Twenty-five New Zealanders were taken prisoner at Gallipoli: one  on  the  first  day,  21  at  Chunuk  Bair on  8 August,  and  three  at  Hill  60, 21-28 August.  All were wounded when captured; six would die as prisoners of the Turks.

Private Thomas Burgess was captured on 25 April – he died and is buried with two other Kiwis at Haidar Pasha cemetery in Istanbul. He died at a hospital where Lieutenant-Colonel  Charles Doughty-Wylie (Gallipoli VC) worked with the Red Cross before the war.

An account of the  capture of the heroic Wellingtons on Chunuk Bair on 8 August is provided by Private Reginald Davis, and of the horrific conditions endured in the camps by ordinary soldiers by Private William Surgenor, both of the Wellington Battalion.

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Private Thomas Hayes Burgess (12/705 Auckland Infantry Battalion) was the only New Zealander taken prisoner on 25 April.

He was wounded and died in ‘Tash Kushla’ hospital in Constantinople on 25 September 1915.

Private Burgess lies with two other New Zealand prisoners of war at Haidar Pasha Cemetery on the Asian side of Istanbul – Trooper Ronald Gowland (13/687 Auckland Mounted Rifles) and Private Thomas George Ashman (12/401 Wellington Infantry Battalion).

Trooper Gowland died on 25 August 1915 aged just 19. He was most likely one of the Aucklanders taken at Hill 60 on 21-22 August.  He had embarked with the 2nd Reinforcements on 14 December 1914 and was from Clevedon where he is remembered on the war memorial.

Private Thomas George Ashman was very badly wounded in the Wellington’s costly assault on Chunuk Bair on 8 August. He was taken prisoner there after the Turks retook the position. He had lost an arm and suffered bayonet wounds to both knees. The US Consul in Constantinople reported that he was in hospital there on 24 August, and that he was ‘very plucky’. Private Ashman died on 1 October 1915, aged 40. Born in London, he had been a warehouseman working for the Union Steamship Company in Wellington.

Private William Robert Surgenor  (10/724 Wellington Infantry Battalion) was also wounded and captured on Chunuk Bair on 8 August.  Surgenor saw Burgess before he died. Surgenor survived, and reported in 1919 that Burgess had told him that he had laid in the open for three days before some stretcher bearers picked him up and took him to hospital. Burgess tsaid that ‘Every Turk who walked past him clubbed or bayoneted him.’

[Tash Kushla’ is what Lt Leslie Henry Luscombe (14th Australian Battalion) in The Story of Harold Earl – Australian (Brisbane 1970) refers to as Tashkishler Barracks. Luscombe was also wounded and captured on 8 August at Hill 971.

Luscombe spent two miserable weeks there in August 1915. ‘Tashkishler Barracks was an ancient-looking wooden building that appeared to have been built round about the time that Noah built the Ark … One glanceat the floor, the walls, the ceiling and the boards disclosed that we would not lack for company to share our dismal looking accommodation. The whole room was literally swarming with hordes of tatta-bitti (bed bugs) and fleas.

I will look at Luscombe’s experiences in a subsequent post.

The American Red Cross was working at the Tash Kushla Barracks hospital in Pera, Constantinople 1912 reported in The Orient, December 11, 1912.  (‘A weekly paper, devoted to the religious, educational, political, commercial and other interests of the Ottoman Empire.’)

Interestingly, this issue refers to the  British Red Cross working at San Stefano (later used as a PoW camp), dealing with a cholera epidemic , ‘under Major Doughty-Wylie.’

Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Doughty-Wylie was awarded the Victoria Cross foir his actions at Sedd el-Bahr, Helles on 26 April 1915. His is the only solitary grave at Gallipoli, and he is the only person to have been awarded military honours by both the Turkish and British – his Turkish honour from his work in the Balkan War 1912. He was British consul at Mersina in 1909, and played a role in preventing the massacre of Armenians there.  General Sir  Ian Hamilton called him ‘the Mr. Great Heart of our war.’]

