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Major-General Charles Vere Ferrers Townshend

Major-General Charles Vere Ferrers Townshend

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Picture of Major-General Charles Vere Ferrers Townshend

Here we see Major-General Charles Vere Ferrers Townshend, the commander of the unsuccessful British expedition to Iraq in 1915-1916


Born 1861 educated at Cranleigh School, Kent and Royal Military College, Sandhurst commissioned into the Royal Marine Light Infantry, 1881 Sudan Expedition, 1884-1886 transferred to Indian Army, 1886 Hunza Naga Expedition, India, 1891-1892 Capt, 1892 garrison commander during siege of Chitral Fort, North West Frontier, India, 1895 Maj, 1895 awarded CB, 1895 transferred to Egyptian Army, 1896 Lt Col, 1896 Dongola Expedition, Sudan, 1896 Commanding Officer, 12 Sudanese Bn, Egypt, 1896-1898 Nile Expedition, Sudan, 1898 Battles of Atbara and Khartoum, Sudan, 1898 awarded DSO, 1898 Second Boer War, South Africa, 1899-1902 Assistant Adjutant General on staff of Military Governor, Orange Free State, South Africa, 1900 transferred to Royal Fusiliers, 1900 Col, 1904 Military Attaché, Paris, France, 1905 transferred to King's Shropshire Light Infantry, 1906 Assistant Adjutant General, 9 Div, India, 1907-1908 command of Orange River Colony District, South Africa, 1908-1911 Brig Gen, 1909 Maj Gen, 1911 General Officer Commanding East Anglian Div, Territorial Force, 1911-1913 command of Jhanzi Bde, India, 1913 Rawal Pindi Bde, India, 1913-1915 served World War One, 1914-1918 General Officer Commanding 6 Indian Div, Mesopotamia, 1915-1916 commanded 6 Indian Div at Battles of Kurna, Kut el Amara, Ctesiphon and the defence and siege of Kut el Amara, 1915-1916 POW, 1916-1918 created KCB, 1917 resigned, 1920 Independent Conservative MP for the Wrekin, Shropshire, 1920-1922 died 1924. Publications: The military life of Field Marshal George, first Marquess Townshend, 1724-1807 (John Murray, London, 1901) My Campaign in Mesopotamia (Thornton Butterworth, London, 1920).

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

The military life of Field Marshal George, first Marquess Townshend, 1724-1807 (John Murray, London, 1901) My Campaign in Mesopotamia (Thornton Butterworth, London, 1920).

Placed in the Centre in 1979 by Lt Col Arthur James Barker.

First World War ↑

After spending the first seven months of the war in India, Townshend was put in command of the 6 th (Poona) Division in April 1915. Following a string of battlefield victories, including Amara, Es Sinn, Nasiriyah, and Kut, Townshend preferred to consolidate his gains around Amara and Kut, fearing that an advance towards Baghdad would stretch too thinly the Division’s supply lines. General Sir John Nixon (1857-1921), pressured by the War Cabinet to make up for the loss of British prestige after the evacuation of the Dardanelles, ordered him to march on. Halted at Ctesiphon in November 1915, Townshend fell back to the town of Kut in December. There, Townshend planned to hold his ground, await a relief force from Basra, and provide much-needed rest to his men almost half of the Division’s officers were sick or wounded. He was also concerned that if he pushed his Indian soldiers too far, their morale would plummet and discipline would collapse. Townshend was no stranger to siege warfare. He had taken part in the Nile Expedition to relieve General Charles Gordon’s (1833-1885) forces at Khartoum between 1884 and 1885, and, a decade later, was himself besieged in India’s North-West Frontier. Besieged at Kut, he informed Nixon, wrongly, it turned out, that his men had little more than a month’s rations left, putting undue pressure on the relief force to quickly reach the besieged British and Indian soldiers.

Multiple attempts to relieve British and Indian soldiers at Kut in March and April 1916 were unsuccessful. Food and medical supplies were dropped by the Royal Flying Corps, but often ended up in the Tigris River or in the hands of Ottoman army soldiers. Another attempt to provide almost a month’s worth of supplies by a slow-moving, steel-plated steamship chugging up the Tigris, never made it to Kut. Inside the besieged city, disease, mostly dysentery, malaria, and enteritis, were widespread, and both British and Indian soldiers were near starvation and reduced to eating horse meat. The relief force, too, had suffered 23,000 casualties in its effort to lift the siege. After failed attempts to bribe the Ottoman army to release British and Indian soldiers in exchange for cannons and 1 million pounds in cash, Townshend, broken down both physically and mentally, unconditionally surrendered Kut on 29 April 1916. After Townshend’s surrender – the largest surrender of British arms since Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown in 1781 – he was held in captivity first on Halki (modern-day Heybeliada) and then on Prinkipo Island (modern-day Büyükada) near Istanbul for the rest of the war. In captivity, Townshend grew close to the Ottoman Minister of War, Ismail Enver Pasha (1881-1922), holding private meetings with Enver at the Ottoman Ministry of the Navy and went as far as to defend Enver and the Ottoman army’s treatment of British and Indian prisoners of war (POWs), while simultaneously criticizing the British army’s treatment of Ottoman POWs in Egypt. Near the end of the war, Townshend played a small part in negotiating the Armistice of Mudros on behalf of the new Ottoman government led by Ahmed Izzet Pasha (1864-1937).


