THE SIEGE OF KUT AL AMARA ON THE 100TH ANNIVERSARY AND THE DEFEATS OF THE BRITISH RELIEVING FORCE IN MEMORIES

Abstract

Author(s): ?rfan TUN├ç*┬Ľ Ertan EROL

The British Army, who had been defeated by the Turkish Forces during the First World War firstly in Gallipoli, opened up the frontier of Iran-Iraq to be able to recover their dignity and also possess valuable resources in the region. Their invasions at this frontier gained momentum very quickly. The British advanced into Iraq step by step as they had planned previously. First of all, they invaded Amara on June 3, and then Nasiriyah on July 24.Following this successful advance attained in a short time, General John Nixon, the commander of the British Expeditionary Force in Iraq, began to think of taking Baghdad. British were all dreaming of being in Baghdad on the Christmas Day.However, with the Battle of Ctesiphon, their rapid move ceased and the British under General Townshend’s command had to take refuge in Kut Al Amara. Hoping that reinforcements would arrive soon, General Townshend decided to holdKut Al Amara. He took defensive measures in the town against the oncoming Turkish forces. On December 7, Turkish Army, under Colonel Nurettin’s command, laid total siege around the British Army at Kut Al Amara.Inconclusive offensives carried out until 25 December showed the Turks that Kut Al Amara could not be taken so easily. As a result of this, large-scale offensives were abandoned and it was decided that it would be more appropriate to force the town to surrender by continuing the siege. The British troops at Kut Al Amara were expecting General Fenton Aylmer, the Commander of the British Relieving Force, to save them from that siege. They couldn’t know that this wait would last too long, because all the attempts by General Aylmer, who was charged with the duty of relieving the British forces that were under siege at Kut Al Amara, were to end up in complete failure.Following General Aylmer’s failure, General Gorringe was put in charge of the British forces. However, General Gorringe’s relief operation also came to nothing. On 22 April, General Gorringe’s final rescue effort in the Fourth Battle of Hanna failed and this led to the exhaustion of all the remaining hopes. As a last resort, they decided to send a ship (Julnar) loaded with food and ammunition up the river on the night of 24 April. This was the last rescue effort, which ended up in the capture of the ship by Turks. This hopeful wait ended up in frustration. Several rescue efforts carried out by the British Government and British-Iraq Army Command turned out to be inconclusive and now it was time for the British forces in Kut Al Amara to surrender. The British, who were surrounded by the Turkish forces at Kut Al Amara, could stand against it for 144 days. At the end of the 144-day siege, 13,309 soldiers surrendered and as they were hoping to save their troops at Kut Al Amara, the British losses were around 21973 during the entire siege process. What was more painful was not that the British were besieged at Kut Al Amara, but that all the operational attempts to put an end to that siege resulted in complete failure. General Townshend personally made a great contribution to these failures, because he had never attempted to break out of the encirclement and eventually was forced to surrender together with all his troops.

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