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"At a mile distant their thousand hooves were stuttering thunder, coming at a rate that frightened a man - they were an awe inspiring sight, galloping through the red haze - knee to knee and horse to horse - the dying sun glinting on bayonet points..." Trooper Ion Idriess

The Australian Light Horse Studies Centre aims to present an accurate history as chroniclers of early Australian military developments from 1899 to 1920.

The Australian Light Horse Studies Centre site holds over 12,000 entries and is growing daily.

Contact: Australian Light Horse Studies Centre

Let us hear your story: You can tell your story, make a comment or ask for help on our Australian Light Horse Studies Centre Forum called:

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WARNING: This site contains: names, information and images of deceased people; and, language which may be considered inappropriate today.

Thursday, 27 March 2008
Gallipoli Campaign - 1915-16, 2nd Field Company, Australian Engineers, AIF, Roll of Honour
Topic: BatzG - Anzac

Gallipoli Campaign - 1915-16

2nd Field Company, Australian Engineers

AIF

Roll of Honour

 

Poppies on the Roll of Honour, Australian War Memorial, Canberra

 

The Roll of Honour contains the names of all the men from the 2nd Field Company, Australian Engineers who gave their lives during the Gallipoli Campaign - 1915 - 1916.

 

Roll of Honour

 

503 Sapper Robert Felix BASS, Killed in action, 31 August 1915.

182 Sapper Harold Evelyn BAXTER, Killed in action, 3 June 1915.

 

Lieutenant William Henry DAWKINS, Killed in action, 20 May 1915.

 

155 Sergeant Herbert Fred HILLIER, Killed in action, 12 June 1915.

 

77 Sapper Frederick KENNEDY, Died of wounds, 25 May 1915.

 

120 Lance Corporal Percy James LOBB, Died of wounds, 19 August 1915.

 

244 Sapper Lewis MATTHEWS, Killed in action, 18 May 1915.

404 Sapper Donald McKAY, Killed in action, 7 August 1915.

 

Second Lieutenant John Morton PLAYNE, Killed in action, 7 August 1915.

 

178 Sapper Albert Edward RENSHAW, Died of wounds, 26 April 1915.

204 Sapper Edward Albert George ROGASCH, Killed in action, 5 July 1915.

 

102 Sapper Charles SPENCE, Killed in action, 6 August 1915.

402 Sapper Bernard Samuel Robinson STARKEY, Killed in action, 7 August 1915.

 

129 Sapper William WEEKES, Died of wounds, 30 June 1915.

207 Sapper James WEST, Died of wounds, 28 May 1915.

 

Lest We Forget

 

 

Sources Used:

National Archives Service File.

Embarkation Rolls, AWM8.

Nominal Roll, AWM133, Nominal Roll of Australian Imperial Force who left Australia for service abroad, 1914-1918 War.

AWM Roll of Honour

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

 

Finding more about a service person.

See: Navigating the National Archives Service File 

 

Further Reading:

Gallipoli Campaign - 1915-16

Gallipoli Campaign - 1915-16, Unit Casualties, AIF, Roll of Honour

Light Horse Battles

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920



Citation: Gallipoli Campaign - 1915-16, 2nd Field Company, Australian Engineers, AIF, Roll of Honour

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Wednesday, 27 July 2011 11:41 AM EADT
9th LHR AIF War Diary, 27 March
Topic: AIF - 3B - 9 LHR

9th LHR, AIF

9th Light Horse Regiment

War Diary, 27 March

Pro Gloria et Honore - For Glory and Honour

Regimental March -  Marching Through Georgia

 

 

The following entries are extracted and transcribed from the 9th Light Horse Regiment War Diary, the originals of which are held by the Australian War Memorial. There are 366 entries on this site. Each day has entries as they occurred from 1914 to 1919. In addition to the 9th Light Horse Regiment War Diary, when appropriate, entries from the 3rd Light Horse Brigade War Diary and other regiments with the Brigade will also appear. Entries from the unit history, Darley, TH, With the Ninth Light Horse in the Great War, Adelaide, Hassell Press, 1924 will also appear from time to time. The aim is to give the broadest context to the story and allow the reader to follow the day to day activities of the regiment. If a relative happened to have served in the regiment during the Great War, then this provides a general framework in which the individual story may be told.

 

The Diary

 

1914

Friday, March 27, 1914

See 4th Military District, South Australia for militia activities.

