Kitchener's speech on fall of Kut
Catalogue reference: 30/57/71

(handwritten) H[ouse] of Lords: Kut

(handwritten) Original - with Autograph corrections WO/62. 3pp

4th. May 1916.


          I am glad that the Noble and Gallant Lord has afforded me this opportunity of paying a tribute to General Townshend and his troops, whose dogged determination and splendid courage have earned for them so honourable a record.
          It is well known how, after a series of brilliantly fought engagements, General Townshend decided to hold the strategically important position at Kut-el-Amara, and it will not be forgotten that his dispositions for the defences of that position (handwritten) place were so excellent and so complete that the enemy, notwithstanding large numerical superiority, was wholly unable to penetrate his lines.
          Noble Lords will not fail to realise how tense was the strain borne by those troops who for more than twenty weeks held to their posts under conditions of abnormal climatic difficulty, and on rations calculated for protraction to the furthest possible period until as it proved imminent starvation itself compelled the capitulation of this gallant garrison, which consisted of 2,970 British and some 6,000 Indian troops with including followers.
          General Townshend and his troops in their honourable captivity will have the satisfaction of knowing that, in the opinion of their comrades, which I think I may say this House and the country fully share, they did all that was humanly possible to resist to the last, and that their surrender reflects no discredit on themselves or on the record of the British and Indian armies.
          Every effort was of course made to relieve the beleaguered force, and I am not travelling beyond the actual facts in saying that to the adverse elements alone was due the denial of success; the constant rain and consequent floods not only impeding the advance but compelling - in lieu of a turning movement(handwritten)s - a direct attack(handwritten)s on an almost impossibly narrow front. No praise would seem extravagant for the troops under the leadership of Sir Percy Lake and Sir George Gorringe, and that they did not reap the fruit of their courage and devotion is solely due to the circumstances which fought against them.
          The last message sent by General Townshend from Kut was addressed in these terms:-

"We are pleased to know that we have done our duty, and recognise that our situation is one of the fortunes of war. We thank you and General Gorringe and all ranks of the Tigris force for the great efforts you have made to save us."

          I think the House, no less that the country at large, will endorse these words, and I am sure that those who held - and those who strained every nerve to relieve - Kut, have alike earned our admiration and gratitude.

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