World War I reading: the Senussi Campaign

Since I’m on semi-break, and continuing the tradition of sending you to Michael Collins Dunn’s blog when there’s not much going on around here, this would be a good time to catch you up on his most recent World War I series, on the Senussi Campaign, which began in late 1915. After Italy jumped into the war on the side of the Allies, the Ottomans convinced the head of Libya’s Senussi religious order, Ahmad Sharif al-Sanusi (“Senussi” was the poor Anglicization of his name), to raise a revolt against Libya’s Italian colonizers (Italy had taken Libya from the Ottomans in the 1911-1912 Italo-Ottoman War, so that was fresh in the Ottomans’ minds). Sanusi’s rebellion was supposed to occupy Italy and threaten British Egypt.

Dunn’s recounting of the early stages of the campaign is in four parts, starting here:

In August of 1915, British submarines seeking shelter on the Libyan coast came under fire, and in November the crews of two torpedoed ships, HMS Tara and HM Transport Moorina landed on the Libyan coast and were taken prisoner by the Senussi. The British protested but did not immediately confront them.

The Egyptian-Libyan border had not been formally delineated at the time of the Italo-Turkish War in 1911, though it was generally considered that Sollum was in Egypt. The borders in the interior were undemarcated, and the Senussi had may adherents in the Siwa Oasis, which would become a base of operations.

Some 5000 Senussi fighters with Turkish and German arms were concentrated at Siwa.

On November 6, 1915 two Egyptian coast guard ships were attacked in Sollum harbor by the German submarine U-35, and one was sunk. On November 17 and 18, Senoussi raids struck at Sollum and at Sidi Barrani to the east, and by November 21 the Senussi regular forces had crossed into Egypt.

Part 2 covers the immediate British response, part 3 looks at the first battles of the campaign, and part 4 covers the Christmas Day battle at Wadi Majid. I’m sure he’ll have more at some point, since the campaign continued through 1917.

Map of the Western Egyptian/Eastern Libyan desert, where the campaign was fought (Wikimedia)

3 thoughts on “World War I reading: the Senussi Campaign

  1. I’m looking for a book that argues that the logistics tactics developed by the British to fight the Sanussi in the western desert–using camels, mechanical transport, etc.–were later applied to the Sinai/Palestine campaign towards the end of the war. Do you happen to know any book that makes that argument? I feel like I’ve seen reference to such an argument being made before, but I can’t for the life of me figure out where.


    1. I’ve seen Hew Strachan’s The First World War cited to make that point, but I haven’t read that book myself so I can’t say with certainty. Hope that helps!

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