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Battle of Aqaba
Part of the Arab Revolt on the Middle Eastern theatre of the First World War
Thomas Edward Lawrence
a.k.a. Lawrence of Arabia.
6 July 1917
Aqaba, Jordan
Arab/British victory
Arab Revolt Arab Rebels
British Empire British Empire Ottoman Empire
Commanders and leaders
Arab Revolt Auda ibu Tayi
Arab Revolt Sherif Nasir
United Kingdom T. E. Lawrence ?
5,000 men[1]
assistance from British naval forces 300 men (garrison);[1] one infantry battal
ion (approximately 450 men)
Casualties and losses
2 killed, ? wounded 300 killed after surrender
300 prisoners[1]

Arab Revolt

Battle of Aqaba (6 July 1917) was fought for the Red Sea port of Aqaba (now Jord
an). The attacking forces of the Arab Revolt, led by Auda ibu Tayi and advised b
y T. E. Lawrence ("Lawrence of Arabia"), were victorious over the Ottoman defend

[hide] 1 Background
2 Battle and campaign 2.1 Prelude
2.2 Abu al Lasan and Aqaba

Aftermath and consequences

External links

Following an unsuccessful attack on Medina, forces of the Arab Revolt under Emir
Faisal I were on the defensive against the Ottomans (or Turks). In the spring o
f 1917, Arab forces moved north to seize the Red Sea ports of Yenbo and Wejh, al
lowing them to regain the initiative, but neither the Arabs nor their British al
lies could agree on a subsequent plan of action. The Arabs began a series of att
acks on the Hejaz Railway, and contemplated another campaign against Medina, but
with British troops stationary in front of Gaza, it seemed they were not in a p
osition to succeed. The Ottoman government had sent Arab divisions of its army,
which held many pro-Revolt units, to the front lines, depriving Faisal and his a
llies of much-needed reinforcements.
Lawrence, sent by General Archibald Murray, commander of the Egyptian Expedition
ary Force, to act as a military adviser to Faisal, convinced the latter to attac
k Aqaba. Aqaba was a Turkish-garrisoned port in Jordan, which would threaten Bri
tish forces operating in Palestine; the Turks had also used it as a base during
their First Suez Offensive on the Suez Canal in 1915. It was also suggested by F
aisal that the port be taken as a means for the British to supply his Arab force
s as they moved further north. Though he did not take part in the attack itself
(his cousin Sherif Nasir rode along as the leader of his forces), Faisal lent fo
rty of his men to Lawrence. Lawrence also met with Auda ibu Tayi, leader of the
northern Howeitat tribe of Bedouin, who agreed to lend himself and a large numbe
r of his men to the expedition. Lawrence informed his British colleagues of the
planned expedition, but they apparently did not take him seriously, expecting it
to fail.
Aqaba was not in and of itself a major military obstacle; a small village at the
time, it was not actually garrisoned by the Turks, though the Turks did keep a
small, 300-man garrison at the mouth of the Wadi Itm to protect from landward at
tack via the Sinai Peninsula. The Royal Navy occasionally shelled Aqaba, and in
late 1916 had briefly landed a party of Marines ashore there, though a lack of h
arbour or landing beaches made an amphibious assault impractical. The British fe
ared that Aqaba would threaten their flank as Murray's troops advanced into Pale
stine, or could be used as a base for German submarines in the Red Sea. The main
obstacle to a successful landward attack on the town was the large Nefud Desert

, believed by many to be impassable.

