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Gaza War Cemetery, Palestine Gaza War Cemetery, Palestine
First Name: George Henry Last Name: CHALLIS
Date of Death: 02/11/1917 Lived/Born In: Haggerston
Rank: Private Unit: London10
Memorial Site:

Current Information:

Born-Hackney

Gaza War Cemetery, Palestine

 

After the Western Front, the second largest theatre of war between 1914 and 1918 was Egypt and Palestine. Britain had long had a foothold in Egypt guarding the vitally important Suez Canal and when war was declared against Turkey (the Ottoman Empire) who controlled all of what is now known as the Middle East, British troops were sent to guard the canal from attacks from the north. For the first two years of the war the British forces were on the defensive as the Turks, backed by the Germans, made a number of attempts against the canal but an important victory in August 1916 at Rumani relieved the pressure and the British force was then able to move onto the offensive and advance north into Palestine. There followed the First and Second Battles of Gaza in March and in April, 1917 in which the British tried but failed to break through the Turkish line that stretched from the coast at Gaza across the desert to Beersheba.

Third Battle of Gaza   October-November, 1917

Throughout the hot summer of 1917, both sides strengthened their forces in Palestine and command of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF) was handed over to General Allenby who was ready to make his move at the end of October. On 31st October, British and ANZAC troops attacked and captured Beersheba and its vital water supply. Attention was now turned to Gaza where a four day artillery bombardment of the city had begun on 28th October. On 1st November, Scottish troops from 52nd Division captured Umbrella Hill, which gave them a commanding view of Gaza city and then on the night of 1st-2nd November it was attacked. The Turks fought fiercely but in the end they were overwhelmed by a numerically superior British force. By 8th November all resistance along the Gaza-Beersheba line had been broken and the route was now open for an advance on Jerusalem. However the victory had come at the cost of 2.700 British casualties including 700 either killed or missing.

The action on 2nd November was never intended to capture the town, but to keep the garrison in place after the capture of Beersheba. The EEF attacked the southern and western defences of Gaza and captured the front line trenches there and a series of strongholds or redoubts. 54th Division attacked the western defences using 161 and 162 Brigades. During the night 10th London (Hackney) of 162 Brigade advanced on the Rafa redoubt. The tanks meant to accompany this operation had been put out of action and as a result, 10th London lost contact with their protective artillery barrage and suffered heavy casualties. Despite this, they took the redoubt along with Gun Hill and by 6am they were ready to attack Sheikh Hasan, which they captured fifteen minutes later along with 182 prisoners. Nearly seventy men from the battalion were killed in this action, one of them being George Challis.

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