Topic: GW - Propaganda
The Great War
Every nation participates in a propaganda war as an ancillary to the conflict. It aim to reach the hearts and minds of the antagonists with the hope that it will remove a combatant as surely as a bullet.
During the phase of the Allied campaign against the Ottoman forces in Palestine, the Allied air force was employed often in the process of dropping propaganda leaflets onto the troop encampments. The leaflets had to be highly visual due to low levels of literacy while also tell a story. Below is one example produced by the British at the end of 1917 and tossed over the Turkish lines.
The story in the propaganda sheet calls upon the average Mehmet to reflect upon their appalling conditions experienced in the Judaean Hills while on their campaign. The two characters are Mehmet and Ahmet, two of the most common Turkish names, like Bill and Jim.
The conversation goes like this:
Mehmet: In the name of Allah, what is the meaning of ally?
Ahmet: Ally means partner.
Mehmet: If this is so then this German pig is our so-called partner. What a partnership! These so called Germans allies are well fed, their clothes are dry, they are well paid and they are enjoying the war. But if you think of Mehmets, they don't have clothes, shoes, and are always hungry when going into the combat. The Germans go immediately to hospital after inventing an illness. On the other hand, unless we lose our lives, no body will believe that we are sick. So Ahmet what can you say about this partnership?
Ahmet: What can I say? Enver and Talat treated them like men and sold our country to them so they could line their pockets. In contrast, they really couldn't care if we died naked and hungry. My God! How much longer do we need to endure everything? For God's sake my dear Mehmet, tell me.
Mehmet: How long will we have to suffer? The way I see it we should stop fighting for German profits and join the English. Even though we are told the English are our enemies, they care for us a thousand times better than our lot. Please come!
The left hand side of this pic is missing which should contain an image of a German officer stuffing himself with some wonderful food while two rather gaunt Mehmets look on at the feast while manning a Bergman Light Machinegun behind a sangar. This piece of propaganda appears to come from Palestine and more specifically in the Judaean Hills, the only place where sangars were employed along with the Bergman in this manner.
For propaganda to be effective, it must be based upon something of substance. The photograph below is illustrative of the destitute circumstances in which some Ottoman formations found themselves during this part of the campaign.
[Picture from: Orses, T., & Ozcelik, N., 1. Dunya Savasi'nda, Turk Askeri Kiyafetleri (1914-1918), Istanbul, p. 156.]
While there are no statistics maintained on the numbers of Turkish soldiers who deserted as a consequence of this piece of propaganda, it was a clever piece of writing going to the heart of the disgruntled Turkish minds.
In contrast to these desperate circumstances, the moral of the Anatolian troops was remarkably good. Despite all of these privations, they fought on doggedly without any signs of mass desertions. Other men from the non-Turkish regions were ambivalent. Some formations fought well while others were indifferent and surrendered at the first opportunity.
Desertions to the Allies was not as big a problem as desertions within the Ottoman Empire itself. Transferring formations within the Empire was a fraught affair with sometimes up to 50% of the strength disappearing in transit. The men just packed up and went home. The numbers of these men influenced by propaganda such as illustrated above is unknown. It is possibly more attributed to being tired of the war and wanting to go home rather than anything the Allies might have said. But this will always remain an avenue for debate.
Citation: The Great War, Propaganda, British Propaganda