Every Gallipoli visitor knows him : the legendary Seyid, who stands like a rock, with his big shell in his arms, looking out over the Dardanelles, at the very spot where the Allied attack of 18th March was stopped. Seyid must be for the Turks what Simpson and his donkey are for the Australians : an immortal symbol of the simple soldier who fought in the Gallipoli campaign and during that conflict was able to surpass himself.There is a 1915 photo of this popular hero, and that one has its own particular history.
During the naval attack of 18th March, Seyid was posted as a simple private in Rumeli Mecidiye Tabyasi, a fortification on the European side of the Dardanelles, not so far from Kilidbair. Apart from some smaller artillery, his battery also possessed six heavy calibre guns, handled by "Havranli Koca Seyid" (Big Seyid from Havran, his birthplace) and his colleagues.
By noon of 18th March, nearly all the big guns had been knocked out by fire from the Allied warships. Seyid's gun was still able to fire, but the mechanism to feed the big shells into the gun had been destroyed. In a supreme effort, he ran to the remaining ammunition, took one of the monstruously big shells in his arms and brought it single-handed to the gun.
History has it that the projectile weighed "215 okka" (must have been something like our kilos) and another element to let the legend take shape was that it might well have been this precise shell that hit HMS Ocean.
When the Allied attack was not resumed the following days, the news about Seyid's performance spread throughout the army. It is only normal that his superiors decided that a hero of his kind might as well be used for propaganda reasons, something the Australians would also do, later in the campaign, with men like the legendary Jacka. This attitude had two consequences for Seyid : first of all Cevad Pasha, who commanded the Turkish artillery in the Straits, promoted him to "onbashi" (corporal) and about a week after the events, a number of photographers appeared to take his official picture for publication in the press.
And what would be more fitting than a striking pose with the big shell in his arms and the gun in the background? To the dismay of the onlookers however, it soon became clear that Seyid was not able to lift such a weight a second time. His own explanation was simple : 'It's not possible under these conditions. Better come back when the English attack again'.
This did not solve the photographers' problem : they really needed their picture. Different new attempts were made then, first with an empty shell, then with smaller ones, but all of them proved equally unsuccessful.
Eventually, they succeeded anyway, with a wooden replica of a shell, which Seyid was able to hold behind his back until the picture was taken. The photo was published in the national press, and Seyid for a short time became a hero.
After the war, he returned to Havran, where he resumed his work as a lumberjack. He died in 1939 in complete anonymity and was buried at the local cemetery.
Only in 1992, when a sudden increase of the interest in the Gallipoli Campaign set in in Turkey, was his memory revived by the erection of his statue : now he is again the powerful figure, clasping the big shell in his arms. Not the insecure looking man, in his awkward pose with the shell behind his back, forced to play a part in the propaganda machine.
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