Fall of Baghdad (1917)
The British Indian Army
British Indian Army
The British Indian Army, officially simply the Indian Army, was the principal army of the British Raj in India before the partition of India in 1947...

 fought the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 in the First World War
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. On 11 March 1917, after a series of defeats, it captured Baghdad after a two-year campaign.

Arrival of General Sir Frederick Stanley Maude

After the surrender of the Kut garrison
Siege of Kut
The siege of Kut Al Amara , was the besieging of 8,000 strong British-Indian garrison in the town of Kut, 100 miles south of Baghdad, by the Ottoman Army. Its known also as 1st Battle of Kut. In 1915, its population was around 6,500...

 on 29 April 1916, the British Army in Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

 underwent a major overhaul. A new commander, Lieutenant General Sir Frederick Stanley Maude
Frederick Stanley Maude
Lieutenant General Sir Frederick Stanley Maude KCB, CMG, DSO was a British commander, most famous for his efforts in Mesopotamia during World War I and for conquering Baghdad in 1917.-Family:...

 was given the job of restoring Britain's military reputation.

General Maude spent the rest of 1916 rebuilding his army. Most of his troops were recruited in India
British Raj
British Raj was the British rule in the Indian subcontinent between 1858 and 1947; The term can also refer to the period of dominion...

 and then sent by sea to Basra
Basra is the capital of Basra Governorate, in southern Iraq near Kuwait and Iran. It had an estimated population of two million as of 2009...

. While these troops were being trained, British military engineers built a field railway from the coast up to Basra and beyond. General Maude also obtained a small force of armed river boats and river supply ships.

The British launched their new campaign on 13 December 1916. The British had some 50,000 well-trained and well-equipped troops: mostly British India troops of the Indian Expeditionary Force "D" together with the 14th (Western Division) of the British Army forming the Mesopotamia Expeditionary Force. The Indian divisions of e Indian III Corps (also called the Tigris Corps) included British Army units.
The Ottoman forces were smaller, perhaps around 25,000 strong under the overall command of Khalil Pasha.

March on Baghdad

There were no setbacks for the British on this campaign. General Maude proceeded cautiously, advancing on both sides of the Tigris
The Tigris River is the eastern member of the two great rivers that define Mesopotamia, the other being the Euphrates. The river flows south from the mountains of southeastern Turkey through Iraq.-Geography:...

 River. He earned his nickname Systematic Joe. The Ottoman forces contested a fortified place called the Khadairi Bend which the British captured after two weeks of siege work (6 January to 19 January 1917). The British then had to force the Ottoman forces out of a strong defensive line along the Hai River
Shatt al-Hayy
The Gharraf Canal, Shaṭṭ al-Ḥayy , also known as Shaṭṭ al-Gharrāf or the Hai river, is an ancient canal that connects Tigris with Euphrates in Iraq. As an Ottoman defensive line lay along the canal, it was a theater to intense military action during First World War; e.g. the siege of Kut...

. This took them two more weeks (from 25 January till 4 February). Another Ottoman position, called Dahra Bend, was taken on 16 February. Finally, the British re-captured Kut
Al-Kūt is a city in eastern Iraq, on the left bank of the Tigris River, about 160 kilometres south east of Baghdad. the estimated population is about 374,000 people...

 on 24 February 1917 in the Second Battle of Kut
Second Battle of Kut
The Second Battle of Kut was fought on February 23, 1917, between British and Ottoman forces at Kut, Mesopotamia .The battle was part of the British advance to Baghdad begun in December 1916 by a 50,000-man British force organized in two army corps.The British, led by Frederick Stanley Maude,...


The local Ottoman commander, Karabekir Bey, did not let his army become trapped in Kut, as General Townshend had been in the First Battle of Kut.

The march on Baghdad resumed on 5 March 1917. Three days later, Maude's corps reached the Diyala River
Diyala River
The Diyala River after Darban-e Khan Dam:Kurdish: Sirwan, سيروان, , Persian: سیروان دیاله, is a river and tributary of the Tigris that runs mainly through Eastern Iraq but also Western Iran. It covers a total distance of ....

 on the outskirts of the city.

Khalil Pasha chose to defend Baghdad at the confluence of the Diyala and the Tigris, some 35 miles south of Baghdad. The Ottoman troops resisted the initial British assault on 9 March. General Maude then shifted the majority of his army north. He believed that he could outflank the Ottoman positions and strike directly for Baghdad. Khalil Pasha responded by shifting his army out of its defensive positions to mirror the move of the British on the other side of the river. A single regiment was left to hold the original Diyala River defences. The British crushed this regiment with a sudden assault on 10 March 1917. This sudden defeat unnerved Khalil Pasha and he ordered his army to retreat north to Baghdad.

The Ottoman authorities then ordered the evacuation of Baghdad at 8 p.m. on 10 March. But the situation was rapidly moving beyond Khalil Pasha's control. The British followed close on the heels of the Ottoman troops and captured Baghdad without a fight on 11 March 1917. The British troops were greeted with enthusiasm by the residents. A week later, General Maude issued the Proclamation of Baghdad, which included the line, "Our armies do not come into your cities and lands as conquerors or enemies, but as liberators". Some 9,000 Ottoman troops were caught in the confusion and became prisoners of the British.

The British were worried that the Ottoman government might try to flood the Tigris plain. As it happened, this fear was unfounded. The Ottoman troops never attempted to flood the area.


This was clearly a victory for the British and yet another defeat for the Ottoman government. The humiliation for the British due to the loss of Kut had been partially rectified. The Ottoman government was forced to end its military operations in Persia and try to build up a new army to prevent the British from moving on to capture Mosul
Mosul , is a city in northern Iraq and the capital of the Ninawa Governorate, some northwest of Baghdad. The original city stands on the west bank of the Tigris River, opposite the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh on the east bank, but the metropolitan area has now grown to encompass substantial...


The capture of Baghdad, a provincial capital, also meant that the first Ottoman province had fallen under British control. Although this was good news, it caused a great deal of bureaucratic fighting between the British government in London and the British government in India.

Once he captured Baghdad, Maude was the de facto Governor of Mesopotamia from Basra
Basra is the capital of Basra Governorate, in southern Iraq near Kuwait and Iran. It had an estimated population of two million as of 2009...

 to Baghdad. Sir Percy Cox, the Tigris Corps Political Officer
Political officer
Political officer may refer to:*Political officer , Occasionally, a synonym for political commissar*Political officer , in the context of the British Empire, for a pseudo-ambassadorial role in areas bordering imperial territories...

, attempted to issue a proclamation stating that the province was under joint British-Indian administration. But London ordered Cox not to issue his proclamation, and came out with its own proclamation asking Arab leaders to aid the British administration.

At the same time, the Indian colonial government
British Raj
British Raj was the British rule in the Indian subcontinent between 1858 and 1947; The term can also refer to the period of dominion...

 had different ideas. After all, they had been the prime movers behind Mesopotamia in the first place. The British government in India wanted this new area placed under its direct control.

This power struggle lead to the creation of the Mesopotamian Administration Committee, under the leadership of Lord Curzon. Its main task was to determine who would govern the Basra and Baghdad provinces. Its ruling was a British
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

, not Anglo-Indian, administration for Basra and an Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

authority for Baghdad.
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