The Great War Part 206, July 27th 1918

428 The Great War In so flat a country as the river lands of Mesopotamia the sixty-foot altitude of Mushaid Ridge was of great observation value. It was worth more than a mountain would have been in Europe and after the abortive British surprise attack of July the German and Turkish officers had carefully measured and marked all the artillery ranges on and about their advanced ridge position. General Brooking however had made all allowances for the enemys increase of strength in ground and men. He bridged the Euphrates and openly prepared an attack upon the enemys river-line in the morning of September 26th. In the evening however the two infantry columns and the cavalry made a night march around the southern flank of the ridge. A small infantry force worked along the northern edge of Habbaniya Lake in the darkness and before day broke these enterprising troops General B rookings captured the dam across the valley canal, fine manoeuvre which was passable by all arms and occupied the ground behind the ridge. Then at dawn on September 28th General Brooking executed as fine a manoeuvre as Marlborough did at Ramillies or Hindenburg at Tannenberg. Comparatively small in scale as the battle was it was of classical perfection. As soon as the light was clear he threw a fierce barrage upon the outflanked ridge. The enemy commander withdrew his infantry and in turn lashed the ridge of sand with a tempest of shrapnel expecting to catch the storming waves of British and Indian troops. But these troops did not attack they manoeuvred. The cavalry rode from the right flank to the left crossed the conquered dam and pushed across a canal running behind Ramadiya reached the road to Aleppo in the afternoon and occupied aline of dunes stretch­ing to the riverside right in the rear of the trapped Turkish army. While this astonishing movement was beginning the left infantry column closed southward upon the enemy with magnificent and distracting vigour. The Dorsets and the 5th Gurkhas especially distinguished themselves in the thrust into the enemys southern front. While the Turks were furiously but vainly fighting against this left Indo-British column General Brooking again made a great change in his dispositions. He swung his right column away from the Euphrates and around the scene of action and again struck the enemy on his southern flank, by aline of dunes. As the two Indo-British columns worked forward and round the enemy across the bare coverless stretch of sand to the low pebbly rises the enemy artillerymen swept the ground with intense flanking fire while hostile riflemen and machine-gunners poured a frontal rain of bullets upon the attacking waves. Nevertheless the British and Indian soldiers gallantly won to the high ground and there dug themselves in. When night fell the enemy was held down from the river and along the southern edge of the desert and cutoff from all retreat by the Aleppo road. He had no bridges to enable him to escape Enveloped Turkish to the other side of the Euphrates and troops surrender he would not have gained anything had he attemped inflight this direction. Ahmed Bey who commanded the enveloped force had fought the British along the Euphrates since the action at Shaiba in March 1915. His Turkish troops were reduced to a few thousands by disease and battle. Many Bedouins who had answered the call of the Ottoman Khalif had either gone over to the more victorious of the combatants or retired into the waterless sands where they knew of secret oases in the dry stream beds by which they could live undisturbed by Turk or Briton and sally out to plunder the side that lost. They were the supreme terror for all exhausted fugitive remnants of a broken army. Ahmed Bey recognised that his wasted troops were likely to become the prey of these human vultures and in the night of September 28th he made an effort to escape from the British net as commander of an organised retreat. He moved his men from the east and south toward the western road to Aleppo and about three oclock in the morning of September 29th endeavoured to breakout between the Euphrates and the sandhills held by the Indo-British cavalry. No Turks however got closer than fifty yards to the entrenched horsemen. They were caught by shrapnel gusts from the Horse Artillery raked by Hotchkiss fire and finally broken just before dawn, by the Hussars and a squadron of Indian cavalry. As soon as the sky lightened. General Brooking put an end to the convulsive movements of the trapped enemy by launching the 39th Garhwalis and the 90th Punjabis from the southern front. The Garhwalis stormed the eanal bridge-head by the Aleppo road while the men of the Punjab drove into Ramadiya. The Indo-British cavalry, watching the action from the western dunes saw the Turks advance in amass against the Indian battalions, and expected a wild struggle. To their amazement the Turkish guns became silent and white flags went up from the hostile multitude. IL was a general surrender of Ahmed Bey and his division. Three thousand two hundred and sixty-five unwounded officers and men were taken with thirteen guns two steam launches several miles of railway tracks parts of five unassembled engines and a large quantity of equip­ment. Only a score of Turkish infantrymen with a small detachment of cavalry managed to escape by swimming the Euphrates. The victory of Ramadiya was of more importance than the number of troops engaged in the action appeared to indicate. The smallness of these forces was due to difficulties of desert transport and the forces represented the outstretched power of the opposing Empires at a critical point in the Mesopotamian river system. Ram adiya was Falkenhayns Reclaiming the proposed jumping-off place for a return Garden of Eden swoop on Bagdad. It was also a central place from which the desert tribes could be controlled and the blockade enforced against the Turks by stopping supplies from the Lower Euphrates from reaching them. Finally the possession of Ram adiya and its canals was necessary to the development of the great Euphrates irrigation scheme which neglected by the Turks became the glory of the new conquerors of Mesopotamia. Hundreds of disused canals were cleared and connected with the new irrigation works by the Shatt-el-Hilla and three hundred thousand acres were rapidly brought under cultivation with the promise of the greatest harvest since the days of Haroun al-Raschid. The land by the Shatt- el-Hindiya was also irrigated. Vast quantities of seed grain were planted in the newly-watered territory and the agricultural renaissance of the birthplace of civilisation filled Lower Mesopotamia with a strange spirit of energy and confidence. Friendly Kurds descendants perhaps of the Assyrians, secretly opened negotiations with the redeemers of the parched and desolate ruins of Eden begging Sir Frederick Stanley Maude to invade their country and liberate them from the Ottoman. Across the Persian marches came a wilder cry for help from tribesmen wasted by the invading Turk and reduced to utter famine amid their burnt and plundered homes. All old rumours of British achieve­ments in food production and orderly government in India and Egypt were enlarged into magnificent legends when the tribesmen and borderers heard of the explosion of the islanders creative energy and skill in the wilderness of Irak. A conqueror coming with a horn of natural plenty into one of the great deserts of the world and spreading fields of green wealth over the sands he passed was a marvel of marvels in the Orient. No longer did the patient East bow down in deep disdain when the invading legions
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