Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction.
Early on the morning of December 9, 1917, a British cook was up early searching for eggs (other sources say there were two British scouts) and met the mayor of Jerusalem mayor, Hussein Salim al-Husseini and his delegation, looking for the appropriate person to surrender the city to. They refused to accept the surrender but the word was passed from person to person and finally Brigadier General Watson from the 180th Brigade of the 60th Division of the British army met the delegation. General Chetwode, however, had decided that General Shea, commander of the 60th Division should have this honour, so Watson had to return the keys for the ‘official’ surrender.
The 10th Light Horse regiment was the first representative of the Desert Mounted Corp to enter Jerusalem. About 7 pm on December 9 they rode into the city to great jubilation from the local Jewish population who were celebrating the Feast of Dedication (Hanukka). This remembers the Maccabees’ overthrow of the cruel Seleucid Greek rule of Antiochus Epiphanes, and the subsequent re-dedication of the Temple. For the Jews in Jerusalem, another liberation was now unfolding – this time from 400 years of oppression under the Muslim Ottoman regime.
December 11, 1917, was the day of the official handover of the city. General Allenby, Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Forces, dismounted his horse and entered by foot, in stark contrast to the flamboyant entry of the German Kaiser Wilhelm II who had visited in 1898.
The soldiers formed the guard of honour including 65 ANZACs – from the 10th Light Horse Regiment and a representative group from the various New Zealand troops. The formal reading of the declaration of martial law was read in seven languages (English, French, Arabic, Hebrew, Greek, Russian and Italian) from the balcony of the Citadel of David, which dates back to the Romans who drove the Jews from the same city in 70 CE. Ever since then, the majority of the Jewish people had been exiled from their land to the four corners of the earth. After the fourth attempt at surrender, the city was finally officially in British hands and the Jewish people now hoped for a new day.
Text of the Decree of the Surrender of Jerusalem into British Control
Due to the severity of the siege of the city and the suffering that this peaceful country has endured from your heavy guns; and for fear that these deadly bombs will hit the holy places, we are forced to hand over to you the city through Hussein Bey al-Husseini, the mayor of Jerusalem, hoping that you will protect Jerusalem the way we have protected it for more than five hundred years.
Signed Izzat the Mutasarrif of Jerusalem
Crombie, K., Anzacs, Empires and Israel’s Restoration, Vocational Educational and Training Pub, 2000.
- http://www.israeldailypicture.com/2011/09/surrender-of-jerusalem-to-british.html The caption below reads: "The Mayor of Jerusalem Hussein Effendi El Husseini meeting with Srgts Sedwick and Hurcomb, 2/19th Battalion, London Regiment, under the White Flag of Surrender, December 9th at 8 a.m." Photo by Lewis Larsson. The British officials did not want this photo released but it has survived.
- Allenby entering Jerusalem 1917 – British Official Photograph Q12617, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Jerusalem
- The official surrender of Jerusalem December 11, 1917 – Australian War Memorial