Who's Who - Sir Charles Townshend

Sir Charles Townshend Sir Charles Vere Ferrers Townshend (1861-1924) led the Anglo-Indian force lain siege in 1915-16 which finally surrendered in humiliation on 29 April 1916.

Coming from a military background Townshend's army career prior to war in 1914 was distinguished.  He earned himself a "lucky" nickname following success commanding the garrison at Chitral in 1895 (after which he was awarded the CB).  To this he added the DSO for his role in Lord Kitchener's Nile expedition in 1898.

With the British declaration of war in August 1914 Townshend was appointed to command of the Sixth Indian Division in Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq) in April 1915.

Reconfirming his pre-war reputation for luck Townshend quickly engineered a spectacular success at Amara followed by victory at Es Sinn.  Recommending to Commander-in-Chief Sir John Nixon a policy of consolidation he was instead ordered to push on up the Tigris with the capture of Baghdad in his sights.

Finding progress increasingly hard going Townshend's poorly equipped force was defeated at Ctesiphon in November 1915 and obliged to retreat to Kut.  His urgent call for a relieving operation was quickly answered but defeated by the Turks under Goltz.  Finally his small force surrendered on 29 April 1916.

Despite the humiliation of defeat no initial blame was apportioned upon Townshend, least of all by his men who admired him for the skill and resolve he demonstrated during the retreat.  Nevertheless criticism was soon voiced based upon Townshend's apparent passiveness during the British attempt to relieve his force.

Considered an honoured guest by his Turkish captors Townshend was treated with lavish hospitality; meanwhile his 10,000 troops were largely subjected to barbaric treatment (including homosexual rape).  A remarkable two-thirds of this group died while being marched into captivity.

Townshend assisted with the negotiation of the Turkish armistice at Mudros in October 1918 but his reputation continued to suffer as news of the maltreatment of his force spread.  He died in some disgrace in 1924.

Click here to read Townshend's official communiqué to his besieged garrison dated 26 January 1916; click here to read his second dated 10 March 1916; click here to read his third dated 10 March 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.

Prevalent dysentery among Allied soldiers in Gallipoli came to be referred to as "the Gallipoli gallop".

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