With the conquered Turk
8. Back to the Hunt 153
9. A Rogue Hound 162
10. Still a Rogue 185
11. Still Shirking 208
12. A Couple and a Half 238
13. To a New Country 259
14. The Run of the Season 281
15. Back Home 306
BACK TO THE HUNT
THERE is an expression in American slang, which is eloquently descriptive of personal satisfaction. As the Centurion stepped out of his araba and entered the Pera Palace Hotel on the following morning, he "felt good," as this expression has it. Barring a truculent censor and the Act of God, there was nothing between him and the realisation of the object of all his efforts. The Marmora Express lands its passengers at Galata full early in the morning. The Centurion was able, therefore, to disappear into the privacy of his room without going under the cynosure of all and sundry of the guests at the hotel. As everybody who has stayed in this institution knows, the hall porter is the personification of discretion. The Centurion had only to suggest to this functionary that he
was still to be considered as being at the front with the Turkish army, and he knew that his presence would not be disclosed.
How a message was sent to the Centurion's colleague in the capital, and how this colleague loyally placed himself at his disposal throughout the day, is not part of this narrative. It will suffice to say that all arrangements for the despatch of the messages were satisfactorily accomplished, a supply of petrol puchased and placed upon a special launch that was hired to take the Centurion back to Rodosto that evening.
It was considered expedient that the Centurion should not appear openly in the capital, as it was just possible, in the circumstances, that the General Staff might not appreciate the fact that there was direct information from the armies in the field already arrived in Pera. Constantinople itself was in a fever of excitement. Although the General Staff had issued daily bulletins to the effect that Mahmud Muktear Pasha was having big and continued
successes on the Viza front; that the Fourth and Second Corps were holding their own manfully at Lule Burgas, yet there was other and more truthful information circulating, which told of disasters in the field and hinted at the general retirement which had already taken place.
Pera is the home of rumours and even distances Shanghai in the amazing quality of its falsehoods. It was generally believed that morning, in European circles, that the Turkish Army, utterly routed and actively pursued, was stampeding for Tchataldja. Colour was given to this exaggerated statement of the situation at the front, first by the wish of Levantine circles that was father to the thought, and secondly by the clever fabrications which the Bulgarian General Staff permitted to pass as news to a privileged paper in Vienna.
From this latter source, the whole of the press of Europe was inspired with a continual story of Bulgarian heroism. In spite of the
fact that the Bulgarian successes were admirable enough in the naked narrative of truth, the world was informed of magnificent exploits by independent cavalry; of terrific carnage at the point of glistening bayonets; of tactical successes, Napoleonic in their conception and Japanese in their realisation. Before these word pictures, a truthful narrative was a tepid and unworthy lucubration.
The Bulgarian General Staff had doubtless entered the province of the news agency business with a definite object. With admirable secrecy they had veiled the conduct of their campaign in its earlier stages. They did not at this moment wish Europe to know that their much vaunted system of supply and transport had developed unexpected limitations. It was not to their advantage that Europe should realise the poignant truth of the casual remark which it will be remembered the Centurion had made to the Diplomat: "Both sides must take a breather soon." While the British Ambassador, upon information received from
the British legation at Sofia, was telling his colleagues that the Bulgarian independent cavalry had appeared athwart the line of retreat of the Turkish armies and had turned that retreat into a hopeless rout; while the privileged Vienna newspaper was telling Europe of the Turkish Sedan which had made the dry bed of the Tchorlu River run red with Ottoman blood, the Bulgarian armies, faint and exhausted, were resting on their arms, counting their losses and thanking the Christian's God that something had intervened to make the Turks evacuate the positions which they themselves were too exhausted to face again.
The launch which the Centurion hired to take him and his petrol back to Rodosto, was timed to leave the Galata wharf at seven in the evening. It was a stout little harbour tug of about sixty tons, and it was considered capable of doing the voyage to Rodosto in six or seven hours. Although the vessel flew the British flag, it was captained and manned by Greek and Italian Levantines. When the Centurion
went on board, he found that neither the skipper nor crew could speak a word of English or French. In ordinary circumstances this should not have mattered. There had, however, been an angry sunset, and it looked very much as if the tug might chance into dirty weather. These Levantine sailors are particularly weatherwise, and as the tug cast off its moorings, the sailors in a neighbouring boat gave them a peculiar send-off, which was ominous in its friendly sarcasm.
The elements of fortune enter into our daily lives in some inconceivable manner. Without worrying about the psychology of the law of chances, it is certain that there is some rule which intervenes to mend or mar all enterprise designed by human artifice. During the earlier portion of this campaign, there was a vein of misfortune that put a certain drag upon the carefully laid plans in the Centurion's campaign. To begin with, he had started the adventure weighted down with a transient malady that might well have confined
him to his bed. Once free of this malady, he was faced with the shortage of petrol on the arrival of his car. Again, on the culminating day of the battle of Lule Burgas, his henchman had failed to arrive at the tryst with his horses, and now he was to be faced with another set-back in the spin of the wheel of fortune. This is not set down as a peevish endeavour to explain away any element of failure. It is only mentioned to show how one adventurer may have to struggle against the many elements of adverse chance, while another will have the good fortune to find success through channels totally unforeseen.
The launch had not been an hour at sea when she struck one of those furious local gales, for which the Marmora is famous. Of the malady from which the Centurion suffered, stowed away in a narrow fo'c'sle bunk, there is no necessity to speak. The passing personal inconvenience of mal-de-mer is nothing in the scheme of things. What that storm meant, however, was that much of the Centurion's
energy and despatch was wasted, since the rain that fell in sheets would render the road impassable for his car between Rodosto and Tchorlu. The writer will not dwell upon the hideous sufferings in that fo'c'sle, but at one period towards midnight, the situation became so desperate that the skipper, dripping wet, made his way down to the Centurion, and shaking his head with gloomy energy, pointed suggestively to his feet. Being unable to converse with him, except in the most primitive Italian, the Centurion realised, between the paroxysms of his malady, that the captain suggested that any attempt to continue the voyage was courting destruction. On personal grounds, the Centurion was in such a state of collapse that he felt that the sinking of the craft would have been a happy release, but he had his duty to consider, and so he murmured "Courage" and turned over on his side, leaving the captain to work out the salvation of his boat as best he could. Three times between midnight and morning the skipper
came down to try and induce the Centurion to agree to a return passage to Constantinople, maintaining that in the last three hours the boat had not made more than a knot. With daylight, however, the tempest somewhat abated and by ten in the morning the tug was almost rolling her boilers loose in the open Rodosto roadstead.
A ROGUE HOUND
THE Centurion's worst fears were realised.
The hills behind Rodosto were clouded in dim mists and it was pouring rain. It was evident that it must be days before the car would be able to negotiate the road to Tchorlu. There were, too, further disappointments in store. After the usual difficulties of landing, the Centurion made his way to the house of the British Vice Consul, to learn, as he had feared, that on the previous day his most dangerous rivals had reached Rodosto in the Panhard. What was worse, the Austrian Lloyd that should have run to time, came in the same afternoon that they arrived. They had boarded her and were now safely in Constantinople in time to catch the Constanza communication. This meant that although they had missed Saturday's paper, yet they would
run equal with the Centurion and the Diplomat in the long and uncensored messages that would appear in the Monday's papers. Of such is the fortune of war.
The Centurion learned that, if that particular Austrian Lloyd boat had not run twenty-four hours late, there would not have been another boat to take the adventurers to Constantinople for at least three days. Three days in the life of war news is a very big affair. The disappointment was natural. The Centurion could not but feel at the same time some satisfaction that his close friends and colleagues had not been put in the humiliating position of having to wait days to get their messages away. They were both dear fellows and had undergone the same strenuous difficulties as himself. The Vice Consul said that the two had passed a nerve-shaking day in Rodosto. They of course knew that the Centurion was away with the news, and it was uncertain, owing to the existing state of war and its attendant difficulties at the Dardanelles,
whether the Austrian Lloyd boat would put into Rodosto at all. As the afternoon drew on and there seemed to be little chance that the boat would arrive, both the Dumpling and his companion had fallen into the depths of dejection. Then suddenly the packet appeared round the point and they were transported to the seventh Heaven of delight. Only a journalist can appreciate their feelings at this moment.
The Centurion tried to glean some information from the Vice Consul of what had happened at the front since he himself had left. The latter, however, knew nothing and said that both his visitors of the previous day had discreetly maintained an absolute silence concerning the happenings in which they had participated. There was, however, considerable evidence in the town that much disintegration had taken place in the Ottoman armies of the left wing. Rodosto had filled up in an extraordinary manner with deserters from the army. A large percentage of these were of
the Christian element, which since the revolution the Turks had admitted to military service. The craven attitude of many of these was deplorable. They were without money or food and were begging from door to door, not only for bread, but for civilian clothing, that they might shed their uniforms and thus disappear from the military ken.
Rodosto is full of Geeks and Armenians. This particular type is not over-scrupulous in its methods of making money. Brand new Mausers were purchasable for five piastres, while handfuls of ammunition were thrown gratis into the bargain. The Armenians who engaged in this traffic in arms defended their action in these transactions by claiming that they feared every moment the Turks would let the canaille of the town loose upon them; they, therefore, had no compunction in buying Turkish arms in order to defend their homes and families from the final vengeance of the Crescent. This, of course, in the majority of cases, was all eyewash. The Armenians were
not content with this one traffic; they carried their nefarious transactions into another field. They were battening on the misfortunes of the thousands of Turkish refugees dumped down upon them. They purchased for a song the live stock of these poor wretches. In spite of their nomadic traditions, the refugees were now suffering awful experiences. It had rained without intermission since the preceding night. The town being on the slope of a hillside, the streets in places had become rivulets. The mud and filth collected during the recent extraordinary conditions of life was in most places ankle deep. The rain had come in with a piercing cold wind and it was a heartrending sight to see families curled up in the slush, trying to keep their miserable bodies warm by burning the cart wheels which had brought them to the coast. Babies were cradled in slush. Women and children were drenched to the skin. The live stock that was these poor vagrants' sole worldly wealth, was sold for a trifle to the rapacious Armenians in
order that the simplest necessities of life might be forthcoming. Trust an Armenian or a Greek to miss an opportunity! They knew that they had the refugees in the hollow of their hand and they at once made a corner in bread, and no refugee could purchase this simple commodity except at extortionate rates. Is it to be wondered that the simple and slow-thinking Turk has at times risen in his wrath and exterminated in their hundreds these parasites?
It was to unhappy surroundings that the Centurion had returned. The consular corps which consisted of a group of Levantine Vice Consuls, was still obsessed with the belief that the moment the Turks finally evacuated the town, they would leave orders behind them for a general massacre. The wires which were still working to Constantinople, were kept red hot with pathetic appeals in cipher for foreign warships to be sent to save the Christian from the onslaught which was never even meditated. The Centurion did his best to allay the
fears of this cowering section of the European race. He pointed out that there was no certainty that the Turks were in such desperate straits, that they would leave the town without a garrison. The word "massacre," however, has been so seared into the brain of the Christian Levantine, that the conditions of his squalid life have only to be removed a fraction from the normal and he believes himself and his'compatriots to be in imminent danger of a violent death.
Having been interviewed by each of the Levantine representatives of the foreign powers domiciled in Rodosto, and having heartened up each in turn with the promise that they would not be massacred forthwith, the Centurion wandered down to the han to see how matters went with Hamdi and the car.
At the han he found Adolphe, Adolphe is the Dumpling's dragoman. He is altogether a very estimable personage. He calls himself an Austrian and he carries himself with
the dignity of a man of knowledge and account. Adolphe, knowing the close relationship between the Centurion and the Dumpling, was expansive as to the latter's adventures. After he had made the corner in petrol, the Dumpling took the Muradli road and arrived at that station on the Thracian railway just before sundown. As has already been explained, the road from Rodosto to Muradli is the only real provincial road in European Turkey. The Dumpling's chauffeur, who was a young, excitable youth, having gained confidence at the progress he had made on the sound metalled bottom, thought that he could take the heavy Panhard with equal audacity along the country roads. The result was disastrous and the great forty horsepower car stuck hopelessly in the slough. The disaster was so complete that it was impossible to correct anything that night. The car had to be left where it was and, on foot, the Dumpling and his retainers made their way to Muradli Station. Here they were on
the fringe of the operations. Muradli was a point that many hundreds of broken troops from the First Corps touched. The Dumpling found the station commandant hospitable and discursive. Even with his good will it was impossible to move the car that night. It remained where it was and in the morning, with the aid of bullocks, it was at last dragged out of the mudhole. The Dumpling then cut across country to the Tchorlu road to find himself in the midst of the retiring Turkish army. With great difficulty the heavy car was urged on through phalanxes of retreating soldiers, and reached the han at Tchorlu late in the evening. Here the Dumpling found some of the other adventurers, who, during the retirement, had broken away from the Bosniak Shepherd. Here was found Jew's Harp Senior, who after most terrible experiences at the front with Abdullah's headquarters had, by an almost miraculous succession of fortunate events, arrived back at Tchorlu almost in the last state of exhaustion. If he had not been
able, on this particular night, again to join forces with his partner in the Panhard, it is probable that the brilliant description of his desperate experiences would never have reached his paper in time to have realised the success that they deserved. Early the following morning he and the Dumpling fled in the car to Rodosto and by the skin of their teeth, as has been shown, caught the overdue Austrian Lloyd boat. In such circumstances are journalistic triumphs made.
Hamdi was next consulted as to the possibility of the car making the journey to Tchorlu. He shook his head despondently. Hamdi was as anxious to get back to the front as his master. Nature, however, had intervened. As there was no definite information to be found in Rodosto, the Centurion determined to make a reconnoissance to Muradli Station. The metalled road to this point was possible in all weathers. Local reports in the town were definite that Bulgarian troops would be found half a dozen miles outside the
town. Circumstantial evidence was tendered as to the treatment the invaders had extended to the villagers. The Centurion would accept none of this. According to his calculation there was still no reason why the Turks should have fallen back from this point.
The members of the consular body looked upon the reconnoissance as a foolhardy affair, but they were a chicken-hearted body. The road to Muradli was all that was claimed for it. It was ominously deserted and the car just spun along. Within three miles of the Station the car met a great collection of village carts heading for the town. They were in charge of an aged Mulazim in faded uniform, and a round dozen of decrepit mustafiz (last ban reservists). The Centurion learned from the officer that he was clearing the villages of all food stuff that could be of any use to the enemy. He was confident that Ottoman troops were still at Muradli. The Centurion was pleased to find that the Turks could show such workmanlike energy as to clear the country
before the enemy, but this energy foretold a contemplated evacuation.
As the car crossed the iron bridge into Muradli village there seemed an absolute lack of life about both the village and the station buildings. There was no rolling stock. The place was deserted. Hamdi took the car right on to the metals, and pulled up in front of the booking office. Save for a tame little brown mongrel, that showed unwonted signs of joy at the arrival of humans, and a flock of astonished geese there was nothing living in the place. The station offices were locked. Except for a few jettisoned pontoons and a half dozen old pattern ammunition wagons the place was cleared of all military stores. Sign of living Turk or Bulgar there was none. The Centurion swept the far horizon of the gently sloping downs with his glasses, and peered long down the parallel of the dead straight, permanent way. Crest line and vanishing point betrayed not the slightest evidence of any living thing.
