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Remembered Today:

American captured in Turkish forces, Helles, 28 June 1915


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Getting the next issue of The Gallipolian together at the moment (I'm in a compulsory two-week isolation in a country club) and came across the following while editing one of the articles:

 

"Early in July we were still laughing over an incident in the June 28 encounter. When our men charged the trenches in the Turkish right centre, they found a fair number of wounded left behind, of whom no special notice was taken in the excitement of pursuing the enemy down the communications. Most of the bodies were lying face downward. When our men had been in occupation some little time, they were not a little surprised to see one of the prone figures raise himself on one elbow and look cautiously round, at the same time grinning broadly. “Now give ’em some!” he exhorted, sitting up in the bottom of the trench. “And who the devil might you be?” asked the sergeant, covering the “wounded” Turk with his rifle as a precautionary measure. “Oh, you never mind me,” said this remarkable fellow; “you tickle their heels a bit first, then you can see about me.”

But the sergeant did mind, and a hurried explanation followed. Back in Constantinople on a visit from America, where his home was, this Turk had been impressed for military service, much against his inclination, and he said he was glad of the opportunity of surrendering himself to the British — an act which he had contemplated and planned since his arrival in the trenches. He volunteered much valuable information to an intelligence officer, and I heard afterwards from a friend who went down to Egypt on the same boat that the little Turko-American was the life of the voyage, constituting himself special guard of the other prisoners, and explaining daily to them that he was the British Captain’s Messenger, and they mustn’t forget it, and anything he might say to them was to be regarded as carrying the authority of the British Captain himself!"

 

From Six Months in the Dardanelles by 'Zachabona' (believed to be one Robert Gibb - but that's all I know about him, though suspect was a lieutenant in the Army Service Corps or Labour Corps) - Blackwood’s Magazine, No MCCIV, February 1916 Vol CXCIX pp 162-3.

 

Thought I'd post this to see whether anyone's ever heard of this incident, or who knows whatever became of the soldier in question, or if anyone knows for certain who the author,  'Zachabona' was. Clues from the text:

 

1. mobilized at the Tower of London in February 1915.

2. Sailed from Avonmouth on the Dunluce Castle, stopped off in Malta, arriving off Lemnos on the 'Tuesday of the first week in March'.

3. Mudros Harbour:
4. "Late that night we had word that a large working-party we had sent ashore was marooned in a lighter on a sandbank, the picket boat towing it being also stuck fast. It looked like a night's lodging in the open for our eighty odd men, but we manned the ship’s boats with soldier crews and set off to the rescue."
5. Was aboard Southland en route to Helles with 1 KOSB, but not part of that unit.
6. Stood off all day on Dunluce Castle watching the Helles landing.
7. Steamed to off Anzac 26 April - then to Tenedos then back to Helles.

8. A lot of Scottish references.

 

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Maureene

Perhaps he was a member of the Base General Staff (A and Q Branches) of the "Constantinople Expeditionary Force", referred to on a

 Page from Chapter 2, Grasping Gallipoli: Terrain, Maps and Failure at the Dardanelles, 1915 by Peter Chasseaud, Peter Doyle. Google Books.

 

Cheers

Maureen

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michaeldr
2 hours ago, Bryn said:

From Six Months in the Dardanelles by 'Zachabona' (believed to be one Robert Gibb - but that's all I know about him, though suspect was a lieutenant in the Army Service Corps or Labour Corps) - Blackwood’s Magazine, No MCCIV, February 1916 Vol CXCIX pp 162-3.

 

Thought I'd post this to see whether anyone's ever heard of this incident, or who knows whatever became of the soldier in question, or if anyone knows for certain who the author,  'Zachabona' was

 

Bryn, 

 

There is a reference to ZACHABONA and his article in Blackwood's, in The Keyes Papers Vol.I, 1914-1918 [page 390>]

 

This is a letter from Keyes addressed to Edward Grimwood Mears (Secretary to the Dardanelles Commission). The letter is dated 29 April 1917 and appears to be in answer to questions from the commission which were put to Keyes.

 

In item 6, Keyes mentions the “Many loose and inaccurate statements” being made and he quotes as an example of these, the article in Blackwood's Magazine by ZACHABONA, which he describes as 'particularly flagrant' and 'teeming with inaccuracies'.

 

Keyes goes on to say that at one point Admiral Sir John de Robeck contacted the Secretary to the Admiralty and asked for an action of libel against Blackwood's and the author. Apparently the article was printed without reference to the Censor, who had by then spoken to the editor of Blackwood's, but the Admiralty took no further action.

