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.
KILLED WOUNDED MISSING Officers 78 176 13 Other Ranks 415 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.
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Citation: The First Battle of Gaza, Palestine, 26 to 27 March 1917, Falls Account Part 11, The Withdrawal to the Wadi Ghazze.