Fighting Around Gaza, 1917
In early 1917, the Imperial Mounted Division was formed from the 3rd and 4th Light Horse Brigades and two British mounted brigades. The division first saw service during the First Battle of Gaza, which occurred in southern Gaza on 26 March 1917. At around noon two mounted brigades of the Anzac Mounted Division attacked Gaza from the north and east. At 6.00 pm the Turkish position had become perilous with the ring closing tightly around Gaza. However, in a decision that dismayed most of their soldiers the British commanders decided to call off the attack and retreat, delivering victory to the Turks. A second attempt was made to capture Gaza on 19 April by which time the Turkish defences were even more formidable and the task confronting the British even more difficult. This battle became known as the Second Battle of Gaza. The Anzac Mounted Division played only a minor role in this battle suffering only 105 casualties out of the 5,917 suffered. The second battle of Gaza was a disastrous defeat for the Allied forces.
In June 1917, the Imperial Mounted Division was renamed as the Australian Mounted Division. In August 1917 Chauvel was placed in command of the Desert Mounted Corps, which included the two Australian mounted divisions, as well as the British Yeomanry Division and the Imperial Camel Corps Brigade. Chauvel became the first Australian to command a corps, as well as the first to achieve the rank of lieutenant-general.
With the failure of the Second Battle of Gaza a third assault was launched on Gaza between 31 October and 7 November 1917. Units from the Anzac Mounted Division and the Australian Mounted Division took part in the battle. The battle was a complete success for the Allies. The Gaza–Beersheba line was completely overrun and 12,000 Turkish soldiers were captured or surrendered. The critical moment of the battle was the capture of the town of Beersheba on the first day by Australian light horsemen. The Australian 4th Light Horse Brigade, under Brigadier General William Grant, charged more than 4 miles (6.4 km) at the Turkish trenches, overran them and captured the wells at Beersheba. In the capture of Beersheba, the Australians lost 31 men killed. A further 32 were wounded, while 80 horses were lost. On the Turkish side, more than 500 men were killed and 1,500 captured as well as nine artillery pieces and a number of machine guns and other pieces of equipment.
Famous quotes containing the word fighting:
“I am no longer an artist, interested and curious. I am a messenger who will bring back word from the men who are fighting to those who want the war to go on for ever. Feeble, inarticulate, will be my message, but it will have a bitter truth, and may it burn their lousy souls.”
—Paul Nash (18891946)