The Centurion was nonplussed. It was evident that the Turks had retired. It was just as obvious that the Bulgarians had not advanced. The Turks had retired in good order, since they had taken everything with them. The useless material they had jettisoned was neatly parked in the station yard as for inspection. It was impossible that the Bulgarians had pushed on, on the heels of the Turks, without occupying Muradli. Strategically such an omission was unthinkable. The railway was of vital importance to them, for though Adrianople still refused them the main line, yet they had captured two locomotives and rolling stock at Kirk Kilisse. There was only one solution. The Bulgarians at Lule Burgas had, as the Centurion had thought, put their last ounce into the battle and had not been able to advance since. No other reasoning would stand examination.
Although Muradli was not on the direct march route from Lule Burgas to Tchorlu, yet the top of the ridge over which that road
passed was visible from the station. Muradli Station lay two-thirds of the way between Lule Burgas and Tchorlu at the bend of the Ergene River. There was no movement on the ridge. It would have been impossible for an army to pass that way without first occupying Muradli.
"Well," said the Centurion to Hamdi, "if the Bulgarians are not here, they ought to be. Anyway they are likely to come here pretty d—d quick. We had better not stay or we may be nabbed by some inquisitive patrol."
On returning to Rodosto the Centurion found unexpected confirmation of the diagnosis he had made at Muradli. The Vice-Consul reported that he had heard that three more adventurers had arrived at the han from Tchorlu. The Centurion straight away went down and discovered his French colleagues. They had left Tchorlu that morning and ridden down to the coast. They were overjoyed at finding the Centurion, who had already been reported killed.
As soon as they could be induced to talk coherently, the Centurion gathered that they had broken away that morning because the Bosniak Shepherd had ordered the residue of his flock to abandon their stores, and take train immediately for Tcherkeskuey. They said that on the night when the Centurion had last seen them they had had a trying experience. They had bivouacked out on the veldt. On the morrow they had been overtaken by the army in retreat and hustled back to Tchorlu.
Rather than suffer further at the hands of the Turks, the Frenchmen had thrown in their hands and determined to take the first boat to Pera. They said that all the English adventurers had disappeared and that the Germans and Russians alone remained loyal to the Bosniak Shepherd. They dilated on the horrors they had seen; the dangers on the road to Tchorlu; the corpses of refugees dead of cholera and a thousand and one terrors. It was evident that they had contracted the epidemic known as "cold feet." This epidemic was
curiously prevalent at that period in the Turkish Army. It was, however, almost exclusively confined to the ranks of the partially trained troops.
The concrete information that they were able to give the Centurion was encouraging. There was still a very large Turkish force in occupation of Tchorlu and, to the Frenchmen, it looked as if this force intended to stay there as it was busily engaged in throwing up field works on positions covering the town on the north.
On the following morning Hamdi gave a dubious assent to attempt the return journey to Tchorlu. An early start was made. For the first five miles progress was fair. There were evidences on the road, as suggested by the Frenchmen, that some epidemic—or perhaps starvation and exhaustion—had overtaken several of the fugitives. It was curious to find that the rearward movement of fugitives seemed to have stopped. The only troops that were passed on the road were small formed
bodies heading to Tchorlu. After the fifth mile the road passes over a long swampy plateau. Here misfortune overtook the car. Hamdi had feared this plateau. His worst fears were realized. The car sank into a morass; the wheels lost their purchase, and the machine became hopelessly bogged. Hamdi, however, was an energetic fatalist, and he said cheerily, "No good—go fetch cow." There was no village in sight, but he trudged off happily.
There are moments when it is legitimate even for an optimist to give way to despondency. For the next six hours the Centurion sank as deeply into the Slough of Despond as his car had penetrated into the trough of the morass. The wind had veered round to the north again, and blew in bitter draught across the plateau. There was not a living thing in sight. Only the boundless area of the billowy downs. It is hard to imagine a more oppressive solitude. To be absolutely alone with an immobile car in the centre of a great grassy
wilderness in Thrace! The impotence of it all!
From time to time groups of Turkish soldiers sauntered past and gazed upon the incongruous spectacle with lazy indolence. A few of the more curious came and passed the time of day and earned as a remuneration for their welcome curiosity the gift of a cigarette. It was the sense of impotence that crushed the spirit. The Centurion fell to wondering what the Diplomat, his partner in the car, must be thinking and whether he was waiting his return to Tchorlu. Perhaps he also had given him up as lost or dead.
After an absence of two hours, Hamdi loomed up on the horizon with his "cow." He had commandeered a pair of buffaloes and a driver. It would have seemed just if, at this period, the tribulations of the journey had ended. However,"it was not so. The buffaloes were hitched in, and with Hamdi and the driver at their tails, they took the strain. There was a sickening crack, and the yoke
broke into two pieces. With this the cup was full. Even Hamdi ceased to smile.
After a moment's reflection he borrowed a cigarette from the Centurion, and bade him mind the cow-boy and the team while he trudged back the three miles to find another and a stronger yoke. The next two hours the Centurion passed in absolute misery. At last Hamdi returned with a serviceable harness. Opportunely a squad of soldiers arrived simultaneously. With their help, and that of the engines, the buffaloes finally towed the car at a snail's pace through the swamp. The remainder of the journey was tedious going. There was not, however, another serious delay and towards evening the minarets of Tchorlu separated from the winter mists, and the car climbed the last rise into the village. It had taken eight hours to do the twenty-two kilometers.
There was no doubt about the Turks still being in occupation of Tchorlu. The temporary barracks on the Rodosto side of the village
were teeming with soldiers. For the first and only time during the campaign the Centurion was stopped and questioned by an examining post at the entrance to the village. The interrogation was perfunctory. It was remarkable, nevertheless, what inadequate measures for protection had been taken. The Centurion found that Hakki Pasha's division and the headquarters of the Fourth Corps were at Tchorlu. Although an adequate line of outposts had been thrown out to the north of Tchorlu cantonments and railway station, there was nothing protective along the front by which the car had arrived beyond the one examining post. An enterprising Bulgarian squadron leader could have had a lot of fun if he had slipped round by way of the Rodosto road. But there had been little worthy of the name of enterprise on either side in this dully conducted campaign.
It was a pleasure to the Centurion to feel that he was back with Ahmed Abouk's command. He now discovered the Fourth Corps
had not had much to be ashamed of in spite of the brilliant word-painting of those of his colleagues, who had let themselves go on the "retreat from Moscow" racket. It is curious how quickly the accomplished journalist can see red, and how difficult he finds it to draw the line between rout and retirement. Fortunately there were no professional journalists with the Tirah Field Force when it scuttled down the Bara Valley in 1897. If there had been, the historical exactitude of the operation would have been as prostituted as has been the retirement of the Turkish Armies from Lule Burgas. These things are difficult to explain to the lay mind. The proof of the pudding, so runs the time worn adage, lies in the eating. Here was the Centurion at Tchorlu, six days after the general retirement of the Turkish Army was ordered from the line Lule Burgas-Viza. Tchorlu was only thirty-five kilometers—that is one day's march—from the battlefield. At Tchorlu was a Turkish rearguard consisting of the complete infantry division
which had covered the retirement of the left wing of the Turkish armies and between it and the enemy again, was Salih Pasha's independent cavalry division. For five days neither of these divisions had fired a single round. Where then was the rout? Someone or another has lost his sense of proportion. It was the First Corps that was routed, and this was at Yenidje days before the struggle at Lule Burgas.
Tchorlu was simply bristling with troops. It was with difficulty that the car was able to make its way through the streets. The batteries were all lined up in the main thoroughfare. The teams were feeding with their harness on ready to hook in if an emergency should require sudden movement. The Centurion drove direct to the han, hoping that he should find the Diplomat and his own caravan there. The hanji, who recognised him as the truculent adventurer who had destroyed his bedroom furniture and then paid handsomely for it, received him with open arms. Alas! John,
the Caravan, and the last of the foreign adventurers had left the previous day by march route for the south. Somehow the Centurion did not fancy the han, so he went out and tried the empty house in which the Diplomat, the Innocent and the Popinjay had lodged. The caretaker, having reaped a rich harvest from these three, welcomed the Centurion. The latter having shared his last lunch-tongue with Hamdi for the evening repast, was only too glad to turn in.
STILL A ROGUE
IT would be difficult to describe the true state in which the Centurion found the village of Tchorlu in the morning. As the north wind of the previous day had foreshadowed, it had again turned bitterly cold. The town was absolutely packed with Turkish soldiers muffled up to the eyes in their overcoats and bashliks. They looked the picture of misery, but all soldiers look thus when they are campaigning in winter weather. There was, however, no disorder. All the bakers' shops were working at high pressure. There was a guard upon every bakery, and no issue of bread was allowed unless it was through the agency of the particular non-commissioned officer in charge of the supply. The town was picketed throughout and thoroughly patrolled by the gendarmerie. All these duties were of
course carried out in the casual, slovenly manner which is characteristic of Turkish methods.
There was one matter, however, that escaped all surveillance. This was the sanitary control. The state of the Tchorlu streets absolutely beggars description. One has read of the filth that was wont to accumulate in the middle ages in English towns. In the midst of modern conveniences, one shudders to think of what those conditions were. Imagine, therefore, the state of the narrow streets of this Turkish village after thousands of soldiers had passed through and an entire division had been billeted in it for a matter of five or six days. It was simply horrible and in the winter's stillness a kind of pungent reek hung over the whole place. If ever epidemic disease was courted it was in these filthy surroundings.
As soon as Hamdi had refreshed him with a jorum of cocoa, the Centurion made his way to the headquarters of Ahmed Abouk Pasha. On occasions like this the man who observes
the formality of sending in his card to a Turkish dignitary only courts delay. The Centurion walked boldly into the corps commander's room. The dear old fellow, who looked more like a bronzed English farmer than a Turk, showed no resentment. He was obviously surprised to find the Englishman at the front and his first remark was:
"Why are you here? All the foreigners and attaches have been sent away long ago."
The Centurion answered that he had been fortunate enough to lose his way, but he was now glad that he had done so, since it gave him the opportunity of rejoining the best corps in the Turkish Army, and that, anyway, it was his business to see fighting and not to hear about it second hand. The old man's eyes twinkled at this naive confession of faith, as he answered: "You are not going to see any more fighting just yet because the Bulgarians will not come on, and I have orders to retire my division to Tcherkeskuey."
The Marshal then gave a résumé of all that
happened to his corps since the eventful day when the Centurion had been with it in front of Lule Burgas. Much of the information he gave has already been inserted in the preceding narrative. He said that Hakki Pasha's division had remained as rearguard until the whole of the rest of his own Corps and the Second Army Corps had been withdrawn. The Bulgarians, it appears, made one rather feeble essay to force in this rearguard, but they were easily checked, and it had fallen back without opposition to Ciflikkuey and Sandakli and then to Tchorlu without firing a shot. Mahmud Muktear's corps, on the extreme right of the Turkish line, according to Ahmed Abouk's information, had been forced to retire, both from Bunar Hissar and Viza in conformation with the retirement on the left.
Here there had been some effort at pursuit by the Bulgarians and when the right Turkish wing, still conforming to the general retirement, fell back to Sarai, it was still feebly harassed. At Sarai all pursuit had finished
and Mahmud Muktear's army had fallen back leisurely upon the new alignment.
"But why did you retire at all, Excellency?"
The Pasha's face hardened.
"We fell back because it was ordered so by fate. You may tell your friends in England that if the Fourth Army Corps was beaten, it was beaten by ourselves. My men had no food for over fifty hours. The best soldiers in the world cannot fight in these circumstances. What is worse, the supply of ammunition failed. I had to collect every unused round from my other divisions in order that the batteries of Hakki Pasha's rearguard should have sufficient at least to make a pretence of keeping the Bulgarians back. But the enemy were in no better condition than ourselves and if I had only had food I would have driven them back upon the Maritza with the bayonet."
"And the future, Excellency?" asked the Centurion. The Pasha turned up the palms
of his hands in the impressive gesticulation of the East. "It is in the hands of God. It was the first intention of Nazim Pasha that we should hold Tchorlu. Then it was changed to Tcherkeskuey. Now I am ordered to fall back to Tcherkeskuey to cover the army that has been withdrawn right back to Tchataldja."
"And what of the Seventeenth Army Corps, Excellency?"
"As far as I know, there is no Seventeenth Army Corps. We have all believed in it. We have all been told that it was coming to our help. Mahmud Muktear Pasha held on to Bunar Hissar expecting it. Torgad Shevket was driven to make a counter attack in order to give time to it to come up. It has proved a fantasy. The Redif units of which it was to be formed were never properly concentrated and they consisted for the most part of untrained troops. As they came up the magnetism of battle absorbed them in every direction, mostly to the rear."
"What of the First Army Corps, Excellency?" The old man as he answered got up from his seat, thereby indicating that the interview was shortly to be closed. "Don't speak to me of the First Army Corps. It is their half trained intellectuals that lost me the battle of Lule Burgas."
As he shook hands with the Centurion, he added,
"What do you propose to do?"
"With your permission, Excellency, I will stay with you as long as I may."
"We shall be enchanted for you to stay with us as long as you like. Perhaps you would like an escort?"
"There is no need, Excellency, for an escort. With the Turkish Army I am chez-moi." The old man smiled as he said on parting, "You pay us a great compliment; it is true no escort is necessary."
The Centurion went back to his commandeered house to find that he had two unexpected visitors. These were Jamal Bey, a
civilian volunteer, and Ismail Hakki Effendi, a cavalry officer with whom the Centurion had been intimate during the Albanian campaigns. Jamal Bey was a friend from Constantinople who, flushed with patriotic enthusiasm, had volunteered for service. Owing to his capabilities he had been attached to the signalling staff of the unfortunate First Army Corps. Before he left Constantinople, the Centurion had arranged with him for a service of information. During the disastrous retreat of the First Corps, Jamal Bey had contracted a bad attack of dysentery. He had crawled into Tchorlu the evening of the day the Centurion had left for Rodosto.
Herein lay further evidence of the vein of bad luck in the Centurion's calendar. Jamal, in drawing the han for him, had fallen into the net of a rival, who had pumped him dry. The poor fellow was now almost at death's door and the Centurion insisted that he should immediately lie up in the commandeered house until he himself could take him in the car to
some place where adequate medical treatment was available.
Ismail Hakki, however, was in the best of health and spirits as far as a Turkish officer could be in spirits at this period of their unfortunate campaign. He had an independent troop of cavalry attached to the divisional headquarters, and since the battle of Lule Burgas, had been employed by the divisional commander as an officer's patrol. He had come in on the previous evening, and hearing that the Centurion was at the han, had come down to invite him to accompany him that afternoon when he went out with a new patrol. Ismail Hakki, like Ahmed Abouk Pasha, the corps commander, was a Circassian. He was one of the few Turkish officers who had done military training in France. He was a thorough soldier, imbued with the keenest intelligence and a constructive cavalry genius. The Centurion jumped at the offer. He had no horse, but Ismail offered him a troop horse.
