The English field marshal Edmund Henry Hynman Allenby, 1st Viscount Allenby (1861-1936), was a commander during World War I. His fame rests largely on his leadership in the Allied victory over the Turkish armies in 1917-1918.
Edmund Allenby was born on April 23, 1861, in Southwell, Nottinghamshire, England. He attended the school of a local clergyman and then went to public school. After twice failing to pass the Indian civil service examination, he succeeded in passing the examination for the Royal Military College at Sandhurst.
Allenby was commissioned in the army in 1882 and sent with his unit to South Africa, too late for the battle of Majuba Hill, won by Boer force. He returned to England in 1886 and continued to advance in the army. He accompanied his regiment to South Africa again after the Boer War started in 1899, and there he made his reputation as an officer in action. The forces under his command were invariably successful in that long war.
At the end of the Boer War, Allenby was promoted from colonel to brigadier general and then to major general by the time World War I began. He was sent to France in command of a cavalry division. He later commanded the V Corps and the 3d Army. He was not an outstanding commander in Europe; his forte was cavalry, and traditional cavalry units were not useful where the front was bogged down in trench warfare. With the need for a new commander in chief in the Middle East, Allenby, because of his unequaled cavalry experience, was chosen. Allenby and Douglas Haig, the British commander in chief in Europe, never had great confidence in each other, and the new assignment for Allenby removed a source of friction on the Western front in Europe. He had unlimited success in his new command. His armies captured Jerusalem and Damascus, defeating the Turkish armies in a brilliant campaign—the last time that cavalry was to be decisive in modern warfare. Allenby and the soldier-scholar T. E. Lawrence of Arabia emerged from that phase of the war as the greatest names.
After the war ended, Allenby was promoted to field marshal, made a viscount, and treated as a hero at home. He was also given the post of high commissioner for Egypt, which he retained until his retirement from public life in 1925.
Lord Allenby was married and had one son. He died on May 14, 1936. Known to his troops as "the Bull," he had exhibited that animal's positive traits of strength and determination but also its weaknesses of bad temper and rash action.
The standard biography is Gen. Sir Archibald Wavell, Allenby: A Study in Greatness (2 vols., 1940-1943), a balanced account by a World War II commander. Brian Gardner, Allenby of Arabia: Lawrence's General (1966; British ed. entitled Allenby, 1965), is valuable because the author was the first to make use of the Allenby family correspondence. Other sources are Raymond Savage, Allenby of Armageddon: A Record of the Career and Campaigns of Field-Marshal Viscount Allenby (1925), and the pertinent chapter in B. H. Liddell Hart, Reputations, Ten Years After (1928; repr. in Barrett Parker, ed., Famous British Generals, 1951).
James, Lawrence, Imperial warrior: the life and times of Field-Marshal Viscount Allenby, 1861-1936, London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1993. □