Prisoner of the Turks

Discussions on the final era of the Ottoman Empire, from the Young Turk Revolution of 1908 until the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923.
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Peter H
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Prisoner of the Turks

Post by Peter H » 05 Apr 2007 11:50


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Peter H
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Post by Peter H » 05 Apr 2007 11:53

A recommended read:

Lost Anzacs - The story of two brothers,Greg Kerr

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This is a fascinating account of two very different Anzac experiences of World War I. Drawing on letters, diaries, and photographs from his grandfather and great-uncle, Greg Kerr relates the bitter experiences of Hedley Kerr (killed at Gallipoli on April 25th, 1915) and George Kitchin Kerr, who was wounded at Gallipoli and later survived three years in a Turkish prison camp.

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Peter H
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Post by Peter H » 05 Apr 2007 11:56

How I Escaped from Turkish Captivity:

http://www.greatwardifferent.com/Great_ ... rks_01.htm

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Peter H
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Post by Peter H » 05 Apr 2007 12:25

http://net.lib.byu.edu/~rdh7/wwi/commen ... rgen20.htm
Early in January, 1916, word was received that the English were maltreating Turkish war prisoners in Egypt. Soon afterward I received letters from two Australians, Commander Stoker and Lieutenant Fitzgerald, telling me that they had been confined for eleven days in a miserable, damp dungeon at the War Office, with no companions except a monstrous swarm of vermin. These two naval officers had come to Constantinople on one of that famous fleet of American-built submarines which had made the daring trip from England, dived under the mines in the Dardanelles, and arrived in the Marmora, where for several weeks they terrorized and dominated this inland sea, practically putting an end to all shipping. The particular submarine on which my correspondents arrived, the E-15, had been caught in the Dardanelles, and its crew and officers had been sent to the Turkish military prison at Afium Kara Hissar in Asia Minor. When news of the alleged maltreatment of Turkish prisoners in Egypt was received, lots were drawn among these prisoners to see which two should be taken to Constantinople and imprisoned in reprisal. Stoker and Fitzgerald drew the unlucky numbers, and had been lying in this terrible underground cell for eleven days. I immediately took the matter up with Enver and suggested that a neutral doctor and officer examine the Turks in Egypt and report on the truth of the stories. We promptly received word that the report was false, and that, as a matter of fact, the Turkish prisoners in English hands were receiving excellent treatment.

About this time I called on Monsignor Dolci, the Apostolic Delegate to Turkey. He happened to refer to a Lieutenant Fitzgerald, who, he said, was then a prisoner of war at Afium Kara Hissar.

"I am much interested in him," said Monsignor Dolci, "because he is engaged to the daughter of the British Minister to the Vatican. I spoke to Enver about him and he promised that he would receive special treatment."

" What is his first name? " I asked.

"Jeffrey."

"He's receiving 'special treatment' indeed," I answered. "Do you know that he is in a dungeon in Constantinople this very moment? "

Naturally M. Dolci was much disturbed but I reassured him, saying that his protégé would be released in a few days.

"You see how shamefully you treated these young men," I now said to Enver, " you should do something to make amends."

"All right, what would you suggest?

Stoker and Fitzgerald were prisoners of war, and, according to the usual rule, would have been sent back to the prison camp after being released from their dungeon. I now proposed that Enver should give them a vacation of eight days in Constantinople. He entered into the spirit of the occasion and the men were released. They certainly presented a sorry sight; they had spent twenty-five days in the dungeon, with no chance to bathe or to shave, with no change of linen or any of the decencies of life. But Mr. Philip took charge., furnished them the necessaries, and in a brief period we had before us two young and handsome British naval officers. Their eight days' freedom turned out to be a triumphal procession, notwithstanding that they were always accompanied by an English-speaking Turkish officer. Monsignor Dolci and the American Embassy entertained them at dinner and they had a pleasant visit at the Girls' College. When the time came to return to their prison camp, the young men declared that they would be glad to spend another month in dungeons if they could have a corresponding period of freedom in the city when liberated.

In spite of all that has happened I shall always have one kindly recollection of Enver for his treatment of Fitzgerald. I told the Minister of War about the Lieutenant's engagement.

"Don't you think he's been punished enough?" I asked. " Why don't you let the boy go home and marry his sweetheart?"'

The proposition immediately appealed to Enver's sentimental side.

