Charles Townshend achieved international fame as a captain, when he commanded the besieged garrison at Chitral (now in Pakistan) in 1895. As a result, he became known as ‘Chitral Charlie’.
Decorated by Queen Victoria and lionised by the British public, his passage up through the Army was assured and, in 1916, he was given command on 6th Indian Division and sent to Mesopotamia (modern Iraq). Here he won a series of stunning victories against the Turks as his ill-supported division swept all before it in a devastating advance up the River Tigris. He triumphed brilliantly at Kurna, Amara and Kut-al-Asmara, but then, against all the tenets of military common sense, he pushed further up the Tigris to take Baghdad.
By now over-reached, depleted and exhausted, Townshend’s Division was confronted by a determined Turkish foe. Townshend withdrew to Kut, where he was besieged and forced into a humiliating surrender. The mis-treatment of the British POWs by the Turks only added to Townshend’s shame.
This fascinating and objective biography examines Townshend’s controversial conduct during and after the siege and assesses whether his dramatic fall from grace and popularity was fair.
The author, N. S. ‘Tank’ Nash CBE, is a retired brigadier. He is the author of K Boat Catastrophe and lives near Edinburgh.
CHITRAL CHARLIE The Rise and Fall of Major General Charles Townshend
The story of Major General Charles Townshend whose career was defined by two sieges: the heroic defence of Chitral in 1895, and the humiliating capitulation to the Turks at Kut in Mesopotamia in 1916. In this fair and objective biography Brigadier N.S.Nash asks whether Townshend’s dramatic fall from grace was justified.
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