25/12/1915 Mesopotamia: not much Christmas cheer in Kut

In Mesopotamia the British under General Townshend are besieged in Kut-al-Amara. Yesterday the Turks tried to storm the town but were bloodily repulsed. Today the space in front of the British trenches is littered with dead and wounded Turkish soldiers. The sufferings of the wounded under the sun’s heat is unimaginable. There appears to be no truce here and so the wounded are left to their fate, with gunfire from both sides making it impossible to bring them to safety.

Yet there is some humanity amid the horror. From the British lines there are many instances of soldiers throwing food and water out to their wounded enemies. Most of the British soldiers were recruited in India; as Muslims and Hindus they are probably more motivated by empathy for the sufferings of other soldiers than Christmas cheer. Their efforts perhaps keep some of the Turks alive until they are able to crawl away to safety after dark, though for most of the wounded it is only death that brings their sufferings to an end.

With the failure of yesterday’s attack, Turkish commander Colonel Nurredin changes his tactics. Instead of trying to storm the town he has his men tighten the blockade around Kut. The British are also to be worn down by artillery fire and sniping. These efforts will add to the attrition the British are already suffering from disease within the hot and overcrowded town.

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