Primary Documents - Sir Charles Townshend's Communiqué on the Siege of Kut, 10 March 1916

Sir Charles Townshend Reproduced below is the second of Sir Charles Townshend's official communiqués to his garrison at Kut, dated 10 March 1916.  Under siege from Turkish forces following the failure of the overly optimistic British advance upon Baghdad towards the close of 1915 - although Townshend himself had long held reservations about the plan - his communiqué was intended to sustain the inevitably flagging morale of his garrison troops in the wake of the failure of a second British relief operation.

The garrison - chiefly comprised of native Indian troops - eventually surrendered to Turkish forces at the end of April 1916, and was widely regarded as a heavy humiliation to British influence in the region.  Townshend's reputation, although initially intact, was subsequently tarnished when news emerged of the Turkish mistreatment of his troops, and he died in some disgrace in 1924.

Click here to read Townshend's first communiqué dated 26 January 1916; click here to read his final communiqué dated 28 April 1916; click here to read the official Austrian report into the siege; click here to read a British memoir of the final days of the siege.

Communiqué from Sir Charles Townshend to the Kut Garrison, 10 March 1916

As on a former occasion, I take the troops of all ranks into my confidence again.

We have now stood a three months' siege in a manner which has called upon you the praise of our beloved King and our fellow-countrymen in England, Scotland, Ireland and India, and all this after your brilliant battles of Kut-el-Amara and Ctesiphon and your retirement to Kut, all of which feats of arms are now famous.

Since December 5, 1915, you have spent three months of cruel uncertainty, and to all men and all people uncertainty is intolerable.  As I say, on the top of all this comes the second failure to relieve us.  And I ask you also to give a little sympathy to me who have commanded you in these battles referred to, and who, having come to you as a stranger, now love my command with a depth of feeling I have never known in my life before.

When I mention myself I would also mention the names of the generals under me, whose names are distinguished in the army as leaders of men.

I am speaking to you as I did before, straight from the heart, and, as I say, I ask your sympathy for my feelings, having promised you relief on certain dates on the promise of those ordered to relieve us.  Not their fault, no doubt.  Do not think that I blame them; they are giving their lives freely, and deserve our gratitude and admiration.

But I want you to help me again, as before.  I have asked General Aylmer for the next attempt to bring such numbers as will break down all resistance and leave no doubt as to the issue.

In order, then, to hold out, I am killing a large number of horses so as to reduce the quantity of grain eaten every day, and I have had to reduce your ration.  It is necessary to do this in order to keep our flag flying.

I am determined to hold out, and I know you are with me heart and soul.

Source: Source Records of the Great War, Vol. IV, ed. Charles F. Horne, National Alumni 1923

"Eggs-a-cook" were boiled eggs sold by Arab street vendors. It was later used by Anzac soldiers when going over the top.

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Primary Docs