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Mesopotamia (Iraq) - Sheikh Sa'ad

Map drawn by Cyril Sladden in 1917 which marks the railway to Sheikh Sa'ad.
Map drawn by Cyril Sladden in 1917 which marks the railway to Sheikh Sa'ad.

Sheikh Sa'ad is situated on the banks of the Tigris River.  Cyril Sladden arrived there towards the end of March 1916, some two months after the Battle of Sheikh Sa'ad had been fought between the Anglo-Indian Tigris Corps and elements of the Ottoman Sixth Army.  This had taken place between 6th-8th January 1916 before Cyril arrived in Mesopotamia.

In a letter of 3rd May 1916 Cyril said that the Indian divisions from France had borne the brunt of the fighting; he felt that the capture of Sheikh Sa’ad was one of their hardest fights.  The engagement was the first in a series of assaults by the Tigris Corps to try to break through the Ottoman lines to relieve the besieged garrison at Kut.

In the summer of 1916, a light railway from Sheikh Sa’ad was constructed in order to assist in moving supplies.  A plan to build a railway had been rejected by the Indian Government in 1915, but after Kut it was approved.  A major problem for the British was the lack of logistical infrastructure. When ships arrived at Basra, they had to be unloaded by small boats which then unloaded their cargo which was then stored in warehouses, which there were not enough of in Basra. Ships often sat for days waiting to be unloaded. Then supplies had to be sent north along the river in shallow draft river steamers because there were almost no roads north. Usually the amount of supplies being sent north was barely adequate to supply the forces in place.  The railway therefore greatly improved matters.

Letters mentioning this place: