Topic: AIF - DMC - British
The First Battle of Gaza
Palestine, 26 to 27 March 1917
Eastern Force Order No 33
Eastern Force Order No 33.
The following is a transcription of Eastern Force Order No 33 from the War Diary of the Eastern Force detailing the battle plan for the First Battle of Gaza, Palestine, 26 to 27 March 1917.
Eastern Force Order No 33
Lieutenant General Sir Charles Dobell, KCB, CMG, DSO
Commanding Eastern Force
Headquarters Eastern Force, 24th March 1917.
1. The enemy's main body is Tel en Nejile - Huj area, south of the Wadi el Hesi, covered by detachments about GAZA, Tel el Sheria, Abu Hareira and Beersheba. He appears to dispose of two weak divisions and fragments of two other divisions - the equivalent in all of between 2½ and 3 divisions. One of these divisions appears not to number more than 6,000 rifles.
2. The General Officer Commanding intends to drive the enemy out of Gaza and hopes to destroy his advanced detachment at that place.
3. The Desert Column will move forward in the early hours of the morning of 26th March against the enemy at Gaza. The General Officer Commanding Desert Column will dispose his mounted troops so as to block the enemy's lines of retreat from Gaza, and to watch for any movement of his main body towards Gaza from the Tel en Nejile - Huj area, or of the Tel esh Sheria - Abu Hareira detachment along the main road or roads to the north of it.
He will than attack the enemy's force occupying Gaza.
4.(a) In order to pass the mounted troops round the enemy's position, it will be necessary for General Officer Commanding Desert Column to move then through, the outpost position of the 54th Division soon after dawn an the 26th March.
The 54th Division will be ready to move at 0830 on the 26th. As soon as the mounted troops of the Desert Column are clear and over the Wadi Ghuzze, the Division (less one Infantry Brigade, one Field Artillery Brigade and one Field Ambulance) will move from In Sereit to a Position of readiness in the neighbourhood of Sheikh Abbas to be selected by the Divisional Commander. General Officer Commanding 54th Division will not disperse his troops at Sheikh Abbas more then is avoidable, but will select a position suitable for defence against an attack from the east and south east, and will make arrangements so as to enable it to be occupied and rapidly strengthened if necessary. He will also reconnoitre his lines of advance against a hostile force moving on Gaza from the Tel esh Sheria - Abu Hareira direction.
General Officer Commanding 54th Division will also make every effort to develop a supply of water in the Wadi el Ghuzze, between Abu um Teibig and the bend in the wadi wast of El Breij, both inclusive.
(b) The Brigade group, 54th Division, left at In Seirat, in accordance with the foregoing order, will for the time being be directly at the disposal of the General Officer Commanding Eastern Force.
5. The 53rd Division will await orders at Khan Yunis, for the protection of which place General Officer Commanding 52nd Division will be responsible. The division will be ready to move at the shortest notice, with two complete "mobile rations" on the man, and the Divisional Commander will make every endeavour to arrange that, by leaving behind non-essentials carried in his 1st line transport, by loading additional forage on artillery vehicles, etc, he may be able to carry one day's marching ration for animals in the 1st line transport, in case it is necessary to move forward.
6. When the enemy's force at Gaza is disposed of, and if the General Officer Commanding Desert Column finds an opportunity for the use of his mounted troops in pursuit, the 1st Imperial Camel Brigade will revert to the direct command of the General Officer Commanding East Force. General Officer Commanding Desert Column will report the exact position of this brigade as soon as possible after the dispositions of the mounted troops preliminary to the main attack on Gaza is completed.
7. The following is the disposition of the Royal flying Corps.
A permanent contact patrol of one aeroplane will be maintained with the Desert Column, reporting direct to battle headquarters, Desert Column. General Officer Commanding Desert Column will be responsible for transmitting information received from this contact patrol to Eastern Force Headquarters, or battle headquarters, as the case may be. Five aeroplanes will be detailed for general reconnaissance, reporting to battle headquarters, Eastern Force; all information gained by these aeroplanes of movements of the enemy main body (at present in the Tel el Nejile - Huj area) o9r of his central detachment (at present in the El esh Sheria - Abu Hareira area), or of the approach of enemy troops from the Lydda - Ramle area will be dropped at battle headquarters, Desert Column, as well as at battle headquarters, Eastern Force.
Six aeroplanes will be detailed for cooperation with the artillery. A wireless receiving station is allotted to the heavy artillery, three to each division and two to each mounted division.
Six aeroplanes will be detailed for patrol duties.
8. Special Communications. A Shore Signal Station, for inter communication between the Navy and the Army will be established at 0600 on March 26th at a point 200 yards north of the well at Sheikh Shabashi. This station will be connected by wire with battle headquarters, Eastern Force.
Communication with the Navy can also be obtained by wireless from battle headquarters, Eastern Force. As soon as Gaza is occupied, General Officer Commanding Desert Column will make arrangements for opening a Signal Station at some convenient place on the beach. The Sheikh Shabashi signal Station will close down as soon as the new station is opened. In the event of battle headquarters, Eastern Force, moving before the Gaza Shore Signal Station is opened, arrangements will be made for the Sheikh Shabashi station to be connected to the nearest signal office.
9. A note regarding the supply of ammunition is issued as an annexure to this order.
10. Medical Arrangements. A Casualty Clearing Station will be established at Khan Yunis to which patients will be evacuated from the front. This Casualty Clearing Station will be laid out on the 25th ready to be set up, but no tents will be pitched on that day. General Officer Commanding 52nd Division will arrange to pitch the tents on the morning of the 26th.
The 54th Division will form a dressing station if required near In Seirat, on the Gaza - Rafa Road as near as possible to Deir el Belah.
The 52nd Division will form a dressing station at Khan Yunis if required.
Evacuation will take place from the dressing stations to the Casualty Clearing Stations at Khan Yunis by motor ambulance convoy.
The Deputy Director Medical Services Desert Column has at his disposal 21 Ford motor ambulances for use as an ambulance convoy. In the event of motor ambulances not being available for evacuation purposes, the Assistant Directors Medical Services 54th and 52nd Divisions will use their own transport.
11. To General Officers Commanding
74th Division and
Commandant, Khan Yunis,
Special Instructions are issued with this order regarding supply arrangements.
12. Battle Headquarters, Eastern Force, will be established by 0600 on the 26th March about Point 310 north east of In Seirat.
The Officer in charge of Signals, Eastern Force, will arrange to connect the battle headquarters of Eastern Force and Desert Column by wire as early as possible on the 26th.
Signed GP Dawnay, Brigadier General
General Staff, Eastern Force
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: