Monday, 14 November 2011

The war of 1911

When I blogged about the ‘Long War’ hypothesis I completely failed to mention the Italo Turkish war of 1911.

No excuse other than ignorance on my part as while it doesn’t alter the hypothesis that the first world war really started in the east with the Russo Japanese war of 1905, the war of 1911 uncannily predicts the first world war in the Middle East some five or six years later with the use of armoured cars and aircraft by the Italian forces and the use of native mujahadin levies on horseback by the Turks, led by a dashing commander – not Lawrence of Arabia, but one Mustafa Kemal, later known as Ataturk.

And the Turks damned near won. Italy, which had decided that the Turks really shouldn’t be left to govern what is now Libya, and that the people of Libya would be much better off having the Italians as colonial masters (after all the world was made to be ruled by the European powers and France and Spain had divided Morocco between themselves a few years previously). The Turks, and the Libyans, had a different view and put up a fairly stiff resistance despite having no significant military presence in Libya. And despite their eventual defeat, the Turks learned that they could  European armies could be beaten.

The other side effect was that the Ottoman Turks learned early the value of military aircraft using them to some effect during the Balkan war and later on to attack Greek and Allied targets in the north Aegean during the Gallipoli campaign – where the commander on the Turkish side was again Mustafa Kemal.
One can speculate, but Kemal’s experience in Libya, where the Ottomans so nearly beat the Italians must have added to his determination to resist at Gallipoli – for the simple reason that he knew that European armies could be beaten …

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