In early October the Turks declared that the Shatt was inland waters and that "Guns at Fao will fire on any man-of-war disregarding prohibition"; a notice to this effect was delivered to Espiegle October 7 and the British ships were given 24 hours to leave the Shatt. The Royal Navy of a global Empire rather disdainfully replied that so long as the "Turkish Government does not intern the German War Vessels 'GOEBEN' and 'BRESLAU', His Majesty's Government will maintain a Naval Force in the Shatt-al-Arab." To this, the Turks responded with a threat to mine the Shatt. And the British fired back saying that would constitute a hostile act, and that the British would consider it as such.They alerted their three small vessels to report any Turkish activity that might be construed as minelaying.
That was on October 23. It is probably no coincidence that on that same day an old British battleship and four troopships arrived at Bahrain with the aforementioned Indian Brigade. Which brings us to the other part of this drama.
Meanwhile, Back at the Raj . . .
(Sorry, sometimes I can't resist.)
While the Government in London was treading cautiously to avoid pushing the Turks into war, the Government of India was advocating a more forward strategy. They had already endured jitters because the German light cruiser SMS Emden was loose in the Indian Ocean (soon to be sunk, but not yet), and fears that a belligerent Turkey might influence Indian Muslims. As I've noted, already in September they had proposed sending a Brigade to protect the oilfields, and this was authorized on October 2.
While Turkey's entry into the war was expected, it was not yet in the war, but Britain had the advantage of its colonies and protectorates in the Gulf region, including its informal protectorate at Muhammara, discussed yesterday. Still, the movement of ground forces to the Gulf was kept secret. to avoid a provocation.
|Gen. Sir Arthur Barrett|
There were multiple Indian Expeditionary Forces given letter names: Force "A" was to serve on the Western Front in Europe, 'B" in East Africa where British Kenya, Uganda, and Zanxibar adjoined German East Africa (Tanganyika, with Zanzibar today's Tanzania), Force "F" for the Suez Canal.
|Walter S. Delamain|
On the very eve of Turkey's entry into the war, Britain had positioned several ships, including the aging battleship HMS Ocean, later sunk at Gallipoli, and several thousand Indian Army troops in the northern Gulf. Once they learned of the Turkish attacks on the Russian ports (October 29 : they seem to have heard on the 30th) they moved north and took position off the bar at the entrance to the Shatt on November 3. When Britain declared war on Turkey on November 5, they were ready: they landed at Fao (Faw) on November 6 and took Basra in late November.
We'll be looking at many of those events in more detail in the coming days and weeks. This map of the early days of the campaign may illuminate the geography: