Battle of Jerusalem (1917)

Battle of Jerusalem (1917)

The Battle of Jerusalem resulted in the city of Jerusalem falling to British Empire forces in December 1917. On December 11, Edmund Allenby entered the city on foot out of respect for the Holy City, becoming the first Christian to control the city in centuries.


The Egyptian Expeditionary Force had won the decisive Battle of Gaza in November under the newly appointed Commander-in-Chief of Palestine, Edmund Allenby. Allenby moved on and again defeated the Turks at the Battle of Mughar Ridge in the middle of November. Now the British were moving on Jerusalem. Allenby had his left flank secured at Jaffa and his right flank moving through the Hills of Judea. Erich von Falkenhayn, commander of the Turkish forces in Palestine had recently received reinforcements and was quickly planning to launch a counter offensive against Allenby. Both sides had been instructed to avoid fighting in or near the Holy City.

The Fall of Jerusalem

Falkenhayn immediately launched a series of attacks against Allenby's lines. (The Turks had fortified various places in a ring around Jerusalem, including the hilltop of Deir Yassin.) On Allenby regrouped his forces and sent the XX Corps, under Philip Chetwode to capture the city. Chetwode's attack, on 8 December took the heights to the west of Jerusalem and a second attack south of Bethlehem. The Turkish counter attacks had failed and Jerusalem fell to the British the next day.

Allenby's Entry

Allenby was an accomplished horseman and it would have made sense for him to ride triumphantly into the city. However on 11 December Allenby entered on foot out of his great respect for the Holy City.

Allenby placed the city under martial law, and posted guards at several points within the city and in Bethlehem to protect sites held sacred by the Christian, Muslim and Jewish religions.

In the United Kingdom, the capture of the city was seen as a fulfillment of the medieval crusades. Punch Magazine published a cartoon of Richard Lionheart saying "at last my dream come true."

Turkish Counter Attack

The fall of the city and the failure of Falkenhayn's initial attacks greatly lowered the Turkish morale. Sporadic fighting continued in the hills surrounding Jerusalem. The Turkish forces were being reinforced by Yilderim. These forces had arriving on the field piecemeal but by now they were fully on the field. On Christmas Day Falkenhayn launched another counter assault. The British forces repulsed the attack inflicting heavy losses.


The Battle of Jerusalem was a greatly welcomed victory for the Allied forces. Allied forces were faced with stalemate on the Western Front at Cambrai, the Italians were defeated at the Battle of Caporetto and Russia was effectively out of the war with the Bolshevik Revolution. The fall of Jerusalem offered the Allied nations much relief from these setbacks. Campaigns in Mesopotamia were cancelled to send reinforcements to Allenby. The Turks lost control over central Palestine and the following year were completely driven from the region after the Battle of Megiddo.


* [ First World The Fall of Jerusalem, 1917]
* Tucker, Spencer, "The Great War: 1914-18" (1998)
* Grainger, John D, "The Battle for Palestine, 1917" (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2006)

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