After the signing of the Armistice of Mudros on October 30, 1918, Turkey withdrew its troops from the Caucasus region. On November 17, the British forces arrived in the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic under the command of General Thomson. In his welcoming speech, Thomson diligently avoided the issue of the status of Azerbaijani territory:
“I congratulate you on the end of the war. As commander of the British, French and American Allied forces I inform you that, according to the agreement with Turkey, we have come here to take the place of the Ottoman forces that have been guarding your territory until now. We have no intention of interfering in your internal affairs either now or in the future. I hope that with your cooperation everything will be for the better.”
Even before the entering Baku, General Thomson demanded that all Azerbaijani military units be withdrawn from the city. The residents of Baku were announced that the British troops would occupy the city.
The troops were primarily concerned with maintaining order in the oil fields of Baku. They started to control oil extraction there. Martial law was imposed; weapons and any gatherings were prohibited. In order to monitor the fulfillment of all these requirements, the temporary Police Commissariat was established. It was headed by Colonel Cockerel, that was ex-chief of the British special colonial police in Persia.
For the practical implementation of this multi-faceted work to restore law and order and public security Gen Thomson charged Col Cockerell with the organisation of an office, which became known as the “special office”.
We have to admit that the troops settled down in a new place without any constraint. In particular, the command chose all the buildings of educational institutions in Baku to accommodate the soldiers and officers, not fulfilling the requirement to pay rent.
In mid-January 1919, the number of troops in Baku was 5,000 soldiers.
In May 1919, the Azerbaijani government had to formally recognize its subordinate position, confirming by document the rights of the occupation authorities to freely export any goods from the territory of the republic.
In June 1919, the British command demanded from the government of Azerbaijan daily allocation of two military and one oil personnel for the transportation of oil and the unimpeded movement of military personnel.
These exclusive and unprecedented rights of British officers and soldiers regularly used in the spring and summer of 1919, almost to its withdrawal from the hospitable Azerbaijan.
The uncertainty of the international status of Azerbaijan served the British command as a cover for blatant robbery.
The presence of foreign troops and the colonial administration in Baku caused great damage to the authority of the government. Discontent with the British by the population resulted in a demonstration demanding their withdrawal from Baku on June 13, 1919.
August 1919 became significant for Azerbaijan: the last foreign military units left the country almost completely. The farewell word of Thomson’s representative General Shatelwart, was:
“On behalf of the British troops leaving Baku today, we apologize to the population of Azerbaijan, especially from the city of Baku. We sincerely regret that we are saying goodbye to many of our friends and acquaintances. We sincerely wish them peace and happiness. All British Army soldiers carry with them the best memories of their days in Azerbaijan”.
A year later, the final Sovietization of Azerbaijan occurred. For the first time this country acquired the status of an independent state at the international level. Later this status did not allow any other foreign interference into the republic.
According to estimates of British experts, from December 1918 to August 1919, more than 500 thousand tons of oil and oil products were exported. At that time, Azerbaijan was the place of the production of one third of the world oil. Therefore, after the First World War control over Baku had a huge impact on the economic viability of the British Empire.