did they imagine that the
transport difficulties for infantry divisions fed as ours were could
be surmounted. They may have thought that if they could secure the
wadi Hesi line before we got into position to threaten it in flank
they would immobilise our Army till the rains began, and there was a
possibility of sitting facing each other in wet uncomfortable trench
quarters till the flowers showed themselves in the spring, by which
time, the Bagdad venture of the German Higher Command proving hopeless
before it was started, a great volume of reinforcements might be
diverted to Southern Palestine with Turkish divisions from the
Salonika front and a stiffening of German battalions spared from
Europe in consequence of the Russian collapse.

Whatever they may have been, the Turkish calculations were completely
upset. The cavalry's water troubles remained and no human foresight
could have smoothed them over, but the transport problem was solved in
this way. During the attack on Beersheba XXIst Corps came to the aid
of XXth Corps by handing over to it the greater part of its camel
convoys and lorries, so much transport, indeed, that a vast amount of
work in the Gaza sector fell to be done by a greatly depleted supply
staff. When Beersheba had been won and the enemy's left flank had been
smashed and thrown back, the XXth Corps repaid the XXIst Corps, not
only by returning what it had borrowed, but by marching back into the
region of railhead at Karm, where it could live with a minimum of
transport and send all its surplus to work in the coastal sector. The
switching over of this transport was a fine piece of organisation. On
the allotted day many thousands of camels were seen drawn out in huge
lines all over the country intersected by the wadi Ghuzze, slowly
converging on the spots at which they could be barracked and rested
before loading for the advance. The lorries took other paths. There
was no repose for their drivers. They worked till the last moment on
the east, and then, caked with the accumulated dust of a week's weary
labour in sand and powdered earth, turned westward to arrive just in
time to load up and be off again in pursuit of infantry, some making
the mistake of travelling between the West and East Towns of Gaza,
while others took the longer and sounder but still treacherous route
east of Ali Muntar and through the old positions of the Turks. These
lorry drivers were wonderful fellows who laughed at their trials, but
in the days and nights when they bumped over the uneven tracks and
negotiated earth rents that threatened to swallow their vehicles, they
put their faith in the promise of the railway constructors to open the
station at Gaza at an early date. Even Gaza, though it saved them so
many toilsome miles, did not help them greatly because of a terrible
piece of road north-east of the station, but Beit Hanun was
comfortable and for the relief brought by the railway's arrival at
Deir Sineid they were profoundly grateful.

But this is anticipating the story of Gaza's capture. The XXIst Corps
had not received its additional transport when it gained the ancient
city of the Philistines, though it knew some of it was on the way and
most of it about to start on its westward trek. On the day of November
4 and during the succeeding night the Navy co-operated with the Corps'
artillery in destroying enemy trenches and gun positions, and the
Ali Muntar Ridge was a glad sight for tired gunners' eyes. The enemy
showed a disposition to retaliate, and on the afternoon of the 4th he
put up a fierce bombardment of our front-line positions from Outpost
Hill to the sea, including in his fire area the whole of the trenches
we had taken from him from Umbrella Hill to Sheikh Hasan. Many
observers of this bombardment by all the Turks' guns of heavy, medium,
and small calibre declared it was the prelude not of an attack but
of a retirement, and that the Turks were loosing off a lot of the
ammunition they knew they could not carry away. They were probably
right, though the enemy made no sign of going away for a couple of
days, but if he thought his demonstration by artillery was going to
hasten back to Gaza some of the troops assembling against the left of
his main line he was grievously in error. The XXIst Corps was strong
enough to deal with any attack the Turks could launch, and they would
have been pleased if an attempt to reach our lines had been made.

Next day the Turks were much quieter. They had to sit under a terrific
fire both on the 5th and 6th November, when in order to assist
XXth Corps' operations the Corps' heavy artillery, the divisional
artillery, and the warships' guns carried out an intense bombardment.
The land guns searched the Turks' front line and reserve systems,
while the Navy fired on Fryer's Hill to the north of Ali Muntar,
Sheikh Redwan, a sandhill with a native chief's tomb on the crest,
north of Gaza, and on trenches not easily reached by the Corps' guns.

During the night of November 6-7 General Palin's 75th Division, as
a preliminary to a major operation timed for the following morning,
attacked and gained the enemy's trenches on Outpost Hill and the
whole of Middlesex Hill to the north of it, the opposition being less
serious than was anticipated. At daylight the 75th Division pushed on
over the other hills towards Ali Muntar and gained that dominating
position before eight o'clock. The fighting had not been severe,
and it was soon realised that the enemy had left Gaza, abandoning a
stronghold which had been prepared for defence with all the ingenuity
German masters of war could suggest and into which had been worked an
enormous amount of material. It was obvious from the complete success
of XXth Corps' operations against the Turkish left, which had been
worked out absolutely 'according to plan,' that General Allenby had so
thoroughly mystified von Kressenstein that the latter had put all
his reserves into the wrong spot, and that the 53rd Division's stout
resistance against superior numbers had pinned them down to the wrong
end of the line. There was nothing, therefore, for the Turk to do but
to try to hold another position, and he was straining every nerve to
reach it. The East Anglian Division went up west of Gaza and held from
Sheikh Redwan to the sea by seven o'clock, two squadrons of the Corps'
cavalry rode along the seashore and had patrols on the wadi Hesi a
little earlier than that, and the Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade,
composed of troops raised and maintained by patriotic Indian princes,
passed through Gaza at nine o'clock and went out towards Beit Hanun.
To the Lowland Division was given the important task of getting to the
right or northern bank of the wadi Hesi. These imperturbable Scots
left their trenches in the morning delighted at the prospect of once
more engaging in open warfare. They marched along the beach under
cover of the low sand cliffs, and by dusk had crossed the mouth of
the wadi and held some of the high ground to the north in face of
determined opposition. The 157th Brigade, after a march through very
heavy going, got to the wadi at five in the afternoon and saw the
enemy posted on the opposite bank. The place was reconnoitred and the
brigade made a fine bayonet charge in the dark, securing the position
between ten and eleven o'clock. On this and succeeding days the
division had to fight very hard indeed, and they often met the enemy
with the bayonet. One of their officers told me the Scot was twice
as good as the Turk in ordinary fighting, but with the bayonet his
advantage was as five to one. The record of the Division throughout
the campaign showed this was no too generous an estimate of their
powers. After securing Ali Muntar the 75th Division advanced over
Fryer's Hill to Australia Hill, so that they held the whole ridge
running north and south to the eastward of Gaza. The enemy still held
to his positions to the right of his centre, and from the Atawineh
Redoubt, Tank Redoubt, and Beer trenches there was considerable
shelling of Gaza and the Ali Muntar ridge throughout the day. A large
number of shells fell in the plantations on the western side of the
ridge; our mastery of the air prevented enemy aviators observing for
their artillery, or they would have seen no traffic was passing along
that way. We were using the old Cairo 'road,' and as far as I could
see not an enemy shell reached it, though when our troops were in the
town of Gaza there were many crumps and woolly bears to disturb the
new occupation. But all went swimmingly. It was true we had only
captured the well-cracked shell of a town, but the taking of it was
full of promise of greater things, and those of us who looked on the
mutilated remnants of one of the world's oldest cities felt we were
indeed witnesses of the beginning of the downfall of the Turkish
Empire. Next morning the 75th Division captured Beer trenches and Tank
and Atawineh Redoubts and linked up with the Irish Division of XXth
Corps on its right. They were shelled heavily, but it was the shelling
of rearguards and not attackers, and soon after twelve o'clock we
had the best of evidence that the Turks were saying good-bye to a
neighbourhood they had long inhabited. I was standing on Raspberry
Hill, the battle headquarters of XXIst Corps, when I heard a terrific
report. Staff officers who were used to the visitations of aerial
marauders came out of their shelters and searched the pearly vault of
the heavens for Fritz. No machine could be found. Some one looking
across the country towards Atawineh saw a huge mushroom-shaped cloud,
and then we knew that one enormous dump at least contained no more
projectiles to hold up an advance. This ammunition store must have
been eight miles away as the crow flies, but the noise of the
explosion was so violent that it was a considerable time before some
officers could be brought to believe an enemy plane had not laid an
egg near us. The blowing up of that dump was a signal that the Turk
was off.

The Lowlanders had another very strenuous day in the sand-dune belt.
First of all they repulsed a strong counter-attack from the direction
of Askalon. Then the 155th Infantry Brigade went forward and, swinging
to the right, drove the Turks off the rising ground north-west of Deir
Sineid, the possession of which would determine the question whether
the Turk could hold on in this quarter sufficiently long to enable him
to get any of his material away by his railway and road. The enemy put
in a counter-attack of great violence and forced the Scots back.

The 157th Brigade in the early evening attacked the ridge and gained
the whole of their objectives by eight o'clock. There ensued some
sanguinary struggles on this sandy ground during the night. The Turks
were determined to have possession of it and the Scots were willing to
fight it out to a finish. The first counter-attack in the dark hours
drove the Lowlanders off, but they were shortly afterwards back on the
hills again. The Turks returned and pushed the Highland Light Infantry
and Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders off a second time. A third
attack was delivered with splendid vigour and the enemy left many
dead, but they renewed their efforts to get the commanding ground and
succeeded once more. The dogged Scots, however, were not to be denied.
They re-formed and swept up the heavy shifting sand, met the Turk on
the top with a clash and knocked him down the reverse slope. Soon
afterwards there was another ding-dong struggle. The Turks, putting in
all their available strength, for a fourth time got the upper hand,
and the Lowlanders had to yield the ground, doing it slowly and
reluctantly and with the determination to try again. They were Robert
Bruces, all of them. It's the best that stays the longest. After a
brief rest these heroic Scots once more swarmed up the ridge. Their
cheers had the note of victory in them, they drove their bayonets
home with the haymakers' lift, and what was left of the Turks fled
helter-skelter down the hill towards Deir Sineid, broken, dismayed,
beaten, and totally unable to make another effort. The H.L.I.
Brigade's victory was bought at a price. The cost of that hill was
heavy, but the Turks' tale of dead was far heavier than ours, and
we had won and held the hills and consolidated them. The Turks then
turned their faces to the north and the Scots hurried them on. The
Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade had also met with considerable
resistance, but they worked up to and on the ridge overlooking Beit
Hanun from the east and captured a 5.9. By evening these Indian
horsemen were linked up with the 4th Australian Light Horse Brigade on
their right and the 52nd Division on their left, and pursued the enemy
as far as Tumrah and Deir Sineid.

General Headquarters directed that two infantry divisions should
advance to the line Julis-Hamameh in support of mounted troops, and
the 75th Division was accordingly ordered from its position east of
Gaza up to Beit Hanun. On the 9th November the 52nd Division was again
advancing. The 156th Brigade had moved forward from the Gaza trenches.
One officer, five grooms, and two signallers mounted on second horses
formed a little party to reconnoitre Askalon, and riding boldly into
the ancient landing place of the Crusader armies captured the ruined
town unaided. There are visible remains of its old strength, but the
power of Askalon has departed. It still stands looking over the blue
Mediterranean as a sort of watch tower, a silent, deserted outpost of
the land the Crusaders set their hearts on gaining and preserving for
Christianity, but behind it is many centuries' accumulation of sand
encroaching upon the fertile plain, and no effort has been made to
stop the inroad. The gallant half-dozen having reported to the 156th
Brigade that Askalon was open to them--the Brigade occupied the place
at noon--rode across the sand-dunes to the important native town of
Mejdel, where there was a substantial bazaar doing a good trade in the
essentials for native existence, beans and cereals in plenty, fruit,
and tobacco of execrable quality. At Mejdel the six accepted the
surrender of a body of Turks guarding a substantial ammunition dump
and rejoined their units, satisfied with the day's adventure. The
Turks had retired a considerable distance during the day. The
principal body was moving up what is called the main road from Deir
Sineid, through Beit Jerjal to Julis, to get to Suafir esh Sherkiyeh,
Kustineh, and Junction Station, from which they could reach Latron by
a metalled road, or Ramleh by a hard mud track by the side of their
railway. They were clearly going to oppose us all the way or they
would lose the whole of their material, and their forces east and west
of the road were well handled in previously selected and partially
prepared positions.

They left behind them the unpleasant trail of a defeated army. Turks
had fallen by the way and the natives would not bury them. Our
aircraft had bombed the road, and the dead men, cattle and horses,
and smashed transport were ghastly sights and made the air offensive.
There they lay, one long line of dead men and animals, and if a London
fog had descended to blind the eyes of our Army the sense of smell
would still have carried a scout on the direct line of the Turkish
retreat.

I will break off the narrative of fighting at this point to describe a
scene which expressed more eloquently than anything else I witnessed
in Palestine how deeply engraved in the native mind was the conviction
that Britain stood for fair dealing and freedom. The inhabitants, like
the Arabs of the desert, do not allow their faces to betray their
feelings. They preserve a stolid exterior, and it is difficult to tell
from their demeanour whether they are friendly or indifferent to
you. But their actions speak aloud. Early on the morning after the
Lowlanders had entered Mejdel I was in the neighbourhood. Our guns
banging away to the north were a reminder that there was to be no
promenade over the Plain, and that we had yet to make good the
formidable obstacle of the wadi Sukereir, when I passed a curious
procession. People whom the Turks had turned out of Gaza and the
surrounding country were trekking back to the spots where they and
their forefathers had lived for countless generations. All their
worldly goods and chattels were packed on overloaded camels and
donkeys. The women bore astonishingly heavy loads on their heads, the
men rode or walked carrying nothing, while patriarchs of families
were either held in donkey saddles or were borne on the shoulders of
younger men. Agriculturists began to turn out to plough and till the
fields which had lain fallow while the Turkish scourge of war was on
the land, and the people showed that, now they had the security of
British protection, they intended at once to resume their industry.
The troops had the liveliest welcome in passing through villages,
though the people are not as a rule demonstrative; and one could point
to no better evidence of the exemplary behaviour of our soldiers than
the groups of women sitting and gossiping round the wells during the
process of drawing water, just as they did in Biblical days, heedless
of the passing troops whom they regarded as their protectors. The man
behind a rude plough may have stopped his ill-matched team of pony
and donkey to look at a column of troops moving as he had never seen
troops march before, a head of a family might collect the animals
carrying his household goods and hurry them off the line of route
taken by military transport, but neither one nor the other had any
fear of interference with his work, and the life of the whole country,
one of the most unchanging regions of the world, had suddenly again
become normal, although only yesterday two armies had disputed
possession of the very soil on which they stood. The moment we were
victorious old occupations were resumed by the people in the way that
was a tradition from their forefathers. Our victory meant peace
and safety, according to the native idea, and an end to extortion,
oppression, and pillage under the name of requisitions. It also meant
prosperity. The native likes to drive a bargain. He will not sell
under a fair price, and he asks much more in the hope of showing a
buyer who has beaten him down how cheaply he is getting goods. The
Army chiefly sought eggs, which are light to carry and easy to cook,
and give variety to the daily round of bully, biscuit, and jam. The
soldier is a generous fellow, and if a child asked a piastre (2-1/2d.)
for an egg he got it. The price soon became four to five for a
shilling in cash, though the Turks wanted five times that number for
an equivalent sum in depreciated paper currency. The law of supply
and demand obtained in this old world just as at home, and it became
sufficient for a soldier to ask for an article to show he wanted it
and would pay almost anything that was demanded. It was curious to see
how the news spread not merely among traders but also among villagers.
The men who first occupied a place found oranges, vegetables, fresh
bread, and eggs cheap. In Ramleh, for example, a market was opened for
our troops immediately they got to the town, and the goods were sound
and sold at fair rates. The next day prices were up, and the standards
fixed behind the front soon ruled at the line itself. There was no
real control attempted, and while the extortionate prices charged by
Jews in their excellent agricultural colonies and by the natives made
a poor people prosperous, it gave them an exaggerated idea of the size
of the British purse, and they may be disappointed at the limitation
of our spending powers in the future. Also it was hard on the bravest
and most chivalrous of fighting men. But it opened the eyes of the
native, whose happiness and contentment were obvious directly we
reached his doors.

Our movements on November 9 were limited by the extent to which
General Chauvel was able to use his cavalry of the Desert Mounted
Corps. Water was the sole, but absolute handicap. The Yeomanry Mounted
Division rejoined the Corps on that day and got south of Huj,
but could not proceed further through lack of water and supply
difficulties. The Australian Mounted Division also had to halt for
water, and it was left to Anzac Mounted Division, plus the 7th Mounted
Brigade, to march eighteen miles north-westwards to occupy the line
Et Tineh-Beit Duras-Jemameh-Esdud (the Ashdod of the Bible). The 52nd
Division occupied the area Esdud-Mejdel-Herbieh by the evening of the
10th, and on the way, Australian cavalry being held up on a ridge
north of Beit Duras, the 157th Brigade made another of its fine
bayonet charges at night and captured the ground, enabling the cavalry
to get at some precious water. The brigade made the attack just after
completing a fourteen miles' march in heavy going, achieving the
remarkable record of having had three bayonet battles on three
nights out of four. On this occasion the Turks again suffered heavy
casualties in men and lost many machine guns. The 75th Division
prolonged the infantry line through Gharbiyeh to Berberah. The 54th
Division was in the Gaza defences with all its transport allotted to
the divisions taking part in the forward move, but as the 54th had
five days' rations in dumps close at hand it was able to maintain
itself, and the railway was being pushed on from the wadi Ghuzze with
the utmost speed. The iron road in war is an army's jugular vein,
and each mile added to its length was of enormous value during the
advance.

General Allenby, looking well ahead and realising the possibilities
opened out by his complete success in every phase of the operations on
the Turks' main defensive line, on the 10th November ordered the 52nd
and 75th Divisions to concentrate on their advanced guards so as
to support the cavalry on their front and to prevent the Turk
consolidating on the line of the wadi Sukereir. The enemy was
developing a more organised resistance on a crescent-shaped line from
Et Tineh through Yasur to Beshshit, and it was necessary to adopt
deliberate methods of attack to move him. The advance on the 11th was
the preliminary to three days of stirring fighting. The Turks put up
a very strong defence by their rearguards, and when one says that
at this time they were fighting with courage and magnificent
determination one is not only paying a just tribute to the enemy but
doing justice to the gallantry and skill of the troops who defeated
him. The Scots can claim a large share of the success of the next two
days, but British yeomanry took a great part in it, and their charge
at Mughar, and perhaps their charge at Abu Shushe as well, will find a
place in military text-books, for it has confounded those critics who
declared that the development of the machine gun in modern warfare has
brought the uses of cavalry down to very narrow limits.

The 156th Brigade was directed to take Burkah on the 12th so as to
give the infantry liberty of manoeuvre on the following day. Burkah
was a nasty place to tackle. The enemy had two lines of beautifully
sited trenches prepared before he fell back from Gaza. The Scots had
to attack up a slope to the first line, and having taken this to pass
down another slope for 1000 yards before reaching the glacis in front
of the second line. The Scottish Rifles assaulted this position by day
without much artillery support, but they took it in magnificent style.
It looked as if the Turks had accepted the verdict, but at night they
returned to a brown hill on the right and drove the 4th Royal Scots
from it. This battalion came back soon afterwards and retook the
hill with the assistance of some Gurkhas of General Colston's 233rd
Infantry Brigade, and the Turk retired to another spot, hoping that
his luck would change. While this fighting was going on about Burkah
the 155th Brigade went ahead up a road which the cavalry said was
strongly held. They got eight miles north of Esdud, and were in
advance of the cavalry, intending to try to secure the two heights
and villages of Katrah and Mughar on the following day. Katrah was a
village on a long mound south of Mughar, native mud huts constituting
its southern part, whilst separated from it on the northern side by
some gardens was a pretty little Jewish settlement whose red-tiled
houses and orderly well-cared-for orchards spoke of the industry of
these settlers in Zion. All over the hill right up to the houses the
cactus flourished, and the hedges were a replica of the terrible
obstacles at Gaza. From Katrah the ground sloped down to the flat on
all four sides, so that the village seemed to stand on an island in
the plain. A mile due west of it was Beshshit, while one mile to the
north across more than one wadi stood El Mughar at the southern end of
an irregular line of hills which separated Yebnah and Akir, which will
be more readily recognised, the former as the Jamnia of the Jews and
the latter as Ekron, one of the famous Philistine cities. While the
75th Division was forcing back the line Turmus-Kustineh-Yasur and
Mesmiyeh athwart the road to Junction Station the 155th Brigade
attacked Katrah. The whole of the artillery of two divisions opened a
bombardment of the line at eight o'clock, but the Turks showed more
willingness to concede ground on the east than at Katrah, where the
machine-gun fire was exceptionally heavy. General Pollak M'Call
decided to assault the village with the bulk of his brigade, and
seizing a rifle and bayonet from a wounded man, led the charge
himself, took the village, and gradually cleared the enemy out of the
cactus-enclosed gardens. The enemy losses at Katrah were very heavy.
In crossing a rectangular field many Turks were caught in a cross fire
from our machine guns, and over 400 dead were counted in this one
field.



CHAPTER XI

TWO YEOMANRY CHARGES


In front of the mud huts of Mughar, so closely packed together on the
southern slope of the hill that the dwellings at the bottom seemed to
keep the upper houses from falling into the plain, there was a long
oval garden with a clump of cypresses in the centre, the whole
surrounded by cactus hedges of great age and strength. In the
cypresses was a nest of machine guns whose crews had a perfect view
of an advance from Katrah. The infantry had to advance over flat open
ground to the edge of the garden. The Turkish machine-gunners and
riflemen in the garden and village were supported by artillery firing
from behind the ridge at the back of the village, and although the
brigade made repeated efforts to get on, its advance was held up in
the early afternoon, and it seemed impossible to take the place by
infantry from the south in the clear light of a November afternoon.
The 6th Mounted Brigade commanded by Brigadier-General C.A.C. Godwin,
D.S.O., composed of the 1/1st Bucks Hussars, 1/1st Berkshire Yeomanry,
and 1/1st Dorset Yeomanry, the Berkshire battery Royal Horse
Artillery, and the 17th Machine Gun Squadron--old campaigners with
the Egyptian Expeditionary Force--had worked round to the left of
the Lowlanders and had reached a point about two miles south-west of
Yebnah, that place having been occupied by the 8th Mounted Brigade,
composed of the 1/1st City of London Yeomanry, 1/1st County of London
Yeomanry, and the 1/3rd County of London Yeomanry. At half-past twelve
the Bucks Hussars less one squadron and the Berks battery, which were
in the rear of the brigade, advanced _via_ Beshshit to the wadi Janus,
a deep watercourse with precipitous banks running across the plain
east of Yebnah and joining the wadi Rubin. One squadron of the Bucks
Hussars had entered Yebnah from the east, co-operating with the 8th
Brigade. General Godwin was told over the telephone that the infantry
attack was held up and that his brigade would advance to take Mughar.
This order was confirmed by telegram a quarter of an hour later as
the brigadier was about to reconnoitre a line of approach. The Berks
battery began shelling Mughar and the ridge behind the village from a
position half a mile north of Beshshit screened by some trees. Brigade
headquarters joined the Bucks Hussars headquarters in the wadi Janus
half a mile south-east of Yebnah, where Lieut.-Colonel the Hon. F.
Cripps commanding the Bucks Hussars had, with splendid judgment,
already commenced a valuable reconnaissance, the Dorset and Berks
Yeomanry being halted in a depression out of sight a few hundred yards
behind. The Turks had the best possible observation, and, knowing they
were holding up the infantry, concentrated their attention upon the
cavalry. Therein they showed good judgment, for it was from the
mounted troops the heavy blow was to fall. Lieut. Perkins, Bucks
Hussars, was sent forward to reconnoitre the wadi Shellal el Ghor,
which runs parallel to and east of the wadi Janus. He became the
target of every kind of fire, guns, machine guns, and rifles opening
on him from the ridge whenever he exposed himself. Captain Patron, of
the 17th Machine Gun Squadron, was similarly treated while examining
a position from which to cover the advance of the brigade with
concentrated machine-gun fire. It was not an easy thing to get cavalry
into position for a mounted attack. Except in the wadis the plain
between Yebnah and Mughar offered no cover and was within easy range
of the enemy's guns. The wadi Janus was a deep slit in the ground with
sides of clay falling almost sheer to the stony bottom. It was hard to
get horses into the wadi and equally troublesome to get them to bank
again, and the wadi in most places was so narrow that horses could
only move in single file. The Dorsets were brought up in small parties
to join the Bucks in the wadi, and they had to run the gauntlet of
shell and rifle fire. The Berks were to enter the wadi immediately the
Bucks had left it. Behind Mughar village and its gardens the ground
falls sharply, then rises again and forms a rocky hill some 300 yards
long. There is another decline, and north of it a conical shaped hill,
also stony and barren, though before the crest is reached there is
some undulating ground which would have afforded a little cover if the
cunning Turks had not posted machine guns on it. The Dorset Yeomanry
were ordered to attack this latter hill and the Bucks Hussars the
ridge between it and Mughar village, the Berks Yeomanry to be kept in
support. There seems to be no reason for doubting that Mughar would
not have been captured that day but for the extremely brilliant charge
of these home counties yeomen. The 155th Brigade was still held fast
in that part of the wadi Janus which gave cover south-west and south
of Mughar, and after the charge had been completely successful and the
yeomanry were working forward to clear up the village a message was
received--timed 2.45 P.M., but received at 4 P.M.--which shows the
difficulties facing that very gallant infantry brigade: '52nd Division
unable to make progress. Co-operate and turn Mughar from the north.'

It was a hot bright afternoon. The dispositions having been made, the
Bucks Hussars and Dorset Yeomanry got out of the wadi and commenced
their mounted attack, the Berks battery in the meantime having
registered on certain points. The Bucks Hussars, in column of
squadrons extended to four yards interval, advanced at a trot from
the wadi, which was 3000 yards distant from the ridge which was their
objective. Two machine guns were attached to the Bucks and two to the
Dorsets, and the other guns under Captain Patron were mounted in a
position which that officer had chosen in the wadi El Ghor from which
they could bring to bear a heavy fire almost up to the moment the
Bucks should be on the ridge. This machine-gun fire was of the highest
value, and it unquestionably kept many Turkish riflemen inactive. 'B'
squadron under Captain Bulteel, M.C., was leading, and when 1000 yards
from the objective the order was given to gallop, and horses swept
over the last portion of the plain and up the hill at a terrific pace,
the thundering hoofs raising clouds of dust. The tap-tap of machine
guns firing at the highest pressure, intense rifle fire from all parts
of the enemy position, the fierce storm of shells rained on the hill
by the Berks battery, which during the charge fired with splendid
accuracy no fewer than 200 rounds of shrapnel at a range of 3200 to
3500 yards, and the rapid fire of Turkish field guns, completely
drowned the cheers of the charging yeomen. 'C' squadron, commanded by
Lord Bosebery's son, Captain the Hon. Neil Primrose, M.C., who was
killed on the following day, made an equally dashing charge and came
up on the right of 'B' squadron. Once the cavalry had reached the
crest of the hill many of the Turks surrendered and threw down their
arms, but some retired and then, having discovered the weakness of the
cavalry, returned to some rocks on the flanks and continued the fight
at close range. Captain Primrose's squadron was vigorously attacked on
his left flank, but Captain Bulteel was able to get over the ridge and
across the rough, steep eastern side of it, and from this point he
utilised captured Turkish machine guns to put down a heavy barrage on
to the northern end of the village. 'A' squadron under Captain Lawson
then came up from Yebnah at the gallop, and with his support the whole
of the Bucks' objectives were secured and consolidated.

The Dorset Yeomanry on the left of the Bucks had 1000 yards farther
to go, and the country they traversed was just as cracked and broken.
Their horses at the finish were quite exhausted. At the base of the
hills Captain Dammers dismounted 'A' squadron, which charged on the
left, and the squadron fought their way to the top of the ridge on
foot. The held horses were caught in a cone of machine-gun fire, and
in a space of about fifty square yards many gallant chargers perished.
'B' squadron (Major Wingfield-Digby) in the centre and 'C' squadron
(Major Gordon, M.C.) on the right, led by Colonel Sir Randolf Baker,
M.P., formed line and galloped the hill, and their horse losses were
considerably less than those of the dismounted squadron. The Berks
Yeomanry moved to the wadi El Ghor under heavy machine-gun and rifle
fire from the village and gardens on the west side, and two squadrons
were dismounted and sent into the village to clear it, the remaining
squadron riding into the plain on the eastern side of the ridge, where
they collected a number of stragglers. Dotted over this plain were
many dead Turks who fell under the fire of the Machine-Gun Squadron
while attempting to get to Ramleh. The Turkish dead were numerous and
their condition showed how thoroughly the sword had done its work. I
saw many heads cleft in twain, and Mughar was not a sweet place to
look upon and wanted a good deal of clearing up. The yeomanry took 18
officers and 1078 other ranks prisoners, whilst fourteen machine guns
and two field guns were captured. But for the tired state of the
horses many more prisoners would have been taken, large numbers being
seen making their way along the red sand tracks to Ramleh, and
an inspection of the route on the morrow told of the pace of the
retirement brought about by the shock of contact with cavalry. Machine
guns, belts and boxes of ammunition, equipment of all kinds were
strewn about the paths, and not a few wounded Turks had given up the
effort to escape and had lain down to die.

The casualties in the 6th Mounted Brigade were 1 officer killed and
6 wounded, 15 other ranks killed and 107 wounded and 1 missing, a
remarkably small total. Among the mortally wounded was Major de
Rothschild, who fell within sight of some of the Jewish colonies which
his family had founded. Two hundred and sixty-five horses and two
mules were killed and wounded in the action.

Mughar was a great cavalry triumph, and the regiments which took part
in it confirmed the good opinions formed of them in this theatre
of war. The Dorsets had already made a spirited charge against the
Senussi in the Western Desert in 1916,[1] and having suffered from the
white arm once those misguided Arabs never gave the cavalry another
chance of getting near them. The Bucks and Berks, too, had taken part
in that swift and satisfactory campaign. All three regiments on the
following day were to make another charge, this time on one of the
most famous sites in the battle history of Palestine. The 6th Mounted
Brigade moved no farther on the day of Mughar because the 22nd Mounted
Brigade, when commencing an attack on Akir, the old Philistine city of
Ekron, were counter-attacked on their left. During the night, however,
the Turks in Akir probably heard the full story of Mughar, and did not
wait long for a similar action against them. The 22nd Mounted Brigade
drove them out early next morning, and they went rapidly away across
the railway at Naaneh, leaving in our hands the railway guard of
seventy men, and seeking the bold crest of Abu Shushe. They moved, as
I shall presently tell, out of the frying-pan into the fire.

[Footnote 1: _The Desert Campaigns_: Constable.]

The 155th Infantry which helped to finish up the Mughar business took
a gun and fourteen machine guns. Then with the remainder of the 52nd
Division it had a few hours of hard-earned rest. The Division had had
a severe time, but the men bore their trials with the fortitude of
their race and with a spirit which could not be beaten. For several
days, when water was holding up the cavalry, the Lowlanders kept ahead
of the mounted troops, and one battalion fought and marched sixty-nine
miles in seven days. Their training was as complete as any infantry,
even the regimental stretcher-bearers being taught the use of Lewis
guns, and on more than one occasion the bearers went for the enemy
with Mills bombs till a position was captured and they were required
to tend the wounded. A Stokes-gun crew found their weapon very useful
in open warfare, and at one place where machine guns had got on to a
large party of Turks and enclosed them in a box barrage, the Stokes
gun searched every corner of the area and finished the whole party.
The losses inflicted by the Scots were exceptionally severe. Farther
eastwards on the 13th, the 75th Division had also been giving of
its best. The objective of this Division was the important Junction
Station on the Turks' Jaffa-Jerusalem railway, and a big step forward
was made in the early afternoon by the overcoming of a stubborn
resistance at Mesmiyeh, troops rushing the village from the south and
capturing 292 prisoners and 7 machine guns. The 234th Brigade began
an advance on Junction Station during the night, but were strongly
counter-attacked and had to halt till the morning, when at dawn they
secured the best positions on the rolling downs west of the station,
and by 7.30 the station itself was occupied. Two engines and 45
vehicles were found intact; two large guns on trucks and over 100
prisoners were also taken. The enemy shelled the station during the
morning, trying in vain to damage his lost rolling stock. This booty
was of immense value to us, and to a large extent it solved the
transport problem which at this moment was a very anxious one indeed.
The line was metre gauge and we had no stock to fit it, though later
the Egyptian State Railways brought down some engines and trucks from
the Luxor-Assouan section, but this welcome aid was not available
till after the rains had begun and had made lorry traffic temporarily
impossible between our standard gauge railhead and our fighting front.
Junction Station was no sooner occupied than a light-railway staff
under Colonel O'Brien was brought up from Beit Hanun. The whole of the
line to Deir Sineid was not in running order, but broken culverts were
given minor repairs, attention was bestowed on trucks, and the engines
were closely examined while the Turks were shelling the station. The
water tanks had been destroyed, as a result of which two men spent
hours in filling up the engines by means of a water jug and basin
found in the station buildings, and the Turks had the mortification of
seeing these engines steam out of the station during the morning to
a cutting which was effective cover from their field-gun fire. The
light-railway staff were highly delighted at their success, and the
trains which they soon had running over their little system were
indeed a boon and a blessing to the fighting men and horses.

On this morning of November 14 the infantry were operating with Desert
Mounted Corps' troops on both their wings. The Australian Mounted
Division was on the right, fighting vigorous actions with the enemy
rearguards secreted in the irregular, rocky foothills of the Shephelah
which stand as ramparts to the Judean Mountains. It was a difficult
task to drive the Turks out of these fastnesses, and while they held
on to them it was almost impossible to outflank some of the places
like Et Tineh, a railway station and camp of some importance on the
line to Beersheba. They had already had some stiff fighting at Tel el
Safi, the limestone hill which was the White Guard of the Crusaders.
The Division suffered severely from want of water, particularly the
5th Mounted Brigade, and it was necessary to transfer to it the 7th
Mounted Brigade and the 2nd Australian Light Horse Brigade. On the
left of the infantry the Yeomanry Mounted Division was moving forward
from Akir and Mansura, and after the 22nd Mounted Brigade had taken
Naaneh they detailed a demolition party to blow up one mile of
railway, so that, even if the 75th Division had not taken Junction
Station, Jerusalem would have been entirely cut off from railway
communication with the Turkish base at Tul Keram, and Haifa and
Damascus.

Between Naaneh and Mansura the 6th Mounted Brigade was preparing for
another dashing charge. The enemy who had been opposing us for two
days consisted of remnants of two divisions of both the Turkish VIIth
and VIIIth Armies brought together and hurriedly reorganised. The
victory at Mughar had almost, if not quite, split the force in two,
that is to say that portion of the line which had been given the duty
of holding Mughar had been so weakened by heavy casualties, and the
loss of moral consequent upon the shock of the cavalry charge, that
it had fallen back to Ramleh and Ludd and was incapable of further
serious resistance. There was still a strong and virile force on the
seaside, though that was adequately dealt with, but the centre was
very weak, and the enemy's only chance of preventing the mounted
troops from working through and round his right centre was to fall
back on Abu Shushe and Tel Jezar to cover Latron, with its good water
supply and the main metalled road where it enters the hills on the way
to Jerusalem. The loss of Tel Jezar meant that we could get to Latron
and the Vale of Ajalon, and the action of the 6th Mounted Brigade on
the morning of the 14th gave it to us.

The Berks Yeomanry had had outposts on the railway south-east of
Naaneh since before dawn. They had seen the position the previous day,
and at dawn sent forward a squadron dismounted to engage the machine
guns posted in the walled-in house at the north of the village. From
the railway to the Abu Shushe ridge is about three miles of up and
down country with two or three rises of sufficient height to afford
some cover to advancing cavalry. General Godwin arranged that six
machine guns should go forward to give covering fire, and, supported
by the Berks battery R.H.A. from a good position half a mile west
of the railway, the Bucks Hussars were to deliver a mounted attack
against the hill, with the assistance on their left of two squadrons
of Berks Yeomanry. The Dorset Yeomanry were moved up to the red hill
of Melat into support.

At seven o'clock the attack started, the 22nd Mounted Brigade
operating on foot on the left. The Bucks Hussars, taking advantage of
all the dead ground, galloped about a mile and a half until they came
to a dip behind a gently rising mound, when, it being clear that the
enemy held the whole ridge in strength, Colonel Cripps signalled to
Brigade Headquarters at Melat for support. The Dorset Yeomanry moved
out to the right of the Bucks, and the latter then charged the hill a
little south of the village and captured it. It was a fine effort. The
sides of the hill were steep with shelves of rock, and the crest was a
mass of stones and boulders, while from some caves, one or two of them
quite big places, the Turks had machine guns in action. When the Bucks
were charging there was a good deal of machine-gun fire from the
right, but the Dorsets dealt with this very speedily, assisted by the
Berks battery which had also moved forward to a near position from
which they could command the ridge in flank. A hostile counter-attack
developed against the Dorsets, but this was crushed by the Berks
battery and some of the 52nd Division's guns. Two squadrons of the
Berks Yeomanry in the meantime had charged on the left of the Bucks
and secured the hill immediately to the south-east of Abu Shushe
village, and at nine o'clock the whole of this strong position was
in our hands, the brigade having sustained the extremely slight
casualties of three officers and thirty-four other ranks killed and
wounded. So small a cost of life was a wonderful tribute to good and
dashing leading, and furnished another example of cavalry's power when
moving rapidly in extended formation. To the infinite regret of the
brigade, indeed of the whole of General Allenby's Army, one of the
officers killed that day was the Hon. Neil Primrose, an intrepid
leader who, leaving the comfort and safety of a Ministerial
appointment, answered the call of duty to be with his squadron of the
Bucks Hussars. He was a fine soldier and a favourite among his men,
and he died as a good cavalryman would wish, shot through the head
when leading his squadron in a glorious charge. His body rests in the
garden of the French convent at Ramleh not far from the spot where
humbler soldiers take their long repose, and these graves within
visual range of the tomb of St. George, our patron saint, will stand
as memorials of those Britons who forsook ease to obey the stern call
of duty to their race and country.

The overwhelming nature of this victory is illustrated by a comparison
of the losses on the two sides. Whereas ours were 37 all told, we
counted between 400 and 500 dead Turks on the field, and the enemy
left with us 360 prisoners and some material. The extraordinary
disparity between the losses can only be accounted for first by the
care taken to lead the cavalry along every depression in the ground,
and secondly by rapidity of movement. The cavalry were confronted by
considerable shell fire, and the volume of machine-gun fire was heavy,
though it was kept down a good deal by the covering fire of the 17th
Machine Gun Squadron.

I have referred to the importance of Jezar as dominating the
approaches to Latron on the north-east and Ramleh on the north-west.
Jezar, as we call it on our maps, has been a stronghold since men of
all races and creeds, coloured and white, Pagan, Mahomedan, Jew, and
Christian, fought in Palestine. It is a spot which many a great leader
of legions has coveted, and to its military history our home county
yeomen have added another brilliant page. Let me quote the description
of Jezar from George Adam Smith's _Historical Geography of the Holy
Land_, a book of fascinating interest to all students of the Sacred
History which many of the soldiers in General Allenby's Army read with
great profit to themselves:

'One point in the Northern Shephelah round which these tides of war
have swept deserves special notice--Gezer, or Gazar. It is one of the
few remarkable bastions which the Shephelah flings out to the west--on
a ridge running towards Ramleh, the most prominent object in view of
the traveller from Jaffa towards Jerusalem. It is high and isolated,
but fertile and well watered--a very strong post and striking
landmark. Its name occurs in the Egyptian correspondence of the
fourteenth century, where it is described as being taken from the
Egyptian vassals by the tribes whose invasion so agitates that
correspondence. A city of the Canaanites, under a king of its
own--Horam--Gezer is not given as one of Joshua's conquests, though
the king is; but the Israelites drave not out the Canaanites who dwelt
at Gezer, and in the hands of these it remained till its conquest by
Egypt when Pharaoh gave it, with his daughter, to Solomon and Solomon
rebuilt it. Judas Maccabeus was strategist enough to gird himself
early to the capture of Gezer, and Simon fortified it to cover the way
to the harbour of Joppa and caused John his son, the captain of the
host, to dwell there. It was virtually, therefore, the key of Judea at
a time when Judea's foes came down the coast from the north; and, with
Joppa, it formed part of the Syrian demands upon the Jews. But this is
by no means the last of it. M. Clermont Ganneau, who a number of years
ago discovered the site, has lately identified Gezer with the Mont
Gisart of the Crusades. Mont Gisart was a castle and feif in the
county of Joppa, with an abbey of St. Katharine of Mont Gisart, "whose
prior was one of the five suffragans of the Bishop of Lydda." It was
the scene, on the 24th November 1174, seventeen years before the Third
Crusade, of a victory won by a small army from Jerusalem under the
boy-king, the leper Baldwin IV., against a very much larger army under
Saladin himself, and, in 1192, Saladin encamped upon it during his
negotiations for a truce with Richard.

'Shade of King Horam, what hosts of men have fallen round that citadel
of yours. On what camps and columns has it looked down through the
centuries, since first you saw the strange Hebrews burst with the
sunrise across the hills, and chase your countrymen down Ajalon--that
day when the victors felt the very sun conspiring with them to achieve
the unexampled length of battle. Within sight of every Egyptian and
every Assyrian invasion of the land, Gezer has also seen Alexander
pass by, and the legions of Rome in unusual flight, and the armies of
the Cross struggle, waver and give way, and Napoleon come and go. If
all could rise who have fallen around its base--Ethiopians, Hebrews,
Assyrians, Arabs, Turcomans, Greeks, Romans, Celts, Saxons,
Mongols--what a rehearsal of the Judgment Day it would be. Few of
the travellers who now rush across the plain realise that the first
conspicuous hill they pass in Palestine is also one of the most
thickly haunted--even in that narrow land into which history has so
crowded itself. But upon the ridge of Gezer no sign of all this now
remains, except in the Tel Jezer, and in a sweet hollow to the north,
beside a fountain, where lie the scattered Christian stone of Deir
Warda, the Convent of the Rose.

'Up none of the other valleys of the Shephelah has history surged as
up and down Ajalon and past Gezer, for none are so open to the north,
nor present so easy a passage to Jerusalem.'



CHAPTER XII

LOOKING TOWARDS JERUSALEM


The Anzac Mounted Division had only the 1st Australian Light Horse and
the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade operating with it on the 14th.
The Australians, by the evening, were in the thick olive groves on the
south of Ramleh, and on the ridges about Surafend. On their left the
Turks were violently opposing the New Zealanders who were working
along the sand-dunes with the port and town of Jaffa as their ultimate
objective. There was one very fierce struggle in the course of the
day. A force attacked a New Zealand regiment in great strength and for
the moment secured the advantage, but the regiment got to grips with
the enemy with hand-grenades and bayonets, and so completely repulsed
them that they fled in hopeless disorder leaving many dead and wounded
behind them. It was unfortunate that there was no mobile reserve
available for pursuit, as the Turks were in such a plight that a large
number would have been rounded up. General Cox's brigade seized Ramleh
on the morning of the 15th, taking ninety prisoners, and then advanced
and captured Ludd, being careful that no harm should come to the
building which holds the grave of St. George. In Ludd 360 prisoners
were taken, and the brigade carried out a good deal of demolition work
on the railway running north. The New Zealanders made Jaffa by noon
on the 16th, the Turks evacuating the town during the morning without
making any attempt to destroy it, though there was one gross piece of
vandalism in a Christian cemetery where monuments and tombstones had
been thrown down and broken. In the meantime, in order to protect the
rear of the infantry, five battalions of the 52nd Division with three
batteries were stationed at Yebnah, Mughar, and Akir until they could
be relieved by units of the 54th Division advancing from Gaza. To
enable the 54th to move, the transport lent to the 52nd and 75th
Divisions had to be returned, which did not make the supply of those
divisions any easier. The main line of railway was still a long way in
the rear, and the landing of stores by the Navy at the mouth of the
wadi Sukereir had not yet begun. A little later, and before Jaffa had
been made secure enough for the use of ships, many thousands of tons
of supplies and ammunition were put ashore at the wadi's mouth, and at
a time when heavy rains damaged the newly constructed railway tracks
the Sukereir base of supply was an inestimable boon. Yet there were
times when the infantry had a bare day's supply with them, though
they had their iron rations to fall back upon. It speaks well for
the supply branch that in the long forward move of XXIst Corps the
infantry were never once put on short rations.

While the 54th were coming up to take over from the 52nd, plans were
prepared for the further advance on Jerusalem. The Commander-in-Chief
was deeply anxious that there should be no fighting of any description
near the Holy Places, and he gave the Turks a chance of being
chivalrous and of accepting the inevitable. We had got so far that the
ancient routes taken by armies which had captured Jerusalem were just
before us. The Turkish forces were disorganised by heavy and repeated
defeats, the men demoralised and not in good condition, and there was
no hope for them that they could receive sufficient reinforcements
to enable them to stave off the ultimate capture of Bethlehem and
Jerusalem, though as events proved they could still put up a stout
defence. We know from papers taken from the enemy that the Turks
believed General Allenby intended to go right up the plain to get
to the defile leading to Messudieh and Nablus and thus threaten the
Hedjaz railway, in which case the position of the enemy in the Holy
City would be hopeless, and the Turks formed an assault group of three
infantry divisions in the neighbourhood of Tul Keram to prevent this,
and continued to hold on to Jerusalem. General Allenby proposed to
strike through the hills to the north-east to try to get across the
Jerusalem-Nablus road about Bireh (the ancient Beeroth), and in this
operation success would have enabled him to cut off the enemy forces
in and about the Holy City, when their only line of retreat would have
been through Jericho and the east of the Jordan. The Turks decided
to oppose this plan and to make us fight for Jerusalem. That was
disappointing, but in the end it could not have suited us better, for
it showed to our own people and to the world how after the Turks had
declined an opportunity of showing a desire to preserve the Holy
Places from attack--an opportunity prompted by our strength, not by
any fear that victory could not be won--General Allenby was still able
to achieve his great objective without a drop of blood being spilled
near any of the Holy Sites, and without so much as a stray rifle
bullet searing any of their walls. That indeed was the triumph of
military practice, and when Jerusalem fell for the twenty-third time,
and thus for the first time passed into the hands of British soldiers,
the whole force felt that the sacrifices which had been made on the
gaunt forbidding hills to the north-west were worth the price, and
that the graves of Englishman, Scot and Colonial, of Gurkha, Punjabi,
and Sikh, were monuments to the honour of British arms. The scheme was
that the 75th Division would advance along the main Jerusalem road,
which cuts into the hills about three miles east of Latron, and occupy
Kuryet el Enab, and that the Lowland Division should go through Ludd,
strike eastwards and advance to Beit Likia to turn from the north the
hills through which the road passes, the Yeomanry Mounted Division
on the left flank of the 52nd Division to press on to Bireh, on the
Nablus road about a dozen miles north of Jerusalem. A brief survey
of the country to be attacked would convince even a civilian of the
extreme difficulties of the undertaking. North and east of Latron
(which was not yet ours) frown the hills which constitute this
important section of the Judean range, the backbone of Palestine.
The hills are steep and high, separated one from another by narrow
valleys, clothed here and there with fir and olive trees, but
elsewhere a mass of rocks and boulders, bare and inhospitable.
Practically every hill commands another. There is only one road--the
main one--and this about three miles east of Latron passes up a narrow
defile with rugged mountains on either side. There is an old Roman
road to the north, but, unused for centuries, it is now a road only in
name, the very trace of it being lost in many places. In this strong
country men fought of old, and the defenders not infrequently held
their own against odds. It is pre-eminently suitable for defence, and
if the warriors of the past found that flint-tipped shafts of wood
would keep the invader at bay, how much more easily could a modern
army equipped with rifles of precision and machine guns adapt Nature
to its advantage? It will always be a marvel to me how in a country
where one machine gun in defence could hold up a battalion, we made
such rapid progress, and how having got so deep into the range it was
possible for us to feed our front. We had no luck with the weather.
In advancing over the plain the troops had suffered from the abnormal
heat, and many of the wells had been destroyed or damaged by the
retreating enemy. In the hills the troops had to endure heavy rains
and piercingly cold winds, with mud a foot deep on the roads and
the earth so slippery on the hills that only donkey transport was
serviceable. Yet despite all adverse circumstances the infantry and
yeomanry pressed on, and if they did not secure all objectives, their
dash, resource, and magnificent determination at least paved the way
for ultimate triumph.

To the trials of hard fighting and marching on field rations the wet
added a severe test of physical endurance. The troops were in enemy
country where they scrupulously avoided every native village, and no
wall or roof stood to shelter them from wind or water. The heat of
the first two weeks of November changed with a most undesirable
suddenness, and though the days continued agreeably warm on the plain
into December, the nights became chilly and then desperately cold. The
single blanket carried in the pack--most of the infantry on the march
had no blanket at all--did not give sufficient warmth to men whose
blood had been thinned by long months of work under a pitiless Eastern
sun, and lucky was the soldier who secured even broken sleep in the
early morning hours of that fighting march across the northern part of
the Maritime Plain. The Generals, with one eye on the enemy and the
other on the weather, must have been dismayed in the third week of
November at the gathering storm clouds which in bursting flooded the
plain with rains unusually heavy for this period of the year. The
surface is a very light cotton soil several feet deep. When baked by
summer sun it has a cracked hard crust giving a firm foothold for man
and horse, and yielding only slightly to the wheels of light cars;
even laden lorries made easy tracks over the country. The lorries
generally kept off the ill-made unrolled Turkish road which had been
constructed for winter use and, except for slight deviations to avoid
wadis and gullies cut by Nature to carry off surplus water, the supply
columns could move in almost as direct a course as the flying men.
When the heavens opened all this was altered. The first storm turned
the top into a slippery, greasy mass. In an hour or two the rain
soaked down into the light earth, and any lorry driver pulling out of
the line to avoid a skidding vehicle ahead, had the almost certainty
of finding his car and load come to a full stop with the wheels held
fast axle deep in the soft soil. An hour's hard digging, the fixing
of planks beneath the wheels, and a towing cable from another lorry
sometimes got the machine on to the pressed-down track again and
enabled it to move ahead for a few miles, but many were the supply
vehicles that had to wait for a couple of sunny days to dry a path for
them.

My own experience of the first of the winter rains was so like that of
others in the force who moved on wheels that I may give some idea of
the conditions by recounting it. We had taken Ludd and Ramleh, and
guided by the ruined tower of the Church of the Forty Martyrs I had
followed in the cavalry's wake. I dallied on the way back to see if
Akir presented to the latter-day Crusader any signs of its former
strength when it stood as the Philistine stronghold of Ekron. Near
where the old city had been the ghastly sight of Turks cut down by
yeomanry during a hot pursuit offended the senses of sight and smell,
and when you saw natives moving towards their village at a rate
somewhat in excess of their customary shuffling gait you were almost
led to think that their superstitious fears were driving them home
before sundown lest darkness should raise the ghosts of the Turkish
dead. A few of the Jewish settlers, whose industry has improved the
landscape, were leaving the fields and orchards they tended so well,
though there was still more than an hour of daylight and their tasks
were not yet done. They were weatherwise. They could have been deaf to
the rumblings in the south and still have noticed the coming of the
storm. I was some forty miles from the spot at which my despatch could
be censored and passed over land wire and cable to London, when a
vivid lightning flash warned me that the elements were in forbidding
mood and that I had misread the obvious signal of the natives'
homeward movement.

The map showed a path from Akir through Mansura towards Junction
Station, from which the so-called Turkish road ran south. In the
gathering gloom my driver picked up wheel tracks through an olive
orchard and, crossing a nullah, found the marks of a Ford car's wheels
on the other side. The rain fell heavily and soon obliterated all
signs of a car's progress, and with darkness coming on there was
a prospect of a shivering night with a wet skin in the open. An
Australian doctor going up to his regiment at grips with the Turk told
me that he had no doubt we were on the right road, for he had been
given a line through Mansura, which must be the farmhouse ahead of us.
These Australians have a keen nose for country and you have a sense
of security in following them. The doctor's horse was slipping in the
mud, but my car made even worse going. It skidded to right and left,
and only by the skill and coolness of my driver was I saved a ducking
in a narrow wadi now full of storm water. After much low-gear work we
pulled up a slight rise and saw ahead of us one or two little fires.
Under the lee of a dilapidated wall some Scottish infantry were
brewing tea and making the most of a slight shelter. It was Mansura,
and if we bore to the right and kept the track beaten down by lorries
across a field we might, by the favour of fortune, reach Junction
Station during the night. The Scots had arranged a bivouac in that
field before it became sodden. They knew how bad it had got, and a
native instinct to be hospitable prompted an invitation to share the
fire for the night. However, London was waiting for news and I decided
to press on. The road could not be worse than the sea of mud in which
I was floundering, and it might be better. We turned right-handed
and after a struggle came up against three lorry drivers hopelessly
marooned. They had turned in. Up a greasy bank we came to a stop and
slid back. We tried again and failed. I relieved the car of my weight
and made an effort to push it from behind, but my feet held fast in
the mud and the car cannoned into me when it skidded downhill. 'Better
give it up till the morning,' said an M.T. driver whose sleep was
disturbed by the running of our engine. 'Can't? Who've you got there?
Eh? Oh, very well. Here, Jim, give them a hand or we'll have no sleep
to-night'--or words to that effect. Three of the lorry men and the
engine got us on the move, and before they took mud back with them to
the dry interiors of the lorries they hoped, they said, that we would
reach G.H.Q., but declared that it was hopeless to try.

Before getting much farther a light, waved ahead of us, told of some
one held up. I walked on and found General Butler, the chief of the
Army Veterinary Service with the Force, unable to move an inch. The
efforts of two drivers failed to locate the trouble, and everything
removable was taken off the General's car and put into ours, and with
the heavier load we started off again for Junction Station. This was
not difficult to pick up, for there were many flares burning to enable
working parties to repair engines, rolling stock, and permanent way.
We got on to the road ultimately, carrying more mud on our feet than I
imagined human legs could lift. Leaving a driver and all spare gear at
the station, we thrashed our way along a road metalled with a soft,
friable limestone which had been cut into by the iron-shod wheels of
German lorries until the ruts were fully a foot deep, and the soft
earth foundation was oozing through to the surface. It was desperately
hard to steer a course on this treacherous highway, and a number of
lorries we passed had gone temporarily out of action in ditches. The
Germans with the Turks had blown up most of the culverts, and the road
bridges which had been destroyed had only been lightly repaired with
planks and trestles, no safety rails being in position. To negotiate
these dangerous paths in the dark the driver had to put on all
possible speed and make a dash for it, and he usually got to the other
side before a skid became serious. Most of the lorry drivers put out
no light because they thought no car would be able to move on such a
night, and we had several narrow escapes of finishing our career on a
half-sunken supply motor vehicle.

Reinforcements for infantry battalions moved up the road as we came
down it. They were going to the front to take the place of casualties,
for weather and mud are not considered when bayonets are wanted in the
line. So the stolid British infantryman splashed and slipped his way
towards the enemy, and he would probably have been sleeping that night
if there had not been a risk of his drowning in the mud. The Camel
Transport Corps fought the elements with a courage which deserved
better luck. The camel dislikes many things and is afraid of some. But
if he is capable of thinking at all he regards mud as his greatest
enemy. He cannot stand up in it, and if he slips he has not an
understanding capable of realising that if all his feet do not go
the same way he must spread-eagle and split up. This is what often
happens, but if by good luck a camel should go down sideways he seems
quite content to stay there, and he is so refractory that he prefers
to die rather than help himself to his feet again. On this wild night
I had a good opportunity of seeing white officers encourage the
Egyptian boys in the Camel Transport Corps. At Julis the roadway
passes through the village. There was an ambulance column in
difficulties in the village, and while some cars were being extricated
a camel supply column came up in the opposite direction. The camels
liked neither the headlights nor the running engines, and these had to
be made dark and silent before they would pass. The water was running
over the roadway several inches deep, carrying with it a mass of
garbage and filth which only Arab villagers would tolerate. Officers
and Gyppies coaxed and wheedled the stubborn beasts through Julis,
but outside the place the animals raised a chorus of protest and went
down. They held me up for an hour or more, and though officers and
boys did their utmost to get them going again it was a fruitless
effort, and the poor beasts were off-loaded where they lay. That night
of rain and thunder, wind and cold, was bad alike for man and beast,
but beyond a flippant remark of some soldier doing his best and the
curious chant of the Gyppies' chorus you heard nothing. Tommy could
not trust himself to talk about the weather. It was too bad for words,
for even the strongest.

It took our car ten hours to run forty miles, and as the last ten
miles was over wet sand and on rabbit wire stretched across the
sand where the car could do fifteen miles an hour, we had averaged
something under three miles an hour through the mud. Wet through,
cold, with a face rendered painful to the touch by driven rain, I
reached my tent with a feeling of thankfulness for myself and deep
sympathy for the tens of thousands of brave boys enduring intense
discomfort and fatigue, coupled with the fear of short rations for the
next day or two. The men in the hills which they were just entering
had a worse time than those in the waterlogged plain, but no storms
could damp their enthusiasm. They were beating your enemies and mine,
and they were facing a goal which Britain had never yet won. Jerusalem
the Golden was before them, and the honour and glory of winning it
from the Turk was a prize to attain which no sacrifice was too great.
Those who did not say so behaved in a way to show that they felt it.
They were very gallant, perfect knights, these soldiers of the King.



CHAPTER XIII

INTO THE JUDEAN HILLS


When the 52nd Division were moving out of Ludd on the 19th November
the 75th Division were fighting hard about Latron, where the Turks
held the monastery and its beautiful gardens and the hill about Amwas
until late in the morning. Having driven them out, the 75th pushed
on to gain the pass into the hills and to begin two days of fighting
which earned the unstinted praise of General Bulfin who witnessed it.
For nearly three miles from Latron the road passes through a flat
valley flanked by hills till it reaches a guardhouse and khan at the
foot of the pass which then rises rapidly to Saris, the difference
in elevation in less than four miles being 1400 feet. Close to the
guardhouse begin the hills which tower above the road. The Turks had
constructed defences on these hills and held them with riflemen and
machine guns, so that these positions dominated all approaches. Our
guns had few positions from which to assist the infantry, but they did
sterling service wherever possible. In General Palin the Division
had a commander with wide experience of hill fighting on the Indian
frontier, and he brought that experience to bear in a way which must
have dumb-founded the enemy. Frontal attacks were impossible and
suicidal, and each position had to be turned by a wide movement
started a long way in rear. All units in the Division did well, the
Gurkhas particularly well, and by a continual encircling of their
flanks the Turks were compelled to leave their fastnesses and fall
back to new hill crests. Thus outwitted and outmatched the enemy
retreated to Saris, a high hill with a commanding view of the pass for
half a mile. The hill is covered with olive trees and has a village on
its eastern slope, and as the road winds at its foot and then takes
a left-handed turn to Kuryet el Enab its value for defence was
considerable.

The Turks had taken advantage of the cover to place a large body of
defenders with machine guns on the hill, but with every condition
unfavourable to us the 75th Division had routed out the enemy before
three o'clock and were ready to move forward as soon as the guns
could get up the pass. Rain was falling heavily, the road surface was
clinging and treacherous, and, worse still, the road had been blown up
in several places. The guns could not advance to be of service that
day, and the infantry had, therefore, to remain where they were for
the night. There was a good deal of sniping, but Nature was more
unkind than the enemy, who received more than he gave. The troops were
wearing light summer clothing, drill shorts and tunics, and the sudden
change from the heat and dryness of the plain to bitter cold and wet
was a desperate trial, especially to the Indian units, who had little
sleep that night. They needed rest to prepare them for the rigour of
the succeeding day. A drenching rain turned the whole face of the
mountains, where earth covered rock, into a sea of mud. On the
positions about Saris being searched a number of prisoners were taken,
among them a battalion commander. Men captured in the morning told us
there were six Turkish battalions holding Enab, which is something
under two miles from Saris.

The road proceeds up a rise from Saris, then falling slightly it
passes below the crest of a ridge and again climbs to the foot of a
hill on which a red-roofed convent church and buildings stand as a
landmark that can be seen from Jaffa. On the opposite side of the road
is a substantial house, the summer retreat of the German Consul in
Jerusalem, whose staff traded in Jordan Holy Water; and this house,
now empty, sheltered a divisional general from the bad weather while
the operations for the capture of the Holy City were in preparation. I
have a grateful recollection of this building, for in it the military
attachés and I stayed before the Official Entry into Jerusalem, and
its roof saved us from one inclement night on the bleak hills. On the
20th November the Turks did their best to keep the place under German
ownership. The hill on which it stands was well occupied by men under
cover of thick stone walls, the convent gardens on the opposite side
of the highway was packed with Turkish infantry, and across the deep
valley to the west were guns and riflemen on another hill, all of them
holding the road under the best possible observation. The enemy's
howitzers put down a heavy barrage on all approaches, and on the
reverse of the hill covering the village lying in the hollow
there were machine guns and many men. Reconnaissances showed the
difficulties attending an attack, and it was not until the afternoon
that a plan was ready to be put into execution. No weak points in the
defences could be discovered, and just as it seemed possible that a
daylight attack would be held up, a thick mist rolled up the valley
and settled down over Enab. The 2/3rd Gurkhas seized a welcomed
opportunity, and as the light was failing the shrill, sharp notes
of these gallant hillmen and the deep-throated roar of the 1/5th
Somersets told that a weighty bayonet charge had got home, and that
the keys of the enemy position had been won. The men of the bold 75th
went beyond Enab in the dark, and also out along the old Roman road
towards Biddu to deny the Turks a point from which they could see the
road as it fell away from the Enab ridge towards the wadi Ikbala. That
night many men sought the doubtful shelter of olive groves, and built
stone sangars to break the force of a biting wind. A few, as many as
could be accommodated, were welcomed by the monks in a monastery in
a fold in the hills, whilst some rested and were thankful in a crypt
beneath the monks' church, the oldest part of the building, believed
to be the work of sixth-century masons. The monks had a tale of woe to
tell. They had been proud to have as their guest the Latin Patriarch
in Jerusalem, who was a French protégé, and this high ecclesiastic
remained at the monastery till November 17, when Turkish gendarmerie
carried him away. The Spanish Consul in Jerusalem lodged a vigorous
protest, and, so the monks were told, he was supported by the German
Commandant. But to no purpose, for when General Allenby entered
Jerusalem he learned that the Latin Patriarch had been removed to
Damascus. For quite a long time the monks did many kindly things for
our troops. They gave up the greater part of the monastery and church
for use as a hospital, and many a sick man was brought back to health
by rest within those ancient walls. Some, alas, there were whose
wounds were mortal, and a number lie in the monks' secluded garden.
They have set up wooden crosses over them, and we may be certain that
in that quiet sequestered spot their remains will rest in peace and
will have the protection of the monks as surely as it has been given
to the grave of the Roman centurion which faces those of our brave
boys who fell on the same soil fighting the same good fight.

While the 75th Division were making their magnificent effort at Enab
the Lowlanders had breasted other and equally difficult hills to the
north. General Hill had posted a strong force at Beit Likia, and then
moved south-east along the route prepared by Cestius Gallus nearly
1900 years ago to the height of Beit Anan, and thence east again
to Beit Dukku. On the 21st the road and ground near it were in
exceedingly bad condition, and the difficulty of moving anything on
wheels along it could hardly have been greater. Already the 52nd
Division had realised it was hopeless to get all their divisional
artillery into action, and only three sections of artillery were
brought up, the horses of the guns sent back to Ramleh being used to
double the teams in the three advanced sections. It was heavy work,
too, for infantry who not only had to carry the weight of mud-caked
boots, but were handicapped by continual slipping upon the rocky
ground. The 75th advancing along the road from Enab to Kustul got an
idea of the Turkish lack of attention to the highway, the main road
being deep in mud and full of dangerous ruts. They won Kustul about
midday, and officers who climbed to the top got their first glimpse
of the outskirts of Jerusalem from the ruined walls of a Roman castle
that gives its name to the little village perched on the height. They
did not, however, see much beyond the Syrian colony behind the main
Turkish defences, and the first view of Jerusalem by the troops of
the British Army was obtained by General Maclean's brigade when they
advanced from Biddu to Nebi Samwil, that crowning height on which many
centuries before Richard the Lion Heart buried his face in his casque
and exclaimed: 'Lord God, I pray that I may never see Thy Holy City,
if so be that I may not rescue it from the hands of Thine enemies.'

