After reading our tweets asking for people to share their World War One memories with us we’re pleased to share this new story with you all – and again to ask for your help.
The Norfolk Regiment in Mesopotamia
Captivity in Turkey: from the diaries of Lieutenant Colonel Francis Cecil Lodge
January – June 1917
This is a continuation of the postings of 16 November, 2016 and 26 May, 2017. Some entries have been omitted if they are unduly repetitious, or where they contain financial details other than about pay or refer to private family matters. The diaries are held in the archives of the Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum.
After a break of a few months for reading new sources our Mesopotamian correspondent is back with details of the Norfolk Regiment during their time in Turkish captivity.
Captivity in Turkey: from the diaries of Lieutenant Colonel Francis Cecil Lodge
Part 1: to 31st December, 1916
This is a continuation of the posting of 16 November, 2016, which was an account of the march into captivity following the surrender of the British garrison of Kut al Amara.
Colonel Lodge was unsurprisingly concerned to receive letters from home, especially from his beloved wife, Margaret; many of his entries in this regard are repetitious, so only a selection have been included here.
Appreciation, as ever, goes to the Curator of the Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum.
After arriving at Yozgad (Yozgat), Lt. Col. Lodge describes their accommodation:
30th June, 1916
…It [the countryside] is well wooded with fruit trees and poplars. Water is plentiful, evidently from springs. We are housed in 2 large houses, apparently lately owned by Armenians. They are quite clean, but like all Turkish houses the sanitary arrangements were quite inadequate. The F.O.’s in one house, the Captains and Subalterns in the larger of the two. Our party totalled 20 officers and 6 orderlies. This number was increased very soon after by the arrival of the Worcester Yeomanry & Col: Chitty, the former captured on the Suez Canal; their C.O. was Col: Coventry. Our total was now 35 including orderlies.
Two tables were laid with crockery knives etc: so we hope to get a meal shortly. At 12 we sat down to a very fair meal soup maigre, mutton, and an enormous plateful of a kind of greasy spagetti [sic], topped up with some unripe cherries; however not having had a square meal for many days we did full justice. We found that all our party had to feed in the same room, so when we finished the others took their turn. It was a bit crowded and the seats not of the best. The feeding is run by a contractor who we eventually found to be a high class rotter. The waiters are crude, 2 men and 2 ammunition boys, all beastly dirty, the men smoke all the time & there is a good deal of kockey tooing. To bed early. The same party as occupied our ariba share a small room. We have been provided with a kind of wool mattress, a quilt, pillow & one sheet. A great relief to be settled at last, no more turning out before dawn with no meal for certain, for some time to come. Slept well.
1st July, 1916
Breakfast 8.30. Eggs, bread & butter & a glass of milk. Col. L. & Col. Wilson both have fever and stayed in bed. No one is allowed outside the house. I hope these precautions will soon be relaxed. Our house stands on the small stream at the bottom of the valley, there are houses all around us, but the larger part of the town lies to the north, and above us.
2nd July, 1916
Nice cool morning. Not allowed out for exercise yet. There is a small yard about 20 x 5 yards, roughly paved and quite unseen from the road, owing to a high wall. This was our only means of exercise for about 3 weeks. There is a small garden running to a point where one could get a walk of 60 paces round it, but we were not allowed to use it for 3 weeks. Weather lovely, which makes the want of exercise all the more.
3rd July, 1916
Meals are falling off in quality and quantity.
4th July, 1916
More trouble with contractor about food; price exhorbitant for what we get. Commandant not inclined to assist us; so far we have not seen the gentleman. Our custodians consist of several old greybeards (prison warders I believe) with no intelligence and inclined to treat us as convicts. They practically run the show, as so far we have seen no official. Later a subaltern arrived, but he had no initiative: also a very young interpreter.
5th July, 1916
Owing to yesterday’s bickerings over food etc. with contractor. There was no breakfast this morning. The Comdt. at last put in an appearance; more talk. He, the Comdt., cannot speak any language but his own, so we have to trust the very doubtful interpretation by the young man above mentioned, which was afterwards, I’m sure, the cause of a good deal of our troubles. …
6th July, 1916
Very hot day – Still not allowed out.
7th July, 2016
We have been here a week today. Not allowed to write yet and no news of any letters for us, though there must be a great many due. They take no notice of our repeated request to be allowed to write – a great shame.
9th July, 2016
Our daily meals consists of 2 eggs, ½ pint milk, a small roll of bread which has to last for two meals – reminds me of Kut days – lunch & dinner a fid* of mutton or goat, a piece of lettuce, sometimes a raw cucumber. Butter which ought to be good and plentiful is generally rancid, and quite unfit to eat, for which they charge at the rate of 2/6 per pound. For ½ oke** of sugar 50ps [piastres]: i.e. 9/2 for 1¼ lbs. Coffee the same. Eggs can be bought 10 for 2d but the contractor only gives us 4.
* a small thick piece or wedge
** in Turkey, Egypt, and other countries of the Near East, a unit of weight roughly equal to about 2¾ lbs (1.3 kg)
10th July, 2016
Allowed in the garden for the first time. Not much room for walking as it is full of beds of drying vegetables and too many fruit trees. The latter the sentries strip though the fruit is mostly unripe. I hope they will suffer for it. As lamps are few and indifferent, and the allowance of oil very meagre, we go to bed soon after dinner which is at 7.30 pm.
No letters, books, papers to help while away the days, and we the “honoured guests of Turkey”.
11th July, 1916
Bought some honey in the court [?], very dirty and full of bees and flies at 60 ps the oke – an 0ke = 2½ lbs about. Some letters were handed us just as we had gone to bed. Thank goodness news at last.
Post cards 3 & 1 letter of 4 lines from M. [Margaret, his wife] First news from M since the 21st Nov: 1915
Post card 1 from Ethel, 1 from Evelyn
M’s were d[ated] 3rd, 7th, 14th & 24th May. Ethel’s 21st Evelyn’s 20th
16th July, 1916
A batch of prisoners arrived here today: they were the Worcester Yeomanry captured near the Suez Canal, Colonel Coventry was their senior officer. Col: Chitty, Shakeshaft & Baines I.M.S.* all of the Kut Garrison also came with this party. They brought us news that our men were having a bad time marching up; I’m afraid many will not be strong enough to come through.
* Indian Medical Service
19th July, 1916
Mail in: 3 post cards & a four line letter from Margaret.
20th July, 1916
At least we got out for a walk. A party of about 30 of us went through the bazaar, with a guard of 6 and 2 officers, to some open ground to the north of the town; we remained out for about 2 hours. It was a great boon to get some fresh air and a change of scene having been couped [sic] up so long.
21st July, 1916
The second party went out for their walk at 5 pm. For the last 2 or 3 nights we have had to go to bed in the dark, most annoying when we are charged for lamps and oil. We have now bought a tin of oil for 2 liras so we shall be able to undress in comfort.
23rd July, 1916
Went to early service in the upper house at 7.30; this was the first opportunity since Kut. The Padre (Wilcox) came with the Yeomanry.
24th July, 1916
Anniversary of the battle of Nasiryeh. …
25th July, 1916
No mails for us. A letter from Red Crescent asking us to put place of detention on our cards or letters.
28th July, 1916
No walk today as we have been naughty. We refused to sign some impossible rules made out by the Cmdt.
29th July, 1916
No breakfast this morning: a row apparently between the Cmdt. and the contractor. As we were unprepared for this, only had an egg and chupatti which lasted till dinner when matters righted themselves. Then only goat and rice graces the board. 2 letters and 2 pc from M. PC from Mother and Ethel. It was the parents Golden Wedding Day on 5th July, wish I could have been home for it.
30th July, 1916
Service at 10.30.
31st July, 1916
Meals getting worse. For lunch we had some cut up goat, raw cucumber & dried figs, all pretty beastly. 3/- per day.
1st August, 1916
Mail in 2 letters & 3 pc’s from M. … Still not allowed out. The gist of the rules was that we were to make ourselves entirely responsible for feeding, clothing ourselves and orderlies – purchase of stores, wood etc. for the winter, with no assistance from Cmdt. & no pay. His was practically impossible.
