Middle East | 2 Oct 1914

As the war continues to tick over, let’s have a look at the situation in the Middle East and the Mediterranean, with Italy and the Ottoman Empire still neutral.

Middle East

While the Ottomans had declined to declare war on anyone in early August, and unlike Italy they weren’t members of the Triple Alliance, they were still clearly aligned with Germany and Austria-Hungary. This was as much by default as anything else. Diplomatic overtures to Russia, France and Britain had been rebuffed in the years and months before the war. The situation in the Middle East has been growing considerably more unstable.

The problem in the Middle East is of course Egypt, and the Suez Canal. Egypt was nominally an autonomous province of the Ottoman Empire, but it had been occupied and administered by Britain since 1882. This ensured the ongoing availability of the Canal for ships travelling to and from India and east Africa, a vital link between Britain and the Empire. Regular Army battalions were brought back from the Middle East for French service, replaced by large and increasing numbers of Territorial Force reservists.

Of course, the expected assurances were given to the Ottomans about the troops being for defensive operations only. It’s not hard to understand why the Ottomans might not have been particularly enthusiastic about large numbers of British troops appearing in the Middle East, close to their borders. Relations continued to deteriorate through the month, not least because the Ottomans were having serious disagreements with Russia. Their entry into the war is not far off.


The Germans continue making steady progress towards Arras, but French reinforcements are arriving in the area. They extract a fair price for the ground that they must give up. Antwerp continues to be worn down. The Royal Naval Division takes ship, and is rather surprised to discover that they will be sailing to Dunkirk, not Antwerp. The city itself is still under pressure, but western Belgium is still a mostly German-free zone.

Actions in Progress

Siege of Antwerp
Battle of the Vistula
Battle of Arras

Further Reading

The Daily Telegraph is republishing its archives from the war day-by-day. In today’s paper: the usual reports about falling German morale and rising Allied morale, and time-travellers return from the past to tell heroic stories of the Battle of the Somme. (They are of course referring to the recent fighting that we know either as “Picardy” or “Albert”.)

On Tumblr, Today in World War I is still at Antwerp, discussing Churchill’s role in events..

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