"At a mile distant their thousand hooves were stuttering thunder, coming at a rate that frightened a man - they were an awe inspiring sight, galloping through the red haze - knee to knee and horse to horse - the dying sun glinting on bayonet points..." Trooper Ion Idriess
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Yanıkdağ trots out the usual qualitative complaints of unfair treatment in that the German and Austrian POWs received preferential treatment and cites anecdotal evidence to substantiate his case. This is of course a matter of perception. The actual facilities given to the Ottoman POWs are a matter of record and to be found in the files of the POW camps. Food requisitions, roll numbers and sickness lists tend to be well documented as they all incurred an expense on the Imperial public purse and thus had to be carefully accounted. No on is able to prove one way or the other a qualitative charge but there is definite evidence of quantitative treatment and from the records, there appears to be little difference of treatment.
Of more substance in Yanıkdağ's thesis is the reliance of British statistics to make a further claim. Yanıkdağ at p. 150 goes to Statistics of the Military Effort, 1914-1920, (London: HMSO,1922), and cites pp. 630, and 635.
Here is the charge: The Imperial British forces held 150,041 Ottoman POWs during the Great War. Of this number, 10,742 Ottoman POWs died from various reasons. Now for the kicker. The British Statistics clearly state that the most common cause of death amongst the Ottoman POWs was pellagra disease. This insidious killer was specifically caused by a niacin deficiency. And here Yanıkdağ thinks he is on a winner as this is finally a qualitative charge. Yanıkdağ compares the death rate by this disease with the Ottoman POWs which came to 7.1% while the Austrian and German POWs suffered mortality rates of 2.9% and 2.6% respectively. Yanıkdağ believed that this was conclusive quantitative evidence of preferential treatment, especially in matters of diet.
While it may appear to be the ace in the hole, the reality of pellagra is a bit different. The onset of pellagra requires about four to five years to become fatal. Since the bulk of the prisoners were taken in 1918 and released in 1920, a two year window at best, it is difficult to understand the process of food being the determinant. It would appear as though those who died of pellagra had already contracted the illness at least two or more years prior to captivity. This would not have been recognised by the British authorities who fed the Ottoman POWs the same rations their own troops received. There is no doubt that this was a dreadful diet which most people would find difficult to consume at the best of times. However, since the Ottoman POWs were afflicted with pellagra as a pre-existing illness and related to their pre-enlistment and service diet, it is disingenuous to lay the blame upon the Imperial authorities because they happened to be the last link in a chain. This was a fault of the Ottoman Government for failing to distribute a public health message regarding niacin deficiency to the general Ottoman population and thus prevent it in the home. It was a failure of the Ottoman armies to ignore the problem and provide a diet that was impoverished in niacin. The British authorities were the last link who also failed to do anything.
On this charge, there was nothing deliberate but a chain of neglect that originated in the various households of the Ottoman POWs prior to the war.
As for the differentiation in treatment between the Ottoman POWs and the Germans and Austrians as highlighted by the differential in death rates of pellagra, this may also be dismissed for similar reasons. The lower death rates of the Germans and Austrians had less to do with British teatment differentials and more to do with the pre war diet of the POWs. The only conclusion that may be reached is that both the Germans and Austrians had diets rich in niacin prior to military service and thus were able to survive the rigours of the POW camp existence far better than the Ottoman POWs.
So superficially, it would appear Yanıkdağ may have an issue but when examined under the cold hard facts, Yanıkdağ's thesis says more about the appalling Ottoman public health program prior to the war than the treatment of Ottoman POWs in British camps.
Although the name is a dead give away that the information is going to be spurious at best, this claim has far more solid followers in various ways than this site betrays. Those accounts will also be considered in other posts. However, let us deal with the outrageous allegations as they need to be put to bed immediately. To do justice to the Tall Armenian Tale site, the claim made will be reproduced in full. That way there is no fear of misinterpretation. The term British should include Australian as Australians were very much involved in the guarding and maintenance of Ottoman POW's.
