Fall of Baghdad (1917)

On 11 March 1917, the British Indian Army fighting the Ottoman Turks in the First World War, after a series of defeats, captured Baghdad in a two-year campaign.

After the surrender of the Kut garrison on 29 April 1916, the British Army in Mesopotamia underwent a major overhaul. A new commander, Lieutenant General Sir Frederick Stanley Maude was given the job of restoring Britain's military reputation.

General Maude spent the rest of 1916 rebuilding his army. Most of his troops were recruited in India and then sent by sea to Basra. While these troops were being trained, British military engineers built a field railway from the coast up to Basra and beyond. General Maude also obtained a small force of armed river boats and river supply ships.

The British launched their new campaign on 13 December 1916. The British had some 50,000 well-trained and well-equipped troops: the Indian III Corps also called the Tigris Corps. The Ottoman forces were smaller, perhaps around 25,000 strong under the overall command of Khalil Pasha.

There were no setbacks for the British on this campaign. General Maude proceeded cautiously, advancing on both sides of the Tigris River. He earned his nickname Systematic Joe. The Ottoman forces contested a fortified place called the Khadairi Bend which the British captured after two weeks of siege work (6 January to 19 January 1917). The British then had to force the Turks out of a strong defensive line along the Hai River. This took them two more weeks (from 25 January till 4 February). Another Ottoman position, called Dahra Bend, was taken on 16 February. Finally, the British re-captured Kut on 24 February 1917 in the Second Battle of Kut.

The local Ottoman commander, Karabekir Bey, did not let his army become trapped in Kut like General Townshend had been in the First Battle of Kut.

This was promptly taken by the British on the morning of 10 March; Khalil decided therefore to retire from his position at Tel Aswad to instead protect the Baghdad-Berlin railway. Sandstorms ended operations for the day; by the time the weather had settled Khalil had decided upon a general retreat from Baghdad itself, discounting German recommendations for a counter-attack. Thus at 8pm on 10 March the evacuation of Baghdad was underway.