Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

taking was carried out most courageously in the face of the Turkish guns commanding the entire stretch of the Tigris between Sanna-i-Yat and the Turkish lines below Kut-el-Amara, it miscarried, for the boat went aground near Magasis, about four miles below Kut-el-Amara. Another desperate effort to get at least some supplies to Kut by means of aeroplanes also failed. The British forces had only some comparatively antiquated machines, which quickly became the prey of the more modern equipment of the Turks.

CHAPTER XL

THE

SURRENDER OF

KUT-EL-A MARA

BY
Y the end of April it had become only a question of days,

almost of hours, when it would be necessary for General Townshend to surrender. It was, therefore, no surprise when in the morning of April 29, 1916, a wireless report was received from him reading as follows:

Have destroyed my guns, and most of my munitions are being destroyed; and officers have gone to Khalil, who is at Madug, to say am ready to surrender. I must have some food here, and cannot hold on any more. Khalil has been told to-day, and a deputation of officers has gone on a launch to bring some food from Julnar."

A few hours afterward another message, the last one to come through, reached the relief forces, announcing the actual surrender:

“I have hoisted the white flag over Kut fort and towns, and the guards will be taken over by a Turkish regiment, which is approaching. I shall shortly destroy wireless. The troops at 2 p. m. to camp near Shamran.”

It was on the hundred and forty-third day of the siege that General Townshend was forced by the final exhaustion of his supplies to hoist the white flag of surrender. According to th official British statements this involved a force of “2970 Brits ish troops of all ranks and services and some 6,000 Indian troops and their followers."

About one o'clock in the afternoon of April 29, 1916, a prearranged signal from the wireless indicated that the wireless had been destroyed. It was then that the British emissaries were received by the Turkish commander in chief, Khalil Bey Pasha, in order to arrange the terms of surrender. According to these it was to be unconditional. But the Turks, who expressed the greatest admiration for the bravery of the British, readily agreed to a number of arrangements in order to reduce as much as possible the suffering on the part of the captured British forces who by then were near to starvation. As the Turks themselves were not in a position to supply their captives with sufficiently large quantities of food, it was arranged that such supplies should be sent up the Tigris from the base of the relief force. It was also arranged that wounded prisners should be exchanged and during the early part of May, 1916, a total of almost 1,200 sick and wounded reached headquarters of the Tigris Corps as quickly as the available ships could transport them.

The civil population of Kut-el-Amara had not been driven out by General Townshend as had been surmised. This was undoubtedly due to the fact that a few civilians who, driven by hunger, had attempted to escape, had been shot promptly by the Turks. Rather than jeopardize the lives of some 6,000 unfortunate Arabs, the English commander permitted them to remain and the same rations that went to the British troops were distributed to the Arabs. This, of course, hastened the surrender, an eventuality on which the Turks undoubtedly had counted when they adopted such stringent measures against their own subjects who were caught in their attempt to flee from Kut. Although Khalil Pasha refused to give any pledge in regard to the treatment of these civilians, he stated to the British emissaries that he contemplated no reprisals or persecutions in regard to the civilian population and that their future treatment at the hands of the Turkish troops would depend entirely on their future behavior.

U-War St. 5

With the least possible delay the Turks moved their prisoners from Kut-el-Amara to Bagdad and from there to Constantinople, from which place it was reported on June 11, 1916, that General Townshend had arrived and, after having been received with military honors, had been permitted to visit the United States ambassador who looked after British interests in Turkey during the war.

An official Turkish statement announced that together with General Townshend four other generals had been captured as well as 551 other officers, of whom about one-half were Europeans and another half Indians. The same announcement also claimed that the British had destroyed most of their guns and other arms, but that in spite of this the Turks captured about forty cannon, twenty machine guns, almost 5,000 rifles, large amounts of ammunition, two ships, four automobiles, and three aeroplanes.

It was only after the capitulation of General Townshend that details became available concerning the suffering to which the besieged army was subjected and the heroism with which all this was borne by officers and men, whites and Hindus alike. An especially clear picture of conditions existing in Kut-el-Amara during the siege may be gained from a letter sent to Bombay by a member of the Indian force and later published in various newspapers. It says in part:

"Wounded and diseased British and native troops are arriving from Kut-el-Amara, having been exchanged for an equal number of Turkish prisoners. They bring accounts of Townshend's gallant defense of Mesopotamia's great strategic point. Some are mere youngsters while others were soldiers before the war.

"All are frightfully emaciated and are veritable skeletons as the result of their starvation and sufferings. The absolute exhaustion of food necessitated the capitulation, and if General Townshend had not surrendered nearly the whole force would have died of starvation within a week.

“The Turkish General Khalil Pasha provided a river steamer for the unexchanged badly wounded, the others marching overland. Because of the wasted condition of the prisoners the marches were limited to five miles a day.

"When the capitulation was signed only six mules were left alive to feed a garrison and civilian population of nearly 20,000 persons.

“In the early stages of the siege, the Arab traders sold stocks of jam, biscuits, and canned fish at exorbitant prices. The stores were soon exhausted and all were forced to depend upon the army commissariat. Later a dead officer's kit was sold at auction. Eighty dollars was paid for a box of twenty-five cigars and twenty dollars for fifty American cigarettes.

"In February the ration was a pound of barley-meal bread and a pound and a quarter of mule or horse flesh. In March the ration was reduced to half a pound of bread and a pound of flesh. In April it was four ounces of bread and twelve ounces of flesh, which was the allowance operative at the time of the surrender. The food problem was made more difficult by the Indian troops, who because of their religion refused to eat flesh, fearing they would break the rules of their caste by doing so.

"When ordinary supplies were diminished a sacrifice was demanded of the British troops in order to feed the Indians, whose allowance of grain was increased while that of the British was decreased. Disease spread among the horses and hundreds were shot and buried. The diminished grain and horse feed supply necessitated the shooting of nearly 2,000 animals. The fattest horses and mules were retained as food for forty days.

"Kut-el-Amara was searched as with a fine tooth comb and considerable stores of grain were discovered beneath houses. These were commandeered, the inhabitants previously self-supporting receiving the same ration as the soldiers and Sepoys. It was difficult to use the grain because of inability to grind it into flour, but millstones were finally dropped into the camp by aeroplanes.

"In the first week in February scurvy appeared, and aeroplanes dropped seeds, which General Townshend ordered planted on all the available ground, and the gardens bore sufficient fruit to supply a few patients in the hospital.

"Mule and horse meat and sometimes a variety of donkey meat were boiled in the muddy Tigris water without salt or

[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][merged small]
« AnteriorContinuar »