Southern Asia 1916: Pacification of South Persia

Back in Persia, the Ottomans had rolled back the Russian offensive and taken Hamadan. However the British were finally prepared - they had just formed their own 'Persia force' from local recruits. In July they marched out of Kerman with these South Persia Rifles, crossing the interior to Isfahan and Shiraz. South Persia had been secured for the Allies.


Changes to the map 9 July 1916–30 November 1916

In Persia, the South Persia Rifles and local alliances have allowed the British to exert their control over most of the south. The main exceptions are the areas around Shiraz and neighboring the Ottoman front. The Ottomans have advanced to take Hamadan.

In Sinai, the British have repelled the last Ottoman attack on the Suez Canal and are now advancing in the north of the peninsula.

In Arabia, Hejaz has captured Taif but been repelled in its attack on Medina. Medina will remain in a state of siege for the rest of the War. In the Gulf, Qatar has signed a treaty of protection with Great Britain.

Ethiopia has overthrown its de facto emperor, Lij Iyasu, and proclaimed Zewditu (’Judith’) as empress with Ras Tafari (later Haile Selassie) as regent. Iyasu fled to Harar but was defeated and now holds out in the north with his followers.

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

28 Jul–12 Nov 1916 March of the South Persia Rifles

British Brig. Gen. Sir Percy M. Sykes leads the newly formed South Persia Rifles out from Kerman, reaching Russian-occupied Isfahan on September 11. From here he proceeds to Shiraz, which is already under the control of a pro-British governor-general, cementing British power in South wikipedia

3–5 Aug 1916 Battle of Romani

Ottoman and German troops led by German General Friedrich Freiherr Kress von Kressenstein attack British and Anzac forces near Romani on the Sinai Peninsula. Von Kressenstein is repelled, ensuring the safety of the Suez Canal, and is pursued to Bir el Abd by the wikipedia

27 Sep 1916 Zewditu’s overthrow of Iyasu

The Council of State and the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church deposed de facto Emperor ‘Lij’ Iyasu V in favor of Zewditu, eldest daughter of late Emperor Menelik II. Zewditu was crowned Queen of Kings, a modification of the traditional ‘King of Kings’, while her cousin Ras Tafari Makonnen (later Haile Selassie) was appointed regent. Lij Iyasu fled north and led a rebellion which lasted until August wikipedia

3 Nov 1916 British protectorate over Qatar

Emir Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani of Qatar signs a treaty with Great Britain, relinquishing its autonomy in foreign affairs in exchange for British military protection. This effectively adds Qatar to Britain’s trucial system in the Persian wikipedia