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Mesopotamia campaign 1917-1918

Mesopotamia campaign – 1917

My grandfather, a doctor in the British Indian Army marched through southern Iran in 1917 from India en route for Iraq or Mesopotamia as it was known then, as part of the Mesopotamia campaign (1917-1918) to deal with aggression on behalf of the Ottoman Empire.

The British Indian Army played a significant role in the liberation of Baghdad. Amidst the confusion of the retreat, a large part of the Ottoman army (some 15,000 soldiers) was captured. A week after the city fell, General Maude issued the oft-quoted message, which contained the famous line “our armies do not come into your cities and lands as conquerors or enemies but as liberators”.

Khalil Pasha withdrew his battered Sixth Army upriver and established his headquarters in Mosul. He had about 30,000 total troops with which to oppose Maude. In April, he received the 2nd Infantry Division, but overall the Ottoman strategic position was bad in the spring of 1917.

After the capture of Baghdad, Maude stopped his advance. He felt his supply lines were too long, conditions in the summer made campaigning difficult, and he had been denied reinforcements he felt he needed


The British resumed their offensive in late February 1918 capturing Hīt and Khan al Baghdadi in March, and Kifri in April. In March 1918, Britain faced an uprising by a rebel organisation called Jam’iya al-Nahda al-Islamiya in Najaf, and laid siege to the city until May, when the rebels surrendered. For the rest of the 1918, the British had to move troops to the Sinai and Palestine Campaign in support of the Battle of Megiddo. General Marshall moved some of the forces east in support of General Lionel Dunsterville’s operations in Persia during the summer of 1918. His very powerful army was “astonishingly inactive, not only in the hot season but through most of the cold”. The fight in Mesopotamia was not wanted any more.


Negotiation of armistice conditions between the Allies and the Ottoman Empire began with the turn of October. General Marshall, following instructions from the War Office that “every effort was to be made to score as heavily as possible on the Tigris before the whistle blew”, went on the offensive for the last time. General Alexander Cobbe commanded a British force from Baghdad on 23 October 1918. Within two days it covered 120 kilometres, reaching the Little Zab River, where it met and engaged Ismail Hakki Bey’s Sixth Army, most of which was captured in the resulting Battle of Sharqat.

On 30 October 1918, the Armistice of Mudros was signed and both parties accepted their current positions. General Marshall accepted the surrender of Khalil Pasha and the Ottoman 6th Army on the same day, but Cobbe did not hold his current position as the armistice required, and continued to advance on Mosul in the face of Turkish protests.[46] British troops marched unopposed into the city on the 14 November 1918. The ownership of Mosul Province and its rich oil fields became an international issue.

The war in Mesopotamia was over on 14 November 1918. It was 15 days after the Armistice and one day after the occupation of Constantinople.


The campaign ended with a British mandate over Mesopotamia being established and change of the power balance following the Ottoman expulsion from the region. In Turkey, elements of the last Ottoman parliament still claimed parts of modern-day Iraq such as Mosul as being Turkish, leading to Allied occupation of Constantinople. The British mandate over Mesopotamia later failed as a large-scale Iraqi revolt fueled by discontent with the British administration took place in 1920, leading to the Cairo Conference in 1921. There, it was decided a Hashemite kingdom under heavy British influence would be established in the region with Faisal as its first monarch.

See also Wikipedia


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