2nd August, 1916
Another day with no breakfast, why goodness knows, the contractor has struck! Got a meal at 6 pm. Of sorts!! They allowed an officer to go out into the bazaar to buy us food. The revelation as regards prices was rather astonishing, we have been grossly overcharged. We cannot carry on much longer; we’ve had no pay since Baghdad & funds are getting low – many have to borrow from those more fortunate. We are already in arrears for pay*.
* Officer prisoners were not required to work and were paid by their captors. In his notebook FCL listed the payments received whilst a prisoner of war.
NB Lodge lists his pay in liras, piastres and paras. The lira was the basic unit of Ottoman currency at the time of the First World War. The lira was divided into 100 piastres (kuruş). There were 40 paras to the piastre. Hence, the pay he received on 15th April, 1917 was 15 liras, 35 piastres and 28 paras.
3rd August, 1916
An egg and dry bread for breakfast. Dry bread for lunch, and a meat stew at 3.45. The prices for food bought by ourselves today were: Meat 5ps:[per] oke ie 2¾ lbs. Honey 25ps per oke, we had been charged 60 or 40 for same amount. Vegetables quite cheap 20ps: bought enough beans and marrows for 125 of us: we had been charged 1½ ps per head hitherto. Our guards do practically what they like. They are allowed to push officers about, no redress from Cmdt. Today I was walking in our alley when a sentry called & signalled me to go in; I at once complied, but before I got to the door he smiled and made me understand that I could continue walking – simply, I suppose, to show some onlookers his authority.
Posted a p.c. to M. today.
4th August, 1916
Two years today since the war began. Some wheat porridge and honey for breakfast this morning. The lane is now open from 2 till 5 pm. Not a wildly exciting form of exercise. It runs about 60 paces between 2 walls and is about 3½ yards wide, with a dirty drain of evil smelling water on one side. One end of the lane leads on to the road, the other end looks over some cabbage gardens. After dinner we had a meeting to discuss the present require[ment] of running our own feeding arrangements. The figures showed that we could manage to carry on for 21 days, when, if no money arrives, we are up a gum tree.
5th August, 1916
Food is a great topic of conversation, which is hardly to be wondered at considering the hand to mouth existence we are leading. As our tea is running short we only take it at chota-hazri* and tea time. …
*from British India: a light meal taken early in the morning.
6th August, 1916
Church at 10 am. Our house is hard at work making tables and chairs as since the contractor has been sacked we’ve had none of these [?]. The wood we obtain from empty Regi-cigarette packing cases. …
8th August, 1916
Each of us received 3 liras from the American Ambassador*, Stamboul. It came in the nick of time, being urgently needed. I was reduced to about ½ lira at the time.
* Abram Isaac Elkus was United States Ambassador to Turkey from 1916 until the USA declared war on Turkey in April 1917. He replaced Henry Morgenthau Sr. who resigned in January 1916 over the issue of the deportation of Armenians from Anatolia. The U.S. ambassadors did all they could to care for British prisoners of war in Turkey.
9th August, 1916
Much cooler today, an easterly wind blowing. No news of outside world. Up till now they have been translating the Turkish war telegrams to us, this has been stopped, no great loss as they are well padded before being sent here; still one could read between the lines & so gather a little information.
27th August, 1916
Service at 10.30. parcel mail. 2 for me. Fortnum & Mason & 2 tins of Capstan Tobbacco [sic] all most acceptable. These parcels had taken 3½ months in their journey.
31st August, 1916
Colonel Lethbridge and I began shorthand lessons under Mason today.
1st September, 1916
Rumour says that Roumania has sided with us.
6th September, 1916
Received a parcel of 3 books today, they would not let me have them until they had been censored.
6th September, 1916
A Red Letter Day. They actually gave us pay for one month. We went up in batches of 10. It was a very tedious job as they took so long over it. I eventually got Liras 10 from this was deducted 175ps for bedding & 425¼ ps which was half the contractor’s bill also 3ps for stamped receipt. I only got 3 Liras 50ps. The balance of 46¾ ps was paid into Gilchrist’s account a[nd] remains there to my credit.
11th September, 1916
A large consignment of clothes were distributed, these came through the American Embassy. My share was a very thin holland suit, pyjamas suitable for a boy of 14, 1 flannel and 2 cotton shirts of very poor material, 3 towels, 2 vests & 2 drawers all on the small side & highly coloured, 3 hanks, 1pr braces, slippers, pipe, reel of cotton, a pair of hair clippers & 1 bag.
They gave me 2 of my books today, a great joy, as it was the first reading matter I’ve had for 9 months. Rain yesterday, the first we’ve had since our arrival.
24th September, 1916
A heavy thunderstorm after lunch with lots of rain. Our small stream was soon a raging torrent, a good thing to, as it will wash away the filth thrown on to the banks.
27th September, 1916
…Anniversary first day of battle at ESSINN. Wrote 5 lines to M. Went for a good walk up the KAISERIE road – my first walk for a month.
2nd October, 1917
Caught a chill which has settled on my chest, feel rotten.
3rd October, 1917
Better today. Paid Lethbridge 75 ps this squares us up to date. Paid Wigger* 50ps.
*Private Wigger was Lodge’s orderly
6th October, 1917
A bright day – wore my mufti suit and felt the benefit of it. Put in some good work at a wood fatigue, we are putting in a stock for winter. We have to pay ready cash for this and as our funds are low we cannot, at present, buy much. This is a great nuisance as the price of wood goes up a good deal later on. We are now 3 months in arrears for pay.
8th October, 1917
Jolly cold – we’d give anything to have fires, but have no stoves nor the money to buy.
22nd October, 1917
H.C. after morning service. Three letters for me all in French 2 from M d/ 8th & 15th June & one from Ethel d/ 10th June. …
25th October, 1917
Post Card from Mother d/ 27th Sept saying she had sent a parcel. 2 p.c.’s from Ethel telling me I had been gazetted Lt. Colonel 15th Sept 1915*. All news good. My p.c. To K.K. re investments reached him.
* From the Supplement to the London Gazette, 27 September, 1916 – Norf. R.—Maj. F. C. Lodge, D.S.O., to be temp. Lt.-Col., whilst in comd. of a Bn. 13th Sept. 1915.
28th October, 1916
Liras 3 from American Embassy. p.c. from de Grey, asking me to nominate a new adjutant.
1st November, 1916
2 letters from M one d/ 19th July the other 2 Oct, the former written in French as they come more rapidly? She still only writes 4 lines – I got a 2 page letter from Ethel & one from Evelyn
2nd November, 1916
Letter to Mother and p.c. To de Grey, nominating Floyd as his successor.
3rd November, 1916
A new contractor has taken over our feeding arrangements. It seems a pity to change as our bazaar parties consisting of one officer and 4 or 5 servants were working so well.
4th November, 1916
Comdt. Came round for the first time for many months.
6th November, 1916
White frost this morning. Got a reach me down suit, vest & drawers, very scratchy, gave them to Wigger. Cap & shirt. In the suit, I feel & look like a 3 Class engineer of [or?] a tramp in his best.
7th November, 1916
Four delightful photos of the kiddies – in one of which M figures. They were taken when the children were 2 years old. The last photo I had was taken on the 24th Sept 1915, sitting on their grandfather’s shoulder, 13½ months ago.
14th November, 1916
PAY DAY. Received our very much overdue pay this afternoon. For 3 months, we are still 1 month in arear. I drew Liras 25 for July, Augt & Sept: with the following deductions Ali’s bill 425¼ ps Rent 12, 9, 9 for house & 9ps for receipt stamps.
15th November, 1916
Posted letter No 4 to M.
Paid Wigger 1 Lira for Sept & Oct:
Posted a card to Evelyn
17th November, 1916
A Turkish sanitary official came and inspected our houses to day with what result I do not know.
18th November, 1916
Colonel Coventry still very ill – Baines up with him all last night. There is no doubt that he is suffering from Typhus. There is no room in which sick officers or men can be isolated. Col. C’s room leads into our dining room.
19th November, 1916
Wretched mail, only an ancient p.c. from Jones-Bateman asking me to nominate a successor to de Grey. J.B. Is evidently commanding the remnants of 2 Bn. In India.
