HOME
The Info List - Siege Of Kut





British Empire

United Kingdom  India

 Ottoman Empire

Commanders and leaders

Charles Townshend  Nureddin Pasha Halil Pasha Colmar Freiherr von der Goltz

Strength

31,000 25,000

Casualties and losses

30,000 dead or wounded 10,000 captured including 6 generals 10,000 dead or wounded

v t e

Mesopotamian campaign

Fao Landing Basra Qurna Shaiba Amara Nasiriyah Es Sinn Ctesiphon Umm at Tubal 1st Kut Sheikh Sa'ad Wadi Hanna Dujaila 2nd Kut Baghdad Samarrah Offensive Jebel Hamlin Istabulat Ramadi Khan Baghdadi Sharqat

The Siege of Kut
Kut
Al Amara (7 December 1915 – 29 April 1916), also known as the First Battle of Kut, was the besieging of an 8,000 strong British-Indian garrison in the town of Kut, 160 kilometres (100 mi) south of Baghdad, by the Ottoman Army. In 1915 its population was around 6,500. Following the surrender of the garrison on 29 April 1916, the survivors of the siege were marched to imprisonment at Aleppo, during which many died.[1] Historian Christopher Catherwood
Christopher Catherwood
has called the siege "the worst defeat of the Allies in World War I".[2]

Contents

1 Prelude 2 The siege

2.1 Relief expeditions

2.1.1 Battle of Sheikh Sa'ad 2.1.2 Battle of Wadi 2.1.3 Battle of Hanna 2.1.4 Later efforts

2.2 Surrender of the British army

3 Aftermath 4 See also 5 References 6 Sources 7 Further reading 8 External links

Prelude[edit]

Situation at Kut
Kut
on 28 September 1915.

The 6th (Poona) Division of the Indian Army, under Major-General Charles Townshend, had fallen back to the town of Kut
Kut
after retreating from Ctesiphon. The British Empire
British Empire
forces arrived at Kut
Kut
around 3 December 1915. They had suffered significant losses, numbering only 11,000 soldiers (plus cavalry). General Townshend chose to stay and hold the position at Kut
Kut
instead of continuing the march downriver towards Basra. Contained within a long river loop, Kut
Kut
offered a good defensive position although supply lines from distant Basra
Basra
were stretched. The siege[edit]

