In the Middle East tension is escalating between the British and the Arabs. Misfit Lieutenant Harry Downe is sent to negotiate a treaty with a renegade Bedouin Sheikh, Ibn Shalan, whose tribe is attacking enemy patrols in Iraq and cutting oil pipelines. Greedy for arms, Shalan accepts British weapons, but, in return, Harry must take his daughter Furja to be his bride. The secret marriage leads to a deep love, to the anger of Shalan and the disgust of Harry's fellow officers. But war is looming.
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Following heavy casualties, General Townsend withdraws his exhausted troops to the town of Kut Al Amara, Iraq. His orders - to engage as many Turkish troops as possible in a siege situation. A relief force is hastily assembled, among them Charles Reid, Tom Mason and Michael Downe, for each of whom the advance is personal. Charles returns to the country where he lost the love of his life.
Mesopotamia, 1916. The Turks order prisoners from the siege of Kut to march the hundreds of miles to Baghdad. The men are weak from starvation after the five-month siege, with many suffering from dysentery, scabies, and malaria. They have no medical supplies. And then the hot weather begins.... Hundreds of men die on the march, the stragglers killed by Arab tribesmen; those too ill to move are left behind to die.