The Journey into Captivity – Mesopotamia in 1916

As ever our contributor passes on his thanks to staff at the Norfolk Regimental Museum for their help and patience as he researches this topic.

The 2nd Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment in Mesopotamia

The Journey into Captivity


For the last time Townshend talked to some of his men.

‘What’d he say?’ asked those too far away to hear his words…

‘Goodbye men and God bless you.’

Somehow they had all hoped for something more. It seemed strange that a man who had had such power over them could now volunteer nothing more positive than goodbye and God bless you.

The prospect of captivity became no less alarming when everyone was ordered to march nine miles upstream [along the River Tigris] to Shamran. Nine miles! Who could march nine miles? Five months ago they had stopped at Kut because Townshend was convinced they could march not another inch: how could they now – weak, ill and exhausted – march nine miles? On the other hand, what else could they do? Because the Turks had made it clear that, until they reached Shamran, they would get no food. Collecting their few possessions, tying them in their blankets (their haversacks had long since rotted as camouflage over loop-holes or sandbags on parapets), filling their water bottles with Tigris water, they staggered up-river. And, when they arrived at Shamran, found no food. Enormous goat’s-hair tents they found, black and big enough to hold a hundred men, enough of them to hold about half of those who had marched, but no food.

Not everyone had marched. The officers and some of the men, the lucky ones, were taken to Shamran on a steamer: but when they arrived they were confronted by the same chaos. No food, no latrines, no organization, and bad-tempered Kurdistan guards.

For the officers it was not so bad. They had naturally brought with them small tents and camp beds and folding chairs and playing cards and spare clothes and servants to carry all of it: but for the troops, with just their blankets and their water bottles and occasionally their great coats, it was a grim beginning to whatever lay ahead.    Russell Braddon, ‘The Siege’, 1969

British and Indian troops being led away by their Turkish captors following the fall of Kut

British and Indian troops being led away by their Turkish captors following the fall of Kut

From the accounts of Lieutenant-Colonel Francis Cecil Lodge, DSO, Commanding 2nd Battalion, Norfolk Regiment, and Captain Alfred Joseph Shakeshaft, 2nd Battalion, Norfolk Regiment, interpreter to Major-General Sir Charles Melliss.

Lieutenant-Colonel Francis Cecil Lodge (when a captain) c.1900  and Captain Alfred Joseph Shakeshaft c.1925 Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum

Lieutenant-Colonel Francis Cecil Lodge (when a captain) c.1900
and Captain Alfred Joseph Shakeshaft c.1925
Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum

The accounts of the captivity by these two officers mirror one another in the journeys that they made from Kut al Amara into Turkish captivity, but have a different tone. Acting Lieutenant-Colonel Lodge describes the day-to-day journey in close detail as it affected him personally and the officers with whom he travelled. His journey is easy to reconstruct from the precise location details that he provides, although his place names are clearly derived from interpreting the spoken word. Captain Shakeshaft had a wider remit and his account is far lengthier, although it does not extend to the later period of imprisonment as Lodge’s does.

Captain Shakeshaft acted as interpreter on General Melliss’s staff, as he was not only able to make himself understood in Turkish but could explain to the German and Austrian officers he met along the route to Asia Minor the tragic conditions in which the British prisoners had been discovered.  Doroth L. Neave, ‘Remembering Kut’, 1937

Consequently, Lt.-Col Lodge’s account is here reproduced in full, whilst Captain Shakeshaft is referred to whenever his role brought him into contact with the often abandoned other ranks whom he encountered on his journey. There are no extant accounts from the Norfolk Regiment other than by these two officers. None of the other ranks were able to keep diaries, and anyway it was enough for them to survive the ordeal, and many didn’t.

There is no question that although the journey and the captivity was bad enough for the officers it was infinitely worse for the men. There are many books describing the horrors that the men of all regiments faced – reference here is made to: Russell Braddon, ‘The Siege’, who interviewed many of the survivors during the 1960’s; E.O. Mousley, ‘The Secrets of a Kuttite’, who wrote the most lucid account of what he experienced and saw; and  W.C. Spackman, ‘Captured at Kut: Prisoner of the Turks’, which is an analytical account by an Army doctor. There are many others, but Lodge and Shakeshaft for all their limitations must be regarded as a valuable Norfolk Regiment contribution to our understanding of what actually happened.

It is all too easy to make simplistic judgements from these accounts: brutal Arabs; uncaring Turkish officers and thieving Turkish soldiers; British officers who had it cushy with their servants to wait on them; but on reflection it is worth remembering that the Arabs were usually poor conscripts, the Turkish officers were from a society where it mattered little what happened to the ordinary mass as long as compliments were paid to the great; the Turkish other ranks were often as poorly fed and clothed as their British counterparts became; and the orderlies to the British officers stood a much better chance of survival than those who had to march with the columns. The diaries tell their own story.

April 29, 1916

Regt. Marched out [from Kut] 4.30 pm. Embarked 11.30 pm on [steamer] ‘Basra’.    (Diary of F.C. Lodge)

April 30, 1916

We arrived at SHUMRAN Camp at dawn. Although they told us we shall find a camp & meals ready, nothing had been done. So we pegged down on a dirty bit of ground told off to us & awaited events. I cannot remember whether we had any food given us, but if we had it only consisted of hard and very unappetising Turkish ration biscuits, made of the coarsest wheat, with plenty of superfluous straw in it.    (Diary of F.C. Lodge)

There was plenty of room in the camp – it is about all I can say for it. It was in a bend in the river, the river front was patrolled by Turkish soldiers and the land side was patrolled by a cordon of troops. There we lay under the sun without food for hours. …

The Turkish biscuit is a wonderful thing and deserves a chapter to itself. It is about 4 inches in circumference and ¾ inch thick of a dark brown colour and as hard as iron. I believe one man ate his six at one sitting but six hours later he was dead. We found the best way to eat them was as a porridge, if steeped in water overnight, they were fairly palatable. The Turkish soldier is issued with a haversack full of these, they have to last him any time between three and six days.    (Diary of A.J. Shakeshaft)

Biscuits brought back as a souvenir from Suvla Bay during The Dardanelles Campaign, 1915, by Lt. Lionel Bruce Charles, 5th Battalion, The Queen's Regiment, who lived in Norwich

Biscuits brought back as a souvenir from Suvla Bay during The Dardanelles Campaign, 1915, by Lt. Lionel Bruce Charles, 5th Battalion, The Queen’s Regiment, who lived in Norwich

During the day a number of Turkish soldiers wandered through the camp with bread and other food which they exchanged with our men for clothes. The Turkish troops were all in rags so any old “British Warm” was a godsend to them.    (Diary of A.J. Shakeshaft)

May 1, 1916

Rations were given us, these consisted of 1/5 oz tea, 1 oz sugar and biscuits above mentioned. Our camp was in the loop of the river with the Turkish sentries across the cord. I had no tent or covering from the sun, but Cramer Roberts and I fixed up 2 waterproof sheets which gave us some sort of shelter.    (Diary of F.C. Lodge)

The men still starving or just existing on the Turkish biscuits.    (Diary of A.J. Shakeshaft)

May 2, 1916

A ship, laden with supplies, came up from Genl. Gorringe’s Camp downstream. The Turks allowed this apparently because they could not feed us. We looked forward to eating some really good things. Bread has been issued out, but it was very dirty and covered with green mould. The men were so ravenous that they ate several of the Turkish biscuits dry, this caused an outbreak of acute enteritis, due possibly to their interiors being in a weak state and quite unable to assimilate the hard tack. This caused a good many deaths in some of the units. I had cautioned our men about going easy with food, no matter how hungry they might be, so we had hardly any cases & those only slight.    (Diary of F.C. Lodge)

