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Wednesday, 26 March 2008
The First Battle of Gaza, Palestine, 26 to 27 March 1917, Commander Royal Artillery, 53rd Division Artillery War Diary Account
Topic: AIF - DMC - British

The First Battle of Gaza

Palestine, 26 to 27 March 1917

Commander Royal Artillery, 53rd Division Artillery War Diary Account


Commander Royal Artillery, 53rd Division Artillery War Diary Account.

 

The following is a transcription of the Account from the War Diary of the Commander Royal Artillery, 53rd Division Artillery detailing its role at the First Battle of Gaza, Palestine, 26 to 27 March 1917.

 

Extracts from War  Diary of
Commander Royal Artillery, 53rd Division Artillery
Commander Royal Artillery, Brigadier General REA Le Motte


25 March 1917

Headquarters Royal Artillery moved by march route to Deir el Belah. The following units of the 53rd Divisional Artillery and attached thereto are now at Deir el Belah.

Headquarters Royal Artillery 53rd Division.

265th Brigade Royal Field Artillery

266th Brigade Royal Field Artillery

53rd Division Ammunition Column

Right Section, 10th Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery

Right Section, 15th Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery

Right Section, 91st Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery


2110 On receipt of 53rd Division Operation Order No. 27 of 25.3.17. Preliminary Orders for 53rd Divisional Artillery and attached units (Right Sections 10th, l5th and 91st Heavy Batteries, Royal Garrison Artillery) for the approach march and attack of the Gaza position on night of 26/26th March 1917 were issued by Commander Royal Artillery, 53rd Division.


26 March 1917

0230 Headquarters, 53rd Divisional Artillery moved from bivouac near Point 130 Deir el Belah to Divisional Battle Headquarters, south of the "EL" in El Breij and established Battle Headquarters.

0630 The Commander Royal Artillery proceeded on a Reconnaissance. At this hour owing to a thick fog, Artillery was unable to satisfactorily select positions on East Bank of the Wadi Ghuzze, and was found to be situated as follows;

One Battery, 265th Brigade Royal Field Artillery - In the Wadi Bed about 2000 yards north west of Sheikh Nebhan.

Right Section, 10th Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery - In the Wadi Bed about 2000 yards north west of Sheikh Nebhan.

Two Batteries, 265th Brigade Royal Field Artillery reported in positions of observation on west slope of El Sire.

266th Brigade Royal Field Artillery at about 800 yards east of position of Right Section, 10th Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery.


0630 Divisional Artillery Headquarters moved to El Burjaliyn.

1030 Divisional Artillery Headquarters established at Mansura. Before this hour, the Infantry had arrived at the line Mansura - el Sheluf without opposition. No Artillery fire had therefore been required. The Commander Royal Artillery on his Reconnaissance had ridden up the Wadi Ghuzze and eventually found the 158th Infantry Brigade with the 266th Brigade Royal Field Artillery following in rear in vicinity of Mansura. He verbally ordered Officer Commanding 266th Brigade Royal Field Artillery to select nearest possible positions from which to cover the prospective further advance of the 160th Infantry Brigade, as it was then apparent that the Ali Muntar position was held in some force. He then rode across the Valley, to the 265th Brigade Royal Field Artillery and gave similar orders to that Brigade. Here he learnt from the Infantry Brigade that a Conference at Divisional Headquarters of Brigadiers was due to assemble, and that Divisional Headquarters had moved to El Burjaliye. He rode to El Burjaliye where he found no sign of Divisional Headquarters which he eventually discovered at Mansura. A Conference of Brigadiers then took place.

1155 On receipt of Divisional Operation Order No. 28 of 26 March 1917, all units ordered to support attack of the Infantry on the Ali Muntar position. At this hour the 265th Brigade Royal Field Artillery were in action n the valley between the El Sheluf - El Sire and Tel el Ahmar - El Adar Ridges and a little north of the second "E" in El Sire.

