The Independence War

BEFORE THE WAR OF INDEPENDENCE

(NOTE: The following text was mainly borrowed from Lord Kinross’ book “Ataturk The Birth of A Nation” Since book is under Copyright  the text intentionally omits  many parts of Lord Kinross’ writings on this subject and the text is only for reference purposes. Lord Kinross’ complete writings may be foundhere)

The second proposed a basis for the discussion of peace terms at London of which the first provision would be a Greek evacuation of Anatolia. The Greeks accepted the armistice and expressed no views on the peace terms. The Turks accepted the armistice, but only on condition that the Greek withdrawal should follow it immediately, regardless of peace discussions. The Allies rejected this condition.

Passing through Paris on his way home to Angora, Yusuf Kemal eplained to Poincaré that if a single Greek soldier remained on Turkish oil the Gazi risked being hanged before the Assembly’s doors — at which Poincaré seemed suitably impressed. On Yusuf’s arrival in Angora, Kemal remarked to him, ‘So you’ll have what you wanted.’ As on his return from Russia, a year earlier, his report on the negotiations was in effect to give Kemal the all-clear for an offensive.

In reaching this decision, he was prompted by the conviction that it could be fatal to accept anything short of the National Pact. He had little faith in the British, far less in Lloyd George, hence no guarantee that the evacuation would in fact take place. As to the proposed peace terms, they ‘ere still linked, if in a greatly modified form, to the Treaty of Sèvres a total rejection of whose very name was a fundamental article of the faith.

Thus the four months that might have been devoted to the evacuation here in fact devoted to a further period of watching and waiting by the two armies, while the snows melted in the mountains, the crops sprouted c the plateau, and the sun hardened the ground to a point at which a 1ccessful advance of the Nationalists became a practicable venture.

PREPARATIONS FOR BATTLE

KEMAL, during these months, had been faced with the task of stiffening his own home front. His intransigence in face of the peace offer had not been wholly popular. In Angora there was an element ready enough to accept peace at any reasonable price, even if it fell short of the National Pact. There was a disposition to trust the Allies, to contend that a settlement was possible without further bloodshed. Let the army stand on its present line and seek the national aims by negotiation.

Kemal was mainly concerned with the effects of such an attitude on the army itself. He thus toured the front to boost morale, and found some of his fears confirmed. On announcing to one of his army corps commanders that he had rejected the armistice proposals, he received the reply, ‘How could you do that? To refuse s proposals was wrong.’ In the course of his tour he encountered the view that, since the Allies had clearly abandoned the Treaty of Sèvres, there was no reason to endure new and questionable sacrifices.

The deputies, in their ignorance of military matters, adopted a variety of attitudes. On the one hand there were the hot-heads who called for an immediate if only a partial attack. On the other, there were those who believed that the army was incapable of attacking at all, and that Kemal was merely exploiting his continued position as Commander-in-Chief to strengthen his personal hold over the nation. Kemal’s problem was that he could not, for security reasons, disclose the actual strength of the army or the extent of the arms which were coming in, mainly foreign secret sources.

In a secret session of the Assembly he tried patiently to explain to them that a half-prepared attack would be worse than no attack at all. He taunted deputies for their defeatism. There were, he stressed, two fronts: the outward and the inward, the foreign and the home. The outward front was that of the army, opposing the enemy directly. The inward front was formed by the whole nation. Neither could be shaken unless the Assembly encouraged the enemy and discouraged the army by pessimistic orations.

The Gazi’s powers as Commander-in-Chief had been renewed, with many grumbles, for two further periods of three months. But in May its renewal for a third term had been rejected by the Assembly, taking advantage of his absence through illness. The army was thus left without a leader. The Cabinet proposed to resign. But the Gazi rose from his bed and came down to the Assembly to answer his critics. After lecturing it on the way in which such bodies normally conducted their affairs in wartime, he declared that he had no intention of abandoning the army, which had been for two days without a Commander-in-Chief. The debate became heated, and there was a moment when both Kemal and one of his more irresponsible enemies, Ziya Hurshid, were seen to have hands on their revolvers. But when the question was put to the vote he was confirmed in the command.

None the less, many of Kemal’s own friends remained uneasy. They feared a drift from parliamentary government to a form of personal rule by a strong man, comparable to that which was developing in the South American republics. With this in mind they now worked on another tack to redress the balance of power. At present Kemal was not merely president of the Assembly — hence in effect head of state — but Prime Minister as well,— controlling a Cabinet of ministers who were in practice his own nominees. Though in theory the Assembly elected the ministers, in fact it accepted those candidates whom it was the presi4ent’s privilege to put forward:

Kemal could thus effectively impose his will both on the Assembly and the Cabinet. The opposition now sought to divide his responsibility. They secured the passage of an Act providing for the effective election by secret ballot not merely of the ministers but of the Prime Minister himself. This meant that Kemal not merely ceased to be his own Prime Minister but had to accept in his Government ministers who might be opposed to his views. The move had been initiated largely by Rauf who, since he had not actively joined the opposition, now became the obvious choice for Prime Minister.

At first, despite Kemal’s efforts at persuasion, he was reluctant to accept the post. Asked why, he replied frankly, ‘If I do, you will continue to interfere in my conduct of affairs. I shall be unable to accept this and find myself forced to resign. I firmly believe that you are the one person who, at the head of the armies, can save the country, and I will not be placed in a position of having to disagree with you.’

Kemal replied sincerely, ‘I give you my word of honour. Agree to become head of the Government. Form a Cabinet, and I shall not interfere in any of your decisions.’