Burgess, Surgenor and Private Reginald Davis  (10/327, of Makitikiri – his record does not appear at Auckland Library Cenotaph database) fought with the

Wellington Battalion, which famously captured the ridge at Chunuk Bair on the night of 7 August.

The Turks regrouped, reinforced and attacked anyone trying to reinforce the position and the few Wellingtons who remained alive on the crest of Chunuk Bair.

Private Davis reported after the war.

(Statement of Capture by the Turks at Anfarta, Gallipoli Peninsula 29 August 1919 in Pugsley, Gallipoli, 295-7)

“Our  newly  captured  trench  was  very  narrow,  and  only  about  three  feet  deep. There  was  barely  room  for  the  troops  to  move  at  all  in  the  trench,  as  we  were packed  very  close  together.  About  ten  minutes  after  getting  into  the  trench,  we noticed  a  big  mass  of men  advancing  towards  us  from  the  left  flank  of  Hill  971,  at a  distance  of  between  five  and  six  hundred  yards.

Immediately we  opened  fire, but  someone  called  out  that  we  were  firing  on  Ghurkha  troops.  It was  impossible to  see  from  whom  the  order  came  and  so  as  they  were  advancing  from  enemy territory,  we  took  no  notice  of  the  order  and  continued  to  fire  until  they disappeared  in  a  small  gully,  not  to  appear  again  until  they  were  within  from  10 to  15  yards  all  along  the  trench.

Owing  to  the  narrowness  and  shallowness  of  our  trench  we  were  nearly  all exposed  from  the  waist  up  to  the  rifle  fire  of  the  Turks.  Directly  in  front  of  me was  a  small  rising  in  the  ground  which  shielded  me  from  direct  frontal  fire,  and made  it  necessary  for  me  to  fire  a  little  to  my  left  at  a  distance  of not  more  than ten  yards.  One  of  our  men  was  hit  on  the  enemy  side  of  our  trench  and  was unable  to  get  back  himself,  so  I  was  able  to  pull  him  back  into  the  trench unconscious.  At  such  a  short  range  and  being  outnumbered  I  soon  noticed  that there  were  very  few  of  our  men  left  firing.

“A  Taranaki  man  named  Surgenor  was  the  only  man  left  firing  besides  myself at  the  end  of  about  half  an  hour.  Besides  the  rifle  fire  of  the  enemy  they  threw bombs  in  all  along  the  trench,  and  their  machine  guns  which  were  situated  on either  flank  were  able  to  enfilade  our  position.

Private  Surgenor  was  hit  in  the head  somewhere,  but  kept  on  firing  with  his  face  streaming  with  blood,  until  he got  another  hit  in  the  head,  which  dazed  him  for  a  time,  and  knocked  him  back  in the  trench.  This  time  I  thought  he  was  killed,  but  he  partly  came  to  soon  after, and  loaded  rifles  for  me  to  fire.  At  that  time  I  was  using  three  rifles  and  each  was burning  hot.

Owing  to  a  traverse  on  my  left  I  was  not  able  to  see  how  many  were left,  but  the  firing  had  practically  died  away  there.  On  the  right  of my  position  I was  able  to  see  about  thirty  yards  of  trench  in  which  all  our  men  were  wounded or  dead.  The  time  I  was  actually  firing  is  very  hard  to  gauge,  but  I  think  it  was well  over  an  hour  before  I  was  hit  by  a  bullet  on  the  right  elbow  while  firing.  It knocked  me  back  into  the  trench  on  top  of  a  dead  sergeant.

Private  Surgenor bound  my  wound  up,  and  we  waited  for  the  Turks  to  take  possession  of  the trench,  wondering  whether  our  reinforcements  would  arrive  before  that  time.

