Southern Asia 1918: Capture of Damascus

Political map of South & Southwest Asia on 05 Oct 1918 (The Fall of the Ottoman Empire: Capture of Damascus), showing the following events: Spanish Flu in southern Asia; Ottoman capture of Baku; Battle of Megiddo; Armistice of Salonica; Capture of Damascus; Arab constitutional government.

The long stand-off between the Allies and the Ottomans in Palestine was finally ended in September 1918 with the Battle of Megiddo. Advancing across the front, the British and Arab forces decisively defeated the Ottoman army, entering Damascus on 1 October. However these Anglo-Arab successes worried the French, who had been promised Syria by the British in the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916.


Changes to the map 16 August 1918–5 October 1918

The Allies have invaded Bulgaria, forcing that country to sign an armistice and exposing the Ottoman capital of Constantinople to attack by land.

In Palestine/Syria, the Allies have broken through at Megiddo, capturing Nablus and Amman. With British encouragement, the Sharifian Army of Emir Faisal has officially entered Damascus on 1 October - although British units had already passed through that city earlier that day. From here Faisal has declared the independence of Syria and, against British wishes and to French consternation, sent men to take the surrender of Beirut.

The British and Arab capture of Amman and Daraa have ended Ottoman control of the Hejaz Railway. Thus the Ottoman garrison in Medina is now completely isolated.

In Azerbaijan, Dunsterville has fled Baku in the face of the Ottoman offensive.

In Persia, the Ottomans have captured Mianeh, but this is their last offensive and they are now withdrawing to defend Mesopotamia, Syria, and Thrace. Near Bushehr, German-supported tribes are still causing some problems.

British Protectorates in the Persian Gulf

The British Residency of the Persian Gulf maintained British India's influence in a number of Gulf states from the 19th Century until 1947. These states were nominally independent - and shown as such in most atlases from the period - but all signed treaties guaranteeing British control over their foreign affairs.

The Sultanate of Muscat and Oman was the only one of these states with significant international relations, having obtained trade agreements with the US and France before it signed its treaty with Britain. Maps of the time often show Trucial Oman and even Qatar as regions of Oman.

Trucial Oman was the region to the west of Oman which collectively signed treaties with Britain. The sheikhdoms of this region were often called the Trucial States, and later became the United Arab Emirates. However at this time they had little unity, with no regional council until 1952.

Indian Empire

The British Indian Empire, also known as the British Raj, was comprised of a complex of presidencies, provinces, protectorates, and agencies. Only the top level subdivisions are shown here.

The area under direct British rule was known as British India and made up of presidencies and provinces - a presidency simply being the name for an older province.

Outside British India, but often included within the sphere of the presidencies/provinces, were the hundreds of protectorates or 'princely states'. These were indirectly ruled states, the largest being Hyderabad, Kashmir, and Mysore. The others were either collected into agencies - which might in turn contain other smaller agencies - or fell under the sway of the provinces.

Main Events

7 Sep 1918–? ?? 1920 Spanish Flu in southern Asia

The second, deadly wave of the 1918 influenza pandemic reached Bombay, British India, in the second week of September (a first, less lethal wave had hit in June). Over its course, the disease would kill 13.8 million Indians in the British-ruled provinces, with an estimated death toll of up to 20 million overall—about 5% of the total population. The second wave hit Ceylon in October, killing some 300,000 there; in Persia—already suffering from famine and cholera at the time—there were probably over a million wikipedia

13–15 Sep 1918 Ottoman capture of Baku

On the night of 13/14 September, the Ottoman forces of the Islamic Army of the Caucasus begin their main offensive on Baku, Azerbaijan. Deciding the situation is hopeless, Lionel Dunsterville and his British defenders choose to evacuate the city for Anzali, Persia, on the night of the 14th. Ottoman forces enter Baku the next wikipedia

19–25 Sep 1918 Battle of Megiddo

In the last major Allied offensive of the Sinai and Palestine Campaign, the British Egyptian Expeditionary force under General Edmund Allenby attacked the Ottoman Yildirim Army Group along the Judean coast, in the Judean Hills in front of Nablus, and across the Jordan River towards Amman. The British were supported by Arab rebels, who raided the Ottoman railways and capture Daraa. The Allied victory all but destroyed the Ottoman army in the Levant, leaving the route to Damascus wikipedia

29 Sep 1918 Armistice of Salonica

After requesting a ceasefire on 24 September, the Bulgarian government signs the Armistice of Salonica (a.k.a. Thessalonica) with the Allied Powers, represented by French General Louis Franchet d’Espérey, in Thessaloniki, Greece. The armistice ends Bulgaria’s participation in World War I on the side of the Central Powers effective as of noon on 30 wikipedia

1 Oct 1918 Capture of Damascus

At 0500, the Australian Mounted Division passes through Damascus, Ottoman Syria, to the Homs road, despite orders to wait for Faisal’s Sharifian Arab Army. The city has been empty of Ottoman troops since the previous day. T. E. Lawrence and the Arabs arrive shortly after at 0730, installing Shukri al Ayyubi as wikipedia

5 Oct 1918 Arab constitutional government

With the permission of British General Allenby, Emir Faisal announces the establishment of an independent Arab constitutional government in Damascus, wikipedia