266th Brigade Royal Field Artillery in vicinity Mansura.

Right Section, 10th Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery at south west end of El Sheluf - El Sire Ridge.

Right Section, 91st Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery a little west of the Rafa - Gaza Telegraph Line.

Right Section, 15th Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery in the sand dunes about 1000 yards north of word "Tel" in Tel el Ajjul. 

53rd Division Ammunition Column by a series of short advances moved their original positions about 1000 yards south of the first "E" in El Breij to El Burjaliye.


Time did not admit of any detailed programme. All that could be done, was to trust to Information from the Forward Observation Officers to bombard whatever parts of the enemy's works were holding up the infantry's advance. Neither the full extent of the enemy's line nor his flanks had then been accurately located. There was no means of sending this Order to the 15th and 91st Heavy Batteries except by Orderly.

About Midday. An Ammunition Dump had been established at Sheikh Nebhan and partly manned by personnel of 53rd Division Ammunition Column. The attack was supported until dark by the 265th and 266th Brigade Royal Field Artillery from the position is stated above.

1545 271st Brigade Royal Field Artillery which had arrived and had been placed under the orders of the Commander Royal Artillery, 53rd Division, went into action in the open, in a position which had earlier in the day been reconnoitred by the Commander Royal Artillery at about 2000 yards east north east of Mansura, and supported the attack of 159th Infantry Brigade by fire on Hill north east of Ali Muntar position from which the enemy was enfilading the attack of the 159th Infantry Brigade.

1730 This Brigade came out of action and retired to a position a little south of El Burjaliye at dusk.

During the whole afternoon conflicting reports as to position of our Infantry were received. Owing to this fact and to the fact that the amount of Equipment available for a communication between Divisional Artillery Headquarters and units was altogether insufficient, and to there being no accurate map on a fairly large scale, it was very difficult to keep units informed of the situation.

The method of communication during the afternoon had bean as follows:

265th Brigade Royal Field Artillery, by Cable laid by Divisional Signal Company.

266th Brigade Royal Field Artillery. Verbally.

Right Section, 10th Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery - By Telephone line connecting Observation Post with Battery, the Observation Post being close to Divisional Artillery Headquarters.

Right Section, 15th Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery - By Despatch Riders.

Right Section, 91st Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery - By Despatch Riders.


2310 On receipt of orders from the Division for the readjustment of the line held by 53rd Division.


27 March 1917

0100 Orders were issues to 265th, 266th and 271st Brigades Royal Field Artillery to support the 160th, 161st and 159th Infantry Brigades respectively. The 15th and 91st Heavy Batteries, Royal Garrison Artillery, detailed for counter battery work.

0130 Notification sent to units that 53rd Division may be withdrawn over the Wadi Ghuzze. 266th Brigade Royal Field Artillery remained in positions occupied yesterday.

0720 "B" Battery, 271st Brigade Royal Field Artillery sent forward to occupy a position about 1,000 yards north west of Mansura to furnish closer support to our Infantry.

The tactical situation had greatly altered. The high ground about Sheikh Abbas which had been held by Mounted troops of the Desert Column was early in possession of the enemy affording them an Observation Post enabling then to bring Reverse, and oblique fire into the Mansura - El Sire Valley.

About 1730 265th Brigade Royal Field Artillery ordered is take up positions vicinity Tel el Ahmar to engage enemy advancing from east and north east.

1012 On orders from 53rd Division. "B" Battery, 271st Brigade Royal Field Artillery ordered to move to a position further to the rear in a south westerly direction.

1036 Orders to Field Brigades to cover front of our Infantry reported falling back.

1146 "B" Battery, 271st Brigade Royal Field Artillery ordered into action on El Sire Ridge.

The General Officer Commanding Division consulted the Commander Royal Artillery about withdrawing the 266th Brigade Royal Field Artillery to a less advanced position. The 266th Brigade Royal Field Artillery was strongly against withdrawal. The Brigade was allowed to remain. The 266th Brigade Royal Field Artillery was at this time about 200 yards in rear of the line held by the 159th Infantry Brigade on the right of the Division.

