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Tuesday, 5 January 2010
Great War Attrocities, Contents
Topic: GW - Atrocities

Great War Attrocities

Contents

 

 

Items

General

Introduction to the framework of atrocities 

 

Anzac Attrocities

Massacre near Damascus, 30 September 1918 

Surafend

Flogging Germans, New Guinea, 30 November 1914 

 

Gallipoli

 Use of poison gas at Gallipoli

 

Turkish POW Treatment

Ramle Prison Camp, September 1918

Pellagra

The Allied authorities systematically blinded Ottoman POW's at the behest of the Armenians. 

 

 

Further Reading:

Great War Attrocities

 


Citation: Great War Attrocities, Contents


Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
Updated: Saturday, 24 July 2010 6:06 PM EADT
Sunday, 15 February 2009
Flogging Germans, New Guinea, 30 November 1914
Topic: GW - Atrocities

Flogging Germans

New Guinea, 30 November 1914

 

The public flogging of 4 Germans at Rubaul

 

After the capture of the German Colony of New Guinea, the Australians were given stewardship over quite a sizable territory. The Australian government had already come to the conclusion that they would annex the territory and the press discussed the ways in which this new wealth could be carved up.

After the occupation, the most famous case of an atrocity was the flogging of 4 German civilians at Rabaul. Here is the copy of an article published in the Adelaide "The News", 10 November 1965:

 

Flogging a German at Rubaul, Picture 1 of a 3 picture series

 

A graphic description of the flogging by Australian officials of four German civilians in Rabaul, in 1914, was given in Sydney today by a man who was an eyewitness of the incident.


He is Mr. A. McKay, a retired clerk, of Croydon, a western suburb, who, at the time, was a 20-year-old trooper with F. Company of the Australian Forces.

A photograph of the flogging found in New Guinea, this week, is similar to one held by Mr. McKay and is a postcard snap.

It shows the official who performed the flogging about to strike one German held over a trunk.

Australian officers wearing sun helmets and carrying swords are looking on.

Dozens of the postcard prints were made and sold around the islands for 3d.

Today Mr. McKay sat back in a chair, and told of the floggings and the events which led up to them.
Brought in

"I went to Rabaul on the troopship, Berrima," he said.

"I had been there only a couple of weeks when the military administrator of German New Guinea, Col. William Holmes, announced there would be a flogging of German civilians at Proclamation square.

"I learnt later a punitive squad had brought in four German civilians who were reported to have thrashed the Rev. William Henry Cox, chairman of the Methodist mission, in the Bismarck Archipelago.

"Mr. Cox was visiting at Namatanal, a Methodist mission on what is now New Ireland.

"The four Germans apparently heard the Australians were coming, so they decided to drink up all the booze before the troops arrived.

"They got really drunk, and that was when they decided to beat up the Rev. Cox.

"They accused him of being a spy -- he was no such thing of course.

Flogging a German at Rubaul, Picture 2 of a 3 picture series

 

"He had a small lugger which he used for cruising about the island and I think it was this that had them worried.

"The group rushed into a house at the mission station, where Mr. Cox was sitting talking to the wife of the missionary.

"The medical officer, who was one of the German civilians, pointed a pistol at Cox and said, 'You are a prisoner'."

Mr. McKay said Cox was then seized by the neck, dragged out of the room and down the steps of the house, held over a wash-tub and given 30 or 40 strokes with a cane.

"After the Germans left, Mr. Cox sent a native boy to Rabaul to report the incident and that was when Col. Holmes sent out a party," he said.

"Col. Holmes ordered the Germans to be publicly flogged after his legal adviser, Capt. C.E. Manning, had conducted an inquiry, at Namatanal, and obtained confessions from them.
Lined up

"He ordered the flogging to take place in Proclamation Square, Rabaul.

"Col. Holmes directed that natives and women were not to attend.

"He explained that it would have been bad for morale to see a white man flog another white man.

"All of we troops -- half a battalion at the garrison -- were marched to the square where we lined up in a three-sided square with German men ordered to attend the flogging making the fourth side.

"The four men to be punished were lined up by a flag pole in the centre of the square," Mr. McKay went on.

