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.

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Fahreddin surrenders (Ottoman Records, Twitter)

25/9/1918 As his men take Amman, Allenby prepares to march on Damascus

Turkish forces in Palestine are in disarray following Allenby‘s successful offensive. Success on the coastal plain has allowed the British to make gains further inland. Success across the Jordan had proved elusive earlier in the year but now at last Allenby’s men take Amman.

Henry Wilson, the chief of staff of the British army, is pressing Allenby to exploit the Turks’ discomfiture by advancing with haste to Aleppo in northern Syria, from where Anatolia itself can be threatened with invasion. But Allenby is more cautious, fearing the consequences of an over-hasty advance (with the capture of Townshend‘s army at Kut in 1916 serving as a warning of the possible consequences of throwing caution to the wind). Nevertheless, he is not going to allow the Turks an opportunity to retreat and regroup. He is now preparing for his men to advance on Damascus, capital of Syria. The fall of this city will make clear to all that Turkish dominance of Arab lands has come to an end.

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Amman (Wikipedia: Second Battle of Amman)

23/9/1918 Allenby decides to have another crack at Amman #1918Live

Allenby‘s offensive has shattered Turkish forces in Palestine. Haifa and Acre fall to Indian cavalry today and thousands of Turkish troops are surrendering to the British, their escape routes cut off by the rapid Allied advance.

Success in western Palestine means that Allenby is free to have another crack at Amman in the Transjordan region, where success has thus far eluded him. Now his men cross the Jordan once more and reoccupy the town of Salt, in preparation for another march on Amman. With Turkish forces in complete disarray Allenby hopes that this time Amman will fall to his men without difficulty.

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Indian lancers in Haifa (100 Years Ago Today, @CenturyAgoToday on Twitter)

21/9/1918 Turkish collapse in Palestine

Allenby‘s offensive in Palestine is starting to look like a decisive victory. After the initial infantry assault smashed through the Turkish lines, Australian and Indian cavalry have exploited the victory and are pushing northwards at speed while the infantry wheels to the right to roll up the Turkish line. Many of the Turkish units in the path of the juggernaut have disintegrated. Retreating units are being relentlessly attacked by British and Australian aeroplanes.

Germany’s Liman von Sanders commands Turkish forces in Palestine. From his headquarters in Nazareth he is struggling to organise an effective resistance to the enemy. His efforts are hampered by a lack of accurate information as to the location of enemy and even his own forces, as his telephone lines have been cut.

Liman von Sanders’ confusion is underscored by the sudden arrival of enemy forces in Nazareth today. Liman von Sanders has to flee in great haste and is lucky to escape. The Allied advance is so rapid that Indian cavalrymen overrun a Turkish aerodrome at Nazareth, capturing both aeroplanes and their crews. By the end of the day the Allies have secured Nazareth as well as Nablus, with Jenin, Tulkaram and Megiddo already in their hands.

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Map & Turkish prisoners (Wikipedia: Battle of Nablus (1918))

19/9/1918 Megiddo: Allenby’s breakthrough in Palestine #1918Live

Turkish forces are expanding into the Caucasus, taking advantage of the collapse of Russian power there. This worries their German allies. The Germans have their own plans for the Caucasus and favour the establishment of pro-German client states in the region, not its absorption into the Ottoman Empire. They also fear that the Turks are putting too much resources into the Caucasus when the real danger is Allenby‘s British Empire and Commonwealth army in Palestine.

Allenby has launched a series of diversionary operations towards Deraa in Syria, with the assistance of the ever-growing regular forces of the Arab Revolt. Together with guerrilla operations by Arab raiders (assisted by British liaison officer T.E. Lawrence), these have convinced Liman von Sanders, commander of Turkish forces in Palestine, that Allenby is planning an attack in the Transjordan or Syrian regions. He transfers troops from coastal Palestine to reinforce Deraa.
The worst fear of the Germans are confirmed today. Allenby has in conditions of total secrecy concentrated a mighty strike force north of Jaffa. After a devastating artillery bombardment, the infantry attacks, forcing their way through the Turkish defensive lines on the coastal plain. The outnumbered Turks fight as best they can but are soon put to flight. And once the infantry is through the Turkish defensive positions Allenby is able to release his Australian and Indian cavalry to exploit the victory. As the cavalry surge forward towards the town of Megiddo, the cohesion of the Turkish army begins to collapse. Isolated units put up staunch resistance but others take to their heels, surrender, or exchange their uniforms for civilian clothes and abandon the army life.

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Positions at start of the battle & at midnight on 19th/20th September (Wikipedia: Battle of Nablus (1918))

5/8/1918 Allied intervention in Russia and the defence of Baku

Russia is now in the grip of civil war between the Bolshevik government in Moscow and its various enemies. However the chaotic situation in the country is not merely an internal matter, as foreign powers are now beginning to intervene. This is mainly a matter for the Allies, as the Central Powers are too busy with the territories they wrested from Russia at Brest-Litovsk to actively take sides in the civil war. Allied intervention in Russia however is somewhat confused, with a lack of clear goals or a consistent approach.

In the Russian Far East, Japanese and American troops have landed in Vladivostok, to secure the city for the Czechoslovak Legion. This is implicitly an anti-Bolshevik intervention, as the Czechoslovaks are fighting the Bolsheviks on behalf of the Komuch government in Samara. British forces meanwhile have established themselves in the north Russian ports of Murmansk and Archangelsk. They landed initially to secure military supplies that had been sent there to support the Russian war effort. The British were also keen to deter German or Finnish expansion in this region, which meant that there was some tacit support for their landing on the part of the Bolsheviks. Since then though there are suspicions that the British are working with anti-Bolshevik elements.

In Baku British intervention is fighting to block Turkish expansion in the Caucasus region. Turkish forces have been expanding here since Russia signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, seeking to recover territory lost in previous conflicts with Russia. Their attempts to advance into Georgia had put them at loggerheads with the Germans, who favour Georgian independence. It seemed briefly as though the Turco-German alliance would collapse over the issue, but instead Enver, Turkey’s war minister, backed down and redirected his men towards Azerbaijan.

Following inter-communal violence in April, Baku is now largely devoid of Azeris and is under the control of the Central Caspian Dictatorship, an alliance of Armenian nationalist and various anti-Bolshevik forces that recently seized power in the city. The Dictatorship is now facing a Turkish army under the command of Nuri Pasha, Enver’s half brother. The defence of Baku is aided by an amphibious British force, which arrives today from Persia. The British are only too happy to take on the Turks, fearing that if they are victorious in Baku they will then attempt an overland march on India. Their expeditionary force is nick-named Dunsterforce, after its commander, General Lionel Dunsterville, who is reputedly the real-life model for the eponymous character in Rudyard Kipling’s Stalky & Co.

The arrival of Dunsterforce at Baku proves decisive. The Turks are forced back. For now at least Baku remains a safe haven for Armenians.
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British troops advancing to the aid of Baku (Wikipedia: Battle of Baku)

Armenian fighters (Wikipedia: Sebastatsi Murad)

10/6/1918 Vorontsovka: Germany and Turkey come to blows

Germany and Turkey are allied to each other, but their goals are starting to diverge. Turkey’s leaders see the collapse of Russian power in the Caucasus as an opportunity for expansion; they have sent their troops racing to occupy territory lost to the Ottoman Empire in previous wars. Enver also hopes to expand Turkish power into central Asia, where he anticipates a warm welcome from the Turkic peoples there. The Germans however want to set up friendly client states in the Caucasus, to serve as buffer between Soviet Russia and the Turks; they have already recognised Georgia as independent and despatched a small force there under Kressenstein.

The problems caused by Germany and Turkey’s divergent goals come to a head today. Turkish forces advancing into Georgia clash with a combined Georgian and German force at Vorontsovka. The more numerous Turks have the upper hand, driving away their opponents and taking several German prisoners. As news of this incident filters back to the German high command there is outrage at this gross impertinence on the part of their supposed allies.

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map (Kafkasya Cephesi’nde Osmanlı-Alman Rekabeti – Ottoman-German Competition in the Caucasus Front)