British Retreat After Failed Attack on Amman

A failed bridge constructed over the Jordan at Ghoraniye, likely undermined by the flooding waters of the river.

April 2 1918, Ghoraniye–Allenby had turned his attention east in early 1918, hoping to cut the Hejaz Railway at Amman.  Even if the Turks were not permanently ejected from the city, the destruction of a rail bridge and tunnel in the area would disrupt rail traffic for months, and hopefully force the Turks to abandon all positions to the south.  In late March, he intended to cross the Jericho and attack Amman, while his Hashemite allies attacked Ma’an to the south.  However, heavy rains interfered with this plan; the Arabs postponed their attack on Ma’an as “camels and pack animals were floundering in mud,” and flooding of the Jordan meant that the British could not cross until March 23, and had severe supply difficulties thereafter.  Critically, the wet and muddy conditions meant that all but the lightest British artillery could not reach Amman.  Attacks on Amman from March 27 to 30 were all repulsed by machine-guns in positions that could not be taken out without artillery support.  The British lost a third of their force wounded in attacks that were destined to fail before withdrawing back to the west, followed by refugees who were afraid of Ottoman retribution.  By April 2, the British had withdrawn all but a small detachment back across the Jordan.

The German offensive in France meant that the time for offensive operations in Palestine and Jordan was quickly running out.  The War Office had already ordered one of his divisions away to bolster the Western Front, and two more would leave before the end of April.  Allenby hoped to try one more attack before the summer heat set in, but it would be with a quickly-diminishing force.

Today in 1917: Wilson Asks Congress to Declare War on Germany

Today in 1916: Germans Start Forced Labor in Occupied France
Today in 1915: Riot in Cairo’s Red Light District

Sources include: Roger Ford, Eden to Armageddon; Eugene Rogan, The Fall of the Ottomans.