by clicking the arrows at the side of the page, or by using the toolbar.
by clicking anywhere on the page.
by dragging the page around when zoomed in.
by clicking anywhere on the page when zoomed in.
web sites or send emails by clicking on hyperlinks.
Email this page to a friend
Search this issue
Index - jump to page or section
Archive - view past issues
The Rock-itt : March 2011
by Simon Lyon DAMASCUS CAPTURED BY THE 10TH LIGHT HORSE Subdued and in retreat from Chauvel’s Mounted troopers and under threat from all sides with the main British infantry forces pressing from the south and the collective force of Arab tribesmen led by T E Lawrence (of Lawrence of Arabia fame) approaching from the des ert to the east, the Turkish garrison was left behind as the high command of the Turkish army, including Mustapha Kemal, later to be known as Kemal Ataturk, fled north to the Syrian border town of Aleppo. It was October 1 st , 1918. The Australian troopers had been away from home for nearly 4 years and were keen to end their war on a winning note. W hat better way to do that by defeating the man who was responsible for all their woes at Gallipoli, the future President of Turkey. Prestige was at stake in the taking of Damascus after the long drawn out cam paign that had started in the Sinai desert and the banks of the Suez Canal. Through Palestine, into Jordan and now Syria they had ridden, dispensing of every opposition. Every regim ent of the Light Horse wanted some final battle honours but none more than the 10th Light Horse who had suffered so badly on Gallipoli and especially at the Nek. However, politics had started to confuse the issue and whilst the British Government had placed their agreement to the Sykes-Picot accord, which would hand control of any conquered Syria territory to Britain and France at the conclusion of hostilities. This was at odds with what Lawrence had promised Prince Feisal and his followers; they had fought alongside Lawrence on the understanding that his dream of an Arab State and freedom from Ottoman rule would be supported by the British Government. Damascus was not yet subdued however and there were thousands of Turkish troops still garrisoned in the city. General Allenby wanted his forces to press on and capture the senior commanders of the Turkish army which included German General, Liman von Sanders who had been leading the Turkish forces in the joint attempt to defeat the invaders. Allenby couldn’t risk the Arabs taking Damascus as they had spent the war fighting a guerrilla cam paign and not engaging a full on attack at any stage in the revolt. So it was fitting that the 10th Light Horse were chosen to finish the fight. Outnumbered but not fazed by that fact, they entered the city where the Turkish Garrison, though still armed, feared the audacious Australian horsem en, and chose not to fire a shot as the mounted riders raced past the barracks on the way to the City centre, lest a reprisal occurred. The city dwellers surged into the streets showering the riders with gifts of food and fruit, and the Diggers face little or no resistance before Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Olden and his 400 Light Horsemen arrived at the residence if the Governor of Damascus, a Turk nam ed Emir Said who immediately offered his services as Governor after completing the “ceremony” of the handover of the City to the British forces. So the battle for Damascus ended, in a bloodless farce but with the honours taken by the Light Horsemen. The war in the Levant was to drag on for a few more weeks until the Turks offered terms, but those famous Aussie riders had been at the forefront all the way through.