Branching out into Suffolk (slightly)

We’ve been contacted by another blog reader looking for some help filling out the final details of some family history research which has led him from Suffolk to Norfolk.

 

My grandfather, Albert Holmes from Newmarket Suffolk, was born in  1883.  Albert was a Bricklayer before he joined up to the B Company of the 2nd Btn Suffolk Regiment. He was born in Exning (nr Newmarket) and lived in Newmarket. He married just before he joined up and his widow (my grandmother) never remarried but lived until 1971 aged 88 –  much of the time in the house they moved into after the marriage!

We know he was home on leave late 1916/1917 as I have a photo of him with his wife and my mother – who was born in April 1915.

Albert with wife Edith and daughter Beryl.

He is recorded on the War memorial in Newmarket but until I contacted the Suffolk Regiment Museum with a photograph I did not know that he was in the Norfolk Regiment.  More research has let us know that Albert died of his wounds on 6th Aug 1918 and was buried in North Gate Cemetery in Baghdad.

Albert is believed to be the man in the front row of seated privates on the immediate left of the central officer.

I knew from my grandmother that he was buried in the Middle East  but I don’t know if she even knew exactly where. I have two requests:

Does anyone have any photos of his grave or memorial in the North Gate Cemetary? At present I don’t know if he even has a grave or if this cemetary is still in existance.
Also I would also love to know is more about his service, things like when he returned from leave (which would more positively date my family photo),  when he joined the Norfolks, when he arrived in the Middle East, when and where he was injured and in hospital.

I know that other readers of this blog have helped fill in the gaps for other people and I hope the same comes true here – thank you in advance, Mike Browne.

As ever if you can help tell Albert’s story please do drop us a line (norfolkinworldwar1@gmail.com), leave a comment here or reach us on Twitter (@Norfolkinww1).

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The Norfolk Regiment in April: Lodge Diaries

Each month staff at the Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum look back to what the Norfolk Regiment was doing 100 years ago, and tells their story through objects from the museum’s collection. See previous blog posts here.

April 1916 was a disastrous month for Norfolk’s 2nd battalion’s in Mesopotamia. Their winter campaign (which included defeat at the battle of Ctesiphon, and their retreat to Kut – Al – Amara) ended with the eventual collapse of Kut and the surrender of the whole fighting force, numbering over 10,000 men.

The events that took place through April and the following months are extremely well documented through the diaries of Lieutenant Colonel F C Lodge, of the 2nd Norfolk’s, who was present at the surrender. These diaries are now kept at the museum.

Lodge, far left, with Strickland, Gordon and Jickling, officers of the Norfolk Regiment

Lodge, far left, with Strickland, Gordon and Jickling, fellow officers of the Norfolk Regiment

On 29th April and over the following days, Lodge wrote;

“All guns and howitzers were destroyed this morning, also a large percentage of rifles and bayonets. Ammtn. [ammunition], revolvers, field glasses, thrown into the Tigris… Turkish Infantry entered Kut about 12 noon.”

“Many men fell out owing to feebleness…. The men were so ravenous that they ate some 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.”

'Adjutants of the 2nd Battalion'. Lodge is second from right, second row.

‘Adjutants of the 2nd Battalion’. Lodge is second from right, second row. Officers were treated extremely differently to their men following the surrender at Kut

For the Norfolk’s, some of whom were were already tired, starving and extremely ill, April marked the beginning of the end. Captivity under the Turks resulted in forced marching, extreme heat, disease, malnutrition and for many, death. Lodge’s diaries, like many other Officers, show a different picture however. It is startling to compare the fate of many Officers with the the fate of their men. On 4th April, Lodge writes;

“We were ordered to embark [by steamer] for BAGHDAD. We were sent up in echelons: the 1st… consisted of 100 British officers, including 4 Generals, 50 native officers with an 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 a cook… The men were then left with the NCOs.”

Indian Army Soldier after Siege at Kut. Taken from the UK National Archives

Indian Army soldier after Siege at Kut. A very different picture to Lodge and his fellow officers. Taken from the UK National Archives

Although still in a dire situation, Lodge’s following entries suggest a degree of comfort not shared by men, that improves over time. On 9th, 10th and 13th May he writes;

“arrived at a ramshackle empty hotel called Hotel Babylon., an evil smelling place. More delay whilst rooms were allotted…  were taken to a restaurant where we had a meal – the best I’ve had had in months…. Slept fairly well. Our room smelt so much, caused by a cesspool immediately below the window, we moved out and slept on the verandah which was a very large one… Our little party pitched out belonging near a Greek engineer’s house. They were very kind to us, giving us what they could spare – tea, cheese, milk.”