"The German medical officer, the ringleader of the assault on Cox, was placed across a trunk under the flagpole.

"His hands were handcuffed to two tent pegs driven into the ground. His ankles were chained with leg irons to two other tent pegs on the opposite side of the trunk.

"Before the flogging started, the German civilians protested vigorously to Col. Holmes who listened to two spokesmen for a few minutes, then stood back and made a dramatic speech.

"I can't remember it all ... memory fades in 50 years but he ended it by pointing to the flag and shouting, "This is a British flag. Under this flag you shall be given protection ... and you shall also be flogged.

"'Order, commence flogging.'

"Then a provost began wielding a cane about as thick as your thumb. He hit the medical officer at rights angles to the backside. They were really hard blows. The whack rang out across the parade ground.

"I remember that day clearly -- November 30, at 10 a.m. the medical officer was given 30 strokes of the cane and taken away.

"Another man then was lashed across the trunk and he was given 25 strokes, in the same manner.

"The next one also was given 25, but a young boy, the doctor's assistant, received only 10.

"They didn't utter one sound, during the punishment, but lay across the trunk and flinched with every stroke.

"A new provost was brought on for each caning so one man wouldn't tire out," Mr. McKay said.

"Cameras were prohibited and a couple were confiscated, but one of the troops in our battalion, a private T. Atkins, was standing in the second row behind me.
 

Flogging a German at Rubaul, Picture 3 of a 3 picture series

 

Hid camera

"He had a camera around his neck and hidden inside his shirt with just the lens poking through the shirt front.

"We, in the front row, covered up for him and stood aside as he clicked the shutter.

"After each flogging the victim was carried away, but not one of them made a sound,
" he added.

After the war years, Mr. McKay worked as a clerk and up till his retirement spent most of his time in the Commonwealth Public Service.

The following is a copy of the letter sent by William Holmes detailing the anticipated floggings of the Germans convicted for assaulting Reverend Cox. The letter is dated 28 November projecting the floggings to occur on 30 November 1914.

 

Details of the Flogging

 

Further information regarding this action may be found in the National Archives file on the subject:

Flogging of Certain German Subjects at Rubaul (assailants of Rev. W Cox)

 

Further Reading:

Bitapaka, New Guinea, September 11, 1914 

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920

 


Citation: Flogging Germans, New Guinea, 30 November 1914

Posted by Project Leader at 4:49 PM EAST
Updated: Sunday, 15 February 2009 5:55 PM EAST
Monday, 1 December 2008
Use of poison gas at Gallipoli
Topic: GW - Atrocities

Realities of employing Poison Gas at Gallipoli

During the campaign at Gallipoli, the Allied forces were always fearful of a chlorine gas attack by the Turks. It never occurred. One of the best researched essays on this subject is called "THE INTRODUCTION OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS TO THE MIDDLE EAST" by Yigal SHEFFY details the reasons.

It is a short essay contained in the seminar booklet called: "The First World War: Middle Eastern perspective: proceedings of the Israeli-Turkish International Colloquy, 3-6 April 2000", Tel-Aviv, Israel with the editors being Yigal Sheffy and Shaul Shai, at pp. 75-78:

On the evening of 22 April 1915 and for the first time in human history, the Germany Army launched a poisonous gas attack against Algerian troops of the French Army near the village of Ypres. Belgium. Five months later, the British retaliated by a gas attack of their own in Loos. A new layer thus was added to the murderous static warfare of the Western Front and to the dreadful image of WW1 in the memory of the 20th century.

For reasons beyond the scope of this paper, the image of the Great War in the Middle East remains romantic ensconced in the collective memory. The fact that chemical weapons were introduced in that theatre, too, was suppressed in our memory and literature. (1) This paper aims to fill the gap by reconstructing the events that led to the use of gas precisely during the Palestine Campaign, while abstaining from using it in the Middle Eastern arenas.

