10 Things You Need to Know About… Edmund Henry Hynman Allenby

1.  No, he wasn’t a Jew (how many Jews in those days could afford so many names?), but he was important to the history of Jews in Palestine. The boy who would become the first Viscount Allenby was born in Nottinghamshire in April 1861. Early on, he developed a passion for poetry, ornithology and botany.

2.  He was educated at the Royal Military College at Sandhurst and at the Military Staff College in Camberley, England. He distinguished himself in the Second Boer War (1899-1902), ending as a Colonel.

3.  During World War I, he served initially on the western front.  As Commander of the Third Army, he came under criticism for the failure of the assaults at the Battle of the Somme in 1916 and the Battle of Arras in 1917.

4.  He was sent to command the British Expeditionary Force in Egypt in June 1917. He reorganized the force, enlisting the aid of T.E. Lawrence in winning the support of Arab irregulars; by the fall of 1917, he had taken Gaza with a surprise attack on Beersheva.

5.  When he captured Jerusalem in December 1917, he officially entered the city on foot through the Jaffa Gate – rather than on horseback – as a sign of respect for the city’s holiness. It was an important victory for the Allies. This photo appeared in newspapers around the world.

Detail_of_Allenby_Entering_Jerusalem6.  His troops called him “The Bull” for his physical prowess, his sometimes-abrupt manner and his strictness. The Arabs called him Allah Nebi, meaning “the man sent by God.”

7.  In a war in which commanders typically stayed far in the rear, Allenby was known and admired by his soldiers for having his headquarters close to the front lines.

8.  With a brilliant scheme of deception and diversion, in September 1918 Allenby’s troops broke through Turkish lines at the Battle of Megiddo – in which two battalions of Jewish volunteers served bravely. Using cavalry and airplanes, Allenby achieved lightning success.

9.  Turkey surrendered by the end of October 1918. Allenby’s success virtually guaranteed the British mandate in Palestine.

10.  He was made a field marshall in 1919 and ennobled as Viscount. He served as High Commissioner for Egypt and the Sudan until 1925. In May 1936 he died of a ruptured aneurysm; his ashes are buried in Westminster Abbey.





You’ll find Edmund Allenby in my novel Rivka’s War, coming out this spring.

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