Ottomans and Central Powers Edit

The Ottoman Empire joined the Central Powers through the secret Ottoman-German Alliance, [24] which was signed on 2 August 1914. The main objective of the Ottoman Empire in the Caucasus was the recovery of its territories that had been lost during the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878), in particular Artvin, Ardahan, Kars, and the port of Batum. Success in this region would force the Russians to divert troops from the Polish and Galician fronts. [25]

German advisors with the Ottoman armies supported the campaign for this reason. From an economic perspective, the Ottoman, or rather German, strategic goal was to cut off Russian access to the hydrocarbon resources around the Caspian Sea. [26]

Germany established an Intelligence Bureau for the East on the eve of World War I. The bureau was involved in intelligence-gathering and subversive missions to Persia and Egypt, [27] and to Afghanistan, [ citation needed ] to dismantle the Anglo-Russian Entente. [28] Ottoman War Minister Enver Pasha claimed that if the Russians could be beaten in the key cities of Persia, it could open the way to Azerbaijan, as well as the rest of the Middle East and the Caucasus.

If these nations were to be removed from Western influence, Enver envisioned a cooperation between these newly established Turkic states. Enver's project conflicted with European interests which played out as struggles between several key imperial powers. The Ottomans also threatened Britain's communications with India and the East via the Suez Canal. The Germans hoped to seize the Canal for the Central Powers, or at least to deny the Allies use of the vital shipping route.

Allies Edit

Britain Edit

The British feared that the Ottomans might attack and capture the Middle East (and later Caspian) oil fields. [26] The British Royal Navy depended upon oil from the petroleum deposits in southern Persia, to which the British-controlled Anglo-Persian Oil Company had exclusive access. [26]

Oxford historian (and Conservative MP) J.A.R. Marriott summarizes the British debates on strategy for the Near East and Balkan theatre:

The War in that theatre presents many problems and suggests many questions. Whether by a timely display of force the Turk could have been kept true to his ancient connexion with Great Britain and France whether by more sagacious diplomacy the hostility of Bulgaria could have been averted, and the co-operation of Greece secured whether by the military intervention of the Entente Powers the cruel blow could have been warded off from Serbia and Montenegro whether the Dardanelles expedition was faulty only in execution or unsound in conception whether Romania came into tardily, or moved too soon, and in the wrong direction. [29]

Russia Edit

The Russians viewed the Caucasus Front as secondary to the Eastern Front. They feared a campaign into the Caucasus aimed at retaking Kars which had been taken from the Ottoman Empire during the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878), and the port of Batum. [30]

In March 1915, when the Russian foreign minister Sergey Sazonov met with British ambassador George Buchanan and French ambassador Maurice Paléologue, he stated that a lasting postwar settlement demanded full Russian possession of the capital city of the Ottoman Empire, Constantinople, the straits of the Bosphorus and Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmara, southern Thrace up to the Enos-Midia line as well as parts of the Black Sea coast of Anatolia between the Bosphorus, the Sakarya River and an undetermined point near the Bay of Izmit. The Russian Imperial government planned to replace the Muslim population of Northern Anatolia and Istanbul with more reliable Cossack settlers. [30]

Armenians Edit

The Armenian national liberation movement sought to establish an Armenian state within the Armenian Highlands. The Armenian Revolutionary Federation achieved this goal later in the war, with the establishment of the internationally recognized First Republic of Armenia in May 1918. As early as 1915, the Administration for Western Armenia and later Republic of Mountainous Armenia were Armenian-controlled entities, while the Centrocaspian Dictatorship was established with Armenian participation. None of these entities were long lasting.

Arabs Edit

The principal actor was King Hussein as head of the Kingdom of Hejaz. He led what is now called the Arab revolt, the principal objectives of which were self-rule and an end to Ottoman control of the region.

Assyrians Edit

An Assyrian nation under British and Russian protection was promised the Assyrians first by Russian officers, and later confirmed by Captain Gracey of the British Intelligence Service. Based on these representations, the Assyrians of Hakkari, under their Mar Shimun XIX Benjamin and the Assyrian tribal chiefs "decided to side with the Allies, first with Russia, and next with the British, in the hope that they might secure after the victory, a self-government for the Assyrians." [31] The French also joined the alliance with the Assyrians, offering them 20,000 rifles, and the Assyrian army grew to 20,000 men co-led by Agha Petrus Elia of the Bit-Bazi tribe, and Malik Khoshaba of the Bit-Tiyari tribe, according to Joseph Naayem (a key witness, whose account on the atrocities was prefaced by Lord James Bryce). [9] [32]

Kurds Edit

The Kurds hoped that the Allies of World War I would aid them in creating an independent Kurdish nation if they were to fight against the Ottomans, and undertook several uprisings throughout the war. Most of these, except for the uprisings of August 1917, were not supported by any of the allied powers. [33]

The Caucasus Campaign comprised armed conflicts between the Ottoman Empire and the allies, the forces of the latter including Azerbaijan, Armenia, the Central Caspian Dictatorship, and the UK as part of the Middle Eastern theatre, or alternatively named, as part of the Caucasus Campaign during World War I. The Caucasus Campaign extended from the Caucasus to eastern Asia Minor, reaching as far as Trabzon, Bitlis, Mush and Van. The warfare on land was accompanied by actions undertaken by the Russian Navy in the Black Sea region of the Ottoman Empire.

On 23 February 1917, the Russian advance was halted following the Russian Revolution, and later the disintegrated Russian Caucasus Army was replaced by the forces of the newly established Armenian state, which comprised the previous Armenian volunteer units and the Armenian irregular units. During 1918 the region also saw the establishment of the Central Caspian Dictatorship, the Republic of Mountainous Armenia, and an Allied force named Dunsterforce which was composed of elite troops drawn from the Mesopotamian and Western Fronts.

The Ottoman Empire and German Empire fought each other at Batumi after the arrival of the German Caucasus Expedition whose prime aim was to secure oil supplies. On 3 March 1918, the conflict between the Ottoman Empire and Russia ended with the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, and on 4 June 1918, the Ottoman Empire signed the Treaty of Batum with Armenia. However, the armed conflicts extended as the Ottoman Empire continued to engage with the Central Caspian Dictatorship, Republic of Mountainous Armenia, and British Empire forces from Dunsterforce until the Armistice of Mudros was signed on 30 October 1918.

