Lieutenant General Sir Fenton John Aylmer, 13th Baronet of Donadea VC KCB, commander of the Tigris Corps in March 1916
Lieutenant General Sir Fenton John Aylmer, 13th Baronet of Donadea VC KCB, commander of the Tigris Corps in March 1916
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Battle of Dujaila

The Battle of Dujaila was fought on March 8, 1916, between British and Ottoman forces during the First World War. The Ottoman forces, led by Colmar Freiherr von der Goltz were besieging Kut, when the Anglo-Indian relief force, led by Lieutenant-General Fenton Aylmer, attempted to relieve the city. The attempt failed, and Aylmer lost 4,000 men.

Throughout most of 1915, the Anglo-Indian expedition, designated Indian Expeditionary Force D, had advanced up both the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Originally dispatched to capture the Shatt al Arab and Basra, to protect the British oilfields in Iran, Force "D"'s mission in Mesopotamia expanded gradually as local commanders saw a chance for victories which would burnish the British Empire's prestige in the Muslim world. At the battles of Qurna, Nasiriyeh, and Es Sinn, Force "D" defeated elements of the Turkish Sixth Army. After the Battle of Es Sinn, the Anglo-Indian force controlled the Tigris and Euphrates rivers through much of what is now southern Iraq. Sensing that Baghdad was within their gasp, the commander of Force "D", supported by the Commander in Chief, India, in Simla, argued for permission to launch a final offensive to capture it. The situation looked promising. The nearest Turkish reserves, according to British intelligence, were 400 miles distant in the Caucasus or 250 miles away at Aleppo in Syria. All that blocked the way to Baghdad were two demoralized, defeated divisions.

In London, the India Office was staunchly opposed to a further advance. Secretary of State for India, Austen Chamberlain was concerned that even if Baghdad could be captured, it would only be lost again because no other troops were available to reinforce Force "D". Eventually, the question of a further advance was taken up by Asquith's War Cabinet. Despite warnings from the Imperial General Staff, the decision to advance was given.

During the second half of 1915, Force "D" had only one division, the 6th (Poona) Division under Major-General Charles V.F. Townshend, available for offensive operations. Eventually, the question of a further advance was taken up by Asquith's War Cabinet. Despite warnings from the Imperial General Staff, the decision to advance was given. Although tactically successful at the Battle of Ctesiphon, it proved to be a Pyrrhic victory. The Poona Division retreated to Kut.

The Turkish 6th Army, reinforced, pursued and laid siege to the town after attempts to storm the Anglo-Indian positions failed. Failing to take the town by storm, the Turkish 6th Army had adopted a passive siege, preferring to starve the Kut defenders into submission. The survival of the garrison became dependent on its food supply. Originally, forecast to be exhausted by the middle of February 1916, additional food stocks had been discovered in the town at the end of January 1916, which would extend the defender's rations until the middle of April 1916.

With the Poona Division under siege, the high commands in London and Simla began scrambling to put together a relief force. Lieutenant-General Fenton Aylmer was appointed to command the relief expedition, designated as the Tigris Corps. Originally intended to be made up of the 3rd (Lahore) Division and 7th (Meerut) Division as well as replacements intended for the besieged Poona Division. The Tigris Corps' first drive to relieve Townshend and the Kut garrison ground to a halt at the Battle of Hanna on 21 January 1916.

Originally scheduled to begin on 6 March the attack was postponed until 8 March on account of heavy rainfall. General Kemball led the main advance at 10am; but by noon he was stopped around 700 metres short of the Redoubt.