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Wednesday, 26 March 2008
The First Battle of Gaza, Palestine, 26 to 27 March 1917, Desert Column, Signals, In and Out Messages, 27 March 1917
Topic: AIF - DMC

The First Battle of Gaza

Palestine, 26 to 27 March 1917

Desert Column, Signals, In and Out Messages, 27 March 1917


 Desert Column, Signals, In and Out Messages, 27 March 1917.


The following is a transcription of the Desert Column, Signals, In and Out Messages, 27 March 1917, from the War Diary of the Desert Column detailing the part of the battle plan for the First Battle of Gaza, Palestine, 26 to 27 March 1917.


27 March 1917

In and Out Messages

Desert Column
GT 881
Cannot understand your A. 216 of 25th beginning it has been decided that the infantry division will be withdrawn to the west of the Wadi Ghuzze aaa If It is to be withdrawn how is it to dig in

53rd Division 0605

Desert Column
GT 908
Following Information obtained from prisoner captured on 26th aaa Strength of garrison infantry seven battalions each eight hundred strong aaa Machine gun companies two German and one Turkish aaa Heavy guns four 15 cm. mounted against attack by sea aaa These guns have been brought from Shellal and are German aaa Austrian field artillery regiment much under strength probable number of guns ten aaa Cavalry fifty aaa Camel corps sixty aaa Trenches were knocked to bits by our gun especially Ali Muntar aaa Lt-Col temp Major Gen Tala Bey a German is in command and all agree that he will fight to the last aaa Possibly one battalion of this force proceeded to Jaffa before the battle

53rd Division 0200

Desert Column
EF 35
Following interrupted wireless from Von Kress to Gaza timed 2225 begins Having regard to disposition of the Turkish troops and leaders can an attack be successful at early dawn aaa I beg you to do your utmost to hold out so long ends aaa Acknowledge aaa Desert Column repeated 53rd Division

Eastforce 0200

Desert Column
EF 36
Intercepted wireless Gaza to Sheria timed 2300 begins your telegram received please attack at all costs at two o'clock tonight ends Intercepted wireless Gaza to Expeditionary Force begins position lost at 1905 I am still is possession of town help required at once or it will be too late ends Addressed Desert Column repeated 53rd Division

Eastforce 0205

Anzac Mtd Divn
Imp Mtd Divn
SE 17
Please report position of both cavalry division immediately and that of IC Bde and motor batteries and light car patrol aaa It is most important that both cavalry divisions should be concentrated as soon as possible in valley near In Seirat aaa Both divisional commanders will report personally to Desert Column H.Q. Immediately on receipt or this at HILL 310

Desert Column 0500 (sd) SH Kershaw

53rd Division
AP 21
You will feel forward with patrols to Ali Muntar as early as possible aaa If the enemy is not occupying that position Column Commander directs you to occupy it without delay aaa Acknowledge

Desert Column 0520 (sd) AM Pirie

OC Cav Regt
Imp Mtd Div attd 53rd Divn
53rd Divn
Ap 22
Push patrols forward at once and ascertain situation west and north of Gaza aaa open your helio and get touch with Eastforce HQ hill 310

Des Col 0536 (sd) AM Pirie

Desert column
BM 609
Enemy infantry and guns attacked brigade 8 miles southeast of Gaza aaa Estimated number 2000 aaa Likely they are moving on Gaza aaa enemy held off in time to allow brigade to pass

3rd Light Horse Brigade 0747

IC Brigade
WO 11
Are you getting into position on the right of the 54th Divn

Des Col 0725 (sd) VM Fergusson

53rd Divn
WO 12
Report urgently on situation Gaza

Desert Column 0740 (sd) VM Fergusson

Desert Column
BM 224RM 11
Am in position aaa have reported 54th Divn

IC Bde 0750

Desert Column
You sill come under direct orders of Eastforce on time of receipt of this message aaa Acknowledge aaa Addressed 53rd Divn reptd Des Col

