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Battle of Aleppo (1918)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Battle of Aleppo (1918)
Part of the Middle Eastern theatre of World War I

Aleppo c. 1918 with the Citadel in the background
Date25 October 1918
Result Allied victory

Arab Revolt Kingdom of Hejaz
United Kingdom British Empire

Sharif of Mecca
 Ottoman Empire
 German Empire
Commanders and leaders
Arab Revolt Faisal bin Hussein
United Kingdom Edmund Allenby
Australia Harry Chauvel
Ottoman Empire Mustafa Kemal Pasha
German Empire Liman von Sanders
Sherif Nasir and Nuri Bey's Forces Remnants of the Yildirim Army Group

The Battle of Aleppo was fought on 25 October 1918, when Prince Feisal's Sherifial Forces captured the city during the Pursuit to Haritan from Damascus, in the last days of the Sinai and Palestine Campaign in the First World War.

After the British Empire's victory at the Battle of Megiddo the remnants of the Ottoman Empire's Yildirim Army Group from Amman was pursued by Prince Feisal's Sherifial Force which captured Deraa on 27 September, on the right flank of the 4th Cavalry Division. Meanwhile, the pursuit by the Australian Mounted Division followed by the 5th Cavalry Division of Yildirim Army Group remnants retreating from the Judean Hills, captured Damascus on 1 October 1918, many thousands of German and Ottoman prisoners and many miles of formerly Ottoman Empire territory. A remnant force of Yildirim Army Group managed to escape Damascus, to concentrate at Rayak before retreating back through Homs and Hama towards Aleppo. Huge losses in Desert Mounted Corps from sickness, delayed and depleted their pursuit from Damascus which was continued by 24 cars in three batteries of armoured cars, and three light car patrols armed with machine guns. They were supported by the 15th Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade of the 5th Cavalry Division with the remainder of the division following.

Having covered the right flank of the pursuit to Damascus, Prince Feisal's Sherifial Force continued north along the Hejaz railway to arrive outside Aleppo. After attacking a strong rearguard defence to the south of the city earlier in the day, under cover of darkness bypassed those entrenchments to enter Aleppo, where hand-to-hand fighting in the streets continued for most of the night. The city was captured by the Sherifial forces by morning.

