Ministry of Defence
Ministry of Defence

Lest We Forget
British Legion
The Royal British Legion

IRAQ - WORLD WAR 1 HEADSTONE REPAIR

On 4 September 2003, British troops from 19 Mechanised Brigade began work to restore a Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery in Basra, which had suffered years of neglect and deliberate desecration under Saddam Hussein's regime. Hundreds of headstones have been destroyed and many others damaged. The soldiers, including troops from the 1st Battalion The Queen's Lancashire Regiment, based only a few hundred yards away, began the task of salvaging the surviving headstones for safe storage until the Commonwealth War Graves Commission can undertake a comprehensive reconstruction.

At Al Kut, US troops discovered a badly overgrown British war cemetery, the last resting place of several hundred British and Empire troops who fell during the Mesopotamian campaign in the First World War. Al Kut was the scene of much heavy fighting, including both a disastrous British defeat in 1916, and an important victory in February 1917. On 8 May 2003, British and US personnel joined in a service of reconsecration, led by the Church of England Bishop to the Forces, The Right Reverend David Conner, Dean of Windsor.

BASRA WAR CEMETERY

During the First World War, Basra was occupied by the 6th (Poona) Division in November 1914, from which date the town became the base of the Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force. A number of cemeteries were used by the MEF in and around Basra; Makina Masul Old Cemetery was used from December 1914 to October 1916 and the Makina Masul New Extension was begun alongside the old cemetery in August 1917. These two sites, enlarged later when more than 1,000 graves were brought in from other burial grounds, now form Basra War Cemetery. The cemetery now contains 2,551 burials of the First World War, 74 of them unidentified. The headstones marking these graves were removed in 1935 when it was discovered that salts in the soil were causing them to deteriorate. The names of those buried in the graves affected are now recorded on a screen wall. The cemetery also contains the Basra (Tanooma Chinese) Memorial, commemorating 227 unidentified casualties of the Chinese Labour Corps who were attached to the Inland Water Transport during the First World War. A panel in their memory was added to the screen wall when it became evident that their graves in Tanooma Chinese Cemetery could no longer be maintained. During the Second World War, Basra was the scene of fighting from 2 - 7 May 1941 when Iraqi forces were driven from the town, which then became a base for Commonwealth forces. Basra War Cemetery was used once again and after the war, further graves were brought in from other burials grounds in Iraq and Iran. There are now 365 Second World War burials in the cemetery. In addition, there are 37 war graves of other nationalities, many of them Polish, and 16 non-war burials. Directly opposite Basra War Cemetery is the Basra Indian Forces Cemetery containing burials of both wars, and the Basra Cremation Memorial commemorating Indian casualties of the Second World War whose remains were cremated in accordance with their faith.

KUT WAR CEMETERY

In April 1915, the Indian Expeditionary Force 'D', which had landed at Fao the previous November, began its advance inland with the intention of clearing Turkish forces out of south-west Iraq. Amara was occupied in early June and the advance continued along the line of the Euphrates to Nasiriya, and along the Tigris to Kut, which was taken on 29 September. The advance to Baghdad was resumed on 11 November, but was brought to a standstill against the strong Turkish defences at Ctesiphon on 22-24 November. By 3 December, the force, comprising chiefly the 6th (Poona) Division of the Indian Army, was back in its entrenched camp at Kut, where they were besieged by Turkish forces. Heavy casualties were suffered in desperate but unsuccessful attempts to reach the town and raise the siege in January, March and April. The garrison was forced to capitulate on 29 April 1916 and nearly 12,000 men were taken prisoner, many of whom later died in captivity. The town was reoccupied by Commonwealth forces in February 1917 and at the end of June it became an administrative, railway and hospital centre. Kut War Cemetery was made by the 6th (Poona) Division between October 1915 and May 1916 and was increased in size when graves were brought in from other sites after the Armistice. The cemetery now contains 420 First World War burials.

BASRA
WAR
CEMETERY

HERE ARE HONOURED
MEN OF THE INDIAN ARMY
WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES
IN THE GREAT WAR
FOR THEIR KING AND COUNTRY
1914-1921

 

BASRA INDIAN FORCES CEMETERY

During the First World War, Basra was occupied by the 6th (Poona) Division in November 1914, from which date the town became the base of the Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force. Casualties of the Indian Forces were buried in this cemetery during the First World War but their numbers and names were never recorded; the plots of graves in this cemetery are therefore marked by two memorials of a general nature, one to the Hindus and Sikhs and the other to the Indian Muslims. Also buried in the cemetery are 75 Turkish prisoners of war who are commemorated on a memorial to 278 Turkish soldiers buried at Basra and elsewhere. During the Second World War Basra was the scene of fighting from 2 - 7 May 1941 when Iraqi forces were driven from the town, which then became a base for Commonwealth forces. Most of the Second World War graves within the cemetery were transferred by the Commission to this burial ground from Shaiba Indian Army War Cemetery, which was originally intended to be a permanent cemetery and into which the Army Graves Service had moved graves from other burial grounds in Iraq and Iran. However, Shaiba is some distance from Basra in an isolated spot and owing to the climate and the nature of the soil it became evident that permanent maintenance of the graves there would be impossible. Basra Indian Forces Cemetery now contains 292 burials of the Second World War, 12 of which are unidentified. There are also 25 non war graves, 10 of them unidentified. Within Basra Indian Forces Cemetery will be found the Basra Cremation Memorial which commemorates 1,031 soldiers of the army of undivided India who died in Iraq and Iran during the Second World War. Their remains were cremated in accordance with their faith. Directly opposite the Indian Forces Cemetery is Basra War Cemetery, which contains burials of both wars, and the Basra (Tanooma Chinese) Memorial.

2 November 2005

Friends of the War Memorials
War Memorials Trust
Main page
Commonweath War Graves Commission
Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Copyright © Roll-of-Honour.com 2002-
Email: rollofhonour@ntlworld.com

See our on-line bookstore
Visit our bookstore