Source 3: Kut al Amara, April - May 1916
By September 1915, the British had taken the town of Kut al Amara, south of Baghdad. Their advance ended with their defeat by the Turks at the Battle of Ctesiphon in November. The survivors retreated to Kut al Amara where they endured a siege by the Turks for 147 days. The Royal Naval Air Service tried to supply the garrison with food and medicine but could not deliver enough by air to break the siege. The town surrendered to the Turks on 29 April 1916.
An entry in Douglas’s Pilot’s Flying Log Book for 16 April 1916 records that on that day he was 55 minutes in the air, flying at a height of 9600ft over Kut and managed to drop 100lbs of sugar, 100lbs of flour and 500 rupees. He gives a more detailed account of his mission in this letter home.
You can print the transcript below as a Word document (Rich Text Format, MB, new window).
View the timeline for an outline of John Douglas Hume's life.
I.E.F.[Indian Expeditionary Force] ‘D’
9th May 1916
By this time you will know about the failure to relieve Kut
and our efforts to delay this by dropping food. I know that photographs of machines
carrying food have been faked up by the special correspondent of the
Central News Agency. So I think it is no longer unwise to say that I
by reason of a good machine, put in at least a quarter of the total amount
dropped by R.N.A.S. [Royal Naval Air Service] and R.F.C. [Royal Flying Corps] together – which is something accomplished in
this unsatisfactory campaign. In my last letter, I wrote that flying was
getting horribly stale & unexciting, but neglecting to touch wood, my next
trip was as exciting as anyone could wish. It was a food trip, and
at that time I had beaten everybody else by doing the trip to Kut and
back in 42 min[ute]s. I was trying to beat my own record & made a straight
line for Kut passing over the lines at just 6000ft when – bang – and a shrapnel
burst 10ft right of my tail. Within half a minute there was another in the same
place. As this was the best shooting before or since that the Turks have done,
I put on full speed and vacated that unhealthy region. I had hardly recovered
from the cardiac stricture resulting from this excitement, when having
dropped my food, I passed over another machine on the same errand and
about 20ft lower. I waved to him & he to me, then chancing to look up
there was Fritz on a brand new Fokker, pointing straight at me; scarcely
50 yds away on my right. With a wild jerk I turned & dived underneath
him, so escaping the two rounds he loosed off at me. By the time I had
turned round, extracted my revolver from it's case and loaded it, he
was 3 miles away having about 50 Knots more than I. Since then he
has brought down one seaplane & put 45 shots each into two other
land machines, but now that the pressure of work is over he goes his way
& we go ours. Besides I have fitted my machine for 3 guns – so shall
give him a warm welcome next time we meet. The Turks seem to
be getting Cholera pretty badly & one or two cases have appeared among
our men so I have had my first dose of innoculation today.
Out of ten R.F.C. pilots there are only two left, the rest having gone
down river with fever or dysentery. So Dunn & I on land machines
are remaining here to give the R.F.C. a hand while the rest of the squadron
goes down river to refit.
By the time you get this I will perhaps be visiting Uncle Jimmie
as the Colonel - Colonel Gordon who used to fly at Leven - is trying
to get us each a month's leave to India.
The heat here is getting strong – 105 in the shade today – but I don’t mind
it so far & large doses of quinine keep off the hayfever quite a lot.
I am in quite a sticky state & as the sun is nearly set, I shall
go for a bathe in the muddy Tigris.
Much love to all
P.S. I enclose 3 photos. Two are of the result of a Shimal, one of
the sudden fierce Dust storms prevalent here, and the other
a bad one taken on the Huntscastle of myself, Turner & Murray.
(National Records of Scotland reference GD486/105)