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The ANZAC Trail From the Be’eri Badlands to Be’er Sheva

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Thursday, July 19th, 2012

During World War I, the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire was allied with Germany and Austro-Hungary. In January 1915, a force of 20,000 Turkish troops set out from the Negev and crossed the Sinai Desert in an attempt to attack the Suez Canal, which was under British control. The attack was a failure.

Major-General John Maxwell, commander of the British forces in the Egyptian theatre, had however learnt a valuable lesson. To protect the Suez Canal from another attack, in March 1915 he ordered the British positions redeployed to the Sinai, on the eastern side of the canal.

Several months passed, and for the remainder of 1915 the Great War was focused on other fronts. In December 1915 however, having failed to wrest Gallipoli from the Turks, the British evacuated their forces to Egypt. As a result, thousands of Turkish troops were freed for a renewed offensive in the Sinai.

In April 1916 the Turks, aided by German officers, launched another offensive towards the Suez Canal. In the decisive battle at Romani (August 1916), the Turks suffered a crushing defeat.

In the wake of this battle, the British decided to take a more offensive stance and prevent the Turks from any future access to the canal. The mission was assigned to a special force, the Desert Column, in which the Australian and New Zealand Mounted Division played an important role. These mounted troops were referred to as ANZAC, an acronym for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.

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