Posted 31 January 2011 - 05:33 AM
I'm suspecting that not everyone has read MAJ Vivian Gilbert's account of the Surrender of Jerusalem in his book: Romance of the Last Crusade. The book is an enjoyable read and isn't as sensationalized as Lowell Thomas' With Allenby in the Holy Land. But, Chapter XI may lead you to believe the whole book is a humorous tome - it is not. In retelling this story, how much literary license did Gilbert take? I don't know. Historically, his account is important in that it is a primary account of PVT Church's telling the tale. Gilbert was there although his book was published six years later in 1923.
For those who would like to read chapter eleven, here it is. The formatting discrepancies are from the scanner and OCR software I used.
THE SURRENDER OF JERUSALEM.
The second in command of one of the London regiments in my brigade had a really brilliant idea. It came to him about 4 A. M. on December 9th, as he lay in his bivouac constructed from two army blankets and three Turkish rifles.
The ground beneath him was wet, and the raw night air, heavy with mist and penetra-tingly cold, crept through the openings of his temporary shelter, chilling him to the bone. Hi had tossed from side to side in his valise the greater part of the night to avoid the mist, which, liquefying into drops of rain on the inner surface of the bivouac, dropped with depressing regularity on his upturned face.
Although ravenously hungry, he was not looking forward to breakfast. But then, for some time past, the daily menu had consisted of bully beef and biscuits, and whilst American canned beef is awfully good, you get rather tired of it if you have nothing else to eat for a year or two. The major, unfortunately, was blessed with a vivid imagination and could picture such
wonderful breakfasts; for instance-—Quaker oats and thick cream, ham and eggs, devilled kidneys and mushrooms, grilled Dover sole, dry toast, marmalade and coffee! One thing he had firmly decided, he would apply for leave to Cairo immediately after the next big show.
Going down the line would be pretty beastly, but thank goodness, trains were now running across the Desert, and at Kantara he could change on to the Egyptian state railway; and then the tremendous satisfaction of sitting at a real table once more in the cheerful dining-room at Shepherd's Hotel!
In imagination he could see that table now, with its spotless linen cloth, shining silver, and large bowl of fragrant roses. What should he order first? Perhaps coffee, toast, eggs and bacon, lots of eggs and lots of curly, crisp rolls of bacon. When these arrived he would wait for a moment whilst the man removed the cover of the entree dish, and then indulge in a surreptitious but appreciative sniff at the contents. (Is there anything in the world more likely to stimulate appetite and soothe the savage beast latent in all of us than the aroma of cooked bacon and freshly roasted coffee?)
Then he would prop his folded newspaper
against the coffee pot and read how those poor devils in Palestine were getting on!
The major was on the point of raising a particularly choice morsel of dream bacon to his mouth, when a large drop of dirty water fell from the old army blanket overhead, splashed on his nose, and caused the whole delightful picture to fade away.
It was at this moment that the Lifta cock crew and the great idea came!
Lifta had fallen into British hands the night before and the inhabitants, who were quite friendly, had not been dispossessed. A cordon of troops was thrown around the village, however, as a precautionary measure. If there was a cockerel in Lifta, there were probably hens, too. If hens—why not eggs? The quartermaster most likely possessed a secret store of bacon; quartermasters usually do. Eggs and bacon!—part of the major's dream might yet be realised.
His mouth watered in anticipation and then another thought came, a disturbing one this time! Hundreds of officers and thousands of men were in the immediate vicinity of the cap-tured village. Just suppose only a small per-centage of these should have heard the cock
crow—and a still smaller have had the same idea as himself? Why, in less than an hour's time there would not be a solitary egg, or for the matter of that, a hen left in the place.
Not a moment was to be lost! Where was his man?
"Hey, Barton!" shouted the major, now thoroughly alive to the urgency of the occasion. "Barton, where are you?"
"Here, sir!" replied a very sleepy voice, and an indistinct form crawled out of a bivouac a few yards away.
"Oh, Barton, wake the officers' cook, tell him to get his rifle and report to me immediately."
"Very good, sir," said Barton, and he went in the direction of the cook-house.
