Forthcoming titles

(Book titles are subject to change)

Algernon Blackwood's Shorter Supernatural Fiction (2 vols.)

Terrys Texas Rangers

The Last Crusaders

The Defeat of the U-Boats

Sup Richard Middleton

The Battle of Austerlitz

The Campaigns of Alexander

Sabre and Foil Fighting

The Fourth Leonaur Book of Ghost and Horror Stories

The Irish Legion

General Von Zieten

Armoured Cars and Aircraft

The Chinese Regiment

Texas Cavalry and the Laurel Brigade

The First Crusaders

The Lionheart and the Third Crusade

The Winnebagos

Roger Lamb and the American War of Independence

Gronow of the Guards

Plumer of Messines

... and more

Tigers Along the Tigris

enlarge Click on image to enlarge
enlarge Mouse over the image to zoom in
Tigers Along the Tigris
Qty:     - OR -   Add to Wish List

Also available at:

Amazon Depository Wordery

Author(s): E. J. Thompson
Date Published: 2007/12
Page Count: 144
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-366-2
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-365-5

Experiences with a famous county regiment in Iraq during the First World War

Beyond the attrition of the Western Front trenches, the Great War raged all over the globe. These 'sideshows' were full scale conflicts by the standards of war to that time, only diminished by the magnitude of the campaigns in France and Belgium. The war against Turkey, Germany's ally, raged from the Turkish homeland itself to the complete expanse of the crumbling Ottoman Empire in North Africa, the Holy Land and the cradle of civilisation itself-Mesopotamia-now modern day Iraq-a land through which flowed the Tigris and Euphrates-rivers of romance and legend. There was little romantic of the war the Leicestershire regiment knew. 'Johnny'-the tough enemy, the omnipresent German air force, the heat and flies were all exacerbated by rampant disease which decimated the allied troops. As part of the 7th (Meerut) Division the 'Tigers'-as the regiment were nicknamed after their distinctive cap badge-fought vicious actions in the Battles for Istabulat, Samarra and Juber Island during the 1917 campaigns beyond Baghdad towards Tekrit in the north of the country. This is a well written eyewitness account, which introduces us to the officers and men who wore the 'Black Diamond' hat badge, and is full of 'on the spot' detail and fascinating descriptions of intense combat.

Meanwhile from the Median Wall the ‘Tigers’[10] watched the fight. One could not help being reminded of the grand-stand at a football match. Sitting on the further side and below the crest, the officers watched the Indians pushing over the plain steadily through heavy shelling. We saw dreadful pounding away on our left, where 5.9’s plunged and burst among the trenches the Seaforths were holding. Yet even a battle grows monotonous; so in the afternoon we went down to the trenches before the wall to rest, so far as heat and flies would permit. In that period of slackness a number of men swarmed up the wall. Instead of sitting where we had done, they sat on the crest, against the sky-line. Hitherto the shrapnel had not come nearer than a ridge four hundred yards away, which had been often and well peppered. But now came the hateful whistle, and the ridge was swept from end to end with both H.E. and shrapnel. In our trenches we were spattered with pebbles. Thorpe, next to me, got a piece of H.E. in his coat. But we escaped a direct hit. One shell passing overhead skimmed the ridge and burst on the other side, scattering Colonel Knatchbull’s kit and smashing his fishing-rod. It killed a groom and wounded three other men, and wounded three horses so badly that they all had to be killed. It is always men on duty, holding horses or otherwise unable to escape, who pay for the curiosity of the idle.
<br><br>The theory was strongly held in the Leicestershires that the only way was to advance steadily. This weakened the enemy’s morale, and, further, he had no chance to pick out his ranges accurately. To this theory and practice of theirs they put down the fact that, though in the forefront of all their battles, their losses were often so much slighter than those of units that had acted more cautiously. I quote again from Hasted’s brilliant lecture on the battle:
There was no hesitation about the advance. Rushes were never more than twenty yards, more often ten to fifteen yards, as hard as one could go, and as flat as one could lie, at the end of it. The theory, ‘the best way of supporting a neighbouring unit is to advance,’ was explained at once. The attention of the enemy’s rifles and machine-guns was naturally directed to the platoon or section advancing, even when they had completed their rush. Directly one saw a party getting slated, one took advantage of it to advance oneself, in turn drawing fire, but taking care to finish the rush before being properly ranged on. One seldom halted long enough to open covering-fire, and besides, there was nothing to fire at. Despite the very short halt, it is no exaggeration to say that I have seen men go to sleep between the rushes.<br>
Shell-bursts provided excellent cover to advance behind. Individuals, such as runners, adopted a zigzag course with success; we lost very few. Platoons and companies got mixed, but it was not difficult to retell off. Perhaps control was easier owing to very little rifle-fire from our side and the majority of enemy shells landing on the supports. There was no question of men taking insufficient cover; they melted into the sand after five minutes with an entrenching tool, and during the actual advance they instinctively took advantage of every depression. Officers had no wish to stand up and direct; signallers lay flat with telephones. Stretcher-bearers did not attempt to work in front of the wall. Lewis-gunners suffered; they carried gun and ammunition on the march (there were no mules), and the men were tired; their rushes were not so fast as the platoon advances.<br>
To G.A., lying waiting, before he was hit, came up his sergeant and said, ‘That’s Mr. Hall over there, sir. I can see him lying dead.’
<br><br>The Leicestershires fell back rapidly, the enemy pressing hard. The 51st Sikhs were found, hidden by the hollows of the ground; they had been a buttress to the left flank of that handful of adventurous infantry in their forward sweep into the heart of the Turkish position. It was now that Graham and the 56th Rifles checked the counter-attack, which threatened to drive a wedge between the Leicestershires and the river. The whole front was now connected up, and, in face of an attacking army, British and Indians dug themselves in. The 51st sent along some ammunition. The sun was setting, and in the falling light the last scene of this hard-fought day took place. Turkish officers could be seen beating their men with the flat of their swords. The enemy came, rushing and halting. The sun, being behind them, threw a clear field of observation before them; but over them it flung a glamour and dimness, in which they moved, a shadow-army, silhouettes that made a difficult mark. And our men were down to their last rounds of ammunition. Our guns opened again, but too late, and did not find their target. But the Leicestershires’ bombers, sixty men in all, were thrown forward, bringing ammunition which saved the day. Thirty of the sixty fell in that rush. The Turks were now within two hundred and fifty yards; but here they wavered. For half an hour they kept up a heavy rifle-fire. Then, at six o’clock, the 19th Brigade poured in, and the thin lines filled up with Gurkhas, Punjabis, and Seaforths. Moreover, the new-comers had abundance of ammunition. Darkness fell, and our line pushed forward. For over two hours we could hear the Turks man-handling their guns away. But there were strong covering-parties, and our patrols were driven back with loss. Our guns put down a spasmodic and ineffectual fire. Then all became quiet. All along the enemy’s line of retreat and far up the river were flares and bonfires. Away in Samarra buildings were in flames, and down the Tigris floated two burning barges, of which more hereafter.
You may also like