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Exchange And Home

( Originally Published 1923 )

Turks return my papers and box - Arrangements for exchange - British expect to receive 140 prisoners - Three only are forthcoming besides ourselves -I board the cruiser - The High Commissioner cables authority to exchange - Constantinople once more - Colonel and Mrs. Gribbon's hospitality - Admiral Sir Reginald Tyrwhitt - His invitation -- The Chief - Our interview - Dinner with Embassy Staff- Accumulated correspondence - The men are entertained at the Embassy - Luncheon with Sir Charles and Lady Harington - Chief's cable to War Office - Reasons for refusal to see reporters - Sail for Malta in the Centaur - The Achi Baba position in the Gallipoli Peninsula -- Full-speed trial of Cen- taut. - Malta -- Lord and Lady Plumer's kindness -- The Palace at Valetta - The castle - Cable from General Harington - Dinner with Sir John de Robeck- The Somme takes us to Naples - Entertain our liberators - 'George's' railway tragedy - Paris -- 'George' rejoins - Arrive in London - Recommendation of men - Sir Henry Wilson - Collapse - His Majesty receives our party at Buckingham Palace

JUST before leaving the pier I was handed by the Turkish Commander's orders the box which I had left at Trebizond, when there in April, to be forwarded home by the officer who had undertaken also to forward my packet to Constantinople by the hand of the captain of the Italian vessel, but who, instead of doing so, had delivered them both to his superiors. The box, containing valuable furs as well as my pistols and other property, had of course been looted, and nothing of value remained in it. The sealed packet, however, was still unopened, to my infinite relief, as no one had dared to break the Turkish seals with which it was sealed, not knowing, of course, who might have placed them there. It is to this fortunate chance that I owe the recovery of my Diary and of my letter of April 16th. to the Commander-in-Chief, which have been reproduced in Chapter V, as well as other documents of considerable importance to me, for which I was most thankful.

On leaving Trebizond, Colonel Baird was able to give me an outline of the position with which we should find ourselves con-fronted on our arrival at Ineboli, which is the nearest point on the Black Sea coast from which a road runs to Angora, 140 miles distant inland. It appeared that at last our Foreign Office had consented to leave the matter of an exchange of prisoners in the most competent and energetic hands of Sir Charles Harington, then commanding-in-chief the Allied forces in the Near East. The immediate result of this long-delayed but extremely practical and intelligent decision had been that the Turkish prisoners whom it was proposed to exchange, over eighty in number, had been dispatched in a transport from Malta, and that Major-General Franks, then holding a staff appointment at Constantinople, had been placed in charge of the actual operations by which the business was to be effected.

The actual delivery of the prisoners was to take place at Ineboli, and General Franks had proceeded there on board the cruiser Centaur, accompanied by another war vessel, as well as by the transport which had brought the Turkish prisoners from Malta, the Somme having been detached to proceed to Trebizond to collect our party, and then to rejoin the other vessels at Ineboli. The arrangements, therefore, seemed at first sight to be extremely simple, and to offer no difficulty in their execution.

Colonel Baird also informed me that it was asserted that the Turks had in their possession about 140 British and Indian prisoners, and that our authorities had been supplied with a list of these, which he handed to me with an inquiry as to whether I was able to furnish any information about these most unfortunate people. This development, of course, placed an entirely different aspect on the situation, as one glance at the list was sufficient to convince me that, though one name was there of an officer who I knew had been alive at Koniah in Southern Anatolia within the last six months, yet the majority, if not the whole of the rest, had certainly been dead for at least a year. The only thing which could exceed Baird's surprise on learning this was my own on hearing that our people had accepted any Turkish assertion as to prisoners in their hands without previous verification of the fact of such persons' survival.

The most unpleasant fact, however, now remained to be faced – namely, that our General was only empowered to exchange his Turks against the list of British prisoners which had been furnished as being in the hands of the Angora Government. As my party, if the exchange was not completed, would have to be handed back to Turkish custody, it will hardly be wondered at that I viewed the complications which could not fail to ensue on our arrival at Ineboli with very considerable concern and misgiving.

