Sinai and Palestine Campaign
The Sinai and Palestine Campaign (28 January 1915 – 30 October 1918), part of the Middle Eastern Theatre of World War I, was conducted almost entirely by the forces from Great Britain and representatives from almost all the British Empire (except Canada) who fought against the Ottoman and German Empires during World War I. The campaign began in January 1915, when a German-led Ottoman force invaded the Sinai Peninsula and attacked the Suez Canal. During 1916 the Sinai Peninsula was recaptured by the Anzac Mounted Division supported by the 52nd (Lowland) Division of infantry, beginning with the Battle of Romani in August, the Battle of Magdhaba in December and in January 1917 the Battle of Rafa completed the recapture with the newly formed Desert Column. These three substantial victories including the recapture of substantial territory were followed by two defeats at the First and Second Battles of Gaza.
The British victory in October 1917 at the Third Battle of Gaza was followed by the capture of substantial territory during the Battle of Mughar Ridge in November, quickly followed in December by the capture of Jerusalem. Reverses on the Western Front early in 1918 forced the British to send troops from the region to Europe as reinforcements. Holding up any further advance until September that year. Two unsuccessful attacks were made at Amman and at Es Salt during March and April. When the Egyptian Expeditionary Force resumed their advance during the Battle of Megiddo, they destroyed three Ottoman Armies, during the Battle of Sharon and the Third Transjordan attack, captured thousands of prisoners and large quantities of equipment. By 30 October 1918 when the Ottoman Empire agreed to the Armistice of Mudros ending the war they had lost the Sinai Peninsula, Palestine, Syria and Lebanon.
The campaign was generally not well known or understood during the war. The English people thought of it as a minor operation, a waste precious resources which would be better spent on the Western Front, while the peoples of India were more interested in the Mesopotamian campaign and the occupation of Baghdad. Australia did not have a war correspondent in the area until Captain Frank Hurley, the first Australian Official Photographer arrived in August 1917 after visiting the Western Front. Henry Gullett the first Official War Correspondent arrived in November 1917. The long lasting effect of the Ottoman defeat was the disintegration of their empire. The French became responsible for Syria and Lebanon, while the British were given mandates for Mesopotamia and Palestine. Which eventually led to the formation of the modern states of Turkey, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria.
By 1914 Egypt had been part of the Ottoman Empire for 400 years, remaining under nominal Ottoman suzerainty despite being occupied by the British in 1882, following the Anglo-Egyptian War, eventually becoming a British protectorate. The Suez Canal was of vital strategic importance to the British, reducing the sailing time from India, New Zealand and Australia to Europe. As a result Egypt became a major base during the war, particularly during the Gallipoli campaign. To Germany and the Ottoman Empire the canal was the closest and weakest link in British communications. Defence of the canal posed a number of problems. There was no road from Cairo, only one railway track crossed the 30 miles (48 km) of desert from Cairo to Ismaïlia on the Canal before branching north to Port Said and south to Suez. Control of the central area around Ismailia was of great strategic importance because these three Canal towns relied on fresh water from the Nile via the Sweet Water Canal to the main gates and sluices near there.
At the beginning of hostilities between Britain and the Ottoman Empire in November 1914 the 30,000 strong British defence force evacuated the Sinai Peninsula. Instead they concentrated their defences on the western side of the canal. The British force comprised the 10th, and 11th Indian Divisions, the Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade, the Bikaner Camel Corps, three batteries of Indian mountain artillery and one Egyptian artillery battery. Supported by the guns of Allied ships in the canal. Opposing them were around 25,000 men, including the 25th Division. The Ottoman Empire demonstrated its interest in being reinstated in Egypt in 1915 when Ottoman forces attacked British forces in Egypt. The Germans also helped to foment unrest among the Senussi in what is now Libya, when they attacked western Egypt and threatened the Sudan during the Senussi Campaign.
Egypt's contribution to the war effort 
Egypt was neither an independent ally nor a member of the British Empire and as such held a unique position amongst the belligerents. The recently appointed High Commissioner Sir Reginald Wingate and Murray agreed that Egypt's contributions would be restricted to the use of the country's railway and Egyptian personnel. However, Maxwell had proclaimed on 6 November 1914 that Egypt would not be required to aid Britain's war effort. Martial law allowed the British administration to control foreign European residents, monitor foreign agents and intern dangerous persons who were the subjects of enemy nations. The powers were also used to police prostitution and the sale of alcohol. The Capitulations, however provided some protection to the Europeans who controlled both these industries. In the autumn of 1917 GHQ was transferred from Cairo to the front leaving garrison battalions. This move took the commander in chief of the EEF, who was responsible for martial law, out of touch with the civil authorities, and unrest in Egypt became serious during the winter of 1917/18.
By 1917 15,000 Egyptian volunteers were serving in the Egyptian Army, deployed mainly in the Sudan with three battalions in the EEF, along with 98,000 labourers, 23,000 of whom were serving overseas. The number of Egyptian enlistments could not be increased as conscription could threaten the production of much needed food and cotton and the stability of Egypt. Also by this time, as much of the railway lines in Egypt which were not crucial to the production of cotton, sugar, cereals and forages, had already been lifted and used on the military railway, except the Khedivial Railway from Alexandria to Dabaa which was available for emergencies. The Egyptian Labour Corps and the Egyptian Camel Transport Corps had performed invaluable service during the Sinai campaign and would perform even greater service and hardships during the coming Palestine campaign. As the war dragged on and the fighting moved beyond the Egyptian border, many Egyptians felt the war no longer concerned them. At the same time the increasing need for Egyptian personnel turned volunteers into forced labour, although "highly paid," in a system controlled by the local mudirs.
Defence of the Suez Canal (1915–1916) 
From 26 January to 4 February 1915 the Suez Canal was attacked by a large force of the Ottoman Army. Beginning on 26 and 27 January, two smaller flanking columns of the Ottoman Army made secondary attacks near Kantara in the northern sector of the Canal and near Suez in the south. These were followed by the main attacks on 3 and 4 February, on the Suez Canal to east of the Suez to Kantara Railway. Kress von Kressenstein's Ottoman Suez Expeditionary Force advanced from Southern Palestine to arrive on the Canal on 2 February when they succeeded in crossing the Canal near Ismailia on the morning of 3 February 1915.
Only two Ottoman companies successfully crossed the canal, the rest of the advance party abandoning attempts to cross as a result of the strong British defence by 30,000 men of the Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade and the Bikaner Camel Corps supported by Egyptian Army and Indian mountain artillery. The British then amassed troops at the scene which made another crossing impossible. The Ottomans held their positions until the evening of 3 February 1915, when the commanding officer ordered them to withdraw. The retreat proceeded "orderly, first into a camp ten km east of Ismailia".
Subsequently, Ottoman advance troops and outposts were maintained on the Sinai peninsula on a line between El Arish and Nekhl, with forces at Gaza and Beersheba. During the next few months Kress von Kressenstein commanded mobile units and launched a series of raids and attacks in an attempt to disrupt traffic on the Suez Canal.
Colonel Kreß von Kressenstein did all he could to keep the British occupied, launching an attack on 8 April 1915 when a mine was placed in the Suez Canal, which was located and disabled by a patrol, and between 5 and 13 May 1915 he personally led a charge. During the Gallipoli Campaign these tactics were abandoned. Von Kressenstein also demanded German special forces, which were promised to arrive in February 1916, to prepare another expedition against the Canal. He moved to the headquarters of the Fourth Army in Ain Sofar in August, then to the new headquarters in Jerusalem, and waited for the German specialists. However the Ottoman line of communication was extended towards Egypt, with the completion of the 100 miles (160 km) section of the Ottoman railway to Beersheba, which was opened on 17 October 1915.
British defences extended 
Von Kressenstein's raids confirmed the impracticality, identified by Lord Kitchener, Secretary of State for War, in November 1914, of defending the Suez Canal from the western side. Near the end of 1915, with the Gallipoli campaign drawing to an end, Cabinet authorised new positions to be established in the desert about 11,000 yards (10 km) east of the Canal, strengthening defence of the canal against long range guns, and agreed to provide additional troops.
Port Said became Headquarters of these new defences, with an Advanced Headquarters at Kantara. The defences were organised into three sectors:
- No. 1 (Southern): Suez to Kabrit HQ Suez – IX Corps
- No. 2 (Central): Kabrit to Ferdan HQ Ismailia –I ANZAC Corps (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps)
- No. 3 (Northern): Ferdan to Port Said – XV Corps
At the end of 1915 General Sir John Maxwell, with headquarters at Cairo, had responsibility for troops in the Egyptian Delta, the Western Desert and the Sudan and administered martial law over the whole region including the Suez Canal. The British War Office was controlled the Levant Base which was responsible for administering British Empire forces in Salonika, Gallipoli, Mesopotamia and India, and had its headquarters at Alexandria. The retreating forces on Gallipoli and divisions from the United Kingdom formed the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force commanded by Lieutenant General Sir Archibald Murray with headquarters at Ismailia. After the evacuation from Gallipoli the total British force in Egypt was nearly 400,000 men in 13 infantry and mounted divisions, a force regarded as the strategic reserve for the whole Empire. In March 1916 Sir Archibald Murray took command of all these forces which were united into the new Egyptian Expeditionary Force.
Murray believed a British advance into the Sinai to occupy Qatiya/Katiamore would be more cost effective than the static defences recently established. The War Office agreed to this, but not to his more ambitious plan to advance to the Ottoman border. He believed that the area captured in an advance to El Arish or Rafa could be held with fewer troops than would be needed for a passive defence of the Suez Canal. Murray had estimated a force of 250,000 could cross the Sinai and that 80,000 troops could be maintained in the Katia area. If such a large Ottoman force were to reach Katia then the British would need a very large force to defend the Suez Canal.[Note 1] British occupation of the oasis area which stretched eastwards from Romani and Katia to Bir el Abd along the ancient silk road would deny drinking water to any Ottoman invasion force.
Murray planned a 50,000 strong garrison in the Katia area and obtained authority to build a pipeline to pump fresh Nile water and a railway to transport the infantry divisions and their supplies. He also decided to empty the water cisterns at Moya Harab so the central Sinai route could not again be used by Ottoman columns advancing from Palestine and to maintain some troops at Suez to defend the town. These operations began in February 1916 when construction started on the 25 miles (40 km) stretch of 4-foot 8 inch standard gauge Sinai railway and water pipeline from Qantara/Kantara to Qatiya/Katia. By the end of March or early in April 16 miles (26 km) of track, including sidings, had been laid.
Raid on Jifjafa 
The intact water cistern and wells on the central road across Sinai still enabled the Ottomans to threaten the Canal at any time. Between 11 and 15 April 25 Bikaner Camel Corps, 10 Engineers with 12 men from 8th Light Horse Regiment and 117 men from 9th Light Horse Regiment (30 light horsemen armed as Lancers) Regiment, with 127 Egyptian Camel Transport Corps travelled 52 miles (84 km) to destroy a well-boring plant, gyns erected on the wells, the water wells and pumping equipment at Jifjafa. They captured an Austrian engineer officer and 33 men, four of whom were wounded, and killed six Ottoman soldiers. On 9 June 1916 units from No. 2 Section of the Canal Defences formed the Mukhsheib column, consisting of part of the 3rd Light Horse Brigade, 900 camels, non-fighting units and camel transport escorted by one squadron of 9th Light Horse Regiment and 10 Bikaner Camel Corps. The engineers drained pools and cisterns of five million gallons of water in the Wadi Mukhsheib, sealed the cisterns to prevent them refilling during next season's rains and returned on 14 June. At the same time a detachment of Middlesex Yeomanry advanced to Moiya Harab. With the central Sinai route now denied to them, Ottoman forces could only advance towards the Suez Canal along the northern coast.
Occupation of Romani 
Kress von Kressenstein launched a surprise attack on Easter Sunday, also Saint George's Day, 23 April 1916, east of the Canal and north of El Ferdan Station. The yeomanry 5th Mounted Brigade were guarding the water pipeline and railway being built out into the desert towards Romani. While the three regiments were widely dispersed, squadrons were surprised and overwhelmed at Katia and Oghratina east of Romani, suffering the loss of about two squadrons.
Fighting for the oases area during the Raid on Katia and Ogratine demonstrated its importance to both sides. From a base in the oases a large number of Ottoman troops could threaten the Suez Canal, and control the Sinai Peninsula with the threat of a flank attack. The Australian 2nd Light Horse Brigade and New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigades of Major General Henry Chauvel's Australian and New Zealand Mounted Division (Anzac Mounted Division) were ordered to occupy the Romani area the day after the fighting at Katia and Ogratina. Here, 23 miles (37 km) from Kantara, they aggressively patrolled and reconnoitred the area. The Australian 1st Light Horse Brigade arrived at Romani on 28 May 1916.
Until the railway and water pipeline to Pelusium Station and Romani were built, all water, food (mainly bully beef and biscuits, as packing and transport methods did not allow fresh meat and vegetables), shelters, other equipment and ammunition had to be carried to this position by the Egyptian Camel Transport Corps. With flies attracted to horse litter, etc., provision of safe sanitation was a constant battle. Incinerators were constructed to burn refuse by stacking used bully beef tins filled with sand. During this period men had to patrol constantly despite poor diet, severe weather conditions, little shelter from the sun and very few rest periods.
[In] April 1916 – Everything is being hurried up. The big English flying school near our camp has been ordered to turn out as many pilots as quickly as possible and there is an average of eighteen planes in the air all day long, just over our heads. The din is indescribable, but the horses never look up, or otherwise take the slightest notice of the planes. The life of a pilot, computed in flying hours, is pitifully short; many of them are killed while learning. My wife is working as voluntary aid at a hospital in Ismailia, and she and her associates are constantly making shrouds for these boys that have perhaps made one little mistake in their first solo flight, and have paid for it with their lives. The army will do anything in reason for these youngsters. We are ordered to let them have riding–horses and we occasionally turn out quite a creditable hunt with Saluki hounds after jackals.—A. B. Paterson, Remounts Officer
During May 1916 Ottoman aircraft flew over the Suez Canal dropping bombs on Port Said which caused 23 casualties. On 18 May the Ottoman occupied town and aerodrome at El Arish was bombed by order of Colonel W.G.H. Salmond commander of the 5th Wing, in reprisal for the first Ottoman raids, and on 22 May the Royal Flying Corps bombed all camps on a 45 miles (72 km) front parallel to the canal. By the middle of May the railway had been completed to Romani, making it possible to bring up enough stores and equipment to deploy the 52nd (Lowland) Division there. As soon as they arrived they began to dig trenches in the sand, creating a defensive line with redoubts from Mahemdia near the Mediterranean coast, south to Katib Gannit a high point in front of Romani.
The Ottomans retaliated to the increased British Empire presence at the beginning of June, with the first of many air raids on Romani, killing eight troopers from the 1st Light Horse Brigade and wounding 22. About 100 horses were also lost. At this time the forward Ottoman air base was at Bir el Mazar, 42 miles (68 km) east of Romani.
Sinai reconnaissances May and June 1916 
Early reconnaissances by the Anzac Mounted Division covered considerable distances from Romani as far as Ogratina, to Bir el Abd and Bir Bayud. The longest raid was made by the New Zealand Mounted Rifle Brigade to Salmana, covering 100 kilometres (62 mi) in 36 hours.
After the middle of May and in particular from mid June to the end of July the heat in the Sinai desert ranged from extreme to fierce. Even worse were the Khamsin dust storms which blow once every 50 days for a few hours or several days, turning the atmosphere into a haze of floating sand particles flung about by a hot southerly wind. The troops and their commanders, unused to the conditions, suffered considerably from heatstroke and thirst during these early patrols. One such patrol, returning during the hottest part of the day after a sleepless night far from base, and very little water, suffered casualties of 160 men who collapsed from heat exhaustion.
An important innovation in the getting of water, which enabled the mounted units to operate more effectively over wide areas of rocky desert areas and sand dunes on reconnaissance, was the Spear Point, developed by Australian Engineers designed to be attached to a pump:
A 2 ½ inch pipe was pointed, perforated and covered with a sheet of fine perforated brass. This was driven down into the water area by means of a small pulley bar and monkey, or by a sledge–hammer; and additional lengths of pipe were added if necessary. The ordinary General Service "Lift and Force Pump" was then attached. This arrangement proved so efficient that "Spear Points" were issued to every Squadron in the Division, and the RE Troops carried a number of them. Our men were thus enabled to get water at any of the hods in the desert in a very short space of time.
Once the brackish water was found, a medical officer assessed it as either drinking water, horse water or not fit for horses, and signs were erected.
In June, the 1st Light Horse Brigade carried out reconnaissances to Bir Bayud, Sagia and Ogratina, to Bir el Abd, Hod el Ge'eila, Hod um el Dhauanin and Hod el Mushalfat. Another routine reconnaissance by 2nd Light Horse Brigade took place on 9 July to El Salmana. Just ten days later, El Salmana was occupied by the Ottomans as they concentrated for the battle of Romani.
In the middle of June the No. 1 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps began active service with "B" Flight at Suez doing reconnaissance work and on 9 July "A" Flight was stationed at Sherika in Upper Egypt with "C" Flight based at Kantara.
Battle of Romani 
The battle of Romani took place near the Egyptian town of that name 23 miles (37 km) east of the Suez Canal, from shortly after midnight on 3/4 August until the invading force retired during the late morning and afternoon of 5 August. The Central Powers force of Austrians, Germans and Ottomans, led by Kress von Kressenstein, sought to stop the British Empire reclaiming the Egyptian territory of the Sinai Peninsula and cut the Suez Canal by bringing it within artillery range. It numbered 12,000, mainly from the 3rd Infantry Division, with Bedouin irregulars, German machine-gunners and Austrian artillery from Pasha 1. Romani was defended by the 52nd (Lowland) Division, and the 1st, and 2nd Light Horse Brigades. The canal was defended by the 5th Mounted, the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigades and the 5th Light Horse Regiment.
