Gallipoli and the Arab Revolt

galipoli2
The evacuation of Gallipoli

The recent commemoration of Anzac Day and the battle of Gallipoli brought my attention to a very interesting article published in 2015 in the British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies by David J. Charlwood.

In this fascinating article, the historian establishes a clear link between the withdrawal of the Allied troops from Gallipoli and the British decision to support the Arab revolt.

To sum up the findings of the author, Sharif Hussein of Mecca wrote to British High Commissioner in Egypt Sir Arthur McMahon in July 1915 to propose collaboration. The first response he received was “[…] that it cannot, on account of its incoherence [the Arab movement’s] be of any value to us.”

But the negative progression of events for the British and Allied forces on the Gallipoli peninsula was associated by a desire, from the same McMahon, to ensure that the foreseeable debacle would mean a loss of prestige, notably in the eyes of the Arabs and hence the high potential of their alignment with the Turks.

As the secret evacuation of the British troops began, the same McMahon wrote to Hussein: “As an earnest of our intentions, and in order to aid you in your efforts in our joint cause, I am sending you by your trustworthy messenger a sum of twenty thousand pounds.”

It is just fascinating to realize the direct link between what happened on the beaches of Gallipoli and the sands of the Arabian Desert.

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