The “SHURER”* flying the white flag came up from the [British/Indian] Relief Force with rations… To our disgust the rations were taken and unloaded at the Turkish camp some two miles upstream. This meant further delay as the Turks said they had insufficient transport available to convey all the things to our camp. We quite expected this. By this time we were eating grass.    (Diary of A.J. Shakeshaft)

* a river steamer

May 3, 1916

At last they gave us an issue from our ship, a little jam and some good biscuits, for which we were most thankful.    (Diary of F.C. Lodge)

Some British and Indian rations were sent in from the Turkish camp to-day – so all the troops got a decent meal at last – no thanks to our “hosts”. … A Turkish soldier was caught looting and was instantly shot by order of his company commander. … One or two of our aeroplanes flew over the camp, happily they didn’t bomb us.    (Diary of A.J. Shakeshaft)

May 4, 1916

A little tea & sugar and some bully beef came our way, this is all we saw of our ship’s supply, as we were ordered to embark for BAGHDAD. We were sent up in echelons: the 1st which I accompanied left our camp at about 6.30 pm and consisted of 100 British officers, including four generals; 50 native officers with one orderly apiece. Each general was allowed a cook and 2 orderlies, a colonel 2, Lt.Col 2, others 1 each. I as a temporary Lt.Col took two Rogers* and Wigger* as cook. It took some little time to embark as it was dark, and the Turk is not a good hand at order and arrangement. We eventually started upstream about 8.30 pm but stopped again, after going about 6½ miles, at the Turkish Camp, where we picked up 2 barges containing wounded and sick Turks, and 2 damaged aeroplanes, one was ours which had been captured after coming to grief. The Regt. was now reduced to the following officers Self, Read, Peacocke, Campbell. Cramer Roberts was left behind to look after the men, also Osmond our medical officer. The former came up with the 2nd echelon leaving a couple of days after we did. The men were then left with only N.C.O.’s. Richardson, Bullock & Portsmouth were left behind sick in Kut. All of these eventually went downstream to Basra.    (Diary of F.C. Lodge)

* Private’s Arthur Thomas Rogers of Drayton, Norwich, and William John Wigger of New Catton, Norwich, both survived the march and the captivity and returned to Norfolk.

We saw nothing of the mess stores sent up from downstream, but Cramer-Roberts told us later that they had arrived safely together with plum puddings for the men…    (Diary of A.J. Shakeshaft)

The voyage [to Baghdad] was a sad and long one. … In Baghaila Arabs came within a yard of our boat, and danced in ecstasy, gibing at us, and drawing their fingers across their throats indicating what they thought we deserved or were in for. That did not trouble us much. But we tingled with anger and shame at seeing on the other bank a sad little column of British troops who had marched up from Kut being driven by a wild crowd of Kurdish horsemen who brandished sticks and what looked like whips. The eyes of our men stared from white faces drawn long with the suffering of too tardy a death, and they held out their hands towards our boat. As they dragged one foot after another some fell, and those in the rearguard came in for blows from cudgels and sticks. I saw one Kurd strike a British soldier who was limping along. He reeled under the blows. We shouted out, and if ever men felt like murdering their guards we did. But that procedure was useless. We prevailed on the Turk in charge of our boat to stop and take some of the men. It seemed that half their number were a few miles ahead and the rest strewed the road to Kut. Some have been thrashed to death, some killed, and some robbed of their kit and left to be tortured by the Arabs. … Men were dying of cholera and dysentery and often fell out from sheer weakness. But the remorseless Kurd, worse than the Turk, knows no excuse.

Every now and then we stopped to bury our dead. The awful disease, enteritis, a form of cholera, attacked the whole garrison after Kut fell, and the change of food no doubt helped this. It showed also that before surrender the garrison had drawn on its last ounce of strength. A man turned green and foamed at the mouth. His eyes became sightless and the most terrible moans conceivable came from his inner being, a wild, terrible retching sort of vomiting moan. They died one and all with terrible suddenness. One night several Indians were missing. Others reported that these had fallen overboard or jumped overboard to end their wretchedness.    E. O. Mousley, ‘The Secrets of a Kuttite’, 1921

It is at this point that the stories of the officers and men diverge, only coming together again tangentially as their journey into captivity progressed. The separation of the officers from their men at Shumran remains a contentious matter; here are two views:

And so began for the troops of the 6th Division that most soul-destroying of all processes of captivity, the creation of a privileged class that will enjoy extra comfort, extra pay and extra rations with no attendant responsibility to those for whom it is their duty to provide leadership and protection.    Russell Braddon, The Siege, 1969

It is an accepted principle in dealing with prisoners of war to separate the officers from their men. The Turks did this despite our protests and they continued this practice throughout our captivity. The intention of this practice was to ensure that the men, deprived of the support and guidance of their trusted officers, became more amenable to Turkish discipline and control. It has been said that on this occasion we ‘abandoned’ our men. Nothing could be further from the truth and there were countless incidents on the march up country when officers individually and collectively rescued and sustained unfortunate men found in distress, using their own carefully saved money to procure food, shelter and transport for them.    Captured at Kut: Prisoner of the Turks, The Great War Diaries of Colonel W. C. Spackman (Regimental Medical Officer), Tony Spackman (Ed.), 2008

Captain Shakeshaft, accompanying General Melliss, took a slightly different route to Colonel Lodge and consequently they are not at the same location at the same date: Colonel Lodge takes priority.spread-sheet-1

The Journey from Kut into Turkish captivity of Lt.-Col F. C. Lodge, 1916,  from the records in his diary

The Journey from Kut into Turkish captivity of Lt.-Col F. C. Lodge, 1916,
from the records in his diary

Sketch map of F.C. Lodge's Route from Kut into Captivity at Yozgad

Sketch map of F.C. Lodge’s Route from Kut into Captivity at Yozgad

May 5, 1916

Steamed all night, but very slowly and got to BERGHALA about midday, and AZIZIYEH before dark. When it was light we were able to look at our surroundings. The barges alongside were crammed with wounded Turks, some were in a terrible state, their groans during the night were very distressing – my bed unfortunately was just above the barge on the starboard side where all the worst cases were. They appeared to get no attention from their doctor – only I think the bad cases were seen by him, and I saw him roughly prodding the most horrible looking wounds with a piece of doubtful rag on which some iodine had been soaked, the sufferer looked like a decent animal in pain, but uttered no sound. The same filthy bandage was used to rebind the wound. The filth and stench must be imagined as I cannot describe it: flies were about in millions. We buried several men on route with no ceremony.

We waited at AZIZIYEH all night for a steamer which was expected from BAGHDAD, as we were very short of this commodity. The steamer came down early, we coaled and left about 9.30. Rations on board indifferent. Sanitary arrangements too awful for words. Progress was very slow, picked up and took in tow two mahelas laden with liquorice root, a large quantity of this was used to keep steam up. Had a good view of CTESIPHON arch. A very hot day with very little wind. Having no field glasses it was almost impossible to get a good view of the scene of our great fight*, the country is so flat, with very few landmarks. All I saw was the arch [of Ctesiphon], High Wall, and the distant ridge – the old high level canal – from which we debouched to attack.

