|Birth Day:||April 23, 1861|
|Death Date:||May 14, 1936 (age 75)|
|Birth Place:||Nottinghamshire, England|
As per our current Database, Edmund Allenby died on May 14, 1936 (age 75).
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In 1882, stationed in South Africa, he began his military career as a British Army lieutenant.
Allenby was born in 1861, the son of Hynman Allenby and Catherine Anne Allenby (née Cane) and was educated at Haileybury College. He had no great desire to be a soldier, and tried to enter the Indian Civil Service but failed the entry exam. He sat the exam for the Royal Military College, Sandhurst in 1880 and was commissioned as a lieutenant in the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons on 10 May 1882. He joined his regiment in South Africa later that year, taking part in the Bechuanaland Expedition of 1884–85. After serving at the cavalry depot in Canterbury, he was promoted to captain on 10 January 1888 and then returned to South Africa.
Allenby returned to Britain in 1890 and he sat – and failed – the entry exam for the Staff College in Camberley. Not deterred, he sat the exam again the next year and passed. Captain Douglas Haig of the 7th Hussars also entered the Staff College at the same time, thus beginning a rivalry between the two that ran until the First World War. Allenby was more popular with fellow officers, even being made Master of the Draghounds in preference to Haig who was the better rider; Allenby had already developed a passion for polo. Their contemporary James Edmonds later claimed that the staff at Staff College thought Allenby dull and stupid but were impressed by a speech that he gave to the Farmers' Dinner, which had in fact been written for him by Edmonds and another.
He was promoted to major on 19 May 1897 and was posted to the 3rd Cavalry Brigade, then serving in Ireland, as the Brigade-Major in March 1898.
In 1897, Allenby married Miss Adelaide Chapman (d.1942), the daughter of a Wiltshire landowner. Their only child, Lieutenant Horace Michael Hynman Allenby, MC (1898–1917), was killed in action at Koksijde in Flanders whilst serving with the Royal Horse Artillery.
Allenby dismounted and entered the city on foot through the Jaffa Gate, together with his officers, in deliberate contrast to the perceived arrogance of the Kaiser's entry into Jerusalem on horseback in 1898, which had not been well received by the local citizens. He did this out of respect for the status of Jerusalem as the Holy City important to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (see his proclamation of martial law above). The people of Jerusalem saw Allenby's entrance on foot as a sign of his modesty. He subsequently stated in his official report:
Following the outbreak of the Second Boer War in October 1899, Allenby returned to his regiment, and the Inniskillings embarked at Queenstown and landed at Cape Town, South Africa, later that year. He took part in the actions at Colesberg on 11 January 1900, Klip Drift on 15 February 1900 and Dronfield Ridge on 16 February 1900, and was mentioned in despatches by the commander-in-chief, Lord Roberts on 31 March 1900.
Allenby participated in the actions at Zand River on 10 May 1900, Kalkheuval Pass on 3 June 1900, Barberton on 12 September 1900 and Tevreden on 16 October 1900 when the Boer General Jan Smuts was defeated. He was promoted to local lieutenant-colonel on 1 January 1901, and to local colonel on 29 April 1901. In a despatch dated 23 June 1902, Lord Kitchener, Commander-in-Chief during the latter part of the war, described him as "a popular and capable Cavalry Brigadier". For his services during the war, he was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) in the South Africa honours list published on 26 June 1902, and he received the actual decoration of CB from King Edward VII during an investiture at Buckingham Palace on 24 October 1902.
Allenby returned to Britain in 1902 and became commanding officer of the 5th Royal Irish Lancers in Colchester with the substantive rank of lieutenant-colonel on 2 August 1902, and the brevet rank of colonel from 22 August 1902. He was promoted to the substantive rank of colonel and to the temporary rank of brigadier general on 19 October 1905. He assumed command of the 4th Cavalry Brigade in 1906. He was promoted again to the rank of major-general on 10 September 1909 and was appointed Inspector-General of Cavalry in 1910 due to his extensive cavalry experience. He was nicknamed "The Bull" due to an increasing tendency for sudden bellowing outbursts of explosive rage directed at his subordinates, combined with his powerful physical frame. Allenby stood 6'2 with a barrel chest and his very bad temper made "The Bull" a figure who inspired much consternation under those who had to work under him.
