Smyrna at war 1914-1918

Grace Williamson’s wartime diary started at the end of October 1914, as she arrives back in Smyrna in Turkey to set up a Maternity Hospital. Within a few days:

So now the long dreaded war is upon us and what will become of us?
Who knows, one can’t help feeling a sort of unknown dread.

The earliest entries relate to the start of the war, and convey the unfolding drama, even though many  events were upsetting ones. She relates the confiscation of property for use as billets for Turkish officers and other military interferences, skirmishes, escapes, bombing and shelling, internment, human shields and threats of murderous retaliation. Death, terror and grief mount. She also reports the lack of events: the frustration, uncertainty, anxiety, gloom and boredom of their situation. Expected events fail to occur, threatening and unpleasant ones recur. She reports her own and others’ mixed and changing feelings towards the German enemy and its allies, the Turkish and other local civilians, and the “English” and their allies. Thrill, hope and certainty soon fade and are a long time in returning. The contemporary attitudes relating to class, nationality, duty and other social attitudes are, from our modern perspective, a mixed bag. Some of the attitudes of Grace’s community are admirable, others deplorable, and yet others nowadays seem merely pointless. So it is in modern times, as humanity deals with (and obstinately fails to deal with) many of the big issues facing us, and even gradually solving some… while all the time we just participate in and observe the uneven and unfair events of history.

In the May 1916 entries, as she falls ill, Grace sounds truly desperate.  It is clear that 18 months of war have taken their toll. The week from 24-30 May 1916 is dealt with in more detail in the posting concerning Ebeth, “Mrs Newton”.

It’s best to read the original at (it is longer and more detailed). Hindsight adds poignancy, and the real-time unfolding of events is gripping. But for ease of access and in enough detail to give a genuine flavour, I have chosen some text (roughly) from each month, in an attempt to provide a better prior context for the entries about Ebeth. I’ve quoted in more detail at the beginning and end, and give sketchier extracts for most of the rest. Even so, this is a large cut-and-paste, of over ten thousand words.

Oct 1914.

Alithea and I decided to go and do some shopping and also to go and engage the men who were to colour wash our Nursing Home. I intended to start early on Monday morning as I did not see the use of wasting any more time in getting into the house now that we were paying rent.

Alithea had only returned the day before from her trip to Bouldour and Sparta [Burdur and Isparta are towns in the high hinterland of S.W. Turkey], where she had gone some ten days before to attend to the people who were injured during the earthquake there. It was her first appearance in Smyrna, so she was welcomed as a heroine, and numbers of people stopped to ask questions and she was greeted everywhere with love and praise. We at last got our work done and arrived at the Point Station just in time to catch the midday train. I had a glimpse of our future “Nursing Home” in the station square and it looked so nice I was burning with impatience to be in it. On the platform before the train started we met all the usual friends going back to Boudjah after their morning’s business. Wasn’t I glad to see them all! Our dear Smyrna people. Such hand shakings and greetings with everyone. And I had so much to tell!! I was the bearer of the latest political news! You know what that means!

How we talked and how excited we all were you can just imagine, I gave all the news I had brought and some papers I had smuggled. Everyone was happy and inclined to think that the political questions as far as Turkey was concerned would settle and peace was in store for us. The first three days of the week we were very busy in cleaning and settling the Nursing Home and putting it in order. We used to come down from Boudja by the 8.25 train and return in the evening. You can picture us washing windows and paints, polishing furniture, laying down linoleum.

But on Wednesday afternoon we heard that the Port was closed! What could it mean? No one seemed to know but all feared it meant war….!! If war – what should we do? What about our Nursing Home? Of course everyone thinks of No. 1.

At mid-day the news was confirmed … So now the long dreaded war is upon us and what will become of us? Who knows, one can’t help feeling a sort of unknown dread at the very bottom of ones heart, for of course the Turks are Turks, and it will not be the first time that Christians have suffered at their hands.

Two English merchant steamers were made prisoners and their crew of 70 men taken to the Konak [Government House].

What a sensation for us all? How everyone talked! One moment people decided to make a bolt of it, the next they pitied their homes and their things and decided to stay. In the evening Holton [Francis Holton, assistant railway manager] sent word to all the employees of the railway to say that a steamer would be ready the next day at 6 in the evening at Vourla to take all who wished to leave and they had got a permit of safe escort from the Vali [regional governor].