Sustained fighting began in the early hours and by about 11:00 on 4 August, the Austrian, German and Ottoman force had pushed the two Australian brigades back to a point where the 52nd (Lowland) Division in their trenches were able to attack the attackers' right flank, and the New Zealand Mounted Rifle and 5th Mounted Brigades arrived in time to extend the Australian Light Horse's line. The Ottoman advance was stopped by the combined Allied fire from the infantry and mounted troops, deep sand, the mid summer mid day heat and thirst. In mid summer desert conditions, the British infantry were unable to move effectively to pursue the retreating columns the next day and alone, the Anzac Mounted Division was unable to attack and capture Von Kressenstein's large force which made an orderly retreat to Katia and eventually back to their base at Bir el Abd. Bir el Abd was abandoned on 12 August 1916 after fierce fighting, during an attack by the Anzac Mounted Division on 9 August, at the extremity of British Empire lines of communication. This was the first substantial Allied victory against the Ottoman Empire in World War I, ending the Defence of the Suez Canal campaign. The Canal was never again threatened by land forces during the remainder of the war. The Allies then went on the offensive for seven months; pushing the Ottoman Army back across the Sinai Peninsula to the Battle of Magdhaba and the Battle of Rafa before being stopped on Ottoman soil in southern Palestine at the First Battle of Gaza in March 1917.
Arab Revolt 
On 5 and 16 June 1916, the Sharifian Army of Sherif Hussein, Amir of Mecca, took over Mecca and Jeddah in the south western Arabian Peninsula from their Ottoman garrisons. A large Ottoman garrison held out at Taif until late September when they capitulated, while Sherif Hussein's third son Feisal attacked the Ottoman garrison at Medina. The British were keen to extend the Arab Revolt by destabilizing sections of the Ottoman Empire through which the Hejaz Railway ran north – south, from Istanbul to Damascus and on to Amman, Maan, Medina and to Mecca. The railway, built with German assistance to carry pilgrims, was not only important for Ottoman communications but contained solidly-built stone station buildings which could form defensive positions. With the balance of power in northern Sinai moving in favour of the British, the Sherif was encouraged to seek support for his revolt from as far north as Baalbek, north of Damascus. In London, the War Office, hoping to foment unrest throughout the Ottoman Arab territories, encouraged Murray's plan to advance to El Arish.
Sinai campaign 
At the conclusion of the Battle of Romani on 12 August 1916 the Ottoman Army had been pushed back to its forward position at Bir el Abd, the last oasis in the series stretching from the Romani area. The enemy's main forward base was pushed back to El Arish, with a fortified advanced post at Bir el Mazar, where a small group of wells provided reliable water. El Arish was the target of an air raid on 18 June 1916 when Colonel W. G. H. Salmond commanding the 5th Wing ordered 11 aircraft to fly out to sea until past El Arish and turn inland to approach from the south east. Two Ottoman aircraft on the ground and two of the ten aircraft hangars were set on fire, bombs hit four others and troops were also attacked while three British aircraft were forced to land, one in the sea.
The Egyptian Expeditionary Force required infrastructure in the form of the railway to haul the huge amounts of ammunition and supplies required to support an advance to El Arish, and the pipeline to provide reliable water in order to move and sustain the large fighting force, supported by service units and administration, across the Sinai Peninsula to El Arish. From the middle of August to the Battle for Magdhaba on 23 December 1916 was a time of waiting for the necessary infrastructure to be put in place. These four months have often been described as a period of rest for the Anzac Mounted Division as there were no major battles. However, the mounted troops were busy providing screens for the construction, patrolling newly occupied areas and carrying out reconnaissances to augment aerial photographs to improve maps of the newly occupied areas.
During one of the patrols, on 19 August, a group of 68 Ottoman soldiers was found half dead from thirst by the 5th Light Horse Regiment (2nd Light Horse Brigade) who, rather than attacking them, gave them water and their rides. The commanding officer and his men led the Ottomans on their horses for 5 miles (8.0 km) through deep sand until met by transport. 'This was a very queer sight and worthy of a moving picture [of these] poor sacrifices of the Huns'.
British infantry was brought forward to fortify and provide garrisons along the length of the railway. They formed a firm base for mobile operations and defence in depth for the huge administrative organization advancing with the railway, in support of the Anzac Mounted Division and the 52nd (Lowland) Division. The movement of the infantry across Sinai was eased by construction of wire netting roads also used by Egyptian Labour Corps, light vehicles, cars and ambulances. This reasonably stable surface which did not sink, was constructed from two or four rolls of rabbit wire; one inch mesh wire rolled out side by side, wired together with the edges fixed into the sand with long steel or wooden pegs to produce a reasonable track.
Although the front had moved eastwards across the Sinai, it was still necessary to maintain defence units on the Canal. While serving as part of Canal Defence at Gebel Heliata, Serapeum, the 12th Light Horse Regiment commemorated 28 August: 'Today being the Anniversary of the Regiment landing on Gallipoli, a little latitude was given to all hands, and an enjoyable evening was spent in the men's canteen.'
Meanwhile by September 1916, the German and Ottoman Empires had renegotiated their agreements to recognise the increasing Ottoman forces being deployed in Europe, while German and Austrian aid and equipment was increased to strengthen the Ottoman army in Palestine.
German airmen bombed Port Said on 1 September 1916 and Australian and British airmen answered with a bombing raid on Bir el Mazar three days later, when twelve bombs silenced the anti–aircraft guns and blew several tents to pieces. Bir el Mazar was again bombed on 7 September. As part of the advance across the Sinai the Australian Flying Squadron's "B" Flight moved their hangars from Suez forward to Mahemdia 4 miles from Romani on 18 September and "C" Flight moved to Kantara on 27 September 1916.
Medical support 
Advances in military medical techniques included the surgical cleaning (or debridement) of wounds, with delayed primary surgical closure, the Thomas Splint stabilized compound leg fractures, intravenous saline was used for the first time in 1916 and blood transfusion to prevent or even reverse the effects of shock.
Casualties were transported from the regimental aid post close to the firing line to an advanced dressing station in the rear by the stretcher bearers of the field ambulances attached to the light horse and mounted brigades. Evacuations back to the railway line which stretched across the Sinai, was in horse-drawn ambulances, in camel–borne cacolets, "a form of travel exquisite in its agony for wounded men because of the nature of the animal's movement," or in sand sledges.
Condition of the horses 
There was a progressive improvement in horsemanship during the summer and autumn of 1916 indicated by the small number of animals evacuated from the Anzac Mounted Division after the strenuous marching and fighting from August following the Battle of Romani and during the capture of El Arish and the Battle of Magdaba. This improvement was augmented by regular inspections by administrative veterinary officers when the advice offered was followed by regimental commanders. This advice included:
- The importance of early clipping in the autumn.
- Identifying defects in forage and implementing appropriate remedies.
- The importance of supervised watering.
- Improvements in the sanitation of the horse lines.
- Identifying shortage of head collars and grooming equipment.
- Identifying overwork in some units due to insufficient numbers of horses.
- Identifying faulty shoes and shoeing and shortages of shoeing tools.
- Advice to prevent collar galls.
- Advice to prevent wastage of horses due to debility by : -
- Periodical rest and change of food and water after prolonged work in the desert.
- The systematic evacuation of all debility cases that did not improve after a week’s rest.
- The necessity of extra forage for mounted troops doing strenuous work when the nutritional value of the forage ration was reduced.
- The importance of night feeding.
- The prevention of waste in forage by the use of feeding sacks and nosebags.
Together with orders issued when serious faults were identified and as reminders, this information formed the basis for a small brochure on horse management in Egypt, which was issued to all units in the field.
During the year the average loss of sick horses and mules from the Sinai front was approximately 640 per week. They were transported in train loads of thirty trucks, each holding eight horses. Animals which died or were destroyed while on active service were buried 2 miles (3.2 km) from the nearest camp unless this was not practicable. In this case the carcasses were transported to a suitable sites away from troops, where they were disemboweled and left to disintegrate in the dry desert air and high temperatures. Animals which died or were destroyed in veterinary units at Kantara, Ismalia, Bilbeis, and Quesna were dealt with in this way and after four days’ drying in the sun, the carcases were stuffed with straw and burnt, after the skins were salved. These were sold to local contractors.
Creation of Eastern Frontier Force 
In September 1916 General Murray moved his headquarters from Ismailia on the Suez Canal back to Cairo in order to more efficiently command the continuing threat from the Senussi in the Western Desert. General Lawrence was transferred to France where he served as Chief of Staff to Field Marshal Haig in 1918.
Field Marshal William Robertson, the British Army's Chief of the Imperial General Staff, set out his global military policy at this time in a letter to Murray of 16 October 1916, in which he stated "I am not intent on winning in any particular quarter of the globe. My sole object is to win the war and we shall not do that in the Hedjaz nor in the Sudan. Our military policy is perfectly clear and simple ... [It] is offensive on the Western Front and therefore defensive everywhere else."
In this climate of defensive military policy, Major–General Sir Charles Dobell, who had acquired a reputation for sound work in minor operations, was promoted to the rank of lieutenant–general, given the title of GOC Eastern Frontier Force and put in charge of all the troops on the canal and in the desert. His headquarters was established at Ismailia and he began to organised his command into two parts, the Canal Defences and Desert Column. Also in October, Eastern Force began operations into the Sinai desert and on to the border of Palestine. Initial efforts were limited to building a railway and a waterline across the Sinai. The railway was constructed by Egyptian Labour Corps at the rate of about 15 miles (24 km) a month and the British front moved westward at the same speed. By 19 October the Anzac Mounted Division Headquarters was at Bir el Abd where the 52nd (Lowland) Division joined them on 24 October.
Raid on Bir el Mazar 
A reconnaissance in force to Bir el Mazar was carried out by the 2nd and 3rd Light Horse Brigades, the 1st Battalion, of the Imperial Camel Corps Brigade (ICCB), the New Zealand Machine Gun Squadron and the ICCB's Hong Kong and Singapore Battery, on 16–17 September 1916. At the limit of their line of communication the light horse, infantry, machine guns and artillery were not able to capture the 2,000 strong, well entrenched garrison which made a determined stand. After demonstrating the strength of the advancing army, they successfully withdrew back to Anzac Mounted Division's Headquarters at Bir Sulmana 20 miles (32 km) to the west. The Ottoman force abandoned Bir el Mazar shortly after. The report of the 2nd Light Horse Brigade described their 5th Light Horse Regiment being fired on by anti–aircraft guns during the operations and reported one man killed and nine wounded. The 3rd Light Horse Brigade recorded that the troops of the Imperial Camel Corps Brigade and the artillery battery were unable to move quickly enough to take part in the attack, and their brigade lost three killed, three wounded and two injured. Airmen of No. 1 and No. 14 Squadrons confirmed anti-aircraft guns fired on the light horse, describing the ground engagement as so tough the Ottomans resorted to this extreme measure, turning their anti–aircraft guns away from the attacking planes. The Ottomans withdrew to the Wady El Arish, with garrisons at Lahfan and Magdhaba.
Raid on Maghara Hills 
As the Allies advanced, an Ottoman-occupied position on the right flank at Bir El Maghara 50 miles (80 km) south east of Romani, began to be a threat to their advance. Major–General A.G. Dallas was put in command of a column of 800 Australian Light Horse, 400 City of London Yeomanry, 600 Mounted Camelry and 4,500 camels from the Egyptian Camel Transport Corps, with another 200 camels for the Army Medical Corps. The column formed at Bayoud and moved off on 13 October on a two nights march via Zagadan and Rakwa to the Maghara Hills.
On arrival A and C Squadrons of the 12th Light Horse Regiment positioned in the centre, with the 11th Light Horse Regiment on the right and the Yeomanry on the left flanks, dismounted at the foot of the hills. Handing over their lead horses in excellent cover these dismounted men then scaled the heights and surprised the defenders but failed to capture the main defensive position. The 11th Light Horse Regiment captured seven Ottoman prisoners and three Bedouins, retiring the way they came to base on 17 October and back to railhead Ferdan on the Suez Canal, on 21 October 1916.
Aerial bombing of Beersheba 
Subjected to further bombing air raids, by 2 October aerial reconnaissance photographs revealed the German aircraft hangars formerly at El Arish had disappeared. By 25 October there was no anti–aircraft fire reported over El Arish and reductions in the enemy force based there were apparent. By this time the railway construction was well passed Salmana where a British forward aerodrome was under construction and No. 1 Squadron were involved in photographing the area around El Arish and Magdhaba, and No. 14 Squadron were reconnoitring Rafah.
On 11 November a Martinsyde and nine B E.'s, loaded with bombs and petrol, left the Kantara and Mahemdia aerodromes at dawn and assembled at Mustabig, just west of Bir el Mazar. There a raiding force of five B.E.'s and the Martinsyde formed the largest force yet organised by Australians or any other air squadron in the East, filled up with petrol and bombs and set off in formation towards Beersheba. Over Beersheba the anti–aircraft guns engaged them with high explosive and shrapnel, and the raiders flew through a flurry of white, black, and green bursts. The Martinsyde dropped a 100–lb. bomb fair in the centre of the aerodrome; two 20–lb. bombs hit tents; others made direct hits on the railway to Beersheba and the station. A Fokker and an Aviatik took to the air but were decisively beaten. After photographing Beersheba and the damage caused by the bombs, the airmen returned, reconnoitering Khan Yunis and Rafa on the way. All machines arrived safely, after having spent seven hours in flight. Two days later a German aeroplane retaliated by bombing Cairo.
Progress of infrastructure across the Sinai 
On 17 November EEF railhead reached 8 miles (13 km) east of Salmana 54 miles (87 km) from Kantara, the water pipeline with its complex associated pumping stations built by Army Engineers and the Egyptian Labour Corps had reached Romani, and Bir el Mazar, formerly the forward base of the Ottoman Army was taken over by the Anzac Mounted Division on 25 November 1916 the day before railhead. By 1 December the end of the most recently laid railway line was east of Mazar 64 miles (103 km) from Kantara.
Meanwhile the Ottoman Empire constructed a branch railway line running south from Ramleh, on the Jaffa–Jerusalem railway, to Beersheba, by relaying rails taken from the Jaffa–Ramleh railway. German engineers directed the construction of stone Ashlar bridges and culverts when the line was extended from Beersheba. It had almost reached the Wadi el Arish in December 1916 when Magdhaba was captured.
Battle of Magdhaba, December 1916 
On 21 December after a night march of 30 miles (48 km) part of the Imperial Camel Corps Brigade and the Anzac Mounted Division commanded by Chauvel entered El Arish, which had been abandoned by the Ottoman forces, who had retreated to Madghaba where the mounted force won a fierce day-long engagement against strong well constructed defences manned by determined defenders.
Situated on the British right flank, the Egyptian outpost of Magdhaba was some 18 miles (29 km) to the south east into the Sinai desert, from El Arish on the Mediterranean coast was the last obstacle standing in the way of the Allied advance into Palestine.
Chauvel with the agreement of Chetwode commanding Desert Column who had arrived that day, set out to attack the Turkish forces at Magdhaba with the Anzac Mounted Division. Leaving at about midnight on 22 December, the Anzac Mounted Division was in a position by 0350 on 23 December, to see enemy fires still some miles away at Magdhaba.
With the 1st Light Horse Brigade in reserve, Chauvel sent the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade and the 3rd Light Horse Brigade's to move on Magdhaba by the north and north–east to cut off the possibility of retreat while the Imperial Camel Corps Brigade followed the telegraph line straight on Magdhaba. The 1st Light Horse Brigade reinforced the Imperial Camel Corps Brigade in an attack on the redoubts but fierce shrapnel fire forced them to advance up the wadi bed. By midday all three light horse and mounted rifle brigades and a section of the Camel Brigade, with Vickers and Lewis Gun sections and HAC artillery were engaged in fierce fighting. Aerial reconnaissance to scout out the Ottoman positions greatly assisted the attack, although the six redoubts were well camouflaged.
After tough fighting in the morning of 23 December, at about 13:00 and after hearing that the enemy still had possession of most of the water in the area, its claimed Chauvel decided to call off the attack. About the same time, after a telephone conversation between Chauvel and Chetwode pressure was continued to be pressed and an attack by all units took place by which time there was no doubt that the Ottoman soldiers were losing the fight. Both the 1st Light Horse Brigade and the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigades made progress capturing about 100 prisoners and by 15:30 the Ottomans were beginning to surrender. By 16:30 the Ottoman garrison had surrendered, having suffered heavy casualties, and the town was captured. The victory had cost 22 dead and 121 wounded.
Battle of Rafa, January 1917 
On the evening of 8 January 1917, mounted units of Desert Column including the Anzac Mounted Division, the Imperial Camel Corps Brigade, the 5th Mounted Yeomanry Brigade, No. 7 Light Car Patrol and artillery, rode out of El Arish to attack the next day 9 January, a 2,000 to 3,000-strong Ottoman Army garrison at El Magruntein also known as Rafa or Rafah.
The British had reclaimed the northern section of the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula from enemy occupation, virtually to the frontier with the Ottoman Empire but the new British government of David Lloyd George wanted more. The British Army in Egypt was ordered to go on the offensive against the Ottoman Army in part to support the Arab revolt which had started early in 1916, and to build on the momentum created by the victories won at Romani in August and Magdhaba in December 1916.