The Great Arch of Ctesiphon (Taq Kasra) from the air c 1922 The River Tigris in the background

The Great Arch of Ctesiphon (Taq Kasra) from the air c 1922
The River Tigris in the background

Arrived at BAGHDAD about midday. Before reaching the town proper we passed a good deal of cultivation, fallen trees, gardens etc. and some big houses amongst the palms, used as hospitals. Rounding the bend of the river we saw the town, very much larger than any we had seen as yet, but not unlike Basra with vegetation growing right down to the river. We tied up alongside a fine building, the late British Residency, where a large group of Turkish officials had assembled, and  2 or 3 nurses from the French Convent. SVEN Hedin** was there, so I was told, but I did not see him, though some of our officers spoke to him having met him some time ago in India. The captains, subalterns, native officers and their servants were the first to disembark. Later on, when they had marched off to the cavalry barracks, we the field officers and generals landed. A long delay occurred while the baggage was being off loaded & packed into carts. The usual confusion; nobody appeared to know where we were to go. Eventually we marched off and arrived at a ramshackle empty hotel, called Hotel Babylon – an evil smelling place. More delay whilst rooms were alloted (sic). I got one with Colonel Lethbridge of the 43rd O[xfordshire] L[ight] Infantry. Our baggage having arrived we sorted it and at last were taken to a restaurant called, I think Hotel France, where we had a meal, the best for many months.    (Diary of F.C. Lodge)

* the Battle of Ctesiphon

** Sven Anders Hedin is a famous Swedish explorer of central Asia and the Himalayas

THE MESOPOTAMIAN CAMPAIGN, 1916-1918 (Q 25177) The British Residency, Baghdad, as seen from the River Tigris, 1917. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

THE MESOPOTAMIAN CAMPAIGN, 1916-1918 (Q 25177) The British Residency, Baghdad, as seen from the River Tigris, 1917. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

The Tigris is very wide here [at Baghdad], the banks are bordered with palm trees – All the houses along the bank were good and were all flying the red crescent flag, evidently used as hospitals. We went alongside several houses to disembark the Turkish wounded. We heard that there were 15,000 sick and wounded in the numerous hospitals at BAGHDAD and I can quite believe it.

The [cavalry] barracks were a large building built round the sides of a square – We were conducted up to a large central room over the central gateway – I omitted to say that the Indian officers were marched to the barracks with us – All the officers, British and Indian, were herded into this big room… Captain Bayley R.F.A. was the senior officer of the party and he asked me to explain in French to the [Turkish] major the different status of British and Indian officers and that we might be separated, this was done and the Indians were put into a number of rooms on the left of the gateway.

Some [officers] went to see the American Consul, Mr Brissell*, who gave them some money in gold. The Turkish notes were practically useless in Baghdad, all the shopkeepers refused to take them…    (Diary of A.J. Shakeshaft)

* Mr Charles Brissell, who organized food, blankets, clothing, and disinfectant to be sent to the British and Indian troops. He regularly visited the hospitals and helped direct the work of the American Red Cross.

11 May, 1916

The American Consul came to see us and was most kind. I got 5 liras from him as I had very little money.    (Diary of F.C. Lodge)

12 May, 1916

Paid out at 8.30 am this morning. I got Liras 20. Got orders to move at 10 am. Yesterday, Col. L[ethbridge], commanding 43rd Oxfordshire Light Infantry] and I hired a carriage, and with a local aosasin on the box we drove to the bazaar and bought a few things in anticipation of our journey to Mosul. Could get very little, and what there was very expensive. Paid a visit to the Captain at the Cavalry barracks. We got orders to move at 10 am., but did not leave the Hotel till 11.30 am. Parted with my two very comfortable chairs gave them to the robber who ran our messing. Marched to the railway station, through the bazaar, the people were very orderly – as a matter of fact they were greatly disappointed we didn’t take BAGHDAD. The town is practically bankrupt – small change not obtainable, and notes in which we are paid are looked at with suspicion. Arrived at the station 12.30 pm and were told off to carriages 6 to a compartment. Left at about 3.30 pm for SAMARRA the railhead about 90 miles away. Got there at 9.30 pm – slept on the platform – no food nor are likely to get any.    (Diary of F.C. Lodge)

Samarra from the air, c1922  In the foreground, the precincts of the Great Mosque of Samarra with its spiralling Malwiya Minaret; in the background, the River Tigris

Samarra from the air, c1922
In the foreground, the precincts of the Great Mosque of Samarra with its spiralling Malwiya Minaret; in the background, the River Tigris

Major Haggi Saddi called me to the [Turkish] major’s house to give me my pay*. Officers were paid at the following rates: Majors 20 liras – 7 in gold, Captains 10 lira 50 pts – of which 4 in gold, Subalterns 8 liras – 3 in gold. I heard later that the Commandant paid Indian Officers at the same rate as British…    (Diary of A.J. Shakeshaft)

13 May, 1916

Fairly good night, up at 5 am. Spread ourselves out a bit round the station precincts. Our little party, Lethbridge, Starten R.A.M.C., self and 3 servants pitched our belongings near a Greek engineer’s house. They were very kind to us, giving what they could spare, tea, cheese, milk and would accept no payment. General Townshend left at about 8 am for Mosul with Col. Parr and Capt Morland.    (Diary of F.C. Lodge)

15-16 May, 1916

Beastly windy & dusty. Orders came for us to move at 4pm. As our transport (donkeys) did not turn up till about 4.30 pm, we did not actually leave until 6.30 pm. The drawing of our donkeys for the respective messes was a tedious job, our proportion was five, and it was no easy matter to disentangle them from the herd, as they appeared very loathe to quit. Eventually, I got our 5 and took them to where our kit was: it was no easy matter to load up our belongings, as we had no material, such as rope etc; nor could it be bought; however we eventually got our kit on somehow, we had to use the equipment belonging to one of our servants for our food boxes & an old RFA* ammunition box and a dilapidated yakdan**. Our party consisted of Col. Lethbridge Commadg. 43rd O.L.L., Self, and Starten R.A.M.C. who acted as caterer – three servants Eades, Rogers, & Whitefoot. Our donkeys were apportioned as follows: 1 for food, 1 for Col. L[ethbridge] & Self for kits, 1 for Starten’s kit and 3 servants, the remaining 2 for riding; these we shared in turn. They were wonderful little beasts and carried the heavy loads easily, an object lesson to our transport officials. We were a curious cavalcade when on the move. The generals, as befitting their rank and station, were provided with ponies of a miserable kind, some had no stirrups and only a rope for a bridle, & no bit. 

We pegged away over a very bare & flat country (the river Tigris was on our right hand, but some way off) until 1.15 am. No food or water, so we lay down, and being very weary after our 6½ hours march, slept at once. Up at 4 am and started off again at about 4.45 am., no breakfast only water from our water bottles. Our food supply was very limited, as we were not told anything about what marches we were to undergo, and a very limited time was given to obtain food. About 9 am we came up to the river again and we hoped that we were to halt here for food, etc., but no such luck, as we pushed on again in about 10 minutes, I hadn’t the chance of refilling my water bottle. Our road ran over some hills, the first I’d seen in this benighted country; they were very stony and in some places steep. The sun was now very hot. We had been told that our camp was quite close, but we plugged away and did not reach TEKRIT until nearly midday, horribly weary and parched with thirst. My servant Rogers was so done, I had to leave him behind when we pursued our march, taking Pte. Wigger as my servant. Instead of camping us near the river they marched us to some old stables, which had evidently contained, horses, goats, & sheep: they had made some attempt to clean them; the river was about ½ mile away. There was a small yard outside our stable, but this was soon crowded out, with donkeys, men, Arabs etc. So much so that it was impossible to move.

