A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Ottomans Expelled from Qatar, August 1915, Part III

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. Part II described the dramatis personae on the British and Qatari sides, and the orders given to the key players, Major T.H. Keyes, British Political Agent in Bahrain, and Commander Viscount Kelburn of the HMS Pyramus. For the actual events at Doha, the best approach seems to be to quote extensively from Major Keyes' account of the affair sent to Percy Cox:
From Major T.H. Keyes, I.A. [Indian Army], Political Agent, BAHRAIN To the Hon'ble Lieut-Colonel Sir Percy Cox, K.C.I.E., C.S.I., Political Resident in the Persian Gulf, BASRAH
Bushire 23rd August 1915
I have the honour to report that H.M.'s Ships "Pyramus: and "Dalhousie" arrived at Bahrain on the 18th instant, when your 1633-B of the 16th instant was delivered to me by the Commander of the "Pyramus" [Commander the Viscount Kelburn].
2. As there were no Tangsiri [= Tangistani] boats in Bahrain, I left the same afternoon in "Pyramus", arriving off Doha early on the 19th. Large numbers of boats were leaving Doha that morning, as the second fishing was just commencing. While "Pyramus" was negotiating the difficult entrance to Doha bay, I went away in an armed cutter and examined all boats that were under sail, but found no Tangsiri boats among them.
3. "Pyramus" having anchored within 2,000 yards of Doha Fort while "Dalhousie anchored out of range of the Turkish guns, I sent my interpreter ashore to fetch Shaikh Abdullah [‘Abdullah bin Jasim Al Thani, Ruler of Qatar].
The terminology of British Imperial officers at the height of the Empire is telling. Qatar still had an Ottoman garrison and would not be a British protectorate until 1916, yet Keyes sent to "fetch" the ruler. I am reasonably sure that when a foreign warship pus into Doha today, no once sends to "fetch" Sheikh ‘Abdullah's great-great-grandson, Sheikh Tamim. Keyes continues:
The shaikh arrived on board in the early afternoon, and assured us there were no Tangsiri boats in his port, and that none had been there for some time,  but said that he believed that some Turkish deserters had joined the Tangsiris with several rifles and large quantities of ammunition. He vehemently denies having sent Rais Ali any ammunition [See Part Two] and said that he only sent him 8 cloaks in exchange for the ten hawks Rais Ali had sent him. From independent enquiries which I instituted in Doha and Al Bida I am inclined to believe his version of the affair.
Doha about 1904 (Lorimer's Gazeteer)

Doha Fort Today
As we saw in Part Two, Cox had added an additional task (afterthought or perhaps the main motive all along?) to looking for Tangistani dhows: offering the Ruler an incentive if he could get the Ottoman garrison out of Doha and turn over its guns. He was authorized to pay 2,500 rupees per gun or, since there turned out to be two guns, 5000 rupees. (As near as I can tell, in 1915 the rupee under the raj was pegged at 480 silver rupees to one gold sovereign, but I may have this wrong.)

Keyes' report continues:
4. We then proceeded to discuss the question of the Turkish fort.  Shaikh Abdulla [sic, Abdullah elsewhere in the report] informed me that there were two officers and forty men with two guns and one mountain gun at the Fort.  Entrenchments could be sen around the Fort, the emplacement of the mountain gun could be easily distinguished, and also two objects which we took to be the emplacements for the field guns. All of these in the entrenched line.
I requested Shaikh Abdullah to place the following alternative before the Turkish Commandant:
(a) That he should surrender, when the officers would be allowed o retain their swords and be treated in the manner indicated in your letter sent by Abdul Jabbar Effendi.
(b) That he should vacate the fort leaving the guns intact in which case I would hand the Fort [inconsistent capitalization in original] over to Sheikh Abdullah, on the latter;s agreeing to look after the Turks, I insisted on an answer by 7 a.m. the next morning and Shaikh Abdullah agreed to settle the matter during the night, though he was very anxious to have ten days for the negotiations.
I promised him 5,000/- [Rupees] if he arranged the surrender of the Fort without a hitch and gave him to understand that if he failed the Fort could be taken by H.M.'s ships. I may add that the Shaikh was under the impression that "Dalhousie" was a trandport.
As noted in Part II, HMS Dalhousie had been a transport in the Indian Marine Service, but four guns had been added to her.
On the morning of the 20th I landed with Commander Viscount Kelburn. On learning from Shaikh Abdullah that the Turks had fled in the night, we proceeded to the Fort which was first occupied by a landing party and searched, and then formally handed over to Shaikh Abdullah.
Besides the three guns in the trenches there were 14 rifles, about 8,000 rounds of ammunition, 500 projectiles, some casks of black powder, tents, great coats, and odds and ends of stores in the Fort. Three old muzzle loaders had also been used for revetments. The cordite charges for the guns and the breech blocks had been removed At Shaikh Abdullah's request I gave him the rifles and unfortunately promised all the rifle ammunition. Shortly after this a blue-jacked discovered 105 cases of mauser ammunition in a magazine about 100 yards way. I handed this over to the Shaikh subject to your approval.
"Dalhousie" sailed for Charbar that afternoon and "Pyramus" for Bahrain ...
The remainder of the report deals with the question of the location of the Tangistani dhows. In subsequent correspondence, Cox asked for clarification as to whether the full 5,000 Rupees had been paid and whether it was possible to get the Sheikh to hand over the 105 boxes of Mauser ammunition. Keyes noted he had paid 3,000 Rupees and promised to send the other 2,000 from Bahrain, which was done along with a request for the 105 boxes, which seem to have been delivered.

Thus the Ottoman presence in Qatar came to an end.The following year Sheikh ‘Abdullah signed a Protectorate agreement with the British, handing over responsibility for foreign affairs and defense. The Protectorate lasted until independence in 1971.

Sheikh ‘Abdullah bin Jasim
As for Sheikh ‘Abdullah, he ruled until 1940, when he abdicated in favor of his son. When the son died unexpectedly in 1948 he resumed the throne for a year and then abdicated again in 1949 in favor of another son. He witnessed the discovery of oil and lived until 1959.

Sir Terence Humphrey Keyes
As for Major Keyes, Terence Humphrey Keyes went on to serve in the  Western intervention in the Russian Civil War, serving in southern Russia. receiving British, Romanian, and (White) Russian decorations. Returning to Indian service in Baluchistan, served in Nepal and in various Indian administrative posts until retirement in 1932 with the honorary rank of Brigadier General He was knighted (Knight Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire) in the New Year's Honours List of 1933. He died in 1939

Commander Viscount Kelburn
As for Viscount Kelburn, Commander of HMS Pyramus, as previously noted, he was the eldest son of the 7th Earl of Glasgow. Just a few months after the affair at Doha, in December 1915, he succeeded his father to become the 8th Earl. He too served in the intervention in the Russian Civil War, as a Naval officer at Vladivostok, and this made him a lifelong anti-Communist. In the 1920s and 1930s he became an open British Fascist supporting the British Union of Fascists. He died in 1963.

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