A Prisoner in Turkey by John Still
This book, like most books, consists both of facts and opinions. In order to fortify the facts, and so that it may be clearly seen that the opinions are justified, a number of extracts from the “Report on the Treatment of British Prisoners of War in Turkey,” which was presented to Parliament in November, 1918, are included here by the special permission of the Controller of His Majesty’s Stationery Office. So few people read Government publications that this course seems necessary.
In this official report it is stated that out of 16,583 British and Indian prisoners “Believed Captured,” 3,290 are dead, and 2,222 untraced and almost certainly dead. But this report was compiled before the end of the war and is admittedly incomplete. I do not know the actual statistics, which must by now be available, nor do I know where to obtain them. But, as stated in the book, we in Turkey believed that about 75 per cent, of the British rank and file perished within two years of being captured. It may be that we were unduly pessimistic ; it is very sincerely to be hoped that we were, and on the whole it seems probable. But I leave the figure unaltered in the text, for it was our sincere belief after very difficult and laborious enquiries made secretly. In the official report the figures show that of a total of 4,932 British believed captured, no less than 2,289 are either dead or untraced. This amounts to 46 per cent. It would be interesting to know the final figures.
The extracts taken from the report have been selected because they are either general in character or have special reference to Angora or Afion Kara Hissar, the two camps I knew personally.
I am indebted to three fellow-prisoners for the photograph reproduced as a frontispiece to this book, for the piece of music, for reading the MS., and for reading the proofs.
Extracts from a Report on the Treatment of British Prisoners of War in Turkey
The history of the British prisoners of war in Turkey has faithfully reflected the peculiarities of the Turkish character. Some of these, at any rate to the distant spectator, are sufficiently picturesque; others are due to the mere deadweight of Asiatic indifference and inertia ; others again are actively and resolutely barbarous. It has thus happened that at the same moment there have been prisoners treated with almost theatrical politeness and consideration, prisoners left to starve and die through simple neglect and incompetence, and prisoners driven and tormented like beasts. These violent inconsistencies make it very difficult to give a coherent and general account of the experience of our men. Almost any unqualified statement can be contradicted again and again by undoubted facts; and the whole subject seems often to be ruled by nothing but pure chance.
Yet on the whole there are two principles which may be detected as influencing the behaviour of the Turk in this matter, first and last, one being an affair of deliberate policy, the other instinctive and customary. Mixed in with a good deal of easy-going kindness, there is always to be found the conviction that it can matter little what becomes of the ordinary mass, so long as compliments are paid to the great. It has doubtless been a real surprise to the Turkish mind, even in high places, to learn that the rights of the common soldier are seriously regarded by western opinion—the rights, moreover, of a few thousand disarmed men who could be no longer used in battle. This principle has not always been effective, it must be added, in its application to prisoners of higher rank, as some of the following pages will abundantly show; but it has seldom failed in the treatment of the rank and file. These have had small reason in their helplessness to regard the Turk as that chivalrous and honourable foe of whom we have sometimes heard.
It need scarcely be said that the level of surgical and medical skill is low in Turkey. There are good doctors, but not many of them, and it is only in Constantinople that they are to be found. In the provincial towns the hospitals are nearly always places of neglect and squalor, where a sick man is simply left to take his chance of recovery, a chance greatly compromised by Turkey’s total indifference to the first rudiments of sanitation. Such hospitals are naturally the last to be provided with adequate stock or equipment of any kind; and even if some modern appliance is by fortune forthcoming, it will probably be beyond the local talent to make use of it. In a very horrible Red Crescent hospital at Angora, for example, there was at one time seen an excellent German disinfecting apparatus standing idle amidst the filth, because no one could tell how it was worked. It is fair to say that in such places there is no distinction between the treatment of prisoners and that of Turkish sick or wounded; all suffer alike by reason of a state of civilisation centuries out of date.
It was characteristic, too, that until the end of 1916, or even later, the only clearing-station that existed in the city, where the men discharged from hospital were collected until they could be sent into the interior, was apparently the common civil prison, a most vile and filthy place, in which many of our men lay for weeks until the convenient moment happened to come for removing them. At first they were lodged there in ordinary cells; later they would occupy the gallery of a large hall, where their tedium was relieved by witnessing the vociferous floggings of the criminals on the floor below. This would seem to be the same prison as that in which certain British naval officers have at different times undergone most barbarous punishment (in the name of “reprisals “), by being confined for many weeks underground, without sight of day, in solitude and severe privation. As a collecting place for prisoners from hospital it was superseded in 1917 by a camp at Psamatia, a suburb of the city, installed in a disused Armenian school and church. This was at first a dirty and disagreeable place; though supposed to be in some measure for convalescents, it was always a struggle to get so much as a wash there ; but under a better commandant it was improved later on.