Tekrit (Tikrit) in 1914, the River Tigris in the distance

Tekrit (Tikrit) in 1914, the River Tigris in the distance

No arrangements had been made for food or water and as we were frightfully thirsty one’s condition can be imagined. After some time some Arabs brought water in filthy receptacles which we drank greedily, for this act of charity they made us pay. The noise going on was, to our shattered nerves, very trying. We managed to get some eggs, and sour milk, the former I ate raw, the latter was horribly sour but one drank it like nectar. Our stable, which was very crowded, began to get very stuffy, there was no ventilation except the door which was generally blocked by several evil smelling Arabs: so fetid did it become that we had to go out occasionally into the hot sun to get a breath of fresh air. Cooking was impossible due to the crowd, and it was not until dusk, when they cleared away the inquisitive Arabs, that we were able to cook our first meal, since the day before, and get a little peace.  As sleeping in the stable was out of the question I put my bedding outside & directly after dinner? turned in. I noticed an evil smell once or twice during the night, and in the morning discovered I was lying next [to] a filth pit: however in spite of this I slept fairly well, being thoroughly exhausted after our 32 mile march.    (Diary of F.C. Lodge)

* Royal Field Artillery, ** a trunk or portmanteau

17 May, 1916

A large number of sick came up on the “Julnar”. Richardson was among this party. … The troops soon began to arrive, a dreadful spectacle it must have been to see British troops in rags, many barefooted, starved and sick wending their way under brutal Arab guards through an Eastern bazaar. A few men who were too bad to walk rode on camels. Mr Brissell, whom we frequently saw, did his best for the men, he sent them food, but the Turks did everything they could to hinder his good work. The troops were in these black tents on the hot maidan* without any water, a few barrels of water used to be brought up every morning, but what was that to hundreds of men. The American Consul asked that the men might be moved down to the river bank into the belt of palm trees near the river. When nearly all the men had departed by train, the few remaining, mainly convalescents, were moved down to the river bank. The men got no meat ration, except what the American Consul sent, only some bread and “bulgour” a sort of wheat which makes good porridge. The rations sent to our own orderlies were most excellent and they had no cause for complaint. From men in hospital I heard many stories of the horrors of the march from Shamran. Several told me Sergeant-Major Aldridge** had behaved splendidly on the march. Many men had been maltreated by the Arab guards. Quartermaster Sergeant Eastell*** had been knocked down and beaten by the brutes. General Melliss kept me quite busy writing letters on the subject to those in authority, they were of course never answered. … Towards the end of our stay in Baghdad the General [Melliss] paid a visit to Khalil Pasha. We had lemonade, coffee and biscuits with him. As usual he was most polite, he told me that I should remain with the General and that we were bound for Broussa. The other officers were to go to Angora and the British troops also. … He spoke very highly of General Aylmer’s attempts to relieve us [at Kut], but did not think so much of General Lake’s. He expressed deep regret at having been forced to make the wretched troops march up from Kut, he would have brought them up by steamer had General Lake sent him coal for the purpose, as he asked.    (Diary of A.J. Shakeshaft)

* A parade ground or open area. ** RSM C. Aldridge survived the march and captivity and returned to Norfolk. *** RQMS William Alfred Eastell of St Peter Parmentergate, Norwich, died in captivity on 11 October, 1916 aged 35, and is commemorated on the North Gate of the War Cemetery in Baghdad.

NB Captain Shakeshaft and General Melliss departed Baghdad on June 8.

Shelter hot & smelly. Got going again about 6.30 pm. A long delay at the start owing to the track being very narrow. Halted about 1½ miles outside the village where the country was more open, to allow our party which totalled about 300 to collect. All on the move about 7.15 pm, marched till 12.30 am. Up at 4.15 am,

18 May, 1916

and off at 5 am, reaching our 2nd Camp about 9 am. Bivouacked on a backwater: no shade & very hot. Had a bathe after tea which refreshed me a good deal. Stay here till 4 am tomorrow.    (Diary of F.C. Lodge)

19 May, 1916

Marched at 5 am and got to Camp No. 3 at 6.30 am,

20 May, 1916

on the river, thank goodness. Spent a very hot day, the only shade we could get during the middle of the day was a few inches under the lee of a well. Flies were appalling & so was my thirst. Left at 5.30 pm for our long waterless march across a desert. We had to make all sorts of “kutcha” arrangements for carrying our water, never having been warned of these impending difficulties until too late. I used my sheall as a pillow, also a dirty greasy dog skin bought at TEKRIT for our water, this latter burst or leaked during the journey for which I was really thankful, as I’m sure the contents would have been too beastly for words. Going good, country flat and uninteresting. Still pegging

21 May, 1916

away 12 midnight. At 2 am we reached our 4th Camp very tired, on some foothills of the range we came upon after dark. Here, in the morning, we found a small stream, but the water was brackish, nevertheless we drank it, thereby adding to our thirst. Slept till about 6 am when the flies and the sun put an end to it. very hot sultry day; absolutely no shade, I tried to rig up my canvas bath as a shelter but I would hardly cause it a success. At 5.15 we marched off again, at that time a very heavy thunderstorm came up and it poured in torrents: we were really grateful as it laid the dust and lessened the sultry feeling. I was wet to the skin in a minute but soon dried. After marching for 2½ hours, we pegged down as the going was bad & the moon had not risen. Off again at 2 am and reached our camp No. 5 on the Tigris at 8.30 am, a blessed relief. We found we were quartered in a large house near some excavations of an old Syrian Fort, this house was built by some archiological (sic) society (German) who were investigating – the name of the fort was SHUKRAT (ASSER). Our room was very dirty, but gave welcome shade. My eyes have been giving me a great deal of trouble, being highly enflamed, it is impossible to do anything owing to want of medical supplies and dusty marches. Carted my bedding on to the roof where it was beautifully cool, but chased off by a threatening thunderstorm and driven to the stuffy room. Slept well in spite of the heat. Left camp at 5.30 pm and marched until 11.30 pm.    (Diary of F.C. Lodge)

23 May, 1916

Started again at 4.30 am and reached Camp No.6 at about 8.30 am. Got some shade behind a house which was very welcome. Colonel Wilson R.F.* joined our mess, bringing with him his native cook, this will give our servants a rest, cooking in the heat after a long day and tiring march being too much for a European. Moved again at 5.15 pm till 10.15 when we halted for the night. Our provision box fell into a stream damaging a good many of our slender rations.    (Diary of F.C. Lodge)

* Royal Fusiliers

24 May, 1916

On the march again at 4.30 am till 9.30. Camp No.7 near a village, Our gendarme officer, who had been making himself objectionable, got a dressing down from a Turkish officer, I think A.D.C. to late Genl. Von der Goltz. Name of village HAMMAM-ALI (hot baths). Water in river very discoloured. Eggs and milk at a reasonable price. Shelter had also been provided for some of the seniors in the shape of Arab camel hair tents. I think we owed this courtesy to the officer mentioned above.

25 May, 1916

To bed at 8 pm. Slept well. Left camp at 3.30 am and arrived at the outskirts of MOSUL at about 9.30 am. Here we parted company with our mokes* & were marched two and two to some Turkish barracks, or prison, there to be housed. We were rather crowded in our room. We had 5, no furniture of any kind, only a dirty piece of matting to sleep on. Sanitary arrangements beastly. Had dinner at a restaurant, Hotel Stamboul, a regular Lockhart’s, the meal was not bad and we did full justice to it, washed down with some local wine, a kind of light claret or vin ordinaire. My bill came to about 2s/8d which I thought cheap.    (Diary of F.C. Lodge)

* donkeys

The bridge across the Tigris between Mosul and ancient Nineveh, c1910

The bridge across the Tigris between Mosul and ancient Nineveh, c1910

26 May, 1916

Went into the bazaar to buy food for our next trek. It was a hopeless failure, too big a party, crowds of Turks and Arabs dogging us, and a fool of a soldier as our leader, who knew nothing and did nothing. Gave it up and returned to our prison. Eventually got the proprietor to buy for us which he did at a tall price. Mosul is a large military centre, and a very important place, it is from here that the Turks supplied Baghdad with troops and food, etc, these are floated down on skin rafts.    (Diary of F.C. Lodge)

27 May, 1916

Enver Pasha* came round to see us during the morning. He is a smart, alert looking man & quite young. He said we must not consider ourselves as prisoners but rather as the “honoured guests” of Turkey.

