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The Middle East

A Campaign Overview

The Great War term 'Palestine', is used to describe a far-flung theatre of operations in the Middle East that were at first focussed on the vital Suez Canal, which links the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean. Eventually, however, fighting ranged across parts of Egypt, what is today Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and north into Syria.

The Turkish Ottoman Empire traditionally dominated much of the Middle East theatre of operations. The Turks, however, were now in Alliance with the Germans, having been courted by them as allies for many years. The Turks attempted to encourage a Jihad (Muslim Holy War) or rising amongst the Arab tribes, against the British but, in the event, almost as many Arabs fought against the Turks, who they saw as a traditional enemy. Amongst those Arabs who were successfully raised against the British were the Senussi, inhabitants of Egypt's Western Desert.

The Strategic Importance of the Suez Canal

The Canal was vitally important to the British as a supply route to India and the Far East. In the Great War it was doubly important, as troops and equipment from Australia, New Zealand and India faced the prospect of taking the much longer route to the Western Front, via the Cape of Good Hope, if denied its use. Loss of the Canal would have also meant that millions of tons of shipping, bearing food and raw materials for Britain and her Allies, would similarly been diverted to a longer route, at a time when both shipping and resources were at a premium and the shortest route was a resource multiplier. Consequently, British defence policy had put the defence of the Canal as a high priority and a strong garrison was maintained in Egypt for this very purpose.