"I'll do it," he replied, "if he will give me his word of honour not to fight against Turkey any more."

Fitzgerald naturally gave this promise, and so his comparatively brief stay in the dungeon had the result of freeing him from imprisonment and restoring him to happiness. As poor Stoker had formed no romantic attachments that would have justified a similar plea in his case, he had to go back to the prison in Asia Minor. He did this, however, in a genuinely sporting spirit that was worthy of the best traditions of the British navy.

Henry Stoker
http://www.anzacsite.gov.au/5environmen ... toker.html

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infantry
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Post by infantry » 05 Apr 2007 18:02

Dear Peter,
Right now I'm reading the memoir of the Halil Kut Pasha who was the commanding general of the Ottoman besiegers of Kut-al-Amara. His account is giving a different perspective.

According to him he got in touch with nearest British General Goering (?) and told him that he wanted to transfer Kut POWs via river but he had a problem. He had a proper ship but no coal. He asked British side to provide coal in order transfer British POWs without hardship. The British general refused the request.

Halil Pasha did order the march which turned out to be very hard for all the British POWs. But he kept most of the wounded and sick out of the march -roughly 2,000. He exchanged them with Turkish POWs.

See: Halil Paşa, İttihat ve Terakkide Cumhuriyete Bitmeyen Savaş, (ed.) M.Taylan Sorgun, (İstabul: 7 Gün Yayınları, 1972), pp. 188, 191-193

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Post by Peter H » 07 Apr 2007 08:54

Townshend of Kut being taken into captivity.From the AWM website.

One reference I have states he was taken to a villa offshore the Turkish mainland.
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Bill Woerlee
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Post by Bill Woerlee » 07 Apr 2007 15:27

Mates

After reading many Australian POW reports, the one thing that stands out is the fact that there was no systematic Turkish policy to injure POWs. Indeed, such a policy was demonstrated to be counter-productive. The Turkish government had no desire to harm Allied prisoners per se. That harm came to prisoners was a matter of caprice depending upon the circumstances, the Turkish resources at hand and the quality of the troops capturing the Allied soldiers. Survival became a matter of luck. Many survived the experience. A few died.

In some instances, POWs were liberated by attacking troops so the stories told would be immediate. Most told of neglect due to circumstances. Very few ever complained that they were ill treated deliberately. The rations they received were those given to the ordinary soldier.

Below I have placed one interview taken of a man who served in the 9th Light Horse Regiment and was captured at Es Salt. Then men from this Regiment came from mainly South Australia with a squadron coming from Victoria. The Regiment was extremely successful in conducting itself in the Sinai despite making a poor start at Romani in August. By the time the Regiment reached Palestine, it was a terrifying machine filled with hardened veterans who were described by one very distressed captured Turkish general with his staff as looking like bandits. During the period 1916-18, this Regiment of about 450-550 men, depending upon the day, captured in excess of 15,000 Turkish POWs while losing only 14 men as POW's to the Turks. The ratio between the POWs speaks volumes as to treatment and motivation. The men of the Regiment were extremely reluctant to be taken prisoner by the Turks. After any person was taken as a POW, the Regiment held a Court of Enquiry into the matter. It was considered to be a serious matter for a troop leader to lose a man as a POW. The harrowing stories from liberated POWs added to the reluctance.

With that introduction, here is the story - a typical and very representative story - of Sgt Smith from the 9th LHR. It needs no commentary as the words speak for themselves.
War Records Section

Sir,

I have much pleasure in answering your questions in the memorandum to the best of my ability.

1. 2347 SGT. EGBERT CHARLES SMITH

2. 9th Regt. A.L.H.

3. (a) 9th Regt. A.L.H. (b) 3rd May 1918. (c) Near Es Salt.

4. Our Squadron "C" under Major Charley, were holding a post, extending over a long area of ground. I was in charge of "A" troop and had on my right "B" troop and on my left "C"; under the cover of darkness the Turks had crept along the Es Salt - Amman road to within 80 yards of our position, we could not put any posts out for their front and cross firing of machine guns which was very heavy; at 8.30 their attack started (no surprise to us) led by bombers. We stopped the first onrush, then throwing their bombs which found their mark but did very little damage considering, killing the Corporal on my Hotchkiss gun and wounding my number 2 and 3, then they charged again, this time making no mistake against our small numbers, but who held on until the Turks were within 15 yards of us. Our orders were to hold on, but thanks to the quick brain of Mr. Masson who gave us the word to retire, a little too late for me for a Turk had his aim of me at so short a range so I fell wounded though the mouth and breaking my Jaw. Why on earth they did not follow the attack up beats me until this day.