Top: Destruction in the city of Erzurum Left Upper: Russian forces Left Lower: Wounded Muslim refugees Right Upper: Ottoman forces Right Lower: Armenian refugees

The Gallipoli Campaign, February–April 1915

"Top:" The size of the stars show where the active conflicts occurred in 1915 "Left Upper:" Armenians defending the walls of Van in the spring of 1915 "Left Lower:" Armenian Resistance in Urfa "Right:" A seventy-year-old Armenian priest leading Armenians to battle field.

Over 90,000 Ottoman troops were sent to the Eastern European Front in 1916, to participate in operations in Romania in the Balkans Campaign. The Central Powers asked for these units to support their operations against the Russian army. Later, it was concluded that the deployment was a mistake, as these forces would have been better placed remaining to protect Ottoman territory against the massive Erzerum Offensive that the Russian army had begun.

The relocation of troops to the Eastern European Front was initiated by Enver. It was originally rejected by the German Chief of Staff, Erich von Falkenhayn, but his successor, Paul von Hindenburg, agreed to it, albeit with reservations. The decision was reached after the Brusilov Offensive, as the Central Powers were running short of men on the Eastern Front.

In the deployment, Enver sent the XV Army Corps to Galicia, the VI Army Corps to Romania, and the XX Army Corps and 177th Infantry Regiment to Macedonia in early 1916. The VI Corps took part in the collapse of the Romanian army in the Romanian Campaign, and were particularly valued for their ability to continue a high rate of advance in harsh winter conditions. The XV Corps was known to fight very well against the Russians in Galicia, [34] often inflicting on the Russians several times the casualties they took. [35]

Central Powers (Ottoman Empire) Edit

After the Young Turk Revolution and the establishment of the Second Constitutional Era (Turkish: İkinci Meşrûtiyet Devri) on 3 July 1908, a major military reform started. Army headquarters were modernised. The Ottoman Empire was engaged in the Turco-Italian War and Balkan Wars, which forced more restructuring of the army, only a few years before the First World War.

From the outset, the Ottoman Army faced a host of problems in assembling itself. First of all, the size of the Ottoman Army was severely limited by division within the empire: non-Muslims were exempt from the military draft, and reliable ethnic Turks made up only 12 million of the empire's already relatively small population of 22 million, with the other 10 million being minorities of varying loyalty and military use. The empire was also very poor compared to the other powers in GDP, infrastructure, and industrial capacity. As a point of comparison the empire had only 5,759 km of railway, while France had 51,000 km of railway for a fifth of the land area. Ottoman coal production was negligible (826,000 tons in 1914 compared to 40,000,000 tons for France and 292,000,000 tons for Britain), while steel production was borderline non-existent. [36] There was only one cannon and small arms foundry in the empire, a single shell and bullet factory, and a single gunpowder factory, all of which were located in the Constantinople suburbs. The Ottoman economy was almost entirely agricultural, relying on products such as wool, cotton, and hides. [37]

During this period, the Empire divided its forces into armies. Each army headquarters consisted of a Chief of Staff, an operations section, intelligence section, logistics section and a personnel section. As a long established tradition in the Ottoman military, supply, medical and veterinary services were included in these armies. Before the war, the Turkish General Staff estimated that 1,000,000 men could be mobilized at one time and that 500,000 of these were available as mobile field armies, with the rest serving in garrisons, coastal defenses, and in servicing lines of communication and transportation. [38] Approximately 900 field guns were available for the mobile army, which was 280 below war establishment, though supplies of howitzers were generally sufficient. There were an additional 900 pieces of fixed or semifixed set-up in coastal and fortress garrisons across Adrianople, Erzurum, the Bosphorous, the Dardanelles, and the Catalca. Ammunition was low there were only about 588 shells available per gun. [39] Additionally, the army estimated it needed several thousand more machine guns to fill its establishment rifles were generally efficient at 1.5 million in stock, the army still needed another 200,000.

In 1914, before the Empire entered the war, the four armies divided their forces into corps and divisions such that each division had three infantry regiments and an artillery regiment. The main units were: First Army with fifteen divisions Second Army with 4 divisions plus an independent infantry division with three infantry regiments and an artillery brigade Third Army with nine divisions, four independent infantry regiments and four independent cavalry regiments (tribal units) and the Fourth Army with four divisions.

In August 1914, of 36 infantry divisions organised, fourteen were established from scratch and were essentially new divisions. In a very short time, eight of these newly recruited divisions went through major redeployment. During the war, more armies were established 5th Army and 6th Army in 1915, 7th Army and 8th Army in 1917, and Kuva-i İnzibatiye [ citation needed ] and the Army of Islam, which had only a single corps, in 1918.

By 1918, the original armies had been so badly reduced that the Empire was forced to establish new unit definitions which incorporated these armies. These were the Eastern Army Group and Yildirim Army Group. However, although the number of armies was increasing over the four years of the war, the Empire's resources of manpower and supplies were declining, so that the Army Groups in 1918 were smaller than the armies of 1914. The Ottoman Army was still partially effective until the end of the war.

Most military equipment was manufactured in Germany or Austria, and maintained by German and Austrian engineers. Germany also supplied most of the military advisers a force of specialist troops (the Asia Korps) was dispatched in 1917, and increased to a fighting force of two regiments in 1918. The German Caucasus Expedition was established in the formerly Russian Transcaucasia around early 1918 during the Caucasus Campaign. Its prime aim was to secure oil supplies for Germany and stabilise a nascent pro-German Democratic Republic of Georgia. The new republic brought the Ottoman Empire and Germany into conflict, with exchanges of official condemnations between them in the final months of the war.

Recruitment Edit

The Ottoman Empire established a new recruitment law on 12 May 1914. This lowered the conscription age from 20 to 18, and abolished the "redif" or reserve system. Active duty lengths were set at two years for the infantry, three years for other branches of the Army and five years for the Navy. These measures remained largely theoretical during the war.