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1918. After three and a half years of war, the Allies are in crisis. Russia has been rocked by Revolution, and its new Bolshevik government has signed an armistice with the Central Powers. Thousands of German troops will be freed up to fight on the Western Front, where the carnage of trench warfare has already claimed more than a million lives. But Germany is also desperate. Britain's long naval blockade has led to shortages and social unrest at home... While America's entry into the war brings fresh manpower and vast resources to the Allied cause. Germany faces inevitable defeat, unless it can win a quick victory on the Western Front. US President Wilson announces his 'Fourteen Points'. They outline his vision for a post-war world, including an end to secret treaties, a reduction in the size of armed forces, self-determination for the people of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and an international organisation to settle future disputes. But most European leaders dismiss his ideas as wishful thinking. At Brest-Litovsk, Bolshevik Russia signs a peace treaty with the Central Powers. Russia gives up vast amounts of territory in exchange for peace. Half a million German troops can now be redeployed from the East to the Western Front, where German General Erich Ludendorff plans an all-out, last-ditch offensive to win the war. Ludendorff's Spring Offensive catches the Allies off-guard. German stormtroopers, using new infiltration tactics, help to overwhelm the British 5th Army, which is soon in full retreat. The German advance threatens to split the British and French armies, with disastrous consequences. So French General Ferdinand Foch is appointed Supreme Commander of Allied Forces, to co-ordinate strategy. Outside Amiens, British and Australian troops improvise a defence, and finally halt the German advance. The German offensive switches to the north, targeting the Channel ports. But the British inflict heavy losses on the Germans, and prevent a breakthrough. Above the trenches, the first air war continues to escalate. Each side now has more than 3,000 aircraft in service on the Western Front. But by 1918 the Allies have won air superiority, thanks to greater resources. On 21st April, Germany's most famous pilot, Manfred von Richthofen, the 'Red Baron', is shot down and killed near Amiens. With 80 victories, he's the war's highest-scoring ace, and is buried by the Allies with full military honours. Britain's new 'Independent Bombing Force', launches a daylight raid against Cologne. It marks the beginning of Britain's own strategic bombing campaign. On the ground, Ludendorff's offensive switches south, targeting the French. German troops advance 30 miles, but are halted at the River Marne, just as fresh American divisions enter the line. The US 1st Division is the first to see combat, at the Battle of Cantigny. Three days later the US 2nd Division wins victory at the Battle of Belleau Wood. By now there are nearly a million American soldiers in France, with 10,000 more arriving every day. The fourth phase of the German Offensive leads to a 9 mile advance, but is finally halted by a French counterattack. In Italy, Austria-Hungary launches an attack at Asiago and the Piave River, to support Ludendorff's offensive in France. But it's repulsed with heavy losses, and morale amongst the Austro-Hungarian army collapses. British and French troops land at Murmansk in northern Russia. It's the beginning of Allied intervention in Russia's Civil War, on the side of so-called 'White', or anti-Bolshevik, forces. On the Western Front, the Germans' final attack is defeated in the Second Battle of the Marne. Ludendorff's Offensive has cost the Germans more than 600,000 casualties, and has failed to make a decisive breakthrough. Germany's final gamble has failed. The Allies now go on the attack. At the Battle of Amiens, British, Australian, Canadian and French troops, supported by tanks and aircraft, advance 7 miles in a single day. General Ludendorff calls 8th August 'the Black Day of the German army'. German troops are exhausted, hungry and demoralised, and begin to surrender in their thousands. The Battle of Amiens begins the Allies' 'Hundred Days Offensive': trench warfare is over; the Germans are in full retreat. In the Balkans, a new Allied offensive at Dobro Pole breaks through Bulgarian positions. The overstretched Bulgarian army collapses, and two weeks later Bulgaria signs an armistice. In the Middle East, British-led forces defeat the Turks at the Battle of Megiddo, taking 25,000 prisoners. Allied troops soon occupy Damascus and Aleppo. On the Western Front, Marshal Foch orders a general attack. British, French and American armies reach the Hindenburg Line, a line of reinforced German defences, and break through. Ludendorff informs the Kaiser that the military situation is hopeless, and that Germany must seek an armistice. Germany sends a request to US President Woodrow Wilson, who, in return, demands German withdrawal from all occupied territory, and the Kaiser's abdication. On the Italian Front, the Allies deliver the final blow to Austria-Hungary at the Battle of Vittorio Veneto. The Austro-Hungarian army disintegrates, and 300,000 prisoners are taken. With the Central Powers facing collapse, the Ottoman Empire signs an armistice with the Allies at Mudros. Four days later, Austria-Hungary signs an armistice with the Allies at Villa Giusti. At Kiel, the German High Seas Fleet is ordered to make a suicidal attack on the British navy, but instead, it mutinies. Revolution spreads through Germany. The Kaiser abdicates and a German republic is proclaimed. On 11th November 1918, a German delegation signs an armistice with the Allies, inside Marshal Foch's railway carriage at Compiègne. It comes into force at 11am, but fighting continues until the last moment. American private Henry Gunther is killed charging a German machinegun at 10.59. He is thought to be the last soldier killed during World War One. Three days later, in East Africa, German General Von Lettow-Vorbeck surrenders his army on the Chambezi River. For four years he has tied down huge numbers of Allied troops, remaining undefeated, while cut-off from home. He is still considered one of history's greatest guerrilla leaders. The Paris Peace Conference opens at the Palace of Versailles, just outside the French capital. Delegates accept a proposal to create a 'League of Nations', to settle future international disputes. The Versailles Treaty, signed in June, imposes harsh terms on Germany: its military is restricted in size, it must pay war reparations to the Allies, it loses territory to its neighbours, and its colonies are seized by the victors. Germany must also accept responsibility for the war in a 'war guilt' clause – a source of lasting resentment in Germany. The boundaries of Europe are redrawn: Poland re-emerges after a hundred years of foreign rule. While Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and an enlarged Romania emerge from the ashes of the Austro-Hungarian empire. The Ottoman Empire is dismantled. New states, most under European control, are created in the Middle East. Here, as in Europe, the seeds of future conflict are sown. While in the Far East, former German possessions in China are handed to Japan, to China's outrage. World War One claimed the lives of nine and a half million soldiers, 1 in 8 of those who fought. 21 million more were wounded. 7 million civilians also lost their lives. Huge areas of Europe were left devastated. Old empires vanished; new states were born; lives across the world were transformed. The world was never the same again. If you enjoyed this video, please remember to like it and subscribe to the channel, and find out how you can help us make more videos at our Patreon page.