Ineboli is in no sense a port, but only an extremely open and exposed anchorage off a small and insignificant town, from whence the road runs inland through a deep gorge in the low but steep hills which there extend to the water's edge. On our arrival communication was at once made by signal with the cruiser Centaur, and Baird went on board that ship to report to the General. At that time it was blowing hard, and his transfer to the cruiser was a matter of great difficulty and danger. It was, however, safely carried out, and that only just in time, as the wind was increasing in force and any communication by boat was rapidly becoming impossible. Within half an hour of his boarding the cruiser I received a signal from the General to the effect that the Turks on shore were able to produce four prisoners only, and that they expressed absolute ignorance with regard to the existence of any others.

Under these circumstances I made up my mind that, if possible, I would myself also proceed on board the cruiser, leaving my men on the destroyer; and having explained the situation to Lieut.-Commander Archer, who commanded the Somme, and who had shown us all the greatest kindness and sympathy, he at once agreed that if the cruiser would send a boat he would contrive to get me on board it. We also agreed that, in the event of complications ensuing and preventing the completion of the exchange, it should be understood that, as the weather was becoming worse every moment, the Somme would soon be no longer able to remain where she was, and would be obliged to put to sea. The men therefore, in that case, would be safe, even in the unlikely event of their being considered to be included in the personal undertaking for our return given by Colonel Baird at Trebizond.

Signals were therefore made to the Centaur, and with the utmost difficulty a boat was sent; with still greater trouble I was then swung on board the boat at the end of a rope, and eventually arrived safely under the lee of the cruiser. There a rope-ladder was lowered, and I was expected to contrive to seize and climb it at the exact moment the small boat should be on the very crest of one of the heavy seas then running. Such an operation is by no means an easy one, even when a man is strong and well; it was therefore by no means surprising that in my weak state I made a pretty bad mess of it, and, my feet slipping, I remained in mid-air, hanging on to the rope-ladder like grim death by my hands only. Whilst I was in this most precarious position the boat, rising on the next wave, crushed my leg pretty severely against the side of the ship, making me think, as I hung there, that at last my time had come, and what rotten luck it was that a British ship should have come all that way to crack me like a nut against her side.

Many strong and willing hands, however, seized me instantly, and I was dragged quickly over the side before the boat had time to rise and catch me again, when it was found that I was unable to stand, and I was promptly put into a bunk and examined by the surgeon. It was discovered that the leg was crushed only, and that no bones were broken, so that such a trifle was of no interest at all compared to the other matters which then required urgent consideration.

General Franks was naturally much concerned at the unfortunate position which had arisen, although considerably relieved when I assured him that the Turks desired above all things Reouf Bey's release, and that as long as we 'hung on' to him we were likely to remain masters of the situation. The General then proposed that he himself should surrender to the Turks in my place, to redeem Colonel Baird's pledge, and that the whole convoy should then return to Constantinople with the Turkish prisoners. To this, of course, I objected strongly, pointing out that if anyone had to go back it was obviously for me to do so, as we should then be no worse off than before, whilst his surrender would leave the Turks with the advantage of having gained possession of a General Officer in the place of a Lieut.-Colonel, and to this he was perforce obliged to assent.

It was finally agreed that a wireless communication should be sent to the High Commissioner at Constantinople, setting forth the exact situation, and stating that we should await further orders. This was done, and in due course instructions were received from Sir Horace Rumbold, the High Commissioner (acting, I understood, on his own responsibility), to `let all the Turks go,' but to make sure that we received in exchange all British subjects who remained alive in Turkish hands. These instructions were carried out immediately, and to our disgust we saw all the Turkish prisoners go over the side into their native boats, knowing that there were amongst them scoundrels of the deepest dye, whose crimes, committed against British prisoners in their hands, had been of indescribable barbarity.

In exchange, in addition to my own party, we received only Captain Campbell, originally our Intelligence Officer at Konia, who had been made prisoner there at the same time that my own party had been arrested at Erzeroum, and two civilians who claimed to be British subjects, though they were quite certainly not of British nationality. This operation completed, we immediately got under way for Constantinople, where we arrived on the evening of November 5th.

