Lawrence of Arabia Takes Damascus
The 1st of October 1918 AD
Just as with the war in Europe, by the middle of 1918 the balance in the Middle East had tipped irrevocably in favour of the Allies. General Allenby by September had the Turkish forces all but beaten; Damascus was the last major prize. Allenby had a quarter of a million men under his command, none perhaps more effective than the 3,000 Arabs commanded by T.E. Lawrence , a fast-moving force which kept 15 times their number of Turks occupied.
By the end of September the Turks had evacuated Damascus; on the night of September 30 an advance party of Australian Light Horse entered the ancient city; at 6.30 the next day their commander, Major Olden, took the surrender of the remaining enemy forces.
Lawrence arrived in Damascus in style, riding in an open topped Rolls Royce. He ejected the two Algerians acting as the puppets of the Turks, and declared that the city was free, and that the Ottoman Empire was at an end. After confirming with Allenby by telegraph that he, Lawrence, was to be Acting Governor, warrior transformed into administrator, organising the fire-brigade, currency, food distribution and any number of things in a four-day frenzy of activity during which he could only grab three hours of sleep.
Sadly Lawrence’s dreams of a pan-Arab state came to nothing; factional differences, the 1916 Anglo-French agreement dividing the oil-rich region between those two states; and other political obstacles prevented its realisation, as Lawrence himself knew would be the case a matter of days after Damascus fell.
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