The First World War in the Middle East

The single case study on this theme,“British Forces in the Middle East”, utilizes a variety of resources, mainly drawn from the World War I collection. The campaigns in Mesopotamia, the Dardanelles, Egypt and Palestine are all reflected in McMaster's archival holdings which, as the case study illustrates, contain first hand observations from the soldiers involved.

Some of the archives used in this theme pertain to other themes as well. For example, some of the William Bailey materials (when he was not in the Middle East) appear in other themes. Album 36, “Mesopotamia and Bombay”, contains some photographs which have been digitized for the sub-theme Life Away from the Front in The Soldier’s Life.

British Forces in the Middle East

British forces fought on three primary fronts in the Middle East after the Ottoman Empire—initially neutral after war broke out in Europe in August 1914—joined the Central Powers on 29 October 1914. In Mesopotamia, a small Anglo-Indian contingent captured the town of Basra in November 1914 to ensure the uninterrupted flow of oil. Emboldened by this success, the British led a halting advance towards Baghdad throughout 1915, but stiffening Turkish resistance and logistical problems caused the disastrous surrender of Anglo-Indian troops at Kut-el-Amara in April 1916.

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