What a fight it was for Nebi Samwil! The Turk had made it his advanced
work for his main line running from El Jib through Bir Nabala, Beit
Iksa to Lifta, as strong a chain of entrenched mountains as any
commander could desire. General Maclean's brigade advanced from Biddu
along the side of a ridge and up the exposed steep slope of Nebi
Samwil, not all of which, in the only direction he could select for an
advance, was terraced, as it was on the Turks' side. He was all
the time confronted by heavy artillery and rifle fire, and, though
supported by guns firing at long range from the neighbourhood of Enab,
he could not make Nebi Samwil in daylight. Round the top of the hill
the Turk had dug deeply into the stony earth. He knew the value
of that hill. From its crest good observation was obtained in all
directions, and if, when we had to attack the main Jerusalem defences
on December 8, the summit of Nebi Samwil had still been in Turkish
hands, not a movement of troops as they issued from the bed of the
wadi Surar and climbed the rough face of the western buttresses of
Jerusalem would have escaped notice. The brigade won the hill and held
it just before midnight, but the battle for the crest ebbed and flowed
for days with terrific violence, we never giving up possession of it,
though it was stormed again and again by an enemy who, it is fair to
admit, displayed fine courage and not a little skill. That hill-top at
this period had to submit to a thunderous bombardment, and the Mosque
of Nebi Samwil became a battered shell. Here are supposed to lie the
remains of the Prophet Samuel. The tradition may or may not be well
founded, but at any rate Mahomedans and Christians alike have held
the place in veneration for centuries. The Turk paid no regard to the
sanctity of the Mosque, and, as it was of military importance to him
that we should not hold it, he shelled it daily with all his available
guns, utterly destroying it. There may be cases where the Turks will
deny that they damaged a Holy Place. They could not hide their guilt
on Nebi Samwil. I was at pains to examine the Mosque and the immediate
surroundings, and the photographs I took are proof that the wreckage
of this church came from artillery fired from the east and north, the
direction of the Turkish gun-pits. It is possible we are apt to be
a little too sentimental about the destruction in war of a place of
worship. If a general has reason to think that a tower or minaret
is being used as an observation post, or that a church or mosque is
sheltering a body of troops, there are those who hold that he is
justified in deliberately planning its destruction, but here was a
sacred building with associations held in reverence by all classes and
creeds in a land where these things are counted high, and to have set
about wrecking it was a crime. The German influence over the Turk
asserted itself, as it did in the heavy fighting after we had taken
Jerusalem. We had batteries on the Mount of Olives and the Turk
searched for them, but they never fired one round at the Kaiserin
Augusta Victoria Hospice near by. That had been used as Falkenhayn's
headquarters. General Chetwode occupied it as his Corps Headquarters
soon after he entered Jerusalem. There was a wireless installation and
the Turks could see the coming and going of the Corps' motor cars. I
have watched operations from a summer-house in the gardens, and no
enemy plane could pass over the building without discovering the
purpose to which it was put. And there were spies. But not one shell
fell within the precincts of the hospice because it was a German
building, containing the statues of the Kaiser and Kaiserin, and (oh,
the taste of the Hun!) with effigies of the Kaiser and his consort
painted in the roof of the chapel not far from a picture of the
Saviour. Britain is rebuilding what the Turks destroyed, and there
will soon arise on Nebi Samwil a new mosque to show Mahomedans that
tolerance and freedom abide under our flag.

When the 75th Division were making the attack on Nebi Samwil the 52nd
Division put all the men they could spare on to the task of making
roads. To be out of the firing line did not mean rest. In fact, as
far as physical exertion went, it was easier to be fighting than in
reserve. From sunrise till dark and often later the roadmakers were at
work with pick, shovel, and crowbar, and the tools were not too many
for the job. The gunners joined in the work and managed to take their
batteries over the roads long before they were considered suitable
for other wheels. The battery commanders sometimes selected firing
positions which appeared quite inaccessible to any one save a mountain
climber, but the guns got there and earned much credit for their
teams.

On the 22nd Nebi Samwil was thrice attacked. British and Indian troops
were holding the hill, but the Turks were on the northern slopes. They
were, in fact, on strong positions on three sides, and from El Burj,
a prominent hill 1200 yards to the south-east, and from the wooded
valley of the wadi Hannina, they could advance with plenty of cover.
There was much dead ground, stone walls enclosed small patches of
cultivation, and when troops halted under the terraces on the slopes
no gun or rifle fire could reach them. The enemy could thus get quite
close to our positions before we could deal with them, and their
attacks were also favoured by an intense volume of artillery fire from
5.9's placed about the Jerusalem-Nablus road and, as some people in
Jerusalem afterwards told me, from the Mount of Olives. The attackers
possessed the advantage that our guns could not concentrate on them
while the attack was preparing, and could only put in a torrent of
fire when the enemy infantry were getting near their goal. These three
attacks were delivered with the utmost ferocity, and were pressed home
each time with determination. But the 75th Division held on with a
stubbornness which was beyond praise, and the harder the Turk tried
to reach the summit the tighter became the defence. Each attack was
repulsed with very heavy losses, and after his third failure the enemy
did not put in his infantry again that day.

The 75th Division endeavoured to reach El Jib, a village on the hill a
mile and a half to the north of Nebi Samwil. The possession of El Jib
by us would have attracted some of the enemy opposing the advance
of the Yeomanry Mounted Division on the left, but not only was the
position strongly defended in the village and on the high ground on
the north and north-west, but our infantry could not break down the
opposition behind the sangars and boulders on the northern side of
Nebi Samwil. The attack had to be given up, but we made some progress
in this mountainous sector, as the 52nd Division had pushed out from
Dukku to Beit Izza, between 3000 and 4000 yards from El Jib, and
by driving the enemy from this strong village they made it more
comfortable for the troops in Biddu and protected the Nebi Samwil
flank, the securing of which in those days of bitter fighting was
an important factor. It was evident from what was happening on this
front, not only where two divisions of infantry had to strain every
nerve to hold on to what they had got but where the Yeomanry Mounted
Division were battling against enormous odds in the worse country to
the north-west, that the Turks were not going to allow us to get
to the Nablus road without making a direct attack on the Jerusalem
defences. They outnumbered us, had a large preponderance in guns, were
near their base, and enjoyed the advantage of prepared positions and a
comparatively easy access to supplies and ammunition. Everything was
in their favour down to the very state of the weather. But our army
struggled on against all the big obstacles. On the 23rd the 75th
Division renewed their attack on El Jib, but although the men showed
the dash which throughout characterised the Division, it had to be
stopped. The garrison of El Jib had been reinforced, and the enemy
held the woods, wadi banks, and sangars in greater strength than
before, while the artillery fire was extremely heavy. Not only was the
75th Division tired with ceaseless fighting, but the losses they had
sustained since they left the Plain of Ajalon had been substantial,
and the 52nd Division took over from them that night to prepare
for another effort on the following day. The Scots were no more
successful. They made simultaneous attacks on the northern and
southern ends of Nebi Samwil, and a brigade worked up from Beit Izza
to a ridge north-west of El Jib. Two magnificent attempts were made
to get into the enemy's positions, but they failed. The officer
casualties were heavy; some companies had no officers, and the troops
were worn out by great exertions and privations in the bleak hills.
The two divisions had been fighting hard for over three weeks, they
had marched long distances on hard food, which at the finish was not
too plentiful, and the sudden violent change in the weather conditions
made it desirable that the men should get to an issue of warmer
clothing. General Bulfin realised it would be risking heavy losses to
ask his troops to make another immediate effort against a numerically
stronger enemy in positions of his own choice, and he therefore
applied to General Allenby that the XXth Corps--the 60th Division was
already at Latron attached to the XXIst Corps--might take over the
line. The Commander-in-Chief that evening ordered the attack on the
enemy's positions to be discontinued until the arrival of fresh
troops. During the next day or two the enemy's artillery was as active
as hitherto, but the punishment he had received in his attacks made
him pause, and there were only small half-hearted attempts to reach
our line. They were all beaten off by infantry fire, and the reliefs
of the various brigades of the XXIst Corps were complete by November
28. It had not been given to the XXIst Corps to obtain the distinction
of driving the Turks for ever from Jerusalem, but the work of
the Corps in the third and fourth weeks of November had laid the
foundation on which victory finally rested. The grand efforts of the
52nd and 75th Divisions in rushing over the foothills of the Shephelah
on to the Judean heights, in getting a footing on some of the most
prominent hills within three days of leaving the plain, and in
holding on with grim tenacity to what they had gained, enabled the
Commander-in-Chief to start on a new plan by which to take the Holy
City in one stride, so to speak. The 52nd and 75th Divisions and, as
will be seen, the Yeomanry Mounted Division as well, share the glory
of the capture of Jerusalem with the 53rd, 60th, and 74th Divisions
who were in at the finish.

The fighting of the Yeomanry Mounted Division on the left of the 52nd
was part and parcel of the XXIst Corps' effort to get to the Nablus
road. It was epic fighting, and I have not described it when narrating
the infantry's daily work because it is best told in a connected
story. If the foot sloggers had a bad time, the conditions were
infinitely worse for mounted troops. The ground was as steep, but the
hillsides were rougher, the wadis narrower, the patches of open flat
fewer than in the districts where infantry operated. So bad indeed was
the country that horses were an encumbrance, and most of them were
returned to the plain. After a time horse artillery could proceed no
farther, and the only guns the yeomanry had with them were those of
a section of the Hong Kong and Singapore mountain battery, manned by
Sikhs, superb fellows whose service in the Egyptian deserts and in
Palestine was worthy of a martial race. But their little guns were
outranged by the Turkish artillery, and though they were often right
up with the mounted men they could not get near the enemy batteries.
The supply of the division in the nooks and crannies where there was
not so much as a goat-path was a desperate problem, and could not have
been solved without the aid of many hundreds of pack-donkeys which
dumped their loads of supplies and ammunition on the hillsides,
leaving it to be carried forward by hand. The division were fighting
almost continually for a fortnight. They got farther forward than
the infantry and met the full force of an opposition which, if not
stronger than that about Nebi Samwil, was extremely violent, and they
came back to a line which could be supplied with less difficulty
when it was apparent that the Turks were not going to accept the
opportunity General Allenby gave them to withdraw their army from
Jerusalem. The Division's most bitter struggle was about the
Beth-horons, on the very scene where Joshua, on a lengthened day,
threw the Canaanites off the Shephelah.

The Yeomanry Mounted Division received orders on the afternoon of
November 17 to move across Ajalon into the foothills and to press
forward straight on Bireh as rapidly as possible. Their trials they
began immediately. One regiment of the 8th Brigade occupied Annabeh,
and a regiment of the 22nd Brigade got within a couple of miles of
Nalin, where a well-concealed body of the enemy held it up. Soon the
report came in that the country was impassable for wheels. By
the afternoon of the next day the 8th Brigade were at Beit ur el
Foka--Beth-horon the Upper--a height where fig trees and pomegranates
flourish. Eastwards the country falls away and there are several
ragged narrow valleys between some tree-topped ridges till the eye
meets a sheikh's tomb on the Zeitun ridge, standing midway between
Foka and Beitunia, which rears a proud and picturesque head to bar the
way to Bireh. The wadis cross the valleys wherever torrent water can
tear up rock, but the yeomanry found their beds smoother going, filled
though they were with boulders, than the hill slopes, which generally
rose in steep gradients from the sides of watercourses. During every
step of the way across this saw-toothed country one appreciated to
the full the defenders' advantage. If dead ground hid you from one
hill-top enemy marks-men could get you from another, and it was
impossible for the division to proceed unless it got the enemy out of
all the hills on its line of advance. The infantry on the right were
very helpful, but the brigade on the left flank had many difficulties,
which were not lessened when, on the second day of the movement, all
Royal Horse Artillery guns and all wheels had to be sent back owing to
the bad country. Up to this point the fight against Nature was more
arduous than against the enemy. Thenceforward the enemy became more
vigilant and active, and the hills and stony hollows more trying. All
available men were set to work to make a road for the Hong Kong and
Singapore gunners, a battery which would always get as far into the
mountains as any in the King's Army. The road parties laboured night
and day, but it was only by the greatest exertions that the battery
could be got through. The heavy rain of the 19th added to the
troubles. The 8th Brigade, having occupied Beit ur et Tahta
(Beth-horon the Lower) early on the morning of the 19th, proceeded
along the wadi Sunt until a force on the heights held them up, and
they had to remain in the wadi while the 6th Mounted Brigade turned
the enemy's flank at Foka. The 22nd Mounted Brigade on the north met
with the same trouble--every hill had to be won and picqueted--and
they could not make Ain Arik that day. As soon as it was light on the
following morning the 6th Mounted Brigade brushed away opposition in
Foka and entered the village, pushing on thence towards Beitunia. The
advance was slow and hazardous; every hill had to be searched, a task
difficult of accomplishment by reason of the innumerable caves and
boulders capable of sheltering snipers. The Turk had become an adept
at sniping, and left parties in the hills to carry on by themselves.
When the 6th Brigade got within two miles of the south-west of
Beitunia they were opposed by 5000 Turks well screened by woods on the
slopes and the wadi. Both sides strove all day without gaining ground.
Divisional headquarters were only a short distance behind the 6th, and
the 8th Brigade was moved up into the same area to be ready to assist.
By two o'clock in the afternoon the 22nd Brigade got into Ain Arik and
found a strong force of the enemy holding Beitunia and the hill of
Muntar, a few hundred yards to the north of it, thus barring the way
to Ramallah and Bireh. Rain fell copiously and the wind was chilly.
After a miserable night in bivouac, the 6th Brigade was astir before
daylight on the 21st. They were fighting at dawn, and in the half
light compelled the enemy to retire to within half a mile of Beitunia.
A few prisoners were rounded up, and these told the brigadier that
3000 Turks were holding Beitunia with four batteries of field guns and
four heavy camel guns. That estimate was found to be approximately
accurate. A regiment of the 8th Brigade sent to reinforce the 6th
Brigade on their left got within 800 yards of the hill, when the guns
about Bireh and Ramallah opened on them and they were compelled to
withdraw, and a Turkish counter-attack forced our forward line back
slightly in the afternoon. The enemy had a plentiful supply of
ammunition and made a prodigal use of it. While continuing to shell
fiercely he put more infantry into his fighting line, and as we had
only 1200 rifles and four mountain guns, which the enemy's artillery
outranged, it was clear we could not dislodge him from the Beitunia
crest. The 22nd Mounted Brigade had made an attempt to get to Ramallah
from Ain Arik, but the opposition from Muntar and the high ground
to the east was much too severe. Our casualties had not been
inconsiderable, and in face of the enemy's superiority in numbers and
guns and the strength of his position it would have been dangerous and
useless to make a further attack. General Barrow therefore decided to
withdraw to Foka during the night. All horses had been sent back in
the course of the afternoon, and when the light failed the retirement
began. The wounded were first evacuated, and they, poor fellows, had
a bad time of it getting back to Foka in the dark over four miles of
rock-strewn country. It was not till two o'clock on the following
morning that all the convoys of wounded passed through Foka, but by
that time the track to Tahta had been made into passable order, and
some of these helpless men were out of the hills soon after daylight,
journeying in comparative ease in light motor ambulances over the
Plain of Ajalon.

The arrangements for the withdrawal worked admirably. The 8th Mounted
Brigade, covering the retirement so successfully that the enemy knew
nothing about it, held on in front of Beitunia till three o'clock,
reaching Foka before dawn, while the 22nd Brigade remained covering
the northern flank till almost midnight, when it fell back to Tahta.
The Division's casualties during the day were 300 killed and wounded.
We still held the Zeitun ridge, observation was kept on Ain Arik from
El Hafy by one regiment, and troops were out on many parts north and
east of Tahta and Foka.

On the next two days there was nothing beyond enemy shelling and
patrol encounters. On the 24th demonstrations were made against
Beitunia to support the left of the 52nd Division's attack on El Jib,
but the enemy was too strong to permit of the yeomanry proceeding
more than two miles east of Foka. The roadmakers had done an enormous
amount of navvy work on the track between Foka and Tahta. They had
laboured without cessation, breaking up rock, levering out boulders
with crowbars, and doing a sort of rough-and-ready levelling, and by
the night of the 24th the track was reported passable for guns.
The Leicester battery R.H.A. came along it next morning without
difficulty. I did not see the road till some time later and its
surface had then been considerably improved, but even then one felt
the drivers of those gun teams had achieved the almost impossible. The
Leicester battery arrived at Foka just in time to unlimber and get
into action behind a fig orchard in order to disperse a couple of
companies of enemy infantry which were working round the left flank of
the Staffordshire Yeomanry at Khurbet Meita, below the Zeitun height.
The enemy brought up reinforcements and made an attack in the late
afternoon, but this was also broken up. The Berkshire battery reached
Tahta the following day and, with the Leicester gunners, answered the
Turks' long-range shelling throughout the day and night. On the 27th
the enemy made a determined attempt to compel us to withdraw from the
Zeitun ridge, which is an isolated hill commanding the valleys on both
sides. The 6th Mounted Brigade furnished the garrison of 3 officers
and 60 men, who occupied a stone building on the summit. Against them
the enemy put 600 infantry with machine guns, and they also brought a
heavy artillery fire to bear on the building from Beitunia, 4000 yards
away. The garrison put up a most gallant defence. They were compelled
to leave the building because the enemy practically destroyed it by
gunfire and the infantry almost surrounded the hill, but they
obtained cover on the boulder-strewn sides of the hill and held their
assailants at bay. At dusk, although the garrison was reduced to 2
officers and 26 men, they refused to give ground. They were instructed
to hold on as long as possible, and a reinforcement of 50 men was sent
up after dark--all that could be spared, as the division was holding a
series of hills ten miles long and every rifle was in the line. This
front was being threatened at several points, and the activity of
patrols at Deir Ibzia and north of it suggested that the enemy was
trying to get into the gap of five miles between the yeomanry and the
right of the 54th Division which was now at Shilta. It was an anxious
night, and No. 2 Light Armoured Car battery was kept west of Tahta
to enfilade the enemy with machine guns should he appear in the
neighbourhood of Suffa. The 7th Mounted Brigade was ordered up to
reinforce. The fresh troops arrived at dawn on the 28th, and had no
sooner got into position at Hellabi, half a mile north-west of Tahta,
than their left flank was attacked by 1000 Turks with machine guns.
The 155th Brigade of the 52nd Division was on its way through Beit
Likia to rest after its hard work in the neighbourhood of Nebi Samwil
and El Jib, and it was ordered up to assist. At midday the brigade
attacked Suffa but could not take it. The Scots, however, prevented
the Turks breaking round the left flank of the yeomanry. The post
which had held Zeitun so bravely was brought into Foka under cover of
the Leicester and Berkshire batteries' fire, and very heavy fighting
continued all day long on the Foka-Tahta-Suffa line, but though the
enemy employed 3000 infantry in his attack, and had four batteries
of 77's and four heavy camel guns, he was unsuccessful. At dusk the
attack on Tahta, which had been under shell-fire all day, was beaten
off and the enemy was compelled to withdraw one mile. Suffa was still
his, but his advanced troops on the cairn south of that place had
suffered heavily during the day at the hands of the 7th Mounted
Brigade, who several times drove them off. Some howitzers of the 52nd
Division were hauled over the hills in the afternoon and shelled
the cairn so heavily that the post sought shelter in Suffa. To the
south-east of the line of attack the Turks were doing their utmost to
secure Foka. They came again and again, and their attacks were always
met and broken with the bayonet by yeomen who were becoming fatigued
by continuous fighting, and advancing and retiring in this terrible
country. They could have held the place that night, but there was no
possibility of sending them reinforcements, and as the enemy had been
seen working round to the south of the village with machine guns it
might have been impossible to get them out in the morning. General
Barrow accordingly withdrew the Foka garrison to a new position on a
wooded ridge half-way between that place and Tahta, and the enemy made
no attempt to get beyond Foka. Late at night he got so close to Tahta
from the north that he threw bombs at our sangars, but he was driven
off.

During the evening the Yeomanry Mounted Division received welcome
reinforcements. The 4th Australian Light Horse Brigade were placed
in support of the 6th Mounted Brigade and a battalion of the 156th
Infantry Brigade assisted the 7th Mounted Brigade.

On the 29th the Turks made their biggest effort to break through the
important line we held, and all day they persisted with the greatest
determination in an attack on our left. At midnight they had again
occupied the cairn south of Suffa, and remained there till 8 A.M.,
when the 268th Brigade Royal Field Artillery crowned the hill with a
tremendous burst of fire and drove them off. The machine-gunners
of the 7th Mounted Brigade caught the force as it was retiring and
inflicted many casualties. The Turks came back again and again, and
the cairn repeatedly changed hands, until at last it was unoccupied by
either side. Towards dusk the Turks' attacks petered out, though the
guns and snipers continued busy, and the Yeomanry Mounted Division was
relieved by the 231st Infantry Brigade of the 74th Division and the
157th Infantry Brigade of the 52nd Division, the Australian Mounted
Division ultimately taking over the left of the line which XXth Corps
troops occupied.

The Yeomanry Mounted Division had made a grand fight against a vastly
superior force of the enemy in a country absolutely unfavourable to
the movement of mounted troops. They never had more than 1200 rifles
holding a far-flung barren and bleak line, and the fine qualities
of vigorous and swift attack, unfaltering discipline and heroic
stubbornness in defence under all conditions, get their proof in
the 499 casualties incurred by the Division in the hill fighting,
exclusive of those sustained by the 7th Mounted Brigade which
reinforced them. The Division was made up entirely of first-line
yeomanry regiments whose members had become efficient soldiers in
their spare time, when politicians were prattling about peace and
deluding parties into the belief that there was little necessity to
prepare for war. Their patriotism and example gave a tone to the
drafts sent out to replace casualties and the wastage of war, and were
a credit to the stock from which they sprang.

While the Yeomanry Mounted Division had been fighting a great battle
alongside the infantry of the XXIst Corps in the hills, the remainder
of the troops of the Desert Mounted Corps were employed on the plain
and in the coastal sector, hammering the enemy hard and establishing
a line from the mouth of the river Auja through some rising ground
across the plain. They were busily engaged clearing the enemy out of
some of the well-ordered villages east of the sandy belt, several of
them German colonies showing signs of prosperity and more regard
for cleanliness and sanitation than other of the small centres of
population hereabouts. The village of Sarona, north of Jaffa, an
almost exclusively German settlement, was better arranged than any
others, but Wilhelma was a good second.

The most important move was on November 24, when, with a view to
making the enemy believe an attack was intended against his right
flank, the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade was sent across the
river Auja to seize the villages of Sheikh Muannis near the sea, and
Hadrah farther inland, two companies of infantry holding each of the
two crossings. The enemy became alarmed and attacked the cavalry in
force early next morning, 1000 infantry marching on Muannis. The
Hadrah force was driven back across the Auja and the two companies of
infantry covering the crossing suffered heavily, having no support
from artillery, which had been sent into bivouac. Some of the men had
to swim the river. A bridge of boats had been built at Jerisheh mill
during the night, and by this means men crossed until Muannis was
occupied by the enemy later in the morning. The cavalry crossed the
ford at the mouth of the Auja at the gallop. The 1/4th Essex held on
to Hadrah until five out of six officers and about fifty per cent. of
the men became casualties. There was a good deal of minor fighting on
this section of the front, and in a number of patrol encounters the
resource of the Australian Light Horse added to their bag of prisoners
and to the Army's store of information. Nothing further of importance
occurred in this neighbourhood until we seized the crossings of the
Auja and the high ground north of the river a week before the end of
the year.



CHAPTER XIV

THE DELIVERANCE OF THE HOLY CITY


The impossibility of getting across the road north of Jerusalem by
making a wide sweep over the Judean hills caused a new plan to be put
into execution. This necessitated a direct attack on the well-prepared
system of defences on the hills protecting Jerusalem from the west,
but it did not entail any weakening of General Allenby's determination
that there should be no fighting by British troops in and about the
precincts of the Holy City. That resolve was unshaken and unshakable.
When a new scheme was prepared by the XXth Corps, the question was put
whether the Turks could be attacked at Lifta, which was part of their
system. Now Lifta is a native village on one of the hill-faces to the
west of Jerusalem, about a mile from the Holy City's walls, and, as
it is not even connected by a road with any of the various colonies
forming the suburbs of Jerusalem, could not by any stretch of
imagination be described by a Hun propaganda merchant as part
of Jerusalem. I happen to know that on the 26th November the
Commander-in-Chief sent this communication to General Chetwode: 'I
place no restriction upon you in respect of any operation which you
may consider necessary against Lifta or the enemy's lines to the south
of it, except that on no account is any risk to be run of bringing
the City of Jerusalem or its immediate environs within the area of
operations.' The spirit as well as the letter of that order was
carried out, and in the very full orders and notes on the operations
issued before the victorious attack was made, there is the most
elaborate detail regarding the different objectives of divisions and
brigades, and scrupulous care was taken that no advance should be made
against any resisting enemy within the boundaries not only of the
Holy City but of the suburbs. We shall see how thoroughly these
instructions were followed.

When it became obvious that Jerusalem could not be secured without the
adoption of a deliberate method of attack, there were many matters
requiring the anxious consideration of the XXth Corps staff. They took
over from XXIst Corps at a time when the enemy was still very active
against the line which they had gained under very hard conditions. The
XXth Corps, beginning with the advantage of positions which the XXIst
Corps had won, had to prepare to meet the enemy with equal gun power
and more than equality in rifle strength. We had the men and the
guns in the country, but to get them into the line and to keep
them supplied was a problem of considerable magnitude. Time was an
important factor. The rains had begun. The spells of fine weather were
getting shorter, and after each period of rain the sodden state of the
country affected all movement. To bring up supplies we could only rely
on road traffic from Gaza and Deir Sineid, and the light soil had
become hopelessly cut up during the rains. The main line of railway
was not to be opened to Mejdel till December 8, and the captured
Turkish line between Deir Sineid and Junction Station had a maximum
capacity of one hundred tons of ordnance stores a day, and these had
to be moved forward again by road. An advance must slow down while
communications were improved. The XXth Corps inherited from the XXIst
Corps the track between Beit Likia and Biddu which had been prepared
with an infinity of trouble and exertion, but this and the main
Latron-Jerusalem road were the only highways available.

General Chetwode's Corps relieved General Bulfin's Corps during
the day of November 28, and viewed in the most favourable light it
appeared that there must be at least one week's work on the roads
before it would be possible for heavy and field batteries, in
sufficient strength to support an attack, to be got into the
mountains. A new road was begun between Latron and Beit Likia, and
another from Enab to Kubeibeh, and these, even in a rough state of
completion, eased the situation very considerably. An enormous amount
of labour was devoted to the main road. The surface was in bad order
and was getting worse every hour with the passage of lorry traffic. It
became full of holes, and the available metal in the neighbourhood
was a friable limestone which, under heavy pressure during rains, was
ground into the consistency of a thick cream. Pioneer battalions were
reinforced by large parties of Egyptian labour corps, and these worked
ceaselessly, clearing off top layers of mud, carrying stones down from
the hills and breaking them, putting on a new surface and repairing
the decayed walls which held up the road in many places. The
roadmakers proved splendid fellows. They put a vast amount of energy
into their work, but when the roads were improved rain gravely
interfered with traffic, and camels were found to be most
unsatisfactory. They slipped and fell and no reliance could be placed
on a camel convoy getting to its destination in the hills. Two
thousand donkeys were pressed into service, and with them the troops
in the distant positions were kept supplied. It would not be possible
to exaggerate the value of this donkey transport. In anticipation of
the advance the Quartermaster-General's department, with the foresight
which characterised that department and all its branches throughout
the campaign, searched Egypt for the proper stamp of asses for pack
transport in the hills. The Egyptian donkey is a big fellow with
a light-grey coat, capable of carrying a substantial load, hardy,
generally docile, and less stubborn than most of the species. He is
much taller and heavier than the Palestine donkey, and our Army never
submitted him to the atrociously heavy loads which crush and break the
spirit of the local Arabs' animals. It is, perhaps, too much to hope
that the natives will learn something from the British soldier's
treatment of animals. It was one of the sights of the campaign to see
the donkey trains at work. They carried supplies which, having been
brought by the military railway from the Suez Canal to railhead, were
conveyed by motor lorries as far as the state of the road permitted
self-propelled vehicles to run, were next transhipped into limbers,
and, when horse transport could proceed no farther, were stowed on to
the backs of camels. The condition of the road presently held up the
camels, and then donkey trains took over the loads. Under a white
officer you would see a chain of some two hundred donkeys, each roped
in file of four, led by an Egyptian who knew all that was worth
knowing about the ways of the ass, winding their way up and down
hills, getting a foothold on rocks where no other animal but a goat
could stand, and surmounting all obstacles with a patient endurance
which every soldier admired. They did not like the cold, and the
rain made them look deplorably wretched, but they got rations
and drinking-water right up to the crags where our infantry were
practising mountaineering. Shell-fire did not disturb them much,
and they would nibble at any rank stuff growing on the hillsides to
supplement the rations which did not always reach their lines at
regular intervals. The Gyppy boys were excellent leaders, and to them
and the donkeys the front-line fighting men in the hill country owe
much. They were saved a good deal of exhausting labour in manhandling
stores from the point where camels had to stop, and they could
therefore concentrate their attention on the Turk.

By December 2 the fine exertions of the troops on the line of
communications had enabled the XXth Corps Commander to make his plans
for the capture of Jerusalem, and at a conference at Enab on the
following day General Chetwode outlined his scheme, which, put in
a nutshell, was to attack with the 60th and 74th Divisions in an
easterly direction on the front Ain Karim-Beit Surik and, skirting the
western suburbs of Jerusalem, to place these two divisions astride the
Jerusalem-Nablus road, while the 53rd Division advanced from Hebron to
threaten the enemy from the south and protect the right of the 60th
Division. I will not apologise for dealing as fully as possible with
the fighting about Jerusalem, because Jerusalem was one of the great
victories of the war, and the care taken to observe the sanctity of
the place will for all time stand out as one of the brightest examples
of the honour of British arms. But before entering upon those details
I will put in chronological sequence the course of the fighting on
this front from the moment when the XXth Corps took over the
command, and show how, despite enemy vigilance and many attacks, the
preparations for the outstanding event of the campaign were carried
through. It is remarkable that in the short period of ten days
the plans could be worked out in detail and carried through to a
triumphant issue, notwithstanding the bad weather and the almost
overwhelming difficulties of supply. Only the whole-hearted
co-operation of all ranks made it possible. On the day after the
XXth Corps became responsible for this front General Chetwode had a
conference with Generals Barrow, Hill, and Girdwood, and after a full
discussion of the situation in the hills decided to abandon the plan
of getting on to the Jerusalem-Nablus road from the north in favour
of attempting to take Jerusalem from the west and south-west. The
commanders of the Yeomanry Mounted Division and the 52nd Division were
asked to suggest, from their experience of the fighting of the past
ten days, what improvement in the line was necessary to make it
certain that the new plan would not be interfered with by an enemy
counter-attack. They were in favour of taking the western portion
of the Beitunia-Zeitun ridge. Preparations were made immediately
to relieve the Yeomanry Mounted Division by the Australian Mounted
Division, and when the 10th Division arrived--it was marching up from
Gaza--the 52nd Division was to be returned to the XXIst Corps. The
hard fighting and the determined attacks of the Turks had made it
unavoidable that some portions of the divisions should be mixed, and
the reliefs were not completed till the 2nd of December.

The Yeomanry Mounted Division troops gave over the Tahta defences to
the 157th Infantry Brigade on the night of November 29-30, and the
enemy made an attack on the new defenders at dawn, but were swiftly
beaten off. A local effort against Nebi Samwil was easily repulsed,
but the 60th Division reported that the enemy had in the past few days
continued his shelling of the Mosque, and had added to his destruction
of that sacred place by demolishing the minaret by gunfire. The 231st
Infantry Brigade with one battalion in the front line took over from
the 8th Mounted Brigade from Beit Dukku to Jufna, and while the
reliefs were in progress there was continual fighting in the Et
Tireh-Foka area. The former place was won and lost several times, and
finally the infantry consolidated on the high ground west of those
villages. Early on the 30th a detachment of the 231st Brigade took
Foka, capturing eight officers and 298 men, but as it was not possible
to hold the village the infantry retired to our original line. On
December 1 the 10th Division relieved the 52nd in the sector wadi
Zait-Tahta-Kh. Faaush, but on that day the 155th Brigade had had
another hard brush with the Turks. A regiment of the 3rd Australian
Light Horse on a hill north of El Burj in front of them was heavily
attacked at half-past one in the morning by a specially prepared
sturmtruppen battalion of the Turkish 19th Division, and a footing
was gained in our position, but with the aid of a detachment of the
Gloucester Yeomanry and the 1/4th Royal Scots Fusiliers the enemy
was driven out at daybreak and six officers and 106 unwounded and 60
wounded Turks, wearing steel hats and equipped like German storming
troops, were taken prisoners. The attack was pressed with the greatest
determination, and the enemy, using hand grenades, got within thirty
yards of our line. During the latter part of their advance the Turks
were exposed to a heavy cross fire from machine guns and rifles of
the 9th Light Horse Regiment, and this fire and the guns of the 268th
Brigade Royal Field Artillery and the Hong Kong and Singapore battery
prevented the retirement of the enemy. The capture of the prisoners
was effected by an encircling movement round both flanks. Our
casualties were 9 killed and 47 wounded. That storming battalion left
over 100 dead about our trenches. At the same time a violent attack
was made on the Tahta defences held by the 157th Brigade; the enemy,
rushing forward in considerable strength and with great impetus,
captured a ridge overlooking Tahta--a success which, if they had
succeeded in holding the position till daylight, would have rendered
that village untenable, and would have forced our line back some
distance at an important point. It proved to be a last desperate
effort of the enemy at this vital centre. No sooner were the Scots
driven off the ridge than they re-formed and prepared to retake it.
Reinforced, they attacked with magnificent courage in face of heavy
machine-gun fire, but it was not until after a rather prolonged period
of bayonet work that the Lowland troops got the upper hand, the Turks
trying again and again to force them out. At half-past four they gave
up the attempt, and from that hour Tahta and the rocks about it were
objects of terror to them.

