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Devon County

Devonshire Rgt.

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War Memorials

Continued from the previous page:


The narrative from the previous source is now replaced by material from a Report written by  Lieutenant H S D McNeal of the Royal Field Artillery who was trapped in Kut as a member of the garrison on the night of April 24 1916, an extract from the London Gazette of 2 February 1917 and an extract from On the road to Kut which was published anonymously.


The entry on Lieutenant McNeal's Report from Kut dated 24 April 1916:

"Great excitement prevailed in Kut  when it was heard that the relieving force would attempt to send the steamboat Julnar through with rations. It was decided that if the boat got through and was not disabled, it was to come up to Kut itself and be unloaded, but that if it was hit, it was to be beached at the fort. The artillery made special preparations to cover its arrival, and everyone was on edge with expectation. Shortly after midnight, heavy rifle fire was heard down-river, and we knew that the attempt had begun. For fifteen minutes the firing was very rapid; then it died down and our spirits with it. Another burst of firing came, and our spirits rose accordingly; but this also died away into silence and we knew that the attempt had failed. Afterwards, we heard that every member of the crew was killed by rifle fire.

(This later turned out not to be accurate but  the true picture could not be ascertained at the time of writing. Two officers were killed; all the rest of the men were taken prisoner including five who were wounded.)


The navigator, Captain Cowley had dropped at the wheel with a bullet through his groin, just as he was steering the ship through the most critical place in the whole river, a hairpin bend. While consciousness lasted, he hung on, but the boat was swept into the bank and grounded. When the Turkish officers boarded the boat, they reported that they found him unconscious with his hands still gripping the steering-wheel and that he had he died without regaining consciousness."

(Evidence was given later by survivors  that he was still alive when captured and was dragged out onto the river bank where he was murdered. His grave is in a small cemetery adjacent to Iraq's former Ministry of Industry. Both he and Lieutenant Firmin received a posthumous award of the Victoria Cross.)


From The London Gazette

2nd February 1917. Issue No. 29928 - Page 1160

The Admiralty, 31st January, 1917.


The KING (is) pleased to approve of the posthumous grant of the Victoria Cross to the undermentioned officers in recognition of their conspicuous gallantry in an attempt to re-provision the force besieged in Kut-el-Amara:


Lieutenant Humphry Osbaldeeton Brooke Firman, R.N.

Lieutenant-Commander Charles Henry Cowley, R.N.V.R.


The General Officer Commanding, Indian Expeditionary Force "D," reported on this attempt in the following words:

"At 8 p.m. on April 24th, 1916, with a crew from the Royal Navy under Lieutenant Firman, R.N., assisted by Lieutenant-Commander Cowley, R.N.V.R., the 'Julnar,' carrying 270 tons of supplies, left Falahiyah in an attempt to reach Kut.

Her departure was covered by all Artillery and machine gun fire that could be brought to bear, in the hope of distracting the enemy's attention. She was, however, discovered and shelled on her passage up the river. At 1 a.m. on the 25th General Townshend reported that she had not arrived, and that at midnight a burst of heavy firing had been heard at Magasis, some 8 1/2 miles from Kut by river, which had suddenly ceased. There could be but little doubt that the enterprise had failed, and the next day the Air Service reported the ' Julnar ' in the hands of the Turks at Magasis.

“The leaders of this brave attempt, Lieutenant H. O. B. Firman, R.N., and his assistant - Lieutenant-Commander C. H. Cowley, R.N.V.R. - the latter of whom throughout the campaign in Mesopotamia performed magnificent service in command of the 'Mejidieh' - have been reported by the Turks to have been killed; the remainder of the gallant crew, including five wounded, are prisoners of war.

"Knowing well the chances against them, all the gallant officers and men who manned the ' Julnar' for the occasion were volunteers. I trust that.the services in this connection of Lieutenant H. O. B. Firman, R.N., and Lieutenant- Commander C. H. Cowley, R.N.V.R., his assistant, both of whom were unfortunately killed, may be recognised by the posthumous grant of some suitable honour."


From On the Road to Kut

by an anonymous Officer of the Relief Force

"From that moment, Kut was doomed, The next day, General Townshend opened negotiations for the surrender of the garrison, and capitulated without any delay to the Turkish Commander, Major General Khalil Pasha. For several days afterwards there was an armistice, during which the more seriously wounded and sick of the Kut garrison were sent over to our lines in exchange for an equal number of Turkish (but not Arab) prisoners.


So ended the Siege of Kut, and with it, the history of the 6th Division, to which I am so proud to have belonged."



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