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Title: A Prisoner in Turkey
Author: Still, John
Language: English
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  _ON ACTIVE SERVICE SERIES_

  A PRISONER IN TURKEY



  _By the Same Author_

  POEMS IN CAPTIVITY

  _THE BODLEY HEAD_



  [Illustration: THE KARA HISSAR

  The Armenian Church appears just to the right of the large white
  building in the centre of the picture, at the foot of the crag]



  A PRISONER IN TURKEY

  BY JOHN STILL


  [Illustration]


  LONDON: JOHN LANE, THE BODLEY HEAD, W.
  NEW YORK: JOHN LANE COMPANY.      MCMXX



  PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN BY R. CLAY AND SONS, LTD.,
  BRUNSWICK STREET, STAMFORD STREET, S.E. 1, AND BUNGAY, SUFFOLK.



FOREWORD


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 dead-weight 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.[1]


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 Afion 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 Afion, 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 mediæval 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 this--that British officers have been sent to live in 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 camps could visit each other, under escort,
and there was another weekly outing when they could go 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 “depôt modèle” 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.



CONTENTS


  CHAPTER I
                                                     PAGE
  THE DARDANELLES                                      27


  CHAPTER II

  CONSTANTINOPLE                                       41


  CHAPTER III

  THE ARMENIANS                                        57


  CHAPTER IV

  THE WANK                                             72


  CHAPTER V

  ANGORA                                               91


  CHAPTER VI

  THE FIRST WINTER                                    109


  CHAPTER VII

  AFION-KARA-HISSAR                                   127


  CHAPTER VIII

  THE ARMENIAN CHURCH                                 144


  CHAPTER IX

  THE LOWER CAMP                                      162


  CHAPTER X

  THE SECOND YEAR                                     179


  CHAPTER XI

  THE LAST YEAR IN AFION                              195


  CHAPTER XII

  OUR ALLIES                                          208


  CHAPTER XIII

  THE BERNE CONVENTION                                220


  CHAPTER XIV

  SMYRNA                                              229


  CHAPTER XV

  THE SHIP                                            249



A PRISONER IN TURKEY



CHAPTER I

THE DARDANELLES


At dawn on the 9th of August, 1915, the 6th 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. “It it
were not for that this would be good fun,” said the major. So we agreed
that if 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 bring 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, and in the scrub ahead of
us we saw a number of men who fired upon us. For a moment we thought
they were our own, firing in ignorance. Then we saw that they were
Turks. We had run 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 eightpence. 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 Imâm 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. I disliked it.

Two guards with loaded rifles and fixed bayonets took us back over the
hill once more. We wound wearily and painfully up a ravine more or less
parallel to the one we had come down. All the way we were meeting enemy
reinforcements hurrying to the fighting-line, most of them carrying
cardboard boxes of cartridges. Rough, brigand-like fellows they seemed,
but very fine infantry. They were the pick of the Ottoman army. Twice
our guards had to stand before us and beat off would-be assassins with
the butts of their rifles, and once I was struck heavily across the head
by a sword-bayonet, but saved by my topee. The whole thing seemed then
and still seems rather like a dream, and we walked as men detached from
our surroundings.

Near the top of the hill the ravine grew steeper, and at last ended. An
aeroplane, one of our own, was circling round the summit of Teke Tepe,
spotting for the naval guns; and we all lay low while British shells
burst on the rocks about us. The only Turks they seemed likely to harm
were our guards. For, far below we could see that a battle was in
progress. We could see the white crusted salt on the lake, and the
pinkish-brown of Lala Baba hill, from which I had watched, three days
before, the storming of Chocolate Hill, like a scene in a theatre. There
were British transports in the bay, and outside were British warships
cruising slowly while puffs of smoke broke from their sides. These were
the last British ships we were to see for more than three years.

We had to run over the crest of the hill, and down a little way into
safety on the other side, safety from our own guns. And for the first
time I think we felt the pang of lost children. Out of sight of our
ships seemed somehow much further than did the other side of the hill
from all touch with England.

We halted in safety and sat down, out of breath, while our guards
fraternized with a small party of Turkish soldiers and smoked
cigarettes. Then we moved on again, and passed away into Turkey.

Worn and very, very thirsty, we were taken that afternoon to the
headquarters of General Liman von Sanders, Commander-in-Chief of the
enemy forces on Gallipoli; and there we found some more of our men with
one more officer. Von Sanders was looking at the samples he had drawn.
He has been accused of many things since then, for all I know quite
justly; but to us he was not unkind. His staff gave us a meal in their
quarters, and he gave two Turkish pounds to our men. But the kindness to
the men did not extend far beyond his sight. When next we saw them, some
ten days later, they described how their Turkish guards had robbed them
of their boots and made them run for several miles bare-foot over rough
ground. Still, to us the General was civil, though he did say that
International Law no longer existed. One of his staff, a German naval
officer, told us that they found it almost impossible to get the Turks
to take prisoners, or, having taken them, to keep them alive. We, too,
had observed this reluctance.

From Liman von Sanders’s headquarters to the Turkish general
headquarters was about three miles by the way we went, and we arrived
there after dark. We were four officers now, all of the 11th Division,
and we did not see our men again until much later, in Constantinople.

We were kept in a tent for three days at the Turkish G.H.Q., and were
not troubled with many questions. Our interrogation came later. Various
officers came to see us. To look at us, I think. For we were samples,
and on their valuation of us would depend their reports on Kitchener’s
Army. The four of us aggregated about twenty-four feet four inches in
length, and about fifty-three stone in weight, but I do not suppose they
went much on that. General von Sanders had said to our youngest, “Eton?
and Oxford?” and seemed pleased to find that his conjecture was right.
He knew England well, and said that he had been in Ireland not long
before the war. But the Turks were different. They looked at us a good
deal, but ventured no overt guesses as to our antecedents. One Turkish
officer, an Arab rather, and a descendant of the Prophet, as he told us,
had lived in London, and spoke English perfectly. Indeed, he boasted
that in his veins there ran some drops of English blood, and told me the
well-known family that had lent it. Being ignorant of the law of libel,
I will not mention it here. He was a curious being. A violent Moslem,
but not unfriendly to us personally. Indeed, he did me a real good turn,
for he somehow or other sent a telegram for me to my wife and saved her
from that awful anxiety that so many women have had to bear after
receiving notice that their menkind were “missing.”

I liked to listen to this friendly enemy’s conversation. He had an idea
that we had two submarines in the Sea of Marmora based upon the islands
and supplied by the Greeks there.

It was impossible, he said, that our submarines should pass up and down
the straits through all their nets and mines. But was it? Ask the E 7 or
the E 11. Another favourite topic was the recuperative power of Islam.
After this war, the Arab maintained, Turkey would recover much more
quickly than the Western nations. “For,” said he, “we are polygamous. We
use the whole breeding power of our race, which resides in the women.
Women are not being killed. They will all find husbands and bear
children. We shall build up again our full power while you are still
suffering from the deaths of your young men.” There may be much truth in
this. I think that all the enemy staff were very anxious at that time.
They thought the Greeks had come in without declaring war, and one of
my signallers, a short, dark man, a glass-blower from Yorkshire, had
some difficulty in proving to the Turks that he was not a Greek. “Yok!
Yok!” said the Turkish officer, “yok” being the Turkish for “no”; but he
accepted the evidence of a pocketful of letters with English post-marks,
and it probably saved the man’s life--for the time--for he died of hard
treatment two years later. I remember that this man said to me, “They
say ‘Yok, yok,’ sir; they know they have got the East Yorks!” “Yok” was
at that time the only Turkish word I knew, and that and “Yassak,”
meaning “forbidden,” were the words I heard most often in Turkey.

The Turkish staff officers, even as the Germans, told us how hard they
found it to get their allies to take prisoners. The fact was that they
only went in for taking prisoners when they wanted to study our
newly-landed forces. At all other times they murdered them. It is easy
to demonstrate, as I think the following facts will show. On Gallipoli,
I believe something like 700 officers and 11,000 men were posted as
missing. Many of these were dead, of course, but certainly nothing like
all. Of the 700 officers only 17 were taken prisoner, one in every
forty-one; of the 11,000 men about 400 were taken prisoner, one in every
twenty-seven. The details regarding the men I do not know, but the
officers were taken as follows:--

   At the first landing at Anzac                                2

   At Anzac when the August landing at Suvla Bay took place     2

   At Suvla Bay from the 11th Division                          5

   Between Anzac and Suvla, at the same time, from the
     Ghurkas                                                    1

   At or in the region of Cape Hellas at the same time,
     from the 29th Division                                     3

   At Suvla Bay, a few days later, when the Territorials
     landed                                                     2

   At Suvla Bay, again a few days later, from the Yeomanry      1

   And one officer of the Australian forces was taken at the
   Anzac front when no new landing was on                       1
                                                               --
                                                               17

That clearly shows that the prisoners were taken only to gain
information as to the types of our new forces. But I have further
evidence. I was one of four British officers who crossed the Sea of
Marmora in a Turkish torpedo-boat, six days after we were captured. In
the engineers’ quarters with us was a sick Turkish officer, a
Circassian, who spoke French. Of the four British, I happened to be the
only one who could converse with him. He seemed pleased to see us, told
us what a good time we should have in Constantinople; society, women,
fine hotels, and other joys. We were extremely surprised. Then he told
us that an order had come to take some prisoners, “and we have got
some.” We were again surprised, but polite, and conversation continued.
Suddenly he said, “Who are you?” “British officers,” I replied. “Oh!” he
said, “I thought you were invalided Germans!”

Major-General Sir Charles Townshend has stated publicly since returning
to England that the Turk is a sportsman and a clean fighter. This must
have been said in complete ignorance of the whole series of damning
facts which are now in the hands of our Government. I have brought out
one of these facts, and others will appear as the book proceeds.
Major-General Townshend is to the best of my belief singular on this
point among those officers, non-commissioned officers and men who were
his fellow-prisoners in Turkey. The Turk is a master of the game he
plays. A hospital-ship lying off the coast is secure from his artillery,
because of the publicity, not because it is a hospital-ship. A wounded
soldier behind a ridge, hid from the eye of the world’s Press, has about
as much chance with the Turks as he would have with a pack of wolves. An
article I once read in a Turkish paper published in French, an article
upon the damnable wickedness of the Entente, ended in these words:
“C’est nous qui sommes les ‘Gentlemen.’” They wish to play to the
gallery of neutrals, and to pose as humane fighters. But they expected
to win, and they thought the prisoners’ stories would have to wait until
after the war. We managed to evade this last wish of theirs; but of that
later. It has been pointed out that the Turks did not use gas; indeed,
they laughed at our respirators. I have heard, and I believe, that the
true explanation of their reluctance was that they were found too
unhandy and stupid to be trusted not to gas themselves.

There were good Turks; there are good wolves, for I have known one; but
their rarity was above that of rubies.

There is one other question concerning Gallipoli which may fitly come
into this chapter. I do not ask the question, but one of us four was
asked it by General Liman von Sanders, and we did not then, and we do
not now, know the reply. Von Sanders asked, “Why did General Hamilton
send a handful like yours to attack the great hill that commands all my
position. Did he think that I could be so blind as not to defend it
against even a much stronger force?”

On the early morning of the 16th of August we reached the Quay of
Stamboul.



CHAPTER II

CONSTANTINOPLE


We were rather thankful to reach Constantinople. We crossed the Marmora
by night in a rickety little torpedo-boat with something wrong with her
screw, and we hoped to escape being sunk by one of our own submarines.
The danger was a very real one, for it was only a few weeks after this
that a Turkish transport with a number of British prisoners on board was
sunk by one of our E-boats. But in that case they all escaped to barges
alongside. We were sealed up like bully beef in a tin, and would have
had no chance.

At the quay, our escorting officer left us. He bore the euphonious name
of Fa’at Bey, but was not a bad fellow. And, unlike the majority of
Turks, he had travelled and picked up a little English. Many Turkish
officers speak French, and a few German; but knowledge of English is
rare. What strikes one as very curious when first encountered is to find
a Turk speaking English with a strong American pronunciation. The reason
is that several very fine American colleges have been founded in Turkey,
where first-class education is to be had cheaply. Later in our captivity
we were so fortunate as to get to know the staff of one of these
colleges very well, and nothing gives me greater pleasure than to pay
some small tribute to their wonderful, unselfish work. But of that in
another place.

From the quay we were driven in carriages through the streets of
Stamboul, up the hill to the Ministry of War, and there confined in a
fairly large room with blue-tiled embrasures and a very dirty floor.
Heretofore we had lived in tents; we were now to begin our painful
studies of Turkish domestic fauna.

Various Turkish officers came to see us; one tremendous swell,
apparently made up to take a leading part in “Arms and the Man,” was
very impressive. He had the most complete appearance of gilded villainy
that I have ever seen. He was the first, so far as I recollect, to play
the favourite Turkish confidence trick upon us. It is a simple
performance, and we were simple enough to be taken in by it--once. The
procedure is thus:

_Scene_: Dirty room. Dirty prisoners in dirty clothes. Dirty beds. Dirty
walls, covered with stains where former captives have squashed bugs. (Is
that a filthy thing to write? I believe it is. But this is a history,
and I shall have to write worse things than that.)

_Enter_: Gorgeous official, Interpreter with a mean, shifty face, and
other incompetent perverts who look as though they were “walking on” for
five piastres a performance. Probably they actually are.

_Interpreter_: “His Excellency wishes me to tell you that you are not
prisoners, your country and mine are at war, but we are all soldiers.
You are our honoured guests; is there anything that you require? All
will be given you; in a few days you shall have complete liberty.”

_Senior Prisoner_: “Please thank the--General, Pasha, Excellency, Bey,
Effendi, or whatnot; the title does not affect the procedure--We should
like to write letters, to have a bath, to have the beds disinfected, and
to be able to purchase soap, tooth-brushes, underclothes, etc., etc.”

_Interpreter_ (after collusion with the great man): “Certainly, all
these things will be allowed. Is there anything more you require?”

_Prisoners_ make various suggestions.

_Interpreter_: “Yes, of course. You are our honoured guests. In one
hour, perhaps.”

_Exeunt omnes_, except prisoners.

And that is all. That is the whole trick. The keynote is the
interpreter’s final word “perhaps.” Nothing whatsoever happens. The one
hour spins out to many hours, to days, to months, to years. Nothing
whatever comes of the interview. But in the course of time prisoners
learn other means. Our “other means” in the Ministry of War was a
cultivated person, the editor of a newspaper, who was serving in his
country’s army as a private soldier, and who had so far escaped
fighting. He was put on to do us, and he did. But he did, at any rate,
see that our meals were fairly regular, and he bought us tooth-brushes
and a chess-board. Judged by the new standard we were fast assuming, he
was not a bad fellow. I wonder to what extent it is a good thing to
alter one’s standards in that manner. Degradation of principles _versus_
breadth of mind. It is one of the many undermining influences a prisoner
has to combat if he would come back to the world a decent man.

The month was August, still warm, but with autumn and winter ahead of
us. ONE autumn and winter, we thought. We had been captured in
khaki drill, thin stuff only suited for tropical wear. So we were most
agreeably surprised when our ex-editor caterer produced next day a
Nubian person, a deserter of sorts from Egypt, who told us that he would
procure us any clothes we required. Our total resources in actual cash
were very small indeed, but the Nubian explained that our credit was
enormous. Seldom have I felt such affinity to the international
financiers. The lists we compiled were comprehensive and well chosen.
The Nubian was as one taking an order from Rockefeller or Rothschild.
The result was the usual one in Turkey. Nothing of all we had ordered
ever appeared. I forget how many times this farce was repeated. If not
four times it was at least as many as three. At this distance of time I
will not affirm that the lists were identical each time; but at any rate
the result was. So naked as we came into the world of official Stamboul,
thus naked did we depart from it. And perhaps we were lucky to retain
the clothes we had. Other prisoners at different times were robbed of
their uniforms, more frequently of their boots, and among the men, poor
fellows, many had at one time and another to sell their clothes to buy
food. We did, at any rate, get out of that place with all we had brought
in.

On the second day our numbers were doubled, for two officers of the
Worcesters and two from the Australian Division joined us. They had
been captured three days before our own misfortune, but had come the
long way round from Gallipoli by road and rail. I know we looked at them
as the bears in the Zoo might be expected to greet a new companion, but
we soon settled down. About this time a batch of some 150 N.C.O.’s and
men arrived, but we were not allowed to see them for several days. They
were housed in very uncomfortable quarters below the level of the
ground; bad enough, but not so bad as the awful room three naval
officers occupied about a month later.

On one side of the Ministry there was a long, narrow garden, and as our
room was a corner one we looked out both over the garden across the city
and through the end windows. The view over the garden was magnificent.
We could see a corner of the Bosphorus, and the buildings of Pera
stretching away up the opposite hill-side. From the end windows there
was a prospect in two stories, typical of the land of the Turk, a
mixture of squalor and display. The upper storey was a very handsome
grey stone mosque with four slender and very beautiful minarets,
reaching up into the blue sky where birds for ever circled as emblems of
the liberty we longed for. The lower storey was a paved courtyard with
barred windows all along the side that faced us. From behind the bars
came the voices of prisoners and the clank of chains, and through them
we could see a mass of unfortunates either undergoing sentences or
awaiting them; probably the latter; it is mostly waiting in Turkey. We
used to see arms thrust out with small nickel coins in the hands to
bribe their gaolers to fetch their owners food or cups of coffee. I
remember one poor miserable wretch of an albino, with a face like a
very, very thin Angora goat, who used to gibber through the bars all day
long. He looked to me as though he had gone mad, and perhaps he had.
Long afterwards I met a British prisoner who had been thrust in there
among those ghastly creatures for a night, and from his account they
were a queer lot.

In the garden there used to promenade a number of Turkish officers who
apparently had nothing else to do. We thought, of course, that they were
government servants passing away the time until pay-day came along once
more. It was only a natural supposition; but it was completely wrong.
They were, as a matter of fact, prisoners like ourselves. People who had
infringed the Turkish military code, or had been convicted of swindles
sufficiently considerable to entitle them to preferential treatment. In
Turkey, an officer may be convicted of theft, but unless his sentence
exceeds six months he suffers neither loss of his commission nor even
loss of rank. And this is wise, for you could not have an army
consisting of private soldiers only. Even in Russia they do not do that.
So many of them were but biding the time until a benevolent system
should again loose their energies to prove once more that charity begins
at home. But some were of other categories. There was one who
subsequently was so kind as to admit an Englishman into his confidence,
and to explain how to remain an officer, with all its prestige and
honour, while yet avoiding the more distressing features of war, such as
wounds, danger, or even death. This officer, most meritoriously, had
become a master of his country’s military laws. A thing wholly to be
admired in an officer. So skilled was he, and so fertile of resource,
that he knew to a nicety the value of each crime. When war broke out he
promptly committed one, was accused, awaited sentence, served it, and so
escaped that tedious campaign in the frozen Caucasus. On being released,
he selected from his repertory another crime, and bravely committed it,
this time avoiding martyrdom in the Dardanelles. Similarly, he escaped
the perils of that ill-judged attack on the Suez Canal, and, for aught I
know, may at the very present moment be avoiding the infamy of seeing
his country’s capital city occupied by the infidel.

I did not mean to digress into Turkish law, but having done so I will go
one step further in order to describe the procedure which is followed
when a private soldier makes an accusation against an officer. My
authority is the official interpreter who was for a time the bane of our
lives at Afion-Kara-Hissar. On hearing the accusation, the senior
officer determines what the sentence would be for that particular
offence. Having done this justly and with an open palm, he arrests the
accused and condemns him. The accused serves the sentence, whatever it
may be--I believe one hundred and one years is the maximum for serious
charges; and at the expiration of the penalty, the case is tried. The
officer is then found either guilty or not guilty. If the former, he is
politely informed that as he has already paid the price, probably in
every sense of the word, he is now at liberty. The man who accused him
is commended. If, on the other hand, he is found not guilty, he is
reinstated in his former position, and the man who accused him
wrongfully is beaten.

I cannot say whether this is a true description, but it is true that the
interpreter told me this.

And, indeed, why should it not be true? Institutions as well as animals,
even that greatest of animals, man, must subscribe to the natural law of
the survival of the fittest. As already pointed out when describing the
way in which a Turkish officer avoids loss of rank when convicted for
theft, perhaps this arrangement is wise, in the circumstances; perhaps
it fits those circumstances. For in the majority of cases a Turkish
soldier is a more honest man than his officer, and in a high percentage
of cases the accusation must be justified: in the remainder the officer
is probably only paying the penalty of one of his undiscovered crimes.

What with the four new officers and the other ranks, we were by this
time a considerable body, quite large enough to become the living
illustrations of a national triumph. So, in due course, we were paraded
in the square on the opposite side of the Ministry to our outlook, and
were passed before a cinematograph. I do not remember how many times we
circled round that infernal machine while the operator ground the
handle, but it was a good many. By the time he had exhausted the roll of
film we must have made a very creditable appearance, several divisions
at the very least. It was unfortunate for the Turks that they had not a
captured gun to trundle round with us; but, even as it was, we have
played a great part in the world.

At the end of the square, where it abutted upon the street, there was an
arched gateway, something like a Roman triumphal arch, and in the room
above it there resided an arch-villain. We had been in Constantinople
about a week when we were commanded to his presence. He was a very great
man indeed, popularly supposed to be Enver Pasha’s remover-in-chief at a
time when removals of political opponents were frequent. But we did not
know that then; we only knew that he was a magnificent, tawdry and
detestable person. That room lives in my memory as the gold and purple
room. It was hung with velvet and decked with gilt, and the man sat in
it like a frog in an orchid. We were given cigarettes, and were then
informed that the British Government was ill-treating its Turkish
prisoners so disgracefully that reprisals would have to be started. The
infamous English, we were assured, made their Turkish officer prisoners
march naked through the streets as a sport for the populace. What had we
to say about it? Of course we denied the possibility of such a thing
being true. But he remained unconvinced, of our knowledge, if not of
our good faith. The interview left a sense of possible unpleasantness
looming ahead of us.

The next day we received orders to move to a new barracks over in Pera.

When first in Turkey one is inclined to look upon all moves as
desirable. Monotony and stagnation grow upon a prisoner very rapidly,
and the first six months are much the hardest to bear. Any move rumoured
or ordered shines like a light ahead. It must be an improvement, one
thinks, it will in any case be an event, something to mark the passage
of time. But after a year the average prisoner hates moves. By bitter
experience he knows their cost and discomfort, the loss of his small,
painfully-acquired property, and the trouble of settling down again.
Also he knows that, much as he may hate the place he is in, there are
many places worse. Still, we were at the beginning of things then, and
we rejoiced in the move. We were marched down the streets of Stamboul,
with our men, across the bridge over the Golden Horn, and up the steep
street that leads to the top of Pera.

We passed on the way the small French hotel where I had stayed nearly
eight years before, and listened to the howling of the dogs at night.
The populace stared at us, but was not hostile. If any of them had seen
the film of us in our thousands they must have been bitterly
disappointed; or perhaps they thought it natural there should be so few
survivors.

At the very top of the hill, where it bends down again towards the
Bosphorus, we were led into the Taxim barracks. The men were given
several large dormitories; the officers had a small room to themselves.
This did not seem very bad. It was a smaller room than before, and it
had no blue tiles, but otherwise not much worse. Our disillusion came
with the fall of dusk.

That night we fought a battle.

We put up a tremendous struggle against impossible odds and we did not
win.

When the sun set and the light in the room turned grey, forms were seen
stealing down the walls, up the walls, out of the walls, and all over
the walls; but mostly down the walls. Small, brown, flat creatures, easy
to kill with anything hard, even with one’s fingers. They began in tens,
and ended in tens of thousands. And each one of every one of those
thousands was a famished bug. Each one could wake a clean European by
crawling over him, and keep him awake long after it was dead by the
venom it injected into him. We were not very clean Europeans, but we
were clean enough for that. We had not then acquired the stock of
antibug-venene that we had in our veins later. We began by trying to
slay them. We succeeded in slaying many hundreds, but their hosts were
not perceptibly weakened, nor was their natural force abated. Moreover,
they stank. A bug at large smells very noticeably, a bug squashed
stinks. All that night we fought them unavailingly, and at dawn they
drew their undiminished tribes away.

There were three nights like that, and seven of the eight of us hardly
slept a wink the whole time. We slept a little by day. But had we stayed
there long it would have been a hard fight for sanity. As it was, our
nerves got very much on edge, and we were not the cheery companions we
might have been. It may seem childish and hypersensitive to make a fuss
about a few insects, but it was a very real horror; not only the actual
itching, or even the odour, but there is something disgusting and
degrading in being covered with beastly creatures of that sort, and I
have heard pretty rough private soldiers say they felt the same when
first afflicted by lice. “Private” was, I believe, originally short for
“Private Gentleman,” and the old meaning is not infrequently brought
home to one.

Things were rather strained altogether in Taxim barracks. The Turkish
guards were apt to be brutally rough with our men, despite our vigorous
complaints. One solitary Frenchman there was too, a Corsican, and I saw
a Turk kicking him most brutally on the floor one morning. There was
very nearly a real explosion then, but the Turk stopped in time.

It was about this time that I began to realize what a very severe trial
captivity would prove. It did prove so, and in ways I had not then
foreseen. But it became apparent even then that work of some sort would
have to be done if normality of mind were to be conserved. By the end of
the war we had blossomed forth in all sorts of directions, but we were
only feeling our way then.

Without saying or meaning one word against my fellow-prisoners, or even
against myself, it must be clearly understood that first and foremost
among the trials of captivity comes the unavoidable close proximity of
other people. It is the prisoners themselves who are each other’s
principal discomforts. We were all so close to each other; so
permanently in evidence to each other, and so different from one another
that weariness of spirit grew to a pitch no outsider can comprehend.
Bugs are bad, Turks are worse, but eternal neighbourhood is worse
still. _Tout comprendre c’est tout pardonner_; but God alone reaches
that “Tout.”

About the Taxim barracks there was one good thing. There is good in
everything: in a bug it is his squashableness; in a Turk it is his
stupidity; in Taxim it was the orchestra next door.

At the end of the narrow ground we were allowed to tread there was a
sort of public garden, and in the afternoons the band played there.
Twice we were conducted by a Turkish officer, a kindly old thing, to a
bench facing this place of joys, and were allowed to watch the Levantine
society that gathered there. We were even allowed to hail the waiter as
he passed and have coffee handed up for ourselves and our janitor. It
was a good time. We could hear music; we could watch children; and we
could feel very nearly free.

Except for this narrow space, the grounds of Taxim barracks, so far as I
observed, were a graveyard. Tall stones with carven turbans to indicate
men’s graves, flat stones for the graves of women, and gloomy cypress
trees. And through the trees gleamed the Bosphorus.



