Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett.

With the Turks in Thrace online

. (page 1 of 25)
Online LibraryEllis Ashmead-BartlettWith the Turks in Thrace → online text (page 1 of 25)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


WITH THE TURKS IN THRACE




iPhoto S. Ashinead-BartUtt

Savinc; the Guns after the Batti.k of Lule Burgas.



WITH THE TURKS

IN THRACE By ELLIS
ASHMEAD-BARTLETT

SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT OF THE LONDON "DAILY
TELEGRAPH " Author of "PORT ARTHUR, THE
SIEGE AND CAPITULATION," "THE PASS-
ING OF THE SHEREEFIAN EMPIRE"
In Collaboration with SEA BURY

ASHMEAD-BARTLETT



ILLUSTRATED



NEW YORK MCMXIII
GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY






V



Printed in England



PREFACE

This book is intended as a record of those dramatic
days my brother and myself passed with the Turkish Army
in Thrace during the battle of Lule Burgas and in the
subsequent retreat on the lines of Chataldja. I have
to acknowledge my great indebtedness to him for the
assistance he has given me in writing parts of it, and also in
preparing it for publication.

My thanks are also due to the Daily Telegraph for
allowing me to reproduce articles which originally appeared
in its columns.

Since the last chapter was in print the revolt of the Young
Turkish party against Kiamil's Government, because of its
decision to surrender Adrianople to the Bulgarians — fore-
shadowed in the last chapter — has actually taken place, and
Nazim Pasha, the late Minister of War, and Commander-in-
Chief of the Army, has been assassinated.

Whether the Young Turks will endeavour to carry on
the war only the future can show, but all the arguments set
forth in the concluding chapter against such a course of
action still hold good, and a revolution in Constantinople in
no wise alters the strategical and financial objections to a
renewal of the campaign. Turkey's European Provinces
and the fortress of Adrianople are irrevocably lost, and any
effort to regain them can only lead to further disasters.

E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT. .

London : January 26/A, 1913.

V

258377



CONTENTS



CHAP. PAGE

I Watting for the War 1



II Scenes in Constantinople 12

III The Efforts of Diplomacy 22

IV The Military History of the Turks 29
V The Modern Turkish Army 50

VI The Authorities and the Correspondents 59

VII The Early Operations 77

VIII Departure of the Correspondents for the Front 93

IX My Journey to Chorlou 108

X My First Meeting with Abdullah 120

XI Lule Burgas— The First Day 139

XII Lule Burgas — The Second Day ^ 152

XIII The Rout 171

XIV How WE Sent the Story of the Battle 182
XV The Retreat from Chorlou to Chataldja 203

XVI The Migration of a People 217

XVII The Capture of Rodosto 229



XVIII The Chocolate Soldier 242

vii



viii CONTENTS

CHAP. PAGE

XIX The Cholera 250

XX The Attack on Chataldja 263

XXI The Turn op the Tide 278

XXII The War Against the Correspondents 292

XXIII The Future op the Turks 313



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

Saving the Guns after the Battle of Lule Burgas Frontispiece



Constantinople


facing page
10


Nogi and Abdullah, our two Saddle Horses, with Hadji,
the Albanian Groom


18


feefugees on the March


26


Our Cart with Bryant and Beavor


36


A Turkish Colonel


36


Retreating from Lule Burgas along the Roman Road


44


Greek Villagers and our Motor-car


60


The Track to Stamboul


68


Overturned Train


68



Nazim Pasha, Minister for War, leaving the Sublime

Porte on the Eve of Hostilities 74

Refugees' Train Overturned at Seidler 96

Our Tent at Chorion 106

Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett's Motor-car being pulled out of a

Rut by Men 112

Turkish Infantry driven out of Lule Burgas by the^

Bulgarians 142

Plan of the Battle of Lule Burgas page 143

facing page
Artillery advancing to support the hard-pressed 2nd

Army Corps at Lule Bui^as 154

The Turkish Retreat 162

Retirement of the 2nd Army Corps at Lule Burgas 168

Wounded Turkish Soldiers in Bullock Wagons 172

Passing the Bridge at Chorlou after the rout of Lule

Burgas 176

A Halt during the Retreat ' 184



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

facing p

Crossing the Bridge at Chorlou 194

The Camp of the Routed Army at Cherkeskeuy 204

Turkish Artillery Leaving the Field of Lule Burgas 212

Refugees 224

Train Crowded with Refugees and Soldiers escaping from

the Front 234

Artillery on the March 244

Victims of Cholera 258

Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett and Mr. Martin Donohoe, of the
Daily Chronicle, with an Armenian Priest, in whose

house they stayed at Aya Yorgi 260

A Trench hastUy built by the Turks at Chataldja 268

The Trenches at Chataldja 280

Waiting for the Bulgarians at Chataldja 280

Turkish Soldiers Saving their Wounded Captain 290

The Turks Retreating from Lule Burgas 302

Soldiers and Refugees Escaping from Lule Burgas 310

Map of Thrace at end of volume



With the Turks in Thrace.