Following the comprehensive success of the Battle of Megiddo, Sir Henry Wilson, Chief of the Imperial General Staff (CIGS) at the War Office encouraged General Allenby commanding the Egyptian Expeditionary Force with the idea that the EEF could do anything and asked him to consider a cavalry raid to Aleppo.[1] Wilson added that the War Cabinet was prepared to take full responsibility for any unsuccessful outcomes.[2]

About 19,000 Ottoman soldiers had retreated northwards by 1 October, no more than 4,000 of whom were equipped and able to fight.[3] Liman von Sanders transferred his headquarters to Baalbek and ordered the remnants of Yildirim Army Group from Haifa and Deraa to concentrate at Rayak. The 146th Regiment was the last formation to leave Damascus on 30 September. After hearing the Barada Gorge was closed von Hammerstein left Damascus by the Homs road, following the III Corps, the 24th Division and the 3rd Cavalry Division to Rayak where even remnants of the 43rd Division of the Second Army which had not been involved in fighting, were "infected with panic." Only the remnants of von Oppen's Asia Corps and the 146th Regiment marching to Homs remained "disciplined formations" by 2 October.[4]

Lieutenant General Harry Chauvel's Desert Mounted Corps at Damascus was already 150 miles (240 km) away from its main supply base while Aleppo was a further 200 miles (320 km) away. Allenby was prepared to advance only in stages as supply and geography dictated.[5] He estimated on 25 September that there were 25,000 enemy troops in the Aleppo and Alexandretta area.[6]

Aleppo has been in existence since the Hittite era, also known as Halab since the transition from the Middle to the Late Bronze Age during the second millennium BC. The city had been captured by Arabs in 646, occupied by the Seljuk Turks in 1085 and incorporated into the Ottoman Empire in 1516. By the beginning of the First World War it had a population of 150,000. Situated on the Anatolian frontier, 200 miles (320 km) north of Damascus, Aleppo was in 1918 not far from the strategically important railway junction of the Palestine and the Mesopotamian railway systems at Mouslimie Junction.[7][8][9]


Liman von Sanders ordered Mustapha Kemal to defend Aleppo, while he withdrew his headquarters and the German troops further north, without much hope of "holding anything south of the Taurus Mountains."[10]

British Empire force

Prince Feisal leaving Chauvel's Desert Mounted Corps Headquarters in Damascus
Prince Feisal leaving Chauvel's Desert Mounted Corps Headquarters in Damascus

This force which conducted the pursuit was made up of Prince Fisal's Sherifial Force; one column of 1,500 commanded by Colonel Nuri Bey and a second column of 1,500 commanded by Sherif Nasir,[11] the 2nd, 11th and 12th Light Armoured Motor Batteries and the 1st (Australian), 2nd and 7th Light Car Patrols consisting of 24 armoured cars,[12] and the 5th Cavalry Division's 15th Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade which accompanied the armoured cars to Hamma on 21 October,[13] while the 13th and 14th Cavalry Brigades followed in support.[14]

The 5th Cavalry Division and the armoured cars were organised into two columns. Column "A" consisted of the 5th Cavalry Division's headquarters, all the armoured cars and the 15th Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade.[13] The 13th and 14th Cavalry Brigades formed Column "B."[15]

Yildirim Army Group defences

Aleppo to be garrisoned at the time by 4,000 Ottoman troops with about 20,000 in the city and nearby. This force was organised by Mustapha Kemal and Nehed Pasha commander of the Second Army to defend the city.[16] With his headquarters at Katma, Mustapha Kemal deployed four divisions south of the city. The newly reorganised 1st and 11th Divisions of the newly created Ottoman XX Corps, (brought up to strength of between 2,000 and 3,000 soldiers "by drafts and a reinforcement of one complete regiment from Turkey"),[17] and the 24th and the 43rd Divisions held strong entrenched positions.[18]

Mustapha Kemal ordered the weaker 41st Division to defend Alexandretta north west of Aleppo while the 44th Division was in reserve north of the Gulf of İskenderun with the 23rd Division at Tarsus. The 47th Division may also have been in this area. All the surviving German troops had been withdrawn and were concentrated near Tarsus. The Fourth Army's headquarters, the 48th, 3rd Cavalry and Composite Divisions, the Seventh Army's 26th and 53rd Divisions along with the Eighth Army's 7th, 16th, 19th, 20th and 46th Divisions had all been destroyed or dissolved.[17]

Armoured car reconnaissance 23 October

The pace of the cavalry and armoured car pursuit, was dictated by supplies of petrol and ration and the stamina of the horses, with aircraft reconnaissances scouting ahead to locate enemy forces.[19]

