Allenby Defeats the Ottomans in Palestine

"General Allenby inJerusalem

After a long campagin that began at the Suez Canal in 1915, General Allenby led Allied troops to victory over the Ottomans in December 1917 when he captured Jerusalem


The fighting over Palestine actually began in 1915 when the Germans led the Ottomans in a campaign to capture the Sinai desert and the more importantly the strategically vital Suez Canal. Egypt was a British protectorate at the time.

The attack was nearly successful with the Ottoman soldiers reaching the canal , but only two companies of Ottoman soldiers managed to cross it on February 2 1915. By then the British had rushed an army of 30,000 to the canal and the Ottoman position was untenable, so they withdrew. The Ottomans pulled back to the middle of the Sinai peninsular and from there conducted raids on the Suez Canal.

The British concluded that it would be easier to defend the canal if they crossed it and pushed the Ottoman forces back. The British forces crossed the canal and began a major logistic effort to supply their troop in Sinai an effort that included building a rail line and laying water pipes. The Ottomans led by German General Kress von Kressenstein launched surprise attack on the British forces on April 23, 1916 and overwhelmed the British troops guarding the line but quickly withdrew.

By mid May 1916 the railroad had been extended as far as Romani in Northern Sinai about 23 miles from the canal. British troops established defensive positions there. Most of the forces compromised the Australian New Zealand Mounted Division. The Ottomans attacked in force on August 4th. After fierce fighting the Ottoman attack was repulsed. The Ottomans returned to their base at Bir el Abd. After ANZC troops pursued them their they were forced to withdraw from that base as well. At this point the Suez Canal was secure from Ottoman attack.

The decision was taken to advance across Sinai and attack Ottoman forces in Palestine. It was slow going as the British being forced to slowly build their railroad and water lines across Sinai. By December the line had been built close enough that a British force could sortie forward and on December 21st a British force occupied El Arish that had been abandoned by the Ottomans.

The Ottoman only maintained one base in Sinai it was Magdhaba. That was captured after an intense fight on December 23rd. On January 9th the British forced captured Rafah.

The next stage was to attack Ottoman troops in Palestine. That was delayed by the departure of some of the British troops to reinforce the Western Front.

On March 26th 1917 the British troops attacked Gaza in what is known as the first battle of Gaza. The Ottoman troops repulsed the British attack. On April 17-19 the second Battle of Gaza took place. The Ottoman were well entrenched and the British were unable to defeat them.

On October 31st the Allied forces attacked Beersheba, which was the eastern part of the Ottoman defense lines. After a day of heavy fighting the allied forces defeated the Ottoman forces and captured the city that had been defended by 4,400 troops.

The Ottoman lines were now too long to successfully defend and Allied forces soon captured Gaza and moved North toward Jaffa. The Ottomans were forced to pull out of the Jaffa, establishing defensive line on what is now the Yarkon River, while at the same time trying to defend Jerusalem. The first stage of the battle for Jerusalem took place outside the city from November 17 and 24th and is known as the battle of Nebi Samuel. By early December the Ottoman position in Jerusalem was untenable and they evacuated the city. On December 9th the British Army led by General Allenby the commander of the campaign occupied the city.

The final battle in Palestine took place starting September 19th 1918. Allenby’s forces attacked Meggido. The attack caught the Ottoman army by surprise and within hours they ceased being an effective fighting force. All of Palestine was now in British hands. The number of casualties during the campaign has been disputed but it seems to be a little over 200,000. Less then most battles on the Western Front where little really happened. In this case in the course of a long series of battles the British ousted the Ottomans from Palestine and later Jordan and Syria- changing the face of the Middle East.