Battle of Megiddo

Map at Battle of Megiddo
Map at Battle of Megiddo

The Battle of Megiddo was fought from 19 to 25 September 1918. It was the climactic battle of the Sinai and Palestine campaign of World War One (1914-18). German and Ottoman forces under the command of Otto Liman von Sanders and Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk) found themselves encircled by Entente (British Empire, French, and Hejaz Arab) forces under ingenuous General Edmund Allenby.


British General Edmund Allenby
British General Edmund Allenby

General Allenby planned to bring about the final destruction of the Ottoman Army. He used mobile warfare skilfully to deploy his forces before launching a surprise attack. Allenby sought to trap the Ottoman forces, which were encamped and re-grouping on the plains of Megiddo, and block off any escape routes.

Mounted Division Battle of Megiddo
Mounted Division Battle of Megiddo

He aimed to launch a coordinated attack with cavalry, infantry, artillery, armored vehicles and aircraft to annihilate them in one fell swoop. As the infantry and artillery closed on their positions, the Desert Mounted Corps quickly encircled the enemy, preventing escape.

Destroyed Turkish transport at Battle of Megiddo
Destroyed Turkish transport at Battle of Megiddo

Arab rebels launched attacks on Ottoman lines of communication, while British and Indian divisions battered the Ottoman armies at Sharon and Nablus. At the Battle of Sharon (19 September), accurate and deadly creeping artillery barrages preceded an assault by the infantry of 21 Corps who punched holes through the defences. The Desert Mounted Corps then poured through into the Ottoman rear positions. They advanced many miles, capturing the key strongholds at Afulah, Beisan, and Jenin. Sweeping through the region, they took thousands of prisoners, and also secured Nazareth, Haifa, and Samakh.

The desired breakthroughs at Sharon were achieved by nightfall. The Battle of Nablus then began with 20 Corps attacking the well-defended Ottoman front line in the Judean Hills. A mixed mounted and infantry unit known as Chaytor’s Force captured the Jordan River crossings, while an artillery barrage softened up the Ottoman 8th Army.

Battle of Megiddo
Battle of Megiddo

At the same time, the Ottoman 4th Army came under sustained attack in the Hills of Moab, at Es Salt and Amman. The battles raged throughout the night and into the next day, allowing 21 Corps to begin outflanking the 8th Army. Meanwhile the Desert Mounted Corps completed their encirclement of the Ottoman Army, securing the important defiles of the Carmel Range.

Turkish prisoners Battle of Megiddo
Turkish prisoners Battle of Megiddo

The Ottoman armies were trapped. The Entente forces held aerial and numerical superiority. Nablus was captured and a devastating aerial bombardment cut off the line of retreat along the Wadi el Fara road. Waves of British and Australian aircraft passed over the Ottoman column of retreat. The attack was due to last five or six hours, but the Ottoman forces were totally destroyed within 60 minutes. The wreckage of hundreds of vehicles, wagons, guns, and dead or wounded troops lay scattered along a six-mile stretch of road.

Ottoman prisoners at Es Salt
Ottoman prisoners at Es Salt

By 21 September, Ottoman forces around Nablus were broken, allowing 20 Corps to round up prisoners. The Australian Light Horse had been upgraded to cavalry. Now armed with sabres, they had the opportunity to use them in brutally over-running Ottoman troops at Samakh.

Elements of the Ottoman 4th Army were deployed away from the destruction at Sharon and Nablus, and still posed a risk. Receiving word of the losses at those battles, they began a northward retreat. Again British and Australian aircraft caused heavy losses on the retreating forces, as Chaytor’s Force took Es Salt and Amman.

As the last desperate elements of the 4th Army reached Ziza they found their path blocked by the ANZAC Mounted Division. Pursued by Arab irregulars embittered by years of occupation, they surrendered en masse to the Anzacs rather than face slaughter at Arab hands.

Battle of Megiddo
Battle of Megiddo

In the entire battle, the Entente had inflicted losses on the Ottoman Army of over 25,000 killed, wounded or captured, effectively ending their ability to continue the war.

Battle of Megiddo
Battle of Megiddo

This battle was the last major military effort of the Ottoman empire before it collapsed, because General Edmund Allenby pushed immediately northwards towards Turkey after the defeat of the Turkey’s and German armies.

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