1200 Divisional Artillery Headquarters moved to neighbourhood of El Burjaliye.

1215 Telegram received from 265th Brigade Royal Field Artillery that they were advancing one 4.5 inch howitzer battery, and one l8 Pounder Battery in support of Imperial Camel Brigade to positions about 3 miles north of Tel el Jemmi.

1220 Message from 265th Brigade Royal Field Artillery that "A" Battery, 265th Brigade Royal Field Artillery was detailed to shell Ali Muntar. "B" and "C" Batteries supporting Imperial Camel Brigade.

1635 Message received from 91st Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery that 15th Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery had retired 2 or 3 miles west of the position of the 91st Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery.

At this hour positions of artillery were as follows:

265th Brigade Royal Field Artillery - 2 batteries about 3 miles north of Tel el Jemmi; 1 battery about 500 yards south east of first "E" in El Sire.

266th Brigade Royal Field Artillery - in original position.

271st Brigade Royal Field Artillery - north of El Burjaliye.

Right Section, 10th Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery - In original position.

Right Section, 91st Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery - In original position.


1700 "B" and "C" Batteries, 265th Brigade Royal Field Artillery withdrew to a position north of Sheikh Nebhan.

1755 On receipt of combined 53rd and 54th Divisional Operation Order ordering withdrawal of these Divisions across the Wadi Ghuzze, orders sent.

265th Brigade Royal Field Artillery

266th Brigade Royal Field Artillery

53rd Division Ammunition Column

Right Section, 10th Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery

Right Section, 91st Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery


To withdraw across the Wadi Ghuzze at 2100 to cover the retirement of the Infantry. In accordance with these orders units withdrew to the West Bank and bivouacked as follows:

265th Brigade Royal Field Artillery - in neighbourhood of Sheikh Rahid.

266th Brigade Royal Field Artillery - in neighbourhood of Sheikh Rahid.

53rd Division Ammunition Column - in neighbourhood of Sheikh Rahid.

Right Section, 10th Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery - in neighbourhood of Point 130, Deir el Belah.

Right Section, 91st Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery - in neighbourhood of Point 130, Deir el Belah.



28 March 1917

265th and 266th Brigades Royal Field Artillery took up positions to save the front occupied by the 53rd Division from the sea - high ground about Tel el Shabani Sheikh Rashid to the Rafa-Gaza Road.


29 March 1917

After adjustment at their positions, the Divisional Artillery is situated as follows:

265th Brigade Royal Field Artillery - in action about 500 yards west of Sheikh Rashid.

266th Brigade Royal Field Artillery - About 2,000 yards south of the word "El" in the Tel el Shabani.

Right Section, 10th Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery - at junction of tracks 1½ miles due south of the first "E" in El Breij.

Right Section, 91st Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery - About 2,000 yards south of the word "El" in the Tel el Shabani.

53rd Division Ammunition Column - About 800 yards north east of Point 130, I2.  

 

War Diaries

All War Diaries cited on this site should be read in conjunction with the Australian Light Horse Studies Centre, AIF War Diaries of the Great War, Site Transcription Policy which may be accessed at:

Australian Light Horse Studies Centre, AIF War Diaries of the Great War, Site Transcription Policy 

 

 

Further Reading:

The British Army

British Forces, EEF, Roll of Honour

The First Battle of Gaza, Palestine, 26 to 27 March 1917

The First Battle of Gaza, Palestine, 26 to 27 March 1917, Allied Forces, Roll of Honour

The Palestine Campaign, 1917 - 1918

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920

 


Citation: The First Battle of Gaza, Palestine, 26 to 27 March 1917, Commander Royal Artillery, 53rd Division Artillery War Diary Account


Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Tuesday, 8 March 2011 2:21 PM EAST

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