The dentist who conquered the centre of the Ottoman Empire

The State Library’s conservation team was approached to authenticate a number of documents from WWI.  These maps belonged to Lieutenant Arthur Olden, a Western Australian Army Lieutenant who received the surrender of the city Damascus, the centre of the Ottoman Empire and now capital of Syria.

Damascus was recorded next to Jerusalem as the most the most coveted prize of the whole front.

On 1 October 1918, Lieutenant Olden led a hazardous but completely successful sunrise attack on the city of Damascus. The 3rd Light Horse Brigade vanguard galloped through the centre of the city at a time when it was occupied by over 15,000 troops to conquer one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Olden took the honour from Lawrence of Arabia who arrived several hours later to conquer the city himself.

A trained dentist, Arthur Charles Niquet Olden served in Western Australian 10th Light Horse Regiment in the First World War. As Lieutenant he formally accepted surrender of the city by way of a remarkable document which hailed him as ‘the first British officer to enter Damascus, in the bravest manner known of the Saxon race’ this document is now held by his grandson along with a series of maps.

The series of maps included secret plans used by the Light Horse Regiment, and were used not only in this attack, but also in other campaigns.  A number of these maps contained hand written battle notes and hand marked routes of attack, which increased the complexity of conservation, but assisted with the authentication.

The State Library’s Conservation team undertook restorative work as well as the digitisation of the maps for MagoFilms who are producing a documentary for the ABC on Great War Horses. We now hold a digitised copy of the maps, further enriching our collection of items with Western Australian Social and Historical significance.

Amongst other historical newspapers of the time, the State Library holds a copy from a 1919 edition of The Western Australian which details the events leading up to and including the handover of Damascus. For access to the digital version, go to:

Turkey, Gallipoli, 1908. slwa_b3704957_2

Turkey, Gallipoli, 1908





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