We may never know the extent to which which Lodge and of his fellow Officers were told of the fate of their men. Perhaps they never knew, or were simply naive. His diaries illuminate a great deal about the Officer class during 1916, and spark some real emotion. It is difficult to empathise with Lodge, who still celebrated “PAYDAY”, and received 3 parcels on his birthday, including 2 from Fortnum and Mason. Regardless, the diaries are an invaluable source to the museum and well worth a read.

The Norfolk Regiment in February: In the shadow of the Pyramids

Each month staff at the Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum look back to what the Norfolk Regiment was doing 100 years ago, and tells their story through objects from the museum’s collection. See previous blog posts here.

For the 1/4th and 1/5th battalions of the Norfolk Regiment, February 1916 was spent at the famous Mena Camp, under the gaze of the Great Pyramids. It is a view that has been well documented, and a number of rare photographs still exist in the museum collection.

Mena Camp, in front of the Pyramids. The 1/4th and 1/5th spent time here during February 1916

Mena Camp, just outside Cairo, in front of the Pyramids. The 1/4th and 1/5th spent February 1916 here.

Both battalions, ragged and worn out following their Gallipoli campaign, had arrived in Egypt in early 1916. After spending January at Alexandria, they were sent on to Mena to reorganise.

Mena, and others like it, were used as a springboard for the whole division to bolster the heavily defended Suez Canal. A number of forts and camps along the canal formed a line of defence that lay practically undisturbed for the rest of the year. Nevertheless, the threat of Turkish attack remained a constant. Over the next 12 months, the 1/4th and 1/5th moved from camp to camp, fortifying the lines and re-training fresh recruits. Mena camp remains the most well-documented.

Norfolk soldiers on camels in front of the pyramids. Almost certainly 1/5th men in 1916

Norfolk soldiers on camels in front of the pyramids. Almost certainly 1/5th men in 1916

Captain Buxton of the 1/5th wrote,

“From 1916 onwards the Suez canal was defended by a series of fortified posts in the desert on the eastern side. These posts were about two to four miles apart…. Rations and water were brought up to these posts daily on camels from railhead…. the troops were employed daily in completing the defences of the posts by surrounding them with broad wire entanglements, digging fire trenches or communication trenches or dugouts. The trench digging was especially tedious… owing to the soft sand continually falling in.”

Photograph of Egyptian Shpinx taken by  Regimental Quartermaster-Sergeant H. Naylor, 1/5th battalion. Christmas Day 1916

Photograph of Egyptian Shpinx taken by Regimental Quartermaster-Sergeant H. Naylor, 1/5th battalion. Christmas Day 1916

Mesopotamia: a Garden of Eden? Part 1

As the troops of the 2nd Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment began to adapt to life in and around Basra and Qurna, we can wonder about the condition of the country in which they found themselves… our researcher into this theatre of war tell us more:

Mesopotamia: a Garden of Eden? Part 1

The inhabitants, Arabs from many tribes and their Turkish overlords, were Muslims. South of Baghdad they were predominantly adherents of the Shia branch of Islam, whilst to the north they were mainly Sunni. The Turks were largely, although not exclusively, Sunni. The Kurds, an Iranian people, were religiously diverse, but the majority were Sunni.

This generalized distribution of the main groups within modern Iraq gives some indication of the position in 1915.

Perry Castaneda Map Library, University of Texas

Perry Castaneda Map Library, University of Texas

Both the Muslim Koran and the Hebrew Bible (the Christian Old Testament) refer to this land of rivers as the Garden of Eden:

 Koran 9:71 Allah promiseth to the believers, men and women, Gardens underneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide – blessed dwellings in Gardens of Eden

Genesis 2:8 And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.

Scholars cite the four rivers mentioned in Genesis 11-14 as evidence for the Garden of Eden being located in Mesopotamia, although they do not agree quite where:

And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads. The name of the first is Pison; the second is Gihon; the third is Hiddekel; the fourth is Euphrates. (The Hiddekel,which goeth toward the east of Assyria, is generally taken to be the Tigris.)

eden1

Certainly, the PhotoVenus studio in Basra had few doubts when it photographed this local view for a postcard which the troops no doubt sent home. We might be justified in thinking that this picture with its muddy creek and date palms bears little resemblance to the image of the Garden of Eden as painted by generations of artists.

