Topic: AIF - DMC - British
The First Battle of Gaza
Palestine, 26 to 27 March 1917
Headquarters 160th Infantry Brigade, 53rd Division War Diary Account
Headquarters 160th Infantry Brigade, 53rd Division War Diary Account.
The following is a transcription of the Account from the War Diary of the Headquarters 160th Infantry Brigade, 53rd Division detailing its role at the First Battle of Gaza, Palestine, 26 to 27 March 1917.
Extracts from War Diary of
Headquarters 160th Infantry Brigade, 53rd division
Brigade General Commander, Brigadier General WJC Butler
25 March 1917
Brigade remained in the orchard at Khan Yunis until 1630.
1100 The Brigade General Commander 160th Infantry Brigade went to El Briej and saw General Dallas and n conference was held, the plan of attack of 26th being explained. The crossings of Wadi Ghuzze reconnoitred with Officers Commanding 1/4th Royal Sussex Regiment and 2/4th Royal West Kent Regiment.
1630 The Brigade marched to Deir el Belah and went into bivouac at BIR, about 1 mile north north east of Hill 130.
26 March 1917
The Brigade less 2/4th Royal West Kent Regiment left Deir el Belah and marched to Wadi Ghuzze near El Breij crossing about 0345. 2/4th Royal West Kent Regiment received direct orders from Desert Column and moved across Wadi Ghuzze about 600 yards south west of caves and took up a line from Caves to about the first "T" of Tel el Ajjul to protect 15th Heavy Battery Royal Garrison Artillery firing from Sabkhet 600 yards west of caves. They took no further part in the Brigade operations.
0400 1/4th Royal Sussex Regiment advanced on to El Sire and made good the bridge-head before daybreak, the Brigade crossing on to El Sire ridge.
0450 Brigade Headquarters established at south west end of El Sire Ridge.
0520 1/4th Royal Sussex Regiment reported they had occupied prominent knoll on El Sire Ridge at 0510. At dawn a thick mist arose, but advanced scouts moved on to El Sheluf.
0520 BMT 700 received saying no artillery communication would be laid except through Division at present.
0540 Wired Division through 159th Infantry Brigade that Brigade was across Wadi and ready to move. (BM 534)
0600 Instructions from 53rd Division to try to push on to Sheluf irrespective of action of 158th Infantry Brigade who were reported to have crossed Wadi Ghuzze. (G 10)
0630 1/4th Royal Sussex Regiment reported "all clear" 1,000 yards east of El Sire.
0645 158th Infantry Brigade reported by Division to be at Burjabye and ordered to feel their way to Mansura (G 13) 1/4th Royal Sussex Regiment and 2/10th Middlesex Regiment informed.
0755 1/4th Royal Sussex Regiment reported occupation of what they make out to be El Sheluf Ridge. Division and 158th Infantry Brigade informed.
0805 Divisional Headquarters moved to El Burjabye.
0815 Mist which had been very thick, cleared.
0846 1/4th Royal Sussex Regiment report they have direct observation on Ali Muntar. Reported to Division. (BM 554)
0921 158th Infantry Brigade report they are advancing and only meeting slight opposition. Orders received verbally by orderly.
0950 Brigade General Commander to meet General Officer Commanding 53rd Division at Mansura to arrange plan of attack. Brigade General Commander moved at once.
0956 G. 19 received instructing Brigade to push troops forward and reconnoitre as far as possible to direction of Ali El Muntar.
1100 and 1120 Brigade ordered to push on (G.22 and 23) as far as possible and await artillery support if necessary.
1130 Orders were given to 160th Infantry Brigade to attack position known as the "Labyrinth" 1/4th Royal Sussex Regiment attacked the objective marked by the mosque ALI Muntar on right and the niche between two hillocks apparently north of the mosque on the left. Officer Commanding 2/10th Middlesex Regiment was ordered to attack on left of 1/4th Royal Sussex Regiment between points indicated to Officer Commanding. The Queen's Own 2/4th Royal West Kent Regiment were to reserve.
