The Hon Andrew Gee MP
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs
Minister for Defence Personnel
Today marks the 105th anniversary of the first Battle of Gaza during World War I, the first of three attempts launched by Allied forces to capture the city in 1917.
The coastal city was a strategically important Ottoman defensive stronghold in southern Palestine, but the initial attempt to take it proved costly, with more than 4,000 Allied casualties.
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel Andrew Gee said that while the first battle ended in a withdrawal, the Australians involved fought with distinction.
“Two Australian Light Horse Brigades, two battalions of Australian cameleers in the Imperial Camel Corps, along with the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade played a crucial role in the attack,” Minister Gee said.
“The courageous men of the Australian Light Horse were among the first to move in on the city from the north, in the early hours of 26 March 1917. They captured the high ground quickly and pressed on into the outskirts of Gaza.
“But before they could proceed further, the call came to withdraw. Some of the infantry divisions that were to attack the southern part of Gaza had been delayed due to bad weather, and the Ottoman garrison and reinforcements were thought to be larger in number than originally estimated.
“The Australians and the other Allied troops were forced to give up the areas they had seized during the battle, and retreat back to their own lines. An attempt to recommence the attack was made the next day, but this also proved unsuccessful.
“The Allied forces would attempt to take Gaza again less than a month later, with even more disastrous results, again failing to capture the city and losing more than 6,000 troops.
“The city would eventually be taken on 7 November 1917, after a feint battle at Gaza allowed Allied forces to capture nearby Beersheba, breaking the Ottoman stronghold in the region and eventually outflanking Gaza.
“The Australians who fought alongside their Allied counterparts played a critical role in the extended and repeated campaign to take Gaza.
“May we always remember their service and acknowledge the sacrifices they made.
“Lest we forget.”
To learn more about the battles for Gaza, and the Sinai and Palestine campaign, visit the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Anzac Portal.
Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling provides 24/7 free confidential crisis support for current and ex-serving ADF personnel and their families on 1800 011 046 or the Open Arms website. Safe Zone Support provides anonymous counselling on 1800 142 072. Defence All-Hours Support Line provides support for ADF personnel on 1800 628 036 or the Department of Defence website. Defence Member and Family Helpline provides support for Defence families on 1800 624 608.