Battle of Marash - Background


After the surrender of the Ottoman Empire to the Allies in October 1918, the city of Marash had come under the joint-occupation of the British and French armies (the latter largely composed of Armenians from the French Armenian Legion). In February 1919, Field Marshal Edmund Allenby appointed a number of French officers to oversee the administration of the region of Cilicia and the repatriation of tens of thousands of Armenians who had been deported during the war in the course of the Armenian Genocide. Within a few months, approximately 150,000 Armenians had been repatriated, including 20,000 natives from Marash.

In the months following the end of the war, Cilicia had also become a source of dispute between the British and French, who both aspired to establish influence in the region. The British government, however, was under strong domestic pressure to withdraw and demobilize its forces in the Middle East and on September 15, 1919, Prime Minister David Lloyd George begrudgingly accepted a proposal by Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau to have the French formally assume control of Cilicia. The transfer of command took place on November 4, but Field Marshal Ferdinand Foch's promise to reinforce the existing forces in the area with at least 32 infantry battalions, 20 cavalry squadrons and 14 artillery batteries went unfulfilled. The French units were thus deprived of armored cars and air support and lacked automatic weapons, heavy artillery and even wireless transmitters and carrier pigeons.

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