War in the Mideast

1918 Mideast - bg - maps - reserve


  1. Egypt from base at Cairo 1914-18
  2. Palestine 1917-18
  3. Iraq from base at Basra 1914-18
  4. Arabia 1916-18
  5. Persia 1914-18

1914 Oct. 29 - Turkey declared war.

1915 - Germany tried to ignite a Jihad by sending agents Kress von Kressenstein to Palestine, Oskar von Niedemeyer to Afghanistan, and Liman von Sanders to Turkey. Wilhelm Wassmuss, the "German Lawrence" left Baghdad for southern Persia Jan. 28. Wassmuss in Persia incited tribes to attack British oil pipelines northeast of Ahwaz.

1915 - Britain developed a dual strategy, first an internal strategy of revolution, supporting Arab nationalism and T. E. Lawrence in the Hedjaz who joined with Hussein to unite the Bedouins to rise up against the Turks. Second, an external strategy of invasion, sending armies into Iraq and Palestine.


1914 - After England and France in 1914, Egypt became the next largest British military base in the war. Indian troops defended the Canal until the Territorials arrived. The Territorials included 53 volunteer cavalry regiments called Yeomanry.

1915 Jan. 14 - Turkish army of 25,000 led by Djemal Pasha, with the help of German adviser Kress von Kressenstein, left Beersheba in Palestine to attack the Suez Canal, crossed 150 miles of Sinai desert without the loss of a single man. The attack on Feb. 3 was repelled by Indian troops and a small British Regular force, with guns from British ships in the Canal. The Turks lost 2000, but Turkey occupied the Sinai in Feb. and caused the British to build up a major force in Egypt to defend the canal.

Feb. 13 - In the Sinai, a Gurkha force of 500 surprised the Turks at Tor east of Suez, due to Arab spy network of Lt. Col. Parker.

1915 Oct. - After the Ottoman Turks entered the war, Gen. John Maxwell assumed military control of Egypt, at first told Egyptians that England "accepted the sole burden of the war" and would not ask Egyptians, or fellahin, for any participation or aid. But this changed in 1915. Egyptians were hired to dig trenches for defense of canal, build railways, water pipes, load supplies, join British as camel drivers. Thus were organized the Egyptian Labour Corps (ELC) and the Camel Transport Corps (CTC). One company in the CTC had 2020 camels and 1168 Egyptians including native overseers with buffalo-hide whips that supervised drivers. There was high turnover of drivers, 170,000 serving during the war. In Nov. 1915, Maxwell requested reinforcements to his dwindling army of 60,000. by Dec., he had 300,000 Territorials and Dominion troops. The new force was sent to Egypt by General Staff Chief Gen. William "Wully" Robertson, who had risen from a private, who also sent Gen. Archibald Murray to command the defense of the Suez Canal, while Maxwell commanded western Egypt. Murray proposed in 1915 to advance on El Arish, using camels. The EEF (Egyptian Expeditionary Force) purchased tens of thousands of camels from the Delta to assemble the largest camel force in history. Each camel could carry 2 water tanks of 12 gals each. The Imperial Camel Corps was officially organized at Kantara on Jan. 24, 1916. The British forces included the Army Cyclist Corps, and armored cars, and a growing air force.

1915 Nov. 20 - the Senussi revolt of puritanical Muslim Arabs in western Egypt began, encouraged by German and Turkish agents. The British evacuated the westernmost outpost at Sollum.

1916 Feb. 26 - Battle of Agagiya in the western desert of Egypt, the Western Frontier Force of Territorials and Yeomanry with armored cars defeated the Senussi, included a cavalry charge against the Arabs by the Dorset Yeomanry that was called "the outstanding event of the campaign." (p. 18)

1916 Mar. - British advance into Sinai began at ancient caravan station of Kantara on the Suez Canal and the railroad from Cairo. The British would extend the Kantara Military Railroad along this caravan route to El Arish and Gaza and Jaffa. By 1917 Kantara became one of the largest British camps in the war

1916 Apr. - Turks under von Kressenstein led 3500 against British outpost at Qatiya and defeated the Yeomen of the 5th Mounted Brigade, who were replaced by the Anzac Mounted Division, and the railroad construction reached Romani. 25 miles from Kantara.

