German Involement in Sinai Palestine 1915 -1918

The Enemy Makes Plans
Now and again we are lucky enough to come across a true gem of a photograph that leaps across time. This fantastic gelatin photograph has captured a desert meeting between the two senior Germanic leaders. It is twenty minutes to five in the late afternoon as Kress Von Kressenstein shows notes to the commander of the Austrian forces in Palestine, Baron Lager. Besides the travel clock showing the time, the camp table has an array of pens, note books, ink and ash tray. A clip of ammunition sits on papers. Of special interest is that both men wear wedding rings on their right hands - a tradition followed by Lutheran Church members. Top right: A German soldiers belt buckle inset with the German Imperial crown declares 'Gott Mit Uns', translating to: "God With Us"


Unknown Officer in Tropical
uniform. Middle East
circa 1917.

Friedrich Kress von Kressenstein
Thirty years before German General Erwin Rommel earned the nick-name "Desert Fox" in the deserts of World War II - Baron Friedrich Kress von Kressenstein had earned a similar reputation as a cunning and resourceful leader in the deserts of Sinai and Palestine in the Great War.
British historian Liddell Hart described him as "the inspiration and brain of the Turks in Palestine for the first three years of the war."

Kress von Kressenstein was a Bavarian born artillery-officer, and became a member of Liman von Saunders' military mission to Turkey in January 1914. He was to spend the majority of the war in service with the Ottoman Empire.

He planned the attack on the Suez Canal in January 1915 which opened hostilities on the Palestine Front. His 'Desert Force' traversed the Sinai carrying with them specially designed and built punts to cross the Suez waterway, but on arrival at the Canal, February 2 1915, British forces were waiting and the attack failed completely and he was forced to retreat back across the desert.
Not until the Gallipoli Campaign ended did the Turks try to take the Suez Canal a second time. Again Kress von Kressenstein (his full surname) led the Ottoman Army across the Sinai in 1916.

This time he was to meet the Anzac force of Australian Light Horsemen and New Zealand Mounted Riflemen at the Battle of Romani where his forces were routed and he fled backwards to El Arish, harrassed by Anzac actions at Katia and Bir el Abd during the retreat.
Attacks against his forces contnued and he was ordered to take command of the Gaza Garrison. He was fortunate to obtain victory during the first British attack, due in large part to the bungling of English General Sir Charles Dobell; when the battle appeared to be won as Anzac Troops finally broke into the town after a faltering Infantry attack - Dobell ordered the Anzac mounted force to retire.
However the successful defense of Gaza in the second battle was attributed to the skills of Kress von Kressenstein in upgrading fortifications of the garrison.
Replaced in command at Gaza on 5 November 1917 by former German Chief of Staff Erich Falkenhayn, Kressenstein was given command of the Turkish Eighth Army in defence of the coastal sector of the front until the summer of 1918, when he was then transferred to command a German military mission in the Caucasus.
At wars end he returned to Germany in 1919.

A partial save is still a good save!

This photograph is undated and could be one of the military Zeppelins operated by the German Army or Navy during WWI - however this could also be of a commercial Zeppelin flight pre-war of the "Deutsche Luftschiffahrts-AG", the world's first commercial airline. Without seeing the production number on the fuselage it is impossible to tell.
Looking at the skyline we can be sure this is Jerusalem, the tower is a clear marker. I will be interested to hear from Gal as to whether the domes in the foreground are from buildings within the old city walls.
Clearly it is with a stroke of luck that this old Silver Gelatin photograph has been saved before it was too late. The right of the glass plate has been attacked by atmospheric acids and time, and slowly over the years the coating has lifted to be lost forever as pieces peel and float away - but there is enough here for this photograph to hold its own in history.

With royal standards flying the Kaiser makes a grand entry into Jerusalem 1898.
A special decree was issued by the Sultan Hamid II of Turkey to enlarge and open the ancient Jaffa Gate so Wilhelm could enter the old walled city on horseback with his entourage.
This forging of friendships between the two nations alarmed Britain and France. German interests in the Suez Canal and Turkish interests in the sub continent of India appeared to be in danger of a new powerful alliance.

