15 December 1916 – Return to Kut

In Mesopotamia, the British forces began their long awaited offensive towards Kut on 13 December. The plan is to hold the enemy to the Sanniyat position while a surprise march is made on the right bank of the Tigris to secure a footing on the River Hai . The RFC carried out patrols to determine whether Turkish reinforcements were within thirty miles of Kut, and also to prevent enemy airmen from observing the British advance.

No enemy troops were spotted, but two Martinsyde Scouts, which had been held back to attack enemy aeroplanes were called into action. A German aeroplane which approached the front was attacked at close range and damaged, before rapidly retreating to its aerodrome.

At 6am yesterday the Hai was crossed without opposition at two points. Three aircraft attempted to bomb the bridge of boats which spanned the Tigris at Shumran but failed.

30 Squadron carried out a series of contact patrols to keep GHQ informed of progress, helped by a preplanned system of signals of white calico, with numbers to indicate the identity of the brigade or battalion,

Overnight Captain Justin Howard Herring, was making a moonlight reconnaissance to look for Turkish troop movements when he spotted that the bridge of boats, which had spanned the Tigris east of Shumran, had been dismantled and was being towed upstream in sections. Captain Herring, attacked the towing steamer and the boats with eight bombs and twice returned to his base for another 16 bombs. He disrupted the line of boats that they were out of control for six hours, and cut enemy communications between his forces on the left and right banks of the river all day.

At dawn this morning, the RFC carried out additional air reconnaissances to check the location of the Turkish forces. On receipt of the air reports, which showed that there was little movement but that the enemy was in some strength south of the Shumran Bend, Major-General Maude in command of British forces, issued his orders for operations to begin at 0900.

Map of campaign area from the official history

Map of campaign area from the official history


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