Edmund Henry Allenby, first Viscount Allenby of Megiddo, 1861-1936, British General

One of the most successful British generals during the First World War. He entered the army from Sandhurst in 1882, and rose steadily through the ranks, commanding a regiment during the Boer War, where he gained a positive reputation. From 1910-1914 he was inspector-general of cavalry, and it was as a cavalry commander that he first made his name in 1914. He commanded the cavalry covering the British retreat after the battle of Mons (23 August 1914), and was rewarded with command of the newly formed B.E.F. Cavalry Corps (9 October), which played a key part in the bloody British victory at the First Battle of Ypres (30 October-23 November 1914). He commanded the V Corps during the Second Battle of Ypres (22 April-25 May 1915), and on 23 October was appointed General Officer Commanding the British Third Army, centred on Arras. He proved his attacking ability on the first day of the Battle of Arras (9-15 April 1917), managing to breach the third line of trenches on the Hindenberg line, creating a four mile wide breach in the German line, but despite maintaining the breach for seven hours, no breakthrough followed, ironically due to slowness on the part of the cavalry. This was his last major effort on the Western Front, and on 9 June he was replaced at the Third Army by General Julian Byng.

This was to free him to take command of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force (27 June), then stalled in front of the Turkish defences of Gaza. One of his first acts on arriving in Cairo was to agree to provide T.E. Lawrence with £200,000 per month (later increased to £500,000) to fund the Arab revolt, which largely relied on British gold to maintain its momentum. Having studied his new command, he decided he needed reinforcements if he was to reach Jerusalem, and was promised the 10th Irish Division, then in Salonika (10 August), which arrived on 2 October. At this time he suffered a blow with the loss of his only son, killed on 29 July 1917 on the Western Front. In August he moved his headquarters from the luxury of Cairo, to Kelab, 200 miles nearer the front, from where he planned his first attack. From 28-31 October 1917, a 218 gun bombardment targeted Gaza, but when his attack came, on 31 October (3rd Battle of Gaza, 31 October-7 November 1917), it hit Beersheba, to the east of Gaza, which was captured on the first day, allowing an assault on Gaza, which resulted in an evacuation of the defenders of Gaza. By this point, command of the Turkish armies had passed to General Falkenhayn, but although he was able to restore some order to the Turkish retreat, he was unable to prevent the fall of Jerusalem on 11 December. Allenby entered the city on foot through the Jaffa Gate. The capture of Jerusalem just before Christmas provided a much needed morale boost on the home front. The German offensives in the first half of 1918 prevented any further attacks in Palestine until September 1918, when Allenby won his greatest victory (Battle of Megiddo, 19-21 September 1918), one of the great cavalry battles. The initial attack on 19 September broke the Turkish line, and through the gap Allenby poured his cavalry, which forced the Turks away from the coast, and their line of retreat, and into the inland hills, ending any effective Turkish resistance. Within a month, the Turks had entered armistice negotiations, and signed an armistice on 30 October 1918.

After the war he remained in Egypt, as high commissioner (1919-25). He was promoted to field marshal, and on 6 August 1919 created 1st Viscount Allenby of Megiddo. While in Egypt, he was able to get Egypt recognised as a sovereign state, ending any lingering Turkish claims (if not ending the British presence).

Stemming the Tide: Officers and Leadership in the British Expeditionary Force 1914, ed. Spencer Jones. A generally positive study of the senior and middle ranking officers of the BEF, covering the main characters at GHQ, the three corps commanders, a selection of division and brigade commanders and finishing with a more general study of battalion and company commanders. Focuses on their pre-war careers, how their experiences prepared them for the trials of 1914 and how they actually coped (Read Full Review)
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Books on the First World War | Subject Index: First World War

How to cite this article Rickard, J. (7 March 2001) Allenby, Edmund Henry, first Viscount Allenby of Megiddo, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/people_allenby.html

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