Eastforce 0800

H.Q. Desert Column
G. 48
Capt Tollemache liaison officer Eastforce has come to my Headquarters to find out situation It is this The enemy has appeared on Sheikh Abbas and he is shelling my reserves and back while I am holding and fighting on the line Ali Muntar Sheluf aaa 54th Division is facing Sheikh Abbas On line NE of Mansura and along the line Tel el Ahmar Burjaliye - El Adar aaa We are in a bottle neck but can hold our position provided Ali MUNTAR can be retaken by fresh troops aaa Enemy has only recently appeared on Sheikh Abbas and can not have yet deeply entrenched aaa I presume l am still under your orders till I hear contrary as Am arranging close cooperation with Gen Hare who is as you know under Eastforce command aaa Orders regarding our movements until Sheikh Abbas is taken should be addressed to both of us

General Dallas 0830

Desert Column
BM 225
Bde at Um Jerrar aaa Any instructions

IC Bde 0925

Desert Column
SC 288
Two aeroplanes landed near group near El Dammats aaa not known whether cavalry or planes are hostile

Camel Bde 1215

Desert Column
GLY 25 DC 4
Beach patrol reports from close to Sheikh Ajlin that they are drawing fair amount of fire from the Gardens but are trying to proceed

Glos Yeo 1249

Desert Column
SC 289
Our firing line being shelled out of Its position by our own field batteries on southern slope Tel el Ahmar aaa An aeroplane was spotting Address desert column repeated Eastforce

ICC Bde 1305

IC Bde
SK 17
Will you please Issue instructions direct to IC Bde for night position of that brigade Address Eastforce repeated I.C. Bde

Desert Column 1400 (sd) SH Kershaw

Desert Column
G. 181
Divisional H.Q. established about 600 yds NE by E of Sabkhet at Deir el Belah

A & NZ Mtd Divn

Des Col
WT 85
Active enemy battery reported and silenced this forenoon about 3000 yards NNW of Gaza aaa Also at 1215 two active batteries seen one between point 200 and Abu Zeid other just apex of first A in Gaza aaa Artillery machine sent out to engage these aaa

Aeronautics 5th Wing 1622

Desert Column
WT 26
Artillery observer returned 1350 report our line running about 800 yds south of enemy trenches round south of Gaza then SSE to El Sire Wadi aaa Our camel corps about K of Baiket Abu Mailek aaa About 2000 enemy infantry close to extremity of our right flank being shelled by our artillery

Aeronautics 5th Wing 1640

WO 18
Both cavalry divisions have been ordered to be ready to move at 1650 to take up a night line from Abasan to IN Seirat If so ordered by you aaa Please do not forget position of IC Bde as regards supplies and water namely water tomorrow and supplies for four or five days Acknowledge
Desert Column 1500 (sd) VM Fergusson

Desert Column
GLC 30 DC6
Attack driven off aaa Have been relieved by 22nd Mtd Bde aaa Please inform an where 5th Mtd Bde is

Glos Yeo 1628

Des Col
EF 59 WO 18
Approved but keep one brigade back in present bivouac aaa Air reconnaissance about 1515 puts about 2500 Infantry and mounted troops five miles east Of Camel Bde position

Eastforce 1605

Anzac Mtd Div
Imp Mtd Div
WO 20
Reference my WO 19 left boundary of left section will end at In Seirat inclusive at which joint outposts of Anzac Mtd Divn will connect up with right of 52nd Divn outposts Addressed Anzac Mtd Divn Imper Mtd Divn repeated Eastforce Q DDMMS Signals

Desert Column 1645

Desert Column
EP 61
You will withdraw 53rd and 54th divisions during night to position west of Wadi Ghuzze to a defensive line extending from the sea to the spur of Goz el Taire immediately west of Sheikh Nebhan with drawing under cover of strong rearguards which should not cross Wadi Ghuzze till after daylight aaa 54th Division must extend right flank to admit prior retirement of camel brigade instructions sent Camel Bde to begin retirement at 2100 and to cross ffrom Um Jerrar to Abu Teibig aaa 22nd Mtd Bde with 1 Bn 53rd Divn attached will not begin withdrawal from its position as your left till midnight and will then fall back to west of wadi to line about Sheikh Rashid Sheikh Shabasi aaa Desert Column w111 have mounted troops picketing right flank of force west of Wad1 Ghuzze from Abasan el Kebir to In Seirat from this evening aaa Acknowledge Addressed 53rd Divn repeated Desert Column

