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Author: Lock, Henry Osmond, 1879-
Title: With the British Army in The Holy Land
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Title: With the British Army in The Holy Land

Author: Henry Osmond Lock

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*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK IN THE HOLY LAND ***




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Internet Archive/Canadian Libraries)





With the British Army in the Holy Land

BY

MAJOR H. O. LOCK

THE DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT

WITH MAPS

LONDON: ROBERT SCOTT
ROXBURGHE HOUSE
PATERNOSTER ROW, E.C.
1919




CONTENTS

CHAPTER I
                                                                 PAGE
EGYPT AND THE SUEZ CANAL                                          1

Modern Egypt--Military Geography of Egypt--The Eastern Boundary--Outbreak
of War, 1914--Invasion of Egypt by the Turks--The Dardanelles--Defence
Problem at the Opening of 1916.


CHAPTER II

THE DESERT OF SINAI                                              10

Across the Canal--The Military Railway--The Pipe-line--Kantara--Oghratina,
Katia and Dueidar--Romani--Bir-el-Abd--El Arish--Maghdaba--Magruntein and
Rafa--Sea-borne Supplies--Khan Yunus--The Land of Promise--Personnel.


CHAPTER III

MESOPOTAMIA, THE CAUCASUS, AND THE HEJAZ                         21

Landing in Mesopotamia--1915
Operations--Kut--Baghdad--Consolidation--Interdependence of Mesopotamia and
Palestine--Caucasus--Collapse of Russia--The Yemen--Revolt of the
Hejaz--Mecca--Medina--Maan--Arab Co-operation in Eastern Palestine.


CHAPTER IV

PALESTINE                                                        28

General Idea--A Comprehensive View--The Sea--Sand Dunes--Coastal
Plain--Judaean Hills--Jordan Valley--Eastern
Palestine--Armageddon--Climate--Railways--Population.


CHAPTER V

GAZA                                                             37

History--Importance of Situation--Topography--First Battle of Gaza--Second
Battle of Gaza--Reorganization of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force.


CHAPTER VI

TRENCH WARFARE                                                   43

Fresh Arrivals--Journey to Railhead--Acclimatization--The Turkish Line--The
British Line--Campaigning Conditions--Flies and Dust--Morale--Humorous
Incidents--Spies--Raiding and Shelling--Defences at the Apex--Preparations
for the Offensive.


CHAPTER VII

GAZA AND BEERSHEBA                                               51

General Plan of the Battle--Reasons--Water--Transport--Bombardment of
Gaza--Capture of Beersheba--Infantry Attack on Gaza--Counter-attack at
Khuweilfeh--Attack on Sheria--Evacuation of Gaza--Retreat of the Enemy--The
Apex--Shelling and Raids.


CHAPTER VIII

FULL CRY                                                         62

Flight of the Enemy--Cavalry Pursuit--Crossing No Man's Land--Infantry
Pursuit--Water--Arak-el-Menshiyeh Demonstration--Mesmiyeh
Engagement--Junction Station Captured--Naaneh--Gezer--Jaffa--Summary of the
Situation.


CHAPTER IX

NEBY SAMWIL                                                      71

Routes into the Hills--Bireh--Scheme of Operations--The Saris
Pass--Contrast with Hill Fighting in India--Enab--Neby Samwil--The Key to
Jerusalem--Consolidation and Reliefs.


CHAPTER X

JERUSALEM                                                        79

The 20th Corps Movements--The New Line--Counter-attacks--Final
Advance--Fighting round Jerusalem--The Enemy Outmanoeuvred--Surrender of
the City--General Allenby's Entry and Proclamation.


CHAPTER XI

THE HOLY CITY                                                    86

Sacred to the Jew, the Christian and the Moslem--The
Kings--Nebuchadnezzar--Nehemiah--Alexander--Ptolemy I--Antiochus--The
Maccabees--Pompey--Herod--Christ--Titus--Hadrian--Constantine--Chosroes--
Islam--The Crusaders--Saladin--Richard--The Kharezmians--Expulsion of the
Crusaders--Tamerlane--The Ottomans--Napoleon--Mohammed Ali--Routes taken by
the several Invaders.


CHAPTER XII

JUNCTION STATION AND LUDD                                       101

Chaos--Looting--Turkish Hospital--Prisoners of War--Vale of Sorek--Town
Planning--Movements of Troops--Railway Development--Bridges--Armoured
Train--Junction Station Superseded by Ludd--Development of Ludd--St.
George.


CHAPTER XIII

THE JORDAN                                                      109

Attempt to Retake Jerusalem--Winter in Palestine--Jericho--Advancing the
Line--Crossing the Jordan--Raid on Amman--Raid on Shunat Nimrin.


CHAPTER XIV

THE WADI DEIR BALLUT                                            116

Crossing the Auja--Front Line Life in
March--Musketry--Aircraft--Flowers--Wadi Deir Ballut--Capture of Deir
Ballut Ridge.


CHAPTER XV

THE MOUNTAINS OF EPHRAIM                                        124

The New Line--Turkish Reinforcements--Method of Holding the Line--A Patrol
Incident--Capture of Ikba.


CHAPTER XVI

RAFAT                                                           130

Arara--Rafat--Three Bushes Hill--Collapse in France--Reorganization.


CHAPTER XVII

THE CROWNING VICTORY                                            135

Situation in September, 1918--The Terrain--Preparations--Mugheir--The Sweep
from Rafat to the Sea--Cavalry--Deraa--The Turkish Rout--Eastern
Palestine--Sea of Galilee--Damascus--Summary of Results.


CHAPTER XVIII

CONCLUSION                                                      143

Pursuit--Beyrout--Aleppo--Armistices--Close of the War--Cross and
Crescent--Resume.


SKETCH MAPS                              PAGE

I   RAILWAYS IN 1914                      1

II  GAZA AND BEERSHEBA                   51

III COUNTRY ROUND JERUSALEM              79

IV  RAILWAYS IN 1918                    101

V   COUNTRY ROUND RAFAT                 117




NOTE


My aim in compiling this little book has been to provide a short account
of the Palestine campaign, illustrated from the experiences of one who
was present.

The manuscript was written on active service, soon after the occurrence
of the events recorded. It may, on this account, be sketchy, but, it is
hoped, not the less interesting.

My acknowledgments are due to the Official Despatches and publications,
and also to the writings of Mr. W.T. Massey, Official Correspondent with
the Egyptian Expeditionary Force.

H. O. L.


IN THE FIELD, 1918.

[Illustration]




WITH THE BRITISH ARMY IN THE HOLY LAND




CHAPTER I

EGYPT AND THE SUEZ CANAL


The Holy Land has been the scene of war since the dawn of History. Long
before Belgium became the cock-pit of Europe, Palestine was the cock-pit
of the known world. Here, on the high road between Asia and Africa, were
fought the great wars of Egyptians and Assyrians, Israelites and
Canaanites, Greeks and Romans, Saracens and Crusaders. With these few
square miles are associated the names of the world's greatest soldiers
no less than that of the Prince of Peace. None can fail to be interested
in the latest campaign in this Land of Armageddon.

To understand the causes and events that led up to the campaign in
Palestine of 1917-1918, we must first summarize, as shortly as possible,
the modern history of Egypt. That country had for many centuries formed
an integral part of the Turkish Empire. But she had been rapidly
slipping from the grasp of the Turk. Early in the nineteenth century
Mohamed Ali had effectually thrown off the Turkish yoke. True, the
Turkish suzerainty remained; but that authority was little more than
nominal and was represented by an annual money tribute paid to the Porte
by the Khedive out of the revenues of Egypt.

Both France and England had large financial interests in Egypt,
especially after the construction of the Suez Canal, which was opened
for traffic in 1869.

The Suez Canal, in fact, became of vital importance to Great Britain. By
a stroke of policy the British Government acquired the shares of the
almost bankrupt Khedive, Ismail Pasha, and thus had a holding in the
company worth several million pounds. But far more important to Britain
was the position of the Canal as the great artery of the British Empire,
the most vulnerable point on the short sea route to India. Thus Britain
became directly concerned in the affairs of Egypt, in its internal
administration to secure peace within, and in its military defence to
secure the country in general, and the Canal zone in particular, from
invasion by a foreign enemy.

But the affairs of Egypt were in a most unsatisfactory condition. The
army was wholly unreliable, and extravagance in high places had brought
the exchequer to the verge of bankruptcy. In 1882 matters reached a
crisis. A revolution broke out, headed by Arabi Pasha, and the situation
looked desperate. Joint naval and military action by Britain and France
was proposed, but the French ships sailed away and left Britain with a
free hand. The British fleet bombarded the Forts at Alexandria and a
military force, based on the Suez Canal, was landed at Ismailia. This
force completely defeated the army of Arabi Pasha at Tel-el-Kebir, put
down the rebellion, and restored the government of the then Khedive,
Tewfik Pasha. But the Khedivial government had been unable to cope with
the rebellion single-handed; it had only been restored to power by
British arms; it could not hope to retain that power unless continuously
backed by the power of Britain.

From this time forward, whether she liked it or not, Britain found
herself effectually saddled with the direction of the government of
Egypt. In this position she became more fully confirmed by the
Anglo-Egyptian military operations against the Soudan in 1885, under
Gordon, and in 1898, under Kitchener. Outstanding differences with
France were dispelled on the conclusion of the Anglo-French Entente
Cordiale, and Britain was left virtually mistress of Egypt.

Let us look for a minute at the military geography of Egypt,
particularly with regard to the security of her frontiers from invasion.
Egypt consists, or prior to the seventies consisted, of the Nile, its
valley and delta, and the country rendered fertile by that river. On
either side of this fertile belt is dry, barren desert. On the north is
the Mediterranean Sea, and on the south the tropical Soudan. Thus, in
the hands of a power that holds the command of the sea, Egypt is well
adapted for defence. The tropical Soudan makes a well-nigh impossible
line of advance for a large hostile force from the south, and the routes
of approach from the east and from the west, across the waterless
deserts, present obstacles scarcely less formidable. Since the
seventies, however, another important factor has entered the problem,
namely, the Suez Canal and the area of cultivation and civilization
which has sprung up along its banks. The large amount of fresh water
required for the maintenance of the Canal, for the use of the towns that
have sprung up along its banks, and for the existence of the large
population which the Canal has attracted, is brought by a Canal known as
the Sweet Water Canal, from the river Nile. This Sweet Water Canal, and
the piped services which it supplied, were, in 1914, wholly upon the
western or Egyptian side of the Suez Canal. This western side was also
well provided with communications. Trunk railways connected Ismailia, at
the centre of the Canal, with Cairo and Alexandria, and lateral
railways, running along the whole length of the Canal, connected it with
Port Said and Suez.

Although, as was subsequently discovered, the problem of defending the
Suez Canal was by no means the same as that of defending Egypt, the
problems may, at first sight, appear identical. An enemy force moving
from Palestine against the Suez Canal and Egypt, would have to cross a
comparatively waterless desert for a distance of over a hundred miles.
On coming into collision with the defenders of the Canal, such an enemy
would be operating far from his base, with a long and vulnerable line of
communications, and with little or no available fresh water. The
defenders, operating along the line of the Suez Canal, would be close to
their base, with admirable communications, both lateral and to the rear,
and with the rich cultivated lands of Egypt on which to draw for
supplies, whilst their supply of fresh water would be unlimited.

The boundary line between Egypt and Palestine in 1914 ran from Rafa, on
the Mediterranean, to the head of the Gulf of Akaba, the north-eastern
arm of the Red Sea. This line runs right across the desert and is
distant about 120 miles from the Suez Canal. At first sight the boundary
seems ideal, and in so far as the defence of Egypt alone was concerned,
it left little or nothing to be desired. But, as subsequent events
proved, this line was not good enough to safeguard the defences of the
Canal.

On the outbreak of war, in August, 1914, between Germany and
Austria-Hungary on the one hand, and Great Britain, France, Russia and
Belgium on the other, the garrison of Egypt was augmented by troops sent
out from England and India and from Australia. The Suez Canal, through
which vast numbers of troops were passing, was of vital importance to
the communications of the allies, and was strongly guarded accordingly.
Two months later (November 5), Turkey threw in her hand with the Central
Powers. One of the baits held out by Germany to induce the Turks to
enter the struggle, was a promise that they should be restored to
complete supremacy in Egypt. With the entering of Turkey into the war,
and her open threats to invade Egypt, the protection of that country and
of the Canal became a matter of extreme urgency.

The policy of defence adopted was that of making the line of the Canal
the line of resistance. A large portion of the low-lying desert to the
north-east of the Canal was flooded, so as to render approach by that
direction impossible. Warships took up stations in the Canal itself,
while naval patrol launches took over the duty of guarding the Bitter
Lakes. The troops detailed for the defence of the Canal itself were
entrenched upon the western side, with reserves concentrated at points
of tactical importance. In this way full advantage was taken of the
lateral communications on the western side of the Canal, while it was
thought that the difficulties of crossing the desert on the eastern side
would make approach by the Turks well-nigh impossible.

Meanwhile, the Turk was not letting the grass grow under his feet.
Whether the Germans ever intended to pay the price for Turkish adhesion
by sending a strong enough force to make the invasion of Egypt
practicable is open to doubt. The Turkish rank and file were certainly
led to believe that a serious invasion of Egypt was intended. But it is
much more likely that the object of the Germans was to detain as large a
British force as possible in Egypt and thus prevent their taking part in
the fighting in France. A secondary object may have been to render the
Suez Canal temporarily impassable. Whatever may have been the chestnuts
that Germany hoped to get out of the fire, it was clear that Turkey was
willing to act as catspaw, and attempt a foolhardy invasion of Egypt.
Consequently, the construction of a new military railway in Syria was
put in hand, and by January, 1915, the Turks had formed advanced posts
at Auja, on the frontier, and also at Kosseima, El Arish, and Khan
Epenus in the desert. The problem of water supply has always presented a
difficulty to armies crossing this waterless desert. There are a certain
number of reservoirs and cisterns which hold up water during the rains.
In the winter time these would be full. The Turk is less particular
about the water which he drinks than the white man, and doubtless he
could, to some extent, be supplied from some of the brackish pools in
the desert, with water that no one would think of offering to a British
soldier.

The light pontoons that the Turks dragged across the desert for crossing
the Canal are said to have been used for carrying water during certain
stages of the advance. Suffice it to say that the Turks did succeed in
solving the water problem, and in crossing the desert with a force of
some considerable strength.

On the 3rd February, 1915, the threatened attack materialized. Before
dawn, some of the light pontoons which the Turks had brought with them,
were launched on the Canal. These were manned, while other Turks
deployed along the eastern bank and opened fire to cover the crossing.
The troops defending this portion of the Canal, mostly Indians, opened
fire upon the pontoons, with the result that many of them were sunk. Two
of the pontoons, however, reached the western bank, and their crews,
numbering about twenty, surrendered. There was fighting throughout the
day, but no further crossing of the Canal. On the next day the east bank
was swept, with the result that a considerable party of the enemy were
captured. After this, the Turks withdrew, and marched back to Palestine.
This was the only time that a formed body of the enemy succeeded in
reaching the Canal. But they had shown that it was possible for them to
achieve the almost impossible, and thus they gave the authorities
responsible for the defence of Egypt much food for thought.

The menace to Egypt was for a time delayed, though not wholly removed,
by the expedition against the Dardanelles.

To co-operate with our Russian allies, the British Government decided,
early in 1915, to attempt to force the passage of the Dardanelles. The
strategic gains promised were highly attractive, and included--the
passage of arms and munitions from the allies to Russia in exchange for
wheat, the neutrality and possible adherence of the outstanding Balkan
States, the severing of communications between European and Asiatic
Turkey, the drawing off of Turkish troops from the theatres of the war,
and the expulsion of the Turks from Constantinople, and ultimately from
Europe. Incidentally, it was considered, on the principle that the best
defensive is an offensive, that a thrust at the very heart of Turkey, a
threat against Constantinople itself, would afford the best means of
defending Egypt.

The story of the Dardanelles expedition has been often told, and
scarcely forms a part of this history, so a few words must suffice. In
February, 1915, we started by bombarding the forts with a few old
warships. The forts at the outer entrance were soon silenced, and early
in March, the warships moved up to the Narrows. On the 18th, a great
effort was made to reduce the forts about the Narrows; but it failed,
with the loss of three battleships and more than 2,000 men. This
demonstrated the fact that the Dardanelles could never be opened by sea
power alone, and, accordingly, amphibious operations became necessary.
An expeditionary force was assembled in Egypt, and Mudros was selected
as the advanced base. On April 25, landings were effected on the extreme
point of the Gallipoli Peninsula. In spite of heroic attempts, we did
little more than effect a precarious lodgment. Further operations were
necessary; additional divisions were brought out from home; and on the
night of the 6th/7th August, another landing was effected at Suvla Bay.
But the new plan was no more successful than the old. Within a couple of
days this force also had settled down to a war of positions. Winter was
approaching; our positions on the peninsula would then become no longer
tenable. No progress could be made, and at length it was decided to
evacuate. The Suvla Bay force was withdrawn first; and the evacuation of
the main body of troops was completed on the 20th December. The
withdrawal was carried out with the same brilliance that had
characterized the various landings, and with so small a number of
casualties that it was described as "an achievement without parallel in
the annals of war."

Many of the regiments that fought against the Turks at Gallipoli were
withdrawn, directly or indirectly to Egypt, and subsequently met the
Turk again during the advance into Palestine. Included among these were
the 10th, 52nd, 53rd and 54th Divisions, besides regiments of Anzacs and
Yeomanry. In so far as the Dardanelles operations aimed at protecting
Egypt, they were a success; for, while they were in progress, no
organized invasion of Egypt was attempted. But the evacuation had the
effect of liberating a large force of Turkey's best troops for
operations against Mesopotamia and Egypt.

It would be convenient to pause here and take stock of the military
situation in Egypt, in the light of over a year's experience of actual
war.

In the first place, the Turks had disillusioned us as to the
impossibility of crossing the waterless desert, and had actually crossed
it with a considerable armed and organized force. They announced that
what they had effected had been nothing more than a reconnaissance. In
any case, they had shown us what they could do, and that, backed by the
resources of the Central Powers, there would be no insuperable obstacle
to their bringing a large and fully equipped army across the desert.

In the second place, we had discovered that the problems of defending
the Suez Canal and of defending Egypt were not identical. While the
Canal formed an admirable moat, an obstacle difficult to negotiate when
stoutly defended, and so a capital defensive line for the protection of
the Nile; yet this line was inadequate for the protection of the Canal
itself or for securing the immunity of the passing shipping.

And so, thirdly, we realized that some other line must be found for the
protection of the Canal. While we were sitting on the west bank, small
parties of Turks approached the eastern bank. On more than one occasion,
in the summer of 1915, they succeeded in placing mines in the fairway of
the Canal. It would, therefore, have been quite possible for them to
have seriously interfered with the working of the Canal and the passage
of shipping. Granted that a new line must be found, the question arises
where such new line should be drawn. A line across the actual desert may
be all very well in war time, though none too easy to hold, for the
reasons that we have already discussed. But to keep a garrison on such a
line for ever would be well-nigh intolerable. Thus, by a process of
elimination, we find that the most suitable line for the permanent
defence of the Suez Canal is the fertile country beyond the eastern
desert--in other words, Palestine.

Fourthly, it had been brought home to us that the worst form of defence
is a passive defence. As, therefore, the Turk would not leave well
alone, but insisted on attacking us in Egypt, so it became necessary for
us to meet him on his own ground, to push a vigorous offensive, and
eventually to carry the war into Palestine.




CHAPTER II

THE DESERT OF SINAI


In accordance with the policy of defending the Suez Canal upon a line
further east, the construction of a new defensive line was put in hand
during the early months of 1916. No longer were the Turks to be allowed
to annoy us by actually reaching the Canal. A line of trenches,
protected by barbed wire entanglements, was constructed out in the
desert, a few miles to the east of the Canal. As may be imagined, this
was no easy task. A large amount of excavation was necessary for a small
amount of trench; walls had to be built up with sandbags; and other
steps had to be taken to prevent the sides from foundering, and to
construct a work that would withstand shell fire.

Meanwhile, other preparations were put in hand for carrying the
defensive line further to the east. The construction was commenced of a
broad gauge of railway from Kantara eastwards across the desert. This
railway eventually became the trunk line between Egypt and Palestine. In
the days of trench warfare before Gaza, it transported freight trains
heavily laden with rations and ammunitions, troop trains conveying
officers and men in open trucks, hospital trains evacuating sick and
wounded, and an all-sleeping-car express running nightly in each
direction. In 1918, a swing-bridge was improvised across the Suez Canal,
and Jerusalem and Cairo were then connected by rail without change of
carriage being necessary. The future prospects of this railway seem
unbounded. It will undoubtedly be continued through to Damascus and
Aleppo, where it will connect with railways to Constantinople and to
Baghdad and the Persian Gulf. Thus it will form part of a grand trunk
railway system along the old caravan routes connecting the three
continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa. In its conception, it was just a
military railway, laid, with but little preparation, across the sands of
the desert. To this railway, however, was largely due the success of the
campaign that we are about to consider.

We have already seen that the Sinaitic Desert is almost waterless.
Although it has often been crossed by invading armies in both
directions, the provision of water has always presented the greatest
difficulty. The carriage of water in tanks upon the backs of camels, a
method used by us for locally supplying troops between water dumps and
the headquarters of units, proved successful here thousands of years
ago. The plan adopted by the Turks of dragging water-holding pontoons
across the desert was not to be despised. Further progress was made when
supplies of water were transported in tank-trucks along the railway. But
a bolder adaptation of modern science to desert fighting was reached,
when it was decided to lay on a piped supply of water from the Nile.

We have seen that the western bank of the Suez Canal was already
provided with a plentiful supply of fresh water by the Sweet Water
Canal. Plant was now installed for making this water available for the
troops. Purity had to be considered as well as adequacy of supply. A
peculiar danger had to be guarded against. There is a disease prevalent
in Egypt, of a particularly unpleasant character and persistent type,
called by the medical profession Bilhaziosis, but better known to our
men as "Bill Harris." This disease is conveyed by a parasitic worm found
in the waters of the Nile, and affects not only those who drink the
water, but also those who bathe in it or merely wash. Consequently,
orders were stringent against even touching Nile water which had not
previously been treated. This necessitated the troops east of the Canal
being put upon a very restricted supply, and they were accordingly
rationed at the rate of a gallon of water per head per day for all
purposes, including washing, cooking and drinking. At the Kantara
waterworks water was drawn in from the Sweet Water Canal, mixed with
alum, and pumped through settling tanks into filters. When it had passed
through these, it was pumped underneath the Suez Canal into reservoirs
on the eastern bank. Here it was chlorinated; and hence the water, now
fit for all purposes, was pumped forward to its destination. There being
no gradient to assist the natural flow of the water, it had to be pumped
forward by successive stages. The first stage was as far as Romani; when
working at greatest length the pumping stages numbered no less than
seventeen. At times, during the advance, the railway had to be called in
aid; and train-loads of water for the use of advanced troops were railed
from pipe-head up to rail-head. At some stages of the advance this
supply could be supplemented by local water, which, though generally
somewhat brackish, was employed for the horses, mules and camels. It was
even found to have no ill-effect upon the troops, if used for a limited
period, and if necessary precautions were taken. At other stages, where
water was non-existent, or rendered wholly unapproachable by enemy
dispositions, our force became entirely dependent upon the supply
delivered through the pipe-line. Ultimately, when we settled down to
protracted trench warfare before Gaza, this pipe-line was delivering a
constant supply of water into our trenches, distant some couple of
hundred miles from the banks of the Nile.

Kantara started upon a process of development worthy of the base of such
an expedition. Before the war, it had been little more than a small
Canal village, comprising a few huts. It eventually grew into an
important railway terminus with wharves and cranes, a railway ferry and
40 miles of sidings. Miles of first-class macadamized roads were made,
vast ordnance and supply dumps arose, and camps and depots were
established for man and beast. The scale on which this mushroom town
developed was stupendous.

Early in 1916, the Turks, relieved from imminent danger near home by our
evacuation of Gallipoli, came down again in force through Syria,
Palestine and the Desert, to attack us in Egypt. Our construction gangs,
engaged upon the new railway and upon the development of local water
supplies, were at this time covered by escorts, mainly of cavalry,
spread out upon a wide front. On the 23rd of April several thousand
Turks, operating in three columns, attacked our desert posts at
Oghratina, Katia and Dueidar respectively, the two former being about 30
miles and the last named about 10 miles to the east of Kantara.
Oghratina and Katia, being well out in the desert, were cavalry posts
held by yeomanry. These two posts were rushed by a large force of the
enemy under cover of fog, and, though a stubborn resistance was offered,
and the fighting was severe, the posts were overwhelmed. At Dueidar, an
infantry post, some 20 miles or so nearer our base, the Turk was less
successful. Under cover of the same fog, about 900 Turks tried to rush
this post at dawn. They found the garrison standing to, and were beaten
off. Though they made three distinct attempts to break through, they
were unsuccessful. The garrison was reinforced and the Turks were
repulsed.

In order to hamper or prevent such bodies of Turks from again crossing
the desert and approaching the Canal, it was decided to draw off the
local water supplies in the desert. Accordingly, these supplies, mainly
in pools and cisterns constructed by men in a bygone age, were
systematically pumped or drained dry. By the end of June, no water was
left available for enemy use within easy reach of the Canal. From this
time forward the enemy attempted no more sporadic raids. He concentrated
instead upon a serious attack against our main positions, which attack
materialized at Romani.

By July, 1916, our railway had reached the village of Romani, which is
some 25 miles from Kantara, and is in the neighbourhood of Oghratina
and Katia, where the enemy had secured his success in April. The Turkish
force had been stiffened with Germans and Austrians, and was under the
command of the German General Von Kressenstein. It moved from the
Turkish railroad at Auja on the frontier, and advanced by way of
Maghdaba and the Wadi El Arish to El Arish, and thence westward along
the caravan route towards Egypt. This force had been well equipped and
trained for this class of warfare, and it succeeded in dragging heavy
guns across the desert byroads which it improvised for the purpose.
Making his advanced base at Bir-el-Abd, the enemy first occupied and
fortified a line about Mageiba. On the morning of the 3rd August, he
made a general advance, and took up a line fronting our position at
Romani. Here our left flank rested on the sea; the left of the line was
held by the 52nd Division, while the 53rd Division was on the right. The
East Lancashire Division was in reserve. The right flank comprised a
chain of posts, behind which were a force of cavalry. The weak point
was, therefore, our right flank, for a little force working round by the
south would threaten our communications and might possibly cut us off
from our reinforcements down the line and from our base at Kantara.
Accordingly, on the night of the 3rd/4th, one Light Horse Brigade moved
out to hold a three-miles line from our infantry post on the right,
sending out patrols a considerable distance in front. About midnight,
the enemy were found to be advancing in this direction. Before light
next morning this Brigade were heavily engaged, holding up the advance
of a considerable body of the enemy. Gradually the Brigade were pressed
back by weight of numbers, until, at about five o'clock in the morning,
the timely arrival of reinforcements secured the complete arrest of the
enemy advance in this direction. Soon after daylight the enemy swung
round his left flank and established himself upon Mount Royston. This
enforced upon us a further retirement; but he had reached the limit of
his success. Towards the sea, the enemy attacks against the 52nd
Division were beaten off, and here he could make no progress. At about
5.30 in the afternoon, a counter-attack was launched against Mount
Royston, and this position was recaptured. Early on the following
morning, the 5th, before daylight, the 52nd Division recaptured
Wellington Ridge, the last of our lost positions remaining in the hands
of the Turk. The tide had now turned definitely in our favour and the
Turk was in full retreat. An attempt was made to encircle his southern
flank and to cut him off with our cavalry, but his rearguard actions
were fought stubbornly, and the pursuing cavalry had to be withdrawn.
During the night of the 5th/6th, the enemy evacuated Katia, which was
occupied by us on the following morning. By the 8th, he had abandoned
Oghratina, and had fallen back to his advanced base at Bir-el-Abd. From
this base he now proceeded to evacuate camps and stores, but he was not
allowed to do so unmolested. He was followed up by the whole of our
cavalry and effectually shelled by our horse artillery. On the afternoon
and evening of this day (the 8th) the Turk counter-attacked our cavalry,
who were clearly outnumbered. Nevertheless the Turk considered it more
prudent to burn the remainder of his stores. He completed the evacuation
of Abd by the 12th, and it remained in our hands from this time forward.
This abortive advance against Romani marked the last determined attempt
of the Turks to invade the Suez Canal and Egypt. Henceforth the efforts
of the Turks were confined to opposing the storm which their misguided
cupidity had raised up against them.

After the battle of Romani, our mounted troops held a line about Abd.
The enemy now consolidated a position at Mazar, a little more than 20
miles further to the east. In the middle of September, a cavalry column
moved out to Mazar and attacked the Turkish positions. Neither side was
anxious to bring on a general engagement at that time. However, the
losses which the Turk suffered in this operation caused him sufficient
uneasiness to induce him to withdraw altogether from Mazar. He therefore
withdrew his troops to a position close to El Arish.