CHAPTER III

THE ARMENIANS


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, a 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 the 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 Imâms. 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 a 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 neighbours 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 recrossed 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 wish 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 to 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.

Englishmen don’t like Armenians. I don’t myself. Turks loathe them.
Greeks dislike them. In the Caucasus the Georgians hate them. This
almost universal unpopularity is no excuse at all for massacre, but--in
Turkey--it helps to explain it. Where the European avoids, the Turk,
having a different standard, slays. To him they are vermin. Here is a
story told by an Armenian woman to a British officer. It is the story of
a “good Turk”; the expression was the woman’s, not the officer’s. There
was a batch of Armenian women and girls driven on until their drivers
grew weary that they would not die. Sick at heart they grew of the
perpetual driving of these weeping creatures. There were no pretty ones
left, for the most comely will lose their pitiful beauty when starved
long enough. So there was no interest left in being their custodians.
The drivers grew to hate the work, for there was no end to it, and no
reward. So they were herded together and slain. But two survived, a
woman and her daughter. They hid among the corpses and remained there
until the corpses began to crawl. The corpses of their friends and
relations. They had to leave that place, and in great fear they stole
away by night. There were a few Turkish villages not far away, and in
the morning they met a Turk. This was the good Turk of the story. He
stopped them and asked who they were, and they told him. “Come with me,”
he said to the girl, “and I will feed you.” So the girl followed him to
his house, and the mother followed too, though she was not invited. They
reached the house and the Turk went inside. He came out with his gun. “I
do not want the old woman,” he said, as he shot her. But to the girl he
gave food, and did not ill-treat her, for he was a good Turk.

Why do these people hate the Armenians so much?

I think it is partly because the Armenian is usually a successful
merchant, outclassing the Turk in commerce, competing on more than equal
terms with the Greek, and at least rivalling the Jew. But it is chiefly
because the Armenian race has been ground under the heel of a people
naturally their inferiors for so many centuries. It is a survival of the
fittest, and it is the Turks who have made the conditions which the
survivors have had to fit. The whole race has been moulded by the hand
of the Turk. For centuries he has slain all those who displayed the
more manly virtues. He has been like a breeder of sheep who hated black
sheep but feared white. For centuries he has slain the white but
contemptuously allowed many of the black to survive. Unconsciously he
has been a selective breeder on a very large scale; and he has bred the
modern Armenian. If we ourselves, we British who are so proud, had
passed through those dark centuries with the Armenians, we too would be
like they are, or not much otherwise. If the Armenians are protected;
allowed to be successful and to enjoy their success themselves; allowed
to be independent and not suffer for their independence; allowed to be
brave and not to die for their courage; allowed, in a word, fair play,
they will grow into a fine people.

When the great massacres took place there was, among the Armenians, one
strange exception to the universal peril. Most Armenians belong to the
Armenian Church, but a certain number of them are Roman Catholics. I do
not know what happened elsewhere, but in Angora the Roman Catholic
Armenians were not killed, or deported, which is the same as being
killed only slower. They were not well-treated, but they did survive.

It is a very remarkable thing to find the power of Rome exerted in so
wonderful a way in a Mohammedan country. And were this the only example
of it one would be inclined to attribute the influence to some local
predilection. But there are two other instances. One was a division of
the prisoners, French and British, by which the Roman Catholics were
sent to a camp where there was at that time considerably more liberty.
The other was quite extraordinary: it was the repatriation of a British
officer who happened to be the nephew of a cardinal. We did not grudge
him his good luck. He stole no march on us. But it certainly was a most
wonderful piece of fortune for him. He was not ill or injured, and he
was not exchanged, but simply repatriated. He gave his parole, and that
was all.

In contrast to the present-day power of the Pope in Turkey it is
interesting to remember that a large percentage of the Jews who are
subjects of the Ottoman are the descendants of Spanish Jews who fled
into the Sultan’s dominions to escape from the Spanish Inquisition. Many
of them still speak Spanish. They are not often ill-treated by the
Turks, I believe, though how they manage to avoid it is a miracle.

We reached Angora long after dark and were met by a Bimbashi who
conveyed us in carriages to our new quarters. The men marched, but to
the same destination, and it was after our arrival there that we were
able for the first time to talk with them freely. This was seventeen
days after capture.

We drove through the squalid streets of a corner of the town, and out
about a mile into the country. I think we all shuddered as we drew near
a large barrack and remembered Taxim, and breathed more freely when we
had left it behind. Our destination was not a particularly sweet place,
but it was better than that.

We crossed a bridge, passed a mulberry plantation, and the carriages
halted at the foot of a slope leading up to a group of buildings
surrounded by a high wall. A small, low, iron-studded door, guarded by a
sentry with a fixed bayonet, was opened. We stooped through it, walked
beneath an arched gateway, and came out in a paved courtyard surrounded
by buildings black against the starry sky. As we came in heads popped
out of the windows, and we heard people speaking in French. That sounded
civilized at any rate. Have you who read this ever considered what the
word “civilized” means? It means a good deal when you are in the middle
of Anatolia. Through a door to the left and up a flight of steps we
went, and at the top we were met by three French naval officers, headed
by Commander Fabre, who welcomed us so courteously and kindly that my
heart warms to think of it to the present day.

Everything that a fellow-prisoner could do they had done. And when the
Turks had gone and the gate was locked once more, we sat down with them
to an excellent meal.

Our friends were the officers and crew of the submarine “Mariotte,” sunk
in the Dardanelles rather more than a month before. Two of the officers
spoke English fluently, and the third was a dogged striver who had
mastered a great deal of our language before the end of the war.

From them we learned what this strange building was. It was called the
Wank (pronounced Wonk) and was an Armenian monastery, half farm, half
stronghold. What had happened to the monks they did not know, save that
they had been turned out. As a matter of fact they were dead. Very
nearly everything they had had been moved by the Turks, looted by
officials and officers, but we came into joint possession with the
French of a few beds; enough for the officers, the men were not allowed
beds; a divan round three sides of a fairly comfortable room, a
shower-bath, and some framed photographs of various high dignitaries of
the Armenian Church. There were also lamps and a stove. This was a very
great advance on any home we had yet had in Turkey; for, although a
European housekeeper would have been disgusted at the vermin, they were
not sufficiently numerous to keep one awake all night.

We found, too, that the French had managed to establish the custom of
taking in a newspaper, “The Hilal,” a German edited, Levantine rag,
which did, at any rate, publish the German _communiqués_. So we began
once more to look upon the war and the outside world through that dim
glass which was our only window. Later on we had various other means,
but not up till then.

In addition to the large central sitting-room, where four of us had to
sleep, there were three small bedrooms on the same floor, also a
kitchen, a latrine, and a tiny paved room where the shower-bath hung.
This was an amateur one made out of a kerosine oil tin, and its
existence argued virtue in one Armenian at least. The Turks had not
stolen it. It was of no use to them.

Derrick and I, who had been taken together, were now in a mess of eleven
persons, quite a sizeable community. We began to wake up and make plans
to learn French and to teach English; but that night we slept like
logs.



CHAPTER IV

THE WANK


We had now a breathing space. We had reached the place where the Turks
meant to keep us, and though we had yet to learn that Turks never
continue to follow the same policy for very long, we now had time to
settle in as comfortably as circumstances permitted.

Our space was strictly circumscribed. There was the series of rooms
already described as belonging to the officers, and there was the paved
courtyard, perhaps thirty yards square. This was common to the officers
and about 150 N.C.O.’s and men. Officers were not allowed to visit the
men’s dormitories. On the east side of the courtyard was a church,
locked up and sealed. Through its windows we could see that a quantity
of books were stored there. On the north were further monastic buildings
in two stories. We were not allowed upstairs, but the men were allowed
the use of a kitchen on the ground floor. The western side consisted of
a few sheds and a high wall, and the southern side held all the rooms
occupied both by officers and men. These were all two-storied buildings.

The Wank being built on a hill-side with the ground falling away to the
south, the officers’ quarters got no sunshine, for their only window
which looked in that direction was in the landing at the head of the
stairs. From there we could see the town of Angora covering its steep
hill, and crowned by a great rambling castle. Below the southern window
there was a second courtyard, into which a wide gate opened, which was
apparently used as a pen for the monastic flocks at night; and below
that again was a third yard, probably used as a pound for their cattle.
The whole group of buildings and yards was surrounded by a high wall.

One very marked feature of the Wank was its awful smell. In Turkey there
are drains, but they are perhaps worse than none at all. I shall not
attempt to describe this disgusting feature of all the houses in Asia
Minor I have ever been in, further than to mention that the cesspool is
invariably buried underneath the house itself, preferably beneath the
kitchen floor. It is, as a rule, ill-made of rough stone masonry.
Further comment is unnecessary.

There were several curious relics of antiquity in the courtyard we
frequented: a Greek inscription on one of the stones of the pavement;
the carven tombs of several abbots, with mitres on their heads and
croziers in their hands; and a very large stone head of a man or a god
with thick, curly hair and a beard. It might have been a head of
Jupiter, and probably came from one of the old Roman temples of Angora;
unless, as is not improbable, the Wank itself stood upon the site of
some more ancient religious foundation. The buildings we lived in were
less than a century old, but the church appeared to be very much older.

The men had little to complain of while they were here. Their food was
not particularly good, but it was not inadequate for men who could get
no exercise. The only ill-treatment they had received was being robbed
of their boots while on the peninsula, and they now appeared in every
form of Turkish footgear, from rough army boots to thin slippers. When
they began to travel again those were lucky who had boots.

The Turkish Government fed the men, but the officers were supposed to
cater for themselves. One of the French officers who had already picked
up a few words of Turkish acted as mess secretary, and a chaous, or
Turkish sergeant, used to make purchases in the town for us. We had
orderlies to cook and clean up.

Things were extraordinarily cheap then. The war had not yet affected
country places like Angora, and paper money had not yet come into
circulation. When it did so, gold and silver first, and copper and
nickel next disappeared entirely from the shops and bazaars; and before
I left Turkey a golden pound would purchase six paper pounds, while the
exchange for silver was little lower. But at first things were cheap,
and we managed quite well on our four shillings a day.

Some explanation of the system of supporting officer prisoners is
necessary. The British Government refused to pay Turkish officer
prisoners at the rate of pay given to equivalent British ranks. This was
the old convention, but it could not be carried out with a country like
Turkey, where the rates of pay were so much lower than ours. So Turkish
officer prisoners were given 4_s._ a day for subalterns and captains,
while field officers got 4_s._ 6_d._ But, in addition to this, Turkish
prisoners were catered for at wholesale contract rates, were given
firing, light, beds and bedding, as well as all necessary furniture.
They were, for prisoners, exceedingly well off. I know this for a fact,
for on my release I went over the P. of W. camp near Alexandria and saw
their arrangements. The Turkish followed suit in refusing to give us the
Turkish pay of our equivalent ranks, substituting for it the same rates
as were given by the British, viz., 4_s._ 6_d._ and 4_s._ a day. But
they did not give us any of the other necessaries of life. While in the
Wank, it is true, we made use of the Armenian furniture, but that was
for a very short time; and elsewhere in Turkey, for the next three
years, British officer prisoners had to make or purchase every single
thing they required--beds, tables, chairs, blankets, firewood, lamps,
oil; everything. My share of fuel alone for the last winter in Turkey
cost me £Tq.40 in a mess of twelve. Very, very rarely we got Government
issues of raisins, sugar, and soap at Government rates. Sometimes we got
bread at Government prices, and occasionally firewood. But the general
rule was that we fended for ourselves on our four bob, and competed in
the open market. Had it not been for the help extended to us by the
protecting Ambassador--first American and later Dutch--things would have
gone very hard with us. As I mentioned a page or two back, the metal
money disappeared and paper sank to one-sixth of its face-value. At the
same time, prices soared to such a pitch that, at the end, a suit of
clothes cost £Tq.100 (the Turkish sovereign is nominally worth about
18_s._ 6_d._), a pair of boots cost £Tq.40, a quilt cost £Tq.15, tea
about £Tq.16 per lb., and everything else in like proportion. But our
income remained unaltered in nominal value. For the first three months
we were paid in gold, and thereafter in paper. And at the end of the war
we were receiving the same number of pounds _per mensem_ in paper as we
had received at the beginning in gold. It follows that a deduction of
four shillings a day made in England by the paymaster produced for us a
sum of four shillings a day divided by a factor which gradually rose to
be six. One-sixth of four shillings is 8_d._ It was fortunate for us
that our Government and the protecting Embassies realized the position.
Even as it is, the loss has been not inconsiderable.

This excursion into the realms of finance is not meant as a complaint,
but it seemed to me necessary to explain how we managed things.

For the first few weeks in the Wank we had no further glimpse of the
outside world. In Angora one night there were a number of shots fired,
and the next day two or three people were buried in the graveyard
outside the walls. That is about the only event I can remember. Probably
it was the aftermath of the massacres. The Turkish officer in charge of
us used to come nearly every day. He had been a prisoner himself once,
in Russia, for he had taken part in the famous defence of Plevna about
thirty-six years before. He was of the old school, and found it rather
hard to understand why prisoners taken in a holy war should be kept
alive at all. Certainly he failed to understand that they had any
further rights or privileges. He was irksome to deal with, and
abominably pigheaded, also he swindled us, but I don’t think he disliked
us personally. His extraordinary and characteristically Turkish
denseness of perception was his worst fault, and he was a great deal
pleasanter than the slimy rogue who succeeded him. His attitude was
simply this: “What! the prisoner demands something! Damn the prisoner,
he is lucky to be alive! If I feel like being kind, I will.” And he not
infrequently was kind. But with an omnipotent person of this kind in
charge of one, possessing life only, it takes some time and much
friction to gain a few privileges to make that life worth having.

The old fellow had a fad of teaching us Turkish at one time. He used to
call us into the room with the settees round it, sit down at a table,
and begin to exchange languages with us. As we knew nothing of his, and
he nothing of ours, while there was no common tongue to bridge with,
this was slow work. “Ben,” he would shout, and prod his chest with his
finger. “Ben,” we would all reply, and point at him. Then he would go
off into something infinitely complex, shouting louder than ever, and by
the end of the lesson we would have learnt, not that his personal name
was Benjamin, but that “Ben” is the Turkish personal pronoun, first
person singular. But these lessons did not endure for long. We all got
sick of them.

I have racked my brains to think what else we did in those dull weeks,
but almost in vain. The gramophone records in my convolutions were so
badly scratched that I can hardly decipher a line of them. Chess I
remember, for Fabre and I used to play most evenings, and we taught some
of the others. I remember reading the paper to the men in the yard. I
also remember two awful rows, things inevitable among prisoners, one
English and one French. The English row was personal and particular, it
culminated in a friendship that will endure. The French row was
political, about Caillaux, and they talked so fast that there was a
distinctly visible rainbow round the two principals. It did not
culminate at all.

Those few things, and stinks, are actually all that I can call to mind.

How wonderful a siren is memory! As a boy at Winchester I suffered
untold pangs. This much is an intellectual conviction to me. Yet it is
all set in a golden haze of distance, and there are few pleasures I
prize more than to return there. And if I have a son he shall go there,
where his father, and my father, and his father and grandfather went.
And he will suffer the same pains that they all suffered, and will
remember as little of them as I do and they did. To-day is the 15th of
April, 1919, and already memory has weeded out the pains of that
dolorous year, 1915, to a very great extent. In course of time, in
second or third childhood, I shall look back to Angora with tears of
joy, and wonder why I did not settle there.

But things did begin to happen at last, and the first of them was that
we obtained the privilege of promenading for an hour in the afternoon
along the bank of the little stream that flowed in the bottom of the
valley. There were willow trees there, and we used to peel their
branches and make walking sticks carved with snakes, regimental badges,
and other rivalries to Grinling Gibbons.

We used to watch the ants, too, and I regret to say that we used to
feed them to the ant lions. Fabre was a notable athlete, a Hercules in
miniature, and he used to run and jump. But all the time sentries stood
round, armed to the teeth, and we were not really free. How the Wank did
smell when we got back!

Then something really important occurred, for a new Army Corps Commander
came to Angora, and he was a gentleman. His name was Chukri Bey, and I
remember it as that of a man of honour. He was an Arab, not a Turk.

The first time he came it was in state, and he made a personal
inspection of that awful drain and gave orders to abate the nuisance.
The second time he came it was alone on a surprise visit. Again he made
a personal inspection, and great was his wrath that nothing had been
done.

After this we got much more liberty and better treatment all round, but
that I will describe later.

And soon after this another important thing happened, for some more
prisoners arrived, six officers among them. They were established higher
up on the hill-side, in a temporarily disused agricultural college; and
after a few days we met.

Rather an amusing incident occurred on their journey up, which I am sure
they will forgive my repeating. They had been kept separate in
Constantinople, the three naval officers in an underground dungeon, and
the three military officers elsewhere. The first time they were brought
together was in the train; and evidently the Turkish authorities
expected them to unburden themselves to each other. Fortunately, they
were too wise. Among their escort was the one-eyed ruffian I have
already described, and their interpreter was a guileless youth who spoke
French fluently but not a word of English. To wile away the time, they
proceeded to teach this youth English verses, which he repeated after
them. By considerable endeavour he became word perfect in a rhyme all
about a ruddy sparrow and a ruddy spout together with the sparrow’s
adventures therein. Reasonably ribald people will perhaps recognize the
schoolboy doggerel. All this the interpreter faithfully recited, and
they told him it was one of the best known works of the famous William
Shakespeare. When they were safely housed in their new quarters the
interpreter came to see us, and he spoke the most perfect English! He
had been planted on them as a listener. It is hard justly to apportion
the honours. But I think that interpreter should have a future on the
stage.

It was not long after this that we lost two of the French officers. The
Turkish Government used, about twice a month, to make laborious lists
of us, and presumably to lose them again. In these were entered our
names, our father’s names, our birthplaces, our religions, and some
dozen other useless details. It was a slow business, and the
transliteration of English names into Turkish script was not always
quite satisfactory as will be conceded when I mention that a French
speaking Turkish doctor once transfigured my name into TCHARLISTRI. But
in it all there was some idea which we had not grasped; for suddenly
they informed us that all Roman Catholics were to be transferred to a
place called Afion-Kara-Hissar, a place stated to be more desirable than
Angora. One of the French officers was a Protestant, but he was torn
ruthlessly from the bosoms of the others, and the R.C.’s were dispatched
to Afion. We were very sorry to lose them, and the unfortunate
Protestant was exceedingly miserable at having to stop behind.

A few days later all the Protestant non-commissioned officers and men
were ordered off to a place two days’ march over hills to the north,
Changri by name. Many of them had only thin slippers to walk in, and
their bad times began from then, poor fellows. Their bones lie along the
highways of Asia Minor, where they built roads and tunnels for their
captors, yoked in a slavery as complete as any could be.

We could do nothing at all to help. We gave them what we could to set
them forth, and never saw most of them again.

At the last moment, just when they were starting, it was discovered that
they were two short. They had been counted wrongly. Turks find it hard
to count beyond the number of their fingers and toes which number is the
same as with human beings. This was a horrible dilemma. Red tape
demanded _x_ men, and the officer in charge could only produce _x_-2.
But even as a ram in a thicket was sent to Abraham when about to
sacrifice Isaac, so did the god of Anatolia provide even for this
emergency. At this time two sick French sailors returned from hospital.
They were only just convalescent: they were Roman Catholics; they were
expected at Afion-Kara-Hissar. But all this was of no avail, and the
poor protesting fellows were sent off with our poor British.

After they had departed the Wank seemed empty and lonely. We now
explored it through and through, but found nothing of interest. The
trees were changing their colour; the evenings drew in and grew cold. We
became acutely aware that on this upland, winter would be very severe,
perhaps terrible. Firewood became a problem, and, to feed the stove,
we began to pull pieces off the more easily detachable parts of the
Wank. It had to be done quietly, and long planks had to be dodged past
the sentries; but we managed to have fires.

Then there came a real change. The Army Corps Commander decided to give
us very much more liberty. Sentries’ faces changed with the times; even
the old veteran of Plevna began to realize that prisoners were human
beings, and life grew bright once more. Accompanied by guards with
sidearms only we used to visit the town and the shops, and we began to
explore the neighbouring country. It was all hills, range behind range
of hills; a most difficult country to travel through without good maps
or a guide. Just over the hill behind the Wank there was a valley full
of little farms; nice houses with vineyards attached. But all were
empty, except such as were full of Turkish soldiers. They had been owned
by Armenians, and their owners had gone, never to return.

Another place that we were free to explore at this time was the cemetery
which lay on the east of the Wank. It was not without interest, for most
of the tombstones had been filched from some Roman or Byzantine ruin,
and still bore many traces of their former adornment. The great majority
bore inscriptions in Armenian characters which we could not read; but,
among them we found to our surprise quite a number of European graves.
There were several Danes buried there, a few Frenchmen, and half a dozen
British, Scots for the most part. The earliest of these, so far as I
recollect, was that of a certain William Black, Mercator Angliæ, who had
died at Angora in the year 1683 A.D. I have often wondered what brought
old William Black so far afield, and whether he was the ancestor of any
of the red-haired children we used occasionally to see in the town. We
had a theory that it was he who had taught the inhabitants how to make
shortbread, for there was a bare-legged boy who used to hawk shortbread
in a glass box along the streets of Angora.

So in small things we found great interest, as prisoners do. Almost
every day we used to see Turkish recruits training. They were a sturdy
lot of rough young countrymen, splendid material either for war or
peace, if only their Government were not so corrupt and inefficient. For
the most part they were armed with sticks cut from the willows by the
stream, and with these rude substitutes they had to learn the beginning
of their drill.

The knowledge they acquired was literally kicked into them by the
chaouses, brutal ruffians trained on the Prussian model. I have seen
one of them haul a man out of the ranks, box his ears first on one side
and then on the other, and then turn him round and kick him savagely.
The recruit would stand it all stolidly, and salute before he returned
to the ranks. In the evening parties of recruits who had been training
out on the hills used to march back to barracks past the Wank, singing
their marching song, a simple thing with a very primitive tune to it,
said to have come into popularity at the time of the last Bulgarian war.

Some time in October a festival drew near, a public holiday called
Kurban Bairam. The troops were to have a great sham fight, and sports
were to be held. Chukri Bey, the Army Corps Commander, very kindly
invited us to attend, and we stood behind him to watch the sham attack
develop. He was a fine figure of a man and a splendid horseman. When the
troops were drawn up preliminary to the show he rode at full gallop
along their line, turned, rode back to the centre and pulled up short.
Then he made a speech, no word of which we could understand, and they
all cheered.

The attacking force marched off, and we took up our positions behind the
defenders of a low abrupt ridge. Just on our left I remember there was
a man with a stick and a kerosine oil tin doing machine-gun. The grey
lines advanced from among the distant willows, attacked right across the
open, and apparently won the day. They were as full of the fun of it as
children playing at soldiers. Chukri Bey then made another speech,
pieces of which he translated in French for us, and the show was over.

I have fought in the Great War, but that is the only sham fight I have
ever seen in my life, for my training was marred by a period in
hospital.

The next day was the sports, and we were given good seats in the
official enclosure, just behind the Army Corps Commander and the
Vali--the Governor of the Province. Chukri Bey continually turned round
and explained things to us in French. He had made arrangements for two
or three of our men who had been left behind in hospital to have seats
in a good place. We saw the Turk at his best that day. His hospitality,
his simplicity, his tough, rugged endurance were all to the fore. And we
owed the whole of it to Chukri Bey. When, soon afterwards, he was sent
elsewhere, we realised how rare a character his was among enemy
officers. He was an Arab and we were told that his wife was an Egyptian
princess.

One of the items was a football match played by schoolboys, and four
British officers were invited to take part. Two played on either side.
Games followed, rather like the games that children play at village
school-feasts in England, bearing to those the same resemblance that
baseball does to mixed rounders. Then there was some bayonet fighting,
one of the rules of which was that the winner of a bout had next to take
on two opponents simultaneously. A very up-to-date Turkish officer, girt
with stays, and beautiful beyond the power of words, condescended to
engage the winner in sword v. bayonet. I don’t think he was very
seriously pressed. The bayonet fighting was quite amusing to watch, but
the great item of the day was the wrestling. All competitors, and there
were about forty of them, strolled out into the arena and stretched
themselves. They mingled together, and moved slowly about looking for
mates, like young men and girls at a seaside place. Apparently anyone
could challenge any other. Then there came a preliminary hug, in which
each in turn just lifted his adversary off the ground, seemingly like
our boxers’ handshake, to show there is no ill-feeling. After which they
fell to, and wrestled until one was beaten. Often there were half a
dozen pairs struggling at one and the same time. Some of the grips were
very severe; a favourite method was to reach along each other’s arms and
seize each other’s breasts, digging in their fingers like claws. It
looked as though it must hurt horribly, but these hardy men seemed to
enjoy it. One of the best was a negro, but the champion was a Turk. At
the end Chukri Bey gave away prizes, simple and useful articles, no gold
medals or silver cups; a pair of socks, a tobacco box, a knife, and a
pleasant word for each winner.

It was not long after this that our sojourn in the Wank came to an end.
The building was wanted as a barrack, and they wished to have us more
safely housed in the town itself. So one fine day we were moved into
Angora, and housed temporarily in a Greek hotel.



CHAPTER V

ANGORA


The town of Angora is built round a hill. Originally there was a large
castle on the top of the hill, with walls conforming to the rocky nature
of the site, and outside the castle a walled town. The walls still
remain, but the town has burst its bonds and overflowed down the slopes
and out on to the plain below. At many points among the rocks, at all
levels, springs gush out, and this water is very clear and good, a thing
that Orientals attach great value to. The walls themselves are full of
interest. When they were built, and whether by Byzantine Greeks or by
the Turks themselves, I do not know. But they contain innumerable
fragments of an earlier civilization. There are sculptured figures which
once ornamented Roman altars, the capitals of Greek pillars, very many
inscriptions in Greek and Latin, and a number of carved stones stolen
from the fine marble temple of Augustus which still rears high walls
near the bottom of the town. So beautifully was this temple built that
it still defies the efforts of those who would destroy it in order to
mend their houses with its marble blocks. A mosque is built against its
wall, and the cornice is built on by the storks, but the temple still
preserves much of beauty. Higher up in the town, one of the Turkish
mosques carries its roof on Roman pillars; and wherever you go in the
town there are traces of olden days.

