A History of the Great War, 1914-1918

By C. R. M. F. Cruttwell | Go to book overview

XXXVIII THE OVERTHROW OF TURKEY

THE CONQUEST OF MESOPOTAMIA I

'EXORIARE aliquis nostris ex ossibus ultor.' A worthy avenger of the great humiliation of Kut was not long in coming. The Turks themselves provided the opportunity. Despising the squandered and dispirited force, which for three months they had bloodily repulsed in the marshes, they detached an army corps to Persia to prey upon such parts of that unhappy and defenceless neutral as the Russians had not already devastated. So our expeditionary force was left at least twice as strong as its enemy, and was to increase yet more.

Robertson provided the man. The elderly relics of the Indian army were at last passed over by the elevation of a junior major-generalin Mesopotamia. Sir Stanley Maude, who had won his fighting experience in France and Gallipoli, was a truly great soldier. Austere and exacting in his conception of duty, rigorous and minute in its performance, he had a concentrated devotion to his profession, not always associated with his nursing-mother the Brigade of Guards. 'His only holiday', it might be truly said, 'was to do his duty.'1 A brother officer declared that he had never found so happy an admixture of strategical and tactical genius with capacity for staff work and the internal administration of an army. He had indeed a weakness for over-centralization and wore out both himself and others by his meticulous handling of unnecessary detail. Yet if this is a fault in modern war, it is certainly on the right side, for his methodical preparation, though sometimes verging on fussiness, led invariably to far-reaching victories. Modest and utterly unselfconscious, he had the essential kindliness so often found in dedicated lives, which was reflected in his gracious face, and earned him the constant

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1
Thucydides, i. 70; said of the Athenians.

-606-

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