Battles - The Battle of Shiala, 1917

Turkish Red Crescent StationThe Battle of Shiala essentially comprised an action intended to rescue isolated and outnumbered British cavalry during the March-April 1917 Samarrah Offensive.  With British Commander-in-Chief Sir Frederick Maude's determination to prevent a Turkish force of 15,000 under Ali Ishan Bey, retreating from the Russians in Persia to the north of Baghdad, meeting up with regional Turkish Commander-in-Chief Khalil Pasha, he despatched cavalry under to assist with infantry attacks.

In the event the cavalry found themselves outnumbered and consequently required two infantry brigades under General Marshall to provide relief.  To the surprise of both British and Turkish commanders the relieving force unexpectedly encountered part of the Turkish 2nd Division - the latter fresh from its defeat of the British at Jebel Hamlin and currently engaged in a flank attack at Shiala on the River Diyala, around 30km west of the River Tigris.

A scramble for the high ground ensued, with the British reaching it first, and with the arrival shortly thereafter of heavy 18-pounder guns successive Turkish infantry attacks were handily beaten off.

In due course the Turkish force withdrew to a temporary haven in the Jebel Hamlin mountains, and General Marshall rejoined the main advance upon the railway at Samarrah.

Click here to view a map charting operations at the time of the fall of Baghdad.

Photograph courtesy of Photos of the Great War website

"Gas Bag" was a slang term for airships.

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