World War I: Allenby advances on Jerusalem

December 6, 1917: During World War I, British forces entered Hebron as General Edmund Allenby of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force continued his advance on Jerusalem.

The Battle of Jerusalem occurred during the British Empire’s “Jerusalem Operations” against the Ottoman Empire, when fighting for the city developed from 17 November, continuing after the surrender until 30 December 1917, to secure the final objective of the Southern Palestine Offensive during the Sinai and Palestine Campaign of World War I. Before Jerusalem could be secured, two battles were recognized by the British as being fought in the Judean Hills to the north and east of the Hebron–Junction Station line. These were the Battle of Nebi Samwill from 17 to 24 November and the Defence of Jerusalem from 26 to 30 December 1917. They also recognized within these Jerusalem Operations, the successful second attempt on 21 and 22 December 1917 to advance across the Nahr el Auja, as the Battle of Jaffa, although Jaffa had been occupied as a consequence of the Battle of Mughar Ridge on 16 November.

This series of battles was successfully fought by the British Empire’s XX Corps, XXI Corps, and the Desert Mounted against strong opposition from the Yildirim Army Group’s Seventh Army in the Judean Hills and the Eighth Army north of Jaffa on the Mediterranean coast. The loss of Jaffa and Jerusalem, together with the loss of 50 miles (80 km) of territory during the Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF) advance from Gaza, after the capture of Beersheba, Gaza, Hareira and Sheria, Tel el Kuhweilfe and the Battle of Mughar Ridge, constituted a grave setback for the Ottoman Army and the Ottoman Empire.

As a result of these victories, British Empire forces captured Jerusalem and established a new strategically strong fortified line. This line ran from well to the north of Jaffa on the maritime plain, across the Judean Hills to Bireh north of Jerusalem, and continued eastwards of the Mount of Olives. With the capture of the road from Beersheba to Jerusalem via Hebron and Bethlehem, together with substantial Ottoman territory south of Jerusalem, the city was secured. On 11 December, General Edmund Allenby humbly entered the Old City on foot through the Jaffa Gate instead of horse or vehicles to show respect for the holy city. He was the first Christian in many centuries to control Jerusalem, which is a very important site for many faiths. The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Lloyd George described the capture as “a Christmas present for the British people”. The battle was a great morale boost for the British Empire.

A bridge named after General Allenby was constructed in Transjordan and a Jordanian postage stamp picturing the bridge was issued in 1933.

Allenby Bridge - Transjordan 1933

 

 

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