Topic: BatzP - 1st Gaza
The First Battle of Gaza
Palestine, 26 to 27 March 1917
Falls Account Part 10
Falls Account, Sketch Map 15.
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.
Chapter XVII The First Battle of Gaza (Continued).
The First Battle of Gaza.
The Reoccupation of Ali Muntar and Turkish Counter-Attacks.
It was not till 5 a.m. on the 27th that General Chetwode realized that the whole position had been abandoned.
General Dallas states that he had explained on the telephone the full extent of his withdrawal to General Chetwode; the latter states that he did not understand his subordinate to mean that he was abandoning anything like so much ground. In any case the responsibility rests upon Desert Column Headquarters, since General Dallas had telegraphed to it the line he was taking up.
He then issued orders that patrols of the 53rd Division and of Money's Detachment should advance and discover whether the Turks had reoccupied it.O.C. Cav. Regt., Imp. Mtd. Div., att'd. 53rd Divn.;
A.P. 22. 27th.Push patrols forward at once and ascertain situation west and north of Gaza. Open your helio and get touch with Eastforce H.Q., Hill 310. 5.36 a.m.Des. Col.
General Dallas then ordered the 160th and 161st Brigades to push forward strong patrols to the positions of the previous evening and to support them if they were able to reoccupy the line. It was a severe test, moral and physical, for troops who had been without rest (except for what they got on the ridges while awaiting the launching of the attack) for over thirty-six hours, who had gallantly captured the position and then been withdrawn from it. But Ali Muntar and Green Hill were both found to be unoccupied. One company of the 7/Essex, 161st Brigade, reoccupied Ali Muntar and two companies of the same battalion Green Hill. On the front of the 160th Brigade, after the 2/10th Middlesex had pushed forward patrols beyond Sheluf, the 2/4th Queen's was ordered by Br.-General Butler to advance and gain touch with the 161st Brigade. But while this battalion was moving up in artillery formation, it saw the patrols of the 161st Brigade to the north-east falling back. The 1/Hereford of the 158th Brigade had been ordered to reoccupy that brigade's old position, but some delay occurred, as this battalion was then refilling water-bottles and replenishing ammunition from the regimental transport, which had just come up the valley between the Es Sire and Burjabye Ridges. The Herefordshire was, however, also advancing when the companies of the 161st Brigade were seen falling back.
Br.-General Dodington, commanding the 161st Brigade, had expected Turkish counter-attacks after dawn, and his anticipations were soon fulfilled. The first was not heavy, though it caused the momentary loss of Ali Muntar and a portion of Green Hill. But before the 6/Essex, sent forward by Br.-General Dodington, came into action, the 7/Essex had re-established itself upon the positions, which were consolidated as well as circumstances permitted: Meanwhile, a further Turkish force-that which had attacked the 3rd L.H. Brigade in its retirement-had appeared on Sheikh Abbas and was shelling the rear of General Dallas's position, including his reserves, medical units and transport camels. Yet, though bodies of the enemy passed down into the ravines running west of the crest, no serious attack was made upon the 54th Division in its new position on the Burjabye Ridge.
At 8 a.m. Eastern Force had sent General Dallas a message to the effect that he was to come directly under its orders. At 9.15 his appreciation of the position was received by General Dobell. He stated that, if the present positions of the 53rd and 54th Divisions were to be maintained, it was necessary that the enemy should be driven off Sheikh Abbas and especially that the artillery harassing his rear should be driven out of action by a counter-attack. He suggested that this counter-attack should be made by mounted troops, as a deliberate advance by the 52nd Division might be too slow.
General Dobell had already warned the 52nd Division at In Seirat to be prepared to make a counter-attack eastward, its left on the right of the 54th Division, but before he had decided whether or not it was advisable to carry out this operation a further heavy blow fell upon the 53rd Division. A strong Turkish attack, launched at 9.30 a.m., quickly recaptured Ali Muntar, its garrison suffering serious losses and falling back to Green Hill. The latter was almost surrounded and the situation of the two Essex battalions appeared for a time to be critical, but eventually they extricated themselves. General Dallas then reorganized the line to eliminate the acute salient south of Ali Muntar, drawing it back to a point half-way between that hill and Sheluf.
Falls Account Line of March Picture.