On the Gaza section of the front the XXIst Corps had been busily occupied with preparations for a powerful thrust through the remainder of the defences on the enemy's right when the XXth Corps should have succeeded in turning the main positions on the left. The 52nd Division on the coast was ready to go ahead immediately there was any sign that the enemy, seeing that the worst was about to happen, intended to order a general retirement, and then it would be a race and a fight to prevent his establishing himself on the high ground north of the wadi Hesi. Should he fail to do that there was scarcely a possibility of the Turks holding us up till we got to the Jaffa-Jerusalem road, though between Gaza and that metalled highway there were many points of strength from which they could fight delaying actions. It is very doubtful whether the Turkish General Staff gave the cavalry credit for being able to move across the Plain in the middle of November when the wadis are absolutely dry and the water-level in the wells is lower than at any other period of the year. Nor did they imagine that the transport difficulties for infantry divisions fed as ours were could be surmounted. They may have thought that if they could secure the wadi Hesi line before we got into position to threaten it in flank they would immobilise our Army till the rains began, and there was a possibility of sitting facing each other in wet uncomfortable trench quarters till the flowers showed themselves in the spring, by which time, the Bagdad venture of the German Higher Command proving hopeless before it was started, a great volume of reinforcements might be diverted to Southern Palestine with Turkish divisions from the Salonika front and a stiffening of German battalions spared from Europe in consequence of the Russian collapse.

Whatever they may have been, the Turkish calculations were completely upset. The cavalry's water troubles remained and no human foresight could have smoothed them over, but the transport problem was solved in this way. During the attack on Beersheba XXIst Corps came to the aid of XXth Corps by handing over to it the greater part of its camel convoys and lorries, so much transport, indeed, that a vast amount of work in the Gaza sector fell to be done by a greatly depleted supply staff. When Beersheba had been won and the enemy's left flank had been smashed and thrown back, the XXth Corps repaid the XXIst Corps, not only by returning what it had borrowed, but by marching back into the region of railhead at Karm, where it could live with a minimum of transport and send all its surplus to work in the coastal sector. The switching over of this transport was a fine piece of organisation. On the allotted day many thousands of camels were seen drawn out in huge lines all over the country intersected by the wadi Ghuzze, slowly converging on the spots at which they could be barracked and rested before loading for the advance. The lorries took other paths. There was no repose for their drivers. They worked till the last moment on the east, and then, caked with the accumulated dust of a week's weary labour in sand and powdered earth, turned westward to arrive just in time to load up and be off again in pursuit of infantry, some making the mistake of travelling between the West and East Towns of Gaza, while others took the longer and sounder but still treacherous route east of Ali Muntar and through the old positions of the Turks. These lorry drivers were wonderful fellows who laughed at their trials, but in the days and nights when they bumped over the uneven tracks and negotiated earth rents that threatened to swallow their vehicles, they put their faith in the promise of the railway constructors to open the station at Gaza at an early date. Even Gaza, though it saved them so many toilsome miles, did not help them greatly because of a terrible piece of road north-east of the station, but Beit Hanun was comfortable and for the relief brought by the railway's arrival at Deir Sineid they were profoundly grateful.

But this is anticipating the story of Gaza's capture. The XXIst Corps had not received its additional transport when it gained the ancient city of the Philistines, though it knew some of it was on the way and most of it about to start on its westward trek. On the day of November 4 and during the succeeding night the Navy co-operated with the Corps' artillery in destroying enemy trenches and gun positions, and the Ali Muntar Ridge was a glad sight for tired gunners' eyes. The enemy showed a disposition to retaliate, and on the afternoon of the 4th he put up a fierce bombardment of our front-line positions from Outpost Hill to the sea, including in his fire area the whole of the trenches we had taken from him from Umbrella Hill to Sheikh Hasan. Many observers of this bombardment by all the Turks' guns of heavy, medium, and small calibre declared it was the prelude not of an attack but of a retirement, and that the Turks were loosing off a lot of the ammunition they knew they could not carry away. They were probably right, though the enemy made no sign of going away for a couple of days, but if he thought his demonstration by artillery was going to hasten back to Gaza some of the troops assembling against the left of his main line he was grievously in error. The XXIst Corps was strong enough to deal with any attack the Turks could launch, and they would have been pleased if an attempt to reach our lines had been made.