Yet, the marshes about and above Qurna (Kurna) have an almost mystical quality which Wilfred Thesiger described in The Marsh Arabs (1964). See also, Thesiger, Desert, Marsh and Mountain (1979) for a collection of wonderful photographs:

That morning I had no idea what I should find beyond those distant reed-beds. We were pressed for time, unable to linger, but even so I gained an impression of a delightful and unexpected world: of narrow waterways winding through the tufted reeds, duck circling above still lagoons, the crying of geese, a village of reed houses clustered on the water, a hum of voices, and the incessant passage of canoes; dark dripping buffaloes, the sun crimson through the smoke of burning reed-beds, a boy’s voice singing in the dark, firelight on a half-turned face, the croaking of frogs, and stillness, the stillness of a world that had never heard an engine.

A Marsh Arab Village commons.wikimedia.org : author www.abualsoof.com

A Marsh Arab Village
commons.wikimedia.org 

Lieutenant Bill Spackman, a young Regimental Medical Officer with the 48th Pioneers, Indian Army, expressed a slightly different view in his diary for late 1914;

Qurna was locally reputed to be the site of the Garden of Eden, and although in winter the climate was at least tolerable, and justified Adam and Eve dressing up a bit, there were times in summer when one was not a bit surprised that they had left the place. A British Corporal succinctly expressed his opinion when he said (in rather more forthright language) ‘Well, if this is the Garden of Eden, the bleeding angel wouldn’t have needed a  f***ing sword to keep me out!’

from Captured at Kut: Prisoner of the Turks – the Great War Diaries of Colonel W C Spackman (2008).

 

The marshes have suffered much since the 1980s through extensive drainage works, in part politically motivated. Reflooding in recent years has sought to rehabilitate some of the marshland, with its unique ecology and way of life.

Other photographs of the time suggest alternative locations for the Garden, perhaps as here, upstream of Baghdad on the Euphrates; a world quite different to the marshes of Lower Mesopotamia:

eden2

Mesopotamia is topographically two regions, roughly north and south of Baghdad. Upper (Northern) Mesopotamia is made up of hills and plains and the spurs of the Taurus Mountains. The land is quite fertile due to the seasonal rains, and to the streams and rivers flowing down from the mountains into the Tigris and Euphrates. Lower (Southern) Mesopotamia is made up of marshland and flat, barren plains. Irrigation is needed here for cultivation. (NB Modern Iraq also includes the desert fringes of Syria and Arabia in the south-west.)

The Topography of Iraq adapted from commons.wikimedia.org : contributor Sadalmelik

The Topography of Iraq
adapted from commons.wikimedia.org : contributor Sadalmelik

 

In August 1916 (two years after soldiers arrived in the area) the Intelligence Division of the Admiralty War Staff produced Volume I, the first of four volumes, entitled A Handbook of Mesopotamia: Volume II appeared in provisional format in May 1917.

handbook iraq

This is how Volume I describes the topography of Mesopotamia:

[Mesopotamia] relative to the surrounding highlands, is a vast depression of the surface… This depression falls away from the northern mountains, at first at a steep and then at a slowly diminishing gradient, till it reaches the point where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers approach to within 40 miles of each other, viz. on the line Baghdad – Fellujeh. Here, now at a very low altitude, it changes suddenly into the great alluvial basin which, in almost a dead flat, stretches southwards for 350 miles, to end at the Persian Gulf. The heights of the mean river levels above the sea at the following places will illustrate conveniently and graphically the scale of declivity of this depression from north to south, till the sea is reached : Samsat, 1,615 ft. ; Birijxk, 1,115 ft. ; Diarbekr, 1,900 ft. ; Mosul, 980 ft. ; Baghdad, 105 ft. (350 miles from the sea in a straight line) ; Basra, 5 ft. (55 miles from the sea in a straight line).