 

1915

Saturday, March 27, 1915

9th Light Horse Regiment Location - Mena Camp, Egypt.

9th Light Horse Regiment War Diary -  No entry.

Carew Reynell Diary - No entry.

 

1916

Monday, March 27, 1916

9th Light Horse Regiment Location - Serapeum, Egypt.

9th Light Horse Regiment War Diary - No entry.

 

1917

Tuesday, March 27, 1917

First Battle of Gaza

9th Light Horse Regiment Location - NE of Gaza.
9th Light Horse Regiment War Diary - At 0200 word was received from Brigade Headquarters to withdraw after the 8th Light Horse Regiment.
At 0230 the 8th Light Horse Regiment had completed withdrawing and about 0300 the Regiment withdrew and acted as rearguard to the column which moved off at 0330 without hindrance from the enemy. Moved east of Gaza to Wadi Ghuzze.
At dawn the Turks who had moved their flank around during the night attacked the rear guard and flank but were held off by Yeomanry on the flank and C Squadron working in association with the Armoured Car Detachment. The rear of the column was also shelled from a high ridge over to the east. But with the exception of two horses wounded no casualties were sustained. During the rearguard action C Squadron had two Other Ranks wounded.
The Wadi Ghuzze was crossed at 1700 and horses were watered at the large water hole north of Deir el Belah where the Brigade bivouacked.
At 1600 the Division moved to the vicinity of point 320 near the east of Goz el Taire and bivouacked for the night.
 