Next day the Turks were much quieter. They had to sit under a terrific fire both on the 5th and 6th November, when in order to assist XXth Corps' operations the Corps' heavy artillery, the divisional artillery, and the warships' guns carried out an intense bombardment. The land guns searched the Turks' front line and reserve systems, while the Navy fired on Fryer's Hill to the north of Ali Muntar, Sheikh Redwan, a sandhill with a native chief's tomb on the crest, north of Gaza, and on trenches not easily reached by the Corps' guns.

During the night of November 6-7 General Palin's 75th Division, as a preliminary to a major operation timed for the following morning, attacked and gained the enemy's trenches on Outpost Hill and the whole of Middlesex Hill to the north of it, the opposition being less serious than was anticipated. At daylight the 75th Division pushed on over the other hills towards Ali Muntar and gained that dominating position before eight o'clock. The fighting had not been severe, and it was soon realised that the enemy had left Gaza, abandoning a stronghold which had been prepared for defence with all the ingenuity German masters of war could suggest and into which had been worked an enormous amount of material. It was obvious from the complete success of XXth Corps' operations against the Turkish left, which had been worked out absolutely 'according to plan,' that General Allenby had so thoroughly mystified von Kressenstein that the latter had put all his reserves into the wrong spot, and that the 53rd Division's stout resistance against superior numbers had pinned them down to the wrong end of the line. There was nothing, therefore, for the Turk to do but to try to hold another position, and he was straining every nerve to reach it. The East Anglian Division went up west of Gaza and held from Sheikh Redwan to the sea by seven o'clock, two squadrons of the Corps' cavalry rode along the seashore and had patrols on the wadi Hesi a little earlier than that, and the Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade, composed of troops raised and maintained by patriotic Indian princes, passed through Gaza at nine o'clock and went out towards Beit Hanun. To the Lowland Division was given the important task of getting to the right or northern bank of the wadi Hesi. These imperturbable Scots left their trenches in the morning delighted at the prospect of once more engaging in open warfare. They marched along the beach under cover of the low sand cliffs, and by dusk had crossed the mouth of the wadi and held some of the high ground to the north in face of determined opposition. The 157th Brigade, after a march through very heavy going, got to the wadi at five in the afternoon and saw the enemy posted on the opposite bank. The place was reconnoitred and the brigade made a fine bayonet charge in the dark, securing the position between ten and eleven o'clock. On this and succeeding days the division had to fight very hard indeed, and they often met the enemy with the bayonet. One of their officers told me the Scot was twice as good as the Turk in ordinary fighting, but with the bayonet his advantage was as five to one. The record of the Division throughout the campaign showed this was no too generous an estimate of their powers. After securing Ali Muntar the 75th Division advanced over Fryer's Hill to Australia Hill, so that they held the whole ridge running north and south to the eastward of Gaza. The enemy still held to his positions to the right of his centre, and from the Atawineh Redoubt, Tank Redoubt, and Beer trenches there was considerable shelling of Gaza and the Ali Muntar ridge throughout the day. A large number of shells fell in the plantations on the western side of the ridge; our mastery of the air prevented enemy aviators observing for their artillery, or they would have seen no traffic was passing along that way. We were using the old Cairo 'road,' and as far as I could see not an enemy shell reached it, though when our troops were in the town of Gaza there were many crumps and woolly bears to disturb the new occupation. But all went swimmingly. It was true we had only captured the well-cracked shell of a town, but the taking of it was full of promise of greater things, and those of us who looked on the mutilated remnants of one of the world's oldest cities felt we were indeed witnesses of the beginning of the downfall of the Turkish Empire. Next morning the 75th Division captured Beer trenches and Tank and Atawineh Redoubts and linked up with the Irish Division of XXth Corps on its right. They were shelled heavily, but it was the shelling of rearguards and not attackers, and soon after twelve o'clock we had the best of evidence that the Turks were saying good-bye to a neighbourhood they had long inhabited. I was standing on Raspberry Hill, the battle headquarters of XXIst Corps, when I heard a terrific report. Staff officers who were used to the visitations of aerial marauders came out of their shelters and searched the pearly vault of the heavens for Fritz. No machine could be found. Some one looking across the country towards Atawineh saw a huge mushroom-shaped cloud, and then we knew that one enormous dump at least contained no more projectiles to hold up an advance. This ammunition store must have been eight miles away as the crow flies, but the noise of the explosion was so violent that it was a considerable time before some officers could be brought to believe an enemy plane had not laid an egg near us. The blowing up of that dump was a signal that the Turk was off.

