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The Egyptian Expeditionary Force 1917 - 1918
General Allenby's Dispatch – December 16, 1917 (Part 3)
Capture of Junction Station, Nov. 14.
The infantry, who were sent forward about dusk to occupy Junction Station, met with some resistance and halted for the night, not much more than a mile west of the station. Early next morning (Nov. 14) they occupied the station.

The enemy's army had now been broken into two separate parts, which retired north and east respectively, and were reported to consist of small scattered groups rather than formed bodies of any size.

In fifteen days our force had advanced sixty miles on its right and about forty on its left. It had driven a Turkish Army of nine infantry divisions and one cavalry division out of a position in which it had been entrenched for six months, and had pursued it, giving battle whenever it attempted to stand, and inflicting on it losses amounting probably to nearly two-thirds of the enemy's original effectives. Over 9,000 prisoners, about eighty guns, more than 100 machine guns, and very large quantities of ammunition and other stores had been captured. (See PLATE 15.)

16. After the capture of Junction Station on the morning of the 14th, our troops secured a position covering the station, while the Australian mounted troops reached Kezaze that same evening.

The mounted troops pressed on towards Banileh and Ludd. On the right Naaneh was attacked and captured in the morning, while on the left the New Zealand Mounted Rifles had a smart engagement at Ayun Kara (Rishon le Zion, six miles south of Jaffa). Here the Turks made a determined counterattack and got to within fifteen yards of our line. A bayonet attack drove them back with heavy loss.

Flanking the advance along the railway to Ramleh and covering the main road from Ramleh to Jerusalem, a ridge stands up prominently out of the low foot hills surrounding it. This is the site of the ancient Gezer, near which the village of Abu Shusheh now stands. A hostile rearguard had established itself on this feature. It was captured on the morning of the 15th in a brilliant attack by mounted troops, who galloped up the ridge from the south. A gun and 360 prisoners were taken in this affair.

By the evening of the 15th the mounted troops had occupied Ramleh and Ludd, and had pushed patrols to within a short distance of Jaffa. At Ludd 300 prisoners were taken, and five destroyed aeroplanes and a quantity of abandoned war material were found at Ramleh and Ludd.

Occupation of Jaffa, Nov. 16.
Jaffa was occupied without opposition on the evening of the 16th. 17. The situation was now as follows:—

The enemy's army, cut in two by our capture of Junction Station, had retired partly east into the mountains towards Jerusalem and partly north along the plain. The nearest hue on which these two portions could re-unite was the line Tul Keram-Nablus. Reports from the Royal Flying Corps indicated that it was the probable intention of the enemy to evacuate Jerusalem and withdraw to reorganize on this line. ()See PLATE 16.)

On our side the mounted troops had been marching and fighting continuously since Oct. 31, and had advanced a distance of seventy-five miles, measured in a straight line from Asluj to Jaffa. The troops, after their heavy fighting at Gaza, had advanced in nine days a distance of about forty miles, with two severe engagements and continual advanced guard fighting. The 52nd (Lowland) Division had covered sixty-nine miles in this period.

The railway was being pushed forward as rapidly as possible, and every opportimity was taken of landing atores at points along the coast. The landing of stores was dependent on a continuance of favourable weather, and might at any moment be stopped for several days together.

A pause was therefore necessary to await the progress of railway construction, but before our position in the plain could be considered secure it was essential to obtain hold of the one good road which traverses the Judaean range from north to south, from Nablus to Jerusalem.

The Advance into Judæa.
18. The west side of the Judæan range consists of a series of spurs running east and west, and separated from one another by narrow valleys. These spurs are steep, bare and stony for the most part) and in places precipitous. Between the foot of the spur of the main range and the coastal plain is the low range known as the Shephelah.

On our intended line of advance only one good road, the main Jaffa-Jerusalem road, traversed the hills from east to west. For nearly four miles, between Bab el Wad (two and a half miles east of Latron) and Saris, this road passes through a narrow defile, and it had been damaged by the Turks in several places. The other roads were mere tracks on the side of the hill or up the stony beds of wadis, and were impracticable for wheeled transport without improvement. Throughout these hills the water supply was scanty without development.

On Nov. 17 the Yeomanry had commenced to move from Ramleh through the hills direct on Bireh by Annabeh, Berfilya and Beit ur el Tahta (Lower Bethhoron). By the evening of Nov. 18 one portion of the Yeomanry had reached the last-named place, while another portion had occupied Shilta. The route had been found impossible for wheels beyond Annabeh. (See PLATE 17.)

On the 19th the Infantry commenced its advance. One portion was to advance up the main road as far as Kuryet el Enab, with its right flank protected by Australian mounted troops. From that place, in order to avoid any fighting in the close vicinity of the Holy City, it was to strike north towards Bireb by a track leading through Biddu. The remainder of the infantry was to advance through Berfilya to Beit Likia and Beit Dukka, and thence support the movement of the other portion.

After capturing Latron and Amnas on the morning of the 19th, the remainder of the day was spent in clearing the defile up to Saris, which was defended by hostile rearguards. (See PLATE 18.)

On the 20th Kuryet el Enab was captured with the bayonet in the face of organized opposition, while Beit Dukka was also captured. On the same day the Yeomanry got to within four miles of the Nablus- Jerusalem road, but were stopped by strong opposition about Beitunia.

On the 21 st a body of infantry moved north-east by a track from Kuryet el Enab through Biddu and Kulundia towards Bireh. The track was found impassable for wheels, and was under hostile shell fire. Progress was slow, but by evening the ridge on which stands Neby Samwil was secured. A further body of troops was left at Kuryet el Enab to cover the flank and demonstrate along the main Jerusalem road. Tt drove hostile parties from Kustui, two and a half miles east of Kuryet el Enab, and secured this ridge. By the afternoon of the 21st advanced parties of Yeomanry were within two miles of the road, and an attack was being deliered on Beitunia by other mounted troops. (See PLATE 19.)