1916 July 19 - Brit airplane reported advance from Beersheba of 16,000 Turks, incl the crack Anatolian division, and incl heavy artillery for which special tracks were laid in the sand of timber and brush.

1916 Aug. 4 - Battle of Romani - Kress attacked sand dunes of Mount Meredith near Romani where Murray had intentially weakened his right flank to pull in the Turks, then surround them with cavary (like the battle of Cannae). Murray brought up 50,000 troops to the battle front, and defeated the Turks who lost 6000, the British lost 1130, but Kress was able to withdraw his army intact to El Arish

British built railroad 15 mi per month, but delays in getting 15-inch water pipe, finally arrived trom United States in Oct. Also laid chicken wire road parallel to railroad

1916 Dec. 7 - Murray organized his Eastern Force to advance with the railroad, and appointed Gen. Philip Chetwode to lead a mobil vanguard force called the "Desert Column" and attack El Arish. The unit had 18 camel companies, Anzac Mounted Division, and the 42nd and 52nd Territorial divisions.

1916 Dec. 22 - Battle of Magdhaba - The Desert Column occupied El Arish and on Dec. 23, then advanced on Magdhaba, 25 mi southeast of El Arish, won victory, took 1282 pows

1917 Jan. 9 - Battle of Magruntein (or Battle of Rafah) - Desert Column from El Arish took 1635 pows at El Magruntein southwest of Rafah


1916 Dec. - The new British government of David Lloyd George that came to power in Dec. and gave new importance to defeating the Turks and occupying Jerusalem, rather than the earlier passive policy of just defending Egypt.

1917 Mar. - Murray's Eastern Force advanced toward Gaza with 40,000. Reporter Charles A. Court Repington of the London Times reported the upcoming battles.

Mar. 26 - First Battle of Gaza, Murray was defeated by Turks, lost 4000 and Turks lost 2500. British had only 170 artillery, only 25 airplanes, and were 25 miles from the railhead at Rafah, badly in need of water.

Apr. 1 - Murray received 8 tanks, the only theater outside France to get tanks

Apr. 19 - Second Battle of Gaza was a classic infantry attack on a broad front against entrenched machine guns, tanks failed in fine sand and heat, poison gas from 3000 gas shells evaporated in hot winds, lack of artillery. British were defeated, lost 6444. Dobell was blamed and was replaced by Chetwode as commander of the Eastern Force.

Apr. 23 - The new Imperial War Cabinet of the George government decided to remove Murray from command. British policy was at a crisis point. Unrestricted submarine warfare since Feb. raised ships sunk from 3 per day to 13 per day; Nivelle's offensive in France had failed and the French army mutinied; in Russia, Nicholas II had been ousted in March, and Russia no longer posed a threat to Turkey

June 27 - Gen Allenby arrived in Egypt to replace Murray. Unlike most generals, Allenby became well-known to his troops, moved his HQ from Cairo to Palestine. His mission was, in the words of Lloyd George, "Jerusalem before Christmas" and then take Aleppo before new German force of 6500, the "Asia Corps" under Falkenhayn, arrived to defeat the British in Mesopotamia. But Gaza had to be taken first, where the Turks were building trenches to create a defense line from Gaza to Beersheba 30 miles long.

Oct. 1 - Allenby reorganized his army of 92,000 into 3 groups: the Desert Column, the 20th Corps, and the 21st Corps. He increased his artillery to 400, received Bristol airplanes that gave him control of the air. He planned to surprise the Turks with a feint attack at Gaza, where the Turks expected the attack, and make his main thrust on his right toward Beersheba.

Oct. 27 - The six-day bombardment began with navy guns as well, the largest artillery barrage outside France.

Oct. 31 - The 4th Australian Light Horse led by Gen. W. Grant charged and took Beersheba and its valuable water wells, a charge that became as famous as the Charge of the Light Brigade in 1854. The Light Horse force of 800 lost only 31 killed and 36 wounded, most casualties from hand-to-hand combat in the trenches, not from the cavalry charge.

Nov. 1 - night attack on Gaza by 21st Corps took outer defenses, but stopped.

Nov. 3 - British planes spotted Turkish reinforcements toward the heights of Khuweilfe, and the 53rd and 55th divisions reached the position before the Turks, and some units were hit by their own British artillery.