The Lowlanders had another very strenuous day in the sand-dune belt. First of all they repulsed a strong counter-attack from the direction of Askalon. Then the 155th Infantry Brigade went forward and, swinging to the right, drove the Turks off the rising ground north-west of Deir Sineid, the possession of which would determine the question whether the Turk could hold on in this quarter sufficiently long to enable him to get any of his material away by his railway and road. The enemy put in a counter-attack of great violence and forced the Scots back.

The 157th Brigade in the early evening attacked the ridge and gained the whole of their objectives by eight o'clock. There ensued some sanguinary struggles on this sandy ground during the night. The Turks were determined to have possession of it and the Scots were willing to fight it out to a finish. The first counter-attack in the dark hours drove the Lowlanders off, but they were shortly afterwards back on the hills again. The Turks returned and pushed the Highland Light Infantry and Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders off a second time. A third attack was delivered with splendid vigour and the enemy left many dead, but they renewed their efforts to get the commanding ground and succeeded once more. The dogged Scots, however, were not to be denied. They re-formed and swept up the heavy shifting sand, met the Turk on the top with a clash and knocked him down the reverse slope. Soon afterwards there was another ding-dong struggle. The Turks, putting in all their available strength, for a fourth time got the upper hand, and the Lowlanders had to yield the ground, doing it slowly and reluctantly and with the determination to try again. They were Robert Bruces, all of them. It's the best that stays the longest. After a brief rest these heroic Scots once more swarmed up the ridge. Their cheers had the note of victory in them, they drove their bayonets home with the haymakers' lift, and what was left of the Turks fled helter-skelter down the hill towards Deir Sineid, broken, dismayed, beaten, and totally unable to make another effort. The H.L.I. Brigade's victory was bought at a price. The cost of that hill was heavy, but the Turks' tale of dead was far heavier than ours, and we had won and held the hills and consolidated them. The Turks then turned their faces to the north and the Scots hurried them on. The Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade had also met with considerable resistance, but they worked up to and on the ridge overlooking Beit Hanun from the east and captured a 5.9. By evening these Indian horsemen were linked up with the 4th Australian Light Horse Brigade on their right and the 52nd Division on their left, and pursued the enemy as far as Tumrah and Deir Sineid.

General Headquarters directed that two infantry divisions should advance to the line Julis-Hamameh in support of mounted troops, and the 75th Division was accordingly ordered from its position east of Gaza up to Beit Hanun. On the 9th November the 52nd Division was again advancing. The 156th Brigade had moved forward from the Gaza trenches. One officer, five grooms, and two signallers mounted on second horses formed a little party to reconnoitre Askalon, and riding boldly into the ancient landing place of the Crusader armies captured the ruined town unaided. There are visible remains of its old strength, but the power of Askalon has departed. It still stands looking over the blue Mediterranean as a sort of watch tower, a silent, deserted outpost of the land the Crusaders set their hearts on gaining and preserving for Christianity, but behind it is many centuries' accumulation of sand encroaching upon the fertile plain, and no effort has been made to stop the inroad. The gallant half-dozen having reported to the 156th Brigade that Askalon was open to them - the Brigade occupied the place at noon - rode across the sand-dunes to the important native town of Mejdel, where there was a substantial bazaar doing a good trade in the essentials for native existence, beans and cereals in plenty, fruit, and tobacco of execrable quality. At Mejdel the six accepted the surrender of a body of Turks guarding a substantial ammunition dump and rejoined their units, satisfied with the day's adventure. The Turks had retired a considerable distance during the day. The principal body was moving up what is called the main road from Deir Sineid, through Beit Jerjal to Julis, to get to Suafir esh Sherkiyeh, Kustineh, and Junction Station, from which they could reach Latron by a metalled road, or Ramleh by a hard mud track by the side of their railway. They were clearly going to oppose us all the way or they would lose the whole of their material, and their forces east and west of the road were well handled in previously selected and partially prepared positions.

