24/7/1917 Lightning Force: Enver’s plan to recapture Baghdad #1917Live

In Aleppo today Enver Pasha, Turkey’s paramount leader, meets with senior military figures including Djemal Pasha, the Proconsul of Syria, and Kemal Pasha, whose star has been on the rise since the Turkish victory at Gallipoli. Enver has a big plan to reveal. He is forming a new army group to be called Yildirim (Lightning Force), combining formations commanded by Kemal and Halil Pasha with German units. The overall commander will be none other than Germany’s Falkenhayn, the former German commander in chief who recently presided over the conquest of Romania.

Yildirim’s mission is a simple one: the recapture of Baghdad. Enver hopes that by doing so Turkey’s prestige in the Middle East will be restored. His audience are more sceptical, fearing that it would be foolhardy for Turkey to launch an offensive in Mesopotamia when the British are threatening to advance into Palestine. And the Turkish officers do not relish the prospect of being commanded by Falkenhayn. The Turks are increasingly resentful of the perceived arrogance of their German allies and suspect that Falkenhayn will be cut from the same cloth as the various German officers they have had to deal with. But Enver is insistent and with Germany providing considerable financial and military resources to Yildirim they are able to call the tune.

image source:

Enver and Djemal visiting Jerusalem last year (Wikipedia)

13/7/1917 Britain retreats from Ramadi #1917Live

British forces have been attacking the Turkish position of Ramadi in Mesopotamia. Conducted under the unforgiving glare of a burning sun, the attacks have been a failure, with the Turks refusing to be dislodged. Now the British retreat back to their base in Dhibban on the Euphrates, upriver from Baghdad. Along the way they are harassed by pro-Turkish Arab irregulars.

British forces end up taking more casualties from the heat than from enemy gunfire, with many men succumbing to heat stroke and thirst. The failure to take Ramadi brings home the folly of campaigning here in the heart of summer. It will be the autumn before Maude makes any further attempt is made to take Ramadi.

11/7/1917 Ramadi: Britain’s failed attempt to advance upriver from Baghdad #1917Live

The tide of war ebbs and flows in Mesopotamia. Last year the Turks were triumphant, causing the surrender of Townshend‘s army at Kut-al-Amara. Since then the British have recaptured Kut and advanced upriver to drive the Turks from Baghdad.

Now in the searing heat of the Mesopotamian summer Maude makes the odd decision to send troops up the Euphrates to attack the Turkish force occupying Ramadi. The extreme temperature makes it impossible for the British to march from Baghdad to Ramadi, even at night, so they are instead transported by truck.

The British attack today in the early morning. They may have hoped that the Turks would be demoralised after their previous losses. Unfortunately the men at Ramadi put up stout resistance and do not yield to British assaults. The British attack fails and the men find themselves trapped in the open, unable to retreat until night falls, suffering terribly from enemy gunfire but more so from the burning intensity of the sun.

image source:

Map (Wikipedia)

24/4/1917 Britain consolidates its gains in Mesopotomia

While the British have suffered another reverse at Gaza, in Mesopotamia they continue to make progress. Maude has continued offensive operations since capturing Baghdad, not content to rest on his laurels. His goal is to push back Halil, the Turkish commander, so that his still powerful army does not present a threat to Baghdad. Maude is also concerned about Halil being reinforced by Turkish troops retreating from Persia, from which they have been expelled by the Russians. He may also want to prevent the Russians from expanding into upper Mesopotamia ahead of him.

Maude’s offensive halts today. With Fallujah on the Euphrates and Samarra on the Tigris now in British hands, he is confident that British possession of Baghdad is now secure.

11/3/1917 Baghdad falls to the British

In Mesopotamia the British have been advancing from Kut-al-Amara towards Baghdad. They have already passed Salman Pak and Ctesiphon and appear to be unstoppable. Realising that their position is untenable, the outnumbered and outgunned Turks decide to retreat. Shortly after midnight they and their German allies begin to withdraw from the city, destroying military equipment before they go. They also dynamite railway infrastructure and set fire to the pontoon bridge across the Tigris. As the Turks withdraw the city descends into anarchy, with looters descending on the commercial district.

As the day wears on, British troops arrive and secure the city. Indian cavalrymen are the first to enter Baghdad, with Maude making his own entrance in the afternoon once the situation is fully under control.

Last year the Turks won their great victory at Kut. Now this is just a distant memory, with the British clearly in the ascendant in Mesopotamia. 300 years of Ottoman rule in the region are coming to an end.

image sources:

Maude enters Baghdad (Wikipedia)

Mesopotamia (World War I Centenary: Continuations and Beginnings)

6/3/1917 Maude advances to the gates of Baghdad

After building up a stock of supplies, Britain’s Maude resumes his advance on Baghdad from Kut-al-Amara. Now he reaches Salman Pak and the Arch of Ctesiphon. Here Townshend was forced to retreat in 1915 but things are different now. Turkish strength in Mesopotamia has depleted while that of the British has grown. The Turks make no stand at Salman Pak and the town falls unopposed to Maude. Now he prepares for the final advance on Baghdad.

image sources:

The Arch of Ctesiphon (100 Years Ago Today: a Chronological Catalogue of the Tragedy of the First World War)

Maude’s men advance on the Arch of Ctesiphon (Alexandra Churchill (@churchill_alex) on Twitter)

3/3/1917 Robertson changes his mind: Maude is to march on Baghdad

After driving the Turks from Kut, Britain’s Maude is chomping at the bit to march on to Baghdad. In London however Robertson, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, fears that if Maude pushes ahead he could be marching into a trap. Robertson does not want to lose another army in Mesopotamia, after Townshend was forced to capitulate last year.

Robertson had ordered Maude to do no more than raid in the direction of Baghdad. However after remonstration by Maude and by senior British figures in India, Robertson changes his tune. Robertson now frees Maude to advance on Baghdad if he thinks the situation warrants it, though he continues to warn him against over-stretching himself.

What has changed Roberson’s mind? He has begun to realise that the Turks are currently in some disarray, with Baghdad potentially there for the taking before they reorganise themselves. Its capture would greatly raise Britain’s prestige in the Muslim world and correspondingly discredit the Turkish Empire. Robertson has also heeded warnings that the Russians are planning their own offensive into Mesopotamia from Persia. If the Russians were to seize Baghdad then it would tear up the secret division of the Middle East that Britain has agreed with France.

image source:

Mesopotamia (Naval-History.Net)