Edmund Allenby, 1st Viscount Allenby

(1861—1936) army officer

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British general who led the Allied expeditionary force that overwhelmed Turkish and German forces in Palestine during the closing stages of World War I. He received a knighthood in 1915 and was created Viscount Allenby of Megiddo in 1919.

Allenby attended the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, and in 1882 was commissioned into the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons. He served in Bechuanaland (1884–85), Zululand (1888), and the Boer War, and at the outbreak of World War I in 1914 was commander of a cavalry division sent to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force. He commanded the Cavalry Corps and headed the 5th Corps at the Battle of Ypres (May 1915). In October 1915 he was appointed commander of the 3rd Army, positioned north of the River Somme.

Nicknamed ‘the Bull’ because of his short temper and intransigent nature, Allenby failed to consolidate advances made during the first assault at the Battle of Arras in 1917, enabling a German counter-attack and eventual stalemate, which cost 160 000 Allied and German casualties. In April 1917, Allenby replaced General Dobell in Egypt and quickly reorganized British forces and command structure. On 31 October, Allenby's forces captured Beersheba and drove a wedge through the Turkish lines. The Turks retreated into Palestine, pursued by Allenby, who captured Jerusalem on 9 December. Elements of his army were withdrawn to Europe and he spent the spring and summer of 1918 training raw replacements. On 19 September, using cavalry and RAF air cover, Allenby's forces attacked, breaching the enemy lines at Megiddo. 80 000 enemy troops were killed or captured and Turkey duly surrendered. Thus ended one of the last great cavalry-led campaigns in military history.

Allenby was promoted to field-marshal in 1919 and appointed special high commissioner for Egypt, a very difficult job in the circumstances. He retired in 1925.

Subjects: History.

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