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Hell in the Holy Land

World War I in the Middle East

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.

Reviews

"Very few authors are successful as he at connecting individual soldiers to an overall campaign."—Brig. Gen. Roberty A. Doughty (Ret.)

"Has succeeded in combing the memoirs, both published and unpublished, with the more formal historical records to form a flowing narrative. . . . An informative and enjoyable read."—Bulletin of the Military Historical Society

"Provides a rare look at the experiences of British foot-soldiers in campaigns against the Turkish army in Egypt and Palestine in 1916-1918."—College and Research Library News

"An excellent read and should be of interest to those wanting to acquire knowledge of warfare in the Middle East."—Great Lakes Bulletin

"Illuminates and skillfully molds the stories of ordinary soldiers on the ground with the higher strategy of generals and politicians. The many letters and diary entries give moving testament to the blood, horror, and futility of war but also to the lingering sense of romance and adventure felt by some of the men."—J. Lee Thompson, author of Politicans, the Press, and Propaganda: Lord Northcli

"This is an impressive, critical and readable volume that provides fascinating personal insights woven in with a general account of the fighting to provide a holistic, concise record of the Palestine campaign."—Journal of Military History

"Woodward utilizes graphic eyewitness accounts to compile an engaging history of the oft-forgotten Egyptian Expeditionary Force during its 500-mile campaign in Egypt and Palestine."—Military Trader

"A well-crafted, extremely readable political-military history. . . . Paints a more considered, vastly more nuanced, and far less romantic picture of war in the desert than that depicted in films such as Lawrence of Arabia and The Light Horsemen."—Relevance

"Woodward's work not only reveals a command of past and current scholarship but demonstrates a superlative research effort in uncovering the thoughts and horrors of otherwise voiceless ordinary soldiers and junior officers and fitting these into a lucid narrative account of the overall campaign."—Thomas C. Kennedy, author of British Quakerism, 1860-1920: The Transformation o

"An excellent read and should be of interest to those wanting to acquire more knowledge of warfare in the Middle East."—Waterline

""The author of this study has written an important and readable addition to the growing collection of books on World War I in the Middle East. It will be useful to scholars of the war, and its lucid style and vivid picture of events will appeal to a popular audience.""—Neil M. Heyman, San Diego State University

""Hell in the Holy Land provides a welcome look at the experiences of soldiers in the Middle East from 1916-1918. It also sheds light on a campaign that has been dismissed as a sideshow, but had consequences that continue to reverberate today.""—Nikolas Gardner, H-Net Review

"The strength of this fascinating, highly readable volume is the author's extensive use of the participants' words, from mainly unpublished letters, diaries, memoirs, and other accounts, which are woven into an operational and strategic narrative. —Harold E. Raugh Jr."—Harold E. Raugh Jr.

9780813123837 : hell-in-the-holy-land-woodward
Hardback
280 Pages
$50.00 USD
9780813146737 : hell-in-the-holy-land-woodward
Electronic book text
280 Pages
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9780813146744 : hell-in-the-holy-land-woodward
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