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The War in the Air: Volume 6—The Allied Air Forces in 1918 Including the Bombing Campaign and Operations in Palestine, Mesopotamia, Persia, India, Macedonia, the Mediterranean & the Italian and Western Fronts

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The War in the Air: Volume 6—The Allied Air Forces in 1918 Including the Bombing Campaign and Operations in Palestine, Mesopotamia, Persia, India, Macedonia, the Mediterranean & the Italian and Western Fronts
Leonaur Original
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Author(s): H. A. Jones
Date Published: 2020/01
Page Count: 536
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-1-78282-865-5
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-1-78282-864-8

The first great war which was also fought in the skies draws to its conclusion

The sixth volume of this excellent and comprehensive history of the war in the air during the First World War concerns the closing years of the great conflict and the final campaigns that led to the armistice. Allied air forces became more sophisticated as they quickly evolved driven by the imperatives of the ongoing struggle. The embryonic dedicated ‘bomber command’ was created, the airmen of the United States of America joined the battle and, in 1918, the Royal Flying Corps became the independent Royal Air Force. The air war continued to be fought ever more fiercely on the Western Front over Amiens and Bapaume as the protagonists understood that war in and from the air had forever become an essential component to secure victory. This volume also covers the war fought in the ‘sideshow theatres’ including Palestine, Mesopotamia, India, Persia. Macedonia and over the Italian Front. Naval air operations over the Mediterranean and elsewhere are also eruditely described.

Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.

On the 15th of October, by which time the preparations for the offensive were well advanced, the aeroplanes of No. 63 Squadron flew to the advanced aerodrome at Tikrit, where ‘A’ Flight of No. 72 Squadron was already installed. On the 18th Brigadier-General Lewin moved out from Tuz Khurmatli and occupied Tauq and the bridge four miles to the north-east, taking a few prisoners. By the morning of the 23rd the main preliminary moves had been completed, and Lieutenant-General Cobbe was in touch with the enemy on both banks of the Tigris, while Brigadier-General Lewin had reached Taza Khurmatli, twelve miles south-west of Kirkuk. Swift enveloping movements during the night of the 23rd/24th caused the enemy to abandon the Fat-ha position before daybreak. The pilots of ‘A’ Flight of No. 72 Squadron were in the air at dawn, and they found retreating Turks on the roads and they attacked them with machine-gun fire from a low height. One of the pilots was the first to bring back the news that the Turks were leaving the Fat-ha positions.
The main air activity during the rest of the day was low-flying attack on the retreating troops. No opportunity was offered, such as had come the way of the Royal Air Force in the Nablus pass in Palestine, to induce a panic by means of bombing and machine-gun attacks concentrated in time and place, but although the air attacks during the advance to Mosul were necessarily diffused, the relentless pressure upon the retreating Turks was cumulative in its effect.
The complicated enemy and British movements throughout the 25th were well reported by contact patrol observers of No. 63 Squadron. In the morning a pilot and observer of the squadron found a Turkish column which they estimated at about 1,500 infantry with horse transport. They flew back to the advanced headquarters of the 1st Corps to tell of what they had seen, and they also dropped messages on the way for the British cavalry. The opportunity offered for air attack upon the column was not missed. Two S.E.5 pilots and a Sopwith ‘Camel’ pilot of ‘A’ Flight of No. 72 Squadron at once set out in search of the Turks who were found east of the Humr bridge. The pilots repeatedly dived on the column as they fired their machine-guns, but the enemy troops revealed a fine discipline.
They did not scatter in panic, as had usually happened in similar circumstances, but they kept their formation and brought fire to bear upon the aeroplanes, with the result that one S.E.5 was damaged and had to be landed near the British advanced cavalry, while the pilot in the Sopwith ‘Camel’ received a slight leg wound. The spirit of the Turks, however, was broken when they realised that if the easterly march was continued, they would be enveloped by oncoming British cavalry. During the afternoon, therefore, the men turned back and recrossed the Tigris to the right bank, and they moved in increasing disorder as they were subjected to further attacks from the air, notably by the single-seater pilots of ‘A’ Flight of No. 72 Squadron.
On the 26th the Turks made a stand along the Mushak position, which was one of great natural strength, but during the night of the 26th/27th they further withdrew to a position covering Sharqat. British cavalry, however, guided by a local inhabitant, crossed the Tigris by a ford in the afternoon some fourteen miles above Sharqat and galloped to seize the Huwaish Wadi which they reached without meeting opposition. By the morning of the 27th two cavalry regiments, with two guns and a machine-gun squadron, were in a strong position across the Mosul road.
While these various movements were taking place on the 26th the aeroplanes, owing to the difficulties of communication on the ground, were mainly employed to report the changing dispositions of the British and Turkish troops. All efforts were now directed to preventing the Turkish force from breaking through the cavalry screen in an effort to win through to Mosul. The Turks made a desperate attempt to get through on the morning of the 28th. Some 2,500 enemy troops, supported by guns and howitzers, attacked the 11th Cavalry Brigade, which had meanwhile been reinforced by the 1-7th Gurkhas from the 53rd Infantry Brigade. These attempts, and subsequent efforts to turn the right flank of the cavalry, were repulsed.
The British troops engaged had been marching and fighting in difficult country for days, and by the evening of the 28th they were exhausted. The moment, however, was critical, and it was imperative that the men should be called upon to make a final determined effort if the Turks were to be forced to surrender. If the pressure were relaxed there was every chance that the enemy force would open a gap to Mosul. There was fierce fighting during the night of the 28th/29th of October, when all enemy attempts to cut a way through to the north were frustrated. While the Turks were being held in the north the men of the 17th Division to the south were forcing the enemy rear-guards upon the main body in their position north of Sharqat. This position consisted of successive lines of hastily dug entrenchments commanding ravines which the British must cross to attack.
In the afternoon of the 29th the attack was launched, and the Turks, fighting with the courage of despair, held a part of their positions until well into the night. When dawn came on the 30th it was clear the end was near. The way to Mosul was barred, and the force at Sharqat, hemmed in on all sides, packed into ravines raked by a murderous fire from which there was no escape, was in a hopeless position. Just when the British infantry were about to assault, white flags of surrender fluttered along the enemy lines. The last battle fought by the Turkish Army in the war was over. The fighting had been characterized by a tenacity which reflected credit upon the skill and qualities of leadership of General Ismail Hakki Bey, the Turkish commander, the same officer who, in the spring of 1917, had shown a comparable stubbornness in command of the Turkish forces on the right bank of the Tigris opposite Kut al Imara.
After the surrender cavalry and light armoured-cars were ordered along the Mosul road, and they rounded up Turkish troops in the neighbourhood of Qaiyara. The total captures during the final operations amounted to 11,322 prisoners, 51 guns, 130 machine-guns, 2,000 animals, and war material of many kinds. The armistice with Turkey was signed at noon on the 31st of October 1918, and the war on the Mesopotamian front ended with Lieutenant-General Marshall’s occupation of the Mosul vilayet.
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