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Middle Eastern theatre
Part of World War I
WW1 TitlePicture For Middle Eastern theatre.png
Clockwise from top: April 1915, city of Van in Van Province, Ottoman Empire; Mustafa Kemal at the trenches in the Gallipoli; Ottoman seaplane; Machine gun crew at the Sarikamish
Date November 2, 1914 -October 29, 1918
Location the Ottoman territories in the Middle East
Result Allied Victory.
Territorial
changes
Partitioning of the Ottoman Empire
Belligerents
 Ottoman Empire

German Empire Germany
 Austria-Hungary[1][2]
Azerbaijan Azerbaijan Democratic Republic
Mountainous Republic of the Northern Caucasus
Jangal movement of Gilan
Flag of Libya (1951).svg Senussi
Flag of the Republic of the Rif.svg Morrocan rebels

United Kingdom British Empire

Russia Russia

France France

 Arab Rebels
Armenia Armenia
Italy Italy

Strength
Total conscripted: 2,850,000
max strength: 8,000,000
Casualties and losses
KIA:771,844[3]

WIA:763,753[3]
POW (combined):145,104[3]
AWOL:500,000[3]

The breakdown of Ottoman casualties is listed under Ottoman casualties of World War I

The Middle Eastern theatre of World War I was the scene of action between 2 November, 1914, and 29 October, 1918. The combatants were the Ottoman Empire, with some assistance from the other Central Powers, and primarily the British and the Russians among the Allies of World War I. Also participating on the Allied side were Arabs who participated in the Arab Revolt, and Armenian Resistance which eventually became the Armenian Corps of Democratic Republic of Armenia. This theatre encompassed the largest territory of all the theatres of the war. There were five main campaigns: the Sinai and Palestine Campaign, the Mesopotamian Campaign, the Caucasus Campaign, the Persian Campaign and the Gallipoli Campaign. There were the minor Arabia and Southern Arabia Campaign and Aden Campaign. Besides their regular forces, both sides used asymmetrical forces in the region.

The Russian participation ended with the Armistice of Erzincan (5 December, 1917). The revolutionary Russian government eventually withdrew from the war after the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (3 March, 1918). The Armenians also attended a Trabzon Peace Conference from 14 March to 5 April, 1918, resulting with the Treaty of Batum on 4 June, 1918. The Ottomans accepted the Armistice of Mudros with the Allies on 30 October, 1918, and signed the Treaty of Sèvres on 10 August, 1920.

Contents

Objectives

The Ottoman Empire joined the Central Powers in through the secret Ottoman-German Alliance[4], which was signed on 2 August, 1914. The main objective of the Ottoman Empire in the Caucusus was the recovery of its territories in Eastern Anatolia lost during the Russo-Turkish War, 1877-78, in particular Artvin, Ardahan, Kars, and the port of Batum. Success in this region would force the Russians to divert troops to this front from the Polish and Galician fronts.[5] German advisors with the Ottoman armies naturally supported the campaign for this reason. From an economic perspective, the Ottoman, or rather the German, strategic goal was to cut off Russian access to the hydrocarbon resources around the Caspian Sea.[6]

Germany established an Intelligence Bureau for the East on the eve of World War I. The bureau was involved in intelligence-gathering and subversive missions to Persia and to Afghanistan, to dismantle the Anglo-Russian Entente.[7] Ottoman War Minister Enver Pasha claimed that if Russians could be beaten in the key cities of Persia, it could open the way to Azerbaijan, to Central Asia and to India. If these nations were to be removed from Western influence, Enver envisioned a cooperation between these newly establishing Turkic states. Enver's project conflicted with European interests which played out as struggles between several key imperial powers. Ottoman Empire also challenged the Britain's communications with India and the East via the Suez Canal.

The British feared that the Ottomans might attack and capture the Middle East (and later Caspian) oil fields. [6] Opposed to the Ottomans, the British Royal Navy depended upon oil from the petroleum deposits in southern Persia, to which the British-controlled Anglo-Persian Oil Company had exclusive access.[6]

The Russians viewed the Caucasus Front as secondary to the Eastern Front. They feared a campaign into the Caucasus aimed at retaking Kars (which had been taken from the Ottoman Empire during the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878), and the port of Batum. In March 1915, when the Russian foreign minister Sergey Sazonov met with British ambassador George Buchanan and French ambassador Maurice Paléologue, he stated that a lasting postwar settlement demanded full Russian possession of the capital city of the Ottoman Empire, the straits of Bosphorus and Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmara, southern Thrace up to the Enos-Midia line as well as parts of the Black Sea coast of Anatolia between the Bosphorus, the Sakarya River and an undetermined point near the Bay of Izmit. The Russian Tsarist regime planned to replace the Muslim population of Northern Anatolia and Istanbul with more reliable Cossack settlers [8]

The Armenian national liberation movement also sought to establish the First Republic of Armenia in the Eastern part of Asia Minor. The Armenian Revolutionary Federation eventually achieved this goal while the Ottoman rule was finally crumbling, with the establishment of the internationally recognized Democratic Republic of Armenia in May 1918. As early as 1915, the Administration for Western Armenia and later Republic of Mountainous Armenia were Armenian-controlled entities, while the Centrocaspian Dictatorship was established with Armenian participation. None of these entities were long lasting.

