British Take Control of Samarrah and Its Railroad, Ending Samarrah Offensive

The Samarrah Offensive (March 13 — April 23, 1917) was launched by the British against the Ottomans as part of the Mesopotamian Campaign in World War I.

After Baghdad fell to the British on March 11, 1917, there were still 10,000 Ottoman troops north of the city, led by Khalil Pasha, who could represent a threat to Anglo-Indian forces.

Furthermore, another 15,000 Ottomans under Ali Ihsan Bey were being driven out of Persia by the Russians, and were attempting at joining Khalil's forces in northern Iraq.

The British commander, Frederick Stanley Maude, decided that, in order to avert these threats, he had to take control of the Samarrah railroad, running 130 km (80 miles) north of Baghdad.

Operations began on March 13, carried forth by 45,000 British troops. On March 19, they conquered Fallujah, a crucial step toward the offensive's goal. The British continued their attacks until April 23, when the town of Samarrah and its railroad fell into their hands.

Although it achieved its aims, the Samarrah offensive cost the British about 18,000 casualties, a considerable price (plus another 40,000 who were taken ill).

Heavy fighting saw some positions switch sides several times, until on the following morning the defending Turks retreated once again, this time to a ridge barely 10km from the railway. Casualties were roughly equal, at 2,000 apiece.

Continuing British attacks - and with more reserves on the way - persuaded the Turks to cede Samarrah on 23 April, leaving the town - and its railway - in British hands.