Battle of Ctesiphon

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By Euronews
Battle of Ctesiphon

1915: November 22

Since 1914 British troops had been moving into modern-day Iraq in anticipation of a fight with Ottoman forces. The main goal was to defend oil supplies but the capture of Baghdad, one of the world’s biggest Islamic cities, was also seen as a useful propaganda tool. This fighting opened up a new front in the war known as the Mesopotamian campaign.

The troops, made up predominately of Indian and Australian soldiers, had a series of early successes and had occupied the province of Basra. However higher command ordered the offensive on towards Baghdad, a move that made the divisional commander Sir Charles Townshend anxious.

The Allies began their attacks against the Turkish around the ancient city of Ctesiphon on November 22, initially capturing the front line but subsequently being forced back. By November 23, although the Turkish had not succeeded in their counter attack, the Allied force had a causality rate of 40 percent. The Turkish had suffered double the number of casualties but could easily call for back-up, while the Allies could not, so Townshend retreated with his remaining men to the city of Kut.

Less than two weeks later the Turkish had begun a siege of the city which lasted for five months. Allied reinforcements that attempted to help were repeatedly defeated. Eventually Townshend surrendered with his 10,000 men. It was the largest single surrender in British history at that time.