They left behind them the unpleasant trail of a defeated army. Turks had fallen by the way and the natives would not bury them. Our aircraft had bombed the road, and the dead men, cattle and horses, and smashed transport were ghastly sights and made the air offensive. There they lay, one long line of dead men and animals, and if a London fog had descended to blind the eyes of our Army the sense of smell would still have carried a scout on the direct line of the Turkish retreat.

I will break off the narrative of fighting at this point to describe a scene which expressed more eloquently than anything else I witnessed in Palestine how deeply engraved in the native mind was the conviction that Britain stood for fair dealing and freedom. The inhabitants, like the Arabs of the desert, do not allow their faces to betray their feelings. They preserve a stolid exterior, and it is difficult to tell from their demeanour whether they are friendly or indifferent to you. But their actions speak aloud. Early on the morning after the Lowlanders had entered Mejdel I was in the neighbourhood. Our guns banging away to the north were a reminder that there was to be no promenade over the Plain, and that we had yet to make good the formidable obstacle of the wadi Sukereir, when I passed a curious procession. People whom the Turks had turned out of Gaza and the surrounding country were trekking back to the spots where they and their forefathers had lived for countless generations. All their worldly goods and chattels were packed on overloaded camels and donkeys. The women bore astonishingly heavy loads on their heads, the men rode or walked carrying nothing, while patriarchs of families were either held in donkey saddles or were borne on the shoulders of younger men. Agriculturists began to turn out to plough and till the fields which had lain fallow while the Turkish scourge of war was on the land, and the people showed that, now they had the security of British protection, they intended at once to resume their industry. The troops had the liveliest welcome in passing through villages, though the people are not as a rule demonstrative; and one could point to no better evidence of the exemplary behaviour of our soldiers than the groups of women sitting and gossiping round the wells during the process of drawing water, just as they did in Biblical days, heedless of the passing troops whom they regarded as their protectors. The man behind a rude plough may have stopped his ill-matched team of pony and donkey to look at a column of troops moving as he had never seen troops march before, a head of a family might collect the animals carrying his household goods and hurry them off the line of route taken by military transport, but neither one nor the other had any fear of interference with his work, and the life of the whole country, one of the most unchanging regions of the world, had suddenly again become normal, although only yesterday two armies had disputed possession of the very soil on which they stood. The moment we were victorious old occupations were resumed by the people in the way that was a tradition from their forefathers. Our victory meant peace and safety, according to the native idea, and an end to extortion, oppression, and pillage under the name of requisitions. It also meant prosperity. The native likes to drive a bargain. He will not sell under a fair price, and he asks much more in the hope of showing a buyer who has beaten him down how cheaply he is getting goods. The Army chiefly sought eggs, which are light to carry and easy to cook, and give variety to the daily round of bully, biscuit, and jam. The soldier is a generous fellow, and if a child asked a piastre (2-1/2d.) for an egg he got it. The price soon became four to five for a shilling in cash, though the Turks wanted five times that number for an equivalent sum in depreciated paper currency. The law of supply and demand obtained in this old world just as at home, and it became sufficient for a soldier to ask for an article to show he wanted it and would pay almost anything that was demanded. It was curious to see how the news spread not merely among traders but also among villagers. The men who first occupied a place found oranges, vegetables, fresh bread, and eggs cheap. In Ramleh, for example, a market was opened for our troops immediately they got to the town, and the goods were sound and sold at fair rates. The next day prices were up, and the standards fixed behind the front soon ruled at the line itself. There was no real control attempted, and while the extortionate prices charged by Jews in their excellent agricultural colonies and by the natives made a poor people prosperous, it gave them an exaggerated idea of the size of the British purse, and they may be disappointed at the limitation of our spending powers in the future. Also it was hard on the bravest and most chivalrous of fighting men. But it opened the eyes of the native, whose happiness and contentment were obvious directly we reached his doors.

