HomeDesert Anzacs: the Under-Told Story of the Sinai Palestine Campaign, 1916-1918

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Desert Anzacs: the Under-Told Story of the Sinai Palestine Campaign, 1916-1918

For 100 years, the astounding story of Anzac horsemen, cameleers, aviators, rough riders, medics, vets, light and armoured cars hasn’t been told. Until now.

Championed by Australia’s Lieutenant General Sir Harry Chauvel they overcame early feeble British political and military incompetence. Fast, open conflict, rather than septic trenches, suited their outback upbringing. Part of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, they recovered the Holy Land after 730 years of Muslim control, even saving Lawrence of Arabia and his cause. Their stunning victory at the Battle of Beersheba was the last mass mounted charge of modern times. The ‘great ride’ offensive of the Desert Mounted Corps, with 30,000 horsemen, destroyed the Ottoman Empire and wreaked vengeance for Gallipoli.

This is the first detailed account of the extraordinary military campaign that set the stage for today’s Middle East. Dearberg’s Anzac trilogy on World War I is now complete – Gallipoli, France, Palestine.

ISBN 97819215231625 (PB, 320pp);
152mm x 229mm
AUD $33 USD $24 NZD $36 GBP £16 EUR €19
ISBN 97819215231632 (eBook) AUD $17 USD $10 NZD $19 GBP £10 EUR €12


It was a pleasure to read a well researched and interesting story on the experiences of the Anzacs in the Middle East during WWI.  It is good to see a focus on individual soldiers as opposed to the war in general.
Recommended to anyone who wants a good understanding of the trials and tribulations endured by Anzac soldiers 1916-1918.
– John Meyers, Queensland President, Military Historical Society of Australia

One hundred years on we can honor those from Australia and New Zealand whose stories are captured by Dearberg with the intent of providing the soldiers’ perspective. He offers insights into the course of the campaigns in the Sinai, Gaza, Palestine, and Transjordan during WWI and includes many unforgettable details.
– Barbara A. Porter, Director, American Center Of Oriental Research (ACOR), Amman, Jordan

Neil’s book is written through the analytical and explanatory eyes of a military officer to better describe events yet, with the ability to speak appealingly to a wide non-military audience.

We see a clearly well researched publication that, unlike many other military history publications, does not need a staff reference list delving down to platoon level to follow the who’s who of the story. We see a book easily read and skilfully written, reflecting an understanding of the needs of the intended audience. Desert Anzacs provides such detail as necessary to understand the chronology of events across the Sinai-Palestine campaign as well as the traits of the key commanders. It provides a graphically realistic representation of the harshness of conditions faced by both sides including the value of the main campaign commodity of water and how this drove many tactical, operational and strategic decisions by commanders at all levels.
The book holds wide appeal not just for the military enthusiast; but also for the people wanting an easy to digest but informative story of what is genuinely an under told and at times under appreciated part of Australia’s rich national and military history.

I commend Neil for his efforts in producing such a fine addition to the repository of military historical research and storytelling that is Desert Anzacs.
– Michael Liddelow, President, Maroochy RSL

To be totally honest this is a subject I usually go out of my way to avoid, I hate war. All things considered though I did enjoy the read. I really enjoyed the spirit that you captured of the time, the lands and the people involved which I found engaging.
– Melissa Morante, Newcastle

I found Neil Dearberg’s book most informative about a period in Australia’s history that should never be forgotten. Neil has put in an incredible amount of research into this subject and he writes in a way that makes you feel you are actually there.
– Fay Chamoun, Director, Floral Art School of Australia and International Floral Design School, Melbourne

Neil Dearberg

Neil Dearberg was an Army officer for 15 years and principal of a financial planning practice for 23 years before taking up conflict archaeology, military history research and photography. He attended four field projects with the Great Arab Revolt Project of the Bristol University UK and three field trips to assist an American PhD candidate. Focusing on the Sinai Palestine campaign, he has had over a dozen articles published in Australia, Jordan, UK and USA. He has given lectures in Australia for the Australian History Association and Jordan for the Australian Embassy and American Centre for Oriental Research. He has been invited to give a presentation to the 2018 T.E. Lawrence Society conference in Oxford, UK. He was Head of Research for a three-part documentary on the Arab Revolt in Jordan and member of a research team for the Petrie Museum (University College of London) on war in the Middle East 1915-1918. USAID contracted Neil to conduct a project for the establishment of an Arab Revolt museum in Aqaba.

Neil has three sons, one daughter and four grandchildren. Still competing in international and national masters surf lifesaving competitions, he also holds a pilot’s licence and has been a scuba diving instructor for over 30 years.

This is Neil’s first book, written through the analytical and explanatory eyes of a military officer to better describe events yet with the ability to speak plainly after more than 20 years interpreting wealth accumulation and preservation matters to clients. He lives on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland.


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from the Introduction

The Great War conflicts in France and Gallipoli gave Australia Anzac Day and its fighting legend. The Sinai Palestine Campaign confirmed that fighting legend and in addition, gave the world the Middle East chaos of today. The link between these campaigns was the Suez Canal.

Opened in 1869, the Suez Canal gave international shipping direct access from the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea and cut weeks off the previous journey around the African continent before this Great War. Whoever controlled the canal in wartime would have a tremendous advantage and it should have been Britain.

The British had occupied Egypt and controlled the Suez Canal since 1882. During the war, the canal was strategically priceless to Britain; essential for the supply of men, materiel and millions of Australian gold sovereigns to Europe and the Middle East. German shipping, denied the canal, was deflected down the west coast then back up the east coast of Africa before accessing the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean and their East African and Pacific colonies.

Control of the Suez Canal dominated British, German and Ottoman strategy throughout the war.

When England went to war so did Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India, the West Indies and South Africa as British dominion countries. The Anzac dominions gave the British Empire its first victory of the Great War two years after it started, at the Battle of Romani in August 1916. Twenty-five miles from the Suez Canal, the Anzac’s Sinai Palestine Campaign began. Anzacs then rode, flew or drove on for another two and a half years to forge an eternal national heritage.

The Anzacs’ Sinai Palestine Campaign has not previously been explained in any detail, despite its greater influence on mankind than anything from this war or WWII.

In those days, dominions were simply referred to as ‘British’. Little recognition was given to national identity, even in their home countries. Domestic governments and media lived in a ‘King and Empire’ dreamland of subservience.

Throughout the campaign, some politicians and diplomats in England understood the need to hold the Suez Canal and provide the military resources to do so. Others, however, gave priority to the Western Front of Belgium and France while to them, Sinai Palestine became a sideshow. Political confusion often drowned military considerations and trained English soldiers were taken from the Middle East back to France, to be replaced by untrained citizens who had worn their uniforms for minutes, rather than months. This wretched replacing of experienced soldiers with shopkeepers and farmers plagued commanders throughout the campaign, extending its duration.

Only the Anzacs, led by Australia’s Lieutenant General Sir Harry Chauvel and New Zealand’s Major General Edward Chaytor, provided continuity from beginning to end. The Anzacs gave stability to the British led Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF). They provided the warrior advantage to British commanders and likely saved the British Empire.