Most books and documentaries about the First World War focus on the carnage of the Western Front, where Germany faced off against France, the British Empire, and their allies in a grueling slugfest that wasted millions of lives. The shattered landscape of the trenches has become symbolic of the war as a whole, and it is this experience that everyone associates with World War I, but that front was not the only experience. There was the more mobile Eastern Front, as well as mountain warfare in the Alps and scattered fighting in Africa and the Far East.
There was also the Middle Eastern Front, in both the Levant and Mesopotamia, which captured the imagination of the European public. There, the British and their allies fought the Ottoman Turkish Empire under harsh desert conditions hundreds of miles from home, struggling for possession of places most people only knew from the Bible and the Koran.
The campaign to protect British Egypt from Turkish invasion was especially important to the Allied war effort. The Turks sought to cut the Suez Canal, a vital supply route connecting the Mediterranean with British colonies in East Africa and India and Britain's allies in Australia and New Zealand. Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany quipped that the canal was the "jugular vein of the British Empire".
Egypt at the outbreak of war was still nominally part of the Ottoman Empire, though British troops had been there since 1882, and the British ruled in all but name, with an Egyptian khedive as the supposed head of state. When the Ottoman Empire entered the war in late October of 1914, the British were quick to make Egypt a protectorate.
©2017 Charles River Editors (P)2017 Charles River Editors