The Great World War A History, Part VIII

Guarding the PipeLine 113 CHAPTER VII THE CAMPAIGN IN MESOPOTAMIA (January-June 1915 )Misleading the Arab Tribes— Guarding the British Oil Pipe— Preparing for Eventualities— Lord Hardinge at the Front—Two Fights against Odds— Some Minor Engagements— Combined Turkish Attack on Kurnah Ahwaz and Shaiba— The Three Days Battle at Shaiba— Magnificent British Charges— Enemys Total Rout— King Georges Congratulations— River Warfare— British Advance up the Tigris— Capture of Amara— Lord Hardinge and the Garden of Eden. H O UGH the Turks and Ger­ mans preached to deaf ears when they called for a Holy War among the Mohammedans of the British Empire they met with a certain measure of success among the Arab tribes o f Mesopotamia. W e have already shown how the head of the Persian Gulf was seized by Britain at the beginning of the war and how the expeditionary force from India— a force which included the 2nd Norfolks the 2nd Dorsets the 1st Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry and three batteries of the Royal Field Artillery— advancing up the Shatt-el-Arab captured first Basra and then Kurnah at the con­fluence of the Euphrates and the Tigris before the end o f 1914.1 Con­trary to many anticipations it was de­cided for the time being to limit the operations to this advance into Turkish territory awaiting reinforcements be­fore attempting to proceed farther in the direction of Bagdad. The chief O immediate object was to guard the long pipeline of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company in which the British Admiralty had acquired a predominant interest. This pipeline 150 miles long started some 30 miles east of 1 Vol. I pp. 220-333 1_2- Vol. III. Shuster and ran byway o f Ahw az to the companys refineries at Abadan, on the Shatt-el-Arab skirting along most of the route a sort o f no man’s land to the Turkish frontier. With the increasing use o foil fuel in the Royal Navy it was necessary not­withstanding the immense reserves stored in the United Kingdom to protect these supplies from probable attack. A British garrison was accor­dingly sent to Ahwaz which though in Persian territory was governed by the semi-independent Arab Sheikh of Mohammerah who had always been on special terms of friendship with Britain. January 1915 passed without any decisive fighting though a force of some 5000 Turks with six guns having taken up a threatening position near the Mezera camp on the opposite side of the Tigris to Kurnah was attacked by a reconnaissance in force and scattered with fifty casualties on the British side. The Government as Lord Crewe said in the House of Lords on April 81915 had never been under any illusion as to the prob­ability that the Turks might bring forces of very considerable magnitude to the scene of operations in Meso- 99
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