Middle Eastern theatre of World War I
|Middle Eastern theatre of World War I|
|Part of World War I|
Gallipoli Campaign, April 1915.
| Ottoman Empire
|: 2,800,000 (Total conscripted), (max. size 800,000 at some time)
: 9,000 (1918)
: 6,540 (August 1916), 20,000 total (1918)
&: several 100,000
|Casualties and losses|
|1,500,000 killed, wounded, captured or missing (of these are 243,598 combat dead)||1,000,000-1,500,000 killed, wounded, captured or missing|
|Total 5,000,000 including civilians. The breakdown of Ottoman casualties is listed under Ottoman casualties of World War I|
The Middle Eastern theatre of World War I was the scene of action between 29 October 1914, and 30 October 1918. The combatants were on the one hand, the Ottoman Empire (including Kurds, Circassians, Turcomans and some Arab, Berber and Iranian tribes), with some assistance from the other Central Powers, and on the other hand, the British and the Russians, (with the aid of the Armenians, Assyrians, Jews and the majority of Arabs) among the Allies of World War I. There were five main campaigns: the Sinai and Palestine Campaign, the Mesopotamian Campaign, the Caucasus Campaign, the Persian Campaign, and the Gallipoli Campaign. There were the minor North African Campaign, the Arab Campaign, and South Arabia Campaign.
Both sides used local asymmetrical forces in the region. Participating on the Allied side were Arabs who participated in the Arab Revolt, Armenian militia who participated in the Armenian Resistance, with the Armenian volunteer units and Armenian militia formed the Armenian Corps of the First Republic of Armenia in 1918. In addition, the Assyrians also joined with the allies following the Assyrian Genocide, instigating an Assyrian war of independence. This theatre encompassed the largest territory of all the theatres of the war. The Turkish Ottomans had the support of Kurds, Turcomans, Circassians, Chechens and a number of Iranian, Arab and Berber groups.
The Russian participation ended with the Armistice of Erzincan (5 December 1917) and the revolutionary Russian government eventually withdrew from the war with the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (3 March 1918). The Armenians attended the Trabzon Peace Conference (14 March 1918) and resulting with the Treaty of Batum on 4 June 1918. The Ottomans accepted the Armistice of Mudros with the Allies on 30 October 1918, and signed the Treaty of Sèvres on 10 August 1920 and later the Treaty of Lausanne on July 24, 1923.
- 1 Objectives
- 2 Operational area
- 3 Ottomans at the Eastern European Front
- 4 Forces
- 5 Chronology
- 6 Aftermath
- 7 Casualties
- 8 Timeline
- 9 See also
- 10 Footnotes
- 11 Bibliography
- 12 Further reading
Ottomans and Central Powers
The Ottoman Empire joined the Central Powers through the secret Ottoman-German Alliance, which was signed on 2 August 1914. The main objective of the Ottoman Empire in the Caucasus was the recovery of its territories in Eastern Anatolia lost during the Russo-Turkish War, 1877–78, in particular Artvin, Ardahan, Kars, and the port of Batum. Success in this region would force the Russians to divert troops to this front from the Polish and Galician fronts.
German advisors with the Ottoman armies naturally supported the campaign for this reason. From an economic perspective, the Ottoman, or rather the German, strategic goal was to cut off Russian access to the hydrocarbon resources around the Caspian Sea.
Germany established an Intelligence Bureau for the East on the eve of World War I. The bureau was involved in intelligence-gathering and subversive missions to Persia and to Afghanistan, to dismantle the Anglo-Russian Entente. Ottoman War Minister Enver Pasha claimed that if Russians could be beaten in the key cities of Persia, it could open the way to Azerbaijan, to Central Asia and to India.
If these nations were to be removed from Western influence, Enver envisioned a cooperation between these newly establishing Turkic states. Enver's project conflicted with European interests which played out as struggles between several key imperial powers. The Ottomans also challenged Britain's communications with India and the East via the Suez Canal.
The British feared that the Ottomans might attack and capture the Middle East (and later Caspian) oil fields. Opposed to the Ottomans, the British Royal Navy depended upon oil from the petroleum deposits in southern Persia, to which the British-controlled Anglo-Persian Oil Company had exclusive access.
The Russians viewed the Caucasus Front as secondary to the Eastern Front. They feared a campaign into the Caucasus aimed at retaking Kars (which had been taken from the Ottoman Empire during the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878), and the port of Batum.
In March 1915, when the Russian foreign minister Sergey Sazonov met with British ambassador George Buchanan and French ambassador Maurice Paléologue, he stated that a lasting postwar settlement demanded full Russian possession of the capital city of the Ottoman Empire, Constantinople, the straits of Bosphorus and Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmara, southern Thrace up to the Enos-Midia line as well as parts of the Black Sea coast of Anatolia between the Bosphorus, the Sakarya River and an undetermined point near the Bay of Izmit. The Russian Imperial government planned to replace the Muslim population of Northern Anatolia and Istanbul with more reliable Cossack settlers.
