Sinai campaign

Page 1 – Introduction

The Sinai campaign is less well known than other First World War campaigns such as Gallipoli and those on the Western Front, yet it was the first major step in the ultimate Allied victory over the Ottoman Turks in the Middle East. The key goal of the campaign was to secure the Suez Canal from the threat of Ottoman attack from the Sinai Peninsula. The canal was a vital transport route that allowed Allied shipping to pass directly from the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea and Europe, avoiding the need to travel all the way around Africa and through the South Atlantic Ocean.

From April 1916 to January 1917 the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, made up of units from across the British Empire, including the 1800-strong New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade and the New Zealand companies of the Imperial Camel Corps, pushed the Ottoman Army back to Palestine in a series of battles fought in the harsh Sinai Desert.

The immense challenges posed by the unforgiving environment of the Sinai Peninsula often proved to be as hard to deal with as the actual fighting against the Turks. Searing heat during the day and freezing temperatures at night, sandstorms, khamsins (dry, hot winds from the desert) and the eternal search for water for horses and men all took their toll on the mounted men. 

New Zealand troops were also to play a prominent role in the Palestine campaign which followed.

How to cite this page

'Sinai campaign', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 3-Nov-2017