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Fighting in Mesopotamia in VS .NET
Fighting in Mesopotamia
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Safeguarding the Middle East s oil supplies for the Royal Navy was a keystone of British policy As part of this strategy, the British had occupied Basra and the Shatt-al-Arab waterway in Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) without difficulty in November 1914 They defeated weak Turkish counter-attacks with such ease that the Government of India, responsible for the security of the area, reached the mistaken conclusion that the enemy troops were representative of the Turkish army as a whole As a result of this, it took the decision to extend the scope of operations to include an advance on Baghdad, the loss of which would be a serious blow to Turkish prestige throughout the entire Muslim world The unforeseen and unwelcome consequence was that Great Britain had to open a fresh war front In the spring of 1915 Lieutenant General Sir John Nixon commanded the British army in Mesopotamia It consisted of two Indian infantry divisions (Major General Charles Townshend s 6th and Major General George Gorringe s 12th) and a cavalry brigade Nixon s career in the Indian Army had been long and honourable, although those who knew him best regarded him as impetuous, lacking in strategic sense, inclined to base decisions on wishful thinking, and seriously ambitious This was to have unhappy consequences when allied to Townshend s personality If Nixon s ambition was a driving force, Townshend s was nothing less than a mania: What he wanted most of all was glory and lots of admiration Compared to Nixon and Townshend, Gorringe was a refreshingly normal, capable divisional commander In May, Nixon ordered Townshend s division to break through the Turkish position at Qurna and advance up the Tigris to Amara, thereby consolidating his hold on the captured territory further south Unexpectedly, Turkish resistance collapsed completely on 31 May Townshend embarked troops aboard any vessel he could lay his hands on and set off upstream Passing Ezra s Tomb on 1 June, he reached Amara two days later and received the immediate surrender of the 2000-strong garrison During the 130-kilometre (80-mile) advance the British disabled the Turkish gunboat Marmaris and captured the steamer Mosul The episode became known as Townshend s Regatta The public loved it
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Baghdad or bust: Take one
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Townshend fell victim to the torrid, unhealthy Middle East climate for a while and went to India to recover He returned to find that Gorringe s division had taken Nasiriya on the Euphrates in July 1915 Nixon now felt that to secure the south of the country it was necessary for Townshend s division to take
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Part V: The First World War
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Kut-al-Amara That was easier said than done, because the Turks had constructed a strong fortified zone on both banks of the Tigris, some kilometres below the town Under the command of a Turkish general named Nur-ed-Din, 6000 men and 30 guns held this zone On 27 September, Townshend made a feint attack against the entrenchments on the right bank Nur-ed-Din moved up his reserves to meet the threat That night, two of Townshend s brigades crossed a bridge of boats two miles downstream They then carried out a successful night march and fell on the Turkish left flank at dawn After hard fighting they took the position and held it against counter-attacks Air reconnaissance on the morning of 29 September revealed that the enemy was retreating through Kut
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Marching into trouble
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Nixon believed that the road to Baghdad was wide open and ordered Townshend to take it To his credit, Townshend pointed out the serious dangers involved in overextending the advance, but his warning fell on deaf ears After spending five weeks in preparation, the 6th Indian Division and the cavalry brigade set off to the north At about the same time, Nixon received intelligence reports indicating that 30,000 good-quality troops under the command of Khalil Pasha, one of the best generals in the Turkish service, were converging on Baghdad Townshend was obviously marching straight into trouble, but Nixon made no attempt to recall him On reaching Ctesiphon, 50 kilometres (30 miles) south of Baghdad, Townshend discovered that the Turks had constructed entrenchments on both banks of the river In November he fought his way through at the cost of heavy casualties and most of his ammunition stock When air reconnaissance revealed fresh Turkish formations streaming out of Baghdad on 25 November, he wisely decided to withdraw
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