Saturday, 21 February 2015


In this old photo we see three Turkish soldiers posing for a studio photograph with their grisly trophies.  

It's not known who the two heads on the table might have once belonged to, but it's certain they won't be giving the Turks any more trouble. Beheading prisoners has such a medieval flavor to it. A sign of desperation? Very likely. After all, the Turks were soon after crushed by British and British-Indian troops and their shaky empire removed from them.  

After the war, Turkey was reduced to something like its present-day borders, and much of the erstwhile Ottoman empire put under the rule of either the British or the French who were to set about modernizing it – without terribly much success.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Germans driven by Turks

This photograph shows German officers being driven about in Turkey in a gigantic car. If you can identify the make, I would be interested to know. It looks to me as if it might be German, but that's a guess.

Turkey controlled the Ottoman empire, which had been slowly collapsing for centuries, but which managed to retain a strong sense of its own usefulness. It was reputedly labelled "the Sick Man of Europe" by Tsar Nicholas I.

Turkey made the mistake of siding with the Germans in the First World War. (The Germans gave them a cruiser and a battle-cruiser, which may have helped.) During the war they famously took against the Armenians and behaved badly, slaughtering large numbers, for what reason I still do not know. British forces, having failed to force the Dardanelles strait and lay siege to Istanbul, then pushed up from Egypt. General Edmund Allenby entered Jerusalem on 11th December, 1917, and subsequently went on to capture Syria.

After the war, the Ottoman empire was cut up and the parts given to Britain and France to administer – and what a thankless task that has proven to be! Turkey itself, reduced more or less to the borders we know today, began to modernize. It eschewed religion in favour of secular government and got rid of Arabic script. It now makes more refrigerators than you could comfortably shake a stick at, and is becoming an absolute hive of industry.

It's a shame that a few other places I could mention, don't choose to do the same.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Call to Empire

Australia, a land quite familiar to me, since I was partly brought up there, was of course once part of the British Empire. Those wishing to disparage Australia will often call attention to the origin of certain cities Down Under which began life as penal colonies, but this, as you will see, is somewhat unjust.

This poster, designed to be put up in the Australian city of Adelaide calls particularly upon "South Australians." Why? you may ask.

Well, back in 1914, Australia had officially been one nation for only a dozen years or so, and therefore people felt allegiance to their particular states rather than Australia collectively. South Australia, incidentally, was never a penal colony, but started out as a settlement of free men. 

The myth put about by the odious Mel Gibson and certain others of that ilk that Australians fighting in the Great War were all Outback lads duped into dying at Gallipoli, is nonsense. Most volunteers were city dwellers, more stockbrokers than stock-herders, who joined up out of a sense of patriotism. Most proved to be superb soldiers who fought extremely well.

Want to find out more about WW1?  Click here to see my latest novel - The Deadly Playground, 1914