The weather was cold and wet but most of the families decided to face it and go, so there was hurried packing all that afternoon as the carriages were to start at about 10 o’clock the next morning.

Nov 1914.

Alithea and I went in by 8 o’clock train in the morning and there, on the platform, were gathered together most of the families of Boudja with all their belongings, their babies and nurses and all the hundred and one small things that make up a home. There was a rumour that that would be the last train from Boudja: It was packed. Everyone was so astonished at our coolness, going on with our work of getting the Nursing Home ready. I must say it seems a bit foolish but what can we do. We can’t go away, so we will have to make the best of it.

We bid goodbye to our friends at Smyrna Station and felt a little sinking in our hearts. But we put a brave front and set to work. What a blessed thing work is.

At midday there was a stir in the station square and we went to the windows and what do we see? All the English back again! There they were, with all their packages, children, babies, prams etc. Too pathetic for words. I ran out to ask what it meant and was told that the permit for the British to leave was stopped! It was too pathetic to see them in the train with set tragic faces. We were so glad we were not in the same position for of course it cost a lot of money and to return back at mid-day to an empty or packed-up home, with the servants gone and no dinner and a lot of tired little children was no joke. We felt awfully sorry for them and did all we could to help in the way of food and rest for the weary. All this made us decide to hurry on our preparations at the Home and to get Mother safely in town as we could not tell when the railway would stop running trains.

Our first day in our own “Nursing Home” and how different it all is to what we expected! Mother slept beautifully all night and is charmed with everything. Of course we are not a bit settled yet, but now we are all in, we will soon get right.

But I must hurry to report what event has taken place! Our old Boudja house is taken by the Turks! By the first train in the morning a messenger came from Rowley to say some of us must go over and take or put by some of our things as the Turks would take possession by mid-day. Lilla and I went, but what could we do in such a hurry. We gathered all cushions and small things as we could into the store room which we locked. There were several officers there and they would not let us put by too many things, they wanted the house furnished. We made a list and they tell us that we will have everything back, nothing will be spoilt. They seem quite high class men and speak French, so we hope for the best. It is well we have this “Home” [the Maternity Hospital in the town] for we are told that our house was one of the marked ones to be taken.

Most of the English that can, have gone by now and we have settled down to a humble life and work.

Dec 1914.

One could hardly believe that this country is at war; everything looks so peaceful. Being New Year’s day the quay was gay with holiday people and the garden near the Konak was bright with flowers. It is a lovely climate and country. We long to see it well governed and in good hands. All the people here have great hopes now that the English will come. I hope so too, but there is no knowing what the Powers will do.

Jan 1915.

There is nothing to write about now. We lead a very humdrum life. One week is like another. We might just as well be in a besieged city, for ought we hear of the outer world. Friends come to tea and there are football matches and walks. The Sydney LaFontaines are leaving this week; they have bad news of Edie their daughter. She was in Dresden when the War broke out. At last she managed to get to England and now we hear she is ill, so the father and mother had a special permit to go to her. The Vali is kindness itself to people and he manages to endear himself by acts like these.

Mar 1915.

It has come at last … The bombardment [by British warships] at Smyrna Fort [in Turkish control]. Oh! I feel as if I could burst with excitement.

After two hours heavy firing, it stopped and the ships seem to have gone. The Turks say that they have frightened the ships away.

At about 2.20, the bombardment started again. There were only two ships in sight then. The reply from the Turks was very vigorous and after 40 minutes the ships steamed away. What can it mean? After the ships left all the English and Frenchmen were quietly arrested and taken as prisoners. … I expect the British will find it hard to take Smyrna. There was too much time given to them [the Turks] to prepare and the Germans have been teaching them their tricks. Let us hope that the battle won’t be too awful.

All the English prisoners over 60 years have been allowed to return to their houses, but to keep more or less in their houses.

The prisoners were let out at 8 this morning. Such joy in all the homes.

Last night thousands of troops went past our house for more than an hour they were tramping past. You have no idea how curious we feel.

I am almost tired of writing daily for nothing happens so I shall stop till something worth writing about does happen.

Apr 1915.

