First Battle of Gaza - Battle - Infantry, Light Horse, Mounted Rifle and Artillery Attack On Gaza

Infantry, Light Horse, Mounted Rifle and Artillery Attack On Gaza

It took time to move Chauvel's headquarters to a knoll between Beit Durdis and Gaza so he could see operations, so it was not until a meeting there, at 15:15, that orders were issued to his brigadiers. The Anzac Mounted Division was to deploy for the attack from the north, with the 2nd Light Horse Brigade on a front extending from the Mediterranean Sea to the Gaza to Jebalieh road, the New Zealand Mounted Rifle Brigade covering the front from the Gaza to Jebalieh road to the top of the ridge running north east, while the Lincolnshire Yeomanry and Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry, of 22nd Mounted Yeomanry Brigade, took over the front from the right of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade to the track leading to Beit Durdis.

The infantry attack on Gaza was progressing; on the left, the 160th (Welsh Border) Brigade of the 53rd (Welsh) Division, had advanced rapidly and by 13:30 had captured the Labyrinth, a maze of entrenched gardens due south of Gaza, while the 2/10th Middlesex Regiment, had established itself on a grassy hill, and the 1/4th Royal Sussex Regiment, had advanced up the centre of the Es Sire ridge under intense enemy fire, suffering heavy casualties including their commanding officer. This infantry battalion was forced to fall back in some disorder from the crest. At 16:00 they were reinforced from the infantry reserve and the battalion again advanced.

As the left battalion; the 1/5th Royal Welsh Fusiliers, 158th (North Wales) Brigade, reached the cactus south of Ali Muntar they halted to allow other battalions to come up on its right. Along with the 159th (Cheshire) Brigade, 53rd (Welsh) Division, these two brigades slowly fought their way forward towards Clay Hill. Dallas ordered the 161st (Essex) Brigade, 54th (East Anglian) Division, to capture Green Hill and fill the gap between the 158th (North Wales) and 160th (Welsh Border) Brigades. By 15:30 the 161st (Essex) Brigade had reached Mansura and they were in a position to launch their attack at 16:00 with the arrival of the 271st Brigade RFA. The 161st (Essex) Brigade group dampened the enemy's machine gun fire from Clay Hill and 45 minutes after the 161st (Essex) Brigade joined the battle; at 15:50, the infantry succeeded in entering the Ottoman trenches in two places east of the Ali Muntar mosque, capturing 20 Germans and Austrians and 20 Ottomans. The 53rd (Welsh) Division reported the successful capture of Clay Hill at 16:45, which position was within 600 yards (550 m) of Ali Muntar.

Without waiting to complete the relief of all patrols by the Imperial Mounted Division, the attack by the Anzac Mounted Division, due to begin at 16:00 began at 15:40, supported by the Leicester and Ayrshire artillery batteries coming into action at 3,000 and 4,500 yards (2,700 and 4,100 m) respectively. This attack soon developed and in spite of the cactus hedges forcing a dismounted attack, progress was rapid. Shortly after the attack began Chetwode sent messages emphasising the importance of this attack, warning that the trench line north west of Gaza between El Meshaheran and El Mineh on the sea, was strong and offering another brigade from the Imperial Mounted Division, which Chauvel accepted; Hodgson sent the 3rd Light Horse Brigade.

Five minutes after the 159th (Cheshire) Brigade, of the 53rd (Welsh) Division captured the redoubt near Ali Muntar, at 16:15 the attack on Gaza from the north by the 2nd Light Horse Brigade, supported by the Somerset artillery battery began to develop. The 2nd Light Horse Brigade, advancing on the northern side towards the town had not been seriously engaged until it reached the cactus hedges where close, intense fighting took place. The light horsemen were supported by the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade which also moved forward with the Canterbury Mounted Rifle Regiment in advance and the Wellington Mounted Rifle Regiment in support, extended on their right. Only three troops of the Auckland Mounted Rifle Regiment were available as the others were delayed in the mounted screen by strong Ottoman advances attacking the mounted cordon, from Huj and Nejed.

At 16:23 the high ridge east of Gaza was captured by the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade and the 22nd Mounted Yeomanry Brigade on their left captured the knoll running west from the ridge. The New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade's headquarters took up a position on the ridge, on a knob later called 'Chaytor's Hill', while the Wellington and Canterbury Regiments pressed on towards Gaza. Only four machine-guns were attached to each of these regiments; the remaining four were held in reserve.

Between 16:30 and 17:00 Ali Muntar was captured by infantry and dismounted New Zealanders. The Canterbury Mounted Rifles Regiment pushed along 'The Ridge' to assist in the attack on Ali Muntar practically from the rear. One squadron of Canterbury Regiment swung south against Ali Muntar and entered the enemy trenches just after the 53rd (Welsh) Division.

By dusk the light horsemen had reached the northern and western outskirts of the town of Gaza, while the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade's dismounted advanced from Jebaliye against the east and north east sides of Gaza, after the capture of Ali Muntar, pushed on through very enclosed country. This area was intersected with cactus hedges, buildings and pits occupied by Ottoman riflemen. Despite considerable opposition they continued to slowly advance through the orchards and cactus hedges to the outskirts of the town. The Wellington Mounted Rifles Regiment captured two 77-mm Krupp guns with limbers and ammunition. Subsequently, when their progress was stopped by Ottoman snipers in several houses on the eastern outskirts of the town, they pushed the Krupp guns forward to fire point blank, blowing up several houses and causing the surrender of 20 enemy soldiers. The 22nd Mounted Yeomanry Brigade advancing at the gallop along the track from Beit Durdis to Gaza had also reached the outskirts of the town by dusk.

While the attack in the centre by Chaytor's New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade was progressing the 22nd Mounted Yeomanry Brigade came up on the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade's left. The attacking force had entered the town but the 2nd Light Horse Brigade had met with stiff resistance from Ottoman infantry among the sand hills to the north west of the town. The 7th Light Horse Regiment, 2nd Light Horse Brigade, on the extreme right (closest to the Mediterranean Sea) met considerable opposition but was eventually able to advance close up to the town. By nightfall, they had fought their way into the streets of Gaza; the Anzac Mounted Division suffering very few casualties during this battle.

By 18:00, the position of the attacking force was most satisfactory and by 18:30 the whole position had been captured and the defenders were retreating into the town centre. The Wellington Mounted Rifle Regiment and the 2nd Light Horse Brigade were well into the northern outskirts of the town; and the Canterbury Mounted Rifle Regiment, with part of the 53rd (Welsh) Division were in Ali el Muntar; while another part of the division held the trenches south of the town. The infantry were deployed with 159th (Cheshire) Brigade's right on Clay Hill and its left south of the Gaza to Beersheba road, the 158th (North Wales) Brigade held Ali Muntar, the 161st (Essex) Brigade held Green Hill and the 160th (Welsh Border) Brigade was north of the Labyrinth. By nightfall this combined force was consolidating its positions; only on the south western side of Gaza in the sand hills had the attack not been completely successful.

Read more about this topic:  First Battle Of Gaza, Battle

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