As Ismail's patrol rode out of Tchorlu early
in the afternoon, the Centurion felt the fascination of again being a mounted swashbuckler. They had given him the best horse to be found in the troop, a great rakish Hungarian with a mouth of iron and heart of steel. Ismail took only six men with him. He had but fourteen horses fit for duty and he was wise enough to use them in relays. His men were tough looking fellows. Riding in their overcoats with their carbines slung across their shoulders they looked like Cossacks. Ismail's information was that there were Bulgarians at Seidler Station and at Ciflikkuey. Salih Pasha's cavalry division should have been on the line of the Ergene River, somewhere in the vicinity of Karahansankuey. The orders were for the patrol, if possible, to work round to the west of Seidler and discover if there was any movement behind the Bulgarian advance guard. Ismail's orders gave him permission to remain out twenty-four hours, after which he was to report back at Tchorlu to the headquarters of the cavalry division and then
rejoin his own divisional headquarters, which would by then have fallen back in the direction of Tcherkeskuey.
As the horses were sufficiently fresh, the patrol moved rapidly to the Ergene River, passing along the high ground that overlooked Muradli Station. A couple of troopers who were detached for the purpose reported Muradli Station to be in the same deserted condition that it had been two days before When the Centurion visited it. Seeing no evidence of their own cavalry division at the point on the Ergene at which he selected to cross, it was necessary for Ismail to proceed with some caution as he approached Seidler. Crossing the railway line at Inanti, the patrol moved cautiously, parallel to the railway line and river, up towards Seidler village.
The village is some three miles south of the railway station. The scouts who went on ahead reported all clear, and the patrol trotted in amongst the ramshackle houses. At first it seemed as if the village was entirely deserted.
It was marked in the intelligence report as being chiefly occupied by Greeks. This proved to be the case, as at its northern end were found the houses of two or three substantial Greek farmers. These men and their families were all at home. There was also in the place a small posse of mustafiz.
It was now almost dark and Ismail, being wise enough not to bivouac in the village, especially in which there were Greek inhabitants, just remained long enough to drag with the aid of the mustafiz as much information as was possible out of the Greeks. The Greeks were at first a little reluctant to talk. Ismail's treatment of them might perhaps be considered a little rough, but with the aid of the butt ends of the mustafiz' Martinis, he learned that a patrol of Servian cavalry visited the village that morning, that it came from Seidler station and had gone back there. One of the mustafiz also said that a Greek, who had come from the direction of Lule Burgas, passed through Ciflikkuey, and had seen there a number
of mounted men. He had not said whether they were Servians or Bulgarians. The patrol moved out of Seidler, and Ismail with the cunning that he had acquired in France, moved out in the opposite direction to that which he intended to follow to find his bivouac. After he felt he was out of earshot of the village, Ismail changed his direction and moved to the back of a hill that commanded both Seidler village and the station. Here the patrol ran into a shepherd driving home a flock of belated sheep. This man was a Turkish Bulgar. He was immediately seized and, perhaps, a little roughly handled to put him in the necessary obedient frame of mind. He was then instructed to lead the patrol to some place in the vicinity where it could make a convenient bivouac. He was led to understand that if his memory failed, he would cease to be a shepherd pretty d—d quick. After an extremely short march, he led the patrol to an ideal spot. There was an empty
kind of sheep pen and stone penthouse, with a spring quite close, the water from which had not yet frozen sufficiently hard to prevent the horses from watering. As soon as the horses were tied up in the corral, Ismail, the Centurion and his Choush (troop sergeant) climbed to the top of the hill to select a spot for the posting of a night sentry. The night outlook from this point of vantage confirmed the information that had been gleaned in the village. There were a number of fires blazing in the vicinity both of Seidler Station and Cliflikkuey, and further away to the north little twinkling points of light suggested that there were other troops bivouacking above Karisdiran, but these latter were so distant that they might have been only the usual village lights.
Having instructed the Choush where to post the night sentry, Ismail and the Centurion returned to make themselves as comfortable as the cold would permit. Already the troopers had pulled a rafter out of the penthouse and
had a fire blazing under the mask of the south side of the corral. There is something very brotherly in the intercourse between officers and men in the Turkish service. It must also be remembered that amongst Mohammedans all men are equal in the eyes of God. This philosophy leads to an intimate intercourse between all ranks which could hardly be understood by those used to the European methods of enforced discipline.
With the exception of the night sentry, the whole party grouped themselves in a semicircle round the fire and proceeded to participate in the evening meal. This consisted simply of rough bread and water. Ismail himself had nothing better, but the Centurion had three tins of cheap sardines in his haversack. These he at once produced. Turkish politeness forbids, that in like circumstances, gifts should be accepted from a guest. It was only by the most vehement insistence that the Centurion could induce these rough brigandlike looking soldiers to partake of this relish
to their simple meal and to dip morsels of their bread in the oil of the sardines. The Bulgarian shepherd also did not escape attention. As he had produced an adequate bivouac, he was admitted to the fraternity of the camp fire, and was also provided with bread and a sardine from the common stock. The only precaution taken with him was that his right wrist was bound securely to the left wrist of one of the troopers.
It was a bitter cold night. Mercifully there was no wind. Although he was clad in a sheepskin, it was far too bitter for the Centurion to think of sleep. In short, it was an all-night sitting, and the monotony was only broken by the periodical relief of the night sentry. Ismail Hakki opened his heart to the Centurion during the weary watches. He traced most of the evil misfortunes that had overtaken the Turks to the part the army had taken in the revolution. He said that the whole country had gone to pieces because the people did not know to whom to extend their
loyalty. He suggested that if Abdul Hamid had been left at the head of the State this fearful debacle would not have overtaken the Empire. For this line of argument he had two reasons. The first was that the old man was so clever in the fields of diplomacy that he would never have permitted the Balkan Alliance. By some means or other, by the gift of Crete here, or economic concessions elsewhere, he would have detached one or another of the allies. The second was more intimate. The old man had exercised an influence and control over the army which had found no substitute under the new regime. It may be that Ismail himself believed that there was more general pilfering of public funds and jobbery under the Hamidan regime than with the advent of the Constitution, but there was that factor of personal control by the Sultan, which in a moment of emergency welded the army together. Some subtle force in his authority produced results that were beyond the powers of the new General Staff. It did not matter
how these results were effected; if Abdul Hamid's Irade went forth there was an impetus that somehow carried them through. If Abdul Hamid had been in power there would have been no failure of food at Lule Burgas or shortage of ammunition. Ismail Hakki felt the situation keenly. Although not a Turk in the true sense of the word, he had a large share of the traditional amour propre of the nation. From the bottom of his heart he cursed the Young Turks and all their works. Nor was he singular in this feeling. The Centurion, as he extended his circle of acquaintances amongst the Turkish officers, found there were many who thought like his Circassian friend.
Ismail was also inclined to be bitter at the handling of the independent cavalry division. He did not wish to be disloyal to his chief, but realising how the division would be led in the field, he made a personal application that resulted in his detachment from the independent cavalry division to those duties in which
the Centurion found him. He traced the indifferent handling of the cavalry to the German instructors. "If you want to know anything about cavalry in Europe," he said, his eyes gleaming in the light of the logs with the fire of the true cavalryman, "you should not go to Germany but to France. Cavalry work is not in our days a matter of weight and masses! It is a question of finesse. No German understands finesse, while every Frenchman is an adept in it. Look what has happened to our cavalry here in this campaign. It has all the time been bundled about from place to place on the pretence that it was looking for an opportunity to charge the enemy. Where do you find an enemy's cavalry? Is it behind your own infantry? What has Salih Pasha done with his fine division? In twenty days of war, he has reduced its effectives by fifty per cent. Does he ever spare his horses? The men rarely dismount during the day and have never off-saddled at night. How has he done protection duties? Has he detached independent
squadrons while he was resting the remainder of his forces? Has he ever practised his men in defending or taking a position dismounted? I know that he has not. It can almost be said that these men do not know how to dismount or to unsling their carbines. He has been content to work his horses to death, up hill and down dale well out of range of any circumstances that could be turned into military utility."
This is a scathing criticism. The Centurion did not know how far Ismail was justified in placing the responsibility with the German instructors. The question is whether these German instructors had had an opportunity of really instructing the Turks. Is it possible to break down the inveterate conceit of the Tartar mind and make it receptive of instruction? Did the German officers set about their duties with enthusiasm, or were they just wasters from the Prussian service attracted by the shimmer of piastres? These are questions which the Centurion was not competent to answer,
but he could endorse every word of the strictures which Ismail passed upon the independent cavalry division that finally marched through the Tchataldja lines and was sent to recuperate at the Sweet Waters. The veterinary hospital at Daud Pasha was a sight warranted to break most cavalrymen's hearts. The Turkish horse soldier, officer and man, knows nothing and cares less about horse mastership. Thus the night was passed. In the last bitter hour before dawn the horses were fed with the last bite of corn remaining in the nosebags. The patrol then set out to glean some definite information with regard to the camp fires they had located the previous evening. Nor had they far to go, since it was soon light enough to make out the surroundings of Seidler Station. It was seen that at least a regiment of cavalry was standing to its horses. At the same moment the nearest outpost that had covered the bivouac, opened fire on the patrol. It was a foolish thing to do, as it gave Ismail time to get away before any of the
enemy were in a position really to interfere with him.
The patrol fell back rapidly due west, then getting into the folds of the downs, climbed up a formidable ridge that overlooked Kajabali. From this point Ismail secured all the information that was necessary. He was in an unapproachable position, as any attempt to turn him or force him out could be seen for a radius of five miles. The panorama gave a sweep of the entire Ciflikkuey-Karisdiran valley. There seemed to be a cavalry regiment moving out of Karisdiran, while on the main Lule Burgas road was bivouacked a force of all arms which, by counting the artillery park, was estimated at the strength of a division.
At last the Bulgarians were making their forward movement. Ismail was quick-witted enough soldier to see that he had accomplished his mission. It was his duty to get back to Tchorlu in the shortest possible time. The patrol returned by much the same route as it had come and was back in Tchorlu village just
after midday. Here a great change had taken place. Hakki Pasha's division with all its impedimenta had disappeared. Its place had been taken by the independent cavalry which at this time was reduced by the wastage of war to about the strength of a single regiment.
WHEN the Centurion got back to his commandeered house, he found still another surprise in store for him. He found the General in possession. It will be remembered that he and the Diplomat had last seen the General when they were in the car on their way back from the battle of Lule Burgas. The General was delighted to find a pal. He had had a desperate time of it. After they had left him he had caught up Salih Pasha's cavalry division and, being hospitably received, had attached himself to the Pasha and had remained his guest ever since. Once he came back to Tchorlu to get something to eat, since existence with the cavalry had proved almost synonymous with starvation. The General had been back in the village just at the period when the organisation of the latter-
day adventurers had broken up. He was, therefore, able to give the Centurion more definite news than the latter had gleaned from the excited Frenchman. It appeared that all the foreigners had been suddenly ordered to "footsack" from the front. By this time the English section of the Bosniak Shepherd's flock were absolutely desperate, and on receipt of these orders they had vanished to the four winds. He himself, having been made an honorary member of the cavalry division, had no intention of going back to the base, and had slipped off to the front again.
He was able to give the Centurion news of his own caravan and John. It appeared that the General had found John in the han in the last state of despair. He had had one of the Centurion's horses commandeered; he had been captured by the'bibulous Bey and ordered under threat of instant execution on no account to wait longer at Tchorlu and he was without funds or orders. In the circumstances the General came to his rescue and lent him
£15. Thereupon John had collected the caravan and marched south with the retreating army.
As far as the General knew, the majority of the English adventurers had also ridden south. Some had gone to the coast in the direction of Siliviri. It was the General's intention to continue to follow the fortunes of the cavalry division. This the Centurion believes he subsequently did, for he was reported missing for a long time, until it was discovered that he had been taken prisoner by the Bulgarians and spirited away to Kirk Kilisse.
As the Centurion learnt at Tchorlu that the cavalry division's orders were to fall back the moment the Bulgarians showed any sign of advancing in force, and as what he had seen with Ismail's patrol convinced him that this advancing force was less than twenty-four hours distant, he considered that he would be cutting it rather fine if he remained longer in Tchorlu. The choice was open to him of taking the car down the Adrianople road in the track of the
main army, or of returning to Rodosto and shipping the car from that port to Constantinople.
The Centurion argued that if he returned by the Adrianople road, he would be much impeded by the impedimenta on the march and he would also run the risk of falling into the hands of the Bosniak Shepherd at Tcherkeskuey or Tchataldja. Knowing as he did the orders that had been received by the commander of the Fourth Corps, it was obvious that even with the best will in the world and the utmost energy, there could be no fighting at Tchataldja for at least ten days. There might be, however, most interesting developments if the Bulgarians followed the example of the Russians in their campaign and made Rodosto their first point of contact with the Marmora. He, therefore, decided upon the Rodosto road and instructed the now very sick Jamal to be ready to make the journey at daybreak on the following morning. Jamal somewhat demurred because it was stated in
his hospital certificate that he was to proceed to Hademkuey for treatment. The Centurion told him frankly that if he went down by cart to Hademkuey he would be dead in forty-eight hours. He pointed out that his only chance was to come down to Rodosto, where he could get medical attendance, and then take the first ship to Constantinople to be nursed in his own home. One or two friends from the cavalry division who came in to see him in the afternoon, also endorsed this view and prevailed upon him to accept the Centurion's advice.
There was some difficulty in getting the sick man away in the morning early. Besides, the Centurion wanted to satisfy himself that Salih Pasha really intended evacuating Tchorlu. The Pasha was some time making up his mind and finally said that he would not begin his rearward movement until the enemy reached the Karahasankuey ridge.
The Centurion, realising the easy way there was round to the southwest of the village, determined not to chance any untoward development.
He watched the cavalry division bring its solitary battery of horse artillery into position on the high ground near Tchorlu station. Satisfying himself that the demolitions which had been effected were of sufficient extent to delay the enemy, and transferring the sick Jamal from the house to the car, he started on what was to prove an adventurous journey back to Rodosto.
There is one beauty of the Thracian soil as viewed from the standpoint of the motorist. The result of rain soon vanishes, except in the bottom of the valleys. After three days the going on the Rodosto road was moderately good again. The car made the journey at an average speed without adventure until half the distance had been covered. Here at the top of a rather steep rise is the village of Hadzi Muradli. The climb up to this village is severe, but once the ridge is passed a long gentle decline faces the traveller for nearly six miles before he meets the last big ridges which lie between him and the sea.