This next strategic objective was on the border of the British Protectorate of Egypt and the Ottoman Empire some 30 miles (48 km) distant, too far for infantry and so the newly formed Desert Column commanded by Chetwode was to attack the enemy occupied position along the coast.
The Allied troops captured the town and the fortified position by nightfall with the loss of 71 killed and 415 wounded. The Ottoman garrison suffered heavily, with 200 killed and another 1,600 taken prisoner.
End of Sinai Campaign 
The first signs of a major reorganisation of the Ottoman Army's defences were observed after the capture of El Arish and Battle of Magdhaba, on 28 December 1916 when reconnaissance planes found Ottoman forces moving their headquarters back. Days before the victory at Rafa, on 7 January air reconnaissance reported Ottoman forces still at El Auja and El Kossaima with the garrison at Hafir El Auja being slightly increased. But between 14 and 19 January Beersheba was bombed several times by No. 1 Squadron Australian Flying Corps in day and night raids; during one of these raids dropping twelve 20–lb. bombs directly on the biggest German hangar. After these raids the German airmen evacuated Beersheba and moved their aerodrome to Ramleh. And on 19 January air reconnaissance reported the enemy had evacuated El Kossaima and were in decreased strength at the major desert base at El Auja.
One of many retaliatory air raids carried out by German/Ottoman airmen, occurred over El Arish on the same day, 19 January when the horse lines were targeted. Horse lines were an easy and obvious targets from the air; they continued to suffer heavily from air raids throughout the war.
Also on 19 January the first air reconnaissance of the Ottoman army rear over the towns of Beit Jibrin, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and Jericho was carried out by Roberts and Ross Smith, escorted by Murray Jones and Ellis in Martinsydes. Junction Station was also reconnoitred on 27 January.
By the end of January both sides were carrying out heavy air attacks; dropping bombs on the stores depot at the main base at El Arish, and No. 1 and No. 14 Squadrons regularly retaliating on Beersheba, Weli Sheikh Nuran, and Ramleh. The Germans were also bombing the Egyptian Labour Corps and delaying the building of the railway now near El Burj half way between El Arish and Rafa with the wire road nearly at Sheikh Zowaiid. As a consequence on 3 February, Major General Chauvel was forced to order Allied bombing to cease in the hope that retaliations would also cease, so that the work on the rail line and pipeline could continue. The Pipeline reached El Arish on 5 February.
In February 1917 the Ottoman Army was observed also building a light railway line from Tel el Sheria to Shellal, near Weli Sheikh Nuran, Sheria becoming the main Ottoman base midway along the Gaza-Beersheba defensive line.
Palestine campaign begins 
The Palestine campaign began early in 1917 with active operations resulting in the capture of Ottoman Empire territory stretching 370 miles (600 km) to the north, being fought continuously from the end of October to the end of December 1917. Operations in the Jordan Valley and into the Transjordan, fought between February and May 1918 were followed by the Occupation of the Jordan Valley while stalemated trench warfare continued across the Judan Hills to the Mediterranean Sea. The final Palestine offensive began in mid–September and the Armistice with the Ottoman Empire signed on 30 October 1918.
With the victory at Rafa, Murray had successfully accomplished all his and the War Office's objectives; he had secured the Suez Canal and Egypt from any possibility of a serious land attack and his forces controlled the Sinai Peninsula with a series of strongly fortified positions in depth, along a substantial line of communication based around the railway and pipeline, from Kantara on the Suez Canal to Rafa.
However, within two days of the victory at Rafa on 11 January 1917, General Murray was informed by the War Office that, rather than building on the momentum created over the last two and a half weeks by the victories at Magdhaba and Rafa by encouraging him to further advances with promises of more troops, he was required to send the 42nd (East Lancashire) Division on 17 January, to reinforce the Western Front, the decisive theatre where the strategic priority was focused on planning for a spring offensive.
But just a week after the 42nd Division departed, an Anglo-French conference at Calais on 26 February 1917, decided to encourage all fronts in a series of offensives to begin more or less simultaneously with the beginning of the spring offensive on the Western Front. And so the British War Cabinet and the War Office agreed to Murray's proposal to attack Gaza but without replacing the departed infantry division or offering any other reinforcements and the attack could not take place until 26 March.
While these political machinations were running their course, the Anzac Mounted Division returned to El Arish not far from the Mediterranean Sea, where there was easy access to plentiful fresh water and supplies. During this period of much needed rest and recuperation after the demanding desert campaign of the preceding ten months, sea bathing, football and boxing together with interest in the advance of the railway and pipeline were the main occupations of the troops from early January to the last weeks of February 1917.
As the British war machine pushed on across the Sinai Peninsula the infrastructure and supporting British garrisons strongly held all the territory they occupied. By the end of February 1917, 388 miles of railway (at a rate of 1 kilometre a day), 203 miles of metalled road, 86 miles of wire and brushwood roads and 300 miles of water pipeline had been constructed. The pipeline required three huge pumping plants working 24 hours a day at Kantara, near a reservoir of 6,000,000 gallons. For local use, the pumps forced the water through 5 inch pipe to Dueidar, through a 6 inch pipe to Pelusium, Romani and Mahemdia and through a 12 inch pipe the main supply was pushed across the desert from pumping station to pumping station. At Romani a concrete reservoir contained a further 6,000,000 gallons, at Bir el Abd 5,000,000 and at Mazar 500,000 and another of 500,000 at El Arish. And with railhead at Rafa, Gaza was by then just twenty miles away, five to six hours for infantry and mounted units at a walk and 2 hours distant for horses at a trot.
Sykes–Picot and Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne 
When the possibility of a British invasion of Palestine was first raised, it became necessary to reach an understanding with France, which also had an interest in Palestine and Syria. As early as 16 May 1916 Sir Mark Sykes, who had studied the political problems of Mesopotamia and Syria, had agreed with M. Picot, formerly a French Consul at Beirut, that Britain would occupy Palestine and France would occupy Syria. They also agreed that an all-arms French contingent would be attached to the Egyptian Expeditionary Force.
Italy's initial efforts to participate on the ground in Palestine were rebuffed, but in a secret accord at Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne her allies promised to include her in negotiations concerning the government of Palestine after the war. On 9 April 1917 Italy's ambassador in London, Guglielmo Imperiali finally received approval to send no more than "some three hundred men ... for representative purposes only" to Palestine. In the end, 500 infantry were sent. This included some Bersaglieri, whose famous capercaillie feathers are visible in photographs from the fall of Jerusaelm. Their "mainly political" role was to assert "hereditary ecclesiastical prerogatives in connection with the Christian churches at Jerusalem and Bethlehem". In the fall of 1918, Allenby was willing to accept more Italian help, but although the Italian foreign minister, Sidney Sonnino, made promises, nothing came of them.
Raid on Khan Yunis 
The 5th Mounted Brigade had moved on from El Arish along the coast a few miles to El Burj on 28 January, remaining there until 22 February when it joining the Anzac Mounted Division, the 53rd (Welsh) Division commanded by General Mott, at Sheik Zowaiid. The next day, 23 February, the 5th Mounted Brigade returned to El Burj from Sheikh Zowaiid being replaced by the 22nd Mounted Brigade which had recently arrived.
On 23 February the New Zealand Mounted Rifles and 2nd Light Horse Brigades commanded by Chaytor, made a reconnaissance in force to Khan Yunis which was part of a line of strong posts held by the Ottoman Army to protect the southern Ottoman Empire. These posts, consisting of well dug trenches were located in addition to those at Khan Yunis, at a particularly strongly fortified position at Shellal, at Weli Sheikh Nuran and at Beersheba (also referred to as the Hans Yonus–El Hafir line).
Chaytor's troops forced enemy detachments from the area to retreat into the town and then surrounded and captured Khan Yunis. As a consequence of this action and the arrival of British railhead at Sheikh Zowaiid on 5 March, the Ottoman Army garrisons realised this line was too weak to be defended against increasing Allied pressure. Enver Pasa, Kress von Kressenstein and Cemal Pasa decided to evacuate Khan Yunis and the system of defences stretching to Shellal on the Wadi Ghuzzeh. The Ottoman Army retiring 14 miles (23 km) north to establish a defensive line between Gaza and Beersheba to cover any Allied advance up the coast or inland through Beersheba to Jerusalem. This withdrawal began in February and the Ottoman Fourth Army was in position in its new defensive line by mid-March 1917.
The area across the border, which was soon to be discovered by British reconnaissance patrols, was a revelation to many ... it was "delightful country, cultivated to perfection and the crops look quite good if not better than most English farms, chiefly barley and wheat. The villages were very pretty – a mass of orange, fig and other fruit trees ... The relief of seeing such country after the miles and miles of bare sand was worth five years of a life."—Lieutenant Robert Wilson
The ancient Khan Yunis said to be the birthplace of Delilah, with its bazaars, narrow streets and castle, was one of several villages in this fertile area of southern Palestine, located 6 miles (9.7 km) north of Rafa and the Egyptian–Ottoman frontier on the main road to Gaza. In this village was found the largest and deepest well in the area and after the Engineers had installed a pumping machine, it gave an unlimited supply of water to both men and horses making the village an important forward site for supply depots and bivouacs.
At Khan Yunis gardens, orange orchards, fig plantations and grazing were carried on, in the Rafa and Sheikh Zowaiid areas barley and wheat were grown, and at Gaza an important depot for cereals with a German steam mill, barley, wheat, olives, vineyards, orange groves and wood for fuel were grown as well as many goats grazed. Barley was exported to England for brewing into English beer and in 1912 the 40,000 inhabitants of Gaza imported £10,000 of yarn from Manchester. Maize, millet, beans and water melon all harvested in early autumn were cultivated in most of these localities.
Firmer ground meant it was possible for the infantry to play an active part in the planned engagements of this new campaign; it also made it possible to use wheeled vehicles and the pedrails came off the guns and their teams of eight and ten horses were reduced to six. General service and limber wagons drawn by horses or mules began to replace some of the camel–trains although they remained important throughout the war and were used together with pack mules and donkeys where roads were bad; in hilly trackless terrain where the horse and mule drawn wagons, motor lorries and tractors could not go. In difficult country the transport wagons of the regiments, the machine–gun squadrons and the field ambulances travelled together in a separate column on an easier less direct route. All these animals requiring vast quantities of food and water which had to be transported forward and although it was found during the advance across the Sinai, that horses did better with two drinks a day rather than three, they drank more doing nothing for the problems of water supply.
Eastern Force reorganisation 
With the departure of the 42nd (East Lancashire) Division for the Western Front, its place at El Arish was taken by 53rd (Welsh) Division which transferred from garrison duties in Upper Egypt following the defeat of the Senussi. And the 54th (East Anglian) Division, which had been in the Southern Section of the Suez Canal Defences also moved eastwards to El Arish, while the new 74th (Yeomanry) Division was being formed from dismounted yeomanry brigades in Egypt.
The arrival of 6th and 22nd Mounted Brigades from the Salonika front prompted a reorganisation of Desert Column. Instead of grouping the two new brigades with the 4th Light Horse Brigade (in the process of formation) and the 5th Mounted Brigade to form the new Imperial Mounted division, (established 12 February 1917 at Ferry Post on the Suez Canal under the command of British Army Major General H.W. Hodgson) the Anzac Mounted Division's 3rd Light Horse Brigade was transferred and the newly arrived 22nd Mounted Brigade was attached to the Anzac Mounted Division.
Thus by March 1917 General Charles Dobell commander of Eastern Force had 52nd (Lowland) and 54th (East Anglian) Divisions and the Imperial Camel Corps Brigade directly in his command and Desert Column commanded by Chetwode consisting of the 53rd (Welsh) Division commanded by Major General Dallas, Anzac Mounted Division commanded by Chauvel now made up of 1st and 2nd Light Horse, New Zealand Mounted Rifles and 22nd Mounted Yeomanry Brigades and the Imperial Mounted Division commanded by Hodgson now made up of the 3rd and 4th Light Horse with the 5th and 6th Mounted Brigades and two Light Car Patrols. The 3rd Light Horse Brigade rather resented the change, as they lost the connection with their service on Gallipoli via the old name of Anzac.
The Imperial Mounted Division moved up from Ferry Post to join Desert Column at el Burj just past El Arish on the road to Gaza between 28 February and 9 March; the 3rd Light Horse Brigade coming under their orders on 2 March and the Imperial Mounted Division coming under orders of Desert Column on 10 March 1917. The 4th Light Horse Brigade, in the process of formation at Ferry Post, planned to leave on 18 March.
Transport was also reorganised; the horse drawn supply columns were combined with the camel trains so that Eastern Force could operate for about twenty four hours beyond railhead. This was a vast undertaking; one brigade (and there were six) of Light Horse at war establishment consisted of approximately 2,000 soldiers as well as a division of infantry; all requiring sustenance.
Ottoman Army Units 
During February British intelligence reported the arrival in the region, of two divisions of the Ottoman Army; the 3rd Cavalry Division (from the Caucasus) and the 16th Infantry Division (from Thrace). They joined three infantry divisions in the area; along the 30 kilometres (19 mi) long Gaza–Beersheba line, the Fourth Army had about eighteen thousand soldiers. Kress von Kressenstein allocated some troops to both Gaza and Beersheba, but held the majority in reserve at Tell esh Sheria and Jemmameh and by mid March the Ottoman Army's 53rd Infantry Division was on its way south from Jaffa to augment these troops. The garrison at Gaza consisting of seven battalions could muster 3,500 rifles, machine gun companies and five batteries of 20 guns, supported by a squadron of newly arrived German Halberstadt fighter aircraft, which outclassed Allied aircraft and gave the Ottomans local air mastery.
It was believed the Ottoman Army had 7,000 rifles supported by heavy field and machine guns with reserves close by at Gaza and Tel el Sheria.
Between the victory at Rafa and the end of February 70 deserters entered the British lines and it was believed that this represented a small proportion as the majority of Arabs and Syrians disappeared into the towns and villages of Palestine and the Transjordan.
Ottoman retreat from Shellal 
No. 1 Squadron Australian Flying Corps and No. 14 Squadron bombed Beersheba in mid February destroying 3 German planes and on 25 February assisted a French battleship which shelled Jaffa, by directing the ship's fire and the German aerodrome at Ramleh was bombed on the same day. On 5 March six planes bombed the enemy railway at Tel el Sheria and although the damage was not great this main enemy base continued to be bombed by relays of raiders in the moonlight of the night of 7 March and the following morning 6 planes bombed Junction Station an important railway junction and supply depot; it was also bombed on 9, 13 and 19 March .
On 5 March the Ottoman Army retreated from Shellal to the north side of the Wadi Ghuzze to a line from Gaza not far from the Mediterranean Sea to Beersheba just as the British railway reached Sheikh Zowaiid. At this time Murray, the Commander-in-Chief EEF, agreed to Dobell commander of Eastern Force, planning to attack Gaza at the end of March. Despite this delay its claimed Dobell considered 'an early surprise attack was essential ... otherwise it was widely believed the enemy would withdraw without a fight.' By the middle of March the railway had reached Rafa, 12 miles from Deir el Belah and within range for an attack on Gaza by mounted troops as well as infantry.
On 20 March Dobell moved his headquarters to Rafa. The next day, complete with an enclosed paddock, totalizator, jumps and a marked course, the Rafa Race Meeting was held when each race was contested by Yeomanry, Australians and New Zealanders. Trophies were ordered from Cairo and a programme printed. On 22 March preliminary moves prior to the attack on Gaza began, and all roads and tracks possible for wheels were carefully reconnoitred as far as Belah and allotted to the different formations. On 24th Dobell issued orders for the battle.
Gaza campaign 
First Battle of Gaza, 26 March 
The Ottoman Army gave up a small area of the southern Ottoman Empire to retire to Gaza on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea, holding large garrisons spread across the area to Beersheba; to the north east, east, and south east at Hareira, Tel el Sheria, Jemmameh, Tel el Negile, Huj and Beersheba.
While Desert Column's Anzac and partly formed Imperial Mounted Divisions stopped Ottoman reinforcements from pushing through to join the Ottoman garrison at Gaza, on 26 March, the 53rd (Welsh) Division supported by a brigade from the 54th (East Anglian) Division attacked the strong entrenchments to the south of the town. In the afternoon, after being reinforced by the Anzac Mounted Division, the all arms' attack quickly began to succeed. With most objectives captured, night stopped the attack and the withdrawal was ordered before the commanders were fully aware of the gains captured.
The government in London believed reports by Dobell and Murray indicating a substantial victory had been won and ordered Murray to move on and capture Jerusalem. The British were in no position to attack Jerusalem as they had yet to break through the Ottoman defences at Gaza.
We have moved camp from a hill above the village of Deir Beulah to a lonely spot in the grove by the shores of a sweet water lake and close to the sea. The trees and tangles of most luxuriant creepers and bushes conceal also some field batteries and hundreds of tons of shells and high explosives. Behind us are our heavies and cavalry and very near in front our entrenched infantry with whom we are in touch. Absurdly near to these are the Turkish positions, trenches and redoubts. As we crossed the plain and a little ridge of hills to my new position on Palm Sunday, [1 April] Turkish HE [High Explosive] shells were falling pretty freely, but in a seemingly rather aimless way and the same desultory fire kept up all Monday. Aircraft and anti–aircraft guns were busy nearly all the time keeping up a constant hubbub. The next day, Tuesday 3 April, the Turks attacked and I was lucky enough to have a sort of front seat for the whole show, including the repulse of their infantry onslaught.—Joseph W. McPherson Egyptian Camel Transport Corps
Surrounded by palms and olive groves, Deir el Belah is 5 miles (8.0 km) north east of Khan Yunis and 8 miles (13 km) south west of Gaza. From Deir el Belah active patrolling towards Sharia and Beersheba continued. Here the 1st Light Horse Brigade rejoined the Anzac Mounted Division, three Hotchkiss light machine guns were issued to every squadron, substantially increasing the firepower of the mounted infantry and training in their use and gas helmets was carried out. Deir el Belah became the headquarters of Eastern Force after railhead reached there on 5 April and the arrival of the 74th Division increased the force to four infantry divisions.