Traditional Ottoman forces depended on volunteers from the Muslim population of the empire. Additionally, several groups and individuals in the Ottoman society volunteered for active duty during the World War, the major examples being the "Mevlevi" and the "Kadiri."

There were also units formed by Caucasian and Rumelian Turks, who took part in the battles in Mesopotamia and Palestine. Among Ottoman forces, volunteers were not only from Turkic groups there were also smaller numbers of Arab and Bedouin volunteers who fought in the campaign against the British to capture the Suez Canal, and in Mesopotamia. Volunteers were considered unreliable by the organised army, due to a lack of training and a perception of mainly mercenary interests from the Arab and Bedouin volunteers. Heavy fighting also placed pressure on the Ottoman volunteer system.

Entente nations Edit

Before the war, Russia had the Russian Caucasus Army, but almost half of this was redeployed to the Prussian front after the defeats at the battles of Tannenberg and the Masurian Lakes, leaving behind just 60,000 troops in this theatre. In the summer of 1914, Armenian volunteer units were established under the Russian Armed forces. Nearly 20,000 Armenian volunteers expressed their readiness to take up arms against the Ottoman Empire as early as 1914. [40] These volunteer units increased in size during the war, to the extent that Boghos Nubar, in a public letter to the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, stated that they numbered 150,000. [41]

The Assyrian people of south east Anatolia, northern Mesopotamia and north western Persia also threw in their lot with the Russians and British, under the leadership of Agha Petros and Malik Khoshaba. [23]

In 1914, there were some British Indian Army units located in the southern parts of Persia. These units had extensive experience in dealing with dissident tribal forces. The British later established the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, British Dardanelles Army, Egyptian Expeditionary Force, and in 1917 they established Dunsterforce under Lionel Dunsterville, consisting of less than 1,000 Australian, British, Canadian and New Zealand troops accompanied by armoured cars, to oppose Ottoman and German forces in the Caucasus.

In 1916, an Arab Revolt began in the Hejaz. About 5,000 regular soldiers (mostly former prisoners of war of Arab origin) served with the forces of the revolt. There were also many irregular tribesmen under the direction of the Emir Feisal and British advisers. Of the advisers, T.E. Lawrence is the best known.

France sent the French Armenian Legion to this theatre as part of its larger French Foreign Legion. Foreign Minister Aristide Briand needed to provide troops for French commitment made in the Sykes-Picot Agreement, which was still secret. [42] Boghos Nubar, the leader of the Armenian national assembly, met with Sir Mark Sykes and Georges-Picot.

General Edmund Allenby, the commander of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, extended the original agreement. The Armenian Legion fought in Palestine and Syria. Many of its volunteers were later released from the Legion to join their respective national armies.

The Armenian national liberation movement commanded the Armenian Fedayee (Armenian: Ֆէտայի ) during these conflicts. These were generally referred to as Armenian militia. In 1917, The Dashnaks established an Armenian Corps under the command of General Tovmas Nazarbekian which, with the declaration of the First Republic of Armenia, became the military core of this new Armenian state. Nazarbekian became the first Commander-in-chief.

Recruitment Edit

Before the war, Russia established a volunteer system to be used in the Caucasus Campaign. In the summer of 1914, Armenian volunteer units led by Andranik Ozanian were established under the Russian Armed forces. As the Russian Armenian conscripts had already been sent to the European Front, this force was uniquely established from Armenians that were neither Russian subjects nor obliged to serve. The Armenian units were credited with no small measure of the success gained by the Russian forces, as they were natives of the region, adjusted to the climatic conditions, familiar with every road and mountain path, and had real incentives to fight. [43]

The Armenian volunteers were small, mobile, and well adapted to the semi-guerrilla warfare. [44] They did good work as scouts, but also took part in numerous pitched battles. [44]

In December 1914, Nicholas II of Russia visited the Caucasus Campaign. Addressing the head of the Armenian Church, and Alexander Khatisyan, president of the Armenian National Bureau in Tiflis, he said:

From all countries Armenians are hurrying to enter the ranks of the glorious Russian Army, with their blood to serve the victory of the Russian Army. Let the Russian flag wave freely over the Dardanelles and the Bosporus. Let [. ] the peoples [Armenian] remaining under the Turkish yoke receive freedom. Let the Armenian people of Turkey who have suffered for the faith of Christ receive resurrection for a new free life . [45]

Asymmetrical forces Edit

The forces used in the Middle Eastern theatre were not only regular army units which engaged in conventional warfare, but also irregular forces engaging in what is known today as "asymmetrical conflict". [ citation needed ]

Contrary to myth, it was not T. E. Lawrence or the British Army that conceptualised a campaign of internal insurgency against the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East: it was the Arab Bureau of Britain's Foreign Office that devised the Arab Revolt. The Arab Bureau had long felt it likely that a campaign instigated and financed by outside powers, supporting the breakaway-minded tribes and regional challengers to the Ottoman government's centralised rule of their empire, would pay great dividends in the diversion of effort that would be needed to meet such a challenge. The Ottoman authorities devoted far more resources to contain the threat of such an internal rebellion than the Allies devoted to sponsoring it. [ citation needed ]

Germany established its own Intelligence Bureau for the East just before the outbreak of war. It was dedicated to promoting and sustaining subversive and nationalist agitations in the British Indian Empire, as well as in the Persian and Egyptian satellite states. Its operations in Persia, aimed at fomenting trouble for the British in the Persian Gulf, were led by Wilhelm Wassmuss, [28] a German diplomat who became known as the "German Lawrence of Arabia" or "Wassmuss of Persia". [ citation needed ]