At a quarter past one this afternoon the aeroplane came round again and the valiant Turks fired at it and quickly drove it away in a few minutes. The shots certainly very nearly reached it this time. I can see so well from my window. Why aren’t you here now dear Tottie. What excitement we have. It appears the Aeroplane threw one bomb on a small gun boat. Ruth saw it from Guiffrey’s balcony. It did not hit the boat. It is a lovely sight to see the huge Aeroplane flying round and round and being shot at. The shells burst in the sky when they don’t hit, and look like little white doves or puffs of clouds against the blue. I am so glad to have seen this sight. As soon as we hear the whirl of the plane we all rush to the roof, and you should see what a sight it looks from my window. Every roof crowded.

May 1915. 

On these waiting days, without any news. It is enough to make one crazy. … Our faith in England is not a bit shaken although it is two and a half months since our the first Bombardment here. Then we thought it was a case of a few days. But here we are just the same as before.

Jun 1915. 

We are all very unhappy. Things seem to be going wrong. The Germans have got some submarines through or manufactured them in Constantinople, and they have been smashing up our beautiful ships and drowning our beautiful men by the hundreds. What a real hatred comes into one’s heart for the Germans. It has been growing and growing till one feels it so great and real that one dares hardly go to church, with such a hate in one. I suppose we ought to look upon it as hating the Devil. For really their methods are devilish. We are now going to be absolutely blocked up here. The British have given notice that all ships must keep in their own ports for they are going to smash every moving thing they see, and quite right too, for they have been so deceived by these Greeks who have been bringing into this country all sorts of contraband goods, and lying to the British like anything. They are such skunks tho’ they are supposed to favour the English still they can’t help cheating them at every turn. They deserve to be well kept under and not given the slightest advantage when the war is over. They are a hateful race and I can sympathise with the Turks wishing to be rid of them all.

Jul 1915.

Guards outside our door from six this morning. No milk, no bread, no meat. … We had no service in church either as everyone is shut indoors. How much we all are in their power. They can do what they like with us. Not a knife or a gun will be had by any civilian. For many things it is for the best, we shall be just like sheep. And made to do just what we are ordered.

At 8.15 this morning an aeroplane came over the town and threw several bombs. One struck the station just outside our house. Such a fearful crash. Vigorous rifle firing went on all around us. … This only lasted a few minutes but it caused no end of a panic. I saw the dust and debris from the station go right up in the sky. All the guards fired their rifles, and we were right in the middle of the fray. … altogether the aeroplane had thrown 4 bombs. … A good deal of damage was done by each bomb. But what is the good of all this. Won’t it end by making the Turks furious. And we are entirely at their mercy. However, what are we that we should judge. We know nothing whatever of what is going on. … I must say that when I next see an aeroplane I shall be very frightened, and we must go into our cellar, that will be the safest place, tho the bomb in the station yard went five metres deep into the ground.

Aug 1915.

One year has gone by since the war with Germany was declared in England. Few then thought it would last so long.

Oct 1915. 

Yesterday morning an aeroplane came over again and it was promptly shot at, and it was hit and came down. We heard awful tales in town, but somehow they did not sound true. Even poor Mr. Brett ran out and tried to find out if the poor chaps were in need of spiritual help. Now it has turned out that it was a German aeroplane and it was slightly hit on the steering wheel and was obliged to come down, it descended at the top of Goztepe on a foot-ball ground there. You can imagine how small Turks feel about this mistake. We are delighted that it was not an English plane.

We had three field days at our Boudjah home trying to rescue some of our things. The soldiers have all gone from there, but what ruins they have left behind them, words can’t describe the filth of our house. The smell as one entered the gate was enough to kill one. … Certain places could not be entered, they were in such a state of filth.

It is well we have got hold of most of our things from our house in Boudjah for another regiment has gone and established itself there and taken possession of all the houses, and the village again is full of soldiers. This time a much rougher lot, they have come from fighting at the Dardanelles and some are just recovering from their wounds. It is wonderful how patient they are and how good to us, when one comes to realize that their own wounds have been inflicted by the English and still they treat us well and are quite grateful for a few old sticks of furniture that Lilla gave them. Living is very expensive now and we have to live very plainly. Many of the things we thought necessary to our existence we find that we can do without, and are really none the worse. Of course certain things it is uncomfortable to do without. It is months since we have tasted tea. I had a splendid jar of jam from Marion Gout. She had made a lot expecting to take it with her to Cairo. Now she was glad to sell it to me for three pounds. It seems a lot of money … but it is cheap at the price now.