The Turkish garrison at El Arish consisted of some 1,600 infantry in
all, in a strong entrenched position. In the second week of December
increased activity was shown by the Turks, and aerial reconnaissance of
their camps behind their front line showed evidence of the proximity of
reinforcements. Our preparations for a forward move were pressed on
strenuously, and, though they were somewhat delayed through lack of
water, we were ready to move by the 20th December. The enemy realized
that the swiftness of our final preparations had been too much for him.
Knowing that his reinforcements could not arrive in time, he hurriedly
withdrew his troops from El Arish. This retirement was reported by the
R.F.C. on the 20th December, and our mounted troops, supported by
infantry, were ordered to move on El Arish the same night. The town was
found to be evacuated. Aircraft reports showed that about 1,600 of the
enemy were on the march, in two columns, in the neighbourhood of
Maghdaba and Abu Aweigila, while Sheikh Zowaid and Rafa appeared to be
clear. The enemy were evidently not retreating by the caravan route
towards Gaza, but were falling back southwards by the Wadi El Arish (the
Biblical "River of Egypt") upon their rail-head at Auja.

This evidence went to show that the garrison which had recently
evacuated El Arish were at Maghdaba, and it seemed likely that this
force were preparing to hold Maghdaba as a rearguard. A flying column of
cavalry was immediately despatched against them from El Arish. This
column found the enemy strongly posted and entrenched on both banks of
the Wadi El Arish. An attack was set in motion on the morning of the
23rd December, and lasted for the greater part of the day. By half-past
four that afternoon, however, all organized resistance was over, and the
enemy were surrendering everywhere. No further advance was attempted
along the enemy's line of communications towards Auja, and the troops,
being but a flying column, retired at once to El Arish.

Within a few days after the destruction at Maghdaba of the rearguard, or
garrison withdrawing from El Arish, another body of the enemy started to
entrench a position at Magruntein near Rafa. This was obviously intended
to bar our progress eastwards along the coastal route, the old caravan
route to Gaza. Rafa is the frontier town upon the Turco-Egyptian
frontier. The operation to which we are about to refer was, therefore,
the last engagement that took place upon Egyptian territory. It was not
possible at the end of December for the British force to push on and
occupy Rafa permanently, owing to difficulties of supply. But since the
enemy had again placed a small detached garrison within striking
distance of our mounted troops, the temptation was held out for a
repetition of the Maghdaba success at Magruntein. Accordingly, a flying
column, composed wholly of mounted troops and artillery, moved out from
El Arish on the evening of the 8th/9th January, 1917. The enemy was
taken completely by surprise, and by dawn on the 9th January his
position was almost entirely surrounded. The position, however, was a
formidable one, with ground in front entirely open and devoid of cover.
The main attack was timed for ten o'clock a.m., and was delivered from
the east and south-east. The town of Rafa was soon occupied, and, in the
course of the morning, our attack against the Turkish system of defences
developed on every side. The enemy's works were dominated by a central
redoubt or keep, and orders were given for a concerted attack to be
developed against this at 3.30 p.m. Meanwhile the enemy had despatched a
relieving force from Shellal, which is about twenty miles to the
south-east of Rafa and mid-way between that town and the nearest Turkish
railway. This relieving force was detected by our aircraft, who
frequently attacked it with bombs and machine gun fire. Orders were at
once given for the attack on the redoubt to be pressed with vigour, and,
before five o'clock, the redoubt was captured. With this position in our
hands, the remaining works soon fell, and by 5.30 p.m. all organized
resistance was over, and the enemy position, with all its garrison, was
captured. The relieving force were driven off without much difficulty,
and withdrew, presumably, to Shellal, which thereafter became the
enemy's next point of concentration. Our column, taking with them all
prisoners, animals and captured material, withdrew again to El Arish.

From the time of our occupation of El Arish on the 22nd December, that
town developed apace. Mine-sweeping operations were at once commenced in
the roadstead, a pier was erected, and, on the 24th, the supply ships
from Port Said began unloading stores and supplies. The lie of the land
gives unlimited opportunity to a power having the command of the sea to
supplement his other means of bringing forward supplies by landing
sea-borne goods upon the open beach. Repeatedly, in the subsequent
history of this war, we availed ourselves of this means of supply, as
our army moved northwards in Palestine. The landing of stores at El
Arish, however, was not wholly successful, owing to the strong currents,
a shelving and shifting beach, and heavy surf. In winter, the sea is apt
to be stormy here, and then such landing may become impossible. Supplies
were also hastened to El Arish by camel convoy, and dumps were
accumulated. The railway was pushed on with and, before the end of
January, the railway station at El Arish was completed; during the
following month the railway was pushed further out along the coast
preparatory to another advance.

After the destruction of their post at Rafa, the Turks immediately began
to concentrate their forces near Shellal. West of this place they
prepared a strong defensive position near Weli Sheikh Nuran, with the
object of covering their lines of communication both along the Beersheba
railway and along the Jerusalem-Hebron-Beersheba road. They also
established themselves at Khan Yunus, on the coastal road a few miles to
the east of Rafa. On the 23rd February, a reconnaissance was carried out
against Khan Yunus. The column, arriving at dawn, found the position
strongly held, and, after manoeuvring the enemy out of his front line
of defence and capturing prisoners, withdrew without difficulty.
Continuous pressure maintained by our troops in this neighbourhood,
however, induced the enemy to withdraw the garrison of Khan Yunus, which
place was entered by our cavalry without opposition on the 28th
February. The enemy also evacuated without firing a shot the position
which he had prepared near Weli Sheikh Nuran.

Our troops had crossed the desert with success attending them at every
stage. And now at last they had set foot in the Promised Land. Many of
them must have felt, what a soldier was afterwards heard to express,
"This may be the land of promise; it's certainly not the land of
fulfilment." History repeats itself. As the Israelites had much trial
and suffering to endure after reaching this stage of their journey from
Egypt, before they were permitted to "go in and possess the land," so
had our lads many a fierce and bloody battle to fight before they, too,
might set foot within the Holy City.

A few words as to personnel may not be out of place before we leave the
subject of this Desert campaign. Throughout this time the
Commander-in-Chief of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force was General Sir
Archibald Murray, G.C.M.G., K.C.B. A reorganization of the force took
place in October, 1917, in consequence of which General Murray moved his
headquarters back from Ismailia to Cairo. At the same time, the new
headquarters of the Eastern Force came into existence at Ismailia under
the command of Lieut.-General Sir Charles Dobell, K.C.B., C.M.G.,
D.S.O., under whose direction thus came more immediately the operations
in the eastern desert.

Amongst the troops employed were the Australians and New Zealanders and
several regiments of English Yeomanry, and, included among the infantry,
were the 52nd (Lowland), the 53rd (Welsh and Home Counties), the 54th
(East Anglian) and the 74th (Dismounted Yeomanry) Divisions.

This review of the advance across the desert has of necessity been
superficial. Strictly speaking, the Desert campaign is outside the scope
of this book. But a summarized history of the advance forms a necessary
introduction to our subject. Here, on the threshold of Palestine, we
must leave this army for a short space, while we review some other
operations, and while we take a glance at the nature of the country in
which this army was about to operate.




CHAPTER III

MESOPOTAMIA, THE CAUCASUS, AND THE HEJAZ


Having taken a hurried glance at the campaign in Sinai, which directly
led up to that in Palestine, we will take a yet more hurried glance at
three other campaigns in Asiatic Turkey which had their bearing, direct
or indirect, upon the Palestine operations.

Most important among these was the expedition to Mesopotamia. In 1914,
when Turkey came into the war against us, a British Indian Brigade was
landed at the mouth of the Shatt-el-Arab, the common estuary by which
the Tigris and the Euphrates reach the Persian Gulf. The objects of this
expedition were to secure the oil-fields of Persia in which Britain was
largely interested; to neutralize German ascendancy, which was rapidly
developing in this part of the world through her interests in the
Baghdad Railway; and to embarrass Turkey by attacking her at a point
where facilities of manoeuvre and supply seemed to hold out a
reasonable promise of success.

Throughout 1915 this expedition met with uninterrupted success. The
British Indian forces engaged were increased in number and strength,
and, in spite of appalling conditions of climate, and notwithstanding
more than one narrow escape from disaster, the British flag was pushed
further and further forward into this flat alluvial country. In the
autumn of 1915, we held all the country up to Nasiriyeh on the Euphrates
and to Kut el Amara on the Tigris. Then that ill-fated decision was
arrived at which sent General Townshend, with the inadequate force at
his command, up the Tigris to capture Baghdad. This force went
heroically forward, and, just short of that city, defeated the Turks at
the battle of Ctesiphon. But General Townshend's casualties were heavy,
and his available reinforcements were neither sufficiently numerous nor
at hand. The pick of the Turkish army released by our withdrawal from
Gallipoli, had poured down to reinforce the enemy, and General Townshend
had no alternative but to beat a hasty retreat. Accordingly, he fell
back to Kut el Amara. Partly from inability to get his war-worn forces
further away, and partly from a disinclination to abandon this important
tactical point to the enemy, he consolidated here and prepared to
withstand a siege. The history of that siege will live as one of the
noblest in the annals of the British army. But the stars in their
courses fought against us. Strong enemy positions, inadequate supplies
and transport arrangements, floods, and appalling conditions of country
and weather, proved overwhelming. In spite of the unremitting efforts of
the relieving army, which fought battle after battle without stint of
labour or loss, the garrison of Kut found themselves, at the beginning
of May, 1916, left with no alternative but to capitulate. Almost the
whole of the garrison were removed into Asia Minor, to a captivity which
few were destined to survive. Naturally the Turks were much elated by
this success, following upon their successes in Gallipoli, and were
persuaded that the might of the British arm was nothing which they need
fear.

Leaving a sufficient force to check any further British advance into
Mesopotamia, the Turk withdrew the bulk of his forces to operate against
the Russians and, perhaps wisely, made no great effort to dislodge us
from the territory which we already occupied. The opposing forces sat
down and watched each other for many months in the entrenched positions
below Kut. In March of the following year, 1917, General Maude, on whom
had fallen the command of the British army in Mesopotamia, won a
decisive victory at Kut; and, pursuing the remnants of the routed enemy,
entered Baghdad. The Turks withdrew to the higher country north and
north-east of the city, whither they were pursued. After these
operations, the British were in occupation of the completed section of
the Baghdad railway, which was then open from Baghdad as far north as
Samarra. They also effected a junction with the Russian troops operating
in Persia. In the following September, engagements were fought at Ramadi
and elsewhere on the Euphrates, with the result that the Turkish
garrisons were rounded up, and but few Turkish troops were left to
oppose the British forces in Mesopotamia. Nevertheless, an immediate
advance was not made up to Mosul and the upper territories of
Mesopotamia. Owing to the collapse of Russia, it became necessary for us
to take over some of the country in Persia, which had previously been
occupied by Russian troops, and an expedition was also sent to assist
the Armenians at Baku on the Caspian Sea. Other troops which could be
spared from Mesopotamia were sent round, in the spring of 1918, to take
part in the operations in Palestine, and the forces that remained were
devoted to the garrisoning and consolidation of the territory already
occupied.

A glance at the map of Turkey in Asia will show that the provinces of
Mesopotamia and Syria consist of long narrow strips of fertile country
bordered by desert, and resemble two legs which fork at Aleppo.

As far as Aleppo, troops and supplies from Europe passed over one common
route. From the Turkish point of view, therefore, the campaigns in these
two countries were to some extent interdependent. This enabled the Turks
to concentrate a reserve at Aleppo, ready to be moved down into either
theatre of war as the exigencies of the situation might demand.
Conversely, therefore, a British offensive in Mesopotamia might draw off
troops destined for Palestine, or an offensive in Palestine might
attract troops otherwise intended for operations in Mesopotamia. There
is strong evidence that a Turco-German offensive was contemplated in
Mesopotamia for 1918. In the spring of that year, however, a British
offensive was undertaken in Palestine, which had the immediate effect of
drawing to that country strong Turkish and German reinforcements from
Aleppo. Nothing more was heard of the offensive in Mesopotamia, and, by
the autumn of 1918, there was scarcely a fighting Turk to be found in
that country. Just as our expedition against the Dardanelles, by
engaging the enemy at a vital spot near home, had materially assisted
the defence of Egypt, so did our offensives in Palestine materially
assist the defence of Mesopotamia.

Turning to another corner of the map of Turkey, where Europe and Asia
meet in the mountains of the Caucasus, we see that the Turkish frontier
here marches with that of Russia. In the earlier days of the war, the
Russians carried out an important and successful advance in this
neighbourhood, and, early in 1916, occupied the cities of Trebizond and
Erzerum. Thus, at the time when the campaign in Palestine was embarked
upon, the armies of the allies were closing in upon Eastern Turkey
simultaneously from three directions, the Russian Caucasus army from the
north-east, the British Mesopotamian army from the south-east, and the
Egyptian Expeditionary Force from the south. Strategically, the
situation seemed full of promise. But, in the winter of 1917-18,
followed the disastrous collapse of Russia, and the setting free of many
Turkish soldiers of good quality from all the Russian fronts for service
elsewhere. We had hoped that our offensive in Syria might have been
supported by the co-operation of the Russians. Instead, we felt the
pinch of their defection in the stiffening of enemy resistance on our
front by the transfer of good troops from the Caucasus to Palestine.

There is yet another theatre of warfare in Asiatic Turkey, the
operations in which exerted considerable influence on those in
Palestine. The whole of the eastern shores of the Red Sea formed part
of the Ottoman Empire. The southernmost sector, known as the Yemen, was
the farthest outpost of that Empire. Here a few Turks and Arabs
conducted a sporadic warfare against our garrison at Aden, more
calculated to cause annoyance and to detain a British force of some
strength than to exercise much influence upon the war as a whole.

Farther to the north, on this Red Sea littoral, is a province of much
more importance, the Hejaz, in which are situate the most holy of cities
in the Moslem world, Mecca and Medina. To Christians, the Hejaz is
forbidden ground. To Mahomedans, it is the focus of pilgrimage from all
parts of the world. The Sultan of Turkey, as the ruler of Mecca, is
looked up to by the Sunni or orthodox Mahomedans in all lands as the
spiritual head of their Church. Though rulers of the Hejaz, the Turks
were not at one with the local population. These are Arabs, and to them
the Turkish rule was as unpopular as to most other non-Turkish subjects
of that decaying Empire. Profiting by Turkey's embarrassments in other
parts, the Arabs rose in the summer of 1916, resolved on ridding
themselves of the hated Turkish yoke. Sheikh Hussein of Mecca was
proclaimed King of the Hejaz.

At this time there were garrisons of Turkish troops stationed at Mecca,
Medina and at the port of Jiddah. Their communication with Turkey was by
the recently opened railway to Damascus and Aleppo. This railway, south
of Damascus, ran along the high plateau on the eastern side of the Dead
Sea, through Maan, and along the desert to Medina. The intention was to
carry the line ultimately through to Mecca, but at this time it was only
open for traffic as far as Medina. The revolt broke out on the 5th June,
1916, at which date a cordon was spread round Medina. Jiddah was
attacked on the 9th, and capitulated after holding out for only a week.
The bulk of the Mecca garrison were at this time at Taif. Accordingly,
the town of Mecca passed into the hands of the Emir, with the exception
of the ports. These put up a small fight, but had all surrendered by the
middle of July. The force at Taif were blockaded, and, on the 23rd
September, this force also surrendered. By this time, all the outlying
garrisons had been disposed of, and the Hejaz generally cleared of
Turks.

Meanwhile, Medina had not only held out, but had been reinforced, and
the fighting strength brought up to some 14,000. Late in September, the
Turks sallied out and established a cordon of posts at a distance of
some 30 to 40 miles from the city. They also pushed further afield; but,
Arab armies moving up from the south, the Turks withdrew, at the end of
the year, behind the cordon of posts which they had established. For the
next six months, the railway to the north of Medina was frequently
raided by the Arabs, but the town was effectually cut off from its
communications with Turkey.

In July, 1917, Akaba, at the head of the gulf of that name, the
north-eastern arm of the Red Sea, was captured. This is at no great
distance from Maan, an important depot on the Hejaz Railway, the last
outpost of Syria at the edge of the desert of North Arabia. From Akaba,
the railway was now attacked at Maan, with serious results to Medina;
nevertheless, that city continued to hold out, and was probably never
very closely invested.

In October and November, 1917, about the time of the third battle of
Gaza, the Turks were still in Maan, and tried to assume the offensive
against the Arabs, but proved too weak to succeed. After the fall of
Jerusalem, the Turks withdrew to some extent, and the Arabs advanced
towards the lands east of the Dead Sea.

From this period forward, the history of the Hejaz revolt merges in that
of the Palestine campaign. The Arab forces east of the Dead Sea afforded
a safeguard against any possible Turkish attempt to move round our right
flank and raid our line of communications. In February and in March,
1918, Turkish expeditions moving against the Arab forces of the King of
the Hejaz southward from Kerak, near the south-eastern corner of the
Dead Sea, met with failure. The former expedition ended in disaster, and
the latter was forced to withdraw, owing to the imminence of a British
crossing of the Jordan in its rear. Arab activity on the railway now
definitely isolated Medina. Although the Arabs were never strong enough
to push a powerful force up through Eastern Palestine, yet the presence
of a friendly force operating in that country exercised considerable
influence upon the later stages of the Palestine campaign. The
assistance which the Arabs gave in the ultimate destruction of the
Turkish army was invaluable.




CHAPTER IV

PALESTINE


The story of a campaign is more interesting if we have a general idea of
the topography of the country in which it is conducted. Our time will,
therefore, not be wasted if we leave the British Army on the frontiers
of the Holy Land for a few minutes longer and form a mental picture of
the terrain over which they are about to operate.

Picture a country, about the size of Wales, divided into parallel strips
running north and south, zones of alternate elevation and depression.
This will give a rough idea of the conformation of Southern Palestine.
On the west is the Mediterranean Sea. Skirting the sea are a series of
sand dunes, beyond which comes the Coastal Plain. Together, these form
the first depressed strip, averaging about 15 miles in width.
Northwards, it tapers to a point where the mountains reach the sea at
Cape Carmel. Beyond the Coastal Plain is the range of mountains on which
stands Jerusalem, the mountains of Samaria and of Judaea, rising to a
height of about 3,000 feet above the level of the sea. On the eastern
side of these mountains is a steep drop to the Valley of the Jordan and
the Dead Sea, the level of the latter being nearly 1,300 feet below the
level of the Mediterranean, and more than 4,000 feet below the summit of
the adjoining Mount of Olives. Beyond the Jordan valley the country
rises again abruptly into the hills of Moab or Eastern Palestine. Beyond
lies the waterless desert.

Before entering into details, let us imagine ourselves to be standing
on one of the mountains round about Jerusalem.[1] Away to the north,
Mount Carmel rises abruptly from the sea. Thence the chain of Carmel
runs S.S.E. for some 20 miles, dividing the Coastal Plain from the Plain
of Esdraelon. About Dothan and Tul Keram it merges in the range
comprising the mountains of Samaria and Judaea, which range runs north
and south through the land like the backbone of a fish, with steep
spurs, like ribs, thrown out on either side towards the Coastal Plain
and the Jordan Valley. Westwards, we look down upon the cultivated
plain, and across it to the golden belt of sand dunes, tapering like the
waist of an hour-glass where the olive plain touches the sea at Jaffa;
beyond, lies the deep blue of the Mediterranean. Eastwards is a sheer
abyss falling into the Jordan Valley, where that river, like a silver
thread, winds its way along until it falls into the Dead Sea. Beyond, as
if across a fifteen-mile moat, rise abruptly the mountains of Moab. The
map of Palestine might be aptly compared to a bridge marker. The
horizontal line is the plain of Esdraelon. In vertical columns "below
the line" lie the strips of the country which we have just described.
"Above the line" are the mountains of Lebanon, Tabor and Hermon, Galilee
and the Sea of Tiberias, and the valleys and rivers of Damascus.

Let us consider these zones in greater detail, more especially with
regard to their influence on war. The sea, which skirts Palestine
throughout its length, confers a twofold advantage upon her mistress. In
the first place, it provides a supplementary line of communication. We
have already seen that, during the advance across the Desert, sea-borne
supplies from Port Said were landed at El Arish. This method was
continued throughout our advance in Palestine, and landing places were
improvised at various convenient stages. There is no good harbour along
this coast; and landing, which has to be done by beach boats, is
difficult, especially in a westerly wind. Nevertheless, considerable
supplies were thus landed, chiefly of fuel and fodder, which would be
little liable to damage by immersion. In the second place, help can be
given during actual military operations by the Navy. Our ships
frequently lay off the coast and bombarded the enemy's positions. Of
necessity, each side had a flank resting on the sea. To the British,
this was a feature of strength; to the Turk, it was one of weakness. He
was compelled therefore at all times to draw back or "refuse" his
coastal flank, while the British flank was constantly thrown forward
menacing the flank of the enemy.

There is little to be said about the Sand Dunes, though, being on the
flank, they were often the scene of operations. The sand here is soft
and the going bad. Recourse in these operations was therefore had to
camel transport. To the field engineer, difficulties were presented much
as in the desert. During the trench warfare before Gaza, when a raid was
carried out on Beach Post, no attempt was made to cut the enemy wire
with our artillery, but the wire was simply pulled up by hand with the
standards, for which the soft sand had provided no firm foundations.

The Coastal Plain comprises, towards the north, the Biblical Plain of
Sharon, and, towards the south, the land of Philistia. By this plain,
and not through Judaea, lies the road from the Nile to the Euphrates.
Along this plain have marched the invading armies of all the ages.
Though generally a flat country, the flatness is relieved by a few
rolling hills, of no great height. It is very fertile and has a good
supply of water, contained in wells. It thus presents many advantages,
and but few disadvantages, to an army operating in the field. Roads are
good or are easily improvised, while such obstacles to an invader's
advance do not exist here as in the hills. Our successes in the campaign
under consideration were generally attained by first pushing forward
along the plain and then turning right-handed into the hills.

From the plain, the country rises, in places through the intermediate
foot hills of the Shephelah, in places more abruptly and directly into
the mountains of Judaea. These mountains are of limestone formation,
terraced, where possible, for cultivation, and often wooded with olive
trees or tilled as corn patches or vineyards. The scenery is rugged and
pretty, the hill-sides generally steep, sometimes precipitous. This is
the Palestine of the picture books. Deep gorges have been cut out by
water action; but, as no rain falls throughout the summer months, these
are, for the most part, but dry watercourses. There are a few good
springs to be found in the valleys; the villagers upon the hills are,
however, mainly dependent upon cisterns constructed in the rock, in
which they catch as much water as possible during the winter rains.
These mountains formed the stronghold of the Israelites, who never
maintained sway for any length of time over the lower surrounding
country. The mountains abound in ruins and are rich in caves, such as
may have been the Caves of En-gedi and Adullam. One of the caves
witnessed a lurid scene in our mountain fighting. A party of the enemy
had established themselves in a cave with machine guns. Ghurkhas
attacked, and the enemy, after inflicting casualties, thought to make
good their escape by a back exit. But outside there were other Ghurkhas
lying in wait, and, as the enemy emerged, they killed them all.

We have seen that the general formation of this range of mountains is
like the backbone of a fish. We should therefore expect to find
communications from north to south easy enough along the "spine" or
ridge, but difficult on either side, where there would be a succession
of "ribs" or spurs to be crossed. This is the case. There is only one
first-class road from north to south through this hill-country, namely,
that which runs along the ridge from Samaria through Nablus, Jerusalem,
Bethlehem and Hebron to Beersheba. Communications from east to west are,
however, more easy along the spurs and intervening valleys. To attempt
an advance northwards, from spur to spur, is tedious work; after a
comparatively short push a pause is necessary to enable roads to be
constructed for bringing forward guns and supplies. We had an
illustration of this in March, 1918, when a forward move of this
character met at first with but moderate opposition. A pause of a few
weeks was necessary to enable fresh roads to be made. In the meantime,
the enemy had been heavily reinforced, and, when the next advance was
attempted, stout resistance was encountered. This hill-country lent
itself readily to defence. Mutually supporting heights could be held. A
hill, when captured thus, became a focus for fire concentrated from all
the hills around. So when the Turks attacked us in these hills they met
with much less success than in the Jordan Valley; and, on the other
hand, they were able to offer a stouter resistance to our attacks in
these hills than they could on the Coastal Plain.

The Jordan Valley, as we have already seen, is more than a thousand feet
below the level of the Mediterranean, that is, below what we speak of as
"sea level." In this respect it is unique in the geography of the world.
In winter time the climate is equable; in summer it is unbearable. In
peace time, even the Bedouin forsake it in summer. The district is
pestilential to a degree, and, in no sense of the word, a white man's
country. It possesses a feature of considerable importance in the river
Jordan itself, almost the only river in Palestine with a perennial flow.
The river is tortuous and rapid and not adapted to navigation. These
features indicate this area as a difficult one in which to hold a
fighting line, and a no less difficult one across which to maintain
communications. In the summer of 1918, our line ran along the river
valley, and the troops in this sector suffered much from diseases.

East of this strong natural boundary formed by the deep trough of the
Jordan, we find a very different country. It rises abruptly from the
Jordan Valley, and is in itself a plateau. It is at first fertile, but,
at distances ranging from 40 to 60 miles inland, it merges into steppe
and then into sheer desert. Thus it is a country apart, difficult of
access from Jerusalem and Western Palestine, more easy of access from
Damascus or from Arabia. Through it, from north to south, runs the Hejaz
railway, on its way from Damascus to Medina. And so it proved an area in
which the Turks, based on Damascus, and the Arabs, operating from Hejaz,
were at greater advantage than our columns based on Jerusalem.

We have now glanced at those portions of Palestine in which took place
the principal fighting in this campaign. Our review would still be
incomplete if we omitted all reference to the Plain of Esdraelon.
Starting from the sea coast immediately north of Cape Carmel, at the
ports of Haifa and Acre, this Plain runs east south-east across the
country to the Jordan Valley. Rising slightly at first, it forms the
watershed of "that ancient river, the river Kishon." After the watershed
is crossed, there is a drop towards the Jordan Valley; this latter
portion of the Plain constitutes the Vale of Jezreel. This Plain of
Esdraelon is Armageddon. Here Barak overthrew Sisera, Gideon defeated
the Midianites, and Saul and Jonathan met disaster and death at the
hands of the Philistines. Here Josiah was defeated and slain by Pharaoh
Necho. Near here, the Christians were defeated and their kingdom
overthrown by the Saracens. On this Plain Napoleon won his final and
crushing victory over the Turks.

No battle, beyond a few cavalry engagements, took place here during the
campaign which we are to consider. The Turks had been totally defeated
before ever this line was reached. But this Plain has still for us a
military interest. It may well be that here, where the mountains of
Samaria overlook and command all approaches from the north, is to be
found the best strategic line for the defence of the Suez Canal.

In a country like Palestine, where levels and characteristics are so
divergent, diversities of climate are to be expected. We have seen that
the summer climate of the Lower Jordan Valley is pestilential. Parts of
the Coastal Plain also are very malarious, particularly from north of
Jaffa to Mount Carmel. With these exceptions, the climate is by no means
unpleasant nor unsuitable for the conduct of military operations. Far
enough south to enjoy plenty of bright sunshine, it is still some
distance north of the tropics. Pleasant and regular breezes from the sea
mitigate the discomfort which might otherwise prevail in a country
almost surrounded by desert. The whole of the rainfall comes in the
winter months. From about April to October, though dews are heavy, rain
is unknown. But in the winter months, especially December and January,
and to some extent February, the rainfall is intense, and the country on
the Plains and lower lying districts is reduced to a sea of mud
well-nigh impassable. Thus military operations in summer are liable to
be prejudiced by a shortage of water; in winter by an excess. The ideal
season for operations is therefore in the spring, when there is an
abundance of water and a plentiful feed; and, next to this, the autumn,
when the heat of the summer has passed its height and the rains of
winter have not yet made the country impassable.

The importance of good railways in modern war is immense. We have
already traced the construction of the broad gauge line from Egypt which
followed close behind the British in their advance across the Desert and
into Southern Palestine. The Turks in Western Palestine were at a
perpetual disadvantage through the inferiority of the railway service;
but, in Eastern Palestine, i.e. across the Jordan, the position was
reversed. Before the war, Syria had been connected with Asia Minor by a
broad gauge line from Aleppo to Rayak, where it effected a junction with
a narrow gauge line from Beyrout to Damascus. The broad gauge line was
part of the Baghdad railway scheme. But at this time, that railway, even
between Constantinople and Aleppo, was only partially completed. The
tunnelling of the Taurus Mountains was yet unfinished. Thus troops or
supplies, coming from Constantinople to Damascus, had to break the
journey at the Taurus Mountains and again at Rayak. These two
interruptions provided admirable opportunities for delay and confusion,
which the dilatory Turk embraced. The tunnelling of the Taurus was
pushed on with during the war, and in 1918 rumours reached us that these
mountains had been pierced, so that trains could then run through from
Constantinople (Haida Pasha) to Rayak. The installation of more
business-like Germans at the latter station went far towards minimising
the delays and confusion due to the break of gauge.