Battle and campaign[edit]
The expedition started moving towards Aqaba in May. Despite the heat of the dese
rt, the seasoned Bedouins encountered few obstacles aside from occasional harass
ment from small bands of Arabs paid off by the Turks; they lost more men to atta
cks by snakes and scorpions than to enemy action .[citation needed] During the e
xpedition, Auda and Lawrence's forces also did severe damage to the Hejaz Railwa
Auda and his men reached the Wadi Sirhan region, occupied by the Rualla tribe. A
uda paid 6,000 pounds sterling in gold to their leader to allow his men to use W
adi Sirhan as a base.
Lawrence's plan was to convince the Turks that the target of his attack was Dama
scus, rather than Aqaba. At one point in this expedition, he went on a solitary
reconnaissance expedition, destroying a railroad bridge at Baalbek. Lawrence did
this largely to convince the Turks that the Arab force - of which they had rece
ived vague reports - was moving towards Damascus or Aleppo.
The expedition then approached Daraa, and captured a railroad station nearby. Th
is action confirmed for the Turks, who had heretofore been misled as to the Arab
army's intentions, that Aqaba was indeed their target. A squadron of 400 Turkis
h cavalry was sent after them, but Auda's men were able to avoid them.
Abu al Lasan and Aqaba[edit]
The actual battle for Aqaba occurred for the most part at a Turkish blockhouse a
t Abu al Lasan, about halfway between Aqaba and the town of Ma'an. A group of se
parate Arab rebels, acting in conjunction with the expedition, had seized the bl
ockhouse a few days before, but a Turkish infantry battalion arrived on the scen
e and recaptured it. The Turks then attacked a small, nearby encampment of Arabs
and killed several of them.
After hearing of this, Auda personally led an attack on the Turkish troops there
, attacking at midday on 2 July. The charge was a wild success. Turkish resistan
ce was slight; the Arabs brutally massacred hundreds of Turks as revenge before
their leaders could restrain them. In all, 300 Turks were killed and another 300
taken prisoner, in exchange for the loss of two Arabs killed and a handful of w
ounded. Lawrence was nearly killed in the action; he accidentally shot the camel
he was riding on in the head with his pistol, but was thrown out of harm's way
when he fell. Auda was grazed numerous times, with his favourite pair of field g
lasses being destroyed, but was otherwise unharmed.
Meanwhile, a small group of British naval vessels appeared offshore of Aqaba its
elf and began shelling it. At this point, Lawrence, Auda, and Nasir had rallied
their troops; their total force had risen to 5,000 men by local Bedouin who, wit
h the defeat of the Turks at Lasan, now openly joined Auda's force. This force m
anoeuvred themselves past the outer works of Aqaba's defensive lines, approached
the gates of Aqaba, and its garrison surrendered without further struggle.
Aftermath and consequences[edit]
Lawrence travelled across the Sinai Peninsula with a small bodyguard to personal
ly inform the British army in Cairo, now under General Edmund Allenby, that Aqab
a had fallen. Arriving at the Suez Canal, Lawrence phoned Cairo HQ to tell of th
e success, and also arranged for a naval transport of supplies to Aqaba. Lawrenc

e arrived in Cairo a few days later and conferred with Allenby, who agreed to su
pply the Arab forces there with arms, supplies, payment and several warships.
Aqaba would not be fully secured for several months; Turkish troops operating th
rough the Wadi Itm recaptured the Abu el Lissal blockhouse in early August and t
hreatened Aqaba itself, precipitating a number of skirmishes outside the city, b
ut the arrival of Arab reinforcements and British warships and aeroplanes dissua
ded them from attacking the city outright.
The seizure of Aqaba allowed for the transport of Faisal's army further north, w
here it could again begin operations with the logistical support of the British
military. It also relieved pressure on British forces in Palestine and effective
ly isolated the Turkish forces in Medina, and opened a pathway for possible Arab
military operations into Syria and Jordan.
The campaign and battle were depicted in the film Lawrence of Arabia, though the
film's depiction of a sweeping charge by the Arabs against Aqaba itself is quit
e false. The defences of Aqaba are exaggerated, with a pair of 12-inch cannon po
inting out to sea to prevent a naval attack. Also, the British fleet is absent.
Lawrence, T. E. Seven Pillars of Wisdom.
Thomas, Lowell. With Lawrence of Arabia (1924).
Wilson, Jeremy. Lawrence of Arabia: The Authorized Biography."
1.^ Jump up to: a b c Spencer C. Tucker, Aqaba, Battle of (July 1917), The Encyc
lopedia of World War I, ABC-CLIO, 2005, ISBN 1-85109-420-2, page 115.
External links[edit]
T.E. Lawrence's Original Letters on Palestine Shapell Manuscript Foundation
iconWorld War I portal

Ottoman Empire Ottoman battles in the 20th century

T. E. Lawrence


Categories: Conflicts in 1917

Battles of World War I involving the Ottoman Empire
Battles of World War I involving the United Kingdom
Battles of the Arab Revolt (World War I)
1917 in Ottoman Syria
T. E. Lawrence

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