There was fighting in the Middle East during World War I after the Ottoman Empire entered the war. The best known campaign was fought in Egypt and Palestine. The Ottoman Empire entered the War primarilty to recover territory lost to the Russians, but the Empire also bordered on Egypt which was a British protectorate. The Suez Canal in Egypt was a critical artery of the British Empire. Egypt was also a former Ottoman Empire. The Middle Eastern campaigns were primarily fought by the Ottoman Empire with limited German support. The primary Allied forces were the British and Empire forces, especially the Australians and Indians. The Ottomans after entering the War launched an attack on Suez across Sinai which failed (1915). The British began building up forces in Egypt. The Ottoman forces launched a second attack across the Sinai (1916). These two offensives did not result in heavy casualties on either side by the standards of World War I. The British buildup was delayed by the Galipoli Campign. While building up forces in Egypt, the British dispatched Major Lawrence to Arabia to assist the Arab Revolt. The result was the fall of Aqaba and a major disruption in the Arabian Peninsula. The Arabs staged hit-and-run attacks on supply lines and tied down thousands of Ottoman soldiers in isolated garrisons throughout Palestine, Jordan, and Syria. The British failed to take the heavily defended Ottoman fort at Gaza. This resulted in major changes to the British command. General Allenby was given command and substantial reinforcements. Allenby renewed the offensive into Palestine (1917). The Arab Army, a mobile irregular formation, was a distraction the Ottomans had to deal with. The British Egyptian Expeditionary Force smashed through the Ottoman lines and finally captured Gaza. They then captured Jerusalem (December 1917). There was another Middle Eastern front to the east in Mesopotamia which at the time was an Ottoman province. Shortly after the outbreak of the War, the British sent a small force to protect Abadan, part of Persia. One of the world's earliest oil refineries was located there. British operational planning included land troops in the Shatt-al-Arab. A reinforced Indian 6th (Poona) Infantry Division from the British Indian Army was designated as Indian Expeditionary Force D (IEFD). The Ottomans when entering the War were primarily focused on the Cauvauses and wimming territory back from the Russians. Tghey did not anticipate the British opening a front in Mesoptamia. The Ottomans, however, managed to destroy a British Indian army at Kut in modern Iraq. British Empire forces reorganized and captured Baghdad (March 1917). The Middle Eastern campaigns were important principally for keeping Suez open.for the Allies. Otherwise they were of only periferal importance to the War. They were, however, of great importance to the subsequent history of the Middle East, ending Ottoman control over the Arabs and replacing it with British and French colonial control.
The Ottoman Empire became known in the 19th century as the 'sick man of Europe'. The Ottomons fell hoplessly behind Europe which as a result of huge advances in technology and liberalization developed rapifly in industrial and military power. The Ottoman Empire could have been partitioned in the 19th century, but was saved because the great powers could not decided on how to do this. The Crimean Warwas fought by Beritain and France to prevent Tsarist Russia from unilaterally dismantelling thecOttoman Empire (1846-48). Prussia declined to join the allies in this effort, preferring to maintain its relationship with the Tsarist regime, Tsarist armies had buttresssed roylist regimes including Prussia and Austria durin the revolutions of 1848. Russia did not intervene as Pe=russia mjoved to unify Germany, includung the Franco-Pe=russian War (1870-71). At the time the British wwre concerned about Russian advances in Central Asia abd threats to India, a competition known as the Great Game. The new German Empire pursued a very different policy toward Tsarist Russia, A conerstone of Chancellor Bismarck's foreign policy was to maintain an alliance with the Russians. This was an often trickly undertaking because Germany also had an alliance with the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Russian and Austrian had conflicting interests in the Balkans. Wilhelm II became Kaisr (1888). He considered Bismarck to be a focilised relic of a previous era. Hd quickly replaced him as chancellor, determined to personally control German foreign policy (1890). An as part of that new direction, Wilhelm allowed the secret Reinsurance Treaty with Russia to lapse (1890). Wilhelm saw the treatyas unecessary and supported Chancellor Caprivi rejection of Russian overtures to renew it. Wilhelm was convinced that he could personally manage relations with Russia through his personal relationship with the Tsar. This is generally seen as the greatest mistake in the history of German diplomacy. (Wilhelm considered himself a master diplomat.) It profoundly altering the European ballance of power, especially when the French took advantage by negotiating a treaty with Russia (1892). Suddenly the German military found itself with the ctristrophic prospect of facing too large armies. German sought to redress this clossal mistake by alliances with Austria and Italy as well as coutring the Ottoman Empire. Turkey which was heavily courted by Germany had been hard-pressed by Russia saw the opportunity to win back lost territory and joined the Central Powers. The Germans cultivated the Ottomans during the late 19th and early 20th century. After military defeats at the hands of the Bakan states and Italy (1911-13), the Young Turks who seized power asked for milirary assistance. The Germans sispateched aiklitart mission (1913). Thus when war came, the Ottomon Empire joined the Central Powers.
