Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Fao - 1914

A lot can change in a hundred years, but one thing is for certain, not much has been done to improve the land along the Shatt-al-Arab waterway. It is still extremely poor and the soil is soft. This was not always the case, this was considered a fertile area up until the 1700s.  (Sorry but I cannot find the source for the date. I know I read it recently but it is lost from me for now.) A simple look on Google Earth shows much of the land barely above sea level.  In places it is difficult to determine the coastline. What makes this battlefield incredibly difficult to travel over, besides the weather, insects and mirages, is that the melting of the snow cape up north easily floods the soft ground. The issues I find in 1914 are still relevant today. The infrastructure is not in place and there is no government directive to set it up.

The Iraqi city of Basra is cut off from any land approach during the flood season of March thru May. Unfortunately for any invading army this is also the coolest weather for campaigning.

Small dams of built up earth and clay hold back the waters. If broken the yellow soil becomes a quagmire halting all wheeled traffic and slows both the hoof and foot. Units can become cut off from each other if flooding occurs. These dams were little maintained in 1914 and in 2014 they still are a problem

While a rail line was discussed from Baghdad to Basra, the engineering issues halted the design. (This part of Iraq/Iran has continues to be under developed. ) This was to come back to haunt both the Turks and the British during this campaign.

The route of advance and logistics would be maintained by the waterways, and the Royal Navy and the IEF D did not bring along enough boats. The reports from the officers in charge do not think  the lack of boats or other logistic items are a concern. The IEF D also needed more than the two companies of engineers for this operation. Losses will be heavy because of these over sites.

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