A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, April 29, 2016

April 29, 1916: Surrenders in Dublin and Kut

Part III of my series on the Middle Eastern echoes of the Easter Rising will be up later today but  I thought I should note an important anniversary today: on April 29, 1916, the very same day the last of the Dublin rebels surrendered to the British, in Iraq another British general was surrendering a British and Indian force in the largest surrender of British forces in history up to that time. It would only be exeeded by Singapore in 1942. After a months-long siege marked by four failed relief expeditions and even a blatant attempt at bribing the Turkish commanders (under the guise of a "ransom"), in which T.E. Lawrence and Aubrey Herbert were negotiators. General Charles Townshend, a military incompetent even by British World War I standards, surrendered more men than Cornwallis had at Yorktown.

In 2014 I ran three posts on the siege and surrender of Kut (Part I; Part II; Part III); because I told the story then I have not noted the centennials of each of the failed British attempts to lift the siege. But it marked a disaster for British arms compared to which Gallipoli, that other disaster in the war with the Turks, seems almost successful in that the troops were successfully withdrawn.

In the end. Townshend surrendered unconditionally. In the campaign Britain had lost between 23,000 and 30,000 killed and wounded (the relief expeditions lost more men than were in the besieged garrison at Kut) and surrendered some 12,000. Townshend and other British officers were given comfortable quarters in detention; the largely Indian rank and file were sent to turkis prisons in the east from which few survived the war. For more, see my earlier posts.

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