Edmund Allenby, 1st Viscount Allenby bigraphy, stories - British Army general

Edmund Allenby, 1st Viscount Allenby : biography

23 April 1861 - 14 May 1936

Field Marshal Edmund Henry Hynman Allenby, 1st Viscount Allenby GCB, GCMG, GCVO (23 April 1861 – 14 May 1936) was an English soldier and British Imperial Governor. He fought in the Second Boer War, and also in World War I in which he led the British Empire's Egyptian Expeditionary Force during the Sinai and Palestine Campaign in the conquest of Palestine and Syria in 1917 and 1918, which culminated in the victory of the Battle of Megiddo. T. E. Lawrence ("Lawrence of Arabia"), whose campaign with the Arab irregulars aided the E.E.F's destruction of the Ottoman Empire in Palestine, commented on Allenby: "(He was) physically large and confident, and morally so great that the comprehension of our littleness came slow to him".

World War I

Western Front

During the First World War he initially served on the Western Front. At the outbreak of war in August 1914 a British Expeditionary Force (BEF) was sent to France, consisting of four infantry divisions and one cavalry division, the latter commanded by Allenby, which first saw action in semi-chaotic circumstances covering the retreat after the Battle of Mons opposing the German Army's invasion of France, During the retreat from Mons Allenby clashed with his subordinate Hubert Gough, then commanding 3rd Cavalry Brigade. Gough later wrote (in 1930) that “we were kept in such ignorance of the entire situation” by “that stupid man Allenby” and claimed not to have known the whole story of what had been going on until he read Smith-Dorrien’s memoirs. [Farrar-Hockley 1975, p. 352] and distinguished itself under Allenby's direction in the subsequent fighting with minimal resources at its disposal at the First Battle of Ypres.

Allenby was promoted to temporary lieutenant-general on 10 October 1914. As the BEF was expanded in size to two Armies, he was rewarded by being made commander of the Cavalry Corps. On 6 May 1915 Allenby voluntarily left the Cavalry Arm to take up command of V Corps which was engaged at that moment in severe fighting at Second Battle of Ypres; V Corps, whilst victorious in defeating the German Imperial Army's assault incurred controversially heavy losses in the process through Allenby's tactical policy of continual counter-attacks at the German attacking force. In September 1915, as an attempted diversion of German Army strength to facilitate the concurrent British Army offensive at Loos, V Corps under Allenby's direction executed a minor attack in the Hooge Sector in the Ypres Salient, which once again incurred substantial losses to its units involved in the affair.Gardner, pp. 66-115 In October 1915 Allenby was promoted to lead the British Third Army, being made Lieutenant-General (substantive rank) on 1 January 1916. In mid-Summer 1916, in support of the launch of the Battle of the Somme offensive, he was the Army Commander with responsibility for the abortive assault by 3rd Army troops on the trench fortress of the Gommecourt salient, which failed with severe casualties to the units under his command in the operation. After weeks of heavy fighting during 3rd Army's offensive at the Battle of Arras in the Spring of the 1917, where an initial break-through had deteriorated into trench-fighting positional warfare once more with heavy casualties to 3rd Army's units involved, Allenby lost the confidence of his Commander-in-Chief Douglas Haig, and, having been promoted to full General on 3 June 1917, he was replaced at the head of 3rd Army on 9 June 1917 and returned to England.

Egypt and Palestine

With Allied victory over Germany far from certain in May 1917, the allocation of British resources between the Western Front and other fronts was a matter of debate in the War Cabinet. Curzon and Hankey recommended that Britain seize ground in the Middle East. Lloyd George, who also wanted more effort on other fronts, wanted a commander “of the dashing type” to replace Sir Archibald Murray in command of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force. Smuts refused the command (late May) unless promised resources for a decisive victory. Lloyd George appointed Allenby, telling him that his objective was “Jerusalem before Christmas” and that he had only to ask for reinforcements to get them. The Chief of the Imperial General Staff ("CIGS") Robertson believed that Western Front commitments (Third Ypres was in progress from 31 July until November) did not justify a serious attempt to capture Jerusalem, and throughout 1917 put pressure on Allenby to demand unrealistically large reinforcements in order to discourage the politicians from authorising Middle East offensives. Allenby’s exact remit was still undecided when he was appointed.Woodward, 1998, pp155-9

Living octopus

Living octopus

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