Action of Khan Baghdadi

The Action of Khan Baghdadi was an engagement during the Mesopotamian Campaign in World War I. The 15th Indian Division had been at Ramadi since its capture of the town in September 1917.

On 9 March 1918, it advanced and occupied the town of Hit in a bloodless victory, the Turks evacuating without a shot being fired.

The next objective along the Euphrates was the town of Khan al Baghdadi. Most battles in Mesopotamia had been tied to the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. If an attack was successful, the loser would withdraw along the line of the river to prepared positions further back. Securing a proper victory was difficult. In an attempt to break with the usual pattern, the 15th Indian Division were supplied with 300 Ford lorries, the 8th Light Armoured Motor Battery (armoured cars), and the 11th Cavalry Brigade. A mobile blocking force was assembled using divisional infantry in the lorries, the armoured cars, the cavalry brigade, and one of the divisional artillery batteries equipped with double the usual number of horses.

This mobile force was then sent on a wide flanking march around Khan Baghdadi, and dug in behind the Turkish positions. The remainder of the division then assaulted frontally in the normal fashion, and the Turks retreated from the town. They then ran unexpectedly into the blocking force, and their discipline quickly crumbled. The entire force of about 5000 men were taken prisoner.

The mobile force was then dispatched further up the Euphrates in the direction the Turks had expected to retreat. 46 miles further upstream was the settlement of Ana. Here was the main Turkish supply base, which was now captured along with some high ranking German officers attached to the Turkish Army.

This was the last attack on the Euphrates Front. The diversion of transport to Dunsterforce during the summer resulted in the CinC of the Mesopotamian Theatre, Sir William Marshall, restricting advances to the Tigris Front only. When the armistice was declared on 1 November 1918, the 15th Indian Division were back downriver at Fallujah.

During the early part of 1918 powerful British forces advanced steadily up the course of the River Euphrates. In the face of this pressure the Turks abandoned the town of Hit and prepared a strong defensive position at Khan Baghdadi, further up the river. The Turks took full advantage of the rough terrain and constructed three substantial trench systems (known to the British as “P”, “Q” and “R”).