Who's Who - Sir John Nixon
Sir John Nixon (1857-1921) served as Commander-in-Chief of British forces in Mesopotamia from April 1915 until his replacement on account of illness in January 1916.
An aggressive commander in the Indian army Nixon's appointment as Commander-in-Chief in April 1915 marked a notable turning point in British conduct of the war on the Mesopotamian Front.
Until Nixon's appointment Britain's military policy in Mesopotamia was somewhat confused. A division of command between London and India led to the implementation of a confused policy, with Britain keen to adopt a cautious strategy of protecting oilfields sited near Basra (adopted by his predecessor General Barrett), while the Indian government was in favour of a more aggressive approach aimed at preserving British dominance in the region.
Thus with Nixon's appointment by the Indian government policy was henceforth arranged along Indian-approved lines. A bold commander, Nixon was seemingly temperamentally well-suited to his assigned task.
Like many another British officer Nixon held a distinctly poor opinion of the fighting capabilities of the Turkish army. It was perhaps this that led him to be derelict in assuring adequate provision of basic necessities for his troops, including equipment, transport and other supplies.
Following early cheap successes Nixon became convinced - despite protests from his subordinate field commander General Sir Charles Townshend who favoured consolidation - that his small force could advance all the way to Baghdad in short order.
Accordingly in October 1915 he ordered Townshend to advance (a decision subsequently verified by the government in London). Nixon himself remained in Basra increasingly beset by illness.
Townshend's force however quickly found progress progressively difficult to achieve and, following a reverse at Ctesiphon the following month, was forced to retreat to Kut-al-Amara. The Turks, supervised by German General Liman von Sanders, laid siege to Kut from December 1915.
A relief force sent by the British to relieve Kut was repulsed by Sanders and Townshend eventually surrendered in humiliation in April 1916 (although he was treated as an honoured guest while interned, eventually being released in time to negotiate the Ottoman surrender at Mudros in October 1918).
By that time Nixon had been relieved in command by General Lake, having been invalided back to India on 18 January 1916. The British Mesopotamia Commission's report on the campaign, published in 1917, came out in clear condemnation of Nixon's conduct, notably in his attempts to conceal a lack of medical facilities. His career was consequently brought to an abrupt close.
He died in 1921.
A "Brass Hat" was a high ranking officer.
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