20th November, 1916
Nice warm day. Seven of us moved into a new house further up the street, opposite the Comdt office. It is a nice, nearly new, clean house. Our party consisted of Col Chitty, Col. Wilson C.B., R.E. [Royal Engineers], Col. Lethbridge C.M.G., D.S.O., Self, Julius, Thomes Yeomanry & Burn West Kent. I share a good room, much bigger than our old one, with Col.Lethbridge, it faces S., has one side all cupboards. We ought to be most comfortable. A good upstairs dining room and an excellent room for our stores. We have some difficulty in getting down to the old house for exercise as the sentries are rather stupid, this I hope will be righted in time – we’ve no place for exercise in this house.
21st November, 1916
… Captain Bignell died last night, I had no idea he was so seriously ill – bronchitis & acute diarohea [sic]. He died of heart failure. As mentioned before there is no accommodation for sick, hardly any medical comforts.
We buried him this afternoon at 5 p.m.. All of us attended, as did a Turkish guard, the uzbashi was also present. We got a cart for the coffin which was an old framework, used by the Greek church, who carry their dead in this tawdry affair & bury in a shroud, using the box for others. We bought the thing outright for which they had the nerve to charge 10 Liras, 4 for the cart & 4 for a very shallow grave: all most iniquitous charges. B was buried in the Armenian cemetery, a bit of open ground apart from the Mohamedan [sic].
22nd November, 1916
Anniversary of the battle of CTESIPHON. … Wrote letter No. 5 to M.
23rd November, 1916
Tea is now 400 ps per oke ie £3/13/4 for 2½ lb*. And very poor stuff at that.
*In England, in 1914, tea retailed at 2d. per ¼ lb, although prices increased during the war. Hence, 2½ lb would have cost about 1s/8d (about 8p)
29th November, 1916
My birthday and anniversary of my arrival in KUT. Got 3 parcels, 2 from Fortnum & Mason No. 6838 & 7635, the former broken open. Also a waterproof bag containing undergarments & medicines & a splendid cardigan. Am well set up now.
30th November, 1916
Posted card No. 6 to M. Received Liras 3 from American Embassy.
1st December 1916
Frosty & bright. The interpreter came in at dinner and told us we might write a long letter this mail. Wrote letter No. 7 to M. & one to Mother. Went for a walk after tea, the first time for nearly 2 months.
3rd December, 1916
The 6th Divn. entered Kut a year ago from the North [the retreat from Ctesiphon].
6th December, 1916
Got a packet of snapshots of the kiddies, taken in Scotland. All excellent – no letters.
11th December, 1916
We had a visit to day about lunch time, from two members of the Swiss Red Cross. They were accompanied by a Turkish colonel & 2 other junior Turkish officers. The party went round all the houses, asked us how we had been treated, & whether we were comfortable. Col. Chitty & Harward handed statements as to our treatment both here and in ANGORA. One of the delegates took a photo of the 4 of us. I asked him to send a copy, if successful, to Margaret: he said he would in any case he promised to write to her. They all returned to tea about 6.45 p.m. including the Cmdt., this taxed out limited resources a good deal. They leave tomorrow to visit some Russian prisoners.
12th December, 1916
Lovely frosty day. Went for a splendid walk up to the pine woods, in the hills to the S. of us: it reminded me of the country around Aldershot, only more hilly.
Two letters d/26 Oct & 1st Nov: from M. …
25th December, 1916
Christmas Day. Service and H.C. At 11.30. Sandes played his violin at the service. Singing very hearty. Mince pies, home made, for lunch. Turkey, plum pudding, also home made, for dinner. A concert in lower house at 9pm. I did not go. Pleasanter Xmas than last year [besieged at Kut].
26th December, 1916
Wind in the East, beastly cold.
29th December, 1916
Snow during the night, ground covered this morning – still snowing, no chance of getting out.
30th December, 1916
We have been here 6 months today. Fine bright morning, nice dry cold, walking slippery.
31st December, 1916
New Year Eve. Did not go out all day. Mail came in about tea-time one ariba: they say there are some parcels, no private ones all from [American] Embassy. They gave us our letters after dinner. Post card from Mother d/ 29th Nov:
Two letters d/ 23rd Aug (in French) & 30th Nov from M. In the letter she had obituary notices of me from India. I cannot think how people can be so careless.
Letter from T.A. Chalmers – Jorhat, Assam, India – he was the owner of the “Ariel” of Mesopotamian fame, and had been very kind to me at Lujj after I was wounded, giving me meals on board his boat when food was had to come by.
There aren’t any accessible accounts from the Norfolk Regiment of the tribulations of the ‘other ranks’ in captivity, which were markedly more difficult than the experiences, however trying, of Lt. Col. Lodge and some other officers.
‘The Other Ranks of Kut’ by Sergeant P.W. Long, MM, tells another story. The book is available in paperback and is written in a straightforward and very readable style. It tells something of the manner in which many men worked, died – and survived Turkish captivity.
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
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.
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)
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
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.
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 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)
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.
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)
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
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)
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.
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.
** 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
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)
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)
The 2nd Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment in Mesopotamia
The March and Captivity following the Surrender at Kut al Amara
On 27, 28 and 29 April, 2016, three lengthy postings on this site marked the centenary of the British and Indian surrender at Kut following a siege of 146 days, the longest in British military history.
The war against the Turks in Mesopotamia never received the attention in Britain that the carnage of the Western Front did, but such was the shock of the Kut surrender, that on May 4, 1916, Lord Kitchener, Secretary of State for War, made a statement to the House of Lords:
… Noble Lords will not fail to realise how tense was the strain borne by those troops who for more than twenty weeks held to their posts under conditions of abnormal climatic difficulty, and on rations calculated for protraction to the furthest possible period until imminent starvation itself compelled the capitulation of this gallant garrison, which consisted of 2,970 British and some 6,000 Indian troops including followers.
General Townshend and his troops in their honourable captivity will have the satisfaction of knowing that, in the opinion of their comrades, which I think I may say this House and the country fully share, they did all that was humanly possible to resist to the last, and that their surrender reflects no discredit on themselves or on the record of the British and Indian armies. …
Following the fall of Kut 1,136 of the very sick and wounded were exchanged for the same number of Turkish prisoners. Preference for those who were to be evacuated was decided by Turkish doctors, and preference was given to Muslim soldiers. British and Indian, they were evacuated by British hospital ships to Basra with four British officers. These men were probably the most fortunate of the whole Kut garrison, since those who remained became, in the words of Enver Pasha, the Ottoman Minister of War, ‘The honoured guests of the Turkish Government’.
The French pictorial newspaper, Excelsior, published pictures in its June 17, 1916, issue under the heading, En Mésopotamie. L’Évacuation des Blessés, Après la Reddition de Kut-el-Amara:
The following officers of the 2nd Battalion went into Turkish captivity:
Major F.C. Lodge, DSO, Major W.E. Cramer Roberts, Captain A.J. Shakeshaft, Lieutenant H.L. Peacocke, Lieutenant J.F.W. Read, Lieutenant H.S. Bullock, Lieutenant F.V. Portsmouth, Lieutenant T. Campbell, Lieutenant and Quarter-Master J.T. Richardson.
We are fortunate in having the diaries of Francis Cecil Lodge and Alfred Joseph Shakeshaft on which to draw for an account of the early days of the march when the officers and other ranks were able to keep in touch. However, it was Turkish military policy to separate the officers from their men, and on May 4, 1916, their lives began to diverge. We know little of the individual stories of the other ranks from this point, since the conditions which they had to endure meant that few of them survived to return to Norfolk, and none of them were able to keep written records. So, we must piece together as much of their captivity as is possible from second-hand accounts.
A paper presented to the British Parliament in November 1918, entitled Report on the Treatment of British Prisoners of War in Turkey, believed that 16,583 officers and other ranks, British and Indian, were taken prisoner by Turkey from the beginning of the war, 13,672 of whom were taken at Kut. It further reports:
Of these, 3,290 have been reported dead, while 2,222 remain untraced, and we must believe that they, too, have almost all perished unnamed, how or where we cannot tell in any single case. The all belonged to the force which surrendered at Kut, and it is therefore certain that they passed living into Turkish hands, but not one word was ever afterwards heard of any of them.