The car was just beginning to make the ascent up to the village, when, at the bottom of the valley, about three miles away to the right, the Centurion observed five horsemen. There was something suspicious about the attitude of these horsemen. They were halted. With the naked eye it looked as if they were grouped in astonished observation of the car. The Centurion pointed them out to Hamdi, who, throwing the quick eye of the accomplished chauffeur in their direction, murmured the word "Bulgar."
The Centurion turned round and saw that Jamal was half somnolent in the back seat. At the very moment that Hamdi made his diagnosis the horsemen started to gallop at a slanting angle up the ridge. Their direction showed that it was their intention to cut the car off before it reached the summit.
"You are right, Hamdi," said the Centurion, "those are Bulgars. Give her all you can." Hamdi's only reply was the monosyllable "Pump, pump." This referred to the Durkopp
system which required the passenger seated beside the driver to pump petrol up into the feed pipe when any special effort was wanted on a hillside.
Many years had practised the Centurion in estimating distances. The Bulgars had two miles of up-hill to gallop on horses that were probably tired. The car had about half a mile of stiff climb in front of her. She was doing her best, and she was a kind car; but a hillside was her weak point. The Centurion could see that it was going to be a close thing. Hamdi, who was staunch to the backbone, set his teeth and nursed his engine up that hill yet, pump the Centurion never so rapidly, the beat of the engine became slower and slower. To the Centurion it seemed that the car was only crawling. Already the horsemen had covered half the distance. There remained what seemed to be an interminable height of road in front. The time was past for exclamations. Hamdi, from moment to moment, cast a quick glance to his right. As the machine crawled
slowly on it seemed that the horsemen were certain to overtake her. The Centurion looked anxiously back at Jamal. He was lying back peacefully unconscious of the danger that was threatening him. Jamal, dressed in his volunteer uniform was a heavy dead weight to the Centurion at that moment. The presence of a Turkish soldier in uniform in the car would be difficult of explanation when they fell into the hands of the enemy.
There was nothing now that Hamdi could do to get a better pace out of his engine. Already the Centurion could hear the chafing of strained leather and the heavy breathing of the pursuers' horses. "Thank God the horses are blown," was his mental conjecture. There only remained now about thirty yards to climb, and yet it was the steepest of them all. Moreover the car was moving so slowly that it almost seemed to be stationary.
Shouts from the pursuers were now audible. They were yelling to the car to stop. Five yards more and the car began to feel the level
of the summit. She was picking up. The Centurion gave one look round. He could see the whites of the eyes of his flat-capped pursuers. In less time than it takes to write it the crest was collared and passed. As if by magic the car picked up impetus, felt her power, and was dashing down the slope. Five miles of this pace and all pursuit on horseback was unthinkable. There remained the rifles. The Centurion cared nothing for the rifles of men who for two miles had been riding an up-hill finish.
Never had Hamdi driven as he now drove the car down that incline. It was not a metalled way. In places she simply bounded from rut to rut; she swayed backwards and forwards, now on two wheels, and now on one. The wretched Jamal, knowing nothing of the reason for the haste that had so rudely broken his slumbers complained weakly of the pace from somewhere in the hood to which he was now clinging. A mile below the summit there was a temporary plank-bridge across a
sluit. Hamdi remembered it, but he dare not touch his brakes. The bridge was a rotten affair and its breadth was barely more than the span of the can Hamdi set his teeth as he swerved her on to it. She slithered, then leapt like a springbok, and, God only knows how, was over. The planks cracked and fell away behind her.
Once over the bridge the Centurion turned round to see if the pursuit was pressed. The Bulgars had given it up though they were busily dismounting and disengaging their carbines for action. The Centurion never knew if they fired, for at the pace Hamdi took the car down the remaining five miles of slope, the immediate circumstances were far more terrifying than the chance bullets of indifferent riflemen whose hearts must have been pumping a full twelve to the dozen.
An hour later the car was descending into Rodosto town. It was observed that there were now three Turkish warships lying in the roadstead.
As the car rounded the bend that brings the road into the town, one of the warships in the Bay fired a heavy gun. For the moment the Centurion thought that a warning shot had been fired against the car. Then Hamdi suggested in his nonchalant way that it was probably the midday gun. As, however, the sound of a shell bursting well inland followed his remark, it was evident that the gun was fired by the Turkish sailors against some target in the direction of the Muradli road.
The Centurion returned to Rodosto to find the township convulsed with another of those paroxysms of terror which periodically seized upon it during the period that the Bulgarians were expected. As soon as the car was lodged in the han, he made his way to the British Vice Consul. The firing of that one shot by the Turkish battleship had put the nerves of the whole town on edge. The story that the Vice Consul had to tell was that the Kaimakam had gone on board one of the Turkish ships and had resigned the conduct of municipal
affairs to a Board of Christian residents. Early that morning, villagers had come in with information that a mixed force of Bulgarians and Servians was three miles out on the Muradli road, and that the commandant had summoned the town to surrender.
The leading Levantine residents, advised by the senior Greek ecclesiastic, had, therefore, taken upon themselves to go out and interview the invaders. Four of them, dressed in their Sunday best, had hired a phaeton and had proceeded along the Muradli road to implore the Bulgarians not to press matters in the confines of the town, as they had certain information that if any such attack was made, the Turkish warships would bombard the town.
When the Centurion reached the town, these worthies had not yet returned from their mission. As far as other news was concerned, the Vice Consul reported that nearly all the military stores had now been removed; that the town was practically cleared of soldiers; the gendarmerie had whipped up all the fugitive
refugee deserters, while a couple of Turkish boats had been sent to begin the transport of refugees across to Asia.
The Centurion himself was very little concerned with the affairs of Rodosto, his one object was to find a steamer sailing for Constantinople that would take his car back to the capital. He handed this business over to the Vice Consul who was also agent for the leading shipping firm in the Levant.
Shortly after midday the reason of the shot fired by the Turkish battleship was disclosed. Four very frightened and out of breath parlementaires returned from an abortive mission to open up communications with the enemy. It seems that after the Kaimakam had retired from his duties on shore, the Turkish naval commandant was informed that the Christian Levantines had started their deputation to carry "bread and salt" to the invaders. Under martial law, the naval commandant, being a post captain, was ipse facto, in both chief military and naval command of the town.
Not unnaturally, he resented the attitude of these weak-kneed Christians in toddling out to endeavour to make arrangements with the enemy. He, therefore, when his signalmen saw their phaeton toiling up the Muradli road, ordered a persuasive round to be fired in front of them. There never was a quorum of men who more quickly took a hint. The shell burst about half a mile beyond their carriage. The horses were immediately put about and brought back to the town at the best pace their sorry condition would permit. In reality, it is doubtful if any Bulgarian officer of sufficient rank was there to demand the surrender of the town, or yet within twenty miles of Rodosto. It is probable that one of the bands which were doing eclairage for the Bulgarian General Staff, and predatory missions for themselves, had hoodwinked the peasants, who brought the news, with some cock-and-bull story about their strength and demands.
The advent of the Turkish warships and the putting ashore of a strong naval landing party
had worked wonders in the commercial quarter of the town. The Centurion had no hesitation in saying that out of all the Turkish services with which he came in contact during the war, the only one that showed any approximation to a European standard of smartness and address was the Navy. Both officers and blue-jackets of the landing party were smartly turned out. The moment they were put ashore, they mounted sentries over all the Government material remaining in the military department yards. They picketed the main thoroughfares of the town. There was no doubt that the naval officers, as long as they were ashore, intended to control all matters that appertained to this final embarkation of the Government stores. It is not saying too much to suggest that this very marked difference in the efficiency of the Navy as compared with the system existing in the army, is entirely due to the British naval instructors attached to that service.
The naval commandant intended, as long
as he was carrying on his embarkation duties, to keep the enemy at a distance with his heavy ordnance. In order that his gun firing might be accurately directed, parties of bluejackets were landed and sent to observation points on the summits of the hills that command the town. Here the telegraphic wires were adapted to the portable telephones that the sailors brought with them and the observation posts connected up with the military pier from which point the messages were semaphored to the ships. The difference in executive capacity between the two services was here brought into strong relief, for the Centurion had seen the army in the field without telephonic communication of any kind. Even though telephones were lying idle with the reserves, the officers in the firing line were absolutely without means of learning what was happening on either flank.
Although perfect order was maintained at the Military Pier, yet no attempt was made to regulate affairs at the commercial wharves.
The firing of that signal shot from the flagship was responsible for another wild rush to the waterside. The Centurion had never believed that such epidemics of panic could seize upon a populace. For days the commercial jetties had been packed tight with crowds of refugees, who, camped on the quays, were content to await the arrival of some vessel to take them across the water. The apprehensions raised by the report of the big naval gun roused this hitherto placid medley into a state of frenzy. To them was added a wild rush of the town-folk. The scenes on the jetty were pathetic without parallel. The Greek boatmen knew the value of their services. They paddled their boats away from the landing stages and drove outrageous bargains with the frenzied crowd. This miserable picture was not confined to those of the poorer classes. Well born and gently nurtured Turkish ladies, forgetting the traditions of the harem, bareheaded and wild-eyed, beat their breasts or clasped the rough knees of the boatmen in
their frantic terror. Rude men hustled these cringing beauties from their path as they dragged their screaming children to the ships. Boatmen slashed at the crowd with their oars to beat a passage for those who would pay their exorbitant demands. When a boat drew to the quay-side demented mothers would cast their infants into the mass crowding the thwarts, and then leap blindly after them. Many were roughly pushed into the water and left to drown unless their rescue was worth a price. It was unbelievable that men could be such brutes; but the Levantine Greek has no soul if there be money in the scale.
That night the Centurion enjoyed the hospitality of the Vice Consul. The arrival of the express packet from Constantinople brought a surprise. On board the little steamer were Jew's Harp Senior and the Dumpling. They had come ostensibly to retrieve their Panhard. It is conceivable, however, that they were, professionally speaking, concerned at the long absence of the Centurion.
They were full of information. In the first place they had covered themselves with journalistic glory. Having caught the Austrian packet, as has been described, they immediately took ship at Constantinople for Constanza. There on neutral ground they had settled down to write and despatch the long and graphic cables that had made each famous. They both had received congratulatory messages from their papers. None deserved this more than the Jew's Harp. He had taken inordinate risks and had suffered the utmost privations at Lule Burgas.
The information they had brought of the other adventurers was instructive. They were nearly all back again in Pera. The Bosniak Shepherd was at his wits' end. He said that he could manage the Frenchmen and the Germans, and even the Russians, but the Englishmen were beyond his power. He washed his hands of them.
The news from the various seats of war was astounding. The military reputation of the
Ottoman Army had come tumbling down like a pack of cards. The Greeks were on the point of taking Salonika. The despised Servians had defeated Ali Riza Pasha and were not only in occupation of Uskub, but were marching triumphantly through Albania to the sea. The only bright spots upon the Turkish horizon were the garrisons of Adrianople, Scutari and Yanina. Beleaguered fortresses, however, even if they do make a gallant resistance, are, at the best, but a sorry consolation for loss of territory and reputation. In three weeks Turkey had lost by right of hostile conquest her European provinces, almost in their entirety. The thing was too stupendous to be readily believed.
It is not difficult to find the reasons for this unprecedented debacle. They may be conveniently divided under two heads. These are inefficient administration and inadequately trained material.
On both these vital questions, this trouble in the Near East presents to military students an
Turkish veteran infantrymen
object lesson of far greater importance than any campaign that has happened since the Franco-German war. There was much to be learned from the Manchurian campaign, but the elements there engaged were more or less equal, from the point of view of armies organised on the basis of national service.
Taking the first head, the lessons of the Russo-Japanese war demonstrated a triumph in staff direction, backed by a technically-trained and splendidly-led professional army. It has already been shown in the present narrative how the administrative incapacity paralysed the entire system of the Ottoman resistance. As far as the English nation may hope to profit by the lessons of this truly remarkable Balkan war there is not much that we need take to heart in the matter of army administration. The competent military authorities of the British Empire have long ago realised, and as far as national acquiescence in their views has permitted, have strained every nerve to bring up to date the administrative departments
of the army. That the scope allowed to them is small, is no reflection upon the Imperial General Staff. As an observer of some experience, the Centurion is of the opinion, that for its size, the British Army is as well administered as any in the world. Taking the South African war as an example, the administrative faculty of the nation was admirably demonstrated. This, it must be remembered, was at a period before the modern requirements in warfare had been truly estimated. In spite of the fact that the administrative machinery was only designed to cater for an army of 50,000 men and had to be expanded to deal with a situation utilising five times this number, the British army in South Africa was without doubt the best rationed, clothed, and administered army of any size that has ever taken the field in the history of war. This view being accepted, and the General Staff having profited by the stupendous experiences of the Boer war, there is no reason to doubt that, given national support and adequate
material, the capabilities of the British army on an administrative basis should be unrivalled.
It is not necessary, therefore, to deduce lesions on this head from the experiences in the Near East, further than to remark that they have endorsed to the full every instructional theory that has been put forward by the British General Staff in its unsupported struggle towards efficiency during recent years.
When, however, we come to the other head, we are upon the fringe of an enormous, and it may be said, a vital question for the British Empire. The Turks in the consummate conceit bred of their congenital stupidity believed that because they had been able to overthrow their own reigning dynasty by force of arms, they were competent to handle any military contingency that might arise. With Tartar obstinacy they were content to stake their all upon their hereditary traditions as a fighting race, garnished with the modern appliances that could be purchased in the best arsenals
of the world. In the immediate circumstances of the menace of the Balkan Allies, they had been actuated by a sublime contempt for the virile neighbours that had at one time been their vassals. They plumed themselves in the stupid belief that as a fighting race they possessed some occult superiority before which their Balkan enemies were bound to crumble. In this belief they were encouraged, how sincerely it is not known, by some of the best military thought in Europe.
In this spirit of confidence they fell into the error which is so common in nations where self-confidence is a malady: that given a small steel-point of efficiently trained troops, it is possible to fill up numbers with the partially trained ; that after the first clash of arms, given a martial race, there is time and opportunity to fashion the pig iron behind the first line into serviceable steel.
Never was there a greater fallacy. Never in the history of war has the danger of employing inefficiently trained and indifferently
officered troops been more poignantly demonstrated. Take, for instance, the pathetic picture of the defeat of the left wing of the Turkish armies in Thrace. Here you had the First Army Corps and the Fourth Army Corps with the initial nucleus of their battalions formed by the inclusion of all their first-class Redifs. These were the only soldiers of any quality in the Empire. This ban of Redifs had practically been absorbed into the first line owing to the many difficulties in which the Ottoman Empire had been embroiled, since the Young Turks had entered on their fatal endeavour to run the Constitutional steam-roller over the Empire's many dissenting nationalities.
These skeleton battalions had to be brought up to strength, not only by enrolment of second class reservists with but a shadow of training, but also with men who had been taught the manual exercise and the goose step for the first time within a fortnight of their marching to meet the enemy. What was the result?
At the first demonstration of faulty tactical leading with its attendant punishment, these undisciplined soldiers forgot the hereditary qualities of their fathers, forgot their vaunted courage as a fighting race, and casting away their arms, fled like a herd of harried sheep from the exaggerated terrors of the enemy they had led themselves to believe that they despised.