Forces

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Central Powers (Ottoman Empire)

War Minister Ismail Enver of the Ottoman Empire

After the Young Turk Revolution and the establishment of the Second Constitutional Era (Turkish: İkinci Meşrûtiyet Devri) on July 3, 1908, a major military reform started. Army headquarters were modernized. The Ottoman Empire was engaged in the Turco-Italian War and Balkan Wars, which forced more restructuring of the army, only a few years before the First World War.

During this period, the Empire divided its forces into armies. Each army headquarters consisted of a Chief of Staff, an operations section, intelligence section, logistics section and a personnel section. As a long established tradition in Ottoman military, support departments for supplies, medical and veterinary services were included in these armies. In 1914, before the Ottoman Empire entered the War, the four Armies divided their forces into Corps and divisions such that each division had 3 infantry regiments and an artillery regiment. Before the war, the largest units were: First Army with 15 divisions; Second Army with 4 divisions, and an independent infantry division with 3 infantry regiments and an artillery brigade; Third Army with 9 divisions, four independent infantry regiments and four independent cavalry regiments (tribal units); Fourth Army with 4 divisions.

In August 1914, of 36 infantry divisions organized, 14 were established from scratch and essentially new divisions. In a very short time, 8 of these newly-recruited divisions gone through major redeployment. During the World War, more armies were established; 5th Army and 6th Army in 1915, and 7th Army and 8th Army in 1917, and Kuva-i İnzibatiye and the Army of Islam which had only a single Corps in 1918. By 1918, these original armies had been so badly reduced that the Empire was forced to establish new unit definitions which incorporated these armies. These were the Orient Army Group and Thunderbolt Army Group. However, although the number of armies were increasing during these four years, the Empire's resources of manpower and supplies were declining, so that the Army Groups in 1918 were not bigger than the Armies in 1914. In 1918, the Ottoman Army was still partially intact and partially effective to the end of the war.

Most of the war equipment was built by Germans or Austrians, and were maintained by German and Austrian engineers. Germany supplied most of the military advisers to this theatre. A force of specialist troops (the Asia Korps) was despatched in 1917, and increased to a fighting force of two regiments in 1918. The German Caucasus Expedition was established in the formerly Russian Transcaucasia around early 1918 during the Caucasus Campaign. Its prime aim was to secure oil supplies for Germany and stabilize a nascent pro-German Democratic Republic of Georgia, which brought the Ottoman Empire and Germany into conflict, with exchanges of official condemnations between them at the final months of the war.

Recruitment

Ottoman military recruitment near Tiberias

The Ottoman Empire established a new recruitment law on 12 May 1914. This lowered the conscription age from 20 to 18, and abolished the “redif” or reserve system. Active duty lengths were set at 2 years for the infantry, 3 years for other branches of the Army and 5 years for the Navy. These measures remained largely theoretical during the war. Traditional Ottoman forces depended on volunteers from the Muslim population of the empire. Additionally, several groups and individuals in the Ottoman society volunteered for active duty during the World War. The major examples being the “Mevlevi” and the “Kadiri.”

There were also units formed by Caucasian and Rumelian Turks, who took part in the battles in Mesopotamia and Palestine. Among Ottoman forces, volunteers were not only from Turkic groups; there were also Arab and Bedouin volunteers who supported the campaign against the British to capture the Suez Canal, and in Mesopotamia. It has to be noted that these forces did not provide a substantial support. Volunteers become unreliable with the establishment of organized army, as they were not trained well, also most of the Arab and Bedouin volunteers were motivated by financial gains. As the real conflicts approached, Ottoman volunteer system disappeared by itself.

North Africa

Lacking a German presence before the war, the fighting in North Africa was fairly minor and linked to the Sinai and Palestine Campaign in the Middle East and the naval skirmishes in the Mediterranean. In early 1915 the Turks tried to seize the Suez Canal in Egypt supported by German advisors and the recently deposed Khedive Abbas II, but were pulled back by the British. In addition to that, German and Ottoman agents encouraged rebellions against the Allies in Libya and Morocco (which had been annexed by Italy in 1911 and France in 1912, respectively, and were barely controlled when war broke out in Europe), providing light weapons via U-Boats sailing from Turkey and Austria-Hungary or through neutral countries like Spain. The Senussi sect was particullarly successful in the Sahara, expelling the Italians from Fezzan and tying British and French forces in the frontier regions of Egypt and Algeria. Berber revolts in Morocco and Libya would continue well after the end of the war, till their final suppression in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

Entente nations

Before the war, Russia had the Russian Caucasus Army, but almost half of this was redeployed to the Prussian front after the defeats at the battles of Tannenberg and the Masurian Lakes, leaving behind just 60,000 troops in this theatre. In the summer of 1914, Armenian volunteer units were established under the Russian Armed forces. Nearly 20,000 Armenian volunteers expressed their readiness to take up arms against the Ottoman Empire as early as 1914. In several towns occupied by the Russians, the Armenians showed themselves ready to join the Russian volunteer army.[9] These volunteer units increased in size during the war, to the extent that Boghos Nubar represented them to number 150,000 in a public latter to the Paris Peace Conference, 1919.[10]

In 1914, there were some British Indian Army units located in the southern influence zone in Persia. These units had extensive experience in dealing with dissident tribal forces. The British later established the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, British Dardanelles Army, Egyptian Expeditionary Force, and in 1917 they established Dunsterforce under Lionel Dunsterville, consisting of less than 1,000 Australian, British, Canadian and New Zealand troops accompanied by armoured cars to oppose Ottoman and German forces in the Caucasus.

