On the night of September 30, 1918, as Allied forces led by General Edmund Allenby march steadily toward Damascus, Turkish authorities abandoned the city.
On this date in 1918, the allied army under General Allenby advanced upon the ancient city of Damascus. As the allies approached the Turkish commanders and troops decided to abandon the city without a fight. Their withdrawal meant that some five hundred years of Ottoman Turkish control of Damascus was at an end. The Ottomans had defeated the Mameluke’s and taken the city in the early 16th century and had been in possession of it until this date in 1918.
During the war in the Middle East, the city had served as a base of operations for German and Turkish forces. It had been a launch pad for German and Turkish offensives against allied positions in the region. The war in the middle east had been a stalemate since 1914 but it altered when General Allenby was appointed the commander of British and allied troops in the area. In late 1917 he launched an offensive that captured Palestine and the Holy City of Jerusalem. The British advance was slowed as troops were needed for the western front, however, despite this Allenby pressed on with another offensive in the Spring of 1918.
The allied forces went on the offensive near the ancient city of Meggido and broke through the Turkish lines, and after this, there were a string of allied victories and soon they were in control of the Jordan Valley. The Germans preoccupied with their own offensive in the west could not offer any more help to the Ottoman Sultan’s army. Allenby sent cavalry regiments across the Golan Heights and into Syria and they were soon within fifty miles of Damascus. Some brave defending by Turkish units halted the cavalry charge to the ancient city, but their resistance was broken on this date in 1918 and the road to Damascus was opened.
That night the Turkish authorities fled and an Australian cavalry was the first allied force into Damascus. Allied troops were in control of the city by the next day and took over 6,000 Turkish soldiers prisoner. Many local people celebrated the retreat of the Ottomans.
The advance of Allenby was aided by the Arab Revolt. This was a nationalist Arab rebellion against the Ottomans and they were advised by T.E. Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia. A month later the Turks broke their alliance with Germany and sued for peace. The war in the Middle East was over and the region was changed forever, as new countries such as Iraq, came into existence. Damascus became the capital of Syria which for thirty years was under some form of French control. This is despite the fact that the Arabs had been promised the right of self-determination. They had been told that if they revolted against the Ottomans that they would have their independence. The Allies in 1918, much to the horror and anger of Lawrence of Arabia.