Arab Legion was the regular army of Transjordan and then
the early part of the 20th century.
2 World War II
3 1948 Arab–Israeli War
4 Further clashes with Israel
5 Jordanian army
9 External links
In October 1920, after taking over the Transjordan region, the United
Kingdom formed a unit of 150 men called the "Mobile Force", under the
command of Captain Frederick Gerard Peake, to defend the territory
against both internal and external threats. The Mobile Force was
based in Zarqa. 80% of its men were drawn from the local Chechen
The Arab army during the Arab revolt of 1916 against the Ottoman
Empire, which formed the nucleus of the Arab Legion
Arab Legion in
Iraq during the
Anglo-Iraqi War in 1941
It was quickly expanded to 1,000 men, recruiting Arabs who had served
in the Ottoman Army. On 22 October 1923, the police were merged with
the Reserve Mobile Force, still under Peake, who was now an employee
of the Emirate of Transjordan. The new force was named Al Jeish al
Arabi ("the Arab Army") but was always known officially in English as
the Arab Legion. The
Arab Legion was financed by Britain and commanded
by British officers. The Legion was formed as a police force to
keep order among the tribes of Transjordan and to guard the important
On 1 April 1926, the
Transjordan Frontier Force was formed from cadre
drawn from the Arab Legion. It consisted of only 150 men and most of
them were stationed along Transjordan's roads. During this time the
Arab Legion was reduced to 900 men and was also stripped of its
machine guns, artillery, and communications troops.
In 1939, John Bagot Glubb, better known as "Glubb Pasha", became the
Legion's commander, with
Major General Abdul Qadir
Pasha Al Jundi as
his deputy commander. Together they transformed it into the
best-trained Arab army.
World War II
During World War II, the
Arab Legion took part in the British war
effort against pro-Axis forces in the Mediterranean and Middle East
Theatre. By then the force had grown to 1,600 men.
The Legion, part of Iraqforce, contributed significantly in the
Anglo-Iraqi War and in the Syria-Lebanon campaign, two decisive early
victories for the Allies.
The top three officers representing the Legion who participated in the
Victory March were
Major General Abdul Qadir
Pasha el Jundi, O.B.E.,
Bey Tabbara, and
Lieutenant Colonel Ahmed Sudqui Bey,
1948 Arab–Israeli War
Arab Legion commander
Abdullah el Tell
Abdullah el Tell (far right) with Captain Hikmat
Mihyar (far left) pose with Jewish prisoners after the Fall of Gush
Arab Legion artillery shells illuminate
Jerusalem in 1948
Arab Legion actively participated in the 1948 Arab–Israeli war.
With a total strength of just over 6,000, the Arab Legion's military
contingent consisted of 4,500 men in four single battalion-sized
regiments, each with their own armored car squadrons, and seven
independent companies plus support troops. The regiments were
organized into two brigades. 1st
Brigade contained 1st and 3rd
Regiments while 3rd brigade contained 2nd and 4th Regiments. There
were also two artillery batteries with four 25-pounders each. On 9
February 1948 the
Transjordan Frontier Force was disbanded with
members being absorbed back into the Arab Legion. Although headed by
Glubb, now a Lieutenant General, command in the field was by Brigadier
The Legion was initially withdrawn from Palestine to Transjordanian
territory, under instruction from the United Nations, prior to the end
of the British Mandate. With the commencement of hostilities the
Legion re-entered Palestine with 1st
Brigade heading to
Nablus and 2nd
Brigade heading to Ramallah. The
Arab Legion entered Palestine with
other Arab Forces on May 15, 1948 using the Allenby, now King Hussein,
bridge as they were advancing to cover the approaches from Jenin, in
the north to
Alaffoula and from Al-Majame'a bridge on the
There was considerable embarrassment from the UK government that
British officers were employed in the Legion during the conflict and
all of them, including a brigade commander, were ordered to return to
Transjordan. This led to the bizarre spectacle of British officers
leaving their units to return to Transjordan, only to sneak back
across the border and rejoin the Arab Legion. Without exception all of
the British officers returned to their units. One
British MP called for Glubb
Pasha to be imprisoned for serving in a
foreign army without the King's permission.
Units of the
Arab Legion were engaged in several battles with the
Jewish forces, including the following:
Ben Shemen convoy at
Beit Nabala – 14 December 1947 
Neve Yaakov settlement – 18 April 1948
Attacking kibutz Gesher on 27–28 April 1948 
Tegart fort on 17 May 1948, and later the
Battles of Latrun
Battles of Latrun from 20 May to 18 July 1948.
Jerusalem (1948) and Siege of
Jerusalem from 17 May to 18
Attacking and capturing (but later losing)
Gezer (kibbutz) on 10 June
Tarqumiya on 24 October 1948.
