The Battle for Palestine 1917 (Warfare in History)

The Battle for Palestine 1917 (Warfare in History)

John D. Grainger

Language: English

Pages: 300

ISBN: 1843832631

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


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.

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mask the city when they could have been more usefully employed in providing a bigger force to attack from its vulnerable northern side. Much of the British infantry, including most of the Lowland Division, was held in reserve, and was never used in the battle. The attack was set for dawn on March 26. For almost a week units had been moving up to their start line along the Wadi Ghazze, marching mainly at night in an attempt to conceal their moves from observation by the Turkish aircraft. The

mask the city when they could have been more usefully employed in providing a bigger force to attack from its vulnerable northern side. Much of the British infantry, including most of the Lowland Division, was held in reserve, and was never used in the battle. The attack was set for dawn on March 26. For almost a week units had been moving up to their start line along the Wadi Ghazze, marching mainly at night in an attempt to conceal their moves from observation by the Turkish aircraft. The

These were moves which the British planners had anticipated, just as von Kressenstein had anticipated the British plan. But von Kressenstein had his own plan. The 16th Division at Tell esh-Sheria was sent to march to cut the British communications to the south of Gaza; since these troops were under von Kressenstein’s own eye, no doubt they got moving first and quickly. The concentration of the British on the attack on Gaza meant that the Turkish troops at Beersheba were not required to stand on

esh-­Sheria, as before, where it covered the open flank beyond the Hureyra Redoubt. This weak cavalry division – probably not more than 1,500 soldiers – was the only intercepting force, a clear indication that no outflanking move was expected; Beersheba was only lightly held by a division in process of ­ formation, the 54th.5 All this fortification rapidly became obvious to the British planners, whose first scheme for the next attack had to be abandoned. The Turks worked quickly, for the

Christian population.45 This was one of Jamal’s considerations, for the communal tensions in Syria were clearly rising. Muslim–Christian tensions were constant, but there were also developing tensions between Arabs and Turks. The Young Turk revolution had taken to emphasizing Turkish nationalism, with the result that the Arab population of the empire was increasingly alienated.46 The alienation of the Syrian Muslim population was not at the stage of near-revolt, any more than that of any faith

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