Friday 20th April 1917
Yesterday British and Imperial forces began their attack on Gaza at 5.30 in the morning. They had to overcome around ten miles width of Turkish defences. 52nd (Lowland) and 54th (East Anglian) Divisions were to swing north from the Mansura Ridge to attack Ali Muntar before moving on to Gaza itself. Meanwhile 53rd (Welsh) Division was to overcome the coastal defences on Samson Ridge and Sheikh Ajlin on the seashore.
We understand that the Welsh, still severely depleted from the battle in March, were successful in their attack, but lost another six hundred men and it took until early afternoon to do it. On the right of the Welsh the Lowland Division met heavy opposition in places and was unable to secure all its initial objectives. It was a similar story for the East Anglians, the 10th Battalion, London Regiment and 4th Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment both suffered many casualties and the 1st/5th Bedfords, in brigade reserve, threw in D Company to support them. Again, it was early afternoon before much progress was made.
It was around nightfall, 6 o’clock that the attack was called off for the day. We understand that the Bedfords were thrown into the front line to help man it against counter-attacks during the night, the battalion holding around a mile of the front in hastily-dug pits, each holding seven riflemen at intervals of twenty five yards. Lieutenant Wilkin and Second Lieutenant Brereton were both wounded and forty other ranks became casualties(1). It is not known whether the the attack will begin again soon or whether a siege is now prospect.
Last night the 8th Bedfords were relieved from the front line south of Loos and are now at Maroc. During these recent operations the Medical Officer, Captain Black and also Second Lieutenant Taylor and seventeen other ranks were killed, four officers and 91 other ranks have been wounded.
Last night 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment made their way from Couin up to the front near at Arras and are now under the command of VII Corps. They are presently just south-west of the village of Beaurains.
Sources: X550/3/WD; X550/6/8; X550/9/1
(1) Second Lieutenant Leonard Leader Brereton would die of his wounds in Cairo on 29th April.