From Defeat to Victory: Logistics of the Campaign in Mesopotamia, 1914–1918

Journal article

Roy, Kaushik (2010) From Defeat to Victory: Logistics of the Campaign in Mesopotamia, 1914–1918, First World War Studies 1 (1): 35–55.

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Britain and the Government of India embarked on the campaign in Mesopotamia for several reasons. The discovery of oil in south Persia in 1901 resulted in the formation of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. The oil produced from this company was supplied to the Royal Navy. Germany's plan to construct a railway from Constantinople to Baghdad and Basra send tremors at London and Delhi. Germany's attempt to operate behind the façade of Turkish and Persian intrigues threatened the Anglo-Persian Oil Company's pipeline at the island of Abadan, the oilfields and the refineries. Britain was afraid that the Germans might instigate the Arab tribes to revolt. Further, capture of Basra by a hostile power would threaten Britain's sea lines of communication between Egypt and India. Logistics to a great extent had determined the texture of campaign in Mesopotamia. The logistical aspect of the Mesopotamia campaign during the Great War is yet to be studied thoroughly. The issue of supplying the British and Indian units in Mesopotamia proved crucial in shaping the course of the campaign. The first half of the paper shows how the problems of maintaining the units accelerated the disaster at Kut in April 1916. And the next section highlights the organizational restructuring of the logistical affairs which enabled the British and the Indian authorities to maintain larger number of troops with greater effectiveness from late 1916 onwards.

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