King's College London
Exhibitions & Conferences
West of Suez: Britain and the Mediterranean, 1704-1967

The First World War in the Mediterranean

The history of conflict in the Mediterranean is as old as the civilisations that have for millennia occupied the banks of its shores. Through the Roman Empire and the journeys of the crusaders, to the later modern conflicts mentioned in this exhibition, control of the ‘sea between the lands’ has long been sought and fought over. Throughout the 20th century the Mediterranean region was a theatre of war for the period’s major conflicts, with Britain, its imperial forces and allies heavily involved.

The Foyle Special Collections Library and King’s College London Archives, including the Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives, hold extensive resources and individual collections on war and conflict in the Mediterranean and in relation to the wider theatres of 20th century conflict. The items in this final case and the collections referenced give a small snapshot of these important and diverse holdings.
Staff in Special Collections and Archives are always happy to discuss research needs. Please feel free to contact us and we will be pleased to advise on available material and individual collections. Research guides available through the ‘Catalogues’ tab here can also help with your studies.

The First World War in the Mediterranean


Photograph showing a view of ‘V’ beach at Gallipoli, taken from the deck of the SS River Clyde. The encampment and support ship, as well as soldiers are visiblePhotograph showing a view of ‘V’ beach at Gallipoli, taken from the deck of the SS River ClydeThe Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives (LHCMA) holds nearly 200 collections relating to the First World War; and the Foyle Special Collections Library’s holdings relating to the conflict include much material from the library of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, transferred to King’s in 2007.

The single largest LHCMA collection relating to Gallipoli comprises the papers of General Sir Ian Hamilton, with extensive material relating to his command of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force at Gallipoli in 1915, including official and semi-official correspondence, despatches, telegrams, situation reports, operation orders, maps and photographs.  

Gallipoli proved to be one of the Ottoman Empire’s greatest victories, and an expensive failure for the Allies. It left an estimated overall total of 100,000 dead.

The photograph on the right shows a view of ‘V’ Beach, the landing beach on the southern edge of Cape Helles. It was taken from the deck of SS River Clyde, a requisitioned and converted collier, on 1 June 1915, five weeks after the disastrous landings on 25 April (commemorated as ANZAC Day in Australia and New Zealand), when nearly three quarters of Allied troops landed on V Beach were killed or wounded.

Cartoon image of Field Marshal Viscount Allenby from 1919 edition of Punch magazineCartoon image of Field Marshal Viscount Allenby from 1919 edition of Punch magazinePalestine

The papers of Field Marshal Viscount Allenby, Commander-in-Chief, Egyptian Expeditionary Force, Palestine and Egypt, 1917-19 include semi-official and personal correspondence and press cuttings – many of which, like the Punch cartoon shown to the right, explicitly compared the conquest of Palestine to the medieval crusades.

The Sinai and Palestine Campaign of the First World War saw the British and Ottoman Empires clash across the region, with the eventual British victory resulting in the establishment of ‘Mandatory Palestine’ (see the section of this online exhibition concerned with The Levant and the Holy Lands).

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