Shortly afterwards Private Murch, culinary expert, stood before the major's bivouac. He hardly gave the impression of a smart British soldier; his tunic was so covered with grease and filth it looked black instead of khaki colour. He had omitted to rewind his puttees, slackened to sleep in, and they hung in forlorn Joops round his calves. The toe-cap of one boot was missing, exposing to view a very red big toe, framed in a ragged grey woollen sock. He probably used his pith helmet as a pillow, for it had lost its
original shape and had a twisted and drunken appearance; it was at least one size too small, and was only held in position by a thick piece of string doing duty for the leather strap it must have once possessed.
Private Murch had not shaved recently and a heavy stubble covered his chin, giving to his face rather a villainous expression quite out of keeping with the man's naturally sunny disposition. Slung over his right shoulder was a rifle, protruding from the muzzle of which peeped a screwed-up piece of oily rag.
The major flashed his electric torch on this miserable specimen of humanity, and his first thought was, "Really, the fellow is impossible; how do cooks get in such a state? He ought to be well told off." Then he remembered the eggs and how little time there was to lose, so all he said was, "Take that rag out of your rifle and listen to me. You know the village we captured last night?—it is called Lifta and is about a mile east of here. I want you to go there right away and buy some eggs, as many as possible; get them from the villagers. Here are sixty piastres, be as quick as possible, but don't come back without the eggs!"
Private Murch saluted as smartly as he knew
how—being a cook he was a little out of prac-tice. He then turned about and was almost immediately swallowed up in the mist.
To understand something of the character of a typical army cook, it is necessary to know how it is a soldier comes to be selected for this responsible post on active service.
When a cook is required at battalion head-quarters to replace another who has either become a casualty, which is very rare, or, more frequently, gone sick from his own cooking; the adjutant sends a chit to all company commanders, worded as follows:
To O.C., A. B. C. and D. Coy's A cook is required for B'n H.Q. You
will detail a suitable man to report to the
Orderly Room at 09.30 hr's, to-morrow the
A. Blank, Capt. and Adj.
When the officer commanding "A" Company gets this note he parades all his men and carries out a careful inspection. Unfortunately, in most infantry companies there are certain to be two or three scalawags who invariably let the company down when it is inspected by the colonel or any visiting general. The captain pays particular attention to these bad men of
his company; finally he decides Private X is the biggest handicap his company at present possesses, so he says to Private X: "You will report, with full equipment, at battalion head-quarters at nine-thirty to-morrow morning!" And this duty over, he dismisses his company.
The same procedure takes place in B, C, and D Companies, so that at nine-thirty the next morning, four of the dirtiest, most disreputable, bad characters in the whole battalion parade before the adjutant for the position of cook.
The adjutant comes out of his tent, has a good look at them, finally decides Private Y is the least objectionable and says to him: "Have you ever had any experience of cooking?"
"No, sir!" replies Private Y.
"How would you like to be officers' cook?" continues the adjutant.
"Not at all, sir," says Private Y.
"You will report at 10 o'clock to the mess sergeant as cook," raps out the adjutant, who prefers to take the man's lack of enthusiasm as the sign of a modest nature and a natural feeling of unworthiness for the promotion to the staff; and he dismisses the other three men.
From which it will be gathered staff appointments do not necessarily go to the most suitable
or efficient people; indeed many staff officers are
selected for important posts in a manner similar
to the selection of army cooks.
Private Murch grumbled gently to himself as he set off in the direction of Lifta.
It was still quite dark, there was a heavy ground mist, and his way lay over country cut up by trenches and strewn with boulders. He trudged along for some time, now and then giving his unprotected toes nasty knocks against the sharp flints.
In Bible times the favourite way of killing a man was to stone him to death. Murch had always considered this rather a clumsy method, but out here in Palestine—why, it appeared the most natural thing in the world. Stones lay everywhere, ready to the hand, nasty jagged stones. What could be easier than to pick up some and hurl them at anyone one didn't particularly care about? Should the exertion of stooping be too great, there were always nice heaps of the right size collected from cultivated strips of land, and these were always within reach.
