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October 7, 1915.
TO HIS BROTHER.
Thanks awfully for your letter. It was one of the best I’ve had for a long time. And many congratulations on the birth of a daughter. I’m delighted it went off so well, and only hope she and Grace are both flourishing.
I am sorry to hear about Benison. I suppose he was in some unit or other. You saw of course that Stolley was killed some time ago.
At present, at any rate, we’re a very comfortable distance behind the firing line. This has been the advanced base for the Kut show. By river we are 130 miles above Basra and about the same below Kut. The action there on the 27th and 28th was a great success, but the pursuit was unfortunately hung up and prevented our reaping quite the full fruits. This was partly due to a raid on our L. of C. scuppering some barge-loads of fuel, but chiefly to the boats getting stuck on mud banks. This river is devilish hard to navigate just now. It winds like a corkscrew, and though it looks 150 yards wide, the navigable channel is quite narrow, and only 4ft. to 6ft. deep at that. So all the river boats have to be flat bottomed, and the strong current and violent N.W. wind keeps pushing them on the mud banks at every bend.
The Turks had, they think, 15,000 men and 32 guns. Their position was twelve miles long and most elaborately entrenched and wired with all the German devices, and rested on a marsh at either end.
We had about 10,000 men of all arms and 25 or 27 guns, seven of them on river boats, I think. Townshend’s attack was as follows. He made all his reconnaissances and preparations as for an attack on their right flank, and on Monday, 27th he deployed a brigade, A. on that side of the river, leaving only two battalions, B. on the right bank, and keeping two battalions in reserve, C. For various reasons this attack had made very little progress by sunset and was last seen digging itself in. Then as soon as it got dark almost the whole of A. together with the reserve C. was ordered to march round to the enemy’s left flank and attack Fort E. at dawn. So they moved off, intending to go between Marsh 1 and Marsh 2; but in the dark they went round outside Marsh 2, and at dawn after a twelve mile march found themselves at G. They completely surprised and quickly captured Fort E. and the section E. and F., their casualties here being mainly from our own artillery, as was inevitable: but they were enfiladed from F. and had to reform and dig themselves in on a front parallel with the river, and send for artillery support.