THE GALLIPOLI CAMPAIGN 1915: APPREHENSION AND PRECAUTION

The issue of chemical warfare was first added to the Middle Eastern agenda several weeks after the British landing in Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. The failure of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force (MEF) to widen its bridgeheads, combined with reports on the arrival of German-manufactured chemical substances in Turkey and with the painful shock of the appearance of gas in the Western Front only few weeks earlier, generated British estimate that the Ottomans. too, might use asphyxiating gas to drive the invaders back to sea. (2) General Ian Hamilton, Commander in Chief (C-in-C) of MEF, asked for protective devices to be sent urgently, as well as retaliatory means, to be used if gas would be deployed against his troops. The War Office immediately sent 50,000 respirators, but ignored the request for offensive weapons, Perhaps because they were still unavailable, or perhaps because it was hoped to leave the Mediterranean theatre out of the scope of chemical warfare. (3)

In the Admiralty, however, the notion of using gas in Gallipoli was gaining support. Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty and the most enthusiastic advocate of the Dardanelles operation, was also the most outspoken preacher for offensive use of gas in the peninsula Sensing his political future to be in jeopardy because of the unsuccessful operation, he desperately searched for military solution to break the stalemate in Gallipoli. He ceaselessly urged the commanders on the spot to use the deadly new weapon against the Ottomans and pressed Lord Kitchener, the Secretary of State for War for the transfer of the best chemical unit the army had to the peninsula. (4) The Dardanelles Committee (which functioned as a war cabinet for the entire government) discussed the issue in mid June 1915, but due to conflicting opinions failed to reach any decision. (5)

Yet, British concern increased when they received more alarming reports, however groundless, and learned about gas cylinders and facilities for gas-manufacturing that reached Turkey, accompanied by German experts. Moreover, a Turkish spokesman on behalf of the. Ottoman General Staff publicly accused MEF of using poison gas in Gallipoli. General Hamilton took that false accusation to indicate Turkish plans to use their own chemical ammunition shortly. (6) The combination of this assessment and British improvement in gas-stocking finally convinced Kitchener to provide MEF with a small amount of chlorine, to be used at the discretion of the local commander. Hamilton, however. remained adamant in his objection to introduce the new weapon, probably to avert any Ottoman reaction which might jeopardize the impending landing in Suvla Bay and the attack in ANZAC sector. (7)

Diminished interest in using gas followed the Suvla failure in August, while the British government firmly denied Isatanbul's accusation, endeavoring to convey a placating message:

The Council are anxious that the rules of International Law should he observed strictly in the hostilities against the Turks, which view is apparently reciprocated by them, as they have hitherto shown little desire to follow the method employed by the Germans. (8)

It was Churchill who again urged the government to reconsider its decision to refrain from employing gas in Gallipoli. In an effort to regain his lost standing by achieving some success there, he did not hesitate to touch emotional and practical chords:

I trust that the unreasonable prejudice against the use by us of gas upon the Turks will now cease. The massacres by the Turks of Armenians and the fact that practically no British prisoner have been taken on the peninsula... should surely remove all false sentiment on this point. (9)

Whether it was Churchill's note or the increasing intelligence reports about Turco-German offensive intentions that made the difference is unclear, but in early November 6,000 cylinders (190 tons of gas) accompanied by a group of operators sailed to Gallipoli.(10) However, General Monro, the new MEF C-in-C, followed in Hamilton's footsteps and flatly rejected the idea, particularly when the notion of evacuation was gaining momentum. In hindsight, his decision seems entirely logical as the Turkish positions along the high ground dominated topographically the battlefield and the wind flow could easily blow the gas clouds back to the inferior and crowded British trenches.

The debate was terminated by the peninsula evacuation in December 1915. without the use of poisonous gas in Gallipoli even once.

Footnotes

(1) For general textbook on chemical warfare in WW1: L.F. Haber, The Poisonous Cloud: Chemical Warfare in the First World War, Oxford, 1986: William Moore: Gas Attack: Chemical Warfare 1915-18 and afterwards, London, 1987; Donald Richter, Chemical Soldiers: British Gas Warfare in World War One, Kansas, 1992, London. 1994.

(2) Lieut. General John Maxwell, GOC British Forces in Egypt, to FM Lord Kitchener, Secretary of State for War, tel(egram) 1061E, PRO, WO 33/371.

(3) War Office (WO) to Hamilton, tel 4764, 19 May 1915, ibid.; WO to Admiralty, let(ter). 30, Mediterranean. 121, 26 May 1915, WO 32/5117.