From Damascus, the Hejaz railway, constructed nominally for Mecca
pilgrims, runs due south, and, passing along the high plateau of Eastern
Palestine, had already reached Medina. A branch from this line, starting
from a junction at Deraa, ran westwards along the Plain of Esdraelon to
Haifa. Another line, almost parallel to the Hejaz railway, ran from
Damascus due south to Mezerib; this line was removed by the Turks after
the commencement of the war, as the materials were required for railway
construction elsewhere. Unconnected with any of these railways, a French
line ran from Jaffa to Jerusalem; this also the Turks removed, as
between Jaffa and Ludd, while, for the remainder of its length, they
altered the gauge so as to adapt it to the rolling stock of the Hejaz
Railway. All these railways south of Damascus were narrow-gauge lines,
without much rolling stock available, so that their carrying capacity
was limited.

On the outbreak of war, the Turks, acting under the guidance of the
Germans, embarked upon a considerable programme of railway construction.
Starting from a point on the Plain of Esdraelon, El Apele, they
constructed a new line which crossed the mountains about Samaria and
reached the Plain of Sharon at Tul Keram. Thence it ran down the length
of the Coastal Plain to Beersheba, and, ultimately, to Auja in the
Desert. This railway was constructed in 1915 for the invasion of Egypt.
Into this railway was incorporated portions of the old Jaffa-Jerusalem
line, as between Ludd and "Junction Station." This was the none too
distinctive name given to the important station which was constructed at
the point where the older railway left the Plain; this now became the
junction for Jerusalem. At a later date, the Turks withdrew from Auja to
Beersheba, the line south of the latter place was removed and a new line
was constructed from near Junction Station to points just north of Gaza.

Roads in the coastal sector are good, though difficult for heavy motor
traffic after rain. In the hills, the only first-class roads were the
road running north and south along the ridge from Nablus through
Jerusalem to Beersheba, and the road west and east from Jaffa to
Jerusalem, continued eastwards through Jericho and across the Jordan to
Es Salt and Amman Station on the Hejaz Railway.

The population of Palestine is very mixed, comprising Moslems,
Christians and Jews with their various subdivisions and sects. The
Moslem inhabitants, Arabs and Syrians, have little in common with the
Turks except their religion. The Jews and the Christians groaned under
Turkish oppression. Both Jews and Christians welcomed the advent of the
British, while the Moslems accepted the situation, if not with pleasure,
at least with equanimity. The Turks themselves form no part of the
regular population. They are alien rulers, speaking a language unknown
to the people, and incapable of understanding the language of the
country. Although Palestine has been governed by Moslems for upwards of
a thousand years, it has only been annexed to the Ottoman Empire for
four centuries. More than once during that period it would have been
torn away but for the aid of the British. The government of Syria by the
Ottoman Turk had been oppressive and corrupt and marked by the
discouragement of all progress and enterprise. It was high time that it
should cease.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 1: The point chosen is imaginary. The view described combines
those obtainable from two or three points in this neighbourhood.]




CHAPTER V

GAZA


Gaza! What pictures this name conjures up in our imagination. From
childhood the city has been familiar to us for its dramatic associations
with Samson. It was here that he removed the city gates and carried them
to the summit of Ali Muntar, "to the top of an hill that is before
Hebron," and it was here that he took hold of the two middle pillars,
and, bowing himself with all his might, destroyed the temple of Dagon
with the thousands of Philistines that were his tormentors. The whole
history of Gaza is steeped in blood. It is the outpost of Africa, the
gate of Asia. Throughout the ages its strategic importance has been
immense. Scarcely an invading army has passed here without fighting a
battle. It figured in the wars of the Eastern invaders, was totally
destroyed by Alexander the Great, was the scene of one of Napoleon's
battles, and, during our campaign, saw six months of trench warfare and
no less than three distinct and sanguinary engagements. In the course of
its history, Gaza is said to have been taken and destroyed in war
between forty and fifty times. No city in the world has been destroyed
more often. Happy, indeed is the city that has no history!

Prior to this war, Gaza was a town of some 40,000 inhabitants, mostly
Moslems, to whom the city is sacred. It owed its importance in modern
times to being the junction of the caravan routes from Egypt to Syria
and from Arabia to the Mediterranean. The town itself stands back some
couple of miles from the sea, from which it is separated by sand dunes.
It is surrounded by gardens and plantations; most of these are bordered
by thick cactus hedges, which played a prominent part in the days of
trench warfare. The surrounding country is by no means level, but
consists of rolling arable land with low ridges and some hills. The most
prominent feature is the hill, Ali Muntar, a commanding height
south-east of the town. When we first approached it, the hill was clad
with trees and surrounded by a tomb; but six months' persistent
bombardment soon removed the trees and tomb and altered the conformation
of the hill. There are other ridges lying about the town, which were
afterwards incorporated in the defensive schemes of the Turks and of
ourselves. The geographical feature of principal military importance in
this neighbourhood is the Wadi Ghuzzeh. This wadi is a watercourse,
which, in times of rain, carries off the water from the hills between
Beersheba and the Dead Sea. It runs, approximately, from south-east to
north-west, at right angles to the coast line, and passes Gaza at a
distance of about 4 miles from the south-western or Egyptian side of the
town. During the greater part of the year this watercourse is dry,
though the sides are steep, and wheeled traffic can only cross at
properly constructed crossings. On either side of this wadi, distant a
mile or so from its bed, are ridges which run approximately parallel to
the wadi. That on the right bank is known as Mansura Ridge, that on the
left bank as In Seirat. The latter is a relatively high ridge and
affords cover for troops beyond. On the other side of this ridge,
protected by it, and distant some nine or ten miles from Gaza, is a
small village with a good supply of water. This village is known as Deir
el Belah, or, more frequently, merely as Belah. It formed our advanced
base during the later operations against Gaza.

We have seen that, at the end of February, 1917, General Dobell's force
had reached El Arish, while portions of it had crossed the border at
Rafa, and his cavalry had occupied Khan Yunus. The Turks had withdrawn
to Gaza, where they now took up a position. They had one force at Gaza
and another in the neighbourhood of Beersheba, with other troops
between. In March, it was decided to attack the enemy at Gaza. The
British force was concentrated at Rafa, whence it marched up secretly by
night. On the night of the 25th March, it moved forward from Belah
against the first objective, the In Seirat Ridge. This was secured
without serious opposition. There was a dense fog on the morning of the
26th, and, as the troops were moving through standing crops, finding the
way was none too easy. However, the Wadi Ghuzzeh was crossed, and the
high ground at Mansura Ridge was secured. From there, an attack was
delivered across the open against Ali Muntar and Gaza. The main attack
was made by the 53rd Division, plus one Brigade of the the 54th, while
the 52nd Division were in reserve. Our troops captured, and established
themselves on Ali Muntar, and also on the hill beyond, known as
Australia Hill. From these points they looked down upon and dominated
the town of Gaza. Meanwhile, the cavalry had been ordered to go round by
the right, and to cut off the enemy when he should retreat. The cavalry
not only got round, but succeeded in entering the town itself, where
they captured some of the Turkish staff. The Turks believed that the
game was up, and were now preparing to surrender. It was the opinion of
many who took part in the battle, that, had we held on for a short time
longer, we should have captured the town and the whole of this force,
and that we should have then been in a position to meet and to defeat
the enemy reinforcements, since the 52nd Division in reserve had not yet
been brought into action. However, Turkish reinforcements were now
reported to be coming up from the direction of Beersheba, and to be
threatening our right flank. Accordingly, a withdrawal was ordered, and
our troops fell back on the Mansura Ridge, the New Zealanders coming
right through the town of Gaza itself. That night, orders were given
for an immediate retirement, and our forces recrossed the Wadi Ghuzzeh.
The bulk of the force retired to Belah, while outposts held the In
Seirat Ridge. After a two days' battle, wherein complete success had
been almost within our grasp, we had but little to show save casualties.

From the summit of In Seirat Ridge, a commanding view is obtained over
the whole country from Gaza to Beersheba. From this point of vantage the
Turks could be seen, throughout the first fortnight in April, busily
digging themselves in and wiring their positions. We, on our side, were
no less assiduous in preparations for another battle. Patrols were sent
out to reconnoitre the country, and working parties went out into No
Man's Land to construct ramparts and make all preparations for getting
guns across the Wadi Ghuzzeh. The 74th Division were brought up to
Belah. A few of the newly invented "tanks" arrived from England, and
aroused great expectations.

The day of the second battle of Gaza arrived. On the 16th April, the
force moved out from Belah and crossed the Wadi Ghuzzeh by night. On
this occasion, the first objective was Mansura Ridge, which was captured
without much difficulty. The second, and principal objective, was the
strong line of Turkish positions to the south and south-east of Gaza,
and fronting the Gaza-Beersheba road. The troops detailed for the attack
were the 52nd, the 53rd and the 54th Divisions, the 54th to move forward
from Mansura, the 52nd on their left and the 53rd close to the sea. It
was contemplated that most of our difficulties would be obviated by a
long artillery preparation and by the newly arrived tanks which had
acquired a high reputation in France. Accordingly, the enemy positions
were shelled for two hours, and then the infantry advanced, preceded by
these tanks. But, alas, the tanks were few in number; some were soon put
out of action, or caught fire; and the hopes that they had raised were
disappointed. The infantry advanced over some 3,000 yards of perfectly
open plain, until they reached the enemy's uncut wire; here they were
mown down by the enemy's machine guns. That night, those that were able
to do so, crept back under cover of darkness to Mansura Ridge. The dead
lay where they fell, a gruesome spectacle, for over six months, until
buried by our own parties after the third battle of Gaza. Those that
returned were collected and reorganized at Mansura Ridge, and at once
commenced to dig in at this position. This was the night of the 19th
April. Next morning, the Turks came pouring out of their positions to
gloat over their success. By this time we had done little more than
scratch the surface; had the Turks closed to deliver a determined
counter-attack, they might have made matters distinctly uncomfortable.
As it was, they came out merely as spectators. Our guns opened upon them
and they withdrew. After this, our digging proceeded apace, and we soon
had a satisfactory position entrenched from Mansura to the sea.

There is a saying in the East that the British always come back, meaning
that reverses only make them more determined to try again and to
succeed. Thus did the British come back into the Soudan, and into the
Transvaal. Thus was the surrender of Kut wiped out by the capture of
Baghdad. And so were our losses at Gaza in this spring avenged by our
victory on these same battlefields in the following autumn. For the time
being, however, both sides settled down to the routine life of modern
trench warfare.

Now followed a complete reorganization of our army in Egypt. On the 28th
June, 1917, the post of Commander-in-Chief of the Egyptian Expeditionary
Force was taken over by General Sir Edmund Allenby, G.C.M.G., K.C.B. The
organization into an Eastern Force under a subordinate commander, which
had been instituted in the summer of 1916, was abolished, and the force
was organized in Corps. The strength of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force
was augmented, much artillery being added, besides three divisions of
infantry. The 10th (Irish) and the 60th (London) Divisions were brought
across from Salonica. The 75th Division was organized in the country and
consisted of four battalions of Indian troops, taken from the Suez Canal
Zone defences, and nine battalions of West of England Territorials, that
had been in the East since the beginning of the war, and had, for the
most part, been garrisoning India.

When this reorganization was complete, this army was constituted as
follows: The 20th Corps, comprising the 10th (Irish), the 53rd (Welsh),
the 60th (London) and the 74th (Dismounted Yeomanry) Divisions. The 21st
Corps, comprising the 52nd (Scottish Lowland), the 54th (East Anglian)
and the 75th (Wessex and Indian) Divisions. The Desert Mounted Corps,
comprising the Australian Mounted Division, the Anzac Mounted Division
and the Yeomanry Division. General Allenby had, as his Chief-of-Staff,
Major-General L. J. Bols, C.B., D.S.O. In addition to the above troops,
there was, on this front, a composite brigade, consisting of French and
Italians, familiarly known as the "Mixed Vermouth" Brigade. Other
regiments were represented, such as Indian Imperial troops, and
battalions of the British West India Regiment, while representative
units of the Egyptian Army did duty upon the Lines of Communication.

Although each Division was associated with some particular portion of
Great Britain, from which it took its name, the association was not
exclusive. Thus, the 52nd Lowland Division had at least one Highland
Battalion, the 53rd Welsh had more battalions from England than from
Wales, and the 54th East Anglian contained one battalion from London and
one from the South of England. It will be best, therefore, if, in our
future pages, we refer to divisions only by number.

An interesting feature about General Allenby's army was that, from this
time forward, the greater portion consisted of Territorials.




CHAPTER VI

TRENCH WARFARE


It was in the late summer of 1917 that the regiment with which I was
serving joined the Expeditionary Force. Coming from India, we landed at
Suez and were railed through at once to Kantara. This place we found a
hive of industry, as befitted the military base of so important an
expedition. Like other units similarly arriving from India, we were kept
here for a fortnight. This time was devoted to the equipping of the
battalion on the scale applicable to this country, with transport,
draught and riding animals, Lewis guns and such other equipment as we
required for the operations on which we were to embark.

Immediately we were ready to move, we were railed up to the Front, to
Belah, which, at that time, was railhead. This was our first experience
of travelling on the Kantara Military Railway, and is not likely to be
forgotten. The shortage of rolling stock available did not permit of
troops, or, at that time, even of officers accompanying troops,
travelling in passenger coaches. On the contrary, a number of open
trucks were adapted for troop traffic, being roofed over with a covering
affording protection from the sun but with sides left open. These trucks
had neither continuous brakes nor screw couplings. Our journey,
therefore, was enlivened by the frequent successful attempts of our
truck to overtake the truck ahead, followed by a difference of opinion
with the truck behind, a wavering between two opinions, and then another
mad plunge into the darkness in pursuit of the truck ahead, and the
next check brought about a repetition of this pleasing diversion from
sleep. If the writer of a recent popular song really believed that the
Sands of the Desert never grow cold, let him try travelling across them
by night in an open truck. The train was not furnished with that luxury
of modern travel, steam heating. For the men, a substitute was found by
adopting the method by which sheep are kept cosy on similar occasions,
that is, by packing into each truck a few more than it can accommodate.
The officers rolled themselves up in their valises, bruised every
protruding bone in their bodies, "and wished for the day."

On arrival at the Front, we moved first into a position in reserve near
the Wadi Ghuzzeh. As we crossed the summit of In Seirat Ridge, what a
view unfolded itself before our eyes! Before us lay the Plain of
Philistia, spreading from the sea to the Judaean Hills, to our left front
lay the white buildings of the town of Gaza, while, ever and anon, were
heard and seen the booming of cannon and the bursting of shell.

We were now put through a gradual process of acclimatization. Ensconced
in one of the offshoots of the Wadi Ghuzzeh well behind the front line,
we enjoyed safety from shelling. We were, however, sufficiently in the
picture to have guns constantly firing around us and aeroplanes flying
overhead, and could watch our friends being shelled in the front line
and the daily anti-aeroplane shoots, both by our own and by the enemy's
"Archies." Here we were able to carry out a certain amount of training,
and to organize the battalion upon the lines of the new "normal
formation," giving the platoon commander control over each kind of
weapon with which the infantry are armed--rifle, bayonet, bomb,
rifle-bomb and Lewis gun. Gas masks were issued, and all ranks were
instructed in their use. In a couple of weeks this training, or rather
adaptation of our previous training to the conditions of trench warfare
upon this front, had so far progressed that we could enter upon the next
stage of our acclimatization. Individual companies were now sent up
into the front line "for instruction." This consisted of their being
attached to other units that were garrisoning the front line. Our men
were posted in the trenches with men of such other units; and some of
the officers and men accompanied patrols into "No Man's Land." After
three weeks of acclimatization, we moved up to the front line and
ourselves took over a section of the defences. And here we remained
until after the Fall of Gaza.

The Turkish army at this time, as we have seen, held a strong position
from the sea at Gaza, roughly along the main Gaza-Beersheba road to
Beersheba. His force was on a wide front, the distance from Gaza to
Beersheba being about 30 miles. Gaza itself had been made into a strong
modern fortress, heavily entrenched and wired, offering every facility
for protracted defence. The civilian population had been evacuated. The
remainder of the enemy's line consisted originally of a series of strong
localities, which were known as the Sihan group of works, the Atawinah
group, the Baha group, the Abu Hareira-Arab el Teeaha trench system, and
finally, the works covering Beersheba. During the period from July to
October, the defences had been considerably strengthened, and these
strong localities had, by the end of October, been joined up to form a
practically continuous line from the sea to a point south of Sheria,
except for a gap of some 1,500 to 2,000 yards between Ali Muntar and the
Sihan group. The defensive works round Beersheba remained a detached
system, but had been improved and extended. A new railway had been made
from El Tine, just south of Junction Station on the Damascus-Beersheba
railway to Beit Hanun, just north of Gaza, with a subsidiary branch to
Huj, the latter intended to supply the centre of the defensive line. It
was evident, therefore, that the enemy was determined to make every
effort to maintain his position on the Gaza-Beersheba line.

The British force was extended on a front of 22 miles from the sea
opposite Gaza to Gamli. About 6 miles inland, the Wadi Ghuzzeh is joined
by a short tributary wadi, on the right bank, known as the Wadi
Nukhabir. The point at which this wadi commenced was about a mile or so
nearer to the enemy than the line of our positions opposite Gaza. Its
head-waters (to use an expression scarcely appropriate to a dry
watercourse) were within the apex of a =V=-shaped escarpment, the point of
the =V= protruding towards the enemy. The feature might be compared to a
heel-mark in soft ground. On the convex side were slight ridges with
gentle forward slopes; on the concave were steep escarpments. The ridges
of the =V= were known as Mansura and Sheikh Abbas Ridges respectively; the
point was merely known as "The Apex." Our trench system here ran along
the forward slopes of these ridges, a hundred yards or so below the
crest, whence the country fell towards the enemy in a gentle glacis
slope devoid of cover. Our reserves and our day positions were behind
the escarpment, where was excellent cover from hostile shelling. The
portion of the enemy's works in front of this sector was the Sihan
group, a strongly prepared position distant about a mile. The apex
itself formed a salient, necessary to hold since its Ridges would
otherwise have dominated our positions; but, though a salient, the
position was undoubtedly strong. The situation and the conformation of
the Apex, therefore, both invited attack and assisted defence. From the
sea to the Apex we had a continuous line of trenches. Beyond Sheikh
Abbas our defences consisted of a series of redoubts, our right flank
being to some extent in the air. Here, however, was a waterless desert,
so difficult to cross that this flank could be sufficiently protected by
cavalry patrols.

Considering that there was a war on, campaigning life on this front was
by no means uncomfortable. Those who had seen service in France bemoaned
the lack of comforts and amusements behind the line, and the absence of
home leave, those who had come from Salonica were congratulating
themselves on the exchange; while those of us who had been in
Mesopotamia during the bad times of 1916, considered ourselves in the
lap of luxury. Rations were good and plentiful and canteen well stocked.
The Turkish rations, on the other hand, were scanty and poor, with the
result that morale was low, discomfort rife, and desertions frequent. On
one occasion, when the enemy were making a raid upon our trenches, a
couple of Turks got into an empty bag where one of our men had left his
pack. The manner in which they pursued their advantage was by helping
themselves to his tin of bully beef and getting away with all speed. A
Turkish officer, who was subsequently taken prisoner, said, "If the
Turkish rations had been as good as yours, you would never have captured
Gaza."

The health of our troops, on the whole, was good. In so far as there was
sickness it consisted of a certain amount of dysentery, almost
unavoidable in an army in the Field, septic sores, which are unusually
rife, and a slight epidemic of sandfly fever. Foremost among the
inconveniences to be tolerated were the flies, which made it difficult
for the men to sleep by day, the time when they most need rest after
manning the trenches all night. Next to the flies came the dust. The
country, in which for the time we were making our home, consisted of
arable ground devoid of crops, and thoroughly cut up by the passing of
transport. A breeze, that blew daily without fail, served to raise a
fine impalpable dust that permeated everything. This powder dust made
marching difficult, but wise forethought caused galvanized iron netting
to be laid along all the principal routes, forming "wire roads" for the
use of light motor-cars and "foot-sloggers." If we grumbled at the dust,
we had, at this time at least, no cause to complain, like our brethren
in Flanders, of the mud. Taken all together, the morale was good and the
men distinctly happy.

Life in these days was not without its diversions and touches of humour.
A nice Roman tessellated pavement was unearthed near the Wadi Ghuzzeh,
at the place called Umm Jerar, which is associated with Abraham. Going
one day to look for it, I found a military policeman on duty within half
a mile of the spot. I said to him, "Can you tell me the way to the
tessellated pavement?" He looked at me vacantly for a minute and then
replied: "Is it the wire road that you happen to mean, sir?" On one
occasion, the General was going round the front line accompanied by the
Intelligence Officer (who is the Officer that selects the pass-word
which is changed daily) and by the C.O. of the unit in this sector.
Staying out rather later than they had intended, it was dusk or dark
when they approached one of the posts. The sentry challenged,
"Halt--hands up." Up went the General's hands in prompt compliance.
"Advance one, and give the countersign," continued the sentry. The
General turned to the Intelligence Officer, "What is the countersign
to-day?" said he. "Really I am afraid I have forgotten," replied the
Intelligence Officer, and both referred to the Colonel. "When I left my
headquarters, it had not yet come through," was his reply. The sentry
remained obdurate. Then followed explanations, and, after some parley
and identifications, the party were allowed to proceed. As they were
leaving, the General hurried again to the sentry, saying, "Well, my man,
you might just tell us now what the pass-word is." "I am sorry, sir,"
was his reply, "but I haven't the least idea."

About this time the spy peril was rather rife. We had orders not to
leave our lines without revolvers, for protection against assassination
by spies. To one particular "hush-hush" spot rode up a General with his
Staff Officer, both faultlessly attired, accompanied by the usual
Orderly. The General asked to be shown round, and his request was
conceded with the thoroughness and courtesy due to his high rank. His
inspection completed, the General expressed his thanks, and the party
rode away, never to be heard of again,--at least not in that capacity.
Shortly afterwards, a notorious spy was seen working as a coolie in the
Egyptian Labour Corps. Perhaps he was the General.

The monotony of trench life was varied by occasional raids into the
enemy trenches. Some very successful raids were carried out on the
enemy's defences near the sea, especially at Beach Post, and other
successful raids were made from the Apex upon the advanced trenches of
the Sihan group of works. Mutual bombardments frequently enlivened the
proceedings, the supremacy in which undoubtedly lay with our artillery.
These never allowed a day to pass without doing some firing, and they
had sniping guns ever ready to fire on any movement that might be seen
in enemy territory. The enemy guns, largely manned by Austrians,
reserved their fire for concentrated bombardments; evidently they were
less able to replenish their supplies of ammunition.

The sector of the front line which fell to our lot to hold was a portion
of the Apex. Our front line companies manned a continuous system of
trenches, while the reserve company and headquarters occupied dug-outs
dug into, or constructed with sand bags upon, the steep slopes of the
escarpment. There were deep tunnel dug-outs, extending into the bowels
of the earth, in the support area, but these were never used. In the
front line there were no such dug-outs, except for such purposes as
signal office and platoon head-quarters. In case of intense shelling,
the front line garrison, except sentries, could obtain fair cover behind
the traverses in the narrow trenches which connected up the wider and
more exposed fire bays. It is a debatable question whether deep dug-outs
in or near the front line are advisable. When the enemy shells
intensively, if he means business, his barrage is closely followed by
his infantry. When the barrage lifts, therefore, it is of vital
importance to man the fire-step immediately. It is not easy to turn a
large number of men quickly out of deep dug-outs which may thus prove
only a Fool's Paradise. In one of the raids made near the sea, our
infantry, following closely up to the barrage, caught the enemy taking
refuge in dug-outs, and had no difficulty in capturing or accounting for
the whole garrison of the raided trench. At the Apex we were three times
bombarded and raided. On each occasion the garrison merely took refuge
behind the traverses. Although they endured it, the bombardment was much
more uncomfortable here than if the men had been in good dug-outs; yet
they were able to man the trenches so quickly that in no case could the
enemy effect a lodgment, and in only one case did he even reach the
trench.

When we took over the Apex, the days of sporadic raids by us were past,
and all thought was concentrated on preparations for the great day that
was then imminent. On the other hand, there was great patrolling
activity. Our officers' patrols went out nightly into No Man's Land, and
brought back information as to enemy works in progress and activity in
their trenches. These patrols had many exciting experiences, and, in the
dark, frequently encountered patrols sent out by the enemy. Much useful
information was brought in by these patrols to the battalions holding
this sector of the line, especially during the first few days after the
commencement of the great offensive which resulted in the capture of
Gaza and Beersheba.

[Illustration]




CHAPTER VII

GAZA AND BEERSHEBA


The plan by which General Allenby defeated the Turks and captured their
Gaza-Beersheba line, involved three distinct operations. It will be
remembered that the enemy defences consisted of a substantially
continuous line from the sea at Gaza to Arab el Teeaha, where the left
flank was bent back or "refused" at or about Sheria. Some 4-1/2 miles
farther on were the detached works covering Beersheba, which thus
constituted a strong outwork protecting the left flank of the main
position. The decisive blow was to be struck against the left flank of
the main Turkish position at Hareira and Sheria. Before this blow could
be struck, it was necessary to clear away the obstacle presented by
Beersheba. It was also necessary to keep the enemy in doubt as to where
the decisive blow was to fall; so another operation, on as large a scale
as the available force would permit, and calculated both to mystify the
enemy and to draw off a portion of his reserves, was undertaken on the
immediate sea front at Gaza. Thus we get, firstly, the capture of
Beersheba; secondly, the attack on the Gaza coastal defences; and,
thirdly, the main attack delivered against Sheria.

"This plan of operations was chosen for the following reasons. The
enemy's works in the Hareira-Sheria sector were less formidable than
elsewhere, and they were easier of approach than other parts of the
enemy's defences. The capture of Beersheba was a necessary preliminary
to the main operation, in order to secure the water supply at that
place, and to give room for the deployment of the attacking force on
the high ground to the north and north-west of Beersheba, from which
direction the main attack was to be developed. When Beersheba was in our
hands, we should have an open flank against which to operate, and full
use could be made of our superiority in mounted troops. Moreover, a
success here offered prospects of pursuing our advantage, and forcing
the enemy to abandon the rest of his fortified positions, which no other
line of attack would afford."

The difficulties to be overcome in the operations against Beersheba and
the Hareira-Sheria line were considerable. Foremost among them were our
old friend, the shortage of water, and, scarcely less formidable, the
difficulty of transport.

With regard to water, no supply existed in the area over which
operations were to take place. "An ample supply of water was known to
exist at Beersheba, but it was uncertain how quickly it could be
developed or to what extent the enemy would have damaged the wells
before we succeeded in occupying the town. Except at Beersheba, no large
supply of water would be found till Sheria and Hareira had been
captured. Arrangements had therefore to be made to ensure that the
troops could be kept supplied with water, while operating at
considerable distances from their original water base, for a period
which might amount to a week or more." This was to some extent met by
developing the water supplies at Ecani, Khalassa and Asluj, all places
in No Man's Land some miles beyond our right flank.

The transport problem was no less difficult. Beersheba, itself some
thousand feet above the sea level, lies in a recess on the western
slopes of the Judaean Hills. In the bed of this recess runs the Wadi Es
Saba. Towards the north-east a good metalled road leads gradually to the
summit of the hills and on through Hebron to Jerusalem. North-west a
good road led along the enemy's front to Gaza. The railway line,
avoiding the heights, for the first ten or twelve miles follows
approximately the direction of the Gaza road, and then turns northwards
along the Plain or Foothills. But south of the Gaza-Beersheba line there
were no good roads, "and no reliance could therefore be placed on the
use of motor transport." Owing to the steep banks of many of the wadis
which intersected the area of operations, the routes passable by wheeled
transport were limited, and, in many places, the going was heavy and
difficult.

Practically the whole of the transport available in the force, including
30,000 pack camels, had to be allotted to one portion of the eastern
force, to enable it to be kept supplied with food, water and ammunition,
at a distance of 15 to 20 miles in advance of railhead.

There already existed a branch from the Kantara military railway; which
branch, leaving the main line at Rafa, ran to Shellal and Gamli,
supplying the right of our line. Arrangements were made for this
railhead to be pushed forward as rapidly as possible from Shellal
towards Karm (some 7 miles to the east-south-east of Shellal), and for a
line to be laid from Gamli towards Beersheba for the transport of
ammunition. No Man's Land being some 10 or 12 miles wide in this sector,
railway construction was carried on in front of our front line under
cover of yeomanry outposts.

This line of outposts was attacked on the morning of the 27th October by
a strong reconnoitring party that the Turks sent out from the direction
of Kauwukah to make a reconnaissance towards Karm. On a Division of our
infantry coming up, the Turks withdrew.

By the end of October all our preparations were ready. The bombardment
of the Gaza defences commenced on the 27th and continued nightly. On the
30th, warships of the Royal Navy, assisted by a French battleship, began
co-operating in this bombardment. The actual infantry attack on Gaza was
not intended to take place, however, until after the capture of
Beersheba, and was delayed accordingly.

