Topic: AIF - DMC
The First Battle of Gaza
Palestine, 26 to 27 March 1917
Desert Column Order No. 25
Desert Column Order No. 25.
The following is a transcription of Desert Column Order No. 25 from the War Diary of the Desert Column detailing the battle plan for the First Battle of Gaza, Palestine, 26 to 27 March 1917.
Desert Column Order No. 25
by Lieutenant-General Sir PW Chetwode, Bt, CB, DSO
Commanding Desert Column.
Reference Maps Sheet RAFA 1/125,000
(See: Map segment of Gaza 1:125,000)
March 25th 1917.
1. The enemy, whose estimated strength is about 2,000 in holding GAZA from a position about ALI Muntar, round to the olive groves to the south and south-east of the town.
There are enemy forces at Hareira (10 miles south east), Tel el Sheria (14 miles), Khirbit el Akra, 2 miles north east of HUJ (11 miles), and Tel el Nejila, on the railway 8 miles east of HUJ (17 miles). All the above distances from Gaza unless otherwise stated.
2. The Desert Column, closely supported by the 54th Division, will attack the enemy at Gaza tomorrow.
3. The enemy's position will be attacked by the 53rd Division, assisted, if necessary, by a proportion of Cavalry.
4. The role of the Imperial Camel Corps and Cavalry is -(a) To prevent the escape of the Gaza garrison by surrounding them.
(b) To observe the enemy known to be in the direction of Huj, Hareira, etc.
(c) To attack these enemy detachments if they issue from their trenches and move to the relief of Gaza, and to co-operate with the 54th Division should the latter advance to attack them.
(d) To assist in the reduction of the Gaza garrison if the 53rd Division find difficulty in doing so.
(e) To pursue the enemy in the Huj or Hareira area if news be received that he is retiring either during, or after, the action at Gaza.
4. In order to carry out the above, the following moves will take place on the morning of the 26th March.(a) Mounted Troops.i. The Imperial Camel Corps Brigade will move so as to be ready to cross the Wadi at Tel el Jemmi at 5 am and take up a position of observation a short distance north east of El Mendur. Area of reconnoitring responsibility will be free - the Wadi Ghuzze (inclusive) to the Gaza - Saba main road, (exclusive)
ii. The Australian and New Zealand Mounted Division, closely followed by tho Imperial Mounted Division, will move round the rear of the 54th Division who are about IN SEIRAT, and be ready to cross the Wadi by their previously reconnoitred routes at 5 am.
iii. The leading division will move rapidly to the neighbourhood of Beit Durdis, where it will take up a position of observation, detaching sufficient troops to surround Gaza completely from Beit Durdis, through Jeballye, to the sea. Area of reconnoitring responsibility will be from - Huj inclusive by Nejed, to Deir Sineid (inclusive).
iv. The other Mounted Division, (less detachment mentioned in paragraph 4.b, below) will move to the neighbourhood of Khirbit el Reseim, 4 miles south east Ali Muntar, and take up a position of observation.
Area of reconnoitring responsibility will be Gaza - Saba main road (inclusive) to Huj, (exclusive).
v. It is important for the cavalry to reach these positions as soon as possible, and if the ground is difficult their guns must follow as best they can and join than later.
The mounted formations will remain as concentrated as possible and make only such detachments as are necessary for the above.
(b) 53rd Division.
The 53rd Division, with 1 Regiment (less 1 Squadron) Imperial Mounted Division will be in position to throw a strong bridgehead across the wadi by 5 a.m. in the neighbourhood of El Breij and seize the high ground Mansura - El Sheluf, and will attack Ali Muntar as soon as General Officer Commanding can complete his reconnaissance, registration, and other arrangements.(a) 54th Division have instructions to follow the cavalry across the Wadi and take up a position of readiness about Sheikh Abbas.
(b) No. 11 Light Armoured Motor Battery and No.7 Light Car Patrol will follow the Imperial Camel Corps and endeavour to reach the neighbourhood of El Reseim, remaining on the Gaza - Saba main road.
5. Ammunition.(a) Wheeled Echelon of Divisional Ammunition Column will accompany the guns.
(b) The Camel echelons of the Mounted Divisional Ammunition via Tel el Jemmi and El Mendur Columns will follow the Imperial Camel Brigade on the morning of the 26th to rejoin their Division, guides being sent back to load them up.
(c) On arrival at Sheikh Abbas the 54th Division will dump ¾ of its ammunition and the empty camels will proceed to the west bank of the Wadi el Ghuzze at Sheikh Nebhan to refill from a dump which will be formed there by 52nd Divisional Ammunition Column.
(d) The Divisional Ammunition Column of 60-pdr Sections attached to 53rd Division, will move in accordance with instructions given by General Officer Commanding, 53rd Division.
(e) The Divisional Ammunition Column of 53rd Division and Imperial Camel Brigade will accompany their formations under divisional or Brigade arrangements.
The 53rd Division will form a dressing station at Deir el Belah immediately after the departure of tho troops and a collecting station at the Wadi crossing on the Rafa - Gaza Road.
Dressing stations will be formed by Mounted Divisions and Imperial Camel Brigades at the following places –(a) Anzac Mounted Division on Gaza - El Falujeh road somewhere west of Beit Hanun.
(b) Imperial Mounted Division on main Gaza - Saba road west of Khirbit er Reseim.
(c) Imperial Camel Brigade about the same spot as Imperial Mounted Division.
A convoy of motor ambulances under the Deputy Director Medical Services will work from the 53rd Division collecting station to the Deir el Belah and westwards from the commencement of the action.
When GAZA is in our possession, motor ambulance will than work through the town to tho Dressing Stations of Mounted troops and thence to an improvised Casualty Clearing Station which will be established in the town itself.
"B" Wheeled Echelon of Divisions will remain at Deir el Belah on the departure of the troops and will be ordered up later, under Divisional arrangements, as required.
8. 1st Line Transport.
Commanders will arrange that such portions of 1st Line Transport as are not actually required for fighting purposes, shall move in rear of the fighting troops of their own Divisions.
9. Water Development.
The 53rd and 54th Divisions will arrange to have water developed in the Wadi as soon as possible after the passage of the fighting troops; the 53rd Division, north of El Breij; the 54th Division south of it.
10. Desert Column Headquarters will follow the second Mounted Division and will be established about Sheikh Abbas Point 325.
Column Signals will keep touch with Divisions by cable as far as possible. Cable wagons will accompany each Division laying lines from Deir el Belah. These will be diverted into Battle Headquarters when this moves to Sheikh Abbas.
By this means communications will be maintained between Divisions and Column Headquarters while on the move.
Divisions will establish visual communication with Sheikh Abbas as early as possible. Till then in the event of failure of the cable a visual station on Hill 310 will transmit messages from Divisions to Column Headquarters while on the march.
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