Germany and the Ottomans signed a secret military alliance (October 2). The Trearty was aimed at Russia and pledged "joint action" if Ruusia intervened to protect Serbia from Austria-Hungary. The Ottomans mobilized their army, but did not declare war (October 3). Britain and France did not move to disuade The Ottomans from entering the War. When Enver Pasha offered to remain neutral if given a substantial loan and if they agreed to end previous financial concessions. Britain moved to hold two dreadnoughts being built in British yards for the Ottoman Navy. Money for these ships had been collected from public fund raising in Turkey. The Turkish public was outraged. Germany at the same time offerd to give the Ottomab Navy tweo ships )the battler cruiser Goeben and the light cruiser Breslau, both ships had been in he Mediterranean when war broke out and escaped from the Royal Navy by seeking refuge in the Dardanelles. The Ottomans unilaterally abolished the financial capitulastions (September 8). The initial engagements of the War suggested the Germans would win. The Germans Western offensive occupied almost all of Belgium and a substantial part of northern France. Even more importantly, German armies smashed the Russians on the Eastern Front. (Tannenburg was fought Augest 26-30.) The two German ships (renamed the Sultan Yacuz and Midelli, but under German command commenced attacks on Russian ships and ports in the Black Sea (October 28). This was essentially a declaration of War. Russia declared War (November 4), Britain and France followed (November 5). The Ottomand officially declared war (November 14). Mehmed who was only a figurehead politically, but retained his religious authority, declared a jihad (holy war). The Ottoman Empire was the world's only important Islamic power. The Sultan hoped to engender revolt in Frech and British colonies (especilly Egypt) and enthusiam in the centuries old struggle against Russia. Unlike the situation in Europe at the beginning of the War, however, there was no public enthusiam for the War. The first operation was a combined German-Turkish bombardment of Russian Black Sea ports ( Odessa, Sevastopol, and Theodosia).
The first Ottoman offensive was aimed at the Russian Caucauses (December). Enver Pasha as Minister of War was the supreme commander of the Turkish armed forces. He had ambitious dreams of not only retaking the Caucauses, but of conquering central Asia and uniting all Turkish peoples. He proved to be unequal to the task. [Fromkin, p. 119.] He launched an offensive against the Russians in the Caucasus (December 1914). He launched a force of 100,000 Ottoman troops in frontal attack against well defended Russian positions in the mountains of Russian Armenia . Worst still the offensive was launched in freezing winter conditions. This proved to be one of the most disaterous campaign in Ottoman military history. After some initial successes, Ottoman losses were horendous. Enver lost about 85 percent of his force at the Battle of Sarikamis (December 22, 1914 to January 17, 1915). Ever Pasha devived a strategy based on mobility and a rigorous time table, much as the Germans devised for the Schiliffen Plan in the West. It was something the poorly trained Ottoman troops would have difficulty with in the best comditions. Enver expected them to achieve the goals set in the winter conditiions over the challenging terraine of the Allahüekber mountains. [Erikson, Ordered, p.60] It was from the onset a rescipie for disaster. Tens of thousands of Ottoman trops had to retreat in freezing conditions. Many froze to death. Historians differ as to the death toll. Many estimate lossess totaling 90,000 men. Th survivors beliviing that the Ottoman Armenians had betrayed them were a factor in the ensuing Armenian Genocide. The Russians retook much lost ground (August 1915). The Turks and the Russians fought for 3 years in the Caucasus Mountains. The Russians occupied important Ottoman Black Sea ports, but after the Revolution and collapse of the Tsarist Army on the Eastern Front had to withdraw.
