The Second Battle of Gaza
Having failed to take Gaza by surprise, Lieutenant-General Murray drew up a more cautious plan for a second attempt to capture the town. While the Royal Navy would shell Gaza from the sea, three infantry divisions would attack together, supported by an intense barrage of artillery fire as well as new technology – tanks and gas shells. This meant that the EEF would be attacking across open ground in full view of the enemy – a risky tactic.
However, the Ottoman forces had not waited idly for the next offensive. More troops had been sent in to reinforce the garrison and the defence system in and around Gaza had been strengthened. Now it stretched 12 miles to the east along the key route to Beersheba.
The artillery commanders had queried the order to bombard the enemy. They warned that the distance between the artillery lines and the enemy was simply too great to guarantee accuracy. They also knew there was a danger that they would run out of ammunition during the course of the attack.
Inevitably, their protests were overruled by GHQ and inevitably those on the ground were proven right.
…This bombardment was the most futile thing possible resulting … only in warning the enemy of … the attack and in gross waste of ammunition …
The Second Battle of Gaza was a failure with heavy losses. General Murray’s days as commander-in-chief of the EEF were numbered. His general staff and officers had lost confidence in him as well as the War Office in the United Kingdom.
Location INSEIRAT independently Date: 1/4/17
Orders received for the battalion to move to line Y 16.8.3 (point 300) W31C 8.3 and deploy for attack on that position of SHEIKH ABBAS RIDGE from w26b1.8. to w25b1.8. 165 Brigade (1/8 HANTS) on our right, 1/5 BEDFORDS on left. Move forward from position of deployment at 0745. Position taken after slight opposition. Casualties 1 killed 12 wounded.
Location SHEIKH ABBAS Date: 18/4/17
Reciprocal shelling by artillery. Further advance orders for tomorrow.
Advance orders to commence at 0730 after 2 hours bombardment by artillery, the first 40 minutes of which to be by “special” (gas) shells. Battalion to move in support of 1/4 Northants and 1/10 LONDON on objective (trenches) from w15b8.7 to WADI MUKADDEME. As soon as time of advance arrived men went over ridge in artillery formation. Enemy at once putting up a barrage of H.E and Shrapnel causing heavy casualties. 10 London on left were soon held up but 4 Northants pushed on. 11 London then pushed on with them. The two battalions (11 London and 4 Northants) eventually establishing a firing line about 500 yards from objective and overlooking the BEERSHEBA ROAD. Enemy’s trenches slightly semicircular, the flanks being pushed forward.
Enemy very strong in machine guns bringing very hot machine gun fire causing heavy casualties; practically all at Lewis gun wiped out, also nearly all men who got on a ridge facing Battn’s objective at about 400 from it. The dead and wounded on this ridge remained as a line of skirmishes the Turks sweeping them with M.G fire at intervals through the day consequently men wounded early in day, were killed and all men were riddled by bullets. Greatest difficulty in getting up ammunition and in establishing communication from front line to Battn H.Q. Messengers time after time becoming casualties. Front line held on until dusk but by that time men reduced to small parties of one or two. At dusk 1/5 Bedford relieved 1/11 LONDON and 1/4 Northants, both of which Battns had lost heavily. Line taken up by 1/5 Bedford considerably nearer bivouac area than the day time. Casualties: Officers 13, other ranks 366.