Palestine campaign

Page 1 – Introduction

The British invasion of Ottoman-held Palestine in 1917–18 was the third campaign launched by the British against the Ottoman Turks in the Middle East in the First World War. It built on the advances made in Mesopotamia (Iraq) and the Sinai in 1916. Having defeated Ottoman forces in the Sinai Desert campaign, the Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF) – which included the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade and the Imperial Camel Corps – attacked Gaza, the gateway to Palestine, in March 1917. But the First and Second Battles of Gaza ended in failure.

Following a major reorganisation and with more thorough preparation, the British forces won a brilliant victory in the Third Battle of Gaza in October–November 1917. The EEF went on to capture Jaffa, most of southern Judea and the city of Jerusalem – a victory hailed as a ‘Christmas present for the British nation’.

After a series of raids into Jordan in early 1918 were beaten back, the EEF went on the defensive for some months because of the urgent need for reinforcements on the Western Front. A final drive, beginning with the Battle of Megiddo in September 1918, led to the destruction of three Ottoman field armies, the capture of 76,000 prisoners of war and the rapid conquest of Palestine, Jordan and southern Syria. Within two weeks the EEF’s old enemy was in total disarray and the war in the Middle East was effectively over.

How to cite this page

'Palestine campaign', URL: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/war/palestine-campaign, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 20-Dec-2012