London: H. Walter Barnett, 1917. Photograph. This small collection of images includes a signed photographic portrait of General Sir Edmund Henry Hynman Allenby (1861-1936), the celebrated British commander of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force during the First World War. Allenby signed in two lines, including his titular “General”, at an angle across his chest. Additionally, two vintage postcards from the campaign for Jerusalem and one photograph each feature compelling contemporary images.
The signed photograph measures 5.875 x 3.875 inches (14.92 x 9.84 cm) on an integral mount measuring 9.75 x 7.125 inches (24.77x 18.1 cm). The portrait was captured by H. Walter Barnett (1862-1934), credited below the image, likely in Barnett’s London studio before Allenby departed for Egypt. The printed title reads “General Sir Edmund Hynman Allenby, G.C.B, G.C.M.G., Commander in Chief of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force from June 1917.” The photograph is bright and clean, free of creases, scuffing, or soiling. Accompanying Allenby’s portrait photograph is a postcard featuring the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem after it was captured by British troops, another of a water-raiser in Gaza, and an additional photograph of British troops and allies inside Jerusalem, all in very good plus or better condition. The signed portrait and accompanying images are protected within removable, archival mylar sleeves and housed in a rigid, crimson cloth folder.
When Allenby arrived in Egypt on 27 June 1917, he assumed command of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF), succeeding the lackluster Archibald Murray. “Unlike Murray, he was no office general and, physically fit, was willing and able to travel over bumpy tracks in the stifling heat to visit units in the desert. Allenby's experience in field command of everything from a troop in southern Africa in the 1880s to an army in France gave him the standing to talk to rankers and lift their spirits.” (ODNB)
Not only a capable commander, Allenby had the sense to support the impetuous excursions and exertions of an eccentric officer named T. E. Lawrence. Allenby’s victorious campaign was indebted to Lawrence, who, along with a force of Arabs devised and executed plans to cut off Turkish communication and liaised between Allenby’s EEF forces and Arab forces.
Allenby ultimately captured Jerusalem, the holy city lost to the Muslims in 1187. “For Britain the fall of Jerusalem was a notable propaganda coup…” and “Allenby's entry into the city on 11 December was a carefully stage-managed show.” Allenby purposely entered Jerusalem on foot through the Jaffa Gate, having dismounted outside the walls. His gesture compared favorably to the German Kaiser's impudent entry on horseback in 1898. (ODNB). The postcard features not Allenby, but General Watson entering the city for the first time, accompanied by the mayor. The additional postcards of Gaza and the Jaffa Gate, as well as the photograph taken inside the walls of Jerusalem, testify to Allenby’s victorious campaign.
The fact that Allenby became so well-known may owe as much to an American promoter as to his actual victories. In 1917, when the United States entered the First World War, Lowell Thomas (1892-1981) was sent to Europe to find stories that would build American public support for the war. The Western Front understandably failed to inspire, so Thomas embarked for Palestine, drawn by Allenby’s campaign to wrest Jerusalem from the Ottomans.
Allenby was a coup for Thomas, who would have a hand in Allenby’s subsequent portrayal “as a modern-day Richard Lionheart”. (Punch, 19 Dec 1917) Thomas’s “With Allenby in Palestine” shows toured both America and Britain with great success. But there was a bigger prize than Allenby and Jerusalem, where, in early 1918, Lowell Thomas also met, filmed, and photographed T.E. Lawrence (1888-1935). Allenby became a Field Marshal. His officer, T. E. Lawrence, surpassed all military rank, passing into legend as Lawrence of Arabia. Item #006285