The Great War
James Mowbray

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The War Against Turkey

1914 | 1915 | 1916 | 1917 | 1918
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5. The War Against Turkey

1914 .. return to top

    29 October
    Turkey declared war on the Entente powers, announced with attacks on the Russian Black Sea ports of Odessa, Sevastopol, and Theodosia; with the Dardanelles closed, the Western powers could not readily aid Russia

    [Note: The Turks fought the Russians in the Caucasus Mountains for three years, with no significant gains by either side.]

    23 October
    An Indian Expeditionary Force, soon to be 6th Indian Division of Kut-al-Amara fame, lands near Basra, Mesopotamia

    5 November
    Britain annexes Cyprus

    23 November
    Basra, Mesopotamia, falls to the Indian Army

    30 November
    Royal Navy vessels shell the Turkish forts in the Dardanelles

    18 December
    Britain declares Egypt a protectorate and moves troops there to protect the Suez Canal, the line of communications for the Indian Expeditionary Force fighting in France, and the life-line to Asia, including the Australasian pool of reinforcements, promised but not yet forthcoming

1915 .. return to top

    British, under orders from India, advance up the Tigris-Euphrates valley towards Baghdad, occupying Amara, in Mesopotamia, 3 June

    14 January-3 February
    Turkish attacks on the Suez Canal force a crossing, which is wrecked by the Indian Army and British defenders; the Canal will not again be attacked, but the threat to it will lead to a major British offensive into Palestine

    19 February-18 March
    Allied naval attacks on the forts along the Dardanelles, chiefly by the Royal Navy's older battleships; on 18 March 3 old battleships were lost to mines, 3 were put out of action, including one by shore batteries, but unbeknownst to Roebuck the British admiral, the Turks were finished; Roebuck decided upon a withdrawal, and left the Turks to recover

    The British assemble in Egypt an expeditionary force to seize the Dardanelles

    25 April
    British land on the Gallipoli peninsula, but through gross mismanagement of the action are at once contained by the Turks, followed by three months of heavy, and costly, fighting without movement, which led to further landings in August (see below)

    3 June
    Amara occupied by Townshend's 6th Indian Division

    24 July
    British victory in the Euphrates valley over a Turkish garrison at Nasiriya

    6-8 August
    Landings at Suvla Bay, Gallipoli, by the ANZACs (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) at first go well, but Stopford, the corps commander lacked vigor in his drive, and the Turks contain the landing

    Townshend advances to Kut-al-Amara, Mesopotamia, and

    27-28 September
    fights and wins the Battle of Kut, whereupon he continues the advance northward

    15 October
    General Ian Hamilton was relieved for failure in Gallipoli, and his replacement, General Sir Charles Monro, recommends evacuation, which is approved (23 November), and commences at once

    11-22 November
    Advance to Ctesiphon by Townshend in Mesopotamia

    22-26 November
    Battle of Ctesiphon is lost by Townshend as Turkish reinforcements arrive and his exhausted force can do no more; forced to retreat, he fights a rearguard action

    1 December
    at Umm-at-Tubal, and reaches Kut safely on 3 December, where he digs in

    10 December
    in Gallipoli most of the troops and supplies are already removed, and

1916 .. return to top

    8-9 January
    the final 35,000 troops are withdrawn from Gallipoli, without the loss of a man, and without detection by the Turks, who "are asleep at the switch"

    the British in Egypt, under Sir Archibald Murray, late Chief of the Imperial General Staff in London, push out towards Palestine to deepen the Canal defensive zone

    29 April
    Townshend surrenders(2000 British and 6000 Indian POWs)Kut, in Mesopotamia, after nearly 20 weeks of siege, during which time two British commanders, Aylmer and then Gorringe, failed to relieve him, in spite of 21,000 casualties in the relief forces

    5 June
    Arab revolt in the Hejaz takes the Turks in Arabia by surprise, having been fomented by Franco-British operatives

