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Historical Context

The British capture of Baghdad, led by Lieutenant-General Sir Stanley Maude on the 8-11 March 1917, was one of the first decisive victories for the British Army against the Ottoman Empire during the First World War. Central to the advance was the contribution of Indian Troops and Officers, resulting in a majority of the advance’s forces.  

Following the campaign, the Mesopotamia Commission was launched to assess the welfare of the soldiers involved in the advance, as well in previous initiatives in Mesopotamia such as the advance on Arma and the failed siege of Kut. It detailed how over 150,000 Indian Troops and Officers were evacuated from the campaign due to sickness and disease, killing over 15,000. The Commissioners attributed the poor welfare of these troops and officers to the ill-preparation of the Indian Army for the demands of the British War Office. It focused especially on the Army’s lack of adequate health facilities and held the War Office’s responsible for this deficiency. The Commission also specified how the advance on Baghdad intensified the spread of sickness and disease, questioning the supposed success of the advance.