First Battle of Gaza - Prelude


After the 42nd Division left for the Western Front, Eastern Force under the command of Dobell, consisted of four infantry divisions; the 52nd (Lowland) Division, the 53rd (Welsh) Division, the 54th (East Anglian) Division, and the newly raised 74th (Yeomanry) Division, formed from dismounted yeomanry already serving in Egypt and two mounted divisions; the Anzac Mounted Division and the partly formed Imperial Mounted Divisions. Within Dobell's Eastern Force, General Philip Chetwode, commanded the Desert Column, which included the two mounted divisions and the 53rd (Welsh) Division.

By the middle of March the railway had reached Rafa, 12 miles (19 km) from Deir el Belah and the Royal Navy undertook to land stores as soon as required on the beach at Deir el Belah, which was within range for an attack on Gaza by mounted troops and infantry. On 20 March Dobell moved his headquarters from El Arish to Rafa. All roads and tracks were reconnoitred as far as Deir el Belah and by 22 March preliminary moves towards Gaza had begun. On 24 March, Dobell issued orders for the attack.

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