The siege by Ottoman 6th Army forces

The pursuing Ottoman forces under Halil Pasha arrived on 7 December 1915. Once it became clear the Ottomans had enough forces to lay siege to Kut, Townshend ordered his cavalry to escape south, which it did, led by Lieut. Colonel Gerard Leachman DSO. The Ottoman forces numbered around 11,000 men and were increasing steadily with additional reinforcements arriving constantly. They were commanded by the respected but elderly German general and military historian Baron von der Goltz. Goltz knew the Ottoman army well, as he had spent 12 years working on modernizing it, from 1883 to 1895. After three attacks in December, Goltz directed the building of siege fortifications facing Kut. He prepared for an attack from Basra, using the Tigris River, by building defensive positions further down the river designed to cut off a river-borne relief. After a month of siege, Townshend wanted to break out and withdraw southwards but his commander, General Sir John Nixon
Sir John Nixon
saw value in tying down the Ottoman forces in a siege. Nixon ordered transports from London, but none had arrived. The War Office was in the process of reorganizing military command; previously the orders had come from the Viceroy and India Office. However, when Townshend—inaccurately—reported that only one month of food remained, a rescue force was hastily raised. It is not clear why Townshend reported he only had enough food for one month when he actually had food for more than four months (although at a reduced level), but Townshend would not attempt an infantry retreat unprotected through hostile tribal lands without river transport. Nixon had ordered this with reinforcements, commanded by his son, but by December they were still only in the Suez Canal. The confusing communications would prove a critical delay. Medical facilities in Kut
Kut
were headed by Major General Patrick Hehir.[3] Relief expeditions[edit] The first relief expedition comprised some 19,000 men under Lieutenant-General Aylmer and it headed up the river from Ali Gharbi in January 1916. Battle of Sheikh Sa'ad[edit] Main article: Battle of Sheikh Sa'ad The first attempt to relieve Kut
Kut
(the Battle of Sheikh Sa'ad) came on 6 January. Aylmer's advance force was a division or two, under Major-General
Major-General
George Younghusband. Part of the cause of delay was the debate in Cabinet over whether one division would be an adequate force, or whether two divisions should be sent. Deliberations were painfully slow. The ageing General Maurice insisted on being informed at every turn as the evidence came into the Committee of Imperial Defence; which was further complicated by a restructuring involving the setup of a new sub-committee system and transfer of military responsibilities. At least three urgent memoranda were sent from General Nixon demanding transports to evacuate Townshend's division. By Christmas his health had broken down, and he requested a return to Bombay. Nixon's replacements with additional staff as a mandatory requirement moved forward from Ali Al Gharbi towards Sheikh Sa'ad
Sheikh Sa'ad
along both banks of the Tigris. Younghusband's column made contact with the Ottomans on the morning of 6 January 5.6 km (3 1⁄2 mi) east of Sheikh Sa'ad. British efforts to defeat the Ottomans were unsuccessful.[4] The following day, on 7 January, Aylmer arrived with the main body of his forces and ordered a general attack. Younghusband led the attack on the left bank and Major-General
Major-General
Kemball took the right. After heavy fighting all day, Kemball's troops had overrun Ottoman trenches on the right bank, taking prisoners and capturing two guns. However, the Ottoman left bank held firm and they carried out supporting manoeuvres from the north. After little change on 8 January, renewed British attacks on 9 January resulted in the Ottomans retiring from Sheikh Sa'ad. Over the following two days the Ottomans were followed by Aylmer's force but heavy rains made the roads virtually impassable.[4] Battle of Wadi[edit] Main article: Battle of Wadi (1916) The Ottomans retreated for about 16 km (10 mi) from Sheikh Sa'ad to a tributary of the Tigris on the left bank known by the Arabic toponym simply as the Wadi (meaning "the river valley"). The Ottomans made their camp beyond the Wadi and on the other side of the Tigris opposite the Wadi. On 13 January, Aylmer attacked the Ottoman Wadi position on the left bank with all of his forces. After putting up a stiff resistance the Ottomans retreated 8 km (5 mi) to the west and they were followed by Aylmer's troops. Battle of Hanna[edit] Main article: Battle of Hanna The Ottomans then made their camp upstream of the Wadi at the Hanna defile, a narrow strip of dry land between the Tigris and the Suwaikiya Marshes. British losses at the Battle of Hanna
Battle of Hanna
amounted to 2,700 killed and wounded, which was disastrous for the garrison in Kut.[5]

The British Headquarters in Kut

Later efforts[edit] At this point, Khalil Pasha (the Ottoman commander of the whole region) came to the battle, bringing with him a further 20,000 to 30,000 reinforcements. Following the defeat of Aylmer's expedition, General Nixon was replaced as supreme commander by Percy Lake. More forces were sent to bolster Aylmer's troops. He tried again, attacking the Dujaila redoubt on 8 March. This attack failed, at a cost of 4,000 men. General Aylmer was dismissed and replaced with General George Gorringe on 12 March. The relief attempt by Gorringe is usually termed the First Battle of Kut. The British Empire's forces numbered about 30,000 soldiers, roughly equal to the Ottomans. The battle began on 5 April and the British soon captured Fallahiyeh, but with heavy losses, Beit Asia was taken on 17 April. The final effort was against Sannaiyat on 22 April. The Allies were unable to take Sannaiyat and suffered some 1,200 casualties in the process. In April 1916 No. 30 Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps
Royal Flying Corps
carried out the first air supply operation in history. Food and ammunition were dropped to the defenders of Kut, but "as often as not their parcels go into the Tigris or into the Turkish trenches!"[6] All the relief efforts had failed, at a cost of around 30,000 Allied killed or wounded. Ottoman casualties are believed to have been around 10,000. The Ottomans also lost the aid of Baron von der Goltz. He died on 19 April, supposedly of typhoid. After Goltz's death, no German commander took his place in Mesopotamia for the rest of the war. Surrender of the British army[edit]