On our arrival Colonel Gribbon, then Chief of the Allied Headquarters Staff, whom I had previously known when he was a valued member of the Intelligence Staff at the War Office during the war, came on board, and with the greatest kindness invited me to stay at his house when I came ashore, until such time as I was in fit condition to undertake the journey home. This offer I most gladly accepted, saying I would come ashore the next morning, and no words of mine can adequately express my deep appriciation of the kindness I experienced at his hands and at those of his charming wife, all the time I was their guest before leaving for home.

I had passed the voyage confined to my bunk, and was still there early next morning, when I became aware that someone was in the doorway of my cabin. Hastily drawing aside the curtain, one glance was sufficient for me to appreciate the great honour which was being done me by the presence of such a distinguished visitor. I had never before had the honour of meeting him, but, thanks to the excellence of our illustrated Press, all Englishmen know the features of Admiral Tyrwhitt, whose proud record during the war stands second to none on land or sea, and who was at that moment looking into the door of my cabin and inquiring as to my health. I have not the remotest notion what I may have said, but if, as I hope, I said what I felt, it was certainly that I considered it an honour to meet in person so distinguished an officer, and was deeply grateful for his kind inquiries.

After some conversation, he asked me what my plans were, and on my saying that I should have to put in ten days or a fortnight at Constantinople, to render my reports and to recover a little strength before proceeding home, he asked me, to my unbounded delight, whether I would come as his guest to Malta on the Centaur in about ten days' time. Needless to say, this kind and unexpected invitation was most gratefully accepted, and I understood that, with characteristic kindness, his invitation included both my three men and 'George'.

On going ashore I learned that Colonel Gribbon was now occupying the house, previously 'A' mess, where I had been quartered during my last stay at Constantinople, and which was now, of course, infinitely more comfortable under the careful and competent supervision of its charming châtelaine, Mrs. Gribbon. Here I found every comfort and an unfailing kindness and consideration, which in my weak and nervous state did much to enable me to make a start in the recovery of my health. The next morning I had the honour of an interview with Sir Charles Harington, Commander-in-Chief, to whose efforts on our behalf, as we knew well, we certainly owed our freedom and probably our lives.

After giving me welcome news of my family, he told me that the only definite tidings he received of us, until the Bulgar had reached him with the famous cigarette, had been the report of the Americans that they had seen us at Gumush Khaneh, on our journey back to Erzeroum in April. He then asked me to bring in my men and 'George', which I did, and proceeded to try to tell him, in their presence, how proud I felt of their conduct and bearing throughout all their trials; this, however, was beyond my powers, and I found, in my weakness, that my voice failed me, and that I was within an ace of breaking down completely.

The Chief, however, was, as he always is, kindness itself, and he told us we should get off home as soon as we were strong enough, and that he had got Mahoney, the Irish driver who joined the Turks, now in custody on another charge, and that we should have, in any case, to give evidence at the court-martial to be held on him before we left. It was also arranged that I should get on with the preparation of my report, by degrees, as my strength would allow, and a room was allotted to me at Head-quarters to work in.

That night I dined at the Embassy with the staff, and the captain of the Centaur, Captain French, that most sympathetic of men and charming of hosts and companions, was also present. After dinner I was called upon to tell them incidents of our imprisonment, and I well remember that I told them the story of our Christmas dinner in Erzeroum, and added a few words about the men and their general behaviour, the whole being received by my audience with a sympathy and emotion which I very deeply appreciated.

For some days I was practically confined to my bed, as the nervous reaction of being once more at liberty and amongst friends was extremely trying, and it was only with great difficulty that I was able to complete my report, and that, I fear, only in a very inadequate manner. In the meanwhile I found at Constantinople stacks of letters which had been sent there during our confinement, in the hope that some communication with us might be possible; and amongst them over forty letters from my brother, which formed the most interesting' history of the period, and which enabled me to learn a great deal of what had been happening in Europe during our imprisonment, as to all of which, of course, I was in the most profound ignorance.