Prelude Edit

The Ottoman Empire made a secret Ottoman-German Alliance on 2 August 1914, followed by another treaty with Bulgaria. The Ottoman War ministry developed two major plans. Bronsart von Schellendorf, a member of the German military mission to the Ottoman Empire who had been appointed Assistant Chief of the Ottoman General Staff, completed a plan on 6 September 1914 by which the Fourth Army was to attack Egypt and the Third Army would launch an offensive against the Russians in Eastern Anatolia. [ citation needed ]

There was opposition to Schellendorf among the Ottoman army. The most voiced opinion was that Schellendorf planned a war which benefitted Germany, rather than taking into account the conditions of the Ottoman Empire. Hafiz Hakki Pasha presented an alternative plan, which was more aggressive, and concentrated on Russia. It was based on moving forces by sea to the eastern Black Sea coast, where they would develop an offensive against Russian territory. Hafiz Hakki Pasha's plan was shelved because the Ottoman Army lacked the resources. Schellendorf’s "Primary Campaign Plan" was therefore adopted by default. [ citation needed ]

As a result of Schellendorf's plan, most of the Ottoman operations were fought in Ottoman territory, with the result that in many cases they directly affected the Empire's own people. The later view was that the resources to implement this plan were also lacking, but Schellendorf organised the command and control of the army better, and positioned the army to execute the plans. Schellendorf also produced a better mobilisation plan for raising forces and preparing them for war. The Ottoman War Ministry's archives contain war plans drafted by Schellendorf, dated 7 October 1914, which include details regarding Ottoman support to the Bulgarian army, a secret operation against Romania, and Ottoman soldiers landing in Odessa and Crimea with the support of the German Navy. [ citation needed ]

Such was the German influence on Turkey's operations during the Palestine campaign that most of the staff posts in the Yıldırım Army Group were held by German officers. Even the headquarters correspondence was produced in German. This situation ended with the final defeat in Palestine and the appointment of Mustafa Kemal to command the remnants of the Yildirim Army Group.

During July 1914 there were negotiations between the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) and Ottoman Armenians at the Armenian congress at Erzurum. The public conclusion of the congress was "Ostensibly conducted to peacefully advance Armenian demands by legitimate means". [46] Erickson claims that the CUP regarded the congress as a cause of Armenian insurrection. [47] [ clarification needed ] and that after this meeting, the CUP was convinced of the existence of strong Armenian–Russian links, with detailed plans to detach the region from the Ottoman Empire. [47]

On 29 October 1914, the Ottoman Empire's first armed engagement with the Allies occurred when the German battlecruiser SMS Goeben and light cruiser SMS Breslau, having been pursued into Turkish waters and transferred to the Ottoman navy, shelled the Russian Black Sea port of Odessa. [ citation needed ]

New Turkish recruits marching out to a drill before the war, 1914.

The Turkish general staff of the Sinai and Palestine Campaign, 1914.

1914 Edit

November Edit

Following the shelling of Odessa, Russia declared war on the Ottoman Empire on 2 November 1914. The British Navy attacked the Dardanelles on 3 November. Britain and France declared war on 5 November. [48] The Ottoman declaration of Jihad was drafted on 11 November and first publicized on 14 November. [49]

First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill put forward his plans for a naval attack on the Ottoman capital, based at least in part on what turned out to be erroneous reports regarding Ottoman troop strength, as prepared by Lieutenant T. E. Lawrence. He reasoned that the Royal Navy had a large number of obsolete battleships which might be made useful, supported by a token force from the army for routine occupation tasks. The battleships were ordered to be ready by February 1916. [ citation needed ]

At the same time, the Ottoman Fourth Army was preparing a force of 20,000 men under the command of the Ottoman Minister of the Marine, Djemal Pasha, to take the Suez Canal. The attack on Suez was suggested by War Minister Enver Pasha at the urging of their German ally. The chief of staff for the Ottoman Fourth Army was the Bavarian Colonel Kress von Kressenstein, who organised the attack and arranged supplies for the army as it crossed the desert. [ citation needed ]

On 1 November, the Bergmann Offensive was the first armed conflict of the Caucasus Campaign. The Russians crossed the frontier first, and planned to capture Doğubeyazıt and Köprüköy. [50] On their right wing, the Russian I Corps moved from Sarikamish toward Köprüköy. On the left wing, the Russian IV Corps moved from Yerevan to the Pasinler Plains. The commander of the Ottoman Third Army, Hasan Izzet, was not in favour of an offensive in the harsh winter conditions, but his plan to remain on the defensive and to launch a counterattack at the right time was overridden by the War Minister Enver Pasha. [ citation needed ]

On 6 November, a British naval force bombarded the old fort at Fao. The Fao Landing of British Indian Expeditionary Force D (IEF D), consisting of the 6th (Poona) Division led by Lieutenant General Arthur Barrett, with Sir Percy Cox as political officer, was opposed by 350 Ottoman troops and four cannons. On 22 November, the British occupied the city of Basra against a force of 2900 Arab conscripts of the Iraq Area Command commanded by Suphi Pasha. Suphi Pasha and 1,200 men were captured. The main Ottoman army, under the overall command of Khalil Pasha, was located about 440 kilometres (270 mi) to the north-west, around Baghdad. It made only weak attempts to dislodge the British.

