14/3/1915 Shaiba: a hard fought victory for the British

Two days ago Ottoman forces under Suleyman Askeri attacked the British at Shaiba, hoping to then proceed on to recapture Basra. The Turkish attacks failed to dislodge the British force (which includes many soldiers from India). Yesterday the British struck back, scattering Arab irregulars who were trying to slip past them and advance on Basra.

Now the British clash with the relatively small force of Turkish regular troops who are holding out in the woodland of Barjisiyeh. The Turks have been abandoned by the Arabs but they still fight on tenaciously. The battle goes on all day and it is only in the late afternoon that a British bayonet charge breaks the Turks. The Turks retreat and the exhausted British let them go without pursuit.

Suleyman Askeri himself is injured in the battle. Angry at the failure of the Arab irregulars to support his men and demoralised by the failure of his offensive, he now takes his own life.

So Shaiba has been a victory for the British, though casualties amount to nearly a quarter of their forces. But the lesson they take from the battle is that Basra cannot be safely held as a British outpost. If it is to be secure, British forces must dominate Mesopotamia and extend their presence up the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. They begin to plan an advance on the Mesopotamian cities of Kut and Baghdad.

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