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Townshend of Kut

St Mary, East Raynham, Norfolk


Kut-al-Amara in Iraq was the scene of one of the more infamous events of the First World War. In the winter of 1915, about 30,000 British soldiers, led by General Charles Townshend, holed up in the city to defend it against Ottoman forces led by the German high command. Fed on stories of the siege of Khartoum thirty years earlier, the British public avidly followed the course of the event in the new popular tabloid newspapers.


It was a military disaster. Empire forces tried to break the siege, at the loss of some 33,000 lives. Townshend finally surrended to the Germans in April, by which time some 17,000 of those in the city had died. The historian James Morris called it the most abject capitulation in Britain’s military history. Poignantly, his memorial records that his widow erected it to the one whose memory will always live.

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Uploaded on September 2, 2007