James Bryce Bryce.

The book of history. A history of all nations from the earliest times to the present, with over 8,000 illustrations (Volume 16) online

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could then be ill spared.


The men then responsible for the
guidance of the affairs of the Central
Powers, must have seen at this moment,
glorious visions of the success of some of
their fondest dreams. Their "Middle
European" idea was one step nearer its
realization. Great Britain, towards


which Germany, at least at that time,
felt more bitter than towards any of
her other enemies, was to be seriously
threatened in possession of its most
important colonial dependency, India.
The promise of disturbing or discon-
tinuing free communication between
Europe, Jndia and Australia, through
the Suez Canal, so essential to the
Allies from many points of view, be-
came a matter of reality. Large naval
forces needed in European waters must
be detached by the Entente Powers to
fight their new enemy. A way was
opened for attacking Russia from the
south. Great oil fields, the possession
of which meant to Germany a gain as
vast and important as the correspond-
ing loss to the Allies, became involved
in the ever expanding struggle. The
advantages to be gained by Turkey by
going to war, were less evident; but
then in these early days of the War
comparatively small countries like
Turkey were used as pawns only.


Turkey was soon ready with plans
carefully worked out by the German
General Staff. While Bulgaria was
neutral, or on the side of the Central
Powers, Turkish troops need not be
kept in Europe. Therefore, a three-
fold campaign against the Allies had
been mapped out. Russia was to be
attacked in the Caucasus and access to
the oil fields adjacent to the Black Sea
was to be cut off. From Bagdad an-
other Turkish force was to be sent down
south to Basra, at the confluence of the
Euphrates and the Tigris, and the
Anglo-Persian oil fields, of vast im-
portance to the British Navy, were to
be seized. Simultaneously, an expedi-
tion against Egypt was to be made.

The first two plans will be treated in
another chapter. Of the expeditions
against Egypt, we shall now speak.
Among the various military under-
takings which Germany assigned to
her new ally, the Egyptian operations
must have appealed most strongly to
the Turks. There indeed an opportu-
nity was given to Turkey to regain full
possession of one of its former depen-
dencies, which in recent years had


fallen more and more under British in-
fluence and control, until its connec-
tion with the Turkish Empire was a
connection in name only. Ever since
Great Britain in 1875, by the purchase
for $20,000,000 of 177,000 shares of the
Suez Canal Company from the impe-
cunious Khedive Ismail, had acquired
control of this most important water-
way, Turkish influence and power had
waned, in spite of all attempts to main-
tain it, and in spite of all intrigues
fathered at Constantinople. Egypt
was really though not in name a Brit-
ish protectorate, since the British
Diplomatic Agent controlled the fi-


In the years immediately preceding
the outbreak of the war, the Khedive
Abbas Hilmi himself was the principal
conspirator against British authority.
In him, the so-called Nationalist move-
ment in Egypt, found a willing and lib-
eral supporter and even the fidelity of
the Egyptian army had gradually been
undermined. There can be no doubt
that Abbas Hilmi was in constant com-
munication with Constantinople and
Berlin, for the principal purpose of
creating conditions which would make
it possible to drive Great Britain out of
Egypt. German agents were encour-
aged to plot against British, French
and even Italian influence. So sure was
he of the results of the work he did at
home that he is said to have promised
an uprising in Egypt immediately upon
the appearance of Turkish troops on
the Turko-Egyptian border.

Germany, Turkey and the Khedive,
however, soon found that they had mis-
judged actual conditions. The Khe-
dive himself immediately upon the dec-
laration of war by the Allies against
Turkey, fled to Italy, then still a neu-
tral power, and from there by way of
Vienna, where he was received with
much display, proceeded to Constan-

Great Britain, even previous to its
declaration of war against Turkey, had
taken precautions in Egypt. As early
as August 6, 1914, Egypt was declared
to be in a state of war. In September,


the German and Austro-Hungarian
representatives, whose offices were cen-
tres of conspiracy, were made to leave
Cairo, and German and Austrian ships
were required to leave the Canal. After
Lord Kitchener had been recalled to
England to assume the direction of the
War Office, Lieutenant General Sir
John Maxwell, a tried soldier and cam-
paigner and known as a strict disci-

politicians had entertained high hopes
of office when the British should be
driven out. Some fanatical Mohamme-
dans objected, but the official spokes-
men, the L'lema, well-informed of Brit-
ish justice and toleration toward the
Moslem subjects of the Empire, pro-
claimed their entire loyalty.

