First Battle of Gaza - Battle - Withdrawal - Consequences of 53rd (Welsh) Division Withdrawal

Consequences of 53rd (Welsh) Division Withdrawal

When Chetwode learned the 53rd (Welsh) Division had abandoned its whole position, at 05:00 on 27 March, he ordered the infantry division back to Ali Muntar. Dallas ordered the 160th (Welsh Border) and 161st (Essex) Brigades to push forward strong patrols to the positions they had held on the previous evening. Both Green Hill and Ali Muntar were found to be unoccupied and one company of the 1/7th Battalion Essex Regiment, 161st (Essex) Brigade reoccupied Ali Muntar and two companies of the same battalion reoccupied Green Hill. After the 2/10th Middlesex Regiment, 160th (Welsh Border) Brigade had pushed forward infantry patrols beyond Sheluf, the 2/4th Queen's Royal Regiment (West Surrey) were ordered to gain touch with 161st (Essex) Brigade. The 2/10th Middlesex Regiment saw patrols of the 161st falling back, while the 1/1st Battalion, Herefordshire Regiment was also advancing after having watered.

After dawn on 27 March the first Ottoman counterattacks recaptured Ali Muntar and a portion of Green Hill, but the 1/7th Battalion, Essex Regiment, 54th (East Anglian) Division, retook the positions, consolidated and re-established itself. Meanwhile the Ottoman force which had attacked the 3rd Light Horse Brigade appeared on Sheikh Abbas, shelling the rear of Dallas' 53rd (Welsh) Division's position, but making no serious attack on the 54th Division on Burjabye Ridge.

At 08:00 Dallas and the 53rd (Welsh) Division came under orders of Eastern Force and Dobell received an appreciation from Dallas of the position at 09:15. This stated that if the present positions of the 53rd (Welsh) and 54th (East Anglian) Divisions were to be maintained the enemy occupation of Sheikh Abbas must be ended. Dallas suggested this might best be achieved by Desert Column as the 52nd (Lowland) Division was too far away.

By 08:10 the Imperial Mounted Division had arrived back at Deir el Belah and the Anzac Mounted Division was marching via Abu Thirig past Hill 310 where Chauvel met Chetwode. Chetwode ordered the horses of both divisions to water and return to a position near El Dameita to support the attempt by the infantry to retake Ali Muntar. At 08:30 Chetwode took over command of the two mounted divisions from Chauvel.

At 09:30 a strong Ottoman attack was launched which quickly recaptured Ali Muntar from two battalions of the Essex Regiment which suffered severe losses. They fell back to Green Hill where they were almost surrounded but managed to withdraw to a line south of Ali Muntar half way between that hill and Sheluf.

Just after 11:00 Dallas who had taken over command of the 54th (East Anglian) Division asked G. P. Dawnay, Brigadier General General Staff (BGGS), Eastern Force if the line currently held could be maintained for three or four days. Dawnay thought it was too weak unless Sheikh Abbas could be occupied. The enemy had installed artillery batteries at Sheikh Abbas and these fired on all the tracks across the Wadi Ghuzzeh, making the job of the Egyptian Camel Transport Corps of supplying food, water and ammunition to the forward units, very dangerous.

The Anzac Mounted Division remained near El Dameita until 16:00 and the 54th (East Anglian) Division remained near Sheikh Abbas engaging the advancing Ottoman units from Beersheba.

After first advising Murray, at 16:30 Dobell issued orders for the withdrawal to the left bank of the Wadi Ghuzzeh of the 53rd (Welsh) and 54th (East Anglian) Divisions under the command of Dallas. The retirement which began at 19:00 was completed without interference from the Ottoman Army.

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

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