The siege of Kut 1916

Al-Kūt is a city in eastern Iraq, on the left bank of the Tigris River, about 160 kilometres south east of Baghdad. British troops including the Buffs were serving in Iraq as part of the Mesopotamia Expeditonary Force. This fertile area with important trade routes was fought over in biblical times and one hundred years after the siege of Kut this territory is still being bitterly fought over.

In autumn 1915, Turkish troops besieged Major-General Charles Townshend’s forces in Kut-al-Amara before the Allied troops could withdraw further down the Tigris to the port of Basra. The siege of Kut-al-Amara lasted 147 days, before the British and Indian troops inside the garrison town finally surrendered on 29 April 1916. Conditions were appalling. In bitterly cold weather, with inadequate supplies, poor communications and with little medical treatment, many soldiers did not survive the winter. Of the 11,800 men who left Kut-al-Amara on 6 May 1916, 4,250 died either on their way to captivity or in the PoW camps at Aleppo.

Despite the setback at Kut in April/May 1916 under General Maude British and Indian forces again advanced rapidly up the Tigris in early 1917 re- capturing Kut on 24th February 1917. On 11th March 1917 British troops finally entered Baghdad. When the war with Turkey ended on 30th October 1918, British forces in Mesopotamia had reached as far north as the oil-rich district of Mosul, which was captured on 3rd November 1918.

During four years of fighting in Mesopotamia, more than 31,000 officers and men from the British and Indian armies had died in combat or from disease.  These included two men from Ramsgate, Stanley Williams and BG West of the Buffs who are buried in Amara Military Cemetery.  Three others, Alfred Mynheer, J W Solly and Captain Yearsley, the brother of the vicar at St George’s, were taken prisoner but survived.


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