Nor did the Turks permit Nebi Samwil to remain in our possession
undisputed. The Londoners holding it were thrice attacked with extreme
violence, but the defenders never flinched, and the heavy losses of
the enemy may be measured by the fact that when we took Jerusalem
and an unwonted silence hung over Nebi Samwil, our burying parties
interred more than 500 Turkish dead about the summit of that lofty
hill. Their graves are mostly on the eastern, northern, and southern
slopes. Ours lie on the west, where Scot, Londoner, West Countryman,
and Indian, all equally heroic sons of the Empire, sleep, as they
fought, side by side.

The last heavy piece of fighting on the XXth Corps' front before the
attack on Jerusalem was on December 3, when a regiment of yeomanry,
which like a number of other yeomanry regiments had been dismounted
to form the 74th Division, covered itself with glory. The 16th (Royal
Devon Yeomanry) battalion of the Devon Regiment belonging to the 229th
Brigade was ordered to make an attack on Beit ur el Foka in the dark
hours of the morning. All the officers had made reconnaissances and
had learned the extreme difficulties of the ground. At 1 A.M. these
yeomen worked their way up the wadi Zeit to the head of that narrow
watercourse at the base of the south-western edge of the hill on which
the village stands. The attack was launched from this position, the
company on the right having the steepest face to climb. Here the
villagers, to get the most out of the soil and to prevent the winter
rains washing it off the rocks into the wadi, had built a series of
terraces, and the retaining walls, often crumbling to the touch,
offered some cover from the Turkish defenders' fire. With the
advantage of this shelter the troops on the right reached the southern
end of the village soon after 2 o'clock, but the company on the left
met with much opposition on the easier slope, and had to call in aid
the support of a machine-gun section posted in the woods on a ridge
north-west of the village. By 3 o'clock the whole battalion was in
the village, using rifle and bayonet in the road scarcely more than
a couple of yards wide, and bombing the enemy out of native mud and
stone houses and caves. Two officers and fifteen unwounded men were
taken prisoners with three machine guns, but before any consolidation
could be done the Turks began a series of counter-attacks which lasted
all day. As we had previously found, Foka was very hard to defend.
It is overlooked on the north, north-east, and east by ridges a few
hundred yards away, and by a high hill north of Ain Jeruit, 1200 yards
to the north, by another hill 1000 yards to the east, and by the
famous Zeitun ridge about 1500 yards beyond it, and attacks from these
directions could be covered very effectively by overhead machine-gun
fire. To enlarge the perimeter of defence would be to increase the
difficulties and require a much larger force than was available, and
there was no intention of going beyond Foka before the main operation
against Jerusalem was started. To hold Foka securely a force must be
in possession of the heights on the north and east, and to keep these
Beitunia itself must be gained. Before daylight arrived some work on
defences was begun, but it was interfered with by snipers and not much
could be done. Immediately the sun rose from behind the Judean hills
there was a violent outburst of fire from machine guns and rifles on
three sides, increasing in volume as the light improved. The enemy
counter-attacked with a determination fully equal to that which he had
displayed during the past fortnight's battle in the hills. He had the
advantage of cover and was supported by artillery and a hurricane of
machine-gun fire, but although he climbed the hill and got into the
small gardens outside the very houses, he was repulsed with bomb and
bayonet. At one moment there was little rifle fire, and the two sides
fought it out with bombs. The Turks retired with heavy losses, but
they soon came back again and fought with the same determination,
though equally unsuccessfully. The Devons called for artillery, and
three batteries supported them splendidly, though the gunners were
under a great disadvantage in that the ground did not permit the
effect of gunfire to be observed and it was difficult to follow the
attackers. The supplies of bombs and small-arms ammunition were
getting low, and to replenish them men had to expose themselves to a
torrent of fire, so fierce indeed that in bringing up two boxes of
rifle ammunition which four men could carry twelve casualties were
incurred. A head shown in the village instantly drew a hail of bullets
from three sides. Reinforcements were on the way up, and the Fife and
Forfar Yeomanry battalion of the Royal Highlanders were prepared to
make a flank attack from their outpost line three-quarters of a
mile south-east of Foka to relieve the Devons, but this would have
endangered the safety of the outpost line without reducing the fire
from the heights, and as the Fife and Forfar men would have had to
cross two deep wadis under enfilade fire on their way to Foka their
adventure would have been a perilous one. By this time three out of
four of the Devons' company commanders were wounded and the casualties
were increasing. The officer commanding the battalion therefore
decided, after seven hours of terrific fighting, that the village of
Foka was no longer tenable, and authority was given him to withdraw.
In their last attack the enemy put 1000 men against the village,
and it was not until the O.C. Devons had seen this strength that he
proposed the place should be evacuated. His men had put up a great
fight. The battalion went into action 762 strong; it came out 488.
Three officers were killed and nine wounded, and 49 other ranks killed
and 132 wounded. Thirteen were wounded and missing and 78 missing. In
Foka to-day you will see most of the battered houses repaired, but
progress through the streets is partially barred by the graves of
Devon yeomen who were buried where they fell. It was not possible to
hew a grave in rock, therefore earth and stone were piled up round the
bodies, so that in at least two spots you find several graves serving
as buttresses to rude dwellings. On one of these graves, beside the
identification tablet of two strong sons of Devon, you will find, on
a piece of paper inserted in a slit cut into wood torn from an
ammunition box, the words 'Grave of unknown Turk.' Friend and foe
share a common resting-place. The natives of this village are more
than usually friendly, and those graves seem safe in their keeping.

Between the 4th and 7th December there was a reshuffling of the troops
holding the line to enable a concentration of the divisions entrusted
with the attack on the defences covering Jerusalem. The 10th Division
relieved the 229th and 230th Brigades of the 74th Division and
extended its line to cover Beit Dukku, a point near and west of Et
Tireh, to Tahta, and when the enemy retired from the immediate front
of the 10th Division's left, Hellabi and Suffa were occupied. The
Australian Mounted Division also slightly advanced its line. On the
night of December 5 the 231st Brigade relieved the 60th Division in
the Beit Izza and Nebi Samwil positions, and on December 6 the line
held by the 74th was extended to a point about a mile and a half north
of Kulonieh. The 53rd Division had passed through Hebron, and its
advance was timed to reach the Bethlehem-Beit Jala district on
December 7. The information gained by the XXth Corps led the staff to
estimate the strength of the enemy opposite them to be 13,300 rifles
and 2700 sabres, disposed as follows: east of Jerusalem the 7th
cavalry regiment, 500 sabres; the 27th Division covering Jerusalem and
extending to the Junction Station-Jerusalem railway at Bitter Station,
1200 rifles; thence to the Latron-Jerusalem road with strong points at
Ain Karim and Deir Yesin, the 53rd Turkish Division, 2000 rifles; from
the road to Nebi Samwil (Beit Iksa being very strongly held) the 26th
Turkish Division, 1800 rifles; Nebi Samwil to Beit ur el Foka, 19th
Turkish Division with the 2/61st regiment and the 158th regiment
attached, 4000 rifles; Beit ur el Foka to about Suffa, the 24th
Division, 1600 rifles; thence to the extreme left of the XXth Corps
the 3rd Cavalry Division, 1500 sabres. The 54th Turkish Division was
in reserve at Bireh with 2700 rifles. The enemy held a line covering
Bethlehem across the Hebron road to Balua, then to the hill Kibryan
south-west of Beit Jala, whence the line proceeded due north to Ain
Karim and Deir Yesin, both of which were strongly entrenched, on to
the hill overlooking the Jerusalem road above Lifta. From this
point the line crossed the road to the high ground west of Beit
Iksa--entrenchments were cut deep into the face of this hill to cover
the road from Kulonieh--thence northward again to the east of Nebi
Samwil, west of El Jib, Dreihemeh (one mile north-east of Beit Dukku)
to Foka, Kh. Aberjan, and beyond Suffa.

During the attack the Australian Mounted Division was to protect the
left flank of the 10th Division, which with one brigade of the 74th
Division was to hold the whole of the line in the hills from Tahta
through Foka, Dukku, Beit Izza to Nebi Samwil, leaving the attack to
be conducted by two brigade groups of the 74th Division, the whole of
the 60th Division, and two brigade groups of the 53rd Division, with
the 10th regiment of Australian Light Horse watching the right flank
of the 60th Division until the left of the 53rd could join up with
it. One brigade of the 53rd Division was to advance from the
Bethlehem-Beit Jala area with its left on the line drawn from Sherafat
through Malhah to protect the 60th Division's flank, the other brigade
marching direct on Jerusalem, and to move by roads south of the
town to a position covering Jerusalem from the east and north-east,
but--and these were instructions specially impressed on this
brigade--'the City of Jerusalem will not be entered, and all movements
by troops and vehicles will be restricted to roads passing outside the
City.' The objective of the 60th and 74th Divisions was a general line
from Ras et Tawil, a hill east of the Nablus road about four miles
north of Jerusalem, to Nebi Samwil, one brigade of the 74th Division
holding Nebi Samwil and Beit Izza defences and to form the pivot of
the attack. The dividing line between the 60th and 74th Divisions was
the Enab-Jerusalem road as far as Lifta and from that place to the
wadi Beit Hannina. The form of the attack was uncertain until it was
known how the enemy would meet the advance of the 53rd Division,
which, on the 3rd December, was in a position north of Hebron within
two ten-mile marches of the point at which it would co-operate on
the right of the 60th. If the enemy increased his strength south of
Jerusalem to oppose the advance of the 53rd Division, General Chetwode
proposed that the 60th and 74th Divisions should force straight
through to the Jerusalem-Nablus road, the 60th throwing out a flank
to the south-east, so as to cut off the Turks opposing the 53rd from
either the Nablus or the Jericho road. It was not considered probable
that the enemy would risk the capture of a large body of troops south
of Jerusalem. On the other hand, should the Turks withdraw from in
front of the Welsh Division, the alternative plan provided that the
latter attack should take the form of making a direct advance on
Jerusalem and a wheel by the 60th and 74th Divisions, pivoting on
the Beit Izza and Nebi Sainwil defences, so as to drive the enemy
northwards. The operations were to be divided into four phases. The
first phase fell to the 60th and 74th Divisions, and consisted in the
capture of the whole of the south-western and western defences of
Jerusalem.

These ran from a point near the railway south-west of Malhah round to
the west of Ain Karim, then on to the hill of Khurbet Subr, down a
cleft in the hills and up on to the high Deir Yesin ridge, thence
round the top of two other hills dominating the old and new roads to
Jerusalem from Jaffa as they pass by the village of Kulonieh. North of
the new road the enemy's line ran round the southern face of a bold
hill overlooking the village of Beit Iksa and along the tortuous
course of the wadi El Abbeideh. In the second phase the 60th Division
was to move over the Jaffa-Jerusalem road with its right almost up
to the scattered houses on the north-western fringe of Jerusalem's
suburbs, and its left was to pass the village of Lifta on the slope of
the hill rising from the wadi Beit Hannina. The objective of the 60th
Division in the third phase was the capture of a line of a track
leaving the Jerusalem-Nablus road well forward of the northern suburb
and running down to the wadi Hannina, the 74th Division advancing down
the spur running south-east from Nebi Samwil to a point about 1000
yards south-west of Beit Hannina, the latter a prominent height with a
slope amply clothed with olive trees. The fourth phase was an advance
astride the road to Ras et Tawil. As will be seen hereafter all these
objectives were not obtained, but the first, and chief of them, was,
and the inevitable followed--Jerusalem became ours.

Let us now picture some of the country the troops had to cross and the
defences they had to capture before the Turks could be forced out
of Jerusalem. We will first look at it from Enab, the ancient
Kir-jath-jearim, which the Somersets, Wilts, and Gurkhas had taken at
the point of the bayonet. From the top of Enab the Jaffa-Jerusalem
road winds down a deep valley, plentifully planted with olive and fig
trees and watered by the wadi Ikbala. A splendid supply of water
had been developed by Royal Engineers near the ruins of a Crusader
fortress which, if native tradition may be relied on, housed Richard
of the Lion Heart. From the wadi rises a hill on which is Kustul,
a village covering the site of an old Roman castle from which,
doubtless, its name is derived. Kustul stands out the next boldest
feature to Nebi Samwil, and from it, when the atmosphere is clear,
the red-tiled roofs of houses in the suburbs of Jerusalem are plainly
visible. A dozen villages clinging like limpets to steep hillsides are
before you, and away on your right front the tall spires of Christian
churches at Ain Karim tell you you are approaching the Holy Sites.
Looking east the road falls, with many short zigzags in its length, to
Kulonieh, crosses the wadi Surar by a substantial bridge (which the
Turks blew up), and then creeps up the hills in heavy gradients till
it is lost to view about Lifta. The wadi Surar winds round the foot of
the hill which Kustul crowns, and on the other side of the watercourse
there rises the series of hills on which the Turks intended to hold
our hands off Jerusalem. The descent from Kustul is very rapid and the
rise on the other side is almost as precipitous. On both sides of the
wadi olive trees are thickly planted, and on the terraced slopes vines
yield a plentiful harvest. Big spurs run down to the wadi, the sides
are rough even in dry weather, but when the winter rains are falling
it is difficult to keep a foothold. South-west of Kustul is Soba, a
village on another high hill, and below it and west of Ain Karim, on
lower ground, is Setaf, both having orchards and vineyards in which
the inhabitants practise the arts of husbandry by the same methods
as their remote forefathers. An aerial reconnaissance nearly a year
before we took Jerusalem showed the Turks busily making trenches on
the hills east of the wadi Surar. An inspection of the defences proved
the work to have been long and arduous, though like many things
the Turk began he did not finish them. What he did do was done
elaborately. He employed masons to chisel the stone used for
revetting, and in places the stones fit well and truly one upon the
other, while an enormous amount of rock must have been blasted to
excavate the trenches. The system adopted was to have three fire
trenches near the top of the hills, one above the other, so that were
the first two lines taken the third would still offer a difficult
obstacle, and, if the defenders were armed with bombs, it would be
hard for attackers to retain the trenches in front of them. There was
much dead ground below the entrenchments, but the defences were so
arranged that cross fire from one system swept the dead ground on the
next spur, and, if the hills were properly held, an advance up them
would have been a stupendous task. The Turk had put all his eggs into
one basket. Perhaps he considered his positions impregnable--they
would have been practically impregnable in British hands--and he made
no attempt to cut support trenches behind the crest. There was one
system only, and his failure to provide defences in depth cost him
dear.

Looking eastwards from Kustul, the Turkish positions south of the
Jaffa-Jerusalem road, each of them on a hill, were called by us the
'Liver Redoubt' (near Lifta), the 'Heart Redoubt,' 'Deir Yesin,' and
'Khurbet Subr,' with the village of Ain Karim in a fold of the hills
and a line of trenches south-west of it running down to the railway.
Against the 74th Division's front the nature of the country was
equally difficult. From Beit Surik down to the Kulonieh road the hills
fell sharply with the ground strewn with boulders. Our men had to
advance across ravines and beds of watercourses covered with
large stones, and up the wooded slopes of hills where stone walls
constituted ready-made sangars easily capable of defence. The hardest
position they had to tackle was the hill covering Beit Iksa, due
north of the road as it issued from Kulonieh, where long semicircular
trenches had been cut to command at least half a mile of the main
road. In front of the 53rd Division was an ideal rearguard country
where enterprising cavalry could have delayed an advance by infantry
for a lengthened period. To the south of Bethlehem, around Beit Jala
and near Urtas, covering the Pools of Solomon, an invaluable water
supply, there were prepared defences, but though the Division was
much delayed by heavy rain and dense mist, the fog was used to their
advantage, for the whole of the Division's horses were watered at
Solomon's Pools one afternoon without opposition from the Urtas
garrison.

December 8 was the date fixed for the attack. On December 7 rain
fell unceasingly. The roads, which had been drying, became a mass of
slippery mud to the west of Jerusalem, and on the Hebron side the
Welsh troops had to trudge ankle deep through a soft limy surface. It
was soon a most difficult task to move transport on the roads. Lorries
skidded, and double teams of horses could only make slow progress with
limbers. Off the road it became almost impossible to move. The ground
was a quagmire. On the sodden hills the troops bivouacked without a
stick to shelter them. The wind was strong and drove walls of water
before it, and there was not a man in the attacking force with a dry
skin. Sleep on those perishing heights was quite out of the question,
and on the day when it was hoped the men would get rest to prepare
them for the morrow's fatigue the whole Army was shivering and awake.
So bad were the conditions that the question was considered as to
whether it would not be advisable to postpone the attack, but General
Chetwode, than whom no general had a greater sympathy for his men,
decided that as the 53rd Division were within striking distance by the
enemy the attack must go forward on the date fixed. That night was
calculated to make the stoutest hearts faint. Men whose blood had been
thinned by summer heat in the desert were now called upon to endure
long hours of piercing cold, with their clothes wet through and water
oozing out of their boots as they stood, with equipment made doubly
heavy by rain, caked with mud from steel helmet to heel, and the
toughened skin of old campaigners rendered sore by rain driven against
it with the force of a gale. Groups of men huddled together in the
effort to keep warm: a vain hope. And all welcomed the order to fall
in preparatory to moving off in the darkness and mist to a battle
which, perhaps more than any other in this war, stirred the emotions
of countless millions in the Old and New Worlds. Yet their spirits
remained the same. Nearly frozen, very tired, 'fed up' with the
weather, as all of them were, they were always cheerful, and the man
who missed his footing and floundered in the mud regarded the incident
as light-heartedly as his fellows. An Army which could face the trials
of such a night with cheerfulness was unbeatable. One section of the
force did regard the prospects with rueful countenances. This was the
Divisional artillery. Tractors, those wonderfully ugly but efficient
engines which triumphed over most obstacles, had got the heavies into
position. The 96th Heavy Group, consisting of three 6-inch howitzer
batteries, one complete 60-pounder battery, and a section of another
60-pounder battery, and the Hong Kong and Singapore Mountain Battery,
were attached to and up with the 74th Division. The 10 and B 9
Mountain Batteries were with the 60th Division waiting to try their
luck down the hills, and the 91st Heavy Battery (60-pounders)
was being hauled forward with the 53rd. The heavies could get
in long-range fire from Kustul, but what thought the 18-pounder
batteries? With the country in such a deplorable state it looked
hopeless for them to expect to be in the show, and the prospect of
remaining out of the big thing had more effect upon the gunners than
the weather. As a matter of fact but few field batteries managed to
get into action. Those which succeeded in opening fire during the
afternoon of December 8 did most gallant work for hours, with enemy
riflemen shooting at them from close range, and their work formed a
worthy part in the victory. The other field gunners could console
themselves with the fact that the difficulties which were too great
for them--and really field-gun fire on the steep slopes could not be
very effective--prevented even the mountain batteries, which can go
almost anywhere, from fully co-operating with the infantry.

The preliminary moves for the attack were made during the night. The
179th Infantry Brigade group consisting of 2/13th London, 2/14th
London, 2/15th London, and 2/16th London with the 2/23rd London
attached, the 10th Mountain Battery and B 9 Mountain Battery, a
section of the 521st Field Coy. R.E., C company of Loyal North
Lancashire Pioneers, and the 2/4th Field Ambulance specially equipped
on an all-mule scale, moved to the wadi Surar in two columns. The
right column was preceded by an advance guard of the Kensington
battalion, the Loyal North Lancashire Pioneers, and the section of
R.E., which left the brigade bivouacs behind Soba at five o'clock
on the afternoon of the 7th to enable the pioneers and engineers to
improve a track marked on the map. For the greater part of the way the
track had evidently been unused for many years, and all traces of it
had disappeared, but in three hours' time a way had been made down the
hill to the wadi, and the brigade got over the watercourse just north
of Setaf a little after midnight. As a preliminary to the attack on
the first objective it was necessary to secure the high ground south
of Ain Karim and the trenches covering that bright and picturesque
little town. At two o'clock, when rain and mist made it so dark it was
not possible to see a wall a couple of yards ahead, the Kensingtons
advanced to gain the heights south of Ain Karim in order to enable
the 179th Brigade to be deployed. A scrambling climb brought the
Kensingtons to the top of the hill, and, after a weird fight of
an hour and a half in such blackness of night that it was hard to
distinguish between friend and foe, they captured it and beat off
several persistent counter-attacks. The 179th Brigade thus had the
ground secured for preparing to attack their section of the main
defences. The 180th Infantry Brigade, whose brigadier, Brig.-General
Watson, had the honour of being the first general in Jerusalem, the
first across the Jordan, and the first to get through the Turkish line
in September 1918 when General Allenby sprang forward through the
Turks and made the mighty march to Aleppo, was composed of the 2/17th
London, 2/18th London, 2/19th London, and 2/20th London, 519th Coy.
R.E., two platoons of pioneers, and the 2/5th Field Ambulance. It
reached its position of assembly without serious opposition, though a
detachment which went through the village of Kulonieh met some enemy
posts. These, to use the brigadier's phrase, were 'silently dealt
with.'

It was a fine feat to get the two brigades of Londoners into their
positions of deployment well up to time. The infantry had to get from
Kustul down a precipitous slope of nearly a thousand feet into a wadi,
now a rushing torrent, and up a rocky and almost as steep hill on the
other side. Nobody could see where he was going, but direction was
kept perfectly and silence was well maintained, the loosened stones
falling into mud. The assault was launched at a quarter-past five, and
in ten minutes under two hours the two brigades (the 181st Brigade
being in reserve just south of Kustul) had penetrated the whole of the
front line of the defences. The Queen's Westminsters on the left
of the Kensingtons had cleared the Turks out of Ain Karim and then
climbed up a steep spur to attack the formidable Khurbet Subr
defences. They took the garrison completely by surprise, and those
who did not flee were either killed or taken prisoners. The Queen's
Westminsters were exposed to a heavy flanking fire at a range of about
a thousand yards from a tumulus south-east of Ain Karim, above the
road from the village to the western suburbs of Jerusalem. Turkish
riflemen were firmly dug in on this spot, and their two machine
guns poured in an annoying fire on the 179th Brigade troops which
threatened to hold up the attack. Indeed preparations were being made
to send a company to take the tumulus hill in flank, but two gallant
London Scots settled the activity of the enemy and captured the
position by themselves. Corporal C.W. Train and Corporal F.S.
Thornhill stalked the garrison. Corporal Train fired a rifle grenade
at one machine gun, which he hit and put out of action, and then shot
the whole of the gun team. Thornhill was attacking the other gun, and
he, with the assistance of Train, accounted for that crew as well. The
two guns were captured and Tumulus Hill gave no more trouble. Both
these Scots were rewarded, and Train has the unique honour of wearing
the only V.C. awarded during the capture of Jerusalem.

At about the same time there was another very gallant piece of work
being done by two men of the Queen's Westminsters above the Khurbet
Subr ridge. When the battalion got to the first objective an enemy
battery of 77's was found in action on the reverse slope of the hill.
The guns were firing from a hollow near the Ain Karim-Jerusalem track,
some 600 yards behind the forward trenches on Subr, and were showing
an uncomfortable activity. A company was pushed forward to engage the
battery. The movement was exposed to a good deal of sniping fire, and
it was not a simple matter for riflemen to work ahead on to a knoll on
the east of the Subr position to deal with the guns. To two men may be
given the credit for capturing the battery. Lance-Corporal W.H. Whines
of the Westminsters got along quickly and brought his Lewis gun to
bear on the battery and, with an admirably directed fire, caused many
casualties. Two gun teams were wiped out, either killed or wounded, by
the corporal. At the same time Rifleman C.D. Smith, who had followed
his comrade, rushed in on another team and bombed it. Smith's rifle
had been smashed and was useless, but with his bombs he laid low all
except one man. His supply was then exhausted, but before the Turk
could use his weapons Smith got to grips and a rare wrestling
bout followed. The Turk would not surrender, and Smith gave him a
stranglehold and broke his neck. The enemy managed to get one of the
four guns away. The battery horses were near at hand, but while this
one gun was escaping at the gallop the Westminsters' fire brought
down one horse and two drivers, and I saw their bodies on the road as
evidence of how the Westminsters had developed the art of shooting at
a rapidly moving target. The two incidents I have described in detail
merely as examples of the fighting prowess, not only of one but of all
three divisions alike in the capture of Jerusalem. Perhaps it would
be fairer to say that they were examples of the spirit of General
Allenby's whole force, for English, Scottish, Irish, Welsh,
Australians, New Zealanders, Indians, cavalry, infantry, and
artillery, had all, during the six weeks of the campaign, shown the
same high qualities in irresistible attack and stubborn defence.

The position of the 179th Brigade at this time was about one mile east
of Ain Karim, where it was exposed to heavy enfilade fire from its
right and, as it was obvious that the advance of the 53rd Division had
been delayed owing to the fog and rain, the brigadier decided not to
go further during the early part of the day but to wait till he could
be supported by the mountain batteries, which the appalling state of
the ground had prevented from keeping up with him.

Now as to the advance of the 180th Infantry Brigade. Their principal
objective was the Deir Yesin position, the hill next on the northern
side of Subr, from which it was separated by a deep though narrow
valley. The trenches cut on both sides of this gorge supported Subr
as well as Deir Yesin, and the Subr defences were also arranged to be
helpful to the Deir Yesin garrison by taking attackers in flank. The
180th Brigade's advance was a direct frontal attack on the hill, the
jumping-off place being a narrow width of flat ground thickly planted
with olive trees on the banks of the wadi Surar. The 2/19th Londons,
the right battalion of the 180th Brigade, had not got far when it
became the target of concentrated machine-gun fire and was unable to
move, with the result that a considerable gap existed between it and
the 179th Brigade. The stoppage was only temporary, for, with the
advance of the centre and right, the 19th battalion pushed forward in
series of rushes and, with the other battalions, carried the crest of
Deir Yesin at the point of the bayonet, so that the whole system of
entrenchments was in their hands by seven o'clock. The brigade at once
set about reorganising for the attack on the second objective, which,
as will be remembered, was a wheel to the left and, passing well on
the outside of the western suburbs of Jerusalem, an advance to the
rocky ground to the north-west of the city down to the wadi Beit
Hannina. The commander of the 2/18th Londons in his preparations
had pushed out a platoon in advance of his left, and these men at
half-past nine saw 200 of the enemy with pack mules retiring down a
wadi north-east of Kulonieh. The platoon held its fire until the Turks
were within close range, and then engaged them with rifles and machine
guns, completely surprising them and taking prisoners the whole of the
survivors, 5 officers and 50 men. The Turks now began to develop a
serious opposition to the 180th Brigade from a quarry behind Deir
Yesin and from a group of houses forming part of what is known as the
Syrian colony, nearly a mile from the Deir Yesin system. There were
some Germans and a number of machine guns in these houses, and by noon
they held up the advance.

The brigade was seriously handicapped by the difficulty in moving
guns. The road during the morning had got into a desperate state. It
was next to impossible to haul field guns anywhere off the road, and
as the Turks had paid no attention to the highway for some time--or
where they had done something it was merely to dump down large stones
to fill a particularly bad hole--it had become deeply rutted and
covered with a mass of adhesive mud. The guns had to pass down from
Kustul by a series of zigzags with hairpin bends in full view of enemy
observers, and it was only by the greatest exertion and devotion to
duty that the gunners got their teams into the neighbourhood of
the wadi. The bridge over the Surar at Kulonieh having been wholly
destroyed, they had to negotiate the wadi, which was now in torrent
and carrying away the waters which had washed the face of the hills
over a wide area. The artillery made a track through a garden on the
right of the village just before the road reached the broken bridge,
and two batteries, the 301st and 302nd, got their guns and limbers
across. They went up the old track leading from Kulonieh to Jerusalem,
when first one section and then another came into action at a spot
between Deir Yesin and Heart Redoubt, where both batteries were
subjected to a close-range rifle fire.

For several hours the artillery fought their guns with superb courage,
and remained in action until the fire from the houses was silenced by
a brilliant infantry attack. At half-past one General Watson decided
he would attack the enemy on a ridge in front of the houses of the
Syrian colony with the 18th and 19th battalions. With them were units
of other battalions of the Brigade. Soon after three o'clock they
advanced under heavy fire from guns, machine guns, and rifles, and at
a quarter to four a glorious bayonet charge, during which the London
boys went through Germans and Turks in one overwhelming stride, sealed
the fate of the Turk in Jerusalem. That bayonet charge was within
sight of the Corps Commander, who was with General Shea at his
look-out on Kustul, and when he saw the flash of steel driven home
with unerring certainty by his magnificent men, General Chetwode may
well have felt thankful that he had been given such troops with which
to deliver Jerusalem from the Turks. The 74th Division, having taken
the whole of its first objectives early in the morning and having
throughout the day supported the left of the London Division, was
ready to commence operations against the second objective. The
dismounted yeomanry, whose condition through the wet and mud was
precisely similar to that of the 60th Division troops, for they, too,
had found the hills barren of shelter and equally cold, did extremely
well in forcing the enemy from his stronghold on the hill covering
Beit Iksa and the Kulonieh-Jerusalem road, from which, had he not been
ejected, he could have harassed the Londoners' left. The Beit Iksa
defences were carried by a most determined rush. A gallant attempt was
also made to get the El Burj ridge which runs south-east from Nebi
Samwil, but owing to strong enfilade fire from the right they could
not get on.

There was no doubt in any minds that Jerusalem would be ours, but the
difficulties the 53rd Division were contending with had slowed down
their advance. Thus the right flank of the 60th Division was exposed
and a considerable body of Turks was known to be south of Jerusalem.
Late in the afternoon the advance was ordered to be stopped, and the
positions gained to be held. With a view to continuing the advance
next day the 181st Brigade (2/21st London, 2/22nd London, 2/23rd
London, and 2/24th London) was ordered to get into a position of
readiness to pass through the 179th Brigade and resume the attack
on the right of the 180th Brigade. On the evening of December 8 the
position of the attacking force was this. The 53rd Division (I will
deal presently with the advance of this Division) was across the
Bethlehem-Hebron road from El Keiseraniyeh, two miles south of
Bethlehem, to Ras el Balua in an east and west direction, then
north-west to the hill of Haud Kibriyan with its flank thrown south to
cover Kh. el Kuseir. The 10th Australian Light Horse were at Malhah.
The 179th and 180th Brigades of the 60th Division occupied positions
extending from Malhah through a line more than a mile east of the
captured defences west of Jerusalem to Lifta, with the 181st Brigade
in divisional reserve near Kustul. The 229th and 230th Brigades of the
74th Division held a due north and south line from the Jaffa-Jerusalem
road about midway between Kulonieh and Lifta through Beit Iksa to Nebi
Samwil. The 53rd Division had not reached their line without enormous
trouble. But for the two days' rain and fog it is quite possible that
the whole of the four objectives planned by the XXth Corps would have
been gained, and whether any substantial body of Turks could have left
the vicinity of Jerusalem by either the Nablus or Jericho roads is
doubtful. The weather proved to be the Turks' ally. The 53rd Division
battled against it. Until fog came down to prevent reconnaissance
in an extremely bad bit of country they were well up to their march
table, and in the few clear moments of the afternoon of the 7th,
General Mott, from the top of Ras esh Sherifeh, a hill 3237 feet high,
the most prominent feature south of Jerusalem, caught a glimpse of
Bethlehem and the Holy City. It was only a temporary break in the
weather, and the fog came down again so thick that neither the
positions of the Bethlehem defences nor those of Beit Jala could be
reconnoitred.

