10/1/1919 Turkey’s last army finally surrenders in Medina

Sharif Hussein of Mecca revolted against his Turkish masters in 1916. With British help his supporters soon managed to secure Mecca and most of the Hejaz region before advancing northwards into Syria. However, they were never able to capture Medina, which was strongly defended by Fahreddin Pasha, a tough Turkish general. The Arabs were not strong enough to storm Medina. Nor were they able to enforce a blockade of the town: even with intermittent Arab attacks on the railway to Medina, Fahreddin’s garrison remained in supply.

When Turkey’s representatives signed an armistice with the Allies at Mudros, Fahreddin still refused to surrender. Now though, more than two months later, the Medina garrison finally capitulates, the last Turkish army to lay down their arms. Fahreddin’s surrender is accepted by Sharif Hussein’s son Abdullah.

image source:

Fahreddin surrenders (Ottoman Records, Twitter)

16/6/1916 Jeddah falls to the Arab Revolt

Sharif Hussein’s revolt against the Turks continues. For now he is trying to secure the Hejaz region, but the Turks are not giving up without a fight. The garrison in Medina is too strong for the rebels to attack directly, so they limit themselves to skirmishing, attempting also to cut Medina off from the outside world. Meanwhile Hussein’s son Abdullah has attacked the Turks at Ta’if, hoping to capture Ghalib Pasha, their governor of the Hejaz. Turkish artillery broke Abdullah’s attacks and he has called off further assaults, instead placing the town under siege. In Mecca meanwhile street fighting continues between the Turks and the rebels.

The rebels have however achieved one key success. Initial attempts to seize the port of Jeddah failed, with Turkish machine guns and artillery cutting down large numbers of the attackers. But then the British lent a hand. The Turks find themselves shelled by warships and strafed by British aeroplanes. Today they surrender Jeddah to the rebels.

Jeddah’s fall gives the rebels a secure line of communications to the outside. Through it the British can supply Hussein with arms and gold. The latter is of vital importance, as the loyalty of his Bedouin allies must continuously be paid for.

image source (Wikipedia)

10/6/1916 Sharif Hussein launches the Arab Revolt

Outside Medina the Emir of Mecca’s sons Ali and Faisal lead rebels who are skirmishing with the town’s Turkish garrison. Now in Mecca itself their father decides to formally join the revolt against the Turks. Sharif Hussein takes up an antique rifle and fires from his palace at Mecca’s Turkish army barracks. This begins a battle for control of the holy city fought by Hussein’s supporters and the Turkish garrison.

Elsewhere Hussein’s other supporters and kinsmen prepare for action. Bedouin horsemen move on Jeddah, the Red Sea port. Hussein’s son Abdullah plans an assault on Ta’if, where the Turkish governor of the Hejaz region is based. Abdullah’s men have already cut the telegraph cables into Ta’if and are preventing couriers from entering or leaving.

Given the defeats the British have suffered at Gallipoli and Mesopotamia, it might seem strange that Sharif Hussein has now decided to revolt against the Turks. His would-be nationalist allies in Syria are cowed by Djemal’s reign of terror and are unlikely to rally to him. But Hussein knows the Turks are aware of his intrigues with the British. He fears that they will depose or murder him sooner or later.

For their part, the British are glad to have Hussein formally on their side. His credentials as the guardian of Islam’s holiest sites undercuts the Turkish Sultan’s declaration of Jihad against the Allies. And they do not consider their alliance with Hussein as conflicting with their secret treaty with the French to carve up the Middle East into French and British spheres of influence.

image source:

Sharif Hussein bin Ali (Dying Splendor of the Old World)