Paid our bill at the hotel after a hurried lunch, packed our kit and were ready to move at 5.30 pm. We didn’t get away until 7 pm. One cart between six and servants, so we got a jolty ride about once every 3 hours. Moved around the w[estern] outskirts of the town & past some very evil smells, very glad when we reached the open country. Marched till 11 pm.    (Diary of F.C. Lodge)

* Ottoman Minister for War

Enver Pasha Creative Commons

Enver Pasha
Creative Commons

28 May, 1916

On the move again at 4.45 am. Country more hilly on both sides of the road. Reached our 1st Camp about 9 am. Not much food could be obtained, a little milk and a few eggs. On again at 6 pm till 10 pm. Camped near a brackish stream: slept well in spite of vile odours.    (Diary of F.C. Lodge)

29-30 May, 1916

Left at 5 am. Genl Delamain gave me a ride in his ariba*, a great treat as it had springs. Our 2nd Camp at 8.30 am. Snow mountains about 80 miles away to the North. Water brackish. Left this halt at 5 pm. Our cart was delayed about 20 minutes owing to a broken trace, in the interim we bought some milk from some filthy looking Arab hags. Soon caught up the column, after a very jolty drive. Day hot and stuffy. A tremendous stretch of grass country on each side of the road which ran right up into the mountains 15 to 20  miles away. Got to our 3rd Camp at 10 pm. here water was very salt. Slept till 6 am. We stay here till evening, our forward march will be a long one. Four motor lorries passed us going N.W. Left at 5 pm and marched till 12 midnight. No water.    (Diary of F.C. Lodge)

* a open Turkish sprung carriage drawn by horses

31 May, 1916

Halted for 2½ hours; off again 2.45 am very cold morning. Marching in the dark is very tiring, country a series of sky lines and most monotonous. At 8 am we halted at a water hole, the first sweet water for over 24 hours. Started again at 8.30 am and got to Camp No.4 at 10.45 am. Good water. Wood is almost unobtainable, so cooking is next to impossible. Some chupatties, honey and coffee is all we’ve had since 2 pm yesterday. Starten caught 8 or 9 diminutive fish, these will come in handy for breakfast.    (Diary of F.C. Lodge)

1 June, 1916

Had a good night, very cold again this morning, but it bucked up. Trekked from 5 till 9 pm, when we bivouacked.    (Diary of F.C. Lodge)

2 June, 1916

About 4 am a convoy passed as we slept; going South. A few shots were fired, I presume as a sign we were friendly. Off again at 5 am and halted at 9 am. Our camp is near a stream & there is a Turkish post close by. Camp No.5. Hope we can get some food as ours is nearly exhausted. Very cold morning, so much so that even at 9 am we were glad to sit in the sun. On again at 5 pm and reached our bivouac at 7.30 pm. This is the shortest march we’ve had & it was very welcome.    (Diary of F.C. Lodge)

3 June, 1916

Had a good night. Trekked again at 6 am. Our road ran parallel to a range of hills to the East: there are several small village on little knolls near the foothills. Also plenty of cultivation, principally barley. Reached Camp No.6 at 8.30 am near a village called NASIBIN. Plenty of poplar trees round the village which is the most flourishing we’ve passed so far. Lots of food. Our great meal consisted of dal & rice, dried raisins with honey topped up with a raisin Chupattie, a bit heavy but very pleasant. The sky much more European in look, sun not nearly so strong. Julius, Starten & self walked into the bazaar to buy food, of which there was every variety. Bought some quite good tobacco. We stay here the night. Tried to hire a carriage for the remainder of the journey: no luck!!    (Diary of F.C. Lodge)

4 June, 1916

A splendid breakfast. Wheat porridge with sour cream, eggs, liver & kidneys, fish, the whole balasted (sic) by some cherries, raisins & nuts. Left camp 5 pm, cleared the village when we halted again. It appeared that they objected to our carrying fire wood which we had bought, this was thrown away much to our annoyance. The Persian drivers were the cause of the trouble. Gilchrist had an altercation with a horribly cheeky youth, a driver hit G, over the head with his whip. He was eventually beaten severely by order of the Bimbashi* in charge of us. We had to suffer a good deal of insults from the beastly Arabs, one can do nothing except appeal to the Bimbashi: one feels inclined to lambaste them but it wouldn’t pay. Still it is very galling. Marched till 10 pm.    (Diary of F.C. Lodge)

* the equivalent rank in the Ottoman Army to a British Lieutenant-Colonel

5 June, 1916

On again at 5 am till 7 am. Our camp No.7 near a village. On the hills E. of the road is the large town or village of MASBIN. It is built on the top of a hill and extends some way down the slopes. The houses, of the same colour as the hill, are very difficult to see, except in certain lights. I wish we could have visited it as the T’s said it contained many interesting things. Left at 5 pm and trekked till 9 pm.    (Diary of F.C. Lodge)

6 June, 1916

On the move again at 5 am and arrived at Camp No.8 at 8 am near a village where there are ruins of an old Armenian church. We were not allowed to go into the village which was inhabited by Kurds, Circassians, and was full of Typhus. Plenty of water from stream running E x W. A good view of MASBIN to the N.E. A hot day. Off at a 5 pm till 7 pm. Halted near a river; a mill is being built here.    (Diary of F.C. Lodge)

7 June, 1916

Marched at 5 am. Got to Camp No. 9 at 7 am. Water in small quantities obtained from a well in the small village. Left at 5 pm and marched till about 9 pm, pace very fast, road good.    (Diary of F.C. Lodge)

8 June, 1916

Started again 5 am and got to Camp No.10 about 7.30. This was near a nullah* with a temporary wooden bridge. Water bad. Some cavalry here. Railway track only completed as far as this place. A bridge has still to be built over nullah. MASBIN 45°. Permanent way only completed in parts, a great deal still to be done – culverts to be made. Left at 4.45 pm. Shortly after starting a thunderstorm drenched us, another followed and did ditto as soon as we had dried. Going bad & greasy. Got to rail head RESTLE-EL-AIN at 8.30 pm.    (Diary of F.C. Lodge)

* an Anglo-Indian term for a watercourse, often steep-sided and frequently dry

9 June, 1916

Rain during the night. We are camped near the line and camp horribly smelly – so bad was it that we had to move our shelters: the cause I found out to be an open cesspool within a few yards of our shelters. Flies horrible – day hot.    (Diary of F.C. Lodge)

10 June, 1916

Col. Lethbridge and I walked into the bazaar about 1½ miles away & bought some local wine. We found it very difficult to change our notes. A train came in about 9 am. It was quite an event to see an engine and trucks again. Left in trucks – 10 to a truck – at 4 pm. A very shaky and noisy journey, slept very fitfully.     (Diary of F.C. Lodge)

The country was simply one large expanse of treeless waste, extremely uninteresting. Later we came to some low hills covered with stones and at about 11 a.m. reached the town on Tekrit, a miserable place standing on high undulating ground. We met a number of unfortunate British and Indian soldiers who were standing at the door of a miserable yard where they were herded together., they looked ghastly, they were sick left behind by one of the columns. …

