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)