British forces take Baghdad
In the Spring of 1917, there was much attention on the war in the Middle East.
At the start of the First World War, the Ottoman Empire covered vast territories in the Middle East, including parts of modern day Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Palestine/Israel, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan. The heart of the empire was the area of modern Turkey.
There were traditional rivalries between the Ottomans and Russia, so when Russia declared itself for the British and French-led Allies in July 1914, the Ottoman Empire negotiated its own alliance with the German-led Central Powers.
The Ottoman’s initial focus in the early months of the war was to the East, advancing into the Russian sphere. Meanwhile, the British and French launched attacks in the West, including the devastating Gallipoli Campaign in 1915-16, in which the ANZAC troops suffered significant losses.
Ottoman victory at Gallipoli forced the Allies to retreat to Egypt. From there, the British mounted a full invasion, advancing through Palestine and Trans-Jordan. By January 1917, the British had captured the Sinai Peninsula.
The Ottoman forces experienced heavy losses trying to hold multiple fronts. The British forces, made up mostly of soldiers of the Indian Army, pushed eastwards to Baghdad. On 11 March 1917, they took the city.
Among the Indian soldiers who fell on 11 March were Rifleman HIRA RAM of the 104th Wellesley’s Rifles; Sepoy SARWAR KHAN of the 53rd Sikhs (Frontier Force); Sepoy ALI AKBAR of the 56th Punjabi Rifles (Frontier Force).
Two Richmond men were killed in later fighting in the area, and are buried in the Baghdad North Gate war cemetery; Private William James and Corporal John Hicks They are both commemorated on the Richmond war memorial, at the end of Whittaker Avenue.