On three sides the town flows down into the valleys round it, but the
fourth side is one wall of an almost precipitous gorge, where a stream
has cut through the range, and separated off this hill for men to build
on. The place has the usual legend of a secret passage connecting the
castle with the neighbouring hill. Afion-Kara-Hissar, too, has the same
legend; and I have found it generically wherever rocks have been crowned
with castles, in many lands. At the bottom of the gorge is the
evil-smelling quarter of the skinners and tanners, men who proved their
value when it was resolved to slay the Armenians.

From very early times, indeed, Angora must have been occupied. It is
well supplied with water, very defensible, and situated at the junction
of great caravan routes which penetrate northwards to the Black Sea and
eastwards, through Sivas, to the Caucasus. In the plain to the
north-west of the town there are barrows much like those on Salisbury
Plain.

Many battles have been fought in the plain before Angora, and the city
has often been sacked and burnt.

No place I have ever known has such an atmosphere of evil history
looming in its streets. Should some prophet (or is it profit?) of
psychometry venture to sleep there, she would probably die in horrible
agony.

Even to the present day Angora is a great rendezvous of caravans. When
we were there it was still the terminus of the railway stretching out
toward central Asia, and we used to see long strings of laden camels
approaching the town from far away. They pass with silent step along
their wide, worn routes, tied in strings of four or five, each one’s
nose to the saddle of the one ahead, and with a donkey to lead the
procession. They looked as if they had walked straight out of the Old
Testament, and many of the men with them looked much more like what the
Patriarchs must have been than the benevolent old gentlemen in stained
glass windows can do.

Kurds we used to see, and Turks, and men of tribes we could not place.
Generally they wore huge astrakhan hats of black, curly lamb’s wool,
and as a rule their broad belts were stiff with daggers and pistols,
with generally a rifle slung across their shoulders as well. I often
used to think what a wonderful experience it was for our untravelled men
to see these strange people from the back of beyond. Strings of camels
used to penetrate the dim, winding lanes of the city, and nasty,
snarling, tusky creatures they were to dodge about among. But the real
gathering place of the caravans was a trampled space of many acres which
lay out beyond the railway station. A Golgotha it was, a place of
skeletons and skulls. For centuries, for millenniums, perhaps, it had
been the place where men and camels met and exchanged the news of Asia,
mostly of wars and rumours of wars, of invasions, murders, massacres,
the sack of cities, and tales of brigands in the hills. For all these
mountain roads are infested by armed bands, even to the present day.

In the town itself there are two or three fairly good streets, paved
with cobble-stones, and flanked by small boutiques, but most of the
streets are narrow gullies; steep, winding, and dim. The houses have
usually stables on the ground floor, while the stories above project and
shut out the light; so much so that it is quite a feature of these
thread-like lanes to find each house built with one shoulder thrust
out, facing half-right one side of the street, half-left the other, and
enabling the windows to collect some of the light which falls along the
lane.

I think, between us, we explored the whole town. Under Chukri Bey’s
benevolent _régime_ we had almost complete liberty, very much more than
a prisoner could expect. Save that we had to be accompanied by guards,
we were free to wander where we would, in the town and out of the town.
We used to go shopping in the covered bazaar, where whole streets were
shut up, their owners murdered. We used to explore the castle, and climb
its crags. We used to take walks down the valley among the irrigated
vegetable gardens. We used to walk among the hills. And through those
hills some of us intended one day to walk to the sea. Not now, but in
the spring.

The people were not at all hostile to us. I think they rather liked us.
We used to shop a great deal. Our power to buy was limited only by our
purse. But we used to shop for hours, like a pack of women in
Kensington, all shopping no buying. For we had practically no money, and
we had not only to buy blankets and clothes for the winter, but also to
set up house, buy crockery, cutlery, cooking pots. Four bob a day, even
when it still is four bob, is not much to set up house on. So we shopped
much but bought little. There was a large store in the main street, run
by Spanish Jews, and we used to swarm in there in a gang. A very funny
sight we must have been, dressed all sorts of ways, some of us with
shorts on, one young Australian, I remember, wore long pink drawers
under and below his shorts and a fur cap on his head. For we wore the
headgear of the country. We were advised to, to avoid exciting too much
attention; and some of us wanted to acquire a set of disguise.
Personally I had no other headgear of any kind, except a sort of
Glengarry made of pieces of puttee stitched together. My helmet had been
lost soon after I was captured. But the towns-folk did not seem to
think us strange. They were remarkably polite. Several officers out for
a walk one day met a man with a shot-gun, and asked to be allowed a
shot. He handed over the gun; they tossed for the shot; a naval officer
won, put up a woodcock and killed it.

Who, then, it may be asked, were the murderers, the people who killed
about a million Armenians and quite a lot of Greeks? Well, just anybody
and everybody. A Turkish peasant with a plough in his hand is a
generous, open-hearted, simple fellow. A Turkish peasant with a gun in
his hand is a brigand. The lower orders of the town are straightforward,
simple people, but come a massacre, and they take their part. Probably
things in France were not a bad parallel at the great St. Bartholomew’s
Eve. And it must always be remembered that the great drive of the
Armenians was a Government affair, a national policy. Turks cannot stand
having power. A private soldier who becomes an N.C.O. becomes, nine
times out of ten, a black-guard. An ordinary citizen who becomes an
official becomes, ten times out of ten, a thief. A common man who is
invited to kill his Christian neighbour, free of all danger of
punishment, does so. Throughout captivity the guards were faithful
mirrors of the powers above. In the time of Chukri Bey they were kind,
faithful dragomen who did their best to save us from being swindled in
the bazaars. In the days of his successor, their vocabulary was limited
to “Yok” and “Yassak”--“no” and “forbidden.”

Beneath the surface of life in Turkey there was always a grim
undercurrent of cruelty. And in that land there is more unnecessary
human suffering than in any land of the world. There were dens in the
town of Angora where Christian deserters--Conchies, perhaps--were kept,
sometimes in chains. We used to see them marching out between their
guards to work on the railway. Thin, grey, starved creatures, dying on
their feet. Later on our men suffered in exactly the same way and about
four-fifths of them died.

When the men went to Changri we kept our orderlies, and throughout
captivity our orderlies were safe. But the rest of the men worked on the
roads and railways all over Turkey, hundreds of miles from their
officers, and the greater part of them died.

For the first two or three weeks of this season of exploration we lived
in a Greek hotel at the bottom of the town. As hotels go in that part of
the world, it was a good one. Downstairs there was the public
eating-room on one side of the entrance and the coffee-room on the
other; and upstairs there was a landing with a settee and a few chairs,
and nine bedrooms. The beds were quite comfortable, but were infested
with vermin, and the smell from the drain was perfectly awful. This was
not the whole of the premises, for it formed one side only of a hollow
square. The other three sides were occupied by Turkish soldiers, and the
hollow square was really a caravanserai. Those rooms which faced the
rear, into the hollow square, were the most infested, but the smell was
the same everywhere. There was no garden, but a narrow space, cut off
from the road by palings, was planted with half a dozen small trees, and
used as an outdoor café.

The whole fifteen of us, from the Wank and from the Agricultural
College, were established here. A certain number of sentries were at our
disposal for explorations, shopping, etc., but we were not allowed to go
out alone except within the palings, and there was a guard on the gate.
We took our meals in the public room downstairs, together with the
general public who patronized the hotel, Turkish officers for the most
part. There were plenty of things to eat, not bad either when once one
had got used to their greasy way of cooking, and they were cheap. But
even so they were for the most part beyond our slender means, and it
became quite a work of art to select so wisely as to fill one’s stomach
without emptying one’s purse. All we had was paid for in cash at the
time, and there were so many clamant uses for cash. Clothes, for
example. An Armenian tailor came and measured us for suits, and used to
come and try them on. He was a Roman Catholic and it was from him that
we first learned that the Roman Catholic Armenians had been spared. He
spoke a little French, and while trying on our clothes he used to
whisper tales of the horrors of the preceding months. All the town was
whispering them, all, that is to say, who were not Turkish. And they
whispered in the greatest fear and trembling. Even Turks sometimes
referred to the murders, and even they were impressed by slaughter upon
so grand a scale; for it was the murder of a nation. It was as though
England had tried to destroy the whole of the Welsh race, and was still
whispering about the deed. I remember one day we visited what had been
the headquarters of the merchants of tiftik, the hair of the Angora
goat. It was battered about and locked up, for with the death of the
Armenian traders the tiftik trade had died. The Turkish guard who
accompanied us grinned and drew his hand across his throat. Armenian
refugees from Constantinople were interned in Angora. For the most part
they were professional men, and they were all Russian subjects. They
appeared to have no occupation, except to play backgammon all day long
in a café they frequented. Most of them spoke French and a few English,
and they, too, whispered sometimes as we sat near and sipped our coffee.
Greeks whispered of the massacres, they did not know if their turn would
come next. I remember a laborious conversation two of us held with a
Greek boy, by the aid of a Turkish vocabulary. He had seen much that
took place in Angora.

It seems, in writing this account, as though the greater part of our
time was spent out of doors; but this was not really the case. For a few
hours a day we got out, and we made the most of it, but for very many
weary hours a day we were shut in. We had no books except a few French
plays lent to us by a Turkish officer; one was “La Foi,” by Brieux, and
I occupied myself by translating it into English. We had chess, and that
was all. When it was warm enough we used to sit in the chairs outside
and watch the passers-by, and in the evenings we sat in the common room
upstairs and talked. On the whole, we got on pretty well together,
though things got very strained one evening when we had a
thought-reading _séance_. It really must have been exceedingly annoying
for the true believers to find that the whole affair was faked. I know I
got behind a naval man in a corner and laughed until I nearly burst, but
dared not let my face be seen. Things were so electric just then that a
laugh might have brought about a thunderstorm. Especially when one of
the most ardent spirits made the rest of us a perfectly solemn and
heartfelt speech, beginning with “Gentlemen” and ending with a hope that
our hearts were sufficiently pure to let in the light that would be
vouchsafed us. Our hearts were not pure at all, but our merriment was.
We got a manifestation of sorts, well thought out beforehand. But there
was a lot of heartburning about ill-timed levity.

There was a certain amount of illness among us, from time to time. The
officer with the pink drawers was really quite bad for a long time, and
the remaining French officer nearly died, killed by kindness. That is
before we had discovered that it was fatal to call in a Turkish doctor.
As a rule, a Turkish doctor’s one anxiety is to get you off to hospital
where he may make money on your keep, and steal your boots. And from a
Turkish hospital all escape is miraculous, all recovery is marvellous.
If you were to go into a Turkish hospital with a broken leg the odds are
that you would die of typhus. But we did not know that then. Our French
friend was ill, so we sent for a doctor. Three came, at intervals during
the day. The first was a captain, and he gave the patient a purgative of
the right size for captains to give. The second was a major, and, as was
only fit, he gave a much larger purgative, of the size that majors give.
The third was a colonel, and whether his mission was to finish the job
his subordinates had begun I do not know, but he strove manfully, and
gave a similar dose of the size proper to colonels. That evening the
Frenchman collapsed. He fainted and was carried off to bed by our
stalwart Bill, the medical student of the party, a splendid person who
was better than all the Turkish doctors in the world rolled in one. Much
do we all owe to Bill, and none more than I do, for he nursed me through
several bad illnesses; although, as he frankly stated on one occasion
when I had paratyphoid, he hadn’t “done fevers.” A real wonder was our
Bill, and I hope he will read this some day. From about that time until
about a year later, when the doctors from Kut-el-Amara joined up with us
at Afion, Bill was the camp physician-in-chief, and were I ill now I
would as soon go to Bill as to anyone. He was a born healer. French was
not his forte, but in the chemists’ shops he always got what he wanted:
went on until he did, or turned out on the counter the whole of the
proprietor’s stock. “Avez-vous ammoniated tincture of quinine?” he would
ask. And if the man said “No,” then Bill would counter with, “Avez-vous
aucun else that will do similaire?” And in the end he would get it. As a
linguist he had a natural perception of which words could be left out,
or put in in English, without destroying the sense.

Two events happened to me about this time which were landmarks in that
desert of dullness. It was in the Greek hotel that I received my first
letter from home. A very great day indeed. And it was soon afterwards,
in late November, that I spoke for the first time in Asia Minor to a
woman. She was an old Roumanian in a cake-shop, and to her I said, “Bu
kach para,” being Turkish, my Turkish at least, for “What is the price
of this?” I commend this sentence to the notice of those about to visit
Turkey. It is one of the few worth knowing. It may seem strange that
this should be noted as a landmark, but as a matter of fact I only spoke
seven words to women between the 9th of August, 1915, and the 10th of
September, 1918, and these were three of the seven. It is no small part
of the multitude of causes that make prisoners queer, this deprivation
of women’s society. Men sink back into barbarism very rapidly when
unbuoyed by the influence of women. They do not want the feminist, the
creature doomed to the sterile affection of a little lamp-post-loving
dog dragging at a lead. But they want to be helped by talking to
mothers, lest they forget that motherhood is by far and away the
greatest thing on earth.

At the beginning of November we moved into our house, up in the town,
against the city wall. But a few days before that happened three more
officers arrived from Constantinople. They were not newly captured. One
had been taken on the same day as Bill, at Suvla Bay, and the other two
were the oldest British prisoners of war in Turkey. I specify British,
because we learned later on that there were Russian naval officers taken
before war was officially declared, and prisoners of war because there
were civil prisoners of earlier date. These two were members of the
Egyptian police who had been given commissions in the army and sent out
to test the disposition of the Arabs in that territory shown upon Old
Testament maps as inhabited by the Philistines. The Arabs had turned
upon them and handed them over to the Turks, and the ten or eleven
months which elapsed before they joined us had been most eventful. I
will not anticipate their story, for I do not know whether they will
ever write it, further than to say that whereas we had seen the Armenian
women and children setting forth on their fatal pilgrimage, these had
seen it near its end. Their tale was truly ghastly. But there is one
thing about one of them that I must write. He was an Egyptian, and by
upbringing a Mohammedan, his name was Selim Zaki Kénâwi (he will forgive
me if it is spelt wrongly). From the very start the Turks had tried
their utmost to seduce him from his loyalty, and from the first to the
last he had openly defied them. He was the most ardently loyal British
person I have ever known. His plan was simply for Great Britain to own
the whole earth and run it justly. I forget how many times he had been
court-martialled on the charge of being a rebel, but it was several.
They had tried the religious business too, and a venerable personage
whom Zaki irreverently termed “a holy bloody religious man” had taken
off his turban and solemnly asked, “Will you fight against this, Zaki
Effendi?” But Zaki stood fast, and became more British than ever. It
took some doing in his position, but he had the guts of a man. After he
had been a couple of months with us he was sent for to Constantinople
and again tested, both by intimidation and bribery. Enver Pasha, the
Commander-in-Chief of the Turkish Army, the adventurer, the murderer,
both privately and wholesale, the biggest scoundrel unhanged--I regret
he is still unhanged--even himself sent for Zaki and offered him a
choice between death and a commission in the Turkish Army. But Zaki
never even thought which to choose. He chose death. But he did not die,
although they sent him in the winter on the awful march to Sivas in its
frozen mountains to be imprisoned among the Russians. There was typhus
raging there, and there was more than a chance that his throat would be
cut by the way. But he came safely through, and eventually rejoined us
at Afion. An Egyptian tested as was Zaki should have a fine future in
his own land.

The third new arrival, he from Suvla Bay, had suffered a curious
adventure. In an attack he had been shot, and when he came to it was to
find himself built into a temporary rampart of corpses. He was one of
the corpses, and a Turk, with his rifle resting across his head, was
firing away at our trench. He flapped about a bit, and was so fortunate
as to become one of the seventeen officers who were kept as samples on
Gallipoli.

I do not propose to give many personal histories, but without a few it
would not be easy to convey to others what a strange selection from
fate’s claws we earlier pre-Kut prisoners were. Until Kut brought up our
numbers to a large figure, every one of us, officer or man, was the
survivor, perhaps the sole survivor, of some great adventure. Such as
one I will refer to as the Squire: the day he was captured at Suvla Bay
one hundred and two officers were “missing” on Gallipoli, and he alone
came through. Such as Chok, our gigantic Yorkshireman, who, after
braining a Turk with an axe, being blown up by a shell, and seeing his
regiment almost wiped out, came through alone to us suffering from what
is now known as shell-shock. Such as Dinkie, disabled by a bullet
through the foot, who had to sham death while bayoneted ever so many
times, and who had fortitude enough to sham it long enough. Such as
Bill, who was shot through the neck; and who, long before he was well,
was cast with other sick and wounded into a den in Constantinople, where
he spent whole days wrestling single-handed with wounds and disease.
This was the place where Enver visited the prisoners, and smiled and
said it was good enough for the British. Very many died. Very many were
saved by Bill.



CHAPTER VI

THE FIRST WINTER


It was in the first week of November that we moved into the house
allotted to us in the town. It was in a good quarter, about half-way up
the hill, and it was a very good house as houses go in Asia Minor. In
front there was a narrow street, and the building opposite to us was
popularly supposed to be the Angora University. It was, at any rate, a
school of large boys or small men; and I think we must have looked right
into the University Museum, for there was a mouldy-looking stuffed owl
there. On our left was another large house, at first used as a military
hospital; but, when all the patients had died, restored to its purpose
of a boys’ school, small boys who used to make cutthroat signs to us.
Our right flank rested upon a dunghill, or, rather, a kitchen midden, a
public store of all manner of beastliness and the playground of the
little schoolboys. Behind us was a dark, damp, narrow passage, beloved
of dead cats, bounded on the one side by the school and our house, and
on the other by the city wall. The hill was so steep that the entrance
from the passage was two stories higher up than the main entrance from
the street. We used the back door, for the main entrance was nailed up.
The two bottom stories were uninhabitable, and by us unused. They
contained stables and store-rooms. In the floor of one of the rooms
there was a well, and beneath the floor there was the usual cess-pit.
The next floor was on a level with our entrance, and contained a small
kitchen and four bedrooms, one of which Derrick and I shared. The floor
above that contained another kitchen, three bedrooms, and a large hall
we used as a mess-room. Above that again was a small room containing a
jumble of more or less useless articles, a sort of lumber-room, in fact,
and a great many cubby-holes and recesses in the walls and under the
roof. Above that again was an unwalled, roofed space used for hanging
clothes to dry.

The house was owned by an Armenian woman who had found some means of
adapting herself to terrible circumstances, and of conciliating the
Turks. There were a number of such forlorn women in the town, and I,
for one, do not blame them.

To this lady, who lived further down the street, we paid rent. So the
Turkish Government was actually providing us with nothing at all except
our four shillings a day. For we rented the house furnished, very little
furnished.

The first fortnight of our stay here I passed in bed with persistent
fever.

We had not long been in residence when some more prisoners turned up;
the officers of a second submarine, and two or three others. They stayed
for a while in the hotel, and then we divided forces and made two houses
of it. Our house was already rather overcrowded, and it was impossible
to take in half a dozen more.

The new house was a couple of hundred yards away from the old one, and
was rented from a Turkish cavalry officer who kept a small bootshop in
the town.

There was great friction over the division, but the less friction is
emphasised the better. It is inevitable among prisoners.

Early in December Chukri Bey left Angora to go as Military Attaché to
Berlin. We never met his like again. Swiftly and surely our privileges
were stripped from us, and about the middle of December we were locked
up for good and all. For the rest of our time in Angora we had no more
walks, and our outings were cut down to one half-day a week for
shopping. We were not even allowed to walk in the narrow passage behind
the house for several weeks, though we did later regain that dismal
right. It became exceedingly cold. Snow fell, and the temperature was
often near zero. But we were too poor to spend much on fuel. Larger
bills for our keep while in Constantinople came in, and their amount was
deducted from our pay. We had to try to buy blankets and underclothes.
And we had to store fuel for the kitchen fire. Gold had disappeared now
from circulation, and silver was fast disappearing also. The Turkish
Government used to pay us in paper, and as they had not yet struck small
notes, they paid us in fivers in bulk, and left us to settle among
ourselves how to change them. It was often almost impossible to do so in
the bazaar, and our mess secretary and the shopping orderly had a very
trying time.

In that house we could not afford to have charcoal braziers in our
rooms, as is the custom in Turkey and as we did later at Afion. The
kitchen fire had to be kept from failing, but the kitchen was far too
small to sit in, it would hold two people standing up. We had a stove in
the mess-room, and we used to light it about tea-time every afternoon.
For the rest of the day, if the sun shone, we used to congregate in the
two front rooms which got a narrow band of sunshine, until the roof
warmed up, and then we used to sit on the tiles. It was warmer on the
tiles than indoors, so long as there was no wind, even though the shady
slope of the roof were thick with snow. When it snowed, or was windy, or
rained, or was clouded over it was warmer indoors, warmest in bed.

Entire lack of exercise is bad for Britons, and looking back to that
winter I marvel that we quarrelled so little. Once the split of houses
was over we practically did not disagree at all. We played cards, and
chess, and backgammon. We had a few books. We talked. And we were
silent. Sometimes we had concerts. We were not much in the singing line,
but we made plenty of noise. Also there were alleviations. Those must
not be left out, or this chapter would seem more gloomy than is true. A
few parcels came, a few home letters, some food, and some books. Several
of us accomplished the reading of Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall,” which
probably we should never have done except in prison. And extraordinarily
interesting we found it, especially the later volumes which deal with
the history of the Crusades and the Turks. And I had two occupations
unshared by the rest, which took up much time, for I wrote verses and
had jaundice.

There was a sheet of ice on the floor, where water had been spilled,
when I went to bed, and twelve days later, when I got up, there was the
same ice still there. So cold it was. It was too cold to hold a book, so
I used to lie all day and devise meetings and dinners with my most loved
friends after the war.

From the tiles we had a widespread view of snow-covered plain and range
beyond range of mountains. The ground floor, so to speak, of Asia Minor
is about 3,000 feet above sea level. That is the average elevation of
the plains, and from that level rise the mountains. They are bare and
bleak, unclothed by woods, white in the winter, green for a brief and
beautiful spring, and for the rest of the year the colour of dust. Even
in the tropics I have not seen more gorgeous sunsets than those we
used to watch from the roof top, while below us lay the dark streets of
the town, channeled through the white roofs, and half-obscured by a mist
of smoke.

In the daytime those roofs were not altogether without interest.
Sometimes we saw people on them, but more often cats; real Angora
long-haired cats, basking, fighting, and lovemaking. We got to know a
lot of them by sight.

The street, too, was sometimes blocked by camels; sometimes
fierce-looking, armed ruffians strode along it; and there were a few
pretty girls who had a kind eye for the prisoners. And while the house
on our left was still a hospital, the town band used to come two or
three times a week and play excruciating music. But that can hardly be
ranked as an alleviation! The University, too, was a source of joy to
us, thoroughly pharisaical joy that we were not as they. For they were a
slimy crowd of undersized semi-demi-educated creatures not to be
compared with the stalwart murderers of the tanneries down below in the
gorge. They loved processions and patriotic demonstrations. I remember
once they carried out in procession a huge lath and paper ship meant to
celebrate some Turkish naval victory: it was about the time that the
“Hilal” newspaper announced that the Turkish navy still consisted of
over 300 units which floated. They must have included life-buoys.

All through that winter the news was bad for us, heartening for the
Turks. Russia was driven back. Bulgaria came in against us. We evacuated
the peninsula of Gallipoli, and a spirited, but wholly imaginary,
account appeared in the “Hilal” describing how our rearguard fought and
was destroyed to the last man. And Turkey began to dream and talk of an
overwhelming force concentrating for an attack on the Suez Canal. The
patriotic Zaki laughed at the idea of Egyptians submitting to be
“liberated” by Turkey. And we were all pretty optimistic despite the
gloomy news. “You are optimistic because you are prisoners,” said the
French-speaking and wholly abominable officer who at this time had
charge of us. And though he knew it not, he spoke a great truth. For
prisoners are the most optimistic people in the world. For one thing,
they dare not be otherwise; but the chief reason is one analogous to the
action of vaccination or inoculation. For in the minds of prisoners
anti-bodies to the disease of pessimism multiply so fast that their
combative antitoxin keeps pace with the worst of news. This was most
noticeable throughout captivity, and, like Livingstone’s famous
insensitiveness in the grip of the lion, it was a cheery feature of an
otherwise unpleasant experience.

This officer was of the East Eastern, dyed as to the skin only by a
smear of the West. Once he had been as far West as Sophia, and on that,
fortified by pornographic French literature, he based his claim to
civilisation. When I was ill with paratyphoid, and partially delirious,
he used to visit me while the rest were upstairs at lunch, and used to
try to poison my mind with his views on the downfall of England. But the
skipper, our senior officer, took this in hand, locked me in and him
out, and utterly refused him permission to visit me. He used also to be
as uncivil as he dared to Zaki, who longed to cut his throat; but this
Turk was not a man who dared much, and he was shut up in that direction
also. He used to drop in to tea, and call us “mon cher.” He _was_ an
unlikeable creature. But after Christmas he cooled off, for the reason
that we made him drunk and foolish. This is not the tale of a select
seminary, but of full-blooded, hard-hearted prisoners of war, who had
not much joy in their lives. So I shall describe Christmas, and pray for
the mercy of the court. To be judged by our peers we should be judged by
soldier and sailor prisoners.

We had been locked up just long enough to hate it by Christmas, and we
determined to have as merry an evening as we could. We were helped in
this in several ways. First by ourselves, for we succeeded in buying
some rum in the town. Secondly, by the American Ambassador, may his name
be praised, who sent us a real generous Christmas hamper, with a ham,
whisky, rum, port, cigars, and chocolate. A gorgeous individual, all
gold and scarlet, came all the way from Constantinople to bring it. And,
thirdly, by the Turks: for they gave us leave to congregate for the one
evening all together in the other house, and they provided twelve
Christmas trees! There were no woods nearer than two and a half days’
journey distant, and yet they sent out a party of soldiers who brought
in twelve small fir trees. I think they were a little apologetic that
there were not enough trees to go round; and we regretted it, too, for
firewood was scarce. But it was a kindly thought, and they deserve all
credit for it. I had not had a Christmas tree of my own for about
twenty-five years.

There was rivalry between the two houses, just as there is at school,
just as there was rivalry between the two separate camps at Afion two
years later. But we sank it for the feast, and pooled all our resources.
Before dinner we sat round braziers and absorbed much alcohol: very
much: so much that one officer missed his dinner, although we shouted in
his ear that the war was over. Even that he could not hear. Even the
word “Peace” failed to rouse him. But he came round later, and ate a
huge dinner all by himself. We had turkey, and ham, and plum-pudding,
real American Embassy plum-pudding. We had also whisky. We had cigars,
and port, and again whisky. Then the evening began in earnest, near the
stove, all as near as possible to a wash basin full of hot rum punch. We
had a concert in full swing, when the Army Corps Commander, the
Commandant of Angora, the officer in charge of the prisoners, and an
interpreter came in. On a chair, with his back to the door, stood the
cook, and he was a noted songster who sang principally one song. I shall
have to paraphrase the only line I propose to quote, but it does not
lose any of its sense if reproduced as:

  “_Little pigs lie with their backs all bare, umph bare_,” etc.

