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Spoils of WWI Mesopotamian campaign set to sell in museum armouries auction

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Taken from a Middle Eastern battlefield nearly a century ago during the British army’s struggle against Ottoman forces in WWI, a unique piece of military history is due to go under the hammer during a museum sale on Saturday 28th March. 

Previously exhibited at Stratford Armouries Museum, the lot in question is an unusual suite of Ottoman bronze door furniture, removed from a set of armoury gates in Kut El Amara, where members of a British garrison were besieged by enemy forces for over four months. The suite is part of a single, private collection which West Midlands auctioneers, Cuttlestones, has been commissioned to sell following a change in direction by the museum, which will retain its significant collection of items relating to the English Civil War, First and Second World Wars. 
Collectors of rarer military pieces and WWI buffs alike will no doubt be licking their lips at the prospect of such an item coming up for sale – especially given the centenary of WWI and the Mesopotamian campaign in particular. Having a large knocker on a crescent and fan back plate with matching loop door handles, and mounted on an oak shield, the suite stands at just over 50 cm high and was originally presented to Officers Training Corps military library by Brig Genl E. C. Peebles to commemorate the battle of Kut El Amara. 
One of the lesser-known battles of the First World War, the siege of Kut was a major setback for the British during the fight to win control in the Middle East. Having been halted in their advance towards Baghdad in mid-1915, British forces were met with hard fighting at Ctesiphon and were forced to retreat. Rather than dropping further back to Basra, Commander of the 6th Division, Major-General Charles Townsend, decided to hold his men at Kut in an effort to defend the town against the larger and better equipped Ottoman forces in pursuit. Unfortunately for the British, however, after four months of heavy fighting they were forced to surrender in 1916, with many of the survivors of the battle going on to perish in captivity.
The suite features a copper plaque commemorating the battle and, guided at £200-400, is expected to generate significant interest – not least in terms of the WWI connection, but also because of the significance of the Middle East as an ongoing and historic theatre of war. Elsewhere in the sale catalogue, a lot relating to WWI’s legendary hero of the Middle Eastern campaign Thomas Edward Lawrence – or, as he is perhaps better known today, Lawrence of Arabia – is set to sell. The rock crystal hilted dagger, believed to have once the property of the great officer, carries a guide of £4000-6000 and is yet another treasure in the diverse trove of items due for sale later this month. 
The auction, will take place on Saturday, 28th March at the Stratford Armouries museum, with viewing taking place for three full days prior to the sale. The full catalogue is available to view online at; with commission, telephone and live online bidding options for those unable to attend the sale in person. For more information, call Cuttlestones on 01785 714905.
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