Catalogue description Volume 3: "A Diary of the Mesopotamia Campaign"

This record is held by Imperial War Museum (IWM) Department of Documents

Details of HAJL/3
Reference: HAJL/3
Title: Volume 3: "A Diary of the Mesopotamia Campaign"

The Division left Alexandria on 13 February and sailed from Port Teufiz near Suez, via the Persian Gulf and the Shatt-el-Arab, to Margil above Basra, where they arrived on 27 February. The following days were spent in training and on 13 March the Division began its journey up the Tigris, finally disembarking and setting up camp at Sheikh Saad a week later. Lamb had been issued with a horse and expresses in no uncertain terms his discontent at having to care for the animal:


"Have never felt so unenthusiastic for a long time.


However well we do our own job, this seems to be the reward. Stable boys and muck rakers!" (p 11)


Within a few days of this, however, Lamb had received a motor cycle, and on 30 March HQ troops moved up to the advance base in trenches near Ora, where the 13th Division took over part of Tigris Corps Front. The final attempt to relieve Kut began on 5 April and Lamb describes the heavy bombardment which, over the following days, forced the Turks to retire. By 17 April the 13th Division had advanced as far as Abu Rumman near Sannaiyat where it encountered the Turkish counter-offensive, and heavy fighting continued for some time.


Although still early in the year Lamb was already finding the climatic conditions uncomfortable:


"Another day of fearful heat. Mail came in to relief of everyone. Had a lot of letters and parcels. On opening one found a 71b cake, a beauty, absolutely bad. The most awful disappointment imaginable. Buried it silently!" (p 28)


On 30 April news arrived of General Townshend's surrender at Kut, the efforts of the relief force having been in vain:


"Another failure in which this unlucky Division has taken part". (p 29)


The Division spent the following weeks in consolidating its position; only a little desultory firing took place and Lamb had very few duties to perform. Owing to problems of communications and supply rations shrank to almost nothing, and the lack of food combined with the intense heat, dust and flies made life wretched. The ranks were decimated by sickness and Lamb too suffered from bouts of dysentery:


"...we have hardly enough men in the company to keep the work going. Unless food improves illness will take away everyone". (p 45)


Lamb's entries over the summer of 1916 were almost totally concerned with the atrocious climate:


"The usual hot wind and dust. Continued all day. Existed in dusty misery!" (p 49)


"Another vile and maddening day of wind and dust, penetrating everywhere". (p 52)


At the beginning of September the Division moved down river to Amara where, with the greater availability of supplies, slightly cooler weather and only light duties, Lamb spent a pleasant, restful period. On 28 November, however, the Division began a gruelling march back to Sannaiyat to take part in the new offensive. (NB A photograph taken by Lamb of two men undergoing Field Punishment No 1 is inserted in the diary between pages 70 and 71. See Department of Photographs HU 37555). His diary entries over the following weeks refer to the heaviness of the allied and enemy bombardments as the Tigris Corps slowly advanced, until on 15 January 1917 he was overjoyed to receive orders to return to England immediately to be commissioned. After an uneventful but lengthy journey via Bombay and Durban he finally arrived in England in June.

Date: 13 February 1916 - 11 June 1917
Held by: Imperial War Museum (IWM) Department of Documents, not available at The National Archives
Language: English
Physical description: 90 pp ts

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