University of Cambridge > > Violence and Conflict Graduate Workshop, Faculty of History > Forgotten Soldiers: The Experience of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force in the First World War, 1915-1918

Forgotten Soldiers: The Experience of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force in the First World War, 1915-1918

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Fought over the shifting sands of Egypt, the barren land of the Sinai, and the rolling mountainsides of the Judean Hills, the Palestine Campaign of the First World War has received significantly less scholarly attention than the Western Front or Gallipoli. Contested by British troops engaged in, as many had labeled it, a ‘new Crusade’ against the Ottoman Empire, contemporary public attention and support for the campaign at home was initially minimal and frequently negative. Prevailing contemporary military and political thought dictated that the maximum concentration of the British war effort was to be directed at the Western Front. It was not until the arrival of General Sir Edmund Allenby in June 1917 and the capture of Jerusalem in December, a ‘Christmas present’ at the request of Prime Minister Lloyd George, that the home front started receiving consistent press coverage of the Palestine Campaign. Fighting in a peripheral theatre of war with minimal popular attention, the aim of my study is to understand how British soldiers in Palestine – numbering close to a half million combatants by the war’s end – felt about their contribution to the British war effort. Lacking the familial and infrastructural support that afforded soldiers of the Western Front comforts and connections to and from England, British soldiers in Palestine were confronted with a markedly different war experience than their countrymen in France and Belgium. By separating the wartime writings of British soldiers serving in the Egyptian Expeditionary Force from published diaries, memoirs, and official histories; a creative reconstruction of the campaign’s relevance and importance emerges.

This talk is part of the Violence and Conflict Graduate Workshop, Faculty of History series.

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