Nov. 6 - Chetwode attacked Sheria and won the battle in one day, used Stokes mortars against trenches, and over the next days widened the gap in the Turkish defense lines.

Nov. 7 - Third Battle of Gaza won by British.

Nov. 14 - British took Junction Station, cut the railroad line, opened the way for an advance into the Judean Hills to Jerusalem.

Nov. 20 - The 75th Division, the last one formed during the war, of Gurkas and British from India, captured the Jerusalem-Jaffa road, then on Nov. 21 captured the vital hill of Nebi Samwil, the key to the city. The division adopted a key as its unit symbol.

Nov. 27 - Falkenhayn had taken command of Turks in Nov. and launched counterattack Nov. 27-Dec. 3, against Nebi Samwil, but the British held.

Dec. 8 - Allenby sent the 20th Corps for final assault on Jerusalem, and at 7 am Dec. 9 the Turkish army retreated out of the city, and 4 centuries of Turkish rule came to an end. Lloyd George spoke to Commons Dec. 10 to announce the victory, and Dec. 11 Allenby made a dramatic and well-photographed entry into the city, walking rather than riding thru Jaffa Gate.

Dec. 27 - Turks attacked on the road from Nablus in the north, the British counterattacked the turkish flank, fighting went on for 3 days, but the British held the city. By Dec. 30, the British controlled the entire road from Jerusalem to Jaffa, but Allenby had lost 30,000 of his 97,000 and suffered supply problems. Allenby faced a communication and supply crisis in Jerusalem, the heavy rains having washed out the bridges and railroad construction, only the camels could cross the desert, ans some trucks were able to bring supplies from the railhead to the camels. The stormy seas hindered ships trying to unload supplies.

1918 Mar. 6 - War Cabinet told Allenby to advance "to the maximum extent possible"; Allenby created another corps, the 23rd Corps commanded by Gen. Barrow and with Wavell as chief of staff. Also, Allenby sent Gen. Shea to lead a force into Jordan that would capture Amman, but "Shea's Force' was defeated and retreated to Jerusalem Apr. 2

1918 Mar. 21 - German offensive began in France, and due to the disaster in France, the offensive in the Midwest was stopped and Allenby had to send some of his divisions to France, eventually losing 60,000 troops

1918 Apr. 29 - Gen Chauvel led another raid into Jordan, but it failed.

1918 Sept. 19 - Battle of Meggido, Allenby defeated last Turkish army. Allenby would fake a flank attack into Jordan, but send his main body and cavalry across the coastal Plain of Sharon to take Meggido. He could control the skies with the seven squadrons in the Palestine Brigade of the RAF. He had 385 artillery but there would be no preliminary bombardment, only a surprise attack, The airplanes destroyed key communication posts and the German air base at Jenin, then attacked Turkish troops on the roads. On Sept. 21, the airplanes destroyed a convoy attempting to flee into Jordan, dropping 9 tons of bombs and 56,000 machine gun rounds. By Sept. 22, Allenby had destroyed the Turkish 7th and 8th armies, taken 25,000 pows and 260 guns.

1918 Sept. 25 - Feisal's Northern Arab Army entered the battle in Jordan, and destroyed the Turkish 4th Army as it fled northward from Deraa. Gen Ryrie of the 2nd Australian Light Horse allowed the fleeing Turks to keep their weapons to fight off the Arabs who would not let the Truks surrender, and arrived in Amman fully armed but ready to surrender to the British. Gen. Barrow of the 4th Cavalry Division told T. E. Lawrence to stop the Arabs from killing Turks, but Lawrence refused.

1918 Oct. 1 - Australians and Arabs took Damascus, and Oct. 5 took Rayak.

1918 Oct. 8 - British took Beirut.

1918 Oct. 26 - Brit took Aleppo, the last city to fall in Allenby's campaign.


1915 Feb. 24 - Lloyd George emphazised attack on Dardanelles, and Mesopotamia "merely a side issue."

Mar. 2 - 14,000 British troops retreated from Shaiba.

Mar. 11 - British Euphrates Blockade Force began operations.

Apr. 12 - Battle of Shaiba southwest of Basra where 6100 British defeated 12,000 Turks, and Maj. Wheeler won 1st VC in the campaign.