It was impossible to keep in an absolutely straight line. Some of the deserted Turkish
trenches were too wide to cross, and this necessitated a detour of some hundreds of yards before he could get ahead; but he always managed to pick up the same direction again, of that he was certain.
The major said Lifta was only a mile away, but Private Murch was not going to be taken in by that; he knew from bitter experience what an "officer's mile" represented on the ground.
How many times, towards the end of a long march, when his feet were blistered, and his whole body aching from sheer fatigue, would an officer ride along the ranks of dusty, discouraged men, and say cheerfully, "Keep it up! only another mile to go." The mile invariably turned out to be two, or even three, so that when he heard that old refrain again, "Only another mile," he smiled grimly to himself, set his teethr and absolutely disbelieved it. Anyhow, this was the longest "officer's mile" Private Murch had yet experienced. Luckily it was getting lighter every minute. He could not help thinking it strange he had not passed any of the men he knew were on duty round Lifta.
And then, just as he was beginning to get really alarmed, he came to the crest of a hill, and there before him lay the village he had been
looking for. The sun was now peeping behind the horizon, throwing into relief the houses, temples and mosques crowded together. The major had described it as a small village, but it was an enormous place, and certainly the finest he had come across since leaving Cairo. One thing was sure, he would get all the eggs he needed here.
In the meantime he was both hot and tired. He sat down on a large stone and mopped his face with the oily rag he had removed from the muzzle of his rifle and placed in his pocket before leaving camp; then, removing the cigarette stump from behind his ear, he lit it and took one or two satisfying puffs before casting it aside and taking a further look at the surrounding country.
A few yards to his left ran a winding road, broad and smooth leading right up to the village. Just his luck! he might have walked on level ground in comfort instead of scrambling over jagged rocks and in and out of trenches "like a bloomin' monkey." Why couldn't the major have told him of this short cut, instead of directing him right across the hills?
"'Ello! What was that?"
The end of the road, previously deserted, was
now covered by a large crowd advancing from the shelter of the houses. It was still some distance away, but a carriage drawn by a pair of horses could be seen leading the procession. As it got nearer two men on horseback could be distinguished carrying white banners on long poles and riding a little in rear of the dilapidated vehicle.
Murch got up and strolled towards them. He was quite mystified as to the meaning of this strange performance. He could see that many of the people, there were women and children amongst them, carried white flags and handkerchiefs, and these they continually waved before them; perhaps it was a native funeral, thought the army cook.
At length they espied him, and, with loud cries and clapping of hands, crowded round, all talking at once.
They were in a wild state of excitement, and for a moment, Private Murch thought of flight. Then he decided he would hold his ground; after all, he was a British soldier, whereas these villagers were only a lot of "blawsted natives"; there was nothing to fear.
His arms were seized and frantically pulled up and down; he was patted all over, and almost
deafened with piercing shrieks of joy uttered by the women. They seemed particularly pleased with his uniform and general appearance, and the greatest interest was shown in his brass buttons and his rifle.
In spite of these rather embarrassing atten-tions, he could not help feeling highly gratified with the obvious admiration he was causing. It was the first time since he had been a soldier that his "turn out" had excited any marks of approval from anyone. That this should happen at a time when he honestly felt he was not looking his best, was truly remarkable.
At the height of all this excitement, a coloured gentleman in a white night shirt shouted loudly, "Allah Akbar," and seizing the cook in both arms endeavoured to kiss him. Our hero was luckily able to frustrate this design by wrenching one arm free and assuming a threatening attitude, but only just in time.
The noise now died down, and a little man in a black frock coat with a tarbush on his head and looking very much like a Turk, could be heard speaking from the carriage.
"You are British soldier, are not you?" he asked in a high falsetto voice.
"I should say so," replied Private Murch.
"Where is General Allah Nebi?" now enquired the man in the red fez.
"Anged if I know, mister," answered the private.
"I want to surrender the city please. 'Ere are ze keys; it is yours II went on the stranger, producing a large bunch of keys and waving them before the bewildered Britisher, who now began to think he had fallen amongst lunatics.
"I don't want yer city. I want some heggs for my hofficers!" yelled the disgusted cook.