On 7 November, the Ottoman Third Army commenced its Caucasus offensive with the participation of the XI Corps and all cavalry units supported by the Kurdish Tribal Regiment. By 12 November, Ahmet Fevzi Pasha's IX Corps reinforced with the XI Corps on the left flank supported by the cavalry, began to push the Russians back. The Russians were successful along the southern shoulders of the offensive, where Armenian volunteers were effective and took Karaköse and Doğubeyazıt. [51] By the end of November, the Russians held a salient 25 kilometres (16 mi) into Ottoman territory along the Erzurum-Sarikamish axis. [ citation needed ]

Sheikh Mubarak Al-Sabah, the ruler of Kuwait, sent a force to Umm Qasr, Safwan, Bubiyan, and Basra to expel Ottoman forces from the area. In exchange the British government recognised Kuwait as an "independent government under British protection." [52] There is no report on the exact size and nature of Mubarak’s attack, though Ottoman forces did retreat from those positions weeks later. [53] Mubarak removed the Ottoman symbol that was on the Kuwaiti flag and replaced it with "Kuwait" written in Arabic script. [53] Mubarak’s participation, as well as his previous exploits in obstructing the completion of the Baghdad railway, helped the British safeguard the Persian Gulf from Ottoman and German reinforcements. [54]

Arrogant armies : great military disasters and the generals behind them

General Edward Braddock and the French and Indian War (1754-1763) -- Brigadier General Josiah Harmar and Major General Arthur St. Clair and the Indian Wars on the Northwest Frontier (1790-1791) -- British and French Generals and their disastrous efforts to restore slavery to Haiti (1791-1804) -- General Charles MacCarthy and the First Ashanti War (1824) -- Major General William George Keith Elphinstone and the First Afghan War (1839-1842) -- Major General Sir George Pomeroy-Colley and the First Boer War (1880-1881) -- Major General Charles "Chinese" Gordon and the fall of Khartoum (1884-1885) -- General Oreste Baratieri and the First Ethiopian War (1895-1896) -- Major General William R. Shafter and the Spanish-American War (1898) -- Major General Charles Vere Ferrers Townshend and the Mesopotamian Campaign in World War I (1915-1916) -- Major General Manuel Fernandez Silvestre and the Riffian Rebellion in Morocco (1921-1926) -- Conclusion: American mini-disaster in Somalia (1993)

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Dr Martin Postle is Deputy Director for Grants and Publications at the Paul Mellon Centre. Between 1998 and 2007 he was Head of British Art to 1900 at Tate. Martin's research and publication interests focus principally on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British art, including portraiture, landscape and the history of art academies. He has curated exhibitions on a wide range of subjects, including the artist&rsquos model, the Fancy Picture and the art of the garden, as well as monographic exhibitions on Joshua Reynolds, Johan Zoffany, Richard Wilson, Stanley Spencer and George Stubbs. Martin is project leader and commissioning editor of &lsquoArt & the Country House&rsquo, to which he has contributed a number of essays and catalogue entries.

The tragedy of Kut

The 500 military headstones that have just arrived in Baghdad from England already bear the names of soldiers killed in action in Iraq. But these troops died in an ill-fated, little-remembered attempt at "regime change" nearly a century ago. In the winter of 1915, towards the end of the first full year of the first world war, an Anglo-Indian force was sent to capture Baghdad. To the historian and veteran CRMF Cruttwell the attack was "a capital sin": the advance on Baghdad was "perhaps the most remarkable example of an enormous military risk being taken, after full deliberation, for no definite or concrete military purpose."

Officials from the Commonwealth war graves commission have just arrived in Iraq to assess the damage done by 20 years of upheaval - and many more years of decay - to the 13 war cemeteries the commission tends there. The new headstones are the first phase of a major programme: a total of 51,830 British and Commonwealth servicemen died during the war in what was then Mesopotamia, and there are 22,400 graves (more than two-thirds of the troops who fought in Mesopotamia were Indians whose faith requires cremation rather than burial). Many of these deaths were the result of the decision to attack Baghdad, and in particular of what happened in a loop of the Tigris river at Kut-al-Amara.

On November 22 1915, General Charles Vere Ferrers Townshend and his force of about 9,000 men of the 6th Indian division were advancing on Baghdad by boat along the Tigris, the land being roadless - an "arid billiard table". At Ctesiphon, about 20 miles short of the capital, the Indian and British troops came up against a larger, better armed and better supplied Turkish force which had had months to dig in on both sides of the river.

Townshend's force drove out the defenders, but at the cost of 40% casualties. Unable to withstand a counter-attack, let alone continue the advance, Townshend retreated back down the Tigris, with 1,600 Turkish prisoners and more than 4,500 wounded from both sides. The long, slow journey was nightmarish for the wounded, for Townshend had been kept short of boats and medical supplies by a stingy government in India. An over-optimistic superior, Sir John Nixon, had ordained that the men would find all they needed - in Baghdad.

Collecting other troops as he inched along, Townshend made his stand at Kut, a strategic river junction he had captured a month previously. It had been one of a number of cheap and brilliant victories by a clever and resourceful soldier who knew the value of morale, and until the end kept the respect of his men. He had argued all along against going on to Baghdad he lacked sufficient men, food and artillery as well as river transport and medical back-up. But the general and his men were to be the victims of their own success.

The invasion of Mesopotamia itself was about oil, but that required only a landing on the Gulf coast to secure the southern part of the country around Basra. This would keep the Turks away from the nearby Persian port of Abadan, terminus of the Anglo-Persian pipe-line which was the source of the Royal Navy's oil supply. Basra was taken and held with little cost at the end of 1914 by a small invasion force launched from India. By late 1915, however, the war cabinet needed a success story to round off a year of military disaster, most recently at Gallipoli, where the British were preparing to pull out, having failed to break out and take Constantinople. Why not push beyond Basra province and take Baghdad?

The Gallipoli campaign ended on January 8 1916 with a re-embarkation of Dunkirk proportions. By then, Kut, a collection of flyblown hovels, with Townshend and his men inside, had been surrounded for more than a month: included in the 13,500 penned inside were some 3,500 Indian non-combatants and 2,000 sick and wounded. There were also 6,000 Arabs to be fed.

They held out in freezing cold and then torrential rain against infantry assault, sniper fire, shelling, and bombing, until a relief force could get near enough for the defenders to risk breaking out. It never happened. Three attempts were made to relieve Kut. Each failed, at a total cost of 23,000 casualties. Food began to run out, and many of the Indian troops could or would not eat what meat there was. The defenders' draught animals, the oxen, were the first to go, followed by their horses, camels, and finally, starlings, cats, dogs and even hedgehogs.

