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A Mesopotamian campaign album

Part of the pleasure of collecting old photographs and negatives is the challenge of trying to reunite stray pictures and collections with their stories – as far as it is possible. This collection of negatives was bought at an antique fair in the Hunter Valley some years ago and sadly was accompanied by no information. I quickly ascertained that it came from a person who had been involved in the Mesopotamian campaign of The Great War. This was clear because some of the negatives were actually labelled as Kut el Amara, 1917. This was the scene of one of Britain’s worst defeats of the war, at the hands of Turkish forces, but by 1917 the town had been recaptured by the British. Over time, as I have examined the pictures closely, I’ve been able to identify some of them as Adelaide, probably at the war’s end. Thanks to the internet, it is possible to quickly cross-reference visible clues, such as street names and business advertising. With some effort I’ve been able to ascertain that the soldier’s wartime journey probably began in India, probably as part of the British Indian forces that played such a major role in the Mesopotamian campaign – a military effort designed to safeguard British oil interests in the area now known as Iraq. He seems to have travelled via Singapore to the Middle East, and among the identifiable scenes are some of Baghdad. The identity of the person – probably an officer with links to Adelaide – is not known to me, but I live in hope I may one day find out.

A sign on this building reads “Lady Hardinge War Hospital”, which allowed me to place it as Bombay, India.

I was able to read the sign “Hotel Adelphi”, which placed this photo in Singapore

Once I knew at least one photo was in Singapore, I could search for Singapore images from The Great War era, which allowed me to identify this shot of the river at Singapore.

I don’t know where the photo was taken, but perhaps our soldier travelled on this troopship.

A rather elaborate set piece by some military clowns.

Another soldier clowning for the camera. He seems angry that the camel has his helmet.

The photographer had an eye for local scenery. Here is a date plantation in Mesopotamia.

These people are showing off some of their handicrafts, it seems.

The name of the laundry is Leach and Weborny. Confusingly, they had establishments in Bombay and Baghdad at the time. I’m assuming this is Baghdad.

Doctoring a horse.

An ambulance, with some personnel.

A check of old photos proved this shot to be of Baghdad.

Some Indian troops with a British gunboat behind them. The river is probably the Tigris.

A British river gunboat.

The waterfront at Kut el Amara.

This pet goat belonged to the Welsh Fusiliers, at Amara, 1917.

Celebrations for victory and peace in Adelaide, South Australia.

Welcome Home decorations. Perhaps this is our photographer soldier’s abode.

Perhaps this is him, with his family. But then again, perhaps not . . .

This Post Has One Comment

  1. John Carr

    The ambulance appears to be an early Ford Model T.

    The man in the family shot above has a bent nose – perhaps he was a boxer.

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