HC Deb 23 July 1918 vol 108 cc1615-6

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is in a position to make a statement as to military and political matters on the coast of the Red Sea, the Hedjaz and adjoining Sultanates, and in Mesopotamia?


The House will, I hope, pardon me if I answer may hon. Friend's question in some detail.

General Marshall's operations on the Euphrates in March, and his subsequent operations in the neighbour of Kirkuk in April, resulted in inflicting on the Turks casualties amounting to about 10,000 men, of whom 7,500 are prisoners of war, the capture of 30 guns and much other war material.

As regards the operations of the Mesopotamian Political Administration, very satisfactory progress is being made in redeeming the country from the state of ruin into which it had fallen under the Turks. Thirteen Government primary schools, four municipal State-aided schools, a teachers' training school, and a survey school have been opened. Extension classes in agriculture have also been started. The local demand for education is very insistent, and is being met as rapidly as the supply of teachers will permit. Large tracts of land hitherto unfilled have been brought under the plough through the combined efforts of the people and the Political Administration. Use has been made of mechanical tractors and artillery horses, which have supplemented the ordinary means of cultivation. The opening up of the country by road, rail, and improved water transport and the establishment of security on the highways have resulted in an increase of trade and a lowering of prices of commodities. The contrast between the improved condition of Mesopotamia and that of the neighbouring country occupied by the Turks, where disorder and famine are chronic, has not failed to impress the population and its leaders, the local notables and tribal chiefs. The relations between our troops and the people are excellent, and a spirit of harmony and co-operation prevails. The opinion is frequently expressed that the British people mean well by the Arab race.

Turning to the operations of the forces of our Ally, the King of the Hedjaz, the casualties inflicted on the Turks by the Arab armies along the line between Dera'a and Ma'an number about 2,000, in addition to which two locomotives have been destroyed, 122 culverts and bridges demolished, and railway communication between those two points permanently interrupted. In the interior, five Turkish convoys, aggregating 1,500 camels, have been captured by the Sherif Ali, and a severe defeat has been inflicted on the Emir of Hail by the Sherif Abdulla.

Sir J. D. REES

Is my Noble Friend aware what kind of education is being given? Is it an English education?


I am afraid I do not know the details, but I am sure it is the best education.


Have any steps been taken to open the coal mines?


I will inquire. I am afraid I cannot answer without notice.

Colonel ASHLEY

Are any schemes of of irrigation under contemplation in Mesopotamia?


The matter is, I know, being considered, but I cannot tell my hon. and gallant Friend the details.


Is there any immediate prospect of starting the pilgrimage to the Hedjaz?


I do not think it has ever been interrupted.