Posted 08 January 2012 - 03:51 pm
In Purnell's History of World War 1, Vol 7 there is a very interesting article on the capture of Jerusalem by Brigadier Peter Young, part of which reads :-
" The actual surrender of Jerusalem was not without an element of humour. It seems that the first to learn of the city's impending fall were privates H. E. Church and R. W. J. Andrews of the 2/20th London Regiment. They had advanced into the outskirts to look for water and were told by civilians that the Turks had departed.
About 0800 hours Sergeants Hurcomb and Sedgewick ( 2/19th London Regiment ) met a flag of truce, and not long after two Royal Artillery majors, W. Beck and F. R. Barry, appeared on the scene and had a conversation with the mayor. This escalation in rank of the British officers concerned continued. The gunner majors reported to Lieutenant-Colonel H. Bailey DSO, who felt too junior to accept the surrender. A few minutes later Brigadier-General C. F. Watson, CMG, DSO
( 180th Brigade ) rode up, and, after reassuring the mayor, transmitted the offer of surrender to Major-General J. S. M. Shea, CB, CMG, DSO ( 60th Division ) at Kuryet El Enab.
The latter informed General Sir Phillip Chetwode ( XX Corps ), and about 1100 hours was authorised to accept the surrender. Meanwhile Brigadier-General Watson with a small mounted escort, followed by the mayor in his carriage, had ridden to the Jaffa Gate in order to reassure the populace, and he was the first British soldier to arrive there. Major-General Shea arrived somewhat later by car and, sending for the mayor and the chief of police, accepted the surrender in Allenby's name.
Thus fell Jerusalem for, perhaps the 34th time. And thus it came to pass that when the Prophet of the Lord ( Allah en Nebi alias Allenby ) caused the waters of the Nile to flow, albeit by pipeline, to Palestine, and ancient prophecy was fulfilled and the Holy City was retaken from the Turks. On December 11 Allenby entered Jerusalem on foot by the Jaffa Gate. From the steps of the Citadel in a simple, yet dignified ceremony, a proclamation was read in English, French, Arabic, Hebrew, Greek, Russian and Italian :
Allenby's Jerusalem Surrender Proclamation -
" To the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Blessed and the people dwelling in its vicinity.
The defeat inflicted upon the Turks by the troops under my command has resulted in the occupation of your city by my forces. I therefore here and now proclaim it to be under martial law, under which form of administration it will remain so long as military considerations make it necessary.
However, lest any of you should be alarmed by reason of your experience at the hands of the enemy who has retired, I hereby inform you that it is my desire that every person should pursue his lawful business without fear or interruption.
Furthermore, since your city is regarded with affection by adherents of three of the great religions of mankind, and its soil has been consecrated by the prayers and pilgrimages of multitudes of devout people of these three religions for many centuries, therefore do I make it known to you that every sacred building, monument, Holy spot, shrine, traditional site, endowment, pious bequest, or customary place of prayer, of whatsoever form of the three religions, will be maintained and protected according to the existing customs and beliefs of those to whose faiths they are sacred ".
The advance to take Jerusalem began on November 18 and the fighting lasted until December 9 when Jerusalem fell.
The rains came early that year and the troops in their thin cotton khaki without greatcoats and with few blankets suffered terribly from teh wet and the cold. In the Palestine of those days a donket track was considered a good road, and supply, even by camels, was immensely difficult. Still 75th Division, which included Ghurka and Indian units with experience of warfare on the North-West Frontier, thrust through the Beb-El-Wad ( Gate of the Valley ) which strategically speaking is the western entrance to the Jerusalem area. On November 21 75th Division took Nabi Samweil, a village on a commanding height which is a key to Jerusalem. It is said to be the point that King Richard 1 obtained his first glimpse of the Holy City.
In recognition of their feat, the 75th Division took a key as their divisional badge.
During the next few days the Turks counterattacked furiously and fruitlessly, while at the same time their garrison in the village of El Jib defied the efforts of XXI corps. Allenby now decided to consolidate the ground gained and to reinforce his front line before making his final attack on Jerusalem. A lull of a fortnight ensued. During this time XX Corps relieved XXI Corps and the Turkish storm troops made numerous counterattacks against the British line with varying success.
There was a curious incident on November 30 when some 80 men of the 74th Division, owing to a faulty map, got to Beit Ur El Foka behind Turkish lines, and bluffed 450 of them into surrendering, bringing back 300 prisoners. On December 1 a battalion of the Turkish 19th Division attacked an Australian post at El Burj. A Battalion of 52nd Division, which was on its way to rest, came on the scene somewhat providently, and despite its determination the entire Turkish storm battalion was wiped out, losing more than 100 killed and 172 prisoners. It was afterwards learned from deserters that the Turks were geratly puzzled by the way in which this unit completely vanished. The British casualties were less than 60. There were further Turkish counterattacks during the early days of December, which as it turned out, served no useful purpose but caused them heavy casualties among their comparatively few good troops.
There was another brief lull before, on December 8, General Sir Phillip Chetwode ( XX Corps ) began his final advance. Once more the main difficulties were the rain, which fell incessantly on December 7 and 8, and the supply problem, for which animal transport were employed. The camels did not like the cold and the wet but 2000 Egyptian donkeys did useful work in the hills.
By this time, the Turkish 7th Army still had only 15,500 men, hardly enough to defend Jerusalem or rather the ring of hills which were its outworks. The Turks had spent a great deal of trouble on their defences and in some cases had provided three tiers of fire trenches. With sufficient men of high morale the position may have proved practically impregnable, but the series of disasters since Beersheba had shaken the Turks, who, as we have seen, had lost many of their best men in a series of counterattacks. The British onslaught at dawn on December 8 was favoured by mist and rain, though it delayed the progress of the 53rd Division. Although the fighting was indecisive in that they did not get across teh Nablus Road, the Turks were discouraged when they found that some of their strongest defences, such as Deir Yesin, had fallen. In the evening they began to withdraw, and on the morning of December 9, the Turks had left Jerusalem.
During campaign to capture Jerusalem from November 25 to December 10, British casulaties totalled 1,667, a number exceeded by that of Turkish prisoners of war alone ( 1,800 ). Since the end of October the British had 10,000 animal casualties, half of them killed, that is to say 11.5% of the force's horses, camels, mules and donkeys.