There was fighting in the Middle East during World War I after the Ottoman Empire entered the war. The best known campaign was fought in Egypt and Palestine. The Ottoman Empire entered the War primarilty to recover territory lost to the Russians, but the Empire also bordered on Egypt which was a British protectorate. The Suez Canal in Egypt was a critical artery of the British Empire. Egypt was also a former Ottoman Empire. The Middle Eastern campaigns were primarily fought by the Ottoman Empire with limited German support. The primary Allied forces were the British and Empire forces, especially the Australians and Indians. The Galipoli offensive might be considered a part of the Middle Eastern. It was particukarly important because if it had been successful in may have saved Russia. The other Middle Eastern campaign was the Btitish invasion of Mesopotamia.
There was another Middle Eastern front to the east of Egypt and Palestine in Mesopotamia which at the time was an Ottoman province. This is a little known campaign of the War. The Ottomans when entering the War were focused primarily on winning back land lost to the Russians and to a lesser exten the lure of Suez. They did not anticipate having to fight a campsign in Mesopotami, a quiet backwater of their Empire. The Royal Navy gave the British the capability of striking in the rear of the Ottomn Empire. Shortly after the outbreak of the War, the British sent a small force to protect Abadan, part of Persia. One of the world's earliest oil refineries was located there. British operational planning included land troops in the Shatt-al-Arab. A reinforced Indian 6th (Poona) Infantry Division from the British Indian Army was designated as Indian Expeditionary Force D (IEFD). The Ottomans were surprised by the Broitish invadsion, but managed to destroy a small British Indian army at Kut al-Amara in modern Iraq. The Ottomans after the War's longest seige forced an entire division to surrender. British Empire forces reorganized and launched a second Mesopotamis campign with a larger, better equipped force. The British captured Baghdad (March 1917). The British victory would lead to the creation of the modern state of Iraq.
The Ottomans after entering the War launched the first Middle Eastern campaign, an effort to take Suez. Suez was a vital lifeline of the British Empire. The Germans pressed the Ottomans to attack. The Ottomans thus launched the campaign. The Ottoman campaign was organized by Minister of Marine Djemal Pasha advised by German Chief of Staff Kress von Kressenstein. The Ottomans attacked across the Sinai Peninsula from their base at Beersheba (January 14, 1915). The Ottoman Suez Expeditionary Force consisred of 25,000 men. They sought to strike across Siani and surprise the British and seize the Canal before the British had fully prepared their defenses. The problem for the Ottomans ws there were no roads or fail lines to Suez. They had to mosve 300 km across the Siani Desert. This proved to be a major impediment. As a result, the attack across Sinai failed and the small British force in Egyptvrepulsed the Ottomans (1915). The British began building up forces in Egypt. They made Egypt into a training ground for the Empire's reserve of Commonwealth and Indian troops. This was delayed by the demands of the Galipoli campaign. The Ottoman forces launched a second attack across the Sinai (August 1916). They were again repulsed, this time at Romani. These two offensives did not result in heavy casualties on either side by the standards of World War I. One aspect of the British-Ottoman fighting in Egypt and Palestine, was an effort to assist the Arabs struggling for independence from the Ottoman Empire. The Arabs at the time of World War I were the largest minority in the Ottoman Empire, largely because the Empire had lost most of its Christian Balkans territory. The Arabs used the War as a way to throw off centuries of Ottoman rule. The result was the Arab Revolt. The British despite a substantial buildup, failed to take the heavily defended Ottoman fort at Gaza (March 1917). Gaza proved to be a tough nut. The British failed again at Gaza (April 1917). This resulted in major changes to the British command. After the two failurea at Gaza, British Prime Minister David Lloyd George recalled Sir Archibald Murray and replaced him with Edmund Allenby and ordered him to capture Jerusalem by Christmas 1917. He was given substabtial reinforcements. Allenby faced the formidable Ottoman line at Gaza-Beersheba, The Ottoman line was capably overseen the German commander Erich von Falkenhayn, the former army Chief of Staff who had earlier orcestrated the Verdun offensive, a pivotal battles of the War. Allenby renewed the offensive into Palestine. The Arab Army, a mobile irregular formation, was a distraction the Ottomans had to deal with. Larence disappered into the Arabian desert (Spring 1917). The British heard little from him and then suddently Aqaba fell (July 6). This meant the British could supply the Arab Army with modern weapons. Alenby fought the Third Battle of Gaza and the Battle of Beersheba at the same time (October-November 1917). The British Egyptian Expeditionary Force smashed through the Ottoman lines and finally captured Gaza. The climatic battle for Palestine was fought at Mughar Ridge (November 1917). Jerusalem fell (Decembr 8), two weeks before Allenby's deadline. This broke the back of Ottoman armies in the Levant. The British advanced to Damascus with the Arab Army on its flank. This ended Arab-llied unity. The Arabs xpected indeoendence. The British and French wanted to control the areas liberated from Ottoman rule.