It was a promise which Kemal faithfully kept, henceforward accepting the principle that he did not attend Cabinet meetings unless specifically invited. In fact he was invited when any major issue came up for discussion.But the Cabinet retained its separate and corporate identity.

Kemal however was still head of the Group for the Defence of Rights, which formed the majority in the Assembly. Here too he compromised.

He brought Ali Fuad back from Moscow, where an ambassador of his status was no longer needed, and made him its active president, while remaining its supposedly neutral patron. The differences between them had never been personal, and now Fuad stayed with him at Chankaya, where the two old friends sat up together at nights over the raki, talking of the problems that had developed at home in his absence and particularly of the growing divisions in the Assembly. The rift, as Au Fuad saw it, seemed likely to grow into an eventual struggle between republicans and constitutional monarchists.

Kemal recognized this, but stressed the need to postpone the issue until the war was won. The problem was, as he put it, to reconcile this phase of the political struggle with the need for authority and discipline for the final military struggle. In reply to Fuad’s contention that Kemal should elevate himself to a neutral position, mediating from above the political arena, Kemal expressed serious misgivings as to the threat from the forces of religious reaction and doubted whether any such neutrality were possible.

Meanwhile he counted on Fuad to do all he could to maintain unity on the home front. The time now approached when it would be necessary to review Kemal’s powers as Commander-in-Chief yet again. This would perhaps be the last term of renewal. For it was cleai that the final offensive was near. A Turkish success seemed assured. But to make it doubly sure, it was essential, in the eyes of Rauf and Ali Fuad, that the Commander-in-Chief law should this time pass the Assembly without such opposition as might suggest Turkish             disunity and revive the flagging hopes of the Greeks. At the same time, whole-hearted in their support for Kemal until victory was won, they were becoming concerned as to what might happen afterwards. The Gazi must be given his powers. But it must be ensured that he did not retain and exploit them once peace had been achieved.

The new Turkey must be a democratic Turkey. For the future their ambitious and victorious friend must be curbed in his dictatorial designs. They went to consult Refet, who had been living in virtual seclusion in his house at Kechiören, a suburb of Angora, since the dispute with Kemal which had led to his retirement from the Ministry of Defence. He echoed their views, and Rauf proposed that the three friends should put them frankly before Kemal.

Refet agreed to invite him to a dinner at his house, which would also serve as a gesture of reconciliation. The dinner was arranged for the eve of the relevant debate in the Assembly. The house had a welcoming atmosphere, for Refet appreciated the refinements of life and knew well how to make himself comfortable. The four founders of the Revolution sat down on a hot July evening to an ample meal in a hail where a fountain played. The drink flowed. The atmosphere soon became relaxed. The conversation was free. They reminisced of old times and speculated on times to come.

Kemal spoke critically of the opposition group: ‘I know well how to carry on a fight,’ he said, ‘but this is neither the time nor place for it. And later no fight should be necessary.’

The others stressed that the majority, though they might oppose him in Parliament, trusted him personally, and believed in his success. They were only concerned with one question. After the cause had been won, what line did he mean to pursue? His future intentions were the subject of rumour. Even his supporters feared some fait accompli in terms of his personal power. Doubts on this score created divisions in the Assembly. They hoped that he would resolve them, restoring confidence and a spirit of unity.

Kemal fenced with his friends, answering their outspoken criticisms with reserve and circumspection. Touching on the new arrangements for a Cabinet with an elected Prime Minister, he repeated his assurances that he would respect Rauf’s position as such. But on the question of his own ultimate powers he was not to be drawn.

They talked and drank until daybreak, only Rauf, who was a moderate drinker, abstaining. Unfortunately, Refet, as the drink took effect, went too far. Never able, in his disrespectful way, to resist scolding and needling and teasing Kemal, he pricked at his pride with home truths about his unpopularity, dragging up faults from the past, girding at his personal life in the present. Angora — or so Refet declared — was ringing with scandals about his ‘debauches’ at the Azerbaijan Embassy; his reputed affair with a diplomat’s wife; the seduction, with Arif’s connivance, of an innocent nurse at the front; the installation at Chankaya of a barber’s boy, picked up during a visit to Izmit. Kemal stiffened as he drank. His eyes gleamed pale with resentment.

Rauf and Ali Fuad tried to soothe him, to laugh off Refet’s indiscreet charges. But on the issue of the future they had no intention of sparing him. They urged that, when the war was over and his main duty done, he should retire from the fray and accept an elevated presidential status, acting as an arbiter and consultant and letting others run the country on democratic lines. Good-humouredly enough, they promised that they would obtain for him a handsome grant from the Assembly, and even produced for him the design of a projected medal, which they would have cast for himself alone as a reward for his salvation of the country.

Kemal brushed this lightly aside, but reassured them: ‘Don’t worry. I shall consider your advice. I shall make a statement to calm all this fuss about myself and the country’s future.’

His friends expressed satisfaction. Kemal drank to their health. ‘Friends,’ he said, ‘it is morning. I think I’ve pleased all of you. Now let’s go home and rest for a while before we get down to business.’

Refet showed them to the door. Dropping Rauf at his house, Kemal and Mi Fuad drove up to Chankaya. Fuad slept for a few hours. Kemal took a hot bath, shaved and dressed. Then he sat down to work on his speech. Fuad appeared in time for luncheon, to find the Gazi, in full field-marshal’s uniform, standing in a habitual pose, erect with one hand behind his back. His hair was sprucely combed, his eyes were clear, and he showed no trace of fatigue after his sleepless night. They ate briefly and after a quick cup of coffee went down to the Assembly, where he mounted the rostrum.

