9/5/1916 Baghdad: captured British officers battle ennui while their men battle starvation

When Townshend surrendered at Kut-al-Amara, the Turks acquired an impressive bag of some 13,000 British and Indian prisoners. They have now been brought up the Tigris to Baghdad. The officers were transported by boat and have been housed in spartan but adequate quarters. The British officers complain about the unappealing food they are being served; the Indian officers are less critical. The officers also complain about the boredom of their confinement.

Perhaps motivated by compassion for their fellow officers, today the Turkish authorities in Baghdad take some of the senior British officers out to dinner. They dine in the city’s premier establishment, the restaurant of Baghdad’s Hotel de France. Here the British are introduced to the German pilot who had been bombing Kut during the siege. He apologises for accidentally bombing their hospital.

Boredom is the least of the problems faced by the rank and file prisoners captured at Kut. There were no boats available to transport them to Baghdad, so the Turks made them march. Marching long distances in the hot weather of Mesopotamia proved difficult for men battling sickness and malnourishment. Many died on the road, either of exhaustion, sickness or murder by the human jackals who prey on stragglers from Turkish prisoner marches. In Baghdad the Turks imprisoned them in a patch of shelterless open ground near the station. Their captors provide no provisions for the prisoners here. They are saved from complete starvation by the US consul, Charles Brissell, who sends food to the prisoners.

image source:

British and Indian prisoners marching to Baghdad (Robert’s Web Pages: War Diary of Edwin Jones)

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