I dined also at the Embassy with Sir Horace and Lady Rumbold who, with the kindness and consideration which invariably distinguish them, invited me to bring the three men and 'George' also to tea with them. That tea-party I shall never forget, as, although the men at first were naturally very shy, yet such was the natural charm of their hostess and the great interest and unaffected sympathy displayed by the Ambassador himself; that a few moments after we were all seated round the tea-table the men found themselves completely at home, and were chatting away and telling stories and incidents of their experiences, perfectly naturally, in the same way as they would have done in their own home amongst their own families. It can easily be understood that all they had to say lost nothing of its interest from the atmosphere of sympathy and consideration with which they were surrounded; but to me, watching my comrades so carefully and knowing them so well, came a deep appreciation of the beauty of the sentiment which lay behind it all, and which enabled our gifted hosts at once to place these brave fellows completely at their ease, and to so insure their thorough enjoyment of their party. It was to me a very, very pretty incident, and I felt. then, and still feel, deeply grateful to our host and hostess for their great kindness to us all.

A few days later the Chief told me he had received a wire from the War Office, inquiring as to our condition, and was kind enough to read me his cable reply. I then asked that I might be allowed to have an extract of the latter part of it to read to the men, which request was immediately granted, and below is the extract which I had the satisfaction of reading to them before our departure.

'Extract front Cable from Commander-in-Chief, Constantinople, to War Office, London, dated November 15th, 1921.

. . I have seen him and his men daily, and I am pleased and proud to say that I have not heard a word of complaint as to their treatment. . . . They had a bad time, but endured it with great bravery and fortitude, and deserve immense credit for the soldier-like spirit they are showing.... Their health has much improved since they arrived here. . . . They leave today.'

The cause of these inquiries from home was that apparently certain articles had been published in the papers and questions asked in. the House, and that an amount of interest was being created as to our treatment, which was then, and continued to be afterwards, extremely unpleasant to me. From the first moment of my arrival at Constantinople I had absolutely refused to see any of the many newspaper men who pursued me everywhere, or to give any information to anyone other than by my official report to the Commander-in-Chief. I even refrained from writing to my wife an exact account of our condition, in the fear that such information might transpire and be made use of to aggravate the already delicate political situation with regard to the Nationalist Turks.

I was then, and am still, of opinion that the inevitable policy of our country must always be to establish friendly relations with Turkey, if that be possible; and I had no idea of allowing our experiences to be made use of by any anti-Turk party, if that was by any possibility to be avoided. Further, I considered our treatment to be due to the ignorance and neglect of duty of subordinate officers, and under these circumstances it appeared to me that a much larger view should be taken of the whole question than one which would permit of any individual instances of neglect and ill-treatment being used to excite public feeling against a whole nation.

It appeared to me, also, that there is nothing new to be found in the bad treatment of their prisoners by the Turks, or in their traditional persecution of the Christian minorities, who have so long and with such difficulty still contrived to exist in many of the districts under Turkish rule; and that unless we were in a position to back up any agitation with respect to these matters by not only a display, but by an application, of force which would be capable of being followed up, if necessary, by serious and active military operations, it would be to the last degree unwise to bring such question forward at all. For these reasons I have taken every step, which it was open to me to take, to avoid, not only all interviews, but even appearing in public, in order that my indifferent state of health might not be made use of in any way to aggravate the situation; and I was therefore much concerned to learn that any publicity was being given at home to the matter of our detention and treatment. On November 15th we finally embarked on the Centaur for our voyage to Malta.

This has been my one and only experience of a trip as an Admiral's guest on his flagship; it was an experience of which I shall for ever retain the most delightful recollections.

We anchored off Cape Hellas, at the southern extremity of the Gallipoli Peninsula, and as the Admiral had arranged to go ashore there for some shooting, I had, in passing Chanak, asked if the military authorities in charge of the cemeteries would be able to lend me a car to make the round of the Turkish positions. On arrival at our anchorage, therefore, I found a car waiting ashore, and, with a naval officer and one of the military staff of the Graves Commission, made the round of the landings, subsequently driving up the long seven miles of gentle slopes through the village of Krithia, till we at last got out of the car and made our way on foot to the Turkish trenches on the summit of Achi Baba. That position dominates the whole slope to Cape Hellas, as well as the ground to the open sea on the right and to the Dardanelles on the left, each of them there not more than two miles distant.