The Gazi, who normally appeared in civilian clothes, cut an impressive figure in his uniform. He spoke of the Commander-in-Chief, Parliament in the world would grant such authority to a single person, except on two conditions — that the situation was exceptional and that the person was above all suspicion.

The Assembly had shown great trust in him, for which he expressed gratitude. But the time had now come when it was no longer necessary to maintain these extraordinary powers. The moral and material forces of the army had reached such a degree of perfection that the national effort could be realized without them. He continued:

Then I, like the rest of you, will only be an individual in the nation, and, of course, this will be, for me, the greatest happiness. When that day comes, gentlemen, I shall have two kinds of happiness. The second will be that I shall then be able to withdraw to my former post — the post I had three years ago before we began our sacred fight. (Cheers) Indeed, there is no happiness comparable to that of being a free individual in the bosom of the nation. For those who realize this truth, and for those who have moral and sacred joys within their souls and their conscience rank, however high, has no value whatsoever.

Disarmed by his tactics, dissolved by his rhetoric, the deputies forgot their misgivings. Had the Gazi not offered to renounce his privileges? Had he not made it clear that, when victory was won, he would become once more a private citizen, dependent on the nation’s will? What greatness, what nobility of character! They reinvested him with the powers of Commander-in-Chief. But this time they imposed no time limit. He was to retain them, subject only to the Assembly’s right to withdraw them, until the national aims had been finally realized. Kemal stepped down from the rostrum well satisfied with his night’s vigil and his afternoon’s work.

The Turkish offensive could not now be long delayed. It was in fact hastened by a last desperate gamble on the part of the Greeks. Foiled in their designs on Angora, Gounaris and Constantine now switched their attention to Constantinople. They swiftly removed two divisions from Asia Minor and transferred them across the Sea of Marmara to reinforce their troops in Thrace. With a strong force thus threatening the lines of Chatalja, they demanded the permission of the Allies to enter Constantinople.

By this threat they sought to put pressure on the Allies, who were once again contemplating peace discussions this time at Venice — to resolve the conflict in their favour, or at least to save their faces. Constantinople was now so lightly held that the Allied troops had been compared to the ‘jam in a sandwich’, of which the Greeks on the one side and the Turks on the other represented thick slices of bread. An entry into the city would be a simple enough operation. It would restore the prestige in Greece of Constantine’s régime, revive the confidence of his army, and provide him with a valuable bargaining asset.

‘It is quite possible,’ as Churchill afterwards analyzed the move, ‘that under cover of a temporary Greek occupation of Constantinople with Allied approval, the escape of the Greek armies from Asia Minor might have been honorably and comparatively painlessly merged in negotiations for peace. . . . At least it could be argued against the Allies that if they would not help the Greeks in their military operations they ought not to hamper them; and if on general grounds they felt compelled to hamper, they ought at least loyally and actively to help them to their ships.’

Thus once again, as in the Balkan War ten years before, all eyes in Constantinople were turned anxiously towards the Chatalja Lines. Harington entrusted their defense to a French general, with French and British troops which at once started to entrench. He issued a statement, on his own responsi bility, that the troops of both powers would combine to resist any attack on the occupation forces. Rumbold returned hurriedly from leave and an Allied meeting at the British Embassy confirmed this. British warships made a demonstration in the Marmara. The Greeks withdrew a short distance, but continued to land troops. Lloyd George upheld the decision, and the Greeks agreed to advance no further without Allied approval. The British warships turned to the more peaceable pastime of holding their annual regatta. The Greeks had lost their last chance. Moreover, in taking it they had weakened their defences on the Anatolian front.

Lloyd George, however, in his incorrigible philhellenism, elected to give them a final gleam of hope. ‘In the dying hours,’ as The Times put it, ’of a weary session of the House of Commons,’ he made a speech which could only be interpreted by both sides as an encouragement to the Greeks still to seek a decision by force. The Prime Minister permitted himself a eulogy on the gallant Greek army in their ‘daring and reckless military enterprise’. They had been compelled to ‘march through impenetrable defiles hundreds of miles into the country’. They had established their military superiority in every pitched battle. They had been beaten only by the conformation of the country and by the long lines of communication ‘which no other army in Europe would ever have dreamed of taking the risk of allowing’.

Then he said, with apparent significance, ‘Peace the Kemalists will not accept, because they say we will not give them satisfactory armistice terms; but we are not allowing the Greeks to wage the war with their full strength. We cannot allow that sort of thing to go on indefinitely in the hope that the Kemalists entertain that they will at last exhaust this little country, whose men have been in arms for ten or twelve years with one war after another, and which has not indefinite resources.’

The speech was received with enthusiasm throughout Greece. The news papers headlined its more laudatory passages. Extracts from it were published in an Order of the Day to the Greek forces, who became filled with a new hope that the British would, at this eleventh hour, help them to defeat the enemy. The stratagem of the threat to Constantinople had surely achieved its object. There was no more talk of peace.

All these events favored Kemal’s plans. As soon as he got wind of the Greek troop movements he decided to put forward the date of his offensive. For the transfer to Thrace would equalize the Turkish and Greek forces in Anatolia. Now was the moment to strike. He had sent Fethi, his Minister of the Interior, to Rome, Paris and London, on the off-chance of a peace still in terms of a Greek evacuation; otherwise as an emissary for the peace which must follow a victory. Then he left for the headquarters of the western front at Akshehir.