The report gives the figures for the Kut Garrison as they were known in October 1918:
The table shows some striking differences in the survival rates of officers and other ranks. No officers, British or Indian, were untraced: their whereabouts had been made known by the local Turkish officials through the unstinting efforts of the American Embassy and later by the Dutch Legation in Constantinople. Many more other ranks, British and Indian, were untraced presumed dead. The death rate, including those untraced, was also far higher among the other ranks: 60% of British soldiers and 51% of Indian soldiers who had been taken at Kut. The British and Indian officers protested vigorously and often courageously against the separation from their men, their belief that there is no privilege without responsibility was unshakeable, but Turkish policy and Kurdish whips probably saved the lives of many of them.
These figures do not quite equate with those given by A.J. Shakeshaft in his diary for total strength of the Kut Garrison at surrender:
- British Officers 277
- Indian Officers 204
- British Ranks 2,592
- Indian Ranks 6,988
- Followers 3,248
- Total 13,309
AJS notes that the Turks pretended not to know what followers (i.e. transport drivers, stretcher bearers, private servants, etc.) meant and included them as fighting men.
We know the names of the men of the 2nd Battalion, Norfolk Regiment who surrendered at Kut from the records that Acting Regimental Sergeant Major Aldridge was able to put together after the war. This list is held in the archives of the Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum, and we are grateful, as ever, to the curator of the RNRM for her help and encouragement in making them available.
The next part of this account of the march and captivity will focus on the diary accounts of the officers, F.C. Lodge and A.J. Shakeshaft. This will be followed with an attempt to reconstruct the somewhat different experience of the other ranks. As the Report on the Treatment of British Prisoners of War in Turkey, puts it:
The officers who were left in Bagdad, and who watched [the men] depart, could only feel the greatest anxiety and dread.
The truth of what happened has only very gradually become known, and in all its details it will never be known, for those who could tell the worst are long dead. But it is certain that this desert journey rests upon those responsible for it as a crime of the kind which we will call historic, so long and terrible was the torture it meant for thousands of helpless men. If it is urged that Turkish powers of organisation and forethought were utterly incapable of handling such a problem as the transport of these prisoners, the plea is sound enough as an explanation; as an excuse it is nothing.
Mesopotamia: The Norfolk Regiment Casualties of War – 1st November, 1915 until 30th April, 1916
Our Mesopotamian researcher is back with a post to commemorate the fallen of the Norfolk Regiment during the final 6 months in Kut and the surrounding areas.
If readers have pictures or recollections of soldiers of 2/Norfolk who served in the Mesopotamian campaign which they would be happy to share on this site please contact the NorfolkinWW1 team via comments here or by emailing email@example.com. All contributions will be treated with respect and much valued.
Further details of grave numbers and panel commemorations for individual soldiers can be found at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead.aspx
November 1915-April 1916
Many men died during the battle of Ctesiphon, 22nd – 25th November, 1915, or shortly afterwards, of wounds received during the battle. The retreat to Kut al Amara was also hazardous for the 2nd Norfolks as they frequently formed the rearguard.
Kut War Cemetery was completely renovated in 2014. Work carried out by the Commission in 2014 involved the general clearance of vegetation, the installation of a concrete retaining wall, raising of the cemetery levels, construction of a new shelter building, the formation of new headstone beams and the installation of 410 headstones. (www.cwgc.org/find-a-cemetery/cemetery/69700/KUT%20WAR%20CEMETERY)
Privates Herbert William Hammond, Leonard Thomas Pratt, and E.Tite also died on Christmas Day, but sadly we do not (currently) have their likenesses.
February 1916 – April 1916
Private Charles William Greenacre was born at Westwick, but his mother was a Bergh Apton girl and the family returned there to live. Charles died on 22nd April 1916, aged 23. However, it is not known whether he was in the besieged garrison of Kut or with the relieving force which was desperately trying to lift the siege. His sacrifice is commemorated on the Basra Memorial in modern-day Iraq, and on the war memorial in the churchyard of St. Peter and St. Paul, Bergh Apton. Charles’ brother, Henry, of the 1st Battalion, Coldstream Guards, who died on the Western Front, is also commemorated on the Bergh Apton memorial. The brothers died just 26 days apart.
The diary of Major F.C. Lodge, commanding the 2nd Battalion includes a photograph of the the cemetery at Kut which was erected for those who died during the siege and were buried before the surrender. It is not known whether this photograph was taken in 1916 or later, after the British recapture of Kut in 1917. The diary titles it Our Cemetery Kut-el-Amara.
Some men of 2/Norfolk who were injured during the campaign were repatriated to India where they convalesced, and where some of them died. They too should be remembered.
November 1914 – April 1916
The Kirkee 1914-1918 Memorial stands amidst the graves, manicured lawns and tropical plants of the Kirkee War Cemetery where are buried the dead of the Second World War.
Again as we said at the beginning – if you have any information about any of the men mentioned in this memorial post (or any of the others we’ve posted over the past year or so) please do get in touch so that we can share their stories too.
The 2nd Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment in Mesopotamia
Summary for April 1916
This quarter’s summary from our Mesopotamian correspondent concludes the reports on the siege of Kut al Amara. The diaries of F.C. Lodge and A.J. Shakeshaft of the 2nd Battalion provide the chronology of events (see the posts of March 23rd and April 1st 2016).
It is such an important quarter that the posts have been split into three and will be published on three consecutive days leading up to the 100th Anniversary of end of the siege.
The diary entries are supplemented by short extracts from The Secrets of a Kuttite by E. O. Mousley, Royal Field Artillery – online at: www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/41213. Edward O. Mousley was born in 1886 at Opotiki, New Zealand (hence the ‘O’ in his name), and studied law at Victoria College, Wellington and at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. After the war he went on to write two novels and books on aspects of international law. However, his best known work is his most personal; The Secrets of a Kuttite is notable for its humane insights and guarded humour during the most trying of circumstances.
Thanks, as always, are due to the Curator of the Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum, whose knowledge, help and advice are invaluable.
April 1st, 1916
A very heavy thunderstorm broke out about midnight, all trenches & dug outs flooded. Bullock, when going round guards, fell and broke his thigh. [He had been wounded in the same thigh by a sniper’s bullet in February.] Drew Rs 50 from F.T.O. Diary of F.C. Lodge
April 2nd, 1916
Paid mess bill for March by Cheque Rs 30 and cash Rs 10. Diary of F.C. Lodge
We tried some green weed or other the Sepoys gathered on the maidan. Boiled and eaten with a little salad oil that Tudway fished out from heaven knows where, it seemed quite palatable. E.O. Mousley, The Secrets of a Kuttite, 1922
April 3rd, 1916
120th day of siege. To-day we beat the siege of Ladysmith which was 119 days. Two heavy guns seen going down from Shamran to Es-Sinn. Heavy thunder and hailstorm in afternoon. Diary of F.C. Lodge
April 4th, 1916
Read and Richardson had a very narrow shave. They sleep in the orderly room [in the serai], a shell came through the wall just above Read’s head, he was brought out unconscious. Luckily the debris from the wall saved him, being buried beneath it. Richardson was badly bruised and was taken to hospital. I had only just left the room. Diary of F.C. Lodge
Usual evening hate at 4 – 5.30. Effect of the siege now becoming apparent on men. Men are seen sitting down resting in streets. Sentries have to lean against walls. A little atta can still be bought from Arabs in the town. Our aeroplanes dropped us some bags of rupees and later gold liras. Bombardment at night. Diary of A.J. Shakeshaft
April 5th, 1916
River risen 31” in 36 hours. 6.30 p.m. Heavy bombardment downstream. Troops stood to arms. Communication that General Gorringe’s forces (13th Div) had taken the first 5 lines of the Hannah position on the left bank. 5” guns shelled Magasis Ferry [Turkish] at night. Range 10,500 yards. Diary of A.J. Shakeshaft
April 6th, 1916
River still rising. Heavy gunfire downstream. General Gorringe appears to be attacking on right bank… Diary of A.J. Shakeshaft
April 7th, 1916
Plenty of firing downstream. “D Coy” to aeroplane ground. The river reached its highest point today & we were in great danger of being flooded out altogether, however by dint of strenuous work and constant patrolling it was kept within bounds. Diary of F.C. Lodge
Communiqué issued in the evening to the effect that all was going well and “Advance continues!” which gave rise to the opinion that we should be relieved in about 2 days. The relief force was preparing to take Sannaiyat Position. So far they have made 8 miles. Diary of A.J. Shakeshaft
The men, poor fellows, are keenly on edge for news. There are many merely remaining alive to hear that Kut is saved. They all know the end is now in sight and the coma of the past months is over. We are like restless bees in swarming time. E.O. Mousley, The Secrets of a Kuttite, 1922
Between April 1st and April 5th total sick in hospital fell from 1360 to 1305. On March 10th there were 1492. Diary of A.J. Shakeshaft
April 8th, 1916
Woolpress is a complete island. In fact a part of it had to be abandoned yesterday, and last night the Sumana brought a large part of its garrison back. As a last resort one regiment will remain there to hold the Woolpress buildings only.
