1914
The Mesopotamia Campaign

A Royal Army Medical Corps officer tends to a group of wounded Turks on stretchers with the assistance of some Indian staff at an advanced dressing station (©IWM Q 24440)

A Royal Army Medical Corps officer tends to a group of wounded Turks on stretchers with the assistance of some Indian staff at an advanced dressing station (©IWM Q 24440)

 

At the outbreak of war, British officials were concerned about the intentions of Ottoman Turkey. General Sir E. G. Barrow, Military Secretary at the India Office, recommended that troops should be sent from India ‘ostensibly to protect the oil installation, but in reality to notify the Ottomans that we meant business and to the Arabs that we were ready to support them.’

In 1914, the Indian Army was ill-equipped and ill-prepared to fight a large scale war. It was mainly intended to defend the borders of British India, particularly on the North-West Frontier, and had seen service overseas in a number of small-scale campaigns. Yet Indian soldiers were the only significant body of trained professional troops available to the British anywhere in the Empire.

The 6th (Poona) Division was despatched to the Persian Gulf, and the 16th Indian Infantry Brigade made its way to Abadan in mid-October. The force was designated Indian Expeditionary Force ‘D’ (IEF ‘D’), and the advanced guard of IEF ‘D’ consisted of approximately 4,500 British and 12,000 Indian soldiers. Indian Army troops quickly secured the head of the Shatt al Arab river and the oil refinery at Abadan, and by the end of the year had captured the towns of Basra and Qurna.


Commemorated on the Basra Memorial

94 Indian Army casualties commemorated on the Basra Memorial for 1914