(4) Martin Gilbert, The Challenge of War: Winston S. Churchill, London, 1990 org. 1972, p. 470.

(5) Precis of meeting of the Dardanelles Committee, 12 June 1915, PRO, CAB 42/3/2.

(6) Hamilton to Kitchener, tel MF 433, 8 July 1915; tel MF 434, 9 July 1915, WO 33/731.

(7) Précis of meeting of the Dardanelles Committee, 24 July 1915, CAB 37/13/34; Hamilton to Kitchener, tel 4 August 1915, WO 33731.

(8) WO, MO5a to Under Secretary of the Foreign Office, let 121 Mediterranean/416, 26 Oct. 1915, PRO, FO 372/726/158691.

(9) Churchill, 'War Committee Notes', 20 Oct. 1915, CAB 42/4/14

(10) Richter, op. cite., p. 99.

 


Citation: Use of poison gas at Gallipoli

Posted by Project Leader at 9:48 AM EAST
Updated: Wednesday, 18 February 2009 4:12 PM EAST
Sunday, 17 August 2008
Massacre near Damascus, 30 September 1918
Topic: GW - Atrocities

General Ali Fuad Erden, Birinci Dünya Savaşında Suriye Hatıraları

In constructing his book, General Ali Fuad Erden give a good general coverage of the actions in Palestine in September 1918. He describes in detail the tensions between the Germans and Turkish troops. General Ali Fuad Erden's book, Birinci Dünya Savaşında Suriye Hatıraları or in English: Syrian Memories during World War 1, then goes onto make a claim regarding a massacre of women and children on 30 September 1918 by the forces of TE Lawrence. The story is told at p. 281:

Damascus was falling. As the Turkish Army under command of Marshal Liman von Sanders was abondoning the city and were reteating to Aleppo, the families of Turkish officers, government officials and cadets from the War School at Damascus were transported by train to Anatolia. On the way, they were ambushed at Rabova pass by Arabian rebels of Sherif Faisal. The rebels under command of Faisal were positioned on both sides of the pass and barricated the railway. They enfiladed the train with machine gun fire.... Mothers and children were all killed. 

If true, this was certainly an attrocity and a clear war crime. It bears serious investigation because the allegation is made by a senior member of the Ottoman Army.

First thing to do is to establish the location of Faisal's force in relation to the train departing from Damascus on 30 September 1918. This is not a great difficulty. The forces of Faisel and TE Lawrence were south of Damascus marching north from Der'a in company with the Indians of the 4th Cavalry Division. Both forces were marching along the Hejaz Railway at near the location of Khan Deinun, some 8 km south of Damascus. Unless the train was leaving to head south down the Hejaz Railway on its way to Aleppo, an impossibility, then the forces of Faisal could not be responsible for this massacre at Rabova on the date mentioned. It is a geographic impossibility. So in essence, Faisal's force is quickly exonerated from this allegation.

The next item to examine is if a massacre was recorded on this railway line in the time frame mentioned. Only one massacre occurred on that day in the Barada Gorge, about 10km west of Damascus. This was undertaken by machine gun and rifle fire by members of the 3rd Australian Light Horse Brigade. Here is a first hand account of the episode by Tom Darley, With the Ninth Light Horse in the Great War, Adelaide, 1923, pp. 156-8:

    At 4 p.m. the 3rd Light Horse Brigade moved off, the Regiment being in advance, with orders to cross the Damascus-Beirut railway and endeavour to get astride the main road in the vicinity of Jobar. Progress was slow owing to the terribly rough and steep hills to be crossed.

    At 4.45 p.m. A Squadron had seized the high ground overlooking Dumar and the Damascus-Beirut main road and railway. The only means of entering the village from this point was by a narrow rocky track. A Squadron made two attempts to force this route, but found it to be strongly defended by a number of machine guns placed in and around the village.
    The squadron with a section of the 3rd Machine Gun Squadron attached took up a position on the high ground overlooking the village, main road, and railway. Large numbers of the enemy, in great disorder, were attempting to escape in the direction of Beirut, the road being choked with transport of all descriptions. The squadron immediately opened fire on this party, and inflicted heavy casualties. On the arrival of the remainder of the Regiment a few minutes later B Squadron and all available machine and Hotchkiss guns were put into the line, concentrating their fire on the road and railway.