Darley, TH, With the Ninth Light Horse in the Great War, Adelaide, Hassell Press, 1924, pp 78 - 80.
First Battle of Gaza
Two Divisions of British Infantry had been brought forward to assist in the big task, viz., the 52nd and 53rd British Divisions, together with their Artillery. Some heavy batteries had also been brought forward and made a welcome addition to our force which now numbered close on 70,000 of all arms.
As far as could be gathered from the available information it was intended to capture Gaza by a frontal attack to be delivered by the Infantry, whilst the mounted troops and Imperial Camel Corps swung round to the left and attacked in the rear, thus cutting the enemy communications.
At dawn on the 26th March 1917, the whole country was enveloped in a thick fog, the first experienced, which made it impossible to see for any distance, and the recognition of landmarks became impossible. In spite of this, the mounted troops moved off at the allotted time, crossing the Wadi Ghuzze at Sheikh Nebhan and moving through Sheikh Abbas to the vicinity of Khirbit Sihan.
A position was taken up at this point to prevent enemy reinforcements moving up from Hareira, which lies about ten miles south east of Gaza, on the Beersheba road. The fog, which might have been turned to our advantage, as the attacking Infantry could, under its cover, have advanced right up to the outskirts of Gaza and Ali Muntar, proved the reverse, as when it lifted the Infantry were found to be far in rear of their positions. An enemy aeroplane could be heard buzzing overhead waiting for the fog to lift. When this happened it flew over the surrounding country, the pilot firing smoke signals over each body of troops, thus giving the range to their gunners.
About 9 a.m. the sun was shining brilliantly, and some distance ahead the Anzac Mounted Division could be seen moving in a north-easterly direction, disappearing a little later behind the Mansura ridge. The Anzacs were to hold the line from Huj to the sea, and the Imperial Camel Corps from our left to the Wadi Ghuzze. Clouds of light dust could be seen in the direction of Beersheba, and it was evident that enemy cavalry were moving to the assistance of their comrades at Gaza.
The Brigade halted on the Mansura Ridge, near Tel el Ahmar at 10 a.m. and awaited orders. News was received that the Anzacs had succeeded in completely isolating Gaza, and that they had captured the commander of the 53rd Turkish Division, together with his staff officers and escort, as he was entering the town to direct operations.
The booming of heavy guns was heard and high explosive shells began to fall on a ridge half a mile south of the Brigade. These were evidently fired from Abu Hareira, and although the fire was kept up for some hours it is doubtful whether they caused a single casualty. As there were a number of wells in the vicinity the opportunity was taken to water the horses after which they were given a small feed, and the men snatched a hasty meal.
At about 3.30 p.m. the Brigade received orders to move rapidly to a position near Australia Hill. As the Brigade up to this time had taken no part in the fight everyone was delighted at the prospect of doing his share. Moving at a fast trot the Brigade reached Anzac Ridge, now the Headquarters of the Anzac Mounted Division, and here orders were given to the Brigadier that the 3rd Light Horse Brigade was to intercept and hold off the large enemy reinforcements, consisting of about 4,000 infantry and 2,000 cavalry, which had been reported as advancing from the direction of Huj.
The 10th Light Horse Regiment were detached to act as a reserve, and the remainder of the Brigade galloped out and occupied a chain of small hills about two miles east of Gaza, completely blocking the path of the enemy reinforcements which were advancing in various columns at a distance of about two miles. The Regiment took the right of the Brigade line, and gained touch with the Berkshire Yeomanry who was on our right.
This new force of the enemy which had to be dealt with had evidently been marching for some hours as their rate of march was below normal and they appeared tired. As soon as they came within 2,000 yards the Brigade opened fire, and the Notts Battery, which had pushed well forward, opened a heavy shrapnel fire, which appeared to be well on the target.
At 5 p.m. the Yeomanry on our right were heavily engaged and our line was pushed well forward and strengthened by some armoured cars and a portion of the 8th Light Horse Regiment. As this new move threatened the enemy's flank they were obliged to fall back slightly. As darkness approached our line was shortened and an outpost line taken up.
During these movements the Infantry had delivered their assault against the formidable Ali Muntar, and in spite of heavy casualties had succeeded in taking a number of the outer works, but could not drive the stubborn Turks from the main position. The British Infantry made a splendid show as they advanced by waves in the face of a withering rifle and machine gun fire, their movements being as orderly as if on a peace parade.
Much to the surprise and disgust of all ranks, orders were received to the effect that the whole force would retire during the night to the Wadi Ghuzze. It was the first time our force had received such orders, and everyone wondered at the cause, some doubting the genuineness, but as they were verified shortly afterwards it was realized by all that there must be some good and sufficient reason for them.
The 3rd Light Horse Brigade was to cover the retirement, and remained in position until 2 a.m., at which time the 8th Light Horse Regiment were ordered to withdraw. At 3 a.m. the Regiment withdrew, acting as rearguard to the whole force, and moving round to the east and south of the defences made for the Wadi Ghuzze.
The Turks during the night had sent large reinforcements from Tel el Sheria, and when in the vicinity of Khirbit Sihan our flank guards got into touch with them. C Squadron, in conjunction with the armoured cars, formed the rear and flank guards, and from this point to the Wadi fought a continuous rearguard action, doing splendid work in checking the enemy's advance, and allowing the whole column to pass in safety over the Wadi.
The enemy now opened a continuous shell fire from the south, and the Regiment altered its formation to columns of sections, moving in echelon, and by continually altering the pace and direction succeeded in completing the retirement with only two casualties, two horses being wounded. The Wadi was crossed at 7 a.m. and the Regiment proceeded to Deir el Belah, a distance of four miles, where the horses were watered, the Regiment then moving to Goz el Taire, where it bivouacked.
It was now learned that the Infantry had been severely mauled during the attack, their casualties against Ali Muntar alone being, roughly, 3,000. The fact that Gaza had not fallen was not due to any lack of vigour or fighting efficiency on the part of any of the troops, but was considered to be due to the heavy fog which delayed the assault for so many hours.
 

1918

Wednesday, March 27, 1918

9th Light Horse Regiment Location - Deir el Belah

9th Light Horse Regiment War Diary - Elementary signalling classes, Hotchkiss Rifle practice and salvaging carried out.

 

1919

Thursday, March 27, 1919
9th Light Horse Regiment Location - Zagazig
9th Light Horse Regiment War Diary - Usual routine.

 


Previous: 9th LHR AIF War Diary, 26 March

Next: 9th LHR AIF War Diary, 28 March

 

Sources:

See: 9th Australian Light Horse Regiment, Contents
Australian Light Horse Studies Centre, AIF War Diaries of the Great War, Site Transcription Policy

 

Further Reading:

9th Light Horse Regiment AIF

Bert Schramm Diary

9th Australian Light Horse Regiment, Roll of Honour 

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920

 


Citation: 9th LHR AIF War Diary, 27 March

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Monday, 19 July 2010 12:02 PM EADT
Gallipoli Campaign - 1915-16, 17th Infantry Battalion, AIF, Roll of Honour
Topic: BatzG - Gallipoli

Gallipoli Campaign - 1915-16

17th Infantry Battalion

AIF

Roll of Honour

 

Poppies on the Roll of Honour, Australian War Memorial, Canberra

 

The Roll of Honour contains the names of all the men from the 17th Infantry Battalion known to have given their lives during the Gallipoli Campaign - 1915 - 1916.

