The Basra Memorial commemorates more than 40,500 Commonwealth troops who died in operations in Mesopotamia from 1914-1921 and whose graves are not known. Under Saddam Hussein's rule, the memorial was moved from its original site in a naval dockyard and rebuilt in the desert (Photo © Commonwealth War Graves Commission)

CWGC staff return to Iraq after 12 years

Posted on on 23 July 2018
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After an enforced absence, Commonwealth War Graves Commission staff have visited Iraq for the first time since 2006 to inspect CWGC memorials and cemeteries around Basra.

The conflicts and political instability of recent decades have hampered access, or prevented it altogether, allowing many sites to fall into disrepair in a country where CWGC commemorates more than 50,000 Commonwealth dead of both world wars.

Only in France, Britain, Belgium and India does the Commission have a larger commitment.

A team led by Richard Hills, CWGC’s Director responsible for operations in Iraq, returned for a working visit in May 2018 to assess cemeteries and the memorials in the Basra area and their future maintenance.

Mr Hills said: "It was very satisfying to be able to take our first steps back into the country since 2006.

“The purpose of our visit was to inspect a number of our sites in the area around Basra so that we can better understand the technical nature of the task we face and develop our long term strategy to address those issues.

"We are under no illusions that the project facing us in Iraq will be challenging, and these are just the first steps in what will be a long road, but we are optimistic that real progress is at last possible."

Richard Hills writes about his tour in a blog on the Commission’s website: CWGC in Iraq - Our history and the future.

The WW1 Mesopotamia Campaign 
Basra - Iraq’s second city - was a base for British-led operations in both world wars. Part of the Ottoman Empire in 1914, it was occupied by troops of the colonial Indian Army in November to safeguard oil supplies as Turkey entered the Great War against the Allies. In the ensuing Mesopotamia campaign, British and Indian troops advanced to within striking distance of Baghdad. They were halted at the Battle of Ctesiphon in November 1915, and then forced to surrender in April 1916 after a five-month siege at Kut-al-Amara.The Mesopotamia Expeditionary Force was then rebuilt under a new commander, Lt General Sir Frederick Maude. Kut was recaptured, and Baghdad fell in March 1917. Maude died of cholera eight months later. He's buried at CWGC's Baghdad (North Gate) Cemetery

Source: Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Images courtesy of CWGC

Posted by CN Editorial Team