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The British Advance on Bagdad and
URKEY in Asia is again fighting
for life against three allied armies that are converging upon it
from three directions. Bagdad, the immediate goal of the new Mesopotamian campaign, has been captured, while Jerusalem lies in the path along which another British army, coming out of Egypt, is advancing, after driving off the Turks who were threatening the Suez Canal.
From a third direction the Russians are aiming another blow at the Turkish Empire in Asia, namely, from Persia and Armenia, where they have again assumed the offensive.
The most important fighting has been in Mesopotamia. Here the British have completely regained the prestige which they lost when General Townshend, withi 9,000 men of the British and Anglo-Indian armies, surrendered at Kut-elAmara on April 28, 1916. When the British began the first Mesopotamian campaign from the head of the Persian Gulf in 1915, it was understood that the object was to destroy German aims in Asiatic Turkey, and particularly the scheme of expansion connected with the Bagdad Railway. The British marching on Bagdad were to have effected a junction with the Russians advancing from Persia in the east and from Turkish Armenia in the north. But when the British, after being defeated at Ctesiphon, had to fall back, and were later caught in a trap at Kut-el-Amara, and forced to surrender after a long siege, the RussoBritish plan collapsed. The Turkish forces released by Townshend's failure were sent to reinforce the army holding back the Russians, and the Russians also had to retreat. The disastrous end to the first British expedition was due entirely to inadequate preparation and insufficient supports when they were wanted.
After a considerable interval plans for the resumption of the campaign were
completed early in December, 1916, and on the 13th of that month, with General Maude .in command, a new advance on Kut-el-Amara was begun along the right bank of the Tigris. The British force consisted of three divisions of 120,000 men and was assisted by a large flotilla of war craft specially adapted for river work. The British marched through the evacuated Es Sinn lines and established themselves on the Shatt-al-Hai, a canal which enters the Tigris above and below Kut from the south. About Christmas time operations were impeded by heavy rains, but early in January, 1917, the advance was again pressed, and on Jan. 9 and 10 the enemies' trenches northeast of Kut were captured after a stubborn conflict. Rain caused another delay of more than a week, but by Jan. 21 the whole of the right bank of the river east of the Shatt-al-Hai was clear of Turks, and on Jan. 25 further movements to the west began. The Turks made a vigorous resistance and lost heavily. On Jan. 27 and 28 there were hot encounters, and after a further engagement on Feb. 3 General Maude was able to report that the enemy had been driven from the whole of the right bank.
Recapture of Kut-el-Amara The British had now to clear the Turks from the left bank of the Tigris, where at Sanna-i-Yat, fifteen miles below Kut, they were strongly intrenched. Kut itself lies in a sharp bend on the left bank of the Tigris. The licorice factory opposite the town was shelled, and on Feb. 13 it was officially announced in London that the British had established a line across the Tigris bend west of Kut, and were thus hemming in the Turks. On Feb. 23 the British launched a fierce frontal attack against Sanna-i-Yat.
While the Turks were concentrating their forces on the defensive at this point the British made a successful at
tempt to cross the Tigris at the Shumran bend, about six miles above Kut. As soon as the landing was effected a bridge was built as the result of nine hours' strenuous work by the engineers. The way was thus open for an attack on the Turks in the rear. Discovering their danger, the Turks began on Feb. 24 to retreat in the direction of Baghela, twenty-four miles west of Kut, burning their stores as they went, but maintaining a strong rearguard defensive. In the meantime the British pressed the advance Sanna-i-Yat, carrying one line of trenches after the other. With the taking of all the Turkish positions from Sanna-i-Yat to Kut-el Amara the town passed automatically into the hands of the British, whose prestige was thereby re-established. The
Meanwhile the Turks had received reinforcements from Bagdad. They offered stubborn resistance along the Diala and in a position covering Bagdad from the southwest. General Maude threw a bridge across the Tigris at its confluence with the Diala. Notwithstanding the heat and dust, the British made a brilliant march of eighteen miles toward Bagdad and found the Turks strongly posted six miles southwest of the town. The Turks were attacked at once and driven back to their second position, two miles in the rear.