    The enemy forces were making desperate efforts to escape, and opened a fierce fire on our position. Thousands of the enemy were pushing forward in their endeavour to get through the pass, in spite of the deadly fire brought to bear on them, just one great mass, without order or leaders, each striving to save himself at the expense of his neighbour. Refusing to surrender, they were shot down in scores, and eventually seeing the hopelessness of their attempt, they retired in the direction of Damascus, leaving the Gorge piled with bodies of men and animals.

    At dusk a fresh attempt was made to force the track to the village, but as it was strongly held and was likely to lead to heavy casualties, it was decided to wait for daylight. Orders were received at 6.30 p.m. to hold the present position, commanding the main road and railway for the night, and that the advance would be continued at 5 a.m. on the following day.

    The Regiment was detailed to send two troops, dismounted, to reconnoitre the road and village as early as possible. Two troops of C Squadron, under Hargrave, Lieutenant LMS, M.C.; and, Masson, Lieutenant GG, moved out for that purpose at 7.15 p.m. It was a difficult task, but was accomplished without casualty, the troops returning at 9 p.m. Hargrave, Lieutenant LMS, reported that the village had been evacuated with the exception of a few stragglers, and that six hospitals had been located, these being full of sick and wounded. The main road was blocked by enemy transport, and a Turkish guard was on duty at the railway station. Great credit is due to these two troops for their boldness and daring in successfully reconnoitring the position.

    The Regiment held its position during the remainder of the night, intermittent fire being maintained on the road and railway at the entrance to the Adana Gorge. At this point the main road, railway, and the Barada River run side by side through the Gorge. It was estimated that the enemy suffered 700 casualties at this point, besides which hundreds of animals of all descriptions were killed. During the night an enemy train from Beirut passed through the Gorge and was captured by the Brigade when the advance was continued the following day.

    As day broke on the 1st October, 1918, the beautiful city of Damascus, the Jewel of the East, came into view. Many splendid buildings could be seen, including the main railway station and the military barracks, now used as a hospital, from the staff of which the red crescent was flying. The Barada River wound like a silver thread through the town and surrounding country, with numerous small water channels passing through the beautiful orchards and vineyards which enclosed the city on all sides.

    At 5 a.m. the Regiment, with the remainder of the Brigade, crossed the river by the bridge at Dumar and proceeded along the main road towards Damascus. As the advance continued the terrible execution of the previous day became apparent, the road being completely blocked with piles of dead and dying men and animals, and disabled transport. The advance troops reported that for nearly a mile ahead the road was practically impassable, and parties were sent forward to clear a track. It was gruesome task. The wounded Germans and Turks were carried, with as much care as possible, to the grassy bank of the river, where they were left to be collected by our ambulances, which were in rear of the Brigade, whilst the dead were removed to the side of the road to await burial.

    Wounded animals were shot and dragged to the side of the road, as were also the vehicles. Many of the vehicles had overturned into the river during the attempt to break through, and had been abandoned.


In relation to the train, here is the entry of the 9th LHR in the War Diary for 1 October 1918:

    0500 The Regiment joined remainder of 3rd Light Horse Brigade crossed the Barada by bridge at Dumar thence proceeded along main road towards Damascus. The road was strewn with enemy dead and wounded and in places dead animals and abandoned transport and guns, almost completely blocked the roadway. The road for about a mile presented a horrible sight amidst such charming surroundings. The devastating effect of accurate machine gun and rifle fire was everywhere apparent. Many of the vehicles had overturned into the Barada River. About one thousand prisoners were collected in the vicinity of Dumar railway station. A complete train was taken between Dumar and Damascus side of gorge. A few Germans made a slight stand here but were soon overpowered by advanced Regiment [10th Light Horse Regiment.]

9th LHR War Diary, AWM4, 10/14/44 - October 1918

It might appear as though this is the train in question.