What was the effect of this panic? These wild-eyed fugitives came herding into the battalions of another army corps, a corps that had not yet been put to the test of fighting, but was already suffering the rigours of campaigning and the privations consequent upon mal-administration. The sequel was humiliating. They communicated the panic to the ranks of this army corps. They vitiated control and carried with them in their flight the inexperienced and untrained soldiers who, like themselves, were lacking in that co-ordination that can only be acquired by a systematic and
"At the first demonstration of faulty tactical leading with its attendant punishment, these undisciplined soldiers . . . tied like a herd of harried sheep from the exaggerated terrors of the enemy they had led themselves to believe that they despised."
rigorous discipline. The reader has only to turn back to the heartfelt complaint of the commander of the Fourth Corps, to realise how impossible it is to think of making war against disciplined armies with immature material, be it ever so courageous and its traditions what they may.
Why was it that the body of foreign observers who joined in the retreat of the Ottoman army to Tchataldja, returned to Constantinople in the belief that they had participated in a rout? It was not because the Nizam minority had stood firm and had adequately covered the retirement of this rabble. It was because the Ottoman army, composed so largely of untrained troops and so inadequately officered, became disintegrated.
There is a trenchant lesson in this pathetic history to all self-confident nations, who like the British people and the citizens of the United States of America think, in modern conditions, that it is possible hurriedly to develop
the raw fighting material of the nation behind a small highly trained professional army. Let the writer force upon those optimistic theorists who persist in the advocacy of this fallacy, that there is nothing more dangerous in the world than the belief that a small leaven of men experienced in the arts of war can, upon an emergency, immediately create from the masses of the people, armies that are competent to cross bayonets with an instructed foe. The machinery of modern war will plough through the armies thus improvised with the same irresistible ease as the share of the steam plough turns its furrows. There is no short cut to military efficiency. The nation which, like the Turk, believes that it can improvise at the eleventh hour, will as surely suffer its battles of Yenidje and Lule Burgas. It will be fortunate, if like the Turks, it has in front of it an enemy as devoid of national resources and competency for sustaining war as were the Balkan Allies. These are not the thoughts of a visionary who has just participated
in a first campaign. They are the convictions of one, who, not devoid of military training, has for twenty years had an unexampled opportunity of studying modern armies in the field.
A COUPLE AND A HALF
THE last day in Rodosto was without interest to the three adventurers. It was quite hopeless to attempt to get the cars away. Everyone dealing with the question of shipping was absolutely paralysed. Furthermore, there was no boat. Towards midday the consular corps received news from certain villagers that the Bulgarians were really at the gates. This was confirmed at noon when, without warning, the battleships in the roadstead opened a sustained shell fire in the direction of the Muradli road. Adjectives fail to describe the scene that ensued. There was a desperate rush of terrified women, white-jawed men and screaming children to the various consulates. This pathetic crowd invaded all the consular buildings and were herded into cellars. It was futile for the Centurion
and his companions to assure the consuls and their subjects that this gun fire was innocuous; that the shells were directed at a target at least five or six miles distant from the town. The deafening crack of the big weapons, the reverberating boom of bursting projectiles and the vibration, were quite sufficient to the lay mind to give the lie to any assurance that the adventurers might make.
In the early afternoon it was evident that the Bulgars proposed serious operations against the town. There are vineyards and mulberry groves on the slopes that lead up to the heights that command Rodosto. Rifle fire in the suburbs of the town showed that hostile infantry was working through these plantations. It was also quite evident that the Turks had no intention of holding the town against any systematic attack by other means than the guns of the battleships in the roadstead. To all intents and purposes the residue of the military stores had been removed. The only military force remaining to question
the Bulgarian advance was a single weak battalion and the gendarmerie. These had orders to withdraw as soon as it was dark on to a waiting transport. The Bulgarians, however, never pressed any attack. Apparently they were only feeling to ascertain the nature of resistance they might expect if they were to advance seriously.
Towards evening a small French steamer that was bound for Constantinople that night arrived in the roadstead. The adventurers agreed that it was time to desert Rodosto even at the price of jettisoning the motor cars. These were, therefore, left in the care of the British Vice Consul. The adventurers packed up such small kits as they had and started to embark. This was no easy matter as the naval commandant had issued orders that nobody was to approach the jetty. The streets leading to the landing stage were picketed and the adventurers were brought up standing at every exit by the muzzles of vicious-looking rifles. There were, fortunately,
other ways of reaching the landing stage. By passing through back doors and courtyards and climbing walls and penetrating the precincts of the customs house, the three Englishmen at last reached the landing stage. Here there was an officer with whom they could discuss their intentions. It was dark by the time that they could induce this officer to let them embark or to permit a hired boat to come alongside the military shed. Then by good chance there arrived an officer who had been intimate with Jew's Harp Senior at Abdullah's headquarters during the battle of Lule Burgas. It is wonderful how far a little sympathetic intercourse will go with the Turkish gentleman. This new arrival, as far as could be gathered, had nothing to do with the regulations that ruled the port. Nevertheless he rose superior to all objections and immediately summoned a boat. He, personally, superintended the departure of the three Englishmen, their servants and the still very sick Jamal. The packet was lying rather far out and it was
quite dark by the time the adventurers' shallop reached the steamer. Here they found themselves entangled in another extraordinary scene of panic. It appears that all the would-be fugitives from the town that could pay the exorbitant charges of the boatmen had found a means of evading the order of the captain of the man-of-war by embarking at a point lower down the coast just on the fringe of the town.
Shoals of boats were battling around the steamer. They were loaded to the gunwale with freights of terrified men and women striving for an opportunity to reach the gangway. Clustered round the gangway were a score of boats grinding their thwarts against each other. These were filled with a screaming, gesticulating mass of humanity. Men, women and children were clambering over each other like a swarm of bees in their frantic efforts to climb on board. The more agile had clambered up the ship's side and were hauling up their women folk and children by
"Shoals of boats were battling around the steamer."
their arms, whilst others, absolutely reckless of those beneath them, were jumping on to the shoulders of other hapless passengers who had already reached the gangway. The ship seemed to be packed to her utmost capacity. Her decks were thronged. It looked as if the adventurers would be crushed out.
The measures the three adventurers adopted may not have been gallant. They may not even have been quite manly, but the adventurers were of no value to their employers if they were captured by the Bulgarians in Rodosto. The Dumpling on these occasions was a man of instant resource. He whipped out his automatic pistol, knowing full well that it was on the safety catch, and made the boatmen give way. He then swung his portly frame on to the grating of the gangway and, pistol in hand, terrorised the crowd of fugitives until his own boat was alongside and cleared of all its contents. The adventurers were only just in time. The skipper of the packet, fearing disaster from overcrowding,
hauled up his anchor and steamed away without waiting for his papers. Of the discomforts of that night voyage to Constantinople, it is not necessary to furnish detail. Such nights are only minor incidents in the lives of latter-day adventurers.
When the adventurers arrived in Constantinople, they found a remarkable state of affairs existing in the capital. There has been much in the present story that has shown how prone the Levantine mind is to an exaggerated anxiety for the safety of the Christian communities. It must be supposed that there is some terror wound up in the traditions of this class that the ordinary European cannot readily appreciate and understand.
The adventurers arrived at Galata to find the whole of Pera picketed with sailors drawn from an international Naval Brigade landed from a squadron of foreign men-of-war lying in the Bosporus. It seemed that the Bulgarian General Staff, and the rather excited foreign correspondents who had
marched down to Tchataldja with the Turks, were responsible for the feeling of insecurity which had taken hold of Pera.
The Bulgarian General Staff, as has already been shown, employed a press agent falsely to instruct Europe, by way of Vienna, as to the course of the operations; while the more inexperienced amongst the war correspondents added weight to the Bulgarian falsehoods by describing the Turkish retirement as an indiscriminate rout. The foreign ambassadors in the Capital put their heads together and determined that the moment was opportune to place this final indignity of naval occupation upon the Turkish nation. It would have been more decent, and certainly more in keeping with the traditions of the European races, if this landing had been postponed until the Allies had forced the Turkish armies from Tchataldja. To those of the adventurers who like the Centurion and his two colleagues had been with the Turkish army, unarmed and unprotected, during the trying stresses of its
defeat, this attitude on the part of the diplomatic corps suggested a want of information and timidity altogether humiliating; humiliating alike to the ambassadors who acquiesced in the miserable supineness of the Constantinople Levantines, and to the Turkish nation, who had hitherto shown no incapacity in the maintenance of law and order in their capital. The Centurion did not profess to know anything about the paths of diplomacy, but it appeared to him that this action by the representatives of the powers was tantamount to inviting trouble by suggestion.
The returned adventurers found the majority of their colleagues comfortably installed in the Pera Palace Hotel. The narrative of their adventures since they left Tchorlu was interesting. It appears that the Bosniak Shepherd had seduced from Tchorlu all those who believed in him by the statement that, as there was a chance of interesting fighting in the direction of Viza-Sarai, it would be best for them to entrain part of the way to Tcherkeskuey
and from thence proceed to the front by road. The majority of the foreigners and a few Englishmen followed these instructions and were immediately spirited away to Constantinople. Here they were dumped on the platform and told by the Bosniak Shepherd that for the future he washed his hands of his charge.
Others, including the Diplomat, Jew's Harp Junior, the Popinjay and the cinematograph mongers, elected to make their own way down with the retreating forces. They appeared to have had a desperate time. Not only did the retreating Turkish army with the remorseless avidity of a swarm of locusts eat the country clean, but the epidemic of cholera that later almost decimated the army reached a high stage of virulence during the march down. These adventurers with the retreating army had believed that they were only taking the road as far as Tcherkeskuey. At Tcherkeskuey they found that the bulk of the troops were retiring still further to the
rear. They were then told that Karahanskuey was to be the new army headquarters. Here, however, there was no rest for them. Tchataldja was named as the next stage. At Tchataldja, the headquarters staff was found. As is well to be imagined, the headquarters staff of an army constituted as the Turkish army then was, was not over solicitous concerning a troop of foreign adventurers. They were given short shrift and told that their destination was Constantinople. Two or three of their number had been wise enough to give the General Staff a wide berth. These selected Siliviri as their point d'appui and some of them succeeded in rejoining the army. Two at least, including the General, fell into the hands of the enemy.
The individual story of the Innocent is worthy of being placed on record. He won his spurs in a truly heroic manner. During the first retirement from Lule Burgas, he became separated from the Bosniak Shepherd. At nightfall he found himself a lone European
upon the open veldt amid the bivouacs of the retreating army. Being unversed in the matter of horses, but realising that it was necessary to do something in the way of picketing, he tied his reins to a wax candle and affixed the latter lightly in the ground. In the morning he was horseless. In delightful naivete, he defended his action to his friends by intimating that he believed his old horse to have been sufficiently sagacious to have known the novel picketing peg was only a wax candle. Later in the retreat the Innocent marched into a Turkish bivouac and, not unnaturally, was taken for a Bulgarian agent. He suffered many indignities at the hands of the soldiers who captured him before an officer was found to release him from a really awkward predicament. Ultimately when he arrived at Tcherkeskuey, by an almost supernatural coincidence a station clerk was hawking a telegram up and down the platform. This telegram was for the Innocent. It was a pathetic whip from his office. Its contents
so played upon the feelings of the recipient that he set his teeth and plunged into the vortex of the re-organised Turkish advance guard. Undaunted by the dangers of his position he was determined to stick to that advance guard until it was pushed in by the advancing Bulgarians. He then hid himself in a village right in the centre of the lines of Tchataldja. Here his efforts were rewarded, for when the Bulgarians made their attack against the Lines on November 17th, the Innocent was able to be actually in the very thick of the engagement. None of his colleagues grudged him his success since of the whole of the corps of British adventurers he was the most deserving. It is no small thing for a man without experience in the field, to find himself suddenly associated with a retreating army.
After the Bosniak Shepherd had washed his hands of the entire bunch of adventurers, the General Staff issued an order that owing to the re-organisation of the Turkish forces behind the Tchataldja lines, no correspondents
would be allowed to proceed to the front. This meant that all conditions of service and all regulations were suspended and it was useless for any of the adventurers to apply for facilities. The members of the corps, therefore, ceased to be privileged adventurers. Those who determined to persevere, could only hope to do so as buccaneers and at their own risk.
It is a sufficient commentary upon the various statements which have been published concerning the Bulgarian successes at the battles of Lule Burgas and Viza and during the retirement down to Tchataldja, to note the wonderful rapidity with which this retreating army was re-organised behind the Tchataldja lines. It was not until November the 13th, that is 14 days after the last shots were fired in the vicinity of Lule Burgas, that the Bulgarian pursuing advance guard came in touch with the Turkish outposts in the neighbourhood of Tchataldja village. Nazim Pasha, the Minister of War, had now
taken supreme command and had established his headquarters at Hademkuey, a village on the railway, just south of the lines.
The Turkish generalissimo now disposed of about 80,000 men in his field army. This field army was re-organised into five corps. The old First and Second Corps were amalgamated and held the left section of the Lines; the Fourth Corps held the centre; while the Third Corps was on the right in the direction of Lake Derkos. In addition, two reserve corps had been organised and reinforcements were daily arriving from the Erzerum and the Syrian Inspections. Even the dull Turks had learned their lesson from the employment of partially trained troops. These new troops that were being brought from Asia Minor were composed entirely of Nizam and first class Redifs. They were not made up in any way by the inclusion of the material which had brought about ruin so rapidly in the earlier phases of the war. In fact stringent measures of elimination had been taken with
The late Nazim Pasha, Turkish Minister of War and Commander-in-Chief of the Turkish Army
the troops of the original four corps of the field army. The untrained material was sent to the rear and formed into units to carry out the scheme of field fortifications that now became necessary. All the men that had broken ranks and deserted were prevented from entering Constantinople. They were collected and returned to duty to carry out the manual labour of creating second and third line positions between Tchataldja and the capital.
The field army had lost in its retreat the major portion of its field artillery and munitions. These losses were difficult to replace. There was, nevertheless, a means open to the Turkish War Office. It was possible to make a further demand in the matter of quick-firing field artillery upon the Asiatic Inspections. The House of Krupp, also, through the slack observation of neutrality on the part of Germany and Roumania, was able to deliver a large number of batteries which were conveyed to the Turkish armies via the Black Sea. By similar methods several thousand
serviceable horses were secured. The Turks thoroughly believed that, as the Bulgarians had failed to profit by their rapid retirement, a new complexion had been introduced into the main theatre of the campaign. As the Turkish Government was at this period endeavouring to open up negotiations with the Allies, it may be as well to bring briefly into perspective the whole picture of the campaign.
From the foregoing narrative the reader knows what has happened in Thrace. Adrianople was still holding out; Shukri Pasha, the commandant of the fortress, continued to make an active defence. The inability of the Allies to reduce this fortress, either by direct assault or by other means, continued to detain at least 100,000 of their men. Another Bulgarian force known as the Rhodope Army had operated successfully during October in the Struma and Mesta valleys. The column that invaded the Struma engaged in a neck and neck race with the Greeks for the occupation
of Salonika. This port was entered on the 9th November, the Bulgars having been beaten by a short head by the Hellenes.