The Division, after withstanding the repeated shocks of enemy attacks
at Khuweilfeh immediately following the taking of Beersheba, had had a
comparatively light time watching the Hebron road. They constructed
a track over the mountains to get the Division to Dharahiyeh when
it should be ordered to take part in the attack on the Jerusalem
defences, and while they were waiting at Dilbeih they did much to
improve the main road. The famous zigzag on the steep ridge between
Dharahiyeh and Dilbeih was in good condition, and you saw German
thoroughness in the gradients, in the well-banked bends, and in the
masonry walls which held up the road where it had been cut in the side
of a hill. It was the most difficult part of the road, and the
Germans had taken as much care of it as they would of a road in the
Fatherland--because it was the way by which they hoped to get to the
Suez Canal. Other portions of the road required renewing, and the
labour which the Welshmen devoted to the work helped the feeding of
the Division not only during the march to Jerusalem but for several
weeks after it had passed through it to the hills on the east and
north-east. The rations and stores for this Division were carried by
the main railway through Shellal to Karm, were thence transported by
limber to a point on the Turks' line to Beersheba, which had been
repaired but was without engines, were next hauled in trucks by mules
on the railway track, and finally placed in lorries at Beersheba
for carriage up the Hebron road. At this time the capacity of the
Latron-Jerusalem road was taxed to the utmost, and every bit of the
Welshmen's spadework was repaid a hundredfold. The 159th Brigade got
into Hebron on the night of the 5th of December, but instead of going
north of it--if they had done so an enemy cavalry patrol would have
seen them--they set to work to repair the road through the old
Biblical town, for the enemy had blown holes in the highway. Next day
the infantry had a ten-miles' march and made the wadi Arab, a brigade
being left in Hebron to watch that area, the natives of which were
reported as not being wholly favourable to us. There were many rifles
in the place, and a number of unarmed Turks were believed to be in the
rough country between the town and the Dead Sea ready to return to
take up arms. Armoured cars also remained in Hebron. The infantry and
field artillery occupied the roads during the day, and the heavy guns
came along at night and joined the infantry as the latter were about
to set off again.

On the night of the 6th the Division got to a strong line unopposed
and saw enemy cavalry on the southern end of Sherifeh, on which the
Turks had constructed a powerful system of defences, the traverses and
breastworks of which were excellently made. In front of the hill the
road took a bend to the west, and the whole of the highway from this
point was exposed to the ground in enemy hands south of Bethlehem, and
it was necessary to make good the hills to the east before we could
control this road. Next morning the 7th Cheshires, supported by the
4th Welsh, deployed and advanced direct on Sherifeh and gained the
summit soon after dawn in time to see small parties of enemy cavalry
moving off; then the fog and rain enveloped everything. The 4th Welsh
held the hill during the night in pouring rain with no rations--pack
mules could not get up the height--and the men having no greatcoats
were perished with the cold. Colonel Pemberton, their C.O., came down
to report the men all right, and asked for no relief till the morning
when they could be brought back to their transport. The General went
beyond Solomon's Pools and was within rifle fire from the Turkish
trenches in his efforts to reconnoitre, but it was impossible to see
ahead, and instead of being able to begin his attack in the Beit
Jala-Bethlehem area on the morning of the 8th, that morning arrived
before any reconnaissance could be made. He decided to attack on the
high ground of Beit Jala (two miles north-west of Bethlehem) from the
south, to send his divisional cavalry, the Westminster Dragoons, on
the infantry's left to threaten Beit Jala from the west and to refuse
Bethlehem.

Before developing this attack it was essential to drive the enemy off
the observation post looking down upon the main road along which the
guns and troops had to pass. The fog enabled the guns to pass up the
road, although the Turks had seven mountain guns in the gardens of a
big house south of Bethlehem and had registered the road to a yard.
They also had a heavy gun outside the town. The weather cleared at
intervals about noon, but about two o'clock a dense fog came down
again and once more the advance was held up. Late in the afternoon the
Welsh Division troops reached the high ground west and south-west of
Beit Jala, but the defences of Bethlehem on the south had still to be
taken. Advance guards were sent into Bethlehem and Beit Jala during
the night, and by early morning of the 9th it was found that the enemy
had left, and the leading brigade pressed on, reaching Mar Elias,
midway between Bethlehem and Jerusalem, by eleven o'clock, and the
southern outskirts of Jerusalem an hour later.

Meanwhile the 60th and 74th Divisions had actively patrolled their
fronts during the night, and the Turks having tasted the quality of
British bayonets made no attempt to recover any of the lost positions.
We had outposts well up the road above Lifta, and at half-past eight
they saw a white flag approaching. The nearest officer was a commander
of the 302nd Brigade Royal Field Artillery, to whom the Mayor, the
head of the Husseiny family, descendants of the Prophet and hereditary
mayors of Jerusalem, signified his desire to surrender the City.
The Mayor was accompanied by the Chief of Police and two of the
gendarmerie, and while communications were passing between General
Shea, General Chetwode and General Headquarters, General Watson rode
as far as the Jaffa Gate of the Holy City to learn what was happening
in the town. I believe Major Montagu Cooke, one of the officers of the
302nd Artillery Brigade, was the first officer actually in the town,
and I understand that whilst he and his orderly were in the Post
Office a substantial body of Turks turned the corner outside the
building and passed down the Jericho road quite unconscious of the
near presence of a British officer. General Shea was deputed by the
Commander-in-Chief to enter Jerusalem in order to accept the surrender
of the City. It was a simple little ceremony, lasting but a minute
or two, free from any display of strength, and a fitting prelude to
General Allenby's official entry. At half-past twelve General Shea,
with his aide-de-camp and a guard of honour furnished by the 2/17th
Londons, met the Mayor, who formally surrendered the City. To the
Chief of Police General Shea gave instructions for the maintenance
of order, and guards were placed over the public buildings. Then the
commander of the 60th Division left to continue the direction of his
troops who were making the Holy City secure from Turkish attacks. I
believe the official report ran: 'Thus at 12.30 the Holy City was
surrendered for the twenty-third time, and for the first time to
British arms, and on this occasion without bloodshed among the
inhabitants or damage to the buildings in the City itself.'

Simple as was the surrender of Jerusalem, there were scenes in the
streets during the short half-hour of General Shea's visit which
reflected the feeling of half the civilised world on receiving the
news. It was a world event. This deliverance of Jerusalem from Turkish
misgovernment was bound to stir the emotions of Christian, Jewish, and
Moslem communities in the two hemispheres. In a war in which the
moral effect of victories was only slightly less important than a
big strategical triumph, Jerusalem was one of the strongest possible
positions for the Allies to win, and it is not making too great a
claim to say that the capture of the Holy City by British arms gave
more satisfaction to countless millions of people than did the winning
back for France of any big town on the Western Front. The latter might
be more important from a military standpoint, but among the people,
especially neutrals, it would be regarded merely as a passing incident
in the ebb and flow of the tide of war. Bagdad had an important
influence on the Eastern mind; Jerusalem affected Christian, Jew, and
Moslem alike the world over. The War Cabinet regarded the taking of
Jerusalem by British Imperial troops in so important a light that
orders were given to hold up correspondents' messages and any
telegrams the military attachés might write until the announcement of
the victory had been made to the world by a Minister in the House of
Commons. This instruction was officially communicated to me before we
took Jerusalem, and I believe it was the case that the world received
the first news when the mouthpiece of the Government gave it to
the chosen representatives of the British people in the Mother of
Parliaments.

The end of Ottoman dominion over the cradle of Christianity, a place
held in reverence by the vast majority of the peoples of the Old and
New World, made a deep and abiding impression, and as long as people
hold dearly to their faiths, sentiment will make General Allenby's
victory one of the greatest triumphs of the war. The relief of the
people of Jerusalem, as well as their confidence that we were there
to stay, manifested itself when General Shea drove into the City. The
news had gone abroad that the General was to arrive about noon, and
all Jerusalem came into the streets to welcome him. They clapped their
hands and raised shrill cries of delight in a babel of tongues.
Women threw flowers into the car and spread palm leaves on the road.
Scarcely had the Turks left, probably before they had all gone and
while the guns were still banging outside the entrances to Jerusalem,
stray pieces of bunting which had done duty on many another day were
hung out to signify the popular pleasure at the end of an old, hard,
extortionate regime and the beginning of an era of happiness and
freedom.

After leaving Jerusalem the enemy took up a strong position on the
hills north and north-east of the City from which he had to be driven
before Jerusalem was secure from counter-attack. During the morning
General Chetwode gave orders for a general advance to the line laid
down in his original plan of attack, which may be described as the
preliminary line for the defence of Jerusalem. The 180th and 181st
Brigades were already on the move, and some of the 53rd Division had
marched by the main road outside the Holy City's walls to positions
from which they were to attempt to drive the enemy off the Mount of
Olives. The 180th Brigade, fresh and strong but still wet and muddy,
went forward rapidly over the boulders on the hills east of the wadi
Beit Hannina and occupied the rugged height of Shafat at half-past
one. Shafat is about two miles north of Jerusalem. In another
half-hour they had driven the Turks from the conical top of Tel el
Ful, that sugar-loaf hill which dominates the Nablus road, and which
before the end of the year was to be the scene of an epic struggle
between Londoner and Turk. The 181st Brigade, on debouching from
the suburbs of Jerusalem north-east of Lifta, was faced with heavy
machine-gun and rifle fire on the ridge running from the western edge
of the Mount of Olives across the Nablus road through Kh. es Salah.
On the left the 180th Brigade lent support, and at four o'clock the
2/21st and 2/24th Londons rushed the ridge with the bayonet and drove
off the Turks, who left seventy dead behind them. The London Division
that night established itself on the line from a point a thousand
yards north of Jerusalem and east of the Nablus road through Ras
Meshari to Tel el Ful, thence westwards to the wadi behind the
olive orchards south of Beit Hannina. The 74th Division reached its
objective without violent opposition, and its line ran from north of
Nebi Samwil to the height of Beit Hannina and out towards Tel el
Ful. The 53rd Division was strongly opposed when it got round the
south-east of Jerusalem on to the Jericho road in the direction of
Aziriyeh (Bethany), and it was necessary to clear the Turks from the
Mount of Olives. Troops of the Welsh Division moved round the Holy
City and drove the enemy off the Mount, following them down the
eastern spurs, and thus denied them any direct observation over
Jerusalem. The next day they pushed the enemy still farther eastwards,
and by the night of the 10th held the line from the well at Azad, 4000
yards south-east of Jerusalem, the hill 1500 yards south of Aziriyeh,
Aziriyeh itself, to the Mount of Olives, whence our positions
continued to Ras et Tawil, north of Tel el Ful across the Nablus road
to Nebi Samwil. This was our first line of positions for the defence
of Jerusalem, and we continued to hold these strong points for some
time. They were gradually extended on the east and north-east by the
Welsh Division in order to prevent an attack from the direction of
Jericho, where we knew the Turks had received reinforcements. Indeed,
during our attack on the Jerusalem position the Turks had withdrawn a
portion of their force on the Hedjaz railway. A regiment had passed
through Jericho from the Hedjaz line at Amman and was marching up
the road to assist in Jerusalem's defence, but was 'Too late.'
The regiment was turned back when we had captured Jerusalem. Our
casualties from November 28 to December 10--these figures include the
heavy fighting about Tahta, Foka, and Nebi Samwil prior to the XXth
Corps' attack on the Jerusalem defences--were: officers, 21 killed,
64 wounded, 3 missing; other ranks, 247 killed, 1163 wounded, 169
missing, a total of 1667. The casualties of the 60th Division during
the attack on and advance north of Jerusalem on December 8-9 are
interesting, because they were so extremely light considering the
strength of the defences captured and the difficulties of the ground,
namely: 8 officers killed and 24 wounded, 98 other ranks killed, 420
wounded and 3 missing, a total of 553. The total for the whole of the
XXth Corps on these days was 12 officers killed, 35 wounded, and 137
other ranks killed, 636 wounded and 7 missing--in all 47 officers and
780 other ranks. The prisoners taken from November 28 to December 10
were: 76 officers, 1717 other ranks--total, 1793. On December 8 and 9,
68 officers and 918 other ranks--986 in all--were captured. The
booty included two 4-2 Krupp howitzers, three 77-mm. field guns and
carriages, nine heavy and three light machine guns, 137 boxes of
small-arms ammunition, and 103,000 loose rounds.



CHAPTER XV

GENERAL ALLENBY'S OFFICIAL ENTRY


Jerusalem became supremely happy.

It had passed through the trials, if not the perils, of war. It had
been the headquarters and base of a Turkish Army. Great bodies
of troops were never quartered there, but staffs and depôts were
established in the City, and being in complete control, the military
paid little regard to the needs of the population. Unfortunately a not
inconsiderable section of Jerusalem's inhabitants is content to live,
not by its own handiwork, but on the gifts of charitable religious
people of all creeds. When war virtually shut off Jerusalem from the
outer world the lot of the poor became precarious. The food of the
country, just about sufficient for self-support, was to a large extent
commandeered for the troops, and while prices rose the poor could not
buy, and either their appeals did not reach the benevolent or funds
were intercepted. Deaths from starvation were numbered by the
thousand, Jews, Christians, and Moslems alike suffering, and there
were few civilians in the Holy City who were not hungry for months at
a time.

When I reached Jerusalem the people were at the height of their
excitement over the coming of the British and they put the best face
on their condition, but the freely expressed feeling of relief that
the days of hunger torture were nearly past did not remove the signs
of want and misery, of infinite suffering by father, mother, and
child, brought about by a long period of starvation. That a people,
pale, thin, bent, whose movements had become listless under the lash
of hunger, could have been stirred into enthusiasm by the appearance
of a khaki coat, that they could throw off the lethargy which comes
of acute want, was only to be accounted for by the existence of a
profound belief that we had been sent to deliver them. Some hours
before the Official Entry I was walking in David Street when a Jewish
woman, seeing that I was English, stopped me and said: 'We have prayed
for this day. To-day I shall sing "God Save our Gracious King, Long
Live our Noble King." We have been starving, but what does that
matter? Now we are liberated and free.' She clasped her hands across
her breasts and exclaimed several times, 'Oh how thankful we are.' An
elderly man in a black robe, whose pinched pale face told of a long
period of want, caught me by the hand and said: 'God has delivered us.
Oh how happy we are.' An American worker in a Red Crescent hospital,
who had lived in Jerusalem for upwards of ten years and knew the
people well, assured me there was not one person in the Holy City who
in his heart was not devoutly thankful for our victory. He told me
that on the day we captured Nebi Samwil three wounded Arab officers
were brought to the hospital. One of them spoke English--it was
astonishing how many people could speak our mother tongue--and
while he was having his wounds dressed he exclaimed: 'I can shout
Hip-hip-hurrah for England now.' The officer was advised to be
careful, as there were many Turkish wounded in the hospital, but he
replied he did not care, and in unrestrained joy cried out, 'Hurrah
for England.'

The deplorable lot of the people had been made harder by profiteering
officers. Those who had money had to part with it for Turkish paper.
The Turkish note was depreciated to about one-fifth of its face value.
German officers traded in the notes for gold, sent the notes
to Germany where, by a financial arrangement concluded between
Constantinople and Berlin, they were accepted at face value. The
German officer and soldier got richer the more they forced Turkish
paper down. Turkish officers bought considerable supplies of wheat and
flour from military depôts, the cost being debited against their pay
which was paid in paper. They then sold the goods for gold. That
accounted for the high prices of foodstuffs, the price in gold being
taken for the market valuation.

In the middle of November when there was a prospect of the Turks
evacuating Jerusalem, the officers sold out their stocks of provisions
and prices became less prohibitive, but they rose again quickly when
it was decided to defend the City, and the cost of food mounted to
almost famine prices. The Turks by selling for gold that which was
bought for paper, rechanging gold for paper at their own prices,
made huge profits and caused a heavy depreciation of the note at the
expense of the population. Grain was brought from the district east of
the Dead Sea, but none of it found its way to civilian mouths except
through the extortionate channel provided by officers. Yet when we got
into Jerusalem there were people with small stocks of flour who were
willing to make flat loaves of unleavened bread for sale to our
troops. The soldiers had been living for weeks on hard biscuit and
bully beef, and many were willing to pay a shilling for a small cake
of bread. They did not know that the stock of flour in the town was
desperately low and that by buying this bread they were almost taking
it out of the mouths of the poor. Some traders were so keen on getting
good money, not paper, that they tried to do business on this footing,
looking to the British Army to come to the aid of the people. The Army
soon put a stop to this trade and the troops were prohibited
from buying bread in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. As it was, the
Quarter-master-General's branch had to send a large quantity of
foodstuffs into the towns, and this was done at a time when it was a
most anxious task to provision the troops. Those were very trying days
for the supply and transport departments, and one wonders whether
the civilian population ever realised the extent of the humanitarian
efforts of our Army staff.

During the period when no attempt was made to alleviate the lot of the
people the Turks gave them a number of lessons in frightfulness. There
were public executions to show the severity of military law. Gallows
were erected outside the Jaffa Gate and the victims were left hanging
for hours as a warning to the population. I have seen a photograph of
six natives who suffered the penalty, with their executioners standing
at the swinging feet of their victims. Before the first battle of Gaza
the Turks brought the rich Mufti of Gaza and his son to Jerusalem,
and the Mufti was hanged in the presence of a throng compulsorily
assembled to witness the execution. The son was shot. Their only crime
was that they were believed to have expressed approval of Britain's
policy in dealing with Moslem races. Thus were the people terrorised.
They knew the Turkish ideas of justice, and dared not talk of events
happening in the town even in the seclusion of their homes. The evils
of war, as war is practised by the Turk, left a mark on Jerusalem's
population which will be indelible for this generation, despite the
wondrous change our Army has wrought in the people.

When General Allenby had broken through the Gaza line the Turks in
Jerusalem despaired of saving the City. That all the army papers were
brought from Hebron on November 10, shows that even at that date von
Kress still imagined we would come up the Hebron road, though he had
learnt to his cost that a mighty column was moving through the coastal
sector and that our cavalry were cutting across the country to join
it. The notorious Enver reached Jerusalem from the north on November
12 and went down to Hebron. On his return it was reported that the
Turks would leave Jerusalem, the immediate sale of officers' stocks of
foodstuffs giving colour to the rumour. Undoubtedly some preparations
were made to evacuate the place, but the temptation to hold on was too
great. One can see the influence of the German mind in the Turkish
councils of war. At a moment when they were flashing the wireless news
throughout the world that their Caporetto victory meant the driving of
Italy out of the war they did not want the icy blast of Jerusalem's
fall to tell of disaster to their hopes in the East. Accordingly on
the 16th 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 past, while the reverent attitude involuntarily
adopted by every man when seeing the Sacred Places suggested that no
Crusader Army or band of pilgrims ever came to the Holy Land under a
more pious influence. Many times have I watched the troops of General
Allenby in the streets of Jerusalem. They bore themselves as soldiers
and gentlemen, and if they had been selected to go there simply to
impress the people they could not have more worthily upheld the good
fame of their nation. These soldier missionaries of the Empire left
behind them a record which will be remembered for generations.

If it had been possible to consult the British people as to the
details to be observed at the ceremony of the Official Entry into
Jerusalem, the vast majority would surely have approved General
Allenby's programme. Americans tell us the British as a nation do
not know how to advertise. Our part in the war generally proves the
accuracy of that statement, but the Official Entry into Jerusalem will
stand out as one great exception. By omitting to make a great
parade of his victory--one may count elaborate ceremonial as
advertisement--General Allenby gave Britain her best advertisement.
The simple, dignified, and, one may also justly say, humble order of
ceremony was the creation of a truly British mind. To impress the
inhabitant of the East things must be done on a lavish ostentatious
scale, for gold and glitter and tinsel go a long way to form a
native's estimate of power. But there are times when the native is
shrewd enough to realise that pomp and circumstance do not always
indicate strength, and that dignity is more powerful than display.
Contrast the German Emperor's visit to Jerusalem with General
Allenby's Official Entry. The Kaiser brought a retinue clothed in
white and red, and blue and gold, with richly caparisoned horses, and,
like a true showman, he himself affected some articles of Arab dress.
He rode into the Holy City--where One before had walked--and a wide
breach was even made in those ancient walls for a German progress. All
this to advertise the might and power of Germany.

In parenthesis I may state we are going to restore those walls to the
condition they were in before German hands defiled them. The General
who by capturing Jerusalem helped us so powerfully to bring Germany
to her knees and humble her before the world, entered on foot by an
ancient way, the Jaffa Gate, called by the native 'Bab-el-Khalil,'
or the Friend. In this hallowed spot there was no great pageantry of
arms, no pomp and panoply, no display of the mighty strength of a
victorious army, no thunderous salutes to acclaim a world-resounding
victory destined to take its place in the chronicles of all time.
There was no enemy flag to haul down and no flags were hoisted. There
were no soldier shouts of triumph over a defeated foe, no bells in
ancient belfrys rang, no Te Deums were sung, and no preacher mounted
the rostrum to eulogise the victors or to point the moral to the
multitude. A small, almost meagre procession, consisting of the
Commander-in-Chief and his Staff, with a guard of honour, less than
150 all told, passed through the gate unheralded by a single trumpet
note; a purely military act with a minimum of military display told
the people that the old order had changed, yielding place to new. The
native mind, keen, discerning, receptive, understood the meaning and
depth of this simplicity, and from the moment of high noon on December
11, 1917, when General Allenby went into the Mount Zion quarter of the
Holy City, the British name rested on a foundation as certain and sure
as the rock on which the Holy City stands. Right down in the hearts of
a people who cling to Jerusalem with the deepest reverence and piety
there was unfeigned delight. They realised that four centuries of
Ottoman dominion over the Holy City of Christians and Jews, and 'the
sanctuary' of Mahomedans, had ended, and that Jerusalem the Golden,
the central Site of Sacred History, was liberated for all creeds from
the blighting influence of the Turk. And while war had wrought this
beneficent change the population saw in this epoch-marking victory a
merciful guiding Hand, for it had been achieved without so much as a
stone of the City being scratched or a particle of its ancient dust
disturbed. The Sacred Monuments and everything connected with the
Great Life and its teaching were passed on untouched by our Army.
Rightly did the people rejoice.

When General Allenby went into Jerusalem all fears had passed away.
The Official Entry was made while there was considerable fighting on
the north and east of the City, where our lines were nowhere more than
7000 yards off. The guns were firing, the sounds of bursts of musketry
were carried down on the wind, whilst droning aeroplane engines in the
deep-blue vault overhead told of our flying men denying a passage to
enemy machines. The stern voices of war were there in all their harsh
discordancy, but the people knew they were safe in the keeping of
British soldiers and came out to make holiday. General Allenby motored
into the suburbs of Jerusalem by the road from Latron which the
pioneers had got into some sort of order. The business of war was
going on, and the General's car took its place on the highway on even
terms with the lorry, which at that time when supplying the front was
the most urgent task and had priority on the roads. The people had put
on gala raiment. From the outer fringe of Jerusalem the Jaffa road was
blocked not merely with the inhabitants of the City but with people
who had followed in the Army's wake from Bethlehem. It was a
picturesque throng. There were sombre-clad Jews of all nationalities,
Armenians, Greeks, Russians, and all the peoples who make Jerusalem
the most cosmopolitan of cities. To the many styles of European dress
the brighter robes of the East gave vivid colour, and it was obvious
from the remarkably free and spontaneous expression of joy of these
people, who at the end of three years of war had such strong faith in
our fight for freedom, that they recognised freedom was permanently
won to all races and creeds by the victory at Jerusalem. The most
significant of all the signs was the attitude of Moslems. The Turks
had preached the Holy War, but they knew the hollowness of the cry,
and the natives, abandoning their natural reserve, joined in loud
expression of welcome. From flat-topped roofs, balconies, and streets
there were cries of 'Bravo!' and 'Hurrah!' uttered by men and women
who probably never spoke the words before, and quite close to the
Jaffa Gate I saw three old Mahomedans clap their hands while tears of
joy coursed down their cheeks. Their hearts were too full to utter a
word. There could be no doubt of the sincerity of this enthusiasm. The
crowd was more demonstrative than is usual with popular assemblies in
the East, but the note struck was not one of jubilation so much as
of thankfulness at the relief from an insufferable bondage of bad
government. Outside the Jaffa Gate was an Imperial guard of honour
drawn from men who had fought stoutly for the victory. In the British
Guard of fifty of all ranks were English, Scottish, Irish, and Welsh
troops, steel-helmeted and carrying the kit they had an hour or two
earlier brought with them from the front line. Opposite them were
fifty dismounted men of the Australian Light Horse and New Zealand
Mounted Rifles, the Australians, under the command of Captain
Throssel, V.C., being drawn from the 10th Light Horse regiment, which
had been employed in the capture of Jerusalem on the right of the
London Division. These Colonial troops had earned their place, for
they had done the work of the vanguard in the Sinai Desert, and their
victories over the Turks on many a hard-won field in the torrid heat
of summer had paved the way for this greater triumph. A French and an
Italian guard of honour was posted inside the Jaffa Gate. As I have
previously said, the Italians had held a portion of the line in front
of Gaza with a composite brigade, but the French troops had not yet
been in action in Palestine, though their Navy had assisted with a
battleship in the Gaza bombardment. We welcomed the participation of
the representatives of our Allies in the Official Entry, as it showed
to those of their nationality in Jerusalem that we were fighting
the battle of freedom for them all. Outside the Jaffa Gate the
Commander-in-Chief was received by Major-General Borton, who had
been appointed Military Governor of the City, and a procession being
formed, General Allenby passed between the iron gates to within the
City walls. Preceded by two aides-de-camp the Commander-in-Chief
advanced with the commander of the French Palestine detachment on his
right and the commander of the Italian Palestine detachment on his
left. Four Staff officers followed. Then came Brigadier-General
Clayton, Political Officer; M. Picot, head of the French Mission; and
the French, Italian, and United States Military Attachés. The Chief
of the General Staff (Major-General Sir L.J. Bols) and the
Brigadier-General General Staff (Brigadier-General G. Dawnay) marched
slightly ahead of Lieutenant-General Sir Philip W. Chetwode, the XXth
Corps Commander, and Brigadier-General Bartholomew, who was General
Chetwode's B.G.G.S. The guard closed in behind. That was all.

The procession came to a halt at the steps of El Kala, the Citadel,
which visitors to Jerusalem will better remember as the entrance to
David's Tower. Here the Commander-in-Chief and his Staff formed up on
the steps with the notables of the City behind them, to listen to the
reading of the Proclamation in several languages. That Proclamation,
telling the people they could pursue their lawful business without
interruption and promising that every sacred building, monument, holy
spot, shrine, traditional site, endowment, pious bequest, or customary
place of prayer of whatsoever form of three of the great religions
of mankind would be maintained and protected according to existing
customs and beliefs to those to whose faiths they are sacred, made
a deep impression on the populace. So you could judge from the
expressions on faces and the frequent murmurs of approval, and it was
interesting to note how, when the procession was being re-formed, many
Christians, Jews, and Moslems broke away from the crowd to run and
spread the good news in their respective quarters. How faithfully and
with what scrupulous care our promises have been kept the religious
communities of Jerusalem can tell.

The procession next moved into the old Turkish barrack square less
than a hundred yards away, where General Allenby received the notables
of the City and the heads of religious communities. The Mayor of
Jerusalem, who unfortunately died of pneumonia a fortnight later, and
the Mufti, who, like the Mayor, was a member of a Mahomedan family
which traces its descent back through many centuries, were presented,
as were also the sheikhs in charge of the Mosque of Omar, 'the Tomb
of the Rock,' and the Mosque of El Aksa, and Moslems belonging to the
Khaldieh and Alamieh families. The Patriarchs of the Latin, Greek
Orthodox, and Armenian Churches and the Coptic bishop had been removed
from the Holy City by the Turks, but their representatives were
introduced to the Commander-in-Chief, and so too were the heads of
Jewish communities, the Syriac Church, the Greek Catholic Church, the
Abyssinian bishop, and the representative of the Anglican Church. A
notable presentation was the Spanish Consul, who had been in charge of
the interests of almost all countries at war, and whom General Allenby
congratulated upon being so busy a man. The presentations over, the
Commander-in-Chief returned to the Jaffa Gate and left for advanced
General Headquarters, having been in the Holy City not more than a
quarter of an hour.

For succinctness it would be difficult to improve upon the
Commander-in-Chief's own description of his Official Entry into
Jerusalem. Cabling to London within two hours of that event, General
Allenby thus narrated the events of the day:

(1) At noon to-day I officially entered this City with a few of my
Staff, the commanders of the French and Italian detachments, the heads
of the Picot Mission, and the Military Attachés of France, Italy, and
the United States of America.

The procession was all on foot.

I was received by Guards representing England, Scotland, Ireland,
Wales, Australia, India, New Zealand, France, and Italy at the Jaffa
Gate.

(2) I was well received by the population.

(3) The Holy Places have had Guards placed over them.

(4) My Military Governor is in touch with the Acting Custos of Latins,
and the Greek representative has been detailed to supervise Christian
Holy Places.

(5) The Mosque of Omar and the area round it has been placed under
Moslem control and a military cordon composed of Indian Mahomedan
officers and soldiers has been established round the Mosque. Orders
have been issued that without permission of the Military Governor
and the Moslem in charge of the Mosque no non-Moslem is to pass this
cordon.

(6) The Proclamation has been posted on the walls, and from the steps
of the Citadel was read in my presence to the population in Arabic,
Hebrew, English, French, Italian, Greek, and Russian.

(7) Guardians have been established at Bethlehem and on Rachel's Tomb.
The Tomb of Hebron has been placed under exclusive Moslem control.

(8) The hereditary custodians of the Wakfs at the Gates of the Holy
Sepulchre have been requested to take up their accustomed duties in
remembrance of the magnanimous act of the Caliph Omar who protected
that Church.

As a matter of historical interest I give in the Appendix the orders
issued on the occasion of the Official Entry into Jerusalem, the order
of General Allenby's procession into the Holy City for the reading of
the Proclamation, together with the text of that historic document,
and the special orders of the day issued by the Commander-in-Chief to
his troops after the capture of Jerusalem.[1]

[Footnote 1: See Appendix VII.]



CHAPTER XVI

MAKING JERUSALEM SECURE


General Allenby within two days of capturing Jerusalem had secured a
line of high ground which formed an excellent defensive system, but
his XXth Corps Staff was busy with plans to extend the defences to
give the Holy City safety from attack. Nothing could have had so
damaging an influence on our prestige in the East, which was growing
stronger every day as the direct result of the immense success of the
operations in Palestine, as the recapture of Jerusalem by the Turks.
We thought the wire-pulling of the German High Command would have its
effect in the war councils of Turkey, and seeing that the regaining of
the prize would have such far-reaching effect on public opinion no one
was surprised that the Germans prevailed upon their ally to make the
attempt. It was a hopeless failure. The attack came at a moment when
we were ready to launch a scheme to secure a second and a third line
of defences for Jerusalem, and gallantly as the Turks fought--they
delivered thirteen powerful attacks against our line on the morning
of December 27--the venture had a disastrous ending, and instead of
reaching Jerusalem the enemy had to yield to British arms seven miles
of most valuable country and gave us, in place of one line, four
strong lines for the defence of the Holy City. By supreme judgment,
when the Turks had committed themselves to the attack on Tel el Ful,
without which they could not move a yard on the Nablus road, General
Chetwode started his operations on the left of his line with the 10th
and 74th Divisions, using his plan as it had been prepared for some
days to seize successive lines of hills, and compelled the enemy,
in order to meet this attack, to divert the fresh division held in
waiting at Bireh to throw forward into Jerusalem the moment the
storming troops should pierce our line. With the precision of
clockwork the Irish and dismounted yeomanry divisions secured their
objectives, and on the second day of the fighting we regained the
initiative and compelled the Turks to conform to our dispositions.
On 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 only light
operations were undertaken. On the 17th the West Kent and Sussex
battalions of the 160th Brigade stalked the high ground east of Abu
Dis at dawn, and at the cost of only 26 casualties took the ridge with
5 officers and 121 other ranks prisoners, and buried 46 enemy dead.
One battalion went up the hill on one side, while the Sussex crept up
the opposite side, the Turks being caught between two fires. The 53rd
Division also improved their position on the 21st December. As one
leaves Bethany and proceeds down the Jericho road one passes along a
steep zigzag with several hairpin bends until one reaches a guardhouse
near a well about a mile east of Bethany. The road still falls
smartly, following a straighter line close to a wadi bed, but hills
rise very steeply from the highway, and for its whole length until
it reaches the Jordan valley the road is always covered by high bare
mountains. Soon after leaving the zigzag there is a series of three
hills to the north of the road. It was important to obtain possession
of two of these hills, the first called Zamby and the second named by
the Welsh troops 'Whitehill,' from the bright limestone outcrop at the
crest. The 159th Brigade attacked and gained Zamby and then turned
nearer the Jericho road to capture Whitehill. The Turks resisted very
stoutly, and there was heavy fighting about the trenches just below
the top of the hill. By noon the brigade had driven the enemy off, but
three determined counter-attacks were delivered that day and the
next and the brigade lost 180 killed and wounded. The Turks suffered
heavily in the counter-attacks and left over 50 dead behind them; also
a few prisoners. At a later date there was further strong fighting
around this hill, and at one period it became impossible for either
side to hold it.