In 1916, an Arab Revolt began in the Hejaz. About 5,000 regular soldiers (mostly former prisoners of war, of Arab origin) served with the forces of the revolt. There were also many irregular tribesmen the direction of the Emir Feisal and British advisers, of whom T.E. Lawrence is the best known.

France sent the French Armenian Legion to this theatre as part of its larger French Foreign Legion. Foreign Minister Aristide Briand needed to provide troops for French commitment made in Sykes-Picot Agreement, which was still secret. [11]. Boghos Nubar, the leader of the Armenian national assembly, also met with Sir Mark Sykes and Georges-Picot after signing the French-Armenian Agreement. General Edmund Allenby, the commander of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, extended the original agreement. The Armenian Legion fought in Palestine and Syria. Many of the volunteers in Foreign Legion who managed to survive the first years of the war were generally released from the Legion to join their respective national armies.

The Armenian national liberation movement commanded the Armenian Fedayee (Armenian: Ֆէտայի) during these conflicts. These were generally referred to as Armenian militia. In 1917, The Dashnaks established Armenian Corps under the command of General Tovmas Nazarbekian which, with the declaration of the Democratic Republic of Armenia, became the military core of this new Armenian state and Nazarbekian became the first Commander-in-chief.

Recruitment

A group of Armenians responded to Russian recruitment for the Armenian volunteer units

Before the war, Russia established a volunteer system to be used in the Caucasus Campaign. In the summer of 1914, Armenian volunteer units were established under the Russian Armed forces. As the Russian Armenian conscripts were already sent to the European Front, this force was uniquely established from Armenians that were neither Russian subjects nor obliged to serve. The Armenian detachment units were credited no small measure of the success which attended by the Russian forces, as they were natives of the region, adjusted to the climatic conditions, familiar with every road and mountain path, and had real incentives to fight.[12] The Armenian volunteers were small, mobile, and well adapted to the semi-guerrilla warfare.[13] They did good work as scouts, though they took part in many severe engagements.[13]

December 1914, Nicholas II of Russia visited the Caucasus Campaign. Telling to the head of the Armenian Church along the president of the Alexander Khatisyan of the Armenian National Bureau in Tiflis that:

From all countries Armenians are hurrying to enter the ranks of the glorious Russian Army, with their blood to serve the victory of the Russian Army... Let the Russian flag wave freely over the Dardanelles and the Bosporus, Let your will the peoples [Armenian] remaining under the Turkish yoke receive freedom. Let the Armenian people of Turkey who have suffered for the faith of Christ received resurrection for a new free life ....[14]
Nicholas II of Russia

Asymmetrical forces

The forces used in the Middle Eastern theatre was not only regular army units and regular warfare, but also what is known today as "Asymmetrical conflicts".

Contrary to myth, it was not T. E. Lawrence or the Army that conceptualised a campaign of internal insurgency against the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East: it was the Arab Bureau of Britain's Foreign Office that devised the Arab Revolt. The Arab Bureau had long felt it likely that a campaign instigated and financed by outside powers, supporting the breakaway-minded tribes and regional challengers to the Ottoman government's centralised rule of their empire, would pay great dividends in the diversion of effort that would be needed to meet such a challenge. The Ottoman authorities devoted a hundred or a thousand times the resources to contain the threat of such an internal rebellion, as the Allies' devoted to sponsoring it.

Germany established Intelligence Bureau for the East on the eve of War. It was dedicated to promoting and sustaining subversive and nationalist agitations in the British Indian Empire and the Persian Campaign and Egyptian satellite states. Its operations in Persia, aimed at fomenting trouble for the British in the Persian Gulf, were led by Wilhelm Wassmuss, [7] a German diplomat, also known as the "German Lawrence of Arabia" or "Wassmuss of Persia".

Operational Area

The region disputed in the Caucasus Campaign extended from the Caucasus to the Eastern Anatolia reaching as far as Trabzon, Bitlis, Muş and Van. The Russian navy also operated in the Black Sea Region. The Persian Campaign was fought in northern Persian Azerbaijan and western Persia (the provinces of East Azerbaijan, West Azerbaijan and Ardabil, including the cities of Tabriz, Urmia, Ardabil, Maragheh, Marand, Mahabad and Khoy). The Gallipoli Campaign was confined to the Gallipoli peninsula. The Mesopotamian campaign was limited to the lands watered by the rivers Euphrates and Tigris, including the cities of Basra, Kut and Baghdad. The main challenge at this operational area was moving the supplies and troops through the Mesopotamian Marshes and deserts which surrounded the conflict area. The Sinai and Palestine Campaign took place on the Sinai Peninsula, Palestine, and Syria, from the Suez canal to the southern border of present-day Turkey.

The general consensus is that Ottoman Empire mainly fought on the Empire’s own territories. In reality over 90,000 troops were sent to the Eastern European Front in 1916, to participate in operations in Romania in the Balkans Campaign. The Central Powers asked for these units to support their operations against the Russian army. Later, it was concluded that was a mistake, as these forces were needed to protect Ottoman territory, as the massive Erzerum Offensive was under way. This move was initiated by Enver. It was originally rejected by the German Chief of Staff, Erich von Falkenhayn, but his successor, Paul von Hindenburg, agreed with some doubts. The decision was reached after the Brusilov Offensive, as the Central Powers were running short of men on the Eastern Front. In early 1916, Enver sent the XV Army Corps to Galicia, the VI Army Corps to Romania, and the XX Army Corps and 177th Infantry Regiment to Macedonia. There are two Turkish sources regarding these operations and respectively they state 117,000 and 130,000 men were sent, but both agree that nearly 8,000 of them were killed in action, with another 22,000 being wounded.