The Bulgarian column in the Mesta Valley occupied Drama on October 26th and Dedeagarch on November 22nd. At the outbreak of hostilities a Turkish Division had been mobilised at Kirjali in the Rhodope mountains. This force fell back before the invaders and remained on the right bank of the Maritza. Here it was a considerable source of anxiety to the Bulgarian General Staff. It was feared that it had a role to play in connection with Adrianople. So anxious was General Savoff to have this Kirjali force kept in hand that he detached his independent cavalry division to follow it down the right bank of the Maritza. It was his intention that the mounted men should co-operate with the Mesta Valley force. It is for this reason, so the Bulgarians say, that they were without cavalry when the Turkish main army began its precipitate retreat. The Bulgarians
hemmed in this Kirjali corps and pressed it back upon the Maritza with such success that it ignominiously surrendered on November the 26th. About this time the Bulgarians embarked a brigade of their troops from Salonika in Greek transports and put them ashore at Dedeagarch. It is to be presumed that this movement was intended to enable them to concentrate a further force against Tchataldja.
The Servian army operating in Albania had occupied Uskub on October 26th and defeated the Turkish Western Army, consisting of the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Corps at the battle of Kumanovo. On November 6th the Servian Army again defeated the Turkish Western Army at Perlepe. They also had another success against the residue of this Turkish Army in the neighbourhood of Monastir.
The Greeks at the beginning of November had already defeated the Turks at Yanitza and Plati Bridge. They entered Salonika on November the 8th and received the surrender of
Bulgarian infantry advancing and throwing up hasty intrenchments
Hassan Pasha and 29,000 Turkish troops. The Greek Army, however, operating in Southern Albania, had failed to reduce the defended town of Yanina. Djavid Pasha, who commanded the Sixth Turkish Army Corps, succeeded in working his way into Yanina with what was left of the Turkish Western Army that had been defeated near Monastir.
The operations of the Montenegrin Army were more or less confined to their abortive attempt to reduce Scutari. The Montenegrins at their best are only untrained soldiers and consequently unreliable material. They had begun the campaign with a great flourish of trumpets. A few heavy losses soon damped their ardour, and their want of administration and training placed them in a very poor position when they had to undertake slow and difficult approach operations in the depth of winter.
It will be seen from the foregoing outline, that Turkey had to all intents and purposes
lost the whole of her possessions in Europe excepting the point of the Thracian Peninsula that lies behind the Tchataldja lines, the tongue of Galipoli, and her three beleaguered fortresses. It has been demonstrated that the Turk as a mobile enemy is of small account, but as long as he was fed, he maintained the traditions of his race for lion hearted courage behind entrenchments. It is hardly necessary to make any mention of the naval operations. None of the Turkish ships had left the cover of the Dardanelles. The Turks had carried out some weak demonstrations against Varna and the ships were now being employed as floating batteries to supplement the defences of Tchataldja. The command of the Ægean Sea had been left entirely to the Greeks, and the latter had picked up at will such islands as they required that were not already in the occupation of the Italians.
TO A NEW COUNTRY
THE adventurers who had returned from Rodosto were not given much time in Constantinople to kick their heels. Once the Bulgarians had collected transport and replenished their supplies, they were able to move quickly enough down to where the Turkish Army had now established its line of resistance. There was nothing to impede them as Salih Pasha's independent cavalry division, with the exception of a few composite units, had been sent down to the Sweet Waters to refit.
Early on the morning of November the 13th there was very considerable movement in front of the Pera Palace Hotel. Country wagons were being loaded up with tents and camp equipment; dragomans were flitting about in service kit; the German adventurers, having
hoisted their medal ribbons, were swinging in and out of the hotel in martial gait, while the many creditors whom the dragomans had essayed to evade, were pestering the hall porter to know if such and such a gentleman was still in the hotel.
The Centurion, enjoying the luxury of hotel life after his wear-and-tear existence at the Turkish front, still remained immobile and watched with equanimity the preparations for the departure of his confrérès. He had already made his mental calculations as to when it would be expeditious to move for the scene of active operations. He was also anxious that the ruck of the correspondents should take themselves off. He had discovered that this herding business was detrimental to efficient service. Once he knew in which direction the mass of his colleagues had gone he proposed making his .way to a totally different portion of the Lines.
The Dumpling, who never could watch movement by other correspondents without
believing that it was necessary for him to bestir himself, elected to continue his association with Jew's Harp Senior. This group hired a powerful motor car and late in the morning took the road for Kuch Chekmedji. There was an absolute exodus from the Hotel and that night the Centurion was the only adventurer left behind. His plans, however, were matured. The faithful John, moving amongst the dragomans belonging to his rivals, had ascertained the destination of the baggage of each group. This enabled the Centurion to pick out on the map a secluded village which was sufficiently far removed from the billets selected by his colleagues, and yet close enough to the actual lines to be within easy reach, without its being actually a portion of the'area where the reserves would be likely to be stationed. The faithful John had the caravan all prepared and in readiness for instant movement. The Centurion alone knew what was to be its ultimate destination.
It had been the intention of the Diplomat to
join forces with the Centurion for this last phase of the fighting. The Diplomat, however, since the request had gone from the Porte to Sofia that there should be an armistice to permit of negotiations, felt that his diplomatic duties were more pressing than anything to be gained out of chance military operations. He, in common with the European opinion prevailing in Constantinople, thought that the Bulgarians had just to appear in force before the Lines, to reproduce the retreat of Lule Burgas.
As the Centurion sat over his lonely dinner, he was joined by the Popinjay, who made a journey that morning to Kuch Chekmedji in a car and had just returned. The Popinjay was the least jealous of all the adventurers. He was one of those clean-bred young Englishmen whose chief anxiety during the campaign was to be in touch with the actual fighting. He had undertaken the role of special correspondent because it gave him opportunities to satiate this lust for manly excitement. The
information which the Popinjay brought back from the front decided the Centurion to make his move on the following morning. Orders were, therefore, issued to John to be ready to start with the caravan early when the destination would be disclosed to him in confidence. Later in the evening the Popinjay and the Centurion decided to join forces for the particular adventure. It was thought to be prudent that unauthorised Europeans should at least be in pairs when they established themselves close up to the front.
On the following morning the Popinjay and the Centurion paddled out to the front in a second rate motor car that had been hired at an almost prohibitive price. Their ultimate objective was a little Greek village about six miles due south of Hademkuey, Nazim Pasha's headquarters. To reach this, it was proposed to take the metalled road to Kuch Chekmedji and from thence work by country roads up to the selected village. Arrived at Kuch Chekmedji they found a large posse of
their confrérès in possession of the village. From these they gathered that orders had been issued to commanders at the front to permit no correspondents to reach the actual scene of the operations. Several of the adventurers had been to Byuk Chekmedji, twelve miles forward, but had been politely though firmly conducted back and set upon the Constantinople road. All the adventurers who had been unsuccessful in establishing themselves on the southern extremity of the Tchataldja lines had now decided to go back to a village where there was a monastery. The Popinjay and the Centurion wished them Godspeed and said they would persevere in an endeavour to remain in the village of Byuk Chekmedji. The others assured them of the futility of this attempt and pointed out that they were only wasting their time since there was nothing to be seen except the flashes of the guns of the warships in the Bight as they bombarded theoretical Bulgarian positions somewhere in the direction of Tchataldja.
The two adventurers, however, continued on their way. When they met a suitable country road they turned off for their real objective. The country road, cut up as it was by the passage of artillery and army transport, very nearly defeated their car. Just before nightfall they reached their village. The actual situation of the village proved a triumph to the correspondent's powers of map-reading. For the immediate purposes of the adventurers its surroundings were ideal. It was just one of those little clusters of Turkish houses that are hidden away in nooks and corners of the downs all over this part of the Thracian peninsula. It had the advantage of being removed and practically hidden from the highways leading to Tchataldja. It lay in the cleft between two spurs that ran down into the valley utilised for the railway. West of the village you had but to climb a hummock and you commanded an absolute panorama of at least six roads leading up to the reverse of the southern half of the Tchataldja
positions. Yet the village was so hidden that you might well pass up and down any one of these roads a dozen times without discovering its existence.
The village itself was not of sufficient importance to support a han. The chief farmer, in a primitive way, however, fulfilled the duties of hanji. Over the gateway of his main enclosure he had a guest house which he let to such travellers as chanced his way. The adventurers had lit upon this village at an opportune moment. It was being utilised by the army as a hospital for suspect cases of cholera. The principal medical officer of the First Division and his staff of doctors were in occupation of the guest room. They had just received instructions to change their headquarters to another village nearer the Lines. As the two Englishmen arrived they had packed up their equipment and were settling with the hanji preparatory to leaving for their new destination. The Englishmen naturally moved into their apartment, which, without
exaggeration, was the only habitable room within an area of ten square miles. The Popinjay had brought his dragoman Joe with him in the car. Joe in the matter of domesticities was masterful. He immediately took charge, and, in an incredibly short time, had a meal prepared and scouts out scouring the main roads in order to direct the caravan as soon as it arrived. John and the caravan put in an appearance some time after dark.
For the purpose of description the Centurion called the village "The Larches." This was due to the fact that it was shut in by a mass of these graceful trees. The Popinjay, who was something of a wag, however, insisted that the name should be changed to Alibi-Kuey. This subsequently proved to be a very clever quip. Although the Popinjay meant an alibi in its English sense, yet it so happened that about six miles away from the spot there was a Turkish village of the name of Alibikuey.
During their stay at the front both the adventurers
were questioned by Turkish officers as to where they had their headquarters. All that was said was Alibikuey. It so fell out that the real Alibikuey was drawn for them by the gendarmes sent from headquarters several times while the fictitious Alibi-Kuey was never discovered as their bolt-hole.
On the following day the Centurion and the Popinjay made a long mounted reconnoissance of the southern half of the Tchataldja Lines. It may be stated here that a great deal of nonsense had been written about the state of this Line of semi-permanent fortifications. The fugitive correspondents hurrying down to Constantinople from the army in retreat, made the not Uncommon mistake of confusing the village of Tchataldja and the Tchataldja mountain with the actual trace of the line of fortifications. In reality, the Tchataldja mountain and the village of Tchataldja have nothing to do with the Lines. The village itself is on the opposite side of the Karasu Valley and is at least six or seven miles west of
the most western of Turkish fortifications. Naturally enough the correspondents found no signs of fortifications at Tchataldja village. The majority of them, however, pressed on down the Constantinople road in the dark. It was quite possible to pass down this road in daylight and see very little of the real line of fortifications. These untrained observers were believed when they stated in Constantinople that Tchataldja was not even fortified and that they had seen nothing of trenches or of field works as they passed.
The Tchataldja position consists of a chain of down-crests stretching right across the Thracian Peninsula. The trace of the fortifications follows one of these almost interminable series of uplands of which mention was made in the description of the positions between Lule Burgas and Viza. In this case this continuous ridge is more definitely marked, owing to the presence of the Karasu Valley which divides the southern half of the Tchataldja Lines from the Tchataldja mountain.
This valley is marshy and difficult. It is a continuation of the Byuk Chekmedji Lake, which, with the Derkos Lake on the north, is another feature in the strength of these lines.
The entire length of the position from sea to sea is about thirty miles. Of this front, however, not more than fifteen or sixteen miles are held, since natural objects protect the remainder. The railway and the main Adrianople road cut through the lines at about their centre in the vicinity of Hademkuey. The defences of this naturally strong position consist of a chain of old redoubts which includes all the more prominent features. It may be said that this chain of works has been built up on the advice of half the fortification experts in Europe. German, English and French experts have all tried their hands at Tchataldja. The result has been artificial strengthening of a position which really never required very much to be done to it except an efficient application of the spade. The Bulgarians were kind enough to give the Turks
this latter opportunity and, for once, they were not slow to avail themselves of it. For the first time in their history, the Turkish soldiery seemed imbued with an adequate military energy.
The old redoubts designed by Bluhm Pasha, the works constructed under the advice of British officers and the three modern forts with concrete bomb-proofs which were added on the advice of Brialmont, were all linked up with double or treble tiers of infantry trenches at convenient distances between the permanent works. Positions were prepared for field batteries and field howitzers to be used as position artillery, as far as the Centurion could gather all the additional positions for field batteries that were designed after the army retreated behind the Lines. There were about one hundred and forty works in all constructed as platforms for artillery. It is true that much of the position artillery in the works was of old pattern, some even firing black powder, but it was all serviceable and there was a great
deal more artillery in position on the 15th of November than the Bulgarians had calculated upon. The southern half of the Tchataldja position is extremely strong owing to the fact that the glacis to all the works is a gentle slope leading down into the marshy valley of Karasu. The Derkos region, however, presents a foreground that is more easy of approach. The country here is less downlike; it is broken, and to a very large degree, covered with scrub. Another strength in these historic Lines is the frequency of flanking positions. There is hardly one advance work in the whole line that it would be safe to carry and hold, unless the attack were prepared to push its success immediately to the succeeding works. It is understood that the theoretical estimate of the force necessary to hold this position was put at 80,000 rifles, 250 position guns and about thirty batteries of field artillery. Although no theoretical estimate of requirements in war can be accepted as final, yet when the Bulgarian advance guards first
came into touch with the Lines, the Ottoman army had very nearly the exact numbers in position at Tchataldja to dispute the road to Constantinople as had been laid down by the theorists. In coming to this estimate, the guns of the Turkish fleet, distributed on both flanks of the position, may be reckoned as supplying an important moiety of the fortress artillery.
During their morning reconnoissance the Popinjay and the Centurion had their first real insight into the extent to which cholera was ravaging the ranks of the Turkish Army. They pushed their reconnoissance as far as Hademkuey. They did not enter this village as they did not think it expedient to present themselves at headquarters. Following a road which lies just behind the Lines, and parallel to the defences, they met the head of a sick convoy that was evidently being directed upon Hademkuey railway station. The convoy consisted of nearly a hundred springless bullock wagons. These carts were
carrying an awful freight. In each were heaped the cholera cases which had been brought during the night to the field hospitals of the amalgamated First and Second Corps. The majority seemed to be in a state of collapse. There were six to eight cases in each wagon. Where the patients were sitting up their heads were usually hanging over the sides of the carts to give them relief as each paroxysm of the disease racked their frames. From time to time the carts were turned to the roadside and a medical officer then indicated to the attendants such cases as he, from a safe distance, believed to be past medical aid. These were pulled out of the cart and dragged unceremoniously to the roadside to be collected by the burial carts which might or might not pass that way.