The carnage in Barada Gorge, 1 October 1918

Here is Liman von Sanders description of the event from Five years in Turkey, 1927, pp. 304-5:

    At dusk the first British cavalry patrols with two machine guns gained the ridge on the southwest side of the Barada valley, and took the road in the valley under fire. There fugitives and vehicles were wedged together. The fire, though of small effect, increased the disorder and turmoil in the valley.

    The 146th Infantry Regiment and the small German units attached to it were to form the rearguard; they were assembling at the burning railroad station of Kadem and were to be the last troops to pass through the town after dark. Kadem street, running northward through the city, was blocked by felled telegraph poles and their wires. Hostile Arabs were firing from all directions from roofs, gates, balconies and from windows.

    Some fugitives brought the false report that the Barada valley was blocked by the British. Lieutenant Colonel Frhr. von Hammerstein promptly decided to turn northeast and take the direct road to Homs, in which he succeeded. It was discovered subsequently that Turkish troops, on hearing that the Barada valley was closed by the British, had preceded Hammerstein's column on the direct road to Horns. They were the remnants of the Third Army Corps under Colonel Ismet Bei, of the 24th Division under Lieutenant Colonel Lufti Bei, and of the 3d Cavalry Division, which latter being poorly led, had played no role in the retreat.

    It turned out that the Barada valley was not seriously threatened. It was mainly Arabs and the few British mounted men mentioned who were firing in the darkness from the heights on the road in the valley.

    Toward 9 p.m. on September 30th the last troop train left Damascus and reached Rajak without damage, though fre-quently fired upon. This is worthy of note because from Damascus the railway and the road in the Barada valley run close together for ten kilometers.

    On returning to Baalbek via Rajak late in the evening of the 30th, I received from the 43d Turkish Division of the Second Army a report from the Beirut-Zahle road, that six enemy battalions were advancing on the Meissner Pasha road toward Dchedede and that at noon twelve battalions had been ob-served marching from El Kuneitra to Damascus. I think the first report was incorrect.

As can be seen, there is no mention of any troops from Faisal mixing in with the Australians or in this region at the time. If there had been, it would have been mentioned - only in the most derogatory sense. The Australian troops refused to fight with the Arabs, or for that matter trust them. Australians had their comrades' bodies stripped in the desert, robbed in their camps, sniped at, spied upon and at Es Salt in May 1918, deserted by them. In essence, the Australian troops hated the Arabs with a vengeance. At Ziza they even joined with the Turks to prevent a massacre of Turkish soldiers when Arab rebels thought they had an easy kill. So the reports of any Arabs with Australian troops would be a matter of fantasy rather than have any basis of reality.

If a train was attacked on the evening of 30 September 1918, it was attacked by the men of the Australian 3rd LH Bde and more specifically, the 3rd Light Horse Machine Gun Squadron. The Arabs under Faisal followed into Damascus only after the 3rd LH Bde captured the city and passed through in pursuit of Turkish troops fleeing the city. The Australians entered the city at 6am while Faisal did so at 8am. Prior to that there were no organised Arab forces in Damascus capable of undertaking such an action.

As to the massacre, the train was a legitimate military target with no women and children on board. While the outcome was dreadful and brought tears to many Ottoman households, it was well within the laws of war and thus not a war crime. That Australians led in this action indicates that General Ali Fuad Erden heard this story second hand but has decided to retell it as though he had personal knowledge of the event. This gives a word of caution to the contents of this book and suggests that the author is not above embellishing an account for his own reasons. 

As to the account accusing the men following Faisal and advised by Colonel TE Lawrence, aka "Lawrence of Arabia", this is one charge that is misplaced. That Faisal and his men committed atrocities and war crimes is beyond doubt but they did not commit this crime. Just because they were nothing more than a murderous and thieving rabble doesn't mean they can be blamed for everything with impunity. This site will exonerate them from this crime but very shortly, the massive crime perpetrated by Faisal and his men at Damascus will be revealed. All this occurred because of a subterfuge of Lawrence leading to Faisal and his men being given control of Damascus on 1 October 1918. But that is a matter for another investigation and out of the scope of this post.


