The campaign in Egypt 1915 - 1917

The 1st World War in the Middle East: The Sinai-Palestine-Syria, Mespot, and Hejaz theatres
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The campaign in Egypt 1915 - 1917

Post by Moggy »

1914 - After England and France in 1914, Egypt became the next largest British military base in the war. Indian troops defended the Canal until the Territorials arrived. The Territorials included 53 volunteer cavalry regiments called Yeomanry.

1915 Jan. 14 - Turkish army of 25,000 led by Djemal Pasha, with the help of German adviser Kress von Kressenstein, left Beersheba in Palestine to attack the Suez Canal, crossed 150 miles of Sinai desert without the loss of a single man.

Feb. 3 The attack was repelled by Indian troops and a small British Regular force, with guns from British ships in the Canal. The Turks lost 2000, but Turkey occupied the Sinai in Feb. and caused the British to build up a major force in Egypt to defend the canal.

Feb. 13 - In the Sinai, a Gurkha force of 500 surprised the Turks at Tor east of Suez, due to Arab spy network of Lt. Col. Parker.

Oct. - After the Ottoman Turks entered the war, Gen. John Maxwell assumed military control of Egypt, at first told Egyptians that England "accepted the sole burden of the war" and would not ask Egyptians, or fellahin, for any participation or aid. But this changed in 1915. Egyptians were hired to dig trenches for defense of canal, build railways, water pipes, load supplies, join British as camel drivers. Thus were organized the Egyptian Labour Corps (ELC) and the Camel Transport Corps (CTC). One company in the CTC had 2020 camels and 1168 Egyptians including native overseers with buffalo-hide whips that supervised drivers. There was high turnover of drivers, 170,000 serving during the war.

Nov - Maxwell requested reinforcements to his dwindling army of 60,000.

Nov. 20 - the Senussi revolt of puritanical Muslim Arabs in western Egypt began, encouraged by German and Turkish agents. The British evacuated the westernmost outpost at Sollum.

Dec - Maxwell has 300,000 Territorials and Dominion troops. The new force was sent to Egypt by General Staff Chief Gen. William "Wully" Robertson, who had risen from a private, who also sent Gen. Archibald Murray to command the defense of the Suez Canal, while Maxwell commanded western Egypt. Murray proposed to advance on El Arish, using camels. The EEF (Egyptian Expeditionary Force) purchased tens of thousands of camels from the Delta to assemble the largest camel force in history. Each camel could carry 2 water tanks of 12 gals each.

1916 Jan. 24 The Imperial Camel Corps was officially organized at Kantara. The British forces included the Army Cyclist Corps, and armored cars, and a growing air force.

Feb. 26 - Battle of Agagiya in the western desert of Egypt, the Western Frontier Force of Territorials and Yeomanry with armored cars defeated the Senussi, included a cavalry charge against the Arabs by the Dorset Yeomanry that was called "the outstanding event of the campaign."

Mar. - British advance into Sinai began at ancient caravan station of Kantara on the Suez Canal and the railroad from Cairo. The British would extend the Kantara Military Railroad along this caravan route to El Arish and Gaza and Jaffa. By 1917 Kantara became one of the largest British camps in the war

Apr. - Turks under von Kressenstein led 3500 against British outpost at Qatiya and defeated the Yeomen of the 5th Mounted Brigade, who were replaced by the Anzac Mounted Division, and the railroad construction reached Romani. 25 miles from Kantara.

Jul 19 - Brit airplane reported advance from Beersheba of 16,000 Turks, incl the crack Anatolian division, and incl heavy artillery for which special tracks were laid in the sand of timber and brush.

Aug. 4 - Battle of Romani - Kress attacked sand dunes of Mount Meredith near Romani where Murray had intentially weakened his right flank to pull in the Turks, then surround them with cavary (like the battle of Cannae). Murray brought up 50,000 troops to the battle front, and defeated the Turks who lost 6000, the British lost 1130, but Kress was able to withdraw his army intact to El Arish

British built railroad 15 mi per month, but delays in getting 15-inch water pipe, finally arrived trom United States in Oct. Also laid chicken wire road parallel to railroad

Dec. 7 - Murray organized his Eastern Force to advance with the railroad, and appointed Gen. Philip Chetwode to lead a mobil vanguard force called the "Desert Column" and attack El Arish. The unit had 18 camel companies, Anzac Mounted Division, and the 42nd and 52nd Territorial divisions.

Dec. 22 - Battle of Magdhaba - The Desert Column occupied El Arish and on Dec. 23, then advanced on Magdhaba, 25 mi southeast of El Arish, won victory, took 1282 pows

1917 Jan. 9 - Battle of Magruntein (or Battle of Rafah) - Desert Column from El Arish took 1635 pows at El Magruntein southwest of Rafah
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