Many of His Divisions Sent to France, 'Allenby of Palestine’ Evolved a New Strategy.
ONE of the most interesting episodes of Allenby’s campaign during the Great War was the gigantic hoax with which, Lawrence aiding, he was able completely to fool not only the Turk but the German reconnaissance aeroplanes. It is related by Lowell Thomas, in The World's Work, who tells us that Allenby had planned his final attack north of Jaffa and Jerusalem in July, 1918. In June, however, Ludendorff was making his last drive toward Paris and the Channel ports and Allenby was called upon to reinforce the army in France with many of his divisions.
This completely disrupted his plans, and his discomfiture was made more complete when Lawrence reported that any considerable delay would render it impossible for him to give much assistance.
Allenby, fully aware of the inexperience of most of his new troops, realized that the Turks would have to be defeated by strategy rather than by force. So he decided to dupe the Turks with a colossal hoax, a sort of moving picture of the British Army pushing straight up along the Jordan River from the Dead Sea toward Galilee. But it was to be a bogus army. In preparing this hoax Allenby’s first move was to shift all his camelhospitals from southern Palestine to the Jordan Valley, within fifteen miles of the Turkish lines. Next, he had hundreds of condemned and worn-out tents shipped up over the Milk and Honey Railway from Egypt, and pitched them on the banks of the Jordan. Then he hauled all his captured Turkish cannons down into the Jordan Valley and started them blazing away in the direction of the Turks encamped in the hills of Moab. Ten thousand horse-blankets were thrown over bushes in the valley and tied up to look like horse lines. Five new pontoon bridges were flung over the river.
The sacred valley of the Jordan was filled with all the properties for a sham battle of the ages. Never since the Greeks captured Troy with their famous wooden horse has such a remarkable bit of camouflage been put over on a credulous enemy.
When the German reconnaissance airplanes flew over the Jordan they buzzed back to Turkish headquarters with the important news that Allenby had placed two new divisions in this sector! This camouflage army, arranged largely by General Bartholomew of Allenby’s staff, was so realistic that the Germans and Turks never dreamed that it might all be a fake; and fortunately the lines were so carefully guarded that not a single German or Turkish spy got through. Lawrence, also, lent a helping hand in duping the Turks. Shortly before the date arranged for the big push three hundred members of the Imperial Camel Corps came down from Palestine to help him. Lawrence sent the camel corps to attack an important Turkish garrison at Mudowwara, where a spectacular twentyminute battle was fought on August 8th.
After the battle of Mudowwara, Lawrence led a combined force of camel corps and Arabs against Amman, just east of the Jordan. This was merely a feint, but it confirmed the Turks in the belief that the valley of the historic Jordan River was swarming with the bulk of Allenby’s forces. Lawrence sent one of the most prominent chiefs of the Beni Sakr toward Damascus with $35,000 in gold to buy barley. The sheikh bought
recklessly in every town and village on the eastern border of Syria. The Turks, knowing well that Emir Feisal’s Bedouin cavalry could not use such vast quantities of grain, immediately decided that the barley must be intended for Allenby’s forces in the Jordan Valley. Lawrence also started the rumor through the Arab Army that Emir Feisal’s host intended to launch its main attack against Derail railway junction between Amman and Damascus.
"As a matter of fact,” Lawrence remarked, “we had every intention of
attacking Derah, but we spread the news so far and wide that the Turks refused to believe it. Then in deadly secrecy we confided to a chosen few in the inner circle that we really were going to concentrate all of our forces against Amman. But we were not.”
The camouflage army of the Jordan was a complete success. As a matter of fact, there were only three battalions of able-bodied troops in that part of the Holy Land, two of which were made up of newly arrived Jewish troops from the British Isles and the United States.
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