The Turks on their part had pushed
preparations for the carrying out of

MED/ T E R R A N A fit ,S E A

The land approach to the canal was through Palestine and across the rocky desert of Sinai Peninsula, scene of
the forty years' wandering of Moses and his people. The travel routes are indicated on the map. The principal
problem was to find water supply. Only Arab guides knew the pools. West of Egypt, near the border of Tripoli,
the fighting with the Senussi took place. The region lies between Sollum and Mersa Matruh.

plinarian, was appointed military com-
mander in Egypt. On November 2,
martial law was proclaimed.


Some weeks later (December 17,
1914) Great Britain announced to the
world that Egypt had ceased to be a
dependency of the Sultan in name as in
fact, and had been made a British pro-
tectorate. The following day, Abbas
Hilmi was deposed and his uncle, Hus-
sein Pasha was proclaimed his successor
with the title "Sultan of Egypt." The
Egyptian people, so far as they found
spokesmen, approved. There was some
discontent in the cities where the native

their plans with a rapidity which indi-
cated that they were being urged on
and guided by their Teutonic allies.
Damascus had been chosen as the point
at which the forces to be used in the
Egyptian operations, were to be con-
centrated. Some 140,000 men were
assembled there under the command of
Djemal Pasha, formerly Minister of
Marine, and one of the ablest of the
Young Turk leaders.

The difficulties facing the Turks in
their advance on the Suez Canal and
on Egypt were great. Water was the
most essential need of troops advan-
cing through the Sinai Peninsula, which
for the greatest part, is little more than



a desert, a triangle of sand dune, rock
and mountain, with here and there an
oasis. The problem of sufficient water
for as large a force as the Turks needed
to attack the Suez Canal, might easily
have discouraged the most sanguine
general. Fortunately for the Turks
rain fell during November and Decem-
ber, 1914, and several pools had col-
lected in the rocks. Through their
Bedouin allies the Turks knew the lo-
cation of all these.


The preparations were under the
charge of German engineers, and the
Chief of Staff was a Bavarian, Colonel
Kress von Kressenstein. Much reliance
was placed upon great, boats of zinc
which were dragged across the desert
sands. With these it was intended to
construct pontoon bridges across the

Three possible roads led across the
desert. The northern route from Kafa
to Kantara, through El Arish close to
the Mediterranean had the best water
supply, but was difficult for wheeled
vehicles. The southern, or Pilgrim's
Road from Akaba to Suez was easier to
follow but for scarcity of water. There-
fore Djemal Pasha decided to send only
small forces by these, and to make the
main drive across the desert from El
Audja to Ismailia on the Canal, partic-
ularly as he had learned that there were
several rain pools along the route. Six-
inch guns were dragged along, thirty-
six oxen to the gun, and camel trains
were the chief reliance for supplies.

As far as El Arish the northern
column encountered no opposition. The
small British outpost which had been
located there had been withdrawn, and
the British generals in Egypt at this
time, the latter part of November,
1914, were busy making preparations
to meet the much heralded attack of
the Turks. Besides the native troops
that were at their disposal and some
few units that had been sent out from
England, native troops from India and
the splendid forces raised in Australia
and New Zealand, which were later to
render such heroic service in Gallipoli,
were beginning to arrive in Egypt.



After Great Britain had broken with
Turkey, Major General A. Wilson, C.B.
was appointed commander of the Suez
Canal defenses and landed at Suez on
November 16, 1914. The Canal de-
fenses were organized in three sections
with headquarters at Kantara in the
north, Ismailia Ferry in the center, and
Suez to the South. General Wilson's
headquarters and the general reserve
were placed at Ismailia, with the ad-
vanced base at Zagazig, and the base
general hospital at Cairo. These ar-
rangements were completed by Decem-
ber 5, 1914, when the last units of the
force arrived from India. The rumors
of the approach of overwhelming Turk-
ish forces were persistent.