 

De Robeck however contacted his own solicitors who demanded a retraction from the editor. Such a statement was eventually published, but in a very weak form of words which did not satisfy de Robeck and it was his intension to pursue the matter further 'on the expiration of hostilities.'

 

There is no indication in The Keyes Papers as to who Zachabona was, or whether de Robeck did indeed pursue his libel case against Blackwood's after the war.

 

Editors beware :o

 

Best regards

Michael

 

 

Edited by michaeldr
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Thanks for those replies, Maureen and Michael. I have to say I didn't find too much that would be considered 'controversial' in the article. Maybe that's just a 'passage of time' thing.

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michaeldr

I suppose it could be controversial if you were personally involved.

Leaving the libel and legal aspects aside, Keyes does however provide a useful reminder that this sort of writing should be approached with a degree of caution:

On 06/06/2020 at 10:05, michaeldr said:

the article in Blackwood's Magazine by ZACHABONA, which he describes as 'particularly flagrant' and 'teeming with inaccuracies'.

 

I'm already looking forward to the next edition of The Gallipolian

 

best regards

Michael

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Posted (edited)

Yes, the libel aspect I think prevented a lot of truths coming out for a long time.

 

I remember when I first started going to the Australian War Memorial's Research centre in about 1988 or so. The entrance was round the back of the memorial. You had to knock on a big locked steel door and a security guard would come out and let you in. You then had to sign in, and sign a document stating that you wouldn't publish, or allow to be published, anything deemed possibly libellous that you might find in, for example, Charles Bean's original diaries. These days you can download them with absolutely no restriction on what can be done with that information.

 

Keyes, however much he might have known about the veracity of Zachabona's writing on big issues, would, I'm pretty sure ,have no idea whether a Turk-American had or had not been been captured at Helles. 'A bit below his pay grade.' to quote annoying movie characters.

 

It's pretty impressive just how well Zachabona covered his tracks though!

Edited by Bryn
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michaeldr

2 hours ago, Bryn said: It's pretty impressive just how well Zachabona covered his tracks though!

 

It is indeed

I have not checked, but I wonder if de Robeck found him after the war?

I suspect not

 

He (Zachabona) must have been a slippery character with a great deal of pull somewhere or other

How else could he (a Lt., ASC?) switch ships in the middle of such an important and complex action?

5. Was aboard Southland en route to Helles with 1 KOSB, but not part of that unit.
6. Stood off all day on Dunluce Castle watching the Helles landing.

 

I suspect that his avoiding the lime light was deliberate and very well thought out

He must have realised that such tall tales were unlikely to go unchallenged

 

I have not seen the Blackwood's article and I look forward to the next issue of the association's journal 

 

Best regards

Michael

Edited by michaeldr
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I took a look in the Times Digital Archive to see if I could find any court cases against Zachabona for libel, but other than a a review of the relevant edition of Blackwoods which appeared in The Times on Tuesday February 1, 1916, in which he gets a sentence, that's it.

 

While he could have used another pen name, it did lead me to wonder if he might have died. A check of CWGC produced a 2/Lt R.Gibb, 1/5th K.O.S.B. who appears to have died at 2nd Gaza on the 19th April 1917 - no age or additional information.

https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/650115/gibb,-/

 

A check of his Medal Index Card shows that he was Staff Serjeant Major, (SS/5246) Robert Andrew Gibb, Army Service Corps when he landed at Gallipoli on the "24-2-15".

He was commissioned into the K.O.S.B. on the 25th November 1915 - so by the time the article was written he would have been a 'Lieutenant'.

 

His medals were applied for by his Executor, George Gibb, c\o Mrs J(?) Young, 3 Brandon Terrace, Edinburgh.

 

May just be a lot of co-incidences but does appear to tick a lot of the boxes above,

 

Peter

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michaeldr

Peter; that's fascinating

thank you for the follow-up

 

AJS; thanks for the link

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stevebecker

Mates,

 

Its not that strange that a non Turkish man would be sent to their Army.

 

When in the last Balkan War in 95, i was sent to the Turkish Group in Zenica for a job, on arrival a Turkish soldier came over to me (I had Australian flashs while serving with the UN) and said he was also an aussie, who because his perents were Turkish, and he on a visit to Turkey to visit his Grand Perents, he had been grabbed for Military service.

 

He showed me around and introduced me to his mates. My stay there was short but was instrutive.

 

Cheers

 

S.B

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Thanks for that Michael - I made a mistake in what I wrote regarding his sitting off the coast at Helles. On re-reading it seems he was aboard Southland and did not switch to Dunluce Castle. The first part of Zachabona's article was published in the last issue of The Gallipolian; I was just going over the second part, for inclusion in the next issue.

