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


On the morning of 22nd February the New Zealand Brigade with attached troops, including the Ayrshire Battery and the 2nd Australian Light Horse Brigade, left El Arish for Khan Yunus—said to be the birthplace of Delilah—with the object of capturing a hostile Sheikh, Eli El Hirsch, whose activities among the natives, in the interests of the Turks, had been detrimental to us.

On reaching Sheikh Zoweid in the afternoon the column rested till midnight, when the advance was resumed, with the W.M.R. as advance guard. At the same time the 5th A.L.H. Regiment was sent forward to guard the right flank, where it was known that the Turks held a very strong position at Weli Sheikh Nuran.

At daylight on the 23rd the W.M.R. came under the fire of enemy outposts, which, on being pressed, retired to a stronger position. The 9th W.M.R. Squadron then followed on, supported by the fire of Maxim and Lewis guns, and, with the C.M.R. on its right, was advancing rapidly, when, on information being received that the hostile sheikh had escaped, the skirmish was broken off, the W.M.R. having one other rank killed and several wounded. But the result of the reconnaisance was probably much greater than could have been anticipated; it had then a far-reaching effect on the situation. The Turks had not forgotten the disasters inflicted on them at Maghdaba and Rafa, and had since lived in constant dread of the lightning-like enveloping movements of the Mounteds. Although their defence systems at Weli Sheikh Nuran and Shellal, on the Wadi Ghuzze, were very strong, they feared for the safety of their flanks and rear, and abandoned these positions without firing a shot to defend them, when a stout defence, costing us many lives, could have been maintained from either of them.

On 10th March the Brigade moved its bivouac to the beach near Rafa, and on the following day it reconnoitred towards the ancient Philistine town of Gaza, mentioned in Genesis and the Books of Joshua and Judges, twenty miles north-east, in order to gather information relating to the Wadi Ghuzze, a deep ravine which runs through the country approximately north and south, and over which it would be necessary to cross when the advance page 133against Gaza began. This city is one of the oldest in the world, and is well known for its association with Samson, who fought the Philistines there and carried the gates of the city to the top of a hill called Ali El Muntar, close by. Alexander the Great took the city on his triumphal march to Egypt, and it was one of the five captial cities of the Philistines.