An Indian soldier after siege of Kut

British leaders attempted to buy their troops out. Aubrey Herbert
Aubrey Herbert
and T. E. Lawrence
T. E. Lawrence
were part of a team of officers sent to negotiate a secret deal with the Ottomans. The British offered £2 million (equivalent to £150 million in 2016[7]) and promised they would not fight the Ottomans again, in exchange for Townshend's troops. Enver Pasha
Enver Pasha
ordered that this offer be rejected.[8] The British also asked for help from the Russians. General Baratov, with his largely Cossack force of 20,000, was in Persia at the time. Following the request he advanced towards Baghdad
Baghdad
in April 1916, but he turned back when news reached him of the surrender.[9] General Townshend arranged a ceasefire on the 26th and, after failed negotiations, he simply surrendered on 29 April 1916 after a siege of 147 days. Around 13,000 Allied soldiers survived to be made prisoners. Historian İlber Ortaylı
İlber Ortaylı
states that "Halil Pasha acted like a gentleman to the surrendering British officers" and offered "to take the PoWs up towards the north in river boats in case fuel could be provided from British bases nearby."[10] The offer was rejected by the British. 65-70% of the British and 15-30% of the Indian troops died of disease or at the hands of their Ottoman guards during captivity.[11][12] However, historian Marc Ferro
Marc Ferro
suggested a different image. According to Ferro, the surrendered British and Indian forces were forced to march around the city of Baghdad
Baghdad
while being maltreated by the Ottoman troops supervising their march.[13] Townshend himself was taken to the island of Heybeliada
Heybeliada
on the Sea of Marmara, to sit out the war in relative luxury. The author Norman Dixon, in his book On the Psychology of Military Incompetence, described Townshend as being "amused" by the plight of the men he had deserted, as if he had pulled off some clever trick. Dixon says Townshend was unable to understand why his friends and comrades were ultimately censorious over his behaviour.[14] In British Army battle honours, the siege of Kut
Kut
is named as "Defence of Kut
Kut
Al Amara". Aftermath[edit] Jan Morris, a British historian, described the loss of Kut
Kut
as "the most abject capitulation in Britain's military history."[15] After this humiliating loss, General Lake and General Gorringe were removed from command. The new commander was General Maude, who trained and organized his army and then launched a successful campaign which captured Baghdad
Baghdad
on 11 March 1917. With Baghdad
Baghdad
captured, the British administration undertook vital reconstruction of the war-torn country and Kut
Kut
was slowly rebuilt.[16] Some of the Indian prisoners of war from Kut
Kut
later came to join the Ottoman Indian Volunteer Corps under the influence of Deobandis of Tehrek e Reshmi Rumal and with the encouragement of the German High Command. These soldiers, along with those recruited from the prisoners from the European battlefields, fought alongside Ottoman forces on a number of fronts.[17] The Indians were led by Amba Prasad Sufi, who during the war was joined by Kedar Nath Sondhi, Rishikesh Letha, and Amin Chaudhry. These Indian troops were involved in the capture of the frontier city of Karman[disambiguation needed] and the detention of the British consul there, and they also successfully harassed Sir Percy Sykes' Persian campaign against the Baluchi and Persian tribal chiefs who were aided by the Germans.[18][19] See also[edit]

Military history of the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
portal

Second Battle of Kut, which took place on the 23 February 1917.

