Battle of Megiddo (1918)


Battle of Megiddo (1918)

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Megiddo


caption=
partof=First World War
date=September 19-September 21, 1918
place=Megiddo, Palestine
result=Decisive Allied victory
combatant1=flagicon|UK British Empire
*flagicon|AUS Australia
*flagicon|India|British British India
*flagicon|New Zealand New Zealand
*flagicon|UK United Kingdomflagicon|France France
*flagicon|Armenia|1918 French Armenian Legion
flagicon|Arab Revolt Arab insurgents
combatant2=flag|Ottoman Empire
flagicon|German Empire Germany [ [http://www.sacktrick.com/igu/germancolonialuniforms/hist%20ottoman.htm German Forces in the Ottoman Empire] ]
commander1=flagicon|UK Edmund Allenby
commander2=flagicon|German Empire Liman von Sanders
flagicon|Ottoman Empire Mustafa Kemal Pasha
strength1=12,000 mounted troops,
57,000 infantry,
540 guns
strength2=3,000 mounted troops,
32,000 infantry,
402 guns
casualties1=782 killed,
382 missing,
4,179 wounded
casualties2=destruction or surrender of Ottoman forces|
The Battle of Megiddo of September 19 - 21, 1918, and its subsequent exploitation, was the culminating victory in British General Edmund Allenby's conquest of Palestine during World War I. British Empire forces made a massive push into the Jezreel Valley from the west, through the Carmel Ridge, then engulfed the Ottoman forces in the valley (mentioned as the site where the Beast's armies gather prior to the Battle of Armageddon in the Book of Revelation) and on the River Jordan. When he was made a viscount, Allenby took the name of this battle as his own, becoming the First Viscount Allenby of Megiddo.

Allenby's operations succeeded at very little cost, in contrast to many offensives during the First World War, and were widely praised.

ituation - September 1918

After capturing Jerusalem at the end of 1917, Allenby's forces were greatly weakened when many of his infantry units (no less than 60 out of approximately 90 battalions) had to be sent to reinforce the British armies on the Western Front after the Germans launched their Spring Offensive. Allenby's tank force was also shipped off to France, and would not return before the Armistice came into effect. In spite of this, Allenby tried to maintain the pressure on the retreating Turks by twice sending cavalry across the Jordan to capture Amman and Es Salt. Both attacks were defeated.

At the same time, the Ottoman command changed. Erich von Falkenhayn, who wished to continue the retreat to shorten his lines of communication and reduce the need for static garrisons, was replaced by Otto Liman von Sanders who reasoned that continued retreat would demoralise the Turks, ruin their draught animals, and also encourage the Arab Revolt. His forces now dug in, and even regained some ground near the Jordan.

Over the following summer, Allenby's forces were built back up to full strength. Two Indian infantry divisions were transferred from the Mesopotamian Campaign to replace two British divisions (the 52nd (Lowland) and 74th (Yeomanry)) which had been sent complete with their headquarters and artillery to the Western Front, and two Indian mounted divisions were transferred to Palestine from the Western Front (where there was comparatively little scope for mounted troops) and were reorganised to incorporate some of Allenby's Yeomanry units. Except for the 54th (East Anglian) Division which had retained all its British units, Allenby's depleted infantry divisions were rebuilt with new units from India, with three Indian battalions to every British battalion.

As this reorganisation proceeded, most of what action there was took place in the deserts east of the Jordan. Under the overall leadership of the Emir Feisal, the regulars of the Arab Northern Army under Jaafar Pasha maintained a blockade of the Ottoman garrison at Ma'an after a failed attack (the Battle of Al-Samna) earlier in the year, while irregulars under Lawrence of Arabia forayed from Aqaba against the Turks' Hejaz railway. The Turks themselves mounted a brief attack at Abu Tellul near the Jordan, but were defeated by Australian Light Horse units with heavy casualties to a German Jäger unit.

Meanwhile, squadrons of the Royal Air Force and the Australian Flying Corps established superiority over the outnumbered and outclassed Ottoman and German aircraft detachments in Palestine.