General Murray had created the impression that the First Battle of Gaza had ended better than it had and the defenders had suffered more, with the Chief of the Imperial General Staff William Robertson in London. Continuing inconclusive fighting in France resulted in Murray being encouraged on 2 April to begin a major offensive; to aim for Jerusalem, in the hope of raising morale.[Note 2] By 18 April it was clear Nivelle's offensive had not succeeded, the newly democratic Russia could no longer be relied on to attack the German or Ottoman empires freeing them to reinforce Palestine and Mesopotamia, and the resumption of unrestricted German U-boat warfare was sinking 13 British ships a day when the average during 1916 had been only three. This misunderstanding of the actual position in southern Palestine "rest squarely on General Murray for, whether he intended it or not, the wording of the reports fully justifies the interpretation placed upon them."
Second Battle of Gaza, 17–19 April 
The First Battle of Gaza had been fought by the mounted divisions during an "encounter battle" when speed and surprise were emphasised. Then Gaza had been an outpost garrisoned by a strong detachment on the flank of a line stretching eastwards from the Mediterranean Sea. During the three weeks between the First and Second Battles of Gaza, the town was quickly developed into the strongest point in a series of strongly entrenched positions extending to Abu Hureira 12 miles (19 km) east of Gaza and south east towards Beersheba. The Ottoman defenders not only increased the width and depth of their front lines, they developed mutually supporting strong redoubts on ideal defensive ground.
The construction of these defences changed the nature of the Second Battle of Gaza, fought from 17 to 19 April 1917, to an infantry frontal attack across open ground against well prepared entrenchments, with mounted troops in a supporting role. The infantry were strengthened by a detachment of eight Mark I tanks along with 4,000 rounds of 4.5-inch gas shells. The tanks were deployed along the front to give shelter to the infantry advancing behind them, but as the tanks became targets the infantry also suffered. Two tanks succeeded in reaching their objectives. Although the gas shells were fired during the first 40 minutes of the bombardment on a woodland area it appears they were ineffective.
The strength of the Ottoman fortifications and the determination of their soldiers defeated the EEF. The EEF's strength, which before the two battles for Gaza could have supported an advance into Palestine, was now decimated. Murray commanding the EEF and Dobell commanding Eastern Force were relieved of their commands and sent back to England.
Raid on Ottoman railway 
The main line of communication south from Beersheba to Hafir el Aujah and Kossaima was attacked on 23 May 1917 when substantial sections of the railway line were demolished by Royal Engineers of the Anzac and Imperial Mounted Divisions. This raid was covered by the two mounted divisions including a demonstration towards Beersheba.
EEF change of commander 
From 1914 to June 1917 fighting in the Sinai and Palestine Campaign occurred in four phases.
- During the first fifteen months of the war Maxwell the Suez Canal was defended from its banks
- More elaborate defences were constructed in 1916 to stop artillery getting within range of the canal and to defend the canal. During this phase the Gallipoli campaign was fought when Egypt became a large base and after the defeat the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force returned to Egypt to rest and reequip before being sent to France. The largest army ever collected together outside France, the British Empire's strategic reserve had a ration strength of the combined Mediterranean Expeditionary Force and the Force in Egypt including hospital patients was 275,000 on 2 March 1916. The force at Aden and the original Indian garrison in Mesopotamia had all departed Egypt leaving only four infantry divisions to face the expected attack on the Suez Canal. Without fighting troops during the Gallipoli campaign the Senussi attacks were able to develop into a long running campaign over extensive distances. Although Egypt had become "sullen, the country remained quiet and prosperous."
- The advance to occupy the Qatiya basin, quickly followed by the defeat of the 5th Mounted Brigade there, was four months later followed by the expected attack on the Suez Canal by Kress von Kressenstein's Ottoman force which was stopped at the Battle of Romani. After losing the initiative, they abandoned El Arish. Murray's Appreciation of 15 February 1916 stated, "the true base of the defensive zone of Egypt against invasion from the east was not the 80–90 miles (130–140 km) of the Canal Zone but the 45 miles (72 km) between El Arish and El Kossaima."
- The railway line, water pipeline and wire roads were constructed across the Sinai desert with rails and pipes supplies from Britain, India, the USA and Egypt. By December 1916 this infrastructure had developed to again place the EEF close enough to attack and capture Magdhaba and Rafa which quickly followed although Murray had thought he needed two more divisions to get to Rafa and into southern Palestine. He was denied reinforcements and told that large scale operations in Palestine were to be postponed until the autumn. When Kress von Kressenstein withdrew from Shellal to Gaza and Tell esh Sheria, Murray ordered Chetwode, commanding Desert Column to attack Gaza. The defeat at the first battle was glossed over and the War Cabinet encouraged Murray into the second defeat. The proposed British landing in the Gulk of Iskanderun to cut Ottoman lines of communication had been vetoed.
By 28 October 1917 the ration strength of the EEF fighting troops was 50,000. There were a further 70,000 unattested Egyptians.
The new man put in charge was General Sir Edmund Allenby and his orders were clear: take Jerusalem by Christmas. After personally reviewing the Ottoman defensive positions, Allenby requested reinforcements: three more infantry divisions, aircraft, and artillery. This request was granted and by October 1917, the British were ready for their next attack.
The Ottoman army had three active fronts at this time: Mesopotamia, Arabia, and the Gaza front. They also had substantial forces deployed around İstanbul and in the (now quiet) Caucasus front. Given all these demands, the army in Gaza was only about 35,000 strong, led by the Ottoman General Mustafa Kemal and concentrated in three main defensive locations: Gaza, Tel Es Sheria, and Beersheba. Allenby's army was now much larger, with some 88,000 troops in good condition and well-equipped.
Battle of El Buggar Ridge 
The occupation of Karm by the Allies on 22 October 1917 created a major point for supply and water for the troops in the immediate area. For the Ottoman forces, the establishment of a railway station at Karm placed the defensive positions known as the Hureira Redoubt and Rushdie System which formed a powerful bulwark against any Allied action under threat.[dubious ]
To forestall this threat, General Erich von Falkenhayn, the Commander of the Yildirim Group, proposed a two phase attack. The plan called for a reconnaissance in force from Beersheba on 27 October, to be followed by an all out attack launched by the 8th Army from Hureira. This second phase was ironically scheduled to occur on the morning of 31 October 1917, the day when the Battle of Beersheba began.
Southern Palestine Offensive 
Battle of Beersheba, 31 October 
A key feature of the British plan was to convince the Ottomans that once again, Gaza was to be attacked. This deception campaign was extremely thorough and convincing. The Battle of El Buggar Ridge, initiated by the Ottomans, completed the deception. When the Allies launched their attack on Beersheba, the Ottomans were taken by surprise. In one of the most remarkable feats of planning and execution, the Allies were able to move some 40,000 men and a similar number of horses over hostile and inhospitable terrain without being detected by the Ottomans. The climax of the battle was one of the last successful cavalry charges of modern warfare, when two Australian Light Horse regiments (4th Light Horse Regiment and 12th Light Horse Regiment) charged across open ground just before dusk and captured the town.
The Ottoman defeat at Beersheba on 31 October was not a complete rout. The Ottomans retreated into the hills and prepared defensive positions to the north of Beersheba. For the Allies, the following days were spent fighting a difficult and bloody battle at Tel el Khuweilifeh, to the north east of Beersheba.
To break through the Ottoman defensive line, the Allied forces attacked the Ottoman positions at Tel Es Sheria on 6 November, and followed this up with a further attack at Huj the following day. With the imminent collapse of Gaza at the same time, the Ottomans quickly retreated to a new line of defence.
Fighting for the Beersheba to Jerusalem road 
I wish to congratulate you all concerned upon your success, which it is to be hoped you will be able to develop ... to press the Turks opposed to you to the fullest extent of your resources so as to force the enemy to divert troops to Palestine and thus relieve pressure upon Maude, and to take advantage of Arab situation. In deciding on the extent to which you will be able to carry out safely the policy, you will be guided by the fact that an increase in the forces now at your disposal is improbable.—Robertson to Allenby received 2 November 1917
Third Battle of Gaza 7 November 
On 7 November the Ottoman held Gaza – Hareira/Sheria – Tel el Khuweilfe line taken up after the capture of Beersheba on 31 October 1917, was abandoned. They were concerned about being cut off and retreated in the face of continued British pressure. Gaza was finally captured and the once formidable Ottoman defensive positions were lost.
It was originally planned that a new unit, the Composite Force, camped east of the 75th Division in the region of Sheikh Abbas, should move towards, but not directly attack, the Atawine Redoubt. The Composite Force was almost a division strong and consisted of the 25th Indian Infantry Brigade, with a West Indian battalion, the French Détachement français de Palestine and the Italian Distaccamento italiano di Palestina. In the end, this move never occurred.
Advance to Jaffa and Judean Hills 
From 1 to 6/7 November strong Ottoman rearguards at Tel el Khuweilfe in the Judean Hills, at Hareira and Sheria on the plain and at Sausage Ridge and Gaza on the Mediterranean coast held the Egyptian Expeditionary Force in heavy fighting. During this time the Ottoman Armies were able to withdraw in good order. And the rearguard garrisons themselves, were able to retire under cover of darkness during the night of 6/7 or 7/8 November. There was a small engagement the Charge at Huj on 8 November between British cavalry and the Ottoman rearguard. Allenby ordered the Egyptian Expeditionary Force to advance and capture the retreating Ottoman VII and VIII Armies but they were delayed by strong rearguards.
An attempt on 12 November by four divisions of the Ottoman 8th Army to counterattack and stop the British advance in front of the vital Junction Station (Wadi Sara) on the Jaffa–Jerusalem railway, was held by the Australian Mounted Division reinforced with two additional brigades.
On 13 November the Egyptian Expeditionary Force attacked a 20,000 strong Ottoman force deployed on a hastily constructed but naturally strong defensive line. The main attack was carried out by the XXIst Corps's 52nd (Lowland) and 75th Divisions in the centre with the Australian Mounted Division on the right flank and the Anzac and Yeomanry Mounted Divisions on the left. The infantry in the centre prevailed supported by a cavalry charge by 6th Mounted Brigade (Yeomanry Mounted Division). And on 14 November the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade defeated a substantial rearguard; the 3rd Ottoman Infantry Division at Ayun Kara. The combined effects of this series of devastating failures by the Ottoman Army was to see their 8th Army give up Jaffa and retire across the Nahr el Auja while their 7th Army withdrew into the Judean Hills to defend Jerusalem. They had withdrawn approximately 50 miles (80 km), losing 10,000 prisoners and 100 guns and suffering heavy casualties.
During the first EEF offensive from October to November 1917, Australian wounded were mainly treated in the 1,040 beds of No. 14 Australian General Hospital at the Abbassia Barracks, Cairo. Although No. 2 Australian Stationary Hospital at Moascar, was organised, equipped, and staffed for any type of medical or surgical work, it was retained as a Camp Clearing Hospital by the D.M.S., EEF. In November, 1917, the venereal section of No. 14 General Hospital was transferred to it.
Capture of Jerusalem 
Jerusalem operations began with the Battle of Nebi Samwill fought between 17 and 24 November, were continued by the subsidiary Battle of Jaffa between 21 and 22 December and ended with the defence of Jerusalem from 26 to 30 December 1917. These battles were ultimately successfully fought by the XX, XXI and the Desert Mounted Corps against the Ottoman 7th Army in the Judean Hills and their 8th Army. Battle lines extended from north of Jaffa on the Mediterranean Sea across the Judean Hills to Bireh and east of the Mount of Olives.
The battlefield over which the Battle of Nebi Samwil was fought continued to be subject to attacks and counterattacks until early December when Jerusalem was occupied by the British. Fighting also continued in the vicinity Bireh and the main Ottoman supply line running along the Jerusalem to Nablus road north of the city.
After the Ottoman Army had evacuated Jerusalem, the city was occupied on 9 December 1917. This was a major political event for the British government of David Lloyd George, one of the few real successes the British could point to after a year of bitter disappointments on the western front.
On the Ottoman side, this defeat marked the exit of Djemal Pasha, who returned to Istanbul. Djemal had delegated the actual command of his army to German officers such as von Kressenstein and von Falkenhayn more than a year earlier, but now, defeated as Enver Pasha had been at the Battle of Sarikamis, he gave up even nominal command and returned to the capital. Less than a year remained before he was forced out of the government. Falkenhayn was also replaced, in March 1918.
Report on condition of animals 
During the lull in operations after the end of the Jerusalem campaign, the Director of Veterinary Services, Egyptian Expeditionary Force requested of the General Officer Commanding Desert Mounted Corps (Chauvel) details regarding the condition of animals between 1 November and 31 December 1917 –
- 1. The longest period they were continuously without water: (a) One cable wagon team from DHQ was without water for a period of 84 hours. (b) Several regiments in the two Australian Brigades were without water for a period of 60 hours. (c) The New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade was without water for 72 hours.
- 2. The work performed during this period: By (a) above, almost continuous work, cable laying, which entailed heavy work partly over rough country. By (b) above, fast travelling and reconnaissance, averaging about 20 miles each day. By (c) above, first two days reconnaissance, averaging about 20 miles per day, remainder of period practically no movement.
- 3. Whether they fed well when they were thirsty: Yes, up to 36 hours; after that, in most cases, they refused to eat.
- 4. The average number of times they were watered daily during the period specified or during any intermediate period: During the period of advance, once per day i.e. to 15 November, after that twice daily.
- 5. The smallest amount of grain and fodder they received at any time and for what period: 4 lbs grain and no bulk fodder for 24 hours
- 6. The average amount of grain and fodder they received during the whole or any intermediate period: An average of 9 lbs. grain with average 4 lbs Tibbin requisitioned from inhabitants up to 17 December. From 17 to 31 December 12 lbs. grain and average 4 lbs haystuffs.
- 7. The maximum amount of grain and fodder they received at any time and for what period: As shown in last period in para. 6.
- 8. To what extent were units able to supplement their forage locally, by grazing or otherwise: An average of 4 lbs haystuff per horse was obtained from the inhabitants throughout the whole period of operations. Grazing nil.
- 9. When was there any noticeable change in their condition and vigour as a result of work and privation: Decided falling off in condition and vigour after 36 hours without water. With good food and water horses picked up remarkably, though it is to be observed that all units report that issue of grain on five consecutive days caused serious trouble, the horses suffering from diarrhoea and laminitis and losing vigour. With reference to the cable wagon team which was without water for 84 hours, though much distressed at the end of that period, these horses quickly recovered. It is to be remembered that the horses of the division commenced operations about 26 October 1917 in excellent condition, which is largely responsible for the fact that evacuations on account of debility have been extremely small, both during operations and afterwards.
- Note – The horses of one brigade had an indifferent watering on morning of 6 November and watering next during action on 8 November, no more water until during the night of 10/11 November. They were greatly distressed on the 10th, but by 13 November were, with the good water and rest, fit for work again, though they lost considerably in condition.
Administration of captured territory 
When Allenby first assumed command of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force he quickly joined the army in the field leaving the political and administrative problems related to the Egyptian Mandate to a Government appointee with a suitable staff. The area of formerly Ottoman territory now under occupation also required management, and with the approval of the Government, Allenby appointed a Chief Administrator for Palestine. He divided the country into four districts: Jerusalem, Jaffa, Majdal and Beersheba, each under a military governor. Under this administration the immediate needs of the people were provided for, seed grain and live–stock were imported and distributed, finance on easy terms was made available through the Army bankers, a stable currency was set up and postal services restored.
On 15 January 1918 Allenby reported to DMI regarding attitudes to the occupation of Jerusalem. The Moslems were for the most part non–committal, partisans of Sheriff are genuinely pleased but worried by Jewish influence. The attitude of Bedouin from East of Jerusalem to Bir El Saba (Beersheba) varies some are unsatisfactory but the protection of the sacred Moslem places is generally accepted as satisfactory. The Jews are overjoyed by the support contained in the Balfour Declaration for Zionism and Christians are happy with the occupation.
Allenby was under pressure to set up foreign administrations in Palestine. Already the French representative in Palestine, Picot was pressuring for a share in the administration of a French Protectorate in the Holy Land by pushing to assume the rights and dignities in church which the French representative enjoyed before the war. His presence and behaviour was resented by the Italians and the church representatives became angry. Allenby was aware that in Jerusalem angry priests came to blows in the Holy Places from time to time. He insisted that while military administration was required it must be under the British Commander in Chief alone.
Condition of British infantry in Judean Hills 
British soldiers serving in Palestine believed they would be better off if they were serving in France mainly because they would be nearer home and be able to get leave and letters more often. They also thought that in France they would enjoy comfortable billets whenever they were out of the front line and be close to the central theatre of the war.
Despite the EEF's improved infrastructure weather and conditions at this time of year played havoc with transport and a soldier's diet was often reduced to the bare minimum of canned meat and biscuit. As railway connections with Kantara improved, so did the diet of the soldiers. Tea was brought in from Ceylon; sheep and goats from the Sudan, Cyprus, and later Syria; flour from Australia, India, and Canada; and frozen meat from Australia, South Africa, and Argentina. These supplies were transported from Kantara by railway to a railhead and then allotted to specific units. It would then be despatched by lorries, wagons or by camel if there were no sealed roads. It has been considered that British soldiers were much better fed "than the half–starved Turk he faced on his front."
