DO THE MATH: THE FALL OF THE OTTOMANS, p. 263

The narrative has arrived at the siege of Kut.

Self knows not the exact location of Kut, but she won’t let something like that impede her reading. Onward!

There is a little problem of the food supply for the British defenders :

General Townshend advised the commanders of the relief force that his food stores would be depleted by 23 April but that he would have enough horses to provide meat until 29 April.

An attempt is made to re-supply Kut by air-drop, but — alas! — the pilots have a really bad sense of direction: “. . .  as often as not their parcels go into the Tigris or into the Turkish trenches!”

Final Tally:

  • The siege of Kut lasted four months.
  • In order to relieve 13,000 besieged troops in the city, the British suffered over 23,000 casualties.

This reminds her of another horrendous rescue operation which she read about recently in The Three-Year Swim Club: a World War II unit of Japanese American troops was sent in to rescue members of a platoon. They successfully completed their mission, suffering a terrible casualty rate, something like 50%, many times more than the number of men they ended up rescuing.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

The Fall of the Ottomans: p. 251

Just finished reading about the siege at Gallipoli: the numbers are staggering. One simply cannot grasp the idea of almost a million men fighting on one spit of land overlooking the Dardanelles. The problem is that nothing really happened, other than a whole lot of dying, followed by a British retreat.

Next chapter is the Invasion of Mesopotamia. Again lots of strategizing and moving of armies.

Finally, finally, we’re at the siege of Kut:

The Sanussi fighters went south to occupy the oasis towns of the Western Desert, stretching from Siwa near the Libyan frontier to Farafra and Bahariya, where they were within striking distance of the Nile Valley but beyond the reach of British forces.

It is a good thing they do, because they only have “one quick-firing cannon and three machine guns” to share among “fewer than 1,200 men.”

The British go in hot pursuit, and finally corner the Sanussi at a small “coastal village” called Sidi Barrani. Here the Ottoman Army was forced to make its last stand. Self just wants to say, the British Army were not gracious in victory. A wild melee ensued, with lots of sabres engaged and horses shot out from under and officers taken prisoner (but what happened to the foot soldiers, self has no idea. There weren’t that many to begin with. It was a very one-sided battle)

It’s very surreal reading. Reminds her that while she was re-discovering the City of Light in May, just a few months ago, she was reading, of all things, Rinker Buck’s The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey, which taught her a lot about mules.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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