The Armenian national liberation movement also sought to establish the First Republic of Armenia in the Eastern part of Asia Minor. The Armenian Revolutionary Federation eventually achieved this goal while the Ottoman rule was finally crumbling, with the establishment of the internationally recognized First Republic of Armenia in May 1918. As early as 1915, the Administration for Western Armenia and later Republic of Mountainous Armenia were Armenian-controlled entities, while the Centrocaspian Dictatorship was established with Armenian participation. None of these entities were long lasting.
The Caucasus Campaign comprised armed conflicts between the Ottoman Empire and the Russian Empire, later including Azerbaijan, Armenia, Central Caspian Dictatorship and the UK as part of the Middle Eastern theatre or alternatively named as part of the Caucasus Campaign during World War I. The Caucasus Campaign extended from the Caucasus to the Eastern Asia Minor reaching as far as Trabzon, Bitlis, Muş and Van. The land warfare was accompanied by the Russian Navy in the Black Sea region of the Ottoman Empire.
On February 23, 1917, the Russian advance was halted following the Russian Revolution, and later the disintegrated Russian Caucasus Army was replaced by the forces of the newly established Armenian state, comprised from the previous Armenian volunteer units and the Armenian irregular units. During 1918 the region also saw the establishment of the Central Caspian Dictatorship, the Republic of Mountainous Armenia and an Allied force named Dunsterforce which was composed of elite troops drawn from the Mesopotamian and Western Fronts.
The Ottoman Empire and German Empire had a hot conflict at Batumi with the arrival of German Caucasus Expedition whose prime aim was to secure oil supplies. On March 3, 1918, the campaign terminated between the Ottoman Empire and Russia with the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk and on June 4, 1918, the Ottoman Empire signed the Treaty of Batum with Armenia. However, the armed conflicts extended as Ottoman Empire continued to engage with Central Caspian Dictatorship, Republic of Mountainous Armenia and Dunsterforce of British Empire until the Armistice of Mudros wassigned on October 30, 1918.
Ottomans at the Eastern European Front
Over 90,000 Ottoman troops were sent to the Eastern European Front in 1916, to participate in operations in Romania in the Balkans Campaign. The Central Powers asked for these units to support their operations against the Russian army. Later, it was concluded that was a mistake, as these forces were needed to protect Ottoman territory, as the massive Erzerum Offensive was under way.
This move was initiated by Enver. It was originally rejected by the German Chief of Staff, Erich von Falkenhayn, but his successor, Paul von Hindenburg, agreed with some doubts. The decision was reached after the Brusilov Offensive, as the Central Powers were running short of men on the Eastern Front.
In early 1916, Enver sent the XV Army Corps to Galicia, the VI Army Corps to Romania, and the XX Army Corps and 177th Infantry Regiment to Macedonia. There are two Turkish sources regarding these operations and respectively they state 117,000 and 130,000 men were sent, but both agree that nearly 8,000 of them were killed in action, with another 22,000 being wounded.
Central Powers (Ottoman Empire)
After the Young Turk Revolution and the establishment of the Second Constitutional Era (Turkish: İkinci Meşrûtiyet Devri) on July 3, 1908, a major military reform started. Army headquarters were modernized. The Ottoman Empire was engaged in the Turco-Italian War and Balkan Wars, which forced more restructuring of the army, only a few years before the First World War.
During this period, the Empire divided its forces into armies. Each army headquarters consisted of a Chief of Staff, an operations section, intelligence section, logistics section and a personnel section. As a long established tradition in Ottoman military, support departments for supplies, medical and veterinary services were included in these armies.
In 1914, before the Ottoman Empire entered the War, the four Armies divided their forces into Corps and divisions such that each division had 3 infantry regiments and an artillery regiment. Before the war, the largest units were: First Army with 15 divisions; Second Army with 4 divisions, and an independent infantry division with 3 infantry regiments and an artillery brigade; Third Army with 9 divisions, four independent infantry regiments and four independent cavalry regiments (tribal units); Fourth Army with 4 divisions.
In August 1914, of 36 infantry divisions organized, 14 were established from scratch and essentially new divisions. In a very short time, 8 of these newly recruited divisions gone through major redeployment. During the World War, more armies were established; 5th Army and 6th Army in 1915, and 7th Army and 8th Army in 1917, and Kuva-i İnzibatiye and the Army of Islam which had only a single Corps in 1918.
By 1918, these original armies had been so badly reduced that the Empire was forced to establish new unit definitions which incorporated these armies. These were the Eastern Army Group and Yildirim Army Group. However, although the number of armies were increasing during these four years, the Empire's resources of manpower and supplies were declining, so that the Army Groups in 1918 were not bigger than the Armies in 1914. In 1918, the Ottoman Army was still partially intact and partially effective to the end of the war.