But the Ottoman armies had been falling back from Gaza and Beersheba on their own intact supply lines; they were not the ones with problems of supply. Ottoman deserters were always anxious to give information which they thought would please; when asked how they were doing in the way of food, the reply was often that they were starving not because they were starving, but because the deserter thought it was would please the British to hear that they were. The crucial importance of the lines of communication to the feeding of the men resulted in road making in the Judean Hills being carried on by the infantry as well as the local population; whole battalions worked everyday making mud into roads by laying stones over the mud.[Note 3]
Sommers, a lieutenant in the Gordon Highlanders describes going out on a night patrol on 31 March with a sergeant and one man, moving along "wadis at the bottom of very high hills, miles from anybody except Johnny, with a heart thumping hard in my boots. Every bush or boulder took on the appearance of a waiting man. The patrol was a reconnoitring one entirely, and so we were supposed to avoid any enemy, but frequently we send out fighting patrols, of a dozen or more men, and they tackle any enemy they run across, up to twice their number." And spending a night pushing out the line with only slight opposition by building a line of sangars three hundred yards in front of our old line before artillery shelling sent him to hospital. "Johnny began to shell our bivvies and watch[ed] our worldly goods being blown to bits. We heard another shell coming and ducked behind an olive-tree – the brute burst within a few yards and was just congratulating myself on a lucky escape, when I saw blood trickling down my tunic, and found that they had got me in the cheek. Directly I was hit one of the company stretcher bearers dressed me, and from there I went to the regimental aid-post, where the M.O. had an ineffectual probe or two. I walked up an awful wadi for about 2 miles (3.2 km) to the advanced aid-post which was full. They gave me a mule and an orderly, and sent me on to the field ambulance, which was at Bethel, a horrible journey in the dark over slithery hills – 8 miles (13 km) of them. A large tot of brandy settled me off, and I slept until they were ready to send me on to Jerusalem, which I reached after various adventures. One night in the Italian hospital there, and now I am at railhead waiting to go down the line to-morrow."
Aerial superiority 
Since the arrival of Pasha I just before the Battle of Romani in early August 1916, Ottoman forces had enjoyed aerial superiority. By the end of January 1918, however, No. 1 Australian Squadron was equipped with nine Bristol Fighters, two R.E.8’s. five Martinsydes, and five B.E's and by the end of March all older aircraft had been replaced and the squadron comprised eighteen Bristol Fighters. The Mark I Bristol Fighters (190-h p. Rolls–Royce engines) were gradually replaced during 1918 by Mark 111 type (260-h.p. Rolls–Royce).
These faster aircraft enabled air raids to be carried out well behind Ottoman lines. On 3 January 1918 an R.E.8, accompanied by a combined raid of 16 aircraft (eight from No. 1 Squadron AFC) on El Afule aerodrome in the Esdraelon plain to the north of the Judean Hills. There they dropped 1,200 lbs of bombs on hangars, a two seater aircraft and an ammunition dump which exploded, killing 40 Ottoman soldiers. The raiding aircraft were escorted by at least one Bristol Fighter which attacked two Albatros one of which was shot down near the railway between El Afule and Jenin, the other was also attacked by the R.E.8. During another raid the next day against Jenin aerodrome Albatros scouts made a surprise attack resulting in losses to both sides On 2 February a large camp of 400 tents were reported at Miske immediately behind the Ottoman lines near the Mediterranean coast. The next day 60 bombs were dropped by five aircraft from No. 1 Squadron making 32 direct hits; this raid was repeated the next morning.
With the improved aircraft regular reconnaissance was possible far in the rear of Ottoman lines. The whole disposition of their armies from the front lines back to Jenin and the Esdraelon plain, along the valley of the Jordan across to Es Salt and Amman and over the desert along the railway to El Kutrani, had to be recorded and watched from day to day. The strength at each important point was estimated and the tactical condition of the country ascertained. These air reports showed that existing army maps were so inaccurate that they would have to be redrawn. The positions of important roads and villages near the front line were wrongly given and points of military significance located by aircraft observers were not shown on the maps at all. It was resolved that most of the front line region must be re–mapped. This entailed the photographing of a strip of country 32 miles (51 km) deep comprising an area of about 624 square miles. The task was allotted to No. 1 Australian Squadron and took two weeks from 15 January while daylight bombing raids continued to be made on selected points. The method of reconnaissance photography was for five aircraft; Martinsydes and B.E.12.a's, to fly in line 1,000 yards apart at a height of 12,000 feet, thus ensuring an overlap of the exposures of each camera. Day after day this patrol worked under the escort of three Bristol Fighters – two of them from No. 1 Squadron. This work was opposed by Albatros scouts, increasing anti-aircraft fire and the weather.
General aerial reconnaissance patrols over country well beyond the area being photographed was carried out by aircraft as far as 60 miles (97 km) behind Ottoman lines. All new aerodromes, important railway centres, new railway and road works, dumps, parks of transport and troop camps were reported and several suspected Ottoman headquarters located. Early on, the importance of the Nablus to Tul Keram road and the Jisr ed Damieh ford across the Jordan River linking Nablus via the Wady Fara to Es Salt and Amman, was appreciated.
In response large groups of anti aircraft guns were assembled by the Ottoman forces at Amman, Jericho, Huwara (south of Nablus), Messudie Juncation (in the hills at Sebustie) and were particularly fierce at Tul Keram (a big supply centre and Ottoman army headquarters) and Kalkilieh (on the railway south of Tul Keram).
Desert Mounted Corps move to rest camps 
Allenby's forces were paralysed by a breakdown in logistics and he had to send two mounted divisions and the Imperial Camel Corps Brigade south of Gaza. He wrote: "I can't feed them, with certainty, and even now, a fortnight's heavy rain would bring me near starvation."
On 1 January the Australian Mounted Division started the journey back to Deir el Belah with 5th Mounted Brigade began moving back through the rain and slush followed by the 4th Light Horse Field Ambulance. Led horses arrived on 5 January and the division moved on in continuous rain back to Ramle at noon and Deiran in the afternoon of 6 January. The trip the next day took them through a wadi with 5 feet (1.5 m) of water; all the floors of carts were awash and the mud had to be cut from the wheels. They moved on again the next day to Mejdel on 9 January eventually reaching Gaza on 11 January; 70 miles (110 km) in 11 days.
At Deir el Belah rest camp, the Australian Mounted Division conducted a course in mounted swordsmanship. The chief instructor, an officer of the 5th Mounted Brigade trained six members of the three regiments of the 4th Light Horse Brigade. The 18 were lieutenants, 2nd lieutenants, sergeants and a couple of corporals. While a lieutenant and a 2nd lieutenant from the 4th Light Horse Regiment were sent on to Junior Officers' School, the remainder of the trainees became qualified instructors in mounted swordsmanship on 28 February 1918.
On 12 January the Anzac Mounted Division moved back; the 1st and possibly 2nd Light Horse Brigades to Esdud (where Frank Hurley took 'mud pictures' on 7 January) with its New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade in its old bivouac near Ayun Kara (Rishon le Zion).
Consolidation of EEF territorial gains 
The weather was beginning to improve and railways and roads were being repaired and developed. A lateral line of communication north of the Jaffa to Jerusalem road required the complete reconstruction of the track from Amwas through Beit Sira by the Egyptian Labour Corps. The standard gauge line reached Ludd and was within .25 miles (400 m) of Allenby's headquarters 2 miles (3.2 km) west of Ramleh. He wrote on 25 January: "I want to extend my right, to include Jericho and the N. of the Dead Sea." On 3 January two Australian aircraft discovered boats carrying corn and hay produced on the plains to the east and south-east of the Dead Sea for the forces at Amman. The boats moving from Ghor el Hadit (behind Point Costigan) and Rujm el Bahr at the northern end of the Sea were bombed and sprayed with bullets by the Australian aircraft which returned again and again until the boat service stopped.
Allenby's next strategic moves were to extend his right to include Jericho, then to cross the Jordan River and advance to Amman and destroy 10–15 miles (16–24 km) of the Hedjaz railway to isolate Ottoman forces near Medina and encourage further Arab uprisings.[Note 4]
The whole British advanced base of operations had moved north from Deir el Belah to the new railhead and at Ramleh the Director of Medical Services' headquarters were also the headquarters of the Motor Ambulance Convoy. Thirteen casualty clearing stations and stationary hospitals had been established along the lines of communication from Jaffa and Jerusalem to Kantara and by March 1918 ambulance trains ran to Kantara from Ludd.
Westerners versus Easterners 
By the end of 1917 all the objectives of the campaign to capture Jerusalem had been achieved; Ottoman-German operations against Baghdad had been frustrated, the last reserves of Ottoman soldiers were engaged and the British nation's morale had been boosted.
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Lloyd George, wished to knock the Ottoman Empire out of the war in 1918. Already the 7th (Meerut) Division from Mesopotamia was ordered to Palestine and there were many who were worried that if significant forces were diverted from the Western Front to Palestine, England might protect her colonies but lose the war.
The Westerners argued that the real heart of the Ottoman Empire, Istanbul, still lay hundreds of miles from an advance to Damascus or even Aleppo and if the Ottoman Empire saw at the same time Germany overrunning France, it would not be enough to force the Ottoman Empire from the war. With Russia out of the war the Dardanelles were no longer an objective for the British Empire as access to the Russian fleet was no longer of any importance.
The Easterners accepted that it was essential to maintain the forces in France and Belgium on the Western Front, but that they were already sufficient to keep the front intact. They argued that 'to surrender the initiative everywhere and to concentrate on a policy of purely passive defence along the whole battle line was a counsel of despair.' Germany would have a brief window of opportunity thanks to the armistice between Russia and Germany, to attack the Allied forces on the Western Front before the United States, which had already entered the war could bring sufficient numbers to end Germany's war. But the Easterners asserted that during two years of war the Allies had superiority in numbers and material greater than the numbers the Germans could bring from the Russian front and they had failed to break the German lines. They argued that the Palestine theatre might be wasteful of shipping but the Western Front was wasteful of lives; that it would be folly to take seasoned troops from Palestine where a decisive victory could be won to die in the stalemate.
On 13 December 1917 the War Cabinet instructed the General Staff to consider two policies; the conquest of Palestine involving an advance of about 100 miles (160 km) or an advance to Aleppo to cut the Ottoman communications with Mesopotamia. On 14 December Allenby reported that the rainy season would prevent any further attacks for at least two months.
Qualified approval from the Supreme War Council for a decisive offensive to annihilate Ottoman armies and crush resistance was contained in Joint Note No. 12. It was claimed that the destruction of the Ottoman Empire 'would have far-reaching results upon the general military situation.' Early in February 1918 General Jan Christiaan Smuts (a member of the Imperial War Cabinet) was sent to confer with Allenby regarding the implementation of the Joint Note. The French imposed an important qualification on the Joint Note; that no British troops in France could be deployed to the Egyptian Expeditionary Force. Smuts informed Allenby the intention was to reinforce the Egyptian Expeditionary Force with one and possibly a second Indian cavalry division from France, three divisions from Mesopotamia and more artillery and aeroplanes. Smuts also suggested crossing the Jordan, capturing the Hejaz Railway and using it to outflank Damascus.[Note 5]
Jordan Valley operations 
Capture of Jericho, February 1918 
Allenby wished to extend his right to include Jericho and the northern part of the Dead Sea. In mid February the 53rd (Welsh) and 60th (London) Divisions with the 1st Light Horse and the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigades attacked German and Ottoman defences to the east of Jerusalem held by their XX Corps' 53rd (Welsh) Division. As the infantry attack on Talat ed Dumm and Jebel Ekteif progressed the mounted brigades moved towards the Jordan Valley from Bethlehem; the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade successfully attacking enemy positions at el Muntar and a strong position protecting Neby Musa while the 1st Light Horse reached the Jordan Valley and entered Jericho.
Occupation of the Jordan Valley 
In February the occupation of the valley began, with the Auckland Mounted Rifles Brigade (New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade) remaining to patrol the area, after the Capture of Jericho. During the two Transjordan attacks the Jordan Valley was garrisoned by the Anzac and Australian Mounted Divisions, the 4th and 5th Cavalry Divisions, and the 20th Indian Brigade until September when Chaytor's force began the Third Transjordan attack by advancing to capture Jisr ed Damieh, Es Salt and Amman.[Note 6]
First Transjordan battle March–April 1918 
Before Jericho had been captured Allenby was already planning to push across the Jordan River and 'throw a big raid past Salt against the Hedjaz Railway.' The First Attack on Amman, as it is known to the British, was referred to by their enemy as the First Battle of the Jordan, occurred between 21 and 30 March.
Shea's Force consisting of the 60th (London) and the Anzac Mounted Divisions successfully forced a crossing of the Jordan River, occupied Es Salt, attacked Amman and partly destroyed sections of the Hedjaz Railway some 30–40 miles (48–64 km) east of Jericho.
The Ottoman 48th Infantry Division together with the 3rd and 46th Assault Companies and the German 703rd Infantry Battalion successfully defended Amman and stopped the advance of Shea's Force. With his lines of communication threatened by 2,000 reinforcements moving towards Es Salt from the north the successful retirement was eventually ordered, even though the principal objective; the destruction of a large viaduct at Amman had not succeeded.
The retirement was complete by the evening of 2 April leaving the only territorial gains two bridgeheads at Ghoraniye and Makhadet Hajla. This was the first defeat of units of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force since the Second Battle of Gaza in April 1917. Along with the Second Transjordan attack on Es Salt the following month, these two attacks focused attention away from the Mediterranean coastal sector of the line where the British Empire attack in September 1918 would be comprehensively successful.
Focus moves to the Western Front 
The German Spring Offensive was launched by Ludendorff on the Western Front the same day the First Transjordan attack on Amman began and completely eclipsed its failure. The powerful assault launched on both sides of the Somme by a force of 750,000 collapsed the British front in Picardy held by just 300,000 men. Gough's Fifth Army was forced back almost to Amiens. On one day; 23 March German forces advanced 12 miles (19 km) and captured 600 guns; in total 1,000 guns and 160,000 suffered the worst defeat of the war. The British War Cabinet recognised at once that the overthrow of the Ottoman Empire must be at least postponed.
The effect of this offensive on the Palestine Campaign was described by Allenby on 1 April 1918: "Here, I have raided the Hedjaz railway 40 miles East of Jordan & have done much damage but my little show dwindles now into a very insufficient [insignificant] affair in comparison with events in Europe." Overnight Palestine went from being the British government's first priority to a "side show."
German and Ottoman operations in Jordan Valley, 11 April 
The 60th (London) Division moved back into the Judean Hills after the Amman operations while the Anzac Mounted Division and the Imperial Camel Corps Brigade remained to garrison the Jordan Valley under the command of Chaytor, the commander of the Anzac Mounted Division. When Chaytor took over command on 3 April Major he divided his force in two; one group to defend the Ghoraniyeh bridgehead from the east and the other to defend the Wadi el Auja bridgehead from the north. The group defending Ghoraniyeh comprised the 1st Light Horse Brigade, one regiment of the 2nd Light Horse Brigade and three field batteries; the group defending the Auja position including Mussallabeh hill comprised the Imperial Camel Corps Brigade, the 2nd Light Horse Brigade (less one regiment and a field artillery brigade, while the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade was in reserve near Jericho. Some defensive work was carried out including wire.
Shortly after the withdrawal from Amman a force of seven Ottoman aircraft bombed the Jordan Valley garrison and on 11 April 1918 a series of Ottoman attacks were made on Ghoraniyeh bridgehead, on El Mussallabeh hill and on the Auja position. This attack is referred to by the British as the 'Turkish Attack on the Jordan Bridgeheads'.
Ghoraniyeh bridgehead 
This defensive position covered the bridge and consisted of trenching and barbed wire and was covered by guns from the western bank. The 1st Light Horse Brigade was heavily attacked at 04:00 by the Ottoman 48th Division. They pushed forward to within 100 yards (91 m) of the line but were heavily shelled by covering artillery and at 12:30 a regiment of light horse rode out and attacked their flank. Several attempts by the Ottomans to send forward reinforcements were defeated by the British gunners. During the night the Ottomans withdrew.
The British section guns were on the Pimple and the other 100 yards (91 m) to the left with the old road to the Ghoraniyeh crossing leading straight to our gun on the Pimple. At dawn a fairly large and close formation of Ottoman soldiers advanced straight at the Pimple gun which opened fire supported by light horse Hotchkiss light machine guns on the right. Although the action did not end for some hours the first 10 minutes decided it.
Auja position 
German and Ottoman guns heavily shelled the lines on the Wadi Auja to the north of Jericho and the Ottoman attacks were beaten off.
Mussallabeh hill 
Here the Ottomans launched an infantry assault by a composite force of four battalions and several batteries after an hour's bombardment. At one or two places they gained a footing, but after a day of close fighting they withdrew back to the foot of the hills of Moab, to Shunet Nimrin on the eastern side of the Jordan.
EEF attack Shunet Nimrin 
Chetwode (commander XX Corps) was ordered to demonstrate in force against the Shunet Nimrin position on the road from Ghoranyeh to Amman, with a view to encouraging the idea of further operations against Amman and attracting more Ottoman reinforcements to Shunet Nimrin rather than sending them against the Hedjaz Arabs at Maan.
By late April the Shunet Nimrin the garrison was about 8,000 strong and Allenby decided to attack this force to either capture it or compel it to retire. Chaytor (commander Anzac Mounted Division) was given command of the 180th Brigade, 10th Heavy Battery, 383rd Siege Battery with the 20th Indian Brigade (less two battalions) holding the Ghoraniyeh bridgehead and the Anzac Mounted Division to complete the operation. Chetwode ordered Chaytor not to commit to a general engagement but if the enemy retired to follow them up.