Nov 1915. 

There have been some small bread riots these days. Not enough bread is baked and the ovens are besieged by crowds of poor people demanding loaves.

Jan 1916.

We started the day with a fearful black bread just like sticky mud. … I kneaded bread from our flour I hope it will turn out good. My first attempt. I will just give a list of the things we have learnt to do without or use very sparingly.

No coffee. A drink made from robeethen which we call coffee. Tea very little and precious. Rowley sent six small packets. Rice none. Sugar none, only a little for mother … Matches very few. Soap very little left. Soon will have no clean linen. Lights dismal oil lamps. Candles none. Threads etc. hardly any left. Stuffs very few. But bread is the real trouble. Every now and then the ovens close and no bread is baked.

A woman fainted from hunger on our own doorstep. This may be the beginning of horrors. Meat there is plenty and we hope vegetables will continue. Every mortal thing is two, three and four times its original price.

I would relate so many funny tales, but it seems heartless when so much misery and pain is being caused with this hateful war. There are so many Turkish officers here and some are educated and others are not. Mrs. Tibaldi is always giving them bits of her mind. There are about 80 patients in the B.S. Hospital. Mostly officers. So far they keep the place very clean. They have put our old attendant, Georghi, as head and he has been given 6 men under him and has been told to keep the place as clean as when the English had it. Poor old B.S.H., it will never be what it was any more. I do not suppose anything will be the same again. Things will be very different when this great war is over.

Feb 1916.

Another month has gone and we are still in the same state, only that things are dearer and getting less and less. We had quite an exciting time last week for there was bombarding at Scala Nova [Kuşadası], but it was only a small affair to punish some foolish soldiers who fired on an English gun-boat with their rifles.

News is disquieting all round and the Turks expect some sort of attack here.

Yesterday an Aeroplane came overhead, and we also heard bombarding. All the little villages on the hillsides are being ruined, and nothing gets done. At Scala Nova they shot one or two soldiers, and three or four children. One can’t help feeling a bit dull and unhappy about our government. Today at 9 this morning two Aeroplanes came over and threw Turkish newspapers and some handbills. I wish they would not do that. It does no good and only makes the English ridiculous. Can’t they remember what they did at the Dardanelles. They made so sure that they were going to Constantinople in three weeks, but here they are still. They then threw hand bills telling the people to give in. How can the people give in. They know quite well they have a rotten government and that they are being robbed and tormented, but what can they do. They have no arms and are quite downtrodden. We must see what these papers say and then we may understand. We have a rather sick patient and are a bit upset. She got out of a sick bed and came to be confined here, the result is she is very ill, and has fever. Such a shock for us, but we must pray and trust she will get well soon. We are surrounded by grumbling Americans who jeer and call the English fools and idiots. I am very unhappy.

Bombarding has started, Oh, how excited I am getting. Such heavy guns. It is eleven months since the last.

No more bombarding today. We are so disappointed…

It is strange to live in a place where the enemy [British] bombarding is looked upon with such joy and happiness [by the local civilians].

Last night we went to see the amateur theatricals that have been got up by the Americans, English and French, for the benefit of the poor, under the active patronage of the Vali and all the big Turkish Whigs. Only in Smyrna could such things take place. The Enemy entertain, for the sake of the poor and needy in their town. The Turks were in the theatre in considerable numbers, looking so solemn, for of course they can’t possibly understand much. There was Perteff and all his staff officers, Dejmall and his, the Vali and all the civilian Beys etc. all interested and being entertained by Englishmen who last year were in prison. Truly it is a strange country. I believe they made £ 300 for the poor. Such a blessing.

All this week there has been constant bombarding, but according to the Reforme no damage whatever has been done. Why do the English waste time and money at that rate?

The Turks are more and more friendly towards us and yesterday a Turkish lady who was sailing here said she wished she could kill all the Germans, that they were at the bottom of all their troubles. I believe they are really realizing this now that it is too late. … What the poor Turkish soldier is suffering. No words can describe it. They are taken out of their sick beds from the hospitals to make room for the new wounded and sent up country in trains they call Death Trains, for nearly all die on the way. Oh, when will these poor people be released from all their misery. The Vali and all the Government officers are having at this time no end of dinners, and spree. I am ashamed to say together with some of the English and French people. So heartless and cruel it is. The poor soldiers get nothing, not even cigarettes. They starve and are allowed to die by the hundred, and the wretched officials spree and drink all night. Horrid!

