The old town of Kut is within a sharp "U" bend of the river, almost making it an island but for a narrow connection to the shore. For centuries Kut was a regional center of the carpet trade. The area around Kut is a fertile cereal grain growing region. The Baghdad Nuclear Research Facility, looted following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, is located near Kut.
Kut in World War I
Kut was the scene of fierce battle during World War I. The British Mesopotanian Expeditionary Force, led by General Sir Charles V. F. Townshend, marched north from Basra in September of 1915. They reached Kut on September 26 where after three days of fighting they drove the Ottoman forces from the town. Townshend pursued the retreating Ottomans up river until defeated at Ctesiphon on November 21, and then withdrew back to Kut. On December 7, 1915 the Turks and their Arab allies counter attacked and put the British under siege. A force under Colonel Gerald Leachman succeded in breaking out, but Townshend and the bulk of the force remained besieged. After gathering reinforcements including regiments from India Leachman tried to relieve Townshend, but each time was driven back by fierce battle. Some 23,000 British and Indian soldiers died in the attempts to retake Kut, probably the worst loss of life for the British away from the European theater. Townshend with some 9,000 surviving soldiers finally surrendered Kut on April 29, 1916. The captured soldiers were impressed into slave labour until the surrender of the Ottoman Empire. The British went back on the offensive in December with a larger and better supplied force under General Sir Frederick Stanley Maude and reconquered Kut on February 23, 1917.
See also: Siege of Kut