Apr. 21 - Gorringe led 12,000 British from Basra to Ahwaz, captured fort in Persian Arabistan May 14.

May 27 - The first British aircraft began to fly patrols from Basra.

May 31 - Second Battle of Qurna won by 2500 British troops and "Townshend's Regatta" of 370 local boats. On June 1 British sloops on the Tigris captured Turk gunboat and steamer, on June 3 took Amara.

July 5 - Gorringe defeated Turks in advance toward Nasiriya.

Aug. 27 - In Mesopotamia, Townshend prepared for advance on Kut, British assembled Firefly gunboat at Abadan.

1915 Sept. 12 - Gen. Charles Townsend led 11,000 from British base a Basra up the Tigris 300 miles to attack the Turkish base at Kut-el-Amara. He arrived outside Kut Sept. 16, faced 10,000 Turkish troops led by Nur-ud-Din Pasha. Townsend attacked Sept. 27 and took the village. Battle of Kut began Sep. 28 with attack on Es Sinn. Turks led by Nureddin lost 5300 casualties and retreated to Cteisphon where reinforcements increased the Turkish army to 18,000 with 45 artillery. By Oct. 3, Townshend reached Aziziyeh 50 miles from Baghdad, but London ordered the force to halt. On Oct. 24, the advance resumed, took Zor by Nov. 11 but supplies ran low.

On Nov. 22, Townsend attacked Ctesiphon with 10,000 infantry and 1000 cavalry and 30 artillery, but was stopped by superior Turkish numbers, withdrew to Kut Nov. 25. The Turks lost 6200 and the British lost 4600. Turk guns on Tigris prevent British ships from helping Townshend defend against a counter-attack, and Townshend retreated with 22-mile night march to Azizyeh. On Dec. 1, British stopped Turks at Umm-at-Tubul but lost Firefly and Comet gunboats that ran aground. Townshend retreated 90 miles to Kut and took up defensive positions.

Dec. 5 - Siege of Kut began.

Jan. 7 - On the Euphrates, Gen. George Gorringe with 1000 troops took Butaniya 12 miles north of Nasiriya, but forced to evacuate Feb. 7.

1916 Jan. 9 - Kut relief force of 19,000 led by Gen. Fenton Aylmer, the Tigris Corps, defeated an army of 30,000 Turks at the Battle of Sheikh on the Tigris, but suffered heavy casualties. On Jan. 19, Gen. P. Lake replace Gen. Nixon as commander of British forces in Mesopotamia. On Jan. 21, the Turks defeated Aylmer at the Battle of Hanna, British lost 2741 casualties out of 7600 troops. On Feb. 13, German planes bombed Kut, and the city became desparate. On Feb. 16, London took command of operations from India. British 13th Division of Gallipoli veterans landed at Basra. On Mar. 1, German planes dropped 50 bombs on Kut. British reinforcements were sent to Aylmer, and he advanced up the Tigris, but was defeated again March 8 at the Battle of Dujaila Redoubt. On Mar. 11, Aylmer was replaced by Gen. George Gorringe, who waited until Apr. 5 to renew the relief expedition up the Tigris. On Apr. 6, British suffered heavy casualties at Battle of Sannaiyat only 16 miles from Kut, lost again on Apr. 9 and German planes bombed 13th Division in 2nd Battle of Sannaiyat on Apr. 14. The relief force was unable to go any farther. On Apr. 15, British planes dropped 16,800 lbs food into Kut from 140 flights. Capt. T. E. Lawrence failed to negotiate the release of besieged forces in Kut. On Apr. 17, British failed to take Turk salient in Battle of Bait Aisa. On Apr. 22, British were defeated in the 3rd Battle of Sannaiyat.

Apr. 29 - Surrender of Kut and its British force of 13,000. In 1200-mile march to Anatolia prisoner camps, 4800 died. Tigris Corps relief expedition lost 23,000.

