Pahalsing Karki and Mesopotamia

Gravestones and Flowers
Pahalsing Karki

The Seventh Gurkha Rifles was formed on May 16th, 1902, in Thayetmyo, Central Burma.

It went through a convoluted numbering process until its designation was finally established in 1907.

Pahalsing Karki was one of the original serving officers.

Look for his name below:

Pahalsing Karki register

The Seventh, made up of two regular battalions, was one of only two Gurkha regiments to recruit its soldiers from the towns and foothills of the Himalayas, east of Katmandu, including men from Sherpa families of mountaineering fame.

Their home base was in Quetta, North West India, now Pakistan.

Map of Pakistan

It was from here, at the start of the First World War, that the Seventh Gurkha Rifles, including Pahalsing Karki, joined Commonwealth forces in the Middle East to fight against the Turkish Empire, one of Germany's allies.

The Mesopotamia Campaign

The name Mesopotamia comes from the Greek, meaning 'land between rivers' - these being the Tigris and the Euphrates. Today, the land comprises what is now central Iraq and adjoining parts of Syria and Turkey.

Map of Mesopotamia

A total of 675,000 Indian combatants served here in the First World War.

Then, as now, it was an area rich in oil and for that reason, strategically important. The Anglo-Persian Oil Company had exclusive rights to petroleum deposits and was contracted to provide oil to the British navy.

In November and December 1914, the Poona, Ahmadnagar and Belgaum brigades of the Indian Army captured Basra and Qurna ensuring control of the Persian Gulf and the supply of oil. In the following months, they fought off several attacks from the Turks and it was determined that allied troops should push further inland towards Baghdad.

There was no particular strategic advantage to be gained from the success of this campaign. The oil fields were safe as long as Basra and Qurna were held.

"The real reason for the expedition was probably that about this time matters were moving badly for the Allies. Serbia was in trouble in the Balkans, Gallipoli was a failure, something it seemed ought to be done to restore the British prestige." (R.J Beamish, F. A March, History Of The World War, 1919)

This political decision had unfortunate military consequences for the troops involved:

  • The folding of the Gallipoli front released many crack Turkish troops to defend the route to Baghdad
  • Every mile inland from Basra took the allies further away from their base, making supplies a problem whereas the Turks' supply lines were shortened
  • The ground to be covered mainly comprised marshes and shifting sandbanks
  • There were no accurate maps and little reliable information about enemy positions and strength

It was in this operation that Pahalsing Karki and the men of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Gurkhas found themselves in early July, 1915 together with other allied troops including the 76th Punjabis.

The objective was a town called Nasiriyah on the River Euphrates. The only practicable passage was the Akaika Channel in Lake Hammar. The entrance was blocked and defended by hostile riflemen with Thorneycroft launches.

Pahalsing Karki Extract 1

(Bellums were barges, 20' long and 3' wide, flat bottomed, with a small platform at each end)

Pahalsing Karki Extract 2

Contemporary pictures and descriptions can be viewed here:

http://www.greatwardifferent.com/Great_War/River_Warfare_in_Mesopotamia/River_Warfare_01.htm

Basra

On July 3rd, the entire flotilla was in the Akaika Channel but they met with strong resistance. All through the night they were under fire.

Pahalsing Karki was killed.

His grave is unknown.

He is commemorated on the Basra Memorial.

http://www.cwgc.org/search/casualty_details.aspx?casualty=1682516

Basra memorial. Basra memorial cemetery on CWGC.

This is located 32 kilometres along the road to Nasiriyah, in the middle of what was a major battleground during the first Gulf War.

It commemorates more than 40,500 members of the Commonwealth forces who died in the operations in Mesopotamia in the First World War.

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