The whole country is a series of huge lakes with tiny green patches between. The enemy has had to abandon his lines around Woolpress. In front of our first line tiny waves on this tiny ocean lap against our preserving bunds. In fact, Kut is an island! E.O. Mousley, The Secrets of a Kuttite, 1922
“C” Coy returned from Woolpress. Diary of F.C. Lodge
River falling. Serious gunfire downstream. I spent quite a long time on the roof of the Brigade Headquarters watching the bombardment, a very fine sight at night. One saw the following signals from the Turkish Lines:-
One red light = Enemy are advancing,
One green light = More ammunition wanted,
One white light = Reinforcements wanted. Diary of A.J. Shakeshaft
April 9th, 1916
Shells, expletives, and suspense fell into Kut in unusual quantities. We are sitting on the edge of a volcano. E.O. Mousley, The Secrets of a Kuttite, 1922
Terrific fire downstream continues. Relief force attacked Sannaiyat at dawn and failed in the attack. The men were up to their waists in water. Diary of A.J. Shakeshaft
April 10th, 1916
On 10th April I published the following Communiqué to the troops under my command:
The result of the attack of the Relief Force on the Turks entrenched in the Sannaiyat position is that the Relief Force has not yet won its way through, but is entrenched close up to the Turks, in places some two to three hundred yards distant. General Gorringe wired me last night that he was consolidating his position as close to the enemy’s trenches as he can get, with the intention of attacking again. He had some difficulty with the flood, which he had remedied.
I have no other details. However, you will see that I must not run any risk over the date calculated to which our rations would last – namely 15th April. As you will understand well, digging means delay, though General Gorringe does not say so.
I am compelled therefore to appeal to you all to make a determined effort to eke out our scanty means so that I can hold out for certain till our comrades arrive, and I know I shall not appeal to you in vain.
I have then to reduce our rations to five ounces of meal for all ranks, British and Indian.
In this way I can hold out till 21st April, if it becomes necessary, and it is my duty to take all precautions in my power.
I am very sorry that I can no longer favour the Indian soldiers in the matter of meal, but there is no possibility of doing so now. It must be remembered that there is plenty of horse-flesh which they have been authorised by their religious leaders to eat…
The result of the above appeal to the troops was that on the very next day 5,135 Indians, including followers, were eating horse-flesh. …
Anyone who has done service with Indian troops needs no description of my difficulties in interfering with their prejudices and religious feelings in the matter of food, and above all in such a question as horse-meat, so abhorrent to them. However, I determined, as the occasion was one of life or death, to make a further determined effort to compel them to eat horse flesh. C.V.F. Townshend, My Campaign in Mesopotamia, 1919
Rations reduced to 5 oz. meal for British and Indians. 12 oz. horse for Indians, 1¾ lbs. for British. In this manner one hoped to carry on till April 21st. Shelling of town last night. Diary of A.J. Shakeshaft
April 11th, 1916
Our aeroplanes dropped some dates and chocolates: they were handed over to the hospitals. Men frequently fainted and fell down through weakness. Thunderstorm at night. Diary of A.J. Shakeshaft
April 12th, 1916
General Hoghton, commanding, 17th Brigade, died yesterday of malignant jaundice and was buried to-day. The Battalion furnished a guard under Peacocke. Diary of A.J. Shakeshaft
Copy of report, dated 12th April, 1916, from the A.D.M.S. [Assistant Director Medical Services] to me:-
The Indian troops and followers are now in a state of semi-starvation. The reduction in the grain ration to five ounces per man, which has of necessity been commenced, will, during the course of the ensuing week or ten days, reduce them to a state of great debility and emaciation… In expressing this opinion I would lay stress on the fact that the quantity of grain mentioned forms their entire ration.
I consider that the universal use of horse-flesh by Indians would materially keep down the death and sickness rates…
On 12th April I accordingly published the following communiqué to the Indian ranks of my force:-
…with special reference to the attached note of the A.D.M.S., in which he emphasises the vital importance of every Indian of the force at once eating horse-flesh for the preservation of his strength and even life during the next few days – I again issue an appeal to every man of you to stand by your King, your rulers*, and the Government that protects you, by taking heed of the warning of the A.D.M.S. …
As General Officer Commanding this force I wish it to be clearly understood that I shall replace all non-meat eaters, who become too feeble to do their duty efficiently as officers or non-commissioned officers, by other men who eat meat and remain strong.
In the case of all officers and men who fail in their duty to the State, I shall cause a list of their names to be prepared, and lay those names before the Government of India for such action as Government may think fit.
The threat to promote others… had a good effect, for by nightfall 7,054 Indians (soldiers and followers) were eating horse-flesh. Some still refused. Two days later 9,329 Indians were eating horse meat. C.V.F. Townshend, My Campaign in Mesopotamia, 1919
*A considerable number of Indian soldiers had enlisted from the independent states of India
April 13th, 1916
Heard that the relief force had taken another position on the left bank. Number of Indians eating meat rose to 9500. Intermittent shell fire during the day. Diary of A.J. Shakeshaft
This morning I was visited by some of my old section at the battery, and talked a time to the men, and I gave them some Arab tobacco. I find they have thought a good deal about things in general, and one was induced, to the amusement of the others, to give us what he considered a “bird’s hye view” of our immediate future, which certainly didn’t seem too bright. He saw Kut, a tiny spot under famine and fire, completely surrounded by hordes of the enemy, beyond them the menacing waters and fatal floods, beyond the floods the God-forsaken country of murderous Arabs,—and beyond that great and stretching continents of desert reaching thousands of miles away and ending in those strangely silent and unknown shores or losing themselves in the heart of Asia.
But fortune has smiled on us quite a deal, too. We found the grain stores at Woolpress, and the Flying Corps rigged up the mill-crusher discovered lying there. Then a large store of oil for the river steamers was utilized for fuel and lighting for all duty, and the Sappers and Flying Corps artificers made our bombs out of various charges for the howitzers and 4·7’s. The aeroplanes brought us the detonators. Then the subsidence of the floods brought up the grass with which we bribed the animals to exist a little longer, while we ate their grain—and them.
The ammunition has lasted wonderfully well. We have over half of the original lot still in hand.
In truth, when one thinks how the Fighting Sixth fought its way across Mesopotamia, battling with fire and floods, thirst and heat, right up to the gate of Baghdad, and then was let down by want of supports, one has to extract thankfulness from the thought that Chance left it to the same division, alone and unreinforced, to stem the result of the turned tide. This it has done from December 1st at Um-al-Tabul until now, April 13th, a temporal avenue through sickness and death.
One is informed that if Kut had not been held, the position of the Turks would have been consolidated, and the tactical and strategical usefulness of its position with the enemy. These are the most cheerful thoughts possible in the garrison when one feels extra weary and sick.
It is not too much to say that almost no one has any misgiving as to the future. In this tiny horse-shoe panorama on the Tigris, where the destiny of Kut has pursued its dramatic evolution for the last four and a half months, the garrison awaits the ultimate development of the drama with a feeling merely of wide curiosity. Will the last scene be Tragedy, or will the people be allowed to leave the theatre feeling “comfortable,” that it all came right in the end?