Most of the war equipment was built by Germans or Austrians, and were maintained by German and Austrian engineers. Germany supplied most of the military advisers to this theatre. A force of specialist troops (the Asia Korps) was dispatched in 1917, and increased to a fighting force of two regiments in 1918. The German Caucasus Expedition was established in the formerly Russian Transcaucasia around early 1918 during the Caucasus Campaign. Its prime aim was to secure oil supplies for Germany and stabilize a nascent pro-German Democratic Republic of Georgia, which brought the Ottoman Empire and Germany into conflict, with exchanges of official condemnations between them at the final months of the war.
The Ottoman Empire established a new recruitment law on 12 May 1914. This lowered the conscription age from 20 to 18, and abolished the “redif” or reserve system. Active duty lengths were set at 2 years for the infantry, 3 years for other branches of the Army and 5 years for the Navy. These measures remained largely theoretical during the war.
Traditional Ottoman forces depended on volunteers from the Muslim population of the empire. Additionally, several groups and individuals in the Ottoman society volunteered for active duty during the World War. The major examples being the “Mevlevi” and the “Kadiri.”
There were also units formed by Caucasian and Rumelian Turks, who took part in the battles in Mesopotamia and Palestine. Among Ottoman forces, volunteers were not only from Turkic groups; there were also Arab and Bedouin volunteers who supported the campaign against the British to capture the Suez Canal, and in Mesopotamia. It has to be noted that these forces did not provide a substantial support. Volunteers become unreliable with the establishment of organized army, as they were not trained well, also most of the Arab and Bedouin volunteers were motivated by financial gains. As the real conflicts approached, Ottoman volunteer system disappeared by itself.
Before the war, Russia had the Russian Caucasus Army, but almost half of this was redeployed to the Prussian front after the defeats at the battles of Tannenberg and the Masurian Lakes, leaving behind just 60,000 troops in this theatre. In the summer of 1914, Armenian volunteer units were established under the Russian Armed forces. Nearly 20,000 Armenian volunteers expressed their readiness to take up arms against the Ottoman Empire as early as 1914. In several towns occupied by the Russians, the Armenians showed themselves ready to join the Russian volunteer army. These volunteer units increased in size during the war, to the extent that Boghos Nubar represented them to number 150,000 in a public letter to the Paris Peace Conference, 1919.
The Assyrian people of south east Anatolia, northern Mesopotamia and north eastern Persia also threw in their lot with the Russians and British, under the leadership of Agha Petros and Malik Khoshaba.
In 1914, there were some British Indian Army units located in the southern influence zone in Persia. These units had extensive experience in dealing with dissident tribal forces. The British later established the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, British Dardanelles Army, Egyptian Expeditionary Force, and in 1917 they established Dunsterforce under Lionel Dunsterville, consisting of less than 1,000 Australian, British, Canadian and New Zealand troops accompanied by armoured cars to oppose Ottoman and German forces in the Caucasus.
In 1916, an Arab Revolt began in the Hejaz. About 5,000 regular soldiers (mostly former prisoners of war, of Arab origin) served with the forces of the revolt. There were also many irregular tribesmen the direction of the Emir Feisal and British advisers, of whom T.E. Lawrence is the best known.
France sent the French Armenian Legion to this theatre as part of its larger French Foreign Legion. Foreign Minister Aristide Briand needed to provide troops for French commitment made in Sykes-Picot Agreement, which was still secret. Boghos Nubar, the leader of the Armenian national assembly, also met with Sir Mark Sykes and Georges-Picot after signing the French-Armenian Agreement.
General Edmund Allenby, the commander of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, extended the original agreement. The Armenian Legion fought in Palestine and Syria. Many of the volunteers in Foreign Legion who managed to survive the first years of the war were generally released from the Legion to join their respective national armies.
The Armenian national liberation movement commanded the Armenian Fedayee (Armenian: Ֆէտայի) during these conflicts. These were generally referred to as Armenian militia. In 1917, The Dashnaks established Armenian Corps under the command of General Tovmas Nazarbekian which, with the declaration of the First Republic of Armenia, became the military core of this new Armenian state and Nazarbekian became the first Commander-in-chief.
Before the war, Russia established a volunteer system to be used in the Caucasus Campaign. In the summer of 1914, Armenian volunteer units were established under the Russian Armed forces. As the Russian Armenian conscripts were already sent to the European Front, this force was uniquely established from Armenians that were neither Russian subjects nor obliged to serve. The Armenian detachment units were credited no small measure of the success which attended by the Russian forces, as they were natives of the region, adjusted to the climatic conditions, familiar with every road and mountain path, and had real incentives to fight.
December 1914, Nicholas II of Russia visited the Caucasus Campaign. Telling to the head of the Armenian Church along the president of the Alexander Khatisyan of the Armenian National Bureau in Tiflis that:
From all countries Armenians are hurrying to enter the ranks of the glorious Russian Army, with their blood to serve the victory of the Russian Army... Let the Russian flag wave freely over the Dardanelles and the Bosporus, Let your will the peoples [Armenian] remaining under the Turkish yoke receive freedom. Let the Armenian people of Turkey who have suffered for the faith of Christ received resurrection for a new free life ....—Nicholas II of Russia
The forces used in the Middle Eastern theatre was not only regular army units and regular warfare, but also what is known today as "Asymmetrical conflicts".
