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Outline of the Middle East Campaign

  • The Western Desert
    The Western Desert

On their declaration of war in October 1914, Turkish massed in Palestine to strike at the Canal and Britain interests in Egypt. Overstretched and under equipped the British were forced to stand on the defensive against Turkish troops but kept the vital Canal open to British shipping. However, operations were necessary against the Senussi Arabs, who, with German and Turkish equipment and advisors repeatedly attacked Egypt from the vastness if the Western Desert. The Queen's Own Dorset Yeomanry sealed the victory against the Senussi with a dashing charge against the enemy's rear guard at Agagia in February 1916.

Following British victories that pushed the Turks away from the Canal, General Murray began to prepare for an advance into Palestine supported by the Hejaz Arabs. The British began to construct a railway and supply routes across the coastal plain, both of which were to prove strategically important two years later, when it was necessary to sustain a force advancing north into Palestine.

It was not, however, until early 1917 that sufficient force was assembled, and lines of communication established, that an assault on the strong Turkish army in Palestine could be considered. Two attempts to breach the strongly fortified Turk positions at Gaza on the coast narrowly failed. These attacks alerted the Turks to the growing strength of the British and, consequently, their commanders ordered their front, running from Gaza to Beersheba, to be strengthened.

Meanwhile, the British Government increasingly anxious for success in battle replaced Murray with General Allenby. This change of command and further reinforcement, with an Indian Army contingent and ANZAC mounted troops, brought a change of British strategy. After the Western Front, the Palestine theatre of operations became the second largest in terms of forces deployed.

General Allenby attacked in October 1917, successfully overcoming the defences of Beersheba and opening the way for an advance north and east. At El Mughar, The Queens Own Dorset Yeomanry charged across an open plain before dismounting to close with the Turks. The advance continued apace, capturing Jerusalem, which General Allenby entered on foot on Christmas Day. Prime Minister David Lloyd George described the city's seizure 'as a Christmas present for the British people'. The advanced moved on into Syria, with the Turks eventually signing an Armistice in Palestine on 31st October 1918.