The Army Corps Commander was a dignified person. He was the swine who
had locked us up. But except in his own person he loathed swine as a
true Mohammedan should. All mention of the pig family, or of those good
things, ham and bacon, were anathema to him. The Commandant of the Place
was likewise a person of very great dignity. Some effort was made to
stop the song, for these people had come on a state visit; to see their
Christmas trees, perhaps. But the Army Corps Commander waved all
interference aside with a superb gesture of benignity. “Let the song of
welcome proceed,” he said, and these four unwanted visitors sat down in
a solemn row while the song did proceed, with pigs and pantomime in
every verse. Prison life in Turkey was not without occasional gleams of
merriment.

What the interpreter thought I don’t know. He was an Armenian who had
embraced Islam to save his skin, and he did not matter anyhow. The
grandees did not wait long. We hoped to be able to “tank them up,” for
very nearly all Turkish officers drink pretty heavily, despite Islam.
But they were too cautious. They and the interpreter departed. But our
officer remained, and he was our reward. Him we rendered completely
tight. So tight that at the end he stood upon a table and sang “God save
the King” in English; though, up to then, he had always denied all
knowledge of English. Zaki still wanted to cut his throat, and was with
difficulty restrained.

Thus passed the Christmas of 1915; and it was just as well we did not
know that two more Christmases would have to pass in the same way. We
all walked home to our house unaided. But the officer in charge of us
slackened off his unwelcome camouflage friendship from that day, for he
knew what a fool he had been.

January was very cold, and we were pleased to learn, towards the end of
it, that we were all to be moved to Afion-Kara-Hissar, where the other
British officers were interned. We were thoroughly sick of Angora, and
of being locked up. No change was to be expected under the present Army
Corps Commander, who hated us as much as we hated him. And really I
don’t blame him very much looking back upon it in cold blood. British
prisoners are perfect brutes to manage. If they are allowed to run
things themselves, they run them very well indeed, but they also run
away. If they are given much liberty they walk about as if they own the
place. Not out of pride or display, but just because they actually feel
as if they owned it. I felt, we each felt, as though we British owned
Angora. They will never, no not ever, not even if they die, feel, or
seem to feel, or pretend to feel that their captors are as good men as
they, let alone that they are better. Again and again we received
instructions--even now I can hardly admit ever receiving “orders” of
such a kind, hence “instructions”--to salute all Turkish officers whom
we met in the streets. And each time those instructions were ignored. We
saluted senior officers, not those of rank equivalent to our own. If, on
the other hand, British prisoners are given no liberty, they continually
struggle for more, and make the lives of the Turks a burthen to them. A
Turkish officer of any grade always prefers to get one of a lower grade
to do his work, and to attend to his interviews for him. We never
acquiesced in this for one moment. If possible we raided the senior
officer’s privacy. If that was not possible, we sent his junior to fetch
him. And if that failed we ruined his peace of mind by continually
writing letters to him. When any outside person of importance visited us
we complained bitterly of all we resented, and were not afraid. Turks
don’t understand that attitude at all. Their method is to give strict
orders, to have those orders obeyed in semblance, and disobeyed in
private, until, in the course of time the orders lapse and become
obsolete. Then the senior officer awakes from his pleasant slumber,
makes a lot of new orders, and goes to sleep again. In no circumstance
will he remain awake, give reasonable orders, and see to it himself that
they are reasonably carried out. It is difficult for the Turk to keep
his mind, his will, or whatever you like to call it, firmly and steadily
opposed to the wills of others, whether prisoners, or his subordinates,
or subject peoples. He simply cannot do it. His method is to be
unreasonably lax for a long time, and then unreasonably severe for a
short time, so that the resultant line of progression may be more or
less straight. Thus, diagramatically expressed, these two lines, T for
Turkish and B for British, point in the same direction, but are quite
different in kind:

        /| /| /| /| /| /|
  T.   / |/ |/ |/ |/ |/    etc.

  B.  -------------------  etc.

It follows that in Turkey there are no standing orders. None, that is to
say, that live long. There are files, rooms, whole houses full of dead
ones. But can you call orders “standing” when they do not stand?

In a small way, this conflict between ideas of government made life
troublesome for us in Turkey, and even more troublesome for the Turks.
But we were a small matter. If the main facts of their history were
similarly plotted as a diagram, it would be found very like my line T.:
and the result is the ruination of one of the most fruitful lands on the
face of the earth; the production of nothing, save only cruelty and
unnaturally debased races; and the present-day collapse and
disintegration of the Ottoman Empire.

Although we expected to hear at any moment that we were to pack up and
go to Afion, the date of our departure continued to recede. We really
had some things to pack now. It is extraordinary how quickly things
accumulate, even in prison. We were all anxious to go, especially the
skipper, who thought Afion would not be so difficult to escape from. He
was always thinking of escape, and at last did get clear away, but not
until the latter half of 1918. The account of that truly great and
successful adventure has been written in _Blackwood’s Magazine_.

Personally I had given up the idea; my continual bad health had forced
me to abandon all hope of escape.

In Turkey all moves happen as did our move to Afion. You are told that
you will go, and nothing happens. Having been lied to consistently on
all possible occasions, after a time you conclude that this is just one
more lie. Then, quite suddenly, you are told that you are to go now at
once. Hastily you pack up, sell off what you can, take what you can of
the rest with you, and go. At the other end you find that nobody expects
you at all. Either they have never been informed that you are coming; or
they have been informed of it so long ago that they have forgotten; or,
most likely of all, they, too, have thought it was just one more lie.

How the dickens this people ever managed to run an empire is a holy
mystery to me. I don’t believe they did. I believe that all real
organisation, such as it was, has been done by Greeks, Armenians and
Jews, by subject people, slaves, half-breeds and poly-breeds.

They put up a wonderful fight in this war, despite the dearth of roads
and railways. But they were staffed by Germans, and nobody denies that
Germans can organize. But how the Turks hated them! With German
organization the Turkish infantry can do very well indeed. They are
tough and hardy to a degree hard to conceive. They can live on nothing
and march all day. And they are brave. Poor devils, they need be. They
are operated upon without anæsthetics, which were only kept for
officers. They are half-starved, and they are mercilessly flogged and
bastinadoed. I have seen recruits coming in chained in gangs; and I have
seen the sick and wounded crawl with grey, leaden faces up from Angora
station to the rough accommodation provided for them in the town. I have
seen them leave their hospitals, too, generally in corpse-carts. If all
else fails to kill them, typhus does not fail. As practically all Turks
of the lower orders are lousy from birth to death, typhus rages among
them. Lice give them typhus, bugs convey relapsing fever, and fleas the
plague. Turks abound in all these insects. They may be said to be their
natural fauna. But the toughness of the peasants causes them to survive
as a race in spite of disease, in spite of ill-treatment, and in spite
of continuous war.

At last, late at night on the 13th of February, 1916, we left Angora by
train for Afion-Kara-Hissar. And to the station there came, to bid
good-bye to us, the most mysterious person in Angora: so mysterious that
I dare not mention him for fear, if he is still there, it might bring
him into peril.



CHAPTER VII

AFION-KARA-HISSAR


After about twenty-four hours in the train, a train that stopped at
every station, I looked out into the night and saw a strange place where
huge rocks rose up against the sky. The train was slowing down while I
looked, and I thought to myself that it would be an interesting place to
see by daylight. Afterwards I saw it by daylight: by the light of nine
hundred and thirty-eight days and by the moonlight of many nights, and
it no longer seemed so interesting. It was like the old legend where the
fortunate man is given three wishes and each recoils upon his head. For
this was Afion-Kara-Hissar.

Afion-Kara-Hissar means Opium Black Fort. Miles of white opium poppies
are grown in the fields about the town, and the black fort--the
Kara-Hissar--is a huge solitary rock rising up out of the town as out of
a sea. The great plain, which stretches away for miles in every
direction except the south, must have been an inland sea once, though
it is now more than 3,000 feet above the level of the Mediterranean.

The Kara-Hissar is precipitous on all sides, hung round by cliffs, and
there are few places where it can be climbed. The walls of an old fort
grin along its rim like broken teeth; and there is a tradition that it
was once besieged in vain for many years. In the days before gunpowder,
provided that food and water did not fail and the garrison was faithful,
it is hard to see how it could ever fall. We used to argue about its
height, without result, but it cannot have been less than 600 feet from
the town to the coronet of walls.

Afion is a natural junction among the highways of the mountains. The
plain is ringed by the hills, and the passes through them lead to Afion.
Xenophon crossed the plain, and Alexander the Great. The first crusade
streamed past the mighty rock. And at the present day the Smyrna line
joins on at Afion with the Constantinople--Bagdad railway. During the
war all troops from Constantinople or Smyrna proceeding to either the
Mesopotamian or Palestine fronts passed through Afion. And we watched
them. The only aeroplane I saw during my captivity, flown by a German
officer from Constantinople to Jerusalem, passed through Afion. And
tens of thousands of storks on their annual migration passed by the same
way in vast flocks.

It was an interesting place, true enough. But when is captivity
interesting? After we had been there a year and a half we found that it
had another title to fame, for we read in a book that it possessed
perhaps the best known mosque of Dervishes in Turkey. The Dervishes we
knew well enough by sight, with their long robes and high felt hats,
like elongated brimless toppers. And we knew the mosque, too. It was
well built; but it was modern and did not somehow look famous. Well, if
the place was famous before, it is infamous all right now.

We arrived at about ten o’clock on a cold night and found that no one
expected us. At any rate, they had made no preparations for our
disposal. After some delay we were marched up from the station, about a
mile, through the town, and ushered into a house that would have been
better if it had been empty. For it had been used as a hospital, and had
never been cleaned since. There were filthy bandages and other oddments
about the floors. As usual, it was an Armenian house; for, although the
Armenians of Afion were not actually massacred in or near the town, as
at Angora, they had nearly all been deported at the time of the great
Armenian drive. It was really a very good house, about the best I was
ever in in Turkey, except at the end, in Smyrna. But except for the dirt
of the hospital _débris_ it was utterly bare.

When we woke up next morning we found we were quarantined on account of
the typhus at Angora, as well as locked up in the ordinary way. But soon
a cheery-looking Englishman with a pointed beard marched up the road
outside and hailed us through the windows. This was a naval officer, the
senior officer among the British prisoners at Afion, and from him we
learned that much more freedom was to be expected here than we had known
for a long while.

I forget how long our quarantine lasted, not more than a day or two, and
then we were free to go out, accompanied by guards, to visit the other
prisoners. There was one house, just on the opposite side of the
Kara-Hissar, with, I think, nine French officers in it; and four or five
hundred yards further on there was another house with nine or ten
British officers, mostly naval, and about the same number of Russians.
Of the Russians, four or five belonged to the Imperial Navy, and the
rest were Merchant Service men, not really prisoners of war. In the
Medrisseh, the large old Mohammedan school in the town, there were a lot
more Russian merchant sailor officers and engineers. These Russians
beat us all in duration of captivity, for they had all been seized
before war actually was declared.

The French-Anglo-Russian community had the very great privilege of
permanent permission, by daylight, to use a generous slice of rocky
hill-side as a playground, and the Anglo-Russian house had a large
garden in addition. They kept turkeys and chickens, and seemed to us to
be extraordinarily fortunate people. And we shared their good luck to a
large extent, for, though we had not the hill-side always at hand, we
were allowed to come over with a guard every afternoon.

A few days after our arrival at Afion the three original naval officers
of Angora moved from our rather crowded quarters into the French house.
The skipper had marked it down as a good place to escape from, and in
two of the naval officers of the Anglo-Russian house he had found men as
daring as himself.

For five or six weeks things went smoothly. A good many parcels arrived,
and letters from home, which mean so much. Altogether, captivity was as
tolerable as could be expected. Spring was early that year, and snow
fell only once after we had settled in. I embarked upon an awful career
of writing verses, a regular orgie of production, and it took me so far
from Turkey that at times it was hard to realize which was my real life,
that in the Armenian house, or the wider one among the forests of
Ceylon, where I wandered far and free. Buds were shooting, the sap began
to sting in the veins of the trees, and in the caves the starlings built
their nests. Spring is a season of charm wherever one may be, but in
Turkey even that paradise contains a serpent, for the season of
awakening rouses the things that bite from their winter sleep, and lying
awake at night one can hear the prisoners stir and scratch themselves.

We had arrived at Afion so completely penniless that the Turkish
Commandant, at our request, sent a wire to the American Ambassador
asking for money. The Ambassador rose to the occasion and sent up £Tq.3
a head. Prices had already begun the giddy climb I have already
indicated, and our Turkish pay was already hardly enough to keep body
and soul together. The three pounds became a monthly grant, later it was
increased to five, and before we left Turkey it had become eighteen. Let
no one think that on this we were rich. But it was a great thing to feel
that our plight was not forgotten.

Some of the adventures that had landed prisoners at Angora have been
briefly described. Let me give a few of those that had brought others
to Afion. The first I must mention is that of an Australian observer,
for it tells of a very gallant deed performed by one of our enemies, and
even the bitterness of war should not be allowed to obscure glorious
deeds. In December one of our aeroplanes crashed into the sea about a
mile, more or less, from the coast of the Gallipoli peninsula held by
the Turks. The pilot sank, but the observer was buoyed up by his
life-saving waistcoat until he lost consciousness in the bitterly cold
water. When he came to his senses again he found himself ashore, a
prisoner, and he was told that a German officer had swum out and brought
him in: swum out into that December sea to save an enemy. Let that stand
to the credit of Germany, and the other story I shall tell to the
discredit of Turkey. It is the tale of Joe, a sturdy Yorkshire sailor
man, a naval reserve officer, who was sent into a bay on the southern
coast of Anatolia in command of a boat. They hoped to locate a submarine
base, but they were ambushed instead. Joe was hit in the neck by a great
lump of a Snyder bullet, which had first passed through the side of the
boat. The survivors were captured, and Joe, who rode as a sailor,
travelled many painful miles on horseback. He was operated on in the
most primitive fashion, by being held down by soldiers while a Turkish
doctor lugged the bullet by main force from its lodging place at the
base of his jaw. Finally he reached the civilised town of Smyrna, and
was there confined in the local war office, a large building facing one
of the main streets. Just below his window was the window of the office
used by the Commandant of the place. For three days and nights Joe was
not allowed out of that room for any purpose whatsoever. There was no
convenience of any sort in the room, but all his demands to be allowed
out, even for five minutes, were met by a fixed bayonet. Still, there
was the window, and Joe was a clean person. Eventually the high and
mighty person in the room below complained, and his complaint brought
Joe’s sufferings to an end. It is disgusting to write of these things,
but captivity among a disgusting people is a disgusting fact. Why should
white books and blue books have the monopoly?

In the last week of March we had exciting news. The skipper and two
other naval officers had gone. They simply got out of their windows at
night, rendezvoused on the hill-side, and struck for the coast. They had
made ample preparation in the way of training, and they carried enough
food to last them for two weeks. The skipper was in the French house,
and he had not told them his plan, so they were taken by complete
surprise. But they rose to the occasion like men, and showed the
greatest skill in leading the Turks gently away from the scent. We all
thought them jolly good sportsmen. So successfully was the escape
concealed, and so lax were the guards, that it was four days before the
Turks discovered that they were three prisoners short. Even then they
could not believe it. They looked in the beds and under them, and called
plaintively in odd corners, hoping the whole thing was a joke. It was
only the letter to the Commandant which had been left behind that
finally convinced them. Then there was the devil to pay.

In Turkey it was not the guards that kept the prisoners in, but the
country. Guards there were in plenty, but they were often lax and until
this escape there were no regular roll calls. But the country is a
terrifically hard place to get out of. To begin with, it is no easy
matter to find one’s way through mountains with only a small-scale map.
I doubt if the country has ever been properly surveyed. Then there is
the language difficulty and the cutthroat character of the inhabitants.
Water, too, is scarce, and food unobtainable. And the size of the
country is vastly greater than most people seem to imagine. Asia Minor
is roughly 600 miles long and 400 miles broad: a larger country than
Spain. And it had no frontier which abutted upon friendly country nearer
than the Caucasus, an almost hopeless journey to attempt. East there are
the Taurus mountains, and beyond them desert, so that direction is out
of the question. North, west, and south there is the sea. And our
information was that very few boats were likely to be available. So that
even when a party overcame the great difficulties of the land journey,
and reached the coast, there was always a very strong probability of
their having to give themselves up to get food.

Two days after this escape had taken place, and two days before the
Turks discovered it, a new party of prisoners arrived in Afion. It was
hard luck that they should have come at such a time, for they were very
worn and required good treatment. There were a few men and about nine
officers, all from the Mesopotamian front. They had been taken at
different times, and had joined up on the way. It was always the
prisoners from the Mesopotamian front who had the worst time on the
journey. For, in those days, the Bagdad railway stopped short hundreds
of miles from the fighting line, and prisoners had to make the awful
desert marches as best they could. Six of these had come down out of
the sky, and two had been taken in a stranded barge during the retreat
of the 6th Division to Kut-el-Amara. Each had his separate adventure and
wonderful escape. In few places in the world can so varied a body of
adventurers have been gathered as there were at Afion then. We had
British, French, Russians, Ukrainians, Poles, Black Sea Greeks, Jews,
and Russian Italians, besides all sorts of obscure Baltic and Eastern
European people. The Roumanians and Serbs did not come until later.
There were men who had dropped from the heavens, and men who had risen
out from the depths of the sea; men from the Dardanelles, from
Mesopotamia, from the Sinai Peninsula, and from the plain of Troy. Later
on, we had additions from Persia, Palestine, and the Caucasus. Between
us we had seen and wandered over most of Europe, Asia, Africa, America,
and the Southern Seas; and we spoke most of the tongues of the earth,
and some others. Had we combined, we might have written a pretty good
guide book to the world; its hills and its heavens, its cities and its
wide spaces; and we would have puzzled the builders of Babel.

To live among us was a liberal education, and some of us were boys who
had hardly left school when war began. And the setting of this drama
was a dingy, dirty Turkish town, with mud-coloured, flat-topped houses,
and narrow, wretched streets.

The new-comers had nothing but what they stood up in. One, a short,
stout man, had been stripped naked when he was captured, and had been
led before the Turkish general dressed only in a sack given him in
charity. Since that, however, he had succeeded in getting some clothes
more suitable to his considerable dignity: “The Admiral,” we used to
call him: he was a member of the Royal Indian Marine. Several were
unwell, and all were in need of good food and a rest. One of them used
to tell a story of the attention received on the journey from a Turkish
doctor; a story of the kind we grew to know as typically Turkish. This
officer attended a Turkish hospital to have an ulcer in his leg dressed.
The bandage seemed a bit more than secondhand, and the officer asked for
a clean one. But the Turkish doctor refused, assuring him, in French,
that it was _tout à fait stérilizé_, absolutely sterilized. So it was
applied. But on the way home the officer felt it crawl, and, removing
it, found that it contained nine lice. Is it any wonder that typhus was
rife?

In so far as it was possible, we had to fit our new friends out, for, of
course, the Turks gave them nothing but a bare Armenian house, which
cost them nothing. What our captors would have done with us all if they
had not prepared homes for us by slaying the Armenians it is hard to
imagine. Probably they would not have been troubled to keep us at all.
Those poor Armenians were our sacrifice.

We shared out whatever few articles of clothes, pipes, tobacco, and food
we could spare, and the new-comers prepared to take a rest cure. But
they were doomed to disappointment. The next two months were certainly
the most trying I have ever spent in my life. When at last the
Commandant did discover that three officers were missing, there was a
tremendous uproar. The first thing that happened was that the
Commandant, whose duty it was to safeguard the prisoners, telegraphed to
Constantinople resigning his job, and stating that he had handed over to
a vicious old gentleman, known as the Kolassi, who was second in
command. He hoped in this way to land the Kolassi with the
responsibility of the escape. But the Kolassi was not fool enough to
take over short measure, and the Commandant was obliged to retain his
command pending inquiry. Of course, we were all locked up, and
inter-house communication completely prevented. The place bristled with
bayonets. Then we were all ordered to pack up and be prepared to move
in half-an-hour. The small Turkish naval officer who was bearing the
brunt of his superior’s wrath waxed almost tearful as he lectured the
occupants of the French house on the sin of lying, and told them of the
awful punishments of hell. All sorts of intrigues went on among the
Turks, and the blame of the escape was shuffled round like the game of
Old Maid. No one had the very slightest idea when they had gone, where
they had gone, or how they had gone. I doubt if they know to this day
how long a start they had. The Commandant, in his wriggles to avoid
punishment, did a most dastardly thing, a typically Turkish thing: for
he reported officially that the officers who had escaped had been on
parole and had broken it. This was a downright lie. One of the fugitives
had been senior British officer in the camp, and the Commandant had
asked him to give a parole for the whole lot of us; but he had
immediately and unhesitatingly refused to do anything of the kind. This
lie was calculated to put the prisoners who had escaped in a very
perilous position if recaptured, and I have no doubt at all that it
affected the treatment meted out to the rest of us.

When we had hastily packed up we were mustered in a street in the
desolate Armenian quarter. Not only the British, but all the other
nationalities too, including a large number of Russian merchant sailor
men whom we had never seen before. Here we were carefully counted, and
were then marched away in the direction of the Kara-Hissar, the wise
among us carrying everything we could. It is folly to be separated from
one’s baggage in Turkey.

Right under the Kara-Hissar, so close that a stone thrown strongly out
from above might crash through its roof, was an Armenian church. A
fairly large building of grey stone with iron-barred windows and an
iron door. Outside the door was a very small courtyard paved with rough
slabs of stone, and along one side of the church ran a stone-flagged
pathway, flanked by a narrow strip of ground on which grew two pear
trees and an acacia. Opposite to the church, on the other side of the
tiny courtyard, was a tall white building which had been an Armenian
school. This church was selected as our prison. It was the only place in
the town which could have held us, except the Medrisseh.

As we approached the church, up a steep street and a flight of steps, we
passed a number of unfortunate Armenian women and children who had been
turned out to make room for us. They sat by the road with their little
bundles, looking very miserable indeed, and I am sure we did not want to
rob them of their refuge.

We all, officers and orderlies, marched into the church, and the iron
door was closed. There were guards outside the door and inside the door,
and guards on the flagged path without. At the western end of the church
were two galleries, one above the other; one was given to our orderlies,
and the other had an armed guard in it. There were over a hundred of us
in the church, most of us with home-made beds, some with chairs, tables,
basins, boxes, and cooking pots. The older prisoners had by this time
made benches and mess tables and other pieces of furniture, and there
were two dogs and a cat. By the time that carts had brought up the last
of our things, the place was so full that one could hardly move. We kept
a clear passage way down the centre, from the door to the altar, and the
remainder of the space was thronged with all manner of men and all
manner of objects precious to their owners. Four Russian naval officers
were the luckiest, for they were given a vestry to themselves.

That night, while the French and British slept, patrols of Russians took
it in turns to keep watch for the massacre they expected. Up and down
the central aisle they marched, two at a time, until dawn showed that
our heads were still on our shoulders. They knew the Turks better than
we, but we loved our sleep.



CHAPTER VIII

THE ARMENIAN CHURCH


For the next two weeks we were not allowed out of the church at all, not
even into the little courtyard. Three at a time we were escorted by
sentries to the latrine beneath the school opposite, and that was the
only momentary glimpse we had of the outer world, save what little could
be seen through the barred windows. We were treated exactly as the Turks
treat their criminals. And after a few days even that small crossing
beneath the sky was denied us, for they built a new latrine, a most
slipshod, amateur affair, up against the wall of the church, where there
was a small door. Fortunately, the building was high in proportion to
its floor space, and some of the windows were broken.

Typhus broke out among us, and two people died; one Russian, and one
British orderly. But, by the grace of God, the plague stopped there, as
though by magic. Fortunately, we were clean when we went in. But the
very dust of the place grew septic, and small cuts and grazes grew into
sores that were hard to heal.

The Commandant was superseded by a hard-faced man whose service had
been chiefly in the wilds of Southern Arabia. This person’s name was
Maslûm Bey, and I watch the newspapers daily to see some notice that he
has been hanged, but so far I have watched in vain. The charges against
him are in the hands of the Government, and I trust his doom is sure.
But of that later, if indeed it can be put into a book at all.

Roll call was now held daily, twice a day at first, and in the beginning
it was, as it ought to be, very strict. Each person, as his name was
called, had to walk up and be recognized. But later on, like all things
Turkish, it lapsed into a matter of form, satisfied by an incoherent
“Hullo!” and an arm waved from behind a crowd.

Each group of friends formed a mess, which had its table in some corner
of the church, or on the altar platform; and on the floor beds were
grouped in rows or square kraals, with their owners’ belongings ranged
close by. Order of a sort grew out of chaos. The orderlies were luckier
than the officers, for they cooked against the wall of the church
outside, and a certain number of them were allowed to go shopping so
many days a week. For, as the Turks could not undertake to feed us,
they had to permit our orderlies to go to the bazaar. These orderlies
were really rather wonderful fellows. They managed to pick up enough
kitchen Turkish to bargain with the shopkeepers; they knew the ruling
rates of all principal articles of food; kept wonderful accounts,
despite the dearth of change; chaffed their guards, and were very
popular in the town. One could not but have the highest admiration for
them. And our cooks, too, did marvels. Led by a French sailor, who in
private life was a chef at the Jockey Club in Paris, they became quite
expert in dishing up the tasteless stuffs that Turks live on. And,
despite some perfectly appalling rows, they kept their heads and their
tempers.

There never was such a pandemonium as that church! You can’t lock up a
lot of hot-blooded men and starve them of everything that living means
without outbreaks of a sort. Not that there were many quarrels among
officers: they were very rare indeed, but the noise, and uproar, and
shouting, singing, and drinking until all hours of the early morning
made the place like a thieves’ kitchen in an old story-book. Hogarth
could have painted it, but I don’t know who could have described it.
Certainly I can’t. Except for a few hours before dawn, when there was a
hush, the place was always full of noise. Drinking parties, gambling
parties, singing parties, shouting parties: people learning languages,
people arguing, people carpentering, and, in the midst of it all, people
thinking out problems in silence, people reading, people writing. I used
to sit on my bed and write verses all day long sometimes. Another
officer wrote two plays while we were there, and, what is more,
rehearsed and produced them. And in that place the Russians made great
music. They are a wonderful people in that way. Where the Russians
gather together, there you have a choir. And the place was full of
musical instruments, violins, guitars, mandolines; played by masters,
played by learners, and played by people who did not and never could
learn.