 

Roll of Honour

 

412 Private James Ellaby ABBOTT, Killed in action, 27 August 1915.

801 Private Sidney Torrington ALLEN, Killed in action, 7 December 1915.

428 Private John ANDREW, Died of wounds, 9 November 1915.

 

499 Private Frederick Stanley BARLING, Killed in action, 13 October 1915.

1817 Private Julius Sydney BLOOM, Killed in action, 5 November 1915.

161 Private John Montague BOWMAKER, Died of wounds, 22 September 1915.

166 Private Alfred Benjamin BROWNE, Killed in action, 27 August 1915.

 

1525 Private George Charles CHAPLIN, Killed in action, 27 August 1915.

1527 Private Morrice CHAPMAN, Killed in action, 27 August 1915.

855 Private Frank CHARLES, Killed in action, 3 November 1915.

183 Private James CHRISTOPHER, Killed in action, 27 August 1915.

1175 Private Frederick George CUDDEFORD, Died of wounds, 16 September 1915.

 

1617 Private Wilfred Bartell DIDCOTE, Killed in action, 27 August 1915.

195 Lance Corporal Francis William DILLON, Killed in action, 28 August 1915.

1055 Private James DONOVAN, Died of wounds, 26 August 1915.

 

369 Private John Raymond EGAN, Died of wounds, 4 September 1915.

1190 Private Frederick EWING, Died of wounds, 11 November 1915.

 

882 Private Edward FOGARTY, Killed in action, 3 November 1915.

214 Private Charles Upton FULLER, Died of wounds, 30 August 1915.

1354 Private Alfred John FURLESS, Killed in action, 1 September 1915.

 

554 Private John GALLOWAY, Died of Disease, 4 October 1915.

220 Private Charles GAVIN, Killed in action, 27 August 1915.

 

Second Lieutenant France GOMBERT, Killed in action, 28 August 1915.

260 Private John GRIMES, Killed in action, 27 August 1915.

 

371 Private Tom HALL, Killed in action, 27 August 1915.

1690 Private Albert Edward HENDERSON, Died of wounds, 29 November 1915.

1706 Private Harold Ellis HERMAN, Died of wounds, 20 November 1915.

230 Private James HOUGH, Killed in action, 27 August 1915.

767 Private James HUDSON, Killed in action, 28 August 1915.

910 Private Thomas Owen HUMPHREYS, Died of wounds, 25 September 1915.

 

1374 Private William Royal JAMES, Killed in action, 1 October 1915.

1711 Private George Blatchford Fay JOHNSON, Killed in action, 1 November 1915.

 

249 Private Joseph KAVANAGH, Killed in action, 27 August 1915.

251 Private Ernest KIDD, Killed in action, 27 August 1915.

373 Private Charles Wesley KING, Killed in action, 27 August 1915.

 

254 Private James LAING, Died of wounds, 30 August 1915.

263 Private James LOGAN, Killed in action, 27 August 1915.

1366 Sergeant Bertrand Evelyn LUFFMAN, Died of wounds, 27 August 1915.

1801 Private Thomas Henry LYONS, Died of wounds, 3 October 1915.

 

946 Private John Augustine MacDONALD, Killed in action, 29 August 1915.

616 Private Alexander Cameron MACKAY, Died of Disease, 17 November 1915.

1246 Private Michael MAHER, Died of wounds, 30 November 1915.

269 Private Thomas Edward MARTIN, Died of wounds, 21 August 1915.

288 Private Stephen McCARTHY, Killed in action, 27 August 1915.

1056 Private John McENALLY, Killed in Action, 24 August 1915.

613 Private Donald Alexander McLEAY, Killed in action, 1 November 1915.

294 Private William McNAIR, Killed in action, 27 August 1915.

1615 Private Edward McTAGUE, Killed in action, 4 September 1915.

624 Private William Herbert MILLER, Killed in action, 6 September 1915.

628 Lance Corporal Frederick William MORREN, Died of wounds, 27 August 1915.

282 Private Thomas MUNTON, Killed in action, 27 August 1915.

 

