anzac POW freemen in europe

4. Turkey 

Turkey, like all declared neutral countries, had their own unique interpretation of their neutrality.

In Turkey's case, this was influenced by its strategic geographic location together with its military history in WWI.

It was a Churchillian fantasy to have Turkey actively on the Allied side in WWII, but the spirit of Ataturk did not favour this as being in Turkey’s best interests. Despite all pressures, Turkey succeeded in maintaining its neutrality throughout WWII.

Its attitude to the sudden influx of unwanted military personnel from the disastrous British campaign in Greece and Crete who flooded across the Aegean Sea in the Spring of 1941, was brutally frank and swift. In contravention to their obligations under the Hague Convention, they were all on-forwarded out of Turkey back to their lines in the quickest way possible.

Those that crossed by land from Greece were sent back by train to Egypt, but the vast majority arriving by sea anywhere on its long Mediterranean coast were swiftly moved on got by both train and sea to Allied Lines in Palestine.

One lone Australian naval POW, Lt. Cdr. George Worledge, an Italian POW, was part of a group of British naval officers taken to the neutral Turkish port of Mersin and then exchanged in an agreement between the British and Italian Governments for Italian naval officers who had been detained in Jedda, Saudi Arabia and taken to Mersin on the British ship "Talma". This exchange was the pre-cursor to Turkey later playing host to official Red Cross POW exchanges.

Later, however, when Allied Airmen who crash landed on Turkish soil in uniform and armed by their plane, were treated differently, being officially interned.

Although under the obligation of the Hague conventions to have them remain interned until the end of hostilities, most neutral nations chose to leave their repatriation to diplomats, who negotiated Government to Government deals to rid their hosts of extra mouths to feed. Turkey was no exception.

Of the handful of men who crash landed on Turkish soil, three were Australian:

406546 John Barnes Ackland, F/O, 23 Sq.
407296 Bevan John Mack, F/Lt, 34 Sq.
250880 Llewellyn Camm Jones (Flying with the RAF)

Their bomber crashed on 15.2.43 and they were interned in Ankara for 63 days before being returned to Allied Lines.

John Ackland reports: “We were put up in a local hotel room and being winter, suffered from the cold as the room was seldom heated. We had to obtain food from local cafés with an inadequate food allowance. Having to draw from our own pay, we found living expensive and although issued with civilian clothes and shoes, found these to be too thin. Some reading material was available, and we were allowed to walk at will, but the days were long. Medical attention was minimal and the costs of a visit to the Ankara General Hospital had to be paid out of our own pockets. Our guards carried out their duties fairly and if anything, were pro-British. It was a great day when we returned to Cairo on May 1, 1943."

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