Our movements on November 9 were limited by the extent to which General Chauvel was able to use his cavalry of the Desert Mounted Corps. Water was the sole, but absolute handicap. The Yeomanry Mounted Division rejoined the Corps on that day and got south of Huj, but could not proceed further through lack of water and supply difficulties. The Australian Mounted Division also had to halt for water, and it was left to Anzac Mounted Division, plus the 7th Mounted Brigade, to march eighteen miles north-westwards to occupy the line Et Tineh-Beit Duras-Jemameh-Esdud (the Ashdod of the Bible). The 52nd Division occupied the area Esdud-Mejdel-Herbieh by the evening of the 10th, and on the way, Australian cavalry being held up on a ridge north of Beit Duras, the 157th Brigade made another of its fine bayonet charges at night and captured the ground, enabling the cavalry to get at some precious water. The brigade made the attack just after completing a fourteen miles' march in heavy going, achieving the remarkable record of having had three bayonet battles on three nights out of four. On this occasion the Turks again suffered heavy casualties in men and lost many machine guns. The 75th Division prolonged the infantry line through Gharbiyeh to Berberah. The 54th Division was in the Gaza defences with all its transport allotted to the divisions taking part in the forward move, but as the 54th had five days' rations in dumps close at hand it was able to maintain itself, and the railway was being pushed on from the wadi Ghuzze with the utmost speed. The iron road in war is an army's jugular vein, and each mile added to its length was of enormous value during the advance.

General Allenby, looking well ahead and realising the possibilities opened out by his complete success in every phase of the operations on the Turks' main defensive line, on the 10th November ordered the 52nd and 75th Divisions to concentrate on their advanced guards so as to support the cavalry on their front and to prevent the Turk consolidating on the line of the wadi Sukereir. The enemy was developing a more organised resistance on a crescent-shaped line from Et Tineh through Yasur to Beshshit, and it was necessary to adopt deliberate methods of attack to move him. The advance on the 11th was the preliminary to three days of stirring fighting. The Turks put up a very strong defence by their rearguards, and when one says that at this time they were fighting with courage and magnificent determination one is not only paying a just tribute to the enemy but doing justice to the gallantry and skill of the troops who defeated him. The Scots can claim a large share of the success of the next two days, but British yeomanry took a great part in it, and their charge at Mughar, and perhaps their charge at Abu Shushe as well, will find a place in military text-books, for it has confounded those critics who declared that the development of the machine gun in modern warfare has brought the uses of cavalry down to very narrow limits.

The 156th Brigade was directed to take Burkah on the 12th so as to give the infantry liberty of manoeuvre on the following day. Burkah was a nasty place to tackle. The enemy had two lines of beautifully sited trenches prepared before he fell back from Gaza. The Scots had to attack up a slope to the first line, and having taken this to pass down another slope for 1000 yards before reaching the glacis in front of the second line. The Scottish Rifles assaulted this position by day without much artillery support, but they took it in magnificent style. It looked as if the Turks had accepted the verdict, but at night they returned to a brown hill on the right and drove the 4th Royal Scots from it. This battalion came back soon afterwards and retook the hill with the assistance of some Gurkhas of General Colston's 233rd Infantry Brigade, and the Turk retired to another spot, hoping that his luck would change. While this fighting was going on about Burkah the 155th Brigade went ahead up a road which the cavalry said was strongly held. They got eight miles north of Esdud, and were in advance of the cavalry, intending to try to secure the two heights and villages of Katrah and Mughar on the following day. Katrah was a village on a long mound south of Mughar, native mud huts constituting its southern part, whilst separated from it on the northern side by some gardens was a pretty little Jewish settlement whose red-tiled houses and orderly well-cared-for orchards spoke of the industry of these settlers in Zion. All over the hill right up to the houses the cactus flourished, and the hedges were a replica of the terrible obstacles at Gaza. From Katrah the ground sloped down to the flat on all four sides, so that the village seemed to stand on an island in the plain. A mile due west of it was Beshshit, while one mile to the north across more than one wadi stood El Mughar at the southern end of an irregular line of hills which separated Yebnah and Akir, which will be more readily recognised, the former as the Jamnia of the Jews and the latter as Ekron, one of the famous Philistine cities. While the 75th Division was forcing back the line Turmus-Kustineh-Yasur and Mesmiyeh athwart the road to Junction Station the 155th Brigade attacked Katrah. The whole of the artillery of two divisions opened a bombardment of the line at eight o'clock, but the Turks showed more willingness to concede ground on the east than at Katrah, where the machine-gun fire was exceptionally heavy. General Pollak M'Call decided to assault the village with the bulk of his brigade, and seizing a rifle and bayonet from a wounded man, led the charge himself, took the village, and gradually cleared the enemy out of the cactus-enclosed gardens. The enemy losses at Katrah were very heavy. In crossing a rectangular field many Turks were caught in a cross fire from our machine guns, and over 400 dead were counted in this one field.