Eastforce 1637

2nd L.H.Bde
N.Z.M.R. Bde
O/C Sigs
22nd Mtd Bde
Desert Column
Imp Mtd Divn
On night 27/28 Mtd troops Desert Column will hold outpost line as follows aaa Left section held by Anzac Mtd Div (less 22nd Mtd Bde) commander Major-General Sir HG Chauvel from point 310 one mile S of J in El Breij (inclusive) along Goz el Taire to NE end of spur with single tree at I of Goz el Taire (inclusive) aaa Right section held by the Imp Mtd Divn commander Major General Hodgson from single tree exclusive to Abasan el Kebir inclusive aaa Standing patrols will be pushed as far as Wadi Ghuzze and Wadi Imaain aaa Details will be settled on the ground aaa NZMR Bde will hold the picquet line with 2 LH Bde in reserve at Hqrs left section aaa HdQrs left section will be on westward slopes of Goz el Taire about ½ mile S of In Seirat aaa Hqrs right section will be about Sheikh Hamuda aaa Picquets will be in position at 1730 aaa Division will be ready to turn out at short notice and will be saddled up by 0500 tomorrow aaa Communications by cable helio lamp aaa Fires may be lighted except on picquet line aaa all other units of division will bivouac at Hdqrs left section

Anzac Mtd Divn 1700

Desert Column
FSM 252
Aeroplane 1630 reported 500 Turk cavalry coming down Wadi
ICC Bde 1705

Des Col
WR 38
Reconnaissance from 1427 to 1630 reports at about 1450 between 2500 and 3000 troops resting in wadi just SW of Sihan aaa Road from Beit Durdis to Huj no movement seen Hospital with about 250 men south Of wadi between Burier and Tel el Hesi or on roads is triangle Bureir Faluje and Tel el Hesi aaa No movement soon Between Falujey Mejdel aaa No movement soon in Mejdel or on road Mejdel Ejje or Ejje Deir Seneid or Deir Sineid to Jedalie aaa In wadi about 2nd A In Meshahkera scattered small bodies of enemy in broken ground aaa Above was not dropped on report centres Addressed Eastforce Battle H.Q. rsptd Desert Column Advd H.Q.

Aeronautics Rafa 1615

Desert Column
G 159
Reference my G. 158 left boundary of left section will end at In Seirat inclusive at which point outposts of Anzac Mtd. Divn will connect up with Right of 52nd Div outposts

Anzac Mtd Divn 1720

Imperial Mtd Divn
SK 17
Gloucester Yeomanry will rejoin 5th mounted Bde tonight

Desert Column 1735 (sd) SH Kershaw

Desert Column
G. 160
Divisional HQ established about ½ mile S of In Seirat

Anzac Mounted Division

53rd Div
No. 11 - 12 LAMB
No. 7 LCP
SK 18
The following is the result of yesterdays operations round Gaza Prisoners taken l8 officers 627 other ranks, includes 4 Austrian Officers 32 Austrian Other Ranks and 5 German other ranks aaa Total number expected to exceed 800 including Divl Commander and Staff 53rd Division aaa 2 Austrian 4.50 inch gun captured and brought by the NZ Mtd Bde aaa Heavy casualties inflicted on the enemy by the 53rd Division and in addition to prisoners taken the A.& NZ Mtd Division caused heavy casualties both NE of Gaza and in the street fighting that followed one battalion being almost annihilated by the M. Guns of the 2nd LH Brigade so the former debouched from the town aaa The Imperial Mtd Division and the IC Bde supported by No. 7 Light Car patrol caused enemy serious losses, stopped his advance and forced him to dig in aa No. 11 and 12 LAM Batteries found themselves in the middle of a hostile division on the morning of the 27th and Inflicted several hundred casualties in fighting their Way through aaa Addressed Eastforce repeated 53rd Divn, Anzac Mtd Divn, Imperial Mtd Divn, No. 11 and 12 L.A.M. Batteries and No. 7 Light Car patrol

Desert Column 1812 (sd) SH Kershaw

WO 81
The crew and machine gun of the armoured car which broke down this morning are near the bend in the Wadi E of El Breij aaa Could efforts be made to get men and machine guns away tonight