On the night of March 8 the British established a footing on the north bank of the Diala. On the 9th and 10th troops on the right bank of the Tigris, in spite of dust storms, pressed their advantage and drove back the Turks to within three miles of Bagdad. At the same time the troops on the Diala thrust the Turks back on the city, which was entered on Sunday morning, March 11.
In announcing this success in the House of Commons the next day, Bonar Law said there was every reason to believe that two-thirds of the Turks' artillery had fallen into the hands of the British or had been thrown into the Tigris. He added this comment:
General Maude, in these operations, has completed his victory by a pursuit of 110 miles in fifteen days, during which the Tigris was crossed three times. This pursuit
conducted in a country destitute of supplies, despite the commencement of the Summer heat. Such operations could be carried out in such a country only after the most careful arrangements made for the supply of the troops thoroughly and systematically had been effected. The fact that General Maude not only has been able to feed the army, provide it with munitions, and
of operations rapidly changed from Kut to points much further up the river. On Feb. 25 the British gunboats on the Tigris and the cavalry and infantry on the land moved westward in an endeavor to cut off the enemy's retreat. The Turkish rearguards made a stubborn stand about fifteen miles northwest of Kut, but were driven from their trenches. On Feb. 26 the pursuit was maintained, and therre were engagements over thirty miles west-northwest of Kut. On Feb. 27 General Maude's report described the Turkish force retreating to Bagdad as degenerating into a disorderly mob. After passing through Aziziyah, fifty-two miles north of Kut, the Turks tried to fight another rearguard action at Lajij, nine miles southeast of Ctesiphon.
The Fall of Bagdad The British were now within a few miles of their furthest advance during the first Mesopotamian campaign. It was expected that the Turks would make a stand at Ctesiphon, when the British arrived there they found the place evacuated. On March 7 British cavalry found the Turks in position on the Diala River, eight miles from the outskirts of Bagdad. The river was unfordable and constituted a formidable obstacle. General Maude therefore withdrew his cavalry and brought his infantry into action.
proper attention for the sick and wounded, but has been able to report that he is satisfied he can provide for the necessities of his army in Bagdad, reflects the greatest credit on all concerned.
By March 15 the British forces were thirty miles above Bagdad on their way toward Mosul.
In the two months' fighting since December, 1916, it is estimated that the Turks lost over 20,000 men in killed and wounded. The British reported having taken over 7,000 prisoners, and also large quantities of guns, war material, and
SKETCH MAP SHOWING LOCATION OF THE THREE ALLIED EXPEDITIONS THAT ARE CONVERGING TO CUT THE BAGDAD RAILWAY AND ISOLATE A LARGE PORTION OF
stores of all kinds which the Turks were These preparations account for the comunable to destroy in their retreat. The paratively slight resistance with which British river craft had the satisfaction General Maude met after he captured of recapturing the gunboat Firefly, which Kut-el-Amara. Between Feb. 26, when the Turks had taken a year before, as Kut fell, and March 8 the British had well as securing a considerable number advanced nearly a hundred miles. For of prizes in the way of river steamers, some time past the Germans have been tugboats, barges, and pontoons.
