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First World War - 1917

1917

The regiment returned the Canal area and in March, moved to Palestine, where the Turks remained a threat, occupying the strategic coastal town of Gaza. It played a significant part in the first and unsuccessful attack on Gaza and was  near Beersheba, when Gaza was eventually vacated on 7th  November. It joined the 53rd Division pursuing the Turks, as they retreated northwards. At El Mughar Ridge, close to the enemy stronghold at Junction Station, the cavalry succeeded in difficult territory clearing the ridge and forcing the enemy to retreat further eastwards, towards Jerusalem. The Dorsets showed great gallantry that day; two DSOs, three D CMs and seven M Ms were awarded, but the Regiment lost 9 other ranks killed, three officers and 43 other ranks wounded and 80 horses killed.

In just 15 days, the Egyptian Expeditionary Force had driven the Turkish Army from their strongly fortified positions by some 40 miles in one direction and 60 in the other; 9,000 prisoners, 80 guns and 100 machine guns together with immense quantities of stores and ammunition had been taken.

The enemy was on the run and indications were that he was thinking of withdrawing from Jerusalem, in order to strengthen his position further north. The regiment was now at Ramleh and to the east  the Judaean Hills ran north-south almost as far as Jerusalem. They were a steep, stoney and precipitous range of hills, through which only one passable road ran, from Jaffa to Jerusalem. There was another road running northwards through the hills from Jerusalem to Nablus; possession of this road was essential to secure the Jordan Valley.

On 19th November, the brigade pushed into the hills following tracks that led across the rock-strewn wadis; marching was impossible. By the 20th, having reached some 4 miles from the Nablus-Jerusalem road, the advanced regiments were beginning to encounter strong resistance again, and on the following day, the Dorsets  fiercely counter attacked, such that it had to beat a retreat to the town of Fokha. All attempts to continue were repelled by the Turks, who were bringing fresh reinforcements in from Aleppo. The regiment remained besieged at Fokha, for almost a week until it was relieved and then marched to Katrah, and by the end of the year, it was back south at Deir-el-Belah.