The date fixed for the attack on Beersheba was the 31st October. The
plan was to attack with two divisions the hostile works between the
Khalassa Road and the Wadi Saba, that is, the sector to the south-west
of the town. The works north of the Wadi Saba were to be masked with the
Imperial Camel Corps and some infantry, while a portion of the 53rd
Division further north covered the left of the Corps. The right of the
attack was covered by a cavalry regiment. Further east, mounted troops
took up a line opposite the southern defences of Beersheba. A mounted
force, starting from Khalassa and Asluj, beyond our original right
flank, were detailed to make a wide flanking movement and attack
Beersheba from the east and north-east.

The units detailed for the attack moved by a night march, and were in
their appointed positions by dawn of the 31st. As a preliminary to the
main attack, in order to enable field guns to be brought within
effective range for wire-cutting, an attack was made upon the enemy's
advanced works on the high ground about a couple of miles south-west of
the town, at Hill 1070. This had been successfully accomplished by 8.45
a.m., and the cutting of the wire proceeded satisfactorily, though
pauses had to be made to allow the dust to clear. The assault was
ordered for 12.15 p.m., and proved successful. By about 10 p.m., the
whole of the works between the Khalassa Road and the Wadi Saba were in
our hands.

"Meanwhile the mounted troops, after a night march of, for a portion of
the force, some 35 miles, arrived early on this same morning, the 31st,
at about Khasim Zanna, in the hills, some 5 miles east of Beersheba.
From the hills, the advance into Beersheba from the east and north-east
lies over an open and almost flat plain, commanded by the rising ground
north of the town and flanked by an underfeature in the Wadi Saba,
called Tel el Saba.

"A force was sent north to secure Bir es Sakaly, on the Hebron Road, and
protect the right flank. This force met with some opposition, and was
engaged with hostile cavalry at Bir es Sakaly and to the north during
the day. Tel el Saba was found strongly held by the enemy, and was not
captured till late in the afternoon.

"Meanwhile, attempts to advance in small parties across the plain
towards the town made slow progress. In the evening, however, a mounted
attack by Australian Light Horse, who rode straight at the town from the
East, proved completely successful. They galloped over two deep trenches
held by the enemy just outside the town, and entered the town at about 7
p.m., capturing numerous prisoners.

"A very strong position was thus taken with slight loss, and the Turkish
detachment at Beersheba almost completely put out of action. This
success laid open the left flank of the main Turkish position for a
decisive blow."

The actual date of the attack at Gaza had been left open till the result
of the attack at Beersheba was known, as it was intended that the attack
on Gaza, which was designed to draw hostile reserves towards that
sector, should take place a day or two before the attack on the Sheria
position. After the complete success of the Beersheba operations, it was
decided that the attack on Gaza should take place on the morning of the
2nd November.

"The objectives of this attack were the hostile works from Umbrella Hill
(2,000 yards south-west of the town) to Sheikh Hasan, on the sea (about
2,500 yards north-west of the town). The front of the attack was about
6,000 yards, and Sheikh Hasan, the farthest objective, was over 3,000
yards from our front line. The ground over which the attack took place
consisted of sand dunes, rising in places up to 150 feet in height. This
sand is very deep and heavy going. The enemy's defences consisted of
several lines of strongly built trenches and redoubts.

"As Umbrella Hill flanked the advance against the Turkish works farther
west, it was decided to capture it by a preliminary operation, to take
place four hours previous to the main attack. It was accordingly
attacked and captured at 11.0 p.m. on the 1st November by a portion of
the 52nd Division. This attack drew a heavy bombardment of Umbrella Hill
itself and our front lines, which lasted for two hours, but ceased in
time to allow the main attack, which was timed for 3.0 a.m., to form up
without interference."

This attack partook of the nature of a modern trench to trench advance,
as seen on the battlefields of France, with the co-operation of tanks
and the accompaniment of other products of modern science. It was
successful in reaching most of its objectives. The enemy losses were
heavy, especially from the preliminary bombardment.

"Subsequent reports from prisoners stated that one of the Divisions
holding the Gaza Sector was withdrawn on account of casualties, a
Division from the general reserve being drawn into this Sector to
replace it. The attack thus succeeded in its primary object, which was
to prevent any units being withdrawn from the Gaza defences to meet the
threat to the Turkish left flank and to draw into Gaza as large a
proportion as possible of the available Turkish reserves. Further, the
capture of Sheikh Hasan and the south-western defences constituted a
very direct threat to the whole of the Gaza position, which could be
developed on any sign of a withdrawal on the part of the enemy."

Here the force attacking Gaza stayed its hand, merely holding on to the
positions already captured, while the main attack was being developed on
the right.

Having captured Beersheba on the 31st October, a force was pushed out
early on the following day, the 1st November, into the hills north of
Beersheba, with the object of securing the flank of the attack on
Sheria, while mounted troops were sent north along the Hebron road.
Accordingly, the 53rd Division took up a position from Towal Abu Jerwal
(6 miles north of Beersheba) to Muweileh (3-1/2 miles farther west) and
the 10th Division occupied Abu Irgeig, on the railway, 6 miles from
Beersheba.

Next day, the 2nd, our mounted troops found and engaged considerable
enemy forces to the north of Towal Abu Jerwal. Accordingly, on the 3rd,
we advanced in that direction towards Ain Kohleh and Khuweilfeh, where
the enemy were found to be holding a strong position with considerable
and increasing forces. It will be borne in mind that this was only the
right flank-guard; our main attack, which was to be delivered against
Sheria, was not timed to commence until two or three days later.
However, the enemy elected to employ the whole of his available reserves
in an immediate counter-attack. During the 4th and 5th he made several
determined attacks on the mounted troops in this locality. These attacks
were repulsed; and the enemy's action was not allowed to make any
essential modification to the original plan, which it had been decided
to carry out at dawn on November 6th. It was this exhausting of the
Turkish reserves, so early in the operations and so far away to the East
as Khuweilfeh, that paved the way for the success of our attack on
Sheria.

At dawn, on the 6th, the force detailed for the main attack had taken up
positions of readiness to the south-east of the Kauwukah system of
trenches. The yeomanry opened the ball by assaulting the group of works
forming the extreme left of the enemy's defensive system, following this
up by an advance due west up the railway, capturing the line of detached
works which lay east of the railway line. Meanwhile, London and Irish
troops moved towards the Kauwukah system, bringing forward their guns to
within wire-cutting range. Soon after noon, these troops commenced their
attack upon the south-eastern face of the Kauwukah system. This was
completely successful in capturing all its objectives. Sheria station
was also reported as captured before dark. On this same day the right
flank-guard, the 53rd Division, had successfully attacked Khuweilfeh.
The position at nightfall, then, was that our right flank-guard were at
Kauweilfeh, the yeomanry had reached the line of the Sheria to Wadi
Union, and the troops on the left were close to Hareira Redoubt which
was still occupied by the enemy.

Next day, the 7th, the situation remained practically unchanged on our
extreme right, the enemy maintaining his positions opposite our right
flank-guard. In the Sheria-Hareira locality, the Hareira Tepe Redoubt
was captured at dawn. Tel el Sheria was captured at 4.0 a.m. and the
line was pushed forward about a mile to the north of Tel el Sheria. That
night the enemy withdrew.

Meanwhile, on our extreme left, the bombardment of Gaza had continued.
Another attack was ordered to take place on the night of the 6th/7th. An
attack was made at 11.30 p.m. that night against Outpost Hill and
Middlesex Hill, south of the town, which met with little opposition. "As
soon, after they had been taken, as patrols could be pushed forward, the
enemy was found to be gone. Early in the morning, the main enemy force
occupied the northern and eastern defences of Gaza. Rearguards were
still occupying Beit Hanun and the Atawinah and Tank System (part of the
Sihan group of works), from whence Turkish artillery continued to fire
on Gaza and Ali Muntar until dusk."

"As soon as it was seen that the Turks had evacuated Gaza, on the
morning of the 7th, a part of the force pushed along the coast to the
mouth of the Wadi Hesi, some 8 miles north of Gaza, so as to turn the
Wadi Hesi line and prevent the enemy making any stand there. This force
reached the Wadi Hesi by evening, and succeeded in establishing itself
on the north bank in the face of considerable opposition from a Turkish
rearguard. Cavalry had already pushed on round the north of Gaza and
become engaged at Beit Hanun with an enemy rearguard which maintained
its position till night-fall." This brings our history down to the night
of November 7th/8th. By the morning of the 8th the enemy were in
retreat all along the line.

Meanwhile, what had been happening to our own party in the Apex? The
general plan of attack did not contemplate any advance from here.
Nevertheless, it was necessary that this portion of the line should be
firmly held, and it was more than likely that the enemy would try to
create a diversion by raiding this inviting salient. By the end of
October "liveliness" was increasing all round, and mutual bombardments
were growing more intense. Fortunately, a large number of the shells
fired by the enemy were "duds." We were puzzled at the time to know why
duds figured so largely in this and following bombardments; subsequent
inspection of the enemy trenches afforded an explanation. Great dumps of
ammunition had been formed by the enemy close to the guns, and these,
for safety and concealment, had been placed in deep dug-outs. On the
evening of the 27th October, a great thunderstorm burst over Gaza,
causing the enemy considerable damage, flooding the dug-outs, and
presumably damping the fuses and ruining their ammunition.

On the evening of the 3rd November, the enemy tried to create a
diversion by raiding the Apex. On this evening we were sitting quietly
having dinner in our headquarters dug-out, when sharp rifle fire was
heard from the front line of the battalion on our right. We walked out,
and saw a veritable Brock's Benefit display of Verey lights. A telephone
message from our front line informed us that a considerable party of the
enemy had crept quietly up, and were now prowling round our wire and
trying to pick a way through. A hot fire from rifles, Lewis guns and
machine guns, soon convinced the enemy of the uselessness of attempting,
without artillery preparation, a raid against an alert enemy well
entrenched with wire intact. They were beaten off, and withdrew to a
fold in the ground a couple of hundred yards out in No Man's Land, where
they were fired upon by our trench mortars. Nevertheless they managed
to rally, and came forward again to the attack. This time their
reception was no more encouraging than before; our artillery got into
them with a barrage and they withdrew. Now they sent up a red Verey
light signal, whereupon a hostile barrage came down upon our trenches,
under cover of which they not only withdrew themselves, but also removed
their killed and wounded. It is a part of their religion to spare no
pains in removing their dead and giving them a decent burial. A couple
of deserters crept into our lines towards the morning, from whom we were
able to gather something about their side of the operations. Desertion
was fairly common among the Turks about this time, partly because
rations were poor, but mainly because they had no stomach for the fight
that they knew to be imminent. In so far as this raid affected us, our
trenches were badly smashed by the artillery, but our casualties were
insignificant.

The next evening we sent a small patrol across No Man's Land, which,
being boldly and pluckily led, crept right up to the enemy's trenches.
Here they heard the sound of much traffic on the Gaza-Beersheba road,
token doubtless of the impending withdrawal. More important from our
immediate point of view, the patrol heard sounds of an enemy
concentration in their front trenches, in apparent preparation for
another raid on the Apex. Our artillery put salvoes at once upon those
trenches; and the raid of that night proved a damp squib. About midnight
we were wakened from our slumbers by a thunderstorm, the thunder,
lightning and hail being provided by a deluge of bursting shells,
splinters and shrapnel bullets. When the barrage lifted, glimpses were
caught of the enemy moving along our front wire; but this raid never
succeeded in forcing an entrance to our trenches.

We had every reason to "remember the fifth of November." It came in with
a display of fireworks; it went out like an inferno. Profiting by his
previous experience, the enemy shelled a portion of our front
deliberately from early evening until dark, with the obvious intention
of cutting the wire on a portion of our sector. At ten o'clock that
night, down came another intensive bombardment, which lasted for an
hour. Under cover of the darkness, the enemy even brought trench mortars
on camels up to our wire to assist in the bombardment. Next morning the
ground looked like a veritable sea beach after a wreck; the litter
consisted of splinters and duds of all sizes and descriptions, largely
5.9" H.Es. This hostile barrage made a really satisfactory job of the
wire cutting. As soon as it lifted, the enemy's infantry made a
determined effort to penetrate our line. During the bombardment our
fellows had taken shelter in the narrow passage ways behind the
traverses, and so lost no time, immediately the barrage lifted, in
manning the fire-step. They at once got busy with rifles, Lewis guns and
machine-guns, and gave the Turk, as he crossed the ruins of our wire, a
distinctly warm reception. This proved more than enough for most of the
enemy; but a few brave spirits succeeded in entering our trench and
throwing bombs. They were not supported by their fellows, and were soon
disposed of. At length, up went the now familiar red light, down came
the closing barrage, the enemy drew off and we were left in peace.

After these three abortive raids the Apex was left unmolested, except
for occasional shelling on the 6th and 7th. On the 8th, we were relieved
at the Apex by Lines of Communication troops, in order that we might
take part in the pursuit of the enemy who were now in full retreat.

     The quotations in this and the three following chapters, are from
     General Allenby's Despatch, dated the 16th December, 1917.




CHAPTER VIII

FULL CRY


We have seen that during the night of the 7th/8th November, the enemy
had retreated all along the line. The enemy opposite our right
flank-guard withdrew towards Hebron, that is, north-east into the Judaean
Hills. He was pursued for a short distance by the yeomanry, and some
prisoners and camels were captured. The yeomanry were then recalled to
rejoin the main body of the mounted troops for the more important work
of the pursuit of the enemy's main body. The enemy force that thus
escaped into the hills there reorganized, and later descended to the
Plain on the flank of our pursuing force with a view to creating a
diversion; but of this, more anon.

On the afternoon of the 7th, when it was seen that our Sheria operations
in the centre had been successful, the cavalry were ordered to push
forward from there in the direction of Huj, which was the terminus of
the enemy's branch railway line from Deir Sineid. Had this force of
cavalry been able to push forward and join up with the cavalry that had
worked round by the sea and were engaging the enemy rearguard at Beit
Hanun, the bulk of the Turkish force engaged upon this front might have
been surrounded and captured. The mounted troops on the right moved
towards Huj, but met with considerable opposition from hostile
rearguards. On this account, and through difficulty in watering horses,
the consummation devoutly to be desired was not attained.

It will be remembered that the Gaza operations had the effect of almost
turning the enemy's right flank as long ago as November 2nd, and that,
by the evening of the 7th, the force advancing along the coast had
already established itself on the north bank of the Wadi Hesi, some 6
miles or so behind the enemy's defensive line.

Throughout the 7th, Turkish rearguards clung to Beit Hanun and to the
Atawineh and Tank systems to the east of Ali Muntar. The effect of this
was, that, when our troops eventually got under way in pursuit of the
retreating Turks, those near the sea had several miles' start of those
further inland. This feature, a pursuit in echelon with the left flank
advanced, continued throughout these operations. And so we shall see
that Jaffa fell into our hands some weeks before the capture of
Jerusalem had even been attempted.

The bulk of the Turkish army retreated northwards along the Coastal
Plain. Here ran their railway, their main line of communications, and
also an excellent road from Gaza to Jerusalem. Little or no opportunity
was afforded of catching the disorganized enemy in narrow defiles, as
happened in the rout of the following autumn, but the open Plain offered
ample opportunities for a hasty retreat, of which the enemy fully
availed themselves.

"During the 8th, then, the advance was continued, and interest was
chiefly centred in an attempt to cut off, if possible, the Turkish
rearguard which had held the Tank and Atawineh systems. Considerable
captures of prisoners, guns, ammunition and other stores were made,
especially at Huj and Deir Sineid, but no large formed body of the enemy
was cut off. The Turkish rearguards fought stubbornly and offered
considerable opposition." At this time the brunt of the work was being
borne by the cavalry and the Royal Flying Corps, the infantry not having
yet been ordered forward. "Near Huj, a fine charge by some squadrons of
the Worcester and Warwick Yeomanry captured twelve guns, and broke the
resistance of a hostile rearguard."

"It soon became obvious from the reports of the Royal Flying Corps, who
throughout the 7th and 8th attacked the retreating columns with bombs
and machine-gun fire, and from other evidence, that the enemy was
retiring in considerable disorganization, and could offer no very
serious resistance if pressed with determination.

"Instructions were accordingly issued on the morning of the 9th to the
mounted troops, directing them on to the line El Tine-Beit Duras, that
is, on to a line a little to the south-west of Junction Station, with
orders to press the enemy relentlessly. A portion of the infantry was
ordered forward in support.

"By the 9th, therefore, operations had reached the stage of a direct
pursuit by as many troops as could be supplied so far in front of the
railhead."

The 54th Division had hitherto been principally engaged between Gaza and
the sea. The 52nd Division, therefore, passed through the 54th and took
up the pursuit along the coast, the pursuit along the Gaza-Jerusalem
road falling to the lot of the 75th.

On the night of the 8th, our regiment was relieved in the trenches at
the Apex, and, on the 9th, the 75th Division concentrated behind the
line, ready to take its part in the pursuit. Next day we all went
forward in column of route. We crossed No Man's Land along the enemy's
old front line trenches by Ali Muntar. Having looked out upon this scene
for months through glasses, telescopes and periscopes, it was
interesting now to obtain a close view of these fortress defences.

But there were other sights that met our eyes, sad and gruesome, that
can be better imagined than described. Portions of the enemy's wire, and
of the gentle slopes in front, were littered with the remains of brave
lads that had fallen in the sad days of March and April. It was strange
that, in their own interests, the Turks had not buried these bodies.
Instead they had left them lying there for months, beneath an almost
tropical sun, and had actually fixed up their new wire entanglements
over the unburied bodies. In some cases death had evidently been
instantaneous. In others, where death had come more slowly, lads were to
be found grasping open testaments or letters from home. It seemed so sad
that these poor fellows, who had endured the hardships of the Desert and
marched victoriously across Sinai, should, like Moses, have been
privileged to see, but not to enter, the Promised Land.

After crossing No Man's Land, we marched along past pleasanter sights,
great stacks of ammunition, gas cylinders, and other interesting
captures. We enjoyed glimpses of how the enemy here had made himself
comfortable; still more did we enjoy glimpses of how we here had made
the enemy uncomfortable. Huge craters there were, made by naval guns
shelling from the sea. These guns had bombarded the enemy communications
behind his front line, and had obtained direct hits on the track and
rolling stock, causing a train or two, valuable booty, to fall into our
possession. Bomb holes were to be seen, made by our aircraft in their
efforts to destroy the bridges on the enemy's line of retreat.

We bivouacked on the night of the 10th at Deir Sineid. For the next two
days we marched forward, close upon the heels of the pursuing cavalry,
but not close enough yet to come into action or to deploy from column of
route. All along our route lay evidences of the enemy's rout. At one
time, we were passing a convoy of prisoners being shepherded along by a
few cavalry; at another, a party of refugees hurrying back with their
worldly possessions to those homes to which they knew they could now
return in safety. Here and there lay the body of some unfortunate Turk;
while all along the line lay the wreckage of vehicles and the carcases
of transport animals.

Throughout these days the troops suffered considerably from thirst. A
hot exhausting wind was blowing, and the men were heavily laden for
long-distance route marching in a semi-tropical country. Water was the
ever-recurring trouble. A little for the men to carry on with was
generally procurable, but the difficulty of watering the animals at
times became acute. The usual tidings were, that there was plenty of
water at the next village. When the next village was reached the tidings
proved to be true, but so long was the queue of animals already waiting
to be watered, that fresh arrivals stood but little chance. At many
places the water was insufficient; and "even when water was found in
sufficient quantities, it was usually in wells and not on the surface;
consequently, if the machinery for working the wells was damaged, or a
sufficient supply of troughs was not available, the process of watering
a large quantity of animals was slow and difficult."

Meanwhile, how were our cavalry progressing? A glance at the map will
show that, after the fall of Gaza, the next point of tactical importance
in Palestine was Junction Station. With this in our hands, Jerusalem
would be cut off from railway communication with the outer world, and
quantities of rolling stock, supplies, war material and possibly
prisoners, should fall into our hands. While still pursuing the
retreating enemy, therefore, the cavalry had been directed to make
Junction Station their next objective.

The portion of the enemy's force that had withdrawn into the hills
towards Hebron now made a descent from the hills to the Plain. Their
object was to threaten the flank of our pursuing cavalry, create a
diversion, and thus relieve the pressure from their main body. From
Hebron, a couple of difficult tracks wind down the mountains to the
village of Beit Jibrin, where they join a road coming from Bethlehem and
Jerusalem. This latter road reaches the Plain and Beersheba railway at
Arak el Menshiyeh. This was the spot, then, towards which the
counter-attack, or demonstration from the hills, was organized.

"It was obvious that the Hebron force, which was believed to be short
of transport and ammunition, to have lost heavily, and to be in a
generally disorganized state, could make no effective diversion, and
that this threat could practically be disregarded. The Imperial Camel
Corps, however, was ordered to move to the neighbourhood of Tel el
Nejile, where it would be on the flank of any counterstroke from the
hills; while orders were issued for the main pursuit to be pressed so
that Junction Station might be reached with all speed. The Hebron group
made an ineffective demonstration in the direction of Arak el Menshiyeh
on the 10th, and then retired north-east so as to prolong the enemy's
line towards Beit Jibrin."

Close to the sea, the advance-guard of the 52nd Division pushed on as
far as Burkah on the 11th, and, on the 12th, the yeomanry pushed north
and seized Tel el Murreh, on the right or northern bank of the Nahr
Sukereir and close to its mouth.

"The operations of these days showed a stiffening of the enemy's
resistance on the general line of the Wadi Sukereir, with centre about
El Kustineh. Reports from the R.F.C. indicated the total hostile forces
opposed to us on this line at about 15,000; and this increased
resistance, coupled with the capture of prisoners from almost every unit
of the Turkish force, tended to show that we were no longer opposed to
rearguards, but that all the remainder of the Turkish Army, which could
be induced to fight, was making a last effort to arrest our pursuit
south of the important Junction Station.

"On the morning of the 13th November, the situation was, that the enemy
had strung out his force on a front of 20 miles from El Kubeibeh on the
north to about Beit Jibrin to the south. The right half of his line ran
roughly parallel to, and only about five miles in front of, the railway
to the north of Junction Station, which was the main line of supply from
the north."

We have seen that our pursuit along the sea coast had a considerable
start of that further to the right, and the rapidity of this pursuit had
dictated to the enemy this rather unsatisfactory position which he was
forced to take up. His right flank was already almost turned. In so far
as he could do so, he held a strong position on the line of heights
running north and south near the right flank of his position, on which
heights stand the villages of Katrah and El Mughar.

The 12th was a day of preparation. On the 13th, an attack was delivered
against the enemy's position by the 75th Division on the right and the
52nd on the left, the extreme right of the attack being protected by the
Australian Mounted Troops, who had pressed forward towards Balin
Berkussie and Tel es Safi. The country over which the attack took place
is open and rolling. It is dotted with small villages surrounded by mud
walls, with plantations of trees and thick cactus hedges outside the
walls. These hedges afforded admirable opportunities for the concealment
of machine guns. In spite of heavy machine gun fire, the 75th attacked
and captured the village of El Mesmiye. A turning movement was directed
against the enemy's right flank. There was a dashing charge of mounted
troops, who galloped across the Plain under heavy fire and turned the
enemy's position from the north. The Kahan El Mughar position,
protecting the enemy's right flank, fell to the 52nd Division. After
this, the enemy resistance weakened, and by the evening his forces were
in retreat. Early the following morning we occupied Junction Station.

The enemy's flight from Junction Station was precipitate. Two trains
escaped shortly before our occupation, one of which was believed to have
contained Von Kressenstein himself. Nevertheless our captures of rolling
stock and material were considerable. The enemy's army had now been
broken into two separate parts, which retired eastwards towards
Jerusalem and northwards through Ramleh towards Tul Keram.

Throughout the 14th our mounted troops pressed on toward Ramleh and
Ludd. On the right, Naaneh, on the railway to Ramleh, was attacked and
captured in the morning. On the left, the New Zealand Mounted Rifles had
a smart engagement at Ayun Kara, 6 miles south of Jaffa, where the Turks
made a determined counter-attack, and were only repulsed at the point of
the bayonet.

On the morning of the 15th our mounted troops dislodged a hostile
rearguard, which had taken up a position on the high ground, flanking
the railway north of Junction Station, and covering the main road from
Jaffa to Jerusalem. This is the site of Gezer, one of the most ancient
of the Canaanitish cities in Palestine, and one of the first objects of
interest sought by the eye of the tourist on his journey up from Jaffa
to Jerusalem. Thus, commanding both the railway and the main Jerusalem
road, this position might have considerably delayed our advance had it
been held with determination. As it was, our mounted troops were able to
occupy Ramleh and Ludd that evening and to push forward patrols to
within a short distance of Jaffa.

Jaffa, the ancient port of Jerusalem, was occupied without further
opposition on the evening of the 16th.

"The situation was now as follows. The enemy's army, cut in two by our
capture of Junction Station, had retired partly east into the mountains
towards Jerusalem, and partly north along the Plain. The nearest line on
which these two portions could reunite was the line Tul Keram-Nablus."
Although Jerusalem itself could still be supplied along the road
connecting it with Nablus, or along the road across the Jordan to Ammam
Station on the Hejaz Railway, yet "reports from the R.F.C. indicated
that it was the probable intention of the enemy to evacuate Jerusalem
and withdraw to organize on the line Tul Keram-Nablus.

"On our side, the mounted troops had been marching and fighting
continuously since October 31st, and had advanced a distance of 75 miles
measured in a straight line from Asluj to Jaffa. The infantry, after
their last fighting at Gaza, had advanced, in nine days, distances of
from 40 to 70 miles, with two severe engagements and continual
advanced-guard fighting. The railway was being pushed forward as rapidly
as possible, and every opportunity was taken of landing stores at points
along the coast; but the landing of stores was dependent on a
continuance of favourable weather, and might at any moment be stopped
for several days together.

"A pause was therefore necessary to await the progress of railway
construction. But before our position in the Plain could be considered
secure, it was essential to push forward into the hills, and to obtain a
hold of the one good road which traverses the Judaean range from north to
south, from Nablus to Jerusalem."




CHAPTER IX

NEBY SAMWIL


Our advance had hitherto been northwards along the low country, and had
already reached a point on the Maritime Plain some miles north of the
parallel of Jerusalem. It now wheeled to the right and struck into the
Hills, with the object of getting astride the Jerusalem-Nablus road and
of thus capturing the Holy City.

It will be remembered, from our survey of the geography of Palestine,
that the ridge of the Judaean Hills runs approximately north and south,
and that along the top of this ridge runs a first-class metalled road
connecting Nablus with Jerusalem. From this ridge spurs run east and
west down towards the Maritime Plain. These spurs are steep, bare and
stony, and in places, precipitous, and are separated from one another by
narrow valleys. Between such spurs, a few miles to the north-west of
Jerusalem, sweeps down the Valley of Ajalon, with the villages of
Beit-ur el-Foka (Beth-horon the Upper) and Beit-ur el-Tahta (Beth-horon
the Lower), where Joshua won his memorable victory over the five kings
of the Amorites. It was here that the routed hosts of the Amorites were
pursued in panic, and near here that the sun and moon "stood still" at
the bidding of Joshua. Further to the south, another gorge, or pass,
roughly parallel to the Valley of Ajalon, leads down to the Plain, and
along this pass runs the metalled road through Kurzet-el-Enab
(Kirjath-Jearim), Saris and Bab-el-Wad, to Ramleh and Jaffa; this is the
road followed by the Pilgrims. Other paths were shown upon the map, but
these were found to be mere tracks on the hillside or up the stony beds
of wadis, and, without considerable improvement, were impracticable for
wheeled guns or transport. The only routes along which guns, other than
mountain artillery, could be moved, were the two first-class roads
running northwards and westwards out of Jerusalem.

Ten miles north of Jerusalem, along the Nablus road, at a height of
nearly 3,000 feet above sea level, is the village of Bireh. This
commanding position overlooks the Jordan Valley and all the surrounding
country. This was the point which General Allenby decided to make his
next objective. Reports had indicated that it was the probable intention
of the enemy to evacuate Jerusalem, and in the known or suspected state
of the demoralisation of the enemy, it was felt that considerable risks
could be taken. Thus a bold and immediate dash for Bireh seemed to be
indicated. Furthermore, an advance on this objective would take our
forces well clear of Jerusalem itself. And so this plan best conformed
with the determination that had previously been arrived at, that
fighting should be within five miles of the Holy City.

The general idea of the operation was, that our troops should move up
into the hills, some going by the Valley of Ajalon, and some by the main
Jaffa-Jerusalem road as far as Enab, and thence by the "Roman road"
running north-east. Although it was thought likely that the Turks,
reinforced from Damascus, and perhaps from Aleppo, would come down and
attack our new line, yet it was hoped that Bireh would be reached before
serious opposition was encountered. The enemy, however, changed his
mind. Having, early in November, decided to withdraw from Jerusalem, he
now determined to hold it till the bitter end. Turkish resistance
stiffened immensely. Pushed far into the hills, as were our advanced
troops, and without much artillery support, it was found impossible for
them to reach Bireh in the first stride; and further operations upon a
more elaborate scale had to be undertaken before Jerusalem could be
captured.

