The horrors of dying as a prisoner of the Turks are revealed by Weymouth historian

SPOTLIGHT: The Dorsets in Poona, India, before the First World War

SPOTLIGHT: The Dorsets in Poona, India, before the First World War

First published in Nostalgia

FOLLOWING our article on the Battle of Mesopotamia – Weymouth historian Greg Schofield suggested we put the spotlight on the Weymouth men involved in that campaign which saw the Army record some of its heaviest losses.

In its aftermath, thousands of captured British troops were force-marched through the desert from Kut to Turkey with thousands dying en route.

In the early stages of fighting three Weymouth men, of the 2nd Dorset Battalion of the Dorset-shire Regiment, died in the bid to capture Basra and the oilfields.

They were Major Archibald Ariel Mercier, 39, of Lansdown Lodge, who died on November 17, 1914. He had previously served on the North West Frontier, at the storming of Dargan and in the Boer War. Private Sydney William Stevens, 24, died of wounds received in the Persian Gulf on December 4, 1914 and Private Walter John Walden, aged 18, of Queen’s Place, Chapelhay, who died on November 17, 1914.

Shortly before his death, he wrote to his parents giving an insight into the sufferings of troops in that theatre of the war: ‘...troop ship lying off coast with no bread or meat for four days.

‘Obliged to drink condensed water(sic) and wash in salt water.’ During the siege of Kut-al-Amara, another Weymouth man, Private F. C. Nash, 23, of Victoria Terrace, died on January 18, 1916.

Greg said: “When the British surrendered in April 1916, 12 officers and 400 men of the 2nd Battalion the Dorsetshire Regi-ment were captured by the Turks. “They were kept in squalid conditions, with poor food, and virtually no medical treatment.

“Summary execution and sexual abuse was not unknown, and beatings were common. “Little wonder, then, that the death rate amongst prisoners of the Turks was unacceptably high.

“All 12 officers survived, but only 120 men came out of captivity. Among the dead were six Weymouth men.” They were: Private Frederick George Burt, 26, of Penny Street, who died on September 6, 1916 at Baghtsche Camp; his brother who was also captured, survived.

Private John Thomas Dudley, 28, of Newstead Road died on July 22, 1916, of beri-beri at Mosel Camp. His brother Steven died, aged 24, on September 5, 1916, of enteritis at Baghtsche camp.

Lance Corporal William Langdon, 26, of Franchise Street died on December 31, 1916, of beri-beri at Baghtsche Camp.

He was a regular soldier who had enlisted when 17 years old.

Private Bertie George Legg, 26, of High Street, died on July 27, 1916 at Baghtsche Camp.

Private William Rushen of Granville Road died on August 21, 1916, of dysentery.

Greg added: “After the Kut disaster, the British Army in Mesopotamia was reinforced, and before Baghdad was captured in 1917 and finally Mosul in 1918, a further 12 Weymouth men were to die; but that’s another story.”

If you are related to any of these Weymouth men and have photos of them, we’d love to hear from you on 01305 830973.

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