The worst feature was the heavy drinking. A good many of us thought that
the Turks would, in the circumstances, have been wise to forbid liquor.
But they could not resist the chance of making money, and it flowed in.
Beastly native spirit for the most part, and synthetic violet-flavoured
Greek brandy: some good stuff, too, ordered from Constantinople, and
paid for by cheque. “Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die,” was
the motto of that place. And, by Jove! we did. There were dinners and
there were suppers, for many parcels had come in, and there were
“blinds.” People had birthdays; nation feasted nation; or nations
feasted themselves. Less quiet than Niagara Falls was that place and
nearly as wet. I regret much of this, but do not condemn it. Let no one
judge the events of a time like that unless he or she is quite certain
he knows what it was like in its entirety. There were men, keen, ardent,
fighting men, in the prime of their age, robbed of everything that goes
to ballast life. They were held back from that which they had set out to
do, to fight for their country. The regulars knew that their whole
career perhaps was ruined, that all the chances of the war were not for
them, and that stagnation in their chosen profession was the price of
their ill-fortune. The civilians who had donned uniform for the great
adventure knew that their sacrifice had been in vain, and that there was
no great adventure for them any more. The older men knew that their
businesses were going to ruin, and the younger knew that they were
missing the most important years of their training. All this made
gunpowder of men’s souls. And we were starved, not of bread, but of all
else that life holds good. Starved of work, starved of amusement,
starved of news of a world in the making, starved of the society of
women, starved of freedom itself. I do not think that many outside
people are fit to condemn the excesses of that place.

There was one man, not an Englishman, who slept all day. But if one
awoke in the silent hour one could see him with a little lamp by his
side, smoking pipe after pipe of opium. I think the other way was better
than that.

It must be added that the French, as a body, behaved extraordinarily
well. And with that I will change the subject.

Apart from the noise, the place was intensely irritating to live in. We
were so very close to each other. It is unpleasant to be cooped up with
too much of one’s fellow man. The sweetest temper would revolt in time.
And we were of such wide varieties as regards personal habits. It is the
small habits that are sharp enough to prick. But, looking back at
captivity, I have often felt horribly small-minded, and I daresay a lot
of others have too.

After two weeks’ complete confinement, one day the doors were opened,
and we were made free of the tiny courtyard and the flagged path
outside. When we were all out at once there was hardly room to turn
round, but it was a very great improvement.

The yard, about ten yards square, was used for everything, from
football to boxing. Someone had received a set of gloves in a parcel,
and they were a godsend. There used to be some very pretty scraps in the
mornings, and some very hefty slogging matches. Several of the better
performers set up schools of pugilism. It was very good fun, but the
filthy drain oozed in the courtyard, and the very dust was poisonous.
Several officers got very sore eyes, and the only thing to do with a
scratch was to dab it with iodine at once.

I remember George, a Russian Pole with a fiery nature, sitting on a
stone by me one day and watching a ferocious but perfectly good-tempered
round which drew much blood. He was intensely interested and thought it
a noble sport--for Britishers. For, as he said frankly, if anyone were
to hit him on the nose like that he would not feel his honour satisfied
until he had exchanged shots with the aggressor. This shows what
different angles of view different people in that church had.

Meanwhile, two things hung in the balance, and we hungered for news of
both.

The three daring escapers had not yet been rounded up, and Kut was still
besieged.

After eighteen days of marching through mountains, the three came within
sight of the sea. But they were doomed to failure. They could not get
down the precipitous gorge by which their guiding river plunged from the
mountains, and they had not enough food to go back and round by another
way. So they bought food from a shepherd, were given away, and
recaptured. It was a sad end to a very brave attempt. Then the
despicable meanness of the late Commandant’s lie began to tell against
them. They were treated as prisoners who had broken their word of
honour, and cast into a filthy dungeon in Constantinople. There they
awaited trial for over six months. Then they were court-martialled, and
that, at any rate, should have been final. But it was far from it. The
court found them guilty of attempting to escape, and gave them a not
unjust sentence of two weeks’ confinement. (I think the senior officer
got three weeks, but it is immaterial.) A sentence like this, if given
at the start and adhered to, would have been just. But they had already
spent half a year in gaol, and they spent three more months there before
they were sent back among other British prisoners. They only got out
when they did by giving their parole. They had to give it. Probably they
would otherwise have died or gone mad. Later on they withdrew their
parole, got the withdrawal officially receipted this time, and one, if
not more, of them escaped again and got clean away. Two of them are now
back in the Navy. The other died in Turkey when the end of the war was
in sight.

While we were in the church, Kut fell. Some of us could hardly believe
it at first, especially those who had belonged to the 6th Division. It
seemed too bad to be true. After what we had heard from those few who
had already made the march from Mesopotamia to railhead, it was plain
that the march of thousands of exhausted men along those desert ways
would be a very terrible tragedy. But how terrible it was going to be I
don’t think even the men who had made it quite realized. The story of
that march from Kut is not for me to write. But the impression that the
arrival of the survivors made upon us earlier prisoners will be told in
its time.

It was a long while yet before they reached us.

To me personally there came a great piece of news while we were in the
church, for a letter dated a couple of months back told me that I was
the father of a daughter. The telegram dispatched upon the same day
reached me just three weeks after the letter. At that time I was
singular in having so close a relation as yet unknown, but before the
end came, as new prisoners dropped in, there were quite a band of us
gaolbird fathers.

Beside the flagged path there were two Armenian tombs of some
pretension, built of marble and carved with the usual imaginary fauna of
heaven, all heads and wings. Further East, by the way, these things are
flora, and grow on trees. They were crude affairs, of no interest except
to their owners, but there was a space between them, and that was of
interest to me. For, when the iron door was first opened in the morning,
I used to come out and hide myself there and write verses. This is so
largely a personal record that I make no apology for the recurrent
references to my own method of killing care. It meant very much to me,
as each man’s method did to himself. In this quiet nook, before the path
was thronged, I wrote a long description in verse of a Russian concert
held in the church and of the riotous feast that followed it. Far from
the riot I wrote it. But in the church itself, in the very vortex of
hellish sound, I wrote a long poem on the great forests of Northern
Ceylon. Far from peace, I wrote of the most peaceful place I know. And
this paradox holds good, held good with me at least, all through. For in
the next winter, with my feet in the Arctic and my head in the Tropics,
with a freezing hand I used to write of that sunny land near the
Equator. I believe it kept me warm.

Those hours before the multitude awakened were great hours. Even the
smelly courtyard was attractive then. For one could look up from it,
right up into the air, and see the great cliff that towered above the
church turn gold in the light of the early sun. And the cliff was a
great place for birds. Rock pigeons nested there in thousands, and
swallows, and scores of beautiful little kestrels; and swifts flew,
screaming out over the roofs below. Vultures brought forth their young
there, whose first steps were on five hundred feet of empty air.

There is a rock in Ceylon very like the Kara-Hissar, a huge upstanding
stump of granite called Sigiriya, the lion rock, and I had spent many
happy months there, years before, delving into ruins of fourteen
centuries ago. But the Kara-Hissar was good to look upon, apart from the
memories it awakened, though memories are intensified in prison. In
ordinary life one lives chiefly for the present: but in prison one lives
almost entirely on the past and for the future.

It was not long before the pear trees came into blossom, and the white
acacia. The sentries had kept us rigorously to the flagged path at
first, while they used the garden space beneath the pear trees to grow
a narrow bed of potatoes. But, either the potatoes failed, or they tired
of the effort, for long before the end of our time there we used to walk
freely to the outer edge, from where we could look down upon the town
below. The Squire had received a drawing-book and a box of paints, and
he used to make pictures there.

While we were in the church, before the potatoes had been abandoned,
there was quite an exciting episode connected with an attempt at escape.
The hero was a cheery Irishman, whom I will call Bart, the owner of one
of the dogs, a beautiful Persian greyhound that he had acquired in
Angora. He made up a bundle of food-stuffs and concealed it behind one
of the Armenian tombs, where it would be handy when he required it, and
so that he could come out of the church empty-handed and unsuspicious in
appearance. But one of the guards noticed it, and a special sentry was
put on to keep it under observation. It was obviously impossible to
start like this, and for the time, at any rate, the attempt had to be
abandoned. But it still remained to recover the precious pack and its
contents. A Turkish sentry pretending not to watch anything is the most
transparent thing in the world. It was easy to see what he was at: he
wanted to identify the owner so that he might be cast into a dungeon.
But it was not so easy to see how he was to be got rid of while the bag
was removed. Bart was prepared to remove it rapidly inside a folding
deck-chair, but he wanted an opportunity to grab it unawares. The
sacred potatoes gave the key to the solution. I fetched Gumush, the
greyhound, on a lead, and the perverse creature ran all over the
cherished potatoes. As all the guards were co-partners in the garden,
they all rushed to prevent the trespass; and the deed was done. In a
moment, in the twinkling of an eye, that pack was safe in the church and
its contents distributed. The sentry recovered his head, gave one look
at the tomb, and made tracks for the Commandant’s office. But we heard
of it no more. The trap had failed, and the bait was gone.

I have mentioned the noise in the church, and it is only fair to tell of
the music, real soul-stirring music. It was not made by the English;
with a few exceptions they were not a musical lot as far as performance
went. But the Russian sailors had a choir, and they sang like angels. It
must have made the angels painted on the ceiling envious to hear them.

Their music was of a kind quite distinct from Western European music.
Very sad and melancholy as a rule, in a minor key. Generally about eight
of them would sing together, taking parts, but sometimes they would all
join in, as when they held a sort of funeral service the night after
their friend had died of typhus. And very few indeed of them could not
sing. It used to put our own caterwauling concerts to utter shame. Most
of them were simple, rather rough men; and though we knew them all as
Russians in those pre-revolution days, I believe they really belonged to
half a dozen different tribes; Cossacks, Ukrainians, Georgians, and
Poles. But they could all sing. They sang the thing they called the
Pan-Slav hymn. It is the forbidden national anthem of Poland,
proscribed, before the war, in Russia, Austria, and Germany; and with
equal fervour they sang the grand national anthem of Russia. “God Save
the King” they sang, too, and made it sound magnificent. But for the
most part they sang folk-songs. The song we liked the best was a
beautiful Cossack lullaby. A fellow-prisoner has kindly written it out
for me, and it is printed at the end of this chapter. The words given
are some I wrote for it while in the church.

The singing of the Russians was the best thing there was in that church.

There were several Indians in Afion at that time, survivors of the
Bagdad consular guard; and while we were in the church the last, or one
of the last, died. When war broke out there was a guard of two Indian
officers and about four-and-thirty soldiers attached to the Consulate.
They were interned by the Turks. When disarmed they had all their kit
complete, and they were in perfect physical condition. They were not
half-famished when captured, like the garrison of Kut. They were not
taken near the fighting line, where feelings ran high, as the rest of us
were; on the contrary, the fighting line was hundreds of miles from
them. But before the war ended every single one of those men was dead.
They died of cold, calculated ill-treatment, starvation, and
over-marching.

As I tell this tale, as I thread this rosary of months and years, there
runs throughout a strand of the blackest tragedy, and it will come out,
do what I can.

I am trying to put in all the funny things that happened, too, for there
are things too sad to be serious about. But the tragedy is there, and it
must be seen.

Still, it is a bad note to end a chapter on. As a crowd we were not
downhearted, so I will pass to the tale of the frightened sailor man.

There was a certain sailor man who had heard strange tales about the
Turks on his journeys round the world. He had heard how they bastinado
men for small faults, and he had probably seen it, too; for at the time
of which I write he was a captive in Turkey. In course of time, it
happened that this sailor man, who was not a highly-educated person, was
smitten with disease, as people in Turkey very often are. And, being at
that time in a city, he was sent to a hospital. Now he did not know that
typhus rages in the hospitals of the Turks, nor is it probable that he
knew that this disease is conveyed by the bite of lice. If he had known
this he would perhaps have been even more frightened than he actually
was, and with far better cause. One thing is quite certain, and that is
that he did not know that all persons admitted to Turkish hospitals are
clean-shaved all over. But he bore in mind many horrible stories, most
of which were true, and, when a hospital orderly approached him with a
razor in his hand, the sailor man’s mind was invaded by the most
terrible fear, for he had heard dreadful tales of the mutilations that
Turks were said to practise upon their enemies. So he cried aloud with a
great voice that it should not be done. And as for the explanations of
the man with the razor, he heeded them not at all, for he knew no
Turkish. Sooner would he die all at once, he cried, than be done to
death piecemeal. And his cry was heard, for he prepared to fight, and
the man with the razor did not want to fight him, nor did the doctor,
nor did the assistant doctor. So in the end they sent to us for his own
officer, who soothed his troubled mind until he allowed himself to be
shaved.


THE RUSSIAN LULLABY

  Shadows come a’ creeping;
  Little stars are peeping;
  Church bells distantly sound.
  Lie still, my babe, in your cot gently sleeping,
  Dreaming while the world spins round.
  Dream of your mother, her watch gladly keeping,
  Smiling while the world spins round.

  Through the curtains gleaming,
  Moonlight comes a’ beaming;
  Hush! My Baby, we’re found.
  Deep in the night the old moon sees you dreaming,
  Sleeping while the world spins round.
  Bright kind old face, like a sentinel seeming,
  Smiling while the world spins round.

[Illustration: Russian Lullaby]



CHAPTER IX

The Lower Camp


Towards the latter end of May the great “strafe” ended. The Turks
informed us that our punishment was fulfilled, and that we were to
return to normal times again. For several days the senior officers of
the different nationalities were very busy examining our new quarters
and arranging matters generally, and then we began to move by masses out
of the church. The French went first, to an Armenian house in the town.
Soon afterwards the Russians followed to other houses in the same part
of the Armenian quarter. And then the British officers, of whom there
were now about forty, moved into a completely new block of jerry-built
houses down by the station road. So new were the houses that the one I
was in had no doors or windows when we went into it, and was not really
completed the whole time we were there.

This block of four houses was known as the Lower Camp, for the Armenian
quarter, or Upper Camp, was on higher ground and about a mile distant
from it.

The Lower Camp consisted of a row of four houses under one continuous
roof. Each house contained a kitchen and two rooms on the ground floor,
as well as an open space in the centre, and three bedrooms upstairs,
grouped round a central landing which served as a mess-room. The
orderlies lived downstairs, and the officers upstairs, two in one small
room at the back, and four in each of the two larger rooms in front.

Behind the houses was an open space, of rather over a quarter of an acre
in extent, bounded by the backs of the houses on one side and by walls
on the other three. This was known as the garden; for, when first we got
there, it contained a couple of dozen cherry-trees about as big as
walking-sticks. But these did not long survive, for a quarter of an acre
is not a large playground for forty active officers and a dozen equally
active orderlies, to say nothing of dogs and Turkish guards.

From the upper rooms we had wide views in both directions, out across
the plain and far away into the distant hills. The front faced
approximately south-east, and thirty miles away we could see the fine
range of mountains known as the Sultan Dagh, capped with snow until far
on into the summer. From the back windows we could see the Kara-Hissar,
and a number of other rocky hills, like islands in the plain; and, in
the distance, rolling hills and mountains one behind another. A good
deal of the plain visible between the rocks was saline, and in early
summer was blue with masses of a wild flower we knew as sea lavender.

It was really a beautiful view, especially in the spring, when the land
was not so colourless as at other times. The soil of the plain was very
soft and friable, and much dust used to hang in suspension, giving very
vivid colours to the sunsets; sunsets of golden pheasants and peacocks’
tails, and sunsets of red-hot copper. I have seen every shadow on the
wall in the evening as blue as the bluest sea.

In the late summer great dust-storms used to roll up across the plain.
We could see them gather on the distant hills, and come speeding towards
us like banks of fog. And, as we hurriedly closed all the windows and
fixed them tight, the storms would break upon the rocks, towering up
high into the air in waves of brown, while the main body drove furiously
towards us and lashed at the windows. A high wind would blow furiously
for a few minutes, and then the storm would pass on across the plain,
and rain would sprinkle the dust.

Some day that plain will be a great natural aerodrome, where people will
halt on their way from Europe to the Far East.

The inhabitants of the house I was in, No. 3, were practically the same
as in the house by the city wall in Angora. No. 1 was principally
Mesopotamian, No. 2 chiefly the old Afion crowd, and No. 4 largely
composed of the second Angora house. During the next two and a-half
years many new prisoners came, and the old inhabitants had periodical
times of restlessness when they shifted round, but the nuclei of the
houses remained more or less constant, and the characteristic tone of
each house remained practically unalterable. It is a very curious thing
this tone or soul of each small subdivision of a community. I suppose
every home in England has its own personal tone. Certainly each house in
a public school has. Each ship has, and each regiment; and, in a larger
way, each nation has, and will retain it despite Bolshevism.

We had not long been in the Lower Camp when new prisoners began to
arrive. I cannot pretend to remember the order of their coming, for I
kept no diary and have not a single note to help me; it does not, in any
case, matter.

The yeomanry taken at Katia in the Sinai peninsula passed through on
their way to a town in the north of Anatolia. We only had a glimpse of
them as they passed; but we were able to supply them with a few books.

Other prisoners came in who stayed with us. The earliest to arrive were
a very few who had been taken, one or two at a time, in the attempt to
relieve Kut. One of these had been kept for several days in a small tent
with a number of Arabs condemned to death. The Arabs were not allowed
out of the tent for any purpose whatever.

Another had been chained to an Indian, and had dysentery while so
chained. He and the Indian both got typhus, and the Indian died. After
weeks in hospital the Britisher pulled through typhus, malignant
malaria, and chronic rheumatism. He is now pulling through phthisis.
Before that he had had sunstroke, and he was shot through the chest; not
a bad record for a constitution to have pulled through.

Another British officer had been housed in the public gaol at Mosul,
among the Turkish criminals, whose habits were so filthy that he asked
to be allowed a privy to himself. His request was met by an order
calculated to humiliate a clean Englishman in the eyes of the people of
Mosul; for, after that, he was taken out each day by an armed guard and
graciously permitted to make use of the street in the open bazaar. As I
said before, Turks are a disgusting people.

Gradually, as more prisoners arrived, we overflowed into the Upper Camp.
The Russians were sent away to another part of Anatolia, and their
houses given over to British.

One other visit we had, from a German Staff-Colonel and several
subordinates. “When will the war end?” we asked the great man. “When we
have taken Verdun,” was his reply.

We had not much liberty at this time. A certain number of officers were
allowed to go shopping on several days in the week. A piece of rocky
ground was assigned to us to play cricket on. Each officer was allowed
to go to the Turkish bath once a week. And once a week the camps visited
each other.

For the rest, we had the garden, and the Upper Camp had a part of the
street between their houses.

The chief game in the garden was a sort of badminton, played over a net
with tennis rackets and balls made of stitched-up lumps of old sock. It
went by the name of Bufru, coined by a cunning forger of Turkish.

But indoors there were many activities, both mental and physical. I
should be afraid to say how many people wrote books. But the number of
those who wrote plays must have been even greater. Some of them were
very well produced. Several officers, notably one of the Australians,
showed themselves to be quite expert designers of costumes, and most
efficient needlemen. And some of the youngsters made very pretty women.
The art of the female sex, in dressing as they do, was borne in upon me
when I saw how quite plain young men could be made to look most
attractive girls. +A+ for a day, +B+ for a week, and +C+ for a life
partnership, as someone wickedly compared the attractions of the three
leading ladies. Some of the plays were very funny indeed, but the wit
was not of that order which makes you pride yourself that you can see
it. As a rule, it flew up and struck you all of a heap.

Another trial of the times was the debating society, in which all things
on earth were discussed in due form, with a chairman, a proposer and
seconder, an opposer and his second, a butter-in, and a ribald gallery.
For days afterwards I used to hear the points argued and re-debated by
the orderlies in the kitchen beneath my room. And two of the officers
took themselves as future Public Men so seriously that they used to
practise elocution on each other, each in turn suffering himself to be
addressed by the other as “Gentlemen.”

There were lectures, too, some of them very good ones. The subjects
dealt with were catholic and included cocoanut-planting, Mendelism,
flying, submarines, Singhalese history, Greek coins, Egyptian
irrigation, and a host of other matters.

Besides these public efforts, there were men studying all manner of
things in little cliques, or by themselves. One officer who knew no
Arabic tapped Zaki to such good purpose that he (not Zaki) wrote an
Arabic grammar. One old Australian of fifty, who had always lived, and
would continue to live, in the back of beyond, studied simultaneously
French, Norwegian, and Esperanto. There were teachers of mathematics,
teachers of German, Tamil, Italian, Turkish and Russian. There were
people teaching themselves to draw, or to play musical instruments.
There were people studying law and medicine. I am sure that, at that
time, we were the greatest centre of intellectual endeavour in the whole
of the Turkish Empire.

In addition to the more purely intellectual occupations there were a
number of really skilled carpenters, an officer who made himself an
excellent little forge, where he turned out some very clever work, after
having first manufactured the needful tools out of scrap steel; among
them I remember a pocket-knife with various implements in it, and a
stethoscope. The latter was for Bill.

Then there were cunning adorners of rooms, and still more cunning mixers
of cocktails, in which a number of nauseous ingredients was made to
taste good, as two negatives make an affirmative.

There were also breeders of dogs. Quite a rage there was for keeping
dogs, on a quarter of an acre of land. Hilda and Gumush, the two
original hounds of the Church days, presented their owners respectively
with twelve and eleven puppies all in one week. At first it was very
pretty to watch Bart training the young greyhounds, and teaching them to
jump; he was a notable trainer of dogs. But when they all grew up, the
overcrowding became intolerable. Public opinion revolted. Feelings were
very deeply stirred, and people voted anti-dog or pro-dog, or
pro-two-dogs, or pro or anti every possible combination and permutation
of dogs. In the end the dogs were treated much as the Armenians. Some
were slain, more were deported, and only three remained: Hilda, Gumush,
and a funny little animal called Roger, who had a long body on the
smallest legs, with the lowest gear, that I have ever seen.

In addition to dogs there were other pets: ducks, pigeons, chickens,
enormous eagle-owls, a vulture, magpies, and finally a wolf. Cats were
tried, but were somehow not a success.

There was also the native fauna. In my room I caught mice, voles, and
shrews. Also smaller and more unpleasant creatures. Quite a feature of
the spring awakening was the almost universal “bug-strafing” of beds.
Our beds were all home made: a frame of pinewood, strung with thin rope,
and carried on four legs. The joints and the holes where the rope passed
through were the chief haunts of the foe. After breakfast, on a warm
morning, officers in shirt sleeves, with kettles of boiling water and
pots of Stockholm tar, might be seen carrying out that bold military
measure known as a bug-strafe.

In summer I slung my bed by four ropes from the ceiling, and was fairly
immune. They did not climb down the ropes, and they could not reach up
from the floor, even standing on tip-toe. It was not only secure, but
uncommonly comfortable.

Occasionally the Turks searched through our belongings to see if we had
disguises, or diaries, or food stored for escape.

The first time they did it they caught us properly; but made an awful
muddle of their triumph.

We were all ordered out into the garden, for what purpose we did not
know; and, once out, sentries were placed at all the doors, and we were
not allowed back again. But we asked as a favour that one cook in each
house might be permitted to return, as otherwise our dinners would be
spoiled. This was allowed. They began by searching No. 1 house, and as
they were doing so our noble cook hid everything of any importance that
he could lay hands on. Some under the charcoal, and some under the straw
in Roger’s kennel. Roger was very snappy with Turks, like all good dogs
he detested them; and he sat tight on all my MSS. among other things.
Everything in writing that a Turk cannot understand is to him
abominable. What he can understand is rare above rubies.

Despite the efforts of the cooks, they did find a great deal of written
matter, some of which it had been very unwise to keep: such things as
diaries with descriptions of acts of atrocity in them, and plans for
escape. There was nothing, so far as I ever heard, of the slightest
military value. But there was a great deal that might have done us much
harm. Perhaps the church over again. Fortunately the whole mass of
literature was so enormous that it could not possibly be dealt with on
the spot, so everything, plays, books, mess accounts, and the notes of
study, as well as the more dangerous things, was stuffed into two or
three sacks, and put in a small house in the garden. In addition to the
sentry permanently in the garden, another, with a loaded rifle, was
placed to guard the small house. This consisted of one room, with a
barred window at one end, and a barred window and a locked door at the
side. The side opposite to the door was blank, and was part of the
garden wall. But the end facing No. 4 house had a tiny window in it
which had no bars. There were no blinds to any of the windows, and the
sentry had only to look in to see that the sacks were still there.

The matter was very serious indeed. There was some very incriminating
stuff there, and we did not at all desire another two months of the
church. All sorts of measures were proposed and rejected. Burning the
whole place down was mooted, but decided to be impossible, for paper
burns so slowly that the sacks would certainly be saved. Then Bart did a
very daring thing. He had slim shoulders, but a great heart, and he
thought his narrow body might squeeze through the unbarred window. He
waited an opportunity and dived through. Once in, squatted on the floor,
the sentry would have to come right up to the window in order to see
him. But the sentry only watched the door. And while he watched, Bart
went through the lot as swiftly as a post office sorter, and removed
more than half of the most dangerous items. He got safely out again,
while the sentry still watched the door.

In No. 3 house, an officer named Budd was less fortunate. Trying to
explain that he wanted to keep the mess accounts, he lost his temper and
damned the interpreter. He was at once searched personally, and sent
away into the town, where he was confined in a cellar. When he asked for
bread, the gaoler said, “Para yok, ekmek yok,” which means, “No money,
no bread.” Fortunately, Budd had money; but he had a very unpleasant
five or six days before he was released. In the cell next to his he
heard a poor, miserable little Chaldean priest, who had bravely but
unwisely kept some record of the Armenian girls enslaved in various
Turkish families, being mercilessly flogged, and screaming in his
agony.

Bart had collected some of the diaries, but there were still others, and
at least one plan of escape most unwisely committed to writing. A
community would be incomplete without its salt of folly.

A few days later the remaining documents returned to us too. The Turks
had bungled over the cooks, bungled over guarding their spoil, and now
they bungled again worse than ever. They had a positive genius for
incompetency: a masterly faculty for determining the wrong way to do a
thing, and for doing it. After a few days, a sack of papers and
note-books was returned to the camp. To our surprise, it was found to
contain all those documents which we had feared the Turks might discover
and keep.

But the puzzle was elucidated by a letter which followed, a rather
abject letter from the interpreter, stating that he had returned the
wrong sack by mistake, and, if we would not tell the Commandant of his
error, would now send us the right one! So we recovered everything.

