Who's Who - Sir Charles Dobell

Sketch of Sir Charles Dobell Sir Charles Macpherson Dobell (1869-1954) served in field command positions in Africa and Palestine during World War One and was chiefly responsible for the failure of the first of two attempts to capture Gaza in 1917.

The year before war began, in 1913, Dobell was appointed Inspector-General of WAFF - the West African Frontier Force.

In London when war broke out in August 1914 he made his return the following month to command a combined Anglo-French force tasked with the capture of Cameroon, a German colony.

Although initially successful, the expedition having secured Douala, Dobell found progress increasingly hard to come by in trying to mop up the remainder of the colony.  Ill-trained for the type of warfare practiced in the Cameroon interior, some 20% of Dobell's 20,000 troops suffered casualties, chiefly from disease.

Nevertheless the colony's capital, Yaounda, finally fell to Dobell on 1 January 1916; the colony was subsequently partitioned by the Allies two months later.

Freshly knighted as a consequence of his endeavours Dobell, also promoted Lieutenant-General, was next handed a command position in the Egyptian Expeditionary Force headed by Sir Archibald Murray.

As commander of Murray's Eastern Force Dobell was personally tasked with the capture of Gaza in March and April 1917.  Both proved heavy failures with poor planning and staff work largely to blame, particularly the second attempt against a well-prepared enemy, and Dobell was made a scapegoat by Murray and relieved of command.  He was subsequently posted in relative disgrace to command of a division in India.

Since Murray himself was also largely to blame for the failure of the operation he was himself recalled to London shortly afterwards and replaced with the rather more effective Sir Edmund Allenby.

A sandbag was a sack filled with earth from which defences were built.

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