May 13th 1916

Following the news of the fall of Kut on April 29th we have now heard from 2nd Lieut. Leslie de Selincourt (who, you may recall, transferred from the 7th Hants to the OBLI), who has been wounded. He has written to us from the Club of Western India, Poona.

de Selincourt L27/4/16 “I lent my valuable assistance during the battles of Feb 21st and March 8th, though unfortunately both turned out rather abject fiascos.

On the night of March 16th I was out in front of the parapet of the front line trench burying some bodies, which had lain there too long to make living next door to them enjoyable. The moon appeared from behind a cloud; an ill-mannered Turk saw me and hit me in the arm; annoyed because I didn’t drop down on my stomach and crawl home, he hit me again. Unfortunately in a more disabling place, the bullet entering my shoulder and reappearing out at the small of my back. I dropped like a stone and was unable to rise until three weeks later.

I experienced the usual sensation when hit – ‘never more pained or surprised in my life.’ Some ribs got cracked, but no vital part was touched and I have been the subject of congratulations from every doctor.

Now I am going up to Naini Tal – a very good spot in the Himalayas. Then I suppose I go back to the Gulf.”

* * * * * * *

Lieut. Leslie Murray (RFC) was also involved in the efforts to relieve Kut and he too is now in hospital:

3/5/16 “I expect you will be sorry to hear I have arrived at the Funk Hole at Buzra, otherwise known as the British General Hospital. I had been feeling pretty rotten since last Thursday (April 27th) and on Friday I discovered I had a temp of 100.3 degree, so I retired to bed altogether. The heat in my tent was almost unbearable, the only breeze was a hot draught.

The next day I was just as bad, so, as our Naval Doctor has gone down with dysentery, I was sent along to one of the Field Hospitals close by. It was very hot there and the biting flies were most irritating, as I had not got the energy to drive them out of my mosquito net.

It was in the afternoon that I got the news of the fall of Kut, which was rather depressing, although most of us were fairly certain that they could not hold out much longer and it seemed fairly obvious that under the present conditions it would not be possible to get through, because we had a very difficult position to attack.

The Turks were very strongly entrenched at Sannaiat, and with marsh on one side and river on the other, it would have required a much larger division than we had got at the time, to get through.

Of course, several attacks were made on the position, but whenever they got through, they were driven back. We expected Kut to surrender any time, as we knew we could not feed them from the air much longer. Neither the machines or the pilots could stand it…

I suppose we prolonged the agony for four or five days… By the way, the things we usually dropped were ‘atta’ (a native flour), sugar and occasionally chocolate. I usually took 200 or 250 lbs and an observer; the food was placed inside two strong sacks, four 50 lbs sacks being placed on a specially devised bomb rack under the engine or between the floats, the fifth bag was put in the observer’s seat to balance the back of the machine and was heaved overboard by him.”

 

February 9th 1916

2nd Lieut. Leslie de Selincourt (OBLI) has reached Ali Garbi but floods, a shortage of mule rations and an uncertainty as to the friendliness of the Arabs in the area make for slow progress.

de Selincourt L

Leslie de Selincourt

“There is a biggish Arab village 1½ miles downstream from which we bought eggs yesterday in large quantities. They charged a lot and they all turned out to be bad, so this morning we strapped on our revolvers, took half a dozen trusty followers with rifles and kit bags and marched straight into the village.

With the aid of an interpreter we interviewed the Sheik, explained our discovery about the eggs and demanded the right number in the right condition. It was about eight dozen. They hummed and hawed in excited tones and then some slunk away and after a considerable delay reappeared with two eggs. We explained that the compensation was inadequate. They merely looked stupid and pretended not to understand. So the word was given and we scattered through the village.

Time was called after sixteen minutes and the bag was as follows: 54 hens, 19 eggs, 2 leaded sticks, a Service Colt (loaded, ancient, but still serviceable), a cartridge belt containing 31 cartridges (also ancient) and a coffee pot. They came off very lightly, and as a hen in this country can be bought for four annas, we didn’t take enough to pay for our loss in eggs. But we didn’t want to make enemies of these people and if they don’t swindle us we are quite willing to trade fairly with them.”

So far Leslie and his troops have marched about 190 miles and they are now 42 miles from the firing line.

January 13th 1916

2nd Lieut. Leslie de Selincourt has written to say that he has been transferred from the Hampshire Regiment in India to the 1st Battalion of the Ox & Bucks Light Infantry.

The Battalion itself is currently besieged at Kut and he is to join a provisional battalion at Ali Garbi to be part of a relief force.

Leslie is about to set off from Basra for Amara and he is currently doing battle with jackals and flies:

de Selincourt L5/1/16  “We are plagued by jackals who howl in the most dismal fashion round the tent at night. One came in last night and swallowed this morning’s breakfast while we all slept…

We are driven crazy here by flies. In spite of the cold – frost at night – they are as thick as… as…well, as flies. We have an admirable plan for catching them. Just a drop of methylated spirit in a glass which you hold under the fly as he sits on the roof of the tent; fuddled by the fumes, he immediately drops in. I caught 250 in 14 minutes.”