In the Upper Camp they were not so lucky. There, the Turks adopted the
simple method of destroying all written matter. It was things like that
which made it so difficult for officers to keep any account of the
treatment of their men.

The only person, besides Budd, who suffered actual penalty from this
raid, so far as I remember, was the celebrated French cook, late of the
Jockey Club. He had kept a diary, and in it had stupidly written the use
to which he thought the Turkish flag should be put by a French sailor.
It might be thought, after some of our treatment, that this was merely
tit-for-tat, six of one and half a dozen of the other. As a fact, it was
twelve dozen of one and very gross of the other. So the French cook went
to gaol, and we saw him in Afion no more.

In this gallery of portraits I think Porter is more than worthy of
mention. He was an orderly in No. 4 house, a slight, fair-haired young
fellow from the Isle of Wight. Before the war he had been a barber, and
he used to cut our hair and trim our beards: for many of us grew beards.
But his claim to fame was that he was the most wounded man in Afion. In
an attack on Gallipoli he had been shot through the body, and while
lying on the ground had been terribly wounded again by shrapnel. To
finish him off the Turks had cut his head open with a shovel, and
bayoneted him many times. He had in all twenty-one wounds. But he
resolutely refused to die, and when last I saw him was as merry as a
cricket, and able to play quite a good game of football. I sometimes
wonder how many wound-stripes he is entitled to, and whether he is
trying to grow fat enough to wear them all. He told me once that what he
disliked most was being stabbed in the stomach; and he certainly is an
authority to be respected.

Having no diary, I shall certainly not tempt critics by trying to fix a
date for the total eclipse of the moon. But one occurred while I was in
the lower camp, some time between June of 1916 and November of 1917. It
was either just before or just after the entry of Greece into the war.
Elston and I, who occupied a small room at the back of the house, had
gone to bed early and were nearly asleep when we were roused by repeated
firing away in the town. We sat at the window and watched flash after
flash; some in the streets, some on the hill-side, and some apparently
from the windows. There were the shots of modern rifles, of revolvers,
and the duller boom of old-fashioned muzzle-loading guns. We thought at
first it was brigands attacking the town. Then we remembered the Greeks,
and we feared that a great massacre had begun, for there were many
Greeks in Afion. They must be putting up a good fight, we thought, as
we listened to the continuous crackling, and watched the flashes. So we
went across the mess-room to see if the others in the front rooms, had
heard it, too. We found them all gathered at the windows, watching the
eclipse of the moon. The whole town was blazing away at the dragon who
was swallowing the moon. In the road before the house our sentries stood
anxiously, all blazing away Government ammunition in the good cause;
ammunition that was meant for us. They just flung their rifles to their
shoulders and opened rapid fire, loaded up, and did it again.

In No. 2 house there was an officer who had lived for years in Turkey
and knew the language well; so, when the N.C.O. in charge of the guard
addressed his troops, we had a ready interpreter. “We are all ignorant
men,” said the chaous. “I am ignorant myself. But I know that the moon
has not gone for ever. It will return. Still, I don’t like that
blood-red colour, so fire away.” And they did.



CHAPTER X

THE SECOND YEAR


To a large extent, the events chronicled in the last chapter overlap
into the second year. Some have been recorded as the natural sequels to
others, and some generalisations cover the whole of captivity. But,
broadly speaking, I am trying to make the record as continuous as
possible, and to preserve chronological order.

We had been in Turkey for less than a year when we first established
code correspondence with England. All our letters were censored in
Vienna as well as in Constantinople, and perhaps locally; but, so far as
we know, our code was never discovered. It was suspected, at least, some
means of communication was suspected, because the Turkish Government was
requested, through the Dutch Embassy, to set right certain urgent
wrongs, and they knew that some one of us must have reported those
wrongs. Letters frequently used to arrive with the marks of a hot iron
on them, showing that they had been tested for at least one form of
invisible writing. There are many forms of invisible writing, but we did
not use them. We used a plain, straightforward code, and our letters
might have been read by anyone on earth. It was curious that none of us
should have arranged a code before leaving home, but no one had, and I
never yet met a prisoner who had even contemplated the idea of being
captured.

Since our correspondence, after passing through several hands and
various different addresses in England, eventually reached the War
Office, it is obviously impossible for me to describe it. But I should
like, however anonymously, to pay a tribute to the clever person who
received the first code letter, realized that it was code, discovered
the key to it, knew what to do with it, and acted as our central post
office for the two and a-half years. He (she) had no idea that a code
message was coming, and had no clue beyond what his (her) brain
afforded.

It is a pleasure, too, to be able to claim that, though immobilized, we
were not altogether useless.

What exactly they would have done with us if they had brought home to us
a charge of conveying information of military value, I do not know. The
most probable fate would have been a dungeon until the end of the war,
or for as long as one could stand it. But, though I am unable to make
further reference to the system we actually used, it may not be
completely without interest to give an example of what can be done in
the simplest possible way. For instance, a prisoner writes the following
letter:--

   DEAR ELIJAH

   It is four months now since you wrote to me about the
   proposed division of Dad’s property, and I have not had a
   single line since. If I am passed over because I am away
   it will be very hard, through no fault of my own. I don’t
   think that Gwendoline will be greedy enough to treat me
   as you say. And anyhow I rely upon you to do your best to
   bag the old hall clock for me. Dear old Dad always meant
   it for me, and it seems only yesterday that he promised
   me it, &c. &c.

That is simple enough. It would pass any censor. But it contains
military information. It is not the code we used, but it was, as a
matter of fact, one which was held in reserve as a possibly useful one.
It was never communicated home.

Read it again in the light of the key, which is the Greek letter π.
Every schoolboy knows π. It is something or other to do with the
relation of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. I am no
mathematician, but I know that π means 3·14159. Take the third word of
the first line, the first of the second line, the fourth of the third
line, and so on right through the letter following π. It will then read:
“Four division passed through to Bag Dad yesterday.”

In addition to writing codes, I took to studying cypher, and of all the
nine or ten varieties of cypher given me by various prisoners never
found one for which a method of solution could not be worked out. An
average piece of Playfair took me about three and a-half hours: probably
an expert would do it in half that time. This is not written as an
advertisement for the study of cypher, but to show the straits to which
a prisoner may be driven for want of occupation. Few occupations are
more detestable than poring over cypher, but total inaction is worse. It
is an occupation for a slave, and now I am no longer a slave I hope
never to do it again.

Enough has been said of prisoners’ occupations now for the rest to be
left to imagination. Here endeth the Arts and Crafts section.

Towards the end of the summer of 1916 some of the generals taken in Kut
passed through Afion. None of them made more than one night’s stop
there. But after them there came some officers who did stop; and from
them we heard how the men had suffered on their deadly trek over the
desert. The road from Bagdad to Aleppo is strewn with the bones of the
British and Indian soldiers of Kut. We used to see gangs of men arrive
and walk up from the station to the town, almost too weak to look up at
our windows as they passed. And hundreds, thousands, have died or been
killed on the way, long before they reached Afion. At Afion itself they
were not badly treated then, but they reached that comparative refuge so
weak and worn out that very many of them died there. We used to see
their bodies by twos and threes and half-dozens being carried to the
Armenian cemetery where they were buried. We were not allowed to go to
their funerals, but later, when we had a padre, he was allowed to read
the burial service over the Christians.

The senior British officer was allowed a little, a very little,
communication with the men. The other officers were allowed none at all.
But through our shopping orderlies we kept in touch with them. Those
shopping orderlies became masters of intrigue. I am sure that each
successive senior officer did every single thing that he could for the
men. It was uphill work the whole way through. The unfortunate officer
who had to deal direct with the Turkish officials found himself baffled
at every point by lies, and lies, and lies; by cheating and by
bare-faced robbery. Whatever he could do he did do, but it was
absolutely heart-breaking. Thank goodness, I was a very junior officer,
and one who trembled in the presence of more than three stars.

I have been to that cemetery, not so very bad a place as cemeteries go.
There is a stone wall round it, and in it are a number of Armenian
tombstones of white marble. Many of them have carved upon them little
pictures of the implements proper to the deceased’s trade: scissors for
a tailor, a hammer and a chisel for a stonemason, and so forth. A very
large number bear the image of a small basin with a very fat caterpillar
in it. I thought it was the worm which dieth not, but others have held
it to be a chalice containing the spirit of the departed rising in
vapour.

It was a sad place, and many good fellows lie there, both officers and
men, who need not have died.

Afion was looked upon by the Turks as a rest camp. The church and the
Medrisseh were used as barracks for the sick and for worn-out prisoners.
But when the men gained strength again they were sent out in working
parties: some to cut timber in the forests near the Black Sea, some to
work on the railway then being built through the Taurus mountains, and
some even beyond the Taurus. There were good places and there were bad;
and in the worst of them life was Hell, and death came swiftly.

The only prisoner we ever had who had been a prisoner in Germany too
during this war--he had escaped from there and been recaptured--said
that the difference in treatment between the worst places in Germany and
Turkey was this: in Germany the men were ill-treated until they became
ill, and were then put into hospital; in Turkey they were ill-treated
until they became ill, and were then ill-treated more until they died.
Before the end we used to reckon, so far as we could get smuggled
figures, that seventy-five per cent. of all men who had been taken
prisoners two years or more earlier were dead. Three out of every four.
It was not only the Kut prisoners who had gone on short rations before
they were captured. It was all the prisoners, all those who were not
officers. For the Turks thought that if they sent back to England most
of the officers, no inquiry would be made about the men by the British
nation, any more than, in the opposite case, the Sublime Porte would
have seriously objected. I have met people who thought it was only the
Kut prisoners who were ill-treated, but, once that tragic march across
the desert was over, the prisoners from Kut, officers and men alike,
mixed with the other prisoners from all the other fronts and were in no
way distinguished from them, either by the Turks or by themselves.

There were places where working parties were treated well. We heard the
most extraordinary tales of places where British N.C.O.’s were running
the whole show themselves, running the prisoners and running the Turks
too: men who had come to the top by sheer force of character. It is very
greatly to be hoped that some account of this will see daylight. I wish
the details were in my hands. But these places were rare. There were
other hells upon earth where the men were beaten and starved, robbed of
the money sent them from home, robbed of their parcels, frozen in the
winter and overdriven in the summer until they died, either from sheer
collapse or from one of the many diseases that a dirty country breeds.

People who have no special knowledge of Turkey-in-Asia hardly realize
what the winter is like there. The last winter we were in Afion snow
fell at the end of November and did not melt until the middle of March.
The temperature ranged round about zero for a good many weeks. What this
meant to the men in some of the bad places can easily be imagined.
Clothes were provided for them by our Government, acting through the
Protecting Embassy; but, except where British officers were stationed
and were permitted to issue them, these clothes were nearly always
stolen. So were their boots. One of the orderlies in the house I was in
latterly had twice been to hospital--before he became an orderly--and
each time he had been looted of every stitch he possessed and of his
boots. Both times he had to start again in Turkish rags.

It is not my aim to complain about the lot of the officers. We were
lucky to be alive, and we did not really have a very bad time. But most
of the men were so unlucky that they are now dead, and while they lived
they suffered all manner of ill.

This book would indeed be incomplete were I to fail to tell of the
plight of the men.

I expect they are forgetting it. People do forget things.

But I must go back to our own history, the history of the Lower Camp in
1916-17.

That winter was a mild one. We played football about two or three times
a week on a small ground about half a mile from the camp. Association
was the rule that year, but the following winter we played Rugby. The
football ground was a long, rather narrow strip between two ploughed
fields, and the reasons it was not ploughed up were two. It sloped
toward the road, and all the lower portion was used as a threshing
floor at harvest time. The Turkish method of threshing is a very
remarkable one, very early, I imagine. When the straw stacks have
ripened sufficiently they are broken up, and large circular mats of
straw with the grain in it are arranged upon the ground. On these mats
sleds made of three planks, and, drawn by horses, are driven round and
round, as though in a circus. Under the sleds are grooves containing
rows of sharp flints which cut all the straw up into chaff and separate
the grain from the husk. Then the whole mass is winnowed in the wind,
and divided into two heaps, one of food for man and the other of food
for beasts. Which of the two our bread was made of I forget.

This threshing naturally requires a good deal of space, and it protected
the lower part of our football field. The upper half was conserved in
quite a different way, for it was a Hebrew cemetery.

There was a large slab or soft rock in it, roughly squared and
conveniently situated for those who wished to watch the game.

Three of us were sitting on this one day when a Turk, driving a cart
along the road, turned his horse and drove up to this stone. He asked us
to move to one side, and then gravely led the horse three times round
the stone, after which he dug out a piece of earth from under the stone
and gave it to the horse to eat. The only thing we could get out of him
was that the horse was ill and that it would now get well. To prove his
point he beat it all the way back to the road and made it canter. There
was only one thing remarkable about the stone, and that was that it was
pierced all over by nails hammered in, nails of all shapes and sizes,
and some of them entirely rusted away, leaving only a stained hole. But
just think of the plight of that poor horse! Officially speaking, it was
now well, registered as A1. Any further weariness would be put down to
malingering, and treated accordingly.

In the spring of 1917 we began to get a little more liberty. For some
time the Commandant answered all applications to be allowed to go out
for walks by saying that the weather was not yet fine enough, a
subterfuge so transparent that I suspect he was laughing at us. His
sense of humour was a very grim one. He appeared one morning and told
the senior officer that three British soldiers were to be hanged that
day. Of course there was a vigorous protest made; but, after a while,
the Commandant smiled and went away. He then visited the senior French
officer and told him that three Frenchmen were to be hanged. After he
had enjoyed his joke sufficiently, it came out that three Turks actually
were hanged on that day. There was nobody to protest for them, poor
devils! The Turkish method of hanging is to erect a tripod, rather like
a strong, high camera-stand. The victim stands below the centre of this,
a noose is passed round his neck, and the legs of the tripod are pushed
closer and closer in until the man is lifted from the ground and
strangled. The men at the Medrisseh often saw public execution take
place, I believe.

But when spring grew fine enough we actually did go for several long
walks, and saw the little yellow crocuses thrusting their heads up on
the hill-sides. It was good to see flowers grow again. The wild flowers
were wonderful round Afion. But that spring we saw little of them. The
policy was changed again, and instead of being allowed out for walks in
the country, we were allotted a little corner of one of the hills
overlooking the town. Here we used to march, twice a week, and sit for
an hour or two on the grass. It was steep and rocky, and there was
nothing else to be done there. People used to take books out there, or
pencils and paper and try to draw the one view. Then we would walk back
to tea, through the slums of Afion, down narrow roads, past huts and
graveyards, past kitchen middens where dead cats’ and horses’ skulls
lay, and where children played: sturdy, grimy little urchins who used to
abuse us, and make their favourite cutthroat sign, drawing their baby
hands across their necks.

I forget when the policy was changed again. It was always being changed.
Capricious and wavering as thistledown. But in the summer we had quite a
lot of liberty. We used to gather huge armfuls of purple larkspur, pink
orchis, and yellow dog-roses. It was a good time for most of us, but
early in the summer five officers were suddenly taken from their friends
and shut up in a separate house in the Armenian quarter. They were
allowed a short time twice daily for exercise in about 50 yards of the
street, but for the rest were no better off than if they were in gaol.
They were not released until about Christmas time. All this was because
the Commandant suspected them of planning to escape.

The Upper Camp grew a great deal larger that year. All the Russians came
back again, and with them a great many more Russian officers who had
been interned at Sivas for several years previously. From Yozgat, too, a
large number of British officers came, among whom were two of the three
who had escaped in March, 1916. From being a camp of one British house
and one French, the Upper Camp now spread the whole length of one
street, and into two neighbouring by-streets. The whole community of
prisoners in that camp lived in Armenian houses.

My personal opinion is that the camps as a whole lost interest a great
deal after this. They certainly became more respectable, but the
character of the place altered. It improved on the whole, but it was
duller. In the old days we had at least this in common, that we were all
different; we had all come into Turkey in different ways and at
different times. Now that queer distinction disappeared, for most of the
new-comers were from Kut, the senior officers in nearly all of the
houses were from Kut, and Kut rather dominated the conversation. We
old-timers were a little sick of Kut. They were mostly old regular
soldiers, and senior to the rest of us. Let me hasten to say that I have
never met a nicer lot of men. That was part of the difficulty. They were
nicer than we were. But they had all led the same sort of lives before
the war, and during the war. They had all fought in the same battles,
and been in the same siege. They had all the same adventure to tell. I
have great friends among them, and I hope they will smile if ever they
read this. But the old-timers will smile, too, and recognize the truth
that is in me.

One result of this influx was that we all became very unsettled. The
fact was that we had stagnated too long, and were growing very queer. We
were used to new prisoners dropping in one or two at a time, and trying
to teach us how to be prisoners. We knew how to be prisoners; we had
learned it in a bitter school; so we smiled at these new babes in the
wood, let them kick against the pricks a little, and took them to our
bosoms. They made no difference. But you can’t take old regular
lieutenant-colonels to your bosom, you have to wait until they take you
to theirs. They do in time, at least these did. But they unsettled the
whole place, and it was probably very good for us.

The result was a break up of many happy homes, a great deal of
arrangement and rearrangement of houses, and when we settled down
again it was like a new Parliament with a different cleavage of parties,
and a strange Government.

At the end of all this I found myself in the Upper Camp, in a house of
twelve almost equally divided between Kut and non-Kut. It was a very
happy house. I don’t think anyone in it really hated any of the others;
and, in prison, that means that you like each other very much, and will
always be glad to meet each other again for the rest of your lives.

It was a very respectable house. Much too respectable to be popular.
Indeed it was a byword for respectability, until Good Friday, 1918;
but that is anticipating.

We thought, a lot of us, that the war was going to end that year, so who
can say that we were downhearted?



CHAPTER XI.

THE LAST YEAR IN AFION


An accurate description of all our ups and downs, of liberty enlarged
and liberty snatched away again, and of all the fluctuating fortunes of
the camp would be as dull as our lives were, and as little likely to be
voluntarily undergone as was our captivity. That gem of time cannot be
polished in all its facets, lest the observer should be dazzled. All
that will be attempted here is some account of the main events. Another
man, looking at that time from a different angle, might write a book
that would hardly parallel this upon a single point, and yet be as true
a picture.

We were all growing very weary indeed of being prisoners. Prices had
continued their inexorable rise, and frequent mass meetings were held to
discuss ways and means, for of course there were poor among us who could
not afford to get money sent from home, and the pace of the convoy had
to be that of the slowest ship. The only alternative would have been to
break up into houses where men lived by bread alone, and houses where
plutocrats resided who were able to import money at the disastrous rates
obtainable. For it cost a very large sum to import money. A cheque on an
English bank for £20 would produce a draft of £Tq.26. This would be paid
in paper, and to find its true value must be divided by six; so by
spending £20 a prisoner could obtain the value of £4 6_s._ 8_d._[2]

Of course we did import money, whatever it cost, even the poorest of us
practically had to, unless he would freeze in the winter. The actual
necessaries of life, food, fuel, and clothes of sorts, were always
obtainable in Turkey; at a price. The country was so completely
unorganized, and the railway so congested that food-stuffs might be
plentiful in one district and almost unobtainable in another not far
away. But where the food was grown it was always obtainable, and
fortunately for us, Afion was in an agricultural district.

The winter of 1917-18 was a very severe one. Late in November the street
that was our only playground and space for exercise was filled with
snow. It ran east and west, overhung by a steep hill on the south, and
deprived of sun by the opposite row of houses. No sunlight at all
reached that street for quite three months, and during the whole of that
time it was paved with snow that had been trodden hard.

There were refugees in the town that winter, people of strange
appearance to us who were used to the Turks. They were said to be Kurds
mostly, but there were certainly several tribes represented. For some
reason or other they had been evacuated from some part of the Turkish
Empire further east, and dumped down at Afion. Their clothes were those
of a warm climate, and many of the little children had but one thin
garment apiece. Nominally, I expect, they were supposed to be fed by
their predatory Government: actually they were on or over the verge of
starvation. We used to see them from our windows, and on our
comparatively rare passages through the town.

There is no sanitation in a Turkish town. All refuse is cast upon
middens, which in the course of ages become great mounds. Houses do not
last long in Turkey; they are but flimsily built and fires are very
frequent. They decay or are destroyed by fire, and they are rebuilt upon
these middens. I picked up a Roman coin once where a midden had been
disturbed, for they are very old.

And one of the uses of these middens is to provide food for the utterly
poor. These poor refugees used to haunt those hideous piles of decaying
matter and pick food from them. Dogs and donkeys, children and buffalo
calves, old women and cats, used to scramble and scrape for the last
pieces.

We had a Rugby football that winter, and in a field by the river,
another of the wide threshing floors, we began to play when the snow
melted. There were some very good players, and we had one new prisoner
who held, and I believe still holds, the ’Varsity record for both the
100 yards and the quarter-mile. There were several matches, and one very
great triumph, when The Dardanelles played The World and beat it. There
were so few to pick from that I played for the Dardanelles. Until that
winter, the last game I had played was in Ceylon in 1902; and I went to
bed for three days after the match. But we, the old-timers, beat the
World and rejoiced exceedingly.

One other thing that happened that winter must be told, though it is
painful to write it. There was a Russian named Constantine B., who had
become estranged from the other Russians for a fault of his own. He was
afterwards forgiven, and taken back, so it would not become me to say
anything about it. For the time, however, he lived separately in a small
house with a Russian anarchist and a Russo-Armenian thief, and the three
of them were outlaws. Also they hated each other, and used to quarrel.
One of their quarrels became acute enough to attract the attention of
the Turkish Commandant, the infamous Maslûm Bey, who visited their house
to make inquiries, and there lost his temper and struck Constantine B.
Constantine was not really a bad fellow. He had done one bad thing, but
he was out of place in that house. He was a man of about thirty, tall,
well built, with very fair hair. A brave man, and quick-tempered. He put
up his arm to protect himself, and he was lost. The Commandant accused
him of trying to reach for his, the Turk’s, sword, and had him arrested.

Constantine B. was taken away from the officers’ camp to the church
where were some British soldiers; in the little courtyard where we used
to box he was stripped and tied head downwards with his feet in the air.
The Commandant stood by while Constantine was beaten upon the soles of
the feet with raw hide whips until he fainted. An hour later he was
beaten again until he lost consciousness once more. As they grew tired
the Commandant called new hands to beat him; every Turk there had a turn
at beating him. And, when he could feel no more, Maslûm Bey kicked and
struck him all over, everywhere on his body, and spat upon him. Then he
was taken into a dungeon and thrown upon a heap of quicklime where his
face got burnt.

Maslûm’s cup was not yet full. Constantine recovered in time, though he
is lame. Maslûm went on to his worst offence. He had flogged our men and
the Russians. He had imprisoned British officers in filthy holes, for
little or no cause. He had lied, and swindled, and stolen, and grown
rich. He now proceeded to overstep even the line which a Turkish officer
draws. All through the writing of this book there has loomed ahead of me
the grave difficulty of dealing with Maslûm Bey’s greatest offence. It
ought to be recorded, but I loathe doing it. Let those who can read
between the lines. Some of the British soldiers were very young,
fair-haired Saxon boys from Wessex. They had seen a vast deal of
cruelty, and they knew how easy it was for Maslûm Bey to flog them, even
to kill them, or to send them to places where they would almost
certainly die. Four of these became the victims of the abominable
wickedness of Maslûm. Under the shadow of a raw hide whip, in the hands
of Turkish non-commissioned officers, they were his victims.

All these offences of Maslûm Bey, from the tragedy of Constantine
downwards, were duly reported to England by code. The very names of the
offences were squeezed into that code. I had the pleasure of sending the
messages myself, and the framing of them. They got home safely, and our
Government acted at once.

In the end we got rid of Maslûm Bey. He was court-martialled by a
commission of utterly corrupt Turkish officers. The British soldiers
bravely told their stories. I say bravely, for their lives hung by a
hair. A British officer who knew Turkish equally bravely conducted the
prosecution for our side; and his life hung by a hair too. But we got
rid of Maslûm Bey. He was given five and a-half months’ simple
imprisonment. Not six months, for that would have involved loss of
rank. His judges did not think he had deserved to lose rank.

That is why I watch the papers to see if Maslûm Bey has been hanged.

We used to stick up for ourselves in Turkey. At one time I knew how many
commandants of prison camps were broken by the British in three and
a-half years. But my memory is a prison-memory. It is like fishing in a
well-stocked stream with a torn landing-net. When you have got a fish,
there you see him plain enough; but more often you see but a gleam, and
he is gone. The first Commandant of Afion was broken for swindling; the
second broke himself by letting prisoners escape; the third was Maslûm
Bey; and the fourth was a gentleman. British prisoners broke one
Commandant at Kastamouni, and I believe another at Broussa, Russians
broke one at Kutahia. And down the line, in the Taurus or beyond it,
where there were no British officers, I believe our men broke more than
one.

After Maslûm had gone we were very well treated. I don’t think that any
prisoners could have expected to have a juster man to deal with than our
new Commandant, Zeir Bey. Just think what an opportunity of regeneration
Turkey lost in this war. Had the Ottoman Government selected men like
Zeir Bey to command each camp, they would have made friends for
themselves not only all over the British Empire, but in France and her
colonies, in Russia, in Italy and in Rumania. Instead of which they have
made bitter enemies.

Our Indians had the greatest contempt and hatred for the Turks, all but
a few who were traitors. There were some, a few, real traitors among the
Indians; but there were many more who are much more to be pitied than
blamed for some of the things they did. Their position was an
exceedingly difficult one. Very many of them died, thousands of them;
but the Turks were always trying to seduce them from their allegiance.
There was even a paper printed in Hindustani by the Germans and given
free to the Indians. The Sultan sent for Indian Mohammedan officers and
gave them swords. One sturdy Pathan, Kutab Gul, went to prison rather
than accept a sword. For the most part the Indians were kept at
different stations from the British, at Konia and other places where
they could get no guidance from their British officers, where no one
knew their tongue, and where they could get no news of the war except
such as was faked, and the usual bazaar rumours. And this went on for
years. As they would themselves admit, Indian officers are in some
respects very child-like people. They believe a lot of what they hear.
We had our own means of communication outside, and we knew how to read
between the lines of German _communiqués_. Also we could read French,
and in Turkey there are many papers printed in French for the polyglot
peoples of the Eastern Mediterranean. But the Indians had none of these
means. For instance, if we read “The enemy attacked near Braye and was
heavily defeated. By their self-abnegation our brave umteenth regiment
of Bavarians threw the enemy back with bloody losses,” we knew what it
meant. It was the obituary notice of the umteenth Bavarians, who had
been wiped out. If the _communiqué_ went on to say, “Our line, according
to a pre-arranged plan, now stretches from X to Y,” we knew just how far
the Germans had retreated. If our maps did not show the places, someone
among the officers, either British or French, generally knew them. But
how were the Indians to know that? They learned Turkish and read the
Turkish papers, but that was no good. The Turkish method of camouflaging
news is not the same as the German. It is better. They just say nothing.
They never admitted the fall of Bagdad. They just kept on saying
nothing. So skilled were we in interpreting the German news that I
really believe we knew just as much about the war as the average officer
outside. Our naval officers reconstructed the Battle of Jutland, boomed
as a great German victory, so accurately that the real account we got at
last seemed stale news. We certainly knew more about the war than the
Turkish officers did locally; and they used to come and look at our
great war maps drawn out on a large scale by Capt. Sandes, R.E., from
innumerable scraps and pieces out of newspapers.

