Operations on TIGRIS 21st-30th Oct 1918 ending in
Surrender of Turkish Army under HAQQI BEY at 7 am
on 30th Oct
On 21st we marched as soon as it was dark and reached camp before dawn on 22nd, stayed in camp till nightfall and marched on again that night, reaching our next camp early morning on 23rd. This was about 6 miles from the first Turkish position, a formidable line of hills running roughly at right angles to the Tigris & guarding both banks, with many trenches and gun positions, and altogether a nasty looking place to tackle.
There was a certain amount of patrol work & artillery fire this day (23rd), but no fighting. Our bde had’nt much to do, as 2 other bdes were in front of us. Orders were out to attack the positions next day 24th, but on the morning of the 24th our patrols found the Turkish position empty. He had retired during the night, & so we pushed on hard behind him at once. We camped that night in the gorge formed by the river breaking through the hills, and another brigade went on ahead of us.
At 5 a.m. next morning (25th) we pushed on, along a most extraordinary road. It ran along the sides of the hills, just above the river, and the hills here are split up into innumerable ravines. Conseqeuntly the road wound in and out of these ravines and wandered up and down, in and out, the whole way. We could only take pack animals along it, so steep was it and tortuous, not a hundred yards straight in ten miles of it. Yet in some marvellous way the guns came along it later in the day, tho’ heaven knows how they managed it. But then gunners are always doing wonderful things.
I just mention the road as an example of the difficulties of the advance. The country we have been operating in is very much broken up with small hills and big dry “wadis”, broad stony river beds which rapidly become torrents in the rainy season. Consequently the Turk had a choice of innumerable positions where he could (and did!) hold us up and stop our advance-
Well, we reached camp that evening 25th, & were off again next morning at 5 a.m. & had our first fight that day 26th Oct. The bde in front of us had met the Turk in a very strong position and had not been able to turn him out. The Turk held all the cards; all approaches to the position were under close shell fire, and the ground in front of the position was an open plain-
We pushed in some of our troops, but did not attempt anything serious till we were able to work round his flank towards evening. All that day (26th) the 2 brigades hung on under shell fire, & all that night too, & next morning (27th) patrols found the Turk had once more slipped away in the night. So off we went at 7 am on 27th in hot pursuit, marched all day without finding him, & camped that night for food & rest at 6 pm. By this time men & animals were pretty done, after hard & continuous marching over bad roads, & a day & night’s fighting. However we had to hurry on and catch up the Turk, who we knew must be tired too by now.
While all this had been going on, a cavalry brigade, after a wide detour of nearly 50 miles, had crossed the Tigris behind the Turk, i.e. between him and MOSUL, & so cut him off from his base. Of course HAQQI BEY, the Turkish commander, went for the cavalry & tried to knock him out, but they put up a splendid fight & held on & the Turk could find no escape there. Turkish reinforcements – 1000 of them – were sent down from MOSUL to destroy the cavalry, but instead were captured by them! Meantime however the cavalry were hard pressed, and it was imperative that we should push on up the river & join hands with them. So off we went again at 3 a.m. on 28th, marched till 12 noon & found the enemy in position. The Bde then attacked & by 2 o’clock had driven him from his position, & captured 200 prisoners & 10 machine guns.
We got into camp by 6, with orders to pursue hard as soon as the men had rested. More troops however came up – in the shape of already tired & battered brigades – & they took on the pursuit as well as they could, as we were absolutely done. But we were off at 5.30 am again on the 29th, & found our advanced troops in action by 9 a.m. We had a bit of a rest and at 1.30 pm were again on the move, this time to attack once more.
The men went forward splendidly under heavy shell fire and tremendous machine gun fire, but the position was too strong for our small force, & was held determinedly by the Turk, who knew he had our cavalry just behind him, so he had to fight or surrender, & he certainly fought alright. Night fell on the usual confusion of the battlefield, units and brigades mixed up, tired, and thirsty and the enemy still in his position. We had no troops near to throw into the fight, & we wondered what was going to happen next day. Another division was operating on the other bank of the river, & they had manged to send over a few troops to help the cavalry, but they could’nt do much to help us, as there was no bridge across. They helped with the long range guns a lot, but it was infantry we wanted.
It was an anxious night, the 29th Oct, & the early hours of 30th, as we thought the Turk would counter attack our thin & exhausted line. But we were to reap the reward of the perseverance and gallantry of our troops sooner than we expected, and at 7 am on 30th the Turk surrendered everywhere-He seemed to come from all corners of the field, & we were indeed glad he had decided not to try and drive us out!
Great long columns of them were collected & marched off to the prisoners’ camps, & we were left in possession of the battlefield and the way to MOSUL was open. That was at 7 am on 30th Oct, and next day we got orders through that hostilities were to cease as an armistice had been signed between the Allies and Turkey on the evening of the 30th. So we only just made our bag in time – a few hours later and they would not have been prisoners of war. We had marched hard and long and fought hard to catch them and it was a most satisfactory ending to the operations-
The prisoners number nine or ten thousand; over 40 guns have been captured & well over 100 machine guns besides much miscellaneous booty. This does not sound much good compared with the colossal captures in Palestine & elsewhere, but it is at anyrate, all there is to capture, & one can’t do more than that!
The men have been absolutely marvellous. They have been asked to do a very difficult job, hard marching when they were dog tired- hard fighting on little water & short rations and to overcome all sorts of difficulties incidental to campaigning in this country. But they have done all that was asked of them & have never failed, and it is splendid to know their efforts have been so tremendously successful.