From Hama a column of armoured cars carried out a reconnaissance towards Aleppo, leaving behind the 15th Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade. They attacked some enemy cavalry at Khan Tuman, about 10 miles (16 km) south of Aleppo before encountering between 2,000 and 3,000 entrenched Ottoman infantry of the 1st and 11th Divisions, holding a defensive position across the road through Ansarie and Sheikh Said 3 miles (4.8 km) south of the city.[15][20] Aerial and ground reconnaissances established the size of the rearguard and identified a further 6,000 or 7,000 soldiers holding Aleppo.[15]

Captain Macintyre, commander of the 7th Light Car Patrol with the flag of truce used on 23 October
Captain Macintyre, commander of the 7th Light Car Patrol with the flag of truce used on 23 October

Major General H. J. Macandrew commanding 5th Cavalry Division, sent Captain R. H. M. McIntyre commanding 7th Light Car Patrol under a flag of truce with a demand for the surrender Aleppo, which was rejected by Mustapha Kemal.[21][22] Subsequently, the armoured cars attempted a reconnaissance in a northwesterly direction looking for a way through the rocky hills to the southwest of Aleppo, towards the Alexandretta road. The country was found to be too rough for cars and they withdrew back to Khan Tuman to bivouac.[15]


Falls Sketch Map 41 Pursuit from Damascus to Aleppo 1 to 28 October 1918
Falls Sketch Map 41 Pursuit from Damascus to Aleppo 1 to 28 October 1918

While the armoured cars waited for reinforcement by the 15th Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade on 24 and 25 October, they continued to reconnoiter the Ottoman defences south of Aleppo.[23] The Sherifial Force commanded by Nuri Bey had advanced along the Hejaz railway on the right flank of the 5th Cavalry Division. Nuri Bey launched an attack, which may have included armoured cars, on the entrenched Ottoman position south of Aleppo on 25 October. This Sherifial Force was driven back by heavy fire from guns, machine guns and rifles all along the line of Mustapha Kemal's defences.[15][21]

Nuri Bey's Sherifial Force was joined by a second Sherifial Force of 1,500 Hejaz Arab troops commanded by Sherif Nasir which Prince Feisal had ordered to advance from Homs to Aleppo.[15][24][25] Meanwhile, the 15th Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade caught up with the armoured cars at Zi'bre 13 miles (21 km) south west of Aleppo. They relieved the armoured cars on outpost duty during the evening of 25 October while Column "B" of the 5th Cavalry Division reached Seraikin about 30 miles (48 km) south of Aleppo.[15][26]

Macandrew planned an attack on the city from three sides to take place on 26 October. The armoured cars were to attack along the road from the south, Prince Feisal's Sherifial forces were to attack from the east while the 15th Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade moving round to the west of Aleppo was to cut the Alexandretta road.[23][27] However, during the night of 25 October, Nuri Bey's Arab Sherifial Force attacked the city from the east,[21] and the Arab force commanded by Sherif Nazir advanced round the entrenched Ottoman defences, entered the city to make contact with supporters.[15][22]

Hand–to–hand fighting occurred in the streets during the night. In the confusion Mustapha Kemal withdrew his headquarters out of the city, losing touch with his force defending the entrenchments to the south of Aleppo. By the morning of 26 October these defences were deserted.[28][29] Aleppo had been captured by the Sherifial Forces by 10:00 on 26 October, having suffering 60 killed. MacAndrew arrived shortly after with the armoured cars.[15]


No. 1 Australian Light Car Patrol at Aleppo railway station
No. 1 Australian Light Car Patrol at Aleppo railway station

Part of Macandrew's preempted attack on Aleppo, went ahead at 07:00 on 26 October when the Jodhpore and Mysore lancer regiments of the 15th Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade without artillery support, but with a subsection of the 15th Machine Gun Squadron, advanced to the Alexandretta road on the edge of Aleppo. They continued on to Haritan where they twice charged a rearguard but they were strongly resisted forcing the cavalry to eventually retire. The Ottoman force also retired to establish a rearguard position at Deir el Jemal with an extensive 25 miles (40 km)-long line of defence 4 miles (6.4 km) behind the Deir el Jemal position.[15][30]

