The Battle of Gallipoli is also referred to as the “battle of gentlemen.” Where both sides fought decently and honestly, and acted in a mature and honorable way, expressing their courage. Let’s see; was that really the case?
British war correspondent Ellis Ashmead Bartlett was one of the reporters who came to the battle front in Gallipoli to witness the victory. They were extremely certain about their power and victory. They assumed that they would be in Istanbul after a few days.
The book entitled "The Truth about Gallipoli" consists of his notes and testimony.
From its first pages, the book talks about erecting a crucifix at Hagia Sophia and taking Istanbul out of the Turks' possession. The Gallipoli Campaign is called the “largest crusade.” (78) It also says that the revenge of knights who were killed on these lands would be taken.
Mehmet Akif has referred to those who came to the Gallipoli fronts as: “Some of them are Hindus, some are cannibals, while others are just troublemakers. Here is the proof: “The military force that was brought here for the last crusade did indeed consist of different factions.” (86) The British, Scottish, Irish, French, Tasmanians, Senagalese, Sikhs, Jews, Gurkhas from Nepal, Australians, and New Zealanders; the alliance of colonies. It is for this particular reason that Ellis Bartlett deems it suitable to refer to the three-day long Alçıtepe Battle as the “Battle of Nations.”
And here comes the first confession: “Turks today are fighting for their existence, the only factor of European policy.” (144) Let’s add an important sentence from Ercan Yıldırım beside this conclusion: From now on, the idea of a homeland for the Ottomans is to not “lose” as much as possible. (Anadolu’da İslam Ruhu, page 175)
The attack carried out by the Turkish side on May 19 which resulted in heavy losses is explained in detail in the book. “Despite the fact that the enemy has proposed a ceasefire for the burial of corpses in no man’s land on May 21, the Turkish side did not rely on the ceasefire proposal due to suspicious behavior of soldiers on parapets.” (177)
What happens next? When the smell of rotten corpses started to become unbearable, an eight-hour long ceasefire came into effect on May 24 on the request of a commander from the Anzac forces.
What makes "The Truth about Gallipoli" book important are the confessions unwittingly made by the British journalist. Here is one of them: “Large fires were set up in various places. Because getting rid of Turkish corpses was a crucial issue, they were burned in the fire; the smell of rotten corpses were in fact disgustingly unbearable.” (192) These took place in Sığındere.
When Ellis Bartlett went around the trenches taken from the Turks, he wrote what saw in detail. “There were seven Turks who sat together in a corner and put their rifles on their knees. One of these wrapped his arms around his friend’s neck and was looking at his face smiling. It was at this moment that death hunted these seven friends. All of them looked like they were sleeping, as I only saw one out of the seven Turkish soldiers with a scar.” (193) So Bartlett unwittingly confesses that choking gas was used by the British.
My great grandfather had been martyred in Sığındere. I always think about whether he was one of our martyrs who were burned and exterminated? Was he exposed to poisonous gas? ***
In his Gallipoli poem, Mehmet Akif says: “The faces are different; languages and skins are colorful/ There is a plain incident in place: the atrocities match.” What does he try to tell us when he says this? What is the intention in saying “cannibals?” Let’s take a look: “The indigenous peoples of Maori attacked the enemy in the darkness of the night by singing war songs in their language and killed them with bayonets, leaving them in awe, while exterminating the rest with rifle butts.” (225)
On a different day: “Many Turkish soldiers were shot and fell in this attack, while the rest were killed by our brave colonial soldiers by bayonets, rifle butts and spears. A few of the Maoris were on a rage from the violence of the battle and got near the Turks and knocked many of them down by hitting their heads with their rifles. The Turks could not stay in the face of this violent and cruel treatment, and those who were still alive started to escape.” (226)
This is what we understand from the above explanations: They did not take soldiers captive, and they even killed the wounded. They did not recognize any humanitarian rules and repeatedly committed war crimes.
The British journalist was rather delighted amidst these bloody scenes: “Regardless, this was a very glorious and fine performance of the battle.” Let’s respond with Mehmet Akif: “In a shameless manner…”
We witness American barbarism concealed under the mask of democracy in our region for about a quarter of a century. These lines, too, reveal British barbarism with all its flagrancy. We tremble as we read how the wild, indigenous people from New Zealand were used.
The campaign called “The last and largest crusade” did not go as planned. Things had changed. Hopelessness had started. We see and read about this in the book: “In reality, the army was in a pathetic condition. War power has largely been lost, and the morale of soldiers and officers had collapsed.” (277) We know what happened next.
*** The humanitarian crimes committed by occupational forces in Gallipoli also appear in other sources. Some of them are worse than the ones I have shared. So clearly there was no chivalry whatsoever. Those seeking more detailed information can take a look at Murat Erşan’s thesis titled “Violations of Jus Belli in Gallipoli Battles.” The continuous shelling of hospitals with Red Crescent flags, the extermination of Turkish war captives, the violation of state laws and humanitarian conventions along with individual and systematic violations of war. These are all documented and proved.
In Gallipoli, the glorious children of the Turkish nation had faced an unbelievable ruthlessness and were subjected to slaughter. I am personally of the opinion that it is not a righteous act to forget all of these and highlight a pack of cigarettes thrown from the opposite trenches. It seems like an effort to acquit the Western daemons and erase what they have done from our memories with the new regime and official history.
In Fethi Gemuhluoğlu’s words: our innocent, oppressed, grieved and downtrodden nation has lived the doomsday in Gallipoli. Even our national poet could not hold himself against the destruction and was pushed to call the Western civilization “a prostitute.”
If we are to talk about today. President Erdoğan in his speech said that World War I did not end and is still ongoing. The fact that the top state figure accepts and voices this truth of course bodes well.
Said Halim Paşa in his piece called Our Crises says: “What the West refers to as the ‘Eastern Question’ is actually the distribution of our lands.” (267) As for the issue today, it is the besieging of Turkey and the effort to prevent it from standing up.”