The Seige of Kut

Image Source:Wikimedia Commons

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

This story was originally published in December 2011.

During the winter of 1951, the British fought the Battle of Ctesiphon (Iraq) against the Turkish Empire in an attempt to protect the oil refinery in Abadan, Iran in the British territory. By the end of day three, both General Townshend leading the British and Indian troops and Colonel Nureddin of the Turkish army ordered a withdrawal.
While only 11,000 men from the British army survived and made it to Kut-al-Amara (Iraq) for a retreat, Nuredin turned his army around to Kut in pursuit of the British-Indian troops. Townshend knew that the Turkish had enough forces to lay a siege on Kut, so an escape towards the south was ordered. Outnumbering the British, the Turkish army surrounded the 11,000 men. Disappointed, the British leaders were now desperate to procure their troops. In their last attempt, they offered two million pounds to the Turkish Empire, only to be turned down.

After a siege of 147 days (December 1915–April 1916), Townshend surrendered to the Turks and the allied soldiers survived only to be made prisoners of war. Many soldiers had died of diseases or at the hands of the enemy during imprisonment because of the harsh conditions during the siege and the bitterly cold winter.

This photo was taken in July 1916 when the imprisoned troops were released from Turkish captivity in Baghdad. The skeleton frame of an Indian army soldier, who survived the siege of Kut, speaks not only of the terrible conditions, but also of the Turkish army’s harsh behaviour towards the soldiers.

Tags: siege on Kut, story behind the photograph, prisoner of war, Indian army, soldier, December 1915–April 1916, prisoner portraits, Black and White photography, analogue photography, film photography, historical photograph, War photograph, indian history, documenatary photography