Support Zones

The Ottomans hoped to distract the British engaged in the North African Campaign of the African theatre of World War I. The Ottomans had retained a military presence since the Italo-Turkish War of 1911-1912. Enver supported the nucleus of the resistance in Libya to the Italian colonial regime because of the natural connection between them as a result of Islam in Libya. The rise of Libyan nationalism was fostered by this unified resistance to the Italians. The Sanusi influence was strongest in Cyrenaica, and rescued the region from unrest and anarchy by giving the Cyrenaican tribal people unity and purpose. In Early 1915, Italy and Ottoman Empire were not at war. In support of the Sanusi, only 500 Ottoman officers and soldiers fought at this front, leading Sanusi militia, which numbered between 15,000 and 30,000 according to Turkish and Italian sources. At the beginning of the war, the Sanusi militia was a well trained force under Ottoman officers of the secret service Teşkilat-ı Mahsusa. When Italy declared war on the Central Powers on 24 May, 1915, the Italian-Sanusi war became a part of the War and the Ottoman General Staff openly sent advisers and arms to Ahmad al-Sharif, who was leading the struggle with the title of “Amir-al-Muminin” for Africa.

German and Ottoman agents also encouraged rebellions against the Allies in Libya and Morocco (which had been annexed by France in 1912), and these regions were barely controlled when war broke out in Europe. Light weapons were provided to the insurgents via U-Boats sailing from the German Empire's shores and Austria-Hungary, or through neutral countries such as Spain. The Senussi sect was particularly successful in the Sahara, expelling the Italians from Fezzan and tying British and French forces in the frontier regions of Egypt and Algeria. When the First World War ended, Libya was officially removed from Ottoman control, but Ottoman soldiers remained in the region until the early months of 1919. Berber revolts in Morocco and Libya continued after the end of the war, till their final suppression in the late 1920s by Rodolfo Graziani who commanded the Italian forces in pacifying the Senussi. During this "pacification" tens of thousands of Libyan prisoners (Sasuni) died.[15]

Chronology

Prelude

1914, Before the war new recruits marching out to a drill

In early July 1914, the political situation changed dramatically after the events in Europe. The Ottoman Empire was forced to make a secret Ottoman-German Alliance on 2 August 1914, followed by another treaty with Bulgaria. The Ottoman War ministry developed two major plans. Bronsart von Schellendorf, a member of the German military mission to the Ottoman Empire who had been appointed Assistant Chief of the Ottoman General Staff, completed a plan on 6 September 1914 by which the Fourth Army was to attack Egypt and the Third Army would launch an offensive against the Russians in Eastern Anatolia. There was opposition to Schellendorf among the Ottoman army. The most voiced opinion was that Schellendorf planned a war which benefitted Germany, rather than taking into account the conditions of the Ottoman Empire. Hafız Hakkı Pasha presented an alternative plan, which was more aggressive, and concentrated on Russia. It was based on moving forces by sea to the eastern Black Sea coast, where they would develop an offensive against Russians. Hafız Hakkı’s plan was shelved because the Ottoman Army lacked the resources. Schellendorf’s "Primary Campaign Plan" was therefore adopted by default.

As a result of Schellendorf's plan, most of the Ottoman operations were fought in Ottoman territory, with the result that in many cases they directly affected the Empire's own people. It was proven later the resources to implement this plan also were lacking, but Schellendorf organized the command and control of the army better, and positioned the army to execute the plans. Schellendorf also produced a better mobilization plan for raising forces and preparing them for war. Among some historical documents within the Ottoman War minister's archives today are the War plans drafted by Schellendorf, dated 7 October 1914, which included Ottoman support to the Bulgarian army, a secret operation against Romania, and Ottoman soldiers landing in Odessa and Crimea with the support of German Navy.

1914, the general staff of the Sinai and Palestine Campaign

An aspect of the German influence on Turkey's operations was that during the Palestine campaign, most of the staff posts in the Yıldırım Army Group were held by German officers. Even the headquarters correspondence was in German. This situation ended with the final defeat in Palestine and the appointment of Mustafa Kemal to command the remnants of the Yildirim Army Group.

During July 1914, there were negotiations between the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) and Armenians at the Armenian congress at Erzurum. The public conclusion of this congress was "Ostensibly conducted to peacefully advance Armenian demands by legitimate means".[16] The CUP regarded the congress as the seedbed for establishing the decision of insurrection.[17] Historian Erikson concluded that after this meeting, the CUP was convinced of the existence of strong Armenian — Russian links, with detailed plans to detach the region from the Ottoman Empire.[17]

On 29 October, 1914, The Ottoman Empire's first armed engagement with the Allies occurred when the German battlecruiser Goeben and light cruiser Breslau, having been pursued into Turkish waters and transferred to the Ottoman navy, shelled the Russian Black Sea port of Odessa.

