Private Martin John Troy 16th Battalion.

‘In the unromantic Australian official history the only mention of Troy is that of a private soldier of the name, born in the severely unclassical location of Geraldton, Western Australia. He happened to be the only survivor of a desperate action in a gully adjacent to Dead Man’s Ridge known as Bloody Angle, where he was knocked senseless by a bomb, and in this fearsome vicinity awoke to find himself among the dying and the dead.

troy & mccoll

Private Martin Troy 16th Battalion (left) Trooper Robert McColl 2nd Light Horse (right)

‘I believe that the middle-aged Australian whom Mr Compton Mackenzie met in Alexandria soon after the first landings put the campaign in a more general perspective from the point of view of a contemporary. He reported that all he knew was that he jumped out of a bloody boat in the dark and before he had walked five bloody yards he had copped a bloody bullet in his foot and had been pushed back to bloody Alexandria almost before he bloody well knew he had left it. (Major John  North, Gallipoli: The Fading Vision p. 19)

That was pretty much what happened to Martin Troy  – except that he spent the rest of the war in Turkish prison camps.

Bean’s note reads:

A ‘ man named Troy, when the Turks attacked in the morning, was knocked senseless by a bomb. He woke to find his mates, Privates White and Gray dead beside him, and others all dead or wounded. He attempted to crawl away after dark, but was captured. Of those Australians who fought in this action, he was the only one who survived it in the hands of the Turks. (Bean Vol 1, p595)

‘This action’ was the 16th’s at Bloody Angle on 2/3 May 1915 supporting the vain attempt to take Baby 700. Bloody Angle was the position from Quinn’s Post along the ridgeline – overlooked by Baby 700 and the Nek. It was the 16th first offensive action.

Martin Troy enlisted, 688, 16th Battalion on 19 November 1914 at Blackboy Hill WA. He was a 23 year-old miner, born in Geraldton.

Troy’s dead mates were Pte John Wesley White, enlisted at Geraldton, 414 16th Battalion, a 22 year old locomotive fireman remembered on the  Lone Pine Memorial.

Private Mervyn William Gray, 264  16th Battalion,  was a 21 year-old stonemason from Perth. He is also remembered on the  Lone Pine Memorial.

Martin Troy appears to be the same person as the ‘Mark’ Troy who appears in the diary of fellow P.o.W. George Kitchin Kerr. This diary was transcribed from George’s shorthand by his grandson Greg Kerr, and is perhaps a transcription/translation error.  The diaries of George, and his brother Hedley, killed on Hill 971 at the Landing were published in Greg’s terrific book Lost Anzacs.(Oxford University Press 1997)

George refers to Troy keeping a diary, which as far as I know has not been found or published.

[A small book entitled  Anatolia: Afion and Belemedic – Australian prisoner of war: Martin John Troy was self-published by Francis J. Rohan in Perth around 1977. It might contain something, but there appears only to be a single copy extant, in the W.A. Library. I have not seen it.]

Kitchin’s entry for 27 December 1915 is intriguing –

‘Generally when a man discloses his hidden faults it is in depreciation of his obvious virtues. This fact has been borne on me by a comparison between [Martin] Troy’s diary and mine. He has made a proper record of the events which have taken place since he has been made prisoner. Hardly a day passes without his making some commentary about it even if it is only to mention the remarks which are being circulated by the Turks. There is not much excitement here —

things go on their uneventful way day after day but a complete record, even of a little event can make interesting reading. Then, apart from any other consideration, it is of great value as a reference book and in that capacity it has settled many an argument.’ (Kerr, p.125)

Troy was going to learn Pitman’s shorthand from Kitchin, but gave it up and instead took up French with ‘Larrony’, presumable one of the French prisoners.

Kitchin and Troy moved from Afion Kara Hissar to a new camp at Belmedik (about 900 kilometres south-east of Constantinople) in January 1916. They were to be employed by a German company  – the Baghdad Railway Construction Company to build the railway and dig a tunnel through the Taurus mountains.

Kerr was a clerk for the railway construction company, and stayed at Belmedik fir the duration. He was commended for his efforts at the end of the war.

