Till the last week of January there had been some doubt as to the road by which the Ottoman Commander in Chief in Syria intended to advance on the canal. Before the end of the month it was quite clear that what was then believed to be the Turkish advanced guard, having marched with admirable rapidity from Beersheba via El Auja, Djebel Libni, and Djifjaffa, was concentrating in the valleys just east of Kataib-el-Kheil, a group of hills lying about ten miles east of the canal, where it enters Lake Timsah. A smaller column detached from this force was sighted in the hills east of Ismailia Ferry. Smaller bodies had appeared in the neighborhood of El Kantara and between Suez and the Bitter Lakes.
The attacks on our advanced posts at El Kantara on the night of Jan. 26 and 27, and at Kubri, near Suez, on the following night, were beaten off. Hostile guns fired occasional shells, while our warships returned the compliment at any hostile column that seemed to offer a good target, and our aeroplanes dropped bombs when they had the chance; but in general the enemy kept a long distance off and was tantalizing. Our launches and boats, which were constantly patrolling the canal, could see him methodically intrenching just out of range of the naval guns.
By the night of Feb. 1 the enemy had prepared his plan of attack. To judge both from his movements during the next two days and the documents found on prisoners and slain, it was proposed to attack El Kantara while making a demonstration at El Ferdan, further south, and prevent reinforcements at the first-named post. The demonstration at Ismailia Ferry by the right wing of the Kataib-el-Kheil force which had been partly refused till then in order to prevent a counter-attack from the ferry, was designed to occupy the attention of the Ismailia garrison, while the main attack was delivered between the Tussum post, eight miles south of Ismailia, and the Serapeum post, some three miles further south. Eshref Bey’s highly irregular force in the meantime was to demonstrate near Suez.
The selection of the Tussum and Serapeum section as the principal objective was dictated both by the consideration that success here would bring the Turks a few miles from Ismailia, and by the information received from patrols that the west bank of the canal between the posts, both of which may be described as bridgeheads, were unoccupied by our troops. The west bank between the posts is steep and marked by a long, narrow belt of trees. The east bank also falls steeply to the canal, but behind it are numerous hollows, full of brushwood, which give good cover. Here the enemy’s advanced parties established themselves and intrenched before the main attack was delivered.
While Germany’s Trade and Credit Are Holding Their Breath
By J. Laurence Laughlin
[From THE NEW YORK TIMES, March 9, 1915.]