2/6th Gurkha Rifles in Mesopotamia 1916

In March 1916 GTG arrived by ship  in Mesopotamia (now Iraq) serving with the 2/6th Gurkha Rifles. 2/6GR joined the 15th Indian Division which was formed in Mesopotamia in 1916 as part of the MEF – Mesopotamia Expeditionary Force. A brief explanation of the Mesopotamia campaign can be found here: Mesopotamia campaign – The National Archives

The Battalion War Diary for 2/6GR in the first few months in Mesopotamia (transcription: War Diary 2-6GR March 1916 – May 1916) records their marching from camp to camp up the Euphrates river from Basra to Nasiriyah, constantly working on maintaining the flood defences in this low-lying waterlogged area. It seems disease was a constant threat and they record an outbreak of cholera.

GTG took a number of photographs during this campaign. He records some of the key preoccupations from the War Diary – the endless bund construction and maintenance work (‘bund’ is the Anglo-Indian name for a river embankment or flood defenses, like ‘levee’) and the hospitals! It is not known if he made use of these but it seems many did. GTG also seems to have been very interested in the various ships and boats he saw, carefully noting their names and the companies that owned them, probably because of his initial career with P&O.

GTG arrived on the SS.Coconada. The Battalion War Diary records him arriving a bit later than the main battalion, on with 3 other B.O.s (British Officers – Captain Harte, Lieut. Barton and Lieut. Marley) and 208 other ranks from Suez. Lieut. Barton is recorded elsewhere (see below) as serving with 1/6 GR form 9.9.15 who I believe were still in Gallipoli but moved to Suez to assist guarding the canal in December 1915. If GTG was with Barton, on board in the Persian Gulf and then on arrival from Suez in Basra in March 1916, I assume GTG must have also served with 1/6GR at Gallipoli from September to December 1915.

This photo shows a Sikh regiment on board the SS Coconada in the Persian Gulf.  The horses and mules are in boxes on the port side of the ship and the men are collecting food on the starboard.

Major R. Maurice Searle Barton, T.D., “born in Frampton, Gloucestershire 4.8.1892; Second Lieutenant Indian Army Reserve of Officers, 18.12.1914; attached 1st Battalion 6th Gurkha Rifles, 9.9.1915; Lieutenant 18.12.1915; served in Egypt and Mesopotamia during the Great War; commanded “C” Company 2nd Battalion 6th Gurkha Rifles at Ramadi, September 1917; Captain 18.12.1918; served with 1st Battalion 5th Gurkha Rifles, 1918-1919; attached 2nd Battalion 11th Gurkha Rifles 1920; retired 20.11.1922; Assistant Commandant, Mewar Bhil Corps and Assistant Political Superintendent, Hilly Tracts, Mewar, 6.7.1926; re-engaged as Staff Captain Royal Artillery (T.A.) for the Second War, 16.6.1939; posted to Mountain Artillery Training Centre, Amballa, India; retired Honorary Major, 2.11.1947″ (taken from http://www.abebooks.co.uk/servlet/BookDetailsPL?bi=6459279443&searchurl=an%3Dgurkhas)

GTG records two ships in the Shatt-al-Arab, the famous waterway where the Euphrates and Tigris converge – the SS Edavanha owned by B.I. (stands for British India Steam Navigation Company, a well known shipping line at the time, actually owned by P&O)  and the H.S. Sicilia (HS stands for Hospital Ship) owned by P&O (Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company) – GTG’s former employer.

The photos also shows sunken vessels in the waterway – scuttled by the Turks in an attempt to prevent shipping:

There are photos of the General Hospital at ‘Busra’ and a hospital ship aboard a ‘steernwheeler’ at Nasiriyeh

GTG also took photos of the smaller, local river craft, ‘bellums’ and ‘mahailas’ which are mentioned in the Battalion War Diary as used for carrying men and stores.

There are photos too of Ashar Creek and Margil in ‘Busra’, where the battalion had disembarked on 14 March 1916.

And the Military Governor’s House at Qurna.

There is also a rather morbid photo of the gallows at Nasiriyeh:

Finally there are photos of the troops, engaged in building the defensive ‘bund’ against the flooding. The spring flooding of the rivers was particularly severe in April / May 1916.

“The Supercilious Oont” !  – ‘oont’ was an Anglo-Indian word for a camel.  It seems transportation was a problem and the carts had difficulties in the water-logged terrain. Camels were used as well as reliance on local water vessels such as the bellums and mahailas pictured above.

The above photo claims these are the 7th Gurkha Rifles but I’m not sure this is correct. 2/7GR were part of the forces besieged at Kut-al-Amra in early 1916 and then captured and imprisoned upon the surrender of Kut. I understand that 2/7GR was reformed in Mesopotamia in 1916 and this may be the reformed battalion.  Or it may be a photo of 1/7GR back in India taken earlier before GTG left for Mesopotamia. Or it may be another Gurkha regiment, perhaps 5th Gurkha Rifles who were part of the same brigade as 2/6GR  – the 42nd Indian Infantry Brigade in the 15th Indian Division.

It is not known how long GTG served in Mesopotamia but he is recorded as ‘Granted temporary rank of  Captain whilst holding appointment as Platoon Commander at School of Instruction for Officers – 31st October 1917’

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4 thoughts on “2/6th Gurkha Rifles in Mesopotamia 1916

  1. Hi ,
    I’ve been researching my grandfather Capt Norman Pocock WW1 military service history.
    He apparently was an officer in the 2nd/ 6th Gurkha Rifles .
    Unfortunately I have found no record of his name in any British Military or Indian army records. He was born in Mhow India 1895 and immigrated to Australia about 1927.
    Due to his death in 1948 and the loss of his service medals in a bush fire , his service history has been a mystery to our family. He may have changed his name when he came to Australia?
    If your research happens to notice an officer named Pocock ,I would be very appreciative
    Of any information.

    Regards. Matt Pocock
    Email : mattpo@optusnet.com.au

  2. Fascinating photographs. Recently I have been researching a couple of chaps present at the Tirah Expedition in Pakistan. My research led me to Capt. Barton which led me here, and I have to ask; in the picture of Barton on the ship is he the fellow front and center looking at the camera? I’m looking for photographs for all the fellows I’m researching so I’m asking just to confirm. Thank you!

    -Harrison Manlove
    Email: spec87ops@yahoo.com

      • Thank you very much!! I just wanted to make sure I was looking at the right man. I’ve been doing a considerable amount of research on a couple of British officers who served in the army around the same time, but as far as I know did not know each other. They served in the Tirah campaign, which is how I found both of them but on seperate occasions. One officer later led an ancestor of mine in the Second Boer War. The former went on to lead your ancestor in 2/6 GR in Mesopotamia. Which is how I wound up on your site here! Anyways, the Tirah Expedition. One of many British expeditions against rebellions and such in the western tribal areas of Pakistan. I recommend you read this link here:

        http://www.britishempire.co.uk/forces/armycampaigns/indiancampaigns/tirah.htm

        A big (and new) interest of mine is the British army in South and Southwest Asia from around 1839 to the 1940s. Really fascinating stuff. There are several books out there written by officers who served in these campaigns in Pakistan. A good account would be “Risings on the Northwest Frontier”. Hope to hear from you!

        -Harrison

        P.S. Barton is now on my list of officers to research. His CO for 2/6 GR and another officer wrote accounts of his good service in Mesopotamia. I love history, ha!

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