By the end of the war in 1949, the
Arab Legion consisted of over
10,000 men manning a 100-mile front, which then expanded to a 400-mile
front following the withdrawal of Iraqi forces.
Further clashes with Israel
Vickers VC.1 Viking
Vickers VC.1 Viking of the
Arab Legion Air Force in 1955
On September 11, 1956, an Israeli force in what the IDF termed one of
its retribution operations, Operation Jehonathan, raided Jordanian
territory at Al-Rahwa,
Hebron Sector, attacking the police station and
clashing with a unit from the Legion's Desert Force. Over twenty
soldiers and policemen were killed.
The Legion generally stayed out of the 1956 Suez Crisis.
On 1 March 1956, the Legion was renamed as the Arab
Jordanian Armed Forces). In Israel, the Hebrew term "Ligioner"
(ליגיונר), i.e. "Legionary" was still informally used for
Jordanian soldiers for many years afterwards, also at the time of the
1967 war and its aftermath.
King Abdullah I with
John Bagot Glubb
John Bagot Glubb "Glubb Pasha"
Frederick Peake ("Peake Pasha") – 22 October 1923 – 21
Lieutenant Colonel Ernest Stafford ("Stafford Bey") 2nd
Lieutenant General John Glubb, KCB, CMG, DSO, OBE, MC ("Glubb Pasha")
– 21 March 1939 – 1 March 1956
Major General Abdul Qadir
Pasha Al Jundi, O.B.E. ("Abdul Qadir Pasha")
- 1-25 March 1956
Note: "Pasha" is a Turkish honorary title, one of various ranks, and
is equivalent to the British title of "Lord".
Bey is equivalent to a
knighthood or "Sir".
^ Pollack, Kenneth, Arabs at War, Council on Foreign
Relations/University of Nebraska Press, 2002, p.267
^ Pike, John. "The Chechen Chronicles '98". Globalsecurity.org.
^ Shlaim, Avi (2007), Lion of Jordan: The Life of King Hussein in War
and Peace, Allen Lane, ISBN 978-0-7139-9777-4, p.17
^ Morris, 2008, p. 105
^ Gelber, Yoav, Palestine 1948: War, Escape and the Emergence of the
Palestinian Refugee Problem, Sussex Academic Press, Brighton &
Portland 2006 (2nd edition), p. 90
^ Tal, David (31 January 2004). War in Palestine, 1948: Israeli and
Arab Strategy and Diplomacy. Routledge. p. 202.
^ "Truce commission warns Abdulla". The palestine Post. 2 May 1948.
The attack on Gesher settlements...[by Transjordan]
^ Morris, 2008, p. 132
^ Morris, 2008, p. 230
^ Morris, 2008, p. 332
^ Morris, Benny (1993) Israel's Border Wars, 1949 - 1956. Arab
Infiltration, Israeli Retaliation, and the Countdown to the Suez War.
Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-827850-0. Page 392.
Dupuy, Trevor N, Elusive Victory, The Arab-Israeli Wars, 1947–1974,
Farndale, Sir Martin, History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery, The
Years of Defeat, 1939–41, Brassey’s (1996)
Glubb, John Bagot, The Arab Legion, Hodder & Stoughton, London
Isseroff, A., Kfar Etzion Remembered: A History of Gush Etzion and the
Massacre of Kfar Etzion, 2005.
Jerusalem in the War of Independence ("Tisha Kabin" – Nine
Measures – in Hebrew) Maarachot – IDF, Israel Ministry of Defence,
1986. ISBN 965-05-0287-4
Pal, Dharm, Official History of the Indian Armed in the Second World
War, 1939-45 - Campaign in Western Asia, Orient Longmans (1957)
Roubicek, Marcel, Echo of the Bugle, extinct military and constabulary
forces in Palestine and Trans-
Jordan 1915, 1967, Franciscan (Jerusalem
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and Peace, Allen Lane. ISBN 978-0-7139-9777-4
Vatikiotis, P.J. (1967). Politics and the Military in Jordan: A Study
of the Arab Legion, 1921-1957, New York, Praeger Publishers.
Young, Peter (1972). The Arab Legion, Osprey Publishing.
ISBN 0-85045-084-5 and ISBN 978-0-85045-084-2
Jordan – A Country Study, U.S. Library of Congress
Encyclopædia Britannica article
The Arab Legion
Arab Legion and the Defense of Jerusalem
1956 - King of
Jordan sacks British general (BBC article and video)
Military of Jordan
Royal Naval Force
Royal Jordanian Land Force
Royal Jordanian Air Force
Royal Maintenance Corps (Jordan)
Dairat al-Mukhabarat al-Ammah
Transjordan Frontier Force
King Abdullah Design and Development Bureau
Royal Jordanian Falcons