Turkish POW Treatment by the British
We often hear how badly British POWs were treated by the Turks. (Sometimes we even hear how well they were treated in Gallipoli.) But how were Turkish POWs treated by the Brits?
Dispersed Armenians’ defamation campaigns are spreading with full speed.
However, there is no reaction but a few weak objections from the accused (1) Turkish Republic Government.
Yet we have such important documents…
For example, I don’t think most of us know the things I am going to tell in this article. From the book “Katran Kazanýnda Sterilize” ("Sterilized in Tar Cauldron") by Imge Publications, written by Ahmet Duru who revealed the diary of the sub-lieutenant (2) Ahmet Altinay from Karaman…
In WWI, 150 thousand of our soldiers were captured by the British. And some of these soldiers were imprisoned in Seydibesir Useray-i Harbiye Camp (3) near the city of Alexandria in Egypt. The full name of the camp was “Seydibesir Kuveysna Osmanli Useray-i Harbiye (4) Kampi”. In this camp, the Ottoman soldiers of 16th Division’s 48th Regiment who were captured at the Palestine fronts in 1918 were interned. For two years until June 12th, 1920, they were subjected to any kind of torture, oppression, heavy insults and humiliation.
The reason for this inhumane treatment was the Armenians.
The British commanders of the camp, because of the wrong, mendacious translations and provocations of Armenian translators who knew Turkish, had become fierce Turk enemies.
The war was over. Nevertheless, to release the soldiers besides the ones who died because of heavy conditions in the camp was not to the benefit of the British. Because the British were brainwashed by Armenians, being told that in a potential new war they could come up against these soldiers again. The solution was massacre…
Our soldiers, forced by bayonets, were put in disinfection pools with the excuse of wiping out germs. But the chemical, krizol, was added a lot more than normal in the water. Even just when they put their feet, our soldiers got scalded. However, the British troops didn’t let them get out of the pool by threatening with rifles (5).
Our soldiers didn’t want to put their heads under the water that reached waist level. But then the British started shooting in the air. Our soldiers knelt and put their heads under water not to die.
But the ones who got their heads out of the water couldn’t see any more. Because the eyes were burned…The resistance of our soldiers who saw what happened to the ones that got out was no use and our 15 thousand men got blinded.
This savagery was discussed in May 25th, 1921, in the Turkish Great National Assembly. The congressmen Mr. Faik and Mr. Seref proposed that 15 thousand sons of this country were blinded in Egypt by being put in the “krizol” pool; and wanted the Assembly to make an attempt for punishment of the British physicians, commanders and soldiers who were guilty of this act.
Of course the newly founded government had a thousand other problems. Demanding an explanation for this act was easily forgotten.
This of course is an impassioned plea filled with populist anti-Armenian conspiracy themes but contains no evidence, no evidence whatsoever. The claims are rhetorical but not evidentiary. To be taken seriously by anyone in the mainstream of the global community, the article has to go beyond the rhetorical iteration of an unsubstantiated claim, it has to cite sources that are not part of this circular in logic.
For example, Fred says Jim is a crook because he was told this by George. Of course George found out that Jim was a crook because Fred told him. This notion is popularly known as "fleas on fleas". And so we have a circular argument of sources quoting each other but not substantiating the primary allegation that Jim is a crook. No evidence is offered, just a rhetorical statement. So too is it with the sources quoted above. Non proffer evidence except by way of citing another source which agrees with the proposition which is citing another source which made the same allegation without substantiation. This is rhetoric, not evidence.
To substantiate a claim, the commentary needs to go a bit further than in the article. Here are some basic issues to examine.
Where are the British files detailing this systematic blinding by the Armenians? Every injured Turkish POW in Egypt would have generated a medical report regardless of how crude the report. To my knowledge, all British files are open and available for reading so there is no excuse for sloppy research. No shredding of medical files could have erased this many cases. However, within the British files there is no evidence to substantiate these claims and the reason why this is so is because the claims are a fantasy.
