Topic: BatzP - 1st Gaza
The First Battle of Gaza
Palestine, 26 to 27 March 1917
Falls Account Part 6
Falls Account, Sketch Map 14.
The following is an extract of the Falls Account from the the Official British War History volumes on Egypt written by Falls, C.; and, MacMunn, G., Military operations: Egypt and Palestine, (London 1928), pp. 279 - 325 detailing the British role at the First Battle of Gaza, Palestine, 26 to 27 March 1917.
Falls, Chapter XVI The First Battle Of Gaza
The First Battle of Gaza.
The attack on Gaza by the mounted troops and the advance of relieving columns.
By noon General Chetwode had begun to fear that if the main infantry attack met with strong opposition it would be impossible for it to capture Gaza before nightfall. On the other hand, he had as yet received no reports from the air of the movement of relieving columns, while none of the mounted troops keeping the ring had been seriously engaged. He therefore considered that if necessary he might safely employ a portion of them to attack the town from east and north, as foreshadowed in his orders. He sent a message to Generals Chauvel and Hodgson to reconnoitre towards Gaza and to be prepared to despatch a brigade each to assist the infantry.Anzac Mounted Division.
Imperial Mounted Division.
WO 8 26th.
Both cavalry divisions will reconnoitre immediately with view to closing in on enemy at Gaza to assist infantry if ordered. One brigade only from each division will be employed, leaving two brigades to continue observation. No news by aeroplane of any enemy movement from any direction. Acknowledge.
Desert Column, 12.5. p.m.
Soon afterwards General Chetwode received information from the A. & N.Z. Mounted Division which tended to confirm his anxiety. An early prisoner's report had put the infantry garrison of Gaza at two battalions only; now a sergeant of Fourth Army Signals had stated that there were six. He therefore proposed to Sir C. Dobell that he should employ the A. & N.Z. Mounted Division in the attack and received the latter's consent. At 1 p.m. he placed General Chauvel in command of both divisions, ordered him to free his own division for the attack by moving the Imperial Mounted Division further north, and stated that he himself would replace the latter by the Camel Brigade.Anzac Mounted Division. 53rd Division. Imperial Mounted Division.
Column Commander considers it most desirable that mounted troops should press in on Gaza to assistance of infantry, which is on very extended front. General Chauvel is placed in command of both mounted divisions. The I.C. Bde. will be ordered to area Kh. er Reseim. General Chauvel should order Imperial Division move to the north about Kh. Kufiye [1 mile south of Beit Durdis] or Beit Durdis, to release the Anzac Division or attack on Gaza and sandhills from N.E. Aeroplanes report no enemy activity in Akra or Hureira areas. Report action taken. Addressed Anzac Mounted Division, repeated Imperial Mounted Division, 53rd Division.
Desert Column, 1 p.m.
This order, though sent by telegram, took precisely an hour to reach General Chauvel, who at once ordered the Imperial Mounted Division to move up to Beit Durdis and take over all the outposts of the Anzacs to east and northeast, these parties being directed to rejoin their own brigades as quickly as possible. These arrangements took time, and it was nearly 3 p.m. before General Chauvel had shifted his headquarters to a knoll between Beit Durdis and Gaza, whence he would have a view of the operations. He had already summoned his brigadiers to meet him at that point, and at 3.15 p.m. he issued his orders. The 2nd L.H. Brigade was to attack from the sea to the Gaza-Jebaliye road, the N.Z.M.R. Brigade from the road to the ridge north-east of Gaza, the 22nd Mounted Brigade thence to the track leading to Beit Durdis. The attack was to start at 4 p.m.
General Chauvel had acted, it is clear, with all possible expedition, but to General Chetwode, unaware how long his orders had taken to reach him, the eagerly desired news of his attack seemed to lag. At 3.50 p.m. he again telegraphed, impressing upon General Chauvel that the success of the operation depended largely upon the vigour of his attack and that it was imperative that the position should be in British hands before dusk. He also suggested that General Chauvel should withdraw a portion of the Imperial Mounted Division to assist his own division in the attack and added that he had ordered three batteries of armoured cars to support him. On receipt of his message General Chauvel asked General Hodgson for another brigade, and the latter detailed the 3rd L.H. Brigade (Br.-General J. R. Royston) for the purpose.
