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Wednesday, 20 October 2010


Turkey’s entry into the 1st World War on 29 October 1914 prompted Britain to open a new military front in the remote Ottoman province of Mesopotamia (present day Iraq). British and Indian troops, sent to the Persian Gulf in early November to protect British oil interests in Abadan made rapid progress inland against weak Turkish resistance. In less than a month, they had occupied the towns of Basra and Kurna.

Despite the unforgiving climate, British forces continued to march steadily up the River Tigris in 1915. By 28 September, under the leadership of General Charles Townshend they had taken the town of Kut-al-Amara just 120 miles south of Mesopotamia's major city, Baghdad. The tide turned quickly, however, at the Battle of Ctesiphon in which Turkish troops under the command of Yusef Nur-ed-Din withstood heavy casualties to defeat Townshend's attacking forces. The war continued into 1916 and despite more heavy defeats Kut-al-Amara was recaptured on 24 February 1917, and Ctesiphon was taken soon afterwards. On 11 March 1917, British troops finally entered Baghdad. The path was cleared for an advance into northern Mesopotamia, towards the heart of the Ottoman empire in Anatolia. The war with Turkey finally ended on 30 October 1918.

Henry M. Brocks (1875-1960) cartoon of 1915 highlights the fact that to most of the people in Britain at this time, the war in Mesopotamia had previously been a distant and largely unknown campaign.

Transcript below:

MR PESSIMIST: (cheering up for once). "British Mesopotamian success."
MRS PESSIMIST: "That's the worst of it. They mess up all their successes."

1 comment:

  1. I was just as surprised and enlightened when I read a few articles about our campaigns against the Turks out here. I think the reportage became hung up around the activities of T.E. Lawrence in Damascus and the western desert. Although it probably had as much to do with our government’s desire to keep a low profile on any threats to our new and precious oil drilling leases in Iraq & Iran. Interesting stuff.


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