9 Temmuz 2018 Pazartesi

TNT History Archives: Turkish POW Recounts Capture by Russian Cossacks (July 1916)/Part II-Final

//Ed. Note: Herewith the continuation and conclusion of 
Lt. Ahmed Ekrem's account of the battle with Russian Cossacks
that resulted in his captivity in July 1916.//

russian cossacks caucasus front ww1 ile ilgili görsel sonucu

I felt quite safe and secure that night because the entire day the fighting had taken 
place on the main line a kilometer ahead and I had the 4th Regiment’s 13th Company
with me.  Consequently, together with Rıza Efendi, we prepared our ammunition for
firing and lay down between the rocks.  I thought to myself “I’ll have a good night’s
sleep in this safe spot and we’ll dig the trenches early in the morning.”

About 2 o’clock in the morning, my ears rang from the sharp sound of shells 
exploding among the rocks.  I woke up and thought first about the detachments 
ahead of us.  And even though I thought it was impossible that the enemy could 
be approaching 100 meters in front of us, their shouts of “Hurrah!” proved me 
wrong.  At this time, the infantrymen beside us were firing.  I realized that the 
enemy was making its raid and had routed our detachments from their positions.

Consequently, I reckoned that our troops were in front and the enemy in back 
so they probably headed for the top of the hill.  Since in the darkness I couldn’t 
see anything, in order to avoid hitting our detachments, which I thought had not 
retreated, right away I had Sergeant Ömer point the fourth gun toward the pasture 
with its barrel raised and told him to open fire across a wide area.  My aim was 
merely to create an effect, but just at that moment a bomb hit the infantrymen’s 
trench next to us and exploded. I realized we could no longer stay here because 
the bomb had come from behind us.  The enemy had approached us from the rear,
 from the Zimon side.  So I yelled “leave the guns to God. We’re going up the hill!”

The gunners came to me with just the gun barrels, without the tripods.  I 
admonished them to go back and get the tripods and I waited for them to fetch
 them.  Right away, the enemy came to the gun positions.  There was about 30 feet
 between us.  Those who had gone to get the tripods said the enemy had come so 
we had no choice but to start to climb the hill.  The enemy’s bullets whizzed by 
our ears and their boistrous shouts of “Hurrah!” were chasing us, as well.  We kept
 on trying to climb the hill because otherwise we were sure to fall into the hands of
 the enemy, whose exhaustion was overwhelmed by the scent of victory.   As I said
 before, the difficulty of moving on the steep and rocky ground was amplified by the
 slippery grass, so I would fall back one step for every two I took.  My desire to find
 the summit spurred me on.  But my mouth was open and my chest heaved up and 
down, as my strength diminished with every step I took.  I realized I could not go 
any further because I did not have enough strength to take a breath.  So I screamed 
at the soldier with me “I can’t go on, you go on ahead!”  A soldier came and took me
by the arm, allowing me to press on another 10 or 15 feet.  He couldn’t carry me by 
himself so another soldier came and took my other arm.  I realized I was causing 
them harm so I ordered them to “make sure the guns aren’t lost!”  

Somehow, with my  effort and the help of the soldiers we reached the summit, at 
which time I collapsed. I told reserve officer Rıza Efendi to “inform the detachment 
commander that we have come” but I realized that I should be the one to tell him 
so I went to the detachment commander, who was next to a small fire burning ten 
feet away, and told him that we had come, that we couldn’t bring the tripods with us 
and that the enemy was fifteen steps behind us.   In response, he said “the enemy 
may not be able to come further than the rocks below.”  No sooner did he say this, 
though, then an infantryman came  running, crying out “Sir, the enemy has penetrated
us!”  Just behind him were four or five Russian soldiers screaming “all Ottomans
surrender!” and they came running  up in front of the rocks where we were.

  russian cossacks caucasus front ww1 ile ilgili görsel sonucu
Russian Cossacks in the trenches at Sarıkamış, December 1914.