After unloading our kits we went round to see the men, they were in a miserable plight, many suffering from dysentery, others were fairly fit, but had no boots for marching. There were about 80 British and Indian. They received only a ration of wheat. The Arabs used to bring milk and eggs to sell and ask exorbitant prices, consequently they would soon have no money and would die of starvation and neglect. There were no guards over them and they were completely abandoned, sometimes when a sick man would crawl out of the hovel they lived in, Arabs would throw stones and chase him back into the yard. … Some of the men told us that a short time before they were simply left on the river bank without any cover under the cruel sun. Many of the men were without helmets, some had nothing more than a vest and a pair of shorts. I believe a Turkish officer passing by with his regiment had made the local commandant put them into the house or rather hovel where we saw them. Many had died here, immediately a corpse was buried the Arabs used to dig it up and take away the blanket. There was an Indian Assistant Surgeon to look after them, a good fellow, but what could he do? for he had no drugs. … General Melliss was very much upset at what he had seen and sent for the commandant, an Arab captain, he was hopeless and nothing could be got out of him. I wrote a long letter for the General to Khalil Pasha exposing the case, but I doubt if it was ever sent. We spent the evening with the men, Baines did his best for the sick and we gave them some clothes and the General left some gold with them.    (Diary of A.J. Shakeshaft)

major-General Sir Charles Melliss,V.C. in 1919 frontispiece to Dorothy L. Neave, 'Remembering Kut', 1937

major-General Sir Charles Melliss,V.C. in 1919
frontispiece to Dorothy L. Neave, ‘Remembering Kut’, 1937

General Melliss astounded the commandants when he passed through the towns and insisted on being taken to see his men. To them the ultimate fate of the “common soldier” was a matter of indifference, and had they dared they would have ridiculed the British General, to whom apparently the lives of the rank and file were as precious as those of the highest rank. Dumbfounded they watched General Melliss, assisted by Colonel Chitty, Captain Shakeshaft and Colonel Baines, placing the sick men in carts and making them as comfortable as possible before they were seen safely off on the journey to Mosul. Not till the last man was seen safely off the filthy premises at Tikrit and Shargat would the General consent to proceed any farther on his journey.    Dorothy L. Neave


11 June, 1916

Ran down a steep incline into ARLEP or ALEPPO. Got there about 7.15 am. Detrained at once and waited about ½ hour when we drove off in carriages to Hotel Baron*. Some of us, owing to lack of accommodation at the above hotel drove of to another but our reception was so frigid we only waited 20 minutes, during which nobody took the least notice of us, we eventually returned to the Hotel Baron where we luckily found they had room for 3 more. I share a room on the ground floor with Hibburt of the IV Kents. Up to this time I had grown a beard, but catching sight of an awful hairy apparition in the glass, I had my face fungus shaved off by and Armenian barber, & right well he did it. A hot bath was also a luxury.    (Diary of F.C. Lodge)

* The Hotel Baron was the most famous hotel in Aleppo at this time. T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) stayed here in ill health after walking 1,100 miles researching his undergraduate thesis on the roots of the architecture and design of Crusader Castles. Gertude Bell was also a visitor; and Agatha Christie is reputed to have written part of  ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ whilst staying in Room 203. Sadly, the current conflict engulfing the city means that the hotel has fallen into disrepair.

An old photograph of the Baron Hotel displayed inside the hotel shows it as it would have appeared to Lt. Col Lodge in 1916

An old photograph of the Baron Hotel displayed inside the hotel shows it as it would have appeared to Lt. Col Lodge in 1916

12 June, 1916

Had a good night – a few bugs but they didn’t worry me. Feeling good, after our previous experiences.    (Diary of F.C. Lodge)

13 June, 1916

Up at 3.45 am, and after a great scramble to pay mess bill – mine came to 150 piastres i.e. 1½ liras. Off to the station in aribas. Train left at 6 am. Arrived at railhead ISLAHAI about 12.15 pm. Camped to the east of the line; a few shelters had been erected so we got shelter from the sun. Cooler here as it is about 1500′ above sea level. A number of motors came in. Reported we move at 4.30 tomorrow.    (Diary of F.C. Lodge)

On descending the plain we arrived at the enormous ruins of Shirgat [al Shirqat, on the west bank of the Tigris mid-way between Baghdad and Mosul], remains of the ancient Asshur, the seat of the Assyrian Empire. Large excavations had been taking place here under German supervision. While we were looking at the excavations an Assistant Surgeon came and asked us to go to the serai at once and found a large number of men lying in outhouses in a most pitiful condition. Most of them were slowly dying of dysentery and neglect. The senior N.C.O. was Sergeant Appleton* of my Regiment. L/Cpl. Hall** was also there, they were both well and ready to continue the march when another party came past. General Melliss left some gold and all the cigarettes he had. As I was leaving a room behind the General, a man called me and said, “May God bless you General, Sir, for he has brightened the last hours of a dying man”. It was the same everywhere, Turkish neglect and absolute indifference to the sufferings of our helpless men.    (Diary of A.J. Shakeshaft)

* Sergeant Thomas Bracey Appleton of Great Yarmouth, died in captivity at Afion Kara Hissar (in modern day Turkey) on 25 February, 1917 according to the record of the then Imperial War Graves Commission, and is commemorated on the North Gate of the Baghdad War Cemetery. Viewers of this blog who read the posting on 4 October, 2016 will notice an inaccuracy in the post-war Norfolk Regiment list of the men who surrendered at Kut; 7757 is in fact the service number of Private Percy Armes of Lowestoft, who died at Shumran on 7 May, 1916 and is commemorated on Panel 10 of the Basra Memorial. The service number of Sergeant Appleton is 7764.

Baghdad War Cemetery entry for Sergeant Thomas Bracey Appleton, 2/Norfolk Regiment

Baghdad War Cemetery entry for Sergeant Thomas Bracey Appleton, 2/Norfolk Regiment

** This is probably Lance Corporal Harry Parkhall Hall, a regimental musician of Attleborough, who was a L/Cpl in 1911. It could also be either Herbert Oscar Hall of Middleton near King’s Lynn, or Frank Ernest Hall of Rougham, Norfolk, both of whom were privates in 1911 but may have been promoted.

14-15 June, 1916

Up at 3.30 am. Move cancelled. Marched at 5 pm. Mule cart transport. 3 to a wagon. Roads frightful. Reached beginning of rise of road over Anti-Taurus at 8.30 pm, halted till 10.30 pm, when we took a short cut up the mountains, the carts keeping to the zigzag road which was of course much longer. After two hours climb which we found most exhausting in our unfit state we reached the top or nearly so of the pass. No sign of carts so we proceeded to walk on in the hopes they would soon catch us up. They did not do so until 2 am. As it was impossible to mount while the vehicle was moving downhill we trudged along, smothered in dust and very weary and hungry. Got to bivouac at 3.15 am very peevish. Turned in at once. Up at 6 am. There is a nice stream handy, and our camp is in a kind of fruit orchard, very dirty and insanitary as it had recently been used as a camping ground by Turkish troops for some time. Left at 5 pm, roads execrable, got to camp about 9.30 pm. On the move very early next morning…

16 June, 1916

reaching railhead (MAMOUSIEH) 7.30 am. It was very hot, roads bad. Got 2 glasses of indifferent tea which were most comforting after our hot and dusty trek, it was all we could get. Entrained at once, started at 9.15 am. Hot and no air. ADANA about 12.30, it appeared to be a flourishing place, with factories working & plenty of trees, and a fine station. Arrived railhead 3.30 pm. Housed in tents, as there was not room for all, some of our party went on and stopped the night at TARSUS of biblical fame*.    (Diary of F.C. Lodge)

* the birthplace of St. Paul. And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: Acts 9:11

Adana, the Central Railway Station, 1913 By Bundesarchiv, Bild 137-012595 / Dr. Klinghardt / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 de,

Adana, the Central Railway Station, 1913
By Bundesarchiv, Bild 137-012595 / Dr. Klinghardt / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 de,