Fighter Ace "Felmy" and Taube at Huj.

The Air Battle over Palestine as told in the Kriegs-Chronik der Leipziger Neuesten Nachrichten. January 1916 - December 1916.

Donnerstag, 8.Juni 1916. An der Front bei Aden wurden zwei feindliche Flugzeuge durch unser Feuer beschädigt und abgeschossen.

Thursday, 8.June 1916. At the front near Aden two hostile airplanes were damaged and shot down by our fire. [ Arabia - HT ]

Mittwoch, 21.Juni 1916. Von den feindlichen Flugzeugen, die am 18.Juni El Arisch angriffen, wurden drei abgeschossen; ein Flieger wurde gefangen genommen. Das erste Flugzeug fiel ins Meer und ging sofort unter. Ein zweites Flugzeug fiel auf die Reede von El Arisch. Sein Beobachter und sein Führer wurden von einem anderen Flugzeug gerettet. Ein drittes Flugzeug verbrannte mit seinem Beobachter, während wir den Führer gefangen nahmen.

Wednesday, 21.June 1916. Of the hostile airplanes, which attacked El Arisch the 18th of June, three were shot and a pilot was taken prisoner. The first airplane fell in the sea and sunk immediately. A second airplane fell on the protected anchorage near El Arisch. Its observer and its pilot were saved by another airplane. A third airplane burned with its observer, while we took the pilot prisoner.

On the 18th of June the RFC launched an attack on the relatively newly arrived German Flieger-Abteilung 300 on the orders of General Salmond. FA300 had since their arrival in April been a continual thorn in the side of the allies suffering no losses in the air. They were not to suffer an air-to-air loss until September 1917.

On the 18th, 11 BE2 aircraft of 14 Sqn RFC and 17 Sqn RFC bombed the El Arisch aerodrome with 76 bombs and machine gun fire. The Rumpler of Leutnant Dittmar and Oberleutnant von Bulow was ready to take to the air when the strike appeared and the Rumpler was hit and burnt out. Another Rumpler of Uffzer Kahnt and Oberleutnant Henry Schumburg landed during the attack and Schumberg, a "Deutschschwede", was shot in the back. Other damage includedthe Pfalz having it's wings broken, Uffz Ande having a bomb fragment go through his lungs, seven ground crew injured and two hangar fires.

From the attack, three aircraft were lost by the Royal Flying Corps, 2nd Lieutenant Minter of 17 Sqn crashed into the sea but was rescued by motor boat. The BE2 of Captain R.J. Tipton of 14 Sqn crashed into the dunes and Tipton was captured. The South African, Captain H.A. Ryneveld of 14 Sqn was forced to land on the beach but was picked up by the BE of Captain Grant-Dalton and 2nd Lieutenant B.K. Paris of 14 Sqn. Dalton received the D.S.O and Paris the M.C for this rescue.

That evening the three remaining Rumplers of FA300 dropped 43 bombs on Port Said.

Sonntag, 2.Juli 1916. Am 28.Juni wurde bei Katia nach Luftkampf, der 15 Minuten dauerte, ein feindliches Flugzeug zur Flucht gezwungen. Es landete zwischen dem Kanal und Katia, um der Verfolgung durch unser Flugzeug zu entgehen.

Sunday, 2.July 1916. On the 28th of June near Katia an aerial combat, which took 15 minutes, a hostile airplane was driven down. It landed between the channel and Katia, in order to escape pursuit by our airplane.

On the 28th of June, the Rumpler crew of Euringer and Berthold had an engagement with an RFC aircraft. After a 15 minute fight the RFC aircraft broke off and dove away. The Rumpler had 12 holes in it's fabric.

Freitag, 7.Juli 1916. Ein französisches Flugzeugmutterschiff erschien vor Haifa und ließ zwei Wasserflugzeuge aufsteigen. Eins von ihnen fiel ins Meer, Flieger und Beobachter wurden von dem anderen gerettet, wir aber zogen das unbeschädigte Flugzeug an Land und erbeuteten die darin befindlichen Bomben und Maschinengewehre und Schießbedarf.

