22/11/1915 Ctesiphon: Mesopotamian bloodbath

In Mesopotamia a British force is advancing up the Tigris towards Baghdad. The Turks are making a stand near the town of Salman Pak, not far from Baghdad, with their front line centred on the Arch of Ctesiphon, a Persian monument of cyclopean proportions.

The British have advanced quickly (perhaps too quickly) but they are confident that they will be able to smash this Turkish force as they have dealt with others on the way up from Basra. The British however have little information on the constitution of the enemy’s army. After losing a number of aircraft to ground fire the British largely called a halt to reconnaissance flights. Yesterday they sent two aircraft to have a look at the Turkish defences. One pilot returned, spotting nothing out of the ordinary. The other notices that the Turks have brought up a large reserve formation, but he is shot down and captured before he can report this information.

Unaware of the enemy’s strength, today the British attack. If they expect the Turks to collapse they are sorely disappointed. The Turks hold their lines and rake the British with gunfire. After several hours of brutal fighting the British manage eventually to take the Turkish front line, but then they are hit by a devastating counter-attack from the Turkish reserve force. Fighting continues into the night.

Both sides have suffered greatly in the day’s fighting. Some 40% of the British force are casualties, with Turkish casualties as high as 50% of their men. The battlefield is littered with dying and wounded men for whom nothing much can be done. And the battle is not over yet.

image sources:

The Arch of Ctesiphon (Middle East Institute: Editor’s Blog)

map (Lightbobs)

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