WHILE THE ALLIED High Commissioners in Constantinople were discussing the Greek threat to the city, Kemal and his General Staff were watching a football match at Akshehir. This was the security cover he had chosen for a secret staff conference, to settle the date and the final arrangements for the Turkish offensive against Smyrna. The plan of campaign had been drawn up in secrecy nine months before, between Kemal, Fevzi and Ismet.

Fevzi now explained it on a map. Then Kemal asked his generals for their opinion. Several were critical, less of the plan itself than of the timing of its execution. Ismet, irresolute as ever, was not convinced that it could lead at this moment to a decisive victory. He favoured a sound policy of defence, with the object of wearing down the Greeks. If there were to be an attack, then he wanted more time to complete preparations.

The defensive psychology had become deeply engrained. Others echoed Ismet’s doubts. Now that there was an army in being, they shrank from the risk of losing it. It was not, they maintained, really ready. The Second Army commander, who had been one of Kemal’s instructors at the War School, protested that the country’s very existence would be jeopardized by this risking of a force which was all it possessed. Kemal, enquiring of Fevzi whether it was in fact all, and receiving a positive reply, turned to him and said, ‘All right, my dear instructor. We are not playing the war game at Harbiye now. We shall throw all into the effort of securing a definite result for the country.’

Though he had gone through the motions of consulting the generals, Kemal’s mind was already made up. With that extra dimension, which his lesser commanders lacked, of decisiveness, flair, political judgement and psychological knowledge of his enemy, he was as confident of victory as it was prudent to be. He ordered that the armies should be ready for the offensive by the middle of August. Ismet rose to his feet, stood at attention and, speaking as the commander of the front on behalf of the rest, said,

‘You wanted to know our opinion. We expressed it freely. But if what you have told us is an order, we shall obey it.’

Kemal returned to Angora, where he had the Cabinet — to say nothing of the Opposition — to deal with. He informed the ministers of his decision and of his belief in success. Fevzi considered that there was an eighty per cent chance of it — allowing twenty per cent. for the hazards of war. The two Opposition ministers became less pessimistic. The Cabinet agreed to the attack. There remained the Opposition itself, whose propaganda implied that the troops were demoralized and incapable of action. This, as Kemal admitted to Au Fuad, had its advantages, since it put the enemy off the scent as to the imminence of an attack. But he took steps to reassure those whose influence counted.

As a modern security-minded officer, Kemal fully appreciated the need for secrecy concerning the date of the attack. For the success of his strate gical plan depended essentially on surprise. Only a few people knew of his departure for the front, and they were instructed to talk and behave as though he were still in Angora. Ali Fuad was to pretend to the deputies that he had dined with him that night. Rumours were assiduously spread among the agents of the foreigners that the army was not yet ready for an offensive. At Chankaya the sentries were instructed to admit no one:  the Gazi was busy. When he was already at his headquarters in the field, it was announced in the press that he was giving a reception next day at Chankaya.

Saying goodbye to his mother he said, as he kissed her hand, that he was going to a tea-party. She looked at his field dress and boots and said, ‘This uniform is not for a tea-party.’ He soothed her and left. Later she rang the area commander to ask where he was, and was again told, ‘He has gone to a tea-party.’

‘No,’ she replied. ‘I know. He has gone to the war.’ She sent him a note:

My Son, I waited for you. You did not come back. You told me that you were going to a tea-party. But I know that you have gone to the front. Know that I pray for you, and do not come back before the war is won.

That night he supped with a few of his henchmen in a suburb of Angora. He drank freely, in anticipation of the relative abstinence which was his rule at the front. As he said goodbye, with his hands around their shoulders, he remarked, ‘I’m going straight away to the front, to start the offensive.’Taken aback, one of them asked him, ‘Pasha’m, what if you don’t succeed?’

‘What do you mean? Within fourteen days of the start I shall have destroyed the Greeks and thrown them into the sea.’

FINAL VICTORY

Instead of taking the train, he drove by car through the night across the salt desert to Konya. There he took over the telegraph office so that his arrival should not be announced. Fethi had telegraphed from London that Lord Curzon had refused to see him. The moment had come for the offen sive. Kemal moved from Konya to Akshehir, where he was soon giving final orders to his two army commanders.

The Greek front stretched over some three hundred miles from the Sea of Marmara to the Menderes valley. Its strong points were at Eskishehir in the north, and at Afyon in the south. The forces on either side were roughly equal, with a slight Greek advantage in arms and a slight Turkish advantage in cavalry. The Greeks expected the attack to come against Eskishehir, in the north, where the Turks had large concentrations, and where Intelligence sources — which included the British employees of the liquorice industry — reported lively activity. Kemal encouraged them in this expectation, but in fact planned to attack in the south, against Afyon, since it commanded the direct supply line by the railway to Smyrna. This was the stronger defensive position, moreover so fortified that British engineers judged it impregnable and likely to prove ‘the Turkish Verdun’. But to Kemal it had the greater strategic importance. He thus laid plans for its reduction.

The keynote of his plan was surprise, first strategical then tactical. Profiting by the methods of his enemy, Allenby, in the Palestine campaign, Kemal withdrew the necessary forces from north to south over a period of a month and with the greatest possible secrecy. All troop movements were made at night, while the men rested by day in the villages and under the shade of trees, invisible to air reconnaissance. Where roads had to be made they were made also in the inessential areas, to mislead the enemy further. Mean while, though only a small force remained before Eskishehir, camp fires were lit at night to suggest a concentration of several divisions, and dust raised on the roads by day to suggest troops moving north to reinforce them. Thus he sought to achieve strategical surprise.