I gazed long at that intensely interesting prospect, for the whole history of the dramatic landing, and subsequently heroic efforts of our immortal troops, is written in plain characters on the ground to-day, for all to read who have any experience of modern war. The trench systems on and about the summit are obviously of German design, similar to many with which we were familiar in France, the most interesting point being that at a glance it is apparent that, in laying out his trenches, the defender had evidently never for one moment contemplated the possibility of any serious attack being undertaken from the direction of the Cape itself, where our main landings were actually first effected, and which necessitated such a long advance over exposed ground.

The whole scheme of the defence was rather devised for the purpose, whilst incidentally commanding the long and gentle slope over which the main attack finally developed, of resisting the serious attacks which it had been evidently expected might be made up the ravines to be found on either flank, any of which afforded an amount of shelter from the defender's fire which was elsewhere absent, and at the same time necessitated an advance to the attack of not more than one-third of the distance which it was necessary to cover in a direct advance over the exposed ground from the Cape itself. It was impossible not to appreciate at once that the success or failure of any attack on the Achi Baba position must depend absolutely on the vital point as to whether or not the artillery preparation could be such as to dominate the enemy's fire from that commanding position, as without such a condition no successful attack would be possible, however heroically pushed home, against a well-armed enemy well entrenched there and adequately supplied with ammunition.

It was with astonishment, therefore, that on examining the works on the summit we found them practically untouched by artillery-fire; so much so was this the case that on the main position itself it was necessary to search about to find a shell crater, and that on a position which, had it existed on the Western front, would have been knocked to pieces by artillery-fire before any serious attack would have been delivered against it.

That is the story told by the state of the ground on the position at Achi Baba today, and it was with great regret that we found we had not the time at our disposal to go farther and to examine the other positions subsequently attacked from Suvla Bay and Anafarta. It was, however, as a very silent and meditative party that we returned to the ship, each, no doubt, reconstructing in his own mind the state of affairs which the ground showed to have existed on the occasion of the original landing and subsequent attacks, though no one evinced the least disposition to make any remarks on the subject.

We left Cape Hellas that night for Malta, and on arriving the Admiral was on the bridge himself, and as all the formalities of entering the port and saluting the flag of the Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet were gone through, the sight was most impressive; particularly was it so to me, as here we once more entered a really British port, and evidence of the might of the Empire stood out on every hand, whilst the bugles rang out in salute, and all officers also saluted. It was, I think, the fact of all these evidences of the great disciplined power of our country, coming as such a contrast to our own previous misery and weakness, that affected me so deeply, for, to my astonishment, I found my eyes were wet, and there was such a lump in my throat I was quite unable to answer when spoken to, and sought my cabin as quickly as possible to recover my self-control, which threatened entirely to desert me.

Soon afterwards the Governor's launch drew alongside, and one of Lord Plumer's aides-de-camp came to find me, telling me that a room was prepared for me at the Palace, and that I was to stay there as the guest of Lord Plumer, the Governor of the island. I was therefore soon ashore and installed in most luxurious quarters in the Palace.

The Palace, which stands in the centre of the town of Valetta, the capital of the island, was the medieval home of the Grand Masters of the ancient Order of the Knights of Malta, and is a beautiful building, the spacious marble corridors being lined by many suits of complete armour, and the many magnificent apartments profusely decorated with gilding, paintings, and tapestries, all dating from the great days of the Order in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. In the centre of the Palace is a courtyard in white marble, where are stately palms, and where reign a peaceful silence and a cool refreshing shade, forming a striking contrast to the noise and glare of the surrounding streets in the town.

The day before we reached the island a cable had arrived from Constantinople, asking that our return should be 'expedited,' as apparently questions were being asked at home about us, which it was desired we might be at hand to answer if necessary. The cable was handed to me, and is reproduced below:

'1276 1611. For Governor, Malta. Will you please expedite journey home of Colonel Rawlinson and three men (who have been with him throughout), who left by H.M.S. Centaur yesterday for MALTA? Their behaviour has been splendid, and like true Englishmen they have come through severe hardships without complaint.

'GENERAL HARINGTON.

'1800. 16. 11. 20.'

Admiral Sir John de Robeck, who was still Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet, and then in residence at Malta, at the request of Lord Plumer, arranged, in accordance with the above cable, to send us to Naples in a destroyer, as that route would be far the quickest, and on my third night at Malta I had the pleasure of once more dining with that great and distinguished sailor, this time, however, on shore, at Admiralty House, where his hospitality was as lavish and as much appreciated by all as it had been on the Iron Duke when in the Bosphorus. After a most interesting and enjoyable evening I finally said good-bye to all my kind hosts, and went on board the destroyer which was to take us to Naples.

To our surprise and delight, when we reached the vessel we found her to be once more the Somme, which had brought us from Trebizond to Ineboli, to which ship's company we owed so much for all their care and attention. As we learned it was not strictly the Somme's turn to do dispatch work, we concluded that here was one more example of the kind consideration which we invariably experienced at the hands of the navy, which we greatly appreciated and for which we felt profoundly grateful. The voyage was uneventful, and the next evening we passed the island of Capri and enjoyed to the full the wonderfully beautiful prospect offered by the Bay of Naples when it is entered from the sea, the evening sun behind us showing up the rugged peak of Vesuvius on the right, and the glittering spires of the beautiful city of Naples on the left, as we glided over what is surely the bluest water in all the world.

On anchoring, we found our train did not leave till midnight, and we therefore had the chance of doing what we had hoped so much to have an opportunity to do – namely, to entertain our good friends and hosts of the Somme. We were able, I am glad to think, to arrange for the whole ship's company, consisting of about seventy, to go ashore, in two watches (batches) alternately, and to supply each rating (man) with a modest sum with which to enjoy himself. As the Italian exchange permits one shilling to become quite a considerable number of lire (the Italian coin), we had every reason to believe that they would, and did, have a good time, and that we were able to provide some enjoyment for them in return for all their kindness and consideration for us.

The officers, six in number, honoured me by dining with me at the Hôtel Excelsior, fronting on the bay, and as fine an hotel as can be found in Europe, and we had a class of dinner quite in keeping with the place, and all, I think, thoroughly enjoyed it. At last our time was up, and we repaired to the station, where our naval friends saw us off in great style, at the very last moment presenting me with a highly valued photograph of H.M.S. Somme, signed by all the officers, which hangs beside me as I write.

Only one incident occurred on our voyage via Rome to Paris, but that was a tragic one, and occurred in the following manner: About eight a.m., when just approaching the mouth of the Mont Cenis Tunnel on the Italian side of the French-Italian frontier, the train came to a halt. 'George,' who at that time was sleeping, as usual, by my side, intimated to me that he would much like a run in the fresh mountain air. I therefore got up, having on my pyjamas only and being in my bare feet. Having then looked in both directions, up and down the line, seeing that we were on the open mountain-side and that there was no sign of any move on the part of the train, I opened the door and let him out.

As he leaped to the ground, to my horror the train started, and it became impossible to get him back on to the train. Such was my distress that it was only with the greatest difficulty that I refrained from jumping out after him myself, which, being without clothes or money and in my bare feet, would only have complicated the situation. I therefore shouted to him to 'Otur', which means 'Lie down' in Turkish, and proceeded to do my best to stop the train. This I succeeded eventually in doing, but not till we reached the next station, some miles farther on. Here we were fortunate enough to find a post of Italian Carabinieri (light infantry), and the officer in charge most kindly agreed to send back at once to get hold of 'George' and then to send him on to the frontier at Modane, in charge of one of his men, by the next train.

On arrival at Modane I was lucky enough to obtain the services of one of Mr. Cook's representatives, who undertook to bring 'George' on to Paris, to Baron Robert Rothschild's house, whose guests we were once more to be on our arrival. On reaching Paris, my ever kind and charming friends and hosts gave us a great reception, and Baron Rothschild arranged that on 'George's' arrival next morning his meeting with his friends should be photographed on the cinematograph, which was done, and it was hard to say who was happiest at meeting once more, whether 'George' or the men or myself. We left Paris that morning; and as the weather was rough on going on board the boat we at once sought the cabin which had been reserved for us.

After a few moments, however, we were told that we must move, as we were in the wrong cabin, that one having been reserved by the Duke of Westminster, and, turning round, I found my old friend and very gallant comrade of the early days of the war at the door — a most unexpected and fortunate meeting, which made the crossing seem very short, as there was not time to tell him the half of my story. My son met me at Dover, and we reached Victoria at 7.30 p.m., where my wife, daughter, and sister-in-law appeared. Two officers from the War Office also came to welcome us home and to look after the men, who, however, were kind enough to remain as my guests that night, and a great home-coming we had... .

Next afternoon I reported at the War Office, and handed in a special report with regard to the conduct of the three men who returned to England with me, as below:

'Copy to A. M. S. for H. E.'

COPY OF REPORT FROM LIEUT.-COLONEL RAWLINSON. To Director of Military Intelligence, War Office, London.

'L/Cpl. Ankers, No. 196424, 766th Coy. M.T., R.A.S.C.

'Pte. Carter, H., No. 97905, 85th Coy. M.G.C.

'Pte. Leadbeater, R., No. 59194, 66th Coy. M.G.C.

'Sir,

'With reference to the three B.O.R.s above mentioned, who were volunteers under my command in Eastern Anatolia in March, 1920, when my party was disarmed and confined by the Turkish Nationalist troops, I now have the honour to report as follows :

I desire to call special attention to the steadfast courage and true soldierly bearing of these three men through a long period of great hardship, suffering, and persecution. It is my opinion that the courage shown by them at all times throughout the long period when they were cut off from all communication and starved, persecuted, and frozen, is of a higher quality than that called for in the carrying out of any deed, however glorious, in the course of active operations.

'Where all are so worthy, it is invidious to make distinctions, but I consider that Lance-Corporal Ankers, being the senior, did much by his splendid example to strengthen the determination of the others, although he himself was suffering acute and long-continued agony from an injury to his right hand which finally necessitated the amputation of his thumb.

'At all times during a period of eighteen months, although their bodies were reduced to the last stage of exhaustion and weakness by sickness and starvation, the spirit of these men remained high and unbroken, and they are in every way a credit to the British Army.

I have the honour to be, Sir,

'(Signed) A. RAWLINSON.

'LONDON,' (Lieut.-Colonel) . '29. II. 21.'

I also had a long interview with Sir Henry Wilson, who had already received my general report, which had been sent overland from Constantinople. General Thwaites, the Director of Intelligence, was also present, and the interview was a long one, as many questions were gone into with the map of the country before us.

My old friend the C.I.G.S. was most interested in all I had to say, and was, if possible, even kinder to me than usual, so that I found, on leaving, I had been there an hour and three-quarters, a very strenuous and anxious time for me, as I had so many things to report, and was so, perhaps unduly, anxious to forget nothing, and, above all, on no account to give a wrong impression as to any of the particular facts and conditions which it was my duty to report. However, at last it was over, and I made my way home with the deepest feeling of relief that my report was finally made, and the time for rest had come at last.

The nervous reaction, however, was very great, and that night at dinner I suddenly collapsed, and remember no more for many hours, till I finally opened my eyes to find myself in bed, with a doctor by the bedside and my wife in attendance. I could see, and could also hear what was said, but was quite unable to speak, and very shortly afterwards relapsed again into unconsciousness. It appears that I lay for many hours senseless, from absolute exhaustion of the nervous system, which finally had failed entirely when my task was once over and finished, and the necessity for further effort no longer existed.

I was for some time allowed to see no one, and although His Majesty did me the honour to command me to Buckingham Palace, yet my medical advisers would not allow me to go, nor was I permitted to see Lord Curzon, who both wrote and sent to ask me to go and see him at the Foreign Office.

Having reached London on November 24th, it was not until early in February that I was considered to be fit for the honour of an interview with His Majesty the King at Buckingham Palace, where he also saw the men, who came to London for the purpose, and whom I was proud indeed to present to him. His Majesty was most kind to us all, asking many questions as to our adventures, as well as examining the many photographs which we had brought back, and we all felt very grateful and very proud indeed of the honour of being received by our Sovereign, which more than repaid us for our long imprisonment.

Adventures In The Near East:
The Russo-turkish Frontier-trouble Brewing

The Russo-turkish Frontier - Kurds And Armenians

Turkish Armistice A Fiasco — Foundation Of The Nationalist Party

In Kemalist Turkey (november, 1919, To November, 1921)

London And Constantinople

Anatolia In Winter

Erzeroum In 1920

The Prison

Prison Again

Exchange And Home

Read More Articles About: Adventures In The Near East

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