Topic: BatzP - 1st Gaza
The First Battle of Gaza
Palestine, 26 to 27 March 1917
Falls Account Part 3
Falls Account, Sketch Map 14.
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.
Falls, Chapter XVI The First Battle Of Gaza
The First Battle of Gaza.
The Fog at Dawn on the 26th March.
The occupation of the line of the Wadi Ghazze, unopposed by the enemy, was to be interrupted by the weather. About 4 a.m., after a still, cold and very dark night, fog rolled up from the sea, gradually thickening till by 5 a.m., just before dawn, objects could not be distinguished at 20 yards' distance. A large proportion of the infantry had fortunately by this time completed the crossing of the wadi. A fog of this density was unusual in March, and no provision for its occurrence - except the allowance of a margin of time - had been made in framing plans for the attack. Its appearance was the first of several accidents which marred the day and caused the loss of valuable hours in an operation against time, for the completion of which every moment of daylight was required.
To have cancelled an enveloping attack of this nature would now have been difficult, as the mounted troops were well on their way, and would, unless they could be brought back, be visible to the enemy in large masses as soon as the fog cleared. Moreover, the headquarters of Eastern Force and Desert Column were at the moment both on the move to In Seirat. To General Chetwode, whose headquarters opened at In Seirat at 6.37, a few minutes before that of the Eastern Force, it appeared that the only possible course was to allow the movement to continue and to hope for an improvement as soon as the sun made itself felt. In any case the mounted troops, heading through the fog for open country, could not easily have been stopped, nor was it to them entirely a disadvantage. If fog renders movement slow and maintenance of direction difficult, it also screens from view.
It was impossible for General Dallas to go forward, as he had hoped, to reconnoitre the ground over which he was to attack. He therefore waited at El Breij, hoping that the fog would lift, while his two leading brigades, after a slight delay, slowly and carefully felt their way forward to their positions on the ridges. The expected improvement in visibility occurred about 7.30 a.m.
There is some divergence in the various accounts as to the hour at which this took place. The war diary of the Desert Column states that the fog began to lift at 7 a.m. and was practically gone by 8; that of the E.F.F. records that it lifted at 7.30 a.m.; while Sir A. Murray in his Despatch states that it cleared at 8, and in a telegram after the battle that it lasted till 11 a.m. It would appear that it began to lighten at 7, was practically clear on higher ground at 8, but that visibility was poor everywhere for some time longer, and in the ravines and depressions the mist lay thick for several hours.
Falls Account Line of March Picture.