ERRATA

PAGE LINE

34 24 for Mahomed II read Mahmoud II.

283 16 for Erzeroum r^od Erzerum.

91 26 'i

I ^'^ Karagac rmd Karagach.

274 28 f(yr Kuyuk read Kuchuk.



Before the Volume was completely passed for press Mr. Ellis Ashmead-
Bartlett was forced to return to Constantino}jle. The Publisher asks for
indtdgence if the traiiditeratio7is of Turkish names vary here and there, especially
between text and map.



CHAPTER I

WAITING rOR THE WAR

I HAD just returned from the great French manoeuvres in
Touraine when the outlook in the Balkans became threaten-
ing. There I had followed the operations of five Army-
Corps, and had seen them handled with machine-like pre-
cision, controlled, fed, and concentrated with such ease that
war was made to appear a ridiculously easy game. Over-
head seventy aeroplanes, assisted by dirigibles, kept the
opposing commanders-in-chief fully informed from hour
to hour — one might almost say from minute to minute — of
every fresh disposition of the enemy's forces, until many
eminent critics declared that anything in the nature of
grand strategy or of a surprise was eliminated from war for
ever, and that the battles of the future would be won by the
side which could concentrate the greatest number of troops at
a given point and strike home first. " The age/' they declared,
" of the gi-eat general is gone ; battles will now be lost
or won by the station-masters along the main lines of com-
munication to the front."

There is doubtless a great deal of truth in this. Never-
theless we were reminded that surprises might still occur
by an incident on the last day of the first period of the
manoeuvres, when General Marion, the commander-in-chief

B



2 t#ttf¥Hfi TURKS IN THRACE

of the Army of the East, together with the whole of his
staff, and his Corps Artillery, were captured during the battle
fought round Craon by two brigades of Blue Cavalry under
the command of General Dubois. This incident showed that
mistakes will happen even in the most highly organised and
scientific armies, and that there is still scope for the in-
dividual brain of a commander to seize the psychological
moment and change the fortunes of the day by a brilliant
coup de main. To outward observation the five French
Army Corps in Touraine were manoeuvred with consum-
mate ease, yet the machinery which guided and controlled
them was of an extremely delicate construction, and,
should a hitch have occurred anywhere, the whole complex
organisation was liable to be thrown out of gear.

I recall how often it was remarked by critics how hopeless
a modern army would be unless its organisation were perfect ;
how it would flounder about, its units without cohesion and
hopelessly intermixed ; its supply trains gone astray, and how
finally it would blunder up against the enemy's position
without having any definite objective to attack, its weight of
numbers entirely lost by lack of co-operation. Little did I
think at the time, that within a month I would find myself
with just such an army, and take part in the most crushing
defeat of modern times.

On Monday, September 30th, I returned to London from
a visit to the country to find urgent messages from IVIr.
Harry Lawson to come down to the office of the Daily
Telegraph immediately. I went there and was instructed
to hold myself in readiness to start at a moment's notice for
Constantinople to join the Turkish Army in the event of
war breaking out in the Balkans. I will not relate in detail
here the contradictory rumours of peace and war, which
kept the whole civilised world in a ferment of hopes and
fears for the next fortnight, before little Montenegro finally



IN SUSPENSE 3

threw down the gauntlet and commenced the Twentieth
Century crusade against the Turk without waiting for
her aUies. On Tuesday, October 1st, I spent most of the
day at the Daily Telegraph office waiting for the latest news
from the Near East and hesitating whether to commence
my preparations or to wait just one day longer in case
events should take a favourable turn. On Wednesday,
October 2nd, I received an express letter telling me to come
down to the office without a moment's delay and on
arriving there I was informed by Mr. Le Sage, the
Managing Editor, that I must start that very night for
Constantinople, as the prospects of preserving peace now
seemed hopeless.