During the First World War, Allenby initially served on the Western Front. At the outbreak of war in August 1914, a British Expeditionary Force (BEF) was sent to France. It consisted of four infantry divisions and one cavalry division, the latter commanded by Allenby. The cavalry division first saw action in semi-chaotic circumstances covering the retreat after the Battle of Mons opposing the German Army's invasion of France. One of Allenby's subordinates claimed at the time: "He cannot explain verbally, with any lucidity at all, what his plans are". When a headquarters officer asked why Hubert Gough's cavalry brigade was miles from where it was supposed to be, he received the reply: "He told me he was getting as far away from the Bull as possible. It was a most scandalous affair, and he was in an almost open rebellion against Allenby at the time". The division 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 the Second Battle of Ypres. Commanding a corps seemed to make Allenby's bad temper even worse where anything from a split infinitive in a staff paper to discovering a corpse in the field without the tin helmet that Allenby ordered his men to wear sent Allenby off into a rage. The V Corps was victorious in defeating the German assault but incurred controversially heavy losses in the process through Allenby's tactical policy of continual counter-attacks at the German attacking force. In September 1915, V Corps attempted a diversion of German strength to facilitate the concurrent British offensive at Loos. They executed a minor attack in the Hooge Sector in the Ypres Salient under Allenby's direction, which once again incurred substantial losses to its units involved in the affair. 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, he was the Army Commander in support of the launch of the Battle of the Somme offensive, 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. By this time in 1916, Archibald Wavell who was one of Allenby's staff officers and supporters, wrote that Allenby's temper seemed to "confirm the legend that 'the Bull' was merely a bad-tempered, obstinate hot-head, a 'thud-and-blunder' general". Allenby harboured doubts about the leadership of the commander of the BEF, General Sir Douglas Haig, but refused to allow any of his officers to say anything critical about Haig. However, despite Allenby's rages and obsession with applying the rules in a way that often seemed petty, Allenby's staff officers found an intellectually curious general who was interested in finding new ways of breaking the stalemate. J. F. C. Fuller called Allenby "a man I grew to like and respect", a man who always asked his staff if they had any new ideas about how to win the war. Allenby had wider interests than many other British generals, reading books on every conceivable subject from botany to poetry and was noted for his critical intellect. An officer who had dinner with Allenby at his headquarters in a French château recalled:
The British press printed cartoons of Richard Coeur de Lion - who had himself failed to capture Jerusalem - looking down on the city from the heavens with the caption reading, "The last Crusade. My dream comes true!" The crusade imagery was used to describe the campaign by the British press and later by the British Ministry of Information. There were reports than on entering the city Allenby had remarked "only now have the crusades ended." However, mindful of the Pan-Islamic propaganda of the Ottomans who had proclaimed a jihad against the Allies in 1914, Allenby himself discouraged the use of the crusader imagery, banned his press officers from using the terms crusade and crusader in their press releases and always went out of his way to insist that he was fighting merely the Ottoman Empire, not Islam. Allenby stated that "The importance of Jerusalem lay in its strategic importance, there was no religious impulse in this campaign".
The British journalist Mark Urban has argued that Allenby is one of the most important British generals who ever lived, writing that Allenby's use of air power, mechanised forces and irregulars led by Lawrence marked one of the first attempts at a new type of war while at the same time he had to act as a politician holding together a force comprising men from many nations, making him "the first of the modern supreme commanders". Urban further argued during the war, the British government had made all sorts of plans for the Middle East such as the Sykes–Picot Agreement in 1916 and the Balfour Declaration of 1917, but as long as the Ottoman Empire continued to hold much of the Near East, these plans meant nothing. By defeating the Ottomans in 1917–18, Allenby, if he did not create the modern Middle East, at the very least made the creation of the modern Middle East possible. If the Ottoman Empire had continued in its pre-war frontiers after the war — and before Allenby arrived in Egypt the British had not advanced very far — then it is probable that the nations of Israel, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq would not exist today.
Many of Allenby's officers believed that he was incapable of any emotion except rage, but he was a loving father and husband who was intensely concerned about his only child, Michael, who was serving at the front. Before Allenby went to bed every night, Allenby would enter the office of the officer who took the daily casualty returns, ask "Have you any news of my little boy today?" and after the officer replied "No news sir", Allenby would then go to bed a reassured man. His son, a lieutenant in the Royal Horse Artillery, was to die of wounds on 29 July 1917 aged 19, at Coxyde, Belgium.
