In a war which involved the peoples of the four quarters of the globe it was to be expected that on the world's oldest battleground would be renewed the scenes of conflict of bygone ages. There was perhaps a desire of some elements of both sides, certainly it was the unanimous wish of the Allies, to avoid the clash of arms in Palestine, and to leave untouched by armies a land held in reverence by three of the great religions of the world. But this ancient cockpit of warring races could not escape. The will of those who broke the peace prevailed. Germany's dream of Eastern Empires and world domination, the lust of conquest of the Kaiser party, required that the tide of war should once more surge across the land, and if the conquering hosts left fewer traces of war wreckage than were to be expected in their victorious march, it was due not to any anxiety of our foes to avoid conflict about, and damage to, places with hallowed associations, but to the masterly strategy of the British Commander-in-Chief who manoeuvred the Turkish Armies out of positions defending the sacred sites.

The people of to-day who have lived through the war, who have had their view bewildered by ever-recurring anxieties, by hopes shattered and fears realised, by a succession of victories and defeats on a colossal scale, and by a sudden collapse of the enemy, may fail to see the Palestine campaign in true perspective. But in a future generation the calm judgment of the historian in reviewing the greatest of all wars will, if I mistake not, pay a great tribute to General Allenby's strategy, not only as marking the commencement of the enemy's downfall, but as preserving from the scourge of war those holy places which symbolise the example by which most people rule their lives. Britons who value the good name of their country will appreciate what this means to those who shall come after us - that the record of a great campaign carried out exclusively by British Imperial troops was unsullied by a single act to disturb the sacred monuments, and left the land in the full possession of those rich treasures which stand for the principles that guided our actions and which, if posterity observes them, will make a better and happier world.

A few months after the Turks entered the war it was obvious that unaided they could never realise the Kaiser's hope of cutting the Suez Canal communications of the British Empire. The German commitments in Europe were too overwhelming to permit of their rendering the Turks adequate support for a renewed effort against Egypt after the failure of the attack on the Canal in February 1915. There was an attempt by the Turks in August 1916, but it was crushed by Anzac horse and British infantry at Romani,[1] a score of miles from Port Said, and thereafter the Turks in this theatre were on the defensive. Some declare the Dardanelles enterprise to have been a mistake; others believe that had we not threatened the Turks there Egypt would have had to share with us the anxieties that war brings alike upon attackers and defenders. Gallipoli and Mesopotamia, however we regard those expeditions in the first years of the struggle, undoubtedly prevented the Turks employing a large army against Egypt, and the possibilities resulting from a defeat there were so full of danger to us, not merely in that half-way house of the Empire but in India and the East generally, that if Gallipoli served to avert the disaster that ill-starred expedition was worth undertaking. We had to drive the Turks out of the Sinai Peninsula - Egyptian territory - and, that accomplished, an attack on the Turks through Palestine was imperative since the Russian collapse released a large body of Turkish troops from the Caucasus who would otherwise be employed in Mesopotamia.

[Footnote 1: The Desert Campaigns: London, Constable and Co., Ltd.]

When General Allenby took over the command of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force the British public as a whole did not fully realise the importance of the Palestine campaign. Most of them regarded it as a 'side show,' and looked upon it as one of those minor fields of operations which dissipated our strength at a time when it was imperative we should concentrate to resist the German effort on the Western Front. They did not know the facts. In our far-flung Empire it was essential that we should maintain our prestige among the races we governed, some of them martial peoples who might remain faithful to the British flag only so long as we could impress them with our power to win the war. They were more influenced by a triumph in Mesopotamia, which was nearer their doors, than by a victory in France, and the occupation of Bagdad was a victory of greater import to the King's Indian subjects than the German retirement from the Hindenburg line. If there ever was a fear of serious trouble in India the advance of General Maude in Mesopotamia dispelled it, and made it easier not only to release a portion of our white garrison in India for active service elsewhere, but to recruit a large force of Indians for the Empire's work in other climes. Bagdad was a tremendous blow to German ambitions. The loss of it spelt ruin to those hopes of Eastern conquest which had prompted the German intrigues in Turkey, and it was certain that the Kaiser, so long as he believed in ultimate victory, would refuse to accept the loss of Bagdad as final. Russia's withdrawal as a belligerent released a large body of Turkish troops in the Caucasus, and set free many Germans, particularly 'technical troops' of which the Turks stood in need, for other fronts. It was then that the German High Command conceived a scheme for retaking Bagdad, and the redoubtable von Falkenhayn was sent to Constantinople charged with the preparations for the undertaking. Certain it is that it would have been put into execution but for the situation created by the presence of a large British Army in the Sinai Peninsula. A large force was collected about Aleppo for a march down the Euphrates valley, and the winter of 1917-18 would have witnessed a stern struggle for supremacy in Mesopotamia if the War Cabinet had not decided to force the Turks to accept battle where they least wanted it.

The views of the British War Cabinet on the war in the East, at any rate, were sound and solid. They concentrated on one big campaign, and, profiting from past mistakes which led to a wastage of strength, allowed all the weight they could spare to be thrown into the Egyptian Expeditionary Force under a General who had proved his high military capacity in France, and in whom all ranks had complete confidence, and they permitted the Mesopotamian and Salonika Armies to contain the enemies on their fronts while the Army in Palestine set out to crush the Turks at what proved to be their most vital point. As to whether the force available on our Mesopotamia front was capable of defeating the German scheme I cannot offer an opinion, but it is beyond all question that the conduct of operations in Palestine on a plan at once bold, resolute, and worthy of a high place in military history saved the Empire much anxiety over our position in the Tigris and Euphrates valleys, and probably prevented unrest on the frontiers of India and in India itself, where mischief makers were actively working in the German cause. Nor can there be any doubt that the brilliant campaign in Palestine prevented British and French influence declining among the Mahomedan populations of those countries' respective spheres of control in Africa. Indeed I regard it as incontrovertible that the Palestine strategy of General Allenby, even apart from his stupendous rush through Syria in the autumn of the last year of war, did as much to end the war in 1918 as the great battles on the Western Front, for if there had been failure or check in Palestine some British and French troops in France might have had to be detached to other fronts, and the Germans' effort in the Spring might have pushed their line farther towards the Channel and Paris. If Bagdad was not actually saved in Palestine, an expedition against it was certainly stopped by our Army operating on the old battlegrounds in Palestine. We lost many lives, and it cost us a vast amount of money, but the sacrifices of brave men contributed to the saving of the world from German domination; and high as the British name stood in the East as the upholder of the freedom of peoples, the fame of Britain for justice, fair dealing, and honesty is wider and more firmly established to-day because the people have seen it emerge triumphantly from a supreme test.

In the strategy of the world war we made, no doubt, many mistakes, but in Palestine the strategy was of the best, and in the working out of a far-seeing scheme, victories so influenced events that on this front began the final phase of the war - once Turkey was beaten, Bulgaria and Austria-Hungary submitted and Germany acknowledged the inevitable. Falkenhayn saw that the Bagdad undertaking was impossible so long as we were dangerous on the Palestine front, and General Allenby's attack on the Gaza line wiped the Bagdad enterprise out of the list of German ambitions. The plan of battle on the Gaza-Beersheba line resembled in miniature the ending of the war. If we take Beersheba for Turkey, Sheria and Hareira for Bulgaria and Austria, and Gaza for Germany, we get the exact progress of events in the final stage, except that Bulgaria's submission was an intelligent anticipation of the laying down of their arms by the Turks. Gaza-Beersheba was a rolling up from our right to left; so was the ending of the Hun alliance.