Eastern Anatolia - Trebizond And Erzeroum
( Originally Published 1923 )
Orders – Appointment with Commander-in-Chief at Kars – Leave Tiflis – The Advent of 'George' – The Rion Valley – Batoum again – Landing at Trebizond – The Zigana Pass – The Kharshue Valley – The Vavok Pass – The Khop Pass – Bivouac in snow – The Upper Euphrates – Erzeroum – The Kars Road – The Russo-Turkish frontier – The Saganli Mountains – Kars again – Return to Erzeroum – The fortress town – Kiazim Karabekir – Difficulties – 'George' and the camel – Reinforcement reaches Trebizond
IMMEDIATELY on the Commander-in-Chief's departure from Batoum I returned direct to Tiflis, to rejoin my party and to take orders from Advanced Headquarters as to the best method of carrying out the Chief's general instructions.
It was decided that I should take my party to Batoum, and, having embarked them there, land at Trebizond, about too miles farther west on the Pontine (Black Sea) coast of Asiatic Turkey. From Trebizond I was to make my way, if possible, inland 200 miles to the Headquarters of the Turkish IXth Army at Erzeroum, and, having presented my credentials to the army commander and taken stock of the situation there, then get on as best I could another 200 miles east over the old Turco-Russian frontier to report to the Commander-in-Chief at Kars on his arrival there from Tiflis on April 27th. As it was April 3rd when I received these orders, and we had 200 miles to go to the coast, and then obtain a ship and travel another hundred by sea to Trebizond before starting to tackle a further 500 miles of country of which our only information was that 'it was extremely difficult, with many high passes all under deep snow', no one will be surprised to learn that I much doubted our competence to cover these 800 miles in time to keep my appointment with the Commander-in-Chief at Kars on April 27th, in three weeks' time.
The decision was taken at 3 p.m., and without wasting one moment I got my men together and we steamed out of Tiflis in our own little train before dark that same evening. Our progress was very slow, for our locomotive was an indifferent one and we were sadly short of fuel, and it was late the next afternoon before we reached the mouth of the Suram Tunnel, about 100 miles west of Tiflis, where we were for the third or fourth time obliged to stop to obtain fuel.
This tunnel is near the head of the Borzom Defile, through which runs the Koura River, and in these parts the Russian Grand Dukes, Viceroys of the Caucasian provinces of Imperial Russia in the days before the Bolshevik revolution, had for many years occupied a magnificent summer palace. This palace had now long lain in ruins, as had also the village surrounding it. During our halt there I observed with much interest a great black shape wandering amongst the ruins, which, though a skeleton only and in the last extremities of starvation, I could see at a glance was in reality a magnificent hound, evidently of the Imperial breed of bear-hounds, which for generations been exclusively bred for the Imperial family in the Caucasus.
This magnificent animal, more resembling a Great Dane than anything else, but showing more quality than Ole finest of that breed, was very shy indeed, and it took a good half-hour, after we had obtained our fuel, to entice him on to the observation platform of my carriage, with the assistance of my one and only sir-loin of beef. Even then we were unable to induce him to enter the carriage, until I went in there, leaving the meat on the floor, and went out again by the farther door; when, after a while, he entered, and having in the meanwhile gone round outside the train myself; the door was quickly closed and the train started, not stopping again except for fuel until we reached Batoum about midday next day, April 5th. By this time the splendid though starving animal had become completely at home, having consumed the greater part of my small stock of provisions. From that time, with the exception of my short visit to London in August of that year and the six months which he spent in quarantine in 1922, he has never left me, and lies beside me whilst I write here, at hope in England, to-day.
We called him 'George', as he is a Georgian born and bred, and he has since then become well known to the Army of the Black Sea, the Turkish XVth Corps, the greater part of the Mediterranean Fleet, and even to the British public, his portrait having appeared in the Daily Mail and many other papers. A more faithful and intelligent friend and companion no one can ever hope to find. He has only this one shortcoming, that, being 'only a dog', he cannot speak, though he comes terribly near doing so at times, and it is never the least difficult to understand anything he desires to convey. It is, in fact, on record that on one occasion he actually did make a remark, so excessively apropos at the time that even the Turkish guards who also heard him were duly impressed. That incident can, however, be better described when we come to its occurrence during our captivity.
