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Hell in the Holy Land: World War I in the Middle East

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In the modern popular imagination, the British Army's campaign in the Middle East during World War I is considered somehow less brutal than the fighting on European battlefields. A romantic view of this conflict has been further encouraged by such films as Lawrence of Arabia and The Light Horsemen. In Hell in the Holy Land, David R. Woodward uses graphic eyewitness account In the modern popular imagination, the British Army's campaign in the Middle East during World War I is considered somehow less brutal than the fighting on European battlefields. A romantic view of this conflict has been further encouraged by such films as Lawrence of Arabia and The Light Horsemen. In Hell in the Holy Land, David R. Woodward uses graphic eyewitness accounts from the diaries, letters, and memoirs of British soldiers who fought in that war to describe in rigorous detail the genuine experience of the fighting and dying in Egypt and Palestine. The massive flow of troops and equipment to Egypt eventually made that country host to the largest British military base outside of Britain and France. Though many soldiers found the atmosphere in Cairo exotic, the desert countryside made the fundamentals of fighting and troop maintenance extremely difficult. The intense heat frequently sickened soldiers, and unruly camels were the only practical means of transport across the soft sands of the Sinai. The constant shortage of potable water was a persistent problem for the troops; one soldier recalled, "It is impossible to realize the depth a man will sink to endeavor to appease the terrible horror of thirst." The voices of these British soldiers offer a forgotten perspective of the Great War, describing not only the physical and psychological toll of combat but the daily struggles of soldiers who were stationed in an unfamiliar environment that often proved just as antagonistic as the enemy. A soldier of the Dorset Yeomanry, stationed in Egypt, wrote: "There are three sounds in Egypt which never cease-the creaking of the waterwheels, the song of the frogs, and the buzz of flies. . . . Letter writing is an impossibility in the evening, for as soon as the sun goes down, if a lamp is lighted, the air all round is thick with little grey sand-flies which bite disgustingly." Using archival records, many from the Imperial War Museum in London, England, Woodward paints a vivid picture of the mayhem, terror, boredom, filth, and sacrifice that marked the daily life of British soldiers in the Middle East. In telling the story of these soldiers, Woodward provides a personal history of a campaign that laid the groundwork for the continuing turmoil in the Middle East.


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In the modern popular imagination, the British Army's campaign in the Middle East during World War I is considered somehow less brutal than the fighting on European battlefields. A romantic view of this conflict has been further encouraged by such films as Lawrence of Arabia and The Light Horsemen. In Hell in the Holy Land, David R. Woodward uses graphic eyewitness account In the modern popular imagination, the British Army's campaign in the Middle East during World War I is considered somehow less brutal than the fighting on European battlefields. A romantic view of this conflict has been further encouraged by such films as Lawrence of Arabia and The Light Horsemen. In Hell in the Holy Land, David R. Woodward uses graphic eyewitness accounts from the diaries, letters, and memoirs of British soldiers who fought in that war to describe in rigorous detail the genuine experience of the fighting and dying in Egypt and Palestine. The massive flow of troops and equipment to Egypt eventually made that country host to the largest British military base outside of Britain and France. Though many soldiers found the atmosphere in Cairo exotic, the desert countryside made the fundamentals of fighting and troop maintenance extremely difficult. The intense heat frequently sickened soldiers, and unruly camels were the only practical means of transport across the soft sands of the Sinai. The constant shortage of potable water was a persistent problem for the troops; one soldier recalled, "It is impossible to realize the depth a man will sink to endeavor to appease the terrible horror of thirst." The voices of these British soldiers offer a forgotten perspective of the Great War, describing not only the physical and psychological toll of combat but the daily struggles of soldiers who were stationed in an unfamiliar environment that often proved just as antagonistic as the enemy. A soldier of the Dorset Yeomanry, stationed in Egypt, wrote: "There are three sounds in Egypt which never cease-the creaking of the waterwheels, the song of the frogs, and the buzz of flies. . . . Letter writing is an impossibility in the evening, for as soon as the sun goes down, if a lamp is lighted, the air all round is thick with little grey sand-flies which bite disgustingly." Using archival records, many from the Imperial War Museum in London, England, Woodward paints a vivid picture of the mayhem, terror, boredom, filth, and sacrifice that marked the daily life of British soldiers in the Middle East. In telling the story of these soldiers, Woodward provides a personal history of a campaign that laid the groundwork for the continuing turmoil in the Middle East.

41 review for Hell in the Holy Land: World War I in the Middle East

  1. 5 out of 5

    Piker7977

    Woodward does a great job in describing the tactics, strategies, and leadership involved in the Middle East campaign during World War I. The big strength in this study is the incorporation of correspondence from the frontline soldiers which illustrates how harsh the landscape could be and how brutal warfare could be in this remote engagement. The religious implications of the British arrival in Jerusalem are very interesting also. It would have been interesting to have learned a little more about Woodward does a great job in describing the tactics, strategies, and leadership involved in the Middle East campaign during World War I. The big strength in this study is the incorporation of correspondence from the frontline soldiers which illustrates how harsh the landscape could be and how brutal warfare could be in this remote engagement. The religious implications of the British arrival in Jerusalem are very interesting also. It would have been interesting to have learned a little more about the Turkish forces and their strategies but that might require a whole new study. This was an excellent account of the British battles in the Middle East during the First World War.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jimmy

    The subtitle is a little misleading since it covers only Palestine during the second half of the war, rather than the entire theater, and it covers the British side only. There is very little or no discussion of the Ottoman formations, commanders, or strategy in Palestine during this time. Also, the maps could have been better (for example, the book could have included maps for First and Second Gaza). The book still does a good job describing the British side of the campaign.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Johnny

  4. 5 out of 5

    Tony Selhorst

  5. 4 out of 5

    Maarten van der Werf

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ned

  7. 5 out of 5

    Alan

  8. 5 out of 5

    Brigitte

  9. 5 out of 5

    Adel Roff

  10. 4 out of 5

    Elliott

  11. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

  12. 5 out of 5

    Rick

  13. 5 out of 5

    sam

  14. 5 out of 5

    William F. Mason

  15. 4 out of 5

    Susan Foss

  16. 5 out of 5

    Christal

  17. 5 out of 5

    John Woods

  18. 5 out of 5

    Dan G

    The human side of the British campaign in the Middle East during World War I. A fine read.

  19. 5 out of 5

    James Connolly

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

  21. 4 out of 5

    Eric Williams

  22. 4 out of 5

    Tony

  23. 4 out of 5

    Matt

  24. 5 out of 5

    Scott Carter

  25. 5 out of 5

    Charles

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lee Jones

  27. 4 out of 5

    Wikimedia Italia

  28. 5 out of 5

    Tracey

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kyle Worlitz

  30. 5 out of 5

    University Press of Kentucky

  31. 4 out of 5

    Jerome

  32. 4 out of 5

    dr yaser

  33. 4 out of 5

    George

  34. 5 out of 5

    Vilas

  35. 5 out of 5

    Mary Huckell

  36. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Robertson

  37. 5 out of 5

    Laura

  38. 5 out of 5

    Nathan Hasson

  39. 4 out of 5

    BradM19

  40. 4 out of 5

    Travis

  41. 4 out of 5

    Alaa

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