Sunday, April 30, 2017

100 Years Ago: The Great Gaza Cock-Up

The Terrain Around Gaza
The Well-Equipped Turkish Defenders

The coastal city of Gaza was the heart of the main Turkish defensive position in southern Palestine. Two major offensives were launched in 1917 by British and Dominion forces under the command of General Archibald Murray to capture Gaza.

The first battle of Gaza took place on 26 March 1917. Two British infantry divisions were to attack it from the south, while the mounted troops of the Desert Column would attack from the flanks and north. When the attack was launched, the infantry made slow progress, but the mounted troops succeeded in capturing high ground to the north of the city and advancing into it. Concerned by the lack of progress made by the infantry, and fearing the water supplies vital for the mounted troops would not be captured that night, Lieutenant General Dobell, the British officer commanding the operation, ordered a withdrawal at dusk. The next morning, after realizing his mistake, Dobell attempted to resume the battle with the infantry, but with the troops exhausted and the Turks having received reinforcements, the attack foundered.

A Destroyed British Tank

The second battle of Gaza took place three weeks later, beginning on 17 April 1917. In the interim the Turks had extended and improved their defenses. Dobell launched another frontal assault on the Turkish defenses, which was supported by gas shells and six tanks. The tanks and the gas were both dismal failures and the attacking forces could make little headway against well-sited Turkish redoubts. After three days of fighting the attack was called off, having not gained any significant ground. 

Prisoners Taken After the Second Battle of Gaza 

In the Gaza battles and the fights around Jerusalem, the Turks  had deployed well-trained artillerymen, had revealed that they had more machine guns than the EEF, had shown a fine eye for terrain, and had proved their skill in planning and entrenching a position. The biggest advantage the Turks had in the spring, however, was at the high command level. General Murray's skills were more in organizational aspects than in fighting—more a McClellan than a Grant. That would change on 1 June 1917, when General Edmund Allenby would arrive in theater to replace Murray. He would reinvigorate the command and launch a successful offensive in the fall. The Third Battle of Gaza would be a major victory for the British forces and open the door to Jerusalem.


Source:  The Australian War Memorial


Original Page: http://roadstothegreatwar-ww1.blogspot.com/2017/04/100-years-ago-great-gaza-cock-up_28.html



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