These days, and I have known many in my time, when
one has to rush off to a far distant land at a moment's
notice, pass in a whirl of things remembered and things
forgotten. You seem to crowd into twelve hours the
concentrated effiDrts of a week, and then, when you are
finally seated in the train and hope to obtain a few hours for
calm reflection, you invariably find you have forgotten to do
many of the most important things you had thought of
earlier in the day, and have also left behind numberless
articles which you imagine will be of supreme importance to
you at the front.

At five that afternoon 1 happened to meet my brother
Seabury, and said to him, " I am off at nine to-night for
Constantinople." He replied, " I wish I were going too."
I said, " Why don't you come ? It may be worth your
while ; once you are on the spot I am sure I could get
you a job with some paper, although you have not had
any previous experience, or in any case I am sure to
need an assistant and you might be very useful." For
some time he hesitated, but finally made up his mind to
come with me and rushed off to pack a few clothes. He

b2



4 WITH THE TURKS IN THRACE

would never have hesitated, had he known the dramatic
events which were in store for us both before the month
had expired.

At nine p.m. on Wednesday, October 2nd, we left
Charing Cross for Paris and spent the following day there.
We learnt from Cook's that the line to Constantinople via
Sofia had been taken over by the Bulgarian Military
Authorities, and that the last Orient Express had passed
through the day before. We had, therefore, to travel
out to Constantinople via Constanza, in Roumania, passing
through Vienna and Bucharest, and from Constanza to
take the steamer to Constantinople. We found every seat
in the Orient Express booked as far as Vienna, and were
obliged to take an intermediate train as far as the Austrian
capital.

As we had a few hours to spare in Paris, we went to
call on M. Normand, the editor of IVie Illustratio7i, for
whose paper I had written an article the year before on the
*' Massacre in the Oasis " on my return from the Italian
campaign in Tripoli. M. Normand, a handsome black-
bearded man with a clever, alert, humorous face, received us
in his office, which was superbly decorated in the style of
Louis Quinze and looked less like the dreaded editorial lair
than a lady's boudoir. He greeted us with great polite-
ness saying, ** M. Ashmead-Bartlett, je suis enchante de
vous revoir, bien que votre article sur les atrocites Italiennes
en Tripolitaine nous ait perdu six cents abonnes en Italic,
et qu'on ait meme brule rillust?'atio?i sur les places pubhques.
Mais, M. Bartlett," the editor went on with a serious air,
*' il y a encore pire — le Saint Siege a mis T Illusti'ation sur
rindex." He ended up with a magnificent gesture ex-
pressive of mingled horror and amusement.

At five o'clock we left Paris for Vienna. As we had no
time to complete our packing in a scientific manner, we had



SUSPICIOUS TEUTONS 5

with us in the carriage a miscellaneous collection of bags
and packages, including a tent in a canvas bag and a saddle
wrapped up in a sack. Our belongings completely filled up
a first-class compartment, rendering it impossible for any
other would-be passengers to enter. All went well as long
as we were in France, the officials being prescient of the
pourboii^e which was certain to arise from the chaos
around us.

The situation, however, changed for the worse as soon
as we crossed the German frontier. A horde of fat but
alert-looking officials gathered in the doorway, contem-
plating with mingled suspicion and horror the amount of our
hand baggage, which included a typewriter, a suit-case, a
hat-bag, a Gladstone bag, a rug-strap and a dispatch box, as
well as the saddle and tent. " JVIein Gott, how many pas-
sengers are there for all this baggage ? " asked one of them.
We replied, " Two." " Is such a thing possible ? " he faltered.
Then, after a few minutes' conversation with his companion,
his face lighted up and he said, " Have you the first class ? "
We realised we were objects of intense suspicion. The
flaxen-haired, vicious-looking conductor gazed in anticipated
triumph at the disreputable-looking packages containing our
tent and saddle. He was sure that such travellers could only
have second-class tickets, and when we proved the contrary
he was keenly disappointed. Then, after another guttural
conversation with his companions, he asked, " Are you
Enghshmen ? " " Yes," we replied. A look of under-
standing brightened up their heavy Teutonic faces. Later
on another conductor came and eyed the tent and saddle
with suspicion. " You should not bring meat with you into
a first-class compartment," he said. " Meat ? " we answered,
in astonishment. " Yes," he answered, " have you not got a
ham in that sack ? "

On Friday, October 4th, we reached Vienna, where we



6 WITH THE TURKS IN THRACE

were obliged to break our journey, as the train for Constanza
did not leave until the following evening. We stopped at
the Bristol Hotel, and found several well-known war cor-
respondents already there, likewise bent on reaching
Constantinople. I was delighted to find amongst others my
old friends Lionel James, of The Times, and M. H. Donohoe,
of the Daily Chronicle. It is always pleasant to know you
are going to campaign amongst friends, even though you
know them to be the keenest of competitors, who will keep
you on the qui vive from start to finish, unless you wish
to find your best endeavours ever anticipated by the coups
of these highly trained and skilful colleagues.

We spent Saturday seeing the sights of the town, and in
the afternoon my brother and myself visited the battlefield of
Aspern-Essling on the other side of the Danube. At five
o'clock we entered the Orient Express for Constanza. On the
train we met Reshid Pasha, who was returning from conduct-
ing the peace negotiations with the Italians at Ouchy. Poor
Turkey ! Here was her representative returning from what
proved to be a successful mission of peace, only to find his
country on the brink of war with four other nations. He
was accompanied by Colonel Aziz, who had been Military
Attache in Washington, and who had also accompanied the
British Army during the South African War. He told me
he was on his way to join his regiment at Mustafa Pasha, on
the Bulgarian Frontier, and that he regarded war as certain.

We reached Constantinople on Monday, October 7th.
The last time I had visited this picturesque blot on the face
of Europe, was fourteen years before, at the time of the
Greco-Turkish war, when Abdul Hamid still reigned
supreme, and all one knew of the Young Turks was the
sinister fact that from time to time their bodies were found
floating in the Bosphorus, being carried slowly by the tide
out towards the Sea of Marmora.



THE NEW BYZANTIUM 7

I had heard so much of the Young Turks and the miracles
they were going to accomphsh once the country had obtained
a Constitution that I hardly expected to recognise Constanti-
nople, but to find it a city transformed. I found nothing
changed except that the dogs had gone, although, by the way,
a fresh generation of these noisy pests is already springing up.
Constantinople remains to-day the city of many colours and
of decay ; the city which nature designed to be a paradise
on earth and which man has transformed into a cesspool of
vice, decay, and blood ; a city which from the waters of
the Bosphorus looks like a dream of marble hanging on the
slopes of purple hills, and which on closer inspection turns
()ut to be a hopeless jumble of tumble-down houses with
gangrened and mouldering walls, built along the sides of
l^adly-paved, precipitous streets, down which tired horses
glide and stumble, with here and there some beautiful
marble mosque rising above the gaudy rubbish-heap of an
out- worn faith. The Turks have done nothing constructive to
beautify the city since their inruption in 1453. They have
merely added minarets to the old Byzantine churches, or
erected mosques in garish imitations of the Greek buildings.
For the rest, they have allowed the city to fall into hopeless
decay.

We were delayed at the Customs House by an official who
insisted that our tent in its canvas case was the envelope of
a dirigible balloon. It was only by a liberal donation of
backsheesh that we convinced him of the innocent nature of
our baggage.

We found the wildest rumours floating about the city.
Everyone held different opinions and had a different tale to
tell on the prospects of peace or war. Some declared war
to be absolutely certain and others were equally confident
that peace was assured. At the Pera Palace Hotel we
found a motley collection of war correspondents of all



8 WITH THE TURKS IN THRACE

nations, who, like vultures, had gathered in anticipation of
the horrid feast of death.

In official and diplomatic circles the opinion prevailed that
peace was assured because the Turkish Cabinet had agreed
to apply the Law of 1880 to Macedonia. This concession,
combined with the efforts of the Powers to bring pressure
on Bulgaria and Servia to preserve peace, caused a highly
optimistic tone to prevail in Constantinople on the day of
our arrival, and until we got in touch with the true facts of
the position it really seemed as if our journey to the Near
East would be in vain. However, on visiting Sir Gerard
Lowther I found that he was far from sharing the general
optimism and regarded the situation as extremely grave.
His views were confirmed and amplified by Count Leon
Ostrorog, the Special Correspondent of the Daily Telegraph
in Constantinople, who was always better informed on the
true situation than anyone else.

Europe had up to this time quite failed to grasp the true
significance of the Balkan League. It had been built up by
years of patient endeavour with the proclaimed object of
obtaining the freedom of Macedonia, but with the real
intention of proclaiming a twentieth century crusade and
of driving the Turks once and for all out of Europe. The
only hope for Turkey lay in the jealousies of the Great
Powers, and especially in the much-vaunted, but now dis-
credited, friendship of Germany, which, the Turkish Govern-
ment hoped, would postpone the blow until a more favour-
able season, if it could not permanently prevent it. To this
hope Turkey clung, until in the end the demands of the
Coalition left no alternative but war.