But before going further we may give what is in effect the substance of our whole report—the epitome, in unmistakable terms, of the story of the prisoners’ treatment. The officially announced figures of the mortality among them, so far as are known up to the present date, give the exact measure of the meaning of captivity in Turkey. The total number of officers and men believed to have been taken prisoners by the Turks from the beginning of the war is 16,583. Of these 3,290 have been reported dead, while 2,222 remain untraced, and we must believe that they, too, have almost all perished unnamed, how or where we cannot tell in any single case. They all belonged to the force which surrendered at Kut, and it is therefore certain that they passed living into Turkish hands, but not one word was ever afterwards heard of any of them. The story we shall now tell is the only light that can now be thrown upon their fate.
Afion, indeed, has a hideous record for the flogging of prisoners—punishment which was habitual there, for the most trifling offences, while the place was under the control of a certain Turkish naval officer. This man ruled with a cow-hide whip, from which the offender received a given number of lashes on his bare back. Many specific instances are known and noted. Fortunately the man’s behaviour became notorious, and the Turkish Government, under pressure, removed him early in 1917. He had had time, however, to add to the burden of the unhappy men from Kut, whose appearance when they reached Anon is vividly remembered by the prisoners who were already there. Some of them naked, many half out of their minds with exhaustion, most of them rotten with dysentery, this band of survivors was received with deep sympathy by the rest, who did all they might to restore them, small as their own resources were. In very many cases it was too late. The sick men were placed in the camp hospital; but this was a hospital in not much more than the name, for though there was a Turkish doctor in attendance, with some rough Turkish orderlies, medicines were non-existent, and a man too ill to look after himself had a very poor chance. Deaths were frequent; the dead were buried by their comrades in the Christian cemetery of the town. All this time, close at hand, there was a party of British officers imprisoned at Anon, two of whom were officers of the medical service. Yet all communication between officers and men was flatly forbidden, under heavy penalty, throughout the bad time of 1916 and even later. English doctors had thus to wait inactive, knowing that the men were dying almost daily, a few yards off, for mere want of proper care.
Angora is another camp which began very badly. In the spring of 1917 (it had already been in use for a year and a half) there were seventy-five prisoners lodged here in two rooms of a very insanitary house, which caused outbreaks of typhus. There was a brutal sergeant-major in charge and a free use of the whip. Conditions have improved as Angora has become the centre of the working groups engaged in laying the narrow-gauge line towards Yozgad. By May, 1917, the chief settlement was under canvas, in a healthy position about twenty miles from the town, moving forward as the work progressed. A little later we hear of kind treatment on the part of the Turkish officers. By the end of the year there was rather a large concentration of British prisoners in this district; and although they were short of clothing and suffered much from the winter cold—snow was thick in December—the general treatment was considerate. The men appear to have considerably impressed the Turks by their power of bearing up and adapting themselves to hard circumstances.
The Turkish Government has announced that in its zeal for the comfort of the British officers in its hands, the finest situations in Asia Minor have been chosen for their internment; and if a prisoner of war were in the position of a summer tourist in peace-time this consideration would be admirable. Yozgad, Kastamuni, Afion-Kara-Hissar, Gedis, are places of interest and beauty; the mountain scenery of Central Anatolia is very striking, the summer climate excellent. Unfortunately this attractive landscape is buried deep in snow throughout the winter; the cold is intense, the places named being from three to four thousand feet above sea-level; communication with the outer world (Afion alone is on the railway) becomes difficult or almost impossible; and the picturesque towns, with their streams and valleys and mediaeval citadels, have none but the most primitive provision against the rigour of the season. This would be so even in the time of peace. The difficulties of life under such conditions in war-time can hardly be imagined— difficulties partly due to the general scarcity of necessities, but also much aggravated by Turkish incompetence and disorganisation. With each winter the officers have had to face the prospect of something like famine and destitution, well knowing that they must rely on their own hampered efforts, if they were to get through.
In writing of them one must, in fact, put aside all idea that the care of prisoners is the business of their captors. In Turkey it has amounted to Mi is—that British officers have been sent to live m places where at least it is very hard to keep body and soul together—have there been put under various restrictions and disadvantages—and have then been left to support themselves as best they might. They have had to pay for practically everything they needed beyond bare housing, and sometimes even for this.