1914

November

1914, Ottoman forces preparation for the attack on the Suez Canal

In November, First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill put forward his initial plans for a naval attack to Ottoman Capital, based at least in part on what turned out to be erroneous reports regarding Ottoman troop strength, as prepared by Lieutenant T. E. Lawrence. He reasoned that the Royal Navy had a large number of obsolete battleships which might well be made useful, supported by a token force from the army being required for routine occupation tasks. The battleships were ordered to be ready by February 1916. At the same time, Ottoman Fourth Army was preparing a force of 20,000 men under the command of the Ottoman Minister of the Marine Djemal Pasha to take the Suez Canal. The attack on the Suez was suggested by War Minister Enver Pasha at the urging of their German ally. The chief of staff for the Ottoman Fourth Army was the Bavarian Colonel Kress von Kressenstein, who organized the attack and managed to get supplies for the army as it crossed the desert.

On November 1, the Bergmann Offensive was the first armed conflict of Caucusus Campaign. The Russians crossed the frontier first, and planned to capture Doğubeyazıt and Köprüköy.[18] On their right wing, the Russian I Corps moved from Sarıkamış toward the direction of Köprüköy. On the left wing, the Russian IV Corps moved from Yerevan to the Pasinler Plains. The commander of the Ottoman Third Army, Hasan Izzet, was not in favour of an offensive in the harsh winter conditions. His plan to remain on the defensive and to launch a counter attack at the right time was overridden by the War Minister Enver Pasha.

On November 6, a British naval force bombarded the old fort at Fao. The Fao Landing of British Indian Expeditionary Force D (IEF D), comprised of the 6th (Poona) Division led by Lieutenant General Arthur Barrett, with Sir Percy Cox as Political Officer, was opposed by 350 Ottoman troops and 4 cannons. On 22 November, the British occupied the city of Basra against a force of 2900 Arab conscripts of the Iraq Area Command commanded by Suphi Pasha. Suphi Pasha and 1,200 prisoners were captured. The main Ottoman army, under the overall command of Khalil Pasha was located about 440 kilometres (270 mi) north-west around Baghdad. They made only weak efforts to dislodge the British.

On November 7, the Ottoman Third Army commenced its offensive at Caucuses Campaign with the participation of the XI Corps and all cavalry units supported by Kurdish Tribal Regiment. By November 12, Ahmet Fevzi Pasha's IX Corps reinforced with the XI Corps on the left flank supported by the cavalry, began to push the Russians back. The Russians were successful along the southern shoulders of the offensive, where Armenian volunteers were effective and took Karaköse and Doğubeyazıt.[19] By the end of November, the Russians held a salient 25 kilometres (16 mi) into Ottoman territory along the Erzurum-Sarıkamış axis.

December

1914 December, 1st battalion of Armenians scattered throughout Salmast and Urmia districts of Persia under the command of the Andranik[20]

In December, at the height of the Battle of Sarikamish, General Myshlaevsky ordered the withdrawal of Russian forces from Persian Campaign to be used in facing Enver's offense. Only one brigade of Russian troops under the command of the Armenian General Nazarbekoff and one battalion of Armenian volunteers remained scattered throughout Salmast and Urmia. While the main body of Ottoman troops were preparing for the operation in Persia, a small Russian group crossed the Persian frontier. After repulsing a Russian offensive toward Van-Persia mountain crossings, the Van Gendarmerie Division, a lightly equipped paramilitary formation commanded by Major Ferid, chased the enemy into Persia.

On 14 December, the Van Gendarmerie Division occupied the city of Kotur in the Persian Campaign. Later, it proceeded towards Hoy. It was supposed to keep this passage open for Kazım Bey's 5th Expeditionary Force and Halil Bey's 1st Expeditionary Force, who were to move towards Tabriz from the bridgehead established at Kotur. However, the Battle of Sarıkamısh depleted the Ottoman forces and these expeditionary forces were needed elsewhere.

On December 22, Ottoman Third Army received the order to advance towards Kars. Enver Pasha assumed the personal command of the Third Army and ordered the forces to move against the Russian troops. The disastrous conflicts of Battle of Sarikamish began. In the face of the Third Army's advance, Governor Vorontsov planned to pull the Russian Caucasus Army back to Kars. General Nicolai Yudenich ignored Vorontsov's order.

1915

January - March

January 1915 90% combat units of Third Army lost to frost at Battle of Sarikamish
The Muslim refugees escaping from the conflict zones in the Caucasus Campaign

On 2 January, Süleyman Askeri Bey assumed the Iraq Area Command. Enver Pasha realized the mistake of underestimating the importance of the Mesopotamian campaign. The Ottoman Army did not have any other resources to move to this region as an attack on Gallipoli was imminent. Süleyman Askeri Bey sent letters to Arab sheiks in an attempt to organize them to fight against the British. On 3 January, at the Battle of Qurna, Ottoman forces tried to retake the city of Basra. They came under fire from Royal Navy vessels on the Euphrates while British troops managed to cross the Tigris. Judging that the earthworks were too strong to be taken, the Ottomans surrendered the town of Al-Qurnah and retreated to Kut.

On January 6, the Third Army headquarters found itself under fire. Hafız Hakkı Pasha ordered a total retreat at the Battle of Sarikamish. Only 10% of the army managed to retreat to its starting position. Enver gave up command of the army. During this conflict, Armenian detachments challenged the Ottoman operations at the critical times: "the delay enabled the Russian Caucasus Army to concentrate sufficient force around Sarikamish".[20]

The British and France asked Russia to relieve the pressure on Western front, but Russia needed time to organize its forces. The operations in the Black Sea gave them the chance to replenish their forces; also the Battle of Gallipoli drew many Ottoman forces from the Russian and other fronts.[18] In March 1915, the Ottoman Third army received reinforcements amounting to a division from the First and Second Armies.

