Friday 21 January 1916 – We Lost 695
This morning at Um-el-Hanna there is a thick mist, and from mid-morning it pours constantly. The Turkish defences are again bombarded from both banks, and from gunboats. 12,000 rounds in all are fired. The forty-six guns available to the British prove inadequate to dislodge or demoralize the Turkish defenders before the assault. There is no attempt to deceive the Turks or any attempt at surprise them and the main assault will be on a very narrow front less than a mile across. No man’s land is 600 yards deep. The attacking units are very under-strength, as a result of the earlier fighting, and from illness. The Meerut Division goes into action with fewer than 4,000 effective men. The 21st Brigade has to be broken up, and its battalions attached to the other Brigades, the 19th and 35th.
The infantry attack goes in half an hour after the last shell has fallen, in clear (but misty) daylight, at 07:45. The Turkish troops – virtually undamaged by the shelling – rise to man their trenches and cut down the infantry in swathes. Very few men reach their trenches. Owing to wet soil, shelling and losses among the operators, the field telephone system break down almost immediately, leaving Brigade, Division and Corps completely in the dark as to what is happening. While various commands are given to reorganize and renew the attack, in the appalling weather and with such chaos in the front lines, no further effort is made. With defeat at the Hanna, the British attempt to relieve Kut is badly delayed. Morale among the British troops falls, with growing doubts about their leaders and dismay at the poor supplies, medical arrangements and ramshackle organization.
The British and Indian attackers suffer 2,700 casualties.
- Lieutenant Colonel Ewing Wrigley Grimshaw (commanding 62nd Punjabis) killed at age 48.
- Lieutenant Colonel Francis Jearrad Bowker (commanding 1st/4th Hampshire Regiment) is killed at age 47. He is a veteran of the South African War.
- Major William Hurst Nicolson (Dogras) is killed at age 45. He is the son of the Reverend William Millar Nicolson.
- Major Oliver St John Skeen DSO (Punjabis) killed at age 41. He is the son of Deputy Surgeon General William Skeen.
- Captain Alan Gordon Acheson Adam (East Kent Regiment) is killed at age 28. His brother will die at home in last month of the war.
- Lieutenant Joseph Steward Fayrer (Dogras) is killed at age 18. He is the grandson of ‘Sir’ Joseph Fayrer 1st
- Lieutenant John Charles Bucknill MC (Hampshire Regiment) is killed at age 36. His brother died of wounds last May.
- Lieutenant Charles Randolph Prendergast (Punjabis) is killed at age 28. He is the son of the late Major General C L Prendergast Colonel Commandant of the 28th
- Second Lieutenant Ewart Okey (Connaught Rangers) is killed at age 28. He is the first of three brothers who will lose their lives in the Great War.
- Second Lieutenant Richard De Beauvoir De Lisle (Deccan Infantry) is killed at age 19. He is the son of Brigadier General G de S De Lisle.
- Second Lieutenant Frank Henderson E Soutar (Black Watch) is killed at age 26. His brother will be killed in May 1918 and they are sons of the Reverend Alex Soutar.
- Corporal John B Brown (Hampshire Regiment) is killed. His brother will be in July 1917.
Today’s losses include:
- Two battalion commanders
- Multiple sons of members of the clergy
- Multiple sons of Generals
- The son of a Surgeon General
- Multiple families that will lose two and three sons
- The grandson of a Baronet
- A Rosslyn Park Rugby footballer
- A Victoria Cross winner
- A son of the 2nd Earl of Selborne
- A grandson of the former Prime Minister Lord Salisbury
Today’s highlighted casualties include:
- Lieutenant William Herbert Lucas (North Staffordshire Regiment) dies of wounds at age 25 received four days prior. He is a Rosslyn Park Rugby footballer.
- Sergeant David Finlay VC (Black Watch) is killed the day after his 23rd His Victoria Cross was awarded for actions performed on 9th May last year at Rue de Bois when he led a bombing party of twelve men in an attack until ten of them have fallen. He then ordered the two survivors to crawl back and he himself went to assist a wounded man and carried him over 100 yards of fire-swept ground into cover.
- Captain ‘The Honorable’ Robert Stafford Arthur Palmer (Hampshire Regiment) dies as a prisoner of war of the Turks at age 27. He is the son of the 2nd Earl of Selborne and grandson of the former Prime Minister Lord Salisbury.
How Long, O Lord?
by Robert Palmer
How long, O Lord, how long, before the flood
Of crimson-welling carnage shall abate?
From sodden plains in West and East, the blood
Of kindly men steams up in mists of hate,
Polluting Thy clean air; and nations great
In reputation of the arts that bind
The world with hopes of heaven, sink to the state
Of brute barbarians, whose ferocious mind
Gloats o’er the bloody havoc of their kind,
Not knowing love or mercy. Lord, how long
Shall Satan in high places lead the blind
To battle for the passions of the strong?
Oh, touch Thy children’s hearts, that they may know
Hate their most hateful, pride their deadliest foe.