A Brief Chronology Of Recent Middle East Events

Why, you ask, does this book start with a brief chronology of the Middle East?

Because, World War 1, the Sinai Palestine campaign and the post-war distribution of spoils by the victorious allies (Entente Powers) molded today’s Middle East giving us all its violence, tyranny and religious disputes! Its history has often been reported with bias; the reality is poorly understood.

The allied political debate and decisions at the end of World War 1 gave us World War 2 AND, today’s Middle East. So I thought an understanding of actual events would help.


1187               Saladin captured Jerusalem (sacred to Christian, Jewish and Muslim religions). It remained in Muslim hands for the next 730 years

1299               the Ottoman Empire began; from central and southern Turkey through Syria, Palestine, the Arabian Peninsular, Egypt, Northern Africa and up into southeastern Europe to Vienna

For hundreds of years in Palestine, Muslims, Jews and Christians lived communally

1453               Constantinople captured from the Roman Byzantine Empire by the forces of the Muslim Ottoman Empire

1869               Suez Canal opened to shipping

1881               Ottomans lost Tunisia to France

1882               British occupied Egypt and took control, including military occupation, of Suez Canal as Egypt defaulted on loans

1880s Large scale Jewish migration began from Russia and Romania to Palestine to escape the Pogroms . They were absorbed into the Ottoman Empire; housed and schooled within the Ottoman community; allowed to serve and bear arms in the Ottoman Army; enter politics and commerce

1891               Arab notables in Jerusalem petitioned the Ottoman government to prohibit Jewish migration to Palestine and prevent Jewish land purchases – no action taken

1900               Hejaz Railway commenced construction from Damascus to Mecca to support the Hajj pilgrimage

1908               Royal Navy converted its ships to oil fuelled from coal

1908 - Sep      Hejaz Railway completed to Medina, never reaching Mecca

1912               Ottomans lost Libya to Italy

1912 – Jul       Young Turks took control of Ottoman government, deposed Sultan Abdul Hamid II and appointed his “puppet” brother as Sultan Mehmed V

1912 Oct- 1913 Apr  Ottomans lost 1st Balkan War; lost Montenegro, Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece

1913 Jun-Jul               Ottomans lost 2nd Balkan War; Salonika, Thrace, Albania, Macedonia; their army decimated

1913 - Dec      German military mission arrived in Constantinople to rebuild Ottoman military

1914 – Feb     Emir Abdullah met Lord Kitchener to seek British support for Arab uprising against Ottomans. Britain not at war so no support

1914 – 28th Jun          Archduke Ferdinand assassinated in Sarajevo

                                    Austria declared war on Serbia

1914 – 2nd Aug           Germany declared war on Russia

            3rd Aug            Germany declared war on France

4th Aug            Great Britain and Australia declared war on Germany;

31st Oct           Ottomans declared war on Great Britain

Ottoman Sultan declared a Jihad against all Christian forces of Great Britain, France and Russia, putting aside that Germans were Christian

Jews in Ottoman army disarmed and forced into labor battalions but allowed to “buy” their way out

1915 – 3rd Feb           First Turkish attack on Suez Canal – repulsed by British and Sudanese troops

1915 – Feb/Mar        British and French naval force repulsed at Dardanelles forcing Churchill to re-think doomed strategy

1915 – 25th Apr         Revised strategy landed forces at Gallipoli

1915 – Jul       Britain receive Australia’s ss Suva as HMS Suva as our naval contribution to Red Sea Patrol

1915 – Dec     Land forces evacuated from Gallipoli to Egypt. Australian infantry and artillery sent to France; Light Horse remain in Egypt. Churchill resigned before being sacked

1916 – Jan      Imperial Camel Corps formed in Egypt

1916 – Mar    Anzac Mounted Division formed with 1st, 2nd, 3rd ALH Brigades and NZ Mounted Rifle Brigade; Maj-Gen Harry Chauvel commander

1916   - Apr   No. 1 Squadron Australian Flying Corps arrived in Egypt for Sinai Palestine effort

Sinai Palestine Campaign Began

1916 - 13th Apr          ALH first operation in Sinai; patrol destroy water wells at Jifjafa, capture Turkish force – first British success of the war

- 23rd Apr       Turks annihilate or capture 5th British Yeomanry Bde at Romani – 2nd ALH Bde arrive too late to assist

- 24th Apr         AMD positioned at Romani with Chauvel in command

1916 – May    Sykes Picot Agreement between Britain, France and Russia divided the yet to be conquered lands of the Middle East between them at war’s end. The Russian Revolution of 1917 saw Britain and France exclude Russia from any future division and Russia “blew the whistle” to the Arabs

