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(and distant battlefields)...

During the Great War the focus of attention for British, French, Belgian and American observers was the Western Front in France and Flanders.  However the western Allies also fought the Central Powers in significant campaigns in Africa, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Palestine and Mesopotamia.  These other fronts became known in Britain as “Sideshows”.

For a time Serbia and Roumania fought on behalf of the Allied cause in Europe whilst Russia engaged in large-scale battles against the Austro-Hungarians and Turks on the Eastern European Front and in the Caucasus Mountains.  Meanwhile the Allies invaded German colonies in China and the Pacific Ocean and British troops defended Aden against Turkish attacks from Yemen.

Although the British War Office became exasperated by the demands made by the Sideshows the Germans took the opposite view.  Germany wanted to see Allied strength dissipated away from the Western Front.  The Germans allocated funds and manpower to intrigues stretching from Libya to India.  By using their ally Turkey, a Jihad or Muslim Holy War was instigated by the Germans from Constantinople against the Allies. 

Germany attempted to bring both Afghanistan and Persia into the war so that India could be invaded; Indian dissidents were patronised by the Germans and boatloads of arms and ammunition were despatched towards India to assist planned rebel uprisings.  Abyssinia was also approached and offered Italian Eritrea if it would ally itself with Germany -  the German motive here was to use Abyssinian territory and Turkish troops to invade Sudan and then Uganda to support the German force fighting in East Africa.

In the Gulf region German agents were particularly successful in encouraging local tribes to attack British troops along the Indian border and in Persia and Muscat.  Britain countered by sponsoring the Arab Revolt against the Turks in Arabia, where T.E. Lawrence rose to fame.

When revolution took Russia out of the war Britain fought the Turks on Russian soil at Baku on the Caspian Sea.  After the war the Allies intervened in the Russian Civil War, fighting the Bolsheviks in North and South Russia, the Baltic and Transcaspia.  In Siberia the Allies intervened and confronted the Bolsheviks but left the fighting to the Czech Legion (formed by the Imperial Russian Army from Austro-Hungarian prisoners of war) that was withdrawing to Vladivostock.  In Anatolia Turkish nationalists fought with Allied occupation troops after the Armistice, and in Mesopotamia a post-war Arab revolt involved the British in serious fighting.  On the Indian North West Frontier a war was fought against an Afghan invasion and conflict with tribal insurgents both on the frontier and in India lasted until the late 1930s.  Elsewhere the British Army dealt with revolts in Burma and Palestine.

The military actions in these Sideshows and on these distant battlefields are not well known but they deserve to be.  Courage and esprit-de-corps were not the only necessary abilities for the warriors of both sides.  Often the logistic support, especially casualty evacuation and treatment, was very rudimentary and supply lines were long and vulnerable.  The ability to accept hardship for long periods was very necessary.  These battlefields required a more resourceful and innovative type of leadership than did the well-planned, well-supported and predictable military actions on the Western Front. 

So let us look at several of these non-African battlefields, and at the men who fought and risked death or wounds on them.  Some articles will feature campaigns prior to World War 1 so that we may follow the development of British and other nations’ historical interests in various regions of the world before Great War hostilities commenced.    

-- The Perak War 1875-76 : The award of a Victoria Cross to a Goorkha officer

-- Ramadi 1917: Mesopotamia, 27-29 September 1917

-- Boxer Rebellion:
The 1st Chinese Regiment, 1899-1906

-- A dark desert night: Hilla, Mesopotamia, July 1920

-- Fighting for the Jordan Crossings: Palestine, September 1918

-- Anatolian Incident: The 24th Punjabis in Turkey, 1920

-- The Machine Gun Corps during the Arab Insurrection: Mesopotamia 1920-21

-- A Norfolk with the Iraq Levies: CSM Henry James Edwards DCM, MSM

-- Operations in Mekran: Baluchistan 1898-1902

-- Aden Hinterland: Fighting and delineating an international boundary 1901-04

-- Military Operations in Muscat:
October 1914 to January 1915

-- Tochi Valley: Operations in Waziristan 1914-15

-- The taking of Salif: Royal Navy and Royal Marines in Yemen 1917

-- The Kachin Hills: Uprising in Burma from January to February 1915

-- Baluchistan 1918: The Duki Column of the Marri Field Force

-- Relieving Rumaithah : A close run thing in Mesopotamia, July 1920

-- Gurkha at Tor: The action at Tor, Sinai, on 12th February 1915

-- A tale of Two Mutinies: The Indian Ocean 1942

--China 1914 : The 36th Sikhs at Tsingtao

-- The fight for Tekrit : The 8th Infantry Brigade in Mesopotamia, 5th November 1917

-- Oranges, Dates & Coconuts: 58th Vaughan’s Rifles (Frontier Force) in Egypt, Palestine, Somaliland and Portuguese East Africa

-- Aden 1916:
The Malay States Guides in action at Hatum, Aden, 12th January 1916

Sarawak 1941 : Japanese Attack on Sarawak in December 1941 and the fighting withdrawal of 2/15th Punjab Regiment

-- The Kuki Rising: Insurrection in north-eastern India and Burma 1917-1918

-- Kurdistan 1919 : Military Operations in Mesopotamian Kurdistan

-- Aden: Military Operations in Aden during 1914 and 1915

-- Macedonia: Indian Military Transport Units in Macedonia 1916-18

-- Macedonia: The 9th (Service) Battalion the Border Regiment (Pioneers) in Macedonia November 1915 – March 1919

-- Macedonia: The 9th (Service) Battalion East Lancashire Regiment in Macedonia November 1915 - March 1919

-- Fighting the Nagas : The Naga siege of Kohima and the British attack on Khonoma

-- Retreat from Burma 1942: The struggles through the Northern Passes

-- Operation Character: Force 136 parachute insertions into the Karen Hills in 1945

-- Kohima 1944: The Japanese advance and the heroic stand of the 1st Battalion The Assam Regiment

  -- The Bush Warfare School Commandos - and the Special Service Detachments (Commando) in Burma in 1942

 -- Bringing back a prisoner  -OPERATION BEAN, Arakan Coast, Burma, 23rd November 1944

-- Operation "AYO" : The Battle of Imphal, May 1944

-- The road to Damascus: Fighting the Vichy French in Syria, June 1941

-- The Lushai Brigade : Burma, March 1944 - June 1946

--Malaya 1941 : The Kota Bharu Landings

-- Singapore 1942 : The Malay Regiment at the Fall of Singapore

-- The East Persia Cordon : The East Persia Cordon and the Sarhad Operations 1915-17

-- Egypt, Sinai and Palestine :The Hong Kong-Singapore Royal Garrison Artillery 1915-1918

-- Fighting the Tangistanis :  Bushire, Persia, July – September 1915

-- Operations in Transcaspia 1918-1919 :  Sowars, Sepoys and Guides fight the Bolsheviks

-- Burma 1944 : The 1st Battalion the Northern Rhodesia Regiment

-- Dunsterforce : the maintenance of an effective force on the Caucasus Front so as to protect the occupied portions of Turkish Armenia and to prevent the realisation of Pan-Turanian designs. 

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The intellectual property associated with Harry's Sideshows is owned by Harry Fecitt MBE TD. Please acknowledge Harry's Sideshows should you wish to use any of the written material displayed here.