On 19 February, the first attack began when a strong Anglo-French fleet, including the British battleship HMS Queen Elizabeth, bombarded artillery along the coast. Admiral Sackville Carden sent a cable to Churchill on 4 March, stating that the fleet could expect to arrive in Constantinople within fourteen days.[21] On 18 March the first major attack was launched. The fleet, comprising 18 battleships and an array of cruisers and destroyers, sought to target the narrowest point of the Dardanelles where the straits are just a mile wide. The French ship Bouvet exploded in mysterious circumstances, causing it to capsize with its entire crew aboard. Minesweepers, manned by civilians and under constant fire from Ottoman guns, retreated leaving the minefields largely intact. The battleship HMS Irresistible and battlecruiser HMS Inflexible both sustained critical damage from mines, although there was confusion during the battle whether torpedoes were to blame. The battleship HMS Ocean, sent to rescue the Irresistible, was itself mined and both ships eventually sank. The French battleships Suffren and Gaulois were also badly damaged. The losses prompted the Allies to cease any further attempts to force the straits by naval power alone.

In February, General Yudenich was promoted to command to Russian Caucasus Army replacing Aleksandr Zakharevich Myshlayevsky. On 12 February, the new commander of the Ottoman Third Army (Hafız Hakkı) died of typhus and was replaced by Brigadier General Mahmut Kamil Paşa. Kamil undertook the task of putting the depleted Third Army in order.

The Ottoman Empire tried to seize the Suez Canal in Egypt with the First Suez Offensive, and they supported the recently deposed Abbas II of Egypt, but were defeated by the British in both aims.

April - June

1915, Armenian resistance members from Adapazari committee
April 1915, Armenian troops holding a defense line at Van Resistance

Following their unexpected success in Mezapotamia Campaign, the British command reconsidered their plan in favour of aggressive operations. In April 1915, general Sir John Nixon was sent to take command. He ordered Major General Charles Vere Ferrers Townshend to advance to Kut or even to Baghdad if possible. Enver Pasha worried about the possible fall of Baghdad, and sent the German General Colmar Freiherr von der Goltz to take command. On 12 April, Süleyman Askeri attacked the British camp at Shaiba with 3800 troops early in the morning. These forces provided by Arab sheiks produced no results. Süleyman Askeri was wounded. Disappointed and depressed, he shot himself at the hospital in Baghdad.

On 20 April, the Van Resistance brought the conflicts into city of Van. On 24 April, Talat Pasha promulgated the order on April 24 (known by the Armenians as the Red Sunday) which claimed that the Armenians in this region were organized under the leadership of Russians and had rebelled against Ottoman government.

On 25 April, the second part of the campaign began on the Gallipoli Peninsula on the European side of the Dardanelles, when the Allies launched an amphibious assault. The troops were able to land but could not dislodge the Ottoman forces after months of battle that caused the deaths of an estimated 131,000 soldiers, and 262,000 wounded. Eventually the Allied forces withdrew. The campaign represented something of a coming of age for Australia and New Zealand who celebrate 25 April as ANZAC Day. Kemal Ataturk, who later became the first leader of modern Turkey, distinguished himself as a Lieutenant Colonel on Gallipoli.

On 6 May, General Yudenich began an offensive into Ottoman territory. One wing of this offensive headed towards Lake Van to relieve the Armenian residents of Van. The Fedayee turned over the city of Van to the Russians. On 21 May, General Yudenich received the keys to the city and its citadel, and confirmed the Armenian provisional government in office with Aram Manougian as governor. Fighting shifted farther west for the rest of the summer with Van secure.[5] On 6 May, the Russian second wing advanced through the Tortum Valley towards Erzurum after weather turned milder. The Ottoman 29th and 30th Divisions managed to stop this assault. The X Corps counter-attacked the Russian forces. On the southern part, the Ottomans were not as successful as they had been in the north. On 17 May, Russian forces at the city of Van continued to push back the Ottoman units. The city of Malazgirt had had already fallen on 11 May. The Ottomans' supply lines were being cut, as the Armenian forces caused additional difficulties behind the lines. The region south of Lake Van was extremely vulnerable. During May, the Ottomans had to defend a line of more than 600 kilometres (370 mi) with only 50,000 men and 130 pieces of artillery. They were clearly outnumbered by the Russians.

On 27 May, during the high point of Russian offensive Ottoman parliament passed the Tehcir Law. Talat Pasha, the Interior Minister, ordered a forced deportation of all Armenians from the region. The Armenians of the Van Resistance and others which were under Russian occupation were spared these deportations.

On 19 June, the Russians launched another offensive northwest of Lake Van. The Russians, under Oganovski, launched an offense into the hills west of Malazgrit, but they underestimated the size of the Ottoman forces in this region. They were surprised by a large Ottoman force at the Battle of Malazgirt. They were not aware that the Turkish IX Corps, together with the 17th and 28th Divisions was moving to Muş also. The 1st and 5th Expeditionary Forces were positioned to the south of the Russian offensive force and a “Right Wing Group” was established under the command of Brigadier General Abdülkerim Paşa. This group was independent from the Third Army and Abdülkerim Paşa was reporting directly to Enver Paşa.