The months of November-Decem-
ber, 1914, and January, 1915, were de-
voted to strengthening the defenses of
the Canal. The length of the Canal
from Port Said to Suez is a hundred
miles, but the northern part runs
through low ground which was made
impassable by flooding. So only the
central and southern parts were to be
defended, and the warships in the
southern part were a strong defense.
A number of defensive posts were pre-
pared on the east bank, to cover the
important ferries and provide facili-
ties for local counter-attacks. Trenches
were dug on the west bank to cover the
intervals between posts and frustrate
attempts at crossing. Communications
were improved by the construction of
landing stages and removable pontoon
bridges for use at important points. A
flotilla of armed launches, manned by
the Royal Navy, was organized for
canal patrols. A complete system of
telegraph, telephone, and wireless com-
munication was installed, linking up all
the posts with headquarters. A system
of defense was established for the pro-
tection of the railway, the telegraph
lines, and the fresh water canal. A
detachment of the Royal Flying Corps
was organized, staffed with observers,
and equipped with accommodation for
its plans. No possible provision was
overlooked in the preparation for the
expected attack.


In October, 1914, the Turks broke their pretended neutrality. On November 3-5, Russia, France an
declared war. On November 13, the Sultan issued a proclamation of a Holy War against Christi
ruling over the "Faithful." The picture shows a crowd in Constantinople at the time

and England
Christian Powers

International Film Service


The Turks had constructed a number of zinc boats to be used as pontoons after reaching the Suez Canal. These
had been hauled on carts and sledges across the Sinai Peninsula. On the night of February 2, 1915, an attempt
was made to launch them; but it was not long before they were sunk by gun fire. The effort to cross the canal
seems to have been only half-hearted.



ed troops obtained touch with hostile
patrols near Bir-el-Diedar. On Janu-
ary 22, 1915, small detachments were
told off from the reserves to hold lightly
the trenches prepared along the west
bank. On the 26th forces of some 2,000
to 3,000 men each were located at Bir
Mabeuik, Moiya Harab, and Wadi
Muksheib. The enemy advanced and
engaged the British covering troops near
El Kantara, but were repulsed, and
.the British ships, Swiftsure, Clio,


During this period no active opera-
tions took place, except a Bedouin raid
made by the Turks in the direction of
El Kantara. A patrol of the Bikanir
Camel Corps encountered a force of
some 200 Bedouins and Turks on No-
vember 20, 1914, near Bir-el-Nuss, and
in spite of the enemy's treacherous at-
tack, due to the abuse of the white flag,
extricated itself successfully from a
somewhat difficult position. The
patrol, which lost one Indian
officer and twelve other ranks
killed and three Sepoys wounded,
inflicted some sixty casualties on
the enemy. Meanwhile the
Australians and the New Zea-
landers, tired of the inaction,
prayed for a real fight, which
did not come.

During the first fortnight in
January, 1915, little direct news
of the enemy's advance was
forthcoming, though reports of
considerable preparations i n
Syria were constant, and infor-
mation was received to the effect
that advanced posts and depots
had been formed at Khan Yunis,
El Arish, El Audja, and Kos-
saima. The country to the east
of the canal within the radius
of aeroplane reconnaissances re-
mained clear of formed bodies of
hostile troops, though frequent-
ly visited by Bedouin patrols
which, in some cases, were ac-
companied by German officers

in Arab dreSS. About January j n the 100 miles from Port Said to Suez the British had three
TC True Ji/-kii7*vir<r if Vie>^amA/-1par sections, with headquarters at Kantara, Ismailia Ferry and Suez.
X 5 1 9 1 5 "OWever, It r On the east bank were defensive posts, with trenches on the west.

that hostile forces of some

strength had entered Sinai.


On January 18, 1915, a hostile force
of 8,000 to 10,000 was located near Bir-
es-Saba (the Beersheba of the Bible)
by a French naval hydroplane, and on
the 22nd a Turkish force was reported
to be at Moiya Harab. This was con-
firmed by aerial reconnaissance the next
day, and about the same time reports
of the presence of hostile troops at Ain
Sadr were received, and British mount-


Ocean, and Minerva entered the canal
and took station near El Kantara, Bal-
lah, El Shatt, and Shalouf respectively.
On the morning of the 2yth attacks were
made on the outposts near Suez, but
were beaten off without loss. On the
morning of the 28th the outposts at El
Kantara were again attacked, but the
enemy was again driven off with little
difficulty. From January 20-31, 1915*
the enemy closed towards the canal.
The British in confidence awaited the


Both the camel and his bronze-hued driver seem to exemplify alert attention. The camel corps gave valuable
service in Egypt and Palestine where the use of horses was difficult. As the Sudanese remained loyal, the British
were able to depend upon them in the fighting in the desert lands.


