The Battle for Syria 1918-1920, John D. Grainger

The Battle for Syria 1918-1920, John D. Grainger

Despite its title the book mainly focuses on the battles of 1918 between the British and their allies under Allenby and the Ottoman Turks and their German allies, and in particular the campaign in Palestine and the advance to Damascus. The introduction covers the battles at Gaza and the political background to the fighting of 1918, and the main text begins with the advance towards Jericho. The heart of the book covers Allenby's successful campaigns in Palestine and Syria, which saw Allied armies capture Jerusalem, Damascus and end the war at Aleppo.

At the same time as covering the main military campaign, Grainger also looks at the developing political situation, with the British, French, Arabs and Jews all having expectations of the post-war settlement. Faisal and the Sharifians get the best press here - I would have liked more on the potential problems of imposing an Arabian regime in Syria and the civil was that saw the Sharifians actually lose control of the Arabian peninsula, two issues that are rarely examined when the post-war settlement of the Middle East is considered, but they are at least mentioned here.

The post-war chapters focus on four main topics - the status of the occupied territories between the end of the fighting and the peace treaty, the problems caused by the need to demobilise the conscript and volunteer armies, a rebellion that broke out in Egypt when it became clear that the pre-war status-quo wasn't going to be restored, and the establishment of French control in what became modern Syria (although this chapter ends before the French had really secured their position).

This is an excellent military history of Allenby's campaigns, with good material from the Ottoman side of the line. The Arab Revolt gets less coverage, and the post-war section comes across as a little opinionated in places, but is still is useful addition to the book.

1 - Defeats
2 - The Turks
3 - The New Army
4 - The Arabs
5 - The French
6 - The Plan
7 - Preparations
8 - Preliminaries
9 - The Infantry Battle
10 - The Cavalry Battle
11 - The East, Haifa, Samakh
12 - Damascus and Beirut
13 - Aleppo and Haritan
14 - The Occupied Territories
15 - Problems with the Army
16 - Rebellion in Egypt
17 - France and Syria

Author: John D. Grainger
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 256
Publisher: Boydell Press
Year: 2013

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