His objective was to turn the Greek right flank. This was concentrated over a front of some fifty miles, around the town of Afyon Karahisar and the supporting region of Dumlupinar, facing in two directions, east and south. To the south it was defended by an irregular range of mountains, rising dramatically to a height of two thousand’feet from the plain. It was this bastion of nature that Kemal, in pursuit of tactical surprise, proposed to attack with his First Army, its main force of infantry and artillery sup porting a secondary thrust from the east. His cavalry would then sweep westwards to cut the retreat of the Greek armies with a swift enveloping movement, such as Allenby had employed against the Turkish armies in Palestine.

To confuse the enemy, he ordered a northward feint attack towards Brusa on his right flank and a southward cavalry move towards Aydin, in the Menderes valley, farther to the rear. He anticipated a quick success. To a cavalry commander suggesting postponement because of a lack of fodder for his horses, he remarked, ‘In two days’ time you will have food in plenty for men and horses alike.’ He had calculated the date for the attack on the basis that the grain in the Greek fields would be ripe but not yet harvested; moreover the streams would be dry, thus facilitating swiftness of movement.

On the evening of 25th August Kemal gave orders to cut all communications between Anatolia and the outside world. He had moved his head quarters up from the plain into the mountain region next to the village of Shuhud, then to a camp behind the crest of Koja Tepe. His troops had marched up by night into position on the slopes, often as close to the enemy as a few hundred yards, taking cover and camouflaging themselves against air observation by day. As zero hour approached Kemal issued a battle order to the troops which had been drafted by Ismet. It read: ‘Soldiers, your goal is the Mediterranean.’ The first major offensive of a nation committed, for twelve years past, to defence, was about to begin.’

In the hour before dawn on 26th August, the Gazi rode slowly up the dark rounded hill of Koja Tepe, from which he was to direct the battle. A file of soldiers with lanterns lit the way, as they were lighting it for the horses and pack animals on the slopes around. He was silent and evidently wrapped in thought. Continually he looked eastwards towards the horizon, where presently a slight red glow announced the rising of the sun above the Anatolian plateau. Then with a thunderous roar the artillery barrage began — and the Greeks woke up. Many of them had been out at a dance in Afyon until an hour or so earlier.

Kemal had ordered that all generals should direct their troops from the front line. Now, with Fevzi and Ismet, he surveyed from his hilltop the first line of the general attack which was developing a mile or so off. A broad irregular amphitheatre of other hilltops, steeper and rockier, straggled in echelon across the horizon before them. Each was fortified by the Greeks. Each was the objective of a Turkish division, to be stormed in an uphill attack until the summit was reached. The fighting was bloody but brief. All but two of these objectives were in Turkish hands by 9.30 in the morning. The surprise was complete. The Greeks had no inkling of the presence of those forces which had crept up on them overnight under cover of the opposite slopes. Air reconnaissance had shown a mere three Turkish divi sions, easy enough to contain. Instead, here was a force that overwhelmed them by a local superiority of three to one.

Some time moreover elapsed before they grasped that this was the main attack. Expecting it to come from the east, they kept a strong force here in the plain to meet what proved only to be a holding attack. By the time their mistake became clear the battle was already as good as lost. For in the meantime the Turkish cavalry had swept round to. their rear, harrying them from the west and cutting the railway to Smyrna at a point to be known henceforward by the name of Yi.ldirim Kemal — appropriately enough, since this was indeed at last a ‘lightning’ offensive.

At two key points only, one on the left flank and the other on the right, did the Turks meet with an effective resistance and thus fail at first to take their objectives. At Chigil Tepe, on the left, the young officer in command committed suicide on account of his failure to do so. Kemal, ruthless in the heat of the battle, cursed him for dying in vain. His unit had in fact done what he had expected of it, and the position was captured later in the day. It was not until the evening that he relented so far as to remark, ‘What a pity for this child!’

On the right was an equally formidable strong-point, a precipitous slope on which the Greeks, fighting fiercely, repulsed several Turkish assaults. Then Kemal, with the army corps commander, Kemal-ed-Djn Sami — a man nicknamed in the army ‘the Lightning Conductor’ from his propensity to draw the enemy’s fire — appeared on the scene. ‘I’d sooner see the sky fall than the Greeks win,’ he said. He harangued the front-line troops. He called for volunteers, but only for men who wanted to die. Every man came forward. Then, know as he did the psychology of the Turkish soldier, he taunted and cursed them for their cowardice. They were unworthy of their wives, who should have the right to divorce them.

Bewildered and furious they asked why? Had they not volunteered to die? Having thus summoned up their blood to boiling-point, he ordered them over the barbed wire and up the slope. The Greek fire mowed them down. Soon there were pyramids of Turkish dead before the wire and the earth was red with blood, lying in pools on the hard ground. But more came on, clambering over the bodies of their comrades. Kemal-ed-Din Sami looked away, overwhelmed by the spectacle of slaughter and bloodshed. Then he heard an Imam chanting from the top of the rock, and knew that the position was captured.

Thus the first line of defence of the Greeks was no more, its hillsides criss-crossed with abandoned fortifications like a huddle of giant deserted ant-heaps. They had barely time to man their second and third lines of defence beyond the hills, which fell as quickly to the Turks. During the next two days the main Turkish forces soon reached the road through the valley before Dumlupinar, which led down towards Smyrna, while the cavalry and mobile infantry, now covering up to thirty-five miles a day, wheeled round even farther to the west of them in an endeavour to close the line of retreat. The holding force from the east now moved forward to aid in the pursuit, capturing Afyon itself, which the Greeks had been forced to evacuate with barely a shot fired.

