This rare and important map was created by the engineers of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF), the name for the British Imperial Army in the Egypt and the Levant, during World War I. It depicts Northern Palestine and south-western Syria, including the scene of the Battle of Megiddo (September 19-25, 1918), the ‘Breakthrough at Nablus’, the decisive battle of the war in the Levant, as well as the staging ground for the ‘Pursuit to Haritan’, the final stage of the conflict in the region, whereby the British Allied armies pursued the Ottoman-German forces to their ultimate surrender in Northern Syria.
The present example is the extremely rare first edition of the map, published in Cairo by the Survey of Egypt in 1915; subsequent updated editions followed. It is predicated upon manuscripts which were, in turn, based on intelligence collected in the field from informants; as well as authoritative existing maps.
The map covers the territory from Jaffa, in the southwest, up past Haifa (Palestine’s greatest port) to Akko, in the north, and then inland past the upper Jordan Valley and Sea of Galilee to Deraa, Syria and ‘Es Salt’ (Al-Salt, Jordan), in the west. In the lower-left quadrant are the Judean Hills, and the city of Nablus, where in September 1918, the British finally broke a lengthy stalemate, piercing the Ottoman-German lines and rushing down into the Plain of Sharon, where they dealt a crushing blow to their enemy.
The map, done to an operational scale of 1:250,000, features all manner of information useful for military movement. The region’s dramatic topography is carefully expressed, with areas of elevation captured by delicate shading, while the numerous rivers, wadis and swamps are carefully defined.
The ‘Reference’ in the lower left margin, notes symbols used to identify metalled roads – bold red lines; roads passable for all transports in dry weather – dashed red lines; roads fit for guns and limbers (light forces) – dotted red lines; railways – bold black lines; telegraph lines – pointed black lines; ‘S’ – springs; while heights are in feet. Also noted, are details such as archaeological sites; watering places (cisterns, wells, etc.); bridges; and the quality of the land (noting areas of cultivation, etc.).
Of note, the map delineates the Jezreel Valley Railway that connected Haifa with Deraa, Syria (completed in 1905). The map clearly identifies a certain stretch of railroad in particular as being a potential target for future military attack, as a passage in red, in the lower right corner, reads, ‘Note: The Bridges along the Railway in the Yarmuk are indicated by red numbers for convenience of reference; the same applies to the Tunnels which in addition to the numbers are shown by T.’
Also shown is a good stretch of the Hejaz Railway, the line completed from Damascus to Mecca in 1908 to aide Hajj Pilgrims and to solidify the Ottoman Sultan’s control over the two holiest cities of Islam. The map also delineates a part of the ‘Derb El Hajj’, referring to the Syrian Hajj Road, the great overland route from Damascus to Mecca that runs almost parallel to the railway.
Additionally, the map notes the northern part of the railway that the Ottoman-Germans completed in 1915 that ran north-south down the heart of Palestine. However, the exact route of the line remained a mystery to the British side, as revealed by a note in the lower right, by the legend, which reads ‘The trace of the Afule-Ludd Railway s approximate as shown thus’ – showing railway tracks in bold, bright red.
A Note on Editions and Rarity
The present first edition of the map was published in 1915 by the Survey of Egypt and is especially rare. While Worldcat makes reference to 3 examples, further inquiry reveals that these citations actually refer examples of later editions. Thus, while there are likely examples somewhere, we cannot trace the locations of any other examples of the first edition.
A second edition was apparently published in London by the War Office later in 1915, while another edition was issued by the Survey of Egypt in 1918.
All editions of the map are rare, as they were issued in only very small print runs for classified dissemination to senior British military officers. Moreover, the survival rate of such maps, which were heavily used in the field, is extremely low.
The Palestine Campaign and the Decisive ‘Breakthrough at Nablus’
While today it does not have the prominence in memory as the Western Front, Palestine played an exceedingly important role in World War I. Geo-strategically, it was a keystone, occupying a vital location between the Sinai and the Suez Canal (the lifeline of global trade and of the authority of the British Empire), on one side, and the heart of the Middle East, on the other. Home to the holy city of Jerusalem, the region also possessed tremendous symbolic importance.
From the outset of World War I in the Middle East, the British side was headquartered in Cairo, while the Ottoman-German command was based in Damascus – with Palestine in between. Early in 1915, the Central Powers side, led by Enver Pasha, the Ottoman War Minister, assisted by some of Germany’s best generals, took the offensive, making credible, but ultimately unsuccessful, attempts at seizing the Suez Canal – utterly terrifying British officials from India to London.
In the summer of 1916, the EEF regrouped and took the offensive, driving the Ottoman-Germans out of the Sinai. The British entered Palestine at the beginning of 1917, winning the Battle of Rafah (January 9, 1917), located near the lower-left corner of the map. However, they soon became trapped along the Ottoman-German defensive lines that ran from Gaza to Beersheba. The EEF lost the First and Second Battle of Gaza in March 1917, resulting in a stalemate that lasted over six months.
Finally, in October 1917, the British took Beersheba, and at the Third Battle of Gaza (November 1-2, 1917), managed to break the Ottoman-German lines, surging towards Jerusalem. The Battle of Jerusalem (November 17 – December 30, 1917) was long and bloody, but the EEF gained the upper hand. On December 11, before the entire environs of the city were secure, the British commander, General Edmund Allenby, famously entered Jerusalem through the Jaffa Gate on foot (as a sign of respect for the holy city).
The EEF then lost its momentum, as it was compelled to send thousands of its troops to the Western Front in Europe to counter a great German offensive. They became bogged down in fighting in the Judean Hills and in Jordan, and failed to take Amman in March 1918, while several attempts to break into northern Palestine were blocked. However, the Ottoman-German lines were worn down by the attacks and began to suffer from supply shortages.
Finally, at what became known as the Battle of Megiddo, the ‘Breakthrough at Nablus’ (September 19-25, 1918), a force of 70,000 British Imperial troops, under General Allenby, backed by over 4,000 warriors loyal to Emir Faisal of Hejaz, pressed the enemy lines in the Judean Hills, before an army of 35,000 Ottoman troops and their German advisors, commanded by General Limon von Sanders. The German-Ottoman defences collapsed into a scene of chaos, a predicament that was brilliantly exploited by the British. In what was a series of operations, between the Plain of Sharon, along the coast, and the hills towards the Jordan Valley, the British succeeded in surrounding the Ottoman-German force, inflicting immense casualties and capturing most of the enemy army. In the end only 6,000 Ottoman-German troops managed to retreat from the field, and out of Palestine altogether, to Syria and Lebanon.
The Megiddo victory was decisive, as the Ottoman-German side in the Levant was henceforth always on the run, never able to make a real stand against British forces. Northern Palestine thus became the staging ground for what would become known the ‘Pursuit to Haritan’, whereby the EEF and their Hejazi allies would chase the Ottoman Yildirim ‘Lightening’ Army northwards.
The Entente force mounted this offensive in two prongs, one departed from Haifa along the coast, while the other captured Damascus on October 1, 1918, before moving through the interior up the Beqaa Valley, and then over to Homs, Hama and Aleppo.
The coastal prong continued northwards from Haifa and Akko on September 29. Beirut was captured on October 10, while the Ottomans abandoned Tripoli on October 13.
By the time that the war ended, pursuant to the Treaty of Mudros (October 30, 1918), the Entente forces had chased the Ottoman-German armies all the way up to Haritan, north of Aleppo, ensuring that the Syria-Lebanon Campaign was a resounding success, giving the Entente side serious leverage in post-war negotiations.
References: N/A – No other examples of the present first edition located. Cf. OCLC: 1030608181.
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