30/3/1917 Faisal eyes up Syria

The revolt in western Arabia has taken over much of the Hejaz region. British aid is flowing in through coastal ports. Emir Faisal is now trying to turn his tribal host into something approximating to a modern army. He has recruited Arab officers captured as prisoners of war from the Turks to provide the nucleus of an officer corps for his army. Many of these are natives of Mesopotamia and had a prior involvement in secret Arab nationalist organisations.

The Turks retain one outpost in the Hejaz, the city of Medina. Fahreddin Pasha holds this for the Ottoman Empire and is determined not to abandon it. His garrison is too strong for the rebels to attack him there. While they have attacked the railroad to Medina, the rebels have not been able to completely sever Fahreddin’s supply lines.

With Medina unassailable, Feisal now begins to think of expanding his operations elsewhere. Perhaps the time has come for the rebels to start moving northwards into Syria.

image sources:

Arab troops (Wikipedia)

The Medina railroad (Wikipedia)

20/2/1917 Attacking the Medina railroad

From their new base in Wajh, Arab rebels are able to threaten the railway line from Damascus to Medina, where Fahreddin commands a large Turkish force. Today an Arab raiding party succeeds in derailing a Medina-bound train with a mine exploded underneath it. The attack emphasises the isolation of Fahreddin’s force and the difficulty of keeping them supplied.

Djemal Pasha, one of the triumvirate that effectively rules Turkey, is the Ottoman proconsul in the Levant. Based in Damascus, he fears that the Medina garrison will be cut off. He would rather it was withdrawn. But Fahreddin is determined to stay in Medina, preventing the Arab rebels from establishing complete control over the Hejaz region. And truth be told the Arabs’ British friends are happy for Fahreddin to stay there. The British are preparing an offensive into Palestine and they do not want Fahreddin’s men joining the Turks there. So through liaison officers like Captain Lawrence they arrange for the Arabs to continue their attacks on the railroad, disrupting travel along it sufficiently that it will be nigh impossible for Fahreddin to extract his garrison.

image source: (Weapons and Warfare; I think the image is a still from Lawrence of Arabia)

11/12/1916 The Turks rebuffed at Yanbu

Arabs supporting Sharif Hussein of Mecca are in revolt against their Turkish masters. Fahreddin Pasha however is seeking to crush the revolt. He has led a strong force against the rebel-held port of Yanbu. If Yanbu falls it will be harder for the British to supply the rebels with arms and gold.

The rebel forces opposing Fahreddin are commanded by Faisal, Sharif Hussein’s son. They are able to delay the Turks but are too weak to halt them. They retreat to Yanbu to make a last stand. Fahreddin advances, hoping that storming the port will be the first step towards victory over the rebels.

But a nasty surprise awaits Fahreddin when he reaches Yanbu. Five British warships are achored off Yanbu. Their guns outclass anything Fahreddin has at his disposal, forcing him to abandon his plans to assault the town. He accepts defeat and withdraws back towards Medina.

The British warships’ presence at Yanbu is no coincidence. Captain T. E. Lawrence, a British intelligence officer, had been with Faisal when he first confronted Fahreddin. Realising the rebels’ danger, Lawrence raced back to Yanbu and summoned the British ships, saving the Arab Revolt. Now the rebels make plans to go on the offensive.

1/12/1916 Fahreddin Pasha’s plans to crush the Arab Revolt

Sharif Hussein of Mecca is leading a revolt of the Arabs against their Turkish masters. With British help the rebels have secured much of the Hejaz region of western Arabia, but they have been unable to evict the Turks from Medina.

Now the Turks decide to strike back. Fahreddin Pasha, the tough Turkish commander of Medina, leads a strong force to attack the rebel held port of Yanbu. If he can defeat the rebels here he hopes to start rolling up their coastal positions, cutting them off from British assistance. Fahreddin hopes that a strong blow or two against the rebels will cause their less committed supporters to desert the cause and return home, leaving Sharif Hussein and his close associates to face the vengeance of the Ottoman Empire.

6/11/1916 The Arab Revolt in trouble

Sharif Hussein of Mecca is leading an Arab Revolt against his Turkish masters. The rebels have secured Mecca itself, the vital port of Jeddah, and much of the Hejaz region. However the Turks remain in place in Medina.

The tough Turkish general Fahreddin Pasha hopes to crush the rebels, showing other disloyal elements what happens to those who defy the Ottoman Empire. Hussein’s son Faisal leads a rebel field force, based at Hamra in the hills near the port of Rabigh. Fahreddin’s men attack Faisal, whose tribal followers are no match for the Turkish regulars. Faisal is thrown back. Now Rabigh is threatened, with the rebels and their British allies wondering if the Turks will now be able to roll over Arab forces holding the ports that connect them to the outside world.

The threat to the Arab ports puts the British in a tricky situation. The defeat of the rebellion would be a disaster, but they are wary of sending their own soldiers to assist the rebels. But what can they do?

In Cairo British officials turn for advice to Captain T. E. Lawrence, an intelligence officer who visited Faisal in October. Lawrence warns against sending British soldiers into Arabia, as this will convince the Arabs that Britain is planning to take over the region. Instead he suggests providing the Arab rebels with aerial support and technical assistance, and with gold. The support of many of the rebels for Hussein’s cause is conditional and must continuously be paid for. Providing him with gold will allow him to maintain his supporters in the field and attract new supporters.

Lawrence’s advice reassures the British. They are short of troops but they have plenty of gold. So they plan to keep the money flowing in the hope that the rebellion can be kept alive.

21/9/1916 The Arab Revolt’s uncertain progress

Sharif Hussein, Emir of Mecca and Medina, has revolted against the Turkish Empire. His followers are gradually consolidating control of the Hejaz region of western Arabia. Mecca and Jeddah are securely in rebel hands. Control of Jeddah on the coast is important, as it allows an inward flow of arms and gold from the Allies. Now at last they have also managed to force the surrender of Ta’if, thanks largely to the help of Egyptian artillerymen sent over by the British. With the fall of Ta’if the rebels have also captured Ghalib Pasha, the Turkish governor of the Hejaz, who had taken refuge there.

However, not everything is going the way of the rebels. Medina remains in Turkish hands, with a strong army located there under Fahreddin Pasha. Elsewhere in the empire, Fahreddin has previously been involved in brutal actions against the Armenians. Now he hopes to give the Arabs a dose of the same medicine. He plans to march on Mecca and crush the rebellion.

image sources:

The governor’s residence after the fall of Ta’if (Axis History Forum)

Omar Fahreddin Pasha (Wikipedia)

1/8/1916 Turkey’s new Emir of Mecca

The revolt against the Turks in western Arabia has enjoyed some successes, but Medina remains firmly in the hands of the Ottoman Empire. The Turkish garrison under Fahreddin Pasha is too strong for the rebels to dislodge. Fahreddin hopes to crush the rebellion and restore Turkish rule over Mecca and the entire Hejaz region.

The Turks are pursuing a military strategy but they are also trying to undermine the Arab Revolt by destroying the religious credibility of the rebel leader, Sharif Hussein, the Emir of Mecca. The Turkish Sultan claims the title of Caliph, which would make him the successor to the Prophet and the leader of all true Muslims. The Sultan has already declared a Jihad against the Allies, but instead of joining this holy war Sharif Hussein has entered into an alliance with the infidel. Turkish propaganda proclaims that such a man is unfit to be the guardian of the holy places.

The Turks have already declared Hussein to be no longer the Emir of Mecca. Now his intended replacement arrives in Medina. Sharif Ali Haydar is a distant relative of Sharif Hussein. He had been considered for the emirate when it last became vacant, but at that point Sharif Ali seemed like a safer pair of hands. Now that Haydar is in Medina, Fahreddin hopes to have him installed in Mecca before the Hajj in October.

The Turkish authorities do not entirely trust Haydar, who was previously considered to be a liberal and an anglophile (his wife, Isobel Duncan, is Irish and his eldest son was educated in Britain). There are rumours that Djemal Pasha, Turkey’s proconsul in Syria, has sent Colonel Nurredin to Medina to keep an eye on Haydar. At the first sign that Haydar is intriguing with the British, Nurredin is apparently under orders to kill him.

image source:

Fahreddin Pasha inspecting troops in Medina