Alas! whatever the play is, it cannot be Comedy. And when one remembers the large-hearted general [Hoghton] who has gone, and whom some few medical comforts in time might have saved, one is made aware of the stern conditions of victory! …
Outside in the street, beneath my window, a decrepit Arab beggar, in a deep passionate voice, asks for alms for the love of Allah and Mahomet. It is often the first sound I hear in the morning. Later in the day the Arab children make their appearance in groups, begging and wailing piteously. Once the babes in their mothers’ arms used to cry the whole day long, but the unfortunates are probably long since gone. The Arab population has been dying by the hundreds, and they look dreadfully shrunken and gaunt. A few escaped, but were shot by the Turks. They have had everything possible done for them.
It is the hour of the muezzin, the most peaceful of the day, for at that ancient call of prayer even the wailing and begging ceases. From the mosque near by, whose open doorway faces Mecca, I hear the high thrilling notes quivering and trembling with all the passion of the East, the high-pitched semi-tone cadences sailing afar out and cutting ever greater ripples on the bosom of the still night air like growing circles from a stone dropped into a placid pool. It is truly wonderful this immemorial custom of calling the Followers of Mahomet. The volume of sound echoing from the minaret is thrown by the muezzin further and further. With extraordinary power his voice rises and falls, describing circles, arcs, and strangely winding parabolas out of the still silences of evening. It is but an appeal. He calls the world to prayer. It is more potent than the appeal of bells. In the muezzin the Mussulman hears the voice of Allah.
Now the muezzin is finished, and everything is so very still. I wonder if they are praying for the relief—as hard as their fellow religionists in the rest of Turkey are praying for the fall—of Kut. The odds, I fear, are against us. E. O. Mousley, The Secrets of a Kuttite, 1922
April 14th, 1916
Anniversary of the battle of Shaiba, where poor old Bell was mortally wounded. Diary of F.C. Lodge
April 15th, 1916
Rain in the morning. Scurvy is decreasing as Indians take to horseflesh. Six of our aeroplanes dropped 35 sacks of supplies. The seaplanes dropped theirs in the river. Loaf reduced to 4 oz. Meat 1lb., British, 9 oz., Indians. Diary of A.J. Shakeshaft
Between 15 and 22 April, various attacks were launched…, including on Sannaiyat, the relief of Kut being the objective. Each division pressed forward their attacks and took very heavy casualties without much success as the Turks were in a strong defensive position and managed to hold on to their post. There was some success but nothing substantial.
The casualties in these attacks were very heavy. On 17-18 April they amounted to 1600 all ranks…
On 22 April, the 7th Division had 1263 casualties and the 19th Brigade 942 out of an effective strength of 2165. Amarinder Singh, Honour and Fidelity, 2015
April 16th, 1916
Fourteen planes came up and dropped food. Diary of F.C. Lodge
Heard that the relieving force had rushed the enemy’s picquets on the right bank taking 40 prisoners. A number of local Arabs were allowed to leave Kut at their own risk and went out by way of the fort under a white flag. Diary of A.J. Shakeshaft
The following prices at auction of a dead officer’s kit in Kut are instructive reading:-
A box of 100 cigarettes fetched 100 rupees; a small pair of inferior binoculars, 250; Arab tobacco, 48 rupees a pound – it is worth perhaps two shillings.
I paid 30 rupees for an ordinary three shilling tin of kerosene oil. Chickens are 10 rupees each. C.V.F. Townshend, My Campaign in Mesopotamia, 1919
Cigarettes were another worry. Men can survive without women, without food, comfort and medicine, but [during the First World War] not without a smoke. Fortunately anything that burns will smoke, so the men of Kut began to smoke tea-leaves and ginger root – though some maintained that lime tree leaves, which they called Brick Kiln Virginia, were better – and, coughing like consumptives, resigned themselves to a life of tedium. Russell Braddon, The Siege, 1969
April 17th, 1916
Very heavy bombardment downstream began at 6.45 am till 9 am. I weighed myself 9st.7lb. Flag of truce came down to our 1st line by boat. Diary of F.C. Lodge
River rose 1” above record, but bunds held. Terrific gunfire downstream at night. Hear that another position had been taken on right and 100 prisoners captured. A flag of truce came in to-day from the Colonel Commanding 45th [Turkish] Division, to say that if any more Arabs left they would be shot. Diary of A.J. Shakeshaft
April 18th, 1916
Result of yesterday’s bombardment – General D’Urban Keary’s 3rd (Lahore) Divn captured the strong Turkish position at BEIT AIESSA on the right bank, taking 2 guns, 5 machine guns, & 180 prisoners with 8 officers.
Heavy firing rifle & guns downstream all last night, which only ceased at 4 am this morning. It appears that the T’s after losing the position mentioned above made desperate efforts to recapture it. They delivered no less than 12 counter attacks during the night. Two of our brigades had to fire ground*, but the 3rd Brigade held on. Reported T’s lost 4000 killed & wounded. Diary of F.C. Lodge
* massed artillery fire to deny or hamper the enemy’s passage through an area.
To-day we heard that about 7 p.m. last night the Turks violently counter-attacked and kept them up all night. They attacked 12 times and at position E got within 20 yards of our line. The attacks were repulsed. Turks lost heavily so did we and one of our Brigades had to fall back 200 yards. Turkish dead estimated at 4000 including German officers. 1500 dead counted in front of one of our brigades. Probably grossly exaggerated. We heard later that our losses were 2000. It was reported that the 13th Division was moving forward to attack the Turkish left at Chahelah. Our aeroplanes drop sacks of flour daily now. Diary of A.J. Shakeshaft
Arabs continue to wait around the butchery for horse bladders on which to float downstream. They are shot at by the Turks, who want them to stay on here and eat our food, or else they are killed by hostile Arabs. Every night they go down, and a little later one hears their cries from the darkness. E.O. Mousley, The Secrets of a Kuttite, 1922
The aeroplanes suffered from engine trouble on 17th April, and it was too stormy for them to bring us food on the 18th; the stormy weather, the rain, the floods, and the mud, all in turn assisted the Turk to keep Kut in his clutch. C.V.F. Townshend, My Campaign in Mesopotamia, 1919
April 19th, 1916
Communiqué issued that “floods rather than the enemy have delayed General Gorringe during the last few days”. Number of men die[d] suddenly from gastro-enteritis. Diary of A.J. Shakeshaft
In the morning I received a wire from Head Quarters:
“In the event of relief in time proving impracticable and should the attempt to run supplies to you fail, Army Commander is prepared to sanction the proposal… that Sumana shall try to run the blockade, taking as many officers and other ranks as possible whose services are most of use to the State.
Army Commander, however, makes one exception, that he considers you yourself bound to remain behind in command of the garrison… It is obvious that should so much as a whisper of this project get about it would have the worst possible effect on the Indian troops.
As stated above, the project is not to be put into effect except in the last extremity, and then only on receipt of a direct order from the Army Commander.” C.V.F. Townshend, My Campaign in Mesopotamia, 1919
April 20th, 1916
Planes dropped food. Diary of F.C. Lodge
Fearful north wind sprung up and played havoc with the bunds. Diary of A.J. Shakeshaft
April 21st, 1916
Good Friday. … Cable from M “Congratulations D.S.O.” Diary of F.C. Lodge
Nothing doing to-day. Message came up from relief force to say that relief is certain, so is Christmas, we have been told it so often. Heavy gunfire downstream. Last issue of bread (4 oz. loaf) to-day. Tomorrow and next day we are to eat the reserve ration and then subsist on food from above*. Diary of A.J. Shakeshaft
* ‘Then said the Lord unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from Heaven for you;’ Exodus,16:4
April 22nd, 1916
Started on our ½ day reserve rations. 6 oz biscuits and horse. Genl. Gorringe’s effort to break through the SANNAIYAT position failed, owing to mud and machine gun fire. This news did not reach us until the evening of the 23rd. Diary of F.C. Lodge
Our aeroplanes dropped 5 bags of supplies into the river. Firing at Sannaiyat where Gorringe is making his last efforts to relieve us. Occasional bombardment at night at “K[ut]”. Diary of A.J. Shakeshaft
April 23rd, 1916
Easter Day. Restrictions on the amount of gun ammunition to be expended daily, rescinded, consequently the T’s gun postns. got a good peppering. Diary of F.C. Lodge
Easter Sunday. Gorringe failed to take Sannaiyat Position. A flag of truce came in to protest against Arabs leaving Kut. Numbers have been going off a night on rafts to the right bank. The little chapel was full at 8 a.m. this morning. Our aeroplanes dropped 45 bags = 2159 lbs food. Not much for 13,000 starving souls. They also dropped 1000 gold liras. Diary of A.J. Shakeshaft
April 24th, 1916
To-night an attempt was made to rush the “Julnar” through with 200 tons of food. She was to land them in the vicinity of the fort. Our Battalion was ordered to furnish a fatigue party for unloading, these men were given extra rations. Everything was ready from dusk. About 10.30 p.m. heavy rifle and gun fire was heard downstream near Magasis. The “Julnar” never appeared and parties were dismissed at 4 a.m. Our aeroplanes brought 2000lbs.of food today.
