|First World War - Egypt & Sinai
|Click on the links above for details of the campaigns pursued in each territory
Return to the world map
The Suez Canal, Britain's short-cut route between India and Europe, was a vital lifeline. The canal and the Abadan oil pipline had to be guarded at all costs.
There was some delay in reinforcing the Canal’s defences to a suitable degree, but late in 1914 30,000 Indian troops – mainly of the 10th and 11th Indian Divisions - were hurried to Egypt and deployed along the Canal in time to meet the Turkish offensive of January 1915. The Turks intended to seize the Suez Canal and drive on towards Cairo. They succeeded in crossing the waterless Sinai desert, carrying assault rafts with them. The attackers were beaten back at the point of the bayonet, chiefly around the Tussum area where the 62nd Punjabis were opposing them, but not before managing to cross the Canal to the west bank.
The Indians took 600 prisoners in the action, during which the Turks sustained over 1,000 casualties. Allied casualties numbered no more than 150. From that point of view the enterprise was a Turkish failure. But by crossing the Sinai and then the Suez Canal, the Turks had severely shaken Allied confidence in their ability to hold the Canal. The incident compelled the British to expend huge amounts of manpower, effort, time and money in improving defences.
In 1916 the canal's defences were strengthened and extended eastward into the Sinai desert. Skirmishes between British and Turkish troops, and a steady undercurrent of Arab revolt against their Ottoman Empire masters, weakened the Turks, and by the beginning of 1917 they had withdrawn their forces from the Sinai peninsula.