Friday, 7.July 1916. A French seaplane carrier ship appeared near Haifa and two seaplanes alighted. One of them fell in the sea, the pilot and observer being saved by the other seaplane, however we pulled the intact airplane ashore and captured the bombs and machine guns and ammunition in it.

Freitag, 25.Juli 1916. An der ägyptischen Front westsüdwestlich von Katia verjagten unsere gegen den Kanal vorgeschobenen Patrouillen feindliche Kavallerieabteilungen und fügten ihnen Verluste bei. Die Kopfbedeckungen der Getöteten beweisen, daß die den Kampf aufnehmenden feindlichen Truppen Australier sind.

Friday, 25.July 1916. At the Egyptian front westsouthwest from Katia our patrols advanced to the Suez Canal and attacked the hostile Cavalry inflicting losses. The headgear of the dead Cavalry prove that the hostile troops are Australians.

Montag, 31.Juli 1916. Nördlich von Katia fiel ein von uns beschädigtes feindliches Flugzeug auf das Meeresufer nieder. Die Insassen flohen, nachdem sie das Flugzeug in Brand gesetzt hatten. Eine unserer Patrouillen verjagte in der Nähe des abgeschossenen Flugzeuges eine Abteilung feindlicher Kavallerie und erbeutete ein von dem Flugzeug abgenommenes Maschinengewehr und anderes Material.

Monday, 31.July 1916. North of Katia a hostile airplane damaged by us fell down on the seashore. The passengers fled after they had set the airplane in fire. One of our patrols has driven off a detachment of hostile Cavalry near the downed airplane and captured a machine gun removed from the airplane and other material.

Montag, 7.August 1916. Einer unserer Flieger zwang am 24.Juli ein feindliches Flugzeug in der Umgebung von Mouhammedie zum Niedergehen und zerstörte es. Unsere Flugzeuge belegten erfolgreich den Hafen Ismailia und dort befindliche Gebäude mit Bomben.

Monday, 7.August 1916. One of our fliers forced down and destroyed a hostile airplane in the area of Mouhammedie on the 24th of July. Our airplanes successfully bombed the Port of Ismailia and its associated buildings.

On the 24th of July the Rumpler of von Bulow engaged the DH1a of Lieutenant K.F. Hursthouse and 2nd Lieutenant G.M. McDiarmid of 14 Sqn RFC. After a 30 minute fight the Rumpler broke off and dove away. Cutlack notes that the DH1a crew forced the Rumpler to land. Cutlack also notes that the superior performance of the Rumpler allowed the German pilots to fly higher than the British and Australian crews enabling them to bomb their targets without harrassment.

Freitag, 11.August 1916. Am 22.Juli verlor der Feind drei Flugzeuge im Luftkampf oder durch das Feuer unserer Abwehrgeschütze. Bomben.

Friday, 11-August 1916. On the 22nd of July the enemy lost three airplanes from aerial combat or by the fire of our defensive cannons.

Donnerstag, 24.August 1916. Bei einem Zusammenstoß feindlicher Erkundungstruppen mit unseren Abteilungen 25 km nordöstlich vom Suezkanal floh der Gegner und ein feindliches Flugzeug richtete eine Viertelstunde lang irrtümlich Maschinengewehrfeuer gegen eigene Truppen.

Thursday, 24.August 1916. With a collision of hostile reconnaissance parties with our departments 25 km northeast from the Suez Canal, a hostile airplane machine gunned for one quarter of an hour erroneously against his own troops.

Dienstag, 29.August 1916. Von fünf feindlichen Flugzeugen, die in den Gewässern von Gaza von einem Flugzeug-Mutterschiff aufgestiegen waren und Bomben warfen, mußte eines niedergehen. Es wurde mit dem Führer eingebracht. Zwei feindliche Flugzeuge, die am selben Tage über El Arisch erschienen, wurden durch Feuer zur Flucht gezwungen.

Tuesday, 29.August 1916. Five hostile airplanes which dropped bombs, had taken off in the waters near Gaza from a seaplane carrier, one was brought down. It was brought in with the pilot. Two hostile airplanes, which appeared on the same day over El Arisch, were forced to escape under fire.