1222 Informed Division that Ali Muntar to and including "Labyrinth" position appeared to be strongly held and asked for artillery support, 1/4th Royal Sussex Regiment scouts then 1,200 yards from enemy and being fired on.
1318 Orders to push on with attack received and 1/4th Royal Sussex Regiment reported that attack had been launched.
1330 2/10th Middlesex Regiment had cleared left of "Labyrinth" and seized prominent position on grass ridge. 158th Infantry Brigade were attacking from South. The advance of 1/4th Royal Sussex Regiment was checked by barrage fire on the slope beyond the well defined gully or donga on right. There were posts for an entanglement not far below the crest of the further slope in front of 1/4th Royal Sussex Regiment and 4 strands of wire already up in front of 2/10th Middlesex Regiment. Lieutenant Colonel Ashworth, Officer Commanding 1/4th Royal Sussex Regiment was killed about this time.
1349 53rd Division wired that Gaza had been cut off from north.
1414 2/10th Middlesex Regiment captured "Labyrinth" – Division informed. Owing to heavy casualties to 1/4th Royal Sussex Regiment a gap was caused on right of 2/10th Middlesex Regiment.
1430 Brigade Major wounded and Captain Herbert, Queen's Own 2/4th Royal West Kent Regiment assumed temporary duties.
1530 2/10th Middlesex Regiment asked for reinforcements and Small Arms Ammunition. 2½ Companies Queen's Own 2/4th Royal West Kent Regiment sent forward in answer to this request and Small Arms Ammunition was sent up with them.
1540 Information received 161st Infantry Brigade ordered to attack Green Hill south west of Ali Muntar between 160th and 158th Infantry Brigades.
1555 Information reached 271st Brigade Royal Field Artillery ordered into action south east of Ali Muntar to support right of attack (159th Infantry Brigade).
1650 Word received 159th Infantry Brigade had taken Ali Muntar.
1700 1 Company of Queen's Own 2/4th Royal West Kent Regiment arrived on right flank of 2/10th Middlesex Regiment and at the same time 161st Infantry Brigade was seen advancing. Remainder of Queen's Own 2/4th Royal West Kent Regiment advanced to reinforce 2/10th Middlesex Regiment and arrived shortly afterwards.
1800 Battalion of Essex (161st Infantry Brigade) arrived on right flank and contact was gained with them. The advance at this point was hung up by very hot fire from concealed positions in cultivation.
1900 Left flank of front line was thrown back and Officer Commanding 2/10th Middlesex Regiment reported that unless reinforced, position would be untenable. At this tine communication was most difficult, but orders were given to consolidate position pending further orders.
2000 Owing to impossible nature of country for camel transport, water and Small Arms Ammunition, had to be carried up by hand for a mile and a half. Orders were accordingly issued to 1½ Companies Queen's Own 2/4th Royal West Kent Regiment in reserve, and this was done.
2300 Orders were received for front line to be withdrawn to line Green Hill - El Sheluf, keeping touch with 161st Infantry Brigade. At this time troops were disposed on a considerable front and communication exceedingly difficult. Staff Officers and patrols were sent out to deliver necessary instructions and after much difficulty all were withdrawn.
27 March 1917
0430 The withdrawal of firing line was completed at this time and the Brigade took up a new line as ordered. Disposition of Troops - Front line - 2/10th Middlesex Regiment; Reserve - Queen's Own 2/4th Royal West Kent Regiment and 1/4th Royal Sussex Regiment.
0600 Orders received to send out strong patrols to reconnoitre positions won previous day with a view to reoccupying same. 2/10th Middlesex Regiment pushed forward patrols.
0802 Wire received from Division saying our troops in possession of Green Hill and Ali Muntar.
0815 Colonel Money reported an increase in enemy numbers north and north west of Gaza.
0815 Queen's Own 2/4th Royal West Kent Regiment ordered to get in touch with 161st Infantry Brigade who had captured Green Hill and Ali Muntar and to consolidate on their left when in touch. The Queen's Own 2/4th Royal West Kent Regiment advanced across deep nullah north of El Sheluf and were clear of it by 0930 picking up outpost companies en route. When across the nullah, our troops were seen on skyline in direction of Ali Muntar and east of it.