Apr 1916. 

I have let a month go by without writing as we all seem to be in a waiting game. Aeroplanes come now and again and sometimes kill women as well as men. The ships’ guns have gradually ceased firing. [Liman von Sanders] Pasha has come and is very busy looking after things. He has brought two lovely big Motors with him with the German eagle on the panel. So now we feel the Germans have come after all. Well they have set about seeing that the people get bread. A sure way of gaining the confidence of the people. They find that the English only throw bombs from their aeroplanes and kill their cattle and some of their women and they fire a lot of guns that do no damage, while the Germans have come and are seeing that the people are having bread. What is one to think. How will it all end.

May 1916.

Life is getting more and more difficult, all food stuff is at enormous prices. No luxuries to be had. … Cholera has started, but our hopes lie in the Germans. They may be able to stop it, and they get so little help from the Turks, that they also may give up. A very high official, a German, the one in supreme command of all the Medical Officers, gave out that he was going to lecture on cholera and typhus and practically ordered the medical staff to attend at 2 o’clock yesterday afternoon. No one, except an orderly who was once in Forbes employ, turned up, and he told us that the German was furious, and abused the Turks to such an extent that the poor Turkish employee was quite frightened and told him he was a Jew and not a Turk. “It is well for you that you are not” he said, “for they are an impossible race and must be done away with.”

They [the Turks] are doing away with themselves with all their carelessness over disease, and famine.

see here for May – June 1916 

Jun 1916.

Prisoners still up in the Turkish quarter, and getting very sick of it. They have been promised release, but who knows how long it will be before they are allowed.  A great deal of Bombarding goes on and the Railway Bridge has at last been destroyed. But so far in this town all is quiet. We are deadly sick of it all and are so dull. Only old Mr. Barff comes to see us now and then. And he is so down on the English that we would rather he did not come to visit us. I hate going down town, there are so many beggars and we have no change to give to anyone. This want of change is awful. One has to be always contriving how to manage and to think of a whole long summer before us is enough to drive one crazy. We have only a few patients just now and that makes us impatient for want of work. I pity the English too who are fighting if they have a long hot summer before them. One good thing, the Cholera has been suppressed and we have to thank the Germans for that.

The Reforme [newspaper] also gives the Victory to the German fleet in the last naval battle in the North Sea, but that we won’t believe, however they put it. The Greeks too are keeping back the English in Salinike with their skunky ways. What a punishment they ought to get in the end. We are overrun by triumphant Germans. It is galling.

The Belligerents are still kept prisoners and a great number of the Belligerents’ private homes have been taken by the Turks and given to Turkish families.

Jul 1916.

We have had a terrible time of heat, such heat has not been known for many years. At Paradise the thermometer registered 115 deg. [46 ° C.]. Here we have had it up to 99 [37° C.] in the house in the hottest rooms.

Yesterday afternoon Alithea and I went to see a Military Memorial Service held to the memory of three officers who gallantly lost their lives in going to Long Island. One was a German, the other an Austrian, and a Turk. They had three different religions, and were represented by their priests. It was the first time a Mohammedan had joined in a service with Christians. The Service was very impressive, but I noticed a great coldness amongst the Turks present. They evidently do not care for this sort of thing and here in Smyrna there is not much love lost between Turks and Germans.

The Turks managed to bring down another English Aeroplane last week, and the aviator was killed, we are very sorry, for we knew him and he was very nice.

Sep 1916.

At last we are beginning to see daylight and have hopes of an end to our troubles and a downfall of the Germans. What lies they have filled our heads with the last few months and we were fools to believe them and get depressed. Now we know things are different we have got a true account of the Sea Battle of Jutland. The Germans here for a long time made everybody believe that they had beaten the English hollow, and that very soon the English would ask for peace. They even had printed placards put up in the Bazaar, that the Peace Negotiations were taking place. Anything to deceive the poor Turks.

But it all has been no good. Things have come out at last and one or two important papers have come through and the truth is out. What a relief, and how proud and happy we are. Now we do not mind waiting any amount of time, we know we shall be conquerors in the end.

Nov 1916.

On the whole we have plenty to eat, but then we have plenty of money, and use it all. We have made over eight hundred pounds this year with our Clinique [sic]. But every bit of it goes in keeping the pot boiling these dreadful times. We have much to be thankful for, all our patients have done well.

Jan 1917.

However our sufferings are nothing to what the poor and villagers suffer. In the villages life is absolutely of no value and daily, people are horribly murdered. I will just describe one case as an example of hundreds. Sister Elfrida of the Greek Hospital came to see us yesterday and she told us that they had brought to them two little girls, one about 12 years, and the other 7. The elder had a bullet wound on her heel and the other on one elbow which was fractured, and the other arm evidently wounded by the same bullet going through. They were living in a mill near Rushedasie [?Rüşadiye, a then settlement to the South of the city, corresponding to today’s district of Güzelyalı?], when one night the whole place was roused by a lot of brigands, probably deserters from the army, demanding that the men may come forth. The father and another man came out and were promptly murdered, their throats being cut. The women, children and young lads took refuge in a barn near by, but they were discovered and the brigands entered and shot them all. These two little girls fell in a corner and pretended to be dead, probably they had fainted for the earrings of the little girl were taken out of her ears. After a long time they got up and went out to the house to see if they could find anyone living there. They saw the bodies of their father and the man without any heads. After a long time, when it was getting morning, they went out in the fields and after calling for a long time, an old Turk who was ploughing heard and came to their rescue, and that was how these poor children were at last sent to the Greek Hospital. The little girl of twelve told all the tale to Elfrida and it is most pathetic. The poor child is like a little old woman in her manners and in the sharpness in which she managed to save herself and little sister.

Feb 1917.

Today our first Mohamedan patient leaves. She had a fine boy ten days ago, and all her people and husband are so pleased. She has two little girls at home and therefore they are extra glad this baby is a boy. She has been a sweet patient and we have got quite fond of her. We expect many kanoums [Turkish?, hanıms = ladies] will now follow her lead and come here for their confinements.

Mar 1917.

Since I last wrote time has dragged on in a slow, a very slow way. Everyone deadly dull and the weather the same. We have had a very wet winter day after a day of pouring rain. The streets are perfectly hopeless. The few made roads there have been washed away, and the drains overflowing. The consequence is raging Typhus. Half the population has died from that or famine. And a third has been taken to the war and probably died before reaching the front. Every available man is bound to go. They will not let them pay their exemption anymore. So you can imagine the misery of the poor fat shop keeper Jews and Armenians. So unfit too as they are for roughing it. Many have tried to induce us to take them in as lodgers to hide. Fancy how unsafe for us. We have one of each sort and you can imagine how we feel about it, especially now that every mouthful costs an octaraki at least.

Alithea is just now in Bournabat nursing a case of Typhoid, Mrs. Alsa Giraud. Last night just as we were going to bed, who should walk in, but poor darling Nellie with her baby in her arms. I thought the child must be ill, and she brought it by the last train, but it appears that the American ambassador at Constantinople has ordered all missionaries women and children to go to Constantinople and be gathered under his protecting wing, so Nellie had 12 hours to get ready herself and 5 boys and be off. They left early this morning together with some other missionaries. Caleb remains behind as yet. He can’t be spared from the school as long as it is open. Aeroplanes have again appeared, one or two come almost every day.

We hope to hear today by telegram of dear Nellie’s safe arrival in Constantinople. She had good weather for her journey, that is one comfort but it is no small joke to haul 5 big boys on a journey in a country that is at war. And one does not know from one day to another what is going to happen. Poor girl at least we hope she will have no more anxiety about feeding her family, for latterly it was pretty bad. Yesterday and today no bread has been sold at the ovens. This looks serious. We will see soon what will happen. There is no doubt that this war must come to an end soon. I am thankful to say that thanks to our work we have had enough to eat and we have enough flour for another 4 months. The last 2 sacks I bought I had to pay forty four pounds for them. Now the price is half as much again. And one is not allowed to buy even at that price.

