March 11th, 1917 – The British Capture Baghdad
The Mesopotamian campaign was a campaign in the Middle Eastern theatre of World War I fought between the Allies represented by the British Empire, mostly troops from Britain and the Indian Empire , and the Central Powers, mostly of the Ottoman Empire. On March 11th, 1917, Baghdad fell to Anglo-Indian forces commanded by General Stanley Maude.
General Maude’s offensive was launched on December 13th, 1916. The British advanced up both sides of the Tigris river, forcing the Ottoman army out of a number of fortified positions along the way. General Maude’s offensive was methodical, organized, and successful. Khalil Pasha was able to concentrate most of his forces against Maude near Kut. However, Maude switched his advance to the other bank of the Tigris, bypassing most of the Ottoman forces. The Ottoman XVIII Corps escaped destruction only by fighting some desperate rear guard actions. It did lose quite a bit of equipment and supplies. The British occupied Kut and continued to advance up the Tigris.
By early March, the British were at the outskirts of Baghdad, and the Baghdad garrison, under the direct command of the Governor of Baghdad province Halil Kut (Khalil Pasha), tried to stop them on the Diyala river. General Maude outmaneuvered the Ottoman forces, destroyed an Ottoman regiment and captured the Ottoman defensive positions. Khalil Pasha retreated in disarray out of the city. On March 11th, 1917, the British entered Baghdad where they were greeted as liberators. The British Indian Army played a significant role in the liberation of Baghdad. Amidst the confusion of the retreat a large part of the Ottoman army (some 15,000 soldiers) were captured. A week after the city fell, General Maude issued the oft-quoted Proclamation of Baghdad, which contained the famous line “our armies do not come into your cities and lands as conquerors or enemies, but as liberators“.
Khalil Pasha withdrew his battered Sixth Army up river and established his headquarters in Mosul. He had about 30,000 total troops with which to oppose Maude. In April, he received the 2nd Infantry Division, but overall the Ottoman strategic position was bad in the spring of 1917. After the capture of Baghdad, Maude stopped his advance. He felt his supply lines were too long, conditions in the summer made campaigning difficult and he had been denied reinforcements he felt he needed.
Later that year, on November 18th, General Maude died of cholera. He was replaced by General William Marshall who halted operations for the winter.
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