Contrary to myth, it was not T. E. Lawrence or the Army that conceptualised a campaign of internal insurgency against the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East: it was the Arab Bureau of Britain's Foreign Office that devised the Arab Revolt. The Arab Bureau had long felt it likely that a campaign instigated and financed by outside powers, supporting the breakaway-minded tribes and regional challengers to the Ottoman government's centralised rule of their empire, would pay great dividends in the diversion of effort that would be needed to meet such a challenge. The Ottoman authorities devoted a hundred or a thousand times the resources to contain the threat of such an internal rebellion, as the Allies' devoted to sponsoring it.
Germany established Intelligence Bureau for the East on the eve of War. It was dedicated to promoting and sustaining subversive and nationalist agitations in the British Indian Empire and the Persian Campaign and Egyptian satellite states. Its operations in Persia, aimed at fomenting trouble for the British in the Persian Gulf, were led by Wilhelm Wassmuss, a German diplomat, also known as the "German Lawrence of Arabia" or "Wassmuss of Persia".
In early July 1914, the political situation changed dramatically after the events in Europe. The Ottoman Empire was forced to make a secret Ottoman-German Alliance on 2 August 1914, followed by another treaty with Bulgaria. The Ottoman War ministry developed two major plans. Bronsart von Schellendorf, a member of the German military mission to the Ottoman Empire who had been appointed Assistant Chief of the Ottoman General Staff, completed a plan on 6 September 1914 by which the Fourth Army was to attack Egypt and the Third Army would launch an offensive against the Russians in Eastern Anatolia.
There was opposition to Schellendorf among the Ottoman army. The most voiced opinion was that Schellendorf planned a war which benefitted Germany, rather than taking into account the conditions of the Ottoman Empire. Hafiz Hakki Pasha presented an alternative plan, which was more aggressive, and concentrated on Russia. It was based on moving forces by sea to the eastern Black Sea coast, where they would develop an offensive against Russians. Hafiz Hakki Pasha's plan was shelved because the Ottoman Army lacked the resources. Schellendorf’s "Primary Campaign Plan" was therefore adopted by default.
As a result of Schellendorf's plan, most of the Ottoman operations were fought in Ottoman territory, with the result that in many cases they directly affected the Empire's own people. It was proven later the resources to implement this plan also were lacking, but Schellendorf organized the command and control of the army better, and positioned the army to execute the plans. Schellendorf also produced a better mobilization plan for raising forces and preparing them for war. Among some historical documents within the Ottoman War minister's archives today are the War plans drafted by Schellendorf, dated 7 October 1914, which included Ottoman support to the Bulgarian army, a secret operation against Romania, and Ottoman soldiers landing in Odessa and Crimea with the support of German Navy.
An aspect of the German influence on Turkey's operations was that during the Palestine campaign, most of the staff posts in the Yıldırım Army Group were held by German officers. Even the headquarters correspondence was in German. This situation ended with the final defeat in Palestine and the appointment of Mustafa Kemal to command the remnants of the Yildirim Army Group.
During July 1914, there were negotiations between the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) and Armenians at the Armenian congress at Erzurum. The public conclusion of this congress was "Ostensibly conducted to peacefully advance Armenian demands by legitimate means". The CUP regarded the congress as the seedbed for establishing the decision of insurrection.[clarification needed] Historian Erikson concluded that after this meeting, the CUP was convinced of the existence of strong Armenian — Russian links, with detailed plans to detach the region from the Ottoman Empire.
On 29 October 1914, The Ottoman Empire's first armed engagement with the Allies occurred when the German battlecruiser SMS Goeben and light cruiser SMS Breslau, having been pursued into Turkish waters and transferred to the Ottoman navy, shelled the Russian Black Sea port of Odessa.
The Turkish general staff of the Sinai and Palestine Campaign, 1914.
Following the bombing of the Russia black sea ports, Russia declared war on the Ottoman Empire on 2 November 1914. The British Navy attacked the Dardanelles on 3 November and the other Allies declared war on 5 November.
In November, First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill put forward his initial plans for a naval attack to Ottoman Capital, based at least in part on what turned out to be erroneous reports regarding Ottoman troop strength, as prepared by Lieutenant T. E. Lawrence. He reasoned that the Royal Navy had a large number of obsolete battleships which might well be made useful, supported by a token force from the army being required for routine occupation tasks. The battleships were ordered to be ready by February 1916.
At the same time, Ottoman Fourth Army was preparing a force of 20,000 men under the command of the Ottoman Minister of the Marine Djemal Pasha to take the Suez Canal. The attack on the Suez was suggested by War Minister Enver Pasha at the urging of their German ally. The chief of staff for the Ottoman Fourth Army was the Bavarian Colonel Kress von Kressenstein, who organized the attack and managed to get supplies for the army as it crossed the desert.
