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Enemy positions captured

Kut el Amarah

Battle: a story of desperate fighting Tribute to Indian troops

Position in the Balkans

AS SURMISED yesterday, the Christmas Day battle in Mespotamia was fought at Kut el Amara and it is now seen that the description of the struggle as bitter and determined was perfectly accurate.

General Townshend’s dispatch was issued by the War Office last night and this reveals the fact that at one time things looked awkward.

The fort in question is situated on the north side of Kut Peninsula and all through the night of the 23rd and up to mid-day on Christmas Eve there was a heavy bombardment by the Turkish artillery.

Following this, an assault was made on the fort which is on the right flank of the British position. This fort had been breached and the enemy succeeded in effecting an entrance. He was driven out, however, and left 200 dead inside the fort. So ended the fighting of the 24th but heavier work was to follow. At midnight the bombardment was renewed and in a night attack “fierce fighting” took place in the same part of the defences.

Again the enemy forces his way in. This time he seems to have captured one of the bastions and driven the garrison into their second line of defences which is described as “the entrenchment”

However, the garrison, the 1st Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry and the 103rd (Mahratta Light Infantry) succeeded in holding this entrenchment through the night. Later they were reinforced by a battalion of the Norfolks and the 104th.

There is here, apparently, an error in the report says one authority, since the 104th are described as Pioneers, whereas they are, in point of fact, Rifles. In any case, the four battalions, two Line and two Indian, proved too strong for the attackers.

Early on Christmas morning the enemy vacated the bastion he had won and retired to trenches in rear of those from which his assault had been launched. Our men, whose casualties amounted to190, reoccurred the position.

The Turks, of whom a whole division had been engaged, lost about 700, apparently in addition to the 200 dead in the first attack.

The whole battle, as we have said seems to have been extremely stubborn.

On three separate occasions the Turks got into our positions and thrice were they compelled to retire. When fuller reports arrive we shall probably find that the four battalions engaged accomplished as fine work as any in the history of either British or Indian Army.

Meanwhile, points out the writer already quoted, one or two points deserve careful notice. General Townshend, it would seem, had occupied a position across a peninsula formed by the bend or the Tigris just north of its junction with the Shatt-el-Hai. Here he is standing something like a siege.

Nor is it entirely reassuring to find that the Turks have been able to push their trenches to within 100 yards of our position. Evidently the fighting since Kul-El-Amara was reached-of which we have heard virtually nothing save that, up to December 18, it cost us over 1,100 casualties, has been heavy.