Bloody Ridge Diary of Lt. Mehmed Fasih
is a curious publication.
from 6 pages of tributes, 1 page biography of H.B. Danishman and 12 pages
of ‘background’, the book contains a 2nd-hand translation
of the Gallipoli diary by Lt. Mehmed Fasih, covering the period from 11th
October to 19th December 1915.
the original diary was written in Ottoman script, a translation to Turkish
was first published in 1997 by Murat Çulcu,
who discovered the manuscript and spent the following 4 years studying
Ottoman to be able to bring this task to a good end. Afterwards, his work
was apparently translated to English by H.B. Danishman and then published
by Denizli Kitabevi, in fact a small antiquarian bookshop in Istanbul.
Neither on the cover of this book, nor on the front page, however, can
a reference to the original work by Murat Çulcu be found.
let’s have a closer look at the different sections of this book.
In ‘Tributes’ we learn something about Murat Çulcu and his difficulties
to decipher and interpret the original writing, but after 2 pages already
H.B. Danishman’s attention starts wandering off to other Gallipoli
enthousiasts, to the efforts of
Denizli Kitabevi and to his own merits.
then, things start getting stranger and stranger : Danishman starts
thanking the woman who helped him to correct his English translation.
Quite normal, one might think although reading pleasure is often enough
spoiled by some irritating misprints that apparently escaped her
attention. But no, of even greater importance seems to be the fact that
this woman was married to a Turkish Korea veteran, the story of whose
merits fill 33% of Danishman’s introduction. That this man had nothing
whatsoever to do with this publication is quite obvious, let alone with
the original translation. So why then all this page filling, one wonders.
Why such an out-of place tribute? Why more about this man than about the
original author who did all the hard work?
but questions. For some obscure reason, better known to Danishman, this
name had to be included in the book, no matter how, and given the
necessary exposure. Academically speaking however, this is pure nonsense.
Let’s have a closer look then at ‘Background’, the 2nd
section in the book, in which one gets a short survey of the Gallipoli
Campaign. Whether this was indispensible for readers not so
well-acquainted with what happened in 1915 can be argued, although it
might serve some purpose. On the other hand it might be wiser for such
readers to try and find an introduction to the Gallipoli Campaign that
does not contain so many mistakes.
what should one think about the author’s reference to the big Turkish
attack of ‘18th May’ (sic)? Wasn’t it the following day,
the 19th, when Turkey suffered nearly 10 000 casualties? Not
really a detail in history, no?
a quotation from the text might speak better for itself. The scene is
Helles, the date 25th April.
: “Finally on 25th April at dawn the British started landing
troops on Turkish soil. They approached in great silence. Equally silent,
Turkish units were bracing themselves for the onslaught.”
after, for even greater effect, the author then cites from a ‘witness
25th April, at 4.30 hrs when intensive fire raked our shores,
we blew our whistles, reserve companies were called to arms ...” etc.
what to think of, according to Danishman, the fact that “in Ertugrul
Koyu (V-Beach) the British used a big troop ship and in the Seddulbahir
area life-boats to land” ?
far is V-Beach from Seddulbahir?
short, let’s be mild and say that Mr. Danishman is not exactly the first
authority I’d turn to, to learn more about 1915.
Mehmed Fasih’s diary itself, about 160 pages in all, covers the period
between 29th October and 19th December 1915 at Lone Pine on the
400 Plateau. During this period, and certaily in this sector, the campaign
had turned into static warfare.
writes about his daily trenchlife in a very precise way : every day, apart
from the date, he also includes the hour of day when something happened.
The only aspect of his writing that changes is that in the beginning he
writes a fluent narrative language, which later on gradually changes into
a more compact type of telegram style.
diary contains a treasure of information about daily life in the Turkish
trenches, with references to food, accidents, the weather, mining, daily
trench routine, relations with other officers, his attitude to simple
soldiers and so on.
if one can compare them to a number of Australian diaries that cover the
same period, these writings contain a great deal of information for one
who is interested in the human side of the 1915 Campaign.
narrative ends on the day that a message arrives, informing him that the
British apparently have evacuated Anafarta, together with the order to
prepare a reconnaissance patrol in his own sector. What they discovered
there is not told anymore.
In an ‘Epilogue’ of 3 pages, Danishman then gives a survey of
Fasih’s further career, from Lieutenant to Lieutenant-General. For the
Gallipoli Campaign itself, this is not relevant.
what to say about this book?
Don’t read the introductory part : it is only an offence to people who
try to produce and interpret historical material in a decent way.
Don’t buy this publication for the quality of its printing, which hardly
surpasses that of a photocopy, nor for some clarifying maps or pictures,
of which there are none at all. The book is not exactly cheap (+/- US$
20), but certainly looks and feels that way.
Enjoy the diary part. Here you will find the voice of a Turkish officer,
speaking his mind in 1915, taking down notes about occurrences in the
trenches which he thought were not to be forgotten. In the first place not
by himself, and as it turned out, not by future generations either. For
the details it contains about daily life behind the Turkish lines, this
diary is indeed pretty interesting.
for the way this material was handled by the publisher(s), that is a
completely different matter. On the backside of the title page, one can
read : “All rights reserved. Unauthorised duplication contravenes
wondering how Murat Çulcu
feels about this.
Ref : GALLIPOLI 1915 - BLOODY RIDGE DIARY of Lt. Mehmed Fasih 5th Imperial Ottoman Army Gallipoli 1915
Denizler Kitabevi - Istanbul 2001 - ISBN 975-391-034-7, 210pp
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