Category: ataturk

Erzurum Congress Ends

Mustafa Kemal (center) at the Erzurum Conference.

August 7 1919, Erzurum–The day after Greek forces landed at Smyrna, Mustafa Kemal left Constantinople for Anatolia, hoping to organize a resistance to the Allied carving up of Turkey.  In late July, he assembled a congress of representatives from the Ottoman Empire’s northwestern districts in Erzurum.  Over the course of its meetings, until it dispersed on August 7, it passed many resolutions affirming complete Turkish independence:

  • Turkey would not be carved up into Allied mandates or protectorates (the exact borders of Turkey, as opposed to the Ottoman Empire, were less clear, however).
  • Military occupation of Turkey would be resisted.
  • No special accommodation would be given to non-Turkish minorities, such as the Greeks or Armenians.  The provinces represented at the conference once had substantial Armenian populations, and were considered for inclusion in an Allied mandate of Armenia.  The conference itself was held in what had been an Armenian university before the genocide.
  • A new government would be formed if the one in Constantinople proved incapable of carrying out these measures.

In September, there was a similar conference in Sivas, with attendees from more parts of Anatolia, that largely affirmed these decisions.  Little resulted immediately, however.  The Ottoman Empire was in no condition to resist the Allies militarily, and Kemal had been fired from the Army for his rabble-rousing in July.  Nevertheless, the Erzurum and Sivas conferences positioned him well politically as the leader of the Turkish nationalist movement ahead of Ottoman elections scheduled for December.

British Secure Jordan River Crossings

The aftermath of RAF attacks on the retreating Turkish Seventh Army.

September 22 1918, Jisr ed Damiye–The success of Allenby’s cavalry in the three days since the breakthrough along the coast had been stunning.  By the 22nd, they had taken Nazareth and reached as far the Jordan near Beisan, about fifteen miles south of the Sea of Galilee.  This left the remnants of two Turkish armies scrambling to reach safety across the Jordan to the east.  On September 22, a force under General Chaytor–including several Jewish and West Indies battalions–attacked and secured the Jordan crossing at Jisr ed Damiye.  This essentially cut off the remaining Turks west of the Jordan, as there were few other good crossings–and units that attempted the steep descent into the Jordan River suffered severe casualties from aerial attacks, as the Bulgarians were experiencing during their own retreat in Macedonia.  Nevertheless, there was still a large gap between Beisan and Jisr ed Damiye, and a few thousand Germans and Turks (including Mustafa Kemal, the commander of Seventh Army) escaped before the remaining gaps were closed on the 24th.

After securing Jisr ed Damiye, Chetwode’s force then looked further east, towards Es Salt and Amman.  Here, they posed a major threat to the Turkish Fourth Army, which had so far been spared much direct attack, but was now in danger of having much of its forces (which stretched as far south as Ma’an) cut off by the British and Arabs far to the north.

Today in 1917: General Bliss New US Army Chief of Staff

Today in 1916: Arab Revolt Captures Taif
Today in 1915: Britain Sends Trawlers to Catch U-Boats in Straits of Otranto
Today in 1914: U-9 sinks Three British Cruisers In One Hour

Sources include: Cyril Falls, Armageddon 1918; Roger Ford, Eden to Armageddon.

Haydarpasha Munitions Explosion Sets Back Turkish Operations in Palestine

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The aftermath of the explosion at Haydarpaşa station.

September 6 1917,

Haydarpaşa–The new joint German-Turkish Yildirim Army Group had originally been tasked with retaking Baghdad by Enver Pasha, despite strenuous objections from Djemal Pasha, commanding the Fourth Army in Syria, who felt the force would be better used as a strategic reserve to respond to an Allied offensive from any direction.  Djemal continued to protest over the course of the summer, and in mid-August, with Falkenhayn’s backing, finally got Enver to call off the attack on Baghdad.

Djemal soon came to regret this, however, realizing that Falkenhayn could now challenge his military authority in Syria and Palestine.  On September 5, Falkenhayn decided that he would use Yildirim to attack in Palestine.  The British were performing a worrying buildup there, and the Russians were no longer a threat in the Caucasus.  He hoped to push the British back across the Sinai, and that his German divisions could finally force the Suez Canal.  Mustafa Kemal, whose Seventh Army would be responsible for this offensive, protested fervently to Enver.  His army was in no condition to conduct an offensive, and no reserves to back them up; one of his divisions had lost more than half of its strength just in the journey from Constantinople to Aleppo.  Politically, he also chafed at being under the command of the German Falkenhayn.

Furthermore, the large quantities of materiel sent by the Germans for Yildirim were much diminished on September 6, when a massive explosion at 

Haydarpaşa station (the Asian terminus of the planned railway to Baghdad, across the Bosporus from Constantinople) destroyed much of them.  Yildirim, short on men and supplies, would not begin its march south from Aleppo until the end of the month.  Mustafa Kemal would not be with them, as he resigned in protest before they began to move out.

Today in 1916: 

PM Asquith Visits the Somme

Today in 1915:  Bulgaria Agrees to Join War Against Serbia & Allies

Today in 1914: Austrians Attempt to Envelop Russians at Rava-Ruska

Sources include: Roger Ford, Eden to Armageddon; Eugene Rogan, The Fall of the Ottomans.