5. The Turks, were very very badly dressed, half of them having no boots at all, but they were very well armed, every eighth man carrying an automatic rifle, and the Turkish Officer was going along slapping them on the face and kicking their backsides to put rapid fire up. There were no defences about the place whatever and I never saw any artillery. I saw many Germans who seemed to be in support.

6. (a) Fair. I was put on a stretcher, and taken a little to the rear, where a Turkish doctor put 6 stitches in my face, and dressed the wound, and I was left there for two days without food or water, or without a stitch of clothing on, only a ragged blanket thrown over me, then I was taken to the Es Salt hospital and treated well.

Their means of getting information to something similar to our own, no cruel devices. The enemy at this place was very strong indeed, numbering about a thousand, but a great number seemed to be sick and very war worn, and their turtle was not of the best.

7. At Es Salt the population were very hostile indeed, going about shooting their rifles in the air and denouncing the British. I was robbed of all my belongings and every stitch of clothes, and an officer was looking on, in fact he took my watch and compass. Our rations were something awful, consisting mainly boiled wheat and water, 1 lb. dry bread made from wheat and barley which was very heavy, sometimes it was black; other times a greeny colour. The meat - uneatable, consisting of the offal of sheep eyes, lights and so forth, and a little vegetables with boiled grass as a change,

8. I was never in an Internment camp.

9. I never had anything to do with either Germans or Austrians.

10. It was very noticeable that the Turks saw that they had made a great mistake in going on the aide of Germany, and were not afraid to tell us so.
There is no deliberate cruelty in the account, just benign neglect. This goes a long way to explain the asymetric numbers of Turks to Australian POWs.

Cheers

Bill

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Peter H
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Post by Peter H » 14 Apr 2007 04:12

Australians captured on the 25th April 1915:

http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forum ... =58372&hl=

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Post by Tosun Saral » 14 Apr 2007 10:06

Swedish King Charles XII refuged to Ottoman Turkey after his defeat againts Russians at Poltava.He stayed nearly 5 yeras in Turkey. He wrote many letters to his sister Ulrique -Eleanore who lived in Stockholm, and whom he worshipped dearly. He tells how he feels in Turkey:

"I was going to be a prisoner at Poltava, that would have been my death . I was saved on the shores of Bugh River, then the danger became more imminent ...again I was saved. But today I am a prisoner of the Turks. What fire, steel, and floods were not able to do, the Turks did. I don't have chains on my feet. I am not in jail, either. I am free, free to do whatever I like. But still I am a prisoner — a prisoner of affection, of generosity, of nobility, of courtesy. The Turks have tied me with this diamond chain. Oh! If you knew how sweet it is to live a free slave with people so affectionate , so noble, and so gentle."

http://www.tallarmeniantale.com/mahmut-Swedes.htm

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Post by Tosun Saral » 14 Apr 2007 10:15

"One reference I have states he was taken to a villa offshore the Turkish mainland."
Dear Peter, He was taken directly to Istanbul. Then to the island Buyukada just one hour away from Istanbul on Marmara Sea. He lived in a villa with all his staff. Some Turkish officers amd men were also at his order. He played a important role for the armistrace. Rauf Bey (Rauf Orbay) the late commander of Hamidiye communicated with him for peace and truce.

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Post by stevebecker » 19 Apr 2007 23:42

Mates,

I just read an interesting account of a soldiers capture and imprisionment at Turkish hands.

The one thing that struck me are often to excuse given to us westerners that we don't understand Eastern culture which is clearly true, but it appears that Western culture is also not understood by Easterners, who think western culture is based on Americian culture.

On the Australain National Archives site see the WWI serive record of

WHITE Thomas Walter Captain

He served in Mesoptamia att 30 Sqn RFC from 1st Australian Half Flight AFC and was captured on the 13th Nov 1915.

His account of this in in his service records pages 64 to 66 and is a detailed account from a highly educated officer which should not be seen a typical of all soldiers which had it a lot harder on both sides.

S.B

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