WWI - Sinai and Palestine Campaign

Discussion in 'World War 1' started by liverpool annie, Apr 12, 2009.

  1. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    World War I was fought in many theaters of the world, including the Middle East. The Ottoman Empire, consisting of present-day Turkey, Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Jordan, and parts of Saudi Arabia and Armenia, was a major power in the Middle East at the beginning of the war. The Ottoman Empire joined the Central Powers late in 1914 after the secret Ottoman-German Alliance was signed. In the Sinai and Palestine, hostilities between the Allied Powers (primarily Britain and Russia) and the Central Powers (primarily the Ottoman Empire and Germany) began in 1915 when the Ottomans launched an unsuccessful attack across the Sinai to try to capture the Suez Canal, threatening Russian and British territories and communication. After another unsuccessful Ottoman attack in 1916, the British went on the offensive, attacking into Palestine. Late in 1917, the British captured Gaza and Jerusalem. Hostilities officially ended on October 30, 1918 with the signing of the Armistice of Mudros and, shortly thereafter, the Ottoman Empire was dissolved and the Turkish War of Independence began.

    During the years of the Sinai and Palestine campaign, while the British worked overtly to occupy parts of the Ottoman Empire, they also worked covertly to incite a revolt among the Arabs living in present-day Saudi Arabia. The revolt against the Ottoman forces began in 1916 and was, in large part, planned and directed by Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence of the British army, better known as Lawrence of Arabia.

  2. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    Palestine campaign

    The British army in Egypt was ordered to go on the offensive against the Ottoman Turks in Palestine. In part this was to support the Arab revolt which had started early in 1916, in part this was to try and accomplish something positive after the years of fruitless battles on the Western Front. The British commander in Egypt, Sir Archibald Murray, suggested that he needed more troops and ships, but this request was refused.

    The Ottoman forces were holding a rough line from the fort at Gaza, on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea, to the town of Beersheba, which was the terminus of the Ottoman railway that extended north to Damascus. The British commander in the field, Dobell, choose to attack Gaza, using a short hook move on March 26, 1917.

    First Battle of Gaza

    The British attack was essentially a failure. Due to mis-communication, some units retreated when they should have held onto their gains and so the fortress was not taken.

    The government in London believed the reports from the field which indicated a substantial victory had been won and ordered General Murray to move on and capture Jerusalem. The British were in no position to attack Jerusalem as they first needed to break through the Ottoman defensive positions. These positions were rapidly improved and credit for the Turkish defence is given to the German chief-of-staff Baron Kress von Kressenstein.
  3. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    Second Battle of Gaza

    A second attack on the fort of Gaza was launched one month later on April 17, 1917. This attack, supported by naval gunfire and even a few early tanks was also a failure. It was essentially a frontal assault on a fortified position, and it didn't work at the cost of some 6,000 British casualties. As a result both General Dobell and General Murray were removed from command. The new man put in charge was General Sir Edmund Allenby and his orders were clear: take Jerusalem by Christmas.

    Allenby - after personally reviewing the Ottoman defensive positions - asked for more forces: three more infantry divisions, aircraft, and artillery. This request was granted and by October, 1917, the British were ready for their next attack.

    The Ottoman army had three active fronts at this time: Mesopotamia, Arabia, and the Gaza front. They also had substantial forces deployed around Constantinople and in the (now quiet) Caucasus front. Given all these demands, the army in Gaza was only about 35,000 strong, lead by the Ottoman General Kustafa and concentrated in three main defensive locations: Gaza, Tell Esh Sheria, and Beersheba. Allenby's army was now much larger, some 88,000 troops in good condition and well equipped. Many of the British forces were Anzacs from Australia and New Zealand.

    Battle of Beersheba

    A key feature to the British attack was to convince the Turks (and their German leaders) that once again, Gaza was to be attacked. This deception campaign was extremely thorough and convincing. When the British in fact launched their attack on Beersheba, the Turks were caught by surprise. The attack on Beersheba has been called the last successful cavalry charge in history. The victory on October 31, 1917 did not end the campaign because the Turks redeployed some forces and largely held their position.
  4. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    The British then attacked the Ottoman position at Tal Esh Sheria on November 6 and they forced the Turks to abandon this position after a short battle.

    Third Battle of Gaza

    On the 7th, the British attacked Gaza for the 3rd time and this time, the Turks, worried about being cut off, retreated in the face of the British assault. Gaza had finally been captured.

    The Turkish defensive position was shattered, the Ottoman army was retreating in some disarray, General Allenby ordered his army to pursue the enemy. The British followed closely on the heels of the retreating Ottoman forces. An attempt by the Turks to form a defence of a place called Junction Station (Wadi Sarar) was foiled by a British attack November 13, 1917. General Falkenhayn next tried to form a new defensive line from Bethlehem to Jerusalem to Jaffa. The first British attack on Jerusalem failed but with a short rest and the gathering of more infantry divisions, Allenby tried again and on December 9, 1917 Jerusalem was captured. This was a major political event for the British government of David Lloyd George, one of the few real successes the British could point to after three long bloody years of war.

    On the Turkish side, this defeat marked the exit of Djemal Pasha back to Istanbul. Djemal had given real command to German officers like von Kressenstein and von Falkenhayn more than a year earlier but now, defeated like Enver Pasha was at the Battle of Sarikamis, he gave up even nominal command and returned to the capital. Less than a year remained before he was forced out of the government. General Falkenhayn was also replaced, in March of 1918.
  5. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    The Final Year - Palestine and Syria

    The British government had hopes that the Ottoman Empire could be defeated early in the coming year with successful campaigns in Palestine and Mesopotamia but the Spring Offensive by the Germans on the Western Front delayed the expected attack on Syria for nine full months. General Allenby's army was largely redeployed to France and he was given brand new divisions recruited from India. These divisions spent the spring and summer of 1918 training.

    Because the British achieved complete control of the air with their new fighter planes, the Turks, and their new German commander General Liman von Sanders, had no clear idea where the British were going to attack. Compounding the problems, the Turks, at the direction of their War Minister Enver Pasha withdrew their best troops during the summer for the creation of Enver's Army of Islam, leaving behind poor quality, dispirited soldiers. T. E. Lawrence and his Arab fighters were of significant use during this time. His forces staged many hit-and-run attacks on Turkish supply lines and tied down thousands of soldiers in garrisons throughout Palestine, Jordan, and Syria.

    Battle of Megiddo

    General Allenby finally launched his long-delayed attack on September 19, 1918. The campaign has been called the Battle of Megiddo (which is the correct spelling of the name of an ancient town known in the west as Armageddon). Again, the British spent a great deal of effort to deceive the Turks as to their actual intended target of operations. This effort was, again, successful and the Turks were taken by surprise when the British attacked Meggido in a sudden storm. The Turkish troops started a full scale retreat, the British bombed the fleeing columns of men from the air and within a week, the Turkish army had ceased to exist as a military force.

    Australian Lighthorse troops marched unopposed into Damascus on September 30 1918. T.E. Lawrence and his Arab troops entered Damascus the next day to receive an "Official" surrender. The war in Palestine was over. The Turkish government signed an armistice on October 28, 1918 and outright surrendered two days later. 600 years of Ottoman rule over the Middle East had come to an end.

  6. Cobber

    Cobber New Member

    A very often forgotten part of WW1 is the Sinai, Palestine etc. A remarkable feat with the Commanders constantly esp in 1915/17 loosing many Divisions to the fight in France.

    Much of the fighting in a area where water was a very scarce resource especially for Horses who all Formations used to one extent or another. The building of the train line through the Sinai and into Palestine was a brilliant move by the British Generals. If i remember right the people of Damascus thought that this would mean they would now control there own destiny.
  7. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    Newly available e - texts ...... WWI Palestine campaign

    Aaronsohn, Alexander, With the Turks in Palestine (1916)

    Anonymous, Through Palestine with the 20th Machine Gun Squadron (1920)

    Ben-Yehuda, Hemda, Jerusalem : its redemption and future : the great drama of deliverance described by eyewitnesses (1918)

    Bentwich, Norman De Mattos, Palestine of the Jews: past, present and future (1919)

    Bluett, Anthony, With our army in Palestine (1919)

    Cooper, F. H., Khaki crusaders. With the South African artillery in Egypt and Palestine (1919)

    Finley, John H. (John Huston), A pilgrim in Palestine; being an account of journeys on foot by the first American pilgrim after General Allenby's recovery of the Holy Land (1919)

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