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The Battle of Megiddo was the climactic battle of the Sinai and Palestine campaign of the First World War, with Germans and Ottomans on one side, and British and French forces on the other (with Arab nationalists led by T.E. Lawrence). The actions immediately after it were a disaster for the Ottomans. They now had permanently lost control over their Middle Eastern possessions. Historian Edward Erickson writes “The battle…ranks with Ludendorff’s Black Days of the German Army in the effect that it had on the consciousness of the Turkish General Staff. It was now apparent to all but the most diehard nationalists that the Turks were finished in the war. In spite of the great victories in Armenia and in Azerbaijan, Turkey was now in an indefensible condition, which could not be remedied with the resources on hand. It was also apparent that the disintegration of the Bulgarian Army at Salonika and the dissolution of the Austro–Hungarian Army spelled disaster and defeat for the Central Powers. From now until the Armistice, the focus of the Turkish strategy would be to retain as much Ottoman territory as possible.”

  1. The Caucasus Front
    1. In the spring of 1918, the Ottomans attacked into the Caucasus, pushing back Armenians and Georgians. Both the Ottomans and the Germans marched toward the oilfields of Baku.
    2. Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan declared themselves to be independent nations. Georgia also became a German protectorate.
    3. By mid-June, German and Ottoman forces were fighting in the Caucasus. (The Ottomans had attacked). By mid-June, Ottoman forces were closing in on Baku. In August, a local force fought them off with British help.
    4. On September 14, the Ottomans finally captured Baku.
  1. The Serbia/Bulgaria Front
    1. Also in August and September, the Serb army pushed the Bulgarians back. Thousands of Bulgarian troops mutinied, and Alexander Stamboliisky declared a new republic. Bulgaria requested an armistice on September 29th. The request was accepted, ending Bulgaria’s participation in the war.
  1. The Austria/Italy Front
    1. On June 15, the Austrians attacked the Italians at the Piave River. The Italians had British gas masks, and the Allies controlled the air. Still, the Austrians made initial gains, but the Italians drove them back. The Austrians retreated on the 20th.
    2. On October 24, Italian and Allied positions attacked the Austrians at the Piave River, beginning the battle of Vittorio Venetto. Austrian units mutinied, and the Austrians had to retreat, losing many prisoners. Austria signed an armistice on November 3rd, and fighting ceased on the 4th. Austria-Hungary was breaking up into smaller nations. Germany was now on its own.
  1. Background to the Battle of Megiddo
    1. In 1916, the Arab revolt had broken out. Led by Hussein bin Ali, Sharif of Mecca, The revolt soon spread northward, thanks in part to the leadership of Hussein’s son, Emir Feisal and British officer T. E. Lawrence.
    2. Lawrence and a force of Bedouin tribesmen captured the key port of Aqaba in July 1917. This allowed the British to easily supply Feisal’s forces.
    3. On 1 and 2 November, British commander Edmund Allenby led an attack that captured Gaza. In December, he also captured Jerusalem. British forces celebrated Christmas there that year.
    4. After a pause of several weeks (due to weather and the need to restore communication lines), Allenby and his army continued the campaign, capturing Jericho in February.
    5. After the Germans began the Spring 1918 offensives, Allenby was ordered to send about 60,000 men to the Eastern Front.
    6. From March through May, Allenby then made two attacks across the Jordan River, establishing two bridgeheads north of the Dead Sea.
  1. The Ottoman and Allied Armies – Summer 1918
    1. In March 1918, the overall commander of the Turkish forces, Erich von Falkenhayn, was replaced by Otto Liman von Sanders. Sanders ordered his army to dig in and not to yield any further ground to the British.
    2. Meanwhile, the British army was brought back to full strength with soldiers from Mesopotamia and the Western Front. Many of the new troops were from India and South Africa. Allenby spent most of the summer organizing and training his army.
    3. Total Allied strength was nearly 75,000, with 12,000 cavalry and the rest infantry.
    4. Other than a few minor skirmishes, no fighting occurred in the summer.
    5. Meanwhile, the Arab Northern Army, under the command of Feisal, was operating east of the Jordan River. It consisted of about 5000 men.