The pilots of FA300 lacked an air warning system but Oberluetnant Flemy had noted that every raid against the German aerodrome was preceded by a British motor boat appearing off the coast of El Arish. An observation post was set up at Bir el Mazar and the next raid the British and Australian aircraft were met by the Pfalz EII and Rumpler aircraft of FA300.

Mittwoch, 27.September 1916. Am 31.August haben unsere Flugzeuge zwischen 6,15 und 6,30 Uhr vormittags auf Materiallager der Eisenbahn bei Port Said Sprengbomben im Gewicht von 92 Kilogramm abgeworfen. Es wurde beobachtet, daß diese Bomben wiederholt ihr Ziel wirkungsvoll getroffen haben. Unsere Flugzeuge sind unbeschädigt zurückgekehrt. Am 17.September hat einer unserer Flieger über dem Meere vor El Arisch ein englisches Wasserflugzeug abgeschossen.

Wednesday, 27.September 1916. On the 31st of August our airplanes between 6.15 and 6.30 AM threw high explosive 92 Kilogram bombs on the material stores of the railway at Port Said. It was observed these bombs repeatedly and effectively hit their target. Our airplanes returned intact. At the 17.September one of our fliers over the sea before El Arisch shot down an English seaplane.

On the 17th of September at 5.24 AM six seaplane aircraft of the Sopwith Baby, Sopwith Schneider and Short 184 type were launched near El Arish to guide artillery fire. They were met by the Rumpers and Pfalz aircraft of Hauptman Felmy, Leutnant von Bulow and Leutnant von Hessler who had scrambled to meet the British aircraft in their pajamas. The three shot down the Sopwith Baby of HSM Ben-my-Chree. Another aircraft, the Sopwith Schneider of Flight Sub Lieutnant W. Man was forced to land in the water, where it sank.

Donnerstag, 5.Oktober 1916. In der ägyptischen Front überflogen am drei feindliche Flugzeuge am 2.Oktober El Arisch und versuchten dort Bomben abzuwerfen. Sie wurden durch unser Abwehrfeuer zur Flucht gezwungen. Eins von ihnen wurde beschädigt.

Thursday, 5.Oktober 1916. On the Egyptian front three hostile airplanes flew over on the 2nd of October near El Arisch and tried to drop bombs. They were driven away by our defensive fire. One of them was damaged.

Dienstag, 5.Dezember 1916. Ein englischer Doppeldecker wurde durch unser Feuer an der syrischen Küste [unleserlich - HT] i Remle abgeschossen, Führer und Beobachter gefangen genommen.

Tuesday, 5.December 1916. An English double-decker was shot by our fire at the Syrian coast [ illegibly - HT ] i Remle, taken leaders and observers imprisoned.

Possibly the crew of an RNAS Short 184 aircraft from HMS Ben-my-Chree of Flight Sub Lieutenant Nightingale and Lieutenant P.M. Woodland.

Sonnabend, 16.Dezember 1916. m Süden unserer Stellung bei Fellahie schlugen wir starke Kavallerietruppen des Feindes zurück und brachten durch unser Feuer in diesem Augenblick einen feindlichen Flieger zwischen den Reihen der Kavallerie zum Absturz.

Saturday, 16.December 1916. In the south of our positions near Fellahie we forced back strong enemy Cavalry and brought by our fire at this time a hostile flier who crashed into the enemy Cavalry.

Sonntag, 17.Dezember 1916. Wir zerstörten ein feindliches Flugzeug, das wir, wie im gestrigen Bericht gemeldet, abgeschossen hatten.

Sunday, 17.December 1916. We destroyed a hostile airplane, which we, as in the report of yesterday, had announced had shot.


Excerpts of reports of the Turkish Headquarter from the Source: "Kriegs-Chronik der Leipziger Neuesten Nachrichten", Band II (1915/1916), Band III (1916/1917) [ " War Chronicle of the Latest News of Leipzig ", tape II (1915/1916), tape III (1916/1917) ] courtesy of Hannes Täger.