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The woman sniper of Gallipoli


Bill Woerlee
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Without any source it proves nowt. As a he was a very gay man it seems very unlikely. However I believe he was also a teller of tales.

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" Without any source it proves nowt. " Absolutely.

" As a he was a very gay man it seems very unlikely. " Again, that had occurred to me, but it's possible (if true) that this may have caused him to realise he was gay?

" However I believe he was also a teller of tales. " I know very little about him to be honest.

I just thought I would throw it in the pot, and as ever, am happy to have it proved/disproved once and for all.

Cheers Mike

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Bill, Jim, Gareth and Bob all see through the 'story' to the absurdity and inconsistencies behind its acceptance as fact.

To me, the greatest proof against the story (apart from the fact that I don't believe that women living in a strictly Muslim society would ever have been trained in the use of firearms or camouflage tactics), is the roaring silence on the matter in almost every account of fighting at Gallipoli. Yes, it's mentioned here and there. Lots of rumours are. It's just not mentioned everywhere else, that is, in the vast majority of writing to come out of the Gallipoli campaign. Not a whisper.

To see the absurdity of some of the stuff that has been written, let's critically examine the following:

"This sailor witnessed the capture of a woman sharpshooter in a little white house near the shore. She was a Turkish woman, and the house was her own. She had refused to leave it: Her old mother and her child were with her when she was taken. She had persistently fired on our men from a window, aiming in particular at the officers. She must have rifled the bodies of her victims, for some 16 identification discs and a considerable sum of money were found in her possession."

First, 'she had refused to leave it.' So General Liman von Sanders and his entire force were not able to get this woman, who lived near the shore, to move out. Strange. They seem to have had no problem moving the rest of the civilians out of what was, after all, a militarised zone. The area had been invaded by Royal Marine demolition parties and heavily shelled by battleships prior to the landings on 25th April. When I first visited Gallipoli, in 1995, there were still areas civilians could not go. In short, it would not have been up to the woman and her mother to just decline the army's 'offer' that they should move out.

Second, she recognised and specifically targeted the officers. Maybe that's not so surprising, but what is surprising is the fact that she had been doing this long enough to kill at least 16 men, none of whose friends noticed shots coming from the window of a very prominent white house. We can safely say nobody noticed, because otherwise, how was she able to sneak out (while the battle was raging), and recover these ID tags?

I have to wonder whether she shot one man, ran outside and grabbed his ID tag, then ran inside and shot another, and so on, or whether she just waited until 16 bodies were lying around, none of whom had had their ID tags removed by their comrades, who incidentally still hadn't woken up to the fact that they were all being killed by bullets coming from that extremely prominent white house over there near the shore. This is the shore, by the way, that the invading army was on. Yet nobody was interested in checking out the little white house, or in using it as cover. Or mentioning it in accounts of the landing.

As she was aiming specifically for officers, it must be assumed that a proportion of the (at least) 16 killed were officers. Otherwise, how would these officers, who had just been wounded, or just missed being shot, not notice the white house with the bullets coming from it, or the woman rushing out and tearing ID tags from bodies? Where were all the other attacking soldiers while this woman killed, at a bare minimum, 16 of their mates?

How does the sailor relating the story "know" that this woman persistently aimed at officers? That would mean people did know she was there, firing at the officers in particular. That would imply that someone was taking an interest in what she was up to, possibly even firing back at the window she was shooting from. So how did she get out and grab 16 ID tags?

It's a ridiculous story. Anyone who just believes stuff like that at face value doesn't think.

Well said. I certainly can't better this.........

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I doubt this very much for reasons enunciated at great length... diddily squat evidence beyond fifth hand reports.

Fixating on presumed norms for Muslim societies is problematic, though. For a start, how do we know she'd have been Muslim? Why not a Greek, Bulgarian, Albanian Christian? And, even if she were a Muslim, she'd have come from a similar cultural background to the ferocious Bouboulina from a century beforehand.

The modern phenomenon of female jihadist suicide-bombers is accepted. Furthermore, Tolstoy recounted female Muslim fighters when he was an artillery officer during the Caucasian War. Then again, with that second one, I might be getting confused by contemporary Black Widow units from Chechnya... you know how these things happen.