The Allied plan

Allenby intended to break through the western end of his front, near the Mediterranean coast, and pass the mounted troops of the Desert Mounted Corps through the gap to seize the communication centres of Al-Fuleh and Beisan, thus trapping the Ottoman armies west of the Jordan. During the last phases of the fighting in 1917, British troops had seized crossings over a stream, the Nahr al-Auja, which was almost the only natural defensive position on this part of the front.

To make the task of this breakthrough and exploitation easier, Allenby made laborious efforts to deceive the Turks as to his intentions, as he had done at the Third Battle of Gaza. To fix the Turks' attention on the wrong end of the front, the detached Anzac Mounted Division in the Jordan valley simulated the activity of the entire mounted corps. Troops marched openly down to the valley by day, and were secretly taken back by lorry at night to repeat the process the next day. Vehicles dragged harrows along tracks to raise dust clouds, simulating other troop movements. Dummy camps and horse lines were constructed. Meanwhile, a British Imperial Camel Corps battalion joined Arab irregulars in a raid near Amman, scattering corned beef tins and documents as proof of their presence. Lawrence sent agents to openly buy up huge quantities of forage in the same area. As a final touch, British newspapers and messages were filled with reports of a race meeting to take place in Gaza on September 19, the day on which the attack was to be launched.

West of the Jordan, the Allied forces enjoyed undisputed air supremacy by this time. Ottoman reconnaissance aircraft could not even take off without being engaged by British or Australian fighters, and could therefore not see through Allenby's deceptions, nor spot the true Allied concentration which was concealed in orange groves and plantations.

Almost the entire Turkish fighting strength was in the front line. As tactical reserves, there were only two German regiments, and an understrength cavalry division near Amman. Further back there were only some "Depot Regiments", not organised as fighting troops, and scattered garrison units. All Turkish units were understrength and demoralised by desertions, sickness and shortage of supplies.

On September 17, the troops were deployed as follows:

The opening attack

On September 17, Arabs under T. E. Lawrence and Nuri as-Said began destroying railway lines around the vital rail centre of Deraa. Lawrence's initial forces (a Camel Corps unit from Feisal's Army, an Egyptian Camel Corps unit, some Gurkha machine gunners, British and Australian armoured cars and French mountain artillery) were soon joined by Rualla and Howeitat tribesmen and local insurgents.

As the Turks reacted, the units of Chetwode's Corps made attacks in the hills above the Jordan, further diverting the Turks' attention to this flank. At the last minute, an Indian deserter warned the Turks about the impending main attack, but was not believed.

At 4:30 AM on September 19, Allenby's main attack opened. A barrage by 385 guns stunned the defenders, and the infantry quickly broke through their lines. Within hours, the cavalry were moving north along the coast, with no Turkish reserves to check them. Meanwhile, Allied aircraft bombed several Turkish headquarters and their main telephone exchange, effectively cutting their commanders off from their troops and each other. By the end of the first day, the bulk of the Turkish Eighth Army was in disorderly retreat into the hills to the east, covered by a few rearguards.

Destruction of the Ottoman Armies

During the early hours of September 20, the Desert Mounted Corps had secured the defiles of the Carmel Range. Late that day, they passed through these to capture El Afule and Beisan, complete with the bulk of two Depot Regiments. A brigade of the 5th Mounted Division attacked Nazareth, Liman von Sanders's HQ, although Liman himself escaped, and another (the Imperial Service Cavalry brigade) captured the vital port of Haifa the next day.

The last formed troops of the Turkish Seventh Army attempted to retreat directly east across the Jordan. On September 21, a large column was spotted by Allied aircraft in a defile west of the river and destroyed by continuous air attacks. Not many soldiers died, but all transport, artillery and heavy equipment was abandoned, and the survivors were scattered and leaderless.

Over the next four days, the Fourth Mounted Division and Australian Mounted Division rounded up large numbers of demoralised and disorganised Turkish troops in the Jezreel Valley.

Liman had attempted to hold the line of the Jordan and Yarmuk rivers around the Sea of Galilee. A charge at last light on September 26 by an Australian Light Horse brigade captured the town of Samakh, breaking this line.