In his whole experience of warfare the Centurion is unable to remember a more heartrending spectacle than this journey along that road of death. Here and there this debris of human life lay in heaps. These were generally
In the cholera hospital camp at Mukakuey behind the Tchataldja Lines. "Actually in the village there was nothing living except the dogs." See page 275
corpses. Their cramped attitude and ghastly features bore pathetic testimony to the nature of the disease. In some places the rapidly fading quick were mingled with the dead and the Centurion will never forget, as they passed one pile, how, from a mass of corpses, a seemingly dead man raised his pallid face and with lustreless eyes fixed them with a vacant hopeless stare. The memory of that face will haunt him till his dying day.
And thus the Popinjay and the Centurion passed down into the village of Mukakuey. The epidemic seemed to have made a clean sweep of this pretty little rural hamlet. Mukakuey lay in the bottom of a valley, and, like Alibi-Kuey, was prettily shaded by groups of graceful larches. A few tattered tents showed that it had been used as a field hospital. Save for a few ghoul-like peasants, who, under the lash of a gendarme, were engaged in burying corpses on the outskirts, it was a village of the dead. Actually in the village there was nothing living except the
dogs that were quarrelling over the corpses that lay scattered amongst the tents and in the gardens. The hamlet literally smelt of the dread disease and with a shudder the two Englishmen put spurs to their horses and cantered away from these distressing scenes.
The booming of heavy guns towards the south told the adventurers that the Turkish warships lying off Byuk Chekmedji were again searching for the Bulgarian positions. The Popinjay and the Centurion-rode up the downs to a rise above Karagarch, from whence they secured an admirable panorama of the whole of the southern front which the Turks were holding. On the top of this hill they found two Turkish staff officers from the Fourth Corps taking stock of the enemy's positions. Both these officers were known to the Centurion and they greeted him with unaffected surprise. They had last met in Tchorlu. On this occasion they were very useful as they had already marked down several of the Bulgarian positions. With the aid
of the Centurion's powerful glass, it was possible to see the trenches above Papas Burgas at which the Bulgarians had been working through the night. Discussing the situation generally the Turkish officers intimated that the Staff was of opinion that, if the Bulgarians intended to attack the Lines, their main efforts would be made in the direction of Derkos and Nakaskuey. These the Turks considered to be the two most vulnerable salients. These two officers spoke with enthusiasm of the new troops that were arriving from Asia Minor. It was quite evident that their optimism concerning the strength of the Lines, and the possibilities of defending them against direct attack, was sincere.
As the desultory firing from the harbour was purely an affair of "long bowls," the two Englishmen returned to their cubby-hole. The Centurion was of opinion that now pour-parlers between the belligerents had been opened, there would not be any severe fighting at Tchataldja. He argued that the Allies
were in much the same case as the Japanese had been in 1904. The Japanese had attained all that was necessary to bring the Russians to terms at the battle of Mukden. Any further advance to Harbin, while demanding a far greater national effort would not produce any greater results, while it might embody risks which would jeopardise the existing ascendency. In similar case the Balkan Allies had accomplished the ends for which they had unsheathed their weapons. The position at Tchataldja was much more difficult than they had been led to believe. If they took it by a coup-de-main, not only would the price in life be more severe than the Bulgarians could afford, but their success would bring them immediately upon Constantinople, and into conflict with the interests of the Great Powers of Europe. Also like the Japanese, they took the risk of discounting their initial success by suffering a reverse. As the guiding heads in Sofia had hitherto shown such clever statesmanship, the Centurion believed that they
During the operations on the extreme Turkish left near the Tchataldja Lines; a Turkish battalion at midnight on November 17, with the aid of the searchlight, advancing and occupying the village of Papas Burgas, on the heels of the Bulgarians, who evacuated it precipitately before them
would be content, and would prefer to settle on the merits of their present successes, rather than push the issues of war into unfathomable depths.
Sharing this view the Popinjay determined to ride back to Constantinople to put in order some arrangements that were troubling him at the base. That night, therefore, the Centurion was alone at Alibi-Kuey. Just before he turned in, he received a visit from Colonel Atim Bey, the principal medical officer who had been in charge of the village when the adventurers had arrived. The kindly officer, who was an Armenian and one of the leading operating surgeons in Constantinople, informed the Centurion that it was proposed to turn Alibi-Kuey into a cholera camp for the First Division. He had returned to arrange all the details and he gave the Centurion the information more or less as a warning of what was to be expected. He was somewhat surprised when the Centurion showed no concern at the information. In fact he was inclined
to welcome it. He realised that once the village was established as a real cholera camp there would be less chance of staff officers and gendarmes searching it as a likely hiding-place for unauthorised foreigners at the front.
The Turkish army and navy in action near the Tchataldja Lines
THE RUN OF THE SEASON
DURING the two days at Alibi-Kuey there had been intermittent firing confined almost entirely to the insistence of the Turkish war vessels lying off Byuk Chekmedji. In the early morning of the day after the Popinjay had left, the Centurion woke from his sleep in a start and sat up on his camp bed with every nerve tense. His experienced ear told him that something big had suddenly developed. The welkin rang with the reverberation of heavy artillery fire. This was no desultory practice on the part of the Turkish warships. It was the rhythmic and systematic bursting of shells fired in salvos. The Centurion listened for the space of two minutes. There could be no doubt about it. Calling for John, he jumped out of bed and began to dress. John, who did not wake
easily, was aroused. In co-operation with Joe the necessary dish of cocoa was prepared and in twenty minutes the Centurion was on his pony and galloping over the veldt to the sound of the guns.
It was a still winter's morning. A heavy haze hung over all the depressions in the downs. The light was bad and as the Centurion galloped in the direction of Hademkuey he could not understand why the Bulgarians had chosen this particular morning to make their first serious demonstration against the Lines. Secretly he was a little annoyed with them since, from the sound of firing, it seemed that they had upset all his calculations. There was no doubt about the intensity of the artillery fire. At the first estimate it looked as if the intention was to drive an attack home and the morning had been selected for this purpose, owing to the visual cover that the winter's mists would give to advancing infantry.
About half way between Alibi-Kuey and
Hademkuey, there is a ridge that commands an excellent panorama of the southern half of the Karasu Valley. This was the Centurion's first objective. As he reached this ridge he found that it was already occupied by a large number of Turkish officers and men from the reserve units stationed in the village of Omarli. The artillery fire had now become general as the Turks were able to find without effort the whole of the Bulgarian batteries in action against them. The ease with which these targets became unmasked was due to the dullness of the morning. Tchataldja Mountain and the downs that rise away to the west of the Karasu Valley were just black ridges in the half light. Against this background every flash from the Bulgarian batteries was visible. The target was so clear that it was a simple matter to count the flashes and thus determine the strength of the batteries in action.
As far as the Centurion could judge the Bulgarian artillery fire was mainly concentrated upon the twin Hamidieh forts. These
works are outworks to the centre of the main line of Turkish defences. But while concentrating much of their fire upon these two permanent works, the Bulgarian gunners had batteries to spare for the more important targets behind them. The big works of Ahmed Pasha and Bahceis Tabja sparkled in the dim morning light with canopies of bursting shrapnel, while heavier projectiles from time to time threw up great dark patches of smoke and mud as they gouged their way along their crests.
The Turkish reserves were bivouacked in the valleys or on the reverse slopes of the positions. They were now all moving up into cover in selected depressions behind the Lines. The trenches in which the infantry holding these positions were disposed, are all dug on the approach slopes of the positions. Many of them are low down and there is no regularity in the alignment. As all the loose earth has been distributed and the parapets turfed with sods, it is difficult to pick them out at any
distance from the grassy slopes in which they are traced.
As the Centurion stood watching the inferno of shell-bursts the sound of musketry and machine-gun fire broke out all along the left of the position. This could mean only one thing. Somewhere infantry was advancing. His present position was no place from which to see the infantry attack. The Centurion, therefore, remounted his pony and trotted down into the Mukakuey Valley, where he and the Popinjay had seen the hospital convoy on the preceding day. Leaving that village of death on the left, he cantered down the valley in the direction of the saddle through which the railway passes over the position. West of the village he found the Tchataldja road which here again meets the railway. There was very little on the road. He passed one or two ammunition carts being urged up to the front, four wagons loaded with bread making for the Lines, and he met two or three groups of men conducting or
carrying a wounded comrade to the rear. As he trotted along he was overtaken by a young Turkish officer. The latter, surprised at the suddenness of the attack, was cantering out from Hademkuey to join his unit. The Centurion and the Turkish officer at once fraternised and it was lucky for the former that they did so, as, a little further on, they met an examining post which the officer said had had orders to fire on all civilians who came up the road unaccompanied by a soldier in uniform.
As soon as they were round the corner behind which the examining post was placed, it was necessary to go fast as they had reached the zone of the enemy's fire. Shells were bursting all along so as to search the foot-slopes of Bahceis Tabja. The under features here sink gently into the Karasu Valley. This Nek is the one low gateway in the whole of the Tchataldja position. In it the Turks have erected a chain of earthworks. Portions of this chain are of more or less permanent construction and are provided with splinter proofs
and magazines. At intervals along this line there are redoubts in which were emplaced large calibre Krupps and several batteries of quick firing field artillery. The intermediate trenches were occupied by infantry and machine-gun sections.
As the Centurion and his new-found friend cantered up to the nearest work some friendly soldiers in a splinter proof shouted to them to bring their horses under cover. It was well they did so. The animals were scarcely below the beams of the splinter proof when a salvo of shrapnel burst overhead and the strike swept up the dust and stones along the path they had just crossed. An officer in the splinter proof told the Centurion's companion that his company was in one of the old works on the left front of this particular splinter proof. He here proposed to wish the Centurion good-bye and showed much surprise when the latter volunteered to accompany him to his command. The semi-permanent work was only about two hundred yards away. It
was not even necessary to run to reach it. There happened at that period to be one of those curious lulls which recur periodically during an artillery fight.
On reaching the work the Centurion found everybody there very comfortably installed. The garrison had not been much troubled by the enemy's shrapnel as the enemy had confined most of their energy to the artillery works further along the line. The work covered a grand field of fire. Its approaches sloped very gently down to the Karasu stream. The bed of the stream is masked with a certain amount of scrub-growth before the valley slopes up again towards the village of Papas Burgas and the Tchataldja Mountain. The officer commanding the company holding this work knew his business. All his men were sitting down in the trenches well under cover waiting until the sentries observing the front should discover a target. Up to the time of the arrival of the Centurion the company had suffered no casualty even though one or two
"A salvo of shrapnel burst overhead." See page 287
common shell had topped the parapet and smothered everyone with dirt and dust. The severe outburst of musketry-fire that had attracted the Centurion had broken out further to the left on the front of the First Corps.
A few minutes after the Centurion's arrival an officer who was watching the river bed reported infantry to be in the scrub. According to the captain of the company this infantry must have come down in the night or made its way from some other point within the shelving bed. Since daylight nothing had crossed down the upward slope from Papas Burgas. The captain went up to reconnoitre and the Centurion, who had very powerful glasses, went up with him. After a little time it was easy to make out the flat caps of the Bulgarians in the river bed. The men were immediately ordered to man the parapet. The target was then pointed out to them. The Centurion was surprised at the workmanlike manner in which this captain went about his business. He was not one of the educated young men
from Constantinople but was one of the old type of Turkish officer. He had probably risen from the ranks. He evinced as he exercised command in the field every instinct of a careful and even scientific soldier.
The river bed was about 1500 metres from the work. The soldiers only received instructions to watch the target. They had not long to wait. Presently half a dozen groups of Bulgarian infantry popped up out of the scrub. They walked upright and gallantly into the open. Now was the time for the Turks. The captain ordered the section commanders to open fire. There was no concealment of the movement of the Bulgarian infantry. A withering Mauser fire crashed out along the entire Turkish front. At the same time the Turkish field gunners picked up the target. The advancing infantry disappeared as if they had been swept away by magic. The men had dropped in their tracks. The fire was too heavy for them to face. This, however, did not deter further groups from moving out to
support their comrades. These in their turn were received with the same crash of rifles. They too disappeared. Presently the prostrate men rose and rushed forward. This time they ran in their efforts to gain ground. It seemed that the Turkish gunners had found their range accurately. With the aid of glasses it was possible to see the strike of the shrapnel amongst the prostrate infantrymen.
This continued for about an hour. In this period, as far as the Centurion could calculate, about a battalion of Bulgarian infantrymen had come out over the lip of the river bed. The Bulgarians had not been able to advance more than three or four hundred yards. As an infantry attack, as far as the Centurion could diagnose it, it was the most futile and wasteful thing he had ever seen in his life. The senior officer who ordered it could have made no reconnoissance of the position he proposed to attack, or, if he had, then he must have had a contempt for the Turkish resistance that was totally unjustified.
Towards midday the senior Bulgarian officer evidently came to much the same conclusion, as the infantry began to retire to the cover of the river bed. They were whipped in their retirement by shrapnel and rifle fire, and as could be seen with the glasses, there were many forms left lying in the vacated positions. As long as the Centurion remained in the trenches there was no further infantry movement that he could discern along that front. After nightfall, however, he understands, a rifle battalion from the Second Turkish Corps went down and cleaned the Bulgarians out of the river bed.
All this time there was no intermission in the fearful hurly-burly of the cannon combat all along the lines. The Turkish fleet had joined in the noisy revelry and its great projectiles could be seen bursting among the Bulgarian trenches along the foot of the Tchataldja Mountain. The Centurion felt that it was time to betake himself to another part of the field. When he retired to the splinter
proof to find his pony it was necessary to run as there was a horrid noise of shrapnel in the air. The supports in the splinter proof were delighted to see him back. The Turkish Tommy really is a lovable, simple fellow. Like all Mohammedans, when you are upon his right side, he is a perfect gentleman. The Centurion offered the men who had held his horse a few piastres. They refused the proffered gift with dignity, saying, "We are all bound for Heaven. What would we do with piastres in Heaven!"
The officer commanding these supports sent a sergeant with the Centurion to get him past the examining post, and, after mutual greetings, the Centurion moved to another portion of the field. This time he made for the slopes of Ahmed Pasha as it seemed to him that there was a continuous roll of musketry fire from the trenches there and in front of the Hamidieh works. As he passed down the reverse of Bahceis Tabja he came upon a field-dressing station. A slightly wounded artillery officer
with whom he opened a conversation said that most of the shrapnel wounds were slight and pointed out with considerable satisfaction that the Bulgarian gunners were bursting their shrapnel far too high for it to be effective. He added that very many of the men had been hit by shrapnel bullets that were spent.
It was evident that everything was going well for the Turks along this portion of the front. No demand, whatever, had been made upon the reserves who were bunched up on the reverse slopes as near the crest as was safe without exposing them to the high angle-fire with which the Bulgarians, from time to time, essayed to search the reverse of the positions. Having with the permission of their officer left his pony with some friendly soldiers of the reserve, the Centurion found a place on the crest of Ahmed Pasha from which he secured a bird's-eye view of the Karasu Valley, as it rose up to the Hamidieh forts. A very heavy shell fire was concentrated on these two forts. With his glasses he could see that an
infantry movement had taken place from the village of Ezetin and made its way down towards the river. There was nothing very definite or persistent in this attempt and it recoiled automatically under the sustained rifle fire which met it from the Turkish trenches.
