James Owen of Penrhos

and his descendants

Kut: Surrender & an armistice

On 13 April Gethin would have attended the short memorial service held for the men of 40th Brigade who had fallen in the battle. The Division had lost another 1,600 men at Sannaiyat (in total there were almost 5 000 casualties in this action and events leading up to it). This coupled with appalling weather - rain and a hailstorm the day before had caused the bund to break in several places so that water from the Suwaikiyeh Lake flooded the trenches - made it hard to maintain morale.

By April 1916, supplies in Kut had dwindled and the rate of sickness had reached epidemic proportions. As in Gallipoli, the men had had to cope with extremes of temperature, intense heat in the day and cold at night, and the flies, mosquitoes and other vermin all contributed to appalling levels of sickness and death through disease. A few supplies were dropped on Kut from the air. It became clear that the planned frontal assault involving 13th Division had stalled. The Anglo-Indian forces captured Bait Asia in mid April but could make no great inroads on the besieging Turkish troops. A valiant attempt by the paddle steamer Julnar to reach the town by river failed and on 29th April Townshend surrendered unconditionally. The decision to make a stand at Kut and the provision of too small a relief force too late had been disastrous. The loss of Kut and of Townshend’s Division dealt a massive blow to Allied moral and boosted that of Germany and Turkey. It compounded the effect of the ignominious withdrawal from Gallipoli.

By 1 May, the Division was still in the trenches at Bait Asia and orders were issued that no offensive action was to be taken, unless the enemy took offensive action, as the Turks were allowing British ships to evacuate the wounded from Kut. On 3 May the Turks sought an armistice from 13th Division to collect and bury their dead. Later that day hostilities resumed but on 7 May the Division ordered a ceasefire whenever the hospital ship Sekkim passed up and down ferrying the sick from Kut.

For his part in the defeat of the Turks at Kirkuk in northern Mesopotamia - Kirkuk was captured in May 1918, lost two weeks later, and finally occupied in October 1918 – Gethin was awarded the CMG and he was mentioned in the dispatches of Lt. General W.R. Marshall, KCB, KCS. Soon after, Kirkuk’s final capitulation, the Turks in Mesopotamia signed an armistice. By then the British had managed to advance as far as Mosul, which meant they had control of the three Ottoman Vilayets which would form the basis of Iraq. Gethin left the Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force on 12 October 1918, sailing from Basra that day aboard HT Sicilia for transfer to HT Norman and return to England.