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Ottoman Retreat From Shellal

No. 1 Squadron Australian Flying Corps and No. 14 Squadron bombed Beersheba in mid February destroying 3 German planes and on 25 February assisted a French battleship which shelled Jaffa, by directing the ship's fire and the German aerodrome at Ramleh was bombed on the same day. On 5 March six planes bombed the enemy railway at Tel el Sheria and although the damage was not great this main enemy base continued to be bombed by relays of raiders in the moonlight of the night of 7 March and the following morning 6 planes bombed Junction Station an important railway junction and supply depot; it was also bombed on 9, 13 and 19 March .

On 5 March the Ottoman Army retreated from Shellal to the north side of the Wadi Ghuzze to a line from Gaza not far from the Mediterranean Sea to Beersheba just as the British railway reached Sheikh Zowaiid. At this time Murray, the Commander-in-Chief EEF, agreed to Dobell commander of Eastern Force, planning to attack Gaza at the end of March. Despite this delay its claimed Dobell considered 'an early surprise attack was essential ... otherwise it was widely believed the enemy would withdraw without a fight.' By the middle of March the railway had reached Rafa, 12 miles from Deir el Belah and within range for an attack on Gaza by mounted troops as well as infantry.

On 20 March Dobell moved his headquarters to Rafa. The next day, complete with an enclosed paddock, totalizator, jumps and a marked course, the Rafa Race Meeting was held when each race was contested by Yeomanry, Australians and New Zealanders. Trophies were ordered from Cairo and a programme printed. On 22 March preliminary moves prior to the attack on Gaza began, and all roads and tracks possible for wheels were carefully reconnoitred as far as Belah and allotted to the different formations. On 24th Dobell issued orders for the battle.

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    Men seem anxious to accomplish an orderly retreat through the centuries, earnestly rebuilding the works behind them, as they are battered down by the encroachments of time; but while they loiter, they and their works both fall prey to the arch enemy.
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