Kut was the first siege in which aircraft dropped supplies: these ranged from money to millstones to keep the garrison's flour mill going (and thus the Indians' supply of chapatis). But the Turks and their German officers were able to send up more and better aircraft, and too few friendly planes could get through to avert starvation. Repeated attempts to supply Kut by river were also repulsed. Desperate to keep his men alive, Townshend suggested - and the government endorsed - a ransom of £2m (about £67m today) for the defenders to go free. The Turks, elated by Gallipoli and able to switch troops from there to Kut, refused.

Finally, on April 29, when vegetarian Indians were down to seven ounces of grain a day, Kut capitulated. Townshend was given permission to surrender, and obtained promises of humane treatment for his men from the Turks. It was then, after five months of siege, that the troubles of the defenders of Kut really began. The Turks had a different notion of what constitutes "humane treatment" and, as they treated their own soldiers with extreme brutality, saw no reason to pamper their captives. About 1,750 men had died from wounds or disease during the siege. Some 2,600 British and 9,300 Indian other ranks were rounded up and marched away. Two-thirds of the British and about a seventh of the Indians never saw their homes again. Relative to the numbers of men involved, the British losses at Kut dwarfs those of the far bigger battles on the Western Front.

The historian and war poet Geoffrey Elton was a junior officer at Kut and saw the rank-and-file being marched away, officerless, "none of them fit to march five miles . full of dysentery, beri-beri, scurvy, malaria and enteritis they had no doctors, no medical stores and no transport the hot weather, just beginning, would have meant much sickness and many deaths, even among troops who were fit, well-cared for and well supplied."

Some were marched to captivity elsewhere in Mesopotamia, others all the way to Turkey. Elton spoke of the Arab guards stealing the mens' boots, helmets and water bottles, and of dead and dying stragglers left where they fell. Cruttwell said: "The men were herded like animals across the desert, flogged, kicked, raped, tortured, and murdered."

The Turks abandoned Kut in February 1917, and Baghdad fell in March. That June a royal commission reported on who was to blame for ordering Townshend to advance so far forward. The answer was everybody but Townshend. His commanding officer, Sir John Nixon, was censured. So too was the viceroy of India, Lord Hardinge, the commander-in-chief in India, Sir Beauchamp Duff, the secretary of state for India, Austen Chamberlain, and the war cabinet in London, which had disregarded the advice of its own secretary of state for war, Earl Kitchener.

As the horrors of the death marches and prison camps became known after the war, so the sufferings of the men were contrasted with more favourable treatment given to their officers - Townshend, in comfortable captivity near Constantinople, was knighted in 1917. From being the hero of his country's longest siege, "Townshend of Kut" became its villain.

In the end, however, people forgot the deadbeats and chancers who paved the way to Kut. The CWGC now hopes to see that other names from Kut are remembered in its Iraqi war cemeteries. "We have always found the Iraqis willing to take us for what we are," says director-general Richard Kellaway, "a non-governmental organisation, whose duty is to commemorate, by name, the people who died in the two world wars."

The Dead Donkeys: The Myth of the ‘Château Generals’ Part Four – 1916

January 1916 saw the deaths of two British generals. Brigadier-General Hugh Gregory Fitton D.S.O., G.O.C. 101st Brigade, 34th Division (above), forced to cross open ground due to the appalling state of the front line trenches near Ypres on the night of 19th January, was shot in both legs by a German sniper. He died the following afternoon, the very first casualty of 101st Brigade, who had only disembarked on 9th January, and is buried in Lijssenhoek Military Cemetery near Poperinghe. And Brigadier-General George Benjamin Hodson D.S.O., G.O.C. 33rd Indian Brigade, 11th Division, wounded in the head by a sniper while looking over the parapet at Suvla Bay on Gallipoli on 14th December 1915, as mentioned at the end of last post (where you will find his photograph), died of his wounds at Tigne Military Hospital on Malta on 25th January 1916, and is buried at Pieta Military Cemetery. Both men were 52.

On 17th February, Brigadier-General Archibald Cameron MacDonell D.S.O., G.O.C. 7th Canadian Brigade, 3rd Canadian Division (left), seriously wounded in South Africa at Diamond Hill in 1900, was wounded again, his left arm broken by a bullet, another bullet in the shoulder, while out in front of the trenches near Kemmel, and on 18th February, Brigadier-General Robert Gilmour Edwards Leckie, G.O.C. 3rd Canadian Brigade, 1st Canadian Division (right), was wounded by a bullet through both legs somewhere near Messines. The background photograph shows Mont Kemmel from the Messines Ridge.

Major-General Claude William Jacob, G.O.C. 21st Division, wounded by shellfire near Armentières on 4th March. At which point we need to turn our attention to the campaign in Mesopotamia.

British offensive action in Mesopotamia began in November 1914, and after a successful initial few months, the new commander, General Sir John Eccles Nixon, who arrived in April 1915, ordered Major-General Sir Charles Vere Ferrers Townshend D.S.O., G.O.C. 6th Indian (Poona) Division, to advance on Kut Al Amara, which duly fell on 29th September 1915, prompting Townshend to turn his attention towards Baghdad. However, the Battle of Ctesiphon (marked in green on the map below – click to enlarge), a bloody encounter fought in November, left Townshend’s force with some 40% casualties, and he retreated back to Kut, pursued by the Turks, Townshend arriving on 3rd December, the Turks a few days later. And there the British stayed, first in the face of Turkish attacks, and then, once the Turks realized there was an easier way, and despite three or four failed attempts to reach them (at a cost of 23,000 casualties and more sacked generals, including Nixon), they starved (inset left above). By 29th April, after 147 days of siege, and despite last-minute attempts at negotiation which included the offer of a huge sum to buy the troops out (really!), Townshend surrendered his remaining men, including 2000 sick and wounded. As always with these things, numbers vary slightly from source to source, but around 275 British officers and 200 Indian officers, two and a half thousand British troops, nearly 7000 Indians & Gurkhas and well over 3000 Indian support staff were rounded up and began the march to Baghdad (main photograph). 1,750 men had died during the siege, and of the survivors, two-thirds of the British troops and a quarter of the Indians would die in captivity.

