British forces surrender at Kut, Mesopotamia - HISTORY
Year
1916

British forces surrender at Kut, Mesopotamia

In the single largest surrender of troops in British history to that time, some 13,000 soldiers under the command of Sir Charles Townshend give in on April 29, 1916, after withstanding nearly five months under siege by Turkish and German forces at the town of Kut-al-Amara, on the Tigris River in the Basra province of Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq).

Under the command of Sir John Nixon, British troops had enjoyed early success in their invasion of Mesopotamia. Forces led by Nixon’s forward divisional commander, Sir Charles Townshend, reached and occupied the Mesopotamian province of Basra, including the town of Kut al-Amara, by late September 1915. From there, they attempted to move up the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers toward Baghdad, but were rebuffed by Turkish troops at Ctesiphon (or Selman Pak) in late November. Despite outnumbering the Turks two-to-one, Townshend’s troops, made up partially of soldiers dispatched from India, were forced to retreat to Kut, where on December 5 Turkish and German troops began to lay siege to the city.

Problems with illness plagued Townshend’s forces, as morale sank precipitously along with dwindling supplies and a lack of relief due to the heavy winter rains, which had swollen the Tigris River and made it difficult to maneuver troops along its banks. The British attempted four times over the course of the winter to confront and surround their Turkish opponents only to suffer 23,000 casualties, almost twice the strength of the entire remaining Kut regiment, without success. Kut finally fell on April 29, 1916, and Townshend and his 13,000 men were taken prisoner.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Riots erupt in Los Angeles

In Los Angeles, California, four Los Angeles police officers that had been caught beating an unarmed African-American motorist in an amateur video are acquitted of any wrongdoing in the arrest. Hours after the verdicts were announced, outrage and protest turned to violence as the ...read more

Joan of Arc relieves Orleans

During the Hundred Years’ War, the 17-year-old French peasant Joan of Arc leads a French force in relieving the city of Orleans, besieged by the English since October.At the age of 16, “voices” of Christian saints told Joan to aid Charles, the French dauphin, in gaining the ...read more

Dachau liberated

On April 29, 1945, the U.S. Seventh Army’s 45th Infantry Division liberates Dachau, the first concentration camp established by Germany’s Nazi regime. A major Dachau subcamp was liberated the same day by the 42nd Rainbow Division.Established five weeks after Adolf Hitler took ...read more

Operation Frequent Wind begins

Operation Frequent Wind, the largest helicopter evacuation on record, begins removing the last Americans from Saigon.The North Vietnamese had launched their final offensive in March 1975 and the South Vietnamese forces had fallen back before their rapid advance, losing Quang Tri, ...read more

New casualty figures released.

U.S. casualty figures for April 18 to April 24 are released. The 45 killed during that time brought total U.S. losses for the Vietnam War to 45,019 since 1961. These figures made Southeast Asia fourth in total losses sustained by the U.S. during a war, topped only by the number ...read more

William Randolph Hearst is born

The newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst is born in San Francisco. He was the only son and principle heir to western mining magnate George Hearst.George Hearst had made a fortune with his shrewd investments in successful western mining operations. His son William, however, ...read more

Hair premieres on Broadway

In a year marked by as much social and cultural upheaval as 1968, it was understandable that the New York Times review of a controversial musical newly arrived on Broadway would describe the show in political terms. “You probably don’t have to be a supporter of Eugene McCarthy to ...read more

Daniel Day-Lewis born

The actor Daniel Day-Lewis, famous for his intense Method acting and chameleon-like ability to disappear into character, is born on this day in 1957, in London, England.Day-Lewis’ father, Cecil Day-Lewis, was a British poet laureate; his mother, Jill Balcon, was an actress and a ...read more

Cyclone kills 135,000 in Bangladesh

On this day in 1991, a devastating cyclone hits Bangladesh, killing more than 135,000 people. Even though there had been ample warning of the coming storm and shelter provisions had been built in the aftermath of a deadly 1970 storm, this disaster was one of the worst of the ...read more

Rodney King trial verdict announced

A jury in the Los Angeles suburb of Simi Valley acquits four police officers who had been charged with using excessive force in arresting black motorist Rodney King a year earlier. The announcement of the verdict, which enraged the black community, prompted the L.A. riots, which ...read more