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Official War History of the Wellington Mounted Rifles Regiment 1914-1919

The Capture of Jerusalem

The Capture of Jerusalem

On December 4th the Regiment marched with the Brigade to the vicinity of Ibn Ibrak, about four and a-half miles east by south of Jaffa, where it relieved the Imperial Camel Corps holding the line there.

At this time the capture of Jerusalem was contemplated. Troops had concentrated within striking distance of the city, and were about to attack. The New Zealanders were not to be directly engaged in the attack, but they, with other troops in the general line, which ran north-west from Jerusalem, drew enemy troops from the point of the main attack. Conditions in the trenches occupied by the Regiment were not inviting. The sector was somewhat exposed and the enemy pounded it periodically with high-explosive and shrapnel. Heavy rain saturated the men's clothing. It washed down the sides of the trenches, which were dug in soft sandstone, and which were with difficulty page 178 kept clear. A popular young officer, Lieutenant Allison, was mortally wounded in the sector.

The British troops advanced rapidly, and towards dusk on the 8th they were within sight of the city. Of the further events which led up to the capture of Jerusalem, the Records of the E.E.F. state, briefly:—

"On the approach of the British troops, a sudden panic fell on the Turks, who fled, bootless, and without rifles, never pausing to think or to fight. After four centuries of conquest, the Turk was ridding the land of his presence in the bitterness of defeat, and a great enthusiasm arose among the Jews. They cried: 'The Turks are running—the day of deliverance is come.'"

Thus was fulfilled the Arab prophesy that when the Nile had flowed into Palestine (actually through the pipe-line from Kantara) the prophet (Al Nebi) from the West would drive the Turks from Jerusalem.

On December 11th, the Commander-in-Chief followed by representatives of the Allies and of all units then in the field, made his formal entry into the Holy City. In the procession Sergeant H. A. Martin and ten other ranks represented the W.M.R. The General entered on foot through the Jaffa Gate to a terrace below the Tower of David, from which was read in English, French, Arabic, Hebrew, Greek, Russian and Italian a proclamation announcing that order would be maintained in all the hallowed sites of the three great religions, which were to be guarded and preserved for the full use of worshippers. The thousands assembled, comprising many creeds and classes, were much impressed by the solemnity and simplicity of the ceremony, which was in direct contrast to the theatrical entry on horseback through a gap in the city walls of the Kaiser in 1898.

On the 11th the Regiment proceeded to Beit Dejan (Biblical Beth-Dagon), where it was attached to the 54th Division as Tactical Reserve. The rainy season then commenced, and a particularly severe storm deluged the whole country.

On the 22nd the Division operated over the Auja in the vicinity of Mulebbis, the Regiment reconnoitring with the A.M.R. towards Ferrekhiyeh, north-eastward, where touch was gained with the enemy rearguard. Subsequently, on the completion of its mission, the Regiment was withdrawn to Beit Dejan.