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rolt968

The Cactus Garden: Where and what was it?

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rolt968

Can any one please tell me what and where the Cactus Garden was?

 

I have found this earlier thread, but the map is no longer legible:

https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/102547-herefordshire-man-pow-in-turkey/?tab=comments#comment-979655

 

Both Wauchope (A History of the Black Watch) and Ogilvie (The Fife and Forfar Yeomanry) say that that the men of 14 (F&FY) Black Watch who were killed in the attack at/on Sheria on 6 November 1917 were buried there. Curiously Wauchope uses inverted commas ("Cactus Garden") (Perhaps he didn't know what it was?)  while Ogilvie does not use capitals (cactus garden).

 

The men were subsequently reburied in the Beersheba War Cemetery.

RM

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IPT

We're getting complaints here @michaeldr

 

(All I can glean is that it may have been north of Mansura, and South of Ali Muntar)

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Skipman

As IPT says

 

The Fifty-Second Lowland Division 1914-1918 Lt-Col R R Thompson has "The Turks knew that the attack was coming and dug a series of immensely strong entrenchments, which ran from the sea, east of Gaza, through the cactus gardens, to the hills about Muntar."

 

It's a while since studied but think it was just an area of cactus scrub near Gaza and the Es Sire Ridge, the Mansura Ridge and Sheikh Abbas. Am sure the official history is online, should be in there.

 

Mike

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rolt968
2 hours ago, Skipman said:

As IPT says

 

The Fifty-Second Lowland Division 1914-1918 Lt-Col R R Thompson has "The Turks knew that the attack was coming and dug a series of immensely strong entrenchments, which ran from the sea, east of Gaza, through the cactus gardens, to the hills about Muntar."

 

It's a while since studied but think it was just an area of cactus scrub near Gaza and the Es Sire Ridge, the Mansura Ridge and Sheikh Abbas. Am sure the official history is online, should be in there.

 

Mike

 

2 hours ago, Skipman said:

It's marked on this map south of Green Hill. looks like it was an actual garden?

 

https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-231823907/view

 

Mike

Many thanks, Mike.

 

It's certainly some kind of enclosure.

 

I think that two men with (with very similar names) whom I am researching were originally buried there.

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michaeldr
13 hours ago, Skipman said:

through the cactus gardens

 

10 hours ago, rolt968 said:

It's certainly some kind of enclosure.

 

Rather than being an area for the growing of cactus

this probably refers to the practice of using the cactus as an (animal-proof) barrier around an area where some other crop may have been growing,

rather like a thick hawthorn hedge around a garden or a field in the UK

 

edit to add 

https://www.loc.gov/resource/ppmsca.13709/?sp=92

 

Edited by michaeldr

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Skipman
1 hour ago, michaeldr said:

 

 

Rather than being an area for the growing of cactus

this probably refers to the practice of using the cactus as an (animal-proof) barrier around an area where some other crop may have been growing,

rather like a thick hawthorn hedge around a garden or a field in the UK

 

 

 

 

Definitely. The area in the map does appear to be man made though?

 

Mike

Cactus Garden.PNG

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michaeldr

Man-made

 

Yes, just in the same way in which hawthorn is planted and kept as a hedge by man, gardener or farmer

Are you thinking of something else?

If men were buried there then it is unlikely to be referring to a building

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rolt968
1 hour ago, michaeldr said:

 

 

Rather than being an area for the growing of cactus

this probably refers to the practice of using the cactus as an (animal-proof) barrier around an area where some other crop may have been growing,

rather like a thick hawthorn hedge around a garden or a field in the UK

 

edit to add 

https://www.loc.gov/resource/ppmsca.13709/?sp=92

 

 

22 minutes ago, michaeldr said:

Man-made

 

Yes, just in the same way in which hawthorn is planted and kept as a hedge by man, gardener or farmer

Are you thinking of something else?

If men were buried there then it is unlikely to be referring to a building

Thank you!

I knew about thorn hedges in various places. I had not thought about cactus hedges. That photo is excellent.

 

I get the feeling that Wauchope didn't really know what was meant. (I don't know if he served in that theatre, at least at that time.) It's more likely that Ogilvie did.