The epidemic of Typhus goes on increasing. Two more doctors have it as well as several well known people. Miss Parkinson is about the same, but it is difficult getting any news out of the Germans. Every time we go and try and see her we are told it is forbidden, but that she is well. There are so many rules and regulations in that hospital. One can hardly believe it is the same hospital. The garden is spick and span. Every bed is geometrical and not a leaf out of place or a speck of grass. The ivy is closely clipped, and over the letters of British Seamen’s Hospital, they have put a German placard in black and white letters. Outside the gate they have other notices and they never allow rules to be broken.

Today a horrid tragedy took place. Two English Aeroplanes came about 11.30, and we watched them in the lovely blue sky, when suddenly out of we don’t know where, came a huge and splendid German machine, and there was a fight. And oh, dreadful to relate, both our planes were brought down. You can imagine our feelings. Our hearts stopped beating and we felt dreadfully sick. I never want to see aeroplanes again, for I shall always think of that dreadful moment. A dead silence seemed to fall over Smyrna, for of course nearly everyone was looking. The biggest plane, the bomb thrower, was partly damaged, and managed to come down partly guided, and it descended close to Perocacoes vineyard at little Paradise. The other came tumbling down helter skelter. Evidently the men were killed in it. They fell above Karatache [Karataş, just south of Konak]. Those at Paradise [Şirinyer, near Boudjah] were not hurt, at least one had his ankle only wrenched, and the other was unhurt. But the two who came down at Karatache were both killed. In the afternoon I went to Boudjah and saw one of these young fellows, the one who had his ankle hurt. He was taken to the Willie Rees’es house that is turned into a hospital. He is a man of only nineteen years and very good looking. I did feel so sorry for him. He was so upset, and could hardly speak of his friends that were killed. What a terrible thing this war is. Oh how I hate it. The Germans who brought them down only arrived in Smyrna. He has brought 20 planes down. On Saturday there was a very grand funeral of the two dead men. No end of fuss was made. They were carried from the Konak to the Point Church and then to the [?Caravan Bridge Anglican?] cemetery right through the town. All Smyrna turned out to see them, and there were no end of Military people and all the Germans and Aviators here. They gave the poor fellows every honour, but what little comfort that is. The poor wounded young fellow was taken away from Boudjah, where we were allowed to see him, and brought to the German hospital, and of course no one is allowed to go near him now everything is Verboten. I hate them all.

May 1917.

Nothing of great importance has happened since the aeroplane catastrophe. The young Englishmen were taken to Constantinople after a week. I was so sorry for young Stretchman. He evidently is a man of good family. He told me his eldest brother has been a prisoner in Germany, and another brother was killed and he only joined in December, and now all is up with him. I could have cried over him as a son, he is so young to have had such an experience. They left Mityline at eleven and before midday their little game was over. He was awfully well treated in Boudjah, too well. Everyone went to see him and he was sent trays of lunch and tea by the English there. And he was supplied at once with all he required in the way of clothes etc. And friends went to see him, but by the evening orders came from Smyrna and he was hauled out of his comfortable bed, and taken to the Germans. Afterwards when his foot was well he was sent to the common prison where all those lousey rayah deserters are. No bed, no privacy, nothing but utter horror. Mr. Brett did the best he could for him in the way of getting him a mattress to sleep on, and a rug to cover himself with, but it was awful. I can’t bear to think of his discomfort, and he was so pleased with Boudjah and the comfortable bed and clean sheets. I could not help thinking that this poor chap might have been one of our precious lads. We did all we could, but the Turks are Turks. There is no getting out of that. I do really hope and pray that England will never be humbugged by the Turks again. They are so plausible. When they first got the Englishman one believed they were going to do the straight thing by him, in fact, did too much to begin with, then all was changed, and no one was allowed to see or speak with him, and he was cast into the Common Prison. And now he has gone into the interior, goodness knows where, and what he will endure.

Typhus has disappeared with the great heat. I am thankful to say and so far no cholera. Our business has diminished from want of carriages to bring our patients. Next month we have a good many booked, but of those half as a rule don’t manage to come. Meat is now ten octa the oke. We can only have one meat meal a day. Butter is a lira the oke, for cooking and oil half a lira. Can this go on much longer do you think? We are resigned for at least another year. No hopes are given for any more speedy settlement of this dreadful war. We have no news whatever of what is going on.

Aug 1917.