Hitherto the troops of the A. & N.Z. Mounted Division had seen little of the enemy in the vicinity of Gaza, though about noon a column of infantry passing through the suburbs had been caught by the machine guns of the 5th A.L.H., in position to the north-east. The Turkish garrison was, in fact, chiefly concerned with the main infantry attack from the south, and the advance of the mounted troops was not at first strongly opposed. The latter, aware of the need for haste, pressed in with dash. The 2nd L.H. Brigade, moving against the northern side of the town, was not seriously engaged until it reached the cactus hedges. Here it met with considerable resistance, and there was hard fighting in this enclosed area, Turks and Australians frequently firing at one another from a range of a few yards through the hedges. When dusk fell the brigade had reached the northern and western outskirts of Gaza. The N.Z.M.R. Brigade' advanced from the neighbourhood of Jebaliye against the east and north-east of the town. (Only three troops of the Auckland Regiment were available, the remainder of that regiment being still in observation towards Huj and Najd.) The Wellington Regiment captured two 77-mm. Krupp guns, pushed on with them to the outskirts of the town, and blew down at point-blank range several houses from which their advance was being disputed, taking prisoner twenty terrified and beplastered Turks. One squadron of the Canterbury Regiment swung south against Ali Muntar and entered the trenches just after the infantry of the 53rd Division. The 22nd Mounted Brigade (Br.-General F.A.B. Fryer) advanced at a gallop along the track from Beit Durdis to Gaza and had likewise reached its outskirts by dusk.
Meanwhile the long-expected advance of Turkish reinforcements had made itself felt. General Hodgson had issued orders at 2.20 p.m. for the move northward of the Imperial Mounted Division to take over the outposts of the A. & N.Z. Mounted Division. He intended that the 6th Mounted Brigade (Br.-General T. M. S. Pitt) should take up a position east of Beit Durdis and that the 5th (Br.General E. A. Wiggin), which was astride the Gaza-Beersheba road supporting its outposts in the Wadi el Baha, should fill the gap between it and the Camel Brigade, which had orders to move to Kh. er Reseim. Br.-General Wiggin, however, received with these orders instructions not to move until he was relieved, and there was a long delay in the arrival of the Camel Brigade, which did not receive Desert Column's message till some time later. The relief was not eventually completed until after 6.30 p.m., when the 5th Brigade moved about two miles further north and occupied a Turkish trench previously reconnoitred.
While the Berkshire Yeomanry of the 6th Mounted Brigade was relieving the A. & N.Z. Mounted Division's outposts east of Beit Durdis, a sudden Turkish attack from the direction of Jemmame drove in the posts on Hill 405, a mile and a half north of Beit Durdis. General Hodgson ordered the 6th Mounted Brigade, with the Berkshire Battery R.H.A., to advance and retake the hill. The brigade, had, however, just then found a small supply of water and was engaged in watering its horses. The resultant delay, slight though it was, enabled the Turks to occupy the crest of the hill at 5.15 p.m. General Hodgson had already asked General Chauvel for the return of the 3rd L.H. Brigade, which had moved westward in support of the A. & N.Z. Mounted Division. This brigade, less the 10th A.L.H., came back promptly, and Br.-General Royston, at once grasping the danger of the situation, occupied the hill north-west of Hill 405 and assisted the 6th Mounted Brigade to prevent any further advance of the enemy. The fire of the Notts and Berkshire Batteries took the Turks in enfilade and inflicted considerable loss. The latter battery was, however, caught by the concentrated fire of about three Turkish batteries and forced to withdraw. It was now, however, 6.30 p.m. and nearly dusk, and the enemy made no attempt to follow up his advantage. When General Hodgson discovered that he had for the moment lost touch with the 5th Mounted Brigade owing to the move of his divisional headquarters, he asked General Chauvel for the 10th A.L.H. to fill the gap between the left of the 6th Mounted Brigade and the Camel Brigade at Kh. er Reseim. This regiment succeeded in reaching its position in the growing darkness. The enemy advancing from the west were estimated at 3,000 infantry and two squadrons of cavalry. Three enemy columns were also reported to be moving South from the direction of Deir Sneid. A squadron of the 22nd Mounted Brigade and the 7th Light Car Patrol ~i-ere despatched to the assistance of the two squadrons 6th A.L.H. holding the main road to the north. The 11th and 12th Light Armoured Motor Batteries reported to Br.-General Royston and assisted the 3rd L.H. Brigade to hold the Turkish attack from Huj. The advance of the enemy, both from the north and from the east, was successfully checked and it does not appear that he made any further serious efforts till morning light.
Falls Account Line of March Picture.