Egypt, Palestine, Syria & Arabia

Ottoman troops mustering on the Plain of Esdraelon 1914 before their attack on the Suez Canal (Source: Wikipedia)

The war in Egypt, Palestine and Syria – effectively a single campaign moving gradually from Egypt northwards – casts a very long shadow today. More than any other it was responsible for the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, and this led to some of the most controversial post-war settlements of the period; the division of former Ottoman lands into new nations and mandates, including the creation of a new Jewish homeland.

With the strategic importance of the Suez Canal and control of the Red Sea, Britain was determined to pour huge resources into these campaigns, drawing soldiers from all over the British Empire to drive back the Ottomans.

There was also a strong religious element; Allied troops were involved in liberating the Holy Land, while Muslims feared losing their own religious sites to Christian armies.

In the Arabian desert, T E Lawrence attempted to encourage the disparate Arab tribes to come together against the Ottomans, promising them an Arab state after the war – something which never happened.