Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Monday, December 2, 2019

Redemption: British Forces Recapture Kut-el-Amara, 24 February 1917


British Forces on the March in Mesopotamia

Almost exactly ten months after the surrender of General Townshend to the Turks in Kut-el-Amara, British, troops have again entered this squalid little town on the left bank of the Tigris. It has been clear from General Stanley Maude's recent messages that the British could have reduced Kut to a heap of mud bricks at any time during the past month or so. The actual entry into Kut could also have been effected much earlier than has been the case, but the urgency of the operations had disappeared after it was seen that they had failed to effect the relief of General Townsend's force.


General Stanley Maude (1864–1917)
After that event the British were able to devote more time to the important matter of communications and supplies, and the capture of the town of Kut became a secondary consideration to that of preparing to break the military power of the Turk in this region. The encircling movement on the southern side of the Tigris, the advance along the Shatt-el-Hai, and the crossing of the Tigris, westward of Kut at the Shumrou bend, combined with the simultaneous attacks on the Sannalyat positions farther eastward have had a far-reaching effect upon the Mesopotamian operations. Not only have the British secured what remains of the town of Kut, but they have caused the collapse of the whole of the strong Turkish defensive positions eastward of that town, which previously baffled all attempts of the British relief forces to advance on the northern side of the Tigris. In addition to this, they have secured 1730 prisoners, inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy, and forced him to retreat in the direction of Baghela, a town lying on the southern bank of the Tigris, about 25 miles west of Kut.

While all this was very satisfactory, it must not be forgotten that the British here are fighting in difficult country, and that a distance of over 100 miles still separates them from Baghdad, while the journey by river is over twice that distance. In any further British advance which is made in this direction the matter of communications will have to receive additional attention, and by this factor the rate of progress will probably be governed. The river above Kut, however, does not offer so many difficulties to navigation as it does lower down, and the current between Baghdad and Kut is not so severe as it is between the latter town and Basra. [Baghdad, in fact, would fall quickly, on 11 March 1917.]

Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 28 February 1917

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