Aeroplane rations supplied from to-day as follows:-
|Flour 3 oz.||Atta 3 oz.|
|Sugar 1 oz.||Dhall 1 oz.|
|Choc. 1½ oz.||——- ½ oz.|
|Salt 1/8 oz.||Salt 1/8 oz.|
|Total||4 5/8 oz. & 1 lb. Horse.||4 5/8 oz. & 9 oz. Horse.|
For 1oz. ration for the whole garrison 867 lbs. were required. Diary of A.J. Shakeshaft
Stripped of woodwork and fitted with protective plating, the Julnar was commissioned to carry 270 tons of stores in a last attempt to resupply Kut. She had a volunteer crew of 15, with Lieutenant H.O.C. Firman, R.N. in command, and Lieutenant-Commander C. Cowley, R.N.V.R. second in command.
All artillery and machine gun fire that could be brought to bear covered the departure from Fallahiya at 20.00. It was a dark night dark and overcast with no moon. They soon came under continuous and heavy rifle fire, and as they reached Es Sinn, ten miles short of Kut, Turkish artillery opened up. Two miles on, Lt. Firman was killed and Lt.-Cdr. Cowley was wounded, but he took command. Four miles below Kut, the ‘Julnar’ was stopped around midnight by a steel hawser stretched across the river and drifted on to the river bank, and could not get off.
Lt.-Cdr. Cowley surrendered, and the remainder of the crew including five wounded were taken prisoner. Cowley was soon separated from his men and reported shot trying to escape, but was probably executed. He had been master of the local Lynch Bros steamer ‘Mejidieh’ with great knowledge of the River Tigris and was considered an Ottoman citizen by the Turks. Lt. Humphrey Osbaldeston Brooke Firman, posthumously, and Lt.-Cdr. Charles Henry Cowley, later executed, were awarded the Victoria Cross. (With thanks to Naval-History.net : www.naval-history.net/WW1Battle1408Mesopotamia.htm)
April 25th, 1916
At dawn I went on our roof and saw the ill-fated “Julnar” at Magasis. She had got so far and had been pulled up by two cables across the river. She smashed the first, but the second proved too much for her. Her two naval officers were killed, Capt. Cowley of the “Mejidieh” wounded and murdered later. The 8 of the crew were taken prisoner. Our 5” guns did their best to hit the “Julnar” so the Turks moved her downstream. Diary of A.J. Shakeshaft
April 26th, 1916
Nothing much doing. Our agony rapidly drawing to a close now. A communiqué was issued telling us that the C.-in-C. India appreciated the conduct of Gorringe’s and our force. So much for words.
In the morning General Townshend sent for me and gave me a letter to translate into French to Khalil Pasha, offering to open negotiations for surrender. The letter was sent out under a white flag and a Turkish Major came in with a reply. When I was having dinner a message came from Divisional Headquarters for me to report to General Townshend at once and accompany him to Magasis to meet Khalil Pasha. But when I reached the General’s house he introduced me to a Turkish major and told me that he had decided to postpone his visit till to-morrow, but I was to accompany the Turkish officer to the fort. The Major was a very pleasant man, very young and spoke excellent French, he gave me a box of cigarettes and presented more to various officers we met on the way. After a weary walk we arrived at the fort and I handed over my Major to Stockley who accompanied him into the Turkish trenches. As I turned to wend my weary way homeward I met Major Cox, who asked me to have a drink and imagine my surprise when he gave me a whisky and soda. When Khalil received General Townshend’s letter he ordered all firing to stop, evidently order did not reach K[ut]. Diary of A.J. Shakeshaft
April 27th, 1916
Early this morning I awaited General Townshend at the motor boat moorings to accompany him to Shumran. … We took our seats in the boat and went upstream past the desolate river front, where people were looking out as if unable to understand what the unusual silence meant. It was perfectly wonderful to be in the open again and not hear the cracking of musketry and the burst of shell. As we passed our own first line we saw an L boat approaching us. We met somewhere near the Turkish
1st line. There were about half a dozen Turkish officers on board who stood up and saluted. We all went on board and Khalil Pasha came forward and shook hands with General Townshend, and then with all of us. After which we returned to the motor boat while General Townshend and Khalil Pasha remained talking in the stern of the L Boat. Khalil Pasha is a smart looking man of medium height, about 36 years of age, plainly dressed in a dark uniform and one small gold medal on his left breast. A staff officer got into the motor boat and gave us cigarettes. About 20 minutes later General Townshend left Khalil and we returned to Kut. Khalil had demanded unconditional surrender but when certain proposals were made to him he said he would communicate with Enver Pasha. I spent the rest of the day at Divisional Headquarters and wrote letter in French for the General. We began destroying the surplus ammunition and gear of all kinds. “K” fired during the night. Diary of A.J. Shakeshaft
April 28th, 1916
The 6th Divsn. & 30 Bde. entered Kut on the 3rd December after their retreat from CTESIPHON. On the morning of the 6th the Cavalry Bde. & S. Battery R.H.A., with a large amount of transport, crossed the river and left for the south.
Siege began 6th Dec: 1915 and ended on 29th April 1916. Diary of F.C. Lodge
A warm sunny day, everything peaceful, it seemed like a different world after the past few months. …we were soon going upstream to the Turkish lines. People were crowding on the river front, enjoying the fresh air. We went on past our own lines and then past the Turkish front line where we went ashore. An officer was awaiting us there and after salutes and handshaking he invited us to sit down and a meal was prepared. Can you imagine what it meant to semi-starving men to see a basket of beautiful white rolls, tea, jam and most tempting of all sugar. We were not long in making short work of all they put in front of us. … I took my servant, Private Powley, with me and the Turkish officer sent him and the crew of the boat food. We then smoked cigarettes and shortly after a Turkish officer rode up with two troopers. He told us we were to ride with him to His Excellency’s Camp. We mounted and rode about two miles, how delightful it was to be on a horse again after being shut up so long. We passed a number of troops on the march, tough looking fellows they were and thorough soldiers in spite of their ragged clothing. … We passed the pontoon bridge at Shumran Camp and rode alongside a fine river steamer the “Busra” as far as I can remember. We dismounted and went on board where we were met by a very smart looking A.D.C. who wore aiguilettes and was well turned out. He conducted us on deck and to a railed off portion in the stern, where Khalil Pasha sat at a table on which there were some maps. There were a number of staff officers with him. He at once rose and came forward to meet us, saluted and shook hands. He then invited us to sit down and coffee, lemonade, biscuits and cigarettes were produced for us. Morland then gave His Excellency, General Townshend’s letter. After reading it he gave it to an officer who returned later with the reply written out which H.E. signed and handed over to Morland. One of the A.D.C.s was then called up and took our photograph. … H.E. presented a box of 100 cigarettes to Morland and myself. … We all partook of an excellent lunch and by this time rejoined our motorboat into which we transshipped and set off downstream for Kut. On arrival at Kut the Arabs were fearfully excited to see the Turkish officers and set up wild yells of delight. The latter treated the demonstrations with contempt. We went to Divisional Headquarters and reported to General Townshend and I was told to take the Turkish officers back. We embarked on the motor boat and started off downstream, as they wished to be left at Magasis. On the bank opposite the fort there was a gruesome sight, many dead bodies lay swollen on the shore, the unfortunate Arabs who had tried to escape from Kut. Shortly after passing the fort the engines broke down and we were forced to go down by the force of the current. There was a small jetty built at Magasis at which we disembarked and were asked to wait in a tent till the Turks sent a motor boat to tow us home. We were regaled with coffee, biscuits and sour milk, a national Turkish drink. Near the tents were the “Julnar’s” stores laid out for inspection and several Turkish officers were checking them. On leaving Magasis they sent us about a dozen tins of jam, meat, etc., which were very welcome. The Turkish motor boat towed us home and we reported at Divisional Headquarters about 6 p.m. … I went to sleep that night, very tired but feeling less hungry than I had for a long time. Diary of A.J. Shakeshaft
Although he spoke in enthusiastic terms of the defence, which, he said, was heroic… Khalil, instructed by Enver Pacha, insisted on unconditional surrender. He knew the state of my troops. He knew I had no food left. He knew that the men were dying, and that disease and scurvy were rife. Before any food was allowed in Kut we must march out into camp…
After much negotiation all conditions were refused by Enver Pacha*. My own personal liberty was offered on condition that I did not destroy my guns and material. Such conditions, of course, were impossible to accept. C.V.F. Townshend, My Campaign in Mesopotamia, 1919
* General Townshend in a communiqué to the troops had written: Negotiations are still in progress, but I hope to announce your departure for India on parole not to serve against the Turks, since the Turkish Commander-in-Chief says he thinks it will be allowed, and has wired to Constantinople to ask for this…
Whatever our end, there is no denying the great fighting qualities of the Sixth Poona Division. More than its glorious career, its stupendous efforts in vain to overtake the tragic destiny decreed by the gods for the mistake of others, must make it famous in arms. E.O. Mousley, The Secrets of a Kuttite, 1922
April 29th, 1916 : 146th & Last Day of Siege
All guns and howitzers in Kut were destroyed this morning, also a large percentage of rifles and bayonets. Ammitn., revolvers, field glasses, thrown into the Tigris. All equipment burnt or destroyed. Turkish infantry entered Kut about 12 noon. A certain amount of looting going on. The Turkish officers did their best to stop this.