But we anticipate. Let us, then, return to the middle of November, at
which time our forces had captured, and were holding, positions covering
Jaffa, Ramleh and Junction Station. On the 17th November, the yeomanry
commenced to move from Ramleh through the hills direct on Bireh, via the
valley of Ajalon and Lower Beth-horon; and, by the evening of the 18th,
one portion of the yeomanry had reached Lower Beth-horon, while another
portion had occupied Shilta.

On the 19th, the infantry commenced its advance. Latron and Anwas were
captured in the morning. For nearly 4 miles, between Bab el Wad (2-1/2
miles east of Latron) and Saris, the Jaffa-Jerusalem road passes through
a narrow gorge or defile. The remainder of the day was spent in clearing
this defile up to Saris. "These narrow passes from the plain to the
plateau of the Judaean range have seldom been forced, and have been fatal
to many invading armies." The natural facilities for defence in this
pass were undoubtedly very strong. "Had the attempt not been made at
once, or had it been pressed with less determination, the enemy would
have had time to reorganize his defences here, and the conquest of the
plateau would then have been slow, costly and precarious."

The character of the fighting now changed, and more nearly resembled the
mountain warfare of the north-west frontier of India. The bulk of this
hill fighting fell upon the 75th Division, whose Indian experience
proved invaluable. It was interesting to note the points of resemblance
and of distinction between hill fighting here and on the Indian
frontier.

In India, frontier warfare is usually conducted against ill-organized
semi-savages, unarmed with artillery or machine guns, but furnished with
the instincts and cunning of beasts of prey. Here the conditions were
reversed. The enemy were well provided with artillery and machine guns,
both of which they had had abundant opportunity to post advantageously
and use effectually; whereas we had difficulties in getting forward our
guns and bringing them into action, and were at times without artillery
assistance. On the other hand, our troops surpassed the enemy in their
familiarity with mountain fighting.

Here, as in all mountain fighting, the cardinal principle was piquetting
the heights--that is to say, the necessity of sending up piquets from
the advanced-guard, who deny to the enemy all commanding eminences,
before the main body and transport move up the defile which those
eminences command. Our piquets had frequently to fight their way up to
the heights, and to be prepared, on reaching the summit, to withstand a
shelling or repulse a counter-attack. They had, therefore, to be
stronger than is usually necessary in India, but had to be particularly
careful not to concentrate too much upon the summit. In India, where the
enemy generally fight a guerilla warfare, hanging on to rearguards and
cutting off stragglers, the stiffest part of the fighting is to be
expected during the subsequent withdrawal of the piquets from the
heights. Here, the fighting was done by the advanced-guard, and during
the taking of the heights, subsequent withdrawal being generally
unmolested. Quickness in the attack was found to be of great value. In
some cases the garrisons of heights were surprised and captured before
they could get away; more than once the advanced-guard, pushing rapidly
up the road, were able to cut off such garrisons as they were coming
down the reverse slopes of their hills.

With regard to armament, our field artillery were able to assist with
their 4.2 inch howitzers, but the 18-pounder field guns, with their flat
projectory, were, at this stage, found to be of little use. During later
stages of this mountain warfare, the 18-pounder came again into its own;
but that was when suitable positions could be chosen deliberately, and
when, through the length of the range or the use of reduced charges,
they were able to drop their shells with a steep angle of descent. A
high velocity gun, with a flat projectory, like our 18-pounder, has two
disadvantages in mountain warfare. When the gun is firing from behind a
steep hill, the shell, on leaving the gun, is liable to strike the hill
in front instead of clearing the crest. When the projectile reaches the
distant ridge (behind which the enemy are presumably taking cover), the
angle of descent is not sufficiently steep to cause damage. More
satisfactory results were obtainable with howitzers, whose high angle
fire could both clear the forward crests and search the reverse slopes.
Unfortunately, at this time, we had little or no mountain artillery up
forward, while the wheeled guns were often badly handicapped for want of
good roads. We had marched away from Gaza well enough supplied with
artillery for normal or plain country fighting, but scarcely so for this
very different fighting in the mountains.

Another disadvantage under which we laboured, through this abrupt
merging from trench into mountain warfare, was the overloading of the
men. For the latter class of warfare men must be lightly equipped; in
India, even the men's great-coats are carried for them on pack-mules.
Here, the men were, of necessity, loaded up as for trench fighting, and
were carrying gas masks and extra bandoliers (50 rounds) of ammunition,
making a total of 170 rounds per man.

The key to success in modern mountain fighting proved to be the rapidity
with which roads could be constructed for bringing forward artillery.

The defile up to Saris having been piquetted and cleared on the 19th,
Enab was captured on the 20th in the face of organized opposition. Other
infantry had moved from the plain along the more northern track (the
Ajalon Valley route) by Berfilja and Beit Likia, and, on this same 20th,
they captured Beit Dukka. On the same day the yeomanry got to within 4
miles of the Nablus-Jerusalem road, but were stopped by strong
opposition about Beihesnia, 3 or 4 miles west-south-west of Bireh.

In this night it rained, as only in tropical and semi-tropical
countries it knows how. The men, clad in their Indian drill, were soaked
immediately, and lay down on the road or in the streets of Enab, or
slept where they stood, the picture of misery. An isolated Turk rushed
down the road, determined to sell his life dearly. But he could find
nobody enthusiastic enough to fight, or even to take sufficient interest
in him to accept his surrender; until at last he found a military
policeman, who, this being his job, had no alternative but to take him
prisoner. At length dawn broke; and it then became clear that Enab was
under Turkish observation. So a cold night of rain was followed by a hot
morn of fire.

From Enab, a "Roman road" leaves the main Jaffa-Jerusalem road and
strikes away north-east to Biddu, and thence towards Bireh. In Roman
days, this may have been an important road, but now it was found to be a
mere rocky track, impassable for wheels, or for anything except infantry
and pack animals. On the morning of the 21st, a portion of the 75th
Division moved forward by this track, while another portion of the
Division was left at Enab to cover the flank and demonstrate along the
main Jerusalem road. The latter body drove hostile parties from Kushel,
2-1/2 miles east of Enab, and secured this ridge. Meanwhile, progress
along the "Roman road" was slow. The track was under hostile shell-fire,
and it was found impossible to bring up guns to support the advance of
the infantry. The advanced guard, pushing on towards Bireh, had got as
far as Biddu, when it was held up there by intensive hostile shelling.
The remainder of the leading brigade thereupon captured a commanding
position about a couple of miles to the east of Biddu, and 2-1/2 miles
short of the Jerusalem-Nablus road. This commanding position was Neby
Samwil.

Neby Samwil, one of the most prominent heights round Jerusalem, must
always have been a place of considerable importance. It is identified
with Mizpeh, one of the cities built by King Asa. Ecclesiastical
tradition connects this place with Ramah, the birth and burial place of
the prophet Samuel, whose tomb is said to lie under the Crusading
Church, the ruins of which still exist here. To the honour of this
prophet, the Moslems had erected a fine mosque upon this spot, which was
a landmark for miles round. As subsequent events proved, Neby Samwil was
the key to Jerusalem.

The question has been often asked: Who was the first to capture Neby
Samwil? The honour has sometimes been claimed for the 60th Division. No
doubt that Division fought here, and fought well. But at least two other
divisions, the 52nd and the 75th, had been fighting on this hill for a
day or so before the arrival of the 60th. As a matter of fact, this
hill, the "key" to Jerusalem, was first captured by a brigade of the
75th Division, in honour of which a "key" was thereafter adopted as the
proud distinguishing mark of this Division.

On Neby Samwil occurred some of the bitterest fighting in the Palestine
campaign. Both sides realized the vital importance of the position. All
the first night the hill was distinctly unhealthy. The trees were
infested with snipers who picked off our men in the bright moonlight.
Some refuge from the sniping was procurable inside the Mosque, but the
Turkish artillery had no compunction in shelling the building and
bringing it down in ruins. As the night progressed, more troops were
poured on to the hill. The snipers were hunted down and summarily dealt
with. Machine guns were established in the ruined Mosque and other
appropriate positions, and preparations made to hold the hill at all
costs. Towards the morning the Turks delivered a determined
counter-attack. During the 22nd, the enemy made two counter-attacks on
the Neby Samwil Ridge, which we repulsed. In one case, the Ghurkhas,
having run out of ammunition, hurled down rocks and boulders upon the
heads of the ascending enemy. At one time the Mosque was deserted by all
except one machine-gun officer, who continued to work his gun
single-handed. By this time the 52nd Division had come up and were, in
some cases relieving, in some fighting side by side with, the 75th.

On the 23rd and on the 24th, determined and gallant attacks were made on
the strong positions to the west of the Nablus road held by the enemy,
who had brought up reinforcements and numerous machine guns, and could
support his infantry by artillery fire from guns placed in position
along the main road. Our artillery, from lack of roads, could not be
brought up to give adequate support to our infantry, and both attacks
failed. The yeomanry, who by the afternoon of the 21st had got to within
a couple of miles of the Nablus road, were heavily counter-attacked, and
fell back, after bitter fighting, on Beit-ur el-Foka (Upper Beth-horon).

This fighting had been taking place over classical and sacred ground.
Troops fighting on Neby Samwil looked down upon the Holy City, still in
the hands of the Turk. Our advanced dressing station was established in
the beautiful monastery on the traditional site of Emmaus; here the men
were dying on the very spot that the risen Christ had been made known to
His disciples in the breaking of bread.

"The positions reached on the evening of the 21st practically marked the
limit of the progress in this first attempt to gain the Nablus road.
Positions had been won from which our final attack could be prepared and
delivered with good prospects of success. Nevertheless, it was evident
that a period of preparation and organization would be necessary before
an attack could be delivered in sufficient strength to drive the enemy
from his positions."

Orders were accordingly issued to consolidate the position gained and
prepare for relief. The 60th Division had been lent to the 21st Corps,
and had already taken their place in the fighting on Neby Samwil. Now
the 21st Corps were gradually relieved and moved over to the left; while
the operations about Jerusalem were taken over by the 20th Corps.

[Illustration]




CHAPTER X

JERUSALEM


Let us trace the fortunes of the 20th Corps, whom we last saw engaged in
the fighting about Beersheba. After the fall of Gaza and Beersheba, most
of the mounted troops went forward in pursuit of the enemy along the
Maritime Plain. These were closely followed up and supported by the 21st
Corps, i.e. the 52nd and 75th Divisions, with the 54th following close
upon their heels. It was impossible at this time to supply more than a
limited number of troops far forward of railhead. So the Divisions of
the 20th Corps after their successful operations at Beersheba and
Sheria, were first moved backwards to rest and re-equip, before going
forward again into the field zone. Of these 20th Corps Divisions, the
60th were the first to go forward. Following along the main
Gaza-Junction Station road, in the footsteps of the 75th and 54th
Divisions, the 60th arrived at Junction Station on the 22nd November, on
which date the head-quarters of the 20th Corps also moved up to, and
opened at, Junction Station. The 60th Division were now lent to the 21st
Corps. They moved forward next day, following along the Jerusalem road
to Enab, and about the 24th or 25th began to take their place in the
fighting on the Neby Samwil ridge. Shortly after the 60th came forward
the 74th. By the time that they got sufficiently far forward, the 20th
Corps were taking over from, and relieving, the 21st, and the 74th
Division soon found itself in the zone of operations to the west and
north-west of Jerusalem. The 10th Division remained in the
neighbourhood of Gaza for a few weeks, until the possibilities of supply
permitted their also going forward. The 53rd Division did not go forward
by the Maritime Plain at all. They remained about Beersheba until the
4th December. Then they moved forward, without meeting with opposition,
along the higher road, that is, through Hebron towards Bethlehem; and
subsequently arrived in the hills at such time and place as their
presence was required for manoeuvring the enemy out of Jerusalem.

While these reliefs were in progress, several determined counter-attacks
were delivered by the enemy in their attempt to dislodge us from the
positions of advantage that we had already gained. At this time our line
was, of necessity, somewhat thinly held, especially towards the sea. The
Imperial Camel Corps, whom we last saw protecting the right flank of the
pursuit from the threat near Beit Jibrin, had been moved across to the
extreme left, where they and cavalry held positions on the north bank of
the River Auja, protecting Jaffa. Further to the right, the line was
carried on by the 54th Division, who thus linked up, along the ridge
north of the Valley of Ajalon, with the 52nd and 75th Divisions then
fighting in the neighbourhood of Neby Samwil. "On the 25th November our
advanced posts north of the River Auja were driven back across the
river. An attack on the night of the 29th succeeded in penetrating our
outpost line north-east of Jaffa; but next morning the whole hostile
detachment, numbering 150, was surrounded and captured by the Australian
Light Horse. Attacks were also delivered against the left flank of our
position in the hills from Beit-ur el-Foka to El Burj and the Neby
Samwil ridge. One such attack was delivered on the 30th near El Burj,
when a counter-attack by Australian Light Horse took 200 prisoners and
practically destroyed the attacking battalion. There was particularly
heavy fighting between El Burj and Beit-ur el-Foka, but all these
attacks were successfully resisted and severe losses were inflicted on
the enemy. All efforts by the enemy to drive us off the Neby Samwil
ridge were completely repulsed.

"These attacks in no way affected our positions nor impeded the progress
of our preparations. Favoured by a continuance of fine weather,
preparations for a fresh advance against the Turkish positions west and
south of Jerusalem proceeded rapidly. Existing roads and tracks were
improved and new ones constructed to enable heavy and field artillery to
be placed in position and ammunition and supplies brought up. The water
supply was also developed. By December 4th all reliefs were complete." A
line was then held from Kushel, about 5 miles to the west of Jerusalem,
along the ridge that runs north-east some 3 or 4 miles to Neby Samwil.
From this point, the line bent back at a right angle, and ran along the
northern ridge of the Valley of Ajalon through Beit Izza and Beit Dukka
to Beit-ur el-Tahta (Beth-horon the Lower), from which point it was
carried west and north-west to the sea.

The enemy held a line approximately facing our Kushel-Neby Samwil line,
protecting Jerusalem from attack from the west or north-west, his front
line being distant about three miles from the city, and artillery and
machine guns being posted in the outskirts of the city itself. He had
two good lines of supply or retreat, namely the north road from Nablus
and the eastern road through Jericho and across the Jordan to Amman
Station on the Hejaz Railway. It will be remembered that, in the words
of the Psalmist, "The Hills stand round about Jerusalem." The Turks were
able to select positions of considerable natural strength in these
surrounding hills. In fact, the country is one continual succession of
hills and valleys, the hillsides steep and rocky, the valleys deep and
strewn with boulders. These positions of natural strength the enemy had
improved by the construction of trenches and strong points and other
devices of modern field engineering.

The general idea of the operations for the capture of Jerusalem was the
simultaneous pressure of three Divisions, whereby the enemy should be
driven off his main roads, and the city be isolated, and so forced to
surrender. The 60th and 74th Divisions had already arrived in the
fighting zone and were occupying positions in the line, the 60th on the
right, about Kushel, and the 74th about Neby Samwil. On December 4th,
the 53rd Division commenced their march from Beersheba up the
Hebron-Jerusalem Road. No opposition was met, and, by the evening of the
6th, the head of this column was ten miles north of Hebron. The infantry
were directed to reach the Bethlehem area by the 7th, and a line about
three miles south of Jerusalem by dawn on the 8th. The 8th was the date
fixed for the commencement of the renewed operations against Jerusalem.

"On the 7th the weather broke, and for three days rain was almost
continuous. The hills were covered with mist at frequent intervals
throughout the fighting, rendering observation from the air and visual
signalling impossible." Great was the discomfort caused to the men by
this rain, fog and mud. The cold was intense, and soldiers who had borne
the brunt of a long day's fighting could not sleep, but just lay huddled
together longing for the dawn. An even more serious effect of the rain
was to jeopardise the supply arrangements, by converting the roads into
seas of liquid mud, rendering them almost impassable, in places quite
impassable for camels and mechanical transport.

By dawn on the 8th, all the troops were in their allotted positions,
except the 53rd Division. It had been recognized that these troops on
the extreme right might be delayed and fail to reach the positions
assigned to them by dawn on the 8th, and arrangements had accordingly
been made for the protection of our right flank west of Jerusalem in
case of such delay occurring. This contingency did occur. The 53rd
Division was held up by mud and fog, and by roads blown up by the enemy,
so that, by the morning of the 8th, it was still some distance south of
Jerusalem; on that day it exercised little or no influence on the
fighting.

During the darkness of the night of the 7th/8th December, and in weather
such as we have described, portions of the 60th Division clambered down
the mountain side, crossed the deep wadi bed in front of the right of
our line, and crept up the steep terraced sides of the opposite ridge
where ran a portion of the Turkish line. One brigade was to make a
frontal attack, while another was to turn the left flank of the enemy's
position, by scaling a spur to the south-west of the village of Ain
Karim. These two brigades stormed the main line of works before daylight
and captured the western defences of Jerusalem. Considerable rifle and
artillery fire was experienced from the outskirts of Jerusalem, so that
it was necessary for our troops to throw back their right and form a
defensive flank facing eastwards towards the city. Artillery support
from our own guns soon became difficult, owing to the length of the
advance and the difficulty of moving guns forward. It thus became
difficult for these troops to attain their subsequent objectives in the
direction of the Nablus road north of Jerusalem. Accordingly, it was
decided, early in the afternoon, to consolidate the line gained and
resume the advance next day, when the right column (the 53rd Division)
would be in a position to exert its pressure.

Meanwhile, the task of the 74th Division was to swing forward, with
their left resting and pivoting on Neby Samwil, to capture Beit Iksa
village and works, and so to swing forward to the Nablus road. They each
captured their first objective, and we were preparing for a further
advance. But the delay on the right made it desirable to check for the
time the advance on the left, and to consolidate the positions already
attained.

By nightfall, our line ran from Neby Samwil to the east of Beit Iksa,
through Lifta, to a point of about 1-1/2 miles west of Jerusalem, whence
it was thrown back facing east. Thus, our main line had swung forward,
circling on its pivot at Neby Samwil, with its extreme right flank
refused. The refused right flank afforded protection against the fire
coming from the city. The main directions of our advance, however, now
menaced, not so much Jerusalem itself, as the main Nablus road a few
miles to the north of the city. All the enemy's prepared defences west
and north-west of Jerusalem had been captured, and our troops were
within a short distance of the Nablus-Jerusalem Road.

That night the Turks withdrew. On the following morning, the 9th
December, the 74th and 60th Divisions, driving back rearguards, occupied
a line across the Nablus-Jerusalem road 4 miles north of Jerusalem.

In the meantime, the 53rd Division had arrived on the scene of
operations to the south of Jerusalem. They bore right-handed, cleared
the Mount of Olives, which commands Jerusalem from the east, drove the
enemy away eastwards, and occupied a position east of Jerusalem across
the Jericho road.

These operations isolated Jerusalem. At about noon on the 9th December,
1918, the city was surrendered.

Two days later General Allenby made his official entry into Jerusalem.
It was a simple ceremony. The General entered the city on foot, preceded
by his aides-de-camp, and accompanied by the commanders of the French
and Italian detachments, by the French, Italian and American military
attaches, and by a few members of the General Staff. Outside the Jaffa
Gate he was received by the Military Governor, and a guard of honour
composed of representatives of troops from the various portions of the
British Empire, which had taken part in the recent operations; while,
inside the walls, were small parties from the French and Italian
detachments which those countries had sent to assist us in Palestine.
Inside the city, at the base of the Tower of David, the ceremony was
concluded by the reading of the Proclamation. Its terms promised that
every person could pursue his lawful business without interruption, and
that every sacred building, monument, holy spot, shrine, traditional
site, endowment, pious bequest, or customary place of prayer of
whatsoever form of the great religions of mankind, would be maintained
and protected according to the existing customs and beliefs of those to
whose faiths they were sacred.




CHAPTER XI

THE HOLY CITY[2]


It is beyond the scope of this book to attempt a detailed history of
Jerusalem. It cannot, however, fail to interest those readers who have
followed us thus far, if we glance at a few incidents in the history of
this sacred spot.

Of little importance, perhaps non-existent, in the days of the
Patriarchs, and still in the hands of the Jebusites through the days of
Joshua, the Judges, and Samuel, it first sprang into fame about a
thousand years before Christ when it was captured by King David, who
made it his capital. Solomon built his temple on Mount Moriah, and
prayed to Jehovah that He would especially hear the prayers of His
people when they prayed toward the city which He had chosen and the
House which Solomon had built for His name. Then did this city become,
and has ever since remained, the sacred city of the Jews.

With the advent of Christ, born within a few miles of its walls, Who
here preached and healed, instituted His Holy Sacrament, suffered under
Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried and the third day rose
again from the dead, Who here laid the foundations of the most beautiful
religion that the world has ever seen, Jerusalem became and has ever
since remained, the sacred city of the Christian.

And then, six hundred years later, came the rise of Islam. The great
prophet Mahomet, in evolving his religion, based his teaching upon the
principles of Judaism and Christianity, the prophets of which were to be
honoured, including "the prophet David" and "the Prophet Christ." So, in
accordance with the prayer of Solomon, and until the antagonism between
Judaism and Islam led to the substitution of Mecca, it was towards
Jerusalem that devout Moslems were required to turn when they prayed.
From Mount Moriah did Mahomet, as his followers believe, miraculously
ascend to heaven. And so did Jerusalem become, and has ever since
remained, no less a sacred city of the Mahomedan.

Thus it will be seen that Jerusalem, the sacred city of three mighty
religions, became the most holy city in the world, the poetical
prototype of heaven.

Jerusalem, situate away on the hills and far from the main trading and
military route, was of but little commercial or strategical importance.
Yet we readily understand how its religious value caused it so often to
become the goal and prize of contending creeds and armies. Sometimes the
motive was religious antagonism, as with Antiochus Epiphanes and Titus;
sometimes it was religious devotion, as with the Maccabees and
Crusaders. Pitiful though it be, yet, throughout the ages, the City of
the Prince of Peace has been associated with the most terrible scenes,
the most savage excesses, in the whole dreadful drama of war.

Not once nor twice in the reigns of the Kings of Judah and Israel, did
Jerusalem resound with the clash of arms. Although, after the fall of
the northern kingdom, it was delivered by divine intervention from the
invasion of Sennacherib, yet its submersion by the rising tide of
Babylon could not long be averted. The evil day had only been postponed
and, in 607 B.C., Jerusalem fell before Nebuchadnezzar, before that
power which, like Turkey of yesterday, dominated the whole stretch of
country from the Persian Gulf to the border of Egypt. Twenty years
later, Jerusalem, with the Temple of Solomon, was destroyed, the city,
palaces and temple being levelled in one, and the population were put to
death or led away captive to Babylon.

When, some years later, the capital of the Babylonians was captured by
the Persians and their empire annexed, the Jews were permitted to return
to Jerusalem. In the sixth and fifth centuries B.C. the temple and walls
were rebuilt under Ezra and Nehemiah, and Jerusalem took a fresh lease
of life as a Jewish city.

In the fourth century B.C., when Alexander the Great marched southwards
through Syria to Egypt, securing the Mediterranean littoral before
embarking on his expedition into Asia, overthrowing Tyre in his march
and totally destroying Gaza, the Jews no doubt made their submission,
and their city thus escaped destruction.

After the death of Alexander, Judaea did not escape the anarchy which
ensued during the internecine warfare waged by his generals and
successors. In 321 B.C., Ptolemy I, King of Egypt, advanced against
Jerusalem, and, assaulting it on the Sabbath, the Jew's day of rest, met
with no resistance. He is said to have carried away 100,000 captives,
whom he settled in Alexandria and Cyrene. The founding of a Syro-Grecian
kingdom in Northern Syria brought Judaea again into the unfortunate
situation of a buffer state. Jerusalem seemed doomed to be among the
prizes of an interminable warfare between the Ptolemies of Egypt and the
Seleucidae of Syria and in turns vassal to each.

At the commencement of the second century B.C. Judaea passed into the
hands of the Syrian King Antiochus the Great, who at once proceeded to
ingratiate himself with the whole nation. It was not the tyranny of
foreign sovereigns, but the unprincipled ambition of their own native
rulers, that led to calamities little less dreadful than the Babylonian
captivity. Jason, the High Priest, had been dispossessed by his brother
Menelaus, by double dealing with the Syrian King, who at this time was
Antiochus Epiphanes. A rumour of the King's death having reached
Palestine in 170 B.C., Jason seized the opportunity and revolted against
his brother Menelaus. But the rumour was false.

"The intelligence of the insurrection, magnified into a deliberate
revolt of the whole nation, reached Antiochus. He marched without delay
against Jerusalem, put to death in three days' time 40,000 of the
inhabitants, and seized as many more to be sold as slaves. He entered
every court of the Temple, pillaged the treasury, and seized all the
sacred utensils. He then commanded a great sow to be sacrificed on the
altar of burnt offerings, part of the flesh to be boiled, and the liquor
from the unclean animal to be sprinkled over every part of the Temple;
and thus desecrated with the most odious defilement the sacred place
which the Jews had considered for centuries the one holy spot in all the
Universe."[3]

Two years afterwards, Antiochus determined to exterminate the Hebrew
race from the face of the earth. This produced the revolt of the Jews
under Mattathias, whose illustrious son, Judas Maccabaeus, founded the
Maccabaean dynasty. By 128 B.C., the Jews, under John Hyrcanus, recovered
their complete independence, which they maintained until compelled to
acknowledge the dominion of Rome.

But the native rulers could not govern for long without dissension. Soon
were two more competitors, Aristobulus and Hyrcanus, quarrelling about
the succession to the Jewish throne. The republic of Rome, having
trampled under foot the pride and strength of the great Asiatic
monarchies, assumed a right of interfering in the affairs of every
independent kingdom. The ambassadors of Aristobulus and Hyrcanus
appeared before Pompey, who was then in Syria and was at the zenith of
his power. After subjugating Arabia, Pompey, in 63 B.C., marched
directly into Judaea. Espousing the candidature of Hyrcanus, Pompey
marched against Jerusalem, within the walls of which he was admitted by
the party of Hyrcanus. Aristobulus and his supporters, with the
priesthood, withdrew to the Temple and prepared for an obstinate
defence. At the end of three months, and after great loss of life, the
Romans made themselves masters of the Temple. "The conduct of the Roman
General excited at once the horror and the admiration of the Jews. He
entered the Temple, and even penetrated and profaned with his heathen
presence the Holy of Holies. All the riches he left untouched, and the
Temple he commanded to be purified from the carnage of his soldiers."[4]
He stipulated the tribute which the country was to pay, demolished the
walls of the city, and nominated Hyrcanus to the priesthood, though
without the royal diadem. The magnanimity of Pompey, in respecting the
Treasures of the Temple, could not obliterate the deeper impression of
Jewish hatred excited by his profanation of the sacred precincts.

From this time forward Judaea becomes more and more under the shadow of
Rome. The walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt by Antipater, and later, the
Temple, which had become much dilapidated, was demolished, and rebuilt
in great magnificence by Herod the Great. He was the last King of Judaea
with any semblance of autonomy, and, in the year A.D. 6, Palestine was
annexed to the Roman Empire.

We pass over the incidents in the Life and death of our Lord, which, at
the time, could have but little affected current events, but which were
destined to influence so deeply the subsequent history, not merely of
Palestine but of the whole world. And we come to the cataclysm of which
Our Lord had been the sorrowful yet unerring Prophet.

Blinded by religious fanaticism, and convinced that God must fight upon
their side and give victory to His chosen people, be their conduct never
so cruel and their bearing never so arrogant, the Jewish race, though a
mere handful of men, offered war to the mistress of the world. With
little military organization or training, divided by factions and torn
asunder by internal dissensions, they yet dared to defy the mighty power
of Rome. They defeated the ill-starred expedition of Cestius Gallus, and
inflicted upon the Roman arms the most terrible disgrace they had ever
endured in the East. But the triumph was short-lived; a terrible revenge
was at hand. It was in this year, A.D. 70, that Titus laid siege to the
city. At the time, its population was swollen ten or twenty-fold by the
pilgrims attending the Passover. The reserves of food were destroyed in
faction fights even before the Romans arrived outside the city walls.
"Of all wretched and bloody sieges in the world's history, few, if any,
have been more wretched or more bloody than the siege of Jerusalem by
Titus. Fierce and bloody as was the fighting, the deaths from sickness
and famine were yet more terrible. Dead bodies were thrown out into the
valleys, where they lay rotting, a loathsome mass. The number of those
who died in the siege were estimated at 600,000. At night, miserable,
starving wretches would steal into the ravines to gather roots for food;
here they were pounced upon by ambushed Romans and crucified by hundreds
next morning in full view of the battlements."[5] Gradually the
assaulting Romans got possession of portions of the city, yet the
portions still uncaptured refused to surrender, their defenders still
hoping against hope for a divine intervention, as in the days of
Sennacherib. At length the city fell. The Romans, pouring in, began by
slaying indiscriminately. Tiring of butchery, they turned their thoughts
to plunder, but stood aghast at the houses filled with dead and
putrefying corpses. The Temple of Herod was burnt, the city was
desolate, while those whose miseries had not been relieved by death,
were carried away into yet more miserable slavery or to a death more
ignominious at Rome. As a Jewish city, Jerusalem had perished for ever.

