Topic: Gm - German Items
The Battle of Beersheba
Palestine, 31 October 1917
Friedrich Freiherr Kress von Kressenstein Account
The German General charged with the defence of Beersheba was General Friedrich Freiherr Kress von Kressenstein, commonly called Kress. He wrote his book Mit den Tèurken zum Suezkanal [With the Turks to the Suez Canal] as a memoir.
The only edition of Kress’s book to emerge was published in 1938 and released in Germany. While Kress may have commanded the troops that put down Adloph Hitler’s infamous Beer Hall Putsch in which some 16 Nazi rebels were killed, Hitler’s propaganda machine saw the ironical value of this work to encourage the German people with stories of sacrifice and victory against heavy odds. It was in this context that the book was published in the standard Nazi style Gothic script which makes it difficult reading for a modern audience.
Kressenstein, Friedrich Freiherr Kress von, Mit den Tèurken zum Suezkanal, 1938, pp. 276 - 279:
 When dawn broke on 31 October 1917, some 30 English light and heavy batteries opened fire on the trenches between Wadi el Saba to the Beersheba - Khalasa road held by the Turkish 27th Division. Under the cover of this fire, the English 60th and 74th Divisions  developed their attack. Between the front line and the Wadi el Saba were weaker enemy forces near the Turkish positions. The “Smith Detachment” - an infantry brigade strengthened by the Imperial Camel Brigade – was ordered only to threaten the Turkish positions rather than attack. At Bir Esani, the English 53rd Infantry Division was available to secure and attack the forces at Beersheba if necessary but with the objective of advancing northwards to Tel esh Sheria. On the southern Beersheba front only the weaker enemy cavalry appeared.
Messages from the friendly Bedouin given to Ismed, which was confirmed by our pilots in the morning, stated that during the night two divisions of cavalry had marched through Iswaiwin and Khashim Zanna. Ismed sent the Cavalry Division to the heights northeast of Beersheba with orders to prevent an encirclement of Beersheba by the enemy Light Horsemen. One of those many conical hills in this region, Tel el Saba, controlled the surrounding area but was inadequately held so Ismed had it occupied by a battalion consisting of 300 rifles and 6 heavy machine guns. With two battalions of the remaining reserves, he moved quickly to close the broad, five kilometre gap between the left wing of his prepared position at Tel el Saba and Ras Ghannam. Only much later in the battle was Ismed able to create a new reserve by withdrawing some companies out of the quiet section between railway and Wadi Saba. We worked on the assumption that the English would not proceed against the Beersheba southern and eastern fronts but their daring did not allow us to prepare our defence.
Between 8 and 9 o'clock the English stormed the Turkish artillery observation outpost on the southwest of the perimeter. The small detachment surrendered after putting up a courageous resistance.
Displaying cool ability, the Turkish batteries laid fire over the English infantry as they worked themselves to a position of about 400-600 meters in front of the 27th Division trenches.  Some of the English batteries moved closer to the Turkish forward positions and destroyed the thine line of wire with pulverising fire. At 12.15 o'clock the English began the storming of the Turkish trenches which lead to heavy fighting and considerable losses. While they forced remnants of the Turkish 27th Division to retreat back to the Wadi el Saba, they remained in the Turkish trenches and established their own defensive perimeter. In view of the water supply problem, General Allenby wanted Beersheba to be taken and occupied only by the Dessert Mounted Corps - a particularly instructive case where water exerts a clear influence over planning.
Between 8 and 9 o'clock in the morning by the eastern front of Beersheba enemy cavalry approached from direction Wadi el Imleih to besiege Tel el Saba, and short time later an English cavalry regiment was in the area of Khirbet um Butein and reached the Beersheba Hebron road. English patrols began feeling out the defences of the Turkish Cavalry Division; but no actual fighting took place at this part of the battlefield.
On the other hand, during the morning, with some assistance, the New Zealand brigade commenced a frontal assault against Tell it Saba. The open area provided no cover which allowed the Turkish machine gun fire to bring the attack to a stand still. Only after the English employed fresh forces and developed a comprehensive attack against both the north and south flanks of Tel el Saba, they succeeded in taking by storm the Turkish position at 3 pm. The under strength Turkish battalion entrusted with its defence doggedly held out with great courage and in so doing fulfilled its obligation. They held up two English cavalry divisions for six hours and had prevented them from expanding their outflanking manoeuvres around the Beersheba-Hebron road. Our pilots caused further losses to the English cavalry by their bombing of the horsemen.
The two Turkish battalions employed between Ras Ghannam and Tell el Saba were ordered to withdraw to positions behind Wadi it Saba  in the direction of Beersheba, when they were attacked of English cavalry. The English riders broke through the thin Turkish lines and carried their attack onto Beersheba. With no warning Ismed Bey and his staff were taken unawares. General Chetwode had given the 4th Cavalry Brigade the order to seize the place - an order, which the resourceful brigade commander, General W Grant, solved by a charge.
Unfortunately the destruction of the wells at Beersheba arranged by Ismed was only partially accomplished.
Note: The numbers in the brackets, eg , refers to the page numbers in the original German text. This allows the reader to compare the original text with the translation or quote from the above text with the correct page as if from the original text.
Citation: The Battle of Beersheba, Palestine, 31 October 1917, Friedrich Freiherr Kress von Kressenstein Account