Baghdad is geographically located where Upper and Lower Mesopotamia meet. From 1914 until 1916 the British campaign was largely fought to south of Baghdad, in the marshes and on the sometimes flooded plains of Lower Mesopotamia. (See Mesopotamian Map Overview in the posting of December 22, 2014)

A Handbook of Mesopotamia includes a comprehensive vocabulary in Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Armenian, Kurdish and Syriac, presumably because in 1916 the War Office was unable to predict how the war against Turkey would progress, and into which territories British troops might have to advance. It asks the important question, What will the weather be today?

what will the weather

Robert Palmer, a young officer with the 6th Hampshires, writing his diary from a steamer anchored in the Tigris wrote in September 1915:

 

It was hot, but nothing fabulous. My faithful thermometer never got beyond 104 in my cabin. The disadvantage of any temperature over 100 indoors is that the fan makes you hotter instead of cooler. There are only two ways of dealing with this difficulty. One is to drink assiduously and keep an evaporation bath automatically going: but on this ship the drinks used to give out about 4 p.m. and when it comes to neat Tigris-cum-Euphrates, 1 prefer it applied externally. So I used to undress at intervals and sponge all over and then stand in front of the fan. While you’re wet it s deliciously cool: as soon as you feel the draught getting warm, you dress again and carry on.

The health of troops has on the whole been good. Ice and fans are installed wherever possible, i.e. nowhere beyond Basra. The hot weather sickness casualties have been just over 30% of the total force: but as they were nearly all heatstroke and malaria, it ought to be much better now. Already the nights are cool enough for a blanket to be needed just before dawn.

Station January: Average Daily Temperature°F July: Average Daily Temperature°F January: Average Daily Rainfall(inches) July:Average Daily Rainfall

(inches)

January:Average Daily Humidity

%

July:Average Daily Humidity

%

Mosul 41.0 (5°C) 94.8 (34.9°C) 2.5 0 87 46
Baghdad 48.8 (7.1°C) 92.1 (33.4°C) 1.0 0 67 39
Basra 51.8 (11°C) 90.2 (32.3°C) 1.2 0 79 59

This data taken from recordings in A Handbook of Mesopotamia mask the true nature of the climate that the troops had to endure: Temperatures could be low in winter with average daily minima for January of 32.0° (0°C) in Mosul, 38.2° (3.4°C) in Baghdad and 43.7° (6.5°C) in Basra, whilst July could see average daily maxima of 118.8° (48.2°C) in Mosul, 120.2° (49°C) in Baghdad and 114.4° (45.8°C) in Basra. According to the Handbook:

 

The smiting power of the sun in Mesopotamia is very great, and consumption of alcohol should be most moderate, especially in the case of those whose work exposes them to the sun-rays. Alcohol should not be taken before sunset.

The extreme heating of the ground surface caused mirages in summer, and additionally with fine dust picked up by the wind visibility was frequently poor. Sandstorms were not infrequent in spring.

The rainfall amounts were very modest: the annual total for Mosul being 16.18 inches, Baghdad, 6.95 inches, and Basra, 6.23 inches. It is unsurprising therefore that the great civilizations of Lower Mesopotamia, Sumer and Babylon, relied upon irrigation for the cultivation of crops.

In summary, from Baghdad to Qurna (at the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates) the climate was characterized as hot and dry. South of Qurna the climate became damp as well as hot with frequent heavy dews.

 

The annual floods were a serious environmental hazard faced by troops. The main flood season occured from late March through to early June when the Tigris, Euphrates and their tributaries responded to the snowmelt in the mountains and frequently burst their banks in the level plains of Lower Mesopotamia. The low flow season was in September and October and the Handbook quotes average water discharge figures:

 

Tigris, 14,000 cubic feet per second in September, but 106,000 cubic feet per second in April. Euphrates, 16,000 cubic feet per second in September, but 97,000 cubic feet per second in April.

 

Floods could also occur in December and January as a result of heavy winter rains in the uplands. The consequences for the comfort of the troops is shown in this photograph from The Illustrated War News of January 26, 1916. The caption reads, ‘Flooded Out And Not Minding A D***’.

flooded out

Mesopotamia: a Garden of Eden? Part 2 to follow: malaria, boils, sand-flies and sanitation…

Taking your work home with you!

Work can follow you to the most surprising of places –  just before Christmas we went to visit some family in Berkshire and the topic of World War One came up.  A photo had been unearthed of my husband’s grandfather in a uniform, mounted on a horse with a date of 1913 written on the back.

