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point the way with a rope round his neck. Nevertheless, they met with no actual opposition during the whole journey other than a few stray shots at long range.
"They traveled light. For transport they had less than one pack animal for ten men. These carried ammunition, cooking pots, and a tent for officers. Otherwise, beyond a few simple necessaries, they had no other kit than what they stood up in, and they lived on the country, purchasing barley, flour, rice, and sheep from the villagers. Fodder and fuel were always obtainable.
"For ambulance they had only one assistant surgeon, provided with medical wallets, but none of these Cossacks fell sick. They are a hard lot.
“Their last march was one of thirty miles, during which five of their horses died of thirst or exhaustion on the parched desert, and they reached camp after nightfall. Yet, after a dinner which was given in their honor, they were singing and dancing all night and did not turn in till one in the morning.
“The ride of the Cossacks establishing direct contact between the Russian force in Persia and the British force on the Tigris, of course, has impressed the tribesmen on both sides of the frontier."
On the next day the Turks withdrew all their forces who, on the south bank of the Tigris, had held the Es-Sinn position. Only at a bridge across the Shatt-al-Hai, about five miles below its junction with the Tigris, they left some rear guards. On the north bank of the Tigris they continued to hold, not only the EsSinn position, but also the Sanna-i-Yat position, some eight miles farther down the river. This meant that General Gorringe not only had carried an important position, but also that he had advanced the British lines on the south bank of the Tigris by about ten miles, for on May 20, 1916, the British positions were established along a line running from the village of Magasis, on the south bank of the Tigris, about five miles east of Kut-el-Amara, to a point on the Shatt-al-Hai, about equally-distant from Kut.
The withdrawal of the Turkish forces on the south bank of the Tigris naturally left their positions on the north bank very much
exposed to British attacks. It was, therefore, not at all surprising that English artillery subjected the Turks on the north bank to heavy bombardments during the following days, nor that this fire was extremely effective. However, in spite of this fact, the Turks continued to maintain their positions on the north bank of the Tigris.
Throughout the balance of May, June, and July, 1916, nothing of importance occurred in Mesopotamia. The temperature in that part of Asia during the early summer rises to such an extent that military operations become practically impossible. It is true that from time to time unimportant skirmishes between outposts and occasional artillery duels of very limited extent took place. But they had no influence on the general situation or on the location of the respective positions.
During the early part of the month the British trenches on the north bank of the Tigris were pushed forward a short distance, until they were within 200 yards of the Turkish position, Sanna-i-Yat, where they remained for the balance of midsummer. To the south of Magasis, on the south bank of the river, British troops occupied an advanced position about three and one-half miles south of the main position. Then they stopped there too. About the same time, June 10, 1916, Turkish guns sunk three barges on the Tigris, the only actual success which the Sultan's forces won since the fall of Kut-el-Amara.
Along the Euphrates, where British troops had held certain positions ever since 1915, there was also an almost entire lack of activity, except that occasional small and entirely local punitive expeditions became necessary in order to hold in hand the Arab tribes of the neighborhood.
Climatic conditions continued extremely trying, and enforced further desistance from military activity until, toward the end of July, relief in the form of the shamal (northwest wind) would come and once more make it possible to resume operations.
with the Russian advance in Armenia and the
VOINCIDENT with the Russian advance in Armenia and the
at vancing up the Tigris, the Russian General Staff also directed a strong attack against this ancient Arabian city from the northeast through Persia.
Before the Mesopotamian plain, in which Bagdad is situated, could be reached from Persia the mountains along the PersianTurkish frontier had to be crossed, an undertaking full of difficulties.
