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What Was the Background and Consequences of the Battle of Jerusalem 1917?
The Battle of Jerusalem in 1917 is considered to be the important event which influenced the course of World War I. Being the strategically vital point, the Holy City was the desirable territory for the British commanders. That is why, connecting the success of the war for Allies with the capture of Jerusalem, Britain created the course of taking the city. The whole campaign, having complicated background with both the failures and triumphs, led to the negative consequences for the Turks and changed the end of the war.
Historical Events that Preceded the Battle
Although the successful results of the World War I, in particular in the battles of Arras, Messines, and Cambrai, 1917 was considered to be not so beneficial year for Britain. The army lost a lot of soldiers and thousands were wounded; the food stocks were exhausted. That is why David Lloyd George, new British Prime Minister, tried to find the solutions to the problems and the way to end the war with positive results for Britain. His main strategy was based on the attempts to attack the weaker part of the opponent – Austria-Hungary and Turkey. He associated their fall with the fall of Germany in general. But the plan was a failure as Gallipoli Campaign did not bring any results. So, he created a new plan concerning Palestine – the legendary area which was at the forefront of Bible history and Crusades. David Lloyd George believed that the invasion and conquest of Palestine would lead to the victory (Wavell, Field-Marshal Earl, and Major-General Sir Charles Callwell 46).
The Stages of the Battle
The Egyptian Expeditionary Force, headed by Sir Archibald Murray, made the way through the Sinai desert to the East. The troops of Murray followed Turks and made them retreat. During that period it is considered to be several short and successful battles. On January 9, 1917, the British forces got into Palestine. Sir Archibald Murray understood that Palestine was not rich for natural resources. That is why he decided to organize the immediate building of the railway. Besides, he did not forget about lack of water, so managed to build the pipeline from Egypt which provided the British forces with water (Wavell, Field-Marshal Earl, and Major-General Sir Charles Callwell 37). In general, the success of the campaign was connected with these roads and the rate of their building. Considering water, the necessity of this resource was of high importance for the troops. For example, attacking Gaza, British and Anzac soldiers made some successful steps, but because of the loss of water they lost their leading positions and gave the victory to the rivals. On April 17, Sir Archibald Murray continued the attacks and made the second attempt to conquer Gaza (Wavell, Field-Marshal Earl, and Major-General Sir Charles Callwell 89). Much to his chagrin, the new trying was also failed. That is why David Lloyd George, British Prime Minister, decided to choose a new commander. This person was General Sir Edmund Allenby who succeeded in the Battle of Arras (Hughes, Matthew 76).
Edmund Allenby was known as decisive, confident, and powerful commander; he was called “the Bull.” The Prime Minister gave the task for him to win Jerusalem until Christmas. On June 28 he was at the Egyptian Expeditionary Force. With all the efforts, he began to activate the forces. The first serious task was to cross into Gaza. At first, his two attacks were not so successful as he expected, that is why Allenby decided to strike inland against the town of Beersheba. This action made Turks pay attention not to the main attack but the secondary one. On October 31, the British troops headed by Allenby crossed Beersheba moved in the direction of the Turkish trenches. As a result, the commander took the city and had the chance to make the way into Jerusalem. But despite the difficulty of the situation, the Turks tried to repel the attack (Hughes, Matthew 69). The strategy of Allenby, based on two directions, towards Jaffa and Jerusalem, was underpinned by the strong desire to conquer the Holy city.
Commanders and Military Forces
The plan of the commander was not to destroy the city but to take the control. So, he decided to encircle the city and get rid of Turkish troops. At the end of November, he did the first attempt, but unsuccessfully. He did not lose the hope and made the second one on the night of December 7. It led to the general retreat of Turkish garrisons and Jerusalem was left without much support. The final win was connected with the capture of the Mount of Olives, and the Holy City was conquered by the Egyptian Expeditionary Force (Woodward, David R 98).
David Lloyd George was very happy to hear about taking Palestine. He praised General Sir Edmund Allenby saying that the capture of Jerusalem had the great historic value. It brought the highest delight both for the British and other members of the Allies. Finally, the Holy City was again controlled by Christian people, not the Turkish. The win of Jerusalem was considered as the factor leading to the finish of 1917.
The significance of the Jerusalem capture could not be overestimated because of its meaning for the world of religion. That is why on December 11, the commander decided to show respect and peace entering the Holy City on foot. A lot of British newspapers associated the taking of the city with the end of the Crusades. Allenby went to the Citadel where he made the pronouncement about the peaceful character of the British invasion. The city met him as a liberator and the chance to gain freedom (Bovis, Henry Eugene 56).
Considering the consequences of the Battle of Jerusalem 1917, it led to the negative results for the Turkish positions. Further attacks against the experienced and powerful Turkish troops, provided with better artillery, were ended with their full defeat. It resulted in the loss of strategically important territories and caused the failure of Central Power (Wavell, Field-Marshal Earl, and Major-General Sir Charles Callwell 106).
To sum up, Jerusalem was seen by the British commanders as the point which will lead to the successful ending of a difficult 1917. The Egyptian Expeditionary Force, formed under the commander Archibald Murray, was directed on to the capture of the Holy City. As the plan of Sir Archibald Murray failed, the leading role was filled by strong, decisive and powerful General Sir Edmund Allenby. Creating the strategy to take the city in the near future, he made all the possible attempts to do it despite the lack of resources and exhaustion of the troops. After several failed attempts, he organized the forces in such a way that on December 11 Jerusalem was taken. That day was considered to be the day of the liberation of the Holy City. In general, the battle had great importance for the British powers and Allies in general. It weakened the positions of the Turks and led to the defeat of Central Power.
Bovis, Henry Eugene. The Jerusalem Question, 1917-1968. Ann Arbor, Mich., Xerox University Microfilms, 1974.
Hughes, Matthew. Allenby And British Strategy In The Middle East 1917-1919. Hoboken, Taylor And Francis, 2013.
Hughes, Matthew. “General Allenby And The Palestine Campaign, 1917–1918.” Journal Of Strategic Studies, vol 19, no. 4, 1996, pp. 59-88. Informa UK Limited, doi:10.1080/01402399608437652.
Wavell, Field-Marshal Earl, and Major-General Sir Charles Callwell. The Palestine Campaigns. San Francisco, Verdun Press, 2016.
Woodward, David R. Hell In The Holy Land. Lexington, The University Press Of Kentucky, 2014.