July - September

1915, Mustafa Kemal in Gallipoli with his soldiers

On September 24, General Yudenich become the supreme commander of all Russian forces in the region. This front was quiet from October till the end of the year. Yudenich used this period to reorganize. At the turn of 1916, Russian forces reached a level of 200,000 men and 380 pieces of artillery. On the other side the situation was very different; the Ottoman High Command failed to make up the losses during this period. The war in Gallipoli was sucking up all the resources and manpower. The IX, X and XI Corps could not be reinforced, and the 1st and 5th Expeditionary Forces were deployed to Mesopotamia. Enver Pasha, after failing to achieve his ambitions in the Caucasus, or recognizing the dire situation on other fronts, decided that the region was of secondary importance.

October - December

December 1915, the trenches at Siege of Kut

The rapid advance of the British up the river changed some of the Arab tribes perception of the conflict. Realizing that the British had the upper hand, Arabs in the region joined the British efforts. They raided Ottoman military hospitals and massacred the soldiers in Amara. On 7 December, the siege of Kut began. Von der Goltz helped the Ottoman forces build defensive positions around Kut, and established new fortified positions down river to fend off any attempt to rescue Townshend. General Aylmer made three attempts to break the siege, but each effort was unsuccessful.

The British based in Egypt began to incite the Arabs living in Hejaz near the Red Sea and inland, to rebel and expel the Ottoman forces from what is the modern-day Saudi Arabian peninsula.

On 22 November, Townshend and von der Goltz fought the battle at Ctesiphon. The battle was inconclusive as both the Ottomans and the British retreated from the battlefield. Townshend halted and fortified the position at Kut-al-Amara.

1916

1916, the general staff of the Mesopotamian campaign

In 1916, a combination of diplomacy and genuine dislike of the new leaders of the Ottoman Empire (the Three Pashas) convinced Sherif Hussein ibn Ali of Mecca to begin a revolt. He gave the leadership of this revolt to two of his sons: Faisal and Abdullah, though the planning and direction for the war was largely the work of Lawrence of Arabia.

The Russian offensive in northeastern Turkey started with a victory at Battle of Koprukoy and culminated with the capture of Erzurum in February and Trabzon in April. By the Battle of Erzincan the Third Army was no longer capable of launching an offensive nor could it stop the advance of the Russian Army.

The Ottoman forces launched a second attack across the Sinai with the objective of destroying or capturing the Suez Canal. Both this and the earlier attack (1915) were unsuccessful, though not very costly by the standards of the Great War. The British then went on the offensive, attacking east into Palestine. However, two failed attempts to capture the Ottoman fort of Gaza resulted in sweeping changes to the British command and the arrival of General Allenby, along with many reinforcements.

1917

Turkish trenches at the shores of the Dead Sea, 1917.
British artillery placements during the Battle of Jerusalem, 1917.

British Empire forces reorganized and captured Baghdad in March 1917.

On December 16, The Armistice of Erzincan (Erzincan Cease-fire Agreement) was signed which officially brought the end to the hostilities between Ottoman Empire and Russians. The Special Transcaucasian Committee also endorsed the agreement.

The Sinai and Palestine Campaign was dominated with the success of the revolt. The revolt aided the General Allenby's 1917's operations.

Late in 1917, Allenby's Egyptian Expeditionary Force smashed the Ottoman defenses and captured Gaza, and then captured Jerusalem just before Christmas. While strategically of minimal importance to the war, this event was key in the subsequent creation of Israel as a separate nation in 1948.

1918

The Ottoman Empire could be defeated with campaigns in Palestine and Mesopotamia and the Spring Offensive delayed the expected attack. General Allenby was given brand new divisions recruited from India. The British achieved complete control of the air. General Liman von Sanders had no clear idea where the British were going to attack. Compounding the problems, withdrew their best troops to Caucasus Campaign. General Allenby finally launched the Battle of Megiddo, with the Jewish Legion under his command. Ottoman troops started a full scale retreat.

T. E. Lawrence and his Arab fighters staged many hit-and-run attacks on supply lines and tied down thousands of soldiers in garrisons throughout Palestine, Jordan, and Syria.

On March 3, the Grand vizier Talat Pasha signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with the Russian SFSR which stipulated that Bolshevik Russia cede Batum, Kars, and Ardahan to Ottoman Empire. The Trabzon Peace Conference held between March and April among the Ottoman Empire and the delegation of the Transcaucasian Diet (Transcaucasian Sejm) and government. Treaty of Brest-Litovsk united the Armenian-Georgian block[22]. Democratic Republic of Armenia declared the existence of a state of war between the Ottoman Empire[22]. In early May, 1918, the Ottoman army faced the Armenian Corps of Armenian National Councils which soon declared the Democratic Republic of Armenia. The Ottoman army captured Trabzon, Erzurum, Kars, Van, and Batumi. The conflict led to the Battle of Sardarapat, the Battle of Kara Killisse (1918), and the Battle of Bash Abaran. Although the Armenians managed to inflict a defeat on the Ottomans at the Battle of Sardarapat, the Ottoman army won the later battle and scattered the Armenian army. The fight with Democratic Republic of Armenia ended with the sign the Treaty of Batum in June, 1918. However throughout the summer of 1918, under the leadership of Andranik Toros Ozanian Armenians in the mountainous Karabag region resisted the Ottoman 3rd army and established the Republic of Mountainous Armenia[23]. The Army of Islam avoided Georgia and marched to the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. They got as far as Baku on the Caspian Sea. They threw the British out in September 1918 with the Battle of Baku.