Just as in Armenia, here completed railroads were lacking entirely. Such roads as were available were for the most part in the poorest possible condition. The mountains themselves could be crossed only at a few points through passes located at great height, where the caravans that had traveled for centuries and centuries between Persia and Mesopotamia had blasted a trail. At only one point to the north of Bagdad was there a break in the chain of mountains that separated Persia from Mesopotamia. That was about one hundred miles northeast of Bagdad in the direction of the Persian city of Kermanshah. There one Russian army was advancing undoubtedly with the twofold object of reaching and capturing Bagdad and of submitting the Turkish army operating in that sector to an attack from this source as well as from the British army advancing along the Tigris. A Russian success at this point would have meant practically either the capture of all the Turkish forces or their ultimate destruction. For the only avenue of escape that would have been left to them would have been across the desert into Syria. And although there were a number of caravan routes available for this purpose, it would have been reasonably sure that most of the Turkish forces attempting such a retreat would have been lost. For a modern army of the size operating around Bagdad could not have been safely brought across the desert with all the supplies and ammunition indispensable for its continued existence.
In order to prevent the escape of these Turkish forces in a northerly direction along the Tigris and the line of the projected but uncompleted part of the Bagdad railroad, the Russians had launched another attack from the north. This second army advanced to the south of the region around Lake Urumiah, a large body of water less than fifty miles east of the Turko-Persian border. This attack was directed against another important Arabian city, Mosul. This town, too, was located on the Tigris, and on the line of the Bagdad railroad, about 200 miles northwest of Bagdad.
Still another Russian attack was developed by a third army, advancing about halfway between the other two army groups and striking at Mesopotamia from Persia slightly north of the most easterly point of the Turkish frontier.
Broadly speaking the Russian attack through Persia covered a front of about 200 miles. It must not be understood, however, that this was a continuous "front" of the same nature as the front in the western and eastern theaters of war in Europe. The undeveloped condition of the country made the establishment of a continuous front not only impossible, but unnecessary. Each of the three Russian groups were working practically independent of each other, except that their operations were planned and executed in such a way that their respective objectives were to be reached simultaneously. Even that much cooperation was made extremely difficult, because of the lack of any means of communication in a horizontal direction. No roads worthy of that name, parallel to the Turko-Persian frontier, existed. Telegraph or telephone lines, of course, were entirely lacking, except such as were established by the advancing armies. How great the difficulties were which confronted both the attacking and the defending armies in this primitive country can, therefore, readily be understood. They were still more increased by the climatic conditions which prevail during the winter and early spring. If fighting in the comparatively highly developed regions of the Austro-Italian mountains was fraught with problems that at times seemed almost impossible of solution, what then must it have been in the more or less uncivilized and almost absolutely undeveloped districts of Persian “Alps!” The difficulties that were overcome, the suffering which was the share of both Russians and Turks make a story the full details of which will not be told—if ever told at all—for a long time to come. No daily communiqué, no vivid description from the pen of famous war correspondents acquaints us of the details of the heroic struggle that for months and months progressed in these distant regions of the "near East.” Not even “letters from the front” guide us to any extent. For where conditions are such that even the transport of supplies and ammunition becomes a problem that requires constantly ingenuity of the highest degree, the transmission of mail becomes a matter which can receive consideration only very occasionally. Whatever will be known for a long time to come about this campaign is restricted to infrequent official statements made by the Russian and Turkish General Staffs, announcing the taking of an important town on the crossing of a mountain pass, up to then practically unknown to the greatest part of the civilized world.
It was such a statement from the Russian General Staff, that had announced the fall of Kermanshah on February 27, 1916. This was an important victory for the southernmost Russian army. For this ancient Persian town lies on the main caravan route from Mesopotamia to Teheran, passing over the high Zaros range, as well as on other roads, leading to Tabriz in the north and to Kut-el-Amara and Basra in the south. It brought this Russian army within less than 200 miles of Bagdad. Toward this goal the advance now was pushed steadily, and on March 1, 1916, Petrograd announced that the pursuit of the enemy to the west of Kermanshah continued and had yielded the capture of two more guns. The next important success gained by the Russians was announced on March 12, 1916, when the town of Kerind was occupied. This town, too, is located on the road to Bagdad and its occupation represented a Russian advance of about fifty miles in less than two weeks, no mean accomplishment in the face of a fairly determined resistance.