Citation: Massacre near Damascus, 30 September 1918

Posted by Project Leader at 1:40 PM EADT
Updated: Sunday, 17 August 2008 5:46 PM EADT
Tuesday, 12 August 2008
Ramle Prison Camp, September 1918
Topic: GW - Atrocities

İbrahim Arikan, Bir Mehmetcigin Canakkale, Galicya, Filistin Cephesi Anıları Harp Hatıralarım, Ankara, 2007.

The most encouraging thing to occur in Turkey today is the number of books relating to personal reflections of the war by ordinary Turkish veterans. These are not in the genre of personality cult for Ataturk but deal with ordinary soldiers who did what they had to do with their actions framed in the exigencies of the times. So it was refreshing to see the release in January 2007 of the book by former Signals Sergeant Major İbrahim (Arikan) from the village of Akviran located in the province called Kırklareli or commonly known in English as Eastern Thrace. The book was called: Bir Mehmetcigin Canakkale, Galicya, Filistin Cephesi Anıları Harp Hatıralarım, which translated means: A Turkish Soldier's War Memories at Gallipoli, Galacia and Palestine Fronts. İbrahim enlisted as a private at the beginning of the war in the 3rd Infantry Battalion of the 61st Infantry Regiment. As a Sergeant Major, İbrahim was captured during the September 1918 offensive in northern Plaestine and ended up as a POW in the Ramle Prison Camp. Upon his release as a POW, he was discharged.

A common enough story.

In his memoirs, he makes the following allegation found at p. 236:

At Ramle Prison Camp our interpretor was a fat Armenian. He wore the uniform of a British Officer complete with a Sam Brown belt but without any rank insignia. He was obese weighing about 120 kilograms. He snorted and grunted like a wild pig. We could see hatred in his face when looking at us. He was taking his revenge against the Turks. On every occasion he always insulted us.

One day he called out: "Hauptman Ahmetoglu Ali!"

There was no anwer. The term "Hauptman" means "Captain" in German while in Turkish the term is "Yüzbaşı". Our captain Ali failed to respond and refused to respond.

Later the Armenian yelled: "Yüzbaşı Ahmetoğlu Ali!"

Our captain Ali now answered. The Armenian was infuriated. He shouted to our captain.

"Why dont you respond? For many years you have been comrades with Germans. Haven't you learned their language?"

Captain Ali told the Armenian that we were all Turks. This made the Armanian angrier still.

"Are you insulted" he asked. "You murdered our women and children by throwing them into Tigris River. Isn't that insulting for us?"

He was attempting to take revenge for something about which we knew nothing and nor were we responsible for the action.

During the distribution of meals, our senior officer such as Colonels, Lieutenant Colonels and other officers were in the same line with the rest of us. This insulted our pride and gave us a feeling of sadness. We held our officers in high esteem obeyed them. This humiliation of the officers insulted our national pride.

On 21 September 1918 we were entrained to El Kantara.

The claim is quite serious: The British allowed Armenians with a grievance against the Ottomans, a free hand to humiliate Turkish troops. 

There is every appearance in this critique that there was poor planning by the British authorities in dealing with such a large influx of prisoners. The collapse of the Ottoman front in Northern Palestine was rapid revealing a capture of 75,000 Ottoman soldiers in the space of two weeks, something very much in excess of the numbers captured over the previous four years. In view of the overwhelming numbers, there was no time for niceties.

As to the Armenian, the pejorative description indicates a tension that existed between İbrahim and the interpreter. It was hardly objective and in itself, insulting and thus not designed to elicit sympathy from anyone outside a confined audience who perceived all Armenian men in this characatured sense. 

On the other side, there is no complaint about lack of food, shelter or other assistance. So apart from some very close ethnic tension which was not within the province of British care, this complaint seems just a bit stretched. It is a sure thing that this summary will meet with scorn amongst those who see ethnicity as the most important guage of civilisation and thus see the above as part of the greater Armenian plot to disparage Turks. Then there will be the bulk of Turks and other people who will read this and agree with the conclusions. Apart from some ethnic tension, there was no systematic abuse of Ottoman POWs.


Citation: Ramle Prison Camp, September 1918

Posted by Project Leader at 7:27 PM EADT
Updated: Sunday, 17 August 2008 12:45 PM EADT

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