A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

June 1917: Enter Allenby

A century ago, at midnight on January 28-29 in Cairo, command of British forces in Egypt was transferred from Archibald Murray to a new commander, who had arrived three days before. It was a crucial moment for British military fortunes in the Middle East. Murray had been on the way out since April after his second failure to take Gaza. The replacement was Edmund Allenby, a cavalryman and veteran of the Boer War and he Western Front. Nicknamed "the Bull," he was known as an aggressive fighter.
Eric Kennington portrait
Allenby was a much-needed breath of fresh air. He streamlined the staff, cut paperwork, and would soon transfer his headquarters from Cairo to the Palestine Front. In the meantime he visited the Front near Gaza. The Eastern Force Commander, Sir Phillip Chetwode, had served with Allenby before.
Allenby was far more energetic and aggressive than Murray had been. Though when he learned of his Egyptian appointment he is said to have felt he was being demoted, until Prime Minister Lloyd
George persuaded him that the East was where real breakthroughs could be made.

At the end of July, Allenby learned that his only son had been killed on the Western Front. He responded by throwing himself into his work..

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