Topic: BatzP - 1st Gaza
The First Battle of Gaza
Palestine, 26 to 27 March 1917
Falls Account Part 13
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 Battle from German and Turkish Sources.
The chief authority for the events of the First Battle of Gaza on the enemy side is the account by Kress in “Sinai" (i. pp. 26-9).
During the early part of March Gaza had been held by a weak detachment of two battalions and two batteries. The 16th Division was at Tell esh Sheria, on the railway, 15 miles as the crow flies south-east of Gaza. The 3rd Division was in reserve at Jemmame, 11½ miles almost due east of Gaza. Beersheba was occupied by a cavalry brigade and a weak regiment of the Arab 27th Division.
In the second half of March Kress gathered from the excellent reports of his 300th Flight Detachment that the British intended to make their attack in the direction of Gaza. He acted at once. Gaza was strengthened by a regiment of the 16th Division and other infantry, also by Austro1-iungarian howitzers and a German battery. Its total garrison, according to Liman von Sanders, who goes into more detail than Kress with regard to the infantry, consisted of the 79th and 125th Regiments, and 2nd Battalion 81st Regiment (a total of seven battalions), the two Austrian howitzer batteries (12 heavy mountain howitzers) and the German 10-cm. battery (2 long guns), from Pasha I; together with the original two Turkish field artillery batteries. (These details are confirmed by the Historical Section, Turkish General Staff, which states that there were also in Gaza a squadron of cavalry and a company of camelry.) The 53rd Division, which Djemal had held up near Jaffa in fear of a British landing, was ordered to march down the coast towards Gaza. Kress himself shifted his command post from Beersheba to Tell esh Sheria to be nearer the scene of action.
At about 8 a.m. (Cairo time) the German commander received at Tell esh Sheria a report from one of his flying officers to the effect that strong British forces, amounting to about two infantry divisions, were advancing from the south on Gaza, and that a great force of cavalry, " some three cavalry divisions," with numerous armoured cars, had burst through between Gaza and Tell esh Sheria. Telephone communication broke down, but for a time there was communication by wireless with the town. The commandant, Major Tiller, reported later that he was being attacked in great strength from south, east, and north-east. Kress ordered him to hold Gaza, whatever might happen, to the last man.
A regiment of the 53rd Division, he records, moving down from Jaffa, was due at El Majdal (which is 13 miles north-east of Gaza along the coast) that day. (The second regiment was apparently at Ramle.) He ordered it to continue its march on Gaza after a short rest, but he could not count upon its reaching that point before the morning of the 27th. To the troops nearer at hand he at once sent orders to move. The 3rd Division, in the Jemmame area, was to advance on the line Gaza-All Muntar. The 16th Division was directed against the British rear, with the point where the Khan Yunis-Gaza road crossed the Wadi Ghazze for its objective. Both divisions were to attack the enemy directly they came in touch with him. Meanwhile the Beersheba Group was to advance by way of Shellal in the direction of Khan Yunis. (It will be noticed that the issue of these orders justified General Dobell's anxiety for his right and his mounted troops.)
The German commander hoped that the troops of the 3rd and 16th Divisions would be in action close to Gaza before the fall of darkness. Apparently, however, the alarm was late in reaching them, and there were delays which Liman von Sanders calls "typically Turkish" before they were on the move. Then the British mounted troops and armoured cars succeeded in checking them. By nightfall, Kress states, the Turks had covered scarcely half the distance to Gaza. Liman adds that they had not made their presence seriously felt. Kress, having regard to the state of their training and to some mixing up of units in action against the British cavalry, felt that he could not order them to continue their advance that night. He sent orders, however, that it was to be resumed at dawn with the original objectives.
After the British retirement Kress was inclined to pass to the offensive, but was forbidden to do so by Djemal, He admits that the commander of the Fourth Army was correct in his decision.
The enemy's casualties are given in full by the Historical Section of the Turkish General Staff as follows:
KILLED WOUNDED MISSING TOTAL Germans and Austrians Turks Germans and Austrians Turks Germans and Austrians Turks Officers 2 10 2 12 4 26 56 Other Ranks 5 284 7 1,064 37 994 2,391 Grand Total 2,447
The commander of the Austro-Hungarian artillery detachment, Hauptmann Ritter von Truzschewski, was among the killed.