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General Allenby Enters Jerusalem

11th December, 1917

In November 1914, the Ottomans entered the First World War on the side of Germany, taking the war firmly into the Middle East and the rivalries and Western influences already prevalent there. Before the end of 1914, battles were being fought by the British in Mesopotamia. In January 1915, while plans were pushing ahead for an Allied attack on the Dardanelles, the Ottomans tried to attack the Suez Canal. Their plans were foiled but showed that the British and the Allies would need to field a considerable force in the region.

British representatives openly courted Arab leaders, helping to instigate the Arab revolt which began in June 1916. Behind the scenes, British and French officials had secretly already divided up the Ottoman Empire in the region, in the Sykes-Picot agreement of May 1916. Under the agreement, Britain and France would replace the Ottomans as Imperial overseers in the region and would formally create the modern states of Trans Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Arabia in the post war period.

The British formally formed the EEF (Egyptian Expeditionary Force) under General Sir Archibald Murray in 1916 and the campaign to remove Ottoman control from the region began.  After disappointing progress, partly caused by illness and environmental limitations (logistics and water supplies), attempts to move up through the Sinai and Palestine began.  In June 1917, Prime Minister David Lloyd George appointed General Edmund Allenby to command the EEF following two failed Battles for Gaza. He demanded that Allenby capture Jerusalem by Christmas.

Allenby launched the Third Battle of Gaza on 1st November 1917. After an impressive victory at Beersheba involving a cavalry attack, his forces moved on to Jerusalem. The initial offensive in mid-November stalled but a renewed attack on 7th December proved successful against a demoralised and weary Ottoman army.  The Ottoman forces in the city surrendered and the Mayor of Jerusalem, Hussein Salim al-Husseini offered the keys of the city to the British Forces. 

Many of the residents of the city, from across the religious spectrum, went out on the streets to cheer as Allenby walked into the Old City on 11 December 1917. His arrival on foot was intended to show respect for the city and not be viewed as another forced entry by Crusaders. It contrastes greatly with the German Kaiser’s visit 20 years earlier when he had insisted on riding into the city on a white horse. Back in London, Lloyd George described the taking of Jerusalem as ‘A Christmas present for the British People’. 

Amongst those serving in the EEF were British Jews. Their number would increase in 1918 with the arrival of the Royal Fusiliers – ‘the Judeans’  - deployed for further battles to secure the Middle East for the Allies.

About the collection

London-based private collector, Adrian Andrusier, has for over 40 years been collecting postcards and postal history of Jewish life especially in the 1890-1940 period. 

Adrian is keen that educational organisations and other not-for-profit bodies freely use the images. Other, unauthorized use and for commercial purposes are not permitted and permission should be obtained in advance from Carla Drahorad at carla.drahorad@btopenworld.com

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London Jews in the First World War - We Were There Too

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