Aftermath

On October 30 1918, The Armistice of Mudros, signed on aboard HMS Agamemnon in Mudros port on the island of Lemnos with the Ottoman Empire and Triple Entente. Ottoman activities at all the active campaigns terminated.

Military occupation

On November 13 1918, the Occupation of Constantinople (present day Istanbul) of the capital of the Ottoman Empire happened by the French troops followed by British troops the next day. The occupation had two stages: the de facto stage from November 13 1918 to March 20 1920, and the de jure stage from de facto to the days following the Treaty of Lausanne. The occupation of Istanbul along with the occupation of İzmir, mobilized the establishment of the Turkish national movement and the Turkish War of Independence[24].

Peace Treaty

On 18 January 1919, the negotiations for a peace began with the Paris Peace Conference, 1919. The negotiations for a peace treaty continued at the Conference of London, and took definite shape only after the premiers' meeting at the San Remo conference in April 1920. France, Italy, and Great Britain, however, had secretly begun the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire as early as 1915. The Ottoman Government representatives signed the Treaty of Sèvres on August 10, 1920, however, treaty was not sent to Ottoman Parliament for ratification, as Parliament was abolished on March 18 1920 by the British, during the occupation of Istanbul. The treaty was never ratified by the Ottoman Empire[25][26] The Treaty of Sèvres was annulled in the course of the Turkish War of Independence and the parties signed and ratified the superseding Treaty of Lausanne in 1923.

===Aboliton of the Caliphate--- On the 3rd of March 1924, the Caliphate was abolished when Mustafa Kemal Ataturk Deproted the 101st Caliph, Abdul Mejid II.

Casualties

Timeline

Footnotes

  1. ^ Austro-Hungarian Army in the Ottoman Empire 1914-1918
  2. ^ Jung Peter, Austro-Hungarian Forces in World War 1 (Part 1),(Osprey, 2003), p.47
  3. ^ a b c d Ordered to Die: A History of the Ottoman Army in the First World War By Huseyin (FRW) Kivrikoglu, Edward J. Erickson Page 211
  4. ^ The Treaty of Alliance Between Germany and Turkey 2 August, 1914
  5. ^ a b Hinterhoff, Marshall Cavendish Illustrated Encyclopedia, pp.499-503
  6. ^ a b c The Encyclopedia Americana, 1920, v.28, p.403
  7. ^ a b Popplewell, Richard J (1995), Intelligence and Imperial Defence: British Intelligence and the Defence of the Indian Empire 1904-1924., Routledge, ISBN 071464580X, <http://www.routledge.com/shopping_cart/products/product_detail.asp?sku=&isbn=071464580X&parent_id=&pc=>
  8. ^ R. G. Hovannisian. Armenia on the Road to Independence, 1918, University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1967, pg. 59
  9. ^ The Washington Post, November 12, 1914. "Armenians Join Russians" the extended information is at the image detail)
  10. ^ Joan George "Merchants in Exile: The Armenians of Manchester, England, 1835-1935", p.184
  11. ^ Stanley Elphinstone Kerr. The Lions of Marash: personal experiences with American Near East Relief, 1919-1922 p. 30
  12. ^ The Hugh Chisholm, 1920, Encyclopedia Britannica, Encyclopedia Britannica, Company ltd., twelve edition p.198.
  13. ^ a b Avetoon Pesak Hacobian, 1917, Armenia and the War, p.77
  14. ^ (Shaw 1977, pp. 314-315)
  15. ^ Italian atrocities in world war two | Education | The Guardian:# Rory Carroll # The Guardian, # Monday June 25 2001
  16. ^ Richard G. Hovannisian, The Armenian People from Ancient to Modern Times, 244
  17. ^ a b (Erickson 2001, pp. 97)
  18. ^ a b A. F. Pollard, "A Short History Of The Great War" chapter VI: The first winter of the war.
  19. ^ (Erickson 2001, pp. 54)
  20. ^ a b (Pasdermadjian 1918, pp. 22)
  21. ^ Fromkin, 135.
  22. ^ a b Richard Hovannisian "The Armenian people from ancient to modern times" Pages 292-293
  23. ^ Mark Malkasian, Gha-Ra-Bagh": the emergence of the national democratic movement in Armenia page 22
  24. ^ Mustafa Kemal Pasha's speech on his arrival in Ankara in November 1919
  25. ^ Sunga, Lyal S. (1992-01-01). Individual Responsibility in International Law for Serious Human Rights Violations. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. ISBN 0-7923-1453-0.  
  26. ^ Bernhardsson, Magnus (2005-12-20). Reclaiming a Plundered Past: archaeology and nation building in modern Iraq. University of Texas Press. ISBN 0-292-70947-1.  

Bibliography

Further reading


Simple English

The Middle Eastern theatre of World War I was a large theatre during the first World War. Battles here were fought between the Allied Powers (especially Britain and Russia) and the Central Powers (especially the Ottoman Empire).

This theatre was the largest of all the theatres of WWI. It was made of four main campaigns: the Sinai and Palestine Campaign, the Mesopotamian Campaign, the Caucasus Campaign, and the Dardanelles Campaign. There were also minor campaigns in Arabia and Southern Arabia, Aden, and Persia.

Fighting here began on October 29, 1914 and ended on October 30, 1918. A peace treaty was signed on August 10, 1920.

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