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Hell in the Holy Land: World War 1 in the Middle East Hardcover – April 2, 2006
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"Very few authors are successful as he at connecting individual soldiers to an overall campaign."―Brig. Gen. Roberty A. Doughty (Ret.)
"Has succeeded in combing the memoirs, both published and unpublished, with the more formal historical records to form a flowing narrative. . . . An informative and enjoyable read."―Bulletin of the Military Historical Society
"Provides a rare look at the experiences of British foot-soldiers in campaigns against the Turkish army in Egypt and Palestine in 1916-1918."―College and Research Library News
"An excellent read and should be of interest to those wanting to acquire knowledge of warfare in the Middle East."―Great Lakes Bulletin
"Illuminates and skillfully molds the stories of ordinary soldiers on the ground with the higher strategy of generals and politicians. The many letters and diary entries give moving testament to the blood, horror, and futility of war but also to the lingering sense of romance and adventure felt by some of the men."―J. Lee Thompson, author of Politicans, the Press, and Propaganda: Lord Northcli
"This is an impressive, critical and readable volume that provides fascinating personal insights woven in with a general account of the fighting to provide a holistic, concise record of the Palestine campaign."―Journal of Military History
"Woodward utilizes graphic eyewitness accounts to compile an engaging history of the oft-forgotten Egyptian Expeditionary Force during its 500-mile campaign in Egypt and Palestine."―Military Trader
"A well-crafted, extremely readable political-military history. . . . Paints a more considered, vastly more nuanced, and far less romantic picture of war in the desert than that depicted in films such as Lawrence of Arabia and The Light Horsemen."―Relevance
"Woodward's work not only reveals a command of past and current scholarship but demonstrates a superlative research effort in uncovering the thoughts and horrors of otherwise voiceless ordinary soldiers and junior officers and fitting these into a lucid narrative account of the overall campaign."―Thomas C. Kennedy, author of British Quakerism, 1860-1920: The Transformation o
"An excellent read and should be of interest to those wanting to acquire more knowledge of warfare in the Middle East."―Waterline
""The author of this study has written an important and readable addition to the growing collection of books on World War I in the Middle East. It will be useful to scholars of the war, and its lucid style and vivid picture of events will appeal to a popular audience.""―Neil M. Heyman, San Diego State University
""Hell in the Holy Land provides a welcome look at the experiences of soldiers in the Middle East from 1916-1918. It also sheds light on a campaign that has been dismissed as a sideshow, but had consequences that continue to reverberate today.""―Nikolas Gardner, H-Net Review
"The strength of this fascinating, highly readable volume is the author's extensive use of the participants' words, from mainly unpublished letters, diaries, memoirs, and other accounts, which are woven into an operational and strategic narrative. ―Harold E. Raugh Jr."―Harold E. Raugh Jr.
About the Author
David R. Woodward, professor of modern European and Russian history at Marshall University, is the author of four books, including Trial by Friendship: Anglo-American Relations, 1917-1918.
Top customer reviews
While extremely interesting in that it discusses details of life and campaigning as experienced by the typical soldier it loses the "big picture" fairly quickly (despite discussions of foibles and weaknesses of the British generals in command) and never really explains to the reader what Austrians and Germans are doing in Palestine. Still, not a bad book and definitely something you would want if studying the WWI campaigns in the region as a whole. I highly recommend it.
The British faced the problem of "....how could the War Office field the necessary forces to maintain its position in France and also defend the empire against the global threat posed by the Turko-German alignment." They chose to fight Turkey with Territorials augmented by imperial troops from Australia, New Zealand and India. The text notes "Among the participants, the Territorials have been especially overlooked ....and the Territorial Divisions were called upon to do most of the fighting in the battles of Gaza and the conquest of Jerusalem." The Territorials were roughly the equivalent of American Reserve units.
The narration begins in Egypt stating "The defense of Egypt....was not a `side show.' Its loss would be a disaster....Not only would the Suez Canal be lost, the Turko-German menace would now extend to Africa." To protect the Suez Canal a campaign to clear the Sinai was initiated. The text gives an excellent account of this operation where the environment was extremely hot and adverse. Camels were an effective means of transportation but were difficult to manage. "Drivers were required as well a camels." Ultimately, tens of thousands of men were employed in the EEF camel force. The difficulties of Sinai operations are illustrated by the work, begun in 1916, to build a standard-gauge railway across the Sinai. Progress averaged only 1/2 a mile a day. Fifty years earlier, the United States had built the Union Pacific Railroad westward at a rate of 1 or 2 miles a day with progress occasionally reaching 3 or 4 miles a day.
The EEF praised the pluck and endurance of the Turks. The text's accounts of two failed efforts to conquer the city of Gaza are interesting. Unfortunately, British troops were poorly lead. On the first attempt, elements had reached the center of Gaza but where withdrawn. The appointment of Sir Edmund Allenby as commander of the EEF "brought a new style and needed energy to GHQ." The text gives an excellent narrative of Allenby's performance. An interesting item was that on 13 November 1917 two British cavalry regiments attacked Junction Station in what was probably the last major cavalry charge in the British Army. Faced with morale problems at home, Prime Minister Lloyd George gave Allenby a mandate to capture "Jerusalem before Christmas." Interestingly, the idea of a crusade to free Jerusalem resonated with many of the men. By 7 a.m. on 9 December 1917 no organized body of the enemy remained in Jerusalem. The comments in diaries and letters covering Allenby's Jerusalem campaign are most interesting.
However, the text notes that a steep price was paid for British success in the Middle East: 28,000 casualties were experienced in November and December 1917. Nevertheless, believing that offensives on the western front were doomed to failure, Allenby's success made Prime Minister Lloyd George even more determined that Britain's main military effort in 1918 would be in the Middle East. In March 1918, the War Cabinet authorized Allenby to advance "to the maximum extent possible, consistent with the safety of the force under his orders." All was not a military success as the British force on 2 April had to withdrawal back across the Jordan River. Unfortunately, losses on the western front forced the War Office to draw upon the EEF for reinforcements. Relying on concentration, surprise and speed, Allenby planned his 1918 breakthrough along the coast. Continuing to use diaries and letters to support the narration, the author gives a brief but excellent account of Allenby's operations from the capture of Jerusalem to the Turks surrender. Large numbers of prisoners (approaching 40,000) plus shortages of food, medicine and medical staff brought to the EEF death from disease; in the EEF 2,158 died from disease while only 453 battle deaths were suffered in October and November 1918.
In the CONCLUSION, the author states "....you were more likely to survive the war if you served in the EEF rather than in the BEF." "A lower casualty rate, however, did not make Egypt and Palestine, where physical discomfort overshadowed death, a `picnic'." The author further states the Tommies, most of whom were Territorials, were angered by comments that they were lucky to have served in the Middle East. They had passed with flying colors a long campaign against a worthy foe in a test of endurance and stamina. Furthermore, their combat was of critical diplomatic importance. As Allenby succinctly
stated "....if you lose Egypt, you lose the Empire which hinges thereon...."
One can only speculate on the probable tragic results if the Allies had won on the western front but the British had lost Egypt and the Suez Cannel. This is a well researched and well written work. The reader will gain valuable insights regarding war in the Middle East.
Seth J. Frantzman