On November 1, the Bergmann Offensive was the first armed conflict of Caucasus Campaign. The Russians crossed the frontier first, and planned to capture Doğubeyazıt and Köprüköy. On their right wing, the Russian I Corps moved from Sarıkamış toward the direction of Köprüköy. On the left wing, the Russian IV Corps moved from Yerevan to the Pasinler Plains. The commander of the Ottoman Third Army, Hasan Izzet, was not in favour of an offensive in the harsh winter conditions. His plan to remain on the defensive and to launch a counterattack at the right time was overridden by the War Minister Enver Pasha.
On November 6, a British naval force bombarded the old fort at Fao. The Fao Landing of British Indian Expeditionary Force D (IEF D), consisting of the 6th (Poona) Division led by Lieutenant General Arthur Barrett, with Sir Percy Cox as Political Officer, was opposed by 350 Ottoman troops and 4 cannons. On 22 November, the British occupied the city of Basra against a force of 2900 Arab conscripts of the Iraq Area Command commanded by Suphi Pasha. Suphi Pasha and 1,200 prisoners were captured. The main Ottoman army, under the overall command of Khalil Pasha was located about 440 kilometres (270 mi) north-west around Baghdad. They made only weak efforts to dislodge the British.
On November 7, the Ottoman Third Army commenced its offensive at Caucasus Campaign with the participation of the XI Corps and all cavalry units supported by Kurdish Tribal Regiment. By November 12, Ahmet Fevzi Pasha's IX Corps reinforced with the XI Corps on the left flank supported by the cavalry, began to push the Russians back. The Russians were successful along the southern shoulders of the offensive, where Armenian volunteers were effective and took Karaköse and Doğubeyazıt. By the end of November, the Russians held a salient 25 kilometres (16 mi) into Ottoman territory along the Erzurum-Sarıkamış axis.
In November 1914 in contribution to the war effort, Sheikh Mubarak Al-Sabah the ruler of Kuwait sent a force to Umm Qasr, Safwan, Bubiyan, and Basra to expel Ottoman forces from the area. in November 1914. In exchange the British government recognized Kuwait as an “independent government under British protection.” There is no report on the exact size and nature of Mubarak’s attack, though Ottoman forces did retreat from those positions weeks later. Mubarak soon removed the Ottoman symbol that was on the Kuwaiti flag and replaced it with “Kuwait” written in Arabic script. Mubarak’s participation and previous exploits in obstructing the completion of the Baghdad railway helped the British safeguard the Persian Gulf from preventing Ottoman and German reinforcements.
1914, Ottoman forces preparation for the attack on the Suez Canal
In December, at the height of the Battle of Sarikamish, General Myshlaevsky ordered the withdrawal of Russian forces from Persian Campaign to be used in facing Enver's offense. Only one brigade of Russian troops under the command of the Armenian General Nazarbekoff and one battalion of Armenian volunteers remained scattered throughout Salmast and Urmia. While the main body of Ottoman troops were preparing for the operation in Persia, a small Russian group crossed the Persian frontier. After repulsing a Russian offensive toward Van-Persia mountain crossings, the Van Gendarmerie Division, a lightly equipped paramilitary formation commanded by Major Ferid, chased the enemy into Persia.
On 14 December, the Van Gendarmerie Division occupied the city of Kotur in the Persian Campaign. Later, it proceeded towards Hoy. It was supposed to keep this passage open for Kazım Bey's 5th Expeditionary Force and Halil Bey's 1st Expeditionary Force, who were to move towards Tabriz from the bridgehead established at Kotur. However, the Battle of Sarıkamısh depleted the Ottoman forces and these expeditionary forces were needed elsewhere.
On December 22, Ottoman Third Army received the order to advance towards Kars. Enver Pasha assumed the personal command of the Third Army and ordered the forces to move against the Russian troops. The disastrous conflicts of Battle of Sarikamish began. In the face of the Third Army's advance, Governor Vorontsov planned to pull the Russian Caucasus Army back to Kars. General Nicolai Yudenich ignored Vorontsov's order.
1914, Initial British offence at Mesopotamian campaign
January – March
On 2 January, Süleyman Askeri Bey assumed the Iraq Area Command. Enver Pasha realized the mistake of underestimating the importance of the Mesopotamian campaign. The Ottoman Army did not have any other resources to move to this region as an attack on Gallipoli was imminent. Süleyman Askeri Bey sent letters to Arab sheiks in an attempt to organize them to fight against the British.
On 3 January, at the Battle of Qurna, Ottoman forces tried to retake the city of Basra. They came under fire from Royal Navy vessels on the Euphrates while British troops managed to cross the Tigris. Judging that the earthworks were too strong to be taken, the Ottomans surrendered the town of Al-Qurnah and retreated to Kut.