But on 18 April the Ottoman garrison at Shunet Nimrin produced such heavy fire that the mounted troops, including the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade were unable to even approach the foothills. As a result of this operation the Ottomans further strengthened their position at Shunet Nimrin. On 20 April Allenby ordered Chauvel (commander Desert Mounted Corps) to take over the Jordan section of the line from Chetwode, to destroy Ottoman forces around Shunet Nimrin and to capture Es Salt.
Second Transjordan battle April–May 1918 
Following the unsuccessful first Transjordan attack on Amman by Shea's force, Allenby ordered a reluctant Chauvel to attack Shunet Nimrin and Es Salt with a force one third larger than that which attacked Amman. But in the five weeks between these two operations British GHQ estimated the German and Ottoman forces in the area had doubled.
The second Transjordan attack was equally unsuccessful; risked the capture of a mounted division but is widely accepted as fulfilling Allenby's strategic aim of focusing enemy attention on the Transjordan area and away from the Mediterranean coast where he would make a successful breakthrough in September.[Note 7]
German and Ottoman attack, 14 July 1918 
During the occupation of the Jordan Valley, two attacks were made by German and Ottoman forces; in the hills on a salient held by Australian Light Horse which protected front line positions in the valley, where the mainly German force was routed, and a second operation to the east of the Jordan River on the plain, where an Ottoman cavalry brigade, had deployed six regiments to attack the El Hinu and Makhadet Hijla bridgeheads; they were attacked by Indian Lancers and routed.
Reorganisation of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force 
The War Office in London sent the following cipher to Allenby:
- In continuation of my No. 54881 of 23 March, the situation in France necessitates the cancelling of instructions contained in my No. 53711 of 7 March.
- You will adopt a policy of active defence in Palestine as soon as the operations you are now undertaking are complete.
- The 52nd (Lowland) Division (less artillery) will be sent to France as soon as shipping can be made available with the artillery of the 7th (Meerut) Division It is desired be sent to France one other British division, either on arrival of 3rd (Lahore) Division, or before, if you consider the situation in Palestine admits of this. Which division would you send?
- In view of change of policy, what heavy artillery can you spare? Personnel is urgently needed in France, and if you cannot spare complete batteries, could be made good later [sic].
- Despatch of all additional transport and railway material and labour for advance to Haifa has been cancelled, but your normal upkeep will be met.
- The despatch of four additional flying squadrons will be delayed.
- Replacement of British by Indian units, as already notified, will be carried out.
As ordered Allenby, sent the experienced 52nd (Lowland) Division which had served with great distinction during the Sinai Campaign at the Battle of Romani in August 1916, garrisoning El Arish during the attacks at Magdhaba and Rafa and during the Palestine Campaign at the second and third Battles of Gaza, the Battle of Mughar Ridge and the Battle of Jerusalem. Also sent to the Western Front during the first half of April were the 74th (Yeomanry) Division and nine-ten British infantry battalions from other divisions, five and a half heavy siege batteries and five machine gun companies. Nine Yeomanry regiments of the Yeomanry Mounted Division, which had been led by regular cavalry officers, were sent to France to do infantry work. Another 14 British battalions were sent in May. In all, a total of 60,000 men were sent to the Western Front.
The yeomanry regiments were replaced by the 3rd (Lahore) and 7th (Meerut) Divisions from Mesopotamia and Indian cavalry units from the France. Between May and August the 53rd, 60th and 75th Divisions were completely reconstituted on the Indian scale; that is, each division consisted of nine Indian battalions and three British battalions. All but one battalion from each brigade sent to France, was replaced by Indian Army battalions.[Note 8] The 10th (Irish) Division was also reformed with eight of its 12 battalions replaced by Indian battalions; only the 54th (East Anglian) Division was left wholly British.
Within the 44 Indian battalions there was a language problem; junior British officers could not speak Hindustani and in one battalion only one Indian officer spoke English and only two British officers could speak Hindustani.
Allenby requested Japanese soldiers to reinforce the Egyptian Expeditionary Force and reacted in mid-June to the War Office's plan to recall the Australian Mounted Division and the only all-British 54th (East Anglian) Division for infantry duties on the Western Front. Both these divisions remained in Allenby's force.
Nevertheless the strength of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force was maintained; seven full infantry divisions remained in Palestine and mounted formations were increased to four mounted divisions including the experienced 4th and 5th Cavalry Divisions from France. These cavalry divisions were composed of three brigades containing one British and two Indian regiments. British field ambulances remained and were augmented by Indian personnel. When the Australian Mounted Division's 5th Mounted Brigade was sent to France it was replaced by the newly formed 5th Light Horse Brigade made up of Australian and New Zealanders from the Imperial Camel Corps Brigade while the Yeomanry cameleers remained, patrolling with Lawrence's Hejaz forces beyond the Dead Sea. Feisal's Hejaz force also received 2,000 camels after the Imperial Camel Corps Brigade was disbanded.
The men of the Imperial Camel Corps Brigade had a rough reputation, largely because battalion commanders took the opportunity when the brigade was formed to offload some of their more difficult characters. After leaving the Jordan Valley they spent "a pleasant four months" training at Surrafend.[Note 9] The Australians and New Zealanders formed the 14th and 15th Light Horse Regiments while a French regiment of Spahis and Chasseurs d'Afrique formed the third regiment of the 5th Light Horse Brigade established in August and commanded by Brigadier General George Macarthur-Onslow.
With the exception of the Anzac Mounted Division, Chauvel's Desert Mounted Corps was either reorganising or in training; the 4th Cavalry Division commanded by Major General G. de S. Barrow (former commander of the Yeomanry Mounted Division) was soon ready to patrol the front line. Along with the 1/1st County of London Yeomanry (ex 8th Mounted Brigade) and the 29th Lancers (Deccan Horse), the 36th Jacob's Horse, a regular Indian Cavalry regiment which had been serving in France, formed the 11th Cavalry Brigade commanded by Brigadier General C. L. Gregory). The 10th, 11th and 12th Cavalry Brigades formed Barrow's 4th Cavalry Division, which moved to the Jordan Valley where they engaged in patrol work on the front line.[Note 10] The 5th Cavalry Division was commanded by Major General H.J. Macandrew of the Indian Army. It was formed from the former 5th and 7th Yeomanry Brigades with the experienced Indian Imperial Service Brigade, which had served since the first attack on the Suez Canal, becoming the 15th (Imperial Service) Cavalry Brigade. (See Suez Canal Campaign (1915–1916) above)
British infantry divisions which continued to be deployed in Palestine were the 10th, 53rd, 54th, 60th and 75th and each of them was modified to reflect the structures used in India, except for the 54th with continued unchanged. Each division consisted of nine Indian battalions and three British battalions, organised on the Indian Army pattern of one British to two or three Indian battalions. A training programme was immediately instituted and a number of small scale raids were made by these new divisions on the coast, and other significantly larger attacks were carried out in the Judean Hills to improve the front line. But many British officers believed that the changes had seriously weakened the efficiency of the infantry.[Note 11]
The 52nd (Lowland) Division was sent to France in early April. The 74th (Yeomanry) Division along with nine British infantry battalions from each of the 10th, 53rd, 60th and 75th Divisions were sent to France, between May and August 1918. What remained of the divisions were reinforced by British Indian Army battalions to reform the divisions.[Note 12] Infantry brigades were reformed with one British battalion and three British Indian Army battalions, except one brigade in the 53rd Division which consisted of one South African and three British Indian Army battalions.
By April 1918, 35 Indian infantry and two Indian pioneer battalions were preparing to move to Palestine. Those battalions with numbers from 150 upwards, were formed by removing complete companies from experienced regiments then serving in Mesopotamia to form new battalions.[Note 13] The parent battalions also supplied first line transport and experienced officers with war-time service. The 198 men transferred from the 38th Dogras to the 3/151st Indian Infantry, included the commanding officer, two other British and four Indian officers. The sepoys transferred were also very experienced. In September 1918 when the 2/151st Indian Infantry provided an honour guard for Allenby, among the men on parade were some who had served on five different fronts since 1914, and in eight pre-war campaigns. Not all of these Indian battalions served in the infantry divisions, some were employed in defence of the lines of communication.
The complexity of the reorganisation and reformation of these battalions was not without consequences. Of the 54 British Indian Army battalions deployed to Palestine, 22 had recent experience of combat, but had each lost an experienced company, which had been replaced by recruits. Ten battalions were formed from experienced troops who had never fought or trained together. The other 22 had not seen any prior service in the war, in total almost a third of the troops were recruits. Within 44 British Indian Army battalions, the "junior British officers were green, and most could not speak Hindustani. In one battalion, only one Indian officer spoke English and only two British officers could communicate with their men."
Two British Indian Army divisions arrived in January and April 1918 from the Mesopotamia campaign. They were the 7th (Meerut) Division followed by the 3rd (Lahore) Division.[Note 14] Only the 54th (East Anglian) Division remained, as previously, an all British division.
The British Indian Army's 4th and 5th Cavalry Divisions which had fought on the Western Front since 1914 were disbanded. They were reformed in the Middle East, with yeomanry regiments replacing British regular cavalry regiments, which remained on the Western Front. Nine British yeomanry regiments from the Yeomanry Mounted Division (Desert Mounted Corps), were sent to France to reinforce the British Expeditionary Force fighting the Spring Offensive.
Three of the remaining yeomanry regiments, the 1/1st Dorset Yeomanry, the 1/1st County of London Yeomanry, and the 1/1st Staffordshire Yeomanry formerly in the 6th, 8th and 22nd Mounted Brigades, along with newly arrived British Indian Army units transferred from France, formed the 4th Cavalry Division. Another two of the remaining yeomanry regiments, the 1/1st Royal Gloucestershire Hussars and 1/1st Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry formerly in the 5th and 7th Mounted Brigades, with newly arrived British Indian Army units transferred from France, and the renamed 15th (Imperial Service) Cavalry Brigade formed the 5th Cavalry Division. The 15th (Imperial Service) Cavalry Brigade had served during the Ottoman Raid on Suez Canal and in the Sinai and Palestine since December 1914, as the Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade. Both the 4th and 5th Cavalry Division were assigned to the Desert Mounted Corps which had lost the Yeomanry Cavalry Division during the reorganisation.
Five of the six brigades in the 4th and 5th Cavalry Divisions were composed of one British yeomanry and two Indian cavalry regiments. The sixth brigade (in the 5th Cavalry Division); the 15th (Imperial Service) Cavalry Brigade's three regiments of Imperial Service Troops, represented and were wholly maintained by the Jodhpur, Mysore and Hyderabad Indian Princely states. Eight of the 18 regiments in the six brigades were armed with and called lancers.[Note 15] The Australian Mounted Division's 5th Mounted Brigade was also dismounted and sent to reinforce the British Expeditionary Force in France. It was replaced by the newly formed 5th Light Horse Brigade which consisted of the 14th and 15th Light Horse Regiments, formed from Australians transferred from the Imperial Camel Corps Brigade and the French Régiment Mixte de Marche de Cavalerie. Completing this division, the 3rd and 4th Light Horse Brigades consisted of three light horse regiments made up of a headquarters and three squadrons. To conform with the 5th Light Horse Brigade, the 522 troopers in each of these regiment were armed with swords, a recent weapons upgrade from bayonets, and Lee Enfield rifles.
Ottoman Army 
|East of Jordan||8050||2375||221||30|
|North Palestine Line of Communications||950||–||6||–|
The Ottoman Army had been weakened by considerable losses suffered between 31 October and 31 December 1917. The 7th Ottoman Army lost 110 officer and 1,886 men killed, 213 officer and 5,488 men wounded, 79 officers and 393 men captured and 183 officers and 4,233 men were missing. This army had also lost 7,305 rifles 22 light and 73 heavy machine guns and 29 guns. The 8th Army reported 2,384 wounded but no rifles, machine guns or artillery guns missing. Total Ottoman casualties for the period were 25,337 killed, wounded, captured or missing while British losses for the same period amounted to 18,000 men. During the same period the British reported 70 officers and 1,474 men killed, 118 officers and 3,163 men wounded, 95 officers and 5,868 men captured and 97 officers and 4,877 men missing. This was in spite of odds in favour of the British of well over two to one in infantry and eight to one in cavalry as well as a massive artillery, logistical and naval superiority. It is therefore remarkable that any Ottoman units survived the onslaught and made the Ottoman fighting withdrawal under pressure a great accomplishment.
However, this army was still a competent fighting force at the beginning of 1918. Every infantry division which had fought at Beersheba on 31 October was intact and still fighting, although some were considerably reduced in strength. To make up for these losses reinforcements had arrived in December 1917. The 2nd Caucasian Cavalry Division and the 1st Infantry Division had been transferred to Palestine from the Caucasus. Indeed at the end of the Jerusalem campaign the Ottoman soldiers appeared the toughest, most obdurate and most professional of fighters. Training continued and in early February, the 20th Infantry Regiment at regimental level received intensive training in day and night fortification and battle drill.
While Enver Pasa and the Ottoman General Staff remained focused on the offensive, the Ottoman Army remained aggressive and confident. Their front line was held by the 8th Army with headquarters at Tul Keram defending the Mediterranean coastal sector, the 7th Army with headquarters at Nablus defending the Judean Hills sector while the 4th Army with headquarters at Amman (until after the first Transjordan attack on Amman when its headquarters was moved forward to Es Salt) defending the Transjordan sector. But German air superiority ended with the arrival of Bristol fighters, one of which on 12 December destroyed three German Albatros scouts, and the S.E.5.a. From January 1918 these British planes increasingly dominated the skies.
The Ottoman high command was dissatisfied with von Falkenhayn the commander of the Ottoman Army in Palestine. He was seen to have been responsible for the defeat at Beersheba and his refusal to allow Ottoman staff officers to participate in planning combat operations rankled. Enver Pasa replaced him on 19 February with Marshall Otto Liman von Sanders and under this new leader changed the established 'active, flexible defence' style to a more unyielding defence.
Arrival of new German commander 
General Liman von Sanders took over command of the Ottoman Army in Palestine from von Falkenhayn on 1 March 1918. On arrival it was apparent that the Ottoman front line was particularly weak west on the Jordan and Liman took immediate action to strengthen both flanks by a redistribution of his forces.
During the lull in fighting after the two Transjordan attacks; from May 1918 the Ottoman army Liman from his headquarters at Nazareth, took the opportunity to reorganize its forces in Palestine.[Note 16]
Djevad Pasha's (Kress von Kressenstein's successor) Eighth Army, headquartered at Tul Keram, consisted of the XXII Corps (7th, 20th and 46th Divisions) and the Asiatic Corps (16th and 19th Divisions, 701st, 702nd and 703rd German Battalions). This Army held a line running eastwards from the Mediterranean shore for about 20 miles (32 km) into the hills at Furkhah. Mustapha Kemal Pasha's (Fevzi's successor) Seventh Army, whose headquarters were at Nablus, consisted of the III Corps (1st and 11th Divisions) and XXIII Corps (26th and 53rd Divisions). This Army held the continuing the Ottoman line eastwards from Furkhah to the River Jordan; a front of about 20 miles (32 km), with its main strength on both sides of the Jerusalem to Nablus road.
While holding the front line on the Jordan River the 48th Infantry Division continued training, organising and conducting training courses on battle tactics and training with machine guns, hand grenades, and flame throwers. When the 37th Infantry Division arrived from the Caucasus, the division, at the individual level, received a two–week course near Nablus in the use of stick grenades.
Stalemate in the Judean Hills 
Also known as the Battle of Turmus 'Aya, this action fought between 8 and 12 March pushed the Egyptian Expeditionary Force' front line all the way from the Mediterranean Sea to Abu Tellul and Mussalabeh on the edge of the Jordan Valley northwards. Allenby's right flank was secure but was not sufficiently broad to support the planned operations across the Jordan to the Hedjaz railway; further territory was required to give more depth. During this operation a general advance on a front of 14–26 miles (23–42 km) and up to a maximum of 5–7 miles (8.0–11 km) in depth by both the XX and XXI Corps pushed the 7th and 8th Ottoman Armies north from the River Auja on the Mediterranean coast, from Abu Tellul and Mussallabeh on the edge of the Jordan Valley and up the Jerusalem to Nablus road capturing Ras el Ain.
Action of Berukin, 9–11 April 
General Allenby intended to follow the cutting of the Hedjaz Railway at Amman with an advance to Tulkarm and Nablus and despite the failure of the Amman attack proceeded with plans to capture Tulkarm.
Known by the Ottomans as the action of Berukin, the attack between 9 and 11 April, was planned to begin with the 75th Division capturing the villages of Berukin, Sheikh Subi and Ra-fat together with the high ground at Arara. The 7th (Meerut) Division would then advance 2,000 yards (1,800 m) on a 5 miles (8.0 km) front and prepare gun positions from which to shell Jaljulia and Tabsor. The 54th and 75th Divisions would then advance to the Wadi Qarna with their left flank towards Qalqilye and Jaljulye with the 54th (East Anglian) Division sweeping westward along the Ottoman defences as far as Tabsor. As soon as Jaljulye and Qalqilye were cleared the Australian Mounted Division would ride hard for Et Tire and pursue vigorously the enemy as far as Tulkarm.
The 75th Division's preliminary attack, launched at 05:10 on 9 April ran into fierce Ottoman resistance supported by three German field batteries and German battalions were active in counterattacks using mortars and machine guns.
All three infantry brigades carried out the initial assault in line against Berukin, El Kufr, Ra-fat and Three Bushes Hill which were successfully captured, while Berukin was finally captured at 16:00. The delay in capturing Berukin slowed the attack of the other infantry brigades and gave the German and Ottoman defenders time to strengthen their defences, and as a result the attacks on Mogg Ridge, Sheikh Subi and Arara were postponed till the next day. During the night there were almost constant counterattacks, but the attack was continued at 06:00 on 10 April when the 2/3rd Gurkhas (232nd Brigade) reached the western edge of Mogg Ridge. Fighting here continued all day and at Sheikh Subi the attack broke down, while further west the attack on Arara had by 09:30 been partly successful. Almost the whole of Mogg Ridge was eventually captured but was successfully counterattacked, the German and Ottoman infantry being caught by determined British defence and a heavy British artillery barrage which prevented them following up their success. Again during the night determined Ottoman and German counterattacks continued and were partly successful. On 11 April it was clear determined defence would strenuously contest all attacks and it decided that the cost of continuing would be too high, but for the next seven days a long-range artillery duel between British and Ottoman/German guns continued. Finally on 21 April Three Bushes Hill was evacuated while Berukin, El Kufr and Ra-fat were retained and consolidated, including the Ra-fat salient.
At the end of two-day's bitter hand-to-hand fighting the 75th Division was still to gain its objectives and was having difficulty holding on to the little it had gained because of fatigue and depleted numbers. Three days' fighting from 9 to 11 April proved once again that in the Judean Hills German and Ottoman machine guns could make any advance slow and expensive.[Note 17]
This action of Berukin occurred in a section of the line which would become part of the final offensive five months later, when the infantry attack would pivot on Ra-fat salient which would at that time be held by the Détachment Français de Palestine et de Syrie. In this case, the losses were heavy: 1,500 British casualties with about 200 Ottoman dead on the battlefield and 27 Ottoman and German prisoners.
Summer 1918 front line operations 
During the summer of 1918 the main focus of the war was naturally on the Western Front; the Chief of the General Staff (CIGS) at the War Office in London could only offer Allenby railway construction men, and a possible increase in shipping to increase Allenby's supplies. Sir Henry Wilson had a plan for extend the railways after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. "I want to see Aleppo joined to Mosul joined to Baku joined to the Urals joined to the Japanese army; and from that base an advance against the Boches."
At this time the front line stretched from the Mediterranean Sea to the Dead Sea. From the middle of May to about the middle of October, the country through which the line passed was virtually dry, but temperatures could vary greatly. On the maritime plain the climate is almost sub-tropical, with sea breezes and an average temperature of 80 °F (27 °C). In the Judean Hills temperatures can vary by as much as 20 °F (11 °C) during a single day, and in the Jordan Valley shade temperatures of between 100–120 °F (38–49 °C) are common, with high humidity. This heat is accompanied in all sections of the line, by dust and insect pests including sand-flies and malarial mosquitoes, which are common along the whole of the front line.
The Palestine front was relatively quiet during the late spring and summer of 1918 with the exception of some brief fighting in midsummer. During the hot summer months of 1918 several British mainly small scale raids were made to improve Allied positions on the coastal plain and in the Judean Hills. These was one small British attack designed to improve the front on the coast, several British raids including one very large scale raid and one minor Ottoman attack.[Note 18]
On 8 June 1918 the 7th (Meerut) Division attacked two hills 1 mile (1.6 km) from the sea. Their objectives were quickly taken after the 03:45 assault on 9 June by 21st Indian Brigade but the Ottoman defenders counterattacked at 06:40 after heavily shelling the Indian brigade; these counterattacks being repulsed. British casualties were 63 killed and 204 wounded; 110 prisoners were captured along with two heavy and five light machine guns. The two hills which had been useful observation posts to the enemy were consolidated and remained in British control.[Note 19]
On 13 July an Ottoman attack on the Ra-fat salient held by the 3/3rd Gurkha Rifles (232nd Brigade) was preceded by one of the heaviest bombardments experienced in Palestine. The bombardment, lasting for just over an hour, began at 17:15 and resulted in the village burning but the Gurkhas met the attackers by immediately rushing their defences. The fighting continued until after dark during which 52 soldiers were killed.
During the night of 27 July a successful raid was carried out by five platoons 53rd Sikhs (Frontier Force) (28th Indian Brigade) against Ottoman trenches on "Piffer Ridge" 3 miles (4.8 km) east of the Mediterranean shore at El Haram. The Ottoman garrison was taken by surprise and 33 captured at the cost of four casualties.
After exhaustive training, on the night of 12/13 August 10 (Irish) Division carried out a raid which consisted of a series of attacks on Ottoman defences on the 5,000 yards (4,600 m) long Burj–Ghurabeh Ridge just west of the Jerusalem to Nablus road and about 2,000 yards (1,800 m) from the front line by regiments, brigades, companies and platoons of Indian troops. They were supported by 147 guns and howitzers of the 53rd Divisional Artillery (less two howitzer batteries and the IX British Mountain Artillery Brigade).
One of these attacks on 12 August, was on a 4,000 yards (3,700 m) long, steep-faced ridge west of the Nablus road, which included Khan Gharabe, and formed a part of the XX Corps' front where Ottoman defences were virtually continuous. The enemy line was held by 600 rifles of the Ottoman 33rd Regiment (11th Division). The British and Indian infantry force made a descent of several hundred feet before climbing up steep rocky ground. Despite the Ottoman defences being strongly held and well wired, fierce fighting at close quarters ensued, during which the attacks from both flanks were completely success. Heavy losses estimated to have been 450 were inflicted on the Ottoman units and 250 prisoners captured.
A wire-cutting bombardment began at 21:55 on 12 August and shortly after the 54th Sikhs (Frontier Force)s and two companies of 6th Prince of Wales's Leinster Regiment were deployed south east of the ridge on the right flank, while the 1/101st Grenadiers and two companies of 6th Prince of Wales's Leinster Regiment at the western end, were over 2.5 miles (4.0 km) away. The two Indian regiments advanced simultaneously, capturing the flanking Ottoman entrenchments then the Prince of Wales's Leinster Regiment companies turned inwards accompanied by a barrage, which also turned inwards from either flank in front of them. Although the two left-hand companies did not reach their objectives the attack was completely successful and the forces withdrawn about 12:15 on 13 August. Captures included 239 prisoners, 14 machine guns and enemy casualties were estimated at 450 while the 29th Brigade suffered 107 casualties.
At the same time as the attack was being made to the west of the Nablus road, the 179th and 181st Brigades of the 60th (Irish) Division carried out an attack on a front of 5 miles (8.0 km) east of the Nablus Road mainly without artillery support when a 9 miles (14 km) front from Keen's Knoll to Kh. 'Amuriye was attacked. Table Hill, Bidston Hill, Forfar Hill Fife Knoll, Kh. 'Amuriye and the village of Turmus 'Aya were all successfully attacked although only eight prisoners were captured at a cost of 57 casualties.
Arab attacks 
Arab attacks were made on Maan between 15 and 17 April during which they captured 70 prisoners and two machine guns, temporarily occupying the railway station but failed to capture the main position.
Preparations for Megiddo offensive 
About the middle of July it became obvious that the Germans' attack on the Western Front had failed, and the opposing sides had returned to a continuation of trench warfare that had dominated fighting on that front for nearly four years and it seemed that the war would carry over into 1919. At this time the British Prime Minister Mr. Lloyd George revived his idea of borrowing divisions from the Western Front for a winter campaign in Palestine and restoring them in time for a spring campaign in France. It quickly became apparent that there would not be sufficient time to realise this project and Allenby was left to do the best he could with what he already had.
During the spring attacks along the front line Allenby had manoeuvred the Ottoman forces into a disposition favourable to his intentions and during the summer, while completing the reorganisation and training of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force and improving the capacity of its lines of communication, Allenby kept the focus on the Jordan Valley and on the eastern flank.
Arrival of Jewish and Armenian units 
As a consequence of the Balfour Declaration of 2 November 1917 three battalions of Jewish volunteers recruited from England, America and the Middle East arrived and were formed into the 38th, 39th and 40th Royal Fusiliers. Armenian refugees were added to the French contingent. Initially opposed by the War Office because of a possible increase in tensions with Arabs in Palestine, the War Cabinet later agreed.
Withdrawal of German contingents 
In the spring of 1918 'Pasha II Reinforcement', a strong contingent of German troops had arrived but Liman von Sanders was suddenly told that all German troops in the country were to be withdrawn as a result of the Ottoman Empire moving its interest and support from Palestine to Anatolia and the Trans-Caucasian territories.[Note 20] However, on 11 June Liman received an order to withdraw the 11th reserve Jäger Battalion. Despite threatening to resign and protesting that the leakage of troops will lose the whole of Arabia together with Palestine and Syria, as a result of extravagant enterprises in Trans–Caucasia, he lost the German battalion.
By September its claimed that there were more deserters from the Ottoman army than soldiers in the army and that in Palestine the Ottoman army was starved of reinforcements and supplies, and the soldiers, many sick with malaria were "hungry, ragged, verminous, comfort-less, hopeless, [and] outnumbered."
But the weak Ottoman infantry divisions had more heavy machine guns than the British – about 60 per division so that west of the Jordan the Ottoman infantry had 600 against 350 in the British and French infantry. They were not so strong in light machine guns, but including the German troops, [sic] there were 450 west of the Jordan. The total machine gun personnel of a division was approximately 800 which increased the fighting strength of the force very considerably. The increasing use of machine guns from the beginning of the war meant that by 1918 the weak divisions of all sides were stronger than those of 1914.
Overall, however, by September 1918 the British Empire force was considerably stronger than the Ottoman Empire force in Palestine.
Deraa railway hub 
The Hedjaz railway reached Deraa from Damascus and from there one branch; the Hedjaz railway line continued south to supply the Fourth Ottoman Army east of the Jordan, while the second railway headed west across the Jordan River at Jisr el Mejamie to Beisan. From they the railway turned north–west through the Esdraelon Plain (also known as the Valley of Jezreel) to Afule. Between Deraa and Afule, the railway ran parallel to the front line, although a considerable number of miles behind it. From Afule a branch line ran north–west across the Plain to Haifa, while the main line turned south to Jenin. From Jenin the railway passed through a narrow pass in the foothills to Messudieh Junction where it again split, one branch to the west to Tulkarm and then south to the railhead of the Eighth Army in the front line on the coastal plain. The second branch from Messudieh Junction ran south–east to Nablus the headquarters of the Seventh Army in the Judean Hills.
Reorganisation of the Desert Mounted Corps 
The Yeomanry Division, the 5th Mounted Brigade and the Imperial Camel Corps Brigade were disbanded 2,000 of the latter's camels were given to Feisal's Hedjaz Arab army. Two new cavalry divisions; the 4th and 5th were formed from newly transferred Indian units, and the remaining yeomanry regiments were reorganised into brigades numbering 10 to 15 with Indian cavalry regiments. The 5th Cavalry Division included the former Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade, which became the 15th (Imperial Service) Brigade. The 5th Australian Light Horse Brigade, replaced the 5th Mounted Yeomanry Brigade, in the Australian Mounted Division. The new brigade was formed from the Australian and New Zealand battalions of the Imperial Camel Corps Brigade and a regiment of Mixte de Marche de Palestine et Syrie; two squadrons of French Chasseurs d’Afrique and one of Spahis. The Desert Mounted Corps increased from three to four divisions; the 4th Cavalry Division, the 5th Cavalry Division, the Australian Mounted Division and the Anzac Mounted Division.
The eight Yeomanry regiments which were dismounted and fought in France in machine gun battalions were replaced by 13 Indian cavalry regiments. These included the 5th Cavalry Division, transferred from France along with five additional "regular Indian cavalry regiments," and the Imperial Service Brigade which had served since the first attack on the Suez Canal in 1915.
The 5th Mounted Brigade was replaced in the Australian Mounted Division by the recently formed 5th Light Horse Brigade. The two light horse regiments were formed from Australians transferred from the Imperial Camel Corps Brigade. The third regiment was to have been New Zealanders but the New Zealand Government refused to raise the additional regiment nor transfer the Otago Mounted Rifles Regiment from the Western Front. They did however, provided the brigade's machine gun squadron; the 2nd New Zealand Machine Gun Squadron.
For four months we [of the 5th Light Horse Brigade, newly transferred from the Imperial Camel Corps Brigade] trained with our new mounts. Most of the men were horsemen, so our main training was with our new weapon, the sword. It was a pleasant four months at Surrafend. We played a kind of polo and did a little tent-pegging with swords.—Hall with the 5th Light Horse Brigade
Desert Mounted Corps' horses 
In comparison with the extremely good condition of the horses of the Anzac and Australian Mounted Divisions at the beginning of the Beersheba operations in October 1917 the condition of the animals prior to the Megiddo offensive was not good. Since their severe and prolonged exertion in the field during the Battle of Mughar Ridge and the attacks on Amman and Es Salt, the horses were unable to regain their extremely good condition. This was due to their occupation of the Jordan Valley, where continuous extreme conditions throughout the summer on a forage ration with a reduced nutritive value, and sickness amongst the men which made it impossible for the animals to be properly cared for and exercised.
While the animals in poor condition or unlikely to withstand strenuous operations were evacuated, the number of remounts was limited, and some units arrived at their points of concentration without them. And, as in all previous campaigns, the animals that had most recently joined the force, were the first to collapse in the advance.
The 4th, 5th Cavalry and Australian Mounted Divisions (the latter by then armed as cavalry) concentrated near Ramleh, Ludd and Jaffa where they dumped surplus equipment. The horses were to carry an additional 21.5 pounds (9.8 kg) of grain, while one day’s grain ration was carried on “A” echelon limber wagons.[Note 21] This was in addition to their normal load of a saddle, bandolier with 90 rounds of small arms ammunition, lance, sword and scabbard, rifle and on the man in addition to him and his clothing and helmet, he wore a bandolier with 90 rounds of small arms ammunition, and a belt with bayonet and 50 rounds of small arms ammunition. The actual weight normally carried by each horse was about 17 stone (110 kg).
Moves out of the Jordan Valley 
On 16 September Desert Mounted Corps headquarters closed at Talat ed Dumm, on the Jerusalem to Jericho road, leaving the camp standing complete with wireless station. Chauvel's headquarters were reopened at Jerishe on the Nahr el ‘Auja. The cavalry had spent the summer occupying the Jordan Valley, during which many men suffered from malaria and other fevers, which were expected to recur when the advance moved into the cooler north, and while the horses were not in poor condition, they were certainly no where near completely fit.
On 11 September 10 Cavalry Brigade including the Seinde Horse Regiment, left the Jordan Valley. They marched via Jericho, 19 miles (31 km) to Talaat de Dumm, then a further 20 miles (32 km) to Enab, eventually reaching Ramleh on 17 September. After completing their refitting, when they were issued with one day’s iron and two days’ emergency rations and 21 pounds (9.5 kg) of corn, to be carried on the horse in sandbags across the front arch of the saddle, the brigade continued to the orange groves at Yazur near Jaffa until 04:15 when the final move to the assembly for the Battle of Sharon was made. In all five night marches of an average of 14 miles (23 km) were made to get the cavalry into position for the advance. This preliminary concentration in enormous orange and olive groves was completely concealed from the German and Ottoman observation. A hostile air reconnaissance on 15 September reported, "Some re–grouping of cavalry units apparently in progress behind the enemy's flank; otherwise nothing unusual to report." At this time three cavalry divisions, five infantry divisions, and the majority of the heavy artillery of the force were concentrated between Ramleh and the front line of the coastal sector, with 301 guns in place of the normal number of 70.
On the same day Ottoman or German intelligence reports noted an increase in cavalry in the Jordan Valley. Ottoman intelligence estimated the Egyptian Expeditionary Force' effective and mobile combat strength at 56,000 riflemen, 11,000 cavalry, and 552 artillery guns, although some of these may have been on the lines of communication, not the front line.
Swords issued to the Australian Mounted Division 
The Australian Mounted Division, commanded by Hodgson, was by now made up of eight Light Horse and one French Spahis and Chasseurs d’Afrique regiments. The Light Horse regiments had requested swords, and despite supply problems, the staff of the Australian Mounted Division had been preparing to receive authorisation for the issue of swords.[Note 22] The British 1908 cavalry swords with its moulded grip, basket hilt and slender 89 centimetres (35 in) blade, were issued to the men along with rifle buckets. Training commenced with these standard British thrusting swords in mid–August, after the division was relieved from occupying the Jordan Valley, and continued for the three to four weeks before the Megiddo attack.
As a result of this weapons upgrade, the Australian Mounted Division became the third cavalry divisions in Desert Mounted Corps armed and trained in shock tactics in pursuit.
Jordan Valley deception by Chaytor's Force 
As the Australian Mounted Division and the 4th and 5th Cavalry Divisions left the valley, at the end of their occupation of the Jordan Valley and in preparation for the coming Megiddo offensive, they moved under cover of darkness to olive groves around Jaffa. The Anzac Mounted Division, the 20th Indian Brigade, the 1st and 2nd Battalions British West Indies Regiment and the 38th, 39th and 40th Royal Fusiliers battalions of Jewish volunteers recruited from England America and the Middle East remained in the valley.
Steps were taken to make the area of occupation appear as if it were still fully garrisoned. These included building a bridge in the valley and infantry were marched into the Jordan Valley by day, driven out by motor lorry at night, and marched back in daylight over and over again. In the vacated regimental lines the tents were left standing and 142 fires were lit each night and dummy horses, with real horse–rugs on and real nose–bags on 15,000 dummy horses' heads were made from canvas and stuffed with straw. Every day mules dragged branches up and down the valley (or the same horses were ridden backwards and forwards all day, as if watering) to keep the dust in thick clouds.