300 Private Thomas Patrick O'BYRNE, Killed in action, 27 August 1915.

 

303 Private Stanley PAGE, Killed in action, 30 November 1915.

307 Private Walter William PROCTOR, Killed in action, 27 August 1915.

 

376 Sergeant John Thomas ROBERTSON, Died of wounds, 30 August 1915.

 

328 Private Stanley Grenfell SCHWEITZER, Killed in action, 27 August 1915.

1007 Private Stafford SIMONS, Killed in action, 5 November 1915.

433 Private Thomas STACE, Killed in action, 27 August 1915.

330 Private John STEWART, Killed in action, 27 August 1915.

 

1310 Private George TOMLINSON, Killed in action, 25 August 1915.

342 Private Cecil TOWNSEND, Killed in action, 27 August 1915.

 

353 Private Clifford Edwin Arthur WELLS, Killed in action, 11 December 1915.

1528A Private Forest Alexander (Duncan) WHITECROSS, Killed in action, 24 September 1915.

348 Private Thomas WILLIAMS, Died of wounds, 4 December 1915.

730 Private Bertie Clyde WILLICK, Killed in action, 28 August 1915.

1030 Private Thomas WOOD, Killed in action, 21 September 1915.

363 Private Bertram William YEOMANS, Killed in action, 27 August 1915.


 

Lest We Forget

 

 

Sources Used:

National Archives Service File.

Embarkation Rolls, AWM8.

Nominal Roll, AWM133, Nominal Roll of Australian Imperial Force who left Australia for service abroad, 1914-1918 War.

AWM Roll of Honour

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

 

Finding more about a service person.

See: Navigating the National Archives Service File 

 

Further Reading:

Gallipoli Campaign - 1915-16

Gallipoli Campaign - 1915-16, Unit Casualties, AIF, Roll of Honour

Light Horse Battles

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920



Citation: Gallipoli Campaign - 1915-16, 17th Infantry Battalion, AIF, Roll of Honour

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Friday, 22 July 2011 3:26 PM EADT
Wednesday, 26 March 2008
The First Battle of Gaza, Palestine, 26 to 27 March 1917, Falls Account Part 11
Topic: BatzP - 1st Gaza

The First Battle of Gaza

Palestine, 26 to 27 March 1917

Falls Account Part 11


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 Withdrawal to the Wadi Ghazze.

On receipt of this information Desert Column placed the 54th Division under General Dallas's command and warned him to be prepared to withdraw both divisions across the Ghazze if necessary that afternoon. Soon after 11 a.m., General Dallas had a conversation with Br.-General G. P. Dawnay, B.G.G.S. Eastern Force, who asked him whether he considered that the position now held by the two divisions could be maintained for three or four days. He replied that he considered the position a bad one and unsuitable for defence unless Sheikh Abbas also was occupied. He had no fear as to his troops being able to hold their own, but communication by day across the Wadi Ghazze was almost impossible, since all the tracks were under the fire of batteries which the enemy had brought up to Sheikh Abbas. It should be added that the men of the Egyptian Camel Transport Corps had in the course of the morning shown remarkable steadiness and devotion to duty, bringing up food, water, and ammunition along this shell-swept corridor.

General Dobell had now to come to a definitive decision with regard to the action. It appeared to him that General Dallas's view was correct and that the line held by the 53rd and 54th Divisions had little to recommend it while he was preparing for further operations, which he considered would require all the resources at his disposal. As for putting the 52nd Division into the fight to retake Sheikh Abbas, he was strongly averse to that measure. The reorganization of all the troops would have taken considerable time, and to have brought up the necessary supplies and ammunition would have been, in his judgment, virtually impossible. The provision of water would have been the greatest difficulty of all. As he had done on the 26th, he gave Sir A. Murray on the telephone an outline of his situation and stated that in his judgment it was now necessary to break off the fight. The Commander-in-Chief regretfully agreed with this decision.

