Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Friday, December 13, 2019

After Jerusalem, Allenby Takes Jericho

General Edmund Allenby Approaches the Jaffa Gate, Jerusalem,
11 December 1917

On the morning of 21 February 1918, combined Allied forces of British troops and Australian mounted cavalry capture the city of Jericho in Palestine after a three-day battle with Turkish troops.

Winter rains had put an end to campaigning for British General Edmund Allenby's forces after the advance from the Gaza-Beersheba line to the capture of Jerusalem in December 1917. This lull in the fighting offered the opportunity for the captured territories to be consolidated. Extensive developments were also required along the lines of communication to ensure that frontline troops were adequately supplied, as they were approximately 150 miles (240 km) from their main bases at Moascar and Kantara on the Suez Canal.

Allenby wrote on 25 January: "I want to extend my right, to include Jericho and the N[orth] of the Dead Sea." This advance would remove the more serious threat to his right by pushing all the enemy across the Jordan River and securing the Jordan River crossings. It would also prevent raids into the country to the west of the Dead Sea and provide a narrow starting point for operations against the Hedjaz Railway.

Allenby's Allied troops began the renewed offensive on Tuesday 19 February, on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Despite battling adverse weather conditions and a determined enemy in the Turks, the Allies were able to move nearly 20 miles toward Jericho in just three days.

Australian Light Horsemen on the Advance

On the morning of 21 February it was apparent that the Turkish line had been broken, and the Allied forces entered the holy city of Jericho without much resistance at just after 8 a.m. Upon realizing they had lost control of the city, Turkish troops chose to retreat rather than fight. During the three-day battle, Allied troops captured [only] 46 Turkish prisoners.

The capture of Jericho proved to be an important strategic victory for the Allies, who now controlled some of the most important roads in the region, including the main road to the coast and the mountain highway leading to Jerusalem. They had also made the northern end of the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth at 1,290 feet below sea level.

Sources: History Today and Wikipedia


  1. Please note that the first (upper) photo is not of General Allenby, but of General John Shea, commander of the 60th (London) Division in the yard of his HQ in Jerusalem

    1. Thanks for catching our error. The photo in question has been replaced.