Allenby's staff disseminated a mass of false information and clues, including a grand race meeting on 19 September, one of a number which took place in the coastal plan, which was announced but never took place. And Fast’s Hotel in Jerusalem was suddenly evacuated, sentry boxes placed at its entrances and rumours spread that it was to become Allenby’s advanced headquarters in preparation for a renewal of the Transjordan campaign.
During this time Ottoman aircraft were unable to carry out reliable aerial reconnaissances as the British and Australian aircraft had virtual complete dominance of the skies. Only four of their aircraft succeeded in crossing the lines during the period of concentration, prior to Megiddo as against over 100 during one week in June. However, the long range guns at Shunet Nimrin known as "Nimrin Nelly" and "Jericho Jane" continued to send shrapnel shells 10 miles (16 km) to fall on Jericho and the Jordan Valley garrisons.
Due to the continuing German submarine blockade in 1918 30,000 tons of wheat, 30,000 tons of barley, 6,000 tons of lentils, 12,000 tons of beans, 275,000 tons of tibben, 25,000 tons of millet were collected from the populations of southern Palestine and redistributed to the Egyptian Expeditionary Force. A big fishing fleet on Lake Manzala with curing factories at Port Said and Kantara. The dried and smoked fish was distributed to the army while the fresh supplies of fish were sent to EEF hospitals. Egypt also supplied all the sugar, hay-stuffs and fresh vegetables except for a small proportion supplied from southern Palestine.
While the German and Ottoman forces had well-established infrastructure the EEF had a double railway line across the Sinai to Rafa on which over 2,000 tons of supplies were transported daily. This railway line which had been extended beyond the Wadi Ghuzzeh before the Third Battle of Gaza had been extended to Beersheba by 3 May 1918. Supplies were transferred to lorries for the trip from Beersheba to Jerusalem via Hebron and Bethlehem, until the Ottoman railway from Abu Irqaiyiq was relaid up to Junction Station on the maritime plain and on 15 June 1918 the relaid railway line from Ludd to Jerusalem was complete. The Jaffa to Ludd section was also relaid and on some sections both captured railway trains and carriages were run alongside British gauge trains and carriages. Light railways were built to the rear of the front line; from Jerusalem to Bire and from Sarona to Jlil. The journey to the front lines from Egypt was vastly improved when the railway bridge across the Suez Canal was completed in July 1918.
Medical support planning 
No. 35 Motor Ambulance Convoy, the only one in the EEF, was placed under the headquarters of the Palestine Lines of Communication and special camps were opened for some 5,000 lightly wounded cases.
It was only possible to open two divisional receiving stations instead of three to serve Desert Mounted Corps, as only two immobile sections from the Australian Mounted and the 4th Cavalry Divisions receiving stations were available, owing to a mix up the 5th Cavalry Division's immobile section. Personnel from the two receiving stations marched out on foot with their wheeled transport moving in the rear of their divisions, accompanied by Desert Mounted Corps Operating Unit and two malarial diagnosis stations.
It had been planned for the first receiving station to be set up at Khurbet es Sumrah near the Musmus Pass by the 5th Cavalry Division, the second with the Corps Operating Unit and the malarial diagnosis stations, was to be established at Tulkeram by the 4th Cavalry Division, while the Australian Mounted Division receiving station was to be in reserve. Tulkeram was also to be the site of the main infantry dressing-station, from where motor ambulance convoy cars would transport infantry and mounted troops back to the main hospitals.
Heavy motor ambulance wagons, used during the advance from Beersheba to Jerusalem, were exchanged for lighter ones. Extra camels were obtained, to carry a reserve supply of two days' rations and medical comforts, for each divisional receiving station. Successful experiments were carried out, dropping medical supplies and comforts from aeroplanes, using motor car tire inner tubes.
Mobile sections of the light horse and mounted brigades' field ambulances were to accompany their brigades.
The planned advance was to pass through one of the most malarious regions in the world, particularly in September and October when the malignant tertian type comes in epidemic numbers. It was decided that a prophylactic dose of ten grains of quinine daily, be given to all troops and it was recommended that mosquito nets continue to be used by the Desert Mounted Corps.
Leave home to Britain and empire colonies and dominions from the Egyptian Expeditionary Force was, except on the smallest scale, impossible while leave to Egypt; to Cairo and Alexandria was fairly freely given. Comforts and small pleasures were not as well provided for to the Egyptian Expeditionary Force as those provided to the British Expeditionary Force in Europe. But canteens were established in all the main towns behind the front and kiosks with soda fountains selling tobacco, sweets and cakes were set up close to the line. In the year 1918 the troops in Egypt paid £4,500,000 for comforts bought from these canteens and kiosks.
While the state of morale in the Egyptian Expeditionary Force may have been better than the British Expeditionary Force before the German Spring Offensive in France began to weaken. In the Levant, as the campaign season approached, Allenby intensified training and applied strict discipline.
The Diary of Norman F. Rothon a mule driver with the 13th Mountain Howitzer Battery, 8th Brigade RGA, 7th (Meerut) Division, recorded discipline and training: on 17 August "I think those in charge here are trying to break the mens hearts with their petty orders and punishments etc." On 20 August "One man tied to limber wheel for 1 hour tonight, doing No. 1 Field punishment for 14 days for quite a trivial offence." On 21 August "Defaulter again tied to Limber Wheel, he broke down in hysterics just previous to being tied up and was a very pathetic sight, especially when letters from home were being called out just near him." On 23/24 August "What a battery this is for punishment. Tonight there is one man strung up to the Limber Wheel! B & C Subs on one hour extra grooming!! 4 men doing Pack Drill!!! And one man being tried by little Willie!!!! [a new and unpopular officer in charge of the lines] And then they wonder how it is they cannot get the best out of the chaps." On 31 August "They gave us a rare march last night in the dark and I arrived back in an awful state of perspiration and almost done. We get no consideration whatever here now and are not allowed to leave the Camp to get a wash even, and then we read in the papers about the Troops cheerfully carrying on." On 11 September "10 men on Pack Drill tonight for various trivial offenses. 'Britons never shall be slaves.'"
A welcome decline in the morale of the Ottoman and German forces was demonstrated on 14 July, however, it may have had more to do with the ambitions of Pan–Ottoman elements clashing with German concerns on the Western Front and in Palestine. The Ottomans' focus shifted to occupying the Caucasus, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan and northern Persia after Russia exited the war in March. The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, which ended the war on the Eastern Front between Russia and the Central Powers, resulted in the evacuation of the Anatolian provinces by Russia and the return of the Trans-Caucasian territory Russia had won during the Russo–Turkish war of 1877–8, to the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman army took advantage of the collapse of Imperial Russia, by building on these territorial gains in a series of conquests in the Caucasus, reviving old pan–Ottoman ambitions towards northern Persia. In the first stage, Erzerum was retaken from the Russians on 24 March 1918, followed by Van on 5 April. Later captures included Batum, Kars and Tiflis, which were all former Ottoman possessions and although these victories had a huge emotional appeal they gave little strategic advantage compared with a military success in Palestine.
Megiddo offensive 
As the dry season approached General Allenby had intended to advance to secure Tiberias, Haifa and the Yarmuk Valley towards Hauran and the Sea of Galilee towards Damascus. The peoples inhabiting the region of the Sharon battlefield varied greatly in their background, religious beliefs and political outlook. Living from Jericho northwards, were indigenous Jews in Samaria, Moravians in Galilee, some Druse, Shi'a Metawals and a few Nussiri (pagans). In the east were the Bedouin. In Haifa town, about half the population was Muslim and in Acre almost all were Muslim. On the Esdraelon Plain as far as Beisan were Sunni Arabs and one new Jewish colony near Afulah. Muslims, Christians and Jews lived in the foothill country of Northern Galilee. Christians of at least five denominations formed a large majority in and around Nazareth town. The inhabitants of the eastern part of this Northern Galilee area were predominantly indigenous Jews, who had always inhabited Tiberias and Safed. In the region of the Nablus, battlefield, the inhabitants from Beersheba to Jericho, varied greatly in their background, religious beliefs and political outlook. The population was mainly Arab of the Sunni branch of Islam, with some Jewish colonists and Christians. At Nablus, they were almost exclusively Moslems excepting the less than 200 members of the Samaritan sect of original Jews. To the east of the Jordan Valley in the Es Salt district were Syrian and Greek Orthodox Christians, and near Amman, Circassians and Turkmans.
Allenby finally launched his long-delayed attack on 19 September 1918. The campaign has been called the Battle of Megiddo (which is a transliteration of the Hebrew name of an ancient town known in the west as Armageddon). Again, the British made major efforts to deceive the Ottomans as to their actual intended target of operations. This effort was, again, successful and the Ottomans were taken by surprise when the British attacked Meggido in a sudden storm. The Ottoman troops started a full scale retreat, the Royal Air Force bombed the fleeing columns of men from the air and within a week, the Ottoman army in Palestine had ceased to exist as a military force.
A number of historians have claimed the offensive which led from the capture of the Gaza to Beersheba line to the capture of Jerusalem and the Megiddo operations were similar. Firstly, that they were both a cavalry envelopment of the Ottoman flank. And secondly, that the breakthroughs were the reverse of the other; at Gaza–Beersheba, because the breakthrough occurred at Beersheba instead of the expected Gaza at the eastern end of the front line, while at Megiddo the breakthrough occurred on the Mediterranean coast at the western end of the front line when it was expected across the Jordan.[Note 23]
Pursuit to Damascus 
The war in Palestine was over but in Syria lasted for a further month. The ultimate goal of Allenby's and Feisal's armies was Damascus. Two separate Allied columns marched towards Damascus. The first, composed mainly of Australian and Indian cavalry, approached from Galilee, while the other column, consisting of Indian cavalry and the ad hoc militia following T.E. Lawrence, travelled northwards along the Hejaz Railway. Australian Light Horse troops marched unopposed into Damascus on 1 October 1918, despite the presence of some 12,000 Ottoman soldiers at Baramke Barracks. Major Olden of the Australian 10th Light Horse Regiment received the Official Surrender of the City at 7 am at the Serai. Later that day, Lawrence's irregulars entered Damascus to claim full credit for its capture.
The inhabitants of the region varied greatly in their background, religious beliefs and political outlook. In the Eastern Hauran, the bulk of the population were Druses, while in the Jaulan, more Circassians, Metawala and some Algerian colonists were living. The southern Jaulan district was poor and rocky, supporting a very small population and groups of nomads from the Wuld Ali in the eastern desert, while the north is more fertile with a large Circassian colony in and around Kuneitra. The north–west Jaulan district contains some Metawala villages and some Algerian colonies in the east, introduced by the Emir Abdul Qadir after he had taken refuge in Damascus in the 1850s. In between these are settled Arabs similar to those in the Nukra plain; while in the east are Bedouin Arabs.
The advances to Amman, during the Third Transjordan attack of the Battle of Megiddo, and to Damascus towards the end of the war resulted in the highest incidence of malaria "that has ever been suffered by Australian forces."
Capture of Aleppo and end of campaign 
Aleppo, the third largest city in the Ottoman Empire, was captured on 25 October. The Ottoman government was quite prepared to sacrifice these non-Turkish provinces without surrendering. Indeed, while this battle was raging, the Ottoman Empire sent an expeditionary force into Russia to enlarge the ethnic Turkish elements of the empire. It was only after the surrender of Bulgaria, which put Ottoman Empire into a vulnerable position for invasion, that the Ottoman government was compelled to sign an armistice on 30 October 1918, and surrendered outright two days later. Six hundred years of Ottoman rule over the Middle East had come to an end.
The British suffered a total of 550,000 casualties: more than 90% of these were not battle losses but instead attributable to disease, heat and other secondary causes. Total Ottoman losses are unknown but almost certainly larger: an entire army was lost in the fighting and the Ottomans poured a vast number of troops into the front over the three years of combat.
Despite the uncertainty of casualty counts, the historical consequences of this campaign are hard to overestimate. The British conquest of Palestine led directly to the British mandate over Palestine and the Trans-Jordan which, in turn, paved the way for the creation of the states of Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria.
See also 
Media related to Sinai and Palestine Campaign at Wikimedia Commons
- War Office policy in March 1916 was to withdraw as many troops as possible from Salonika, remain disengaged in the Balkans, keep Egypt secure and 'to keep a reserve in Egypt for India as long as it seems likely to be required' and get everyone else to France. [Bruce 2002, pp. 35–6]
- General Murray had been Robertson's immediate predecessor. Chief of the General Staff (United Kingdom)#Chiefs of the Imperial General Staff, 1909–1964
- Near Bethany hundreds of women and children were at work carting small stones in baskets to the badly-worn roadway, and they were singing happily. The twin nightmares of Turkish rule and starvation had passed; they were being fed by the British Army.[recalled by George Berrie, Ambulance Driver, 2nd Light Horse Field Ambulance in Berrie 1949, pp. 185–6]
- Allenby wrote to Robertson on 25 January 1918: "If I could destroy 10 or 15 miles of rail and some bridges and get touch with the Arabs under Feisal – even temporarily – the effect would be great." [Allenby letter to Robertson 25 January 1918 in Hughes 2004, p. 127] Fifteen miles of railway including all bridges were destroyed on 23 May 1917 on the railway from Beersheba to Auja. [Wavell 1968, p. 90 & Powles 1922, pp. 110, 113] For a description of the procedure used to destroy the rails see Powles 1922, p. 112.
- The Hedjaz railway stretched 800 miles (1,300 km) from Medina to Damascus with connections to Istanbul and Baghdad. [Woodward 2006, p. 162]
- The two Imperial Service brigades; the 20th Indian Brigade and the 15th Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade fielded by Indian Princely States had seen service in the theatre since 1914; from the defence of the Suez Canal onwards. [Falls 1930 Vol. 2 Part II p. 424]
- In a letter to Wigram dated 5 May Allenby describes the visit of the Duke of Connaught and in detail his campaign from the Defence of Jerusalem in late December onwards. [Hughes 2004, pp. 148–53]
- The 60th (London) Division served with great distinction at the Third Battle of Gaza, Jerusalem, Jericho and Amman.
- The Anzac Mounted Division returned to Surrafend after the war where the locals reacted very badly to having them camped nearby.
- The 36th Jacob's Horse carried sabres, not lances. [Maunsell pp. 208–9]
- See subsection 'Summer attacks along the front line' above.
- The 75th Division had received the first Indian battalions in June 1917. ["75th Division". The Long Long Trail. Retrieved 30 August 2012.] The division's 232nd and 233rd Brigades were formed in April and May 1917 from four British battalions. The 234th Brigade only had two British battalions until two Indian battalions joined in July and September 1917, when it was formed. [75th Division, The Long Long Trail] Other sources claim on establishment the 75th Division was made up of Territorial and Indian battalions. [Falls 1930 Vol. 1 p. 319]
- The 2/151st Indian Infantry, was one such battalion formed from one company each from the 56th Punjabi Rifles, the 51st, 52nd and 53rd Sikhs. One regiment, the 101st Grenadiers, formed a second battalion by dividing itself into two with two experienced and two new companies in each battalion. [Roy 2011, p. 174]
- Allenby had been informed after the capture of Jerusalem in December 1917 that "the 7th Indian Division would arrive from Mesopotamia" and on 1 April it relieved the 52nd (Lowland) Division which sailed for France. The "3rd Indian Division" arrived from Mesopotamia on 14 April 1918. [Falls 1930 Vol. 2 pp. 293, 350, 413]
- See Indian Army during World War I for an image of Indian lancers, and for an illustration of a fully armed lancer, with sword, lance, rifle, bayonet and gas mask, see Chappell's "Men at Arms Series British Cavalry Equipment 1800–1941" illustration G 1.
- The reorganisation Bruce describes has not changed since the Battle of Mughar Ridge. The Seventh and Eighth Armies still held a defensive line west of the Jordan, while the Fourth Army remained east of the Jordan.
- Wavell claims the whole plan of attack was captured from the body of an officer on the first day.[Wavell 1968 pp. 183–4]
- A comparison of Falls' Sketch Maps 18 and 30 shows that the front line, was pushed a considerable distance north in the Judean Hills; by about 5 miles (8.0 km) between the end of December 1917 and September 1918, to eventually follow the Nahr el Auja east from the Mediterranean coast, along the Wadi Deir Ballut and as a result of the capture of Jericho and occupation of the Jordan Valley, along the Wadi el Auja to the Jordan River.
- Its been claimed two battalions fought the Arsuf operation. [Wavell 1968 p. 190]
- The date on which Liman von Sanders was told to withdraw all German troops is not given, and he, himself, was at his headquarters at Nazareth on 19 September 1918. [Falls 1930 Vol. 2 Part II pp. 535–7]
- "A" echelon normally carried ammunition and water; and “B 1” echelon carried rations.
- The Australian Mounted Division exchanged its rifles for swords. [Carver 2003 p. 231] The official correspondent for the London Newspapers with the EEF, claims the Australian Mounted Division exchanged their bayonets for swords. [Massey 1920 pp. 155–7]
- These two victories resulted in unexpectedly large captures of Ottoman territory and prisoners.
- Erickson 2001, p. 71
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Sinai and Palestine Campaign|
- First World War.com. Defence of the Suez Canal, 1915. Retrieved 19 December 2005.
- Australian Light Horse Studies Centre
- Palestine pages of 'Turkey in WW1' web site
- The New Zealanders in Sinai and Palestine (official history)
- Sinai campaign (NZHistory.net.nz)
- Palestine campaign (NZHistory.net.nz)
- The Photographs of Palestine Campaign
- Library of Congress's American Colony in Jerusalem's Photo Album