At 4.30 p.m. General Dobell issued orders by telephone, subsequently confirmed in writing, for the withdrawal of the 53rd and 54th Divisions under the command of General Dallas to the left bank of the Wadi Ghazze. General Dallas accordingly ordered the retirement to begin at 7 p.m., covered by the 158th and 163rd Brigades. The afternoon passed without incident of importance, except for considerable shelling on the fronts of the 53rd Division and the Camel Brigade, until 7 p.m., when an attack upon the 161st Brigade was beaten off without difficulty. In the evening the 22nd Mounted Brigade moved across to the coast and relieved Money's Detachment in the sand-dunes. It was withdrawn at midnight, as part of the general retirement. With these movements there was no interference by the enemy, and the whole of the 53rd and 54th Divisions were across the Wadi Ghazze before 4 a.m. on the 28th March.

The troops who took up a position on the left bank of the wadi were extremely exhausted. The 26th had been reasonably cool, the normal weather of the season, though the mid-day sun was trying. On the 27th a Khamsin had begun to blow, somewhat before its usual season, and the great heat which accompanied it had aggravated the sufferings of men already wearied and short of water.

The British losses were just under four thousand, with a high percentage of lightly wounded,' but also, unfortunately, over five hundred missing, of whom 5 officers and 241 other ranks, wounded and unwounded, fell into the hands of the enemy. These casualties were suffered almost entirely by the 53rd Division and the 161st Brigade, of which the latter had particularly heavy losses.

 KILLEDWOUNDEDMISSING
Officers78  176  13  
Other Ranks415  2,756  499  


(The only source from which these figures could be accurately obtained was a return made by the A.A.G. 3rd Echelon on the 15th April. In these circumstances the figures under “Killed" include all who died of wounds between the 27th March and that (late. In a telegram of the 1st April, Sir A. Murray gave an approximate figure for the casualties which was 469 lower than the above).

The Turkish loss in prisoners was 837, including 4 Austrian officers and 37 other ranks and the divisional commander and staff of the 53rd Division. The guns captured by the N.Z.M.R. Brigade were brought in. The total Turkish casualties were estimated by Sir A. Murray to be considerably in excess of his own, but it is now known that they were about five-eighths of that figure.

 

Falls Account Line of March Picture.

 

Previous:  Falls Account Part 10, The Reoccupation of Ali Muntar and Turkish Counter-Attacks.

Next:  Falls Account Part 12, The Causes of Failure and the Reports to the War Office.

 

 

Further Reading:

The First Battle of Gaza, Palestine, 26 to 27 March 1917

The First Battle of Gaza, Palestine, 26 to 27 March 1917, Allied Forces, Roll of Honour

The Palestine Campaign, 1917 - 1918

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920

 


Citation: The First Battle of Gaza, Palestine, 26 to 27 March 1917, Falls Account Part 11, The Withdrawal to the Wadi Ghazze.


Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Friday, 18 February 2011 10:18 PM EAST
The First Battle of Gaza, Palestine, 26 to 27 March 1917, Falls Account Part 12
Topic: BatzP - 1st Gaza

The First Battle of Gaza

Palestine, 26 to 27 March 1917

Falls Account Part 12


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 Causes of Failure and the Reports to the War Office.

Few actions of the late war have been the subject of greater differences of opinion than the First Battle of Gaza. The problem is complicated, since it is not merely whether or not the withdrawal of the mounted troops was necessary, but whether the attack of the 53rd Division could not have been launched earlier. The latter question, again, depends to a great extent upon how far the fog delayed operations. Then there is the third question, whether, notwithstanding the delay, notwithstanding the withdrawal of the mounted troops, there was any possibility on the afternoon of the 27th of acceding to General Dallas's request to retake Sheikh Abbas, and subsequently of renewing the attack on Gaza.

It will be attempted here, not to find an answer to these questions, but merely to point out all considerations which appear to have importance. With regard to the mounted troops, the situation must be judged as it appeared to General Chetwode and as he represented it to General Dobell on the afternoon of the 26th: not as it appears in the light of later knowledge. Nor in any case has the fact that the Turkish relieving columns were halted during the night much bearing on the subject. They might have been more active, but they could hardly have exercised strong pressure during the hours of darkness. Their pressure would have been strong enough as soon as dawn appeared. On the other hand, it is clear that Gaza was, in fact, virtually captured by nightfall, and it certainly seems probable that General Dobell's actions would have been different had he received earlier the despairing messages of Major Tiller messages which he ought to have received in no case later than an hour after their despatch.

