Topic: BatzP - Megiddo
The Battle of Megiddo
Palestine, 19 - 21 September 1918
Megiddo, the name given to the great northern cavalry drive which split apart the Turkish defence of Palestine on 19-21 September 1918 and brought the war in the Near East to an end five weeks later. After encouraging the Turks to believe that his next offensive would take place inland, along the section of battlefront facing the Jordan River, the British commander-in-chief, General Sir Edmund Allenby, took the enemy by surprise by launching his main assault on the coastal Plain of Sharon. To this end he had secretly moved the Desert Mounted Corps (4th and 5th divisions of Indian cavalry plus Australian Mounted Division), under the command of Lieut.-General Sir Harry Chauvel, from the Jordan Valley into olive and orange groves near modern Tel Aviv in readiness to exploit the anticipated breakthrough. To conceal their departure from their former base areas, elaborate deception measures were taken.
Before the 383 gun cannonade and infantry assault at dawn on 19 September, British and Australian aircraft had also bombed out key Turkish communications centres. This ensured that large sections of the enemy line remained unaware when Chauvel's corps passed through the gap created on the Mediterranean flank at 9 a.m. on the 19th and immediately began sweeping north and north-east, aiming to get astride the enemy's vital routes for supply and reinforcement (and withdrawal). Many units were taken completely by surprise when Chauvel's horsemen appeared in rear of their positions, and within 24 hours the cavalry's advance had carried it 50 - 65 kilometres into the Turks' rear. The Turkish Eighth Army had effectively ceased to exist, and the Seventh Army next in line on its left flank was reeling back and attempting to escape impending catastrophe by getting away across the Jordan to join the demoralised but still largely intact Fourth Army.
After crossing the Carmel Range, by dawn on the 20th Chauvel's troops had reached Lejjun near the ancient fortress of Megiddo, on the edge of the plain of Esdraelon (the Armageddon of the Old Testament). While part of the 5th Division made for Haifa, the rest swung east and that evening had reached Nazareth. Here they almost captured Field Marshal Liman von Sanders, the German who had taken over supreme command in Palestine in February, but a spirited resistance by his headquarters staff enabled him to escape along the road to Tiberias. Meanwhile the 4th Division, which had also swung east, made for Beisan - the seizure of which cut the main Turkish line of communications across the Jordan. The Australian Mounted Division, moving as corps reserve during the drive up the coast, was now swung south-east towards Jenin with the aim of blocking the main escape route as the enemy's centre attempted to fall back from the disaster inflicted at Sharon. The 3rd Light Horse Brigade (under Brig. General Lachlan Wilson) was in Jenin by the evening of the 20th and by next morning had taken 8,000 prisoners. Other actions which also flowed from Sharon are Nablus, Wady Fara and (Second) Amman (q.v).
Extracted from the book produced by Chris Coulthard-Clark, Where Australians Fought - The Encyclopaedia of Australia's Battles, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1998, pp. 158-159.
Additional References cited by Chris Coulthard-Clark:
H.S. Gullett (1944) The Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine, Sydney: Angus & Robertson.
The Battle of Megiddo, Palestine, 19-21 September 1918, Roll of Honour
Citation: The Battle of Megiddo, Palestine, 19-21 September 1918, Outline