Southern Asia 1918: Dunsterforce

Political map of South & Southwest Asia on 16 Aug 1918 (The Fall of the Ottoman Empire: Dunsterforce), showing the following events: Transcaspian Government; Malleson mission; Dunsterforce arrives in Baku.

The German and Ottoman occupation of Transcaucasia alarmed the British, who had by now replaced the Russians in northern Persia. In response they sent an expedition under Lionel Dunsterville—and hence christened the “Dunsterforce”—to defend oil-rich Baku from the advancing Ottomans. However the Dunsterforce proved too small for the task and Baku had to be evacuated in September.


Changes to the map 10 June 1918–16 August 1918

In Azerbaijan, the Ottomans have reached the outskirts of Baku. The Baku Commune has been overthrown and replaced with the Centro-Caspian Dictatorship (in Baku), Bicherakov's White forces (in Derbent), and the Dictatorship of Five (in Mughan). British forces under Dunsterville have arrived in August and are now defending Baku.

Dunsterville has reached Baku from Persia, where he has secured Enzeli. British forces in Persia have also neutralized the Jangali and advanced to reach Mianeh. However, the Ottomans have retaken Tabriz and defeated the Assyrian militia at Urmia. In the south, the Shiraz Crisis is over with the British defeat of local rebellions.

The Russian Civil War is now in full swing. The White movement's Transcaspian Committee and Ural Regional Government have seized control of much of Russian Central Asia, with British forces arriving via Mashhad in Persia to support the former. However, the Turkestan Soviet Republic still holds out in Tashkent.

British Protectorates in the Persian Gulf

The British Residency of the Persian Gulf maintained British India's influence in a number of Gulf states from the 19th Century until 1947. These states were nominally independent - and shown as such in most atlases from the period - but all signed treaties guaranteeing British control over their foreign affairs.

The Sultanate of Muscat and Oman was 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 was the region to the west of Oman which collectively signed treaties with Britain. The sheikhdoms of this region were often called the Trucial States, and later became the United Arab Emirates. However at this time they had little unity, with no regional council until 1952.

Indian Empire

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

The area under direct British rule was 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, were the hundreds of protectorates or 'princely states'. These were indirectly ruled states, the largest being Hyderabad, Kashmir, and Mysore. The others were either collected into agencies - which might in turn contain other smaller agencies - or fell under the sway of the provinces.

Main Events

14–23 Jul 1918 Transcaspian Government

Menshevik and Social Revolutionary railway workers in Ashkhabad successfully revolt against the Bolshevik regime of the Turkestan Autonomous Soviet Republic in Tashkent, founding the Ashkhabad Executive Committee. Over the following weeks this is extended to become the Provisional Executive Committee of the Trans-Caspian wikipedia

1 Aug 1918 Malleson mission

Some 500 British Indian troops under General Wilfrid Malleson from Mashhad, Persia, cross into Russia to support the Transcaspian Government in Ashkhabad against invading wikipedia

4–12 Aug 1918 Dunsterforce arrives in Baku

General Lionel Dunsterville and his ‘Dunsterforce’—consisting of less than 350 British and Dominion officers and NCOs—arrive in Baku, Azerbaijan, after departing from Enzeli, Persia. There they attempt to support and train the forces of the Centro-Caspian Dictatorship as it defends Baku from the invading Ottoman wikipedia