Story of the Great War - Roland Usher

With Allenby in Palestine

Few campaigns of the war thrilled the western world to a greater extent than that in Palestine and Asia Minor. Few events caused a deeper satisfaction than the capture of Jerusalem by Allenby in December, 1917. It was certainly not because of the extraordinary importance of the campaigns themselves, nor yet because the military operations displayed greater skill or courage than those in Europe. Remarkable as they were, they certainly cannot be compared with the great movements in France. But the fact was that the western world saw Allenby achieve what the Christian world had failed to win in the Middle Ages, saw him take possession for the first time in nearly eight hundred years of the place in the world most sacred to Christians.

His quiet entry into Jerusalem was the achievement which Richard, the Lion Hearted, Philip Augustus, and a long line of knights and pilgrims had shed their blood in vain to accomplish. The Christian world had believed for centuries that Palestine should not be in the hands of the Infidel and yet in his hands it had remained. Now it was returned once more to Christian possession. He was a crusader, that quiet general in khaki. The imagination of the western world clad him in burnished armor and placed upon his breast the magic cross of the eleventh century. The hopes, aspirations, traditions of the Christian world invested the campaigns in Palestine with a significance which few in history have had.

British camp in Palestine


The British also found deep joy in Allenby's victory because a British force had pushed up the Persian Gulf from India, had invaded Mesopotamia in the first years of the war, and had finally been captured in 1916 by the Turks. The British never accept defeat and they burned to wipe out the stain on their arms before a general victory in Europe should ingloriously overthrow the Turk in Asia Minor.

People too found the military operations in the Near East romantically interesting, not because different things were being done than in France, but because the appearance of warfare was different. AŽroplanes and tanks in the desert, cooperating with Arabs on camels, seemed certainly more romantic than they did in France or Italy. The campaign was of the older type; there were never enough troops on either side to make necessary a trench line. Eventually the one great crowning exploit of the campaign was that in which the British cavalry in force rode around the Turks and caught them in the rear, while Allenby's infantry attacked them in front. These are the probable reasons for the interest of the public in these campaigns.

British troops in Palestine


The story itself is soon told. On April 29, 1916, General Townshend surrendered at Kut-el-Amara. British forces at once started from India, advanced up the Tigris and Euphrates, and on February 24, 1917, General Maude retook Kut-el-Amara. A campaign was waged then during the summer and autumn, by Allenby from Egypt, on Jerusalem, which fell December 10. In 1918 both British forces, aided by Arabs, pushed steadily on. September 22 was the great victory over the Turks in Syria. On October 1 the British entered Damascus; October 26 Aleppo surrendered, followed on October 31 by the surrender of Turkey, and the war in the Near East came to an end.