The Ottoman forces now defending what remained of the Ottoman Empire consisted of the remnant of the Seventh Army commanded by Mustapha Kemal which had escaped the Megiddo battlefield, the captures of Damascus and Aleppo, was now deployed to the north and northwest of Aleppo with the Second Army of about 16,000 armed troops commanded by Nihad Pasha to the west in Cilicia while the Sixth Army with another 16,000 armed troops commanded by Ali Ihsan, which had been withdrawn from Mesopotamia was to the northeast around Nusaybin.[31][32]


  1. ^ Wilson to Allenby 24 September 1918 in Hughes 2004 p. 186
  2. ^ Wilson to Allenby received 24 September 1918 in Woodward 2006 p. 203
  3. ^ Bruce 2002 p. 248
  4. ^ Falls 1930 Vol. 2 p. 594–5
  5. ^ Bruce 2002 pp. 248–9
  6. ^ Allenby to Wilson 25 September 1918 in Hughes 2004 p. 188
  7. ^ Bou 2009 pp. 196–7
  8. ^ Hill 1978 p. 188
  9. ^ Falls 1930 Vol. 2 p. 616
  10. ^ Keogh 1955 p. 254
  11. ^ Falls 1930 Vol. 2 pp. 611, 613
  12. ^ Falls 1930 Vol. 2 p. 610
  13. ^ a b Falls 1930 Vol. 2 p. 612
  14. ^ Falls 1930 Vol. 2 pp. 615, 617
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Preston 1921 pp. 288–91
  16. ^ Bruce 2002 pp. 253–4
  17. ^ a b Falls 1930 Vol. 2 p. 617 note
  18. ^ Falls 1930 Vol. 2 pp. 613 note, 617 note
  19. ^ Cutlack 1941 p. 169
  20. ^ Falls 1930 Vol. 2 pp. 612–3, p. 613 note
  21. ^ a b c Falls 1930 Vol. 2 p. 613
  22. ^ a b Hill 1978 p. 189
  23. ^ a b Wavell 1968 pp. 231–2
  24. ^ Falls 1930 Vol. 2 pp. 605–6, 611
  25. ^ Bruce 2002 p. 252
  26. ^ Falls 1930 Vol. 2 pp. 612–3
  27. ^ Bruce 2002 p. 255
  28. ^ Keogh 1955 pp. 254–5
  29. ^ Wavell 1968 p. 232
  30. ^ Falls 1930 Vol. 2 p. 613–7
  31. ^ Hill 1978 p. 191
  32. ^ Falls 1930 Vol. 2 p. 613 note


  • Bou, Jean (2009). Light Horses: A History of Australia's Mounted Arm. Australian Army History. Port Melbourne: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521197083.
  • Bruce, Anthony (2002). The Last Crusade: The Palestine Campaign in the First World War. London: John Murray. ISBN 978-0-7195-5432-2.
  • Cutlack, Frederic Morley (1941). The Australian Flying Corps in the Western and Eastern Theatres of War, 1914–1918. Official History of Australia in the War of 1914–1918. Volume VIII (11th ed.). Canberra: Australian War Memorial. OCLC 220900299.
  • Falls, Cyril; Becke, A. F. (maps) (1930). Military Operations Egypt & Palestine from June 1917 to the End of the War. Official History of the Great War Based on Official Documents by Direction of the Historical Section of the Committee of Imperial Defence. Volume 2 Part II. London: H.M. Stationery Office. OCLC 256950972.
  • Hill, Alec Jeffrey (1978). Chauvel of the Light Horse: A Biography of General Sir Harry Chauvel, GCMG, KCB. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press. OCLC 5003626.
  • Hughes, Matthew, ed. (2004). Allenby in Palestine: The Middle East Correspondence of Field Marshal Viscount Allenby June 1917 – October 1919. Army Records Society. 22. Phoenix Mill, Thrupp, Stroud, Gloucestershire: Sutton Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7509-3841-9.
  • Keogh, E. G.; Joan Graham (1955). Suez to Aleppo. Melbourne: Directorate of Military Training by Wilkie & Co. OCLC 220029983.
  • Preston, R. M. P. (1921). The Desert Mounted Corps: An Account of the Cavalry Operations in Palestine and Syria 1917–1918. London: Constable & Co. OCLC 3900439.
  • Wavell, Field Marshal Earl (1968) [1933]. "The Palestine Campaigns". In Sheppard, Eric William. A Short History of the British Army (4th ed.). London: Constable & Co. OCLC 35621223.
  • Woodward, David R. (2006). Hell in the Holy Land: World War I in the Middle East. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 978-0-8131-2383-7.

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