Saturday, April 30, 2016

Today -100: April 30, 1916: But at least Spot is okay

The five-month-long siege of Kut (aka al-Kut, aka Kut-al-Amara), in which Turkish forces besieged a British garrison on the Tigris in Mesopotamia (Iraq), ends with the surrender of the British. One innovative feature of the siege: airdrops of food and ammunition, the first in aviation history. Several attempts to send troops to relieve the town failed owing to poor planning, insufficient supplies and bad weather (the same things that got Major-Gen. Charles Townshend and his men stuck in Kut for 143 days). An attempt to bribe the Ottomans (the emissary was Capt. T.E. Lawrence) was rejected. In the end, the British just ran out of food. The NYT remarks, “It seems almost fantastic that one prize of this modern war should be a very old, insanitary town, on a camel route to Persia, hundreds of hours away from the world”. Baghdad, that is, Townshend’s original objective.

The NYT says the surrendering forces include 2,970 British and 6,000 Indian soldiers; it was actually closer to 13,000 total, 70% of whom will not survive their prisoner-of-war experience. However – and this was Townshend’s main concern when negotiating the surrender – his dog Spot was sent back to England. He himself spent his captivity in relative freedom and luxury in Istanbul, which didn’t go over all that well back home.

But it’s not all bad news for the British Army, which has succeeded in burning out the Dublin General Post Office. Shelling has caused numerous fires in Dublin. The Easter Rising is nearly at an end.

Lots of photos of the Dublin devastation here.

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  1. Townshend seems to have set the pattern for General Perceval, who surrendered Singapore in WW2. The capital of the Ottoman Empire was called Constatinople. The Ottoman Sultan's titles included "emperor of Rome".

  2. My careless error on Constantinople, although Istanbul was the "street" name for the city even while it was officially Constantinople.