1916 May - Turk forces shifted north to meet Russians. British slowly rebuilt forces in southern Iraq.

1917 Feb. 25 - British retook Kut.

Wars in Iraq


1914 - Young Turks sought to "Turkify" Arab lands, were anti-Islamic, sought to translate the Koran into Turkish. Arab nationalism was intensified by these Turks, gave birth to many movements, some based in Europe such as Al-Fatat in Paris 1909. Uprisings took place in 1914 in Cyrenaica, and by al-Idrisi in Yemen, at Basra in Iraq, and in Arabia at the outbreak of the war. However, many Arabs remained loyal to the Ottoman Empire, feared more British and French colonialism. One of those loyal Arabs was Hussein, Sharif of Mecca since 1908, who claimed direct descent from Muhammad's daughter Fatima through the Hashemite family, and was considered guardian of the holy cities of Islam. The Bedouins of the Hejaz earned money from tolls charged during the annual pilgrimmage to Medina and Mecca. They opposed the extension of the railroad from Medina to Mecca. Ottomans used military to force the extension, and Hussein at first was loyal to the sultan and the Ottoman Empire. Hussein's second son Abdullah sought agreement to build the railroad in exchange for one third of its revenues, but failed. He then met with Kitchener in Cairo in Feb. 1914 for British support, but Britain not yet at war with Ottomans. After Oct. 30, however, Kitchener promised to "give the Arabs every assistance against foreign aggression" in return for Arab assistance against the Turks.

1915 Jan. 24 - Ibn Rashid, allied with Turks, defeated Ibn Saud with his 6000 Arabs at Jarrab. Austrian oriental specialist Musil joined Rashid to lead reconnaisance.

1915 Mar. - Hussein sent Feisal to Damascus in March to meet with Arab secret societies al-Fatat and al-Ahd. But he continued to wait during 1915, as Turkey failed in its attack on Suez, and Britain failed at Gallipoli, and as Jemal Pasha brutally suppressed the Arab uprising in Syria.

1915 Mar. - secret Anglo-Russian agreement to give Constantinople and Dardanelles to Russia in exchange for the oil lands of Persia.

1915 Oct. - Henry McMahon, British High Commissioner in Cairo, negotiated with Hussein Oct. 1915 to March 1916, promised Arab independence, but no agreement signed, called only "horse-trading" without commitments. But Sykes-Picot negotiations at same time by British imperialists led by Lord Curzon carved up Mideast in a secret document signed in May 1916

1916 Jan. 1 - Sherif Hussein agreed to Arab alliance with British. On Feb. 18 he requested money from British, who granted 50,000 pounds Mar. 10.

1916 June 5 - Hussein proclaimed the Arab Revolt, and June 10 attacked the Turks in Mecca, but met stiff resistance at Medina.

1916 Oct. - Hussein's 4 sons had taken Mecca, but not Medina. Lawrence met Faisal Oct 23 for the first time after camel ride from Jidda. They agreed on strategy of using mobile Arab forces against static Turks, break communications and railroad, isolate the large Turkish force of 11,000 in Medina.

1917 Jan. - British naval force captured valuable port of Wejh.

1917 Mar. - Lawrence met the powerful Awdah abu-Tayi, the key to getting Arabs to attack Aqaba July 6.

1917 July 6 - The victory of Aqaba ended the war in the Hedjaz, and British forces had a valuable port for the Palestine campaign.

1917 July - Lawrence returned to Cairo, met Allenby who had replaced Archibald Murray.

1917 Aug. - Faisal's army and Lawrence were transferred to Allenby's Egypt Expeditionary Force in Palestine 1917-18


1915 Apr. 16 - In Persia, Turks led by Kalil Bey, Enver Pasha's uncle, retook Dilman.

1915 Nov. 12 - In north Persia, Russian force of 14,000 led by Baratov reached Enzeli on the Caspian. On Dec. 4, Baratov took Sultanbulak Pass and Hamadan, and on Dec. 15 took Kum.

1916 Jan. 13 - In north Persia, Baratov defeated German Count Kaunitz with Turk force at Kangavar. On Feb. 8, Baratov began advance on Kermanshah, occupied Feb. 25.

Apr. 12 - In east Persia, Gen. Dyer with 200 troops defeated 2000 Sarhad tribesmen.

May 3 - In north Persia, Baratov took Kasr-i-Shirin and Khanikin near border. However, Turks reinforced by troops from Kut forced Baratov out of Kasr-i-Shirin by June 3.

1918 Aug. 4 - Dunsterforce from Baghdad to Baku on the Caspian.






revised 11/16/06 by Schoenherr | WWI Timeline | Links | Topics | Maps | Reserve