Here, in the municipal building beneath Afyon’s ‘Karahisar’, the black fortress perched on its towering rock, Kemal now installed his headquarters, resuming telegraphic contact once more with the whole of his force and the rest of the country. Here Halide Edib — whom with a touch of superstition he had summoned back to his side as a kind of female mascot — first saw him gesticulating and poring over a map with Fevzi by the light of two lamps. As he came to greet her he had, to her eyes, so exalted and radiant a look that he seemed to be ‘blinking at a hundred suns all rising over his head. The ring of his voice and the shake of the hand made you feel his excitement— the man with the will-power which is like a self-fed machine of perpetual motion.’ To her congratulations he responded with a mighty chuckle, like the purr of a royal tiger. ‘Yes, we are doing it at last.’

Fevzi was patting his own right shoulder, as in moments of satisfaction, and sucking his teeth. Ismet was himself. There was an excess of cordiality. Halide, recalling the hard times, was touched by Kemal’s exuberant joy: ‘After you take Smyrna, Pasha, you will rest, you have struggled so hard.’

‘Rest? What rest? After the Greeks, we will fight each other, we will eat each other.’

‘Why should we?’ she said. ‘There will be an enormous amount to do in the way of reconstruction.’

‘What about the men who have opposed me?’

‘Well, it was natural in a National Assembly.’

He spoke in a bantering tone, making fun of her feminine squeamishness; but there was a revengeful look in his eye as he mentioned two of his political enemies. ‘I will have those lynched by the people. No, we will not rest, we will kill each other. . . . When the struggle ends it will be dull; we must find some other excitement, Hanum Effendi.’

On the morning of 30th August he moved his headquarters forward to the region of Dumlupinar. Here the bulk of the Greek forces, endeavoring to retreat, were contained in a wide oval basin by a ridge of scrubby hills whence the Second Army was converging to join the First; by the broad mountain of Murad Dag, to the west, which no force could surmount; and by the troops of the First Army closing in from the east and south, to draw the noose tighter around them. But for a single escape route down the road to the west, through the long narrow valley of Kizilcidere, the Greeks were surrounded.

That day, four days after the initial attack, half their army was annihilated or taken prisoner, with the loss of all its war material. A large column of troops, including the Greek army corps commander, General Tricoupis, and his staff, found itself trapped in the valley between two Turkish divisions at its entrance and a third which had moved swiftly ahead to block its exit. The scene of the consequent slaughter looked to Halide afterwards ‘like a disordered dream. . . . Forsaken batteries glistened in the sun; rifles and ammunition in huge piles, endless material of all descriptions lay huddled in a great mass all over the valley. And amidst it all corpses of men and animals — lay as they had fallen.’

The other half of the Greek army was in headlong flight to the coast, out of range of its pursuers, a fighting force no longer, burning villages and crops, slaughtering men, women and children as it fled. For this, according to the Greek soldiers’ orders, was a ‘war of extermination’.

Such was the victory which, lest the credit for it be disputed between Kemal and Nur-ed-Din Pasha, his ambitious First Army commander was dubbed by Ismet ‘The Battle of the Generalissimo’.’ It was the fruit of meticulous planning and a masterly concept of strategical and tactical sur prise. The ‘Verdun’ of the Greeks had crumbled before an overwhelming force, directed unexpectedly at a single point, and to a swift exploitation of its undefended flank.

In a ruined village by the battlefield, Kemal’s tent was pitched on the roof of a stable. The peasant women gathered around, staring at him, begging him to avenge the sufferings which they had endured at the hands of the Greeks. His exuberance turned to a mood of depression. He came down to sit silently on a chair by the roadside, watching the droves of Greek prisoners as they filed back, dusty and ragged and bloodstained. The scene of devastation shocked him, inured though he was to the carnage of war. To an ADC he confessed to his hatred of it, philosophizing on the failings of mankind — and those of. the Greeks in particular. Then, seeing a Greek flag lying on the ground, he ordered him to pick it up and drape it over one of the Greek guns.

Among the prisoners brought before him he recognized an officer he had known in Salonika. The prisoner, puzzled to see no, badge on his shoulder, asked him his rank. Was he now major, colonel, general, what? Kemal replied that he was marshal, Commander-in-Chief. The Greek exclaimed in Turkish, ‘Whoever heard of a Commander-in-Chief being near the front line of a battle?’ Kemal said to him jovially, ‘We are soon going to take back Salonika, and to create an autonomous Macedonia. I shall make you a commander there.’

In fact the Turkish victory owed much to deficient Greek generalship. The Commander-in-Chief, General Hajianestis, who had been appointed for political reasons, directed the battle from a yacht in the harbour of Smyrna, lying in bed or frequenting the coffee-shops ashore, alternately terrorizing his commanders and confusing them with irresponsible or unconfirmed orders. He developed signs of insanity, believing sometimes that he was dead, sometimes that his body was made of glass and that, if he rose to his feet, his legs would break. General Tricoupis had received a general order that, in the event of a Turkish attack on Afyon, he was to move south eastwards on the village of Chobanlar, with a view to outflanking and thus

Later Nur-ed-Din had visiting-cards printed with the title ‘Conqueror of Smyrna checking the enemy. But when the attack came he feared, in the absence of specific confirmation of the order, to do so. Instead he held on until forced to retreat. He tried to mount a counter-attack, but his men would not follow him. Hence his capture in the fatal valley by a Turkish cavalry squadron. Only afterwards did he learn that Hajianestis had been dismissed from his post, and that he had been appointed Commander-in-Chief in his place.

A day or so later, with a fellow army corps commander, General Dionis, he was brought to Kemal’s headquarters, which had moved forward by this time to Ushak. Here Kemal received them, standing between Fevzi and Ismet. Halide Edib describes how he did so:

As a soldier one recognized at once in him the supreme artist and the supreme sportsman. He kept the rules of his game with dignity, with tact, and with exactitude. He thought neither of the appearance nor of the misdeeds of the Greek generals. Tricoupis, especially, was the man with whom he had played a real game. Now that his military opponent was on the ground, he showed that military art and military courtesy he possessed to his fingers’ ends. He gripped General Tricoupis’s hand heartily and held it imperceptibly longer than for an ordinary handshake. ‘Sit down, General,’ he said, ‘you must be tired.’ Then he offered his cigarette case and ordered coffee.

Tricoupis was looking at him with surprise. ‘I did not know you were such a young man, General,’ he said. They sat down around the table, Kemal fixing him with his pale steely gaze. He was eager to talk about the battle. The conversation began, through an interpreter, in Greek, but con tinued in halting French. Kemal asked Tricoupis, as one soldier to another, why he had not foreseen that the attack was likely to take the course it did. Tricoupis confessed that he had been taken by surprise. He was impressed to hear that Kemal had conducted the campaign from the front line itself. He pointed out his own difficulties to Kemal, sounding to Halide’s ears ‘like an amateur speaking to a professional’: his absentee Commander-in- Chief, who knew little of the situation; the refusal of his commanders to obey him; the break in the Greek communications, thanks to the Turkish cavalry, who cut the telephone lines and destroyed the transport; the political squabbles between Venizelists and Constantinists, destroying cohesion and discipline.

They talked of tactics. Why, Kemal asked, had he not done this or that? Tricoupis spoke of his proposed move on Chobanlar, in defence of Afyon. Kemal explained just how he would have countered it. He had allowed in his calculations for every potential move of his enemy. The two Greek generals started to dispute with each other. The Turks looked a trifle contemptuous at this lack of decorum, this contrast between highly strung Greek volubility and Turkish restraint. Finally Kemal asked Tricoupis if there were anything he could do for him. The general asked that his wife, who was on the island of Prinkipo off Constantinople, should be told of his capture.

Kemal gave the promise, gripped and held Tricoupis’s hand, and said sincerely but with a twinkle in his cold blue eyes, ‘War is a game of chance, General. The very best is sometimes worsted. You have done your best as a soldier and as an honourable man; the responsibility rests with chance. Do not be distressed.’

But Tricoupis made a theatrical gesture. ‘Oh, General,’ he exclaimed, ‘I have not done the last thing I ought to have done.’ He had not had the courage to commit suicide. At this emotional outburst Kemal narrowed his eyes and gave him a cynical look. ‘That,’ he said tersely, ‘is a thing which concerns you personally.’

Two months later Hajianestis was impeached and executed, together with Gounaris and four of his Cabinet ministers, by a Greek revolutionary tribunal. Many years later Tricoupis confessed to the view that the campaign in Anatolia, where the Greeks had no real interests of their own as distinct from those of the European powers, had been a disastrous mistake for his country.

In Angora and Constantinople little was known of the progress of the battle until it was virtually won. Kemal, still intent on security, issued only brief daily communiqués, which announced a series of forward movements without revealing their scale. ‘Our object,’ he explained, ‘was to conceal the situation as much as possible from the eyes of the world.’ And indeed, ten days from the start of the battle, Rauf had to seek instructions from Kemal on an Allied note, carrying a stage further the old negotiations for an armistice. Kemal was able to reply that the question of Anatolia no longer arose, and that he was prepared to discuss an armistice only in relation to that of Thrace.

Angora, closer to the situation than Constantinople, did indeed get some inkling from the communiqués as to the true nature of the advance. When it was realized that operations had started, anxious crowds moved to and fro between the Ministry of War and the Assembly, seeking news and speculating on the laconic reports which were read out to the deputies in secret session. On the second day, when the battle had been virtually won, there was no communiqué. Then, belatedly, came the news of the capture of Afyon. It drew great crowds into the streets, demonstrating for the Gazi and the army and the Turkish people, firing joyful salvoes into the air. From then onwards Angora felt that all would be well. When the news of the triumphant capture of Smyrna was sure, the black flag was removed from the rostrum of the Grand National Assembly. (Brusa itself, for which it was a token of mourning, was to be liberated on the same day as Smyrna.)

But Kemal still had his enemies, one of whom grumbled, ‘Why all this fuss? The Allies would have given us Smyrna anyhow.’

Constantinople was less confident of the outcome. Talk was still of an armistice, of a conference in Venice. Eyes were still on the Greek troops threatening the city from the lines of Chataija. There was a general atmosphere of doubt and defeatism. To many the Anatolian offensive seemed a foolhardy enterprise. News of it came only from the Greek communiqués, which belittled the Turkish successes and hinted at a Turkish retreat. The Greeks drank champagne in the clubs of the city, to the destruction of Mustafa Kemal. A rumour got around that he was taken prisoner. There were long Turkish faces in the streets and on the boats taking the commuters each evening to their homes across the water.

