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The Battle for Palestine 1917

The Battle for Palestine 1917

Copyright Date: 2006
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 300
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    The Battle for Palestine 1917
    Book Description:

    Three battles for the control of the key fortress-city of Gaza took place in 1917 between the `British' force (with units from across the Empire, most notably the ANZACs) and the Turks. The Allies were repulsed twice but on their third attempt, under the newly-appointed General Allenby, a veteran of the Western Front where he was a vocal critic of Haig's command, finally penetrated Turkish lines, captured southern Palestine and, as instructed by Lloyd George, took Jerusalem in time for Christmas, ending 400 years of Ottoman occupation. This third battle, similar in many ways to the contemporaneous fighting in France, is at the heart of this account, with consideration of intelligence, espionage, air-warfare, and diplomatic and political elements, not to mention the logistical and medical aspects of the campaign, particularly water. The generally overlooked Turkish defence, in the face of vastly superior numbers, is also assessed. Far from laying out and executing a pre-ordained plan, Allenby, who is probably still best remembered as T. E. Lawrence's commanding officer in Arabia, was flexible and adaptable, responding to developments as they occurred. JOHN D. GRAINGER is the author of numerous books on military history, ranging from the Roman period to the twentieth century.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-448-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. List of Maps
    (pp. vi-vi)
  5. A Note on Names
    (pp. vii-viii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-1)

    The British campaign to conquer Palestine in 1917 is a founding event of the modern world. It brought about the definitive destruction of the Ottoman Empire and the creation of its successor states in the modern Middle East. The campaign therefore merits our attention.

    Of recent years it has been studied with regard to the larger strategic and imperial problems, or from the point of view of the ordinary soldier. Here I hope to strike a balance between these two equally legitimate approaches, and to add in some consideration of the Turkish point of view, both the soldiers and the...

  7. PROLOGUE: To the Border of Palestine
    (pp. 2-6)

    In the first days of 1917 the British army in Egypt expelled the invaders, and moved right up to the boundary line which separated Egyptian territory from that ruled by the Ottoman Sultan. There was one final place to be captured, and then all Egypt would be free of the Turkish invaders. That place was Rafa, just a few hundred yards inside Egypt, and to attack it some of the British forces had to cross the border.

    Rafa consisted of an unimportant village and, a little way off, a solid building in the form of the keep of a medieval...

  8. CHAPTER 1 The Decision to Invade
    (pp. 7-16)

    The capture of Rafa concluded the first phase of that part of the Great War which was centred on Egypt. For the British the country was valuable above all because the Suez Canal ran through it, for this formed a vital part of the main route linking Britain and its eastern empire – India, Malaya, East Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and so on. In enemy hands it would provide just as easy an access to those lands. It was because the Turks had reached the east bank of the Canal, so closing it for a time, that the British forces had...

  9. CHAPTER 2 Defeat at Gaza
    (pp. 17-36)

    The Turkish army which had invaded Sinai in 1915 and had been slowly driven back to Gaza since then was usually commanded in the field by Colonel Kress von Kressenstein, but in overall command of the whole region and its armies was Jamal Pasha. He was governor of Syria, which included Palestine, and as such he was also commander of the armies in his province. He was one of the conspirators who had carried out the coup in 1908 which had seized power in the name of the Young Turks.¹ An able man, but one whose ambition was suspect, he...

  10. CHAPTER 3 Defeated Again
    (pp. 37-57)

    General Murray’s report to the War Office implied a greater success on 25 March than had actually occurred. For some days the War Office believed him, but, prodded by the War Cabinet, Robertson eventually asked for full details, and on¹ April Murray replied with a long telegram which gave fuller information. It was written in a way which suggested that his original claim for a victory was justified; yet a close reading showed clearly that his forces had attacked Gaza and been repulsed. His estimate of Turkish casualties had climbed to over 8,000, and he understated his own losses.¹


  11. CHAPTER 4 The Wider Context
    (pp. 58-80)

    Two British defeats at the same place within three weeks required changes. Dobell was the first to go, and Murray’s position was obviously much weakened. Explanations were also needed. Dobell might prove a useful scapegoat, but there were necessarily deeper issues to be considered. These defeats would have to be avenged, but first the real reasons for them had to be discovered, and lessons learned.

    In some ways the reasons were obvious. They had been seen, at least by some commanders, on the Western Front in France already: the futility of infantry advancing across open land in the face of...

