The Battle of Gaza from The Official History of the Great War
Thursday 29th March 1917 from
our correspondent in the field
hear today that General Sir Archibald Murray and Lieutenant-General Sir Charles
Dobell have sent communiqués about the Battle of Gaza to the War Office. Sir
Archibald said: "We have advanced our troops a distance of fifteen miles
from Rafa to the Wadi Ghuzzee, five miles west of Gaza, to cover the
construction of the railway. On the 26th and 27th we were heavily engaged east
of Gaza with a force of about 20,000 of the enemy. We inflicted very heavy
losses upon him ... All troops behaved splendidly”.
Charles wrote: “This action has had the result of bringing the enemy to battle,
and he will now undoubtedly stand with all his available force in order to
fight us when we are prepared to attack. It has also given our troops an
opportunity of displaying the splendid fighting qualities they possess. So far
as all ranks of the troops engaged were concerned, it was a brilliant victory,
and had the early part of the day been normal victory would have been secured.
Two more hours of daylight would have sufficed to finish the work the troops so
magnificently executed after a period of severe hardship and long marches, and
in the face of most stubborn resistance”(1).
First Battle of Gaza was a defeat for Murray and Dobell who here seem to be
putting the best face possible on it. Communications were muddled and poor
resulting in delay (as acknowledged by Dobell above). The day could have been a
victory had the commanders had the confidence to continue their attack beyond
dusk as Gaza may have been on the point of falling, but poor light and fear of
substantial Turkish reinforcements on the way resulted in a withdrawal, gaining
nothing. The calling off of the attack has been described as an exercise in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.