On January 6, the Third Army headquarters found itself under fire. Hafiz Hakki Pasha ordered a total retreat at the Battle of Sarikamish. Only 10% of the army managed to retreat to its starting position. Enver gave up command of the army. During this conflict, Armenian detachments challenged the Ottoman operations at the critical times: "the delay enabled the Russian Caucasus Army to concentrate sufficient force around Sarikamish".
The British and France asked Russia to relieve the pressure on Western front, but Russia needed time to organize its forces. The operations in the Black Sea gave them the chance to replenish their forces; also the Battle of Gallipoli drew many Ottoman forces from the Russian and other fronts. In March 1915, the Ottoman Third army received reinforcements amounting to a division from the First and Second Armies.
On 19 February, the first attack began when a strong Anglo-French fleet, including the British battleship HMS Queen Elizabeth, bombarded artillery along the coast. Admiral Sackville Carden sent a cable to Churchill on 4 March, stating that the fleet could expect to arrive in Constantinople within fourteen days. On 18 March the first major attack was launched. The fleet, comprising 18 battleships and an array of cruisers and destroyers, sought to target the narrowest point of the Dardanelles where the straits are just a mile wide.
The French battleship Bouvet exploded in mysterious circumstances, causing it to capsize with its entire crew aboard. Minesweepers, manned by civilians and under constant fire from Ottoman guns, retreated leaving the minefields largely intact. The battleship HMS Irresistible and battlecruiser HMS Inflexible both sustained critical damage from mines, although there was confusion during the battle whether torpedoes were to blame. The battleship HMS Ocean, sent to rescue the Irresistible, was itself mined and both ships eventually sank. The French battleships Suffren and Gaulois were also badly damaged. The losses prompted the Allies to cease any further attempts to force the straits by naval power alone.
In February, General Yudenich was promoted to command to Russian Caucasus Army replacing Aleksandr Zakharevich Myshlayevsky. On 12 February, the new commander of the Ottoman Third Army (Hafiz Hakki Pasha) died of typhus and was replaced by Brigadier General Mahmut Kamil Paşa. Kamil undertook the task of putting the depleted Third Army in order.
1915, 6th Army field HQ at Mesopotamian campaign
February 1915, camel corps at Beersheba at Sinai and Palestine Campaign
April – June
Following their unexpected success in Mesopotamia Campaign, the British command reconsidered their plan in favour of aggressive operations. In April 1915, general Sir John Nixon was sent to take command. He ordered Major General Charles Vere Ferrers Townshend to advance to Kut or even to Baghdad if possible. Enver Pasha worried about the possible fall of Baghdad, and sent the German General Colmar Freiherr von der Goltz to take command.
On 12 April, Süleyman Askeri attacked the British camp at Shaiba with 3800 troops early in the morning. These forces provided by Arab sheiks produced no results. Süleyman Askeri was wounded. Disappointed and depressed, he shot himself at the hospital in Baghdad.
On 20 April, the Siege of Van brought the conflicts into city of Van. On 24 April, Talat Pasha promulgated the order on April 24 (known by the Armenians as the Red Sunday) which claimed that the Armenians in this region were organized under the leadership of Russians and had rebelled against Ottoman government.
On 25 April, the second part of the campaign began on the Gallipoli Peninsula on the European side of the Dardanelles, when the Allies launched an amphibious assault. The troops were able to land but could not dislodge the Ottoman forces after months of battle that caused the deaths of an estimated 131,000 soldiers, and 262,000 wounded. Eventually the Allied forces withdrew. The campaign represented something of a coming of age for Australia and New Zealand who celebrate 25 April as ANZAC Day. Kemal Ataturk, who later became the first leader of modern Turkey, distinguished himself as a Lieutenant Colonel on Gallipoli.
On 6 May, General Yudenich began an offensive into Ottoman territory. One wing of this offensive headed towards Lake Van to relieve the Armenian residents of Van. The Fedayee turned over the city of Van to the Russians. On 21 May, General Yudenich received the keys to the city and its citadel, and confirmed the Armenian provisional government in office with Aram Manukian as governor. Fighting shifted farther west for the rest of the summer with Van secure.
On 6 May, the Russian second wing advanced through the Tortum Valley towards Erzurum after weather turned milder. The Ottoman 29th and 30th Divisions managed to stop this assault. The X Corps counter-attacked the Russian forces. On the southern part, the Ottomans were not as successful as they had been in the north. On 17 May, Russian forces at the city of Van continued to push back the Ottoman units.
The city of Malazgirt had already fallen on 11 May. The Ottomans' supply lines were being cut, as the Armenian forces caused additional difficulties behind the lines. The region south of Lake Van was extremely vulnerable. During May, the Ottomans had to defend a line of more than 600 kilometres (370 mi) with only 50,000 men and 130 pieces of artillery. They were clearly outnumbered by the Russians.
On 27 May, during the high point of Russian offensive Ottoman parliament passed the Tehcir Law. Talat Pasha, the Interior Minister, ordered a forced deportation of all Armenians from the region. The Armenians of the Van resistance and others which were under Russian occupation were spared these deportations.
