Sailing to Kut | 16 Sep 1915


As the full weight of summer in the desert blasts down, nearly 50 celsius in the shade, the force that’s supposed to be sailing to Kut-al-Amara has now finally finished assembling at Ali Gharbi, some 60 miles north of Amara. Now they’re heading off up the River Tigris (in instalments) on another 60-mile journey, this one eventually ending at Kut itself.

The Poona Division of the Indian Army has some 11,000 men sailing up the river, with 28 guns and nine boats. Townshend’s Regatta is in full flow, and as fine a spirit as could possibly be expected of them. Meanwhile, the Ottomans under Colonel Nureddin are still trying to pull themselves back together after their earlier string of defeats. Reinforcements have been promised, but are yet to arrive; and with so much fighting elsewhere, Nureddin can’t plan on them arriving any time soon.

The blokes are currently hurrying up and waiting at Sannaiyat, having been brought forward first by boat. They’re now guarding the river while the flotilla returns for the guns. Such aeroplanes as are in theatre have now been designated their own squadron of the Royal Flying Corps, and are being kept busy flying recon missions out towards Kut, and in particular towards Es Sinn, a bend in the river where it seems the Ottomans are locating their main defences. More soon.

Kenneth Best

Louis Barthas might be too busy training to complain about anything at the moment, but don’t worry, here’s Kenneth Best from Gallipoli with a truly Barthasian (and entirely justified) screed.

They say some medic of the rank of General came over to enquire into health of troops. The result of the enquiry was that it was pronounced appalling and that the only solution of the difficulty was to send [Best’s] Division away. Yet last week our sick and wounded were only 250, whereas Lowland Division has 350 and Royal Naval Division over 600. Can all be relieved at once? Possibly if it is found impossible to force way across Peninsula at Suvla Bay. Troops can be spared from there as there are more than enough to hold the line.

Officer Commanding 10th Manchesters complains that junior staff officers live in luxury, while senior officers of infantry battalion are shown a filthy dust heap and told that is their quarters. They have all the strain and hardship and yet nothing is done for them when in bivouac. NCOs in Gunners or Sappers live more comfortably, while Field Ambulance men with medical comforts and all sorts of presents from home can cultivate friends by means of the mammon of unrighteousness and so get material and, having nothing to do, build themselves a row of villas.

The cooler weather is a relief.

Sapping at Loos

Back to Lieutenant Waterlow of the 19th Londons, as they put their backs (well, the blokes do, anyway) into digging some jumping-off trenches for the Battle of Loos.

When the time came, we filed out of the sap-heads like mice and spread out along the taped line. Every man had to take the utmost care not to jangle the picks and shovels against one another, or his equipment. Any slight noise might give us away. If the Boche chose to turn a machine-gun on us, they could have wiped us all out. We were a line of men spread out across No Man’s Land with no cover.

The men with the picks got to work at once, while the men with the shovels lay full length on the ground, with the shovel blade in front of them to protect their heads. Never have I seen men dig at such a rate! They seemed to be two feet deep in no time.

More from the lieutenant tomorrow.

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