- Trimmer, L.S. Henry
- Biographies and personal histories, History - WW1
- RAN Ships
- December 1984 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Little has been written on the treatment of naval prisoners in Turkish prisoner of war camps in World War I. Although this report was written by a Royal Navy sailor taken when E15 was sunk it reflects the conditions experienced by Australians captured following the loss of AE2.
‘On the morning of the 17th April 1915, after swimming ashore from disabled submarine E15 in the Dardanelles we were seized by Turkish soldiers and escorted to a small house. On arrival they stripped us of everything we were wearing and put us into a small room. I went to a Turkish officer and complained of this treatment; he drew his revolver at me and made me return to the room.
After two hours a Turkish General visited us and seeing all men naked ordered the Lieutenant in charge to give us clothing. We then received an old Turkish khaki uniform, which was full of vermin. We were then put into charge of an armed guard and commenced a march to ‘Chenak’. Instead of taking us by the road, which was a direct way, we were made to march, first over ploughed fields, then over stone – broken – pathways. Here we suffered much pain because having no boots our feet got cut badly, consequently our progress became slower. This did not satisfy the officer in charge, so he gave an order and we then received jabs from the guard’s rifles to make us hurry. This carried on until we arrived at Chenak. Here the population turned out and welcomed us with stones and other missiles; we were housed in an old fort and given one loaf of bread and a large tin of water. During our stay here we were given a calico shirt and pants. Our food consisted of two meals and one loaf (2lbs) a day; the food was lentil or whole wheat water.
After three days we were sent aboard a mail steamer for Constantinople. Before leaving, our escort were given bread and cheese for us for four days, the journey lasted about 24 hours, during which time we only received a small piece of bread and cheese, the guard taking the remainder. On arrival we were marched through the streets of Constantinople for exhibition, and later taken to a large prison and put into a very filthy room absolutely alive with lice. Here the rations were the same as at Chenak. We were very much inconvenienced because the guard would not allow us to go to the latrines except when they thought fit, also they were cruel to us, some of our men received jabs from rifles. We tried to get into communication with officers but our guards would not allow us.
On the 26th April we were sent to Afion Kara Hissar. We left Haide Pasiha Station at 8.15 a.m. and arrived at Eskichehir about 7 p.m. We were taken to a building which had previously been a warehouse and given a loaf of bread and a handful of olives which was all we received this day. At 5 a.m. the next day we left for Afion Kara Hissar, arriving about midday. Here we were taken to the town prison, inspected by the Commandant and put into a very small room, dirty and full of livestock. Again, the guard was very brutal and the Commandant seemed to enjoy it. On the 28th we were taken to new quarters, which were like other Turkish prisons. Our period here was next to unbearable. We were allowed out for exercise for one hour a day, when it did not rain. We did not get any soap and if water was wanted, we had to wait for the guard’s pleasure, even when we wanted to go to the latrines. Everything was done to make our life unbearable, both by officers and men. The rations were the same as before, lentils, marrow or potato water.
During May we were sent to a place 22 miles from Afion Kara Hissar to work; working hours were sunrise to sunset, breaking stones. Our rations here were worse than before. The contractor who hired us was supposed to give us food, but for the eight days we were there, we only received three loaves of bread and four meals of the usual food already mentioned. For this work we received two-and-a-half piastres per man (5d). By this time the clothes that we received before leaving Constantinople (which consisted of one seaman’s uniform, one overcoat, two calico shirts, 1 pants, 2 pairs of socks and 1 pair of shoes), were almost finished.