Regt. marched out at 4.30 pm. Embarked 11.30 p.m on “Basra”? Diary of F.C. Lodge
I rose at 5 a.m. and wrote two letters in French for General Townshend. At 4 a.m. orders were issued to destroy all the guns and ammunition. At 7 a.m. I accompanied Major Gilchrist and Morland on board the launch which had been converted to oil fuel by [Captain S. C.] Winfield Smith [R.F.C.]. We went by launch instead of motor boat in the hopes of being able to bring back some food for the starving troops. As we went downstream we heard loud explosions in Kut, the last of our guns and saw huge clouds of smoke from the numerous fires where gear of all sorts was being burnt. We disembarked at Magasis where horses where awaiting us to ride over to Khalil Pasha’s Camp. After a quarter of an hour’s ride we arrived there and were shown into a large tent. H.E. soon appeared, was very polite and pleasant as ever and produced coffee for us. It was arranged that a Turkish regiment of infantry should march into the town at 12 noon. He sent for the C.O. of this regiment, Colonel Nazim Bey, a tall hardfaced looking man, who wore glasses and introduced us to him. Gilchrist tried hard to come to some arrangement about sending in food from the “Julnar’s” supply but in vain. All he could get was that the garrison would get food on arrival at Shumran Camp. The evacuation of the troops was to begin as soon as possible. Khalil agreed to send boats down from Shumran to Kut for this purpose. All officers to hand over their swords except General Townshend. …
On arriving back in Kut I was ordered to go out towards the fort and meet Colonel Nazim Bey and show him the way into the town. It was far from pleasant walking about the place now. I had no arms, my revolver had been destroyed, and the streets were thronged with shouting Arabs waving the Turkish flag. At about 12.30 I met Colonel Nazim Bey and his Adjutant, the 43rd regiment was following some distance behind. The veneer of politeness had now gone and he was the grim conqueror. …
At the top of No.1 Avenue we halted to await the Regiment, I should say some 2000 men, bearing in the midst a huge Turkish flag. They were a hard looking crowd, mostly in rags. The Colonel detailed off a party to hoist the Turkish flag at the Serai and other parties to guard the exits from the town. …he told me to take him to Divisional Headquarters. We went past rows of burning wagons of the artillery column, which did not improve his temper. Finally we reached Headquarters where he met General Delamain. After a short conversation I was told to take the Colonel round the town to relieve all guards. We started off and relieved several when at the end of No. 6 Avenue he saw the first Turkish ship arrive. …
In the Officers’ Hospital lay General Melliss, Richardson, Bullock and Portsmouth [of 2/Norfolk]. I heard later that a soldier entered the Officers’ Hospital and stole a pair of General Melliss’ boots, upon which the General went to General Townshend and obtained an officers’ guard. … I then returned to Brigade Headquarters but found the house empty so I wended my way to the shore where I found General Hamilton, Captain Johnston and Morrel sitting on their boxes on the river front, waiting to have them examined prior to going on board. I talked nicely to the officer who was acting as “douanier” and he allowed us all to go on board without searching. He asked me to come back and talk to him about the Battle of Ctesiphon, so as soon as all our kit was on board I went on shore and sat down beside him on a box and exchanged notes. … Finally everyone got on board the “Basra” and we waited till 4 p.m. before leaving Kut. The G.O.C., Staff 18th Brigade and the whole of the 30th Brigade were on board. During the voyage up stream I wandered over the ship and had an interview with the Turkish doctor who talked French, Spanish and German. He gave me some bread and a glass of water and was most anxious to take charge of my money and watch, so I thought it advisable to leave him and return to our mess on deck.
As the “Basra” left Kut I saw our Battalion march onto the river front and sit down to await a boat. We arrived at Shumran in the dark. I have no idea what time it would be. I got a fill of oil for the General’s lamp from the Captain. My lamp, a new one, had been taken from my servant by Turkish soldiers as he was carrying my kit to the boat. We disembarked at Shumran in the midst of the most awful chaos imaginable. No one knew where we had to go, after a lot of trouble I found a Turkish officer who talked a few words of French. When I asked him what ground we had to take up he simply pointed into the blue and said, “Cent mètres par lá, cent mètres par lá”. We got the kit on shore as soon as possible… I was very glad when the ship was cleared and I was able to sit down for I was dead tired and had had nothing to eat all day except a biscuit and a cup of tea at 5 a.m. We had a good meal of tinned meat, which we had kept as a last reserve in our mess, some tea and a few biscuits. Everything was in the most frightful confusion, but it was hopeless to try and straighten things out in the dark as the Turkish officer could give no assistance and whichever side one turned one met a sentry with a fixed bayonet who stopped you. So regiments bivouacked down for the night all mixed up on the banks of the Tigris. This brings me to the conclusion of the siege, our subsequent life at Shumran belongs to our captivity and will be described … later. Diary of A.J. Shakeshaft
There lies no dishonour for a commander and his troops, when they have done their duty according to military laws, if the enemy imposes the hardest conditions upon them. They are not the masters to fix and determine those conditions. In our case at Kut we had resisted for just on five months, and we were compelled to surrender not by the enemy but by famine. C.V.F. Townshend, My Campaign in Mesopotamia, 1919
Of the Norfolk battalion General Hamilton, commanding the brigade in which they served, says: ‘In spite of all the trying conditions of the prolonged siege, the discipline, good order, and the soldierly bearing of the battalion were maintained to the end. The daily guard mounting in the street at the entrance to the Serai was in itself a soul-stirring revelation of the unquenchable spirit of the Norfolk Regiment. Though worn to shadows of their former selves with starvation, constant duty, and frequent sickness, though their clothing was grimed and ragged, the men were still ready under arms, their drill punctiliously correct.’ F. Loraine Petre, The History of the Norfolk Regiment Vol. II
This is the longest post (split into three) about the Norfolk Regiment in Mesopotamia on this site so far, justified by the exceptional nature of the siege, and the availability of the diaries of F.C. Lodge and A.J. Shakeshaft, which deserve to be quoted at length and for the first time, in extenso, on the Internet.