|First World War - Syria, Palestine & Arabia|
|Click on the links above for details of the campaigns pursued in each territory|
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In March 1917 the British mounted a major offensive into Palestine against the Turks. The first two failed attempts to break through at Gaza cost the British over 10,000 men - the Turks lost fewer than half that number. Then General Sir Edmund Allenby was put in charge, with orders to capture Jerusalem by Christmas. He shook up slack Allied commanders, trained his forces hard and built up their number to nearly 90,000, including the horsemen and camel-riders of the African Desert Mounted Corps. On 31 October 1917 Allenby broke through the Turkish defences at Gaza, capturing wells to supply his desert fighters with essential water. On 9 December the Allies entered Jerusalem.
Altogether around 140,000 British and 100,000 Indian troops took part in the Palestinian campaign against the Turks. It was the Indian cavalry, freed from their by now accustomed Western Front role as infantry and able to ride unhindered in the vast open landscapes of the region, who harried the Turks from the Sinai deserts through the Lebanon and Syria.
In 1918 Colonel T.E. Lawrence - 'Lawrence of Arabia' - undermined Turkish rule by instigating uprisings among the Arab leaders, while his flying guerrilla bands made frequent attacks on the Hejaz Railway, a vital communications link between Amman in Palestine and Medina in South Arabia.
|British West Indies Regiment constructing dugouts near Deir el Belah, Palestine|
© Imperial War Museum
More orthodox Allied forces under General Allenby made another northward push in September 1918, breaking through at Jaffa and in the Jordan Valley. Here the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the British West Indies Regiment - having finally overcome the British Army's reluctance to use them in the front line - killed around 200 Turks in a ferocious bayonet assault (See Winston Millington (Barbados/Trinidad)). The Allies swept north, taking Damascus and Beirut in early October. By the end of the month the Desert Mounted Corps had taken Alleppo, and by the time the Turks signed an armistice on 30 October they had lost all of Palestine, Syria and Arabia. In the last six weeks of the campaign the Allies had advanced more than 350 miles, taking 76,000 prisoners, at a cost of 853 killed and nearly 4,500 wounded.