 

Steve - thank you for that. An English mate of mine has a Turkish-born father. During the mid nineties, if he (my mate) or his younger brother had visited Turkey or northern Cyprus they could've been drafted into the Turkish army. So they didn't. I think they're past the age limit now; that was more than 20 years ago.

 

Peter - I checked a few medal index cards (they're free at the moment after all) and found a few who might qualify, including the one you've identified, but decided there wasn't enough to go on. It didn't occur to me that 'Zachabona' might have been killed, but that was certainly going to make him hard for anyone chasing him to find (and really hard take to court), I suppose also that if anyone at the time had suspected him, that would have made further investigation pointless, and that would explain the lack of follow-up. Interesting that (assuming Zachabona was in fact Robert Andrew Gibb) he was an NCO - a few things he wrote made me suspect that might be the case. He was of sufficient rank to get around, but possibly not an officer, and in hindsight, and armed with your information, there's a phrase in a sentence on the first page (in bold) that is a glaring clue:

 

During the trip to Alexandria from England aboard Dunluce Castle:

"An officer told me confidentially that our address would be “British Expeditionary Force, Mediterranean,” but it was not until we were almost in Biscay that some one started the whisper “Dardanelles.” A corporal reported the matter (unofficially) to the ship’s sergeant-major, the warrant-officers’ mess masticated the idea with their late dinner, and next morning the blessed word was skilfully but casually dropped into the ship’s adjutant’s ear. "

 

Armed with that possibility, I'll go back trough the article and see what turns up.

 

Thanks also for the link, ajs!

 

Regards,

Bryn

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Wow, thanks Skipman! That clears up that mystery!

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1 minute ago, Bryn said:

Wow, thanks Skipman! That clears up that mystery!

 

I would say so. All credit to Peter though, my part was a dawdle.

 

Cheers Mike

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michaeldr
5 minutes ago, Skipman said:

 

I would say so. All credit to Peter though, my part was a dawdle.

Cheers Mike

 

Well Done Both; a great team :thumbsup:

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8 minutes ago, michaeldr said:

 

Well Done Both; a great team :thumbsup:

 

You're too kind. My part was inputting a name found by Peter's excellent work. Great result for all, and here's to brave man Robert Andrew Gibb. R.I.P.

 

Mike

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michaeldr
14 minutes ago, Skipman said:

here's to brave man Robert Andrew Gibb. R.I.P.

 

2nd Lt Gibb has a mention in the 52nd Divisional history (p.326)

During the 2nd Gaza battle

“Lieut. Gibb, 5th KOSB, on his own initiative, collected a few men and tried to get at the enemy machine-guns, which were steadily reducing the garrison. He got as far as some cactus hedges, but had to retire, and was killed later on. Officers fell rapidly. Every Captain was killed.”

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Another bit of gold there too Michael. As Mike said, a brave man.

 

Robert Andrew Gibb, born 7 August 1891 in Saint Giles, Edinburgh, Scotland, to John Gibb and Annie Gibb (nee Neilson).

Killed in action at Gaza, 18th April 1917, aged 27. Buried Gaza War Cemetery.

 

My sincere thanks to everyone who helped out. I'll be including the results and an acknowledgement to you all (unless you tell me otherwise) following the original article in the next Gallipolian.

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10 hours ago, Bryn said:

It didn't occur to me that 'Zachabona' might have been killed, but that was certainly going to make him hard for anyone chasing him to find (and really hard take to court), I suppose also that if anyone at the time had suspected him, that would have made further investigation pointless, and that would explain the lack of follow-up.

 

Of course it could have all been bluff and bluster on the part of the officer who threatened to sue for libel, but as the Times seems to have been impressed by the quality of all the articles in that particular edition of Blackwood, it would seem odd if the writer concerned hadn't been encouraged to write again. The pen name 'Zachabona' might have been a little too hot to re-use but that was the name in the public domain. Death has to be the most extreme but also the most obvious reason to stop writing !

 

If his commanding officer was aware of his penmanship it obviously wasn't enough of a concern to stop him supporting Robert for a commission, and presumably his work alongside the KOSB at Gallipoli led to them turning a blind eye as well.

 

Just glad that @Skipman's 'dawdling' could provide the smoking gun to make it anything more than wishful thinking on my part.

 

Peter

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Thanks again Peter; that was a great insight, cleared the log-jam and really opened the floodgates.

Robert Gibb wrote very well; obviously a well-educated man as well as brave. Just the fact that he was commissioned in the field into the KOSB is impressive.

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