extremely busy completing railroad comThe Advance From Egypt
munication, transporting war material,
and establishing military camps and deNo less interesting was the news on
pots, with a view to making good their March 7 that the advance guards of the
occupation in the territories of which the British forces marching through Pales- Bagdad Railway is the main artery. tine from Egypt were within fifteen
The Advance Through Persia miles of Jerusalem. The dispatch stated that the Turks had abandoned a strong
Simultaneously with the British strokes position in the neighborhood of Sheik in Mesopotamia and Palestine the RusNuran, west of Shellal. Shellal, which sians reopened their drive in Western is also known as El Chalil or El Khulil,
Persia toward Bagdad. On March 2 they is the ancient Hebron, which lies half occupied Hamadan, an important city 240 way between the Mediterranean and the miles east of Bagdad, and on the 6th Dead Sea, twenty miles from each and captured Asadabad Summit, ten miles only fifteen miles from Jerusalem. The west of Hamadan. On the 13th they had Turks prepared for an offensive to keep captured Kermanshah, seventy miles the enemy out of Syria and Asia Minor,
further in the direction of Bagdad. to save the Bagdad Railway, and to pre- Without waiting for the completion of vent the Russians, now at Bitlis, from the various moves in Asiatic Turkey, the effecting a junction with the British. British Government has taken decisive
measures to bring Persia under control. How this was achieved by a British expedition was described in the House of Lords in February, 1917, when Lord Curzon made the first statement on the situation in Persia since the speech delivered by Lord Crewe in the same house on Dec. 7, 1915, (see CURRENT HISTORY, February, 1916, Pages 877 to 879.) sition at that time was one of considerable convulsion. The British Consul at Shiraz had been recently arrested under circumstances of some ignominy. Coming down to the operations of the Turks and Germans in Persia last year the report of Lord Curzon's speech continues:
The movement reached its maximum force in August last. The Turkish military advance was exercising so disastrous an influence on the situation in Teheran at that time that the Persian Government was on the eve of evacuating the capital. Since then
there had been not merely a sensible alleviation, but a steady improvement in the conditions. The Russian Army had recovered its position and effectively barred the way of the Turkish forces to Teheran. In that manner the Russian force had rendered great service to the allied cause, and we found ourselves in the somewhat strange and anomalous position of having the Russian Army acting as a successful screen of defense to our Indian Empire. The British Consul at Shiraz and the few male members of the community there who were imprisoned with him had been released after eight months of harsh captivity. Most of the German agents in the country had been captured, and he hoped that before long the few who were still at large would be taken.
British Forces in Persia The march of the force under Sir Percy Sykes from Bunder Abbas to Ispahan and finally to Teheran, for 1,000 miles, in circumstances of the most arduous and, in some places, of a perilous character, had not, he thought, been mentioned hitherto in this country. It resulted in establishing order over a wide area. In Teheran itself we had
secured the existence of a Government friendly to the allied powers; and Russia and Great Britain had been constant, although not imprudent, in giving steady financial assistance to the Persian Government in the dificult times through which it had passed.
The object of Sir Percy Sykes was to organize in Southern Persia a force of military gendarmerie, or police, under the Persian Goyernment, but officered by British officers with Indian training and experience. That force was ultimately to attain to a strength of 11,000 men. Sir Percy Sykes had at present a force of 5,000 men in addition to a military escort of about 800 troops from India, and his military position was being strengthened by reinforcements now being dispatched from India under a military officer experienced in tribal warfare. A similar force of gendarmerie was being raised from Bakhtiari tribesmen, who had always been very friendly to us. He hoped that before long Sir Percy would be able to march from Shiraz, where he was now, and to clear up the brigand camps and robber nests with which that part of Persia was infested. On the eastern side of Persia a similar success had been obtained by another force under a British officer, Major Keith, who had succeeded in pacifying the whole of that considerable quarter.
In Afghanistan the Ameer, in spite of solicitations and the offer of bribes, had, as far as was known, remained entirely loyal to his obligations to Great Britain, and had declined to be seduced from that loyalty by the tempting offer of the spoil of the Punjab.
The attempt to improve the general situation in Persia had been considerably assisted by two independent movements of a military character outside the borders of that country. The first was the success of General Maude in Mesopotamia. The second outside group of events tending to improve the situation arose from the movement of the Shereef of Mecca. He could not say that the situation was altogether free from anxiety. Turkish troops had still to be turned out of parts of Persia, and in the hinterland of the Persian Gulf there was still disorder. The position of the oil fields was practically secure, and he had not heard for many months past of any interruption of communications in that region.