By the 21st there was a readjustment of the line on the assumption
that the XXth Corps would attack the Turks on Christmas Day, the 53rd
Division taking over the line as far north as the wadi Anata, the 60th
Division extending its left to include Nebi Samwil, and the 74th going
as far west as Tahta. As a preliminary to the big movement the 180th
Brigade was directed to move on Kh. Adaseh, a hill between Tel el Ful
and Tawil, in the early hours of December 23, and the 181st Brigade
was to seize a height about half a mile north of Beit Hannina. The
latter attack succeeded, but despite the most gallant and repeated
efforts the 180th Brigade was unable to gain the summit of Adaseh,
though they got well up the hill. The weather became bad once more,
and meteorological reports indicated no improvement in the conditions
for at least twenty-four hours, and as the moving forward of artillery
and supplies was impossible in the rain, General Chetwode with the
concurrence of G.H.Q. decided that the attack should not be made on
Christmas Day. The 60th Division thereupon did not further prosecute
their attack on Adaseh. On the 24th December, while General Chetwode
was conferring with his divisional commanders, information was brought
in that the Turks were making preparations to recapture Jerusalem by
an attack on the 60th Division, and the Corps Commander decided that
the moment the enemy was found to be fully committed to this attack
the 10th Division and one brigade of the 74th Division would fall on
the enemy's right and advance over the Zeitun, Kereina, and Ibzia
ridges. How well this plan worked out was shown before the beginning
of the New Year, by which time we had secured a great depth of ground
at a cost infinitely smaller than could have been expected if the
Turks had remained on the defensive, while the Turkish losses, at a
moment when they required to preserve every fighting man, were much
greater than we could have hoped to inflict if they had not come into
the open. There was never a fear that the enemy would break through.
We had commanding positions everywhere, and the more one studied our
line on the chain of far-flung hills the more clearly one realised the
prevision and military skill of General Chetwode and the staff of the
XXth Corps in preparing the plans for its capture before the advance
on Jerusalem was started. The 'fourth objective' of December 8-9 well
and truly laid the foundations for Jerusalem's security, and relieved
the inhabitants from the accumulated burdens of more than three years
of war. We had nibbled at pieces of ground to flatten out the line
here and there, but in the main the line the Turks assaulted was that
fourth objective. The Turks put all their hopes on 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 attack made just after daybreak the enemy
succeeded in getting into a short length of line, but men of the
2/15th Londons promptly organised a counter-attack and, advancing
with fine gallantry, though their ranks were thinned by a tremendous
enfilade fire from artillery and machine guns, they regained the
sangars. For several hours after eight o'clock this portion of the
line was quieter, but the Turk was reorganising for a last effort. A
very brilliant defence had been made during the night of Beit Hannina
by the 2/24th Londons, which battalion was commanded by a captain, the
colonel and the majors being on the sick list. The two companies
in the line were attacked four times by superior numbers, the last
assault being delivered by more than five hundred men, but the
defenders stood like rocks, and though they had fifty per cent,
of their number killed or wounded, and the Turks got close to the
trenches, the enemy were crushingly defeated.

The morning lull was welcome. Our troops got some rest though their
vigilance was unrelaxed, and few imagined that the Turks had yet given
up the attempt to reach Jerusalem. We were ready to meet a fresh
effort, but the strength with which it was delivered surprised
everybody. The Turk, it seemed, was prepared to stake everything on
his last throw. He knew quite early on that morning that his Caucasus
Division could not carry out the role assigned to it. General Chetwode
had countered him by smashing in with his left with a beautiful
weighty stroke precisely at the moment when the Turk had compromised
himself elsewhere, and instead of being able to put in his reserves to
support his main attack the enemy had to divert them to stave off an
advance which, if unhindered, would threaten the vital communications
of the attackers north of Jerusalem.

It was a remarkable situation, but all the finesse in the art of war
was on one side. Every message the Turkish Commander received from his
right must have reported progress against him. Each signal from the
Jerusalem front must have been equally bitter, summing up want of
progress and heavy losses. With us, Time was a secondary factor; with
the Turk, Time was the whole essence of the business, so he pledged
his all on one tremendous final effort. It was almost one o'clock when
it started, and it was made against the whole front of our XXth Corps.
It was certainly made in unexpected strength and with a courage
beyond praise. The Turk threw himself forward to the assault with the
violence of despair, and his impetuous onrush enabled him to get into
some small elements of our front line; but counter-attacks immediately
organised drove him out. Over the greater portion of the front the
advance was stopped dead, but in some places the enemy tried a
whirlwind rush and used bomb against bomb. He had met his match.

The 60th Division which bore the brunt of the onslaught, as it was
bound to do from its position astride the main road, was absolutely
unbreakable, and at Tel el Ful there lay a dead Turk for every yard
of its front. The enemy drew off, but to save the remnants of his
storming troops kept our positions from near Ras et Tawil, Tel el Ful
to the wadi Beit Hannina under heavy gunfire for the rest of the day.
The Turk was hopelessly beaten, his defeat irretrievable. He had
delivered thirteen costly attacks, and his sole gains were the exposed
outpost positions at the Tawil and the quarries. All his reserves had
been vigorously engaged, while at two o'clock in the afternoon General
Chetwode had in reserve nineteen battalions less one company still
unused, and the care exercised in keeping this large body of troops
fresh for following up the Turkish defeat undoubtedly contributed
to the great success of the advances on the next three days.
Simultaneously with their attack on the 60th Division positions the
Turks put in a weighty effort to oust the 53rd Division from the
positions they held north and south of the Jericho road. Whether in
their wildest dreams they imagined they could enter Jerusalem by this
route is doubtful, but if they had succeeded in driving in our line on
the north they would have put the 53rd Division in a perilous position
on the east with only one avenue of escape. The Turks concentrated
their efforts on Whitehill and Zamby. A great fight raged round the
former height and we were driven off it, but the divisional artillery
so sprinkled the crest with shell that the Turk could not occupy it,
and it became No Man's Land until the early evening when the 7th Royal
Welsh Fusiliers recaptured and held it. The contest for Zamby lasted
all day, and for a long time it was a battle of bombs and machine
guns, so closely together were the fighting men, but the Turks never
got up to our sangars and were finally driven off with heavy loss,
over 100 dead being left on the hill. The Turkish ambulances were seen
hard at work on the Jericho road throughout the day. There was a stout
defence of a detached post at Ibn Obeid. A company of the 2/10th
Middlesex Regiment had been sent on to Obeid, about five miles east
of Bethlehem, to watch for the enemy moving about the rough tracks
in that bare and broken country which falls away in jagged hills and
sinuous valleys to the Dead Sea. The little garrison, whose sole
shelter was a ruined monastic building on the hill, were attacked at
dawn by 700 Turkish cavalry supported by mountain guns. The garrison
stood fast all day though practically surrounded, and every attack was
beaten off. The Turks tried again and again to secure the hill, which
commands a track to Bethlehem, but, although they fired 400 shells
at the position, they could not enter it, and a battalion sent up to
relieve the Middlesex men next morning found that the company had
driven the enemy off, its casualties having amounted to only 2 killed
and 17 wounded. Thus did the 'Die Hards' live up to the traditions of
the regiment.

Having dealt with the failure of the Turkish attacks against the 60th
and 53rd Divisions in front of Jerusalem, let us change our view point
and focus attention on the left sector of XXth Corps, where the enemy
was feeling the full power of the Corps at a time when he most wished
to avoid it. General Longley had organised his attacking columns in
three groups. On the right the 229th Brigade of the 74th Division was
set the task of moving from the wadi Imeish to secure the high ground
of Bir esh Shafa overlooking Beitunia; the 31st Brigade, starting from
near Tahta, attacked north of the wadi Sunt, to drive the enemy from a
line from Jeriut through Hafy to the west of the olive orchards
near Ain Arik; while the left group, composed of the 29th and 30th
Brigades, aimed at getting Shabuny across the wadi Sad, and Sheikh
Abdallah where they would have the Australian Mounted Division on
their left. The advance started from the left of the line. The
29th Brigade leading, with the 30th Brigade in support, left their
positions of deployment at six o'clock, by which time the Turk had had
more than he had bargained for north and east of Jerusalem. The 1st
Leinsters and 5th Connaught Rangers found the enemy in a stubborn mood
west of Deir Ibzia, but they broke down the opposition in the proper
Irish style and rapidly reached their objectives. The centre group
started one hour after the left and got their line without much
difficulty. The right group was hotly opposed. Beginning their advance
at eight o'clock the 229th Brigade had reached the western edge of the
famous Zeitun ridge in an hour, but from this time onwards they were
exposed to incessant artillery and machine-gun fire, and the forward
movement became very slow. In five hours small parties had worked
along the ridge for about half its length, fighting every yard, and it
was not until the approach of dusk that we once more got control of
the whole ridge. It was appropriate that dismounted yeomen should gain
this important tactical point which several weeks previously had been
won and lost by their comrades of the Yeomanry Mounted Division.
Descending from the ridge the brigade gave the Turk little chance to
stand, and with a bayonet charge they reached the day's objective
in the dark. At two o'clock, when the Turks' final effort against
Jerusalem had just failed, the 60th and 74th Divisions both sent
in the good news that the Turkish commander was moving his reserve
division from Bireh westwards to meet the attack from our left. Airmen
confirmed this immediately, and it was now obvious that General
Chetwode's tactics had compelled the enemy to conform to his movements
and that we had regained the initiative. At about ten o'clock the 24th
Royal Welsh Fusiliers of the 231st Brigade captured Kh. ed Dreihemeh
on the old Roman road a mile east of Tireh, and at eleven o'clock
advanced to the assault of hill 2450, a little farther eastward. They
gained the crest, but the enemy had a big force in the neighbourhood
and counter-attacked, forcing the Welshmen to withdraw some distance
down the western slope. They held this ground till 4.30 when our guns
heavily bombarded the summit, under cover of which fire the infantry
made another attack. This was also unsuccessful owing to the intense
volume of fire from machine guns. The hill was won, however, next
morning.

The night of December 27-28 was without incident. The Turk had staked
and lost, and he spent the night in making new dispositions to meet
what he must have realised was being prepared for him on the following
day.

It is doubtful whether there was a more successful day for our Army in
the Palestine campaign than December 27. The portion of our line which
was on the defensive had stood an absolutely unmovable wall, against
which the enemy had battered himself to pieces. Our left, or attacking
sector, had gained all their objectives against strong opposition in
a most difficult country, and had drawn against them the very troops
held in reserve for the main attack on Jerusalem. The physical powers
of some of our attacking troops were tried highly. One position
captured by the 229th Brigade was a particularly bad hill. The
slope up which the infantry had to advance was a series of almost
perpendicular terraces, and the riflemen could only make the ascent by
climbing up each others' backs. When dismounted yeomen secured another
hill some men carrying up supplies took two hours to walk from the
base of the hill to the summit. The trials of the infantry were shared
by the artillery. What surprises every one who has been over the route
taken by the 10th and 74th Divisions is that any guns except those
with the mountain batteries were able to get into action. The road
work of engineers and the 5th Royal Irish Regiment (Pioneers) was
magnificent, and they made a way where none seemed possible; but
though these roadmakers put their backs into their tasks, it was only
by the untiring energies of the gunners and drivers that artillery was
got up to support the infantry. The guns were brought into action well
ahead of the roads, and were man-hauled for considerable distances.
Two howitzers and one field gun were kept up with the infantry on the
first day of the advance where no horses could get a foothold, and the
manner in which the gunners hauled the guns through deep ravines
and up seemingly unclimbable hills constituted a wonderful physical
achievement. The artillery were called upon to continue their arduous
work on the 28th and 29th under conditions of ground which were even
more appalling than those met with on the 27th. The whole country was
devoid of any road better than a goat track, and the ravines became
deeper and the hills more precipitous. In some places, particularly
on the 10th Division front, the infantry went forward at a remarkable
pace; but guns moved up with them, and by keeping down the fire of
machine guns dotted about on every hill, performed services which
earned the riflemen's warm praise. The 9th and 10th Mountain Batteries
were attached to the 10th Division, but field and howitzer batteries
were also well up. On the 28th the 53rd Division bit farther into the
enemy's line in order to cover the right of the 60th Division, which
was to continue its advance up the Nablus road towards Bireh. The
158th Brigade captured Anata, and after fighting all day the 1/7th
Royal Welsh Fusiliers secured Ras Urkub es Suffa, a forbidding-looking
height towering above the storm-rent sides of the wadi Ruabeh. The
1/1st Herefords after dark took Kh. Almit.

In front of the 60th Division the Turks were still holding some strong
positions from which they should have been able seriously to delay
the Londoners' advance had it not been for the threat to their
communications by the pressure by the 10th and 74th Divisions. The
Londoners had previously tested the strength of Adaseh, and had found
it an extremely troublesome hill. They went for it again--the 179th
Brigade this time--and after a several hours' struggle took it at
dusk. Meanwhile the 181st Brigade had taken the lofty villages of Bir
Nebala and El Jib, and after Adaseh became ours the Division went
ahead in the dark and got to the line across the Nablus road from Er
Ram to Rafat, capturing some prisoners. The 74th Division also made
splendid progress. In the early hours the Division, with the 24th
Royal Welsh Fusiliers and the 24th Welsh Regiment attached, secured
Jufeir and resumed their main advance in the afternoon, the 230th and
231st Brigades cooperating with the 229th Brigade which was under the
orders of the 10th Division. Before dark they had advanced their line
from the left of the 60th Division in Rafat past the east of Beitunia
to the hill east of Abu el Ainein, and this strong line of hills
once secured, everybody was satisfied that the Turks' possession of
Ramallah and Bireh was only a question of hours. Part of this line had
been won by the 10th Division, which began its advance before noon in
the same battle formation as on the 27th. Soon after the three groups
started the heavy artillery put down a fierce fire on the final
objectives, and before three o'clock the Turks were seen to be
evacuating Kefr Skyan, Ainein, and Rubin. The enemy put up a stout
fight at Beitunia and on a hill several hundred yards north-west of
the village, but the 229th Brigade had good artillery and machine-gun
assistance, and got both places before four o'clock, capturing seventy
prisoners, including the commander of the garrison, and a number of
machine guns. The left group was hotly opposed from a hill a mile west
of Rubin and from a high position south-west of Ainein. The nature of
the ground was entirely favourable to defence and for a time the Turk
took full advantage of it, but our artillery soon made him lose his
stomach for fighting, and doubtless the sound of many shell-bursts
beyond Ramallah made him think that his rock sangars and the deep
ravines in front of him were not protection against a foe who fought
Nature with as much determination as he fought the Turkish soldier.
Six-inch howitzers of the 378th Siege Battery had been brought up to
Foka in the early hours, and all the afternoon and evening they
were plastering the road from Ramallah along which the enemy were
retreating. The left group defied the nests of machine guns hidden
among the rocks and broke down the defence. The centre group had been
delayed by the opposition encountered by the left, but they took Skyan
at six o'clock and all of the objectives for one day were in our hands
by the early evening. An advance along the whole front was ordered to
begin at six o'clock on December 29. On his right flank the enemy was
willing to concede ground, and the 159th Brigade occupied Hismeh,
Jeba, and the ridges to the north-west to protect the flank of the
60th Division. The 53rd Division buried 271 enemy dead on their front
as the result of three days' fighting. The 181st Brigade made a rapid
advance up the Nablus road until they were close to Bireh and Tahunah,
a high rocky hill just to the north-west of the village. The Turks had
many machine guns and a strong force of riflemen in these places, and
it was impossible for infantry to advance against them over exposed
ground without artillery support. The 303rd Field Artillery Brigade
was supporting the brigade, and they were to move up a track from
Kullundia while the foot-sloggers used the high road, but the track
was found impassable for wheels and the guns had to be brought to the
road. The attack was postponed till the guns were in position. The
gunners came into action at half-past two, and infantry moved to the
left to get on to the Ramallah-Bireh metalled road which runs at right
angles to the trunk road between Nablus and Jerusalem. The 2/22nd
and the 2/23rd Londons, working across the road, reached the Tahunah
ridge, and after a heavy bombardment dashed into the Turkish
positions, which were defended most stubbornly to the end, and thus
won the last remaining hill which commanded our advance up the Nablus
road as far as Bireh. On the eastern side of the main highway the
180th Brigade had once more done sterling service. There is a bold
eminence called Shab Saleh, a mile due south of Bireh. It rises almost
sheer from a piece of comparatively flat ground, and the enemy held it
in strength. The 2/19th and the 2/20th Londons attacked this feature,
and displaying great gallantry in face of much machine-gun fire seized
it at half-past three. Once again the gunners supported the infantry
admirably. The 2/17th and 2/18th Londons pushed past Saleh in a
north-easterly direction and, leaving Bireh on their left, got into
extremely bad country and took the Turks by surprise on a wooded ridge
at Sheikh Sheiban. The two brigades rested and refreshed for a couple
of hours and then advanced once more, and by midnight they had routed
the Turks out of another series of hills and were in firm possession
of the line from Beitin, across the Nablus road north of the Balua
Lake, to the ridge of El Burj, having carried through everything which
had been planned for the Division.

Ramallah had been taken at nine o'clock in the morning without
opposition by the 230th and 229th Brigades, and at night the 74th
Division held a strong line north of the picturesque village as far as
Et Tireh. The 10th Division also occupied the Tireh ridge quite
early in the day, and one of their field batteries and both mountain
batteries got within long range of the Nablus road, and not only
assisted in shelling the enemy in Bireh but harassed with a hot fire
any bodies of men or transport seen retreating northwards. The Flying
Corps, too, caused the Turks many losses on the road. The airmen
bombed the enemy from a low altitude and also machine-gunned them, and
moreover by their timely information gave great assistance during
the operations. By the 30th December all organised resistance to our
advance had ceased and the XXth Corps consolidated its line, the 60th
Division going forward slightly to improve its position and the other
divisions rearranging their own. The consolidation of the line was not
an easy matter. It had to be very thoroughly and rapidly done. The
supply difficulty compelled the holding of the line with as few troops
as possible, and when it had been won it was necessary to put it in a
proper order in a minimum of time, and to bring back a considerable
number of the troops who had been engaged in the fighting to hold
the grand defensive chain which made Jerusalem absolutely safe. The
standard gauge railway was still a long way from Ramleh, and the
railway construction parties had to fight against bad weather and
washouts. The Turkish line from Ramleh to Jerusalem was in bad order;
a number of bridges were down, so that it was not likely the railway
could be working for several weeks. Lorries could supply the troops in
the neighbourhood of the Nablus road, though the highway was
getting into bad condition, but in the right centre of the line the
difficulties of terrain were appalling. The enemy had had a painful
experience of it and was not likely to wish to fight in that country
again; consequently it was decided to hold this part of the line with
light forces.

In this description of the operations I have made little mention of
the work of the Australian Mounted Division which covered the gap
between XXth and XXIst Corps. These Australian horsemen and yeomanry
guarded an extended front in inaccessible country, and every man in
the Division will long remember the troubles of supply in the hills.
They had some stiff fighting against a wily enemy, and not for a
minute could they relax their vigilance. When, with the Turks' fatal
effort to retake Jerusalem, the 10th Division changed their front
and attacked in a north-easterly direction, the Australian Mounted
Division moved with it, and they found the country as they progressed
become more rugged and bleak and extremely difficult for mounted
troops. The Division was in the fighting line for the whole month of
December, and when they handed over the new positions they had reached
to the infantry on the last day of the year, their horses fully needed
the lengthened period of rest allotted to them.



CHAPTER XVII

A GREAT FEAT OF WAR


From the story of how Jerusalem was made secure (for we may hope the
clamour of war has echoed for the last time about her Holy Shrines and
venerable walls) we may turn back to the coastal sector and see how
the XXIst Corps improved a rather dangerous situation and laid the
foundations for the biggest break-through of the world struggle. For
it was the preparations in this area which made possible General
Allenby's tremendous gallop through Northern Palestine and Syria,
and gave the Allies Haifa, Beyrout, and Tripoli on the seaboard, and
Nazareth, Damascus, and Aleppo in the interior. The foundations were
soundly laid when the XXIst Corps crossed the Auja before Christmas
1917, and the superstructure of the victory which put Turkey as
well as Bulgaria and Austria out of the war was built up with many
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
national advertisers in the world.

The officer who was mainly responsible for the success of the Auja
crossing was Major-General J. Hill, D.S.O., A.D.C., commanding the
52nd Division. His plan was agreed to by General Bulfin, although the
Corps Commander had doubts about the possibility of its success, and
had his own scheme ready to be put into instant operation if General
Hill's failed. In the state of the weather General Hill's own
brigadiers were not sanguine, and they were the most loyal and devoted
officers a divisional commander ever had. But despite the most
unfavourable conditions, calling for heroic measures on the part of
officers and men alike to gain their objectives through mud and water
and over ground that was as bad as it could be, the movements of the
troops worked to the clock. One brigade's movements synchronised with
those of another, and the river was crossed, commanding positions were
seized, and bridges were built with an astoundingly small loss to
ourselves. The Lowland Scots worked as if at sport, and they could not
have worked longer or stronger if the whole honour of Scotland had
depended upon their efforts. At a later date, when digging at Arsuf,
these Scots came across some marble columns which had graced a hall
when Apollonia was in its heyday. The glory of Apollonia has long
vanished, but if in that age of warriors there had been a belief
that those marble columns would some day be raised as monuments to
commemorate a great operation of war the ancients would have had a
special veneration for them. Three of the columns marked the spots
where the Scots spanned the river, and it is a pity they cannot tell
the full story to succeeding generations.

The river Auja is a perennial stream emptying itself into the blue
Mediterranean waters four miles north of Jaffa. Its average width is
forty yards and its depth ten feet, with a current running at about
three miles an hour. Till we crossed it the river was the boundary
between the British and Turkish armies in this sector, and all the
advantage of observation was on the northern bank. From it the town of
Jaffa and its port were in danger, and the main road between Jaffa and
Ramleh was observed and under fire. The village of Sheikh Muannis,
about two miles inland, stood on a high mound commanding the ground
south of the river, and from Hadrah you could keep the river in sight
in its whole winding course to the sea. All this high ground concealed
an entrenched enemy; on the southern side of the river the Turks were
on Bald Hill, and held a line of trenches covering the Jewish colony
of Mulebbis and Fejja. A bridge and a mill dam having been destroyed
during winter the only means of crossing was by a ford three feet deep
at the mouth, an uncertain passage because the sand bar over which one
could walk shifted after heavy rain when the stream was swollen with
flood water. Reconnaissances at the river mouth were carried out with
great daring. As I said, all the southern approaches to the river were
commanded by the Turks on the northern bank, who were always alert,
and the movement of one man in the Auja valley was generally the
signal for artillery activity. So often did the Turkish gunners salute
the appearance of a single British soldier that the Scots talked of
the enemy 'sniping' with guns. To reconnoitre the enemy's positions
by daylight was hazardous work, and the Scots had to obtain their
first-hand knowledge of the river and the approaches to it in the dark
hours.

An officers' patrol swam the river one night, saw what the enemy was
doing, and returned unobserved. A few nights afterwards two officers
swam out to sea across the river mouth and crept up the right bank of
the stream within the enemy's lines to ascertain the locality of the
ford and its exact width and depth. They also learnt that there were
no obstacles placed across the ford, which was three feet deep in
normal times and five feet under water after rains. It was obvious
that bridges would be required, and it was decided to force the
passage of the river in the dark hours by putting covering troops
across to the northern bank, and by capturing the enemy's positions to
form a bridgehead while pontoon bridges were being constructed for the
use of guns and the remainder of the Division.

Time was all-important. December and January are the wettest months
of the season at Jaffa, and after heavy rains the Auja valley becomes
little better than a marsh, so that a small amount of traffic will cut
up the boggy land into an almost impassable condition.

The XXIst Corps' plan was as follows: At dawn on December 21 a heavy
bombardment was to open on all the enemy's trenches covering the
crossings, the fire of heavy guns to be concentrated on enemy
batteries and strong positions in the rear, while ships of the Royal
Navy bombarded two strong artillery positions at Tel el Rekket and El
Jelil, near the coast. When darkness fell covering troops were to be
ferried across the river, and then light bridges would be constructed
for the passage of larger units charged with the task of getting the
Turks out of their line from Hadrah, through El Mukras to Tel el
Rekket. After these positions had been gained the engineers were to
build pontoon bridges to carry the remainder of the Division and guns
on the night of the 22nd-23rd December, in time to advance at daylight
on the 23rd to secure a defensive line from Tel el Mukhmar through
Sheikh el Ballatar to Jelil. On the right of the 52nd Division the
54th Division was to attack Bald Hill on the night of 21st-22nd
December, and on the following morning assault the trench system
covering Mulebbis and Fejja; then later in the day to advance to
Rantieh, while the 75th Division farther east was to attack Bireh and
Beida. This plan was given to divisional commanders at a conference in
Jaffa on December 12. Two days later General Hill submitted another
scheme which provided for a surprise attack by night with no naval
or land artillery bombardment, such a demonstration being likely to
attract attention. General Hill submitted his proposals in detail.
General Bulfin gave the plan most careful consideration, but decided
that to base so important an operation on the success of a surprise
attack was too hazardous, and he adhered to his scheme of a deliberate
operation to be carried through systematically. He, however, gave
General Hill permission to carry out his surprise attack on the
night of December 20, but insisted that the bombardment should begin
according to programme at daylight on the 21st unless the surprise
scheme was successful.

A brigade of the 54th Division and the 1st Australian Light Horse
Brigade relieved the Scots in the trenches for three nights before the
attempt. Every man in the Lowland Division entered upon the work of
preparation with whole-hearted enthusiasm. There was much to be done
and materials were none too plentiful. Pontoons were wired for and
reached Jaffa on the 16th. There was little wood available, and some
old houses in Jaffa were pulled down to supply the Army's needs. The
material was collected in the orange groves around the German colony
at Sarona, a northern suburb of Jaffa, and every man who could use a
tool was set to work to build a framework of rectangular boats to a
standard design, and on this framework of wood tarpaulins and canvas
were stretched. These boats were light in structure, and were so
designed that working parties would be capable of transferring them
from their place of manufacture to the river bank. Each boat was to
carry twenty men fully armed and equipped over the river. They became
so heavy with rain that they in fact only carried sixteen men. The
boat builders worked where enemy airmen could not see them, and
when the craft were completed the troops were practised at night in
embarking and ferrying across a waterway--for this purpose the craft
were put on a big pond--and in cutting a path through thick cactus
hedges in the dark. During these preparations the artillery was also
active. They took their guns up to forward positions during the night,
and before the date of the attack there was a bombardment group of
eight 6-inch howitzers and a counter battery group of ten 60-pounders
and one 6-inch Mark VII. gun in concealed positions, and the artillery
dumps had been filled with 400 rounds for each heavy gun and 700
rounds for each field piece. The weather on the 18th, 19th, and 20th
December was most unfavourable. Rain was continuous and the valley of
the Auja became a morass. The luck of the weather was almost always
against General Allenby's Army, and the troops had become 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 crossed. An
officer commanding a battalion at Muannis was taken in his bed, whilst
another commanding officer had the surprise of his life on being
invited to put his hands up in his own house. He looked as if he had
just awakened from a nightmare. In one place some Turks on being
attacked with the bayonet shouted an alarm and one of the crossings
was shelled, but its position was immediately changed and the passage
of the river continued without interruption. The whole of the Turkish
system covering the river, trenches well concealed in the river
banks and in patches of cultivated land, were rushed in silence and
captured. Muannis was taken at the point of the bayonet, the strong
position at Hadrah was also carried in absolute silence, and at
daylight the whole line the Scots had set out to gain was won and the
assailants were digging themselves in. And the price of their victory?
The Scots had 8 officers and 93 other ranks casualties. They buried
over 100 Turkish dead and took 11 officers and 296 other ranks
prisoners, besides capturing ten machine guns.

The forcing of the passage of the Auja was a magnificent achievement,
planned with great ability by General Hill and carried out with that
skill and energy which the brigadiers, staff, and all ranks of the
Division showed throughout the campaign. One significant fact serves
to illustrate the Scots' discipline. Orders were that not a shot was
to be fired except by the guns and machine guns making their nightly
strafe. Death was to be dealt out with the bayonet, and though the
Lowlanders were engaged in a life and death struggle with the Turks,
not a single round of rifle ammunition was used by them till daylight
came, when, as a keen marksman said, they had some grand running-man
practice. During the day some batteries got to the north bank by way
of the ford, and two heavy pontoon bridges were constructed and a
barrel bridge, which had been put together in a wadi flowing into the
Auja, was floated down and placed in position. There was a good deal
of shelling by the Turks, but they fired at our new positions and
interfered but little with the bridge construction.

On the night of the 21st-22nd December the 54th Division assaulted
Bald Hill, a prominent mound south of the Auja from which a
magnificent view of the country was gained. Stiff fighting resulted,
but the enemy was driven off with a loss of 4 officers and 48 other
ranks killed, and 3 officers and 41 men taken prisoners. At dawn the
Division reported that the enemy was retiring from Mulebbis and Fejja,
and those places were soon in our hands. H.M.S. _Grafton_, with
Admiral T. Jackson, the monitors M29, M31, and M32, and the destroyers
_Lapwing_ and _Lizard_, arrived off the coast and shelled Jelil and
Arsuf, and the 52nd Division, advancing on a broad front, occupied the
whole of their objectives by five o'clock in the afternoon. The 157th
Brigade got all the high ground about Arsuf, and thus prevented the
enemy from obtaining a long-range view of Jaffa. A few rounds of shell
fired by a naval gun at a range of nearly twenty miles fell in Jaffa
some months afterwards, but with this exception Jaffa was quite free
from the enemy's attentions. The brilliant operation on the Auja had
saved the town and its people many anxious days. By the end of the
year there were three strong bridges across the river, and three
others substantial enough to bear the weight of tractors and their
loads were under construction. The troops received their winter
clothing; bivouac shelters and tents were beginning to arrive. Baths
and laundries were in operation, and the rigours of the campaign began
to be eased. But the XXIst Corps could congratulate itself that,
notwithstanding two months of open warfare, often fifty to sixty miles
from railhead, men's rations had never been reduced. Horses and mules
had had short allowances, but they could pick up a little in the
country. The men were in good health, despite the hardships in the
hills and rapid change from summer to winter, and their spirit could
not be surpassed.



CHAPTER XVIII

BY THE BANKS OF THE JORDAN


We have seen how impregnable the defences of Jerusalem had become as
the result of the big advance northwards at the end of December.
As far as any military forecast could be made we were now in an
impenetrable position whatever force the Turk, with his poor
communications, could employ against us either from the direction of
Nablus or from the east of the Jordan. There seemed to be no risk
whatever, so long as we chose to hold the line XXth Corps had won,
of the Turks again approaching Jerusalem, but the Commander-in-Chief
determined to make the situation absolutely safe by advancing
eastwards to capture Jericho and the crossings of the Jordan. This was
not solely a measure of precaution. It certainly did provide a means
for preventing the foe from operating in the stern, forbidding,
desolate, and awe-inspiring region which has been known as the
Wilderness since Biblical days, and doubtless before. In that rough
country it would be extremely difficult to stop small bands of
enterprising troops getting through a line and creating diversions
which, while of small military consequence, would have been
troublesome, and might have had the effect of unsettling the natives.
A foothold in the Jordan valley would have the great advantage of
enabling us to threaten the Hedjaz railway, the Turks' sole means
of communication with Medina, where their garrison was holding out
staunchly against the troops of the King of the Hedjaz, and any
assistance we could give the King's army would have a far-reaching
effect on neutral Arabs. It would also stop the grain trade on the
Dead Sea, on which the enemy set store, and would divert traffic in
foodstuffs to natives in Lower Palestine, who at this time were to a
considerable extent dependent on supplies furnished by our Army. The
Quartermaster-General carried many responsibilities on his shoulders.
Time was not the important factor, and as General Allenby was anxious
to avoid an operation which might involve heavy losses, it was at
first proposed that the enemy should be forced to leave Jericho by the
gradually closing in on the town from north and south. The Turks had
got an immensely strong position about Talat ed Dumm, the 'Mound of
Blood,' where stands a ruined castle of the Crusaders, the Chastel
Rouge. One can see it with the naked eye from the Mount of Olives,
and weeks before the operation started I stood in the garden of the
Kaiserin Augusta Victoria hospice and, looking over one of the most
inhospitable regions of the world, could easily make out the Turks
walking on the road near the Khan, which has been called the Good
Samaritan Inn. The country has indeed been rightly named. Gaunt, bare
mountains of limestone with scarcely a patch of green to relieve the
nakedness of the land make a wilderness indeed, and one sees a drop
of some four thousand feet in a distance of about fifteen miles. The
hills rise in continuous succession, great ramparts of the Judean
range, and instead of valleys between them there are huge clefts in
the rock, hundreds of feet deep, which carry away the winter torrents
to the Jordan and Dead Sea. Over beyond the edge of hills are the
green wooded banks of the Sacred River, then a patch or two of stunted
trees, and finally the dark walls of the mountains of Moab shutting
out the view of the land which still holds fascinating remains of
Greek civilisation.

