15/1/1918 Arab progress east of the Jordan #1918Live

Allenby has pushed into Palestine and taken Jerusalem. Now attention shifts further east to the Transjordan region, where Arab rebels are putting pressure on the Turks. The British and French are supporting the rebels with equipment, training and small contingents of colonial troops, with the result that the Arabs are now looking much more like a proper army, though they still feature plenty of Bedouin irregulars.

The British are keen for the Arabs to take the Turkish garrison town of Ma’an. However Ma’an is strongly defended and the Arabs are not keen on the kind of costly frontal assault that is second nature to commanders like Allenby who have served on the Western Front. Instead the Arabs bypass Ma’an and advance to the north, intending to attack it at a more opportune time.

Today at Tafila the rebels have a stroke of luck. The enemy commander of this administrative centre, Zaki al-Halabi, decides that he has had enough of serving his Turkish masters in Constantinople. He changes sides and joins the rebels, bringing the Tafila’s garrison with him.

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Arab army officers and captured machine guns after the fall of Tafila (History of Jordan)

31/12/1917 Chaos in Trebizond as the Russian army disintegrates #1917Live

The war against Turkey had gone well for Russia, but now the Bolsheviks have signed an armistice with the Turks, agreeing to return their gains since the war’s start. Russian forces are now withdrawing from the former frontline. The situation is becoming chaotic as the Russian army disintegrates, leaving a power vacuum in the countryside.

In the Black Sea port of Trebizond (also known as Trabzon), Russian troops are out of control, defying their officers to either commandeer ships to bring themselves home or engaging in riotous bacchanalia. The Russian army commanders in Trebizond declare martial law in an attempt to bring the disorders to an end, but the effort is futile; they no longer have any means with which to enforce their authority.

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Trebizond in more peaceful times (Karalahana – Turkey’s Black Sea Region: Old Trabzon photos)

18/12/1917 Russia and Turkey agree an armistice #1917Live

The Russians have already signed an armistice with the Germans and Austro-Hungarians and are about to begin negotiations for a peace treaty with them. Now they also sign an armistice with Turkish representatives at Erzincan. The Caucasus front against Turkey had been the one theatre of the war where things had gone well for the Russians, with considerable gains of territory achieved after repelling an initial Turkish invasion. Now, in keeping with Bolshevik plans to use peace negotiations to trigger revolution across the world, the Russians agree an armistice with the Turks based on the principle of no annexations and no indemnities. The Turks cannot believe their luck: after years of defeat they are about to recover all the lands they have lost.

In truth, the Russians do not really have much of an option. The Russian army in the Caucasus is beginning to disintegrate, gripped by the same revolutionary spirit that has consumed Russian armies to the north. Soldiers want to return home now to benefit from the recently announced land owners. They no longer want to fight and die or be told what to do by their former masters. But in Petrograd Lenin and his Bolshevik colleagues hope that the Turkish armistice is just a step on the road to world revolution.

16/12/1917 Turkey’s extermination of the Armenians #1917Live

Since the start of the war the Turkish authorities have been doing their best to exterminate the Ottoman Empire’s Armenian population. Many of the Armenians have been shot but more have been killed by deliberate starvation as the Turks deport them from their homes in Anatolia and send them on death marches without adequate provisions to inhospitable desert regions, where they are left to die.

Turkey’s allies have been doing a lot of hand-wringing about the Armenian genocide but are unwilling or unable to put a stop to it. German and Austro-Hungarian diplomats have made greater efforts to protect Armenians that have converted to Catholicism or Protestantism, but even here their efforts are rather ineffectual. Today the German embassy reports that less than a quarter of Anatolia’s pre-war Catholic Armenian population remains alive.

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Armenian deportees; a mother and the corpses of her children (Wikipedia: Armenian Genocide)

11/12/1917 Allenby arrives in Jerusalem #1917Live

Jerusalem surrendered two days ago. Now Allenby makes his formal entry into the Holy City, with the event filmed for propaganda purposes. Allenby walks through the Jaffa Gate on foot, ostentatiously showing his humility. His honour guard contains men from all the nations of the British Empire that are taking part in the Palestine campaign, together with a token presence of French and Italian soldiers. Also present are T.E. Lawrence, visiting Allenby to coordinate strategy between the Arab rebels and the British, and French diplomat Georges-Picot, co-author of the recently published Sykes-Picot agreement.

Allenby delivers a short speech promising that the rights of the three religions in Jerusalem will be respected and reassuring the citizens of the conquered city that they remain free to go about their lawful business. He then receives a succession of the city’s civil and religious notables.

When Allenby was sent from the Western Front to take over the Palestine campaign he feared that he was being sidelined. But in a year of failure in France and Belgium, the successes in Palestine shine all the more brightly. Coming at the end of the year, Allenby’s capture of Jerusalem is a triumph that puts his Western Front colleagues distinctly in the shade.


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Allenby enters Jerusalem (Wikipedia: Edmund Allenby)

9/12/1917 Jerusalem falls to the British #1917Live

Since his victory at Gaza, Allenby has been pushing northwards through Palestine. Turkish forces under Germany’s Falkenhayn are struggling to contain the British advance. A Turkish counter-attack in late November failed to halt the British, who then pressed on to the gates of Jerusalem itself.

A British assault yesterday broke through the Turkish lines, rendering Jerusalem untenable. The Turks withdraw, leaving the city abandoned. Today Jerusalem is surrendered to the British by its mayor, Hussein al-Husseini, bringing an end to 400 years of Turkish rule over the Holy City.

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Jerusalem’s surrender party and British soldiers. Hussein al-Husseini is holding the cane. (Wikipedia)

26/11/1917 Sykes-Picot revealed: the world learns of British and French plans to carve up the Middle East #1917Live

The Bolsheviks are seeking to completely discredit the pre-revolutionary regime and its secret agreements with the Allies. Trotsky has overseen the publication of these covert pacts within Russia, including both the agreement to cede Constantinople to Russia and the Sykes-Picot agreement carving up the Middle East between Britain and France. These are now beginning to be reported on outside Russia, with the Manchester Guardian revealing the Sykes-Picot agreement to the English-speaking world today.

Sykes-Picot’s publication is deeply embarrassing to the Allies, as it reveals a duplicity at the heart of Anglo-French plans for the Middle East. Sharif Hussein of Mecca is leading an Arab Revolt against Turkey, having been led to believe by the British that they supported the establishment of an Arab state stretching from Syria to the Arabian peninsula. Balfour’s recent declaration of British support for the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine has already dented the credibility of British guarantees to the Arabs; with the British and French now revealed to be intent on dividing the Middle East between them, Sharif Hussein looks like he has been taken for a ride.

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The Manchester Guardian reveals the secret treaties (Wikipedia: Sykes–Picot Agreement)