Turning to the 53rd Division, it has been shown that the fog delayed the infantry in its progress to Mansura and Esh Sheluf less seriously than has commonly been supposed. The two leading brigades had reached these positions by 8.30 a.m.; it is a reasonable calculation that they would have been there an hour earlier if unhindered by the fog, but probably not more. The 159th Brigade was across the wadi by 6.40 a.m., and could presumably have been at Mansura by 9.30. A much more important effect of the fog seems to have been its delay of the necessary reconnaissance. Even as it was, it would appear that, had the brigadiers accompanied General Dallas to Mansura, while their brigades were being led to their positions, the conference could have been held an hour earlier than 10.15 a.m., the time at which it actually began. The two field artillery brigades had five batteries out of six in position at 10.20 a.m. Granting that it might not have been possible to communicate to them the plan and arrange for their co-operation without some further delay, it is not unreasonable to suppose that the attack might have been launched an hour sooner if the conference had assembled that much earlier. Whether it would have been taking undue risk for the infantry to have advanced, covered by strong patrols, towards its objectives, without waiting for the artillery's support, is another and more difficult question. It must be remembered that the successful progress of the mounted troops does not furnish a complete analogy; they were advancing into open country, the infantry against an enemy force in position. The delay in the arrival of the 161st Brigade Group, owing to misunderstanding, was also an important factor, though less as regards its infantry than its attached artillery brigade, the support of which at an earlier hour might have led to the speedier capture of the position.

The second serious misunderstanding occurred after the order for the withdrawal of the mounted troops had been given, when General Dallas was not informed that the 54th Division was closing in to north of Mansura. This misunderstanding has been dealt with in detail, but though it accounts for the abandonment of the position gained, it does not alter the fact that the holding of the advanced line on Ali Muntar, with the Turkish artillery on Sheikh Abbas, would have been an exceedingly difficult matter, unless Gaza could be immediately taken. If the 54th Division, which had two brigades only available, withdrew to the Burjabye Ridge, it had inevitably to abandon Sheikh Abbas. The abandonment of Sheikh Abbas allowed the Turks to occupy it, to bring up their guns and (it was eventually proved) to render the new position practically untenable. Sheikh Abbas could hardly have been retained unless the mounted troops had been kept out. It could not have been retaken on the 27th unless they had been again employed, together with the two brigades of the 52nd Division then available. On the second of these cases Sir A. Murray writes in his Despatches:

"If it had now been practicable for the General Officer Commanding Eastern Force to advance with his three infantry divisions and two cavalry divisions, I have no doubt that Gaza could have been taken and the Turks forced to retire; but the reorganization of the force for a deliberate attack would have taken a considerable time, the horses of the cavalry were very fatigued, and the distance of our railhead from the front line put the immediate maintenance of such a force with supplies, water and ammunition entirely out of the question. The only alternative, therefore, was to retire the infantry."


On the 28th March Sir A. Murray reported to the War Office that he had advanced to the Wadi Ghazze, that he had been heavily engaged east of Gaza on the 26th and 27th, that he estimated the Turkish causalities at between 6,000 and 7,000 men in addition to 900 prisoners, and that his troops had behaved splendidly. The C.I.G.S. replied on the 30th that as a result of his recent success and of British progress in Mesopotamia the situation had altered since he received his last instructions. His immediate objective should now be the defeat of the Turks south of Jerusalem and the occupation of that city. Sir A. Murray answered next day (the 31st) that he was most anxious to advance on Jerusalem, but added a warning that his difficulties must be realized and that no rapid advance could be expected. He again called attention to his former estimate of the strength required for the operations, and stated that, though he could beat the Turks in the open, it had been proved that they were exceedingly good defensive fighters. They would probably take up a series of defensive positions between the Beersheba-Gaza and Jaffa-Jerusalem lines, out of which he could not hope to turn them without considerable losses, requiring immediate replacement. In any case his progress would be measured by that of his railway, and the best he could hope for was 20 miles a month, if no great engineering difficulties were met with. He concluded by stating that he might have to ask for material to double the line from Qantara to Gaza.

Sir W. Robertson replied briefly on the 1st April, but on the 2nd, after the War Cabinet had considered Sir A. Murray's message of the 31st March, despatched a long telegram embodying its views. He had been asked to point out the great importance of the operations in Palestine. Everyone was now feeling seriously the strain of war, and the moral effect of success was extremely valuable. The War Cabinet therefore desired that Sir A. Murray's operations should be pushed on energetically. He added that there was internal unrest in Turkey, and that she was undoubtedly more exhausted than any other of Great Britain's enemies. With the reinforcements detailed for Egypt, he did not see why Sir A. Murray should not be completely successful. (The reference is to troops required to bring up to strength the 74th Division and also to proposals to form another division from Territorial battalions then in India. As will appear, a mixed division of Territorial and Indian battalions (the 75th) was eventually formed instead.) On the 4th April Sir A. Murray telegraphed that he hoped the War Cabinet would be assured that he fully appreciated the importance of operations in Palestine. He did not believe that a single day of the past fifteen months had been wasted, or that greater energy could be displayed. Preparations were in progress for a renewed attack on Gaza, but he was anxious not to hurry over this operation, as he felt that a methodically prepared attack had chances of winning a considerable success. After taking Gaza he intended to continue the invasion of Palestine, though he had at the moment only enough rails to reach Deir el Balah. He then enumerated his reasons for proposing to continue his advance along the coast instead of the Turkish Beersheba railway, and stated his requirements in mechanical transport, Army Service Corps drivers, artillery for his new divisions, signal units and material, Royal Engineers (Army Troops), and modern aeroplanes.

Meanwhile the Government had asked for a fuller report on the operations, all that had yet been received being the short telegram on the 28th March.2 In a very long telegram of the 1st April Sir A. Murray recounted his objects (which have been given in Chapter XVI) and the conditions, and gave a sketch of the operations, estimating the Turkish casualties at 8,000. He concluded:-

"The operation was most successful, and owing to the fog and waterless nature of the country round Gaza just fell short of a complete disaster to the enemy. Our troops are exceedingly proud of themselves, particularly 53rd Division, who have not been in action since Suvla, and I am delighted with their enterprise, endurance, skill (,and leading. None of our troops were at any time harassed or hard pressed. It is proved conclusively that in the open the enemy have no chance of success against our troops, but they are very tenacious in prepared positions. In the open our mounted troops simply do what they like with them. "


It will be seen from Sir W. Robertson's messages that the policy of the Government had completely changed. No longer were serious operations to be postponed until the autumn; Sir A. Murray was now urged to advance and capture Jerusalem as soon as possible. To some extent this revision of estimates and plans was accounted for by the British success in Mesopotamia, but it was governed to a greater extent by the interpretation placed by the C.I.G.S. and the War Cabinet upon Sir A. Murray's reports. There is no doubt that these reports, the first of which resulted in congratulatory messages from H.M. The King, the Imperial War Cabinet, Lord Derby, General Nivelle, with personal telegrams from Sir W. Robertson and Sir John Cowans, created in their minds the impression that the result of the battle had been more favourable, and that the enemy had been harder hit, than was actually the case. This appears to have been one of those occasions in which a commander in the field, hoping immediately to improve his situation after what has appeared to him to be only a temporary set-back, has unconsciously understated the extent of that set-back in his reports to those in ultimate authority. He may by such action avoid creating needless despondency, but he may also give rise to exaggerated hopes, deprive himself of support which a fuller representation of the case would have ensured, and finally be forced to demand it after a further check to his plans.

At the same time, even had Sir A. Murray's messages been framed in less sanguine tones, neither the C.I.G.S. nor the War Cabinet would have been likely to admit that his offensive power had vanished as a result of one indecisive action-an action which, judged by the standards of the Western Front, was small and far from costly. The War Office was fully aware of the Turkish strength in the theatre and the limits of possible reinforcement, and with some minor differences its estimate corresponded with that of G.H.Q. in Egypt. Though the renewed British offensive, preparations for which were known to be in train, might have been less confidently urged, it does not seem probable that it would in any case have been cancelled.

 

Falls Account Line of March Picture.

 

Previous:  Falls Account Part 11, The Withdrawal to the Wadi Ghazze.

Next:  Falls Account Part 13, The Battle from German and Turkish Sources.

 

 

Further Reading:

The First Battle of Gaza, Palestine, 26 to 27 March 1917

The First Battle of Gaza, Palestine, 26 to 27 March 1917, Allied Forces, Roll of Honour

The Palestine Campaign, 1917 - 1918

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920

 


Citation: The First Battle of Gaza, Palestine, 26 to 27 March 1917, Falls Account Part 12, The Causes of Failure and the Reports to the War Office.


Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Friday, 18 February 2011 10:12 PM EAST

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