Sixty years later, Jerusalem was rebuilt by the Emperor Hadrian. He
resolved to suppress altogether the troublesome and turbulent Judaism.
The measures which he took caused the Jews to rise against him under
Barcochebas. This was the wildest and the most bloodthirsty of all the
Jewish revolts; but it was the last. Jerusalem having been recaptured,
Hadrian converted it into a Roman colony, forbade Jews to approach, and
built a temple of Jupiter on the site of the Temple.

It was when the Roman Emperor Constantine embraced Christianity, and his
mother Helena discovered the true Cross and the Holy Places, that
Jerusalem came again into prominence. Thereafter, churches and
monasteries sprung up throughout Palestine, which thus, for a time,
became thoroughly Christianized, under the Christian Emperors of Rome
and Byzantium. But the seventh century saw the fall of the Christian
ascendancy in Syria. In A.D. 614, the Persians, under Chosroes, swept
through the land, massacring the Christians wholesale, and destroying
most of their churches, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The
withdrawal of the Persians was followed by a brief return of Christian
ascendancy lasting but eight years, under the Emperor Heraclius. And
then, in 637, Jerusalem fell to the growing power of Islam. It was this
new religion, with a calendar only dating from A.D. 622, which was to
control the future destinies of the Holy City.

Islam arose at Mecca and Medina in barren and uninviting Arabia. When it
started on that expansion, whereby it overspread half of the known
world, Syria, from its situation, was naturally the first country to
tempt its restless and devoted Arab warriors. Within ten years of the
Hegira, or commencement of the Mahomedan era, we find the followers of
the Prophet already in Syria. The Byzantine army was overwhelmed at the
battle of the Yarmuk, and the Arabs laid siege to Jerusalem. The city
capitulated to Omar, who granted terms of comparative magnanimity. His
terms gave to the Christians security of person and property, safety of
their churches, and non-interference on the part of Mahomedans with
their religious exercises, houses or institutions. Upon the site of the
Temple, which had been systematically defiled by the Christians out of
abhorrence for the Jews, but which was honoured by the Moslems as the
spot from which Mahomed ascended to heaven, was now erected the Mosque
of Omar. This site became to the Mussulman, the most venerated spot in
Jerusalem, as was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to the Christian.
When, in after years, pilgrimages to Mecca were temporarily interrupted,
devout Mahomedans made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem instead.

For the next few centuries Christian and Muslim lived together upon a
fairly workable basis of toleration. Massacres of Christians and
destruction of their churches occurred periodically, either in revenge
for Christian successes elsewhere, or in connexion with other Mussulman
disorders when mutual assassination was popular. But, on the whole,
pilgrims, who at this time swarmed from all over Europe to visit the
Holy Places at Jerusalem, were allowed to do so comparatively
unmolested--that is, they were probably not robbed more in Palestine
than in other professedly Christian countries through which they had to
pass along their road. Had the Arab Mussulman remained master of
Jerusalem, the Christians of Europe would probably have remained content
with the situation.

A change came in the year 1077. Jerusalem was then taken by the Turks,
who had conquered all Asia Minor and were already threatening the
Byzantine Empire in Europe. The treatment which the Christian pilgrims
now received at Jerusalem aroused intense indignation in Europe, chiefly
stimulated by the preaching of Peter the Hermit. Other motives there
were, such as the protection of the Byzantine Empire from the menaces of
the Turk, the desire of the Latin Church to prevail over the Byzantine,
and the temptations always offered in a holy war of loot upon earth and
salvation in heaven. Nevertheless, there undoubtedly spread, throughout
Western Europe, a mighty wave of religious enthusiasm which was sincere.

The first Crusade was mainly recruited in France. Great were the
vicissitudes through which the Crusaders passed on their pilgrimage
through Europe and Asia Minor, largely through quarrels with their
fellow-Christians before the Turks had even been encountered or their
country entered. Having defeated the Turks at Antioch, the army marched
south along the coast and at length reached and besieged Jerusalem. Of
the numbers that set out from Western Europe, probably not less than a
million, only a remnant of twenty thousand fighting men, with an equal
number of followers, had reached the Holy City. Though thus decimated
and war weary, the Crusaders were ecstatic with religious fervour; St.
George was said to have appeared to them clad in shining armour; the
Saracens gave way, and Jerusalem was taken by assault. The usual
massacre of the inhabitants followed, and estimates of the slain vary
from forty to a hundred thousand. In 1099 was established the Christian
kingdom of Jerusalem, the kingdom of the Crusaders, Latin in creed,
French in nationality, feudal in character and precarious in existence.
The state of affairs seems now rather to have resembled the relationship
which formerly existed between the Hebrews and the Philistines, or, even
more analogously, that between the Italian city-states of the Middle
Ages. Most of the cities of Palestine were gradually annexed by the
Christians, but some, notably Askalon, did not pass out of the hands of
the Saracens for many decades. Accordingly, wars became matters of
almost annual occurrence, and "never, during the whole eighty years of
its existence, was the kingdom of Jerusalem free from war and war's
alarms."[6] The bulk of the original Crusaders left alive soon returned
to their homes in Europe. There was little or no native Christian
population on which to draw, and the kingdom became dependent for the
support of its army, both as to men and money, on the pilgrims that
swarmed from Europe to Jerusalem; naval assistance was given by Genoese
and by Venetians, more, alas, from motives of commerce than of piety.
Religious enthusiasm had been capable of conquering and establishing
this kingdom, but it proved quite unequal to the tasks of sustenance or
protection. And so, after eighty years of romance and trouble, of love
and war, of lust and murder, often inflicted, more often endured, this
kingdom fell, because it had no sure foundation.

The decline and fall of the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem forms a sordid
story of jealousy, and intrigue, of futile ambition and divided
counsels, of perjury and perfidy. The Crusaders intermarried with the
women of the country, and, except so far as it was constantly recruited
from Europe, the race rapidly degenerated. With no resources at their
back, except the charity of Europe, the Crusaders yet had dreams of
worldly aggrandisement, which included in their ken the whole of Egypt
and Syria. The Second Crusade of 1146-9 came, not to conquer, but to
support and defend this already tottering kingdom. It did that kingdom
more harm than good, for it drained Europe of its potential pilgrims,
anticipating and exhausting the natural flow of men and money on which
the kingdom had come to rely, and dissipated them on a futile attempt to
annex Damascus.

The Knights Templars, the feudal barons of the country, built castles
throughout the land, and lived at constant variance with the King and
central government. Every baron fought for his own land and for his own
aggrandisement. The kingdom of Jerusalem was fast tottering to its fall.

It was in 1187 that Saladin, having made himself master of Egypt and of
Damascus, attacked Tiberias, as a first step towards overthrowing the
kingdom of Jerusalem. The Crusaders moved against him from Seffuriyeh.
It was July, and the Crusaders were absolutely without water; the
Saracens, with Lake Tiberias at their back, had abundance. The
Crusaders, suffering terribly from thirst, nevertheless attacked. The
result of the battle was a foregone conclusion. Here, at the Horns of
Hattin, the Mount of Beatitudes, was the Crusaders' army destroyed and
the power of the Christian completely crushed. Jerusalem itself, after a
short, fierce struggle, fell in the following October. The inhabitants
were not put to the sword. Huge ransoms were paid and the Christian
population allowed to disperse throughout Syria. Jerusalem had passed
again (it seemed as if for ever) into the hands of the Mahomedan.

"The news of the fall of Jerusalem was received in Europe with a thrill
of horror and indignation."[7] Thereupon set forth the Third Crusade,
that which is identified with Richard I of England. Travelling by sea,
these Crusaders avoided the horrible sufferings inevitable to the
crossing of Asia Minor. Acre was captured in 1190, by the Crusaders,
after a siege lasting for two years. Thence they marched southwards,
through Caesarea to Jaffa, fighting on their way the great battle of
Assur, when Saladin was defeated. But Richard, instead of marching upon
Jerusalem, which lay in his grasp, vacillated and negotiated. At length
he decided to go up against Jerusalem. Some twenty miles from the city
he stopped. Again he vacillated. Dissensions broke out between the Duke
of Burgundy and King Richard. The design of besieging Jerusalem was
given up, and the army slowly and sadly returned to Jaffa. Thereupon, in
1192, a peace was concluded, whereby the sea coast, from Jaffa to Acre,
was ceded to the Franks, but Jerusalem still remained in the hands of
the Saracens.

There were several more Crusades. None of them (unless we except the
treaty of the excommunicated Frederick in 1229) ever reached Jerusalem.
Some of them never even reached Palestine, being shamefully diverted to
other purposes. Saddest of all was the Children's Crusade, when fifty
thousand poor misguided children followed the Cross (like the Pied Piper
of Hamelin) to slavery, dishonour, or death. But these form no part of
the history of Jerusalem.

In 1244, we find Christian and Saracen making common cause in Palestine
against the Kharezmians. These Mongols, who only appeared on the stage
of history for a brief period of four years, swept through the country,
captured Jerusalem, massacred all on whom they could lay hands, Moslem
and Christian alike, and destroyed such sacred relics as they could
find. Then, defeated by the Egyptians, they perished out of history as
suddenly as they had appeared.

In 1291, the Christians, by this time reduced to their last stronghold
of Acre, were finally expelled by the Moslems from Palestine--and that
was the end of the Crusades. Europe became reconciled to the fact that
the Kingdom of Christ is a Kingdom, not of the sword but of the soul.
And so, the watchword by which the Crusades were inspired now became the
consolation of their end--"Dieu le veut."

In 1400, Syria and Palestine fell under another Mongol invasion by
Timoor the Tartar (Tamerlane). In 1517, Palestine was annexed to the
Ottoman Empire under Selim I, of which Empire it has since formed an
integral part. At the close of the eighteenth century, Napoleon marched
through the country, defeating the Turks at Gaza and on the Plain of
Esdraelon, but was forced to withdraw. In 1832, Mohammad Ali, having
thrown off the Turkish yoke in Egypt, conquered Syria, but nine years
later, through the action of the European Powers, the country was
restored again to the Ottoman Porte.

In so far as any principles can be deduced from this history, they seem
to show that Jerusalem, situated as it is, could never become the
capital of a great Empire. On the other hand, this city, coveted by so
many races and creeds, must be safeguarded by the arms and resources of
some great Empire, or it can never remain at peace.

It may be of interest to close this resume of the history of Jerusalem
by comparing the route taken by General Allenby with those taken by
previous soldiers in their conquests of Judaea. The routes taken by the
British have already been fully described. In only one known case, that
of the First Crusade, had Judaea been successfully invaded before by an
invader who had not previously made himself master of at least three of
her borders.[8] The attempt at a swift rush across one border made by
Cestius Gallus, ended in a failure, which was only wiped out four years
later after the Romans, under Vespasian and Titus, had first overrun
Galilee and Samaria and mastered the strongholds round the Judaean
borders. This was the policy followed, a thousand years later, by
Saladin.

The upland of Judaea has almost never been invaded from the barren
waterless south.[8] David, operating from Hebron, must have approached
Jerusalem from the south, but he was already in possession of the Judaean
plateau. The original attempt of the Israelites to enter the country
from the south was checked, and they subsequently crossed the Jordan and
entered Judaea through Jericho from the east. The Philistines must have
come up by the passes from the west. Sennacherib did not approach
Jerusalem himself, but it was whilst warring against Egypt at Lachish
(Tel el Hesi on the Maritime Plain) that he sent his arrogant message to
Jerusalem; and it was on the Plain that his victorious army, infected by
the plague from Egypt, melted away as by a miracle. Egypt was his
objective, not Judaea. Nebuchadnezzar may have invaded Judaea from the
north, but it is more probable that he also came up from the west, after
first making himself master of the Maritime Plain. Pompey was returning
from his expedition in Arabia when he invaded, so he entered from the
east, ascending the Judaean plateau by way of Jericho and Bethel. Herod
invaded from the north.

In the Christian era, Cestius Gallus made his disastrous expedition by
the Valley of Ajalon, Beth-horon and Gibeon. Titus, after the
surrounding country had been subjugated, moved his army up to Jerusalem
by Gophna (Jufna) and Bethel, and so through Bireh, from the north-west
and north. The Moslems, in 637, first captured Damascus; subsequently
they approached Jerusalem across the Jordan. The First Crusaders came
through Asia Minor and won a decisive victory at Antioch; thence they
came southward along the coast, through Ramleh, and up the Valley of
Ajalon, their advance through the mountains being unopposed. Saladin, by
the decisive battle of Hattin, near Tiberias, made himself master of the
surrounding country before closing in upon Jerusalem, which he
eventually did from Hebron (south), from Askalon (west), and from the
north. In the Third Crusade, Richard and his Crusaders came oversea to
Acre; after marching to Ramleh, they tried first to reach the Holy City
up the Valley of Ajalon, and afterwards by the Vale of Elah, the Wady es
Sunt, further to the south, but both attempts failed.

Many of the invading armies that have swept through Palestine have
confined themselves to the great inter-continental road along the
Maritime Plain, and have passed by Jerusalem, secure upon its plateau.
We have seen that this was so with Sennacherib. This was probably the
case with Alexander the Great, and was undoubtedly so with Napoleon. The
latter defeated the Turks at Gaza and again on the Plain of Esdraelon.
His objective was Syria, but he was foiled by the action of the British
in the siege of Acre. This distraction also prevented him from making
any attempt to reach Jerusalem.

Prior to the arrival of the British, it was seven centuries since a
Christian conqueror had set foot in Jerusalem. But there was now no
gloating of the Cross over the Crescent. On the contrary, guards of
Moslem troops from our Indian army were placed upon every building
sacred to Islam, while Christian guards were mounted over those sacred
to Christianity. Never before had Jerusalem fallen into the hands of
conquerors so zealous for the safety of its populace or so concerned for
the preservation of the city and all that it contained.

[Illustration]

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 2: Much of the material in this Chapter is derived from
Milman's _History of the Jews_, W. Besant and E. H. Palmer's
_Jerusalem_, and George Adam Smith's _Historical Geography of the Holy
Land_, to which my acknowledgments are accordingly due.]

[Footnote 3: Milman.]

[Footnote 4: Milman.]

[Footnote 5: Milman.]

[Footnote 6: Besant & Palmer.]

[Footnote 7: Besant & Palmer.]

[Footnote 8: G. A. Smith.]




CHAPTER XII

JUNCTION STATION AND LUDD


An interesting task fell to my lot, in the reduction to order of the
chaos existing at Junction Station. This place had been an important
rest camp on the enemy's line of communications. That the Germans
thought they had come to stay was manifested by the style in which the
station and other buildings had been erected, as well as by the plans
which they had left behind them for intended future development. Most of
the buildings, including an up-to-date flour mill fitted with modern
machinery, had been substantially built with stone. The erection of many
additional houses was clearly contemplated, while the work had already
been put in hand of planting fruit orchards.

The disgusting state in which these premises were left was
indescribable. Rotting carcases of beasts lay all about the place, while
other filth almost surpassed them in stench. The buildings were infested
with flies by day and mosquitoes by night, while other forms of vermin
carried on the good work throughout the whole twenty-four hours.

A large amount of stores had been left behind and had fallen into our
hands, consisting mainly of grain, flour, and fodder (tibbin). The enemy
had destroyed some of the buildings, smashed up the mill machinery, and
set on fire as much of the corn as possible. This fire lasted for days,
until at length it burned itself out, for it was useless attempting to
salve any portion of the grain composing the bonfire.

Before we had so much as taken possession, swarms of Bedouin came
through the premises to loot. Thieving with them is instinctive. They
could not understand why they had not a right to help themselves to what
the Turks had abandoned. However, a strong guard was posted at once;
those Bedouin who had taken up their abode on the premises were evicted;
and preparations were made to face a somewhat stormy night. All that
night through the crack of rifles resounded. Although the bag next
morning proved to be small, yet, for days afterwards, Bedouin kept
dropping in at our hospitals with bullet wounds to be dressed, as to the
cause of which they could offer no satisfactory explanation. After this
the looting fell off considerably. Nevertheless, a certain number of
looters, averaging about a dozen a day, were caught and put into the
Guard Room. We were glad of their assistance, as there was much filthy
cleaning up to be done, so, fools that came to loot, remained to
scavenge. Once we had an awkward predicament, for the sergeant of the
guard, having confined in the same lock-up some looters, whose detention
should be for twenty-four hours, and some prisoners, whose detention
should be for the duration of the war, could not subsequently tell them
apart.

The enemy left here intact an entire Turkish hospital. It was one of the
most picturesque of Eastern sights that anybody could wish to see.
Crowded together in one huge ward were men of every shade, in variegated
costumes, lying on beds with coverlets rivalling Joseph's coat of many
colours. Unfortunately, the hospital was infected, or suspected of
infection, with typhus. Therefore, as soon as the patients and staff had
been evacuated, it was set on fire, and the whole hospital, woodwork,
tents and all that they contained, ascended to heaven in a great column
of smoke. Among the contents was a nice new camp bedstead. Pending the
decision as to the competent military authority in whose custody this
should be placed, I gave orders for it to be transferred to my quarters.
But, strangely enough, each senior officer that arrived considered that
the competent military authority to take charge of this bedstead was
himself. It must have had at least a dozen owners by the time that it
ascended in smoke. This hospital also contained one case of sardines. It
was wonderful how widely spread became the fame of those sardines. Every
British officer in Palestine seems to have licked his lips and looked
forward to a meal of sardines when he should pass through Junction
Station. Unfortunately, nobody could find those sardines. But a week
later, when the rush of officers had gone, it was discovered that they
had been appropriated as medical comforts by the R.A.M.C. Now, it so
happened, that none of the patients then arriving were on a sardine
diet, so other measures had to be taken to ensure that the sardines were
not wasted.

As the army went forward, they sent back large numbers of Turkish
prisoners of war. These were collected at Junction Station, where a
compound was formed. Such as were required for labour were temporarily
detained, while the others were marched back under guard to railhead.

During this sojourn, the prisoners were usefully employed in clearing up
the messes which had been left behind, particularly in burying carcases.
At one place we found half-a-dozen dead buffaloes lying half submerged.
Before they could be got at and cleared away it was necessary to drain
off the water. A party of the prisoners were detailed for this task; a
few hours later they were found seriously trying to drain this water
away up-hill. Among the prisoners were a few officers. In default of
other suitable accommodation, one of them was allowed to live in a room
at the Commandant's house. He displayed great anxiety lest somebody
should touch the disused telephone or other wires, fire a booby trap
possibly left behind by his kind friends, and so blow him to eternity.

There was not much time to spare for contemplation. Nevertheless, in
this, the Vale of Sorek, I often thought of Samson and Delilah, and
"Mon coeur s'ouvre a ton voix"; or, pictured the Ark of the Covenant
wend its way past my very door, on a cart drawn by two milch kine, on
that wonderful journey from Ekron to Beth-Shemesh.

There was plenty of work to be done, in reducing chaos to order, in
protecting much valuable property, in meeting the requirements of
thousands of passing troops, and in spreading, as it were, the spawn for
this mushroom town. It had been an important place under Turkish
administration. It promised, under the British regime, to become the
most important railway centre in Palestine. Consequently, schemes of
water supply, sanitation, and town planning had to be evolved and
installed immediately, hospitals opened in the most appropriate
buildings, spaces set apart for camping grounds for all classes of
troops and animals, huge dumps and supply dumps respectively, railway
sidings laid down and cemeteries opened both for Christians and for
Mahomedans, while roads had to be improved and sign-boards set up in all
directions.

Many and diverse were the arrivals and departures in the course of one
busy week. Foremost came the fighting troops of the 21st Corps, the 75th
and 54th Divisions, followed later by those of the 20th Corps, the 60th
and 74th Divisions. With them arrived field ambulances, which took
possession of the best of the buildings and converted them into
hospitals. Companies of Royal Engineers arrived, and travelling
workshops staffs of the Ordnance Department, and both of these lost no
time in opening their workshops. Enormous supply dumps were formed and
camel convoys, miles long, arrived with supplies. The camels were
specially inconsiderate, and would select awkward spots, like
cross-roads, at which to lie down and die. They were welcome to die, if
only they could and would have first made adequate arrangements for
their own obsequies. A battalion of British West Indians that arrived,
aroused both sympathy and amusement. They had marched through
torrential rain and arrived soaked to the skin. In spite of a warning as
to what they might expect, they rushed for shelter into some of the
buildings which had not yet been disinfected; but their exit was even
faster than their entrance, and they preferred the wet and cheerless
exterior to being eaten alive within. Scarcely a day's march behind the
fighting troops, arrived a thousand or more of the Egyptian Labour
Corps. These were immediately set to work on the roads, and such good
work did they do that the roads were soon in an excellent condition for
mechanical transport. Full of irony was the arrival of several guards
and a staff of military police _en route_ for Jerusalem. It was
believed, at this time, that the fall of Jerusalem was imminent. That
Britain's fair name might not be sullied by any foolish misbehaviour, or
any still more foolish collection of souvenirs, it was decided that
guards should at once be mounted upon the Holy Places in Jerusalem.
These guards, Christian and Moslem, collected at Junction Station, ready
to march straight into the city; but, when its fall was postponed _sine
die_, they had sadly but surely to return to their own regiments. The
intention had been to surround Jerusalem with a cordon of British
sentries; an order, accordingly, was published that any British soldier
found within 5 miles of Jerusalem would be liable to be shot. Our
unfortunate British soldiers fighting on Neby Samwil, which was within
the prescribed distance, readily endorsed that sentiment, though
scarcely in the sense implied by the authorities.

Of all activities at this time of industry, none were greater than those
of the railway development companies of the Royal Engineers. The Turkish
line had been destroyed in several places and the rolling stock much
damaged. Nevertheless, repairs were put in hand immediately, leaky
engines were made water-tight, damaged trucks and coaches were made fit
to travel, and, within a very short space of time, there was a train
running each way between Junction Station and Deir Sineid. As being the
services of primary importance, the first trains were confined to the
bringing up of ammunition and the taking down of wounded. The captured
rolling stock was limited, and so the number of trains was painfully
restricted. Fortunately, this narrow gauge line was of similar gauge to
certain light railways in Egypt, and rolling stock from those lines was
brought up with all convenient speed. Moreover, two quite new engines,
said to have been originally destined for this line but captured at sea
during the early days of the war, were hurried up and put into
commission. New constructional work was also put in hand at once,
including an embankment for continuing the line northwards across the
bed of the Wadi Surar (Sorek), the original steel girder bridge having
unfortunately been destroyed. The fate of the bridges here was similarly
unfortunate. The railway bridge, which should have been blown up before,
so as to prevent the escape of the Turkish trains, was only destroyed
after they had got away; and so the destruction of this bridge proved of
great hindrance to us, but caused no inconvenience whatever to the
enemy. The other bridge across the wadi was a timber bridge, which
carried the road. As this bridge was insecure and required
strengthening, a party of military police were posted upon it to stop
all traffic from crossing it through the night. Seized with a brain
wave, they lit a fire upon the centre of the bridge. This expedient
proved so successful, that it not only stopped the traffic for that
night, but for all time. When morning came, it was discovered that they
had burnt away the bridge itself, and a new bridge had to be
constructed.

An armoured train was improvised from such trucks as were available, the
sides being sandbagged and a Lewis gun mounted in front. With this, the
railway line was patrolled towards Jerusalem for some miles, until
destroyed bridges made further progress impossible. The result of this
reconnaissance showed that trains could run for some distance along
this line, and ammunition trains were pushed forward accordingly.

When I left Junction Station to rejoin the fighting troops, it was well
on the high road to importance and fame. This, however, never matured.
It was to the policy of railway construction that this place owed its
primary existence; it was to an extension of that policy that it looked
for its future development; it was through a change in that policy that
its glory soon afterwards departed.

The original intention had been to adapt to our use the Turkish railway
system, merely broadening the gauge. In that case, our own broad gauge
line from Kantara, which, immediately on the fall of Gaza, had been
brought through to Deir Sineid, would have been continued along the
route of the Turkish line from Deir Sineid to Junction Station. The
first months of working this Turkish line, still in its narrow gauge
condition as captured, did not afford a promising outlook. These were
months of torrential and persistent rain. The country became a quagmire.
Landslips along the permanent way, and the washing away of culverts,
became of such frequent occurrence, that it was decided to abandon this
portion of this line altogether. Committed, therefore, to no
predetermined route, the engineers were left with the whole country open
to them to choose a course for their new trunk railway to the north.
They chose a line much nearer the coast, and approximately followed the
border line between the fertile plain and the sand dunes from Deir
Sineid as far north as Yebna, thence bearing north-east towards Ramleh
and Ludd. This had the effect of making the future railhead at Ludd.

Situate at the cross-roads where the Valley of Ajalon debouches upon the
Plain, and the ancient route from Jerusalem to Jaffa crosses the yet
more ancient route from Egypt and Gaza to Acre and Damascus, the
neighbourhood of Ramleh and Ludd has for many centuries been the site of
an important town. In Biblical days it was Ludd; in Crusading days it
was Ramleh. The towns are but a couple of miles apart. And so it came
about that now, once again, this spot became the great traffic junction
of Palestine.

As time passed on, and as, through the spring and summer of 1918, we
held a line across Palestine to the north of and covering Jerusalem and
Jaffa, railway development proceeded apace, being focussed on Ludd. In
spite of the difficulties of railway engineering in the mountains, the
broad gauge line was carried from Ludd through Junction Station right up
to Jerusalem. Well-constructed narrow gauge lines were laid down between
Ludd and Jaffa, and between railhead and various distributing centres
close behind the front line. The line from Junction Station to Beersheba
was changed from narrow to broad gauge and extended to Rafa. Thereafter
the line was double from Kantara to Rafa. From Rafa, one single line
went forward, by Belah, Gaza and Yebna, to Ludd, while another single
line went forward to Ludd by way of Beersheba and Junction Station. The
advantages of a double line system north of Rafa were thus secured at
times of pressure by working the full freight trains forward to Ludd via
Gaza and Yebna, and working the trains of returned empties back again by
way of Beersheba.

Ludd developed apace. Soon were seen all the evidences and activities of
a great advanced base and distributing centre. Huge ordnance and supply
dumps arose, workshops and depots were to be seen on all sides, a great
bakery was installed and even a mineral-water factory. The importance of
Ludd far eclipsed the quondam glory of Belah, and came nearer to
rivalling that of Kantara.

To an Englishman, the chief interest of Ludd lies in its being the place
of martyrdom and burial of St. George. Was it not appropriate that the
victorious British armies in Palestine should have been provided and fed
from beside the very tomb of their own Patron Saint?




CHAPTER XIII

THE JORDAN


Jerusalem having surrendered on the 9th December, the enemy lay round
about in an encircling line on the north and east. The first thing to be
done was to make good our hold upon the city. Accordingly, a series of
minor operations took place, with the object of clearing the enemy from
any points of vantage that he held and driving him further from the
city.

On the night of the 26/27th December, determined counter-attacks were
delivered by the Turks. They attacked the 53rd Division at points east
of Jerusalem, and the 60th to the north, their principal objective being
Tel el Ful, a conspicuous hill 3 miles east of Neby Samwil, from which
Jerusalem and the intervening ground could be overlooked. On the morning
of the 28th, a lull occurred in the fighting, followed by an attack of
unexpected strength against the whole front. The successes gained by
this attack were short-lived. A counter-attack by the 74th and 10th
Divisions, further to the left, now made itself felt. This was launched
against the enemy's reserves, and thus deprived the enemy of the
initiative. The Turkish attack being spent, a general advance northward,
took place, not, however, without further heavy fighting. Pursuing our
advantage, we further advanced our line on the 30th, and occupied a line
from Beitior (Bethel), 2 miles north-east of Bireh, to Janieh and Ras
Kerker, 7 miles west, north-west of Bireh. Bireh, which had been our
objective in November, was, at last, securely in our possession. The
Turkish attempt to recapture Jerusalem had ended in crushing defeat.

Throughout the winter months the weather was miserably wet, and the
troops in Palestine, whether engaged in active operations or merely
holding the line, suffered intense discomfort. The mails brought us
letters from our friends at home, saying how much they envied us who
were spending Christmas in the Holy Land. But those who were up the line
spent Christmas Day soaked to the skin in a gale of wind and rain, while
their Christmas dinner consisted of half-rations of bully beef and
biscuit. They were wishing themselves anywhere else upon this earth. The
appalling weather conditions made it impossible to get more than the
bare necessities of life forward from railhead, and tons of Christmas
luxuries sent from England through Egypt lay soaked and rotting in dumps
at Deir Sineid.

January was much too wet for operations in this country. In February,
however, General Allenby determined on the capture of Jericho. The
country from round Jerusalem slopes down, as we have seen, very abruptly
to Jericho and the Jordan Valley. Precipitous slopes, rocky ridges and
narrow ledges, confined the advance to definite lines on which the enemy
could concentrate fire. The advance began on the 19th, and, by the
evening of the 20th, the 60th Division had reached a line 4 miles west
of the cliffs overlooking Jericho. In the meantime, the mounted troops
were working on the right or south of the infantry, towards the
commanding position of Neby Musa, near the north-west corner of the Dead
Sea. This advance was held up at the last wadi which was directly
overlooked by, and subjected to, a heavy fire from Neby Musa. Other
mounted troops, further to the right, discovered a way down to the
Jordan Plain, where they were firmly established by dusk. That night the
Turks withdrew, and our mounted troops, moving up the Plain, entered
Jericho on the morning of the 21st.

