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Guests of the Sultan - a GA Zoom talk


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michaeldr

The Gallipoli Association's Stephen Chambers, supported by Ian Binnie, describes the largely untold story of what happened to Allied soldiers who were captured during the Gallipoli campaign. Often after bitter hand to hand fighting, some were captured and survived to tell their tale, others just disappeared. There were rumours that Turkish soldiers would routinely execute British, Australian, New Zealand, Indian and French soldiers. Were the reports of prisoners being bayoneted, clubbed, shot and beaten to death, actually true? Was there a reluctance on both sides to take prisoners? Find out as Stephen's talk helps to expose the true story; the experience of the Allied prisoner of war in Turkish hands.

 

see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ynlmIq79OzI

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stevebecker

Mate,

 

I wrote some thing on this years ago about the attack by the 1st ALHR from Popes 7 Aug 1915.

 

After capturing around three lines of Ottoman trenches and being forced out after fighting all day, no prisoners were taken by the Ottomans, even when there are known men were left there when we retired..

 

One of the things was the evacuation of so many of our wounded by a strained medics and reserve men, from the captured trenches as the position was very hard to clear out due to the position down the waterfall. that so many were saved.

 

The close fighting did not allow the capture of Prisoners, as we didn't claim any either?

 

S.B

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charlie962

Interesting talk. Thanks for the link.

  Whilst the Gallipoli men who survived were about 2/3rds of those taken PoW, very few who might have been were actually taken PoW in the first place (Stephen Chambers says about 460 ORs) thus a survival statistic to treat with care when comparing to say Kut.

   For the latter, nearly 3,000 British ORs and 10,000 Indian ORs and followers were captured at the surrender and thus 'had to be' taken prisoner.  With that long march (after weeks of starvation under siege) rather than a slow boat trip to captivity, as noted by Stephen Chambers, there were huge losses early on resulting in only 1/3rd of the British and perhaps 2/3rds of the Indians surviving.

  Once in the PoW work camps the chances of survival for the two groups may have been comparable ? Chance playing a significant part due to differences between the various camps  as regards disease levels , hospital facilities, attitude of camp commandants etc.

  As I understand it the War Crimes Trials proposed at the end of the war came to nothing as most of the commandants and higher commanders were released (exchanged?) from Malta or never even arrested.

  Charlie

 

Edited by charlie962
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michaeldr
3 hours ago, charlie962 said:

As I understand it the War Crimes Trials proposed at the end of the war came to nothing as most of the commandants and higher commanders were released (exchanged?) from Malta or never even arrested.

 

see 

Coping With Captivity: Australian POWs of the Turks and the Impact of Imprisonment During the First World War by Kate Alexandra Ariotti

[A thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at The University of Queensland in 2014

https://espace.library.uq.edu.au/view/UQ:335055/s40556615_phd_final.pdf ]

 

Page 211>

Official government reports into the treatment of British prisoners of war in Turkey produced immediately after the war highlight alleged mistreatment, particularly of those prisoners captured at Kut. Together with allegations of the massacre of Armenians, these accusations formed the basis of the push for trials. The 1920 Treaty of Sevres made provision for the trial by domestic courts-martial of those accused. However, frustrated by the slow process and low conviction rate, the British moved several of the Turkish accused to Malta – Allied-occupied territory – to face an international tribunal. These prisoners were later released after the British were accused of infringing Turkish sovereignty. Pressure from the Ankara-based Turkish nationalist party, including the taking of 29 British soldiers and civilians as hostages, also forced the British to concede defeat. In 1923 the Treaty of Lausanne, which outlined the formation of the new Turkish nation, and which made no provision for the prosecution of those accused of crimes against prisoners of war or against Armenians, replaced the Treaty of Sevres. Punishing those believed responsible for the mistreatment of POWs was no longer possible. By the end of the 1920s, the relocation of prisoners’ remains, or the memorialisation of those whose bodies could not be found, was complete. Accusations of crimes against prisoners of war were dropped, and international recognition of the peace treaty with the new Turkish nation meant that further prosecutions were not undertaken.

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charlie962

Yes, I've previously copied that very useful thesis (someone on this forum provided a link ?). I suspect it was that statement I recalled but I think there was a similar note by Lt Col EH Keeling who collected a lot of evidence.  CAB papers summarise the case against a number of these with recommendations for prosecutions. I would not like to think how the OR survivors expressed their thoughts on this.

 

How lucky the Australians are with their archives.

 

Charlie

Edited by charlie962
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charlie962

This extract from Keeling's Postscript to his book Adventures in Turkey and Russia published 1924. As a former PoW of the Turks and one of those responsible for repatriating those held in Turkish camps after the Armistice, he felt very strongly about the matter:

 

"POSTSCRIPT

In 1921 the British government abandoned the right to punish the Turks responsible for the ill-treatment of British prisoners during the war. Early in 1919, the British Military Commission in Constantinople handed the Ottoman government a list of Turkish officers and men who were “ wanted ” for various crimes against our men, and sixty persons were arrested and sent to Malta (in addition to about seventy others who were confined for political reasons). The charges against them included murder, the manslaughter of hundreds (collectively thousands) by neglect, merciless flogging, gross cruelty of various kinds, unnatural offences against our men, wholesale theft of their property. Instead of arraigning them promptly, our government thought it necessary to wait for the Peace Treaty with Turkey, and the accused were still awaiting trial when the abortive Treaty of Sevres was signed in the summer of 1920. This agreement provided for the trial by allied military tribunals of all Turks charged with violating the laws and customs of war, but it was never ratified, and the sixty languished in Malta. In the meantime Mustafa Kemal, the Nationalist leader, established his authority throughout most of Asia Minor, and about thirty British officers and men, including Colonel Rawlinson, fell into his hands.

 

These prisoners were an enormous asset which he did not fail to make the most of. After prolonged bargaining, and after fifteen or sixteen Turks, including AM Ihsan Pasha, had escaped from Malta by the simple expedient of breaking their parole (why were men charged with crime ever allowed liberty on parole?), the British government agreed to hand back unconditionally all the men under arrest, in exchange for the thirty British prisoners ; a very one-sided bargain, for we surrendered criminals in return for ordinary prisoners of war who had committed no offence at all. Thus were released scot-free the persons deemed responsible, or partly responsible, for the appalling mortality among our men in Turkey. Assuming that, once the peace treaty was signed, the trials could not be held until it had been ratified, and granted also that fear of reprisals against British prisoners was a sound reason for inaction while they were in Kemalist hands, yet it is impossible to understand why the Turks under arrest were not brought to trial soon after the armistice, before the peace treaty had limited our powers and before the Kemalists had any prisoners of ours to bargain with (they did not capture the first of them until a year after the armistice).

 

When the question was raised in the House of Lords, the government excused itself on the ground that the peace treaty had not been ratified. This was a subterfuge. We arrested these Turks not in the exercise of any authority given to us by the armistice, which was, indeed, silent concerning war crimes, but in pursuance of the right of a belligerent to punish offences against the laws of war. If we did not need a peace treaty to allow us to arrest them, why did we need one to allow us to try them ? Any number of witnesses were available against them. Every released or escaped prisoner who came to this country during the war was subjected to an elaborate examination about his treatment, and after the armistice committees sat in Egypt to hear complaints from repatriated officers and men."

 

"All the evidence [war crimes] so obtained might have been immediately supplied to the military authorities in Malta, and the accused brought to trial forthwith. We were in a commanding position to avenge the British prisoners who died in Turkish hands, but we frittered it away by idle procrastination.

 

Another thing which has never been explained is why Colonel Rawlinson and his companions in misfortune were allowed to remain so long (some of them over eighteen months) in the hands of the Kemalists. At the time when they were arrested, 40,000 Turks taken prisoner by us during the war were still interned in Egypt and elsewhere, but all of them were sent back to Turkey shortly afterwards. Why did we not refuse to repatriate them until Rawlinson and the rest were released? It may be urged that we had promised the Constantinople government that we would return all war prisoners, and therefore could not make use of them to bargain with the Nationalist government at Angora, which was not officially recognised by Constantinople.

 

But if Angora could use Colonel Rawlinson to get back the men in Malta (who had been handed over to us by the Constantinople government), surely we could use the 40,000 war prisoners to get back Rawlinson. Angora, even more than Constantinople, was interested in the return of the 40,000 men. If we were at war with Kemal, we were entitled to keep them until he released Rawlinson. If we were not at war with Kemal, he had no right to detain Rawlinson. It is difficult to believe that strong action by the government, including, if necessary, a threat to bombard a Kemalist port, might not have procured the release of all the British prisoners. Nor were any effective measures taken to secure their well-being while they remained in captivity, in spite of all that was known of the treatment of prisoners in Turkey during the war. Although some Frenchmen who had also been arrested by Kemal, and who, like Rawlinson, were imprisoned at Erzerum, regularly received clothing, food, and medicine sent from France, nothing was done for our men until a few weeks before their release ; and even then no parcels would have been despatched but for the initiative and persistence of the Red Cross. Rawlinson and his comrades were consequently in a deplorable condition when at last they were repatriated.

 

Knowing how British prisoners fell between two stools during the war, one guesses that the real reason for this lethargy was that neither the Foreign Office nor the War Office would shoulder the responsibility for these men. Their neglect strengthens the case, put forward in Chapter XII.,  for making one government office solely responsible for promoting the welfare of all British prisoners of war, including men captured by 'a force with whom we are not officially at war. It would be the duty of this department, while leaving no stone unturned to obtain their release (if that were consistent with our national honour and interests), to take every action within its power which might keep them alive, mitigate their hardships, and bring to account any one mistreating them".

 

Charlie

Edited by charlie962
enlarged to cover whole of postscript
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