The Bedouins, lawless "dwellers in the open land," claim descent from Ishmael. Aroused by Turk and German
propaganda, just before the end of Turkish neutrality, about 2,000 armed Bedouins from Arabia crossed the
Egyptian border to water their camels, and before returning stole some camels. Warned by the Sultan of Egypt
to uphold civilization some of the Egyptian Bedouin remained loyal but thousands joined the insurrection under
the Senussi. Pictures Henry Ruschm




Djemal Pasha's plan was to make a
simultaneous attack at six points. The
northern column was to attack El Kan-
tara, while making a demonstration
lower down to prevent the troops from
reinforcing El Kantara. The southern
column was to make a feint at the Ku-
bri outpost and at Shalouf, near Suez.
The main column was to attack at
Toussoum with a secondary attack on
Ismailia. Djemal seemed to have been
confident of success. His men had
passed through the desert with surpris-
ingly little difficulty; there was abun-
dant water nearby; he believed that
the Indians fellow Mohammedans
were waiting impatiently to come over
to his side, and that the Egyptians
themselves were anxiously awaiting
deliverance from the British yoke.

The Turkish soldiers were told that
victory and Paradise were before them,
and death and eternal torture would be
their fate if they retreated, and religious
leaders accompanied every advance ex-
horting the men to die for their faith.
Wild stories of massacres of Mohamme-
dans by the British were spread and
every effort made to give a religious as-
pect to the campaign.

On February i, 1915, an advance
from the north-east towards the Is-
mailia Ferry post was detected, and
that post as well as Bench Mark post,
was reinforced. On February 2, 1915,
British advanced troops from Ismailia
Ferry encountered the enemy at some
distance from the post. They had ad-
vanced under cover of a sandstorm
which prevented the aviators from fly-
ing. A desultory action ensued, and
the enemy then intrenched himself
about two and a half miles south-east
of the British defenses. Early in the
morning of February 3, 1915, a deter-
mined attempt was made to effect a
crossing some 2,000 yards south of
Toussoum. The enemy brought up a
number of their zinc pontoons and rafts
made of kerosene tins, several of which
they succeeded in launching, while two,
if not more, actually crossed the canal.
They were easily destroyed when they
were discovered.




This attack was covered by heavy
rifle and machine-gun fire from the east
bank. It was met by Indian and Egyp-
tian troops. Several pontoons were
sunk, and all the men who crossed were
disposed of, except twenty, who hid
under the west bank and surrendered
the next morning. At daylight the ene-
my were found to have closed on the
Toussoum post, and a counter-attack
pushed forward from Serapeum en-
countered a large force about half a mile
from camp. The Turkish attack was
not pushed and retired after shelling
the British positions intermittently.
Seven officers and 280 men were taken
prisoners opposite Toussoum during the
course of the fight. A large number of
the enemy's dead were found outside
Toussoum post and along the east bank
of the canal.

The enemy engaged at different
points along the canal on February 3,
1915, appeared to number some 1 2,000 to
15,000 men in the aggregate, and six
batteries, with at least one 6-inch gun,
were located. It appears from accounts
received from prisoners that the attack-
ing force consisted of the VHIth and
portions of the Illrd, IVth, and VI th
Turkish Army Corps, and that Djemal
Pasha was in chief command.