A search of the Australian archives - every single available file relating to POWs is very much available and they provide information with the good and the bad. Nothing is covered up. The worst case regarded the 12,000 Ottoman soldiers who surrendered at the Berramke Barracks in Damascus after its fall on 1 October 1918. These men were deserted by their own support teams and left to fend for themselves without any resources with neither food nor medicines. After a few days being held as POWs, cholera broke out amongst this group. Over a two week period many hundreds of men died through cholera, the worst day recording over 150 deaths. By dint of hard work, the POWs were put to work to provide a satisfactory sanitation and drinking water system. Some men had to be coerced into working towards the common good. The result - cholera was brought under control. The deaths from cholera did not only effect the Turks but also the Australian, Indian, French and British soldiers in the area with many of these troops also dying.
So the cholera outbreak at Damascus was not a sinister British plot to kill Turks, it was a problem brought on by the neglect of the Turkish command for the health of their soldiers and citizens in Damascus. The ordinary soldier in both the Allied forces and the Turkish army paid a high price for this neglect.
Again, in Damascus, the commander of the 3rd LH Brigade ordered, at gun point, a British ambulance unit to tend to Australian casualties as a priority. All British medical resources had been diverted to the clearing up and care of the Turkish soldiers that none were available for the Allied soldiers still fighting in the field. This does not have the ring of a British plot to kill Turkish soldiers. All as it tells me is that the British medical services were stretched to breaking point trying to cope with Allied casualties and the some 65,000 Turks captured by the Australian Mounted Division - an awesome task in anyone's book.
We have evidence for all of the above. The public archives contain many files with independently produced documents that substantiate this story.
In contrast, to date, in the above quotations and expositions, not seen one shred of documentary evidence to substantiate the claims has come to light. There is a lot of recitation of arcane allegations which never had legs in 1920 and still have no legs despite the archives of Britain, France, Australia and New Zealand being thrown open to all comers who have agendum that match the above wild allegations. None have come forth despite decades of free availability. Now the Turkish military archives are being gradually made open to the public. No one who has access to them has made these allegations. Not a whimper. De nada. Zip. The reason why no documentary evidence is proffered by those making these exaggerated claims is because none exists. It never existed.
However, in the background we can hear the standard anti-Armenian conspiracy theorist respond to these comments with the standard and very hackneyed claims:
1. The Allies naturally would want to cover up this episode and so stripped all the files of any mention.
2. Medical practitioners who attended to the victims were threatened with death or paid off not to make any reports.
3. The cunning Armenians played the Allies like marionettes who did their bidding and thus did everything the Armenians ordered without question.
Great War Attrocities, Introduction to the framework of atrocities Topic: GW - Atrocities
Great War Attrocities
Introduction to the framework of atrocities
Western Mail, 25 September 1914, p. 24.
[Click on picture for larger version.]
The single thread that appears in all the press, cartoons, photographs, movies and the like of the Great War is the portrayal of the Germans as the bloodthirsty Hun.
The link to the following cartoon was the standard portrayal of the German soldier undertaking his dastardly handy work:
This theme is repeated ad nauseum throughout all the Australian press of the time right from the get go.
The aim is quite simple - to put into sharp relief the behaviour of the Germans when compared to that of the Australians. It is the simple but effective binary:
"Germans = evil;"
"Australians = good".
But how realistic is this picture?
Even when viewed through the vision of the times, cracks were already appearing in the story. It is important that these elements are explored since it is all too easy to gloss over the evil in pursuit of the excellence. But to ignore the evil that was perpetrated is to reduce oneself to the "evil" part of the equation for it makes the Australian story no better than the German Story as portrayed in the press at the time.
By dehumanising the Germans, it made it acceptable to perpetrate outrages against Australian citizens of German origin.
This may be an uncomfortable subject, but it is through discomfort that we understand who we are and where we have come from rather than who we would like to have been and build a fiction around that wish. So this is a reality check for all historians. There will be an exploration of allegations of attrocities committed by Australian soldiers, of which there are many. Some will have substance and others will be nothing more than myth and fantasy. But each known allegation shall be examined over time.
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