On 19 June, the Russians launched another offensive northwest of Lake Van. The Russians, under Oganovski, launched an offense into the hills west of Malazgrit, but they underestimated the size of the Ottoman forces in this region. They were surprised by a large Ottoman force at the Battle of Malazgirt. They were not aware that the Ottoman IX Corps, together with the 17th and 28th Divisions was moving to Muş also.
The 1st and 5th Expeditionary Forces were positioned to the south of the Russian offensive force and a “Right Wing Group” was established under the command of Brigadier General Abdülkerim Paşa. This group was independent from the Third Army and Abdülkerim Paşa was reporting directly to Enver Paşa.
April 1915, Armenian troops holding a defense line at the Siege of Van
July – September
On September 24, General Yudenich become the supreme commander of all Russian forces in the region. This front was quiet from October till the end of the year. Yudenich used this period to reorganize. At the turn of 1916, Russian forces reached a level of 200,000 men and 380 pieces of artillery.
On the other side the situation was very different - the Ottoman High Command failed to make up the losses during this period. The war in Gallipoli was sucking up all the resources and manpower. The IX, X and XI Corps could not be reinforced, and the 1st and 5th Expeditionary Forces were deployed to Mesopotamia. Enver Pasha, after failing to achieve his ambitions in the Caucasus, or recognizing the dire situation on other fronts, decided that the region was of secondary importance.
October – December
The rapid advance of the British up the river changed some of the Arab tribes perception of the conflict. Realizing that the British had the upper hand, Arabs in the region joined the British efforts. They raided Ottoman military hospitals and massacred the soldiers in Amara. On 7 December, the siege of Kut began. Von der Goltz helped the Ottoman forces build defensive positions around Kut, and established new fortified positions down river to fend off any attempt to rescue Townshend. General Aylmer made three attempts to break the siege, but each effort was unsuccessful.
On 22 November, Townshend and von der Goltz fought the battle at Ctesiphon. The battle was inconclusive as both the Ottomans and the British retreated from the battlefield. Townshend halted and fortified the position at Kut-al-Amara.
In December, the British government (started early 1915) attempted to cultivate favor with Ibn Saud via its secret agent, Captain William Shakespear, but this was abandoned after Shakespear's death at the Battle of Jarrab. Instead, the British transferred support to Ibn Saud's rival Sharif Hussein bin Ali, leader of the Hejaz, with whom the Saudis were almost constantly at war. Lord Kitchener also appealed to Hussein bin Ali, Sharif of Mecca for assistance in the conflict and Hussein wanted political recognition in return.
An exchange of letters with Henry McMahon assured him that his assistance would be rewarded between Egypt and Persia, with the exception of imperial possessions and interests in Kuwait, Aden, and the Syrian coast. British entered into the Treaty of Darin in which made the lands of the House of Saud a British protectorate. Ibn Saud pledged to again make war against Ibn Rashid, who was an ally of the Ottomans. Ibn Saud was also given a monthly stipend in exchange for waging war against Ibn Rashid.
In 1916, a combination of diplomacy and genuine dislike of the new leaders of the Ottoman Empire (the Three Pashas) convinced Sherif Hussein ibn Ali of Mecca to begin a revolt. He gave the leadership of this revolt to two of his sons: Faisal and Abdullah, though the planning and direction for the war was largely the work of Lawrence of Arabia.
The Russian offensive in northeastern Turkey started with a victory at Battle of Koprukoy and culminated with the capture of Erzurum in February and Trabzon in April. By the Battle of Erzincan the Third Army was no longer capable of launching an offensive nor could it stop the advance of the Russian Army.
The Ottoman forces launched a second attack across the Sinai with the objective of destroying or capturing the Suez Canal. Both this and the earlier attack (1915) were unsuccessful, though not very costly by the standards of the Great War. The British then went on the offensive, attacking east into Palestine. However, two failed attempts to capture the Ottoman fort of Gaza resulted in sweeping changes to the British command and the arrival of General Allenby, along with many reinforcements.
British Empire forces reorganized and captured Baghdad in March 1917.
On December 16, The Armistice of Erzincan (Erzincan Cease-fire Agreement) was signed which officially brought the end to the hostilities between Ottoman Empire and Russians. The Special Transcaucasian Committee also endorsed the agreement.
The Sinai and Palestine Campaign was dominated with the success of the revolt. The revolt aided the General Allenby's 1917's operations.
Late in 1917, Allenby's Egyptian Expeditionary Force smashed the Ottoman defenses and captured Gaza, and then captured Jerusalem just before Christmas. While strategically of minimal importance to the war, this event was key in the subsequent creation of Israel as a separate nation in 1948.
The war weary Ottoman Empire could be quickly defeated with campaigns in Palestine and Mesopotamia, but the German Spring Offensive in France delayed the expected Allied attack. General Allenby was given brand new divisions recruited from India. The British achieved complete control of the air.