Exploitation

Allenby now ordered his cavalry to cross the Jordan, to capture Amman, Deraa and Damascus. Meanwhile, the 3rd Indian infantry division advanced north along the coast on Beirut and the 7th Indian Division advanced on Baalbek.

The Turkish Fourth Army had begun to retreat on September 22. Chaytor's force crossed the Jordan as the Turks abandoned the crossings. The Anzac Mounted Division captured Amman on September 26. The Turkish detachment from Ma'an, finding its retreat blocked south of Amman, surrendered intact to the Anzac Mounted Division rather than risk slaughter by Arab irregulars.

The 4th Mounted Division moved to Deraa, which had already been abandoned to Arab forces, and then advanced north on Damascus in company with them. The retreating Turks committed several atrocities against hostile Arab villages; in return, the Arab forces took no prisoners. An entire Turkish brigade (along with some German and Austrians) was massacred near the village of Tafas on September 27, with the Turkish commander Jemal Pasha narrowly escaping. The Arabs repeated the performance the next day, losing a few hundred casualties while wiping out nearly 5,000 Turks in these two battles.

The 5th Mounted Division and Australian Mounted Division moved directly across the Golan Heights on Damascus. They fought actions at Benat Yakup, Kuneitra, Sasa and Katana, before they reached and closed the north and northwest exits from Damascus on September 29. [cite news | url=http://sill-www.army.mil/famag/1928/MAY_JUN_1928/MAY_JUN_1928_PAGES_255_271.pdf| title=CAMPAIGN SUMMARY AND NOTES ON HORSE ARTILLERY IN SINAI AND PALESTINE| publisher= Field Artillery Journal | date= MAY JUNE 1928] On September 30, the Australians circled north of the city and intercepted the garrison as they tried to retreat through the Barada gorge. Damascus fell the next day. Jemal Pasha fled, having failed to inspire last-ditch resistance.

Overall, the campaign resulted in the surrender of 75,000 Turkish soldiers.

Last actions

5th Mounted Division and Arab detachments advanced north, capturing Aleppo on October 26. They then advanced to Mouslimmiye, where Mustafa Kemal had rallied some men under XXII Corps HQ. Kemal held his positions until October 31, when Turkey capitulated.

Importance to Bahá'í Faith

The religion Bahá'í Faith in 1918 and today has its administrative and spiritual center in the environs of Haifa. As a direct result of the events of the battle, the leader of the Bahá'í religion at the time was rescued after death threats were made against him in case the Ottoman side was to lose. In addition, because of `Abdu'l-Bahá's preparations against famine caused by social chaos caused by war, and his generosity in sharing food stores built up, he was knighted by the British Empire, though it was a title he never used. [ [http://www.homestead.com/watsongregory/files/knighthood.html Knighthood - Sir `Abdu'l-Bahá Abbas Effendi ] ] [ [http://www.upliftingwords.org/AbdulBaha.htm `Abdu'l-Baha ] ]

In addition to the practical implications, the Bahá'ís believe the battle was one way the prophecies of the Battle of Armageddon were accomplished. [ [http://bahai-library.com/bsr/bsr09/9B3_lambden_armageddon.htm Catastrophe, Armageddon and Millennium: some aspects of the Bábí-Baha'i exegesis of apocalyptic symbolism ] ]

Notes

References

* Bryan Perrett, "Megiddo 1918 - the Last Great Cavalry Victory", [Osprey Military Campaign Series 61] , Oxford: Osprey, 1999. ISBN 1-85532-827-5
* Cyril Falls, "Armageddon, 1918", J.B. Lippincott Company, 1964.
* B. H. Liddell Hart, "History of the First World War", Pan Books Ltd. London, ISBN 0330233548
* Roderic Maude, "The Servant, the General and Armageddon", George Ronald Pub Ltd; ISBN 0-85398-424-7
* Stephen Lambden, "Catastrophe, Armageddon and Millennium: some aspects of the Bábí-Bahá’í exegesis of apocalyptic symbolism", BAHÁ'Í STUDIES REVIEW, Volume 9, 1999/200


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