Sandes did three things. He wrote a book upon the Mesopotamian campaign,
now with a publisher. He made maps, and he was the bandmaster. Among the
later prisoners there were a number of musicians, and at least one
really ambitious composer who wrote many songs and an oratorio. There
were three violins and a guitar in the orchestra, and there used to be
excellent Sunday concerts in the Yozgat house at the top of the street,
which was our Albert Hall. There were also several prisoners who sang
really well. This last year saw a great renaissance in the theatrical
world too. There was a revolt against the bondage of the old border-line
jokes, and an attempt to substitute wit for wickedness. The men in the
church used to get up plays, too. Maslûm Bey was a great patron of the
theatre, and would save the best actors from being sent away on working
parties. He used to bring parties of veiled Turkish women to watch their
plays from the gallery. Behind the altar were dark passages on either
side, built in the thickness of the wall, and well adapted for the wings
of the stage. What he liked best were love scenes, and he used to send
down messages in the middle of the acting commanding the performers to
make love more briskly.

With the passing of Maslûm we came to the end of our worst troubles. The
new Commandant was not so incurably Asiatic. He realized that prisoners,
like other men, love life, and freedom, and the open sky. That summer we
had a wide and high hillside made free to us. We could spend the whole
day there if we liked. The Lower Camp had an even better recreation
ground in a rocky hill just beyond their houses. We were allowed out in
smaller parties and for longer distances. Smaller parties was a very
great gain, for to walk out in a “crocodile” is so unpleasant that it is
almost better to stay indoors. We used to get a sentry, and go off into
the hills with our lunch, and picnic all day. And as we could go in
several directions there was not much crowding. There was fishing in
the stream, and bathing in a big pool, and sketching along the valley
above the pipe-line. It was by far the best time we ever had in Turkey,
and all because England and her Allies were winning the war. For it
certainly was that consideration which caused them to send us Zair Bey.

Among the prisoners there were some who said, “When we win the war the
Turks will massacre us all.” But those among us who knew the East said,
“When we win the war the Turks will lick our boots and feed out of our
hands.” We were right. Had we _lost_ the war it would have been quite
another matter, and this history would never have been written.

It was different now from the old days when Toomy and I used to sit by a
charcoal brazier and plan revenge. Our great scheme was to introduce
rabbits into Anatolia: the country was suitable, and they were to
overrun the whole land, worse than in Australia, and eat up all the
young crops. We also thought of water hyacinth in the Tigris and
Euphrates. But we were winning the war now, and these guerilla
operations would not be necessary. But we never thought the end was as
near as it proved.



CHAPTER XII

OUR ALLIES


While in Turkey I only saw Italian prisoners once. They were locked into
railway wagons, and when they tried to peer out through the barred
windows a German N.C.O. brutally thrust at their faces with his stick.
They were stated to have elected to come to Turkey rather than to remain
in Austria, where food was short. They were on their way to work in a
mine in the vilayet of Aidin.

At one time there were a good many Serbs in Afion, but we saw very
little of them. Those I saw were apparently dying of starvation but they
seemed to be cheerful folk.

There were nine French officers at Afion, and, except for one who spent
a long time in a Constantinople hospital, they were with us the whole
time. They and the English were on the best of terms throughout, and
they were a very nice lot of fellows indeed. They were most studious
people and only one of them wrote a book. One of them, however, read
through Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall” three times, besides devouring every
other history he could obtain, and we had many books. We had a large
library of general fiction, recruited from parcels, and we had a fairly
large reference library of solid works, partly from parcels and partly
from the Education Department at home. And, between them, the French
must have read nearly all of those hundreds of books, ranging from “The
Way of an Eagle” to Mahan’s “Sea Power.”

The French were extraordinarily generous, too, in giving up their time
to teach their language to Englishmen. Very few, if any, of them had not
several English pupils, and one ran a large class. With only one
exception they could all speak English fluently long before most of us
learned much French.

Our pronunciation was, of course, a mystery to them, nor was it to be
wondered at. Their house was too large for them alone, and Britishers
who wished to study French joined their mess. They had at one time
Australians, a Canadian, a Lancashire man, and a Scot, and each of them
spoke English in a different way. No wonder the French found it
difficult.

For a whole year once the French were not allowed out farther than that
strip of street, sunless and frozen in the winter, dusty in the summer,
and crowded all the year round. The pretext was a reprisal for some
imagined wrong done to Turkish prisoners in France. We suffered from a
continual threat of reprisals like this. Six Englishmen were once
imprisoned for months in a loathsome hole in Constantinople for some
crime of our Government, probably invented, and one of the six died as a
result. And there were other minor cases of the same kind. It is useless
for a civilized people to swap reprisals with savages: the savages will
win every time.

The French temperament was totally different from the English. They used
to get extraordinarily elated at times, and at other times they became
desperately depressed. We did both of these things too, but our pendulum
was longer and did not swing so suddenly. In the great German offensive
of the spring of 1918 we refused to be downhearted. “They will take
Paris!” the French would cry. “Very likely,” we would reply; “perhaps we
are leading them on.” There was unpleasantness over this kind of
divergence, and they would say despairingly, “Oh! you bloody English!
You do not understand.” But no real quarrel ever resulted. The most
frequent offender was an Irish major, who assiduously studied French.
His joy was to lead his tutor to the verge of hysterics by calculated
callousness regarding German victories. The poor tutor would scream at
him, but they were really the best of friends. “Unless I rouse him,” the
major would say, “he won’t speak fast enough to give me the practice in
conversation that I require.”

I shall never forget a scene in the church, where, by the way, the
French beat us at all points in quiet endurance of a detestable
experience. A certain French officer resented having his belongings
searched, and certain articles of Turkish clothing “stolen” from him. In
revenge he shaved off his moustache, fitted a large newspaper cocked hat
upon his head, and strutted fiercely up and down the central aisle,
looking the very personification of _revanche_. He was a tiny man, very
clever, and a great mathematician. Why he did it the Lord alone knows,
but he did; and he felt as one embarking upon a forlorn hope. There was
not a smile in the affair--on his side--from beginning to end.

The French senior officer was a very fine man, one of the best-read and
all-round best-informed men I have ever met, and he ran his rather
difficult mixed French and British house tactfully and well.

Utterly different were the Russians. To begin with, a great many of them
were not prisoners of war at all, but the officers and engineers of
Black Sea trading vessels. These unfortunates had not been allowed to
leave Constantinople when they wished to, about a week before war was
declared, and they were older prisoners than any of us. “Comme vous êtes
jeune!” said one to me when I told him I had just completed my third
year. He had done nearly four. Then they belonged to many nationalities,
some of them peoples one had hardly heard of before the war: Ukrainians,
Lithuanians, Poles, Polish Jews, Cossacks, Georgians, Russian Armenians,
Russian Greeks, Russian Italians, Great Russians and Little Russians,
and others I forget.

Their senior officer was a Commander in the Black Sea fleet, a very
nice, quiet, friendly man of about fifty. He had lost every single thing
in the world except the few articles of clothing remaining to him in
Turkey, and he knew not where to turn after the war. All his money had
gone: he received no pay from his Government, for there was no
Government. He had had no news of his relations since the revolution
swallowed them up, and he said he knew no way of earning his living
except on a ship of war; yet he was cheerful in a rather plaintive way.
Poor Commander Burikoff! I hope he has found some haven of refuge.

On the whole, the Russians, as I must continue to call them, kept very
much to themselves, though there were exceptions to this general rule.
They spoke many tongues, but few of them knew any English, and not very
many of them French. Uncle Vodka used to talk to us in pigeon-Turkish,
and a few of the British knew a little Russian, notably two young
Australians. Australians beat all varieties of British in their search
for knowledge. The Russians were bitterly poor. They had no Embassy
money, for they had no protecting Embassy. How they managed to live at
all was very wonderful. The sailors had started with full kits, unlike
prisoners of war, who were taken in what they have on; but they had
gradually sold their clothes for food until they had not much left. The
Turks did not actually let them starve, but they went very near it, and
in the winter they nearly froze. We helped them sometimes, but they were
too proud to be helped much, and we had not much to give, there were so
many of them. In the summer of 1918 they used to go in gangs to the
river, armed with every conceivable kind of drag-net, and sweep that
river clean. Fish they caught in large quantities and ate them; it was
about the only meat they got: and they caught crayfish, which they sold
to the British. They did not emulate some of the British, who caught
frogs and ate them, so far as I know. Perhaps there was no sustenance in
frogs. I ate one one day, but he must have been the wrong kind. It was
said that they ate cats and I’m sure I hope they did. The French used to
eat the tortoises that scour the plains of Anatolia.

My best friend among the Russians was a colonel, a Georgian prince. He
got me to teach him English, and he would write down the equivalent of a
word in Russian, French, German, Polish, or Georgian quite
indiscriminately. He was a fine, brave little fellow; dark, muscular,
and astonishingly fiery. I expect he is with Denikin’s army now,
fighting Bolsheviki. “Ces sales types,” as he used to call them. Years
ago, during some minor outbreak in Russia, his squadron had arrested
Lenin and brought him in, and the colonel spent vain hours in wishing he
had slain him then and there. Europe would probably echo his lament.

If Maslûm escapes the gallows, woe betide him if ever he meets the
Russian colonel. He will be killed inevitably. After the frightful
punishment of Constantine B. the colonel protested vigorously, and got
the poor fellow put into hospital. Not very long afterwards, a sort of
commission of Turkish officials, accompanied, I believe, by a member of
the Spanish Embassy, visited Afion to look into the question of the
Russian prisoners’ treatment. Maslûm Bey did not wish his conduct to be
exposed, so he visited the colonel and had the effrontery to offer him a
bribe of an oke (2¼ lb.) of sugar to say nothing about it. The little
man was furious, and swore that if ever he met that man with arms in his
hand he would kill him on sight. I sincerely trust he will be robbed by
the British of any such opportunity. When the commission came he spoke
up at once, but nothing came of it except that the colonel was locked up
for about a week. He had a little house to himself up a side street, and
I often used to visit him there and devise ways of persuading him to
accept little presents of tea or other things from parcels; for he never
got parcels, and was miserably poor. It was really quite a dangerous
thing to do, and I had never to let anyone else see. He was about as
safe to handle as a live bomb with the pin out. The head of the
commission referred to above accused him of secretly handing a document
to the Spaniard. The Colonel had not done so, and he said so, expecting
his word to be accepted. But the fool of a Turk, who had probably never
met an honest man in his life, expressed himself still unsatisfied. Up
flared the colonel. “Search the man!” he said. “If you find it on him I
will commit suicide. If not, you shall.” The Turk apologized.

There was a Russo-Armenian, a sneak-thief, and he robbed an Indian
officer of some tobacco. The Indian suspected him and laid a trap into
which he fell. I saw the Russian colonel tell him off in the street,
while the man trembled and went pale green, and afterwards the Colonel
told me what he said.

“Have you a revolver?” he asked. “No, sir.”

“Have you a good razor?” “No, sir.”

“Then borrow a rope and hang yourself. You have brought shame on the
Russian officers. If you are alive at the end of the war, I shall send
you a pistol. Use it. If you fail, I shall send a man to kill you, for
you are too base for me to fight.”

He was a dangerous little man, but he had many friends among the
English, and his ambition was to ride in the Grand National. May he win
through!

He had been in the Imperial Guard, and knew all the Petrograd Court
gossip. One day, during the English lesson, he saw the announcement of
the death of a certain Grand Duke in the paper, and told me a tale
about him. The Grand Duke was a parallel, in position only, to the Duke
of Connaught, for he was an uncle of the Tsar, and he was Governor of
Turkestan. At the Tsar’s coronation, it was his privilege to hold the
crown during part of the ceremony, and, while doing so, he became
enamoured of a vast ruby which it contained--call it the Kohinur to
complete the parallel. The stone glistened, and he desired it very
greatly, so he bit it from its setting and hid it in his cheek. But he
was observed, and brought to book. He was required to take up his
residence in Siberia; and here the story ought to end, “and he lived
happily for long afterwards.” Perhaps he did, for the colonel told me
that, being already married, in Siberia he committed bigamy, to annoy
his nephew.

Russians are very direct people. When they desire a thing they
straightway pursue it. There was a very large Russian officer in Afion
who went by the name of Uncle Vodka. He was an old man, a dug-out, and
he fought at the siege of Plevna in 1877-79. He was about 6 ft. 5 in.
high, and very huge. He had a long, broad beard, and looked like a
picture of the Tsar’s coachman. He was a direct person. He conceived the
ambition of colouring his body, as a man might colour a meerschaum pipe,
and he chose the hill-side to do it on. There he would lie in the sun
without a single stitch of clothing on his great body, which must have
been nearly a rood in area, and he would turn himself round and round so
as to make the colour even all over. We used to climb the hill on
purpose to see him, and he was always pleased to meet us. He was a
venerable figure. You might have taken him for an archdeacon.

Among all these Russians, differing as they did in caste and kind, there
was one thing they held in common. Despite the mother revolution and all
its children, they still held their belief in Russia, great and united.
Technically speaking, many of them were the subjects of countries now at
war with each other and with us. But, although the conditions they lived
in were far worse than ours in the matter of overcrowding, they clove
together as Russians. I studied this question, and used to get one to
interpret for others, so that my survey might be based broadly; and in
that one respect I found them all the same. There are no boundaries,
they would say, between Russia and Ukrainia, or between Russia and the
Cossacks. Poland they excepted, and, to some extent, Georgia; but they
denied that the new divisions of the rest of Russia could endure. There
was neither racial, physical, nor lingual frontier they maintained. And
when I asked whether they did not find it difficult to avoid thorny
subjects, now that their country was giving birth to republics almost
daily, and was torn in pieces by internal war, they said No; they had
all been taken prisoner as allies of each other and of us, and allies
they still were. The only exceptions, among the officers, were a hybrid
anarchist who joined the Turks, and the Russo-Armenian sneak-thief.

Russians all call each other by their Christian names. I once asked a
Russian midshipman what he called the captain of his ship. “George,” he
replied. “And what on the quarter-deck?” I asked. “George, son of
Dmitri,” he said. I should like to be present to hear Admiral Beatty
called David by a midshipman on the quarter-deck of the “Queen
Elizabeth.”



CHAPTER XIII

THE BERNE CONVENTION


After hanging fire for a very long time, the Berne Convention between
Great Britain and the Sublime Porte was signed, and in the course of
time copies reached Afion-Kara-Hissar.

It seemed to us to be framed so that a coach-and-four could be driven
through every one of its clauses. But, we were winning the war, and a
great many of its provisions were applied. It was our Magna Charta.

Under this convention a large number of prisoners were to be exchanged
at once, 300 British and 700 Indians against 1,500 Turks, as far as I
can remember.

Of course we all wanted to be included. We had not known how mad we were
to be included until that ray of hope appeared. It seemed as though we
suddenly saw ourselves as we were, as new prisoners saw us when they
arrived, men grown listless and almost hopeless, with brave words on
their lips and chill in their hearts. Of the 300 British we could not
all hope to be, but for the others there was a further hope, for,
according to the Convention, periodical medical boards were to be held,
and all those suffering from any of a given list of disabilities were to
be exchanged too.

There was a great deal of heart-burning, and the camp was the prey of
winged rumours, most of them discouraging ones. I can scarcely bear to
think of that time even now.

The Kut prisoners thought that their five months’ siege ought to be
included in the period of their captivity. It was only natural that they
should. But even so, we old-timers had been far longer confined than
they had. Then there was the question of age, and the older of us did
boast of our years, and wish inwardly that we had added to their number
when first registered by the Turks. Were married men to have, other
things being equal, any consideration? That was another question, and
men added to the number of their children, if not of their wives.

These are but a few of the questions that troubled us.

But, in the end, the Turks ignored much of the Convention, and began to
hold medical boards to sort out those who were incapacitated for
further fighting.

On the 8th of August, 1918, the first board sat in Afion. There were two
Turkish doctors on it, and one British, Capt. Startin, R.A.M.C. But as
one of the Turks made his own decisions, and the other merely said
“peki,” which means “I concur,” and as the decision went by a majority
of votes, the British member did not have much chance. Still, he did
succeed in steering most of the really deserving cases through, and he
did his very best for all of us, seizing every slightest opportunity and
displaying both diplomatic skill and doggedness to a high degree.

Of course everyone wanted to be tested. “You can’t win a lottery unless
you take a ticket,” as someone put it. And when the day came, and the
board assembled in a room at the Medrisseh, there was far more of us
than could be got through in a day. We sat in the shade of the poplar
trees, in front of the mosque, and when each officer who had been
examined came out he was bombarded with questions, and surrounded by an
anxious crowd. But no decisions were announced, and the British
representative was sworn to secrecy, which oath he kept. How he managed
to I am sure I don’t know, for the excitement was intense. British
excitement, hardly admitted at all, but gnawing at the vitals, like the
Spartan boy’s fox. So no one knew whether he had been passed or not,
though all were agreed that the senior Turkish doctor was an unpleasant
creature, jocular and offensive, and very hard to satisfy. The fact was
that he knew little or nothing of his job, found difficulty in
understanding the terms of reference, hated the British, and distrusted
everyone in the world.

That day passed in hidden agony.

The next day, the third anniversary of my capture, my turn came. I did
not think there was much chance, but had faint hopes that some hidden
doom might reveal itself to the trained skill of a doctor. Really the
only things wrong with me were that I had lost three and a half stone in
weight and had lumbago. So when asked to strip and to state what my
claim was based on I said lumbago. The senior Turkish doctor never
glanced at my lumbago region at all. But he laid me down and performed
some of the mysteries of his craft. And all the time he kept on talking
to me. We had quite an argument in French. He asked me why I knew no
Turkish, and I replied that it was too dangerous, that Maslûm Bey had
sent officers to gaol for knowing Turkish; and this was perfectly true,
though it was not my reason. I did not want to lumber my brain with
Turkish. Also, as a writer of codes, and in order to avoid suspicion
generally, it had never been my object to display much intelligence to
Turks. It was too dangerous, as I said. Not that I pretended to be mad,
as did two officers of another camp who were successful in bamboozling
the best Turkish doctors, on the contrary I pretended to be sane. I did
not “wangle,” to use the term in vogue, one particle. The doctor further
cross-examined me. Whey did I wish to leave Turkey? he asked. I said I
wanted to see my wife and daughter. We came to a little bickering, and,
in spite of my deficient French, repartee came to me quicker than to
him, and I won.

The verdict did not come until some days later. Several of the most
necessitous cases had been rejected; for instance, an officer with a
double hernia and an officer suffering from genuine fits. One man who
had lost an eye was included, another rejected. And several perfectly
able-bodied officers and men had been included.

I was included myself. But not for lumbago. I was passed unfit on the
score of being mad.

The senior Turkish doctor failed to understand my simple nature, and
turning to his colleague, he said, “I think he is mad.” The colleague
duly responded “Peki”; the British officer, who understood Turkish and
acted as interpreter told Startin, and that best of men said I had been
very queer for some time back. He was perfectly right. We were all as
queer as queer could be. The good fellow took the first chance of
reassuring me, but it was no good. I used to get people on whom I could
rely, privately in corners (bystanders were buttonholed and prayed with,
as the _War Cry_ used to print), and ask them as man to man whether I
was really mad. They all said no. But it was no good. I thought that,
even if not mad, I must at least have very shaken nerves, and continued
to think so until, months after, at Alexandria, a kind-hearted pilot
took me up in an aeroplane, and stunted me scientifically, loops and
double loops, spinning nose dives, and side slips, and other glories of
the air. Never having been within half a mile of an aeroplane before,
this convinced me that my nerves were still fairly sound; for I came
down half drunken with the splendour of it all, ate a hearty meal, and
went through it all again the same afternoon. It was like drinking
champagne on top of a mountain; and for the first time since being a
prisoner I was glad not to have lived a century earlier.

But once I was a certified lunatic, and have never been uncertified
since.

After the medical board came a few dreadful weeks. Every day brought
forth a new rumour. We heard that the Germans had refused safe-conduct
to the repatriation ship, and it was true. We heard that the medical
board at Broussa, which had passed some of the generals there, had been
squashed, and that a new board had rejected them; and it was true. We
heard that the sickest men of all, who had been sent to Constantinople
for exchange some time back--an old R.C. padre with a bad heart, a
youngster with nearly every disability a man may have and live, and
others--had been rejected. And that was true, too, for they came back to
us again.

It was a perfectly awful time, and won’t bear writing about.

At last, on the 9th of September, we received orders to leave for Smyrna
by the evening train.

There had been a perfect epidemic of escape projects recently. It was
partly caused by sheer weariness of spirit, partly by a leading mind
recently installed among us, partly by encouragement through secret
messages from England, and partly by a hope of joining the exchange
train and mixing unnoticed with the lucky ones. There were several sorts
of would-be escapers. The best sort thought things out thoroughly, kept
their mouths shut, and went. The worst sort talked about it frequently,
for years, and did not go. The first were greatly to be admired; but the
second were a pest to the whole camp in a land where the whole community
suffered for the escapade of one. All the escapers who actually started
were brave men, and I wish more of them had got through.

The day we started for Smyrna, for we did start, a party of three
escaped; and the escape was not discovered by the Turks until we were in
the train. There were thirteen officers, and I forget how many men, and
we were counted and recounted several times. Then all the luggage vans
were searched through and all the large boxes opened, and the train was
searched from end to end. But the three were not found, they were far
away in the hills. So we left Afion under suspicion, and with armed
guards in every carriage to prevent anyone from boarding the train.

Our last view of the camp was most affecting. There was a spontaneous
outburst of noble good feeling and unselfish gladness, unmixed with any
envy of our good luck. None of us thought the end of the war was near,
yet those who stayed behind cheered those who went, with never a sign of
an afterthought. It was not just a few, it was everyone; and we
literally had to struggle through the crowd in the street with our arms
aching from hearty handshakes. It is a very splendid last memory of
Afion.

I had been there two years and seven months.



CHAPTER XIV

SMYRNA


Our first night in the train was rather uncomfortably crowded, but we
would not have minded being piled in heaps on that journey. In the
morning we reached a place called Ushak, and there had rather a shock,
for all thirteen officers were ushered into a dirty shed and informed
that it was a hospital, and that we were all to be examined for cholera.
This was more serious than appears on the face of it, for two of our
party were rather out of sorts, and a Turkish doctor would be quite
liable to mistake this malady for cholera. Then good-bye to hope for
them. They would have been put in some disgusting place with all manner
of afflicted people, and it is by no means improbable that they would
have died. The Turkish doctor had an assistant with a microscope, but we
didn’t trust either of them one bit: so we refused to be examined. I
can’t enter into details, but we refused unanimously to do what they
required. There was an impasse. We could not proceed without health
certificates, for there were quarantine regulations in force. Of course,
we could, in the last resource, bribe the doctor, but we preferred not
to. We stood fast upon the dignity of British officers, and said they
did not do that kind of thing. It was much cheaper to bluff than to
bribe, and we wanted all our money. I suggested to the Turkish officer
in charge that he should hire a peasant to be examined on our behalf,
and offered to pay the man ten piastres for his courtesy. But that
obviously sound suggestion was ruled out as being unscientific. The
honour of the medical profession and the prestige of the microscope had
to be upheld. It ended in a compromise. The doctor agreed to accept
three delegates as representatives of the whole party. Three strong men
volunteered to be examined, and we threatened them with all manner of
revenge if they proved to have any obscure disease that would hold us
up. But they passed the ordeal safely and we were solemnly granted
thirteen clean bills of health and allowed to proceed.

The men were detained for examination, despite all we could do, but they
reached Smyrna a day later without mishap. As it turned out, they were
lucky to be late.

The approach to Smyrna from inland is a very beautiful journey. The
railway runs through the fruitful valley of Magnina, flanked by great
hills, and full of vineyards and groves of figs and olives.

We were travelling in comfort now. Our second night had been passed in a
truck, rather hilariously, I am afraid, for three of us celebrated an
Old Wykehamist dinner and sang “Domum” most of the night through. For
the last few hours of the journey we had the company of a Roman Catholic
priest, a quiet, gentle, young man from Austria, very sad about the
condition of his country and very much concerned at all the excesses of
the Turks. He found his hard life a very hopeless struggle against
corruption and cruelty of every kind. I had not up to then met so
thoroughly pro-British an enemy.

We reached the Point station at Smyrna early in the afternoon. Where we
were to be lodged we did not know. The Turkish officer in charge of us
had treated us well; he was the only member of the staff of Maslûm Bey
who had come through the inquiry without a single charge against him.
But he had no influence, and he was very junior; moreover, he laboured
under unjust suspicion of having assisted the three officers who escaped
the day we left Afion. We heard their fate later on, and it may as well
be recorded here. They had only got two or three days’ journey into the
hills when they were captured by brigands, who debated for some time
what to do with them. At last one of them thought he saw a chance of
escape, and made a dash; but he was shot, and the others two were
released and driven away. They were not allowed to assist their
companion, and he was last seen wounded and in the hands of the
brigands. His two companions gave themselves up to the nearest Turkish
authorities and succeeded in getting a search party sent out. They tried
hard to be allowed, on temporary parole, to accompany the party, but
were refused permission and their friend has not been heard of since.
Earlier in the war, after the fall of Antwerp, he had been interned in
Holland, but had escaped, and eventually joined the R.N.A.S. It was
indeed hard luck that he should die in an unsuccessful second escape
only seven weeks before Turkey went out of the war.

Guided by the Turkish officer, we walked through the streets of Smyrna
to the military headquarters, a large building that faced a public
garden, where the band played in the afternoons and children disported
themselves with their nurses.

Our reception was very chilly. Our friendly officer was a very small
person here, and could do nothing for us; and we could not find anyone
who knew anything about us. They had never heard of any Berne Convention
or of any arrangement for exchange of prisoners, and they suspected us
all of having escaped and been sent there for punishment. For a long
time we waited in a passage, wondering what would be the upshot of it
all, and then the usual thing happened, for we were cast into gaol.
After all our visions of a week or two of absolute liberty while waiting
for the ship, this was a terrible anti-climax. We were thrust into the
military lock-up, and two sentries with fixed bayonets were placed at
the door.