After Broussa the most conveniently placed camp, so far as officers are concerned, is Afion-Kara-Hissar, though its direct communication with the capital by railway did not save the prisoners from severe privation in the winter of 1917-18. The few things there were to buy were then at prohibitive cost; and the general state of affairs may be judged by the fact that on Christmas Day, there being no firewood and twenty degrees of frost, the officers took their dinner in bed, as the only place where they could keep a little warm. Afion was one of the earliest formed prison camps in Turkey. In the spring of 1918 there were 100 British officers here, and 120 Russians. This is too large a number for the accommodation, and still more for the resources of the town.
They are lodged in a number of empty houses between the town and the station, which is about two miles away. These houses are in two groups, forming the so-called upper and lower camps, though they are not camps in the sense of being enclosed in any sort of compound. They seem to be fairly satisfactory in good weather, but they are very primitive. In the buildings, more or less unfinished, of the lower camp there was at first no provision for heating and no glass in the windows. By the early part of 1917 the officers had arranged a routine for themselves which the vexatious, sometimes maddening, inefficiency and caprice of the Turk did not seriously interfere with. They had books and games indoors, fixed hours of study, and a flourishing run of amateur theatricals. Out of doors they were cramped, but there were some limited chances of cricket. Once a week the two umps could visit each other, under escort, and t here was another weekly outing when they could no for country walks.
The constant trial was not bad treatment, but the stupid and irritating notions of the commandant and his subordinates on the score of discipline. The natural indolence, the want of organisation, the dirty habits and customs of the Turks, their inveterate and irrational lying, all meant a wearisome wastage of time and temper. The commandant had the mark of the typically incompetent manager—a fondness for imposing sudden and teasing regulations, without the will to enforce them consistently. Thus at one time it was decreed that everyone must be fully dressed for the 8 a.m. roll-call, at another that all lights must be out by 9.30 in the evening, at another that no officer should rest on his bed during the day; such rules would be rigidly insisted upon for a few days, till the novelty wore off, and then helplessly abandoned. It is recorded, indeed, that soon after the “lights out ” rule was started, the commandant himself dropped in at 11 p.m. one night to visit the officers of the lower camp; he found them all up, stayed for a talk and a glass of Greek brandy, and made no further allusion to the matter. This is the amiable side of the Turkish misrule. It is the other that has since become prominent at Afion, till the place compared badly with other camps for the stupid tyranny of its control. It is not surprising if the officers have felt themselves back in an ill-managed nursery, with its rotation of indulgence and random severity.
Here for the present ceases our information with regard to the officers’ camps in Asia Minor. There are others—Eskichehir and Konia—which are reserved for Indian officers only; but of these little is known beyond the fact that the prisoners enjoy complete local freedom. Eskichehir was supposed to be the “depot modele” of the empire, and the late Sultan even ordained that the officers there might keep their swords. But so far as the British officers are concerned, our sketch will have indicated the main lines of their daily routine, its security on the whole from the worst forms of coercion, and on the other hand its exposure to grave risk and hardship. Fully to understand what their existence is like, one must of course amplify the picture in many ways, the chief of which is perhaps the deadly monotony of its isolation. All communication with the world outside is endlessly uncertain and broken. Between these prisoners and their friends at home, who only ask to be allowed to send them the help they need, there lies a mass of corrupt and torpid inefficiency, a barrier almost impossible to overcome because incalculable and irrational. The due and punctual censoring of the prisoners’ mails, for example, has apparently been beyond the resources of the Turkish Empire. The authorities have never been able to establish any system by which parcels, letters and books, might be regularly scrutinised at the various camps. These are all dealt with at Constantinople, with long and exasperating delays. A novel for an hour’s reading, say, is delivered to an officer in Asia Minor; it will instantly be taken from him, returned to the Capital, and there lost to sight for months before it is discovered to be inoffensive and allowed to proceed. For a long while the prisoners’ letters were cut down to the barest minimum both in number and length, because the censor at headquarters could not deal with more. It appears that it has not been possible to carry out this work in the camps for the highly Turkish reason that the various authorities concerned mistrusted each other too deeply.
The housing, feeding, and medical care of the prisoners, the delivery of their parcels and correspondence, their pay, the exchange of invalids and others, the inspection of internment camps, and the thousand and one details of the treatment of prisoners, have been the subject of constant attention and voluminous correspondence, hampered not only by the callous obstinacy of the Turkish Government, but by the failure of Turkish officials even to read the communications addressed to them.
A Prisoner in Turkey
At dawn on the 9th of August, 1915, the 9th Battalion of the East Yorkshire Regiment received an order to attack the great hill that towers above Anafarta. The order was late, hours too late, for the messenger had lost his way ; so, although we did not know it at the time, we had already forfeited our chance, and were launched upon a forlorn endeavour.
The rampart of hills to the east of us was black against the chill, pale sky as we moved out across the grey flats that led up to the foot of Teke Tepe, towering up to nearly 1,000 feet ahead of us. And we came under fire from our right flank almost from the very start.
The foot-hills of the range were rough with boulders, and deep cut by rocky ravines. As we moved on and on, up and up, men got lost in the prickly scrub oak, holly they called it, and it became increasingly difficult to maintain any sort of formation. But the enemy’s fire grew in volume as we mounted, poured into us at ever decreasing range from the right and from the front.
In that hour my admiration for the splendid courage of the men rose to a pitch of exaltation. They were Yorkshire miners for the most part, dogged, hard men of the sturdiest breed on earth. Those who were hit stayed where they fell, and those who were whole climbed on. The only complaint heard upon that hill-side was that no enemy could be seen to fire upon. So there was but little reply from our rifles as we went on up.
About thirty of us reached the top of the hill, perhaps a few more. And when there were about twenty left we turned and went down again. We had reached the highest point and the furthest point that British forces from Suvla Bay were destined to reach. But we naturally knew nothing of that. All that we knew was that the winding ravine down which we retreated alternately exposed us to rifle fire from the enemy above and protected us. Hid us and revealed us. A sapper major who walked with me, after a long silence said, “Are you married?” “Yes,” I replied. “If it were not for that this would be good fun,” said the major. So we agreed that one of us got out he should go and see the Other’s wife. And it fell to me to do it; for he was shot through the ankle soon after that, and an hour later was bayoneted in cold blood by a Turk.
We hoped that the foot of the ravine would tiring us out among our own supports at the bottom of the hill. But the enemy held it.
Five out of all those who had gone up got down again alive.
We reached the point where the ravine ended, mid in the scrub ahead of us we saw a number of men who fired upon us. For a moment we I bought they were our own, firing in ignorance. Then we saw that they were Turks. We had inn into the back of an enemy battalion which held the lower slopes against our supports. They had crossed the range at a point lower than that we had attacked, and had cut in behind our climbing force. We could do nothing but surrender.
When we held up our hands some dozen or more of the enemy charged towards us with fixed bayonets. And we began to experience that strange mixture of nature, so characteristic of the Turks, from which we and our fellows were to suffer much in the years to come.
The man who took possession of me searched my pockets and annexed everything of military use except my revolver, which had fallen out of my hand a minute before, when I had been knocked down by a bullet that glanced off a rock on to my leg. He took out my purse and saw that it contained five sovereigns in gold (more than I have ever seen since) and a good deal in silver. Then he gave it back to me, and apparently told me to keep it. The pay of a Turkish private is, or was, ten piastres a month, nominally about one shilling and eight-pence. My captor was a good Turk. Later on, when I came to know how rare good Turks were, I was filled with marvel.
Of those taken with me, one was not molested; one was fired at from five yards’ distance, missed, and quietly captured; one was beaten and fired at. Thank God the man who fired at him hit the man who was beating him and broke his wrist. The fourth, my Colonel, was bayoneted. Then, for the moment their fury ceased. I was permitted to tend the Colonel. He did not seem to suffer pain at all, only to be intensely thirsty. He drank the whole of the contents of my water-bottle as well as his own. They even allowed me to carry him on my back; and on my back the Colonel died. May he rest in peace! He was a brave man, and a good friend to me.
Brief though my personal experience of battle was, it has left two lasting convictions. One that wounds from which men die are rarely painful, at any rate for a considerable time after they have been inflicted. And another that men actually in action neither fear nor even expect death. As we climbed up that hill on August the 9th; as we dwindled down to fifty, to thirty, to twenty; as we retreated down that winding, trench-like ravine, and dwindled to five, I was not blind. I was not even fighting, but only being fought. There was but little chance to fire back, and only once did I get a bead on an enemy target. There was nothing extraordinarily exciting about it. Mostly it was hard work, rough and prickly, and I was tired. My brain was quite clear. I saw and realized the odds. But I never expected to be killed, though I knew for certain that nearly everyone else would be. It was not courage, for I have trembled with fear on other occasions. It is my fixed belief that this is the ordinary and instinctive attitude of the normal mind. And it is very comforting.
For a time that ranks in my memory longer than some years, and which may have endured for an hour, we were held prisoners just behind the Turkish fighting line. We had been joined by one other captured private and were again five. It was not a pleasant time. Several times we were apparently condemned to death. Once an officer took out his pistol to shoot us and was prevented by a priest, an Imam with a turban on, who wrestled with him and took his pistol away. Once Derrick and I, the two officers, were put up against a bank to be bayoneted : an unpleasant, ticklish sensation as the steel swings back. But somehow or other it did not come off. When the Turks pushed we were fairly safe; and when our friends pushed the guards threatened to kill us. Personally, I confess to very torn emotions regarding that small section of that particular battle, though it may seem cowardly to do so. I did not honestly hope the Turks would be pushed back just then.
My slight wound was tied up, and we received at last an order to move to the rear. An order from an Asiatic when you have lived for eighteen years in Asia is a strange experience . . .
After three days of Taxim we were told that it had been decided to send us to Angora, where we would enjoy perfect liberty. None of us had a very clear idea where Angora was, but we knew it must be a pleasant change from Taxim.
There were not many preparations to make; no packing. My own luggage consisted, I remember, of a bit of soap, a tooth-brush, and a few other odds and ends, all contained in a paper bag tied up with a bootlace : the sort of bag you buy buns in. And I was one of the richest of the prisoners. I was rich in another respect, besides this wealth of luggage, although at that time I did not know it: for my prison hobby, art, industry, or whatever it may be called, had already started. For some reason or other the spirit moved me to write verses while a captive, and the first of all, u short poem entitled ” Captivity ” was written before we left Constantinople. This strange, and to me quite abnormal, habit endured for the whole of my thirty-nine months as a prisoner. It is good to have a pipe and tobacco in captivity, and it is good to have blankets, but it is even better than these to have an absorbing occupation.
We left Taxim early in the morning of the 25th of August and were ferried across the Bosphorus to Haida Pasha station. Technically speaking, we stood now for the first time in Asia, though, morally speaking, where the Turk rules there is Asia. We knew that Angora was a long journey: two days they told us, and it actually took thirty-six hours. But I think the vast size of Anatolia was rather a surprise to us all. In all ordinary atlases Asia Minor is shown on such a tiny scale that its hugeness is lost to mind.
Several officers and an armed guard accompanied us in the train, but only two individuals remain in my memory. One was a thick-set, short, fierce man of early middle age. He had one eye only, and his neck was almost circled by a frightful scar as though he had been operated upon by a blunt guillotine and then healed up again like the wolf in the fairy story who becomes a prince when you cut off his head. Only he had not gained the true, handsome, debonair appearance of a prince. He looked, and probably was, a very efficient murderer not yet on pension. His person bulged with lumps of muscle, daggers and pistols; and I am sure the interpreter meant to speak the truth when he told me that this ferocious person was one of the chiefs of the secret police. He was in charge of the party. The interpreter himself was the other member of our party who impressed me. He travelled in t he same compartment with us, and talked freely the whole way. He was the “Young Turk” complete, and ardent upholder of the Union and Progress party. When war broke out between England and Turkey he was in America, and he hoped to return there after the war. But, very patriotically, he came back to serve his country. He sailed in a Dutch ship, and touched at Plymouth on the way, where, he informed me, he went ashore under the guise of a Persian. He must, I think, have represented the mental attitude of his party very fairly. He was an undoubted patriot, and Turkey for the Turks was his keenest wish: but by the Turks he meant what is really a very small minority of the Ottoman tribe, and the other subjects of the Empire only concerned him as obstacles to be removed. He was the first person from whom we learned anything of the organised massacre of the Armenians then in progress. He told me that at Van the Turks had killed all the Armenians, men, women, and children; and he would agree to no condemnation of this dreadful act. “They were bad people,” was his invariable reply. Nominally this man was a Mohammedan, whose feud with the Armenians had lasted for centuries, but actually he was an advanced Turkish freethinker, and, except perhaps subconsciously, I don’t think religious feeling had anything to do with the bitterness he expressed. It was purely political. The Armenian is very much cleverer than the Turk, very stubborn, and impossible to assimilate. Turks of my acquaintance’s kind look upon Armenians as an enemy race, a weed that must at all cost be eradicated. But his ambitions in the direction of destroying opposition to the Young Turk ideals did not stop with the slaughter of Christian subjects. Quite logically, from his point of view, he realised that the reactionary influence of the Old Turk party was an even more dangerous weed in the garden of progress than was Christianity. His hatred was directed particularly against the orthodox Mohammedans, and especially against the teachers and students of Islamic divinity. “When we have finished this war,” he said, “we are going to kill all the lmams. Their false teaching keeps the race from advancing.”