0948 Colonel Money reported enemy consolidating trench and redoubt between Sea and Ali Muntar (WK 36).
1000 These troops commenced to withdraw. The Queen's Own 2/4th Royal West Kent Regiment ordered forward, 1 Company advanced towards "Labyrinth" with a Second Company in support. The withdrawal of our troops on right stopped for about a quarter of an hour, but commenced again shortly afterwards. Troops retiring comprised portions of 158th and 161st Infantry Brigades with which the two leading Companies The Queen's Own 2/4th Royal West Kent Regiment were mixed up. The latter remained until all troops had withdrawn.
About 1100 The Queen's Own 2/4th Royal West Kent Regiment reported Turks retiring through GAZA, north north west.
1105 53rd Division Order G. 52 received ordering 53rd Division to withdraw to line on El Sire - Ali Muntar Ridge. 160th Infantry Brigade to hold ridge in rear of 161st Infantry Brigade and protect left flank (Copy of G.52 attached). The Queen's Own 2/4th Royal West Kent Regiment were ordered to fall back slowly on El Sheluf Ridge, 2/10th Middlesex Regiment being placed in position with their right in touch with 161st Infantry Brigade. The shelling during this period was intense and accurate. It came obliquely from direction of town of Gaza. Also heat was terrible and men suffered considerable hardship from want of water.
1118 53rd Division Headquarters moved to Burjabye.
1130 Word received a Mounted Brigade was being sent up on our left.
1400 Orders received from 53rd Division (GB 555) that line El Sire - Ali Muntar must be consolidated and held stoutly. Brigade General Commander 160th Infantry Brigade went to Headquarters 161st Infantry Brigade and saw Brigadier General Doddington. Disposition of troops explained and future action discussed.
1459 Orders received GT 557 to advance to support of 161st Infantry Brigade who were asking for support as their left flank.
Assistant Director Medical Services at El Burjanye. Bearer subdivision ordered to fellow Brigade and collect all casualties.
1500 Brigade advanced to conform with line of 161st Infantry Brigade up on their left flank. A defensive line was formed with the left thrown back - 1/4th Royal Sussex Regiment on right. Queen's Own 2/4th Royal West Kent Regiment left, 2/10th Middlesex Regiment in reserve and this line was held until orders were received to withdrawn.
1700 Orders received from 53rd Division (G 56) that 160th Infantry Brigade would retire across the Wadi Ghuzze at 2200 and take up an outpost line on high ground between Rafa-Gaza Roads at Sheikh Raschid and Belah-Gaza.
2155 Message received from 53rd Division that 161st Infantry Brigade were being attacked and ordering 160th Infantry Brigade to support stoutly. By this time 160th Infantry Brigade had formed up ready to move off, all firing having ceased.
2200 The Brigade assembled at Sheluf at 2200 and moved off crossing the Wadi Ghuzze at "A" crossing at 2400 (approx.) and reaching Sheikh Raschid at 0130 on 28th.
28 March 1917
Outpost Line was taken up and steps taken to put it in a state of defence.
Disposition of Troops:2/10th Middlesex Regiment on left in touch with 159th Infantry Brigade with 1 Section Machine Gun Company.
2/4th Royal West Kent Regiment in centre with 1 Section Machine Gun Company.
1/4th Royal Sussex Regiment on right with 1 Section Machine Gun Company.
Queen's Own 2/4th Royal West Kent Regiment in reserve at Sheikh Raschid with Brigade Headquarters.
No. 160th Machine gun Company (less 3 Sections) in reserve at Sheikh Raschid with Brigade Headquarters.
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Australian Light Horse Studies Centre, AIF War Diaries of the Great War, Site Transcription Policy
British Forces, EEF, Roll of Honour
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, Headquarters 160th Infantry Brigade, 53rd Division War Diary Account