A stout little Turkish officer, who, at this spot, shared the cover with the Centurion was radiant as he said gleefully: "We have got these swineherds to-day."
From time to time the Bulgarian gunners, whose batteries on this front were on the ridges behind Ezetin, turned their attention upon Ahmed Pasha. The wounded artillery officer's diagnosis had been right. It was quite evident that the majority of the Bulgarian batteries which were engaging Ahmed Pasha were ranging at quite 6,000 yards. The bursting of shrapnel high at this range is not a very profitable method of making an impression upon a prepared position. The howitzers, and there seemed to be one or two batteries of these weapons, made better practice,
and while the Centurion was at Ahmed Pasha, one of these large projectiles did a cruel burst amongst a section of Turkish supports sheltering behind a wall.
The Hamidieh forts were within more effective range of the Bulgarian fire. The Turks there had considerable casualties and as the Centurion lay on Ahmed Pasha he could see the wounded being helped down the reverse slopes of the works to a dressing station in the valley, and from time to time two or three stretchers told their tale of shells that had got home.
Shortly after midday there was a decided lull in the firing. For a time the Bulgarian fire completely died away. The Turks too seemed in need of rest. The Centurion seized this opportunity to get away from his hiding-place at Ahmed Pasha. He was beginning to think of the duty he owed to his employers in London and felt that it was time to get back to Alibi-Kuey in order that a messenger should be despatched. Of one thing he was certain.
This was, that wisely or unwisely, the Bulgarians had made an attack upon Tchataldja and that the Turks had easily kept this attack at arm's length. What worried the Centurion was the difficulty to find a reason for this more or less futile effort.
Was it that the army, believing that the civilians at Sofia might be tempted to wrest from them their crowning victory, had taken the bit between their teeth? Was it that the politicians thought that the sound of the Bulgarian guns bombarding within thirty miles of the Turkish capital would have a moral effect in the coming negotiations? Was it that the Bulgarian General Staff, believing all the reports of disorganisation in the Turkish retreat, thought they had but to show their teeth to frighten the Turkish soldiers from their trenches? Was it a mismanaged reconnoissance intended merely to test the strength of the Turkish positions, or was it a serious effort to force the Lines of Tchataldja?
Even now the Centurion will not permit
himself to make a definitive answer to any of these queries. Considered as a reconnoissance in force it was cumbersome and expensive. As a real attack, it was ill-conceived, ill-conducted and altogether futile. As a diplomatic ballon d'essai it was a fatuous blunder. It led the Turks to believe that they had at last won a great victory. It caused them to harden their hearts sevenfold, and it re-established the influence of the military party in the capital.
The Centurion hastened back to Alibi-Kuey. Arrived there he hurriedly wrote his message and despatched it to his agents in Constantinople so that no time should be lost in its reaching its destination.
After a scratch meal the Centurion mounted a fresh horse and started again to the front. He could not fail to regret that the Popinjay had been so unfortunate in the selection of a day to return to Constantinople. There was still a heavy cannonade but the ear of the Centurion noted that the fury had already departed
Cholera patients arriving by bullock-cart at Constantinople
out of the day's battling. This time he headed towards Karagarch, the headquarters of Omar Taver's composite army corps.
There is a slight table-land at Karagarch from the summit of which a grand panorama of the whole of the scene of operations is possible. The Centurion had some difficulty in reaching this plateau. The examining posts showed every inclination to detain him. An officer of Nishanjis, however, recognised him and invited him to join a group of his comrades who were standing on the edge of the plateau.
It must be admitted that in this period of the campaign the officers of the army were not kindly disposed towards the foreign adventurers. Nor was this surprising. In the first place the Turkish Army had little in the record of the campaign upon which to congratulate itself; nevertheless, the case against the army in Thrace had been overstated by the majority of the foreign adventurers who had shared its hospitality. There is no criticism
that is quite so painful as the truth. There was just sufficient truth in the criticisms that had been meted out so handsomely with regard to the retirement from Lule Burgas to make them the bitterest reading to those responsible for the bearing of the army.
There is, however, little in the Turkish character that is malignant, and although the officers of this rifle battalion at first received the Centurion coolly, under the influence of his congratulations on the day's fighting, they soon became the jolly hospitable fellows that all true Turks are au fond. There was a general spirit of elation in the discovery that they really had sufficient resistance to face their enemy. This may be a pathetic criticism upon them. Nevertheless it is a terrible thing for the officers of an army to have to take part in a hurried retreat. It destroys that confidence which is the chief factor complementary to experience and training.
The Centurion stayed with the rifle officers until it began to get dark. All rifle fire had
died out early in the afternoon. The Turkish gunners, nevertheless, maintained a continuous bombardment of the Bulgarian battery positions. The Turks with their position artillery and the guns of the fleet had a superior range to anything that the Bulgarians had brought into action. Early in the day they had secured admirable targets. Throughout the afternoon the reply of the Bulgarian gunners was only desultory. At intervals they treated the Hamidieh works to a few minutes of sustained and concentrated fire. These efforts were spasmodic. When night fell suddenly, as it does in the winter in Thrace, the firing immediately died out. A period was put to it with an abruptness that was truly remarkable. It almost seemed as if it had been turned off by the movement of a lever.
When the Centurion returned to Alibi-Kuey he found that the Popinjay had just arrived. The latter was desperately chagrined at having missed the battle. The sound of the firing had been perfectly audible
in Pera. As soon as the Popinjay heard it he had tumbled out of bed and taken to horse. By midday he had reached a position near Hademkuey from which he had been able to witness some of the effects of the bombardment, but he had been unable to gather any detail.
An engagement such as this Bulgarian effort against a position of the strength of Tchataldja affords but little opportunity for those intimate details which alone bring personal interest into a description of fighting. The only really close fighting had occurred in the north, in the vicinity of Derkos. Here a very bloody affair was perpetrated. Probably it was the bloodiest of the whole campaign. This was the capture and recapture of Kizildzali Tepe, one of the advance works on the northern section of the Tchataldja position. It was held by a battalion of Kurdish infantry newly arrived from Asia.
It will be remembered that the morning had broken overcast and misty. In the lowland
about Derkos this mist hung in heavy opaque clouds. The approaches to the Kizildzali Tepe work lie over broken country. The field of observation is much curtailed by scrub and incipient forest. The Bulgarians had selected this point as a salient. Under cover of night a force of about a battalion had been detached to steal up to this Turkish advanced position and, if possible, to rush it in the small hours of the morning. A large infantry force was concentrated in the scrub and forest. Presumably it was proposed, if this detached force was successful in the enterprise, to use Kizildzali Tepe as a stepping-stone from which to rush the Lines. The forlorn hope made a complete success. They penetrated right up to the rear of the work without disturbing a single sentry. What followed was a short and bloody butchery. In the bitter cold of that misty morning the entire Turkish garrison was silently bayoneted.
The Bulgarians had scored a big initial success. The opaqueness of the mist, however,
was to be their undoing. In the first place it delayed them in communicating the success to the main attacking force. (But what was more desperate it allowed the colonel and adjutant of the Turkish Reserves lying in the rear of the neighbouring works to ride up to Kizildzali Tepe. The colonel had suspected that something was wrong. Under cover of the mist he rode up to the work and found the Bulgarians in occupation. He and his adjutant turned their horses round and galloped back to their own men. This colonel was a quick-witted fellow. He roused his own battalion, and in fifteen minutes his men were doubling through the mist to re-establish the Turkish line. They took the Bulgarians in the rear much in the same manner in which they themselves had taken the original garrison. Their methods of dealing with the Bulgarians were also the same. A Turkish officer who saw the work after the double tragedy said that it was the bloodiest shambles that any war had seen. The colonel of the reserves
wasted no time in rejoicing over his victory. Realising that the Bulgarian effort was but the prelude to an attack in force he disposed his battalion in readiness. His men were just able to man the parapet in time when the Bulgarian main attack began to separate itself from the mists. The Bulgarians, having now received information that the work was theirs, were advancing with the utmost confidence. The reception they received so paralysed them that the infantry made no further aggression on this front throughout the day.
ALTHOUGH there was desultory artillery firing and a certain amount of contact between the outposts for three days after the unmasking of the Bulgarian positions before Tchataldja the limits of the Bulgarian offensive had been decided on the merits of the engagement described in the preceding chapter. The Popinjay and the Centurion made reconnoissances to various points of the Lines and watched a considerable amount of artillery practice. They could not find any evidences of a serious endeavour on the part of the enemy to persevere in a forward campaign. The Turks, greatly elated over the affair, talked grandiloquently of making a reconnoissance in force preparatory to taking a definite offensive destined to drive the Allies out of Thrace. This of course was all vapour.
The Turkish rearward services were sufficiently employed in maintaining the army at Tchataldja; they were not equal to any forward movement even if the Allies could have been brought to acquiesce.
Two days after the engagement Nazim Pasha sent out a parlementaire officer and opened direct communications with the commander-in-chief of the invading armies. Knowing that once Oriental and semi-Oriental races begin to negotiate there must intervene a long period of bazaar haggling, and feeling the strain of being cooped up in a cholera camp, the Popinjay and the Centurion decided to leave their country residence and return to the capital.
With their return to Constantinople the story of the latter-day adventurers comes to an end. The negotiations which were opened at Tchataldja developed, as all the world knows, into an armistice and a general meeting of delegates from the belligerents in London, to arrange a basis for a permanent peace in the
Balkans. It is not within the province of the Centurion, or within the scope of this slight narrative of the adventures of correspondents associated with the Turkish Army in Thrace, to enter upon any discussion on the subject of the meeting of these delegates in London.
There is, however, the matter of the representation of newspapers at the front with modern armies. This subject is deserving of attention. The Centurion does not approach this delicate question in the spirit of proffering advice to the General Staffs of foreign armies. On the other hand there is much in the conduct of the Balkan war that should interest our own General Staff. Ever since the Russo-Japanese war the question of permitting newspaper correspondents to accompany the British army in the field has been under consideration. Many propositions have been discussed. One section of thought considered the time was opportune definitely to kill the service of news by independent channel. The proposal was that the General Staff
The dining-car armistice agreement near the Tchataldja Lines: The late Nazim Pasha, Turkish Minister of War and Commander-in-Chief of the Turkish Army, and General Savoff, the Bulgarian leader, shaking hands after the decision to suspend hostilities
itself should be responsible for such news that the General in command considered it advisable to have published. The Bulgarian General Staff has forever destroyed the promise of this expedient being acceptable to the British nation. They have definitely shown that a General Staff taking upon itself the service of news for publication can never be a trustworthy agent. It is not suggested that any British general in the field would permit the deliberate and grandiloquent falsehoods that were published in Vienna at the instance of the Bulgarian General Staff; but their methods have demonstrated the perfectly legitimate desire of a general in the field to utilise his press communications to deceive both his enemy and his neighbours. In the eyes of the public the value of General Staff messages will always be taken at a heavy discount.
The Bulgarian methods, therefore, having wrecked the proposal that an official news service should be instituted as an alternative to the rigid exclusion of all newspaper correspondents
from an army in the field, it behoves the military authorities to devise a compromise. The Centurion would be the first to admit, that, if the British public is content to support the General Staff in the exclusion of newspaper correspondents, this is the right course to pursue. Unfortunately neither governments, nor generals in the field, have the power to coerce public opinion in this country either into a spirit of unselfish patriotism or into a suppression of the interest the nation takes in the operations of its armies in the field.
The Committee of National Defence vainly hope that by an Order in Council they will be able to improvise legislation that will silence the entire press of the Empire. This is the example set by the Japanese. Even in that highly disciplined nation the papers rose in revolt against the measure. The leading journals found that it paid them to publish the news in spite of the penalty. In this country nothing short of an absolute suppression of the journal that breaks the law of the censorship
would, in the event of any important war news, have the desired result. Such an extreme penalty is out of the question. As it has always been in the past the circulation of newspapers has been made or maintained by the adequacy of the information supplied during periods of excitement. It will be the same in the future. Every newspaper editor knows this, and he will not be frightened, any more than the Japanese editors were frightened, by a moderate press law.
On the other hand, it is perfectly obvious that no well-organised army in the field will be able to permit the uncontrolled freelancing that was the feature of the adventurers' operations in Thrace. This is not a small problem, and it is one that should now be engaging the attention of the General Staff. The necessity that certain information be suppressed during the period of military activity that precedes a war, and after the navies and the armies have engaged in hosilities with the enemy, is of such
vital importance, that it behoves the General Staff to create in peace a department that should devote itself entirely to the study of press control.
It is probable that the Centurion will never again take the field in the guise of an adventurer. He has observed, nevertheless, that there is growing up in the modern journalistic atmosphere a corps of keen, clever, dashing young men who have every intention in all future wars to render adequate service to their papers, preferably with, or, if necessary, without, the permission of the General Staff. When it becomes a question of the wits of these men and the wealth of their papers being pitted against any clumsy and hurriedly improvised methods of repression, there is no doubt as to whom will come the ultimate success.
It seems to the Centurion a national calamity that these young men are all shaping their ideas in a school that believes success will depend upon the measures employed to defeat
the Censorship, rather than that they can best serve employers and the nation by a loyal and sympathetic co-operation with the military authorities. If there existed at the War Office a formulated procedure and a department that devoted its every energy to the working out of this problem, it is probable that the younger school of war correspondents would grow up with an entirely different view of the character of their duties than possesses them at present.
In approaching this subject it must be remembered that the so-called teaching of the Japanese action in Manchuria is not really applicable to Europe. The Japanese had the advantage of conducting their campaign in an area over which they could exercise control over all the neutral means of communication. The entire ignorance of all Europeans of their caligraphy was a further factor in the partial secrecy they were able to maintain. These advantages will not be found in Europe and it seems to the Centurion that the General
Staff has not sufficiently realised this fact.
Modern conditions in international communications and in the service of newspaper information have rendered obsolete all past theories on the subject of press representation with armies in the field.
The new school of correspondents will take the field in the next war, be they authorised or unauthorised, with the single maxim before them: "This thing can be done. I will do it or go under in the attempt."
It is for the General Staff to decide now whether the correspondent shall take the field as a loyal and instructed associate of the army, or as an organiser of an independent secret service.
It only remains to the Centurion to take leave of his companions in the field of adventure. It has been necessary, for reasons which need not be laboured, to cloak under the thin veil of anonymity the identity of each. The Centurion can only say that in all his experience he has never been associated with a
more delightful coterie of companions than the corps of latter-day adventurers with whom he took the field in Thrace. There was never during the whole period a discord amongst them. Every day produced, especially amongst the Englishmen, those little evidences of loyalty and friendship which are the very salt of man's existence. The deadly rivalry embodied in their work never for a moment entered into their daily intercourse. There were, on the other hand, countless instances when in adversity the hand of friendship was ungrudgingly extended in circumstances where it might legitimately have been denied. As long as he lives the Centurion will carry with him the memory of the last evening in Constantinople when nearly all the English adventurers who appear in his narrative met together in a final happy union before the dispersion of the corps.
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