Just a reminder: Postings will be sparse during my current two week vacation.
In Part I of this post, I explained the background of the fact that at the outbreak of World War I, the Ottomans still retained a small garrison at Doha, Qatar, and at the neighboring al-Bida‘ Fort. If you have not yet read Part I, it provides the necessary context for this second part.
The Men and the Ships
In conjunction with the British intervention at Bushire (Bushehr) and the punitive expedition against Dilwar in 1915 (Part I and Part II of the Dilwar posts), the British decided to clear any Tangistani dhows trading with Bahrain or Qatar from the Arab side of the Gulf and, at the same time, resolve the question of the Ottomans in Qatar. In the Anglo-Ottoman Convention of 1913, discussed in Part I, Turkey had agreed to remove them, but the Convention had not been ratified when the war broke out.
|Sir Percy Cox|
Let me note that I am basing this account almost entirely on the India Office Records in the British Library, but helpfully available online at the Qatar Digital Library. Most of the documents cited here appear in the "File No. E.7: Qatar & Anglo-Turkish Convention of 1913." The documents appear in roughly chronological order and are all in the same file, so I have not given separate links for each document, as I would if this were a scholarly article rather than a blogpost.
By July 30 the Political Agent in Bahrain, the closest British post to Qatar, Keyes, reported to Cox that "there are now only 34 soldiers in the Fort and ten in the villages, and that that [sic] all but about ten men and three officers are preparing to desert. The Commandant has told them they may go."
Terence Humphrey Keyes (1877-1939) in 1915 was a 38-year old officer in the British Indian Army, son of a General and younger brother of a later Admiral. In 1914 he was made Political Agent in Bahrain and had been newly promoted Major when these events occurred.
|Terence Humphrey Keyes in later years|
On August 16, the Political Agent in Bushire, Major A.P. Trevor, notified Keyes that the Senior Naval Officer for the Gulf (Captain Drury St. Aubyn Wake) was dispatching HMS Pyramus to Bahrain to hunt for Tangistani dhows there and in neighboring regions. He added:
I expect a number of Tangistani dhows may be at Doha and I have also heard that Shaikh Abdullah [‘Abdullah bin Jasim Al Thani, Ruler of Qatar] has sent a present (a most useful one) of 50,000 cartridges to Rais Ali [Ra'is ‘Ali Delvari, leader of the Dilwar opposition to the British occupation of Bushire] just before the affair at Dilwar began. I think it would be worth while to follow this up. I think it would be worth while [repetition in original] for "Pyramus" to go over there (perhaps the Commander would take you over) and take away the Tangistani dhows which might be taken somewhere to be destroyed unless you think it advisable to destroy them there.In a telegram to Sir Percy Cox in Basra, Trevor in Bushire added the detail that the Ruler had sent the cartridges to Ra'is ‘Ali "in return for a present of hawks last year." (As will be seen later, the Ruler insisted that he only sent cloaks to Ra'is ‘Ali in return for the hawks. Hawking and falconry have long been the sport of Gulf sheikhs, of course.)
On the 18th of August, Cox telegraphed approval of the plan including the sending of Keyes, but expressed uncertainty hat Pyramus could enter Doha under the guns of the Turkish fort. Cox added a new twist, though:
Object of Keyes' visit would be seizure of hostile dhows. If shaikh fears to cooperate he can look on and plead force majeure. Incidentally Keyes should ascertain exact state of affairs regarding Turkish detachment and guns. If shaikh agrees to hand the guns over intact and clear out remainder of Turks, Keyes can offer him two thousand five hundred rupees per gun complete same as our price here or a bit more if necessary.So, "Incidentally,"(!) Cox has added to the search for Tangistani dhows an inducement for the Ruler to expel he Turks and hand over the guns of the Fort. One wonders if this had been a goal all along, especially since no hostile dhows were found in either Bahrain or Doha. (This is my own speculation not supported by the documentation.)
|HMS Pyramus in 1914|
|Commander Viscount Kelburn|
|Sheikh ‘Abdullah bin Jasim|
This post will conclude with the action in Doha in Part III, on Monday with any luck.