The last part of our journey through the Province of Kutais, by the valley of the Upper Rion River, before reaching Batoum Province, was beautiful. I had never seen that bit of country before, having always passed there during the night; but this time we were fortunate, not only in passing it by daylight, but also during the spring time, when, of course, the valley is seen at its best.
The river, then a rushing torrent from the snows melting above, ran here through rich pasture-land, with the trees all freshly green in spring, and apple-blossom was everywhere. Lovely little wooden cottages, covered with flowering creepers, each with its little paddock and orchard in full bloom, crowned the high, steep banks of the river, and behind them rolling slopes of green reached upwards to the magnificent beech forests which clothe the lower slopes. Above these, again, were belts of fir-woods thinning gradually out into the snow-fields above, range after range of which framed the picture on either side as far as the eye could reach.
This valley was certainly a dream of beauty and peace, nice and warm without being hot, with a bright sun lighting up the whole scene, which included everything that Nature can produce that is lovely, all at their best and all in sight at the same time. Even my British soldiers were impressed, and were hanging out of their carriage, passing remarks on the scenery, about the very last thing I was expecting them to do.
Reaching Batoum on the 5th, there was much to be done, and it was not till the 11th that we were able to embark all our gear on board the small 'drifter' which had been placed at our disposal and to start on our sea-passage to Trebizond.
Our 'drifter' was of the very smallest size, certainly less than 100 tons, so it may be imagined it was a work of art to stow six cars on board. This, however, was done by the help of a steam crane; the tops of the cars being taken off, and three having been found room for, the others were then lowered on the top of them, and, thanks to a calm sea, arrived safely.
In order that the objects of my mission can be properly under-stood, it will be necessary here again to give an idea of the political situation at this time in the eastern Turkish provinces for which I was now bound.
By the terms of the Armistice granted by the Allies to the Turks, the latter agreed to demobilize their armies and to surrender their armaments, until both were within certain maximum limits laid down by the Armistice conditions. In order, however, to insure these conditions being carried out, it was, of course, necessary to inspect and, in fact, to supervise the measures taken by the Turks for the purpose, and this was the duty now officially allotted to me.
I carried as my credentials the 'Firman' from the Sultan. in Constantinople, authorizing me to visit the Headquarters of his armies in the eastern provinces, at the same time instructing the Army Commanders to furnish me with full information and to afford me every facility in carrying out my inspection. I also was provided with an official military communication from the Turkish War Office at Constantinople to the Army Commanders, notifying them of my duties. On arrival, therefore, at Trebizond I immediately announced the official purpose of my visit to the officer commanding the garrison there, asking him to communicate with his Army Commander at Erzeroum, and to notify him of my intention of proceeding into the interior forthwith, at the same time requesting that the Turkish military posts along the road should be at once instructed to afford me every assistance. Pending the arrival of an authorization to proceed, I commenced the official enumeration of the armaments in the Trebizond District, an inspection of all demobilization orders which had been issued, and the progress which had been made in their execution.
From the first it was evident that, although we had been received with great civility, it would be a difficult matter to ascertain exactly what was going on. Under these circumstances I gave explicit instructions to the excellent British Intelligence Officer, Captain Crawford, who was permanently quartered at Trebizond, and who had been placed under my orders, as to the course he was to pursue in my absence; and as soon as I received authorization from the Army Commander at Erzeroum to proceed, we started on the 200 miles of arduous travelling which lay between Trebizond and the Army Headquarters at Erzeroum, leaving the coast in the early morning of April 18th. During our stay at Trebizond I had been daily exercising my party in the duties which they would be called upon to perform on the march, until I had every reason to be satisfied that they would be equal to the particularly rough time which I anticipated lay before us.