There are two or three routes between Jericho and the summit of the
Judaean plateau. That by which the British had now come down was not the
route followed by Joshua and the Israelites. They, on the other hand,
ascended by a route farther north, through Mukhmas (Michmash) and Beitin
(Bethel), thus reaching the summit near Bireh. The route followed by the
pilgrims was that of the main road, which hereafter became the main line
of supply of the forces operating in this direction.

Having secured Jericho and the low country beyond as far as the Jordan,
operations were now commenced with the object of pushing the enemy
northwards, and clearing him from another substantial portion of
Palestine. This would, at the same time, broaden the base for future
operations which were contemplated across the River Jordan.

Operations on a large scale were commenced on March 9th. Both the 20th
and 21st Corps were engaged. We will, however, consider here only the
operations of the 20th Corps, leaving those of the 21st until a
subsequent chapter. The reader is already familiar with the type of
country, which resembled that between Jerusalem and Jericho. The
downward slopes were exceptionally steep, in places precipitous. The
slopes were swept by machine-gun and rifle fire, and the beds of the
wadis were enfiladed. The ascent on the far side was steeply terraced.
Men had alternately to hoist and pull each other up under fire, and
finally to expel the enemy from the summits in hand-to-hand fighting.
Under these conditions no rapid advance could be looked for.

The 60th Division, by night, crossed the Wadi el Auja, north of Jericho
(not to be confused with the wadi of the same name to the north of
Jaffa). This Division seized a position astride the Beisan-Jericho road.
The 53rd Division captured Tel-Asur, a conspicuous landmark among a mass
of high hills, which mountain the enemy tried repeatedly, but in vain,
to recover. Farther to the left, a counter-attack was repulsed by the
10th Division. At the conclusion of the operations, the high ground
covering the approaches to the Jordan by the Jericho-Beisan Road had
been secured, and also, farther west, linking up with the 21st Corps,
the high ground stretching across the hills of Mount Ephraim.

We come now to the passage of the River Jordan and the operations in
Eastern Palestine. It will be remembered, from what has already been
written,[9] that active operations were in progress about this time
between the Turks south-east of the Dead Sea and our Arab allies, the
troops of the King of the Hejaz. The Turkish line of communications ran
down the Hejaz Railway through eastern Palestine, temptingly near our
forces at Jericho. It will also be remembered,[10] that the Jordan
Valley, and ascent therefrom into the hills of Eastern Palestine are
unique. It would therefore have been difficult or impossible to cut the
Turks' Hejaz communications by maintaining a permanent garrison astride
the railway, such garrison being based on Jericho with an extremely
vulnerable line of communications across the valley. It was thought,
however, that much useful service might be rendered to the Arabs if a
raiding force were to cross the Jordan and destroy the railway in the
neighbourhood of Amman.

The country between the Jordan and Amman offered many obstacles to our
advance. There were the marshes of the Jordan Valley to be crossed,
ridges of clay to be surmounted, scrub to be negotiated, followed by an
ascent of 3,500 feet. The metalled road to Amman crosses the Jordan at
the Ghoraniyeh Bridge, and reaches the hills at Shunet Nimrin. It then
winds up a wadi to Es Salt, whence it strikes due eastward to Amman.

The operations commenced in the latter part of March. No serious
obstacle was encountered until the crossings of the Jordan were reached.
A small party was sent in motor-boats across the Dead Sea to dispose of
any enemy who might be in the district to the north-east of the Dead
Sea, but they met with few traces of the enemy. The enemy had destroyed
the bridge at Ghoraniyeh early in the month. Other means had therefore
to be devised for effecting a crossing. "Jordan overfloweth all his
banks all the time of harvest." On the 28th March, owing to heavy rain,
the river rose 9 feet. Floods had, therefore, to be contended with. The
current is at all times rapid, and the banks, on account of the floods,
are boggy and difficult for the approach of transport. On the night of
the 21st/22nd March, the main crossings of the river were attempted,
both at Ghoraniyeh, and a few miles further south at Hajlah, where the
Pilgrim Road from Jerusalem reaches the Jordan. At the former point
three attempts to swim the river were made, under fire, by men with
ropes attached to their bodies, but in each case the swimmers were
carried away by the strong current and found it impossible to reach the
opposite bank. Then a punt was launched, but this was no sooner launched
than it was swept away. The attempt was commenced in the bright
moonlight, but was much hampered by enemy fire. It was renewed after the
moon had gone down, but then it was impossible to find the easiest route
or to negotiate the current in the dark. Farther down stream, however,
the efforts met with better fortune. A small party succeeded in swimming
across in the dark and landing on the left bank. These towed a rope
behind them, by which, after landing, they hauled across light rafts.
The crossing by the raft-loads of men had to be carried out in the face
of some hostile fire. Portions of the scrub had been set on fire by the
enemy, and these fires to some extent lit up the rafts as they were
being pulled across. By daylight, 300 men had been got across, and a
small bridge-head established. A barrel bridge was without delay
constructed by the Engineers. Very little progress could be made that
day as the scrub was infested with enemy machine guns. On the following
night, however, a rush was made, and the bridge-head enlarged to a width
of 1,500 yards. That night the Engineers constructed a steel pontoon
bridge, and an entire cavalry regiment was passed over by dawn. The
cavalry soon cleared away the enemy, not only from Hajlah, but also from
in front of Ghoraniyeh. Bridges were built now at Ghoraniyeh and the
passage of the river assured.

Having successfully crossed the Jordan, the force pushed on eastwards
across the low country, meeting with some opposition. Eventually we
reached Shunat Nimrin. The enemy retreating up the Es Salt road were
bombed and machine-gunned by our aircraft. Part of our force, following
on their heels, entered Es Salt on the 25th, while, on the 26th, our
mounted troops occupied Amman. The railway to the south of the station
was successfully cut, but north of Amman the cutting was not complete.
Consequently, the enemy were able to receive considerable
reinforcements. Before Amman could be attacked in strength some 4,000
Turks were in position covering the viaduct and tunnel, while 2,000 more
were moving on Es Salt from the north. Five miles of railway line were
however, destroyed, while much other damage was done to the railway
line. But, in view of the strength of the enemy and the difficulties of
our communications (we had only been able to bring forward
mountain-artillery), our force withdrew.

The raid had not entirely fulfilled its object, but much good work had
been done, and it had materially assisted Sherif Faisal with his Hejaz
troops in his operations further south against Maan.

Our force returning from Eastern Palestine did not abandon the
hardly-won eastern bank of the Jordan. Bridge-heads were retained. The
Turks, however, became aggressive, and, on the 11th April, attacked our
bridge-head at Ghoraniyeh. They were repulsed from here and driven back
to Shunet Nimrin, which they strongly garrisoned.

On the 30th April another raid was made across the Jordan. This time our
infantry attacked the Shunet Nimrin position, while the cavalry,
intending to cut off the garrison, moved round the flank and reached Es
Salt. But a strong Turkish force, crossing the Jordan from the Nablus
area at Jisr ed Damieh, drove back the cavalry, who lost nine guns in
their retirement. This raid had been planned to co-operate with the Beni
Sakr Arabs. Their promised assistance did not materialize, and the whole
force was brought back to the crossings of the Jordan.

Thenceforth, until the sweep of the following September the Jordan river
and bridge-heads remained our front line.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 9: See before Chapter III.]

[Footnote 10: See before Chapter IV.]




CHAPTER XIV

THE WADI DEIR BALLUT


In the last chapter we saw how, after the capture of Jerusalem, the 20th
Corps proceeded to improve the line on the right. We will now follow the
operations of the 21st Corps on the left.

The first operation of importance was that carried out by the 52nd
Division on the extreme left. On the night of the 20th/21st December,
1917, crossings, partly by fording and partly by rafts, were effected
over the Wadi Auja, a few miles to the north of Jaffa. The high ground
overlooking the wadi from the north was rushed before dawn, and a line
was consolidated which effectually deprived the enemy of all observation
from the north over the Valley of the Wadi Auja. Incidentally, the
distance between the enemy and Jaffa was increased from 3 to 8 miles.
This safeguarded Jaffa and its harbour, and the main Jaffa-Jerusalem
road. Further adjustments of the line were made, including the capture
of Rantieh on the railway and El Tine and Bornat to the right, which
gave commanding views over the forward country and increased elbow room
to the troops covering Ludd and Ramleh.

As the result of these operations the line ran, at the beginning of
March, approximately as follows. The 60th Division on the right had
reached the Jordan, our line running along that river as far north as
the Wadi Auja and then bending westwards. On their left came the 53rd
Division, a little to the north of Bireh, and on their left again the
10th Division completed the front of the 20th Corps. They joined up the
75th Division, whose frontage ran from Midieh (the Modin of the
Maccabees) through Kibbiah to the foot-hills at Et Tireh; from here the
54th Division extended across the Plain; while the 52nd Division held
the sector close to the sea, a little to the north of the other Wadi
Auja.

[Illustration]

Except for occasional rains, our soldiering in the 75th Division sector,
throughout February and the early part of March, was campaigning _de
luxe_. The enemy had gone right back to the line of the Wadi Deir
Ballut, leaving a No Man's Land in front of us about 4 miles across. He
held advanced posts a mile or two in front of our line, but his guns had
been taken well back out of range. We therefore enjoyed immunity both
from sniping and shelling, and could move about in front of our line
without anxiety, even in broad daylight. The observation posts that we
occupied commanded extensive views across No Man's Land, and we should
have had early intimation had there been any considerable hostile
movement.

We thus had opportunities for training, and preparing ourselves for the
next forward push. The whole battalion was put through a course of
musketry. The forward slopes of our position provided an admirable field
firing range, with all No Man's Land for the stray bullets to spend
themselves upon. How it must have made the Turk itch to see men lying
about in platoons in the open before his very eyes, and how he must have
longed to have had a gun within range, and to have dispersed us with a
few rounds of shrapnel. We also instituted a very successful
shooting-gallery. In the front line beer was seldom procurable, though
much appreciated. Such as we were able to obtain from the canteen was
taken to the rifle range. An empty bottle was set up 200 yards in front
of the firer and a full one behind him. If he hit the former he became
entitled to the contents of the latter. Each man was entitled to one
free shot, and as many more as he liked at a cost of a penny each. The
result was, that, at a very nominal cost to the canteen funds, the
individual shooting of the battalion considerably improved.

Aerial activity was interesting. We soon became accustomed to the
distinctive hum of the Hun machines flying high above us, followed by
the barking of our "Archies." Then we could trace the track of the
planes across the sky by the line of white smoke puffs left by our
bursting archy shells. Archy seldom reckons to get a direct hit on a
plane, but, by the expenditure of quantities of ammunition, he makes the
Hun fly too high to see anything of value or to drop bombs with much
hope of success. More tangible results were obtained by our fighting
planes, which engaged the Hun in the air. A pretty little fight took
place a thousand feet or so above our heads, between two of our planes
and a couple of Huns. After preliminary circling and manoeuvring for
place, during which one Hun machine discreetly went all out for home,
one of our planes swooped straight on to the remaining Hun, pouring a
burst of Lewis gun fire into the pilot and observer at short range.
Badly wounded, the Hun pilot turned his machine full speed for home. But
our other plane, which had retained its altitude, hovered over him,
headed him off from home, and shepherded him down on to the Plain, where
he was forced to land and was captured. On another occasion, we were
puzzled to see a Hun plane, returning from our lines, pitch in enemy
territory, and, though unattacked, go up in smoke and flame. Subsequent
reports furnished an explanation. The Hun pilot had descended without
being very sure of his whereabouts. The Turks, mistaking him for a
Britisher, opened fire upon him with a machine gun. Thereupon, believing
himself to be in hostile territory, the pilot burnt his machine and
surrendered--to his own friends!

Campaigning _de luxe_! The wild flowers did all that lay in their power
to add to the luxury. The warm sun of February and March, following the
drenching rain of the winter, produces in Palestine a profusion of
beautiful flowers that is probably surpassed nowhere. The country-side
was literally carpeted with choice flowers of sweet smell and varied
colour. To mention but a few--there were red, white, and blue anemones;
cyclamen, white, pink and mauve; aromatic herbs; poppies and
corn-flowers; scarlet tulips; pink phlox; blue irises, velvety arum
lilies, black and crimson, tall, stately hollyhocks. And the catalogue
is scarce begun. Truly a floral Paradise!

Early in March came rumours of a forward move. The nominal pretext was
an improvement of our line. Other motives may possibly have been
influencing the higher authorities, such as keeping the initiative in
our hands, fostering an aggressive spirit, and feeling the strength of
the enemy with a view to subsequent operations on a larger scale.

Almost opposite Jaffa the central range of Judaean hills is cleft by a
great gorge. Starting at a point on the edge of, and almost overlooking
the Jordan Valley, it runs approximately due east and west, with many
turns and even hairpin bends, until it debouches on the Plain at Mejdel
Yaba, thence forming a main tributary of the River Auja. In the days of
the Maccabees this gorge formed the frontier between the Jews and the
Samaritans. This gorge is the Wadi Deir Ballut. The sides of this wadi
are at all points steep, at some precipitous, presenting in places an
almost sheer drop of several hundred feet. The bed of the wadi is from a
hundred to a couple of hundred yards wide and the surface level. Thus
the Wadi Ballut formed an admirable defensive line for the Turk; after
it had passed into our hands, it provided us with an admirable line of
communication.

The Turk, at this time, held the line of the Wadi Ballut with such
advanced posts as could deny to our patrols all access to the wadi.
Available information about the wadi was thus restricted to reports and
maps, and was none too ample or reliable. The intermediate country
consisted of approximately flat "merjs," intersected with wadis, and
dotted about with hills, villages, and other features of tactical
importance. At this time of the year it somewhat resembled the general
appearance of Exmoor. For several days prior to the advance patrols were
sent out into No Man's Land, that as much as possible might be
ascertained about, and as many as possible be made familiar with, the
terrain over which we had to operate.

On the 12th March, the whole 75th Division, in co-operation with the
Divisions on its flanks, moved forward. The operations of this day were
perhaps little more than minor operations, certainly not one of the
decisive battles of the war, although their effect in drawing
reinforcements to Palestine may have had far-reaching results in other
zones such as Mesopotamia. Nevertheless, as they formed such a pretty
field day, so like our manoeuvres at home, I venture upon a short
description, in the hope that it may be of interest to those whose
soldiering experience has been confined to the home front. There was no
horrid barbed wire to contend with, nor gas. There were not even
trenches, for the Turks' defence work here consisted only of stone
walls, technically known as sangars. During the commencing stages we
were not even shelled.

Shortly after dawn, our heavy artillery opened the ball by shelling the
advanced posts of the enemy. At seven o'clock the whole line moved
forward. Our first objective, a prominent knoll, was 4,000 yards away,
and no previous opposition was expected. Having assumed the appropriate
formation before crossing the crest, we moved forward in "artillery"
formation, that is to say, in lines of platoons in file. For the
non-military reader, it should be explained that this is the formation
in which troops are considered least vulnerable against artillery or
distant rifle and machine-gun fire. Great care was taken to ensure that
direction was maintained, an officer with compass being specially
detailed for this purpose, and that touch was not lost with the units on
either flank. A battery of field artillery had been detailed to support
the advance of this battalion; the forward observation officer went
forward with the infantry; the battery, less one section temporarily
left behind, moved forward close behind us to a previously selected
position from which the Deir Ballut Ridge would be within easy range. A
section of machine gunners moved forward close behind the leading
companies. In a fold of the ground, some 1,400 yards short of the first
objective, the infantry shook out into lines of skirmishers. They
continued their advance, and occupied the knoll which was their first
objective without opposition.

Meanwhile, after a concentrated bombardment on the left, the first and
second of the enemy's forward posts were captured without serious
opposition; it appeared probable that these had been occupied mainly for
observation and that his principal resistance was to be offered upon the
Ballut Ridge.

After a short halt on the first objective, to conform to the time-table,
we moved forward again in the same formation against our second
objective, a ridge which seemed to overlook the Wadi Deir Ballut. We
still met with no opposition, until we put our heads up over the ridge,
when we were greeted with a torrent of bullets from machine guns posted
on the opposite side of the wadi. This wadi, it will be remembered, was
to us _terra incognita_. The first thing to be done therefore was to
make a hurried reconnaissance, and decide on the best method of getting
down and across. It was found that the descent was almost a sheer
precipice, and that we had not one but two wadis to cross; a smaller
tributary wadi, scarcely marked on the map, forming, in fact, a rather
serious obstacle. Carrying out such a reconnaissance, upon a forward
slope, under machine gun fire from across the wadi, was none too easy.
It had been intended that the leading company, which took the ridge,
should at once open covering fire across the wadi, whilst the company
following should pass through them and cross the wadi under cover of
their fire. However, the difficulty of taking up suitable positions for
seeing the target, and the extremity of the range (about 1,500 yards),
made it inadvisable for the infantry to fire. But the machine gunners
attached to us soon brought their machine guns into action, while our
artillery f.o.o. took up a position on the ridge from which he could
fire his guns to good effect.

About this time, away to our left, developed the attack on Mejdel Yaba.
This village occupies a commanding position overlooking the Plain, and,
in Crusading days, was a fortress. That phase of the battle proved an
artillery action pure and simple. The whole artillery of a Division,
with several heavies added, was concentrated on that luckless spot. It
afforded a spectacle not soon to be forgotten. When the infantry
arrived, they found the work all over; the Turks had all been killed by
the bombardment or fled from the village, most of the latter having been
cut off and killed by our machine guns. Before leaving, the Turks had
taken the precaution of interviewing the headman of the village and
cutting his throat.

To return to our own corner of the picture, under cover of the fire of
our own artillery and machine guns the first company went forward.
Slipping down that mountain side was a veritable case of running the
gauntlet. But, once the bottom of the first wadi was reached, some cover
was afforded for a breather. Almost in front of us, on the far ridge,
lay the village of Deir Ballut, on which the enemy evidently intended to
base their strongest resistance. On our left, the infantry were making a
good pace; on the right they were held up, but, seeing us going forward,
they pushed forward too, so that pressure might be maintained all along
the line. The enemy had organized his defences and placed his machine
guns with great skill. The slopes of the wadi were too steep for good
shooting straight down the slope. So he had taken full advantage of the
curves and hairpin bends of the wadi to place his machine guns in
position sweeping the spurs and giving each other mutual support. Our
leading company lost no time in getting to work. They dumped their packs
and set out at once to storm the ridge. Meanwhile, our infantry
advancing on the left, had taken some of the enemy machine guns in
flank, forcing them to withdraw, which materially assisted the advance
of the leading company. And so the leading company, closely followed by
companies in support, established itself on the Ridge.

The fiercest of the fighting, however, was yet to come. A great burst of
machine-gun fire caused the leading platoon to take cover under one of
the terraces. Hence they were at once led forward again. The Turks now
delivered a strong counter-attack. Seeing this, the leading platoon
dashed forward with their bayonets, led by the company cook, and the
Turks were put to flight. The Lewis-gunners caught them as they were
getting away and effectually quenched all desire to renew the
counter-attack. Then the company pushed forward, and, ignoring the
village of Deir Ballut, with its machine guns tried to get across the
line of retreat from the village. Seeing this, the Turks evacuated Deir
Ballut, and, under cover of machine guns posted on the further ridges,
those left alive made good their escape. That evening found us in
undisputed possession of Deir Ballut Ridge from beyond the village of
Deir Ballut down to the Plain at Mejdel Yaba.




CHAPTER XV

THE MOUNTAINS OF EPHRAIM


We now found ourselves well established in the Mountains of Ephraim, and
at no great distance from the enemy. After the taking of Ballut Ridge he
had dropped back, and was soon seen to be entrenching and sangaring a
new line from 2,000 to 4,000 yards further north. Ballut Ridge had been
fixed as our final objective. Had there been possible roads by which
guns and supplies could have been brought forward, an immediate pursuit
or attack of the enemy might have proved successful; but, with such
hopeless communications, deliberate action was a necessity.

After the Ridge had been captured, the enemy were pursued with all the
fire from rifles, machine guns and artillery that could be brought to
bear. Cavalry, or even infantry pursuit across these mountains was out
of the question. An outpost line was established and the troops settled
down to a wet and somewhat cheerless night. The mountain sides had been
so steep that it had been impossible to bring up any comforts, and even
the camels bearing the reserve supply of ammunition could only be got
forward with extreme difficulty. Except for shelling, we were left
unmolested during the night and next morning, which gave us the
opportunity of constructing sangars, making tracks for the pack
transport animals, and generally making ourselves more comfortable.
Patrols were sent forward, and it was ascertained that the country to
our immediate front was clear of the enemy.

The effect of this advance was to draw down reinforcements into this
sector, and to divert into Palestine reserves of Turkish troops; these
came largely from the Caucasus, where the total collapse of Russia had
set many good Turkish troops at liberty. There was evidence that these
troops had been intended for an offensive campaign in Mesopotamia. It is
probable, therefore, that this advance, indirectly, yet substantially,
contributed to the defence of Mesopotamia, for the Turkish offensive in
that area never materialized. Two or three German Divisions came down to
stiffen up the Turks, and from this time forward the resistance which we
had to face became unmistakeably hardened. The days of campaigning _de
luxe_ had gone for ever. Before our "archies" could get forward, the Hun
aeroplanes had very much their own way, and, flying low, dropped bombs
and machine-gunned us in a manner that was most uncomfortable. Enemy
artillery shelled any movements on the forward slope, and brought a
searching fire to bear, in the hope of damaging our bivouac areas behind
the crest. The manner in which the front line was held in the mountains
by the Turks as well as by ourselves, was as follows. Strong sangars
were constituted on the forward slope of a hill or ridge. By day these
were occupied only by a small and well-protected observation party, at
times supplemented with a Lewis gun team; and the remainder of the
garrison were withdrawn behind the crest to bivouac areas on the reverse
slope. At dusk, the garrison moved forward and manned the front line,
being withdrawn again during the half-light of dawn. Thus the hostile
artillery could never see a target upon which to fire. Searching a steep
reverse slope with guns is almost impossible while, even with howitzers,
unless observation can be obtained, an enormous amount of ammunition has
to be fired to secure any result.

Meanwhile, preparations proceeded apace. With a genius little short of
that which has made roads across the Himalayas and the Alps, roads were
soon engineered down and up the steep sides of the Wadi, so that within
two or three weeks it was possible to bring guns across the Wadi and
over the Ballut Ridge. Water supplies, of which excellent springs were
discovered in the bed of the wadi, were developed; later, the cisterns
on the hills were closed down to prevent mosquito breeding and malaria.

On the 14th March, the enemy moved forward to counter-attack the Ballut
Ridge line, but were caught in close formation by our artillery and the
counter-attack never developed. On the 19th, a slight advance was made
on our right, which brought the village of Beit Rima (possibly the
Ramathaim of the Maccabees) within our line. Another forward move was
evidently in the wind and patrolling activity increased all along our
line.

A detailed account of one of these patrol incidents may be instructive
as affording an example of how such a patrol should be handled. The
patrol commander was an experienced soldier who had seen service with
almost every battalion of the regiment and in most of the theatres of
this war; his sleeve was covered with wound stripes, and hostile snipers
only made him angry.

The orders which he received were to patrol as far as Ikba, and to
protect some senior officers, who wished to make a reconnaissance and
for whose safety he was responsible. He had under his command one
platoon, consisting of three sections of riflemen and one of Lewis
gunners; also one other officer to assist.

A glance at the sketch map will show Ballut Ridge, which formed our
front line, and Three Bushes Hill, the most forward position held by the
enemy. Ikba, or to give it its full name, Khurbet Umm el Ikba, thus lay
in No Man's Land at no great distance from the enemy. Though standing on
a hill and commanding an admirable view of the surrounding country, it
is overlooked at a range of a mile from Three Bushes Hill, and also at
shorter distances within effective rifle range from the points marked A,
B and C, and, to some extent, from the point marked E. F is a lower
knoll, commanded from Ikba. Both E and F are commanded from A.

Moving forward before dawn, the patrol commander led his patrol forward
down the Wadi Ikba. Each section was kept apart, and moved forward in
single file under its own commander. To each section commander were
given precise orders as to the position which he was to occupy, what he
was to do, and when he was to withdraw. One section moved down the ridge
on the right of the wadi, and took up a position at the point B. One
section, with the junior officer, moved first along the wadi bed, and
then, while it was still only half light, ascended the left-hand spur
and took up a position at A. The Lewis-gun team occupied the hill at C.
The remaining section, which had been kept in reserve at the hills about
D, now moved forward and occupied Ikba. All being reported clear, the
senior officers moved forward, arriving at Ikba just as the daylight
became strong enough for them to obtain the forward view of the enemy
country which they desired.

An even better view of the country seemed probable from the spur at A.
So across there went the officers, including the patrol commander. By
the time they arrived, rifle reports were cracking, and the situation
was becoming interesting. The reconnaissance finished, the patrol
commander gave the senior officers five minutes in which to withdraw,
before the expiration of which he would not begin to withdraw his
patrol.

Meanwhile, the enemy upon Three Bushes Hill, had espied the party in
Ikba, and set out to capture the patrol. Creeping along under cover,
they established themselves at the point E. Thence they started to move
on to the point F, but came under fire from the section on point A. It
became a case of running the gauntlet, but the section were shooting
well and dropped their men. The section at Ikba was withdrawing; the
enemy, failing to realize that the spur A was occupied, rushed across to
A intending to shoot up the wadi at the section withdrawing from Ikba.
They were greeted with a warm reception from the section already at A
and beat a hasty retreat. The section at A now withdrew up the wadi,
covered by the fire of the section still in position at B and by the
Lewis gunners at C. The reserve section from Ikba, who had been the
first to withdraw, had meanwhile taken up another section in rear, and,
under their protection, the section at B and the Lewis-gunners from C
withdrew up the wadi. The enemy had apparently had enough of it, for the
pursuit was not pressed. A few rounds of shrapnel were fired at us as a
parting present, but no casualties were sustained. This patrol commander
had paid attention to, and illustrated the soundness of, the cardinal
principles of mountain fighting, namely, the necessity for seizing and
piquetting the commanding heights, and the support of the movement of
one party of troops by the fire of other parties already in position.
The plan of using the Lewis gun as a reserve of fire, kept well back to
cover the retirement of the remainder, was undoubtedly sound. Had the
commanding heights not been first secured, it is difficult to see how
the patrol could have withdrawn in the face of the enemy without
confusion and without casualty.

On the 27th March the whole line moved forward. The advance was only
intended to be for a depth of about a mile, in order to secure a better
tactical line for defence. None of the objectives were believed to be
held by the enemy. Accordingly, the advance was carried out by night. A
full moon, giving light throughout the night, facilitated the operation.
As soon as daylight was gone, the whole line crept noiselessly forward,
with bayonets fixed ready to meet any possible opposition with cold
steel. Away to our right, the enemy detected movement, and put down a
barrage. But their firing was somewhat wild; the barrage came down
behind the advancing troops and caused no casualties. On our front the
enemy had not awakened to what was taking place, and our objectives were
attained without molestation. It was realized that our new positions
would be overlooked from the enemy's observation posts on Three Bushes
Hill and on Arara, and that, when they saw us by daylight occupying the
nearer ridges, they would shell us unmercifully. Accordingly, the
remainder of the night was not devoted to sleep, but to the intensive
building of sangars on the new defensive line, and the preparations of
bivouac areas in such few spots as might be under cover from view and
from fire. When morning came, the enemy commenced to shell, but the
night had not been wasted, and our fellows had made themselves secure.

This new line was not very comfortable. To such an extent was it
overlooked by the enemy that all movement by day was out of the
question, and even incinerator fires had for a time to be forbidden. The
enemy attacked this new line a few days after it had been taken up.
However, our artillery caught the enemy's troops in close order before
they had been deployed, and so we experienced no greater inconvenience
than a bombardment, doing no great damage. It was not expected that this
new line would have to be held for any great length of time. Already
preparations were being pushed on for another encounter with the enemy.




CHAPTER XVI

RAFAT


We have seen, in an earlier chapter, that throughout the campaign in
Palestine the left British flank, near the sea, was at all times much in
advance of the right. We have already discussed the cause and
advantages; there was one distinct disadvantage. As the trend of the
country sloped up from the Maritime Plain, the enemy on our right front
was on higher ground and had the advantages of observation. If there
were a commanding position to our front, and we moved forward and
captured it, we found that there were yet other positions beyond, from
which that position was itself commanded. Our positions on the Ephraim
Mountains along the Ballut Ridge were at this time overlooked from three
commanding hills in the possession of the enemy, known as Arara, Rafat,
and Three Bushes. Further to the right were the villages of El Kep and
Berukin, also on high ground. Owing to the conformation of the country
the key of this district was Arara.

In order to improve the general line, and in preparation for a further
advance, it was decided to move forward and to capture all these
commanding positions. Accordingly, on the morning of the 9th April, the
line moved forward. The village of El Kep was a nest of machine guns.
After heavy bombardment it was captured after stubborn resistance.
Berukin was also captured after sharp fighting, but further progress in
this locality was held up. Next day these villages were heavily
counter-attacked, and, though they were firmly held, further progress
was out of the question.

