REPUBLIC OF TURKEY MINISTRY OF CULTURE AND TOURISM

Third Session

CONVERSATION WITH ANAFARTALAR COMMANDER MUSTAFA KEMAL

Third Session
Anafartalar

- Really we caused you to get tired. These stories became longer and longer. There are so many events and all are so important that I wonder which ones we should pass by?

- I don’t get tired. It is a pleasure to me to listen to a subject so specially related to the whole nation and to inform all readers about them.

- Well, then. Then we start as soon as we drink our coffees.

- You were about commence to your new official duty in the darkness of night.

- Yes, after a great deal of trouble in finding our way in that darkness, on July 27 at 01:30 A.M. I arrived at the military headquarters located at “Gümbürdek”.

Attack would begin by daylight. I had so little time. In order to benefit from everyone's knowledge, I held a meeting with the chairmen of general staff. According to my information, it was confirmed that the an unknown number of enemy forces were located on the line “Kireçtepe, Kükürtlüpınar, Sülecik, Mestane” and again an unknown number of forces was located at “Kocaçimen” and “Conkbayırı” and they were continuously disembarking at “Kemikliler”. I organızed my forces according to this information. But there was no phone connection yet. I sent the orders to the necessary commanders with the officers. These officers would be information & communication officers at the same time. By saying he was one of those officers, he pointed to his assistant.

His assistant was a plumpish, dark man with slight moustache. He was a captain with both severe and moderate look (deceased “Cevat Abbas” ex-member of parliment). At that moment he was dealing with the classification of an examined document. The Pasha continued :

I ordered necessary regulations for telephone communications, general health etc. And at 04:30 A.M., in order to take command, I went to the area on the North of “Çamlıtepe”. I saw that 12th military division had started their attack. I was not able to see the 7th military division clearly.

On July 27, at 05:50 a.m. the 12th military division reported that they had intensified their attacks and informed about their arrangements. It was also confirmed that the 7th military division had started their attacks. The attacks continued at both military divisions, successfully. After taking into consideration the prepared reports, etc. according to the given orders due to that day’s battle to take place in different fields, we may comment on results : the enemy army corps located on the East and also a military division on the direction of the Grand “Anafarta” were defeated and totally destroyed. After I saw such a superiority of the defeated enemy, I was satisfied with the gained success. I stopped the attack. I ordered the fortification of the captured shelters and to locate in that area.

- How can a superior power like this have been defeated within a day?

As opening his book on his desk, Pasha said :

-You may read the answer to your question in Hamilton’s own report. The reason I saw there was this : the enemy was moving in a tidy order towards different directions. These massive crowds were not expecting to meet any resistance or any activity. Because of this, they were satisfied to have a small line of riflemen in front. On one hand, the attacks of our strong and self-sacrifying riflemen against the head of aforementioned enemies, on the other hand, good and effective shots of our gunners with their shrapnels against nearby enemies, the defense, moral and also command of the enemy were destroyed. Because of this, the small line of riflemen in front were not strengthened by the line at the rear of the troop. And enemy prefered to escape after having a look at the lines at the rear of the trop. Hamilton had also admitted that the the enemy troops commanders were not effective. But what is certain, Hamilton could not succeed in accomplishing his own orders although he had personally arrived to the battle field. The quite discussive and hesitative minds of the commanders – als including Hamilton and especially fear of responsibility gave us the chance of defeating them. A numberous of times I had seen that the commanders who were afraid of taking responsibility were never able to make the necessary decisions.

That day the glory was quite satisfying. But, the improvement of the general situation did not satisfy me at that moment. Because with the help of their instant attacks against “Conkbayırı” & “Şahintepe”, the enemy was in a strong position from “Arıburnu” to “Azmak” for the last three days. However, Hamilton supported the idea of capturing the whole “Kocaçimen” range in stead of capturing “Conkbayırı”. I remember the braveness and self-sacrifice of our soldiers with appreciation in defense of “Conkbayırı” & “Şahintepe”.