But there was no promise of an early peep at such historic sights, and
the problem of getting at the nearer land was hard enough for present
deliberation. It was at first proposed that the whole of the
XXth Corps and a force of cavalry should carry out operations
simultaneously on the north and east of the Corps front which should
give us possession of the roads from Mar Saba and Muntar, and also
from Taiyibeh and the old Roman road to Jericho, thus allowing two
cavalry forces supported by infantry columns to converge on Jericho
from the north and south. However, by the second week of February
there had been bad weather, and the difficulties of supplying a line
forty miles from the railway on roads which, notwithstanding a
vast amount of labour, were still far from good, were practically
insuperable, and it was apparent that a northerly and easterly advance
at the same time would involve a delay of three weeks.

New circumstances came to light after the advance was first arranged,
and these demanded that the enemy should be driven across the Jordan
as soon as possible. General Allenby decided that the operations
should be carried out in two phases. The first was an easterly advance
to thrust the enemy from his position covering Jericho, to force him
across the Jordan, and to obtain control of the country west of the
river. The northerly advance to secure the line of the wadi Aujah was
to follow. This river Aujah which flows into the Jordan must not be
confused with the Auja on the coast already described.

The period of wet weather was prolonged, and the accumulation of
supplies of rations and ammunition did not permit of operations
commencing before February 19. That they started so early is an
eloquent tribute to the hard work of the Army, for the weather by the
date of the attack had improved but little, and the task of getting
up stores could only be completed by extraordinary exertions. General
Chetwode ordered a brigade of the 60th Division to capture Mukhmas
as a preliminary to a concentration at that place. On the 19th the
Division occupied a front of about fourteen miles from near Muntar,
close to which the ancient road from Bethlehem to Jericho passes,
through Ras Umm Deisis, across the Jerusalem-Jericho road to Arak
Ibrahim, over the great chasm of the wadi Farah which has cliff-like
sides hundreds of feet deep, to the brown knob of Ras et Tawil. The
line was not gained without fighting. The Turks did not oppose us at
Muntar--the spot where the Jews released the Scapegoat--but there
was a short contest for Ibrahim, and a longer fight lasting till the
afternoon for an entrenched position a mile north of it; Ras et Tawil
was ours by nine in the morning. Tawil overlooks a track which has
been trodden from time immemorial. It leads from the Jordan valley
north-west of Jericho, and passes beneath the frowning height of Jebel
Kuruntul with its bare face relieved by a monastery built into the
rock about half-way up, and a walled garden on top to mark the Mount
of Temptation, as the pious monks believe it to be. The track then
proceeds westwards, winding in and out of the tremendous slits in
rock, to Mukhmas, and it was probably along this rough line that
the Israelites marched from their camp at Gilgal to overthrow the
Philistines. On the right of the Londoners were two brigades of the
Anzac Mounted Division, working through the most desolate hills and
wadis down to the Dead Sea with a view to pushing up by Nebi Musa,
which tradition has ascribed as the burial place of Moses, and thence
into the Jordan valley. Northward of the 60th Division the 53rd was
extending its flank eastwards to command the Taiyibeh-Jericho road,
and the Welsh troops occupied Rummon, a huge mount of chalk giving a
good view of the Wilderness. This was the position on the night of
19th February.

At dawn on the 20th the Londoners were to attack the Turks in three
columns. The right column was to march from El Muntar to Ekteif, the
centre column to proceed along the Jerusalem-Jericho road between the
highway and the wadi Farah, and the left column was to go forward by
the Tawil-Jebel Kuruntul track. The 1st Australian Light Horse Brigade
and the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade were, if possible, to make
Nebi Musa.

The infantry attack was as fine as anything done in the campaign. I
had the advantage of witnessing the centre column carry out the whole
of its task and of seeing the right column complete as gallant an
effort as any troops could make, and as one saw them scale frowning
heights and clamber up and down the roughest of torrent beds, one
realised that more than three months' fighting had not removed the
'bloom' from these Cockney warriors, and that their physique and
courage were proof against long and heavy trials of campaigning. The
chief objective of the centre column was Talat ed Dumm which, lying on
the Jericho road just before the junction of the old and the new road
to the Jordan valley, was the key to Jericho. It is hard to imagine a
better defensive position. To the north of the road is the wadi Farah,
a great crack in the rocks which can only be crossed in a few places,
and which a few riflemen could cover. Likewise a platoon distributed
behind rocks on the many hills could command the approaches from all
directions, while the hill of Talat ed Dumm, by the Good Samaritan
Inn, and the height whereon the Crusader ruins stand, dominated a
broad flat across which our troops must move. This position the 180th
Brigade attacked at dawn. The guns opened before the sun appeared
above the black crest line of the mountains of Moab, and well before
long shadows were cast across the Jordan valley the batteries were
tearing to pieces the stone walls and rocky eyries sheltering
machine-gunners and infantry. This preliminary bombardment, if short,
was wonderfully effective. From where I stood I saw the heavies
pouring an unerring fire on to the Crusader Castle, huge spurts of
black smoke, and the dislocation of big stones which had withstood
the disintegrating effect of many centuries of sun power, telling the
Forward Observing Officer that his gunners were well on the target and
that to live in that havoc the Turks must seek the shelter of vaults
cut deep down in the rock by masons of old. No enemy could delay
our progress from that shell-torn spot. Lighter guns searched other
positions and whiffs of shrapnel kept Turks from their business. There
are green patches on the western side of Talat ed Dumm in the early
months of the year before the sun has burned up the country. Over
these the infantry advanced as laid down in the book. The whirring
rap-rap of machine guns at present unlocated did not stop them, and
as our machine-gun sections, ever on the alert to keep down rival
automatic guns, found out and sprayed the nests, the enemy was seen
to be anxious about his line of retreat. One large party, harried by
shrapnel and machine-gun fire, left its positions and rushed towards
a defile, but rallied and came back, though when it reoccupied its
former line the Londoners had reached a point to enfilade it, and it
suffered heavily. We soon got this position, and then our troops,
ascending some spurs, poured a destructive fire into the defile and so
harassed the Turks re-forming for a counterattack as to render feeble
their efforts to regain what they had lost.

By eight o'clock we had taken the whole of the Talat ed Dumm position,
and long-range sniping throughout the day did not disturb our secure
possession of it. Immediately the heights were occupied the guns went
ahead to new points, and armoured cars left the road to try to find a
way to the south-east to protect the flank of the right column. They
had a troublesome journey. Some of the crews walked well ahead of the
cars to reconnoitre the tracks, and it speaks well for the efficiency
of the cars as well as for the pluck and cleverness of the drivers
that in crossing a mile or two of that terribly broken mountainous
country no car was overturned and all got back to the road without
mishap.

Throughout the night and during the greater part of the day of
February 20 the right column were fighting under many difficulties. In
their march from the hill of Muntar they had to travel over ground so
cracked and strewn with boulders that in many parts the brigade could
only proceed in single file. In some places the track chosen had a
huge cleft in the mountain on one side and a cliff face on the other.
It was a continual succession of watercourses and mountains, of uphill
and downhill travel over the most uneven surface in the blackness of
night, and it took nearly eight hours to march three miles. The nature
of the country was a very serious obstacle and the column was late in
deploying for attack. But bad as was the route the men had followed
during the night, it was easy as compared with the position they had
set out to carry. This was Jebel Ekteif, the southern end of the range
of hills of which Talat ed Dumm was the northern. Ekteif presented to
this column a face as precipitous as Gibraltar and perhaps half as
high. There was a ledge running round it about three-quarters of the
way from the top, and for hours one could see the Turks lying flat on
this rude path trying to pick off the intrepid climbers attempting a
precarious ascent. Some mountain guns suddenly ranged on the enemy on
this ledge, and, picking up the range with remarkable rapidity, forced
the Turks into more comfortable positions. The enemy, too, had some
well-served guns, and they plastered the spurs leading to the crest
from the west, but our infantry's audacity never faltered, and
after we had got into the first lines on the hill our men proceeded
methodically to rout out the machine guns from their nooks and
crannies. This was a somewhat lengthy process, but small parties
working in support of each other gradually crushed opposition, and
the huge rocky rampart was ours by three o'clock in the afternoon.
Meanwhile two brigades of the Anzac Mounted Division were moving
eastwards from Muntar over the hills and wadis down to the Dead Sea,
whence turning northwards they marched towards Nebi Musa to try to
get on to the Jordan valley flats to threaten the Turks in rear. The
terrain was appallingly bad and horses had to be led, the troops
frequently proceeding in Indian file. No guns could be got over the
hills to support the Anzacs, and when they tried to pass through a
narrow defile south of Nebi Musa it was found that the enemy covered
the approach with machine guns, and progress was stopped dead
until, during the early hours of the following morning, some of the
Londoners' artillery managed by a superhuman effort to get a few guns
over the mountains to support the cavalry. By this time the Turks
had had enough of it, and while it was dark they were busy trekking
through Jericho towards the Ghoraniyeh bridge over the river, covered
by a force on the Jebel Kuruntul track which prevented the left column
from reaching the cliffs overlooking the Jordan valley. By dawn on the
21st Nebi Musa was made good, the 1st Australian Light Horse Brigade
and the New Zealand Brigade were in Jericho by eight o'clock and
had cleared the Jordan valley as far north as the river Aujah, the
Londoners holding the line of cliffs which absolutely prevented any
possibility of the enemy ever again threatening Jerusalem or Bethlehem
from the east. This successful operation also put an end to the Turks'
Dead Sea grain traffic. They had given up hope of keeping their
landing place on the northern shores of the Dead Sea when we took
Talat ed Dumm, and one hour after our infantry had planted themselves
on the Hill of Blood we saw the enemy burning his boats, wharves, and
storehouses at Rujm el Bahr, where he had expended a good deal of
labour to put up buildings to store grain wanted for his army.
Subsequently we had some naval men operating motor boats from this
point, and these sailors achieved a record on that melancholy waterway
at a level far below that at which any submarine, British or German,
ever rested.



CHAPTER XIX

THE TOUCH OF THE CIVILISING HAND


It is doubtful whether the population of any city within the zones of
war profited so much at the hands of the conqueror as Jerusalem. In
a little more than half a year a wondrous change was effected in the
condition of the people, and if it had been possible to search the
Oriental mind and to get a free and frank expression of opinion,
one would probably have found a universal thankfulness for General
Allenby's deliverance of the Holy City from the hands of the Turks.
And with good reason. The scourge of war so far as the British Army
was concerned left Jerusalem the Golden untouched. For the 50,000
people in the City the skilfully applied military pressure which
put an end to Turkish misgovernment was the beginning of an era
of happiness and contentment of which they had hitherto had no
conception. Justice was administered in accordance with British
ideals, every man enjoyed the profits of his industry, traders no
longer ran the gauntlet of extortionate officials, the old time
corruption was a thing of the past, public health was organised as far
as it could be on Western lines, and though in matters of sanitation
and personal cleanliness the inhabitants still had much to learn, the
appearance of the Holy City and its population vastly improved under
the touch of a civilising hand. Sights that offended more than one of
the senses on the day when General Allenby made his official entry had
disappeared, and peace and order reigned where previously had been but
misery, poverty, disease, and squalor.

One of the biggest blots upon the Turkish government of the City was
the total failure to provide an adequate water supply. What they
could not, or would not, do in their rule of four hundred years His
Majesty's Royal Engineers accomplished in a little more than two
months, and now for the first time in history every civilian in
Jerusalem can obtain as much pure mountain spring water as he wishes,
and for this water, as fresh and bright as any bubbling out of Welsh
hills, not a penny is charged. The picturesque, though usually
unclean, water carrier is passing into the limbo of forgotten things,
and his energies are being diverted into other channels. The germs
that swarmed in his leathern water bags will no longer endanger the
lives of the citizens, and the deadly perils of stagnant cistern water
have been to a large extent removed.

For its water Jerusalem used to rely mainly upon the winter rainfall
to fill its cisterns. Practically every house has its underground
reservoir, and it is estimated that if all were full they would
contain about 360,000,000 gallons. But many had fallen into disrepair
and most, if not the whole of them, required thorough cleansing. One
which was inspected by our sanitary department had not been emptied
for nineteen years. To supplement the cistern supply the Mosque of
Omar reservoir halved with Bethlehem the water which flowed from near
Solomon's Pools down an aqueduct constructed by Roman engineers under
Herod before the Saviour was born. This was not nearly sufficient, nor
was it so constant a supply as that provided by our Army engineers.
They went farther afield. They found a group of spring-heads in an
absolutely clean gathering ground on the hills yielding some 14,000
gallons an hour, and this water which was running to waste is lifted
to the top of a hill from which it flows by gravity through a long
pipe-line to Jerusalem, where a reservoir has been built on a high
point on the outskirts of the city. Supplies of this beautiful water
run direct to the hospitals, and at standpipes all over the city the
inhabitants take as much as they desire. The water consumption of the
people became ten times what it was in the previous year, and this
fact alone told how the boon was appreciated.

The scheme did not stop at putting up standpipes for those who fetched
the water. A portion of the contents of the cisterns was taken for
watering troop horses in the spring--troops were not allowed to drink
it. The water level of these cisterns became very low, and as they
got emptied the authorities arranged for refilling them on the one
condition that they were first thoroughly cleansed and put in order.
The British administration would not be parties to the perpetuation
of a system which permitted the fouling of good crystal water. A
householder had merely to apply to the Military Governor for water,
and a sanitary officer inspected the cistern, ordered it to be
cleansed, and saw that this was done; then the Department of Public
Health gave its certificate, and the engineers ran a pipe to the
cistern and filled it, no matter what its capacity. Two cisterns were
replenished with between 60,000 and 70,000 gallons of sparkling water
from the hills in place of water heavily charged with the accumulation
of summer dust on roofs, and the dust of Jerusalem roads, as we had
sampled it, is not as clean as desert sand.

The installation of the supply was a triumph for the Royal Engineers.
In peace times the work would have taken from one to two years to
complete. A preliminary investigation and survey of the ground was
made on February 14, and a scheme was submitted four days later. Owing
to the shortage of transport and abnormally bad weather work could not
be commenced till April 12. Many miles of pipe line had to be laid and
a powerful pumping plant erected, but water was being delivered to the
people of Jerusalem on the 18th of June. Other military works have
done much for the common good in Palestine, but none of them were of
greater utility than this. Mahomedans seeing bright water flow into
Jerusalem regarded it as one of the wonders of all time. It is
interesting to note that the American Red Cross Society, which sent a
large and capable staff to the Holy Land after America came into the
war, knew of the lack of an adequate water supply for Jerusalem, and
with that foresight which Americans show, forwarded to Egypt for
transportation to Jerusalem some thousand tons of water mains to
provide a water service. When the American Red Cross workers reached
the Holy City they found the Army's plans almost completed, and
they were the first to pay a tribute to what they described as the
'civilising march of the British Army.'

Those who watched the ceaseless activities of the Public Health
Administration were not surprised at the remarkable improvement in the
sick and death rates, not only of Jerusalem but of all the towns and
districts. The new water supply will unquestionably help to lower the
figures still further. A medical authority recently told me that
the health of the community was wonderfully good and there was no
suspicion of cholera, outbreaks of which were frequent under the
Turkish regime. Government hospitals were established in all large
centres. In this country where small-pox takes a heavy toll the
'conscientious objector' was unknown, and many thousands of natives
in a few months came forward of their own free will to be vaccinated.
Typhus and relapsing fever, both lice-borne diseases, used to claim
many victims, but the figures fell very rapidly, due largely, no
doubt, to the full use to which disinfecting plants were put in all
areas of the occupied territory. The virtues of bodily cleanliness
were taught, and the people were given that personal attention which
was entirely lacking under Turkish rule. It is not easy to overcome
the prejudices and cure the habits of thousands of years, but progress
is being made surely if slowly, and already there is a gratifying
improvement in the condition of the people which is patent to any
observer.

In Jerusalem an infants' welfare bureau was instituted, where
mothers were seen before and after childbirth, infants' clinics were
established, a body of health was formed, and a kitchen was opened to
provide food for babies and the poor. The nurses were mainly local
subjects who had to undergo an adequate training, and there was no one
who did not confidently predict a rapid fall in the infant mortality
rate which, to the shame of the Turkish administration, was fully a
dozen times that of the highest of English towns. The spadework
was all done by the medical staff of the Occupied Enemy Territory
Administration. The call was urgent, and though labouring under
war-time difficulties they got things going quickly and smoothly. Some
voluntary societies were assisting, and the enthusiasm of the American
Red Cross units enabled all to carry on a great and beneficent work.



CHAPTER XX

OUR CONQUERING AIRMEN


The airmen who were the eyes of the Army in Sinai and Palestine
can look back on their record as a great achievement. Enormous
difficulties were faced with stout hearts, and the Royal Flying Corps
spirit surmounted them. It was one long test of courage, endurance,
and efficiency, and so triumphantly did the airmen come through the
ordeal that General Allenby's Army may truthfully be said to have
secured as complete a mastery of the air as it did of the plains
and hills of Southern Palestine. Those of us who watched the airmen
'carrying on,' from the time when their aeroplanes were inferior to
those of the Germans in speed, climbing capacity, and other qualities
which go to make up first-class fighting machines, till the position
during the great advance when few enemy aviators dared cross our
lines, can well testify to the wonderful work our airmen performed.

With comparatively few opportunities for combat because the enemy knew
his inferiority and declined to fight unless forced, the pilots and
observers from the moment our attack was about to start were always
aggressive, and though the number of their victims may seem small
compared with aerial victories on the Western Front they were
substantial and important. In the month of January 1917 the flying men
accounted for eleven aeroplanes, five of these falling victims to
one pilot. The last of these victories I myself witnessed. In a
single-seater the pilot engaged two two-seater aeroplanes of a late
type, driving down one machine within our line, the pilot killed by
eleven bullets and the observer wounded. He then chased the other
plane, whose pilot soon lost his taste for fighting, dropped into a
heavy cloud bank, and got away. No odds were too great for our airmen.
I have seen one aeroplane swoop down out of the blue to attack a
formation of six enemy machines, sending one crashing to earth and
dispersing the remainder. In one brief fight another pilot drove down
three German planes. The airman does not talk of his work, and we knew
that what we saw and heard of were but fragments in the silent records
of great things done. Much that was accomplished was far behind our
visual range, high up over the bleak hills of Judea, above even the
rain clouds driven across the heights by the fury of a winter gale, or
skimming over the dull surface of the Dead Sea, flying some hundreds
of feet below sea level to interrupt the passage of foodstuffs of
which the Turk stood in need.

All through the Army's rapid march northwards from the crushed
Gaza-Beersheba line the airmen's untiring work was of infinite value.
When the Turkish retreat began the enemy was bombed and machine-gunned
for a full week, the railway, aerodromes, troops on the march,
artillery, and transport being hit time and again, and five smashed
aeroplanes and a large quantity of aircraft stores of every
description were found at Menshiye alone. The raid on that aerodrome
was so successful that at night the Germans burnt the whole of the
equipment not destroyed by bombs. Three machines were also destroyed
by us at Et Tineh, five at Ramleh and one at Ludd, and the country
was covered with the debris of a well-bombed and beaten army. After
Jerusalem came under the safe protection of our arms airmen harassed
the retiring enemy with bombs and machine guns. The wind was strong,
but defying treacherous eddies, the pilots came through the valleys
between steep-sloped hills and caught the Turks on the Nablus road,
emptying their bomb racks at a height of a few hundred feet, and
giving the scattered troops machine-gun fire on the return journey.

A glance at the list of honours bestowed on officers and other ranks
of the R.F.C. serving with the Egyptian Expeditionary Force in 1917
is sufficient to give an idea of the efficiency of the service of our
airmen. It must be remembered that the Palestine Wing was small, if
thoroughly representative of the Flying Corps; its numbers were few
but the quality was there. Indeed I heard the Australian squadron of
flying men which formed part of the Wing described by the highest
possible authority as probably the finest squadron in the whole of the
British service. This following list of honours is, perhaps, the most
eloquent testimony to the airmen's work in Palestine:

  Victoria Cross .       .       .       .       .  1
  Distinguished Service Order    .       .       .  4
  Military Cross .       .       .       .       . 34
  Croix de Guerre        .       .       .       .  2
  Military Medal .       .       .       .       .  1
  Meritorious Service Medal      .       .       . 14
  Order of the Nile      .       .       .       .  2

The sum total of the R.F.C. work was not to be calculated merely from
death and damage caused to the enemy from the air. Strategical and
tactical reconnaissances formed a large part of the daily round,
and the reports brought in always added to our Army's store of
information. In Palestine, possibly to a greater extent than in any
other theatre of war, our map-makers had to rely on aerial photographs
to supply them with the details required for military maps. The best
maps we had of Palestine were those prepared by Lieutenant H.H.
Kitchener, R.E., and Lieutenant Conder in 1881 for the Palestine
Exploration Fund. They were still remarkably accurate so far as they
went, but 'roads,' to give the tracks a description to which they were
not entitled, had altered, and villages had disappeared, and newer and
additional information had to be supplied. The Royal Flying Corps--it
had not yet become the Royal Air Force--furnished it, and all
important details of hundreds of square miles of country which survey
parties could not reach were registered with wonderful accuracy by
aerial photographers.

The work began for the battle of Rafa, and the enemy positions on the
Magruntein hill were all set out before General Chetwode when the
Desert Column attacked and scored an important victory. Then when
12,000 Turks were fortifying the Weli Sheikh Nuran country covering
the wadi Ghuzze and the Shellal springs, not a redoubt or trench but
was recorded with absolute fidelity on photographic prints, and long
before the Turks abandoned the place and gave us a fine supply of
water we had excellent maps of the position. In time the whole
Gaza-Beersheba line was completely photographed and maps were
continually revised, and if any portion of the Turkish system of
defences was changed or added to the commander in the district
concerned was notified at once. To such perfection did the R.F.C.
photographic branch attain, that maps showing full details of new or
altered trenches were in the hands of generals within four hours
of the taking of the photographs. Later on the work of the branch
increased enormously, and the results fully repaid the infinite care
and labour bestowed upon it.

The R.F.C. made long flights in this theatre of war, and some of them
were exceptionally difficult and dangerous. A French battleship when
bombarding a Turkish port of military importance had two of our
machines to spot the effect of her gunfire. To be with the ship when
the action opened the airmen had to fly in darkness for an hour and a
half from a distant aerodrome, and they both reached the rendezvous
within five minutes of the appointed time. The Turks on their lines of
communication with the Hedjaz have an unpleasant recollection of being
bombed at Maan. That was a noteworthy expedition. Three machines set
out from an aerodrome over 150 miles away in a straight line, the
pilots having to steer a course above country with no prominent
landmarks. They went over a waterless desert so rough that it would
have been impossible to come down without seriously damaging a plane,
and if a pilot had been forced to land his chance of getting back to
our country would have been almost nil. Water bottles and rations
were carried in the machines, but they were not needed, for the three
pilots came home together after hitting the station buildings at Maan
and destroying considerable material and supplies.

The aeroplane has been put to many uses in war and, it may be, there
are instances on other fronts of it being used, in emergencies, as an
ambulance. When a little mobile force rounded up the Turkish post at
Hassana, on the eastern side of the Sinai Peninsula, one of our men
received so severe a wound that an immediate operation was necessary.
An airman at once volunteered to carry the wounded man to the nearest
hospital, forty-four miles away across the desert, and by his action a
life was saved.



APPENDICES


I


The following telegram was sent by Enver Pasha to Field-Marshal von
Hindenburg, at Supreme Army Command Headquarters, from Constantinople
on August 23, 1917:

  The news of the despatch of strong enemy forces to Egypt,
  together with the nomination of General Allenby as Commander-in-Chief
  on our Syrian Front, indicates that the
  British contemplate an offensive on the Syrian Front, and
  very probably before the middle of November.

  The preservation of the Sinai Front is a primary condition
  to the success of the Yilderim undertaking.

  After a further conversation with the Commander of
  the IVth Army (Jemal Pasha) I consider it necessary to
  strengthen this front by one of the infantry divisions intended
  for Yilderim, and to despatch this division immediately
  from Aleppo.

  With this reinforcement the defence of the Sinai Front
  by the IVth Army is assured.

  General von Falkenhayn takes up the position that he
  does not consider the defence assured, and that the further
  reduction of Yilderim forces is to be deprecated under any
  circumstances.

  He consequently recommends that we on our side should
  attack the British, and as far as possible surprise them,
  before they are strengthened. He wishes to carry out this
  attack with four infantry divisions, and the 'Asia' Corps.
  Two of the four infantry divisions have still to be despatched
  to the front.

  I cannot yet decide to support the proposal, nor need
  I do so, as the transport of an infantry division from Aleppo
  to Bayak requires twenty days. During this period the
  situation as regards the enemy will become clear, and one
  will become better able to estimate the chance of success
  of an attack.

  I must, however, in any case be able to dispose of more
  forces than at present, either for the completion of Yilderim,
  or for the replacement of the very heavy losses which will
  certainly occur in the Syrian attack.

  I must consequently reiterate, to my deep regret, my
  request for the return of the VIth Army Corps (which was
  operating at that time in the Dobrudja) and for the despatch
  of this Corps, together with the 20th Infantry Division,
  commencing with the 15th Infantry Division.

  In my opinion the Army Corps could be replaced by
  Bulgarians, whose task is unquestionably being lightened
  through the despatch of troops (British) to Egypt.

  Should this not be the case, I would be ready to exchange
  two divisions from the Vth Army for the two infantry divisions
  of the VIth Army Corps, as the former are only suited
  for a war of position, and would have to be made mobile
  by the allotment of transport and equipment.

  If these two infantry divisions were given up, the Vth
  Army would have only five infantry divisions of no great
  fighting value, a condition of things which is perhaps not
  very desirable.

  For the moment my decision is: Defence of Syria by
  strengthening that front by one infantry division, and
  prosecution of the Yilderim scheme.

  Should good prospects offer of beating the British decisively
  in Syria before they have been reinforced I will take
  up General von Falkenhayn's proposal again, as far as it
  appears possible to carry it out, having in view the question
  of transport and rationing, which still has to be settled in
  some respects.--Turkish Main Headquarters, ENVER.



II


Von Falkenhayn despatched the following telegram from Constantinople
on August 25, 1917, to German General Headquarters:

  The possibility of a British attack in Syria has had to
  be taken into consideration from the beginning. Its repercussion
  on the Irak undertaking was obvious. On that
  account I had already settled in my conversations in Constantinople
  during May that, if the centre of gravity of
  operations were transferred to the Sinai Front, command
  should be given me there too. The news now to hand--reinforcement
  of the British troops in Egypt, taking over
  of command by Allenby, the demands of the British Press
  daily becoming louder--makes the preparation of a British
  attack in Syria probable.

  Jemal Pasha wishes to meet it with a defensive. To
  that end he demands the divisions and war material which
  were being collected about Aleppo for Yilderim. The
  natural result of granting this request will be that true
  safety will never be attained on the Sinai Front by a pure
  defensive, and that the Irak undertaking will certainly
  fritter away owing to want of driving power or to delays.

  I had consequently proposed to the Turkish Higher
  Command to send two divisions and the 'Asia' Corps as
  quickly as possible to Southern Syria, so as to carry out
  a surprise attack on the British by means of an encircling
  movement before the arrival of their reinforcements. Railways
  allow of the assembly of these forces (inclusive of heavy
  artillery, material and technical stores) in the neighbourhood
  of Beersheba by the end of October. The disposable parts
  of the IVth Army (two to three divisions) would be added
  to it.

  In a discussion between Enver, Jemal, and myself, Enver
  decided first of all to strengthen the IVth Army by the
  inclusion of one division from the Army Group. This
  division would suffice to ward off attack. The Irak undertaking
  could be carried through at the same time. Judging
  from all former experiences I am firmly convinced as soon
  as it comes to a question of the expected attack on the
  Sinai Front, or even if the IVth Army only feels itself seriously
  threatened, further troops, munitions, and material will be
  withdrawn from the Army Group, and Turkey's forces will
  be shattered.

  Then nothing decisive can be undertaken in either theatre
  of war. The sacrifice of men, money, and material which
  Germany is offering at the present moment will be in vain.

  The treatment of the question is rendered all the more
  difficult because I cannot rid myself of the impression that
  the decision of the Turkish Higher Command is based far
  less on military exigencies than on personal motives. It
  is dictated with one eye on the mighty Jemal, who deprecates
  a definite decision, but yet on the other hand opposes the
  slightest diminution of the area of his command.

  Consequently as the position now stands, I consider the
  Irak undertaking practicable only if it is given the necessary
  freedom for retirement through the removal of the danger
  on the Syrian Front. The removal of this danger I regard
  as only possible through attack. V. FALKENHAYN.



III


Here is another German estimate of the position created by our
War Cabinet's decision to take the offensive in Palestine, and in
considering the view of the German Staff and the prospect of success
any Turkish attack would have, it must be borne in mind that under
the most favourable circumstances the enemy could not have been in
position for taking an offensive before the end of October. Von
Falkenhayn wished to attack the British 'before the arrival of their
reinforcements.' Not only had our reinforcements arrived before the
end of October, but they were all in position and the battle had
commenced. Beersheba was taken on October 31. This appreciation was
written by Major von Papen of Yilderim headquarters on August 28,
1917:

  Enver's objections, the improbability of attaining a
  decisive result on the Sinai Front with two divisions plus
  the 'Asia Corps' and the difficulty of the Aleppo-Rayak
  transport question, hold good.

  The execution of the offensive with stronger forces is
  desirable, but is not practicable, as, in consequence of the
  beginning of the rainy weather in the middle of November,
  the British offensive may be expected at the latest during
  the latter half of October; ours therefore should take place
  during the first part of that month.

  The transport question precludes the assembly of stronger
  forces by that date.

  Should the idea of an offensive be abandoned altogether
  on that account?

  On the assumption that General Allenby--after the two
  unsuccessful British attacks--will attack only with a marked
  superiority of men and munitions, a passive defence on a
  thirty-five kilometre front with an exposed flank does not
  appear to offer any great chance of success.

  The conditions on the Western Front (defensive zone,
  attack divisions) are only partially applicable here, since
  the mobility of the artillery and the correct tactical handling
  of the attack division are not assured. The intended passive
  defensive will not be improved by the theatrical attack with
  one division suggested by General von Kress.

  On the contrary this attack would be without result, as
  it would be carried out too obliquely to the front, and would
  only mean a sacrifice of men and material.

  The attack proposed by His Excellency for the envelopment
  of the enemy's flank--if carried out during the first
  half of October with four divisions plus the 'Asia Corps'--will
  perhaps have no definite result, but will at all events
  result in this: that the Gaza Front flanked by the sea
  will tie down considerable forces and defer the continuation
  of British operations in the wet season, during which, in
  the opinion of General von Kress, they cannot be carried
  on with any prospect of success.

  The situation on the Sinai Front will then be clear. Naturally
  it is possible that the position here may demand the
  inclusion of further effectives and the Yilderim operation
  consequently become impracticable. This, however, will
  only prove that the determining factor of the decisive operation
  for Turkey during the winter of 1917-1918 lies in Palestine
  and not in Mesopotamia. An offensive on the Sinai
  Front is therefore--even with reduced forces and a limited
  objective--the correct solution.

