A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

September 9, 1915: Second Tangistani Attack on Bushire

In my ongoing recounting of some largely forgotten sidelights of the centennial of the First World War in the Middle East, we have several times looked at the circumstances surrounding the British occupation of the Iranian port of Bushire (Bushehr) and its hinterland in 1915. In July we discussed the first attack on the port by Tangistani rebels, and in August the occupation and destruction of the Tangistani base at Dilwar (Part I and Part II). The final act of the Tangistani conflict took place in September, culminating in a battle at Bushire on September 9, 1915, a century ago today. The earlier posts describe the essential background.
Once again this narrative is largely drawn from the India Office Records digitized through the Qatar Digital Library, mainly "Report from General Sir J E Nixon, K C B, Commanding IEF 'D', on the action at Bushire, 9th September 1915," as well as official histories.

In August he British Indian Army garrison at Bushire, originally made up of the 96th Berar Infantry, was reinforced with elements of the 11th Rajputs and a squadron of the 16th Cavalry. Brigadier General H.T. Brooking was the new garrison commander, backed up by a naval force headed by the Senior Naval Officer, Gulf, Captain Drury St Aubyn Wake, who was introduced in the earlier installments.

Delvari with Tangistani fighters
During August the Tangistani rebel, led by the charismatic local Khan, Ra'is ‘Ali Delvari, had been probing the British defense lines at Bushire. On September 3 they launched an attack which was quickly beaten back, but in the fighting  Ra'is ‘Ali was killed, reportedly assassinated by a traitor among his own men.
Thus by the time of the main attack on September 9, the Tangistanis had lost their leader.Though the British considered Ra'is ‘Ali as little more than a brigand Iran today honors him as a hero of anti-colonial resistance, and his house is now the Delvar Ethnological Museum.

The main attack came on September 9.The British reported the enemy advancing through nullahs (wadis or ravines, an Indian term), and across the mashila or low-lying tidal area between the Bushire peninsula and the mainland. Fortunately for the British, a Naval Landing Party and a unit of Royal Marines from HMS Pyramus were shore for training purposes.

During the early fighting, the Indian troops found themselves struggling to advance, but Brooking ordered naval gunfire from Juno and Pyramus and sent in his reserves, including the Royal Marines and Gurkhas he had held back finally breaking the lines with a bayonet charge The 16th Cavalry were then sent forward on to the mashila in pursuit.
Map of the Battle

Brooking reported 43 enemy dead on the battlefield, 14 wounded and four non-wounded prisoners. British losses included a British major and second lieutenant killed and another second lieutenant died of wounds, two Indian cavalry officers, two seamen, and 25 Indian rank and file dead, and multiple wounded.

Te death of Ra'is ‘Ali ended the immediate Tangistani threat, though tribal resistance to the British occupation would continue throughout the war.

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