  1. The British Battle Plan
    1. Allenby wanted to break through the western end of the battle line. There the terrain would favor cavalry. At the same time, the Arab army would attack the rail line at Daraa.
    2. Other British units would attack in the Judean hills and along the coast.
    3. Before the attack, the British used secrecy and deception to disguise their intentions.
      1. They purposely moved troops in the opposite direction of the planned attack by day and then moving them back by truck at night.
      2. They raised dust clouds and scattered papers and beef tins were to simulate troop movements.
      3. They established dummy camps and a fake HQ.
    4. Sanders fell for the ruse, thinking the main attack was coming in the east, not near the coast.
    5. The British enjoyed overwhelming air superiority.
    6. The Turks had about 41,000 soldiers. Because they did not have any idea what the Allied army’s plan was, they had to deploy their forces evenly over the front. They were also demoralized by desertions, sickness and shortage of supplies.
  2. The Battle
    1. On September 16, an Arab force under T. E. Lawrence destroyed rail lines around Daraa, cutting communications and a supply line. They were soon joined by other Arab tribes. Sanders lost contact with Damascus and Constantinople.
    2. Over the next two days, other British forces attacked in the hills above the Jordan, pushing the Turks back.
    3. British bombers cut communications between Sanders and the main Ottoman force for two days.
    4. On the 17th, an Indian sergeant from the British Army deserted to the Ottomn side and warned that a big attack was coming on the west side of the lines. Sanders did not believe him.
    5. Early on the 19th, the British opened a barrage. British and Indian infantry then charged up the coast and routed the Turks, whose commander Jevad Pasha, fled the scene. Other British units attacked in the east, threatening to envelop the Ottomans.
    6. On the 20, the Allies took Nazareth. Three days later, they took Haifa.
    7. In the face of the oncoming Allied onslaught, the Turkish 7th Army commander Mustafa Kemal, ordered a retreat northward. As they retreated, they were cut to pieces by the RAF. Many Ottoman soldiers were killed and the survivors were scattered and leaderless.
    8. Over the next four days, the 4th Cavalry Division and Australian Mounted Division rounded up large numbers of demoralized and disorganized Ottoman troops in the Jezreel Valley.
    9. One author wrote: “Allenby’s plan for the Battle of Megiddo was as “brilliant in execution as it had been in conception; it had no parallel in France or on any other front, but rather looked forward in principle and even in detail to the Blitzkrieg of 1939.”
    10. By the 21st, the Allies had captured Nablus, and on the 25th, they captured Amman, where many Turkish troops surrendered.
  1. Aftermath
    1. The Allies fought northward to Damascus, which surrendered on 29 September. 75,000 Ottoman soldiers surrendered.
    2. Aleppo fell to the Allies on 26 October, ending the campaign.
    3. The British had suffered 5343 casualties (782 killed, 382 missing, and 4,179 wounded), while the Ottomans lost all their force except 6000 who escaped.
    4. Armistice negotiations began between Ottoman and British leaders, leading to the Ottomans leaving the war on October 30. The British took Mosul on November 1 (in violation of the armistice!)
    5. The Battle of Megiddo and the actions immediately after it were a disaster for the Ottomans. They now had permanently lost control over their Middle Eastern possessions.
    6. Historian Edward Erickson writes “The battle…ranks with Ludendorff’s Black Days of the German Army in the effect that it had on the consciousness of the Turkish General Staff. It was now apparent to all but the most diehard nationalists that the Turks were finished in the war. In spite of the great victories in Armenia and in Azerbaijan, Turkey was now in an indefensible condition, which could not be remedied with the resources on hand. It was also apparent that the disintegration of the Bulgarian Army at Salonika and the dissolution of the Austro–Hungarian Army spelled disaster and defeat for the Central Powers. From now until the Armistice, the focus of the Turkish strategy would be to retain as much Ottoman territory as possible.”

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"The Battle of Meggido (WW1)" History on the Net
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November 28, 2020 <https://www.historyonthenet.com/the-battle-of-meggido-ww1>
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