#33: Ataturk offers a ride (1919)

In June, 1919, the British decided to withdraw their soldiers, several score in number, from Merzifon but they were kind enough to send Colonel Anderson from Headquarters in Constantinople to inform us of their decision. The message produced consternation in our group. It was felt that such British withdrawal would lead to serious disturbances in our city and region and my associates requested me to make a special trip to Constantinople to secure a reversal of the British military order if possible. A small British detachment had been overpowered by a brigand band on our road to Samsoun and had surrendered a few days before, and Colonel Anderson and the Captain commanding the detachment in Merzifon took 28 Hindoo soldiers as a guard, with a full supply of bandages and weapons, including a machine gun or two, and we set out, with three Near East Relief trucks for transport. Before we reached Cavsa, 18 miles away, our watering place with its famous hot spring, we came to a small stream, the bridge over which was broken down, while the swollen waters were too deep for the trucks to ford. So we left the soldiers and equipment to camp there over night, and I walked with the two British officers into the town. An odd situation for a mere missionary and American College educator in a foreign field!

A Turkish general by the name of Mustapha Kemal Pasha, whose name was little known then but was to become famous afterward, was stopping in Cavsa just then, and we three men called on him that June evening. We understood that he might have been taken by the British in Constantinople and sent to Malta like many others, but he had slipped through their fingers, escaped into the interior, and was trying to start a new movement. The British officers conversed with him in French, and I in Turkish. Turkish military officers had visited and called on me almost daily along the years and I knew them as a class quite intimately. He offered us the use of his automobile for our trip to Samsoun the next day and my companion Britishers accepted his courtesy. Their comments afterward on Mustapha Kemal Pasha, later to become the "Ghazi", the "Conqueror", and Ataturk, on his intended enterprise, and the whole situation in Turkey were exceedingly interesting. That was the only occasion when I met the strong commander, who then hardly seemed to have even one soldier in his service. The facts and the prospects were not realized until long afterwards. However, the next morning at sunrise I saw a band of about twenty horsemen come riding into town at a smart gallop with a well-set-up young officer at their head, and I naturally suspected some Christian village had been raided during the night, though there was no avowed "war" then.

NEXT: Hostile supervision (1920-1921)