|Volunteer Arab Camel Corps led by Turkish officers leaving Jerusalem (circa (1915)|
|Mounted troops from the Australian, British, New Zealand and Indian battalions of the Imperial Camel Corps|
To provide some perspective, we present pictures of one of the most utilized tools of that war -- the camel. Tens of thousands were used in the war in Palestine.
|Australian camel corps hat pin|
The difficult terrain of the Sinai, the Jordan Valley, and the Samarian/Judean hills required extensive use of the sturdy and powerful four-legged "supply truck."
Consider this report by a New Zealand officer in his book With the Cameliers in Palestine:
In the advance up the coastal plain in Palestine, in November, 1917, General Allenby used thirty thousand (30,000) camels for carrying food, water and ammunition to the troops of one portion of the eastern force of his army.A Turkish account of the war, and specifically the 1914-1915 campaign against the British on the Suez Canal, describes the forces and the logistical nightmare of crossing the Sinai desert:
|Turkish Camel Corps in Be'er Sheva, 1915|
The gathering point for the VIII Corps was Beersheba, which was inland, well away from the reach of British naval artillery. From there, 25,000 men would march 300 kilometres across the desert and reach Ismailia. However, this was nothing but a mission impossible. Moreover, every man was allowed one kilogram of food and drink water per day and this meant that they needed 15,000 camels. But what they had was just 2,000 animals. [Commander] Cemil Paşa mentioned this problem in his memoirs as follows: “I think there are many people who are wandering why we couldn't find the required 15,000 camels in a place like Syria and Hejaz. We had to find 14,000 camels within one month.” Five kilograms of barley and 18 kilograms of water were allowed per horse and three kilograms of barley and five kilograms of water was allowed per camel.
|British Imperial Camel Corps outside of Be'er Sheva on November 1, |
1917, during the critical battle to capture the Turkish outpost and wells
Click on pictures to enlarge. Click on captions to view the original pictures.
|World War I combat ambulances. Camels carrying wounded Turkish soldiers -- two per camel |
on a litter called a "kankalah" or "cacolet." (1917, Ottoman Imperial Archives) See also here
|Wounded Australian cavalrymen on their way to|
medical attention (Australian War Memorial)
The following description is from
"With the Cameliers in Palestine:"
The field ambulance, instead of using wheeled vehicles, transported the sick and wounded in "caco-lets," on the backs of camels. These consisted of two canvas stretchers balanced horizontally, one on each side of a specially constructed saddle. In these the wounded men could either sit or lie at full length, and were shaded from the sun by a small canvas hood. The jolting
|Indian army's camel ambulances|
Only male camels were used in the
|German soldiers loading wounded onto an "ambulance," 1918|
|British Imperial Camel Corps "ambulances" in action, 1916|
Horses generally have a strong dislike for camels, but this dislike can be overcome by daily contact. Some of the officers of higher rank of each battalion used horses during part of the campaign, and these soon grew quite accustomed to the company of their more ungainly associates.
|Turkish army camel convoy, 1917. The caption in the Harvard University places the picture near the modern |
northern Israeli town of Afula in the Jezreel Valley. The body of water, however, suggests it was taken near the
Hula Valley swamps which was sparsely populated by a Bedouin tribe living in reed huts, likely pictured here.
|Turkish officers at David's Citadel in Jerusalem|
|Turkish camel corps in Jerusalem|
|Original caption: The Camel Transport of the Australian Light Horse at the railhead dump, on |
the Philistine Plain (near Ashkelon). The camels are seen on their way to the forward area, loaded
with Australian frozen mutton for the troops. In the background can be seen the tent camp.