 

Another of the frustartaing situations where it would be useful to see the war diary. Another thing to add to the list for when I finally get back to TNA!

RM

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TullochArd

michaeldr's photo is impressive and shocking. 

 

Clearly something common to the theatre that the Turks used regularly exploited to their advantage whilst in defence. At Beit Lid on  20 Sep 1918 history repeated itself "At that hour the attack of the 1/Seaforth was launched from the south, but was finally held up at 200 yards from the village by cactus hedges, after suffering 120 casualties....." ......now I can relate a cactus hedge to scale and potential.

 

Many thanks michaeldr.

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michaeldr

When you think of a cactus hedge

think of what is needed to keep out a determined 🐫

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Skipman
4 hours ago, michaeldr said:

Man-made

 

Yes, just in the same way in which hawthorn is planted and kept as a hedge by man, gardener or farmer

Are you thinking of something else?

If men were buried there then it is unlikely to be referring to a building

 

Not referring to sometjhing else, just not sure what I was referring to. I think this must be the feature mentioned here https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=I7FUDwAAQBAJ&pg=PA30&lpg=PA30&dq=cactus+garden+ali+muntar&source=bl&ots=6G1ih5kKLb&sig=ACfU3U1phOtkhLvlrFzGgkcrLaGXOa_erA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiutqKl3PLqAhX6QkEAHU1iBKgQ6AEwD3oECAYQAQ#v=onepage&q=cactus garden ali muntar&f=false

 

Mike

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michaeldr

That book also repeats a useful quote from Thompson's history of the 52nd Division:-

“...small fields and gardens, each surrounded by high cactus hedges. These cactus hedges grow out of mud banks, and are from six to twelve feet high, and about a yard or more deep. They form natural barbed entanglements, and give perfect cover from view. Shrapnel does little more than pierce their leaves. Direct hits from H.E. will blow holes in them, and, after much labour, gaps can be cut in them with hedging tools and sickles, but such expedients could have little effect, since they ran for miles. The Turks made use of these hedges by digging their machine-gun emplacements, fire trenches, and snipers' posts below them. Tanks alone can cope with them effectively."

Edited by michaeldr

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poacherbold

The cactus grown in Israel is The Opuntia, or prickly pear.

It can be eaten raw or cooked.

Camels love to eat them.

Look up camels eating cactus on youtube.

 

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michaeldr
6 minutes ago, poacherbold said:

It can be eaten raw or cooked.

I believe that this refers only to the fruit

...................................................................

 

From the same book to which Mike has linked

“The term cactus hedge may conjure up an attractive, border type, hedge just high enough to conceal Turks, who were then able to fire through the natural gaps. That was far from the reality. The cactus hedges around Gaza, as elsewhere in Palestine, served to divide the various areas of cultivation from each other. Each plant might be up to ten feet high, with leaves touching, almost merging, with its neighbour. The thickness of the hedge could be several feet, and the mass of sharp spines which covered the whole surface made as effective a barrier as the barbed wire entanglements of the Western Front. Certainly the cactus hedges were prized both as natural defences by the Turks and approached with trepidation by the attaching troops.”

 

Edited by michaeldr

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rolt968

Thank you. This is all very useful.

 

I think I have gathered two useful points:

 

From its position the Cactus Garden shown on the map would have been visible to and well known to a large number of men and therefore reasonable to refer to it in the ewar diary (which I assume was the source from which both authors got their information).

 

It would provide a place where the graves would be protected from damage from wandering animals.

RM

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michaeldr
1 hour ago, rolt968 said:

It would provide a place where the graves would be protected from damage from wandering animals.

 

Good point and I'm sure you're right about it being one of the considerations 

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david murdoch
On 29/07/2020 at 13:14, michaeldr said:

I believe that this refers only to the fruit

...................................................................

 

From the same book to which Mike has linked

“The term cactus hedge may conjure up an attractive, border type, hedge just high enough to conceal Turks, who were then able to fire through the natural gaps. That was far from the reality. The cactus hedges around Gaza, as elsewhere in Palestine, served to divide the various areas of cultivation from each other. Each plant might be up to ten feet high, with leaves touching, almost merging, with its neighbour. The thickness of the hedge could be several feet, and the mass of sharp spines which covered the whole surface made as effective a barrier as the barbed wire entanglements of the Western Front. Certainly the cactus hedges were prized both as natural defences by the Turks and approached with trepidation by the attaching troops.”

