Topic: AIF - DMC - British
The First Battle of Gaza
Palestine, 26 to 27 March 1917
Headquarters 163rd Infantry Brigade, 54th Division War Diary Account
Headquarters 163rd Infantry Brigade, 54th Division War Diary Account.
The following is a transcription of the Account from the War Diary of the Headquarters 163rd Infantry Brigade, 54th Division detailing its role at the First Battle of Gaza, Palestine, 26 to 27 March 1917.
Extracts from War Diary of Headquarters 163rd Infantry Brigade, 54th Division War Diary Account
Brigade General Commander Brigadier General A Mudge.
25 March 1917
The troops under:-1/4th Norfolk Regiment;1/5th Norfolk Regiment;1/5th Suffolk Regiment;1/8th Hampshire Regiment;163rd Brigade Machine-Gun Company;495th (Kent) Field Company Engineers, Royal Engineers; and,1/2nd East Anglian Field Ambulance.
marched at 0400 from Rafa to Beni Sela and were concealed during day in orchards and enclosures until 1600 when the march was resumed, and In Seirat reached about 2100.
26 March 1917
The Brigade turned out at 0500 to march to Sheikh Abbas but owing to fog its route was barred for 1½ hours by the mounted divisions, and the position at Sheikh Abbas, ordered to be taken up by the 54th Division to protect right of 53rd Division from attack from north and south east during the operations against Gaza was not reached until 1100. The 163rd Infantry Brigade was allotted a front from the first "B" in Abbas to well at El Meshreve and this was held by 1/5th Suffolk Regiment on the right and 1/8th Hampshire Regiment on left, the line being extended southwards by the 162nd Brigade. Both battalions of the 163rd Infantry Brigade dug trenches, but were not in any way involved that day in the attack on Gaza.
At dusk (1900) orders were received to take over front held by 162nd Infantry Brigade and to cover retirement of the 54th Division to Mansura. The re-arrangement of the outpost line in the dark and subsequent withdrawal to Mansura, were eventually effected, the Brigade being again concentrated (at Mansura) by 0400 27th.
27 March 1917
On this day the Brigade was ordered to cooperate in the attack of the 53rd Division on Gaza by prolonging the front of that division south by west through the "N" of Mansura, the 1/4th Norfolk Regiment and the 1/5th Norfolk Regiment being the Battalions used in the front line. During the morning the low ground west of the line held was searched by enemy shrapnel from south of Sheikh Abbas, and the 1/5th Suffolk Regiment in support trenches suffered some casualties. About 1700 some casualties also occurred to the 1/4th and 1/5th Norfolk Regiments (in front line) from shrapnel fire from the vicinity of Ali Muntar or further westwards. From 1600 onwards enemy reinforcements were seen approaching Gaza from the east, and at 1800 there were clear indications that the enemy was collecting troops south west of Ali Muntar for an attack in force (feigned or real) on the line occupied by the 53rd and 54th Divisions. This attack was commenced at dusk, but appeared to be broken up and stopped by well directed rifle and Machine Gun fire from our whole line, strongly supported by the 270th Brigade Royal Field Artillery from its positions west of Mansura. Simultaneously with the commencement of this attack orders were received to cover the withdrawal of the 54th Division to the western bank of the Wadi el Ghuzze and to maintain touch with the 158th Infantry Brigade which was similarly engaged for the 53rd Division.
The Brigade water and supply camels which had been waiting for failing light to cross the low ground west of Mansura without attracting artillery fire had in the meantime been brought up, and every man got a drink and some bully beef and biscuit.
The simultaneous withdrawal of the 158th and 163rd Infantry Brigades being ordered to commence at 2200, the 163rd Infantry Brigade column heading for Sheikh Nebhan (double column of route to reduce risk of straggling) was gradually formed of such men as could be spared, driblets from the firing line joined in rear, and by 2215 the last man having been withdrawn, the column moved towards Sheikh Nebhan. The Brigade reached the vicinity of the Wadi about 0100 on the 28th was met by a Staff Officer 54th Division and informed that the crossing of the remainder of the Division had not been completed.
A long halt ensued during which the protective measures adopted during the retirement were slightly modified and the Brigade reached its old camp at In Seirat at 0545. During the halt a company each from the 1/4th and 1/5th Norfolk Regiments undertook the carrying of stretcher cases across the Wadi and a mile up the hill to the Ambulances waiting to receive them.
The casualties of the Brigade are as follows:-
Killed Officers Killed Other Ranks Wounded Officers Wounded Other Ranks Missing Officers Missing Other Ranks 1/4th Norfolk Regiment 0 2 0 7 0 0 1/5th Norfolk Regiment 0 0 1 2 0 0 1/5th Suffolk Regiment 0 3 1 23 0 0 1/8th Hampshire Regiment 0 0 0 0 0 2 163rd Brigade Machine-Gun Company 0 1 1 2 0 0
The following Turkish Prisoners of War were captured:-
By 1/4th Norfolk Regiment, One, sent to Headquarters, 54th Division.By 1/8th Hampshire Regiment, One, sent to Assistant Provost Marshall, 54th Division.
28 March 1917
Brigade in camp at In Seirat. 1/8th Hampshire Regiment took over outpost line from Hill 310 (J.3.9 + 7) exclusive to Hill 210 (K.2. ½ + 3) inclusive. This line is continued on the right by the 162nd Infantry Brigade and on the left by the 53rd Division.
Two Turkish Prisoners were taken by the 1/8th Hampshire Regiment. Several Bedouins in the vicinity of the outpost line were rounded up and sent to Assistant Provost Marshall, 54th Division. Enemy patrols were seen on the high ground in the vicinity of El sire and El Burjabiya.
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