The inhabitants of the sleepy Mesopotamian village of Kut al Amara (or Kut for short), might have felt like strangers in their own homes on December 7th, 1915. Situated on the banks of the Tigris river 100 miles south of Baghdad, the 6,500 residents of Kut were certainly used to people passing through, albeit usually via the river. But the latest visitors to Kut had mostly arrived by land – well over 13,000 of them – and were starting to make themselves at home. Trenches and bulwarks were being created overnight; tents flooded the village and surrounding river banks.
The newest guests to Kut were a collection of British and Indian troops who had last passed through the village attempting to claim Baghdad, and all of Mesopotamia, for the Crown. Now in headlong retreat, the British and Indians had chosen to dig in and allow themselves to be surrounded by their Ottoman pursuers. It had been the the brainchild of an arrogant British Indian Army General who preferred taking his orders from New Delhi than London, and was being executed by a British General whose claim to fame had been enduring a similar siege in Pakistan years earlier.
The strategy to conquer Mesopotamia had been ill-conceived and hastily implemented. Now it was about to become, in the words of one British military historian, “the most abject capitulation in Britain’s military history.”
Had the War Office in London gotten their way, Britain’s involvement in the so-called “Cradle of Civilization” would have ended in November of 1914. Continue reading