LH Beard

Another relative said that the smartly attired gentleman in question had been part of the Berkshire Yeomanry and that she thought he’d served in Egypt during the war.  This piqued my curiosity hugely and I thought this was the ideal time to make use of the wonderful Norfolk resource “A Guide to researching First World War Military Family History” and free access to the Ancestry.com websites through Norfolk’s Libraries.

record office book

As I knew very little about the gentleman, Louis Henry Beard, I started at the very beginning and located him on the 1891, 1901 and 1911 censuses and established his date and place of birth.

After this I turned to the military records held on Ancestry and this is where I encountered my first problem as there were no records for a Louis Henry Beard anywhere, although there was a Lewis Henry Beard listed with all the other details being correct.  Sadly many WW1 records were destroyed during WW2 and all I had to work from on line were the Medal and Service Award Rolls.

On talking over with an archive specialist at one of the free “Ask the NRO” sessions held at the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library we decided that this was probably going to be him but that until further records are either published on line or discovered in family members house we cannot be more than 95% certain that this is the right man.

As so many of the details were correct I decided that I would assume that this was the right L H Beard and look into his war service some more.  Although he was a Berkshire man the records available show him as finishing the war with the Household Cavalry to which he’d transferred from the Staffordshire Yeomanry.

Looking at the history of the Berkshire and Staffordshire Yeomanry records that are available to access on line it would appear that the two regiments served in the same fields of war and were present at Gallipoli and later on in Egypt and other locations in the Middle East – which links back nicely to family recollections of Egyptian service.  Further research has shown that the Yeomanry divisions merged and were renamed frequently which could explain his movement from the Berkshire Regiment to the Household Cavalry.

I found an invaluable site The Long, Long Trail dedicated to the British Army from 1914-18 which gave me detailed accounts of the movements of both the Staffordshire and Berkshire Yeomanry’s.  Further investigation on line lead me to the Berkshire Family History Society webpage where the account of the regiment’s time at Gallipoli – with only 50 men still fit for service by the end of the campaign – sounds horrific and would show that L H Beard was either very lucky to survive and be transferred to the Staffordshires or very lucky to be serving with them by this point.

The records that I have found on line have let me see that L H Beard served throughout the war. His Medal Card shows he was awarded the 1914-15 Star (showing he was a member of the armed services prior to conscription) and that he left England on 21st April 1915 and returned on 17th April 1919 – almost exactly 4 years of service abroad.  Sadly at present we have no idea if he had any home leave in this period.

I know that next time I visit I am going to have to ask the family if they have any other memorabilia or information for me to investigate and I am now tempted to contact the National Archives and see if I can get copies of the Regimental Diaries and explore more about their movements and to see how L H Beard ended up with the Staffordshire’s.

Louis Henry Beard came back from the war and returned home to Hungerford where he lived a full life, dying only in 1961. The Beards are an old Hungerford family and Louis Henry took over his father’s coal business as well as taking an active part in town life. Many of his direct descendants still live in the town today.

Mesopotamia – why?

As posted about earlier in the month the Norfolk Regiment were posted to the Middle East during World War One and one of our blog readers has written a series of posts explaining just why this often forgotten battlefield was fought over during the years 1914-18.

The Norfolk Regiment in Mesopotamia

The Strategic Background (Part 1)

On 15 November 1914 the 2nd Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment was deployed from India to Lower Mesopotamia in what is now Iraq. Why?

Mesopotamia, the land between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates, (from the Greek μέσος (meso) – between, and ποταμός (potamos) – river) had been one of the cradles of world civilization and in 1914 was part of the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire.

During the Crimean War (1853-56) the Ottoman Empire, then in decline, had fought alongside France and Britain to stop Russian expansion southwards into weakened Ottoman territory. In 1877 Russia and Turkey went to war again resulting in considerable loss of Ottoman territory in the Balkans.

After the revolt of the Young Turks against the feeble rule of the Turkish Sultan in 1908 German influence had begun to dominate Ottoman affairs: German banks agreed to fund the extension of a  railway from Berlin via Constantinople (modern Istanbul) to Baghdad, thereby linking remote areas of the remaining Ottoman Empire with its capital and with Germany; German geologists and engineers were searching for oil in Mesopotamia; and in 1913 Enver Pasha, a former military attaché to Germany, became the Turkish Minister of War. On 2 August 1914 Enver Pasha concluded a secret treaty which would commit Turkey to the German side in the event of war.