 

Some maps show "cactus hedges" in the area south of Gaza. I presume not individual hedges but to show that these could/would be encountered in that area as they would he a considerable obstacle - kind of like the bocage in Normandy. Certainly the "cactus garden" shows as a specific feature.https://digitalarchive.mcmaster.ca/islandora/object/macrepo%3A4073

58f897c43f871_MapGazaBurntTankcrop.thumb.jpg.5cc1cffee21f97300aec6e52daa128c1.jpg

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michaeldr

If we assume that the name Cactus Garden refers to the rectangle to the left of the name

then it is interesting to note that on the two maps it seems to have changed orientation

Is this significant?

1757271754_CactusGardenGaza.png.c0777a23755e08a22ab5d44fb7869dfc.png  1255123188_GazaCactusGarden1.jpg.d0ca86ae43712a4f6d5cd21244ec2479.jpg

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assafx

It is a good question.

the map to the right, is based on aerial reconnaissance and i will consider it to be more accurate than an illustration on a book.

 

Assaf

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Skipman

Not certain this is the same feature but possible. from pages 96-97 of (pdf available on this page)

 

The Fifth Battalion Highland Light Infantry in the War 1914-1918

 

"Yapton Redoubt was the most curious in formation; a deep wadi ran through the middle of it and the wire blocks on the enemy side were so ingenious that on a dark night it was extremely difficult for patrols to find the way in. An attack up the wadi would have been difficult, as small bombing posts had been constructed on the top of the high banks, and while they could have lobbed over bombs into the gully, they were almost out of bomb range themselves. However, the scheme of defence was never put to the test. In an old cactus-bound garden about 1500 yards in front of Yapton we had a day observation post perched in a tree. The cactus hedge was a mass of ripe prickly pears, and the art of eating them was only learnt after a lengthy period spent in extracting the fine thorns from one's fingers, mouth, tongue and throat. Within the hedge were fig trees, small vines, tomatoes, pomegranates and a small native hut, but huts in this part were not entered as they swarmed with small insects more desirous of making our acquaintance than we were of making theirs. One step within was sufficient. "C" Company sent nightly patrols to the Wadi Sihan and to Two Tree Post, but they returned each morning with no tale to tell. Except when an enterprising member of a patrol entered the back door of a hut unknown to the officer who entered the front door. A little mutual stalking was indulged in with bombs ready, but fortunately recognition took place before attrition."

 

Mike

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Donald D

It would seem that the Cactus Garden referred to is not the one that the 74th Division went through on their way to attack the Turkish lines SE of Tel El Sheria. In the Divisional history there is reference to 14 Black Watch encountering a strongly fortified area around the Cactus Garden, with the enemy having an uninterrupted field of fire for 400 to 500 yards. A map at the end of the book clearly shows the Cactus Garden referred to above as being SE of Gaza, whereas the 229th Brigade, including 14 Black Watch, were attacking Turkish lines V18 to V29 SE of Sheria. I would imagine in Palestine, at the time, had many such natural defences which the local people utilised for protection of crops and animals.

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rolt968
2 hours ago, Donald D said:

It would seem that the Cactus Garden referred to is not the one that the 74th Division went through on their way to attack the Turkish lines SE of Tel El Sheria. In the Divisional history there is reference to 14 Black Watch encountering a strongly fortified area around the Cactus Garden, with the enemy having an uninterrupted field of fire for 400 to 500 yards. A map at the end of the book clearly shows the Cactus Garden referred to above as being SE of Gaza, whereas the 229th Brigade, including 14 Black Watch, were attacking Turkish lines V18 to V29 SE of Sheria. I would imagine in Palestine, at the time, had many such natural defences which the local people utilised for protection of crops and animals.

That might make sense with Ogilvie's not using capitals. (If I've got it right he would have known what he was talking about. He commanded a company in 14 Black Watch at the time.)

 

Thank you. That is useful.

(It's interesting. There are accounts of the situation in three different histories.)

RM

 

 

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