In early 1917, Allenby was ordered by Haig to start preparations for a major offensive around the city of Arras. During his planning Allenby insisted upon putting into practice many of the ideas that his staff officers had offered. Allenby rejected the normal week-long bombardment of the German trenches before making an assault, instead planning on a 48-hour bombardment before the assault went ahead. In addition, Allenby had made careful plans to control traffic in the rear to prevent traffic jams that would block his logistics, a second echelon behind the first echelon that would only be sent in to exploit successes, tunnels to bring up new divisions behind the German lines while avoiding German fire and finally new weapons like tanks and aircraft were to play prominent roles in the offensive. In March 1917, the Germans pulled back to the Hindenburg Line, which led Allenby to argue that the planned offensive in the Arras sector in April should be changed, a request Haig refused. Despite refusing Allenby's request for more time to change his plans, Haig informed him that the entire responsibility for the failure of the Arras offensive would rest with him. As the Zero Hour for the offensive at 5: 30 am on 9 April 1917 approached, Allenby was thus unusually worried as he knew his entire career was in the balance.
At first, the Arras offensive went well with the Third Army breaking through the German lines and advancing three and a half miles in one day. In a letter to his wife on 10 April 1917, Allenby wrote: "I had a very big success yesterday. I won all along the line; killed a host of Boche and took over 7,500 prisoners...We have, at last, brought off what I been working on all winter. My staff has been splendid". There were weeks of heavy fighting during 3rd Army's offensive at the Battle of Arras in the Spring of the 1917, where an initial breakthrough 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, Haig. He was promoted to full General on 3 June 1917, but he was replaced at the head of 3rd Army on 9 June 1917 and returned to England.
The British War Cabinet was divided in debate in May 1917 over the allocation of British resources between the Western Front and other fronts, with Allied victory over Germany far from certain. Curzon and Hankey recommended that Britain seize ground in the Middle East. Lloyd George also wanted more effort on other fronts. Previously, leaders had been concerned that taking over Palestine would divide it and leave it for other countries to take, but repeated losses to the Turkish Army and the stalled Western Front changed their minds.
Allenby arrived on 27 June 1917. On 31 July 1917, he received a telegram from his wife saying that Michael Allenby had been killed in action, leading to Allenby's breaking down in tears in public while he recited a poem by Rupert Brooke. Afterwards, Allenby kept his grief to himself and his wife, and instead threw himself into his work with icy determination, working very long hours without a break. Wavell recalled: "He went on with his work and asked no sympathy. Only those who stood close to him knew how heavy the blow had been, how nearly it had broken him, and what courage it had taken to withstand it". Allenby assessed the Turkish Army's fighting force that he was facing to be 46,000 rifles and 2,800 sabres, and estimated that he could take Jerusalem with 7 infantry and 3 cavalry divisions. He did not feel that there was a sufficient military case to do so, and felt that he would need reinforcements to advance further. Allenby understood the problems posed by logistics in the desert and spent much time working to ensure his soldiers would be well supplied at all times, especially with water. The logistics of getting water to the soldiers and through the desert is thought to be the biggest challenge and accomplishment Allenby made in the Middle East campaign. Allenby also saw the importance of good medical treatment and insisted that proper medical facilities be created to treat all of the diseases common to the Middle East like ophthalmia and enteric fever. Allenby was eventually ordered to attack the Turks in southern Palestine, but the extent of his advance was not yet to be decided, advice which Robertson repeated in "secret and personal" notes (1 and 10 August).