  PAPEN.



IV


_Letter from General Kress von Kressenstein to Yilderim headquarters,
dated September_ 29, 1917, _on moral of Turkish troops_.

A question which urgently needs regulating is that of deserters.
According to my experience their number will increase still more with
the setting in of the bad weather and the deterioration of rations.

Civil administration and the gendarmerie fail entirely; they often
have a secret understanding with the population and are open to
bribery.

The cordon drawn by me is too weak to prevent desertion. I am also
too short of troops to have the necessary raids undertaken in the
hinterland. It is necessary that the hunt for deserters in the area
between the front and the line Jerusalem-Ramleh-Jaffa be formally
organised under energetic management, that one or two squadrons
exclusively for this service be detailed, and that a definite reward
be paid for bringing in each deserter. But above all it is necessary
that punishment should follow in consequence, and that the
unfortunately very frequent amnesties of His Majesty the Sultan be
discontinued, at least for some time.

The question of rationing has not been settled. We are living
continually from hand to mouth. Despite the binding promises of
the Headquarters IVth Army, the Vali of Damascus, the Lines of
Communication, Major Bathmann and others, that from now on 150 tons of
rations should arrive regularly each day, from the 24th to the 27th of
this month, for example a total of 229 tons or only 75 tons per diem
have arrived.

I cannot fix the blame for these irregularities. The Headquarters IVth
Army has received the highly gratifying order that, at least up to the
imminent decisive battle, the bread ration is raised to 100 grammes.
This urgently necessary improvement of the men's rations remains
illusory, if a correspondingly larger quantity of flour (about one
wagon per day) is not supplied to us. So far the improvement exists
only on paper. The condition of the animals particularly gives
cause for anxiety. Not only are we about 6000 animals short of
establishment, but as a result of exhaustion a considerable number of
animals are ruined daily. The majority of divisions are incapable
of operating on account of this shortage of animals. The ammunition
supply too is gradually coming into question on account of the
deficiency in animals. The menacing danger can only be met by a
regular supply of sufficient fodder. The stock of straw in the area of
operations is exhausted. With gold some barley can still be bought in
the country.

Every year during the rainy season the railway is interrupted again
and again for periods of from eight to fourteen days. There are also
days and weeks in which the motor-lorry traffic has to be suspended.
Finally we must calculate on the possibility of an interruption of our
rear communications by the enemy. I therefore consider it absolutely
necessary that at least a fourteen days' reserve of rations be
deposited in the depôts at the front as early as possible.

The increase of troops on the Sinai Front necessitates a very
considerable increase on the supply of meat from the Line of
Communication area, Damascus district.



V


The troops of General Allenby's Army before the attack on Beersheba
were distributed as follows:

                          XXTH CORPS.

                        10th Division.

 _29th Brigade.          30th Brigade.        31st Brigade_.

6th R. Irish Rifles.  1st R. Irish Regt.   5th R. Inniskillings.
5th Con. Rangers.     6th R. Munst. Fus.   6th R. Inniskillings.
6th Leinsters.        6th R. Dublin Fus.   2nd R. Irish Fus.
1st Leinsters         7th R. Dublin Fus.   5th R. Irish Rifles.


                        53rd Division.

 _158th Brigade.        159th Brigade.       160th Brigade._

1/5th R. Welsh Fus.   1/4th Cheshires.     1/4th R. Sussex.
1/6th  "              1/7th "              2/4th R. West Surrey.
1/7th  "              1/4th Welsh          2/4th R. West Kent.
1/1st Hereford.       1/5th "              2/10th Middlesex.


                        60th Division.

 _179th Brigade.        180th Brigade.       181st Brigade_.

2/13th London.        2/17th London.       2/21st London.
2/14th  "             2/18th  "            2/22nd  "
2/15th  "             2/19th  "            2/23rd  "
2/16th  "             2/20th  "            2/24th  "


                        74th Division.

 _229th Brigade.        230th Brigade.       231st Brigade_.

16th Devons (1st      10th E. Kent (R.E.   10th Shrop. (Shrop.
  Devon & R.N.          Kent & W. Kent       & Cheshire Yeo.).
  Devon Yeo.).          Yeo.).
12th Somerset L.I.    16th R. Sussex       24th R. Welsh Fus.
  (Yeo.).               (Yeo.).              (Denbigh Yeo.).
14th R. Highrs.(Fife  15th Suffolk (Yeo.)  25th R. Welsh Fus.
  & Forfar Yeo.).                            (Montgomery Yeo.
                                             & Welsh Horse).
12th R. Scots Fus.    12th Norfolk (Yeo.)  24th Welsh Regt.
  (Ayr & Lanark                              (Pembroke & Glanmorgan
  Yeo.).                                     Yeo.).


                         XXIst CORPS.

                   52nd (Lowland) Division.

 _155th Brigade.        156th Brigade.        157th Brigade._

l/4th R. Scots Fus.    1/4th Royal Scots.    1/5th H.L.I.
l/5th R. Scots Fus.    1/7th Royal Scots.    1/6th H.L.I.
l/4th K.O.S.B.         1/7th Scot. Rifles.   1/7th H.L.I.
l/5th K.O.S.B.         1/8th Scot. Rifles.   1/5th A. & S. Highrs.


                  54th (East Anglian) Division.

 _161th Brigade.        162th Brigade.        163th Brigade._

l/4th Essex.           1/5th Bedfords.       1/4th Norfolk.
l/5th Essex.           1/4th Northants.      1/5th Norfolk.
l/6th Essex.           1/10th London.        1/5th Suffolk.
l/7th Essex.           1/11th London.        1/8th Hampshire.


                        75th Division.

 _232th Brigade.        233th Brigade.        234th Brigade._

1/5th Devon.           1/5th Somersets.      1/4th D.C.L.I.
2/5th Hampshire.       1/4th Wilts.          2/4th Dorsets.
2/4th Somersets.       2/4th Hampshire.      123rd Rifles.
2/3rd Gurkhas.         3/3rd Gurkhas.         58th Rifles.


                     DESERT MOUNTED CORPS.

                    Anzac Mounted Division.

 _1st A.L.H. Bde.      2nd A.L.H. Bde.     N.Z. Mtd. Rifles Bde._

1st A.L.H. Regt.       5th A.L.H. Regt.     Auckland M. Rifles.
2nd A.L.H. Regt.       6th A.L.H. Regt.     Canterbury M. Rifles.
3rd A.L.H. Regt.       7th A.L.H. Regt.     Wellington M. Rifles.


                   Australian Mounted Division.

 _3rd L.H. Brigade.    4th L.H. Brigade.     5th Mtd. Brigade._.
8th A.L.H. Regt.       4th A.L.H. Regt.      1/1st Warwick Yeo.
9th "                  11th "                1/1st Gloucester Yeo.
10th "                 12th "                1/1st Worcester Yeo.


                    Yoemanry Mounted Division

 _6th Mtd. Brigade.    8th Mtd. Brigade.     22nd Mtd. Brigade_.
1/1st Bucks Hussars.   1/1st City of London  1/1st Lincolnshire
Yeo.                  Yeo.
1/1st Berkshire Yeo.   1/1st Co. of London   1/1st Staffordshire
Yeo.                  Yeo.
1/1st Dorset Yeo.      l/3rd Co. of London   1/1st E. Riding
Yeo.                  Yeo.


             7th Mounted Brigade (attached Desert Corps).

       1/1st Sherwood Rangers.           1/1st South Notts Hussars.


                      Imperial Camel Brigade.



VI


There can be no better illustration of how one battle worked out
'according to plan' than the quotation of the following Force Order:


  FORCE ORDER


  GENERAL HEADQUARTERS,
  _22nd October_ 1917.

  It is the intention of the Commander-in-Chief to take the
  offensive against the enemy at Gaza and at Beersheba, and
  when Beersheba is in our hands to make an enveloping
  attack on the enemy's left flank in the direction of Sheria
  and Hareira.

  On Zero day XXth Corps with the 10th Division and
  Imperial Camel Brigade attached and the Desert Mounted
  Corps less one Mounted Division and the Imperial Camel
  Brigade will attack the enemy at Beersheba with the object
  of gaining possession of that place by nightfall.

  As soon as Beersheba is in our hands and the necessary
  arrangements have been made for the restoration of the
  Beersheba water supply, XXth Corps and Desert Mounted
  Corps complete will move rapidly forward to attack the
  left of the enemy's main position with the object of driving
  him out of Sheria and Hareira and enveloping the left flank
  of his army. XXth Corps will move against the enemy's
  defences south of Sheria, first of all against the Kauwukah
  line and then against Sheria and the Hareira defences.
  Desert Mounted Corps calling up the Mounted Division left
  in general reserve during the Beersheba operation will move
  north of the XXth Corps to gain possession of Nejile and of
  any water supplies between that place and the right of
  XXth Corps and will be prepared to operate vigorously
  against and round the enemy's left flank if he should throw
  it back to oppose the advance of the XXth Corps.

  On a date to be subsequently determined and which will
  probably be after the occupation of Beersheba and 24 to
  48 hours before the attack of XXth Corps on the Kauwukah
  line, the XXIst Corps will attack the south-west defences
  of Gaza with the object of capturing the enemy's front-line
  system from Umbrella Hill to Sheikh Hasan, both inclusive.

  The Royal Navy will co-operate with the XXIst Corps
  in the attack on Gaza and in any subsequent operations
  that may be undertaken by XXIst Corps.

  On Z--4 day the G.O.C. XXIst Corps will open a systematic
  bombardment of the Gaza defences, increasing in volume
  from Z--1 day to Zx2 day and to be continued until Zx4
  day at the least.

  The Royal Navy will co-operate as follows: On Z--1 and
  Zero days two 6-inch monitors will be available for bombardment
  from the sea, special objective Sheikh Hasan.
  On Zero day a third 6-inch monitor will be available so that
  two of these ships may be constantly in action while one
  replenishes ammunition. On Zxl day 6-inch monitors will
  discontinue their bombardment which they will reopen
  on Zx2 day. From Zxl day the French battleship _Requin_
  and H.M.S. _Raglan_ will bombard Deir Sineid station and
  junction for Huj, the roads and railway bridges and camps
  on the wadi Hesi and the neighbourhood. The _Requin_ and
  _Raglan_ will be assisted by a seaplane carrier.

  From Zero day one 92 monitor will be available from
  dawn, special objective Sheikh Redwan.

  From Z--1 day inclusive demands for naval co-operation
  will be conveyed direct from G.O.C. XXIst Corps to the
  Senior Naval Officer, Marine View, who will arrange for
  the transmission of the demands so made.

  XXth Corps will move into position during the night of
  Z-l=Zero day so as to attack the enemy at Beersheba on
  Zero day south of the wadi Saba with two divisions while
  covering his flank and the construction of the railway
  east of Shellal with one division on the high ground overlooking
  the wadis El Sufi and Hanafish. The objective of XXth Corps
  will be the enemy's works west and south-west
  of Beersheba as far as the Khalasa-Beersheba road
  inclusive.

  Desert Mounted Corps will move on the night of Z-1=Zero
  day from the area of concentration about Khalasa and
  Asluj so as to co-operate with XXth Corps by attacking
  Beersheba with two divisions and one mounted brigade.
  The objective of Desert Mounted Corps will be the enemy's
  defences from south-east to the north-east of Beersheba
  and the town of Beersheba itself.

  The G.O.C. Desert Mounted Corps will endeavour to turn
  the enemy's left with a view to breaking down his
  resistance at Beersheba as quickly as possible. With this
  in view the main weight of his force will be directed against
  Beersheba from the east and north-east. As soon as the
  enemy's resistance shows signs of weakening the G.O.C.
  Desert Mounted Corps will be prepared to act with the utmost
  vigour against his retreating troops so as to prevent their
  escape, or at least to drive them well beyond the high ground
  immediately overlooking the town from the north. He
  will also be prepared to push troops rapidly into Beersheba
  in order to protect from danger any wells and plant connected
  with the water supply not damaged by the enemy before
  Beersheba is entered.

  The Yeomanry Mounted Division will pass from the
  command of the G.O.C. XXth Corps at five on Zero day
  and will come directly under General Headquarters as part
  of the general reserve in the hands of the Commander-in-Chief.

  When Beersheba has been taken the G.O.C. XXth Corps
  will push forward covering troops to the high ground north
  of the town to protect it from any counter movement on
  the part of the enemy. He will also put in hand the restoration
  of the water supply in Beersheba. The G.O.C. Desert
  Mounted Corps will be responsible for the protection of
  the town from the north-east and east.

  As soon as possible after the taking of Beersheba the
  G.O.C. Desert Mounted Corps will report to G.H.Q. on the
  water supplies in the wells and wadis east of Beersheba and
  especially along the wadi Saba and the Beersheba-Tel-el-Nulah
  road. If insufficient water is found to exist in this
  area G.O.C. Desert Mounted Corps will send back such of
  his troops as may be necessary to watering places from which
  he started or which may be found in the country east of
  the Khalasa-Beersheba road during the operations.

  A preliminary survey having been made, the G.O.C. XXth
  Corps will report by wire to G.H.Q. on the condition of the
  wells and water supply generally in Beersheba and on any
  water supplies found west and north-west of that place.
  He will telegraph an estimate as soon as it can be made
  of the time required to place the Beersheba water supply
  in working order.

  When the situation as regards water at Beersheba has
  become clear so that the movement of XXth Corps and
  Desert Mounted Corps against the left flank of the enemy's
  main position can be arranged, the G.O.C. XXIst Corps
  will be ordered to attack the enemy's defences south-west
  of Gaza in time for this operation to be carried out prior
  to the attack of XXth Corps on the Kauwukah line of works.
  The objective of XXIst Corps will be the defences of Gaza
  from Umbrella Hill inclusive to the sea about Sheikh Hasan.

  Instructions in regard to the following have been issued
  separate to all corps:

  Amount of corps artillery allotted.

  Amount of ammunition put on corps charge prior to operations.

  Amount of ammunition per gun that will be delivered daily
  at respective railheads and the day of commencement.

  Amount of transport allotted for forward supply from
  railheads.

  The general average for one day's firing has been calculated
  on the following basis:

  Field and mountain guns and
  mountain howitzers ...150 rounds per gun.
  4.5-inch howitzers....120 rounds per gun.
  60-pounders and 6-inch howitzers. 90 rounds per gun.
  8-inch howitzers and 6-inch Mark VII. 60 rounds per gun.

  This average expenditure will only be possible in the
  XXIst Corps up to Zx16 day and for the Desert Mounted
  Corps and XXth Corps to Zx13. After these dates if the
  average has been expended the daily average will have to
  drop to the basis of 100 rounds per 18-pounder per day and
  other natures in proportion.

  AIRCRAFT, ARMY WING.--Strategical reconnaissance including
  the reconnaissance of areas beyond the tactical zone
  and in which the enemy's main reserves are located, also
  distant photography and aerial offensive, will be carried out
  by an Army squadron under instructions issued direct from
  G.H.Q. Protection from hostile aircraft will be the main
  duty of the Army fighting squadron. A bombing squadron
  will be held in readiness for any aerial offensive which the
  situation may render desirable.

  CORPS SQUADRONS.--Two Corps squadrons will undertake
  artillery co-operation, contact patrols, and tactical reconnaissance
  for the Corps to which they are attached. In the
  case of the Desert Mounted Corps one flight from the Corps
  squadron attached to XXth Corps will be responsible for
  the above work. Photography of trench areas will normally
  be carried out daily by the Army Wing.


VII


ORDERS FOR THE OFFICIAL ENTRY INTO JERUSALEM

1. The Commander-in-Chief will enter Jerusalem by the Bab-el-Khalil
(Jaffa Gate) at 12 noon, 11th December 1917. The order of procession
is shown below:

                     Two Aides-de-camp.
                      (Twenty paces.)
O.C. Italian Palestine  Commander-in-Chief.  O.C. French Palestine
Contingent(Col.                                  Contingent
Dagostino).                                      (Col. Piepape).
Staff Officer.          Two Staff Officers.      Staff Officer.
                        (Ten paces.)
               M. Picot (Head of French Mission).
French Mil.    Brig.-Gen.   Italian Mil. Att.   American
Att. (Capt.    Clayton.     (Major Caccia).     Mil. Att.
St. Quentin).                                 (Col. Davis).
                        (Five paces.)
        Chief of General Staff (Maj.-Gen. Sir L.J. Bols).
       Brig.-General General Staff (Brig.-Gen. G. Dawnay).
                        (Five paces.)
     G.O.C. XXth Corps, Lieut.-Gen. Sir Philip W. Chetwode,
   Bart., D.S.O.
   Staff Officer.                    Brig.-Gen. Bartholomew.
                         (Ten paces.)
          British Guard.
          Australian and New Zealand Guard.
          French Guard.
          Italian Guard.

2. GUARDS.--The following guards will be found by XXth Corps:

  Outside the Gate--

    British Guard: Fifty of all ranks, including English, Scottish,
    Irish, and Welsh troops.

    Australian and New Zealand Guard: Fifty of all ranks, including
    twenty New Zealand troops.

    These guards will be drawn up facing each other, the right
    flank of the British guard and the left flank Australian guard
    resting on the City Wall. The O.C. British guard will be in
    command of both guards and will give the words of command.

  Inside the Gate--

    French Guard: Twenty of all ranks.
    Italian Guard: Twenty of all ranks.

    These guards will be drawn up facing each other, the left flank
    of the French guard and the right flank of the Italian guard
    resting on the City Wall.

3. SALUTE.--On the approach of the Commander-in-Chief, guards will
come to the Salute and present arms.

4. The Military Governor of the City will meet the Commander-in-Chief
at the Gate at 12 noon.

5. ROUTE.--The procession will proceed _via_ Sueikat Allah and El
Maukaf Streets to the steps of El Kala (Citadel), where the notables
of the City under the guidance of a Staff Officer of the Governor will
meet the Commander-in-Chief and the Proclamation will be read to the
citizens. The British, Australian and New Zealand, French and Italian
guards will, when the procession has passed them, take their place in
column of fours in the rear of the procession in that order.

On arrival at El Kala the guards will form up facing steps on the
opposite (_i.e._ east) side of El Maukaf Street, the British guard
being thus on the left, Italian guard on the right of the line, and
remain at the slope. The British and Italian guards will bring up
their left and right flanks respectively across the street south and
north of El Kala.

On leaving the Citadel the procession will proceed in the same order
as before to the Barrack Square, where the Commander-in-Chief will
confer with the notables of the City. On entering the Barrack Square
the guards will wheel to the left and, keeping the left-hand man of
each section of fours next the side of the Barrack Square, march round
until the rear of the Italian guard has entered the Square, when the
guards will halt, right turn (so as to face the centre of the Square),
and remain at the slope.

The procession will leave the City by the same route as it entered and
in the same order.

As the Commander-in-Chief and procession move off to leave the Barrack
Square the guards will present arms, and then move off and resume
their places in the procession, the British guard leading.

On arrival at the Jaffa Gate the guards will take up their original
positions, and on the Commander-in-Chief's departure will be marched
away under the orders of the G.O.C. XXth Corps.

6. POLICE, etc.--The Military Governor of the City will arrange for
policing the route of the procession and for the searching of houses
on either side of the route. He will also arrange for civil officials
to read the Proclamation at El Kala.



VIII


The Proclamation read from the steps of David's Tower on the occasion
of the Commander-in-Chief's Official Entry into Jerusalem was in these
terms:

  To the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Blessed and the people dwelling
  in its vicinity:

  The defeat inflicted upon the Turks by the troops under
  my command has resulted in the occupation of your City
  by my forces. I therefore here and now proclaim it to be
  under martial law, under which form of administration it
  will remain as long as military considerations make it
  necessary.

  However, lest any of you should be alarmed by reason of
  your experiences at the hands of the enemy who has retired,
  I hereby inform you that it is my desire that every person
  should pursue his lawful business without fear of interruption.
  Furthermore, since your City is regarded with affection by
  the adherents of three of the great religions of mankind, and
  its soil has been consecrated by the prayers and pilgrimages
  of multitudes of devout people of those three religions for
  many centuries, therefore do I make it known to you that
  every sacred building, monument, holy spot, shrine, traditional
  site, endowment, pious bequest, or customary place
  of prayer, of whatsoever form of the three religions, will be
  maintained and protected according to the existing customs
  and beliefs of those to whose faiths they are sacred.



IX


No story of the capture of Jerusalem would be complete without the
tribute paid by General Allenby to his gallant troops of all arms. The
Commander-in-Chief's thanks, which were conveyed to the troops in a
Special Order of the Day, were highly appreciated by all ranks. The
document ran as follows:

  SPECIAL ORDER OF THE DAY

  G.H.Q., E.E.P.,

  _15th December_ 1917.

  With the capture of Jerusalem another phase of the
  operations of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force has been
  victoriously concluded.

  The Commander-in-Chief desires to thank all ranks of all
  the units and services in the Force for the magnificent work
  which has been accomplished.

  In forty days many strong Turkish positions have been
  captured and the Force has advanced some sixty miles on a
  front of thirty miles.

  The skill, gallantry, and determination of all ranks have
  led to this result.

  1. The approach marches of the Desert Mounted Corps
  and the XXth Corps (10th, 53rd, 60th, and 74th Divisions),
  followed by the dashing attacks of the 60th and 74th Divisions
  and the rapid turning movement of the Desert Mounted
  Corps, ending in the fine charge of the 4th Australian Light
  Horse Brigade, resulted in the capture of Beersheba with
  many prisoners and guns.

  2. The stubborn resistance of the 53rd Division, units of
  the Desert Mounted Corps and Imperial Camel Brigade in
  the difficult country north-east of Beersheba enabled the
  preparations of the XXth Corps to be completed without
  interference, and enabled the Commander-in-Chief to carry
  out his plan without diverting more than the intended
  number of troops to protect the right flank, despite the many
  and strong attacks of the enemy.

  3. The attack of the XXth Corps (10th, 60th, and 74th
  Divisions), prepared with great skill by the Corps and Divisional
  Commanders and carried out with such dash and
  courage by the troops, resulted in the turning of the Turkish
  left flank and in an advance to the depth of nine miles through
  an entrenched position defended by strong forces.

  In this operation the Desert Mounted Corps, covering the
  right flank and threatening the Turkish rear, forced the
  Turks to begin a general retreat of their left flank.

  4. The artillery attack of the XXIst Corps and of the
  ships of the Royal Navy, skilfully arranged and carried out
  with great accuracy, caused heavy loss to the enemy in the
  Gaza sector of his defences. The success of this bombardment
  was due to the loyal co-operation of the Rear-Admiral
  S.N.O. Egypt and Red Sea, and the officers of the Royal
  Navy, the careful preparation of plans by the Rear-Admiral
  and the G.O.C. XXIst Corps, and the good shooting of the
  Royal Navy, and of the heavy, siege, and field artillery of
  the XXIst Corps.

  5. The two attacks on the strong defences of Gaza, carried
  out by the 52nd and 54th Divisions, were each completely
  successful, thanks to the skill with which they were thought
  out and prepared by the G.O.C. XXIst Corps, the Divisional
  Commanders and the Brigade Commanders, and the great
  gallantry displayed by the troops who carried out these
  attacks.

  6. The second attack resulted in the evacuation of Gaza
  by the enemy and the turning of his right flank. The 52nd
  and 75th Divisions at once began a pursuit which carried
  them in three weeks from Gaza to within a few miles of
  Jerusalem.

  7. This pursuit, carried out by the Desert Mounted Corps
  and these two Divisions of the XXIst Corps, first over the
  sandhills of the coast, then over the Plains of Palestine and
  the foothills, and finally in the rocky mountains of Judea,
  required from all commanders rapid decisions and powers
  to adapt their tactics to varying conditions of ground. The
  troops were called upon to carry out very long marches in
  great heat without water, to make attacks on stubborn
  rearguards without time for reconnaissance, and finally to
  suffer cold and privation in the mountains.

  In these great operations Commanders carried out their
  plans with boldness and determination, and the troops of all
  arms and services responded with a devotion and gallantry
  beyond praise.

  8. The final operations of the XXth Corps which resulted
  in the surrender of Jerusalem were a fitting climax to the
  efforts of all ranks.

  The attack skilfully prepared by the G.O.C. XXth Corps
  and carried out with precision, endurance, and gallantry
  by the troops of the 53rd, 60th, and 74th Divisions, over
  country of extreme difficulty in wet weather, showed skill
  in leading and gallantry and determination of a very high
  order.

  9. Throughout the operations the Royal Flying Corps
  have rendered valuable assistance to all arms and have
  obtained complete mastery of the air. The information
  obtained from contact and reconnaissance patrols has at
  all times enabled Commanders to keep in close touch with
  the situation. In the pursuit they have inflicted severe
  loss on the enemy, and their artillery co-operation has contributed
  in no small measure to our victory.

  10. The organisation in rear of the fighting forces enabled
  these forces to be supplied throughout. All supply and
  ammunition services and engineer services were called upon
  for great exertions. The response everywhere showed great
  devotion and high military spirit.

  11. The thorough organisation of the lines of communication,
  and the energy and skill with which all the services
  adapted themselves to the varying conditions of the operations,
  ensured the constant mobility of the fighting
  troops.

  12. The Commander-in-Chief appreciates the admirable
  conduct of all the transport services, and particularly the
  endurance and loyal service of the Camel Transport Corps.

  13. The skill and energy by which the Signal Service was
  maintained under all conditions reflects the greatest credit
  on all concerned.

  14. The Medical Service was able to adapt itself to all
  the difficulties of the situation, with the result the evacuation
  of wounded and sick was carried out with the least possible
  hardship or discomfort.

  15. The Veterinary Service worked well throughout; the
  wastage in animals was consequently small considering the
  distances traversed.

  16. The Ordnance Service never failed to meet all demands.

  17. The work of the Egyptian Labour Corps has been of
  the greatest value in contributing to the rapid advance of
  the troops and in overcoming the difficulties of the communications.

  18. The Commander-in-Chief desires that his thanks and
  appreciation of their services be conveyed to all officers and
  men of the force which he has the honour to command.

  G. DAWNAY, B.G.G.S.,

  for Major-General, Chief of the General Staff, E.E.F.



X


The men of units forming the XXth Corps were deeply gratified to
receive this commendation from their gallant Corps Commander:


  SPECIAL ORDER OF THE DAY

  BY

  LIEUTENANT-GENERAL SIR PHILIP W. CHETWODE, BT.,
  K.C.M.G., C.B., D.S.O., _commanding XXth Corps_

  HEADQUARTERS, XXTH CORPS,
  _13th December_ 1917.

  Now that the efforts of General Sir E.H.H. Allenby's
  Army have been crowned by the capture of Jerusalem, I
  wish to express to all ranks, services, and departments of the
  XXth Army Corps my personal thanks and my admiration
  for the soldierly qualities they have displayed.

  I have served as a regimental officer in two campaigns,
  and no one knows better than I do what the shortness of
  food, the fatigue of operating among high mountains, and
  the cold and wet has meant to the fighting troops. But in
  spite of it all, and at the moment when the weather was
  at its worst, they responded to my call and drove the
  enemy in one rush through his last defences and beyond
  Jerusalem.

  A fine performance, and I am intensely proud of having
  had the honour of commanding such a body of men.

  I wish to give special praise to the Divisional Ammunition
  Columns, Divisional Trains A.S.C., Supply Services, Mechanical
  Transport personnel, Camel Transport personnel, and to
  the Royal Army Medical Corps and all services whose continuous
  labour, day and night, almost without rest, alone
  enabled the fighting troops to do what they did.


  SPECIAL ORDER OF THE DAY

  HEADQUARTERS, XXTH CORPS,
  31_st December_ 1917.

  I have again to thank the XXth Corps and to express to
  them my admiration of their bravery and endurance during
  the three days' fighting on December 27, 28, and 29.

  The enemy made a determined attempt with two corps
  to retake Jerusalem, and while their finest assault troops
  melted away before the staunch defence of the 53rd and
  60th Divisions, the 10th and 74th were pressing forward
  over the most precipitous country, brushing aside all opposition
  in order to relieve the pressure on our right.

  Their efforts were quickly successful, and by the evening
  of the 27th we had definitely regained the initiative, and
  I was able to order a general advance.

  The final result of the three days' fighting was a gain to
  us of many miles and extremely heavy losses to the enemy.

  A fine three days' work.



INDEX


ABU SHUSHE.
Adaseh.
Ain Ari.
--Karim.
Air Force honours.
Akir.
Allenby, General.
--administration.
American Red Cross Society.
Arsuf.
Askalon.
Auja, River.

BAKER, Colonel Sir Randolf.
Bald Hill.
Barrow, Major-General G. de S.
Bartholomew, Brigadier-General.
Bayley, Colonel.
Beersheba, Anzac march on.
--battle of
--German preparations
Beit Hannina.
--Iksa.
--Izza.
--Jala.
--ur el Foka.
--ur et Tahta.
Beitunia.
Bethany.
Beth-horons.
Bethlehem.
Biblical battlefields.
Biddu.
Bireh.
Bols, Major-General.
Borton, Major-General.
Bulfin, Lieutenant-General.
Bulteel, Captain.
Burkah.
Butler, Brigadier-General.

CHAUVEL, Lieutenant-General.
Chaytor, Major-General.
Cheape, Lieutenant-Colonel H.
Chetwode, Lieutenant-General Sir.
--thanks to XXth Corps troops.
Clayton, Brigadier-General
Colston, Brigadier-General.
Cox, Brigadier-General
Cripps, Colonel Hon. F.

DAMMERS, Captain.
Dawnay, Brigadier-General.
Deir Sineid.
--Yesin.
de Rothschild, Major.
Desert railways.
--pipeline.
Dukku.

EKTEIF.
El Jib.
El Kala.
Enver.

FARAH, wadi.
Force Order, General Allenby's thanks to troops.
Ful, Tel el.

GAZA, plan of attack on.
--Ali Muntar.
--defences.
--El Arish redoubt.
--Great Mosque.
--naval gunnery.
--Outpost Hill.
--Sea Post.
Gaza, Sheikh Hasan.
--Umbrella Hill.
German Hospice.
Gilgal.
Girdwood, Major-General.
Godwin, Brigadier-General.
Good Samaritan Inn.
Grant, Brigadier-General.

Hadrah.
Hanafish, action on wadi.
Hebron.
Hill 1070.
Hill, Major-General J.
Hodgson, Major-General.
Hong Kong and Singapore battery.
Huj.

Ibn Obeid.
Imperial Service cavalry.

Jackson, Admiral T.
Jaffa.
--Gate.
Jebel Kuruntul.
Jelil.
Jericho.
Jerisheh.
Jerusalem, battle of.
--civil administration
--Memorial to Army
--Official Entry
--order of procession
--Proclamation to people
--water supply
Jordan.
Jezar.
Junction Station.

Katrah.
Kantara.
Kanwukah.
Khurbet Subr.
Khuweilfeh.
Kressenstein, von.
Kulonieh.
Kuryet el Enab.
Kustul.

Latron.
Lawson, Captain.
Lifta.
Longley, Major-General.
Ludd.

M'Call, Brigadier-General Pollak.
Maclean, Brigadier-General.
Mejdel.
Meldrum, Brigadier-General.
Mott, Major-General.
Mount of Olives.
Mughar.
Mukhmas.
Mulebbis.

Nablus Road.
Nebi Musa.
Nebi Samwil.
Nejile.

O'Brien, Colonel.

Palestine Army, composition of.
Palin, Major-General.
Patron, Captain.
Pemberton, Colonel.
Perkins, Lieutenant.
Primrose, Captain Hon. Neil.

Ramallah.
Ramleh.
Raratongas.
Ras et Tawil.
Rushdi trenches.
Ryrie, Brigadier-General.

Saba, Tel el.
Sakaty, Tel el.
Saris.
Sarona.
Shea, Major-General H.
Sheikh Muannis.
Sheria.
Sherifeh.
Shilta.
Smith, Rifleman.
Soba.
Solomon's Pools.
Strategy in Palestine.
--the German view.
Suffa.
Supplying the front.
Surar, wadi.
Sukereir, wadi.

TALAT ED DUMM.
Temperley.
Thornhill, Corporal.
Train, Corporal, V.C.
Turkish line of communications.
--moral.

WATSON, Brigadier-General.
Whines, Corporal.
Whitehill.
Wingfield-Digby, Captain.
Wire roads.

YEBNAH.
Yilderim undertaking.
--von Falkenhayn's doubts.

ZAMBY.
Zeitun ridge.


Printed by T. and A. CONSTABLE, Printers to His Majesty at the
Edinburgh University Press





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