The steep and rugged southern coast of the Black Sea contains no harbour at all in the 700 or more miles which lie between the entrance to the Bosphorus and the port of Batoum, and during the last goo miles of this distance the coast range becomes higher and higher, until in the neighbourhood of Trebizond the mountains rise abruptly from the sea and culminate in a continous line of snow-covered peaks, which attain an altitude of from 10,000 to 11,000 feet within 50 miles of the coast.
The only road passable for vehicles which crosses this range for at least 200 miles, is one that rises from Trebizond and crosses the Zigana Pass, at 6,500 feet above the sea about fifty miles inland. In our innocence we supposed that we should easily cross this pass the first day, as much of the snow had melted, and, our cars being in good condition, we anticipated no difficulty. Night was, however, coming on when we arrived at a Greek village, Hamsikeui by name, still 2,500 feet below, and 15 miles distant from, the summit.
As we were just on the edge of the snow, we there pitched the first of the many mountain camps and bivouacs we were destined to occupy in this wild mountain country. Our delay on this occasion proceeded from no defects on the part of our cars, but from the fact that the gradients were steep and our loads heavy. However, the men were all well trained and full of 'go', and we had the tents pitched and our meal prepared in less than half an hour, and after a very comfortable if somewhat cold night, were away again half an hour after daylight next day, to enter the forest belt which lies just below the snow, and after three hours' hard climb we reached the summit before ten o'clock.
Here, on the summit of the Zigana, looking south, we had ' our first view of the interior of Anatolia, and a very marvellous and beautiful one it was. In the bright morning sun, range after range of snow-capped mountains appeared on every side, except on the north, in which direction the great mountains on either side of the narrow valley we had been following obstructed our view. The impression produced by this remarkable scene was of an incredibly rocky and rugged country, of precipices and narrow, deep valleys, with absolutely no flat country in any direction, and the clearness of the atmosphere was also so deceptive that distances were impossible to estimate.
On many occasions since that first morning I have studied that view at my leisure, when, having become thoroughly familiar with the country for many miles, I have been able to pick out and identify prominent peaks of 11,000 feet and upwards, which I knew then to be over too miles away, but which on this first occasion, in our ignorance, we took to be not more than 30 or 40 miles distant.
The descent was steep at first, but after about five miles the road rose again, being there cut out of a sheer rocky cliff with a mountain of 11,000 feet rising perpendicularly on the left, and a deep, narrow valley on the right, at the bottom of which ran a roaring torrent at least 2,000 feet below the road. The rise continued for a mile or more, till a steep zigzag descent commenced which continued to the Kharshut River, fifteen miles from the summit of the pass and 3,000 feet below it. Here we halted, took our midday meal, and, having closed up the column, continued on our way, ascending the narrow valley of the river to the eastwards.
This river, which is considerably the largest stream running into the Black Sea, in the 300 miles which lie between the mouth of the Chorokh River, near Batoum and that of the Kelkid Irmak (the Halys of ancient history), near Samsun, was at this time in full flood from the melting of the snows. During the last thirty miles of its course, below the point where the road enters the valley, the Kharshut runs through narrow gorges between perpendicular cliffs, where not even a mule-track is able to follow its course, though there would be no insuperable difficulty in constructing a railway from this point to its mouth a Tireboli.
Above its junction with the road the valley becomes wider and receives three large tributaries in the next twenty miles.
Here, before entering the town of Gumush Khaneh (the Silver House), we halted and closed up our column again, as we heard the late Army Commander from Erzeroum was in the town, on his way to Constantinople, whither he had been called by order of the Sultan. We passed him in the main street with a polite salute, about 5 p.m., and made the best of our way up the valley beyond, without making any halt at all in the town.
The Kharshut Valley round Gumush Khaneh is far from spacious, being not more than a mile across at the widest point, with steep mountains everywhere rising to the snow on either side. The valley itself; however, is here well cultivated and the land rich and sheltered, there being many orchards which produce apples and cherries famous throughout all the upland country — a beautiful sight at this time in April, when the whole valley was a mass of apple-blossom. We kept on till dark, rising all the time, and were finally forced to bivouac at the roadside in the darkness, just under 100 miles from Trebizond, with the defile leading to the Vavok Pass just before us. Our bivouac was only 50o feet higher than our camp of the previous night, but was infinitely warmer, as, although the snow was all round us, yet the roadside where we halted was well sheltered by the steep sides of the gorge.