Having reorganised his regular forces, Allenby won the Third Battle of Gaza (31 October – 7 November 1917) by surprising the defenders with an attack at Beersheba. The first step in capturing Beersheba was to send out false radio messages prompting the Turkish forces to think Britain was going to attack Gaza. After that, one brave intelligence officer, Colonel Richard Meinertzhagen, rode right up to the Turkish line, barely evading capture. In the fray, he dropped a bloodstained bag, smeared with horse blood, with fake military plans in it. The plans falsely described how the British force was on its way to capture Gaza. Additional radio messages threatening Meinertzhagen made up the Turkish Army's mind: the British Army was going to attack Gaza. Instead, they went through with the capture of Beersheba. “The Turks at Beersheba were undoubtedly taken completely by surprise, a surprise from which the dash of London troops and Yeomanry, finely supported by their artillery, never gave them time to recover. The charge of the Australian Light Horse completed their defeat” – Allenby His force captured the water supply there, and was able to push onward through the desert. His force pushed northwards towards Jerusalem. “Favoured by a continuance of fine weather, preparation for a fresh advance against the Turkish positions... of Jerusalem proceeded rapidly” – Allenby The Ottomans were beaten at Junction Station (10–14 November), and retreated out of Jerusalem, which was on 9 December 1917. During the Palestine campaign, Allenby entered a bacteriological laboratory near Ludd, where he saw some charts on the wall. When he asked about their meanings, he was told that they were of the seasonal incidence of malignant malaria in the Plain of Sharon, then he replied:
Allenby's official proclamation of martial law following the fall of Jerusalem on 9 December 1917 read as follows:
New troops from the British Empire (specifically Australia, New Zealand, India, and South Africa) led to the resumption of operations in August 1918. Following an extended series of deceptive moves, the Ottoman line was broken at the Battle of Megiddo (19–21 September 1918), and the Allied cavalry passed through and blocked the Turkish retreat. The EEF then advanced at an impressive rate, as high as 60 miles in 55 hours for cavalry, and infantry slogging 20 miles a day and encountering minimal resistance. Damascus fell on 1 October, Homs on 16 October, and Aleppo on 25 October. With the threat of Asia Minor being invaded, the Ottoman Empire capitulated on 30 October 1918 with the signing of the Armistice of Mudros.
Allenby was made a field marshal on 31 July 1919, and created Viscount Allenby, of Megiddo and of Felixstowe in the County of Suffolk, on 7 October.
His appointment in 1919 as Special High Commissioner of Egypt came as the country was being disrupted by demonstrations against British rule. It had been under Martial Law since 1914 and several of Egyptian leaders, including Saad Zaghlul, had been exiled to Malta.
In early 1921 there were more riots and demonstrations that were blamed on Zaghlul. This time Allenby ordered that Zaghlul and five other leaders be deported to the Seychelles. Sixteen rioters were executed. The following year Allenby travelled to London with proposals which he insisted be implemented. They included the end of Martial Law, the drafting of an Egyptian Constitution and the return of Zaglul. Progress was made: Egypt was granted limited self-government, and a draft constitution was published in October 1922 leading to the formation of a Zaghlul government in January 1924. The following November the commander of British forces in Egypt and Sudan, Sir Lee Stack, was assassinated in Cairo. Allenby's response was draconian and included a humiliating £500,000 fine to be paid by the Egyptian Government. In May 1925, Allenby resigned and returned to England.
Allenby was appointed Honorary Colonel of the Cinque Ports Fortress Royal Engineers on 12 September 1925 and made Captain of Deal Castle.
Publicity surrounding Allenby's exploits in the Middle East was at its highest in Britain in the immediate aftermath of the First World War. Allenby enjoyed a period of celebrity in the United States, as well. He and his wife went on an American tour in 1928, receiving a standing ovation when he addressed Carnegie Hall in New York City. Biographer Raymond Savage claimed that, for a time, Allenby was better known in America than Lawrence.
Murray and Allenby were invited to give lectures at Aldershot in 1931 about the Palestine Campaign. Exchanging letters beforehand, Murray asked whether it had been worth risking the Western Front (in the autumn of 1917) to transfer troops to Palestine. Allenby avoided that question, but commented that in 1917 and into the spring of 1918 it had been far from clear that the Allies were going to win the war. Russia was dropping out, but the Americans were not yet present in strength. France and Italy were weakened and might have been persuaded to make peace, perhaps by Germany giving up Belgium or Alsace-Lorraine, or Austria-Hungary giving up the Trentino. In those circumstances, Germany was likely to be left in control of Eastern Europe and the Balkans, and it had been sensible for Britain to grab some land in the Middle East to block Germany's route to India. Allenby's views mirrored those of the War Cabinet at the time.
He died suddenly from a ruptured cerebral aneurysm on 14 May 1936 at his house in Kensington, London, at the age of 75 years. His body was cremated, and his ashes were buried in Westminster Abbey.
Allenby supposedly once said that people would have to visit a war museum to learn of him, but that T. E. Lawrence would be remembered and become a household name. This was quoted by Robert Bolt in his screenplay for the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia, directed by David Lean. A blue plaque unveiled in 1960 commemorates Allenby at 24 Wetherby Gardens, South Kensington, London.
Currently, Edmund Allenby is 161 years, 5 months and 5 days old. Edmund Allenby will celebrate 162nd birthday on a Sunday 23rd of April 2023.
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