The Ottoman Empire in World War I, 1914-1918

World War I broke out in September 1914. The Ottoman Empire entered the war on the side of the Central Powers on October 29th 1914.
In Britain, Lord of the Admiralty WINSTON CHURCHILL perceived the Ottoman Empire, defeated in 1911 by the Italians and in 1912 by a coalition of Balkan states, as the weak link in the chain of the Central Powers. Hoping to easily occupy the straits and thus linking up with the Russians via the Black Sea, the ordered the British Navy to invade the Dardanelles region. Unexpectedly, Ottoman forces pinned down the invading corps on the beaches of GALLIPOLI, and the invaders were unable to break out, eventually withdrawing in early 1915, after having suffered casualties of over 100,000 men (many of whom Australians).
In eastern Anatolia, in the meantime Russian forces make quick progress, occupying large regions. The Ottoman Empire had two more fronts, at GAZA and in lower Mesopotamia. Here, operating from a base at Kuwait, British troops penetrated northward, but then were stopped and envelopped at KUT-EL-AMARA, where the entire force had to surrender in 1915.
In the third war year (1916), the Ottoman Empire had, against expectations, stood it's ground and regained reputation. Yet it turned out that the Ottoman war effort was mainly supported by the Turkish population (which dominated the army); the Armenians in eastern Anatolia had supported the Russian invaders. In the Hejaz, the tribes led by SHERIF HUSAYN OF MECCA revolted. This revolt of camel riding bedouins armed with swords would have been a mere curiosity, if it had not been for a British intelligence officer, T.E.. Lawrence, better known as LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. With a band of 50 Bedouins, he crossed the Nefud desert, rallied further Bedouins to his force and attacked the Ottoman stronghold at AQABA (1917) which the British Navy had been unable to take. Now equipped and trained by the British, the Arab rebels became a factor of concern to the Ottoman forces.
While the Ottomans were able to expel the Russian forces from Ottoman soil in 1916, the British again invaded in Mesopotamia, taking Baghdad in March 1917. On the Gaza front, the British and Arab forces cooperated; Jerusalem fell in December 1917, Damascus on October 1st 1918.

The Ottoman Empire now was physically exhausted. After having booked a final military victory at ALEPPO, where the British forces were stopped on Oct. 26th, the Ottoman Empire asked for an armistice on October 30th.

DOCUMENTS Treaty of Alliance Between Germany and Turkey 2 August, 1914, from Avalon Project at Yale Law School
Documents and Posters, from The Hellenic Genocide, caution advised; the site is tendentious in her selection of documents
Photos from 'The Hellenic Genocide' : Turks and Germans, Turks
Archive Documents on the Armenian Issue, from Ermeni Sorunu, a Turkish site; 69 documents in facsimile (index in English)
Armenian Massacres, Eyewitness Accounts, from Ermeni Sorunu, a Turkish site; 13 accounts posted in English
REFERENCE Jason Goodwin, Lords of the Horizons, 1999, 352 pp.
Article : Turkey, in : New International Year Book 1914 pp.706-711, 1916 pp.693-697, 1918 pp.653-657 [G]
Article : Armenia, in : New International Year Book 1918 p.52 [G]
Article : Turkey, in : Statesman's Year Book 1918 pp.1319-1340 [G]
Arthur Ruhl, Antwerp to Gallipoli. A Year of the War on Many Fronts, and behind them (1916), posted online by Gutenberg Library Online
John Hargrave, At Suvla Bay, being the Notes, Sketches of Scenes, Characters and Adventures of the Dardanelles Campaign (1916), posted online by Gutenberg Library Online
Ian Hamilton, Gallipoli Diary, Pt.1, Pt.2 (1920), posted by Gutenberg Library Online
VIDEOS Gallipoli, 1981, cc; The Lighthorsemen, 1987, cc; Lawrence of Arabia, 1962, cc; all three movies show the war from the British/Entente perspective

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on May 29th 2002, last revised on September 15th 2008

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