References[edit]

^ Peter Mansfield, The British Empire
British Empire
magazine, Time-Life Books, vol 75, p. 2078 ^ Christopher Catherwood
Christopher Catherwood
(22 May 2014). The Battles of World War I. Allison & Busby. pp. 51–2. ISBN 978-0-7490-1502-2.  ^ McK, A. G. "Obituary Notice: Sir Patrick Hehir, Major-General". Proceedings. Royal Society of Edinburgh. 57: 416–416. doi:10.1017/S0370164600013961 – via Cambridge Core.  ^ a b Baker, Chris. "Sir John Nixon's Second Despatch". The Long, Long Trail. Archived from the original on 2008-05-31. Retrieved 2014-08-05.  ^ Baker, Chris. "The Battle of the Hanna (21 January 1916)". The Long, Long Trail. Archived from the original on 2008-08-28. Retrieved 2014-08-05.  ^ Spooner, Reverend H. Private Papers; Imperial War Museum Documents 7308. Entry for the 16th April 1916 (quoted by Rogan 2016 p. 263) ^ United Kingdom
United Kingdom
Gross Domestic Product deflator figures follow the Measuring Worth "consistent series" supplied in Thomas, Ryland; Williamson, Samuel H. (2018). "What Was the U.K. GDP Then?". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved January 5, 2018.  ^ David Fromkin, A Peace to End All Peace, p. 201 ^ Cyril Falls, The Great War, p. 249 ^ İlber Ortaylı, "100. Yılında Kut'ul Amare Zaferi" (The Victory of Kut
Kut
at its Centennial), Hürriyet, 24 April 2016, p.6 ^ Davies, Ross (20 November 2002). "The tragedy of Kut". The Guardian.  ^ Gardner, Nikolas (2014). The Siege of Kut-al-Amara: At War in Mesopotamia, 1915-1916. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. p. 165.  ^ Ferro, Marc (2002). The Great War. New York: Routledge. p. 75. ISBN 0-415-26734-X.  ^ Dixon, Dr. Norman F. On the Psychology of Military Incompetence Jonathan Cape Ltd 1976 / Pimlico 1994 pp95–109 ^ Jan Morris (22 December 2010). Farewell the Trumpets. Faber & Faber. pp. 3–4. ISBN 978-0-571-26598-5.  ^ Howell, Georgina. Daughter of the Desert: The Remarkable Life of Gertrude Bell. London: Macmillan, 2006. p. 311 ^ Qureshi 1999, p. 78 ^ Sykes 1921, p. 101 ^ Herbert 2003

Sources[edit]

Herbert, Edwin (2003). Small Wars and Skirmishes 1902–1918: Early Twentieth-century Colonial Campaigns in Africa, Asia and the Americas. Nottingham, Foundry Books Publications. ISBN 1-901543-05-6.  Qureshi, M Naeem (1999). Pan-Islam in British Indian Politics: A Study of the Khilafat Movement, 1918-1924. Brill Academic Publishers. ISBN 90-04-11371-1.  Rogan, Eugene (2016). The Fall of the Ottomans. Penguin Books.  Spackman, Tony, ed. (2008). Captured at Kut, Prisoner of the Turks: The Great War Diaries of Colonel W.C. Spackman. Pen & Sword Military. ISBN 184415873-X.  Sykes, Peter (1921). "South Persia and the Great War". The Geographical Journal. Blackwell Publishing on behalf of The Royal Geographical Society. 58 (2): 101–116. doi:10.2307/1781457. ISSN 0016-7398. 

Further reading[edit]