It was a dark and very dirty room, with a broken wooden floor that long
experience warned us against lying on, and there were no chairs or
furniture of any kind. Five Indian officers were thrown into it with us,
and were as indignant as we. There was no one to appeal to. Our senior
officer, the only one who spoke Turkish, had remained at the station to
watch our baggage, and the officer who had escorted us had gone back to
him. After a while an interpreter came to us, and we urged him to fetch
a senior officer who could hear our complaint. A long time after this a
very hard-faced and thoroughly Prussianised Turkish colonel came in
with the interpreter, and we explained that we were sick men sent down
for exchange. He listened coldly, and said he knew nothing about that,
and that we were very well where we were. Afterwards the interpreter
told us he was in a bad temper because seven hundred of his regiment had
deserted to the hills, and he had only discovered it that morning.

We looked out through the bars rather dolefully, and watched the rank
and fashion of Smyrna in the garden. There seemed little hope of getting
out, or of getting any food in, and our bedding was at the station.

Again a typically Turkish thing occurred. There was a privy just outside
the door, the other side of the sentries. One officer was compelled to
ask permission to go to it. The request was passed out by the sentries,
and the officer was led out into the garden, before all the women and
children. This was the more unnecessary because the proper place was
there, just across the passage. It may be that Turks do not consider
this sort of exhibition objectionable, but to an Englishman or to an
Indian officer it is more humiliating than any private cruelty. It was a
studied policy of the Turks to play upon our sensitiveness to indecency.
The unspeakable Turk: with all our languages and vocabularies we never
found a phrase to rival that: unspeakable he was and unspeakable he is.

Suddenly the “strafe” ended. The British chaplain had got to know of our
plight, and had gained the ear of someone in authority. After having
paced the streets of Smyrna as comparatively free men on the way from
the station, we were taken in close marching order between guards with
fixed bayonets to a very dirty Turkish officers’ hotel and given rooms.
A sentry with a fixed bayonet sat on a chair at the end of the passage.
We of the Old Wykehamist dinner shared a room, and I slept like a top:
the others tossed and moaned, and in the morning slew a vast number of
intruders, many hundreds. But this hotel was our very last experience of
these pests, for life, I hope.

The next day the Vali came to see us, Rahmy Bey, the governor of the
province of Aidin. After his visit all the frowns turned to smiles, for
he was known to favour good treatment of the subjects of the Entente.

A day or two later we moved once more, this time in the greatest
comfort. Can you but gain one gesture of protection from a great man in
an Eastern country, you may go in peace, for the underlings are but
looking-glasses to reflect his mood.

We drove in carriages to the station, and travelled first class a few
miles by rail to the suburb called Paradise. That is its name since
Roman times, and it was Paradise indeed to us.

We were established in the fine buildings of the International College,
an American foundation with a Canadian in charge of it as principal. Dr.
Maclachlan was his name, and he and Mr. Reed, an American gentleman who
is second in command, gave us the warmest, kindest welcome in the world.
They and the ladies of the staff had a sumptuous tea awaiting us, and
everything that man or woman could do they did. We had not known the
like for many years.

There is a little colony of British and Americans at Paradise, and
everyone of them deserves to be there. The whole great building was at
our disposal: dormitories for the men, small rooms for the officers, a
school conduit to wash in, shower baths, electric light, a fine library,
and perfect cleanliness. It was the cleanliness of the building and the
kindness of their hearts that appealed to us. I confess without any
shame that it almost broke me down. And there were children to play
with, bright, merry, little American and English children. As our men
came in, some on crutches, some limping, all of them thin and weary, I
saw one of those kind hosts of ours pick up a crippled Indian sepoy on
his back and carry him up the stairs. They nursed our sick, they mended
and washed our clothes, they cooked dainty little dishes for the
convalescents, and they gave us all heart once more. We were unclean and
uncivilized, queerer perhaps than we knew, and they brought back to us
the knowledge that the world as a whole is good.

It must not be imagined that all our troubles were over. We were still
in Turkey. The officer who had charge of us was a Cretan Turk, a
kind-hearted but rather diffident man. He received his orders from one
army corps, and the officer in charge of the guard from another. The
result was chaos: for while the Cretan gave us very considerable
privileges, his plans were defeated by the officer of the guard, a
conceited little puppy of about nineteen, who did nothing but swagger
about with a sword. He was wholly malicious and possibly a little bit
wrong in the head. He tormented the good lady who nursed our worst cases
by telling her the bloody deeds he itched to do; the finest sensation on
earth, he said, was to feel your steel pass through an enemy’s body. But
she turned upon him and told him that in a few months he would be
selling melons on the street for a living. When the Cretan, who was a
senior captain, gave us leave to go out into the ample grounds of the
college, this little squirt ordered the guard to prevent us; and in like
way he made himself so intolerable that Dr. Maclachlan spoke to a higher
power and got him removed. After that things went quite smoothly.

There was a very large playing field attached to the college, twenty
acres, I think it was; there was a chapel with an organ in it, an
auditorium with a grand piano, and a large, well-equipped gymnasium. We
began by using a few rooms of the main building, and ended by filling
the whole establishment, even the chapel. For parties were coming in
almost daily from all over Turkey. At first they were nearly all sick
men, some of them at the very point of death. We lost sixteen men in
Smyrna, who died before they could be exchanged, almost within sight of
home. But later on, when the Turks found they could not make up the
thousand in any other way, all the camps were combed through again, and
a great many of the later arrivals had nothing whatever the matter with
them except the awful disease of prison weariness: a disease that,
fortunately, few people know, but which none who have known it will ever
forget.

It was astonishing at first to realize how few really sick men there
were, but the explanation was not far to seek: the sick had died. Some
of those who passed medical boards were almost ludicrous. One, I
remember, had an abnormally rough and thick skin, had had it all his
life. Another had complained that he felt tired. Another had been late
for the medical board, in fact, he had only gone up for a joke, and at
the last moment; but he pleaded that he had rested so many times by the
way that he could not get there in time. He was one of the best football
players in Turkey, but he was passed.

Another large contingent came from Afion, others from Broussa,
Constantinople, Gedos--the parole camp, where officers who chose to give
their parole could go and enjoy almost complete liberty; from Angora,
and from all the camps in the Taurus mountains. These last were the
weakest of the whole. They were the survivors of a terrible slavery.

The European community of Smyrna, save for about a week near the
beginning of the war, had been allowed to live in their own houses and
to go where they pleased in Smyrna and its widespread suburbs. They will
perhaps disagree with me when I say that they had been very well
treated. This was due to the political sagacity of the Vali, Rahmy Bey,
who seems to have realized from the beginning that Turkey was on the
wrong side. He has been accused of vast speculations, and he certainly
tolerated massacre and wholesale deportation of the Greeks; but he
protected the Armenians in his province, and spread his cloak over the
subjects of the Entente. For that we must be very grateful. I met him
several times and found him clever, strong, and amusing. He is a very
notable Turk, and may rule Turkey some day.

Many of the French and British subjects came to visit us, and, later,
when we were free, we enjoyed much hospitality at their hands. One of
them told me that the dearth of news was so great during the beginning
of the German retreat that smuggled copies of the _Times_ newspaper had
commanded the enormous price of one pound per hour of perusal.

We waited on and on. The college was filled to overflowing, and another
camp was started in another part of Smyrna. Nobody knew when the ship
would come, or even where it would come to. But the resistance of the
enemy was crumbling. Turkish officers told us that their armies were
mere skeleton forces. They estimated that there were six hundred
thousand deserters in the hills. A story was told of a battalion ordered
from Smyrna to the Palestine front, which melted on the railway journey
until there was only one man left besides the C.O. Bulgaria gave way.
The Palestine front gave way, and a Turkish staff officer told me that
their estimate of losses there alone was ninety-two thousand men. It was
plain that the war was coming to an end.

Exactly two weeks before Turkey actually signed the Armistice we were
set free, absolutely free. Some officers were received into the houses
of residents in Bournabat, the chief suburb of Smyrna; some went into
hotels where meals cost whole fortunes; some stayed on in the College;
and, with three others, I rented a small furnished house just outside
the College gates. It belonged to a Mrs. Constantine, the wife of a
Greek gentleman, a master at the College. He was a man who had
travelled, and lived in America, and he was heartily on our side. But
the conscription had netted him in as a transport driver, and he was
believed to be now a prisoner in British hands. We tried to console poor
Mrs. Constantine by telling her that he would be quite safe there, much
safer than with the Turks; but she wanted him back, poor soul, and so
did little Chloe and Aeneas, his children.

During this fortnight we did as we pleased, and enjoyed life.

More than one family among the European residents were exceedingly kind
to us, and made us free of their homes.

It was also my good fortune, through Mrs. Reed, to make the acquaintance
of some Greek ladies, and more whole-hearted fiery patriots I have never
listened to. The Peace Conference is now, as I write, ponderously
considering the future of Turkey, and their fate still hangs in the
balance. The Smyrna Greeks long for union with Greece, long for it as a
sailor longs for the sea, although they know that it may bring them
poverty; for the district of Smyrna is rich in comparison with Greek
proper, and would perhaps be bled to feed Athens. They know that, but
they burn to throw off the tyranny of the Turks. Who can but sympathize
with them?

The European permanent residents, on the other hand, wish for the Turks
to remain, for by accommodating the chief Turkish officials they can
make much money. But they are in a vast minority to the Greeks; they are
aliens, and the Greeks were there two thousand years before the Turks
were. They should have no say in the matter, beyond what is just. Their
say in this matter should be governed by the extent to which they aided
the war, on the Entente side. This I may say without a breach of
hospitality, for of the only two houses I went into, one real English
and the other French, there was not one member who was eligible for
fighting; and the people of Paradise did contribute their sons to the
war, but they are not permanent residents. Under the capitulations a
very strange community grew up in Turkey. All sorts of people assumed
British, French, or Italian nationality for the sake of the protection
it gave them. They speak all tongues, more or less, and the “British”
among them are often less like Englishmen than are the Eurasians of
India. There are many families of “British” who can speak no English at
all; nearly all the rest, except the rare ones who have been educated
“at home,” speak what, further East, we call Chichi English. They are
“British” in inverted commas, and they “supported” our cause mostly in
inverted commas too.

Whether the Turks’ own claim to Smyrna is a just one I am not competent
to judge. The mere fact that they have hideously misgoverned should not
invalidate their claim provided that they are in a genuine majority, not
a majority obtained by deportation and massacre. For their system of
Government can be improved and kept watch over.

What is to be the future of the Turks, in any case?

That they should hold no subject countries is obvious. But in their own
country, where they do actually form the majority of the population,
what is their future? Their official classes are abominable people. They
can oppress, but they have no aptitude for the wider forms of business
and banking, building and organizing, or any form of creative work. A
Turkish financier is more Hooligan than Hooley. They cannot compete with
the Christians in bloodless ventures. We used to dream of various fates
for them, but the fate that is coming is worse than we dreamed. They are
bankrupt; there will soon be neither pay nor pension for most of them.
While they still ruled Armenia, Mesopotamia, Syria, Palestine, and the
coasts of Arabia, their system was simple. The “educated” Turk got a
post in some branch of the Government service, with small pay, but a
large income. The pay came from the Government, and the income from the
subject peoples. But that time is gone, and, as the Turkish officer was
told, they will soon be selling melons on the streets. Metaphorically
that is what they will be doing. They will be driven to trade; and
wherever a Turk sits down to trade an Armenian will sit and he will
beggar that Turk. They are waiting to do it, and looking forward to it.

The Turks tried to govern by an absolute king, and it failed. They tried
to govern by a _soi disant_ representative assembly, and that failed; it
degenerated into a tyranny by a small clique, and that tyranny failed
too. An oligarchy is out of the question, for there are no families in
Turkey from which it could be recruited. There remain soviets, but the
Turkish peasant is not nearly advanced enough for that. It is even
doubtful if any race on earth is. The Turkish peasant is to the full as
backward as, or more backward than, the Indian peasant, and he has much
fewer brains. It seems to be more a question of evolution than of
revolution for the Turks. From our little way up the cliff of
civilisation we look down to the Turk, and he seems too far away for us
to lend him a helping hand.

The Turkish people do not include a middle class or an aristocracy. The
reasons will be found in any good history of their slave theory of
government, but the reasons concern Europe less than does the fact. With
a small margin of error, all Turks may be described as falling in one of
two categories, namely, officials and peasants. My opinion of the
officials must be plain to anyone who has read thus far, and needs no
reinforcing. But the peasants have a great many very good qualities.
They are brave, cheerful, and very patient people, hospitable and
generous by nature, and the simplest of the simple. They lie and steal
much less than do the Christians in their land, and infinitely less than
their own officials. On the other hand, they are stupid, and they have
been for centuries so inured to brutality that they value human life and
human pain not at all. If you strayed into a Turkish village you would
probably be treated as a guest, and given of their best. But you might
see these same villagers sally forth to burn, rape, and kill in a
neighbouring village of Christians.

The only future for Turkey seems to be for the whole race to go back to
the land until from the soil there rises a middle class able in the
course of time to produce rulers of men. In the meantime, some European
Power or America should have a mandate, not only the League of Nations’
mandate, but the Turks’ own mandate, to do for them the things they
cannot do; to provide judges and governors, railway and postal
controllers, and to officer a police force. Personally, I believe they
would, by British or Americans, be the easiest people on earth to rule.

I must write one word on our other enemies, the Germans in Turkey. There
was a German in the Taurus who boasted that, by his treatment of British
prisoners, he had killed more enemies than anyone on the Western front.
But he was almost alone in that respect. With few exceptions, Germans in
Turkey treated Britishers in misfortune as brother white men in an
Eastern land. Especially was this so in the air service, where chivalry
ran higher than in any other branch of the fighting. German airmen who
had brought a Britisher down always treated him well; very often they
went over our lines and, at the risk of their machines or their lives,
dropped a note from the captured one asking that his kit might be sent
along. Then one of our machines would fly back, unmolested, and drop the
kit. There were several officers in Afion who had received their kit in
this way. There was also an officer who had been defeated in a fight in
the air, and to whom his victor gave his own silver watch with an
inscription engraved upon it commemorating the combat. The German passed
through Afion long afterwards, and came to see if he could do anything
more to help his late enemy. Another officer in Afion was taken
prisoner in Palestine, in thin clothes, and had to proceed up to Afion,
where it was cold. In the train he met a German officer who was going on
leave home, and this man divided up his shirts, his socks, and his
underclothes, and fitted the Englishman out. Since coming to England I
have seen in the papers that a clergyman was fined £10 for giving a
German prisoner some tobacco, and a farmer 40_s._ for giving a German
prisoner half a loaf and a bottle of ginger-beer. Is there not a better
way of looking at things than this? I am not pro-German, very far from
it, but I am pro anything generous or kind, and I know what it is to be
a prisoner.



CHAPTER XV

THE SHIP


At last the ship came, and lay off Phokea, outside the Gulf of Smyrna.

We went off in tugs, out of that lovely bay, more beautiful, to my mind,
than the bay of Naples, and we went on board the Australian hospital
ship “Kanowna,” where they gave us a royal welcome.

This was the 1st of November, 1918.

_August the 9th_, 1915--_November the 1st_, 1918.

They had many cots prepared, expecting many sick and cripples. They
asked as we came on board where the sick were, and we replied that they
were dead.

Phokea was a beautiful little Greek town when war broke out; it has
vineyards and olive groves behind it, and it looks out on the bluest of
bays. It had once been inhabited by Greek subjects of the Turks, but now
it lay bare and empty, with hollow windows staring at the sea. There
was an old Englishman on board, a civilian who had been many years in
Smyrna, and him I asked why it lay thus desolate. “When the Turks
declared a Jihad,” he said, “a holy war, soldiers and a rabble came to
Phokea, and crucified the Greek men upon olive trees; the women they
raped and then cut their hands and feet off. What happened to the
children I do not know.”

There our last sun set on Turkey, and we steamed away to the South.



FOOTNOTES:


[1] The complete figures, according to information received up to 25th
October:--

  BRITISH PRISONERS OF WAR IN TURKEY.

  ----------------------------------------------------------------------
                    |Believed |Repatriated,|       |         |  Still
                    |captured.|Escaped, or | Died. |Untraced.|prisoners.
                    |         | Released.  |       |         |
  ------------------+---------+------------+-------+---------+----------
  Officers--        |         |            |       |         |
    British         |    472  |      43    |    14 |  None   |    415
    Indian          |    231  |       7    |     7 |  None   |    217
                    |---------+------------+-------+---------+----------
  Total officers    |    703  |      50    |    21 |  None   |    632
                    |         |            |       |         |
  Other ranks--     |         |            |       |         |
    British         |  4,932  |     279    | 1,840 |    449  |  2,364
    Indian          | 10,948  |   1,177    | 1,429 |  1,773  |  6,569
                    |---------+------------+-------+---------+----------
  Total other ranks |  15,880 |   1,456    | 3,269 |  2,222  |  8,933
                    |         |            |       |         |
  Total all ranks   |  16,583 |   1,506    | 3,290 |  2,222  |  9,565
  ----------------------------------------------------------------------


[2] A fellow prisoner, who was kind enough to read through the MS. of
this book for me, contributes the following note:--

“To do our difficulties justice I think you ought to say that besides
the loss of value of paper against gold, the rise of prices reduced the
purchasing power of the £Tq to _one-twentieth_ of what it was in the
summer of 1915. This is strictly true. I have a list of the prices of
ordinary commodities up to Spring, 1918. Actually the purchasing value
of £20 from England was between twenty and twenty-four shillings in the
winter 1917-18 as compared to the early Autumn, 1915.”--A.D.P.



_BY THE SAME AUTHOR_

POEMS IN CAPTIVITY

Crown 8vo. +7s. 6d.+ net.


John Still was captured by the Turks in Gallipoli in 1915, and remained
in captivity for over three years, during which he found it essential to
have some absorbing mental occupation to preserve his sanity. He
discovered in himself then, for the first time, the power of writing
verse. For many years before the war he lived in Ceylon, and the latter
part of the book is taken up with poems on its peoples and lost cities,
the first part containing the poems inspired by captivity.

   _Morning Post._--“The poems have a quiet power that grows
   on the reader.”

   _Nation._--“Such excellent reading.”

   _Illustrated London News._--“One of the most interesting
   books of war-verse which have yet appeared.”

   _Outlook._--“‘The Ballad of Suvla Bay’ is among the
   finest poems of the war.”

   _Daily Graphic._--“Mr. Still has an unusual command of
   varied form.”

   _Book Monthly._--“Mr. Still’s verse is charged with the
   full ripening of poetic harvest.”

   _Pall Mall Gazette._--“Mr. Still is distinctly happy in
   expression, and his work has a very real interest.”

   _Scotsman._--“This remarkable volume.”

   _Athenæum._--“Undeniably interesting.”

   _Bookman._--“Mr. Still is a poet of considerable worth.”

   _Ladies’ Field._--“It contains very splendid verse. The
   strength and simplicity of them will appeal to a big
   public.”


JOHN LANE, THE BODLEY HEAD, VIGO ST., W. 1



THE ROAD TO EN-DOR

_Being an Account of how two prisoners of War at Yozgad in Turkey won
their way to freedom._

By E. H. JONES, Lieut. Indian Army Reserve

With Illustrations by C. W. HILL, Lieut. R.A.F.

Third Edition. Crown 8vo. +8s. 6d.+ net.


This book, besides being an extraordinary story, will specially appeal
to every one who is interested in spiritualism. It tells in minute and
exact detail how two young British officers, who previously knew nothing
of the subject, took up spiritualism--originally to amuse their
fellow-prisoners in a Turkish prison camp; how they afterwards convinced
not only the Turkish officials of their mediumistic powers, but even
their fellow-officers; how eventually the “spook” ran the camp, securing
many privileges for the inmates, and finally nearly effected the escape
of the mediums and kidnapped the Turkish Governor and Interpreter.
Afterwards the two officers feigned madness so effectually that they
were repatriated on compassionate grounds as insane, and had some
difficulty in convincing the British authorities of their sanity. The
book reads like a wild romance, but it is authenticated in every detail
by fellow-officers and official documents. The Turkish Governor was
actually court-martialled for his part in a treasure hunt instituted by
the “spook”; and since the Armistice the authors have received letters
from Turkish officials asking them to return and persist in the search
for the hidden treasure.

   _Morning Post._--“It is easily the most surprising story
   of the escape of prisoners of war which has yet
   appeared.... No more effective exposure of the methods of
   the medium has ever been written.... This book is indeed
   an invaluable reduction to absurdity of the claims of the
   spiritualist coteries.”

   _Daily Telegraph._--“This is one of the most realistic,
   grimmest, and at the same time most entertaining, books
   ever given to the public.... ‘The Road to En-dor’ is a
   book with a thrill on every page, is full of genuine
   adventure.... Everybody should read it.”

   _Times._--“Astounding.... Of great value.”

   _Punch._--“The most extraordinary war-tale which has come
   my way.”

   _Birmingham Post._--“The story of surely the most
   colossal ‘fake’ of modern times.”

   _Daily Graphic._--“The most amazing story of the war.”

   _Outlook._--“It deserves to become a classic.”

   _Evening News._--“The tale of the two lieutenants is
   perhaps the noblest example of the game and fine art of
   spoof that the world has ever seen, or ever will see ...
   their wonderful and almost monstrous elaboration ... an
   amazing story.”

   _Bystander._--“The book reads like the wildest romance.”

   _Glasgow Evening News._--“An absolutely fresh,
   unexpected, and inimitable true story of what we fancy is
   the greatest spoof of the Great War.”

   _Everyman._--“One of the most amazing tales that we have
   ever read. The gradual augmentation of the spook’s power
   is one of the most preposterous, the most laughable
   histories in the whole literature of spoofing. Lieut.
   Jones has given us a wonderful book--even a great book.”

   _New Statesman._--“This amazing story is told in great
   detail, but never tedious.”


JOHN LANE, THE BODLEY HEAD, VIGO ST., W. 1



THE SILENCE OF COLONEL BRAMBLE

By ANDRÉ MAUROIS

Second Edition. +5s.+ net.

   _Westminster Gazette._--“‘The Silence of Colonel Bramble’
   is the best composite character sketch I have seen to
   show France what the English gentleman at war is like ...
   much delightful humour.... It is full of good stories....
   The translator appears to have done his work wonderfully
   well.”

   _Daily Telegraph._--“This book has enjoyed a great
   success in France, and it will be an extraordinary thing
   if it is not equally successful here.... Those who do not
   already know the book in French will lose nothing of its
   charm in English form. The humours of the mess-room are
   inimitable.... The whole thing is real, alive,
   sympathetic; there is not a false touch in all its
   delicate, glancing wit.... One need not be a Frenchman to
   appreciate its wisdom and its penetrating truth.”

   _Star._--“An excellent translation ... a gay and daring
   translation ... I laughed over its audacious humour.”

   _Times._--“This admirable French picture of English
   officers.”

   _Daily Graphic._--“A triumph of sympathetic observation
   ... delightful book ... many moving passages.”

   _Daily Mail._--“So good as to be no less amusing than the
   original.... This is one of the finest feats of modern
   translation that I know. The book gives one a better idea
   of the war than any other book I can recall.... Among
   many comical disputes the funniest is that about
   superstitions. That really is, in mess language, ‘A
   scream.’”

   _New Statesman._--“The whole is of a piece charmingly
   harmonious in tone and closely woven together.... The
   book has a perfect ending.... Few living writers achieve
   so great a range of sentiment, with so uniformly light
   and unassuming a manner.”

   _Observer._--“The flavour of M. Maurois’ humour loses
   little in this translation.... The admirable
   verisimilitude of the dialogue.... M. Maurois’ humorous
   gift is unusually varied.... He tells a good story with
   great vivacity.”

   Holbrook Jackson in the _National News_.--“The Colonel is
   an eternal delight.... I put the volume under my arm,
   started reading it on the way home, and continued reading
   until I had finished the same evening.... That ought to
   be sufficient recommendation for any book....”

   _Times Lit. Supplement._--(Review of French
   Edition.)--“M. Maurois ... is indeed so good an artist
   and so excellent an observer that we would not for worlds
   spoil his hand, or do more than merely introduce to
   English readers by far the most interesting and amusing
   group of British officers that we have met in books since
   the war began.”

   _Gentlewoman._--“The translation of this book is so
   splendidly done that it seems impossible that it can be a
   translation.... One of the very few war books which
   survive Peace.... This is one of the few war books that
   will not collect dust on the bookshelf.”

   James Milne in the _Graphic_.--“It is all very wise and
   very charming.”

   _Morning Post._--“This gently-humorous little book....
   Half-an-hour with Colonel Bramble and his entertaining
   friends will stop you worrying for a whole day.”

   _Saturday Review._--“The wittiest book of comment on
   warfare and our national prejudices that we have yet
   seen.”


JOHN LANE, THE BODLEY HEAD, VIGO ST., W. 1



A KUT PRISONER

By Lieut. H. C. W. BISHOP. Illustrated. +6s. 6d.+ net.

This book is the remarkable story of the first three British officers to
escape from a Turkish prison camp. It contains a description of the
siege and the march of 1,700 miles to Kastamuni; of their capture,
escape, and dramatic rescue, and finally the voyage in an open boat to
Alupka, in the Crimea.



SONNETS FROM A PRISON CAMP

By ARCHIBALD ALLAN BOWMAN

Crown 8vo. +5s.+ net.

This book falls naturally in two parts; the first is a sonnet sequence
describing the author’s capture with his battalion in the great March
Offensive, his weary tramp as a prisoner, and internment in a German
camp; the second consists of a series of meditative sonnets on theses
inevitably suggested by close confinement. The poems show great promise,
their intense sincerity being foremost among their merits.

   _Morning Post._--“Mr. Bowman’s rich and dignified sonnets.”

   _Scotsman._--“There is only one possible verdict on this
   volume--well done.”



SAPPER DOROTHY LAWRENCE

THE ONLY ENGLISH WOMAN SOLDIER

_Late Royal Engineers, 51st Division, 179th Tunnelling Coy., B.E.F._

With Portraits. Crown 8vo. +5s.+ net.

   _Daily Mail._--“Her very astonishing tale ... an
   extraordinary performance.”

   _Daily Chronicle._--“Miss Lawrence’s book is interesting
   and well done.”

   _Scotsman._--“Her exploit supplies the materials for a
   fine tale of adventure, and she tells her story
   uncommonly well.”


JOHN LANE, THE BODLEY HEAD, VIGO ST., W. 1





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