General Liman von Sanders had no clear idea where the British were going to attack. Compounding the problems, the Ottomans withdrew their best troops to Caucasus Campaign. General Allenby finally launched the Battle of Megiddo, with the Jewish Legion under his command. Ottoman troops started a full scale retreat.
T. E. Lawrence and his Arab fighters staged many hit-and-run attacks on supply lines and tied down thousands of soldiers in garrisons throughout Palestine, Jordan, and Syria.
On March 3, the Grand vizier Talat Pasha signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with the Russian SFSR which stipulated that Bolshevik Russia cede Batum, Kars, and Ardahan to Ottoman Empire. The Trabzon Peace Conference held between March and April among the Ottoman Empire and the delegation of the Transcaucasian Diet (Transcaucasian Sejm) and government. Treaty of Brest-Litovsk united the Armenian-Georgian block.
The First Republic of Armenia declared the existence of a state of war between the Ottoman Empire. In early May, 1918, the Ottoman army faced the Armenian Corps of Armenian National Councils, which soon declared the First Republic of Armenia. The Ottoman army captured Trabzon, Erzurum, Kars, Van, and Batumi. The conflict led to the Battle of Sardarapat, the Battle of Kara Killisse (1918), and the Battle of Bash Abaran.
Although the Armenians managed to inflict a defeat on the Ottomans at the Battle of Sardarapat, the Ottoman army won the later battle and scattered the Armenian army. The fight with First Republic of Armenia ended with the sign the Treaty of Batum in June, 1918. Throughout the summer of 1918, under the leadership of Andranik Ozanian Armenians in the mountainous Karabag region resisted the Ottoman 3rd army and established the Republic of Mountainous Armenia. The Army of Islam avoided Georgia and marched to the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. They got as far as Baku on the Caspian Sea. They threw the British out in September 1918 with the Battle of Baku.
On October 30, 1918, The Armistice of Mudros, signed on aboard the HMS Agamemnon in Mudros port on the island of Lemnos between the Ottoman Empire and the Triple Entente. Ottoman operations in the active combat theaters ceased.
On November 13, 1918, the Occupation of Constantinople (present day Istanbul) the capital of the Ottoman Empire occurred when the French troops arrived, followed by British troops the next day. The occupation had two stages: the de facto stage from November 13, 1918 to March 20, 1920, and the de jure stage from de facto to the days following the Treaty of Lausanne. The occupation of Istanbul along with the occupation of İzmir, mobilized the establishment of the Turkish national movement and led to the Turkish War of Independence.
On 18 January 1919, the negotiations for a peace began with the Paris Peace Conference, 1919. The negotiation of the peace treaty continued at the Conference of London, and took definite shape only after the premiers' meeting at the San Remo conference in April 1920. France, Italy, and Great Britain, however, had been secretly partitioning of the Ottoman Empire as early as 1915. The Ottoman Government representatives signed the Treaty of Sèvres on August 10, 1920, but the treaty was not sent to Ottoman Parliament for ratification, as Parliament was abolished on March 18, 1920 by the British, during the occupation of Istanbul. As a result, the treaty was never ratified by the Ottoman Empire. The Treaty of Sèvres was annulled in the course of the Turkish War of Independence and the parties signed and ratified the superseding Treaty of Lausanne in 1923.
Abolition of the Caliphate
If we look without breakdowns, the total Ottoman losses run almost as high as 25% of the population – approximately 5 million out of population of 21 million. To be more exact, the 1914 census gave 20,975,345 as the population size, which 15,044,846 was Muslim millet, 187,073 Jew millet, 186,152 do not belong to any and the rest of the size is shared by other millets.
Among the 5 million, we know that 771,844 is military casualties killed in action and other causes. The military only covers 15% of the total casualties. The main question is what happened to 85% (all millets) of the casualties, which is more but not less than 4,000,000. Ottoman statistics analyzed by Turkish Kamer Kasim (Manchester University, Ph.D.), claims that cumulative percentage was 26.9% (higher than 25% reported by Western sources) of the population, which this size stands out among the countries that took part in World War I. To understand the size of the issue, Kamer Kasım's %1.9 increase on the totals adds 399,000 civilians to the total number, which has not been reported in Western sources.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Middle Eastern theatre of World War I.|
- David R. Woodward: Hell in the Holy Land: World War I in the Middle East. Lexington 2006, ISBN 978-0-8131-2383-7
- W.E.D. Allen and Paul Muratoff, Caucasian Battlefields, A History of Wars on the Turco-Caucasian Border, 1828–1921, Nashville, TN, 1999 (reprint). ISBN 0-89839-296-9</ref>
- The Anglo-Russian Entente:Agreement concerning Persia 1907
- The French, British and Russian joint declaration over the situation in Armenia published on May 24, 1915
- Sykes-Picot Agreement 15 & 16 May 1916.
- The Middle East during World War I By Professor David R Woodward for the BBC
- Vintage and modern maps of the middle eastern front
- Turkey in the First World War web site