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War Memorials

Continued from the previous page

 

27 December 1915

Things having quietened down now, a party of British Troops, 30 strong, were were sent out to try and bring in some of the wounded Turks that could be seen lying close to our lines, but they were subjected to such a fire from the enemy that they had to abandon the attempt, losing three or four men wounded.

28 December 1915

Another part of the line was now taken up, that which had been the scene of the early attacks; but owing to the heavy rain that had now come, the attacks lacked the sting they had formerly, and it could plainly be seen that the enemy had almost lost hope of capturing it into submission. They expended a lot of ammunition, but on the whole it did little damage.

29 December 1915

After being rather quiet for a few days, the Turkish guns bombarded the town for three hours or more in the evening, shells dropping in several different places and wrecking a lot of Arab dwellings. In one instance, a house was wrecked and all those inside were killed, seven in number. A lot of people were wounded by stray bullets and fragments of shells.

 

Turkish trenches seen from the rear

Turkish trenches seen from the rear.

The Turkish 5th Army was under the command of a brilliant German General, Colmar von der Goltz who used German engineers to design and carry out the construction of these trenches. The long shadows caused by intense heat make it difficult to see the row of gun ports below the top of the outward facing ridge in each bay.

General von der Goltz died of typhus in Baghdad two weeks before the British surrendered at Kut.

 

30 - 31 December 1915

1 - 2 January 1916

Every evening now, at precisely the same time, the Turkish batteries would open fire on the town, and our guns replied in some cases. Owing to the limited number of shells in the garrison, the batteries had orders to husband their ammunition, and only to reply when it was absolutely necessary. The same thing applied to small-arms ammunition, but the most serious question was that of food.

As we were entirely cut off from any communication, and there was no food to  be got from the Arab population, that which was in the supply column could not be replenished, and no one knew how long the garrison would have to hold out.

3 - 6 January 1916

A heavy fall of rain now made things very bad for the men in the trenches, and in fact for everyone, for the buildings that were used for hospitals etc. were so dilapidated that it was almost as bad inside as out.

The river had begun to rise owing to the snow melting away in the Caucasus mountains at this time of the year, and very soon was running over the banks. Dams and bunds had to be made along the water's edge where the trenches connected with the river, but owing to the flat nature of the country, the water soon began to flood it.

 

The War Office was in no doubt as to the potential seriousness of General Townshend's situation. From London, orders were given for the formation of a  Relief Army (90,000 men under the command of General Aylmer) and a so-called Mesopotamian Army (20,000 men under the General Sir Percy Lake) . The two armies were to advance separately, either side of the river Tigris, then outflank the Turkish Army, and bring relief to the 9000 men who were penned up in Kut. It was at this point in William Lee's Diary that these forces set out on their mission.

 

Maybe the War Office didn't know that, at the time, the Turks already had 200,000 men in the area and the capacity to use the river to bring in as many more men as they needed.

 

Turkish rafts bringing reinforcements down the Tigris

Specially constructed rafts bringing Turkish reinforcements down the river Tigris

into the Kut area early in 1916

 

7 January 1916

We had not been having field service rations for over a fortnight, and now the quantity was cut down in order to make it last longer. A heavy bombardment took place in the evening during which the enemy shelled the town considerably.

 

8 - 13 January 1916

Another bombardment in the evening and one or two minor infantry attacks during which we lost several men, mostly from stray shells. The enemy had some 40 pounders which they brought into play, and did considerable damage to houses in the town.

 

13 - 20 January 1916

The dams holding back the flood water from our front line burst on the 13th and the water rushed in with such rapidity that the troops had to leave the trenches and get up on the top. The Turks, seeing this, opened up a rapid fire by which we lost several men and compelling us to retire back on to the reserve line.

The next day, the enemy were also flooded out, and having to retire as well, the two front lines were further apart and the firing was not so heavy. In front of one position of the line where the Turks had not removed their dead, the bodies were floating about in the water that covered the low-lying spots.

 

21 January 1916

We now had almost exhausted the supply of white flour and were being fed on brown meal flour. The 1lb loaf was reduced to 14 ounces and the horses were being killed and mixed with other meat. All food found in the town was commandeered by the Military Authorities.

 

22 January 1916

The Turkish force surrounding us at this time was estimated at 20,000; while from our observation posts, large numbers of men could be seen going by down river in order to oppose the force that was coming to the relief of our garrison.

 

 

The text on this page is the copyright property of Mark Bale

 

 

 
 
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