World War 1914 - 1918 A Pictured History Part 28

suffered 4,500 casualties out of a total of at most 14,000 men, and less than half the battle had been won. The Turkish casualties were, it is true, as great or greater and over 1,000 prisoners had been taken, but it was by now clear that Turkish reinforcements were nearing the vicinity. In any event, Townshend decided to attempt 110 further advance. He was not to be left undisturbed, however, for during November 23 the Turks, in greatly superior numbers, launched a vigorous counter-attack. It was repulsed with heavy losses, and Turkish accounts speak glowingly of the resistance of the British troops but the strain 011 the latter, who knew that they could not be reinforced, had bccome almost unbearable. The relative posi­tions of the two forces were the same at dawn on November 24, but during that day Townshend, with the sanction of Nixon, decided to retreat aLto jj. The retreat was effected without incident during the night of November 25-26, the Turks, whose intelligence service was as defective as was the British, making no attempt to hinder it. A aLt jj the troops were rejoined by the flotilla. From his reports to Sir John Nixon on November 25, it is clear that Towns­ hend thought of retreating no farther than Lajj. “Strategical and tactical reasons insist 011 L ajj as our advanced point, 011 which I hope you will direct ships, stores and reinforcements.” Yet within a day of arrival at that place he had determined to retreat to Aziziya. Photos: Imp e ria lII ar Museum NEVER QUIET No immediate fighting is in progress 011 this stretch of the front line near Ploegsteert Wood, but this sector, one of the most dangerous in the line, was never altogether quiet. Two men of the Lancashire Fusiliers are cleaning a Lewis gun below This stage of the retreat, a distance of 22 miles, was covered by weary troops in a single march between 4 p.m. 011 November 27 and 6 a.m. 011 November 28. Though harassed by Turkish cavalry and Arabs, they preserved a magnificent discipline, but in the following days they were subjected to even severer ordeals. A t Uinm at Tubul, the next stage in the retreat, reached on November 30, they were TRENCH ARTILLERYMen of a trench mortar battery are loading, in snow conditions, near Gommecourt, a 9*45 inch mortar. Having only a short range, it was placed close behind the front line, and was used offensively before an attack or defensively to cover a retreat caught up by the Turks. The latter stumbled upon them after dark, but 110 action took place before dawn. The accurate fire of the British guns then paralysed the Turks, who were addi­tionally frightened by an outflanking movement by the cavalry, and the Turkish 13 th army corps disintegrated. Townshend, who rightly saw no hope in an offensive action, took the opportunity to retreat farther, and under heavy gunfire Umm at Tubul was evacuated. Qala Shadi, 26 miles distant, was reached the same evening, December 1, and on the morning of December 3 the weary troops marched into Kut-al-Am ara. On the river the British suffered heavily, but for this Captain Nunn, the commander of the flotilla, cannot be blamed. The appalling difficulties of navigation in a river studded with mud banks and shallows made inevitable the loss of ships if a rapid retreat, such as Townshend’s withdrawal made neces­sary, was attempted. Of the vessels, the Shaitan ran aground and was abandoned above Aziziya, and a similar fate over­took the Firefly and the Comet at Umm at Tubul. In addition, three launches, six barges,, all the pontoons and many other smaller craft were lost, abut large portion of the heterogeneous flotilla re­turned in safety, bearing stores which greatly strengthened the possibility of a successful resistance at K ut. The evacuation of the wounded at Ctesiphon and during the retreat was a difficult problem, and when the terrible conditions on the hospital boats were made known there was an outburst of 76= I E
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