EXTRACTED FROM THE REGIMENTAL CHRONICLES OF THE OXFORDSHIRE & BUCKINGHAMSHIRE LIGHT INFANTRY
Siege of Kut-el-Amara.
The Turkish prisoners taken at Ctesiphon, as well as our wounded, had been evacuated to Basra, and on the 5th December the Cavalry Brigade and the transport animals were sent down to Ali-al-Gharbi. Aware that he could expect no relief until fresh troops should arrive from overseas, and aware also that the Turks, in increased numbers, were hemming him in, Townshend prepared to stand a siege. The place had practically no defences, for although during the absence of the 6th Division up river a scheme of defence was mooted, for one reason or another little or nothing was done. There had been built a so-called fort consisting of mud walls, useless against artillery, and three or four equally useless block-houses, joined by a barbed-wire cattle fence, stretching across the neck of the river's loop. All this had to be altered, and henceforward strenuous digging went on day and night. Fortunately the enemy gave us time, for though he drew gradually nearer on the north, he did not force an attack.
By the 7th December, however, Kut was completely invested, and from that time only wireless messages told the outside world what was happening to the besieged garrison. From these it was learned that, on the 8th December, Nur-ud-Din went through the formality of calling on General Townshend to surrender; on the 9th drove in the British detached post on the right bank of the river, and then, for several days, bombarded Kut from all sides, and pushed infantry attacks against the northern defences, to be repulsed with heavy losses on each occasion. After the 12th December the enemy abandoned these costly attacks, and settled down to a bombardment and sapping operations, the particular objective being the Fort at the north-east corner of the defensive line. Between the 14th and 18th successful sorties were made by the garrison, and it was not until: the night of the 23rd/24th December that the Turks again made any strenuous effort to renew the assault.
On that night and the following day the Fort was subjected to heavy concentrated fire, with the result that the parapet was breached, and the Turks effected an entry. The success, however, was only momentary, for a counter-attack immediately ejected them, and they left behind them some 200 dead.
Not content with this rebuff, the enemy returned to the attack a little later, and at midnight (24th/25th) again entered the Fort. "The enemy," said General Townshend, in his wireless report, "effected a lodgment in the northern bastion, were ejected, came on again, and occupied the bastion. The garrison (Oxford Light Infantry and 103rd Mahrattas) held on to an entrenchment, and were reinforced by the 48th Pioneers and the Norfolk Regiment. The enemy vacated the bastion on Christmas morning, and retired into trenches from 400 to 900 yards in the rear, although the attack had been made from trenches only about 100 yards from the breach. The rest of Christmas Day passed quietly. The fort garrison, in excellent spirits, reoccupied the bastion.
The enemy's casualties estimated at about 700, our own at 190 killed and wounded."
This was the last attack made on Kut, for Nur-ud-Din, assured by the German Marshal, Yon. der Goltz, of the impossibility of the garrison breaking out, left sufficient troops to contain it, and on the 28th December commenced moving strong forces down to Sheikh Saad, in order to frustrate any attempt on the part of the British to relieve the beleaguered garrison.
During the four long months which followed the "gallant 6th Division," locked up securely, withstood with patience and resolution all the rigours of a siege— wondering often if the floods would prove a greater enemy than the Turks, yet hoping always that relief would come at any moment. Time after time were they disappointed, for the Turks, reinforced frequently, beat back every attempt of the relieving force to hew its way through, until at the end of April 1916 Kut was starved into surrender, and the 6th Division made prisoners of war.
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