  12. CHAPTER 5 The Allenby Effect
    (pp. 81-108)

    Replacing Murray had been under consideration since his defeat at the second Gaza battle. Robertson had suggested it to the War Cabinet as early as 23 April, and the Cabinet had agreed.¹ But finding the right man to succeed him was not easy. All the really competent generals were already fully employed. Further, the Egyptian post required a man who was in rank a general, who could command troops in battle, but who was also a diplomat, a courtier, and an administrator of ability. Murray had performed extremely well in the last three roles, while failing as a commander through...

  13. CHAPTER 6 The Third Attempt at Gaza
    (pp. 109-131)

    The bombardment of the city of Gaza and its fortifications was on a greater scale than anything yet seen in this campaign. The divisional artilleries of all three infantry divisions, plus the corps artillery, were all involved, primarily with the aim of suppressing the Turkish guns. 68 heavy guns were used, each with a lavish provision of ammunition, half of them assigned to the ‘ bombardment’ group, and half to the counter-battery groups – though the first task for all the guns was the destruction of the enemy artillery.¹ In addition, naval ships joined in on the 29th, from the British...

  14. CHAPTER 7 The Turkish Lines Broken
    (pp. 132-147)

    The day after the capture of Beersheba, 1 November, as the East Anglian Division was readying itself for its attempt to break through the lines at Gaza, the Turkish Seventh Army command, at Hebron, counted its men, appealed for help, and began moving its under-strength units into position to meet the next attack. The presence of a British force on the Hebron road at Dhaheriye gave concern. This was Newcombe’s Force. Colonel Newcombe was aiming to rouse the Arabs of the Judaean Hills on the pattern of the revolt in Arabia, but they were cautious. The Turks brought a force...

  15. CHAPTER 8 The Drive North
    (pp. 148-174)

    The successful and secret withdrawal of the Gaza garrison spoilt Allenby’s plans for the total destruction of the Turkish army there. It was now not possible to trap the garrison inside the city: the Turks would be able to fight on somewhere else in Palestine. The basic reason for the Turks’ success had been the resistance of the Turkish 19th Division at Tell el-Khuweilfe. This had been intended to block any British movement along the Hebron road, but it had also had the effect of deflecting the main British advance. The breakthrough at Tell esh-Sheria led to an exploitation towards...

  16. CHAPTER 9 The Hills of Judaea
    (pp. 175-199)

    The surprise with which the British forces in the plain beheld the European-style villages of the Jewish settlers is curious for intelligence reasons, but it was paralleled by another revelation. ‘The papers have been full of the wretched inhabitants of Palestine starving of hunger’, wrote Trooper Idriess in early December. ‘It is certainly not true of the people we have seen so far.’¹ One of the most pleasant aspects of reaching better-watered land was the profusion of fruit available. ‘Struck a fine orange orchard that the owner had left so we helped ourselves pretty well,’ noted Trooper Burchill in his...

  17. CHAPTER 10 Jerusalem for Christmas
    (pp. 200-224)

    The fighting in the hills was just about finished, for the time being, by 1 December. The Turks held the line before Jerusalem which they had established before the recent battles, but the British were well entrenched close to the city. And during the fighting the British divisions which had been recuperating had been brought forward. The London Division was already in position; the Yeomanry (infantry) Division came up on its left, to relieve the Yeomanry Mounted, a process which greatly strengthened the line since the infantry were much more numerous than the horsemen. The Irish Division had been marching...

  18. CHAPTER 11 Why the British Won
    (pp. 225-236)

    With the capture of Jerusalem the immediate task imposed on General Allenby by the Prime Minister had been accomplished. As Allenby told T. E. Lawrence, the achievement left the British Army exhausted; their enemy was similarly finished for the present. It was now winter, and both armies had largely outrun, or lost touch with, their supplies during the previous month. It was wet and cold, and the troops were hungry and weary, and required to be re-equipped; the fighting died down to patrolling, both by air and by land.

    This was not the only reason the fighting ended, however, for...

  19. APPENDIX: Composition of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force
    (pp. 237-240)
  20. Maps
    (pp. 241-244)
  21. Notes
    (pp. 245-266)
  22. Sources and Bibliography
    (pp. 267-280)
  23. Index
    (pp. 281-292)
  24. Back Matter
    (pp. 293-293)