14/11/1915 Mesopotamia: the British close in on Baghdad

British forces took the Mesopotamian port of Basra nearly a year ago. Now they are advancing up the Tigris towards Baghdad. The advance has happened almost by accident and now the British are in danger of outrunning their own supply lines. However, after several easy victories against the Turks they do not particularly fear enemy action.

British commanders have more concerns with their own men. Most of their troops in Mesopotamia are Indian, with many of them Muslim. The Turkish Sultan claims the title Caliph, successor to the Prophet Muhammed and leader of all true Muslims. He has already issued a call for a Jihad against Britain, France, Russia and the other countries at war with the Ottoman Empire. This has not led to any kind of mass revolt by Muslim subjects of the British Empire, but there have been some worrying incidents in Mesopotamia. Some of the Indian troops are displaying an increasing unwillingness to march against their Turkish co-religionists. There are even isolated cases of mutiny or desertion to the enemy.

The Turks defending Baghdad are making their stand at the town of Salman Pak. This presents the British with a bit of a conundrum. Salman Pak takes its name from Salman the Pure, one of the companions of the Prophet Muhammed, who is buried there. The British fear that their Muslim troops will be loth to advance on Turkish troops defending this holy site.

To try and conquer the religious scruples of their soldiers, the British hit on a clever ruse. They insist on referring to Salman Pak as Ctesiphon, the name it had in antiquity. That should stop Muslim troops thinking they are attacking the resting place of one of the Prophet’s companions. Just to be on the safe side, a particularly unruly Punjabi unit is sent away to Aden.

image source (Lightbobs)

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