Redemption Of The Holy Land
( Originally Published 1918 )
FROM the beginning of the war the German General Staff and the British War Office planned the occupation of Palestine and Macedonia. Germany wanted domination of that territory because through it lay the open road to Egypt and British prestige in the East. Turkey was the cat's paw of the Hun in this enterprise. German officers and German guns were supplied to the Turks, but the terrible privations necessary in a long campaign that must be spent largely in the desert, and the inevitable great loss in human life, were both demanded from Turkey.
Great Britain made no such demands upon any of its Allies. Unflinchingly England faced virtually alone the rigors, the disease and the deaths consequent upon an expedition having as its object the redemption of the Holy Land from the unspeakable Turk.
Volunteers for the expedition came by the thousands. Canada, the United States, Australia and other countries furnished whole regiments of Jewish youths eager for the campaign. The inspiration and the devotion radiating from Palestine, and particularly from Jerusalem and Bethlehem, drew Jew and Gen-tile, hardy adventurer and zealous churchman, into Allenby's great army.
It was a long campaign. On February 26, 1917, Kut-el-Amara was recaptured from the Turks by the British expedition under command of General Sir Stanley Maude, and on March 11th following General Maude captured Bagdad. From that time forward pressure upon the Turks was continuous. On September 29, 1917, the Turkish Mesopotamian army commanded by Ahmed Bey was routed by the British, and historic Beersheba in Pales-tine was occupied on October 31st. The untimely death of General Maude, the hero of Mesopotamia, on November 18th, 1917, temporarily cast gloom over the Allied forces but it had no deterrent effect upon their successful operations. Siege was laid to Jerusalem and, its environs late in November, and on December 8, 1917, the Holy City which had been held by the Turks for six hundred and seventy-three years surrendered to General Allenby and his British army. Thus ended a struggle for possession of the holiest of shrines both of the Old and New Testaments, that had cost millions of lives during fruitless crusades and had been the center of religious aspirations for ages.
General Allenby's official report follows:
"I entered the city officially at noon December 11th with a few of my staff, the commanders of the French and Italian detachments, the heads of the political missions, and the military attachés of France, England, and America.
"The procession was all afoot, and at Jaffa gate I was received by the guards representing England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Australia, New Zealand, India, France and Italy. The population received me well.
"Guards have been placed over the holy places. My military governor is in contact with the acting custodians and the Latin and Greek representatives. The governor has detailed an officer to supervise the holy places.
The Mosque of Omar and the area around it have been placed under Moslem control, and a military cordon of Mohammedan officers and soldiers has been established around the mosque. Orders have been issued that no non-Moslem is to pass within the cordon without permission of the military governor and the Moslem in charge."
A proclamation in Arabic, Hebrew, English, French, Italian, Greek and Russian was posted in the citadel, and on all the walls proclaiming martial law and intimating that all the holy places would be maintained and protected ac-cording to the customs and beliefs of those to whose faith they were sacred. The proclamation read:
To the Inhabitants of Jerusalem the Blessed and the People Dwelling in Its Vicinity.
The defeat inflicted upon the Turks by the troops under my command has resulted in the occupation of your city by my forces. I, therefore, proclaim it to be under martial law, under which form of administration it will remain so long as military consideration makes necessary.
However, lest any of you be alarmed by reason of your experience at the hands of the enemy who has retired, I hereby inform you that it is my desire that every person should pursue his lawful business without fear of interruption.
Furthermore, since your city is regarded with affection by the adherents of three f the great religions of mankind and its soil has been consecrated by the prayers and pilgrimages of multitudes of devout people of these three religions for many centuries, therefore, do I make it known to you that every sacred building, monument, holy spot, shrine, traditional site, endowment, pious bequest, or customary place of prayer of whatsoever form of the three religions will be maintained and protected according to the existing customs and beliefs f those to whose faith they are sacred.
Guardians have been established at Bethlehem and on Rachel's Tomb. The tomb at Hebron has been placed under exclusive Moslem control.
The hereditary custodians at the gates f the Holy Sepulchre have been requested to take up their accustomed duties in remembrance of the magnanimous act f the Caliph Omar, who protected that church.
Jerusalem was now made the center of the British operations against the Turks in Pales-tine. Mohammed V, the Sultan of Turkey, died July 3, 1918, and many superstitious Turks looked upon that event as forecasting the end of the Turkish Empire. The Turkish army in Palestine was left largely to its fate by Germany and Austria, and although it was numerically a formidable opponent for General Allenby's forces, that distinguished strategist fairly outmaneuvered the Turkish High Command in every encounter. The beginning of the end for Turkish misrule in Palestine came on September 20th when the ancient town of Nazareth was captured by the British.
A military net was thereupon closed upon the Turkish army. The fortified towns of Beisan and Afule followed the fate of Nazareth. in one day's fighting 18,000 Turkish prisoners, 120 guns, four airplanes, a number of locomotives and cars, and a great quantity of military and food supplies were bagged by the victorious British. So well did Allenby plan that the British losses were far the smallest suffered in any large operation of the entire war. It was the swiftest and most decisive victory of any scored by the Allies. It ended the grandiose dream of Germany for an invasion of Egypt in stark disaster, and swept the Holy Land clear of the Turks.
This great battle on the Biblical field of Armageddon was remarkable in that it was virtually the only engagement during the entire war offering the freest scope to cavalry operations. British cavalry commands operated over a radius of sixty miles between the Jordan and the Mediterranean, sweeping the Turks before them.
By September 25th the total bag of Turkish prisoners exceeded 40,000. Munition depots covering acres of ground were taken. Whole companies of Turkish soldiers were found sitting on their white flags waiting for the British to accept their terms. Two hundred sixty-five pieces of artillery were captured.
Damascus was captured on Tuesday, October 1st after an advance of 130 miles by General Allenby since September 1st the day of his surprise attack north of Jerusalem. During that period a total of 73,000 prisoners was captured.
Palestine's delivery from the Turks was complete. Official announcement was made by the British War Office that the total casualties from all sources in this final campaign was less than 4,000.
Plans for the government of the people of Palestine were announced immediately. Their general scope was outlined in an agreement made between the British, French and Russian governments in 1916. Under that arrangement Republican France was charged with the preparation of a scheme of self-government. The town of Alexandretta was fixed upon as a free port of entry for the new nation.