Help Save the Kut Cemetery

The main plaque to the Kut War Cemetery in Iraq
In the moving article In southern Iraq, heritage of other eras decays, looking at the spray paint on the cross and the rusting scooter seat in the weeds, it is hard to argue with a local landowner who laments, "Iraq is not like Egypt -- here, nobody gives a damn about our heritage." 

In this town in south Iraq, home to two cemeteries -- one for British and Indian soldiers, the other for Turkish veterans -- who died in World War I, much of the remnants of bygone eras and rulers have been left crumbling.

"When I was a boy, I often went to play in the cemetery," recalls Mithaq Jabbar Abdullah, now 34. "There were roses, it was like a garden." "But starting from the embargo against Iraq in the 1990s, everything began to go wrong," says Abdullah, "And today," he says, before his voice trails off with a sigh.

In 2003, US Marines discovered the Kut Cemetery and organised a clean up before handing it back to  their British counterparts.
The cemetery is accessed from one of Kut's main roads, but one must step over countless iron bars and shards of glass and metal. "After the fall of Saddam Hussein, the government was virtually non-existent. And today, the local residents use the cemetery as a garbage dump," Mehdi laments.

Now, the names of those buried as a result of the 1915-16 Ottoman siege of Kut are no longer visible, covered in dirt, and many headstones are obscured by vegetation. 

After scraping away some of the dried mud, the memorial to one soldier, Corporal Horace Edward Hawkett, becomes visible: He "did his duty (and) is ever in our thoughts."It reads: "Corporal H.E. Hawkett. Oxford & Bucks. Light Infantry. 20th December 1915. Age 23." 

According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission "whilst the current climate of political instability persists it is not possible for the Commission to manage or maintain its cemeteries and memorials located within Iraq".

Alternative arrangements for commemoration have been implemented and a two volume Roll of Honour listing all casualties buried and commemorated in Iraq has been produced. These volumes are on display at the Commission's Head Office in Maidenhead and are available for the public to view.

I am appealing to readers to help me obtain further photographic information on the situation regarding the British War Cemetery in Kut and also the conditions of other British World War One graveyards in Iraq. If you can help then please get intouch through the contact tab at the top.

The Kut Cemetery, taken shortly after the end of World War One.


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