I wonder if such people ever pursue their thoughts to an ultimate conclusion! After wiping out all who were not of their own way of thinking, there would remain a depleted race in n vast undeveloped territory where no immigrants would dare to settle, even if they were welcomed. All capital would be frightened away: labour would be scarce : and the strongest of their neigh-hours would swallow them up. At the time I knew no name for this intense feeling, this mental obsession. But in the light of time it now looks like pure Bolshevism.
It seems that I have drawn a very revolting character. But the interpreter’s was not wholly that. On the whole, he was the best man I met among the many interpreters who dealt with us during the next three years. He was fond of some of the beautiful things of life, a lively critic of literature, a reader of poetry, both English and Turkish, and, from his own account, a personal friend of those among his compatriots who were foremost in striving to rouse their countrymen to intellectual endeavour. I loathed the man’s ideas but rather liked the man. It seemed that he suffered from the absorption of a wrong tone; almost from a disease of the soul, but an infectious disease, not an innate deformity : a calamity of environment, not of heredity. There was something exceedingly sad in the picture he drew of a great national effort going hopelessly astray because its ideals were false. But he did not see that the picture was sad. He thought it glorious.
For the first part of the journey we skirted the Sea of Marmora, along the flanks of bare hills, now tunnelling through promontories, and now looking down upon blue bays. There were trenches dug all along the coast, and armed guards at every bridge and culvert. Far away, to the south-east, we saw forest-covered hills. Then the line turned inland, past the town and lake of Ismid, through a valley of orchards where the apples were almost breaking the trees, and up into the foot-hills. This part of Anatolia is exceedingly fertile wherever the slopes are not too steep to dig. But the hills are very barren, only fit for the most part for the nomad life of the Turkish sheep- and goat-herds. We travelled through hills and valleys all that afternoon, and by dusk had begun the climb that leads up to the great plateau of Asia Minor. The railway followed the line of a river up the valley it had cut through the hills. Followed it up until it became a stream, and followed it on until it became a rushing mountain torrent crossed and re-crossed by the line.
When dawn broke the engine was panting up the last few miles of the incline, and we ran out into a wide land of rolling downs and farm country, three thousand feet above the level of the sea. Having lived in mountains before I foresaw a very cold winter.
It was not very long after this that we began to see the Armenians.
As everyone knows now, the late summer and the autumn of 1915 saw organised, State-supported massacre of the Armenians carried out in Turkey on a scale unknown previously in modern history, perhaps unparalleled in all history. I shall not attempt any comprehensive account of this national crime, for the whole story is already contained in the blue book on the subject, printed by the British Government, and edited by Viscount Bryce. Those who wTish to hear the details of how somewhere about one million men, women and children were outraged, tortured and done to death can refer to that book. I will only say that the many isolated facts gathered from many sources during my three years in Turkey all piece together in that book so completely that no doubt exists in my mind regarding its truth. The blue book is a sincere and unexaggerated statement of fact, not a propaganda war book. It rings true from beginning to end.
The first sight we had of the Armenians who were being deported was a large straggling camp of women and children close beside the railway line. We had no idea at the time that their men folk were already dead, or that they were almost all doomed to death or domestic slavery. It looked merely like a very large, very ill-organised gypsy encampment. Those women and children were awaiting trains to convey them hundreds of miles from their homes into the most inhospitable regions of Asia Minor. Ahead of them they had days of travel in trains, camps where the girls would be sorted out again and again until only the ugliest were left; and, at the end, a march where nearly all of them would die from fatigue. For the Turkish way is to drive, on and on, wearily on, until almost all are dead. They did it to the Armenians in 1915, and in 1916 they did it to the captured garrison of Kut-el-Amara.
We passed several trainloads of these wretched refugees. They were in trucks mostly, terribly overcrowded, and some of them were in sheep trucks in two stories, the lower tier only able to crouch. The interpreter told me they were being sent lo a very hot district where they could do no harm. “They are bad people,” he added.
There were a few boys among them, and a few old men. The rest had been murdered.
Buy the ebook here: