Bombardment of Smyrna

Bombardment of Smyrna, 5th March 1915

Smyrna was the site of an Ottoman fort. It, like many forts, was subjected to naval bombardment prior to the Gallipoli landings.

British warships bombard Smyrna
British warships bombard Smyrna

This diary is penned by Grace Williamson (1865 Smyrna – 1945 Smyrna), daughter William Williamson merchant who had migrated from Yorkshire, England and Elizabeth née Barker whose family had lived in Turkey for a few generations before.

It has come at last Tottie [nick name given to the obvious recipient of this diary/letter, the 5th child of Leila Lewis née Williamson (Alithea’s eldest sister), Mary Dorothea Lewis, born 1879]. The bombardment at Smyrna Fort. Oh! I feel as if I could burst with excitement. At 2 p.m. we heard the first shot, and then another and another. Alithea and Lilla had just started for Cordellio [Karşıyaka on the opposite side of the bay of Smyrna] and as I had Mrs. Birge, we decided to go on the quay and watch. Such excitement. All the men of Smyrna were on the quay, but very few women. We went on to the terrace of the Sporting Club and there watched. Shell after shell. How I longed for you. Do you remember that night of the Bayram [Turkish religious holiday, when a blank is fired from a cannon to mark the start or end of a fast] when you woke me up? The sound is quite different. One almost hears the noise of the shell going through the air. The bombardment continued till a little after three. And then it stopped and we all gradually got to our homes. How we talked and how excited we all were. But the town is remarkably quiet. The men from Paradise [~1 km from Boudjah] all came down. They say that the thunder of the guns is dreadful there, much worse than in town. In Boudja all the women were screaming with fright. I will try and write more tomorrow.

The United States, though not yet in the war, kept a close eye on the situation in the Dardenelles. This communique is from the Ambassador to the Secretary of State. It covers a range of dates.

The Ambassador in Turkey (Morgenthau) to theSecretary of State

[Telegram]

Horton reports under date of 11th instant that bombardment of Smyrna fortress and shore batteries by Allied fleet continued from 5th to 9th instant. He had received telegram from our Minister at Athens saying that Admiral of fleet desired to make important communication to Governor of Smyrna. On the 9th instant Horton with Political Director of Smyrna went to Vurla where they boarded British flagship Euryalus. Admiral Pierce made a communication from British and French Governments to the effect that no hostile feelings were entertained towards Ottoman authorities or people of Smyrna, and that the Governor General, whose kind treatment of belligerents was well known in Europe, was highly esteemed; that the Allies demanded the destruction of batteries and fortifications and the raising of mines and other obstacles in harbor insuring fleet’s free entrance. No further military undertakings would be undertaken if the conditions were accepted, nor would city be occupied, and administration of city and province of Smyrna would remain under Governor General to whom would be furnished a considerable sum of money [for] relief of war sufferers. A truce was arranged until 10 a. m., March 11.

Consul General is informed that Governor General sent a simple refusal to the communication. As the British Admiral had previously stated that his orders were to attack and occupy the city in case of refusal, Consul General presumes that hostilities will be resumed. Arrangements have been made for [evacuation] of all Americans if necessary. The city appears to be quiet and without panic for the present.

American Ambassador

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