Conditions for these prisoners seem generally to have been better than for many other prisoners of the Turks– such as the unfortunate British and Indian prisoners taken at Kut in Mesopotamia and marched to Aleppo in 1916. Disease, overwork, neglect and disease seem to have been the most important factors – certainly not on the level of depravity suffered by prisoners of  the Japanese in the Second World War.

The prisoners were paid – one Turkish pound a month to buy food. ‘I am afraid many of us will be hungry at the end of the month, as there seems to be plenty of opportunity to buy raki.’ (Kitchin diary, 23 January 1916)

[Once at Istanbul Airport, the site of the San Stefano camp, I saw a large Englishman asleep on his back on the floor. His t-shirt read ‘Raki’s the answer, but I’ve forgotten the question.’ Raki is a wonderful spirit distilled from grape skins – I am an adept of the raki from Crete.]

This amounted to 11 piastres a day ‘for living’ – food,  but get the same old dishes day after day – sometimes three eggs for breakfast, generally meat stew made from onions and  meat , and at tea a fig pie. (19 June 1916). They occasionally played football and cricket, had fights – boxing matches, received letters and parcels, and commemorated or celebrated the first anniversary of the Landing with yarning and a drink or two. ‘The tent clubbed together and instructed Victor to bring us up a tin of wine or the substitute which is more often obtained [raki].’ (25 April 1916)

Martin Troy, however was sent to a work camp in mid 1916, perhaps ‘Ada Bazar’ and then to San Stefano near Constantinople, where he wrote in 1918:


Interned  St.-  Stefano, near  Constantinople,  Turkey.

Many thanks for seven  different  lots  of  money. Four were  sent  last December,  two  in  January,  and  one  in  February,  the whole  amounting  to five  hundred  and  seventy  three  piastres.

All  the  boys  here  beg  of  you to  forward  to  us  another  suit  of clothes  and  a  pair  of  boots  each  as  the  last  lot  you  kindly  sent  have worn  out,  and  we  are  just  about  in  rags. The clothing and boots that we do receive  (if we are lucky)  from  the  Dutch  Ambassador  are  of  very inferior  quality,  hence  they  last  no  time. We have  to  go  to  work  every day,  consequently  we  are  pretty  hard  en  the  articles  that  I  mentioned above. No doubt  you  have-come  to  the  conclusion  that  we  are  always  in wants of  something,  but  I  can  assure  you  that  we  ask  for  things  that  are absolutely  necessary,  as  we  realise  that  you  have  plenty  of  other  work      on  your  hands.

Trooper McCoII  wishes  me  to  thank  you  on  his  behalf  for  three  lots of  money  –  viz:  140 pts [piastres]  in  all.

Thanking you for the  past  favours  and with  best  wishes  from  all  the  boys  here.

Letter from man dated 9th  June  1918

London.  30/8/18.”

Troy was repatriated on 8 December 1918, and discharged on 20 June 1919.

[Trooper Robert Malcolm McColl 2197 2nd Light Horse

Trooper William Alexander 1230 told the Board of Enquiry concerning McColl:   ‘During the night of 3rd/4th August we had been on outpost duty. Towards dawn the Turks forced us to retire. During the retirement I saw McColl running along on foot. I told McColl to hang on to my stirrup, and I would help him along. He kept alongside of me for some distance, and suddenly fell. The Turks were very close, and I kept on. That was the last I saw of him. The rifle fire was very heavy.’

Alexander, from Queensland, enlisted in March 1915,  suffered a number of illnesses, but returned to Australia in 1919, and was discharged in June.]

The court concluded that McColl was ‘a prisoner either wounded or unwounded in the hands of the Turks through no fault of his own.’

On 29 October 1916 he wrote from Izmit to the High Commissioner for Australia in London to pleas send warm clothing such as overcoats, blankets, boots etc., ‘as well as some money as we are penniless.’ Something must have happened in 1917– he had received a six food parcels and two clothes ones from the Red Cross in November 1917.]

Troy was repatriated on 8 December 1918, and discharged on 20 June 1919.