Southern Asia 1916: Siege of Kut

Political map of South & Southwest Asia on 05 Jan 1916 (The Great War in the Middle East: Siege of Kut), showing the following events: Provisional Government of India; Evacuation of Gallipoli; Siege of Kut; Hongxian Emperor; Treaty of Darin; McMahon-Hussein Agreement.

The British had consolidated control over the Persian Gulf at the start of the War by invading southern Mesopotamia. In 1915 they decided to march on Baghdad and end the Ottoman threat to Persia. However, they had underestimated their opponents - the Ottomans not only repelled the British at Ctesiphon, but managed to trap their forces at Kut. Despite numerous relief attempts, the garrison of Kut was forced to surrender after a 147 day siege.


British Protectorates in the Persian Gulf

The British Residency of the Persian Gulf maintains British India influence in a number of Gulf states. These states are nominally independent - and shown as such in most atlases from the period - but have all signed treaties guaranteeing British control over their foreign affairs.

The Sultanate of Muscat and Oman is the only one of these states with significant international relations, having obtained trade agreements with the US and France before it signed its treaty with Britain. Maps of the time often show Trucial Oman and even Qatar as regions of Oman.

Trucial Oman is the region to the west of Oman which collectively signed treaties with Britain. The sheikhdoms of this region are often called the Trucial States, and will become the United Arab Emirates. However at this time they have little unity, with no regional council until 1952.

Indian Empire

The British Indian Empire, also known as the British Raj, is comprised of a complex of presidencies, provinces, protectorates, and agencies. Only the top level subdivisions are shown here.

The area under direct British rule is known as British India and made up of presidencies and provinces - a presidency simply being the name for an older province.

Outside British India, but often included within the sphere of the presidencies/provinces, are the hundreds of protectorates or 'princely states'. These are indirectly ruled states, the largest being Hyderabad, Kashmir, and Mysore. The others are either collected into agencies - which may in turn contain other smaller agencies - or fall under the sway of the provinces.

Main Events

1 Dec 1915 Provisional Government of India

Indian nationalists accompanying the Niedermayer-Hentig mission declare the Provisional Government of India in Kabul, Afghanistan, as a government-in-exile. Mahendra Pratap is named as President and Maulana Barkatullah as Prime Minister. Although the Afghans are sympathetic to the provisional government’s cause, the Emir declines to give it open wikipedia

7 Dec 1915–9 Jan 1916 Evacuation of Gallipoli

The Allies begin evacuating the Dardanelles, Turkey, following British recognition of the failure the Gallipoli Campaign. Suvla and Anzac are evacuated by 20 December, with Helles holding on until January. The evacuation is the best executed part of the entire Allied campaign: 35,268 troops are successfully removed with only a handful of wikipedia

7 Dec 1915–29 Apr 1916 Siege of Kut

After withdrawing from Ctesiphon, Ottoman Mesopotamia, the 6th Division of the Indian Army under Major-General Charles Townshend is besieged at Kut by the the Ottoman Army. Despite a number of relief expeditions and the first air supply operation in history, the British-Indian forces are unable to break the siege and Townshend surrenders on 29 April 1916, leading to the imprisonment of his 13,000 surviving wikipedia

12 Dec 1915 Hongxian Emperor

Yuan Shikai, the President of the Republic of China, accepted the invitation of a specially convened “Representative Assembly” and proclaimed himself Emperor of China, taking the era name Hongxian. The new Empire of China was set to formally begin on 1 January 1916, however the Emperor did not have the domestic and international support he was anticipating and ended up postponing and then canceling the accession wikipedia

26 Dec 1915 Treaty of Darin

Great Britain, represented by Sir Percy Cox, signs a treaty with Abdul-Aziz of the House of Saud on the island of Darin. The British extend protection to Nejd and other Saudi lands in return for a Saudi agreement not to attack Kuwait, Qatar, or Trucial wikipedia

1 Jan 1916 McMahon-Hussein Agreement

After a secret exchange of letters with Sir Henry McMahon, British High Commissioner in Egypt, Sharif Hussein bin Ali of Mecca agrees to revolt against the Ottoman Empire in return for British recognition of Arab wikipedia