On February 4, 1915, as some firing
had taken place from the east bank
during the night, two companies were
sent out to clear the bank, and located
a body of some 200 to 250 men still in-
trenched there. On the approach of this
detachment the enemy made signs of
surrender, but subsequently reopened
fire. Supports were dispatched, under
the command of Major Maclachlan,
92nd Punjabis, who concentrated his
men, opened a heavy fire and then
charged. This time the enemy threw
away their rifles and surrendered, 6
officers, 251 men and 3 machine-guns.
Fifty-nine men, including a German
officer (Major von den Hagen), were
found killed at this point. In his knap-
sack was found a white flag in a


The trenches in front of Ismailia and
Kantara were found to have been de-
serted and the Imperial Service Caval-
ry Brigade, supported by infantry,
moved out from the Ismailia Ferry
post. A large body of enemy, estimated
at three to four brigades, were en-
countered seven miles east of Tous-
soum, and another body some miles to
the north. Twenty-five prisoners and
ninety camels were captured. No other
incident occurred along the front.
Reinforcements arrived at Ismailia
the same evening.

was also found to have been vacated,
and the nearest enemy on the northern
line appeared at Bir-El-Abd.


The Turkish force had shot its
bolt and was in retreat. The menace to
the Canal was over for the present,
though the British officers could not
realize it. That an army which had
made a phenomenally successful march
across the desert, should after scatter-
ing its forces in a number of skir-
mishes, retreat before delivering a real


The harbor of Port Said at the northern entrance to the Suez Canal became the largest coaling station in the
world. It has great piers of concrete and a floating dock capable of lifting 3500 tons. The lighthouse is 174 feet
high, throwing its light 24 miles out to sea.

February 5, 1915, British aeroplanes
reported that the enemy were retiring
towards Katia, while other forc.es were
concentrated about Gebel Habeita.
Mabeuik was still occupied. There was
no change during the 6th, as the enemy
were still in strength near Gebel
Habeita. A reconnaissance by a mixed
force, which had been contemplated
this day, was canceled owing to infor-
mation gathered from prisoners to the
effect that considerable reinforcements
of the enemy were expected and might
be at hand about this time. On Febru-
ary 7, 1915 however, British aeroplanes
found this camp deserted. Mabeuik

attack seemed impossible to believe.
If the British had pushed the pursuit,
they might have shattered the whole
Turkish force. Knowing, however,
that considerable reserves were en-
camped in the desert, no effective pur-
suit was made, and Djemal Pasha re-
treated in good order with his main
force, though detachments were left at
various places in the desert.

The British dispersed a small force
near Tor, and then turned to the neigh-
borhood of El Kubri where a thousand
men were scattered. The British now
patrolled the east bank of the Canal
but could find no considerable forces,



though rumors of Turkish concentra-
tion were frequent. Back in the desert
aeroplane observers occasionally re-
ported Turkish or Bedouin camps. To-
wards the end of March reports were
received of a considerable concentra-
tion of the enemy near Es Sirr, some
eighty miles due east of Ballah. These
reports were verified later by aeroplane
observation, which estimated the hos-
tile force as some 4,000 with guns.


On April 7, 1915, British mounted
patrols from Kantara encountered a
hostile force, estimated at 1,200 men,
which withdrew after shots had been
exchanged. The next day owing to sus-
picious tracks having been noticed on
the east bank of the canal between El
Kap and Kantara, the canal was
dragged and a mine discovered and
destroyed. The mine had evidently
been placed in the canal under cover
of the demonstration of the previous
day. Owing to this occurrence it be-
came necessary greatly to increase
patrols. Intermediate night pickets
were established between posts, and a
system of hourly patrols along the east
bank instituted.

During the remainder of April and
May, 1915, British forces patrolling the
east bank of the canal came in contact
with small Turkish forces and ex-
changed shots, but no important en-
gagements occurred, in spite of the re-
ports that considerable Turkish en-
campments existed back in the desert.
At night bodies of light Turkish troops
occasionally approached the canal and
fired upon dredges or small boats, or
attempted to lay mines. The British
forces unaccustomed to the heavy sand
and the great heat were unable to make
effective pursuit.


Up to this time it had appeared from
information in the possession of the
British forces that these operations
might only be a preliminary to further
hostilities and that a more determined
attack on the canal would be under-
taken in the near future. These antici-
pations were, however, not realized,


and though the enemy continued to
hold the Sinai Peninsula in some
strength and undertook several minor
enterprises, with a view to causing

Online LibraryJames Bryce BryceThe book of history. A history of all nations from the earliest times to the present, with over 8,000 illustrations (Volume 16) → online text (page 47 of 51)