The Land of the Two Rivers
Undoubtedly, the campaign in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) was hardest and most prolonged of any fought by the Leicesters in the Great War. The 2nd battalion arrived there from France, as part of the Indian Corps in December 1915. Its role was to strengthen the British Army’s Tigris Corps, which was battling to reach Major General Townshend’s force at Kut-al-Armara, then besieged by a far stronger Turkish army. Time and again the Tigris Corps hurled itself against the Turkish positions, and time and again it was thrown back in disarray.
The Tigers fought four savage battles in 1916 against resolute and well dug-in Turkish opposition. On 7-8 January 1916 they attacked along the left bank of the Tigris, at Sheikh Saad. One who was there was a young soldier named Walter Elliott (left). He recorded: “The fire was terrific we advanced in short rushes hardly any cover & men were knocked out like ninepins.” The next day the attack was resumed: “went over top at 2.30pm fog had cleared & was very hot, advanced in short rushes, again under terrific fire from Turks … made bayonet charge & captured … about 600 Turks & Arabs and a few Germans.” The battle however had cost the Leicesters dear, and among the casualties was the commanding officer, Major E.F.S.Henderson.