Meanwhile, a battalion of Somersets had captured Rafat, and a battalion
of Dorsets Three Bushes Hill. Enemy shelling now became intense,
followed up by counter-attacks, all of which were repulsed.

The intention had been that the Somersets should capture Rafat first and
then take Arara, the main objective of these operations. The capture of
Three Bushes Hill was necessary to secure Arara and Rafat from reverse
fire. But, to enable Arara to be held, it was also necessary to capture
other heights to the south-east, notably one called The Pimple. Most of
these heights were captured, but, although determined efforts were made,
the enemy could not be dislodged from The Pimple. Nevertheless, the
Somersets moved forward from Rafat and successfully established
themselves upon Arara. Here they were fired at from all sides. They
found that Arara was itself commanded from a height called Sheikh
Silbih, a thousand or two yards beyond, while the reserve fire from the
machine guns on The Pimple soon made their position on Arara untenable.
They fell back upon, and firmly established themselves in, their
positions at Rafat. One lad, who was left behind in this retirement, had
a terrible experience. Wounded in three or four places, he was unable to
withdraw with the remainder of his company. He lay out on Arara for
three days, after which he was discovered by some Turks. These proceeded
to strip him, whereupon he made known to them that he was still alive.
They then bayonetted him, and left him for dead. He lay out there for
yet another day, now naked, when he was found by a German
stretcher-party. These took pity upon him, and removed him to a hospital
where he was nursed back to life.

The position on Three Bushes Hill had become interesting. If left in our
undisputed possession, it would have rendered the main line of enemy
trenches untenable. On the other hand, if the enemy could drive us off,
he might from there roll up Rafat and our other positions. He therefore
made several determined attempts throughout the day to retake this hill.
The position was not altogether unlike that on Spion Kop. Each side
clung to the slope immediately below the summit, the forward slope being
untenable through shell fire; our guns were unable to silence the
hostile batteries. There was this difference, however, from Spion Kop,
for here there was no question at present of withdrawing. The
difficulties of bringing supplies, water and ammunition up, and the even
greater difficulty of carrying the wounded down a pathless precipice 400
feet high, can be better imagined than described. This work had mostly
to be done by night, for our communication line was under enemy
observation. The last of the ambulance camels, which were evacuating
wounded from the regimental aid post had not crossed the Ballut Ridge
and got out of sight before dawn, and were shelled accordingly.

The enemy delivered counter-attacks again in the night; these also were
repulsed. Next morning he changed his tactics. Continuing to shell the
back areas, he now pushed up snipers, who established themselves where
they could fire at any movement. In so far as the snipers near the
summit of the ridge were concerned, a service of counter-sniping was
established. But, what was more difficult to deal with, he established
snipers on the lower slopes of his own side of the ridge, who could look
down upon, and make themselves unpleasant towards, Rafat. Accordingly,
it was decided to clear the forward slope.

The Dorsets had now been fighting on the hill for forty-eight hours.
Accordingly, on the night of the 10th/11th, they were relieved by an
Indian battalion, the Outrans. Just before dawn this battalion moved
forward, surprised the Turks, drove them down the hill and consolidated
a line along the forward slope, with observation posts and Lewis
gunners, withdrawing the remainder of the battalion behind the crest.

The sniping had thus been stopped for the time, and the day was passed
in comparative quiet. At dusk, that evening, down came one of the most
furious bombardments put down by the enemy in Palestine. Guns from all
quarters concentrated on the hill, and practically blotted out the
devoted band that were holding the forward line. The bombardment was
followed up by a determined counter-attack, but this was repulsed, the
battalion of Dorsets being brought back to support the Outrans on the
hill.

It was now realized that the only way by which the Arara position could
be captured and held, was by a general advance of the line to at least a
thousand yards farther to the north, so as to capture The Pimple, Sheikh
Subih, and the enemy works beyond Three Bushes. Accordingly,
preparations were put in hand, and all was ready for this further
advance, when there came--the disaster in France.

The great German offensive in France had commenced on the 21st March,
and, a few days later, occurred that great break through which very
nearly altered the whole complexion of the war. At first this was not
allowed to prejudice the operations in Palestine. But, as the
seriousness of the situation in France became realized, no effort was
spared to collect more men to fill the gap. Orders were given to cease
all further active operations on a large scale in Palestine, and to send
to France all the men that could be spared.

Accordingly, there was no alternative but to consolidate, to heavily
wire and sangar in upon the line that had been already reached, making
such tactical readjustments as were necessary.

It might appear at first sight that the net result of these operations
was negative, and that the poor fellows who had given their lives here
had died in vain. But this was not so. Rafat was destined to become
famous. It was fortified on an almost impregnable scale, thousands of
pounds were spent, and a couple of million sand-bags were worked into
its defences. A veritable fortress was established which overlooked much
of the enemy positions. More than once was this fortress attacked by the
Turks, but in vain. It ultimately formed the firm pivot on which was
based the great sweep which conquered Palestine.

Feeling between the Turks and the Germans was growing intensely bitter.
Germans were not allowed to walk about singly behind the Turkish lines,
for fear of assassination. In an attack made by them in the Jordan
Valley in July, not only did the Turks fail to move forward in support
of the Germans, but they actually fired upon the Germans, when, through
lack of that support, they were compelled to retire. It was a case of "a
house divided against itself" and it could not therefore hope long to
stand.

Active operations on a large scale in Palestine having been stopped, the
army was not reorganized. It was a matter of keen regret to many who had
followed the fortunes of this campaign since the days of Gaza, that they
and their battalions were not to play a part in the final act. The 52nd
and the 74th Divisions were withdrawn entirely, their places being taken
by the 3rd and 7th Indian Divisions from Mesopotamia. All those
remaining, except the 54th, were converted into Indian Divisions, 75 per
cent of their battalions being withdrawn and replaced by fresh
battalions from India. Those withdrawn were, in some cases, sent to
France, in others, broken up and used for reinforcements in the country.
Hitherto the army in Palestine had consisted mainly of Territorials.
Henceforth it was to consist mainly of Indians.




CHAPTER XVII

THE CROWNING VICTORY


The Turkish forces in Palestine, in the autumn of 1918, consisted of
three armies, the 8th and the 7th, plus one added Division on the west
of the Jordan, and the 4th army on the east. All were under the supreme
command of the German General, Liman von Sanders.

The line held by the enemy west of the Jordan extended roughly from the
sea, south of the Nahr el Falyk (some 14 miles north of Jaffa), across
western Palestine approximately east, south-east to near Rafat, thence
easterly and south-easterly, across the Nablus-Jerusalem Road, and so
down to the Jordan Valley. Thus, a portion of his force was entrenched
across the Maritime Plain, while the remainder was in the mountains of
the Central Range. These mountains of Ephraim and Samaria form a rugged,
isolated plateau, which is bounded on the north and east by the
low-lying Valleys of Esdraelon and the Jordan. North-west, the mountains
continue in a broken chain, till they fall precipitously to the sea at
Cape Carmel.

There were two or three routes available to the enemy for supply or
retreat, behind the Samaritan plateau. Most important of these was the
railway, which, leaving the main Damascus-Hejaz line at Deraa, ran
westwards down the Yarmuk Valley to the Jordan, thence through Beisan,
and up the Vale of Jezreel and along the Plain of Esdraelon to Haifa.
From El Afule, a junction in the middle of the Esdraelon Plain, the
south-bound line branched off, and, passing through Jenin (close by
Jezreel), wound its way among the mountains up to Messudieh Station,
close to Samaria. Thence a short line ran on to Nablus, while the main
line continued down the slope of the Wadi Shair to the Maritime Plain,
which it reached at Tul Keram. The advanced enemy bases at Nablus and
Tul Keram were served also by good roads. That from Tul Keram followed
the line of the railway up to a point near Samaria, where it joined the
main north-bound road leading from Nablus down to Jenin and El Afule.
From El Afule it would be possible to go down the Vale of Jezreel (along
the road where Jehu drove furiously) to Beisan, and thence northward up
the Jordan Valley. But the better road from Jenin and El Afule leads
across the Plain of Esdraelon to Nazareth and Tiberias and round the
northern side of the Sea of Galilee to Damascus. Another road from
Nablus leads eastwards, and, dropping steeply down along the Wadi Fara,
leads to the Jordan, which it crosses by a ford at Jisr ed Damie. The
places of tactical importance on the enemy lines of communication behind
his advanced bases were, therefore, the railway junctions at Deraa and
El Afule, the ford of Jisr ed Damie, and the towns of Beisan, Jenin and
Nazareth.

The broad outline of General Allenby's plan of operations was an attack
in overwhelming force against the enemy's positions on the Maritime
Plain, followed by a right wheel of his left flank on a front of 16
miles from Rafat to the sea, thereby rolling up the Turkish line and
driving them all into the Samaritan hills; meanwhile, his cavalry were
to dash for the tactical points behind the Turkish line and so close all
enemy lines of retreat.

Some weeks before the date fixed for the commencement of operations, the
several Divisions were by turn withdrawn behind the line and put through
a three weeks' course of intensive training. Then a rearrangement of the
line took place, whereby an overwhelming force was concentrated on the
left. The 60th Division, and most of the cavalry, were moved across to
the extreme left from the Jordan Valley. Divisions in the line were so
rearranged that the line from Rafat to the right was only held thinly,
while the garrison of the line from Rafat to the sea was doubled by the
addition of three more Divisions, including the 60th on the sea and a
French Division at Rafat. All these movements were carried out with the
utmost secrecy. The fact that the push was coming along the Maritime
Plain was successfully camouflaged, and the enemy led to believe that
the push would come up the Jordan Valley. The hotel at Jerusalem was
closed, and got in readiness, ostensibly for occupation by G.H.Q. Empty
lorries were run up and down the Jordan Valley. Tents were left standing
there and dummy-horse lines arranged. Dummy horses were left in the
Jordan Valley to convey to enemy aerial observers the impression that
cavalry were still there in strength. All the marching towards the
Jordan Valley was by day; all the marching towards the Maritime Plain
was carried out by night, while by day these troops were hidden in the
olive and orange groves that abound on this portion of the Plain. So
successful were these ruses, and so complete the surprise, that enemy
aerial reconnaissances, made a day before the attack, reported that
there was unusual movement in the Jordan Valley and that there was no
unusual movement on the coastal sector. The whole of the operations were
a triumph of secrecy and of organization.

On the day before the main attack, a small advance was carried out by
the right wing just west of the Jordan, occupying El Mugheir. This place
is the junction of several roads leading from the west to the east of
the Jordan. The object of this preliminary move was to prevent the Turks
west of the river escaping by this route to the east, and also to draw
the attention of the enemy towards the Jordan Valley and distract it
from the coastal sector.

By the night of the 18th/19th September, our troops were in position.
The Divisions occupying the line from the sea on the left were the
60th, the 7th and the 75th on the Plain, the 3rd where Plain and hills
meet about Mejdel Yaba, the 54th and the French at Rafat. Thence the
line was held by the 10th Division, assisted by a composite force, and,
on the extreme right, about the recently captured Mugheir, by the 53rd.
Cavalry were concentrated behind the 60th Division ready to dash forward
directly the line should be broken.

At 4.30 on the morning of the 19th September, there suddenly opened an
intensive bombardment of the enemy's coastal positions, carried out by
all the artillery, trench-mortars and machine-guns that could be
concentrated in this small sector, the navy also co-operating. After ten
minutes' bombardment, the infantry moved forward and assaulted the
enemy's front line positions, which were carried with but little
opposition. Thereafter the barrage lifted and crept, being supplemented
in places by smoke barrages dropped from aeroplanes. The infantry pushed
forward and captured the enemy's second and third lines and strong
points in rear. Shortly before seven o'clock, the 60th Division had
broken right through the enemy defences by the sea, and had reached, and
established a bridge-head at the Wadi Nahr el Falyk, a mile or so behind
the enemy line. Engineers and pioneers got to work at once, and in a
very short space of time had made roads and bridges through the enemy
trench system, and over the Nahr el Falyk, by which cavalry and guns
could be pushed forward. At 7.30, the cavalry passed through on their
dash for the tactical points behind the enemy's lines.

Meanwhile, all along the line our infantry had taken their first
objectives with little opposition, the enemy having been taken
completely by surprise. The whole line advanced to a maximum depth of 5
miles, and then swung to the right, pivoting on Rafat. Such opposition
as was encountered was met with at the strong points well behind the
front line, where the enemy had had the time and opportunity to man his
defences. For example, both at El Tireh and at Kalkilieh, stubborn
resistance was encountered. Thus the line swung right-handed into the
hills, crumpling up the whole enemy line west of Rafat. The 60th
Division, after their break through, marched for the greater part of the
day, and, by 5.30 in the afternoon, had reached Tul Keram. Our line,
that evening, ran approximately south and north from Rafat to Tul Keram.

The cavalry passing through the gaps broken at the sea and close to
Tabsor, pushed rapidly northward along the Coastal Plain. Some of them
made for Tul Keram, and, passing thence up the Valley towards Nablus,
had already reached Anebta before dark, cutting off large bodies of the
retreating enemy with guns and transport between Tul Keram and the
railway junction at Messudieh. Another strong cavalry force moved
farther north. They passed through the mountains east of Mount Carmel
that night, by the Musmus Pass (Megiddo), and, early on the following
morning, the 20th, they charged the enemy holding the northern exit of
the Pass and debouched on to the Plain of Esdraelon (Armageddon).

These seized the railway junction at El Afule. Some pushed on eastwards
towards the Jordan and captured Beisan (Bethshan), some northwards and
captured Nazareth, while some, turning southwards, took Jenin in
reverse. By nightfall on the 20th all these tactical points were in our
possession.

Yet another exploit remains to be chronicled. Far away across the
eastern desert, but beautifully co-ordinated, and working as part of one
great machine, moved a raiding force of the Arab troops of Hussein, King
of the Hejaz. At the critical moment these swooped down upon the
junction at Deraa, where they destroyed the railway in all directions,
completely depriving the enemy of their main line of retirement.

Throughout the operations our airmen had the time of their lives. Some
hovered all day over the enemy aerodrome at Jenin, and effectually
prevented enemy machines from leaving the ground. Some maintained
contact between the infantry and the higher command. Some, flying low,
bombed and machine-gunned the retreating Turks, and completed their
confusion.

The advance was continued on the 20th. On this day, the 10th Division,
which had hitherto remained stationary to the right of Rafat, moved
forward in a north-easterly direction, taking in rear the strong enemy
position at Furkha. The whole line was now advancing and driving the
retreating Turks towards Samaria and Nablus, and down the roads leading
northwards and eastwards from these points. By the evening of the 20th,
the Turkish resistance had collapsed everywhere on the west of the
Jordan, except on the Turkish left in the Jordan Valley. Our right wing
had advanced slightly, and occupied a line from near El Mugheir to Es
Sawieh, while our left wing had swung round and reached the line
Bidich-Baka-Messudieh Junction--that is to say, we were gradually
closing in on Nablus from the south, south-west, and west. Owing to the
tactical positions behind the enemy lines having been seized by our
cavalry, all avenues of escape which might have been open to the enemy
had been closed, except the fords across the Jordan between Beisan and
Jisr-ed-Damieh.

By the 21st, the retreating Turks had become a demoralized rabble,
fleeing to the fords of the Jordan, like the discomfited Midianites,
under Oreb and Zeeb, had fled more than three thousand years before from
the pursuit of Gideon. Those who fled down the northward road were
captured and collected by our cavalry at Jenin. Those who fled down the
eastward road by the Wadi Fara, hoping to reach the still open ford at
Jisr-ed-Damieh, met with a more cruel fate. This road led down a steep
and narrow gorge, dominated by the heights east of Nablus. A brigade of
the 10th Division was rushed forward by a forced march, and seized these
heights, effectually closing the trap. Our airmen had already got the
situation well in hand here, and the road soon became a veritable
shambles. The enemy had been forced or shepherded by our infantry into
this bottle-neck, and our airmen, swooping down to 200 feet and bombing
the head of the column, soon made the road impassable. That
accomplished, they flew up and down the struggling column, bombing and
machine-gunning without let or hindrance. It seemed as though the
unspeakable Turk had at last been delivered over to vengeance in this
Valley of Death. An eye-witness[11] describes the scene.

"In no section of Napoleon's retreat from Moscow could there have been a
more terrible picture of hopeless and irretrievable defeat. In this area
alone, eighty-seven guns of various calibres, and fully a thousand horse
and oxen-drawn vehicles, nearly a hundred motor-lorries, cars,
field-kitchens, water carts, and a mass of other impedimenta blocked the
road, with the carcases of thousands of animals and the bodies of dead
Turks and Germans."

On the 22nd, our cavalry moved up the Jordan Valley and seized the ford
at Jisr-ed-Damieh, thus cutting off the last possible means of escape.
Prisoners were surrendering in thousands. They looked weak and
exhausted; in many cases they had fled over a parched country and
beneath a burning sun for three or four days, without touching a drop of
water. Their plight was pitiable. By that evening, the Turkish armies
west of the Jordan had ceased to exist.

There still remained the Turkish 4th army in Eastern Palestine. An
expedition, consisting largely of cavalry, was sent against them. These
crossed the Jordan Valley, and, moving up the eastern slopes, on the
23rd September captured Es Salt, and, on the 26th, Amman. A day or two
later, the Turkish force south of Amman, about 10,000 strong,
surrendered. The remainder of the Turkish 4th army tried to withdraw.
They were closely pursued by our cavalry and airmen, and, to some
extent, cut off by the Arab forces of the King of the Hejaz. Many
prisoners were taken from this army, while, such as could do so, made
their escape to Damascus.

The whole of Palestine, south of, and including the Plain of Esdraelon,
was now in the hands of the British and their Arab allies. But there was
still work to be done in a sweep forward towards Damascus. The Turks had
some reserves at Damascus, and with these, and the remnants of their 4th
army, they attempted to check our advance against that city.
Accordingly, they sent a small force down to the Upper Jordan, that is,
to the river north of the Sea of Galilee. This force, which consisted of
Germans, Turks and Circassians, was rushed down from Damascus in
motor-lorries, in order to deny the crossing at Jisr Benat Yakub. They
blew up the bridge and covered the crossing with machine guns. On the
27th our cavalry, pushing north from Tiberias, swam the river both to
the south and to the north of this crossing, and surprised and captured
many of the enemy. They then, with armoured cars, pushed forward along
the main Tiberias-Damascus road.

On the same day, other cavalry joined hands with the Arab army at Deraa.
From this point, also, cavalry and armoured cars pushed northward. It
seemed a question whether this force or that from Jisr Benat Yakub would
be the first to reach Damascus, as both forces were rapidly approaching
the city from the south and south-west respectively. The advance was
still disputed by enemy rear guards, from whom prisoners and guns were
captured. The enemy rear-guards were defeated, and, by the evening of
the 30th, the city was partially surrounded.

Early on the morning of the 1st October, a British force and a portion
of the Arab army of King Hussein occupied the city of Damascus.

In the course of a fortnight the enemy line had been broken; Samaria,
Galilee, Eastern Palestine and Damascus had been conquered; three
Turkish armies had been destroyed, with a loss of their entire war
material; and over 350 guns and 71,000 prisoners had been captured.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 11: Mr. W. T. Massey, Official Correspondent with the E.E.F.]




CHAPTER XVIII

CONCLUSION


Serious fighting had practically finished with the capture of Damascus.
The northward flight of the Turks continued, closely pursued by our
cavalry and armoured cars. A Division of infantry was brought forward in
support, but the difficulties of supplying a large force so far away
from a base made it impossible to bring forward the infantry in any
strength. Australians rounded up a Turkish column some miles north of
Damascus, and a few thousand more prisoners were captured. Beyrout, the
port of Damascus, was abandoned without a blow, and, on the 6th October,
was occupied by the allies. A Division of French troops was landed here,
and, thereafter, this port became the main channel of supply for the
troops operating in Northern Syria.

Our forces pushed on northwards, meeting with little or no opposition,
and occupying Baalbek, Tripolis and Homs. A Turkish force, under General
Liman von Sanders, and estimated at about 12,000, concentrated a few
miles south of Aleppo, where they threatened to offer some resistance.
The advance northward was, however, unopposed. The enemy had constructed
trenches covering Aleppo, and at first showed signs of holding them.
But, after our armoured cars had got into touch, and our airmen had
bombed them, the enemy decided to evacuate, and withdrew to the hills
towards Alexandretta. Aleppo was entered by our cavalry on the 26th
October, and the station was seized at Muslimie, the junction of the
Baghdad Railway. By these captures we had made ourselves masters of the
main line of communications with Constantinople of the Turkish armies in
Mesopotamia.

Their armies virtually destroyed, the Turks now concluded an armistice,
which took effect as from the 31st October. Their allies, the
Bulgarians, who had suffered disastrous reverses in Macedonia, had just
concluded an armistice; the Austrians were being badly beaten by the
Italians and were clearly nearing the end; and the Germans were fast
retiring from France and Belgium: so, with all hope of succour gone, the
Turks had no alternative but to conclude an armistice, the terms of
which practically amounted to unconditional surrender.

The terms of the armistice included the following. Immediate
demobilization of the Turkish army, except troops required for the
surveillance of the frontier and the maintenance of internal order; the
surrender of the garrisons of the Hejaz, Assir, Yemen, Syria and
Mesopotamia, and the withdrawal of troops from Cilicia; the surrender of
all ports there; occupation by the Allies of the Taurus Mountains tunnel
system; the allied control of all railways; occupation by the Allies of
any strategic points considered necessary for their security;
prohibition of destruction of military or similar material; all Germans
and Austrians to quit Turkey within a month; Turkey to cease all
relations with the Central Powers; all allied prisoners in Turkish
possession to be handed over unconditionally, but Turkish prisoners in
the Allies' hands to be kept at the disposal of the Allies. In addition,
all war vessels in Turkish waters were to be surrendered, the
Dardanelles were to be opened, and free access secured for allied ships
to all Turkish ports and exchanges and to the Black Sea.

A few days later, Austria threw in her hand, and, on the 11th November,
an armistice was concluded with Germany. The Central Powers had
surrendered. The greatest war in the history of the world had been
brought to a close.

Will our campaign be passed down to history as "The Last Crusade"?
Presumably not. Throughout the campaign there was little or no religious
animosity, except that the Moslem Turk extended no quarter to the
Hindoo. To speak of this as a campaign of The Cross against The Crescent
is untrue. The Turkish high command was controlled by Germans, so-called
Christians. The British soldier fought with no less zest than when
opposed to Turks. At the final battle, the Moslems, serving in our
armies, by far outnumbered the Christians.

The close of the great war forms a fitting point at which to bring our
story also to a close. Its aim has been a blend of history and
reminiscence. Much has been set down here which would have been omitted
from a history; much more has been omitted which a complete history
would have contained. In particular I plead guilty to omitting names of
units deserving of special mention. Generally their names have not been
known to me; in such cases as they were known, I have feared that to
mention them might have caused more jealousy than satisfaction. We each
of us think, and rightly so, that our own unit does better than any
other engaged. So, many a reader may be disappointed at finding no
mention of the unit in which he is particularly interested. I can only
refer him to the congratulatory telegrams which his unit received in the
field, and which are doubtless preserved among the records of the
regiment.

We have now completed our brief review of this campaign. We have seen
its small beginnings in the defence of the Suez Canal, when Turkey,
leaning upon Germany, a broken reed, vaunted herself in an attempt to
conquer Egypt. We have traced the footsteps of the British army as,
pushing back the invading Turk, it crept across the Desert. We have
watched its struggles on the frontier of Asia, culminating in the
victory of Gaza and Beersheba. We have followed its progress in the
onward sweep, which conquered Jerusalem, and watched it through
succeeding months of trial, patience and disappointment. Finally, we
have seen it destroy the remnants of the Turkish armies, and, in one
great rush, conquer the whole of Northern Syria. Proud, indeed, should
those of us feel who have been privileged to play a part in this
campaign.




INDEX


Abd, 15

Abu Aweigila, 16

Abu Hareira, 45

Ain Karim, 83

Ajalon, 71

Akaba, Gulf of, 4, 26

Aleppo, 23, 143

Alexandretta, 143

Ali Muntar, 38

Amman, 114, 141

Anwas, 73

Apex, The, 46, 50, 59

Arara, 131

Armageddon, 33

Asluj, 54

Atawinah, 45, 58, 59

Auja, 5,14

Australia Hill, 39


Baalbek, 143

Baghdad, 22

Baha, 45

Baku, 23

Beersheba, 39, 45, 51, 56

Beihesnia, 75

Beit Dukka, 75

Beit Iksa, 83

Beit Hanun, 45, 58, 63

Beit Jibrin, 67

Belah, 38

Bethel, 109

Beth-horon, 71

Bethshan, 139

Bireh, 72

Bir-el-Abd, 14

Bir-es-Sakaly, 54

Bitter Lakes, 5


Constantinople, 7

Ctesiphon, 22


Damascus, 142

Dardanelles, 6

Dead Sea, 112

Deraa, 142

Dueidar, 13


Egypt, 1

El Arish, 5

El Burj, 80

El Kep, 130

El Kubeibeh, 67

El Mesmiye, 68

El Mughar, 68

El Tine, 45

El Tireh, 138

Emmaus, 78

Enab, 75

Ephraim, 124

Erzerum, 24

Esdraelon, 135

Es Salt, 114, 141


Gallipoli, 7

Gamli, 46

Gaza, 37, 51, 56

Gezer, 69

Ghoraniyeh, 113


Hajlah, 113

Hareira, 58

Hejaz, 25

Hill 1070, 54

Homs, 143

Huj, 63


Ikba, 126

In Seirat, 39


Jaffa, 69, 116

Jericho, 111

Jerusalem, 79, 84, 86

Jiddah, 25

Jisr-ed-Damieh, 141

Jordan, 32, 109, 112

Junction Station, 36, 66, 68, 101


Kalkilieh, 138

Kantara, 12

Katia, 13

Katrah, 68

Kauwukah, 57

Khalassa, 54

Khan Epenus, 5

Khan Yunus, 19

Khasim Zanna, 54

Kosseima, 5

Kut el Amara, 21


Latron, 73

Ludd, 69, 101, 108


Maan, 25

Mageiba, 14

Maghdaba, 16

Magruntein, 17

Mansura Ridge, 40

Mazar, 15

Mecca, 25

Medina, 25

Mejdel Yaba, 122

Middlesex Hill, 58

Mosul, 23

Mount Carmel, 29

Mount Royston, 14

Mudros, 7

Muslimie, 143

Muweileh, 56


Naaneh, 69

Nablus, 139

Nasiriyeh, 21

Nazareth, 139

Neby

Musa, 110

Neby Samwil, 71, 76, 80, 81


Oghratina, 13, 15

Outpost Hill, 58


Palestine, 28

Philistia, 30

Plain of Sharon, 30


Rafa, 4, 16

Rafat, 130

Ramadi, 23

Ramleh, 69, 108

Rayak, 35

Romani, 12, 13


Shatt-el-Arab, 21

Sheikh Hasan, 55

Sheikh Zowaid, 16

Shellal, 17

Sheria, 57

Shunat Nimrin, 114

Suez Canal, 2, 4

Suvla Bay, 7


Taurus, 35

Tel-el-Kebir, 2

Tel-el-Saba, 54

Three Bushes Hill, 126, 131

Towal Abu Jerwal, 56

Trebizond, 24

Tripolis, 143

Tul Keram, 139


Umbrella Hill, 55

Umm Jerar, 48


Wadi Auja, 116

Wadi Deir Ballut, 116, 119

Wadi Ghuzzeh, 38, 44

Wadi Hesi, 58

Wadi Nahr, 138

Wellington Ridge, 15


Yemen, 25


_Printed in Great Britain for_ ROBERT SCOTT, _Publisher_, PATERNOSTER ROW,
LONDON, _by_ BUTLER & TANNER, FROME


TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE

LIST OF FIXED ISSUES

p.   v--typo fixed, changed "Judaean" to "Judaean"
p.  vi--typo fixed, changed "Khuweilfah" to "Khuweilfeh"
p. vii--typo fixed, changed "Tamberlane" to "Tamerlane"
p. 019--typo fixed, changed "Weli Sheikh Nura" to "Weli Sheikh Nuran"
p. 029--typo fixed, changed "Keran" to "Keram"
p. 039--typo fixed, changed a comma into a period after "Ali Muntar
and Gaza"
p. 054--inserted a missing period after "in our hands"
p. 056--inserted a missing closing bracket after "farther west"
p. 073--typo fixed, changed "via" to "via"
p. 078--inserted a missing period after "his positions"
p. 097--typo fixed, changed "Napolean" to "Napoleon"
p. 112--typo fixed, changed "garrision" to "garrison"
p. 114--typo fixed, changed "Hajleh" to "Hajlah"
p. 135--typo fixed, changed "Nahr el Falik" to "Nahr el Falyk"
p. 147--typo fixed, changed "Abou Aweigila" to "Abu Aweigila"
p. 147--typo fixed, changed "Birel Abd" to "Bir-el-Abd"
p. 147--typo fixed, changed "Beth-Horon" to "Beth-horon"
p. 148--typo fixed, changed "Maza" to "Mazar"






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