But I must also add that these troops were so worn out and had suffered many losses and injuries. But I was determined to perform new tasks on recieving the news that two new troops replaced in my service. On July 27 in the afternoon at 03:00 pm, I had the following phone call with the the command of 8th & 9th military divisions in the area of “Conkbayırı” and Kocaçimen” : “ With the help of the troops located there at least please serve some hot soup to the new troops that will carry out a major operation at Conkbayırı”.

At the time I was about to depart to the area I was commanding that day’s battle, the assistant of His Excellency “Liman” Pasha was on his way to congratulate me. I was informed that he had arrived at my millitary headquarter. I left him there as I had to depart to command the troops. They were opposed to the idea that I was to be in the middle of the cross-fire. But he appreciated that I couldn’t be sure of the result of the attack in any other way. We moved from “Çamlıtekke” to “ Kocaçimen” with the army. An enemy plane flew above us and began to follow us. All my escort had to spread in different directions and as a result, they lost their way and couldn’t find their way till the next day.

With “Zeki Efendi” and the rest of the troop, I continued on my way. I wanted to go to “Conkbayırı” over “Kocaçimen”. But the route was closed by the English and I was left in the cross-fire. After following an other route south, I controlled the troops at the …th military division at the military headquarter located at “Conk”, I rested at the tent. It was already night. I gave the necessarry orders. I was expecting new military forces. These forces were the two troops that I had mentioned. One of them had only been able to arrive too late, the other one was only able to arrive the next day. Because of this, the commanders and the general staff warned me about these troops, and they had reason for that. But I was giving importance to the forces at hand, instead of giving importance to the troops that would arrive and the success could be achieved only if I could use these troops at hand, as I had planned before. Because of this, despite all misgivings, I decided to attack. I ordered the troops to get ready.

-Well, what was your plan with this small trop at hand?

-Very simple!... The forces against the enemy located at “Conkbayırı” and ” Şahintepe” belonged to the …th military division. These arriving troops should be located behind this line in a massive position. The movement was to begin with daylight: the plan was to attack the enemy with bayonet, not a rifle, gun or bomb!

- Then that night our troops should lie in waiting. And the English that morning should wake up to our shining bayonets not to the sunlight. But as I see, you do not usually sleep for a few days. Hadn’t you ever felt tired?

- Of course I feel tired. During that battle, I stayed at my tent alone in order to get rest. Was there any need for that? For lots of reasons, many officers had to come to my tent. At the same time, I was receiving exciting reports from the different batlle areas. For example, reports informing that the enemy was embarking soldiers after seing the empty ships patrolling at “Eçe” Port. We were passing the night like this.

The attack planned by Mustafa Kemal Pasha started on July 28th at 04:30a.m. The Pasha joined the other commanders and the soldiers in order to watch the battle.

The first daylight had appearred and dawn was about to break. But he saw that the attack was getting late. “If we had delayed any further, it would be light, the enemy would have seen our troops in mass and they would have gunfired us and this would terrifble.” A very exciting crisis, isn’t it? Mustafa Kemal Bey had seen some commanders were about to quit the battle field, but hesaid he would never let them go. With the signal of my whip, you will attack the enemies. And then he had given his signal to the troops and he had seen had officers and others had bravely attacked to the enemy. He saw that against this attack, the enemy couldn’t find any time to fire, the enemy was helpless.

- After all had settled down, he said, the enemy had really turned Conkbayırı into hell. As incomplete lightening, shells were flying in the sky from sea and land.

Captain Cevat Bey who had listen to all this in silence at that moment in a soft voice said that :

- One of the bullets had come close to the breast of the Pasha.

- What? I said.

The pasha was playing with its rosary. Cevat Bey was making noise his shining boots and he was speaking of the event in great excitement like this :

-We were completely surrounded by enemy forces. As he was watching our soldiers going forward, Pasha realized that something had struck him in the chest.

- Yes, I saw a bullet hole in the right side of my jacket. The military officer next to me (the late Mr. Nuri Conker) said to me, “Sir, you’ve been shot.” I thought that hearing this might have a bad effect on the morale of our soldiers.

So I put my hand over his mouth.

“Be quiet,” I told him.

Mr. Cevat continued:

-A piece of shrapnel had hit the right side of his chest, right where his pocket watch was resting. The watch had been shattered into pieces but the shrapnel hadn’t hurt him, only made a small mark on Pasha’s chest.

-That’s a historic watch for you, may I see it, sir?, I asked him.

Pasha:

-Liman Pasha took the shattered remains of the watch as a souvenir after this battle, and in return he gave me his own watch, which bore his family’s coat of arms.

Mr. Cevat showed me his watch: a black Omega watch, and on the back side there was a crown and the letters “L.Z.” Pasha’s broken watch was a student model Omega which he had owned since his days in Military School. Mr. Cevat also brought out a Zenith watch a young soldier had given to Pasha, a soldier who was standing nearby when he was hit by the shrapnel.

I was convinced that the enemies couldn’t hope to stand up against a commander like him, one who led and worked so closely, hand-in-hand, with the rank-and-file soldiers.

-What were the soldiers doing while you were tending to your wound? Were they still continuing to fight?

-Of course. Those heroic soldiers and their brave officers made an extraordinary effort to put pressure onto the enemy lines. They drove off any enemy detachment they saw coming as well as any reinforcements. Even our detached units were able to reach the water from wherever they found an opening. I considered our mission accomplished. I didn’t think that conditions were favorable for making an all-out charge against the British. Thus, I gave the order to halt the offensive.

We gathered at Conkbayırı and Şahintepe. Thousands of our enemies were killed and thousands of them were injured in this battle. We had many prisoners of war. We took over all the machine guns in that front. This attack, I believe, has lead Sir Hamilton to exaggeration. I felt this way later on, when I read his report. (Opens the report and is in search for a page) Loot at what he says: “It is said that we fired heavy artillery on his soldiers.” This is not true. Not even a pistol was fired. Because if I had, then the attack wouldn’t have been a susscess. Beside, the distance between his soldiers and me personally, as well as my other commanders was something like 15-20 meters. Mind you, I am not talking about his soldiers and my soldiers. Everyone in this field knows that it is impossible to fire heavy artillery on such a near distance, especially at night time. Another thing, Hamilton mentions that two of his battalions that were slaughtered. This is true. However, the English forces we defeated at Conkbayırı in 28th July were the forces located between Arıburnu and Damakçık plain. I would like to know which armies General Kayley, who believes to have won pride and honor on this battlefield, General Baldwin who died with all his men and General Koper who was seriously wounded, were commanding, only these two battalions?

The scornful smile of the victorious soldier over the defeated suited the Pasha so well.

- However, he said, I appreciated the style in Sir Hamilton’s description of our soldier’s attack. He is right. Quoting his definition, we can clearly say that our soldiers literally were a disaster for the English at that battle. They slaughtered all trying to resist. After Conkbayırı hill was completely cleared, again in Hamilton’s words, they attacked on everything as if they were bees coming out of their hive. He says, “There are no appropriate words for the details of this horrible and disasterous battle. The Turks threw themselves one after another to the battlefield. They entered battle magnificently, always shouting the name of God.” All the English who tried to resist this attack got killed.

I should say another thing. Hamilton says that our soldiers were tired and almost finished in the battlefield. He must have been wrong. Our soldiers did nothing but obey their orders when I ordered them to attack and when I ordered them to keep the line. It is possible to read about the further details of the battle from Hamilton’s report. Therefore, it is better for us to stop now. The last words I can say about the Conkbayırı battle that it is the most honored part of the Anafartalar success on 29th July.

Cevat Bey made explanations and gave examples on how our soldiers operated in the war. One of them I find necessary to render since it shows how a soldier is filled with a strong spirit when his religious beliefs bear him. Our medical unit was at rest, eating. At that stage the enemy started gunfire. The soldiers were left in dust and smoke. When everywhere was clear, the soldiers were lying back and laughing. It was obvious that they were laughing at the cannonball that missed them and did them no harm.

Pasha said: There are no important incidents on the 29th, 30th and 31st July and 1st and 2nd August. What happened may not interest you. The battle on August 3rd (Kireçtepe): Kireçtepe is a very important front at the right wing of Anafartalar war front. On the 2nd of August, the enemy had attacked and managed to gain some parts of Kireçtepe around 6:30 in the afternoon. However, the very same night we managed to take Kireçtepe back. On August 3rd , the enemy attacked Kireçtepe with powerful forces. Realizing the fact that the enemy was determined this time, I went to the Turşun village that was located very close to the front. It was a must to gather forces at Kireçtepe front immediately. I managed to gather 12 battalions till noon by using all possible options. All forces gathered were directed to the battlefield. Finally, I felt the necessity to get closer to the battlefield with the commanders around me. There was only one way from where I could reach the battlefront. This path was close to the shore, where a very well located battleship of the enemy kept it under heavy artillery fire. All soldiers going to the battlefield had stopped because of this. I dismounted and came close to the place where everyone was standing. Attempting to get past the place would really mean death and yet the troops had to go on. After me, other commanders and aides passed. Then, I turned to the troop commanders and said “you will pass”. Divided into groups, the men passed the spot running. After thisbattle, the enemy movements were limited and we were in a stronger position.

Cevat Bey told his friends about a soldier that tried to serve in danger: A soldier had with his high moral managed to pass through a very dangerous place to supply food and water to his friends. When Pasha saw this, he honored the soldier with the medal he borrowed from his aide instantly.

Pasha said: I will pass to August 6th from August 4th. Actually we might pass to August 8th. That day, we could see the enemy movements on land and the disembarking of soldiers from ships. Still, the front was silent. I went to the battle line west of Küçük Anafartalar before noon and made some changes. When I returned to the headquartes the situation was even worse. I phoned the troops that I kept in reserve to get ready immediately. At this stage the enemy started an attack with the support of heavy artillery fire. This attack was against our troops located at the west of Küçük Anafarta village that held the Yusufçuk hill, İsmailoğlu hill, Azmak and Kayacık plains. The only forces to be dispatched to the attacked area were the 9th Division located at the northwest of Turşun village and the 6th Division located at Sivli village and the emergency units of the 8th and 4th Divisions. The 9th Division got into action first. I ordered the 7th Division to support the Süliecek and İsmailoğlu hill region, another Division to go over Küçük Anafarta, the other Divisions to support the locations that the enemy artillery was aiming at. In brief, all sorts of precautions were taken. However, sending these divisions over would take time. We needed to gain this time. I had a cavalry troop. Mentioning this troop reminds me:

The French had made a cavalry troop attack on us in front of the infantry attacking lines at Seddülbahir front. I had admired these Frenchmen going to death knowingly. This action was really cavalry. They were fencing the enemy infantry and willingly going to death to make space for their infantry troops. This was real courage and devotion!

I called the commander of our cavalry troop immediately. I ordered him to stop the enemy attacking İsmailoğlu hill in the same way. He was such a brilliant cavalry commander and he proved his courage by saving me the time I needed. The land and sea artillery of the enemy were heavily bombing our fronts at the north and west of İsmailoğlu hill and Azmak river. Our insufficient trenches were unbearable. The enemy artillery had especially concentrated on Yusufçuk hill. The enemy began attack on the whole of the front with its infantry. The first attack of the enemy was thrown back with the success of our infartry and artillery troops. Around 4- 4:50 in the afternoon, a division of enemy soldiers began coming down from Laletepe. This enemy troop suffered many casualities before they managed to get through to Mestantepe and Kayacıkağılı and had to stop many times and equipment had serious damage. Still, the troops that had attacked first were reinforced and started a second attack. This time, we managed to repell the attack aiming at Yusufçuk hill. One of our regiments was forced to retreat but with the help of the bayonets of our infantry we managed to repell the enemy. After 6:00, the enemy, mainly the English cavalry and infantry, attacked Yusufçuk hill for the third time. We had reinforced the foremost front so we managed to repell the enemy from that hill. We repelled the attacks of the enemy on the Azmak region as well. In brief, on the 8th of August the attacks made with 3 Divisions of the enemy resulted in with 15-20 thousand dead on their side.

The aim of the enemy, in my opinion, was to get into our front by capturing Kayacıkağılı, İsmailoğlu and Yusufçuk hills. They wanted to go east on this line. However, with the great courage and moral of our commanders and soldiers, the enemy was destroyed in a bayonet to bayonet infantry war. Finally, success was ours.

Pasha read aloud the pages of General Hamilton’s report dating these events and said:

- As you see, he also accepts the defeat. However, he shows the difficulties they had as the excuse of this defeat. It is a fact that the difficulties we had faced at the time were none less than theirs. In his words “it was a war of pride in which the English have proven their nobility till the lost drop of their blood against innumerous Turkish troops.” I’m sure Hamilton will be impressed with the bravery of the Turkish soldier when he reads about the number of troops I had in command in throughout the battle. As for the phrase “the brave army of perfect soldiers” that he has used for his army, I think he should always remember the 34th and 64th Batallions of the Turkish army as the best in the world, because he was defeated by them. However, I cannot accept the scornful words of Sir Hamilton towards my army because he has not been able to defeat them. In reply, I think I have the right to say that its nation’s pride in the famous English infantry could not stand in front of my brave and noble-blooded soldiers. To be honest, the Turkish army has really done a great job.

Now, let's come to the battle on the 13th of August.As you might have realised, there is no use in talking about the period between the 8th and the 14th.

14th of August Kayacıkağılı Battle: On that day, the enemy started to aim heavy artillery gunfire towards our trenches at Kayacıkağılı front. Towards 4:00 in the afternoon the gunfire got even heavier. Artillery from the ships joined them too. Mustafa Kemal Bey had observed that the enemy was to attack on that front. He had given the necessary orders to the division commander about a possible counterattack. Besides, he had ordered the artillery to fire heavily in response. An emergency division was also ordered to be prepared for battle. In brief, the enemy attacked a ready and waiting front.

Since Mustafa Kemal Bey could not receive accurate messages from the division commander, he gave him the order by telephone:

“I realise the fact that there is no-one to use the forces on the front. In any case, the first lines should hold strong. The emergency division should be located at the first line, ready to attack with bayonets, in case an enemy attack occurs. I have to be sure of this application personally. Please forward the order immediately.”

At the same time he sends the emergency division to the required region. He sends Pertev Bey from the Ministry of War to the region as the telecommunication officer. Information he got from the front was insufficient. Yet, he had reason to believe that the enemy had already entered their defense line.

“The news I received from the division commander was not sufficient. I felt limited with the information of this division commander. I gave him the order around 6:15.”

- Can you please read the order?
- I can only depend on this information: The enemy soldiers who sneaked into our lines have been demolished and the enemy line has been entered by our soldiers. No other information is of importance to me. This was the order I had given.
- What was the result sir?
- The reports I got after this order were not sufficient either. They were asking for permission to continue with the operation after night fall. I gave a new order, saying; “It is not acceptable to wait for night fall for the retreat of the enemy. The enemy too has the opportunity to get reinforcements in the darkness of the night. You will have to be active enough to make the enemy retreat immediately. Get in contact with me by the telecommunication device. Take them to the back line and then let me know.”

A great deal of bloody combat took place on the front of this division that night till early morning. As a result, the enemy had not been able to reach his aim. Apart from that, he had not suffered so many casualities as to be considered an advantage for us.

Although on 14/15 after midnight the enemy attempted to attack Yusufçuk hill from Mestan hill, our infantry opened fire and kept them at bay.

Pasha said:

- After the Kayacıkağılı battle, no serious battle took place till the very end. In this long period of time, both us and the enemy got reinforcements and ammunition. Since we have been successful through all these battles and kept the region under control, the enemy was demoralised . I fell sick on the 27th of August.

- That means you have not been able to see the enemy flee although you had desired to see it for a long time.

- No. I put Fevzi Pasha (Fieldmarshall Fevzi Çakmak) in my place. I came to İstanbul.

- How did you get the news sir?

- I think we heard that the French and the English had fled in İstanbul after ten days. I did not need to seek for any other word for the attitude of the English after I saw the report our Minister of War gave me later. I literally mean they fled, they really did. He said that from their point of view, this flight was a successful operation.

And he smiled.

I thanked the remarkable gentleman for spending such a long time to explain all these events to me. And I shook hands with this hero who started his military career in Istanbul and operated on various fronts including Trablusgarp and the Balkans and obtained responsibility in the country's most dangerous times to protect it. I felt a deep respect for him deep within and left him with the thankful feelings of a child.