The British buildup in Egypt was delayed by the Gallipoli Campign. The goal was to open up a supply line to the embattled Russians. Russian armies on th Eastern Front suffered massive losses as a result of German offensives (1914-15). Russia was able to mobilizwe a huge army, but ws unable to adequately equip them. Russian pleas for assistance was one of the factors leading to the disastrous Allied offensive at Gallipoli. The Dardanelles were an important Allied objective from an early point in the War. (The Crimean War was largely fought to ensure the Russians would not destroy the Ottoman Empire and seize the Dardanelles. The Royal Navy vessels first shelled the Turkish forts in the Dardanelles (November 30). The Allies opened the Gallipoli campaign with a naval bombardment of the Ottoman forts along the Dardanelles (February 19-March 18). They hoped to force their way through Dardanelles to put the Ottoman capital of Constantinople under their big guns. The British believed that this might force the Ottomans out of the war. The Royal Navy used some of its older battleships. The best ships in the Royal Navy were kept for the Grand Fleet in the North Sea to confront the German High Seas Fleet. This action proved costly to the Royal Navy. Three battleships were sunk by mines. Three others were badly damaged. The action was led by Admiral Roebuck. After the losses he withdrew (March 18). He did not realize that the Ottomans were essentially defeated. His withdrawl allowed them to move in fresh troops and artillery. The British next prepared an infantry force in Egypt as a landing force to seize the Dardanelles (March-April). The British landed on the Gallipoli peninsula, providing the name of the campign (April 25). The landings were poorly executed and the initial surprise was not exploited. The Turks were able to contain the Expeditionary Force, with a large Australian component. There were 3 months of intense fighting with heavy losses on both sides. The Fifth Army behind prepared defensive positions and good equipment effectively resisted the Allied assaults. The Ottoman Mustafa Kemal commanded the Ottoman forces. It was the most successful Ottoman action of the War--and the most vital. It meant that Russia would remain isolated. After the war as Kemal Attaturk would found the Turkish Republic. The Expeditionary Force made few gains. The British staged additional landings. The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACs) under Stopford landed at Suvla Bay, Gallipoli which became known as ANZAC Bay (August 6-8). The ANZACs achieved some success, but Stopford did not persue the attack vigorously and the Ottomans were able to contain them. The British relieved General Ian Hamilton (October 15). It was clear by theis time that despite heavy losses, the Gallipoli campaign had failed. General Sir Charles Monro replaced him. Monro recommended that the Expoditionary Force be evacuated. This was approved and the evacuation begins (November 23). The evacuation was largely completed (December 10). The British withdrew the final 35,000 men (January 8-9, 1916). Somehow this was achieved without the loss of a singe man. The Ottomans do not detect the operation. The evacuation proved to be the most successful part of the campaign.
While building up forces in Egypt, the British dispatched Major Lawrence to Arabia to assist the Arab Revolt. Lawrence was an academic posted to Egyot because of his language skills. He was an unlikely person to launch a major guerrilla campaign. The result was first the fall of Aqaba. This allowed the British to ship supplies to rge Arabs and the launch of the significant military phase of the Arab revoly. This proved to be a major disruption in the Arabian Peninsula for the Ottomans. The Arabs staged hit-and-run attacks on supply lines and tied down thousands of Ottoman soldiers in isolated garrisons throughout Palestine, Jordan, and Syria. The Turks were unable to defend against the attacks on rail lines and scattered outposts. The attraction for the Arab warriors was largely the booty to be obtained in the attacks and not forging an Arab state. This was the vision of Sharif Husayn and Emir Faisal, along with Lawrence. [Schneider]
The Middle Eastern campaigns were important principally for keeping Suez open. for the Allies. Otherwise they were of only periferal importance to the War. They were, however, of great importance to the subsequent history of the Middle East, ending Ottoman control over the Arabs and replacing it with British and French colonial control.
Erickson, Edward J. Ottoman Army Effectiveness in World War I: A Comparative Study.
Erickson, Edward J. Ordered to Die: A History of the Ottoman Army in the First World War. (Greenwood Publishing Group, 2001). 256p.
Fromkin, David. A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East (New York: Owl Books, 2001).
Schneider, James J. Guerrilla Leader: T.E. Lawrence and the Arab Revolt (2011), 368p.
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