Monday, February 2, 2015

The 1915 Centennial: Indian forces beat back Ottoman raid on Suez

Indian forces in World War I. 
In late January-early February 1915, elements of the 4th Turkish Army in Syria and Palestine under the command of Cemal (Djamal) Pasha attempted to interdict the Suez Canal. The world's key maritime transportation hub since it opened in 1869 was then controlled by the British Empire, even though Egypt was still formally part of the Ottoman Empire, link for background.

The attack was repelled primarily by the colonial Indian forces. Ottomans suffered about 1,500 casualties, about half of them taken prisoner. British-Indian casualties were at 32 dead and 130 wounded. The Indians went on to do much of Britain's fighting against the Ottomans in the Middle Eastern theater.

This Ottoman History podcast includes comments by Oxford PhD student Vedica Kant about the fate of some of the Indian POWs captured in Iraq, their subsequent march through Syria to a prison camp at Afyon Karahisar and encounter with Armenian victims of the Ottoman government.

Further, in this blog entry Vedica Kant discusses the fate of Ottoman Armenian soldiers captured in Iraq and sent to a prison camp in Burma.

As of early 1915 the British had a fairly large force in Egypt and had already captured Basra in southern Iraq, but the focus for them soon became the Gallipoli campaign and no effort was made to advance in either Iraq or Palestine/Syria until that campaign ended in early 1916.

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