"At a mile distant their thousand hooves were stuttering thunder, coming at a rate that frightened a man - they were an awe inspiring sight, galloping through the red haze - knee to knee and horse to horse - the dying sun glinting on bayonet points..." Trooper Ion Idriess
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The Battle of Kurna, Mesopotamia, 31 May to 1 June 1915, Outline Topic: BatzM - Kurna
The Battle of Kurna
Mesopotamia, 31 May to 1 June 1915
Mesopotamian Flight, Royal Flying Corps gather around a Short 827 seaplane
Kurna, fought between British and Turkish forces on the Tigris River, Mesopotamia (modern Iraq), on 31 May-1 June 1915. The 6th (Poona ) Division of the Indian Army, commanded by Major-General Charles Townshend, undertook a risky frontal assault against the fortified Turkish position which - because of seasonal Flooding - stood out of the river's marshy flats like a string of islands.
Because of this, Townshend was obliged to embark two of his infantry brigades in some 500 pole-propelled Arab barges called 'bellums', which had been armoured with captured steel railway plates. Supporting mountain guns and machine-guns were also mounted on rafts, while heavier artillery were placed aboard accompanying barges and steamers. The sight presented by this curious fleet subsequently caused the battle to he referred to as 'Townshend's Regatta'.
The operation was a signal success which cost the Turks two gunboats sunk, and seventeen guns and 2,000 men taken as prisoners. Despite: the elaborate nature of the works they had been occupying for five months, the bewildered defenders mostly fled after attempting 'only the merest appearance at a fight'. The Turkish collapse was so dramatic that Townshend's personal appearance in a gunboat at Amara (145 kilometres upstream) on 2 June was sufficient to bluff the garrison there into surrendering, too, without a shot being fired.
The Australian involvement in the action was in the form of several pilots, members of the 41-man detachment of the Australian Flying Corps serving with the composite unit known as 'Mesopotamian Flight, Royal Flying Corps'. These partly crewed two aircraft which reconnoitred from a landing ground south of Kurna and brought vital and timely information to Townshend's headquarters regarding the battle's progress, including news on I June that the Turks were abandoning their main position at Bahran Island. They also dropped 20-pound aerial bombs on targets of opportunity and added to the confusion of the enemy's withdrawal.
Official History Map of the Kurna and other campaigns in Mesopotamia
Extracted from the book produced by Chris Coulthard-Clark, Where Australians Fought - The Encyclopaedia of Australia's Battles, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1998, pp. 106-107.
Additional References cited by Chris Coulthard-Clark:
F.M. Cutlack, (1923), The Australian Flying Corps in the Western and Eastern Theatres of War 1914 - 1918, Sydney: Angus & Robertson.
T.W. White, (1928), Guests of the Unspeakable, Sydney: Angus & Robertson.
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