1916 – 10th Jun          Arab Revolt started in Mecca with Muslim Hejaz Arabs siding with the Christian British against the Muslim Ottomans. Britain and France indicated Arab support would result in an Arab nation with Sheik Hussein (a descendant of the Prophet Mohammed) to be appointed King of the Hejaz. The concept of an ‘Arab nation’ never gained extensive Arab support based on tribal backgrounds, history of distrust and feuds between tribes

1916 – 12th Jul           Arab forces capture Mecca from Turks; Medina unable to be captured, ~15,000 Turks remain there for duration of WW1

1916 – 4th Aug           Turks attack Romani in force – defeated by Chauvel and AMD as part of British force – first major British victory of WW1

1916 – Oct      Lt T.E. Lawrence (later to become Lawrence of Arabia) arrived in Hejaz to become British Liaison Officer to Emir Feisal (3rd son of Sheik Hussein), Commander of the Northern Arab Army as part of the Arab Revolt

1916 – 21st Dec         Magdhaba captured by AMD and ICC

1917 – 9th Jan AMD capture Rafa

            - 26th Mar       British commanded first attack on Gaza fails

            - 16th Apr        British commanded second attack on Gaza fails

1917 – 6th Apr           USA entered the war

1917 – Jun      General Allenby replaced General Murray after Gaza failures, as Commander Egyptian Expeditionary Force. He restructured force, promoted Chauvel to Lt-Gen and appointed to command Desert Mounted Corps, Chaytor promoted to Maj-Gen to command AMD

1917 – Jul       Arab forces capture Aqaba, Lawrence goes to Cairo to seek British support from Allenby for Arab Revolt; granted weapons, money and military advisers

1917   31st Oct           ALH capture Beersheba, allows flank attack on Gaza

 1917  -7th Nov           Gaza captured

 1917 - 16th Nov         Jaffa surrendered to NZMRB

1917 – Nov                Balfour Declaration by Britain nominated Palestine as the “national home” of the Jewish people, not to the exclusion of local inhabitants (Muslim Arabs)

1917 – 9th Dec           Jerusalem captured by British forces, ending 730 years of Muslim control. Gave boost to English morale following devastation of war on Western Front

1918 - 17th Feb          NZMRB occupy Bethlehem

1918   20th Feb         Jerico captured by ALH        

21st-30th Mar First attack against Es Salt and Amman by British and Anzacs fails – called a “raid” after repulsed

30th Apr – 4th May      Second attack against Es Salt and Amman fails – also called a “raid”

14th Jul            German Asia Corps counter-attack against Desert Mounted Corps repulsed

Jul – Sep          Desert Mounted Corps endure 3 months in summer of Jordan Valley in preparation for final advance

19th Sep          Battle of Megiddo – the final assault; started when Capt Ross Smith AFC pilot bombed and destroyed Turkish communication centre, Germans and Turks unaware assault commenced

22nd Sep          AFC give extensive air support to Lawrence and Arab Army

26th Sep          Chauvel declares Turkish 7th and 8th Armies destroyed west of the Jordan River, remainder in full retreat

28th Sep          Chaytor’s AMD destroy 4th Turkish Army east of the Jordan River, remainder in full retreat towards Syria/Turkey

1st Oct ALH take surrender of Damascus; Arab forces arrive two hours later

30th Oct           Ottoman forces capitulate, their government signed Armistice

Victory in Sinai Palestine

1918 Oct – 1920        The Levant and Turkey under control of the Occupied Enemy Territory Administration (OETA); a British/French civil/military group charged with administering the civil population, its infrastructure and economy while dealing with Arab aspirations

1918 Oct –      Emir Feisal appointed by Britain to control Syria (excluding the Lebanon), as Head of an Arab Government, but under French control with a French Liaison Officer; this latter restriction hotly contested by Feisal

1919 - Sep      Paris Peace Conference resulted in Treaty of Versailles. Confirmed British mandate over today’s Iraq (oil rich), Egypt and Palestine and, the French over Syria and Lebanon.

The term Palestine has never had universal agreement over the area covered; in this instance it was deemed to be southern Syria (as we know it today), the area west of the Jordan River and north of the Sinai desert (known today as Israel) and the area called Transjordan (known today as Jordan east of the Jordan River but excluding the Arabian Peninsular (known today as Saudi Arabia)[oil had not then been discovered in the Arabian Peninsular]

1920 onwards;          modest Jewish immigration continued into Palestine

1920 – Mar    a General Syrian Congress, incl delegates from (Arab) Palestine, endorsed Feisal as King (of an independent) Syrian-Arab State (amidst French control)

1920 – Jul       French army defeat and expel Feisal’s forces from Syria

British offer Feisal newly created throne of Iraq

Abdulla, brother of Feisal and 1st son of Hussein, offered Emirate of Transjordan (the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan remains in the family to this day)

1922 - Feb      Egypt granted independence by Britain

1922 – Jul       Supreme Council of League of Nations confirmed British mandate over Palestine and French mandate over Syria

