8th – 9th December 1917 – The Fall of Jerusalem.

Immediately following the Battle of Junction Station on 13- 14 November, 1917. General Allenby’s right wheeled eastwards into the Judea Hills towards Jerusalem. His left maintained a defensive front at Jaffa, which had just fallen into British hands. The enemy’s forces had been spilt in tow. However, with the arrival of General von Falkenhayn to assume command, a new Turkish front was established from Jerusalem to the sea. From strong defensive positions the Turkish Seventh Army launched powerful attacks and as a result British progress was slowed down. It soon became clear that Allenby would not be able to seize the Holy City with the forces available to him and on 24 November he suspended further offensive action, enabling him to reorganise and reinforce his front line troops.

The task of capturing Jerusalem was allocated to 20 Corps under the command of Sir Philip Chetwode and the attack began on 8 December. The main thrust came from Nebi-Samweil, the commanding heights six miles to the west, with a secondary one from the south at Bethlehem. The morale of the Turkish defenders was low following weeks of abortive attacks and the city fell to the British after only a day’s battle, although some fighting continued in the hills prior to Allenby’s arrival in the city on 11 December. A Turkish counter-attack on 26 December failed with heavy losses, the British having firmly established their position from Jerusalem to the sea.

Their ability to advance further was, however, dependent on re-establishing lines of communication and maintaining a force of sufficient strength. The fall of Jerusalem was an important moral victory even if its strategic significance was less obvious. In total Allenby’s entire campaign had cost 18,000 Allied casualties against enemy losses of some 25,000 men.

An Illustrated Companion to the First World War by Anthony Bruce