Barber, Major Charles H. (1917). Besieged in Kut
Kut
– and After. Blackwood.  Barker, A.J. (1967). The Bastard war: The Mesopotamian campaign
Mesopotamian campaign
of 1914-1918. Dial.  Braddon, Russell (1970) [1969]. The Siege. Viking Adult. ISBN 0-670-64386-6.  Davis, Paul K. (1994). Ends and Means: the British Mesopotamian Campaign and Commission. Associated University Presses.  Dixon, Dr. Norman F. (1994) [1976]. On the Psychology of Military Incompetence. Pimlico.  Gardner, Nikolas (2004). "Sepoys and the Siege of Kut-al-Amara, December 1915 –April 1961". War in History. 11 (3).  von Gleich, Gerold (1921). Vom Balkan nach Bagdad: militärisch-politische Erinnerungen an dem Orient. Scherl Verlag.  Harvey, Lt & Q-Mr. F. A. (1922). The Sufferings of the Kut Garrison During Their March Into Turkey as Prisoners of War 1916–1917. Ludgershall, Wilts: The Adjutants's Press.  Herbert, Aubrey (1919). "Mons, Anzac & Kut". Hutchinson.  Keegan, John (1998). The First World War. Random House Press.  Long, P. W. (1938). Other Ranks of Kut. Williams & Norgate.  Mouseley, Capt. E. O. (1921). The Secrets of a Kuttite: An Authentic Story of Kut, Adventures in Captivity & Stamboul Intrigue. Bodley Head.  Moynihan, Michael (1983). God On Our Side. Secker & Warburg.  Sandes, Major E. W. C. (1919). In Kut
Kut
& Captivity with the Sixth Indian Division. Murray.  Strachan, Hew (2003). The First World War. Viking.  Townshend, Charles (2010). When God Made Hell: The British Invasion of Mesopotamia and the Creation of Iraq, 1914-1921. Faber and Faber.  Wilcox, Ron (2006). Battles on the Tigris. Barnsley: Pen and Sword Military. 

External links[edit]

The siege of Kut-al-Amara, to 29 April 1915 – from the website The Long, Long Trail, downloaded January 2006. A Kut
Kut
Prisoner by H. C. W. Bishop – e-book and HTML version with maps and graphics from Project Gutenberg.

v t e

Ottoman battles in the 20th century

Italo-Turkish War
Italo-Turkish War
(1911–12)

Preveza Tobruk Kywayfia Kunfuda Bay Derna Beirut Rhodes Zanzur

Balkan Wars
Balkan Wars
(1912–13)

Sarantaporo Kırcalı (Kardzhali) Beşpınar (Pente Pigadia) Sorovich Kumanovo Kirk Kilise İşkodra (Scutari) Lüleburgaz Edirne (Adrianople) Prilep Himara Monastir First Çatalca Varna (Kaliakra) Merhamli İmroz (Elli) Korytsa Lemnos Bolayır Şarköy Bizani Second Çatalca

First World War
First World War
(1914–18)

Köprüköy (Bergmann) Sarikamish Ardahan Suez Canal Naval operations Katya Seddülbayır (Cape Helles) Kumkale 1st Arıburnu (Anzac Cove) Baby 700 1st Kirte Battle of Dilman 2nd Arıburnu (2nd Anzac Cove) 2nd Kirte No.3 Post 3rd Arıburnu (3rd Anzac Cove) 3rd Kirte Zığındere Manzikert Kara Killisse Kirte Bağları (Krithia Vineyard) Kanlısırt (Lone Pine) Anafartalar Conkbayır Sarıbayır Kılıçbayır (The Nek) Hill 60 Yusufçuktepe (Scimitar Hill) Selman’ı Pak (Ctesiphon) 1st Kut Sağ Sahil Erzurum Offensive Wadi Felahiye (Hanna) Sabis Trebizond Mecca Erzincan Aqaba Bitlis Romani Bir el Abd Yanbu Magdhaba Rafa Nekhl Bir el Hassana 2nd Kut Samarrah Jebel Hamlin 1st Gaza 2nd Gaza Istabulat Aqaba Ramadi Wadi Musa Beersheba Khuweilfe 3rd Gaza Baghdad Hareira and Sheria Wadi el Hesi Huj Mughar Ridge Ayun Kara Jerusalem Jaffa Jericho Tell 'Asur Khan Baghdadi Hijla 1st Amman Berukin and 1st Arara 2nd Transjordan Abaran Sardarabad Karakilisa Baku Arsuf German Expedition Abu Tellul 2nd Arara Megiddo Tabsor Tulkarm Afulah and Beisan Nazareth Jenin Haifa Samakh Tiberias Irbid Jisr Benat Yakub Kaukab Damascus Kiswe Jisr ed Damieh Sharqat Aleppo Khan Ayash 2nd Amman Haritan

For the battles before 1900 see List of battles involving the Ot

.