The New Zealanders in Sinai and Palestine
How the Brigade entered Palestine and went up against Gaza
How the Brigade entered Palestine and went up against Gaza.
On February 22nd the Division marched to Sheikh Zowaiid and the Brigades camped on the beach, with the New Zealand Brigade farthest east just where the Turko-Egyptian boundary line reaches the coast.
The desert was now far behind and all reconnaissances were into grass country or among cultivated fields, with the green crop showing well above the ground. There were flowers everywhere. A blaze of bright poppies and scarlet ranunculi was characteristic of the country; then there were great stretches of irises both large and small, blue cornflower, pimpernels, anemones in endless variety and many beautiful "bulbs"—gladioli, tulips, acres of narcissi; and many flowers whose names were unknown to our men. And in the strip of sand-hill country that ran along the coast grew the beautiful perfumed desert lily.
On February the 23rd, General Chaytor with the New Zealand and 2nd L. H. Brigades, made a reconnaissance of Khan Yunus for the special purpose of capturing the Sheikh Ali El Hirsch and his following. This man was a notorious Turkish Intelligence Agent. At this time the Turks had a line of strong posts, Beersheba-Shellal-Weli Sheikh Nuran-page 84Khan Yunus, and air photographs showed well dug lines of trenches at these places. The operations failed in capturing the Turkish Agent, but our troops surrounded Khan Yunus and drove into the town detachments of the enemy. The effect of this was such as to make the Turk evacuate Khan Yunus and his splendid system of defences stretching from there to Shellal on the Wadi Ghuzzeh, and retire to the Gaza-Beersheba line wholly on the north and east of the wadi.
By the middle of March the railway had reached Rafa and preparations were made for the capture of Gaza. In the meantime a long looked for event came off, the Rafa Races, held on March 21st, on the old battlefield. The course was excellent going; and with natural grassy slopes for lawn and grandstand, the spectators were happily provided for. The "fields" were good and races keenly contested among the Yeomanry, Australians and New Zealanders. Our D.A.D.M.S. earned undying fame and a win for New Zealand by pulling off the "Promised Land Stakes" with a little horse called "Maori King" (alias "The Rat") from Canterbury.