Whilst all these things were happening the major was awaiting anxiously the return of the cook with his breakfast. The other officers also were beginning to feel hungry; as for the colonel, he made a few caustic remarks with reference to brilliant ideas in general and sent for his own servant to take the cook's place.
I happened to be at battalion headquarters when Private Murch, hot and out of breath, arrived.
"Where have you been for the last four hours?" demanded the colonel in a freezing tone.
The perspiring private proceeded to relate his amazing adventures in a rich cockney dialect.
In spite of his rambling and at times inco-
herent recitation, it dawned on us at last that one of the greatest events in the history of the world, for which thousands had given their lives and for which millions of pounds of English money had been poured out, had just taken place.
When the man came to the end of his story, the colonel turned to us and said quietly, "Gentlemen, Jerusalem has fallen!"
Then he seized a field telephone, rang up the brigadier, and acquainted him with the startling
Brigadier-General Watson was wildly excited —he was the nearest general to the Holy City and to him would fall the honour of accepting the surrender: his name would be flashed to every corner of the globe.
"Where's my horse?" he shouted. "Saddle him up immediately and tell the groom to follow me," and he hurried to his tent for his best red cap and fly whisk.
In a few minutes he was galloping madly up the Jaffa-Jerusalem road followed by an orderly on a mule.
He met the mayor in his carriage outside the Jaffa Gate. The road was now black with people, for everyone in the city was at last aware the Turks had left for good.
Together the mayor of Jerusalem and the English brigadier rode through the streets of Jerusalem until they came to the El Kala citadel. On the steps at the base of the Tower of David the mayor surrendered the Holy City and handed over the keys. General Watson accepted in the name of the Allies, and was loudly cheered by the inhabitants as he rode back to brigade headquarters.
In the meantime, however, directly the brigadier had left the British lines, the brigade major rang up the divisional commander and informed him of what was taking place. Major-General Shea got on the field telephone and said, "Stop the brigadier, I will myself take the surrender of Jerusalem!"
It was, of course, too late to stop the brigadier then: he was already in Jerusalem. So when he got back, flushed with success, the brigade major told him what the divisional general had said. Brigadier-General Watson decided the only thing to do was to ride back to the city and hand the keys back to the mayor, who was informed tihat Major-General Shea was now on his way to see him.
Fresh cheering in the streets announced the ceremonial arrival of the divisional commander
in his car, accompanied by a glittering staff. The mayor came out, made another little speech, surrendered Jerusalem again, and handed over the keys which had been handed back to him a short time before by the brigadier. Major-General Shea made a tactful speech that was loudly cheered by the crowds in the streets; and then, amidst the clapping of hands and welcoming cries of the populace motored back to his headquarters on the Mount of Grapes.
His first duty on returning was to send a telegram to the commander-in-chief, through the 20th Corps, worded as follows:
"I have the honor to report that I have
this day accepted the surrender of Jerusa-lem."
By return came the message:
"General Allenby will himself accept
the surrender of Jerusalem on the 11th
inst.; make all arrangements."
On December 11th General Allenby, followed by representatives of the Allies, made his formal entry into Jerusalem.
The historic Jaffa Gate was opened after years of disuse enabling him to pass into the Holy City without making use of the gap in the wall through which the kaiser entered in 1898.
Allenby entered on foot and left on foot, and throughout the ceremony no Allied flag was flown, whilst naturally no enemy flags were visible. The mayor came out on to the steps of the Tower of David, surrendered the city and handed over to the commander-in-chief the keys which had been returned to him by the divisional general the previous afternoon.
General Allenby issued a proclamation, read in English, French, Arabic, Hebrew, Greek, Russian and Italian, in which he said that order would be maintained in all the hallowed sites of the three great religions, which were to be guarded and preserved for the free use of worshippers.
The chief notables who had remained in Jerusalem, were then presented to the general who returned on foot to the Jaffa Gate, frantically cheered by the multitude, where his car was waiting to take him back to army headquarters at Ramleh.
Two weeks afterwards the mayor of Jerusalem died of pneumonia. I could not help thinking he must have caught cold standing exposed to the inclement weather whilst he handed over Jerusalem, first to the cook, then to the brigadier, then to the major-general and finally to the commander-in-chief.