Next morning, at daylight we were quickly on the move, as we hoped we might be able to cross two passes during the day. Immediately on leaving, the gorge became so narrow as to barely leave room for a car beside the roaring torrent, but after not more than a quarter of a mile we came suddenly out on to the snow-field, with the ridge of the Vavok Pass (6,500 feet) two miles in front of us. Once over the ridge, on the southern slope the snow was less and the gradient favourable, and so we made good progress, passing through the outskirts of the town of Baiburt at 5,300 feet, 125 miles from Trebizond, before midday. We reached the edge of the snow below the Khop Pass as the sun was sinking and camped there in the snow for the night.
Amongst the many difficult passes of Eastern Anatolia, very few can be passed by wheeled vehicles. The Khop is certainly the most difficult of these, as, although the road is well traced and constructed, not only is the actual upper pass unusually long (about fifteen miles), but half of it is at over 8,000 feet, the road there is also much exposed, the wind being frequently very high and so cold as to have an absolutely paralysing effect on anyone exposed to its full force.
The summit rises to 8,25o feet, and forms the actual water-shed between the Black Sea and the Persian Gulf, the nearest point of which is over 1,000 miles distant as the crow flies. No winter season ever passes without many lives being lost on this pass from expo-sure, as travellers who are caught on the upper pass in the dreaded tipis, or storms of snow and wind, which are frequent there, have very little chance in the deep drifts which rapidly form in the freshly fallen snow, and it is little wonder that the summit is often impassable for months on end.
Soon after daybreak some Turkish troops came into sight, coming in single file through the fresh-fallen snow. It appeared that they had sheltered the night before in a stone khan, or hovel, three or four miles farther on. They gave us a poor account of the state of the pass, as it appeared that the road on the slopes immediately above us had been entirely carried away by an avalanche within the last few days, and that higher up fresh snow lay deep, so that they had had oxen brought up from the other side of the pass to endeavour to get our cars over the summit if we could reach the place where the road still existed.
We therefore at once proceeded to carry out a survey of the ground immediately above us, and found that by keeping on up the extreme point of the spur on which we had halted we could get 'up' on solid ground, from which the force of the wind had largely cleared the snow during the night. The slope, however, proved terribly steep, and it was necessary to unload the cars entirely, and then, having attached long ropes with cross-poles at intervals, we manned them with as many Turkish soldiers as possible, and with the greatest difficulty hauled the empty cars up, one by one, by main force. On reaching the road again, we found the Turks had collected about forty oxen, with their yokes and ropes, ready to tow the cars, and a start was promptly made with three pairs of oxen to each car. At frequent intervals it was necessary to double the oxen, putting twelve or more to one car, to get through some exceptional morass, and going back afterwards to bring on the others by the same means.
It may be imagined that the rate of progress under these circumstances is not great. However, on this occasion, starting at daylight, we were able to cross the summit, about three and a half miles distant from our camp, by midday, and here enjoyed a view which is unsurpassable in any country. From the summit of the Khop, at 8,250 feet, the ground falls away steeply to the south and the main Euphrates Valley lies spread out far below, the foot-hills on either side of the river being about twenty-five miles apart, the crests of the main ranges beyond being from thirty to thirty-five miles distant. In every direction the scene is bounded by snow, with countless volcanic peaks and precipitous ridges rising everywhere to 12,000 feet or more.
In spite of the wild grandeur of this prospect, it is not advisable to waste any time in admiring it, for in winter the force of the wind on this exposed watershed is so great as to be dangerous, and the temperature falls so low that on several occasions the whole of my party have lost the skin off their faces from exposure to this truly 'icy blast', not to mention other even more distressing effects resulting from the glare of sun on the snow which we have also experienced there.
On this occasion we were able to slide down off the main ridge without delay, as the force of the wind had done much to clear it of fresh snow. It was, however, long past nightfall ere we reached the last zigzags of the main pass, which we were able to descend in comparative shelter, and finally camped at 11 p.m., amongst deserted ruins, in a small village named Pirnikapan, which lies only 1,000 feet above the level of the great Euphrates River, forty-five miles west of Erzeroum.
The sight afforded by our party of six cars descending the end-less zigzags on the face of the perpendicular cliffs in the dark was truly remarkable, for looking back up the almost precipitous mountain the effect of the brilliant headlights of the cars on the rocks in all directions, as they followed each other, about 100 yards apart, down all the twists and turns on the face of the cliff was most effective, and was, in fact, the most striking incident of an eventful day.
Next morning all the party were suffering pretty severely from their exposure on the pass, and camp was not struck till 12 noon, when we started up the plain for Erzeroum. The road being good and fairly clear of snow, we reached the ramparts of the great Turkish fortress before 5 p.m., and were met at the carefully guarded gate by an officer sent by the military Head-quarters to conduct us to the house placed at our disposal by the authorities. This proved to be a spacious mansion, originally an American school, and an officer and guard of twenty-five Turkish soldiers were quartered there, to assist us generally, or rather, as we well understood, to keep in touch with our operations. We reached Erzeroum on the 22nd, having taken five days to cover the 200 miles from Trebizond not at all bad travelling, over that now familiar road, at that time of year, particularly as its peculiar difficulties were then all unknown to us.
Next day I called upon the Turkish civil Governor and on the temporary Commander of the Army Headquarters, as the late Army Commander (whom I had passed at Gumush Khaneh) had not yet been replaced. Presenting my credentials and the Sultan's 'Firman', I was duly authorized to inspect all armament and military stores, as well as to examine the army muster-rolls and pay sheets. The next two days were spent in a rapid survey of the arsenals and fortifications and an inspection of the army books, in order to obtain a rough idea of the progress of demobilization, and on the 26th, at daylight, I was able to start again, this time with only two lightly loaded cars, to cross still two more high ranges of snow-mountains and the old Russo-Turkish frontier, to report to the Commander-in-Chief at Kars, 13o miles away, on the 27th, as ordered.
The road through the frontier pass was good, but the pass itself was both long and difficult as it extended for thirty miles with much deep snow, the summit being at an altitude of 7,500 feet. Beyond the pass, the snow had nearly gone; we were therefore able to average a good rate of speed across the plain, and to reach the fortress of Kars, 13o miles from Erzeroum, before 4 p.m. The Commander-in-Chief's train was in the siding there, where my own had been on the occasion of my previous visit, and though he himself had not yet returned from inspecting the Kars defences, we learned that he was not due to start back till late that night; there would therefore be all the time necessary to make my report. So we went straight on to the military Head-quarters to arrange for a bed that night.
We received a very pleasant reception from the staff, and a good room with a fire and all the comforts of an English mess were duly appreciated; as also was an invitation to dine with the Chief on his train, which reached me whilst I was enjoying the unusual luxury of a good hot bath. The Chief was very kind at dinner, and I learned from him all the news, and in addition he gave me some invaluable English newspapers, to which I had long been a stranger.
My own orders were to return to Erzeroum to enumerate all the armament in the hands of the Turkish IXth Army, and to take note of the measures being taken for demobilization, reporting the results of my inquiries to Constantinople by cable. I was told officers would be sent to assist me in the work, and was instructed to examine and report on any means which might be available for getting out of the country all armament in excess of the limited amount which was allowed by the Armistice conditions. Ever thoughtful for our welfare and comfort, I found the Chief had even given instructions for two bottles of whisky to be put in my car, from his small private store on the train: these, of course, would have been otherwise unobtainable and would be worth their weight in gold in our freezing mountain camps after long days in the snow; and I feel sure that no man's health has ever been drunk with more enthusiasm than was his by me and my men when I served out this most welcome present to them from 'Uncle George', under which familiar designation our Commander was universally known and loved throughout his army.
