January 9

This Day in History

World War I

Jan 9, 1917:

Battle of Khadairi Bend begins

After several months of preparations, British troops under the command of their new regional chief Sir Frederick Maude launch an offensive against Turkish forces at Khadairi Bend, to the north of Kut, Mesopotamia.

The British had previously occupied Kut, a strategically important town located on the Tigris River in the Basra province of Mesopotamia—modern-day Iraq—but had surrendered it, along with 10,000 troops under Sir Charles Townshend, in late April 1916 after a five-month siege by the Turks. The humiliating loss of Townshend's forces caused the British War Office to seek a replacement for Sir John Nixon as regional commander in Mesopotamia. Maude, a cautious and systematic general, arrived in Mesopotamia in mid-1916 as commander of the front-line corps on the Tigris, relieving General George Gorringe, and was soon given command of the entire front. By October 1916, Maude had become determined to use the 150,000 troops under his command to launch a renewed offensive toward Kut.

On January 7 and 8, 1917, General Maude's forces launched a series of minor diversionary attacks nearby as a lead-in to what turned out to be an unusually effective bombardment by artillery on January 9 at Khadairi Bend, a heavily fortified town in a loop of the Tigris north of Kut. The resulting battle continued for almost three weeks, including two counterattacks by the Turks, before the town fell on January 29. In a report Maude made of the offensive several months later, he recounted severe hand-to-hand fighting and heavy losses by the enemy at Khadairi Bend, which contrasted with some of the quicker victories earned by the British in the preceding months.

The Battle of Khadairi Bend proved to be just a prelude to the major Allied offensive in Mesopotamia, the Second Battle of Kut, which began the following month and ended with Kut in British hands. Spurred on by victory, Maude's forces continued toward the region's most important city, Baghdad, which fell on March 11.

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