|Anglo-Russian Spheres of Influence|
But Britain also had separate agreements with various local rulers on both sides of the Gulf, We already discussed its relations wih the Sheikh of Muhammara (now Khorramshahr) in context of discussing the British occupation of the Abadan oilfields late in 1914, and subsequent occupation of Basra. In addition, it had agreed with Tehran that Britain could keep small detachments of troops along the telegraph line running down the Iranian side of the Gulf, in order to maintain communications Though Iran was technically neutral in World War I, both Russia and Britain (and the Ottomans as well) felt they had a free hand to protect their interests. Russia and the Ottomans both sent troops into Iranian territory in the northwest, and the events that began on April 12 would provoke a British landing and occupation of Bushire and the hinterland.
The Ottomans of course were busy defending their own Empire against the British advance in Mesopotamia and the Russian in the Caucasus. But there was another power that sought to manipulate the situation in Iran in order to undercut both Russia and Britain: Germany.
|Wassmuss in Persian Garb|
(Though sometimes called "the German Lawrence," in July of 1915 T.E. Lawrence was still an unknown second lieutenant drawing maps in the British Military Intelligence Section in Cairo, but Wassmuss was ready to strike his first blow. The diplomat and explorer had transformed himself into a master spy.
|Ra'is ‘Ali Delvari|
It was a force of these tribesmen led by Delvari which, on July 12, 1915, attacked he British consulate and residency at Bushire.
The British had a small garrison at Bushire under the agreement allowing them to protect the telegraph line. Already in May of 1915 the local Persian governor in Bushire had asked for British help in finding off a tribal attack, and Britain had reinforced its small garrison, The vessel HMS Lawrence was sent to Bushire. The garrison was primarily composed of Indian Army troops of the 96th Berar Infantry.
|British Consulate, Early 20th Century|
|Delvari with Tangistani fighters|
The next day, July 13, the Tangistanis attacked again, but were thrown back.
Meanwhile, the German consular officials in Bushire are said to have removed themselves to Shiraz.
This being the height of British naval power and Imperial reach, not to mention gunboat diplomacy, the death of two British officers prompted the immediate dispatch of naval vessels to Bushire. The troopship HMS Dalhousie arrived three days after the battle. By July 16 the British had decided to demand reparations from the Persian government, and in their absence, to occupy the port of Bushire indefinitely and to attack Dilwar and punish the Tangistanis.
The operation would begin August 8, and at that time I'll return to this story and cite sources and more detail.