Secondly, female snipers were reported on the Western and Eastern fronts in the Great War (and entered into lore on the Eastern front in the Second War)... not in keeping with patriarchal and Christian European society, what eh?. An obvious response to this, of course, is that it occurred after depletion of the male fighting force and prolonged period of military occupation.... not right at the beginning of hostilities as with Gallipoli.

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  • 1 year later...

Just another wee stir o' the pot.

Manchester Evening News - Saturday 13 November 1915

A Woman Sniper

In a letter home, Pte John V Fitton, who lives at Leoplold street, Heywood?, refers to the trouble with snipers in Gallipoli, and tells about the discovery of a Turkish woman sniper. " Three of us " he writes, " were out sniping one Sunday morning, and we thought we could see something moving in a tree so we fired and saw something come tippling down. We crawled up to it, and you can judge how surprised we were when we saw it was a woman. She was painted green so we could not tell her from the trees, and would you believe it, she had forty-three identification discs round her neck belonging to our fellows whom she had shot. "

Mike

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  • 2 months later...

Me again. Found this reference the three female snipers in The Daily Diaries of Lieutenant Ralph D Doughty. M.C.

Diary One Page Four

" 3rd June 1915 Buried Gnr Gibbs this morning beside 'Kingy'. Extremely interesting to know that we have 3 woman snipers now. They are down in the base quartered in a wire cage arrangement similar to what they put tigers in at the zoo. Swim this afternoon, our Asiatic friends couldn't leave us alone again and peppered us with 16 inch Howitzers, several fell in the water near us, while one landed 30 yards away while we were dressing. They can't possibly let us alone. Lt Clowes and Gnr Tanner returned today Clowes wounded in the head, Brown lost one arm. "

Mike

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I wonder if this is one of them?

The second point which I wish to address is how did the "legend" begin?

Forget that staged photograph by Ernest Brooks which was probably taken by dressing a Turkish PoW in green twigs and then standing him between two Australian cooks on Lemnos. Please have a look at a genuine photograph of a Turkish sniper here http://cas.awm.gov.a...raph/P01094.002

and

TurkishsniperatGallipoli-1.jpg

And then ask yourself if the disguise does not remind you just a little of an Islamic lady's Burqa?

Could this have been how the story started?

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Python star, Terry Jones, unmasked as mythical Gallipoli woman sniper ...

In the case referenced by Mike in post #334, why, oh why, did they not photograph these caged Turkish women snipers? I've always been open to believing in them if someone could only produce photographic evidence to back up a credible narrative (as opposed to mere regurgitation of the familiar 'account' seen in post #333), but sadly none has ever been forthcoming.

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Python star, Terry Jones, unmasked as mythical Gallipoli woman sniper ...

"He's been a very naughty sniper"

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Maybe he was "creeping around the cow-sheds at two in the morning. That doesn't sound very wise to me."

I'd like to get hold of a bigger version of that photo as I have some questions about it, but maybe someone here can help. Anyone recognise where at Gallipoli that may have been taken? The background seems to be a more-or-less level cliff-line. Are they horses being led in the left background and in the right background? Is the soldier escorting the sniper wearing regular puttees? A perfectly-bashed slouch hat? Other soldiers appear to be wearing greatcoats and peaked caps, except for what looks like an Australian or NZ officer wearing a tunic. That at least implies that it's cold weather, and that, if this is Gallipoli, then the knot of soldiers is likely to be British.

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It looks to me as if the escort is wearing waterproof gaiters, leather or canvas. The Tommies are in their greatcoats. The prisoner too appears to be wearing some sort of an overcoat. It's got to be November or December.

The location? Aussie (and NZ and Gurkha) counter-snipers were attached to the British in the Suvla sector in August but were they still operational there towards the end of the campaign? Did they ever operate in Helles?

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Bryn & Tunesmith,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the photograph

I'm afraid I'm not well-up on uniforms; would the guard's gaiters suggest ALH?

The sky-line does not offer me any clues either, but does the large collection of limbers provide any indication of where this might have been taken?

regards

Michael

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Mate,

When the aussie LH Regts went to Gallipoli they exchanged all LH equiptment for Infantry pattern gear.

But that said there are many photos of LH men wearing bandieres, so its possible that leggings also made it to Anzac.

S.B

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Steve, not quite right, not all Light Horse equipment and uniform was exchanged. Although the photograph in question is rather difficult to make out clearly, the Australian soldier definitely has the standard issue putties on, that can be judged by the light coloured bands below the knee. The apparent covers over his boots are an anomaly; they would have to be privately supplied if that is what they actually are. It could be suggested that he was a shearer by trade; the covers look very similar to that worn over boots to cover the laces when shearing. On the other hand, maybe he is just wearing a pair of boots that are too large for him. As to whether he is a Light Horseman, there is nothing about his uniform that would suggest such, in fact he could be from any branch of the Australian military force. It can definitely stated that he was not from the 3rd LH Brigade, no mention ever made of a Turkish sniper having been captured, shot at yes, but never taken as a prisoner. The only exception to that rule would be if the man was one of the Light Horsemen sent out to Suvla Bay as a sniper.

With regard to what the Light Horse was issued with for active service on Gallipoli, the following will explain that. On the 13th May 1915 the 3rd LH Brigade prepared to embark for Gallipoli as dismounted infantry. The orders of what each man was to have and carry were set out in the RO’s for the day. Infantry puttees, a black kit bag, a haversack and a special ‘Dardanelles’ knapsack was issued to each man and instructions were given as to what could be packed. One pair of breeches, one tunic, one pair of boots, one pair of underpants, one hair brush, one shirt and one towel, was to be packed into the black kit bags which were to be transported to Alexandria for shipment. They were to carry in their packs, a cap, towel, shirt, comforter, spare pair of socks, razor and housewife. In addition to this each man would also have to carry, a mess tin, overcoat, blanket, two waterproof sheets, a full water bottle and 130 rounds of ammunition. In all each man would be carrying around 62 pounds in weight. Slouch hats, leather leggings and spurs were to be left behind.

2nd Lt Carthew, “A” Troop, “C” Squadron, 8th LH Regt: “Us Officers are fitted out just like the men. Bandolier, Rifle and Bayonet, clothing and all issued with Helmets (British Wolseley sun helmet). The reason is we can’t be picked out from the men, gives us a better chance.”

It was not until the 23rd July that the 8th LHR was issued with Infantry webbing equipment. All leather gear, bandoliers, ammunition pouches, belts, etc were handed into the Quarter Master Sergeant. As stated above, no leather leggings were taken to Gallipoli.

From the correspondence and diaries of men of the 8th LH Regt, none make any mention of a Turkish female sniper. This yarn obviously did not make its way up onto Walker’s Ridge/Russell’s Top.

Jeff

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  • 11 months later...
Guest aludra

Hello,

I am a woman journalist in Turkey. I live very close to Gallipoli. 3 years ago, I red an article about the Women Snipers in Gallipoli by coincidence. I've totally shocked because there is no information about this topic in our national archives or in our history. I've started to make research and luckily I've found this forum. I would kindly ask from all of you, if you can share with me any info, any clue, any evidence to find out the truth. If there were Women Snipers, I want to tell this to my people with a documentary or a book or a publishment and to give these Women the Honour which they've already deserve. It will be interesting if this will happen by the Anzac information sources because we have nothing in ours.

My e-mail addresses are; adikmen@hurriyet.com.tr and aycedikmen@gmail.com

Thank you very much for your help and interest in advance...

Very warm regards from Izmir, Turkey...

Ayce Dikmen

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Ayce,

Welcome to the Great War Forum

My own theory as to how this legend commenced centres around a possible case of mistaken identity – see post No.335 above

and I'm not sure that there is any more to it than that (mistaken identity)

As well as my best wishes for your research, may I give a plug for your newspaper's English language edition – the Hürriyet Daily News – which is to be seen online [http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/]

It's always useful to check it out for news/views on Turkey, and sometimes Gallipoli gets a mention too.

Regards

Michael

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May I suggest members follow Michaeldr's link to Ayce's newspaper, scroll down to Rare World War I Photos from Turkish General Staff archives. 45 photographs some I have seen but for a beginner like me many I have not. Thanks to Micheal and welcome Ayce.

Regards

Alan

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Alan,



Many thanks for the reminder about the album



[This is a link to the newspaper's selection of 45 photographs from the TGS archive to which Alan refers http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/Default.aspx?PageID=447&GalleryID=2158 ]



There may well be some duplication here, nevertheless is should also be rewarding to have a look at the 65 photographs selected by the TGS and the Hürriyet Daily News to mark the recent 99th anniversary of the Turkish naval victory of 18th March


see http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/Default.aspx?pageID=429&GalleryID=1980



regards


Michael

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"I am a woman journalist in Turkey. I live very close to Gallipoli. 3 years ago, I red an article about the Women Snipers in Gallipoli by coincidence. I've totally shocked because there is no information about this topic in our national archives or in our history. I've started to make research and luckily I've found this forum. I would kindly ask from all of you, if you can share with me any info, any clue, any evidence to find out the truth. If there were Women Snipers, I want to tell this to my people with a documentary or a book or a publishment and to give these Women the Honour which they've already deserve. It will be interesting if this will happen by the Anzac information sources because we have nothing in ours."

Ayce Dikmen

Ayce (and others);

I think I may have observed this a few years ago, but I have studied the Gallipoli campaign for years, mostly from the Turkish/German perspective (my father fought there, as a German volunteer combat engineer), have read anything I have been able to lay my hands on (hardly ever anything in English), have very good/unusual sources, and this whole idea seems almost impossible. Each Turkish battalion had its imam, they had a great deal of influence, and

in some cases took over the command of a battalion in combat after the officers had all been lost, and often did very well in that role. The German officers commented about their long sermons or speeches before an attack, and the German officers, although they may have wanted to press forward with the plans, knew to stand back, as they knew of the great effect that these speeches had on the men.

I am sure that the imams knew everything that went on in the unit, and I cannot imagine that they would have tolerated women being in the front lines.

The Turks lacked many things, but they did not lack brave men to do the fighting. Women there would have potentially caused great trouble, and be

considered a moral threat.

One of the above Allied sources mentioned a Turkish woman soldier, and then in the same line he mentioned a Turkish 16" shell landing in a tactical

situation. At Gallipoli the Turks had a few large coastal defense guns to protect the Narrows (the largest Krupp 13.5" guns from 1875, I believe), but

the shells were in terribly short supply; to defend Gallipoli all the shells were stripped from the defenses at the Black Sea and Istanbul. There may

only have been 200-300 in all of Turkey. None that large could be made there, and contact with Germany was broken.

The biggest guns the Turks had for land warfare were a few 15 cm (5.9") howitzers.

Anyone on the Allied side talking about Turkish 16" shells landing is, to my mind, hardly a believable source. (I also have to say that I have read a

lot of Allied memoires, and they sometimes contain the most incredible statements, to be polite.)

Ayce (mehraba!), do you have an opinion? This is not to put down Turkish women, and as a student of Turkish history I know that in some ways two hundred years ago Turkish women had much more rights than women in the UK or the Americas, but I do not think that the front lines were a place for women at

that time, that the imams would not have tolerated it.

Bob Lembke

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"I am a woman journalist in Turkey. I live very close to Gallipoli. 3 years ago, I red an article about the Women Snipers in Gallipoli by coincidence. I've totally shocked because there is no information about this topic in our national archives or in our history. I've started to make research and luckily I've found this forum. I would kindly ask from all of you, if you can share with me any info, any clue, any evidence to find out the truth. If there were Women Snipers, I want to tell this to my people with a documentary or a book or a publishment and to give these Women the Honour which they've already deserve. It will be interesting if this will happen by the Anzac information sources because we have nothing in ours."

Ayce Dikmen

Ayce (and others);

I think I may have observed this a few years ago, but I have studied the Gallipoli campaign for years, mostly from the Turkish/German perspective (my father fought there, as a German volunteer combat engineer), have read anything I have been able to lay my hands on (hardly ever anything in English), have very good/unusual sources, and this whole idea seems almost impossible. Each Turkish battalion had its imam, they had a great deal of influence, and

in some cases took over the command of a battalion in combat after the officers had all been lost, and often did very well in that role. The German officers commented about their long sermons or speeches before an attack, and the German officers, although they may have wanted to press forward with the plans, knew to stand back, as they knew of the great effect that these speeches had on the men.

I am sure that the imams knew everything that went on in the unit, and I cannot imagine that they would have tolerated women being in the front lines.

The Turks lacked many things, but they did not lack brave men to do the fighting. Women there would have potentially caused great trouble, and be

considered a moral threat.

One of the above Allied sources mentioned a Turkish woman soldier, and then in the same line he mentioned a Turkish 16" shell landing in a tactical

situation. At Gallipoli the Turks had a few large coastal defense guns to protect the Narrows (the largest Krupp 13.5" guns from 1875, I believe), but

the shells were in terribly short supply; to defend Gallipoli all the shells were stripped from the defenses at the Black Sea and Istanbul. There may

only have been 200-300 in all of Turkey. None that large could be made there, and contact with Germany was broken.

The biggest guns the Turks had for land warfare were a few 15 cm (5.9") howitzers.

Anyone on the Allied side talking about Turkish 16" shells landing is, to my mind, hardly a believable source. (I also have to say that I have read a

lot of Allied memoires, and they sometimes contain the most incredible statements, to be polite.)

Ayce (mehraba!), do you have an opinion? This is not to put down Turkish women, and as a student of Turkish history I know that in some ways two hundred years ago Turkish women had much more rights than women in the UK or the Americas, but I do not think that the front lines were a place for women at

that time, that the imams would not have tolerated it.

Bob Lembke

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From the Cambridgeshire Times 17th September 1915

TURKISH GIRL SNIPERS

Writing from the Red Cross Hospital at Pembroke Malta, Pte D. Hart, 1/5th Essex Regiment, says:-

I hope this will find you well, as it leaves me with regard to health. I have got a small wound in the foot, but it is not very serious. I hope to be with the Turks again in a few weeks. It is absolute murder out here. They have got quite a gentleman's life in France - men who have been tell us that they are not to be compared. The Turks have women and girl snipers. WE captured twenty women and five girls of sixteen years of age and under. Ten of us went out after snipers, when all of a sudden we were charged by these women; not a pleasant engagement at all, but we managed to capture them quite safely. We hope it will soon be over.

I have looked through the diary from August to September 1915 and could not find any reference to girl snipers, so is it fact or fantasy.

Ray

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Fantasy, my local paper has several letters about the capture of female snipers. War Diaries for Battalion, Brigade and Division - zilch

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I recently came across the following newspaper article in the British Newspaper Archive from the North Devon Journal of Thursday 10th August 1916:

THE "SNIPER'S" PART IN THE WAR.

paper on "The Work of Sniping in the War," defining the importance of the use of marksmenship which takes its name, as a military term, from the South African War, appears in the " Windsor Magazine " for August. The photographs accompanying this article represent various technical points besides being very vivid pictures of exciting moments in the current year on the several Fronts. In the course of his narrative, the author, Mr. Walter G. Ford, says:-

"Haystacks and trees are common perches for the solitary marksman; but there was crack Prussian guardsman whose lair was a cemetery grave with a hinged lid over it, inscribed cross, and pathetic wreaths to turn away the eyes of inquisitive fury and vengeance.

This man did shocking execution every evening, and organised hunts were without avail. His bullets were examined. They were from the German service Mauser, probably with silencer attachment, for each report was curiously faint. How a party of Pathan pioneers, laying telephone wires at night, tracked down this living occupant of a grave is a thrilling detective tale, though much too long to be told. Certainly the cemetery sniper had a whole arsenal of ammunition in his coffin,' and no fewer than 117 identification discs, taken from men he had killed.

"Beyond all doubt it was experts like this who initiated the Turk into the art of sniping as practised this War. And many desperate duel did the Anzacs fight with wily Jacko, as they called the Moslem, accepting as a challenge the first mysterious shot from scrubby nullahs of that terrible peninsula. Many of the Turkish snipers were elaborately painted so as to harmonise with the hillside desert, on 'protective resemblance' lines. Some were clothed with leaves and gorse. A Syrian sergeant who tumbled out of a tree was green all over—cap, uniform, face, hands, and rifle! And they approached our trenches in similar disguise, either to shoot or throw bombs. The Turks are brave and clever snipers,' the testimony of Lieuteuant-Colonel Leslie Wilson, D.S.0., M.P. 'They often put small trees on their backs, and so creep up to us. I watched a bush which I thought shook unduly, though there was not a breath of wind. We got on to with massed volleys, and that bush quivered for the last time.'

"'To snipe is verb of grim and fateful meaning which was added to the military vocabulary during the Boer War. For it was dour marksmen of the veldt who taught our Army the value of cover in the advance. It was the Afro-Dutchman who showed how deadly an acquisition the prowling rifleman could be—the wily duellist of dark or day, knowing no will but his own,' carrying optical aids and ample stores for the long and luring game man-stalking with a thousand weapons pitted against his own.

"In this War of wars every wile and guile of bushcraft has been tried by snipers of all ranks and races, from the German to Ghurka, from the man of Anzac to the Turk—not to mention Tommy of our own rank and file, who absorbed the lessons of them all, and sprang a few of his own with an artless art which utterly confounded the foe. Of all the dread noises of war, none is more feared or more sinister and sure, than zip and whine and put-t-t of the sniper's bullet, For the man who counts exacts close obedience of his machine.

"A special section of trench was reserved for the exclusive use of one of our 'star' Australians, and he had observers ever on the watch for possible prey. He had the patience of Job, this giant of quiet eye, with the telescopic sights and sensitive finger which never left the trigger. No cat ever watched a mouse-hole more intently than did that man of Anzac, standing on the fire-step of his trench, with every range measured to a yard. So accurate was his aim that be could smash a lead pencil at two hundred yards."


I was thinking of starting a thread to determine if anyone had seen any evidence of the existence of the Prussian graveyard sniper mentioned :whistle: , but then discovered that the article referred to is readily available on line on the Internet Archive site: The Work of Sniping in the War by Walter G. Ford [Page 281 Windsor Magazine - an illustrated monthly for men and women, Vol. XLIV June to Nov 1916 (Ward, Lock & Co. Ltd); originally published in edition No. 260, August 1916] and guess who turns up in the full article - yes, the fabled Turkish women snipers, but as well as one working from a thicket in isolation, also a brace working from up in a tree:


....Strangest of all were the Turkish women snipers, of whom many were brought in. The Anzac-Suvla zone was haunted by an evil spirit which defied all skilled exorcism for a while. Men who went out to draw water after dark never came back from the well of death. It grew intolerable. A regular battue was organised at last, and cunning watch was rewarded by a tell-tale flash from the dense bush.

It was a Turkish matron whom the avengers hauled forth, and about her neck was a treasured string of identity discs-gruesome proof which enabled the sniping Amazon to draw head-money from her German Masters.

"The second day we were here," writes Sergeant Murdock, of the Queen's from the same theatre of war, "our machine-gun officer tumbled two female snipers out of a tree. A party of our lads went up to inspect the 'lady-birds' nest. They brought down two thousand rounds and tinned provisions for a month at least."

There's no reason to suspect that this is nothing more than the author weaving into his text what he's read elsewhere, particularly as there's no apparent mention of him having any military rank, or personal experiences of snipers or sniping. However I don't think there's been any previous mention of the 'Queen's' (presumably the Royal West Surrey Regiment , but there could, possibly, be other contenders) having been involved or of a witness (?) account of a Sergeant Murdock.

A composite Bn of the 2/4 & 2/5 Territorial Bns of the Queen's did, with the 53rd Divn., spend some time at Gallipoli in July-December '15, and a couple of Sergeant Murdock/Murdochs did serve with the Regiment, with one of them, Sergt (later Lieut with RW Kent's) GF Murdock (1084) given, from his MIC which doesn't directly connect him with either the 2/4 or 2/5 Bns, as entering theatre, 'M.E.F. 16/7/15' which does correspond with the arrival of the Queen's in the Med.

There's no mention in the 2/4th Queen's War diary of the capture of women snipers (what a surprise), but the entry for the night of the 9th/10th August '15 does, indicate that they were troubled by - presumably- more regular ones, give: 'Much firing from one front, & from snipers all round' after they'd had to retired back to former Turkish trenches they'd started out from having sustained heavy casualties (given as 8 officers & 250men) during an attack on Hill 70 'Owing to heavy fire from our guns in the rear and the fact that all scrub on the hill was ablaze'

So, once again nothing to prove (or disprove, depending on whether your glass is half full or half empty!) the existence of Turkish women snipers.

The Windsor Magazine article does includes quite a few photographs, and a quick glance through the index indicates that there might be other GW related articles that may be of interest.

NigelS

P.S has anyone seen anything further on the Prussian graveyard sniper...?

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