Desert Column 1815 (sd) SH Kershaw

Des Col
WR 19
Observer of Akra reconnaissance which reported column of 8000 infantry 1½ miles SW of HUJ states column was marching in fours head of column 1½ SW of Huj at 1700 column stretched in direction of Akra No guns observed small amount of transport at tail of column total length of column 1½ miles including transport aaa Infantry screen in front of column was in touch with our patrols aaa Flank guards on both flanks aaa

Aeronautics Rafa

Desert Column
EF 69 WO 21
52nd Division are taking this on

Eastforce 1925

Desert Column
G. 41
Situation as far as I know it at present is that the Division holds the Labyrinth - Ali Muntar and hill 1000 yards north of latter aaa In accordance with verbal instructions from Desert Column as withdrawing my right flank to join with 54th Division on Sheikh Abbas aaa If 160th and 161st Brigades report that the can deal with situation about Labyrinth where enemy still holding spurs to west I shall include Ali Muntar in the line aaa If not I shall withdraw my left so that the point held on the ridge running from El Sire to Ali Muntar passes through El Sheluf aaa Will report later

53rd Division 1940

Des Col
AM 226
Large body enemy cavalry moving west towards Wadi aaa Apparently near Dammats

IC Brigade 1945

Desert Column
GB 554
Message begins aaa 53rd Division aaa OC 1/4th Cheshires reports as follows aaa At 1800 am holding sandy Hill east of Ali Muntar enemy retiring NW aaa Ground immediately West full of snipers aaa Have counted 14 prisoners and more to come aaa Casualties estimated between 40 and 50 aaa New Zealanders have made good ground east of my hill aaa Am putting Hill in state of defence aaa 4th Welsh and 5th Welsh are holding ridge between Ali Muntar and 4th Cheshires Hill aaa OC 7th Cheshires reports Conical Hill with hut on top taken by joint units of 159th Bde at 1632 aaa Am holding same aaa Please warn 161st Inf Bde and those of our troops to the north aaa ends aaa from 159th Bde

53rd Division 2000

Desert Column
During today’s cooperation the following points may interest your units dump near enemy battery destroyed aaa Heavy fire of field and heavy batteries directed on to numbers of enemy without cover aaa On one occasion 500 and on another occasion 600 Turks came under such fire and suffered heavily as Cooperation with 60 pounders very good

Aeronautics 2240

Anzac Mtd Divn
Imp Mtd Divn
WO 22
At 0600 tomorrow patrols will be pushed forward 2 miles from the outpost line aaa If and when they report that there is no sign of enemy movement from the direction towards Rafa Khan Yunis or Deir el Belah each mounted division will alone on its left and concentrate withdrawing outpost squadrons aaa Small dip observation posts will be left out on the left out on the line Abasan el Kebir In Seirat aaa Horses other than those of observation posts may be unsaddled aaa Divisions will proceed to water as soon as the situation permits under orders from Desert Column aaa Acknowledge aaa Addressed Imperial and Anzac Mtd Divisions repeated Eastforce

Desert column 2100 (sd) VM Fergusson

Desert Column
EF 74
Detail half a company infantry to guard prisoners of war brought to Deir el Belah and escort then to Khan Yunis aaa Escort to report to Q Office Desert Column as soon as possible aaa Acknowledge aaa Addressed 52nd Division reptd Desert Column and Eastforce Rafa for information.

Eastforce 2227


War Diaries

All War Diaries cited on this site should be read in conjunction with the Australian Light Horse Studies Centre, AIF War Diaries of the Great War, Site Transcription Policy which may be accessed at:

Australian Light Horse Studies Centre, AIF War Diaries of the Great War, Site Transcription Policy 



Further Reading:

Desert Mounted Corps

The Desert Mounted Corps, 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, Desert Column, Signals, In and Out Messages, 27 March 1917

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Friday, 4 March 2011 1:41 PM EAST

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The Australian Light Horse Studies Centre has made every endeavour to contact copyright holders of material digitised for this blog and website and where appropriate, permission is still being sought for these items. Where replies were not received, or where the copyright owner has not been able to be traced, or where the permission is still being sought, the Australian Light Horse Studies Centre has decided, in good faith, to proceed with digitisation and publication. Australian Light Horse Studies Centre would be happy to hear from copyright owners at any time to discuss usage of this item.


Australian Light Horse Studies Centre

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