The Ottoman Empire was strategically significant for Great Britain because it lay between Britain, the Mediterranean Sea and the British Empire in India and the sea routes to the Far East, Australia and New Zealand.  Consequently, the British Government was reluctant to allow an unfriendly power to occupy such a strategically important area.

Map of Ottoman Empire in 1914

Map of Ottoman Empire in 1914 (URL: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/media/photo/map-ottoman-empire-1914, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 14-Aug-2014)

The strategic focus was the Suez Canal which links the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea through Egyptian territory. Great Britain had occupied Egypt in 1882 and in 1914 deposed the nominal ruler, the Khedive, and declared a protectorate in order to more effectively defend the Canal. Cairo, the Egyptian capital, was to become the centre of British operations against Turkey during the First World War.

The British government in London and the Government of India both had an interest in maintaining the security of the Canal and in the future of Mesopotamia, although they didn’t always work hand-in-hand.  The Government of India was concerned to avoid unrest among minority groups: India had a Muslim population of 100 millions and therefore Islamic opinion was important. With civil unrest in Istanbul, growing Arab nationalism in Egypt, and Persia (modern Iran) in state of flux, the possibility of jihad or holy war engaged political minds in both London and Simla, the seat of the Viceroy, the head of the Anglo-Indian government. The British wanted to avoid the spread of unrest to Mesopotamia, to its interests in Persia, and to the borders of India.

The Ottoman Sultan was also the Caliph, regarded by Muslims as the successor to the Prophet Mohammed and able to proclaim jihad against those seen to be enemies of Islam.  In 1914 the pro-German government in Istanbul was urging jihad against the interests of the Allies: France, Russia and Britain.

The situation for the British was complicated by the ambitions of the Government of India to exercise control of Mesopotamia, its oil and the fertile farmland between the rivers.  Aden, the vital Royal Navy coaling station between the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea, was already governed from India, and the extension of Anglo-Indian administration in Arabia and Mesopotamia was seen to be a logical extension of its influence in the region.

The Ottoman Empire was not expected to survive the war intact, and it was critical for Britain to look not just to the ambitions of Germany but also to the territorial rivalry of its allies for control of Mesopotamia.

Russia had been attempting to extend its empire southwards towards British India in search of territory and a warm water port since the 1860’s. For Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India from 1899 to 1905, Persia was one of ‘the pieces on a chessboard, upon which is being played out a game for the domination of the world’.

In 1907, Britain and Russia entered into a convention which acknowledged Russian influence in Persia’s northern provinces, and British influence in the southeast adjacent to India and the entrance to the Persian Gulf, with a neutral zone between.

The Russo-British Pact in 1907 (spheres of influence in Persia) (from W. Morgan Shuster: The Strangling of Persia. New York 1912)

The Russo-British Pact in 1907 (spheres of influence in Persia)
(from W. Morgan Shuster: The Strangling of Persia. New York 1912)

Between 1905 and 1908, British interests had discovered oil at two sites close to the border of Persia and Mesopotamia, both in the neutral zone.

In France, too, there was an energetic campaign for a share of the spoils when the Ottoman Empire was dissolved. A small group of imperialists maintained that France had an all but right to a colony in Syria and Lebanon since France had maintained a powerful influence at least in the Mediterranean coastal zone since the time of the Crusades.

In 1915 Britain, France and Russia concluded a secret agreement for a division of the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East – the Sykes-Picot Agreement. Northern Mesoptamia around Mosul was to be in the French sphere of influence – a buffer against Russian expansion, whilst Britain would have a protectorate from just north of Baghdad southeast to Basra and the Persian Gulf. Britain would be able to protect the land routes to India and both Britain and France would have access to the oil fields of what was later to become Iraq.

Map of the Sykes-Picot Agreement showing Eastern Turkey in Asia, Syria and Western Persia, and areas of control and influence agreed between the British and the French. (Royal Geographical Society (Map), Mark Sykes & Franois Georges-Picot (Authors), National Archives of the UK)

Map of the Sykes-Picot Agreement showing Eastern Turkey in Asia, Syria and Western Persia, and areas of control and influence agreed between the British and the French.
(Royal Geographical Society (Map), Mark Sykes & Franois Georges-Picot (Authors), National Archives of the UK)

On 5 November 1914 war broke out with Turkey and the Norfolk Regiment arrived in the area 100 years ago today.

Part 2 – Oil (coming soon)

 (The text of this article may be freely used, but the maps must be titled and cited as above)