Australian POWs of the Ottomans during the First World War
By Kate Ariotti
Published by Cambridge University Press
RRP $59.95 in hardcover • ISBN 9781107198647
Published as part of the Australian Army History Series, Captive Anzacs seeks to investigate and tell the story, via their letters, diaries and other personal papers, of the 198 Australian men who became prisoners of the Ottomans.
By war’s end, 55 of these men were buried in graves throughout the Ottoman empire. This is a largely forgotten tale, invariably overshadowed by the heroic deeds of the Anzacs at Gallipoli and on the Western Front.
And like the POWs of the Second World War, particularly those captured by the Germans, the surviving men were treated with indifference on their return to Australia. Many suffered long term psychological effects as a result of their capture and detention. ‘Guilt’ and ‘shame’ were words often spoken by these men.
Their personal records of their captivity reveal the difficulties faced in camp as a result of the “cultural differences regarding food, accommodation, transportation, health care, work and punishment”. The men came to rely on food and comfort parcels from the Australian Red Cross POW Department in London, particularly as the economically troubled Ottoman empire became further stretched.
In this revealing book based on her PhD thesis for which she won the Army History Unit’s C E W Bean prize, Kate Ariotti gives us the first full account of the experience of Australians captured on Gallipoli and in the Middle East.