17 June, 1916

Fourteen motor lorries, and 2 cars for generals, were awaiting us next morning for our journey over the Great Taurus. These cars were German, who have a regular service over the mountains connecting it with BOZANTIE on the far side. We were 10 to a lorry with our kit. Started at 9.30 am. Road very bumpy; we were thrown about all over the place, it was difficult to keep one’s seat. Our “bear leader”* suffered from sickness owing to the motion and was hors de combat for a few days, I saw him at railhead looking like a sick monkey. The scenery was very fine as we neared the summit. We passed some beautiful streams from which we filled our water bottles, the water was icy cold & tasted like nectar after the lukewarm filth we’d been accustomed to. Near the top we stopped at an excellent motor and hospital camp run by Germans, there were some German nurses in their clean uniforms, a great contrast to the squalor and dirt down south. The camp was well arranged in a clearing among the pine trees, with log huts & tents for shelter. The men looked well cared for. We only stopped about ½ hour to change drivers and replenish petrol, then on again. Arrived at railhead (BOZANTIE) about 4.30 pm. Had time to cook some food before we were hustled off to the station. Entrained at 9 pm. Awful scrum, 8 to a 2nd Class compartment. Our baggage put into 2 sealed vans, goodness knows when we shall see it again, this is unfortunate as our servants put the fat off a sheep’s tail and some uncooked meat into our yakdan. Train left about 10 pm but did not get far as the engine was too weak to pull us up the steep gradient.    (Diary of F.C. Lodge)

* a guide

I went round the barracks and hospital [at Mosul] with the General. There were only a few convalescents in the barracks except British and Indian officers. The food for the men appeared good, we saw it being prepared in great cauldrons, but they did not get enough of it. Most of them looked half starved and very ill. The place was in a filthy condition and words fail to express the sanitary arrangements. … We then went to the hospital, there were about 80 men there under Captain Spackman. All the men were very well looked after, every man had a bed and were all in clean rooms. The Turkish P.M.O. seemed to do his best to assist and promised the General to let Spackman have some more beds, as a number of the men in barracks were looking very ill. … In the evening a number of British and Indian troops left, en route for Ras-el-ain. Before they went the General insisted that Baines should inspect them and he sent a number back to hospital.    (Diary of A.J. Shakeshaft)

18 June, 1916

Made a better effort this morning, by halving the train. Country ? but a rocky descent. Reached KONIA, late capital of Arabic Turkey about 6.15 pm. Detrained, no orders, hung about at station for 2 hours, no food, not any attempt to allow us to obtain it. Got back into the same train – this time my party got into a new corridor 2nd Class carriage, the remainder of the compartment occupied by Native Officers. We now had much more foot room. Off at 8.30 pm.    (Diary of F.C. Lodge)

19 June, 1916

Beautifully cool fresh morning with a nice nip in the air. We are now in ANNATOLIA. Very fertile with plenty of stock; hay is being cut, crops not so far advanced as S. of Taurus. Stopped over an hour in Kara-Hissar, where I’m told some of our prisoners, taken before Kut fell, now are. We bought some excellent cream and 4 cheroots apiece, this constituted our breakfast. The journey dragged with interminable waits at small stations, no food: got to our destination ESKISCHEHR at 10 pm. This place is the junction to the line running E to Angora. After a long delay we were taken to some simple houses where we found beds ready for us, the first bit of civilization we’d struck since Bombay[struck through] Aleppo. Taken to a restaurant (Mohamedan) where we got a meal of sorts after waiting out turn at the tables, there being not enough plates, knives, etc to go round. It was not until after midnight that we got to bed, thoroughly tired out. Slept well in spite of bugs, of which there were a large number and very fierce.    (Diary of F.C. Lodge)

At about 9 a.m. I think, we arrived at the small Turkish Post Demir Kapu (Iron Gates) [between Mosul and Ras el-Ayn] it was pleasantly situated on the banks of a stream, where the water was fairly good. We halted at the stream and a British soldier came and told us that there were about half a dozen of his comrades in a room at the post, two of whom were dangerously ill. We went in and found six British soldiers in a fearfully emaciated condition lying in a filthy stable. Of course the Turks had done nothing for them. One of the men said, “We are like rats in a trap and they are slowly killing us. … The General gave some gold to the senior of the party and Baines did what he could for the worst cases.    (Diary of A.J. Shakeshaft)

Afion Kara Hissar, which translates as Black Opium Castle A Prisoner in Turkey, John Still, 1920 (NB John Still was the son of Canon John Still, once Rector of Hethersett and Vicar of Ketteringham)

Afion Kara Hissar, which translates as Black Opium Castle
A Prisoner in Turkey, John Still, 1920
(NB John Still was the son of Canon John Still, once Rector of Hethersett and Vicar of Ketteringham)

20 June, 1916

Had great difficulty in getting any food early. I managed to buy 2 eggs which I ate raw, and a piece of roll. All very expensive. Taken out to dejeuner about 12 noon. Great crush again: had to wait my turn, when it came found most of the menu was off, that which was on was stone cold. For this luxury I had to pay 12 piastres (2s/3d). Had tea and dinner in a small restaurant kept by an old Austrian woman, both meals excellent and the old lady very sympathetic and kind. Some German doctors also there, we passed the time of day and played the civil one towards the other. Marched to the station at 10 pm & entrained 8 to a carriage & left at 11.30 pm for ANGORA.    (Diary of F.C. Lodge)

21 June, 1916

Fair night, very cramped in our compartment. Country barren, rocky, and hilly. Arrived at Angora 12 noon. Usual delay at station before we got to our prison. Unable to get at our baggage yet, I shudder to think of the state of our yakdan. Our small kit sent up on carts: our servants were taken away from us, though they promised we should have them back again. I drove up with other Lt. Cols: the others walked. Our first destination was some public gardens on the outskirts of the town. These were ill kept & dirty. We were taken in to a kind of wooden pavalion (sic), evidently used for music and theatricals, everything very tawdry. Here a small table was laid for about 10 or 12 – our party was 75 strong. We sat down to a passable meal at about 2 pm. The others had to wait their turn in relays. For this meal and a similar one later on in the evening we were asked to pay 9s/2d. We refused, eventually we paid 25 piastres. In these gardens we remained till 9.15 pm. We could get no information as to where our final destination was to be. Eventually when it was pitch dark they assembled us and marched us 3 miles to a large building outside the town (the unfinished Agricultural College) where we arrived about 10.30 pm – only one lamp, no kit, but they provided us with a thin mattress, pillows & quilt. 4 to a room.    (Diary of F.C. Lodge)

As soon as we arrived at Ras-al-Ain, a fair sized village with a good number of shops, the General asked to see the Commandant. … The General told me to tell him all we had seen on the way from Baghdad and to ask him to wire Khalil Pasha to have carts sent for our unfortunate men dying by the wayside. He refused as he was not in Khalil’s command. … I asked him if there were any British or Indians in hospital here, if so the General would like to see them. The Commandant said there were none.    (Diary of A.J. Shakeshaft)

22 June, 1916

Slept well, up early and found our baggage had arrived. On opening our yakdan I was assailed by a fearful odour which nearly knocked me down – putrefying meat & fat. As our servants were non est I had to clean this filth, a beastly job, luckily my stomach was more or less hardened. Got it over, but the smell still remained. No food or water provided, luckily we had some bread and a tin of sardines with these we made our breakfast. No water is laid on in the building, this we found most uncomfortable during our stay, as later on we only got 2 small barrels of water for all purposes for the day for our party of 72 which was increased by another 75 when the 2nd echelon arrived. We were not allowed out of the building. About 6 pm a meal was produced, consisting of tepid goat, ancient cucumber, maccaroni cheese cold and horribly greasy. No tables, chairs, and not enough knives, etc to go round. A regular piggery.    (Diary of F.C. Lodge)