The Chief left for Batoum that night, and I was indeed fortunate to have reached such good quarters and a British doctor, as next day I had a bad 'go' of fever, which, though it was nothing at all where I then found myself; would have been a very different experience had it caught me in camp in the snow. After the luxury of a long day in a good bed, with a blazing fire and English news-papers to read, I was all right next morning, the 29th, and we got away early on our return journey to Erzeroum, camping at night, and reaching our quarters before dark on the 30th.
At Erzeroum both the fortress and town are full of interest, even though the former is quite out of date and the latter largely in ruins. The defensive works have now little real military value, as the whole position is capable of being turned and passed on either flank, but the fortress itself has always been the great military centre of the Turkish power in eastern Anatolia, and the taking stock of its ancient and very miscellaneous military con-tents was therefore a somewhat arduous undertaking.
The town contains several most interesting old buildings, now mosques, which, however, before the advent of the Turks, were Christian churches, and previously were the seats of various much more ancient religions, some of them still bearing the device of the Sun-god fructifying the palm tree, the sign of ancient Nineveh, which is easily decipherable on several of them to-day. The great plain of Erzeroum, which lies north of the city, is twenty-five miles broad at that spot, and is roughly fifty miles long, the greater portion of that large tract being occupied by the marsh which forms the true source of the great Euphrates River. The town itself stands on the slope of the great Palenduken Mountains, at an altitude of just under 7,000 feet at its upper or southern ramparts, the hills immediately above the town reaching to i 2,000 feet, and the marsh itself being 6,25o feet.
It is sufficient to remember that the great rivers of this part of Asia, which run to the Black Sea, the Persian Gulf, and the Caspian Sea, all rise within a few miles of this city, to realize at once that even in that bare and arctic country the city of Erzeroum, by reason of its great altitude and most exposed position, is a particularly uninviting spot, which no one who was familiar with that country would ever voluntarily select as his residence. The winds there blow with terrific force, and a piercing cold defies all furs, as it also does adequate description in conventional language. No tree or shrub of any sort can be found within over fifty miles, either to afford fuel when cut or shelter of any kind, and the words 'dismal', dreary', 'desolate', and 'damnable', suggest themselves irresistibly as a concise description of the whole locality. Our work in this delectable retreat was important, as on its result depended the estimate to be formed of the future intentions of the Turks. Though every facility was afforded to me in my inspections, I early understood and reported that no real progress towards disarmament was being made, or was, in-deed, intended.
Shortly after our arrival the new army commander, Kiazim Karabekir Pasha, appeared on the scene, and as a formality to propitiate the Allies, the old IXth Army was reduced to the status of an Army Corps only, and numbered XV. Needless to remark, this made no practical difference at all to the military position. Kiazim Pasha, a native of eastern Anatolia, is the most genuine example of a first class Turkish officer that it has ever been my good fortune to meet. He had much experience of war, and was Chief of the Staff to the German Marshal von der Goltz, who commanded-in-chief the Turkish armies which defended Baghdad against the British advance. Any army he has under his command may always be relied upon to be thoroughly well commanded. Not only has he the advantage of a natural quick and bright intelligence, but he is master of every branch of his profession, and extremely conscientious in the exercise of his multifarious duties. I am anxious to add, first, that, having had much to do with him in many extremely delicate positions, I have always found him as straightforward as his orders would permit him to be; and, secondly, that although it was my fate to be his prisoner for a long time, and to suffer great hardships at the hands of some of his subordinates, yet he himself has never ceased to command my respect as an individual, and my appreciation as a thoroughly competent commander.
During May the work of the enumeration of the armament of the Turkish Eastern armies proceeded apace, as far as the contents of the Erzeroum arsenals were concerned; but with regard to the divisions quartered on the eastern frontier it was impossible to obtain reliable information, the passes being all blocked by snow. I was therefore obliged in respect of those divisions to, report only the figures furnished me by the Turks themselves, with the explanation that until the passes should be clear of snow it would be impossible to verify those figures in the outlying districts.
In Erzeroum alone I found upwards of 500 guns, mostly of antiquated pattern, and over 200,000 rounds of gun ammunition. This was mostly useless, and in many cases in an absolutely dangerous condition. My instructions were to render the guns unserviceable, with the exception of a very limited number, and to correspondingly reduce the ammunition and machine-guns. The small arms (rifles) were also to be reduced from a total of upwards of 100,000 to 3,300 per division, or about 15,000 in all.
I was likewise instructed to devise and organize some practical method by which this very arbitrary proceeding could be success-fully carried out.
It was evident that the utmost which could be hoped for was to obtain the breech-blocks of the guns and the breech-bolts of the rifles, above the Armistice minimum, and then to endeavour to get these vital parts out of the country. The only hope of effecting even this lay in the efficient repairing of the small Decauville Railway which had been built by the Russians during the war, connecting Erzeroum with the Russian main line beyond the eastern frontier at Sarikamish, for it would have taken years to remove the quantities with which we had to deal by means of any other transport which was then available. During the month of May I prepared, and reported by cable to Contant, a full statement of the position, making certain propositions and asking that, if my suggestions were approved, I should be sent an adequate staff to carry them out, and I was duly advised this would be done forthwith.
In the meanwhile my party was entirely cut off from our own bases except by telegraph, for after we had, by great good fortune, succeeded in getting over the damaged road on the Khop Pass, no other wheeled vehicles had succeeded in passing it. Much fresh snow having fallen there in May, a still greater portion of the road, over which we had then passed with such difficulty, had been subsequently washed away. This meant that we suffered what, in our innocence and ignorance of Erzeroum and its possibilities, we then looked upon as considerable hardships, for we were without stores of any kind, or letters or news. Also, being obliged to subsist on eggs and black bread only, without any form of vegetables, we suffered from scurvy in addition to the particularly noxious form of fever and dysentery which is universal there in the spring, and has obtained for the fortress of Erzeroum its evil reputation even amongst the hardy natives of that most desolate district.
Our one joy was our dog, 'George'. The miserable skeleton whom we had rescued from the ruins in Georgia had now developed into a truly magnificent animal. Of gigantic size and the greatest possible enterprise and activity, he became the idol of the men. He conceived a particular antipathy to all things Turkish — man, woman, camel, horse, donkey or dog, and he was always prepared on the least encouragement to 'go for' them all, the peculiar 'baggy' seats of the country Turks' trousers having for him a particularly irresistible attraction.
The great rough Tartar dogs, who all have their ears clipped as a precaution against frostbite, were his special prey, and many, acknowledged champions amongst them, arrived in their pride to rob our apparent affluence, only to retire howling as the result of short and decisive interviews with 'George'. On one famous occasion a particularly vicious old bull camel paid us a predatory visit, only to be instantly charged by our canine hero, who pulled out enough of his mane to stuff a mattress with, until finally, after having entertained us to a concert, containing every grunt, groan and squeal in the camel vocabulary, the huge and vicious animal made off at his lumbering gallop, kicking and biting in all directions, whilst 'George' remained wagging his tail, licking his lips, and shaking hands, one after another, with every man present, to their huge delight and diversion.
During this time, however, trouble was brewing in many directions, and it was with much relief that we heard rumours through the Turks, about the end of May, of the landing of what they described as a troop of British cavalry at Trebizond. These we took to be our promised reinforcement from Constant, but as I had no word from them nor from my intelligence officer at Trebizond, I concluded I had better go down the coast myself and see what was happening there at the very first moment I could leave Erzeroum.
Adventures In The Near East:
Eastward Bound To The Tigris
Mesopotamia, The Land Of The Rivers
Persia: The Road And The Famine
The Caspian Sea - Advance To, Relief Of, And Siege Of Baku
Evacuation - The Steamer Armenian
Homeward Bound – The Armistice
Intelligence In Transcaucasia (february To August, 1919.)
East Again - Salonika, Constant, And Batoum
The Caucasus - After The Armistice
Eastern Anatolia - Trebizond And Erzeroum
Read More Articles About: Adventures In The Near East