    3 August
    Turkish forces strike at the British railhead in Sinai, fighting the losing Battle of Rumani

    13 December
    the British forces in Mesopotamia, under the able command of General Sir Stanley Maude, 166,000 strong (67% Indian), advanced up the Tigris river once again

1917 .. return to top

    8-9 January
    Battle of Magruntein clears the Turks out of the Sinai desert in Egypt, and Murray is authorized an advance into Palestine

    22-23 February
    Second Battle of Kut-al-Amara, in Mesopotamia, won by Maude, who continued his advance on Baghdad

    11 March
    Baghdad, in the Tigris-Euphrates valley, falls to Maude

    26 March
    First Battle of Gaza, a British repulse by the Turks, is presented as a victory by Murray's report, and the War Office directs him to advance at once upon Jerusalem

    17-19 April
    Second Battle of Gaza also a British failure, for which Murray relieved his field commander Dobell, and for which he in turn was relieved, being replaced by General Sir Edmund Allenby, late commander of Third Army, BEF, in France, and a cavalryman of brains as well as courage, with leadership abilities, and tactical skill; he was to "take Jerusalem by Christmas"

    27-28 September
    Battle of Ramadi led to Maude driving north into central Mesopotamia, towards the oil fields at Mosul, but he succumbed to cholera and was replaced in November by Marshall

    31 October
    Third Battle of Gaza (Battle of Beersheba) against the Turkish 7th and 8th Armies was a daring surprise, pitted mounted forces against the Turkish flank, leading to a fierce battle for the wells of Beersheba, upon which everything hinged (without the water the horses would die); the Australian Light Horse mounted a twilight charge into the Turkish machine-guns and wire and carried the vital wells

    The Turkish counterattack forces intended to drive Maude back in Mesopotamia were diverted to Palestine to help put the brakes on Allenby's drive on Jerusalem

    6-13 November
    Allenby's mounted troops were turned loose, as was his air power, to pummel the retreating Turks, as the 8th Army went back up the coast, and the 7th retired upon Jerusalem

    13-14 November
    Battle of Junction Station, and the arrival of Turkish reinforcements now commanded by General von Falkenhayn (late of Western Front fame, and the father of the Verdun battles of the previous year), who reestablished a continuous line from Jerusalem to the sea and checked Allenby's advance momentarily

    18 November
    General Sir William R. Marshall succeeds Maude and the war in Mesopotamia goes on hold at the direction of London

    8-9 December
    Allenby attacks Jerusalem, which falls on the 9th, thus fulfilling his mandate from London to take the place before Christmas

1918 .. return to top

    The Arab Revolt, led chiefly by T.E. Lawrence, Emir Faisal, and his father Sherif Hussein, "King of the Hejaz," tore up the interior of Arabia behind the Turks, who were virtually besieged in their garrisons throughout the Arabian peninsula

    Allenby's army in Palestine was faced with very heavy drafts against his British divisions to reinforce the Western Front as the German spring drive threatened immediate defeat for the Allied cause; late in the summer he received steady replacements from the Indian Army as his British infantry divisions were "Indianized" and thereby returned to fighting trim for the final drive; all of this took months to accomplish, but on

    18 September-30 October
    Allenby's final drive opened with complete air supremacy to blind the enemy who was to be struck by a surprise attack, also covered by a deception plan of substantial scale, and utter secrecy

      19-21 September
      Battle of Meggido opened with a drive along the Mediterranean coast, which tore open the Turkish right, and let Allenby launch his cavalry through the hole into the desert beyond (the model for Second Alamein in 1942)

      22 September-30 October
      The pursuit was brilliant, ruthless, and conducted by cavalry and air power, the former destroying Turkish 8th Army on the ground, and the latter destroying Turkish 4th and 7th Armies in their retreat towards and along the Jordan River

    30 October
    Turkey signed an armistice on Mudros and her war was over

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