23 June, 1916

The Commandant has not been near us yet. No breakfast or food has arrived; we have nothing left, so unless anything turns up it means starvation. They have given us no washing water, nor are we allowed outside the building for exercise. The sanitary arrangements are perfectly beastly. Some food came up about 3 pm. A most disgusting meal, menu same as yesterday but if possible more unappetising. Paid 20ps. for yesterday’s and today’s meals. The 2nd Echelon of officers arrived about 12 noon. Col. Brown 103rd, Cramer Roberts, & Floyd of the party. From their accounts they had a better time en route. They were able to get some of our stores before leaving Shumran Camp, anyhow as much as they could carry, which made a better start for them. The men, I’m glad to say participated. Bought some bread, eggs & cheese for breakfast and for our evening meal.    (Diary of F.C. Lodge)

24 June, 1916

Went down to the river to wash our clothes, this privilege was solely due to the officer in charge of 2nd Echelon, no thanks to the local Commadt., a perfect swine. This washing a beastly job and bored me to tears: thank goodness I wasn’t born a washer of clothes! Lived upon hard boiled eggs, cheese & bread, our only cooking pot hardly fit to use yet for anything but eggs.    (Diary of F.C. Lodge)

We came to a spring and lying around it were 3 British soldiers, none of my Regiment, all were horribly emaciated and in a dreadful state, they told us that they had been left behind by a column that passed about two days ago, as they could not march. They had nothing to eat from the Turks, but a German Wireless Section that we had met had given them some food. We took these men on our carts to bring along with us. On arriving at Hasan Begli I saw a German warrant officer talking to 24 British soldiers. He told me that that they had been left here the night before by the party going out, as they were too ill to travel. He had seen the Commandant several times and begged him to put them under shelter (they were lying by the roadside) and to give them shelter and food, but each time the Commandant gave an evasive reply and nothing was done. The General sent for the Commandant and told him exactly what he thought of his behaviour. We now had 27 men on our hands. The Commandant at once sent them into a large shed and sent down some rice and meat already cooked. The General sent me into the village to buy bread and eggs, which, thanks to the Germans, I got at very low prices. We brought these to the men and issued them out. … The General told him [the commandant] that he must send on these 27 men by carts. He said he had no carts. The German said this was a lie. …at about 6 p.m. we saw the men safely off [by carts]. The Commandant sent down rations for them before they left. We left shortly afterwards.    (Diary of A.J. Shakeshaft)

25 June, 1916

The Commdt. came up early this morning, a pompous individual, suffering I should say from a swelled head. Carts arrived about 12 noon for 1st Echelon. We left at 2 pm 4 to an ariba, & 6 to a cart. I shared an ariba with Lethbridge, Wilson & Julius, a tight fit: really only room for 2 to ride at a time. A long delay in the town where we waited for, and picked up our orderlies, one between 2 or 3 officers; Wigger still with me. Got under weigh about 5 pm: passed detention barracks where our orderlies were housed, also some Russian prisoners. They told us they had been well treated. Our road ran through a fertile valley, well watered by a stream. Plenty of fruit trees, cherries & white mulberries. The railway extension from Angora ran near the road: we also passed several construction camps. Reached our 1st Camp about 10 pm. Distance travelled about 14 miles.    (Diary of F.C. Lodge)

We arrived at Harmouri about 7 a.m. There we found the men we had sent on in carts the night before sitting down drinking hot coffee, the gift of some Austrian soldiers. One of the men told me that this was the first hot drink he had had since he had been a prisoner. … I went with the General to interview the German Commandant (Major Schön). He was very amiable, sent for coffee for us and listened with great sympathy to my story of our suffering men. He told me there were a large number of British and Indians here, at present they were under the Turks but he hoped to take them over for railway work, then their conditions would improve. Major Schön telephoned for the Turkish doctor and on his arrival they inspected our 27 men. The Major said they were in a pitiable condition and should have a month’s rest before starting work. The doctor agreed that they were very bad but could do nothing, so the major promised to send them up by trolleys to the German hospital.    (Diary of A.J. Shakeshaft)

26 June, 1916

Left at 4.15 am. Cleared valley shortly afterwards when the country became more open & wilder, no trees, only a succession of bare valleys. Halted for 2 hours at a village where we were able to cook eggs & tea & buy a few things. On again to another village where we watered our horses, remaining there about 1½ hours. Took a short cut over the mountains while the carts kept to the main road. A fine view of the surrounding country from the top of the mountain; a series of valleys and watersheds, quite bare: the colouring of the hills however made up for the want of vegetation. Carts joined us after we had waited about 1½ hours at the bottom of the further slope. Crossed a fair sized river by an iron bridge; formed up after crossing & waited an hour. On again till 10.30 pm when we halted in a village. Our two aribas moving more quickly than carts got separated from them, so when we arrived at our halting place found no food, nor the means of cooking it. We had to content ourselves with a hard boiled egg and some bread, this has been our only kind of food for 3 days. Had only one blanket with me, ground very dirty, with many fleas etc. We had come about 45 miles.    (Diary of F.C. Lodge)

27 June, 1916

Our carts joined us at 5 am & we left at 5.30 reaching the large village of MAIDEN Camp No. 3 at 8.30 am. Put up at a kind of coffee house. Got a meal of mutton & vegetables at a 3rd rate eating house; the first proper meal for 4 days. Had dinner at same place. We were allowed to roam about the village freely, a great relief as we were able to buy what we required for our forward journey. We stay here the night. Got a room of sorts at the coffee house, the rest of our party were scattered in various caravanserais in the village. I slept badly as there were many noises of barking dogs, yeowling cats, sentries’ whistles, and a few creepy crawlies who had made themselves honorary members of our beds.    (Diary of F.C. Lodge)

28 June, 1916

Left MAIDAN at 5.30 am. Uphill going for some time when reached the uplands, barren & desolate. Halted at 6.30 cooked eggs & coffee. Our aribas now pushed on ahead leaving carts, with the exception of 2 containing our servants and kit, far behind. We waited for about 1½ [hours] for carts but as there was no sign of them we pushed on until 6 pm putting up at a serai. Camp 4.    (Diary of F.C. Lodge)

29 June, 1916 (Part of this day’s entry are obscured by a photograph glued into the diary.)

Our carts passed the serai at 6 am. We left at 7, caught [them] up when we discovered a certain amount of “hot-air” […] owing to the carts containing some of their […] & servants. Trekked till midday when we stopped […] as stream to cook and water horses. Col: Lethbridge […] a touch of fever and says he feels absolutely done up. [Trekked] on for another 1½ hours arriving at our Camp 5. […] at 6 pm. Here there was a small village: bought some fruit, […milk] and indifferent butter. Col: L very weak with fever.    (Diary of F.C. Lodge)

30 June, 1916

We marched again at 4.15 am to get to our final destination YOZGAD at 9.30 am after 2 months trekking. YOZGAD lies in a valley, practically surrounded by hills…    (Diary of F.C. Lodge)

A photograph of Yozgad inserted into the diary of Lt. Col. F.C. Lodge (Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum)

A photograph of Yozgad inserted into the diary of Lt. Col. F.C. Lodge
(Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum)


2 thoughts on “The Journey into Captivity – Mesopotamia in 1916

  1. Pingback: The Norfolk Regiment in Mesopotamia – Norfolk in World War One

  2. Pingback: Captivity in Turkey: from the diaries of Lieutenant Colonel Francis Cecil Lodge Part 2: January-June1917 – Norfolk in World War One

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