Three generals with the unsuccessful relief columns were wounded, and one killed. First, Brigadier-General William James St. John Harvey, G.O.C. 19th Brigade, 7th Indian Division (no image), who had previously fought in France, died on 1st February in Amara from wounds received the day before the Battle of Hanna (or Hannah – either way a depression between the River Tigris and the marshland of Lake Suwaicha, marked in mauve on the map) on 20th January. Aged 43, he is buried in Amara War Cemetery, in present-day Iraq. Major-General Sir George Frederick Gorringe D.S.O., G.O.C. 12th Indian Division (inset right, previous photo of the march to Baghdad), the man in command of the relief attempts, was wounded by a sniper’s bullet in the buttock whilst on horseback on 23rd February, recovering in Amara. Despite the failure to relieve Kut, Gorringe (‘Bloody Orange’ to his troops – I don’t think he was well liked) seems to have got away with it, so to speak, as he would later command 47th Division in France from late 1916 until the end of the war. On 8th March, Brigadier-General Francis John Fowler, G.O.C. 37th Brigade, 14th Indian Division (no image), had been wounded during an attack on the Dijailah Redoubt (marked in blue on the map), and on 6th April, Major-General George Vero Kemball D.S.O., G.O.C. 28th Indian Brigade, 7th Indian Division (top inset above), also suffered wounds from rifle or machine gun fire during the attack on Sannaiyat (marked in orange), although both men would survive to later serve in India. And rather curiously, Brigadier-General Frederick Aubrey Hoghton, G.O.C. 17th Brigade, 6th Indian Division (again, no photo), died in Kut from poisoning. Whether accidental, as in food poisoning, or enemy-induced, I do not know, but either way he gets a mention here. Aged 52, he is buried in Kut War Cemetery.

On 29th April the defenders of Kut laid down their arms. Six generals surrendered that day. Major-General Walter Sinclair Delamain D.S.O., G.O.C. 16th Brigade, 6th Indian Division (second from top above) Major-General Sir Charles John Mellis V.C., G.O.C. 30th Brigade, 6th Indian Division (third from top), awarded the Victoria Cross for his gallantry during the Ashanti Campaign of 1900, during which he was wounded four times Brigadier-General Usher Williamson Evans, G.O.C. 17th Brigade, 6th Indian Division (no photo), and two generals wounded during the siege, Brigadier-General Harry Dixon Grier, C.R.A. 6th Indian Division, wounded on 24th December 1915, and Brigadier-General William George Hamilton, G.O.C. 18th Brigade, 6th Indian Division, wounded in the back by a sniper’s bullet on 19th February (no photo of either). The bottom inset shows Major-General Sir Charles Vere Ferrers Townshend D.S.O., G.O.C. 6th Indian Division, himself. Townshend lived out the rest of the war in captivity in relative comfort, unlike his men, and was, quite frankly, a bit of a bastard, even if his D.S.O. suggests he too was probably a brave bastard.

As a postscript to the Kut story, a certain Major Clement Attlee was seriously injured in the leg by shrapnel while storming a Turkish trench during the Battle of Hanna(h) Attlee would later serve as British Prime Minister from 1945 to 1951.

The India Medal of 1896

The India Medal, approved in 1896, was issued for a series of campaigns fought on the North-West Frontier of British India. Though the intensity of the fighting varied considerably, the typical pattern was for local risings to prompt the dispatch of an Anglo-Indian column to devastate tribal territory and re-impose peace and order.

Sometimes a permanent garrison was installed, sometimes not, depending on circumstances. The problem for the Anglo-Indian forces was that the presence of a garrison might itself invite sustained resistance and impose a considerable logistical burden in exceptionally difficult terrain. The absence of one, on the other hand, left open opportunities for renewed raiding and insurrection. All of these operations were, therefore, first and foremost, retaliatory and punitive, rather than attempts at conquest.

The first operation, the Chitral campaign of 1895, can serve as an example. The death of the local Chitrali ruler in 1892 unleashed a struggle for power between rival tribal factions. The British intervened in this struggle in an effort to secure the succession of a compliant ruler. This in turn led to a sharp engagement at Chitral Fort, which ended with an Anglo-Indian force of about 400 troops (with another 200 or so non-combatants) under siege inside the fort from 3 March to 13 April 1895.

The fort was a substantial square structure of timber, stone, and mud, with a covered way giving access to the local river, the garrison’s only source of water. The commander of the garrison was Captain Charles Vere Ferrers Townshend.

A relief force of 16,000 men under Major-General Sir Robert Cunliffe Low was dispatched to the scene. The major confrontation of the campaign took place at the Malakand Passon 3 April 1895, when the invasion force defeated and drove off a Chitrali force estimated at around 12,000 strong, inflicting around 500 casualties for the loss of about 70.

The column then pushed on through the mountains to Chitral Fort, by which time the resistance of the local Pathan tribesmen was effectively over. Total Anglo-Indian casualties in both siege and relief expedition were about 375. The relief force had set out on 7 March, and operations were completed on 15 August.

No enduring peace was ever possible across this vast and inaccessible region of warlike mountain tribes with a long tradition of raiding and guerrilla resistance to outside intervention. Between the Second Afghan War (1878-1880) and the Third Afghan War (1919), it is possible to count no less than 26 distinct Anglo-Indian military expeditions on the North-West Frontier. It was, in a sense, one of the British Army’s principal training-grounds throughout this period.


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