Friedrich Kress von Kressenstein
|Born||24 April 1870|
Nuremberg, Kingdom of Bavaria
|Died||16 October 1948 (aged 78)|
Munich, Allied-occupied Germany
|Allegiance|| German Empire|
|Service/|| Imperial German Army|
|Years of service||1888–1929|
|Commands held||Eighth Army (Ottoman Empire)|
|Battles/wars||World War I|
|Awards||Pour le Mérite, Iron Cross First class|
Friedrich Siegmund Georg Freiherr Kress von Kressenstein (also German: Kreß; 24 April 1870 – 16 October 1948) was a German general from Nuremberg. He was a member of the group of German officers who assisted in the direction of the Ottoman Army during World War I. Kress von Kressenstein was part of the military mission of Otto Liman von Sanders to the Ottoman Empire, which arrived shortly before World War I broke out. He was also the main leader for the Ottoman Desert Command Force (DCF).
Kress came from a patrician family in Nuremberg. His father, Georg Kress von Kressenstein (1840–1911), was a high court judge. Kress von Kressenstein joined the Bavarian army as an ensign in the artillery in 1888.
See also: Sinai and Palestine Campaign
Kress joined Djemal Pasha's army in Palestine as a military engineer and was later chief of staff. Djemal Pasha was given the job by the war minister Enver Pasha of capturing or disabling the Suez Canal. This effort is called the First Suez Offensive, and it occurred in January 1915. Kress von Kressenstein was responsible for creating special boats for crossing the canal (pontoons) as well as organizing the crossing of the Sinai desert. While the desert was crossed with little loss of life, the British were aware of their approach and their attack on the Suez came as no surprise to the defenders. The Ottoman forces were repulsed easily and after two days of fighting, they retreated. Kress von Kressenstein's special pontoons were never used.
More than a year passed when the Ottomans tried a second attack on the Suez. With Djemal Pasha directing affairs from his base in Damascus, Kress von Kressenstein led a larger Ottoman army across the Sinai desert, again. This attack ran into a strong British defensive fortification at Romani, 40 kilometres (25 mi) east of the canal. The Ottoman army prepared a major set-piece assault on Romani, scheduled for 3 August 1916 (see the Battle of Romani for a detailed description). The attack was beaten off and again the Ottomans retreated back to their bases in Palestine.
The British responded with an attack of their own. They captured some small Ottoman forts in the Sinai, built a railroad and water pipe across the desert and then launched an assault on the Ottoman fort at Gaza. Kress von Kressenstein was in charge of the Ottoman defences along with General Tala Bey. In the First Battle of Gaza (March 1917), the British were defeated, largely due to their own errors. In the Second Battle of Gaza in April 1917, the British were defeated again, the credit for this victory largely going to Kress von Kressenstein.
The British removed their unsuccessful generals and replaced them with General Allenby. The Ottomans also replaced their top leadership, bringing in the former Chief of the German General Staff, General von Falkenhayn. Kress von Kressenstein was kept on as commander of the Ottoman 8th Army defending Gaza and he was also awarded Prussia's highest order, the Pour le Mérite.
In November 1917, the British under General Allenby breached the Ottoman defensive positions at the Battle of Beersheba and the Third Battle of Gaza. Kress von Kressenstein was able to withdraw his defeated troops in fairly good order to new defensive positions in the north.
In the middle of 1918, with the Ottoman-German alliance breaking down, Kress von Kressenstein was sent with a small German force to Georgia, that was protected by Germany after its independence. He helped to frustrate the Red Army's invasion of the Georgian region Abkhazia.
Kress von Kressenstein retired from the German army in 1929 and died in Munich in 1948.
He wrote in several articles about his experiences in Palestine and the Caucasus, and published in 1938 a full book about the war in the Sinai and Palestine.
At least two of his articles have been translated to English. 'The Campaign in Palestine from the Enemy's Side', published in the Royal United Services Institute Journal, and his 1936 article about the 'war in the desert'. His memoirs My Mission in Caucasus were published posthumously in 2001 in Tbilisi, Georgia.
He was played by Ralph Cotterill in the film The Lighthorsemen (1987).