About  half  an  hour  after  I  was  hit,  the  Turks  put  in  their  first  appearance  in the  trench  on  my  extreme  right.  After  throwing  bombs  into  the  trench  to  ensure against  a  ruse,  three  men  made  their  appearance  first  and  bayoneted  every  New Zealander  they  came  to  or  else  used  the  butts  of  their  rifles.

It  was  soon  my  turn and  the  foremost  Turk  thrust  at  me  four  times  with  his  bayonet,  and  each  time  I was  able  to  grab  it  with  my  left  hand,  and  thrust  it  away.  The  fifth  time  I  was  not quick  enough  and  he  drove  his  bayonet  through  my  left  arm.  I  was  then  at  his mercy,  but  instead  of  using  the  bayonet,  he  loaded  his  rifle  and  pointing  at  me, was  about  to  pull  the  trigger,  when  a  crowd  of  Turks  came  in  and  someone  in charge  gave  him  an  order  for  he  stood  up  on  the  trench  and  fired  towards  our second  line.

Soon  after  that  my  captors  made  motions  for  me  to  get  over  the trench  and  I  was  taken  prisoner.”

Private Surgenor takes up the story. His account, with its description of committed, indicates the different  experience of officers and men.

(Prisoner of War report 13 December 1918 (PUGSLEY, Gallipoli p 356)

“Every  man  in  the  trench  I  was  in  was  killed  or  wounded  including  myself.  I  was  hit  in  the mouth  and  leg.  The  Turks  got  into  the  trench  and  bayonetted  or  clubbed  every  man  wounded except  myself  and  Trooper  Davis,  Wellington.  They  eventually  bayonetted  Davis  in  the  arm but  did  not  kill  him.  They  took  my  surrender.  One or two of the  wounded  men  made  attempts to  get  up  and  they  were  immediately  clubbed  to  death  or  bayonetted.

They  took  me  to  a  dressing  station.  We  met  some  Germans,  who  seemed  to  make  our  passage pretty  safe — a  German  corporal  in  particular.  The  Turks  were  not  the  good  sorts  I  have  heard them  said  to  be.  This  corporal  said  he  had  been  sent  to  the  Eastern  front  for  his  pro-ally  feelings.

We  went  to  a  hospital  ship  and  were  sent  to  Constantinople.  We  were  placed  in  the  Maltese Hospital  with  Lt  Stone,  of  the  Worcesters.  The  treatment  there  was  better  than  we  expected.

We  remained  a  fortnight  and  were  sent  on  to  another  hospital —called  a  punishment  hospital.

There  Enver  Pasha  visited  us  and  addressed  us —he  said  we  were  under  punishment  because Turkish  troops  in  Egypt  were  badly  treated.  The  treatment  he  said  would  not  improve,  but would  get  worse.  All  the  British  prisoners  were  concentrated  there.  We  had  no  beds  and  three men  went  to  a  mattress,  with  one  cloth  to  cover  them.  My  wound,  which  was  very  bad,  was dressed  once  in  three  or  four  days.  They  only  put  iodine  on  it.  One  piece  of  shell  was  taken out  of my  nose.

Their  hospital  arrangements  were  very  crude  indeed.  One  orderly  had  to  dress over  100  men — but  he  could  not  possibly  get  through,  so  a  Norfolk  officer  used  to  help  him.

We  have  made  a  sworn  statement  about  this  hospital  and  sent  it  to  the  authorities.  From  this place  we  were  taken  to  a  prison  in  Constantinople  and  placed  about  100  men —in  a  small  room without  space  enough  to  lie  down.  I was  still  under  treatment  by  our  own  fellows,  who  used to  dress  my  wound.

The  room  was  infested  with  vermin  and  very  dirty,  but  nothing  was  done by  the  authorities  to   try  and  clean  it.  We  ate  our  food  there  also.  The  food  consisted  of  a dish  of  boiled  wheat  for   every  12  men,  morning  and  night.  There  was  plenty  of  water.