1923 – Jul       Treaty of Lausanne recognized Turkish independence. Mustapha Kemal became ‘Ataturk’ as first President of Republic of Turkey

1936 – Aug     Anglo-Egyptian Treaty agreed for 20 year period allowed British military presence to protect Suez Canal. Unilaterally repealed in 1951 by Egypt

1936-39         Palestinian Arabs raised against Jewish immigration and land ownership, attacking settlements and British mandate forces. Jews retaliated

1946               Syria granted independence

1947               United Nations Special Commission on Palestine recommended formation of separate Jewish and Palestinian states with Jerusalem to be administered by International Trustee, from May 1948 when British mandate expired. Areas of religious significance in Jerusalem were to be administered under UN control

1947 – Nov    UN Resolution 181 adopted the Special Commission’s recommendations. Jews accepted, Arabs rejected

Nov 1947 into 1948  Palestinian Arabs began attacks on Jewish settlements; Jews retaliated. Surrounding Arab countries threaten war if Resolution 181 carried out

1948 May 14th            State of Israel declared by PM Ben Gurion

Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon and Iraq immediately attacked Israel with minor support from Jordan – repulsed and Israel extended more territory than UN Resolution had given

1949 Feb        Ceasefire of Arab-Israeli war – ongoing tensions and skirmishes. Arabs insisted Israel withdraw to 1947 Resolution boundaries to continue to negotiate end to violence they initiated and lost – Israel refused

1955               Egypt used PLO terrorists to infiltrate and attack Israel

1956               Egypt and Syria, armed by Russia, mobilized towards Israel’s borders and threatened Israel with obliteration. Suez Canal, Straights of Tiran and Gulf of Aqaba blocked to Israeli shipping; terrorist attacks intensified

1956 - Oct       Israel conducted pre-emptive strike on Egypt and Syria, backed by Britain and France with  joint military attacks on Egypt. Russia threatened to intervene, US pressured Britain and France, the latter two abruptly ceased actions. Egyptian and Syrian forces defeated. Pressured, Israel withdrew safely but with no concessions granted

1967 – May-Jun         forces of Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Jordan surround Israel with vociferous threats; terrorist PLO attacks unabated. Jun 5th Israel launched pre-emptive strikes; 10th Jun war over with Arab forces defeated, Sinai occupied, West Bank occupied, Golan Heights occupied but Jerusalem remained under Jordanian control

1973 – Oct      Syria and Egypt (supported by Iraq, Jordan, Algeria, Cuba, Morocco and Tunisia) launched a surprise attack on Israel on Yom Kippur (holiest day in Judaism) and during Ramadan (holiest holiday period of Muslims). By 25th Oct invading forces decimated, Israel extended borders, captured Jerusalem (returning it to access by all religions) and ensuring Tel Aviv now beyond Arab artillery range

1974               Arab conference in Morocco reaffirms PLO as “sole and legitimate representative” of Palestinian people

1979               Egypt and Israel sign peace treaty

1989 – Nov    Berlin wall collapsed

1990 – Jul       Iraq invaded Kuwait

1991               Coalition forces launched ground war against Iraq to free Kuwait; fail to nullify Saadam Hussein and Iraq’s influence

1991 – Oct      US and USSR convened first ever, simultaneous  peace conference between Israel, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Palestinians in Madrid

1991 – Dec     USSR collapsed

1991 – Dec     Israel, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Palestinians held further peace talks in Washington following Madrid

1993 – Sep     PLO leader Arafat and Israeli PM Rabin sign the “Declaration of Principles” at White House and engage the famous ‘handshake’

1994 – Jul       King Hussein of Jordan and PM Rabin commit to sign peace treaty, ending 46 years of war

Ongoing:                     Conflict between Arabs and Israelis and, Arabs amongst themselves has continued (the Arab Spring and rise of ISIS). There is little likelihood of Arab unity


“There is no innocence in war; only degrees of guilt”

Desert Anzac Gallery

  • Desert Anzacs - Photo1

    Ziza Hejaz Rail Station

  • Desert Anzacs - Photo2

    Tibby Cotter's headstone Beersheba

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    Sinai Map

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    AFC/RFC Memorial Plaque

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    Author 'on the dig'

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    Amman Hejaz Station

  • Desert Anzacs - Photo7

    Wadi Rumm from Lawrence's Spring

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    Wadi Rumm

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    Armoured Car

  • Desert Anzacs - Photo10

    Hospitality for the Author

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    Ottoman Fort, Fassua Ridge

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    Station Facade Damascus

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    Sharif Nasser bin Nasser at Australian War Memorial

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    Desert Mounted Corps Memorial

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    Turkish Memorial E, Salt

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    Recruiting Medical

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    Recruit bayonet training

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    Horse draw ambulance

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    Theatre Map

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    Israeli Family visit, DMC Memorial Beersheba

  • Desert Anzacs - Photo21

    Australian Memorial Park, Beersheba

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