HC Deb 26 July 1915 vol 73 cc1933-5

asked the Secretary of State for India whether he has any recent information concerning the health of our troops in Mesopotamia; whether any considerable number of soldiers are suffering from fever, the result of exposure to the excessive heat; and whether there is adequate hospital accommodation and sufficient hospital comforts for the sick men?

The SECRETARY of STATE for INDIA (Mr. Chamberlain)

From information received during the past week, it may be said that the health of the troops in Mesopotamia is good. There were during June twenty-seven cases and nine deaths from enteric, but there has been no special prevalence of enteric at any time.

The heat has been, and is, intense but every effort has been made to minimise its effects. The troops have been supplied with spine protectors and goggles, mosquito nets and veils, ice, mineral waters and fresh vegetables from Bombay. Electric lights and fan's have been fitted in buildings where possible. It has been found practicable to give some of the men a change in India during the unhealthy season. There is ample hospital accommodation and a good supply of comforts for the sick.

I would like to add to the answer some account of recent operations conducted by this force, derived from telegrams which have just reached me.

The operations on the Euphrates between Sukh-es-Sheyukh and Nasiriyeh, which were described in the communiqué issued on the 22nd instant, have been continued, and during 24th July the British forces, under Major-General G. F. Gorringe, attacked and captured in succession the enemy's advanced and main positions displaying the greatest gallantry and endurance in face of a most stubborn resistance.

On the same evening the gunboats with the force pushed on and shelled Nasi-riyeh, with the result that during the night the Turks retreated much disorganised towards the North, and our troops occupied the town without further opposition on the morning of the 25th.

During the earlier part of the fight on the 24th we captured eleven guns, two machine guns, and several hundred prisoners, while about 500 dead Turks were counted in their main position. Since then considerable additional captures have been made, but reports are incomplete.

Our own casualties are estimated to be between 300 and 400 all ranks. General Gorringe reports that throughout the action the troops displayed the greatest gallantry and endurance, and in forwarding his report General Sir John Nixon states that these operations, lasting for twenty days and culminating in an attack on a series of entrenched positions, have been carried out in a shade temperature of 113 degrees under the most difficult and onerous conditions, the country being a network of marshes and canals.