When the first authentic news of the Turkish successes came through, the newspapers printed it guardedly for fear they would not be believed. Then the day came when it was evident that the truth far exceeded their most optimistic reports. It was not Kemal but the Greek general who had been captured. The Greek armies were defeated and in full retreat. Falih Rifki, the journalist, was laughing that night on the boat back to Prinkipos sharing with a friend the good news which could not be released till the morning. Used to his anxious expression, the Greeks looked at him oddly and with an evident twinge of foreboding. ‘Let’s pretend we are defeated,’ his friend said, ‘and that the Gazi is a prisoner in Ushak.’ But their smiles could not be disguised. Next day, when the news was printed in triumphant headlines, the crowd beforc the newspaper offices was such that it blocked the doors and the papers had to be thrown from the windows.

In Smyrna, right up to the last moment, the Levantines clung to the belief that a conference would solve the problem, that the Allied warships, reassuringly anchored in the gulf, would prevent the Turks from entering the city. And even if they came, surely business would carry on as it had done before they went, with all Anatolia opened up to trade. The export season approached; the warehouses were ifihing up with raisins and figs; the sacks were being sewn up, the packing-cases closed; the merchant ships from Italy, Germany, Holland, were standing by to take on board their autumn cargoes.

It took much to shake this mood of false optimism. But doubts began to creep in. The radio bulletins from the Allied warships, pinned on the board of the Cercie Européen, brought increasingly ominous news. A Greek hospital ship dropped anchor in the harbor. The wounded and the refugees began to trickle into the city, with lurid tales of bloodshed. The merchants in the coffee shops exchanged rumors from the interior, debated anxiously whether they could meet their commitments, whether the Turks, if they arrived, would requisition all stocks.

Then suddenly the Bourse was at a standstill. No more waggon-loads of raisins and figs came from the interior. The merchant ships sailed hurriedly away, with empty holds. Distractions continued. There were dIners-dansants in the moonlight, on the terrace of the Hotel Naim; at the Sporting Club an Italian opera troupe played Traviata and Rigoletto: the guitarists sang in the cafés until curfew, while the waiters brought sorbets and replenished the narghiles with charcoal. But beneath it all was a sense of deep foreboding.

The retreat lasted a week. The Turkish forces hurried on towards the city, striving to overtake the Greeks before they could decimate all western Anatolia ‘by fire and sword’. The cavalry followed close on the enemy’s heels; the infantry, geared over the two hundred miles of winding roads between the plateau and the sea to the pace of its ox-carts and mule trains, moved more slowly. In three days its main body contrived to march a hundred miles. But it still failed to catch up with the enemy. Already most of the towns in its path were in ruins. One third of Ushak no longer existed. Alashehir was no more than a dark scorched cavity, defacing the hillside. Village after village had been reduced to an ash-heap. Out of the eighteen thousand buildings in the historic holy city of Manisa, only five hundred remained.

Everywhere the Greek troops, especially those from Anatolia, revenging themselves in desperation and in obedience to orders for generations of Ottoman oppression and persecution, carried off Christian families that their quarters too might be burned and not a roof left for the advancing Turks. They tore up the railway between Smyrna and Aydin. They pillaged and destroyed and raped and butchered. ‘They went to pieces altogether,’ as Rumbold recounted to Curzon on the basis of reports from his consul in Smyrna. it was ‘a sickening record of bestiality and barbarity’. There was little, he added, to choose between the two races, Greek and Turk. Per meating the atmosphere, as the Turks advanced down the valleys, was the stench of unburied bodies, of charred human and animal flesh.

Kem moved his headquarters swiftly forward in the wake of his army — from Ushak to Salihli, to Nif, on the hills above Smyrna. At Salihli he made his military dispositions in case of a final Greek stand before the city itself. But a personal telegram arrived from the Allied powers, relayed through the French cruiser Edgar Quinet in the harbour of Smyrna. They had instructed their consuls to negotiate with a view to handing over the city to the Turkish army, and asked him to fix a time and place for a meeting. They added a hope that he would protect the Christian population.

Kemal thumped on the table. ‘Whose city are they giving to whom?’ he enquired. But he now knew that the fight was over, the victory won. He knew also that, from now onwards, the Allies would have to deal with him in person. He replied that he would be ready to receive them at Nif, on 9th September.

Someone brought and read him extracts from an English newspaper. ‘Poor Lloyd George!’ he exclaimed. ‘What’s going to happen to him tomorrow? He’ll be destroyed.’ Already the Greek women, borne away from their villages, were crying prophetic maledictions: ‘Bad times for George!’

Punctually Kemal arrived at Nif. His car was at once surrounded by peasants. He took off his goggles and lit a cigarette. As he did so a man walked slowly towards him, looked him in the eye, took a crumpled photo graph from his pocket, scrutinized it, and looked at him again. ‘It’s you,’ he exclaimed. He turned to the crowd and said, ‘This is the Gazi, Mustafa Kemal.’ He entered the headquarters prepared for him, contemptuously ignoring a portrait of Venizelos which still hung on the wall. There was no sign of the foreign consuls. His message, relayed through Angora and Constantinople, had not reached them in time. Already his advance guard was entering Smyrna. The Turkish army had fulfilled his orders. It had reached the Mediterranean. Next day Kemal would follow his army into the city. That evening, at Nif soon to be renamed Kemalpasha — he was relaxed and gay.

‘What’s this?’ he exclaimed. ‘We’ve taken Smyrna today. Are we going to be so quiet? At least let us sing.’

A drink was brought to him. He refused it. Drink and duty, he declared, did not go together. He had not had a drink since the attack began, and would not have another till the goal was reached. Stimulated only by coffee, he and his officers sang together around the table, beneath the portrait of Venizelos, to celebrate their victory.

He had won it in fifteen days. When he eventually returned to Angora he apologized to his friends: ‘Forgive me. One can sometimes make mathematical errors. I was one day out in my estimate.’

 

 

 

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