Turkish Counter-Attacks.
19. The positions reached on the evening of the 21st practically marked the limit of progress in this first attempt to gain the Nablus-Jerusalem road. The Yeomanry were heavily counter-attacked and fell back, after bitter fighting, on Beit ur el Foka (Upper Bethhoron). During the 22nd the enemy made two counter-attacks on the Neby Samwil ridge, which were repulsed. Determined and gallant attacks were made on the 23rd and on the 24th on the strong positions to the west of the road held by the enemy, who had brought up reinforcements and numerous machine guns, and could support his infantry by artillery fire from guns placed in positions along the main road. Our artillery, from lack of roads, could not be brought up to give adequate support to our infantry. Both attacks failed, and it was evident that a period of preparation and organization would be necessary before an attack could be dehvered hi sufficient strength to drive the enemy from his positions west of the road. (See PLATE 20.) Orders were accordingly issued to consolidate the positions gained and prepare for relief. Though these troops had failed to reach their final objectives, they had achieved invaluable results. The narrow passes from the plain to the plateau of the Judaean range have seldom been forced, and have been fatal to many invading armies. Had the attempt not been made at once, or had it been pressed with less determination, the enemy would have had time to reorganize his defences in the passes lower down, and the conquest of the plateau would then have been slow, costly, and precarious. As it was, positions had been won from which the final attack could be prepared and delivered with good prospect" of success.

20. By Dec. 4 all reliefs were complete, and a line was held from Kustui by the Neby Samwil ridge, Beit lzza, and Beit Dukka, to Beit ur el Tahta. (See PLATES 22, 23, & 24.)

Fighting on the Auja.
During this period attacks by the enemy along the whole line led to severe local fighting. On Nov. 25 our advanced posts north of the river Auja were driven back across the river. From the 27th to the 30th the enemy delivered a series of attacks directed especially against the high ground north and north-cast of Jaffa, the left flank of our position in the hills from Beit ur el Foka to Bl Burj, and the Neby Samwil ridge. An attack on the night of the 29th succeeded in penetrating our outpost line north-east of Jaffa, but next morning the whole hostile detachment, numbering 150, was surrounded and captured by Australian Light Horse. On the 30th a similar fate befell a battalion which attacked near El Burj ; a counter-attack by Australian Light Horse took 200 prisoners and practically destroyed the attacking battalion. There was particularly heavy fighting between E] Burj and Beit ur el Foka, but the Yeomanry and Scottish troops successfully resisted all attacks and inflicted severe losses on the enemy. At Beit ur el Foka one company took 300 prisoners. (See PLATE 21.)

Enemy Failure at Neby Samwil.
All efforts by the enemy to drive us off the Neby Samwil ridge were completely repulsed. These attacks cost the Turks very dearly. We took 750 prisoners between Nov. 27 and 30, and the enemy's losses in killed and wounded were undoubtedly heavy. His attacks in no way affected our positions nor impeded the progress of our preparations.

Converging Movement on Jerusalem.
21. Favoured by a continuance of fine weather, preparations for a fresh advance against the Turkish positions west and south of Jerusalem proceeded rapidly. Existing roads and tracks were improved and new ones constructed to enable heavy and field artillery to be placed in position and ammunition and supplies brought up. The water supply was also developed.

The date for the attack was fixed as Dec. 8. Welsh troops, with a Cavalry regiment attached, had advanced from their positions north of Beersheba up the Hebron-Jerusalem road on the 4th. No opposition was met, and by the evening of the 6th the head of this column was ten miles north of Hebron. The Infantry were directed to reach the Bethlehem-Belt Jala area by the 7th, and the line Surbahir-Sherafat (about three miles south of Jerusalem) by dawn on the 8th) and no troops were to enter Jerusalem during this operation. (See PLATE 25.)

It was recognized that the troops on the extreme right might be delayed on the 7th and fail to reach the positions assigned to them by dawn on the 8th. Arrangements were therefore made to protect the right flank west of Jerusalem, in case such delay occurred.

22. On the 7th the weather broke, and for three days rain was almost continuous. The hills were covered with mist at frequent intervals, rendering observation from the air and visual signalling impossible. A more serious effect of the rain was to jeopardise the supply arrangements by rendering the roads almost impassable—quite impassable, indeed, for mechanical transport and camels in many places. (See PLATE 26.)

The troops moved into positions of assembly bynight, and, assaulting at dawn on the 8th, soon carried their first objectives. They then pressed steadily forward. The mere physical difficulty of climbing the steep and rocky hillsides and crossing the deep valleys would have sufficed to render progress slow, and the opposition encountered was considerable. Artillery support was soon difficult, owing to the length of the advance and the difficulty of moving guns forward. But by about noon London troops bad already advanced over two miles, and were swinging north-east to gain the Nablus-Jerusalem road; while the Yeomanry had captured the Beit lksa spur, and were preparing for a further advance.

Surrender of Jerusalem, Dec. 9.
As the right column had been delayed and was still some distance south of Jerusalem, it was necessary for the London troops to throw back their right and form a defensive flank facing east towards Jerusalem, from the western outskirts of which considerable rifle and artillery fire was being experienced. This delayed the advance, and early in the afternoon it was decided to consolidate the line gained and resume the advance next day, when the right column would be in a position to exert its pressure. By night- fall our line ran from Neby Samwit to the east of Beit lksa, through Lifta to a point about one and a. half miles west of Jerusalem, whence it was thrown back facing east. All the enemy's prepared defences west and north-west of Jerusalem had been captured, and our troops were within a short distance of the Nablus-Jerusalem road.
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