After a  while  I was  sent  to  the  interior,  to  Angora,  and  was  a  fortnight  there  and  then  went  to   Changri marching  for  100  kilometres.  This  march  was  a  terrible  business  for  most  of  the  men  were just  out  of  hospital  and  weak,  and  were  in  consequence  lagging  behind.  For  that  they  were knocked  about  and  badly  treated.  En  route  we  were  lodged  in  cow  sheds,  and  Armenian churches,  packed  in  like  sardines.

At  Changri  we  were  lodged  in  a  big  barracks  which  were infested  with  vermin.  We  had  no  soap  and  no  changes  of  clothing.  We  did  not  work  there. The  only  clothing  1  had  issued  during  captivity  was  a  shirt  and  a  pair  of  socks.

From  this  place I  went  to  Belemedik,  where  I  worked  on  a  tunnelling  job  for  a  German  firm,  receiving  2/- per  day.  Our  food  was  better.  There  1  contracted  fever  and  was  sent  to  hospital  at  Afion.

At  Afion  Camp  the  Turks  took  young  fellows  by  force  away  to  the  officers’  quarters.  The chaps  had  no  option.  They  would  come  back  looking  horribly  ashamed  and  would  talk  to no  one.  At  last  one  of them  made  a  clean  breast  of  it.  lt  was  reported  to  the  Swiss  Commission.

I  don’t  know  what  the  result  was.  On  one  occasion  two  Turks  tried  to  get  me  away  but  1  knocked them  out.  The  Commandant  was  the  worst  of  all  at  it.  Sometimes  fellows  tried  to  escape  but they  got  “hell”,  and  were  sent  to  prison  with  the  lowest  types  of  criminals  and  diseased  persons.

After  three  days  I  was  set  to  work.  The  men  on  this  job  were  mostly  sick,  and  were  constantly whipped  because  they  could  not  do  enough.  The  work  was  carrying  stone.  I  had  a  couple  of whippings  myself.  I  could  not  retaliate —one  received  a  great  deal  more.  Some  of  the  fellows struck  the  Turks,  and  they  only  got  three  months  gaol,  and  it  was  terrible  being  interned  in these  places.  The  usual  punishment  was  to  put  you  into  a  dirty  closet  with  a  ration  of  half a  pound  of  bread  a  day,  and  keep  you  there  a  fortnight.

This  was  their  usual  form  of  light punishment  and  it  generally  ended  up  with  hospital.  The   insanitary  condition  of  the  place  was too  awful.  I  have  seen  a  lot  of  Russian  prisoners  bastinadoed,   but  we  British  escaped  that. Their  screams  were  awful.  From  this  place  we  went  to  Adapazari,   working  on  the  roads.  We were  lodged  114  men  in  one  house  whose  dimensions  were  30ft  x  30ft.   It  was  the  dead  of  winter and  we  had  no  fires,  and  often  the  snow  leaked  through  into  the  rooms.

After  a  spell  there we  went  to  Sans  Stefano  and  worked  on  loading  waggons  under  German  masters.   I  was afterwards  put  on  to  carpentering.  One  day  because  I  was  standing  waiting  for  another  chap to  finish  and  enable  me  to  get  on,  I  was  pounced  upon  and  put  into  prison  for  two  days  with two  Turks  doing  long  sentences.  One  of  the  Turks  had  V.D.,  and  was  treating  himself  for disease  on  the  face.  They  used  to  have  to  urinate  out  of  the  windows  and  could  not  get  out except  when  the  sentry  was  present.  The  Turks  also  used  to  urinate  against  the  door,  and  the condition  of  the  place  can  be  imagined.  The  German  responsible  for  this  was  named  Benemann. It  was  no  use  appealing  to  him.

I  had  three  days  of  this.  I  was  at  Stefano  when  the  armistice was  signed  and  got  away  to  Constantinople.’