How Armenians Freed Jerusalem, WWI

In London on October 27, 1916, halfway through World War I, a tripartite agreement was signed to establish the Armenian and Arab legions (Eastern Legion) as a part of the French army. The legions would participate in the military campaign on the Syrian-Palestinian front against Turkey.

Since November 17, 1917, the legionaries began to advance towards Jerusalem in order to occupy the city. By December 9, 1917, the units of the Armenian Legion drove out the German-Turkish grouping from Jerusalem. The most efficient legionaries were awarded, and in the Armenian church of the Armenian quarter of Jerusalem, a service was held in the memory of the fallen fighters. For a month, the Armenian Legion controlled the whole Palestine.

Volunteers from the US along with their brave compatriots from the Legion made a serious contribution to the victory at the inaccessible heights of Rafat-Arara in Palestine. At the heights of Rafat-Arara on September 18, 1918, a single battle decided the outcome of the entire operation on the Palestinian front.

Without preliminary bombardment, the battalion of the Armenian Legion managed to break the stubborn resistance of the Turkish units and gain control of the heights with minimum losses. Their success ensured the counteroffensive of the Anglo-French troops on this strategically important sector of the front. During the combat, 22 Armenian soldiers were killed and more than 70 were wounded.

Courage and heroism of the Armenian soldiers were highly appreciated by the command of two armies. Many of them were awarded French and British decorations. At the place of the battle, an obelisk was erected in honor of the fallen Armenian legionaries.

On September 25, 1918, the commander of the Syrian front British General E. Allenby sent a congratulatory telegram to the Armenian national organizations, in which he expressed his satisfaction and pride with the bravery and selflessness demonstrated by the Armenian soldiers during the battle of Arara:

“… I am proud to say that your compatriots actively participated in our battles and victory.” The French commander of the Armenian Legion also noted the extraordinary “perseverance and ardor of the Armenian soldiers, whose loyalty and courage is beyond any doubt”.


5 thoughts on “How Armenians Freed Jerusalem, WWI

  1. May I say that there are many Armenians called Nazarian as surname…. this means from Nazareth…. when we praise Jesus we say Jesus of Nazareth….. could it be Jesus Nazarian???

  2. My uncle Marouke Zarmanian was one of the volunteers in the “Legion Armenian” in the French Army.

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