Immediately on arrival in Constantinople we began to
experience the difficulty of getting at the truth of anything.
The Press is not allowed to publish any news of importance
without official sanction, but nevertheless the most intimate



COUNT OSTROROG 9

Cabinet secrets are common property within a few hours.
No one seems capable of keeping a secret, and all news
filtering from mouth to mouth in the coffee-houses and
mosques becomes hopelessly garbled and distorted, with the
result that in the course of a few hours a score of people Avill
tell you different stories of events which have obviously
originally emanated from the same source.

For two days we wandered around Constantinople en-
deavouring to get in touch with the true situation, so as to
find out whether it was worth while going to all the trouble
and expense of making preparations to take the field. On
the second day Count Ostrorog invited my brother and
myself to lunch, and finally removed all doubts in our
minds. Count Ostrorog had all along unhesitatingly
preached the certainty of war in his despatches to the
Daily Telegi^aph. He was on intimate terms with everyone
in the diplomatic and official world ; he possesses a sound
knowledge of the Turkish character, history and politics,
and always had access to the Sublime Porte. He was at
one time legal adviser to the Young Turks and to the
Committee of "Union and Progress," and has had much
practical experience of the difficulties of attempting to graft
modern civilisation on to a Mahommedan community
without infringing the sacred code of Islam.

At lunch Count Ostrorog told us that there was a rumour
that the Montenegrin Minister had asked for his passports and
was about to leave Constantinople. In the middle of lunch
the Count's secretary, M. Pech, arrived and confirmed the
report. The surprise of everyone in Constantinople was
intense when it became known that Montenegro, the smallest
and weakest State of the Coalition, the " opera bouffe " State
of the Balkans, had thrown down the gauntlet and declared
war. On hearing this all-important piece of news, I lost no
time in visiting the War Office, known in Turkish as the



10 WITH THE TURKS IN THRACE

Seraskerat, in the hope of seeing Nazim Pasha, the Minister
of War, as I wished to find out what facilities would be given
to war correspondents to carry on their work at the front.

Great excitement prevailed in the streets of Stamboul
through which we had to pass on our way to the
War Office. Military preparations were being hastily
pressed forward. The narrow, filthy, cobbled streets were
crowded with Turks, reading the little sheets issued by
the Ottoman Agency, announcing the outbreak of war
with Montenegro. There were young Turks dressed in
the latest European fashion, with little save the red fez
to denote that they were children of the Prophet ; old men
in gaudy turbans and coloured robes sitting cross-legged in
front of their tumble-down shops ; wild-looking individuals
from Turkestan in long smocks embroidered with gorgeous
flowers ; negroes with their happy, smiling faces, to whom
war made apparently not the smallest difference ; here and
there veiled Turkish ladies in black satin dresses and shoes
from the Rue de la Paix ; fat Jewesses and crowds of peaceful-
looking peasants from Anatolia who had come to the capital
out of curiosity, or who were obeying the summons of the
mobihsation. Many of them had brought their sheep and
their turkeys or their oxen with them, hoping to do a good
" deal " before leaving for the front. Sometimes the crowd
would be ruthlessly pushed aside to make room for detach-
ments of fully accoutred Turkish infantry marching to the
station to entrain for the front.

On reaching the War Office we found large numbers
of troops being drilled and equipped in the great court-
yard in front of the building, while a band was playing
Turkish military airs to stir up the patriotism of numbers
of recruits and reservists who were endeavouring to master
the intricacies of the Mauser rifle, which large numbers
had never seen or handled before. The courtyard in



COLONEL IZZET 11

front of the Seraskerat was a great centre of attraction for
the people of Constantinople, who spent the day gazing
in wonder and admiration at the splendidly-equipped
battalions as they were in turn marched off to the station
to entrain to join the army of Thrace, which was now
being formed between Adrianople and Kirk Kilisse. We
were unable to see Nazim Pasha, the Minister of War, on this
visit, but my brother and I here made the acquaintance for the
first time of Colonel Izzet Bey, who was destined to play a
very important role in our lives, as he was placed in charge of
all the war correspondents and military attaches. We hoped
to learn much valuable information from Izzet, but quickly
found that he expected us to keep him informed of what was
happening. He started by asking us whether we had heard
any news of a declaration of war by Bulgaria, Servia, and
Greece. I very soon learned to know also that it was



Online LibraryEllis Ashmead-BartlettWith the Turks in Thrace → online text (page 1 of 25)