Who's Who - Sir Percival Lake

Sir Percival Henry Noel Lake (1855-1940) replaced Sir John Nixon as Commander-in-Chief of British operations in Mesopotamia before he was himself recalled to London following the failure to relieve the siege at Kut in 1916.

Having joined the army in 1873 Lake fought in the Second Afghan War of 1878-79.  Graduating subsequently from the Staff College he took up a position in the War Office's Intelligence Department.

Prior to the outbreak of war in August 1914 Lake also served in India and with the Canadian militia, acting as chief military advisor to the Canadian government from 1908-10.

In 1915 Lake was despatched by the War Office to Mesopotamia to protect Britain's all-important oil pipelines, which were critical in supplying her Royal Navy.  With Sir John Nixon's illness and subsequent retirement as regional Commander-in-Chief in January 1916, Lake was assigned as his replacement.

Lake was afforded no honeymoon period in his new command: he was promptly ordered to launch a second operation directed at relieving Sir Charles Townshend's besieged forces at Kut.

In all three attempts were made to relieve Townshend; all failed, and finally Townshend - who was subsequently accused of inactivity during the relief attempts - surrendered to the Turks in late April 1916, in what was perhaps the greatest humiliation to befall the British army to that date.

Lake was consequently recalled to London to testify before the newly-established Mesopotamia Commission of Inquiry set-up to investigate the problems in the region.

Holding no further active command he was assigned to the Ministry of Munitions in May 1917.  Following the war he formally retired in November 1919.

He died in 1940.

'White Star' was a German mixture of chlorine and phosgene gas, so-named on account of the identification marking painted on the delivery shell casing.

- Did you know?

Who's Who