Together with the detachment commander, we screamed at and threatened our 
soldiers to fire but at the same time we were fleeing  to the rear.    But when we 
reached the rocks a bit to our rear there were more Russian  soldiers shouting
“surrender! surrender!” and they mingled among us.  We screamed at our 
soldiers to fire and they did so, but in the darkness who could tell who was firing
at whom, since no one could tell who was friend and who was foe.  When the firing 
began a Russian soldier tossed a bomb at us, so we ran behind a big rock, where 
Russian  soldiers were waiting and they pressed their bayonets to our chests and
heads, shouting  “Surrender!”

It was all finished at the point of a Russian bayonet, which was touching my head
 next to my right ear.  I stood motionless, lest that pointed iron scatter my brains.  
Right away, some more Russian soldiers came, surrounded us  and began to search
us.  I didn’t have my revolver with me.

We were now taken at the point of six or seven Russian bayonets toward the 
Russian lines. This was the worst, the darkest, moment of my life.   The exertion 
of climbing the hill and my consequent exhaustion made by legs tremble so I 
couldn’t walk.  My chest was pounding rapidly and I could hardly breathe.  Up to 
this point I had kept a professional reserve toward the regimental commander, who
was also the detachment commander, but now I had to lean on his arm in order to 
be able to walk.  The Russian soldiers who surrounded us took us to the battalion 
headquarters – the rocks where the machine guns had been – and made us sit down
 there.  Our soldiers lit a fire and we sat around it, along with quite a few Russian 

Dawn came.  The Russian soldiers searching the area found our machine gun 
tripods amid the rocks and brought them on wheeled platforms.  The ammunition
was in saddlebags lying where we left them, since we couldn’t taken them with us
on padless horses in this steep terrain.  A bit later they brought the gun barrels, 
so at this point I realized that the gun barrels had been abandoned when they 
couldn’t be carried and, consequently, had fallen into the enemy’s hands.  Corporal 
Ömer, the head of the 4th machine gun team, was wounded in his stomach from
 a dumdum bullet and his intestines were hanging out.  He died as he was being 
taken to a bandaging place.  Because it was he who was carrying the 4th machine 
gun barrel, when he was wounded the barrel was dropped.  The other gun barrels 
were abandoned on the way by the soldiers who were carrying them.  When I 
thought about it I realized that I, who was carrying nothing, couldn’t make it to 
the top of the hill because of the rocks and slippery grass, so I should have 
understood how this corporal, with the barrel on his shoulder, couldn’t make it either. 
In this way, the machine guns had fallen into the hands of the enemy.  Fortunately, 
while we were still among the rocks, the firing by the infantrymen next to us had
 enabled the removal of our ammunition pack animals and a portion of our materials
 at the top of the hill.  When we got to the top and the enemy mixed in with us, the 
soldiers I was with all fled and luckily for them they got away.  Out of 16 soldiers, 
three were taken prisoner.

                            Zimon-Çevrepinar today.

I’m now amazed that the others weren’t taken prisoner.   It is remarkable that the 
whole day there was fighting at the line a kilometer ahead of us, yet the reserve 
detachments here were suddenly surprised by the enemy.  The fact that we came 
face to face with screams of “Hurrah!” from so close a distance means that the 
forward detachments had failed miserably to do their job.  The detachment 
commander had ordered that “no one shall abandon his position without an order 
to do so.”  Yet, unfortunately, our forward detachments did not comply with this 
order.  In fact, they didn’t fire at the enemy but, even worse, they didn’t fire shots
 to warn us of the enemy’s raid.  They absconded in directions we still don’t know
 of and completely abandoned the front to the enemy.

Yes, the detachment commander, when he gave the order, revealed his own position.
  So besides ignoring the order not to abandon positions without orders, the forward 
detachment commanders, knowing what an important and strategic position Taşlıca 
Tepe was, that the reserve detachments were there with the detachment commander
 and that they must not retreat by splitting their own line, did so anyway and without 
firing warning shots to alert us of their retreat.  Who knows under what compulsion 
and for what reasons they retreated.  Not one of these detachments’ officers or soldiers
 was taken prisoner.  Therefore, they didn’t retreat because of the enemy raid.  Quite
 the opposite, they deliberately abandoned their positions and it can be said that, in this
 way, they left the rear detachments exposed to a sudden and disastrous calamity.  Had 
the companies and machine gun teams of the reserve detachments been aware of the 
raid on the front line and had the detachment commander, in particular, been made 
aware of this, the requisite defense could have been mounted based on the situation.  
As a matter of fact, a defense was attempted against the enemy at close quarters but
 the entire area was surrounded. So without being able to perform our duty, some of us
 were able to get away and some of us were taken prisoner.

The enemy attacked Taşlıca Tepe with two regiments – the 15th and 17th Cossacks.  
The enemy units surrounded the hill from the north and from the east (from the pasture
 and from Zimon) and, with a well-organized movement, stormed the hill 
simultaneously.  We knew this because the soldiers who pointed their bayonets at us 
were from various battalions and because officers taken prisoner were brought to 
different battalion headquarters.  We did  not give importance to the eastern portion,
 the Zimon side, and did not put sufficient forces there.  The terrain here is incredibly
 steep.  Yet the enemy advanced with ease and reached the summit at the same time as 
the enemy forces coming from the north, effectively surrounding our soldiers on the 
north, east and west and then infiltrating among us.  There were 100 members of the 
4th Regiment’s 13th Company in different spots here but because of  the suddenness 
of the raid they were unable to establish a solid line near the summit.  As I noted
above, when we suddenly found the enemy among us our soldiers scattered.

For these reasons, the enemy was able to take this important hill at minimum cost.  
We must be grateful, though, that the detachment commander ordered the cannon that 
were here during the day moved to the division headquarters at night, saving them 
from the enemy in the end.  Otherwise, it would have been necessary to add four 
cannon and the animals to the total of our losses.  Our company’s first team was 
located on the hill south of Zimon.  When the enemy stormed the hill the next day the 
soldiers there, together with two officers and the battalion doctor, were taken prisoner.
  It was understood from the statement of the captured officers that when they saw their
 situation was dangerous our team here withdrew early in the morning. 

It is my sincere conviction that our detachments on the front line displayed great 
cowardice and treachery when they abandoned the line and that they are completely
 responsible for causing this calamity.

türk rus esir kampı ile ilgili görsel sonucu
Ottoman POWs in a Russian prison camp, World War I.

Officers taken prisoner on Taşlıca Tepe
Detachment Commander and 52nd Regiment Commander Major Yusuf Ziya Bey
4th Regiment 4th Battalion Commander Captain Seyfuddin Ziya Efendi
52nd Regiment Machine Gun Commander First Lieutenant Ahmed Ekrem Efendi
4th Regiment 13th Company Commander First Lieutenant Ali Rıza Efendi
4th Regiment 13th Company Deputy Officer Fuad Efendi
52nd Regiment Machine Gun Officer Cadet Ali Rıza Efendi

Officers taken prisoner at the hill south of Zimon
52nd Regiment 3rd Battalion Doctor Captain Irfan Efendi
52nd Regiment Company Second Lieutenant İdris Azmi Efendi
52nd Regiment Company Second Lieutenant Fehmi Efendi

A Prisoner’s Song
Russia: Satılmış Gedik (near Kars)
August 332 (1916)

We fought on the Caucasus Front mightily mightily
One night we fell to the enemy and cried and cried
I cannot leave my beloved homeland, I cannot
I would not have left, the enemy broke away my army from my homeland

We walked for days and days, leaving our homeland
And wore the yoke of captivity

Subjected to all sorts of horrors, we were crushed, crushed
We found out what degradation, misery and imprisonment are

My beloved homeland...
I would not have left you...

Salutations to our mothers and fathers
Pray  that we are delivered from this captivity
My beloved homeland, the place I love, I did not leave, I did not leave
I would not have left.  The Muscovites separated me from my army, from my nation

Ahmed Ekrem

//Ed. Note: Conclusion

After his time at the Satılmış Gedik prison camp, Lt. Ekrem went by 
prisoner train into  Russia during the months of December 1916-January 
1917 and personal documents show that he was at the Russian prison camp 
at Nerekhta, east of Moscow, in August  and September, 1917.  A year later, 
though, in August 1918, Lt. Ekrem was in his hometown of Biga, in western 
Turkey, evidently having benefitted from the Brest-Litovsk peace treaty signed 
between Turkey and Soviet Russia on 3 March 1918.//

//END of Part II-Final//

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