On the 1st Aeroplanes came over at 6 in the morning and threw bombs on the factories and railway works not far from the Point Station. Our patients were terrified and yelled. We did not know what to do with them, two of them have husbands at the factory, and of course they were desperate about their husbands. The noise outside our house was most awful. The Turks have put machine guns all round and the firing was like a battle. Hundreds of people were running into all the houses. No end came into us and some women fainted and added to the din. By 8 o’clock the husbands came running in to show that they were unhurt and to see if wives and babies were alright too. One of the husbands is Harold Charnaud. He was very near the place where one of the bombs fell. They fell on their faces. It is the best thing to do. Unfortunately one of the places on the 1st came down. The machine went wrong, and the men threw rockets as a sign that they gave themselves up, they were fired on by the Turks and killed. They fell just above Arthur Hichens’ vineyard, and our man was one of the first to go to them, but he said they were dead. So nothing could be done. Since then the planes have come three times. Once on Friday afternoon just when the train was starting for Boudjah. Of course all the passengers ran out of the train and bolted into all the houses. We have to open our door and let them all come.

And again this morning, the bombs fell all about the factories and gas works and railway, but not much damage. A few innocent men, women and children were killed. We hear that they are determined to destroy all the factories and railways. So for the next few weeks we cannot tell from day to day what will happen to us. I am afraid this will put a stop to all patients coming here. We are too near the railway station. We feel it is our duty to send Mother and Lilla away, but they won’t go and leave us. What can we do?

Oct 1917.

The last two months have been quiet. The Aeroplanes have stopped coming. We suppose some arrangement has been come to and it is a relief.

Mother’s birthday again. This is the fourth since the war and everytime we hope the next will be in peace time, but all continues as it was and daily the time of peace seems further. We had Herbert and Aunt Agnes for lunch. Mother’s first present was a basket of roses from Mr. Barff which he brought himself and gave her a kiss on each cheek. Mrs. Barff sent her a lavender cushion and a poem which she composed herself. The next friend to come was dear Mr. Ashe with a dish of cakes and afterwards came the Shuels, Hadkinsons, etc. We had a nice tea and some real quince jam made with sugar. Unheard of luxury. Poor old Mother says she feels it in her bones that next birthday she will have her children and the War will be over. Inshallah it will be so. This year she has not even her beloved Alithea, for she is kept in Constantinople for some unknown reason the Authorities will not give her permission to return. Did you ever see such aggravating people as the Turks. What reason can they possibly have for keeping her there?

Still no Alithea. We are desperate. I am longing to have her back. The work is hard and it is horrid not to have Alithea to help, and as to Mother she is gloom itself.  …  She wrote a letter in which she says she is in despair about ever getting her papers and she asks if we could send her some clothes and her furs.

The Turks and Germans are very sure of themselves, they have all the best things and do what they like. Today in Mr. Barfield’s house, the Turks give a big feast. No end of motors and carriages drive up, and heaps of Hanoums and rich Turks come and go. There is music etc. All the employees are having a fine old time. Somehow Smyrna has recovered herself in a way as there are not so many poor people. Everything is awfully dear and European things are impossible, but the Turks have heaps of money and are spending it. Jews also make money as well as some Greek and Armenians and as they make money easily, they spend it freely and the place is looking up in that way. There is not the misery there was this time last year.

Nov 1917.


Alithea returned from Constantinople on Saturday morning. She came in grand style with the Vali. He has been an angel of goodness to her and if it had not been for him and the endless trouble he took she would never have returned. Even he had a great deal of trouble to get her papers. Three or four days before they came back we heard that our Vali had given in his resignation. All Smyrna was up in arms and they sent twelve delegates to bring him back. He came in triumph with music and honours of all kinds. We were all very frightened lest we should lose him for he has been a true friend to us all. Alithea is looking well and we are so glad to get her back. She has no end of experiences to relate. There she says one never feels at ease and always one is made to feel conscious that one is a belligerent. Life is very expensive, and even more so than here.

Every one of our friends came to see Alithea on her return. She had a most hearty welcome. I was so glad for the sake of the work. Last month we closed the 3rd year of our Clinique. We made Ltq [Turkish pounds] 1,498 from our patients. Of course the money is paper and not of the same value as gold, but it shows that the business is a growing concern, and in time when things are normal, we shall probably make money. Now whatever we make we spend in food. Last month over Ltq 30 went in bread alone, prices are enormous.

Dec 1917.

There is a rumour that the English Government is trying to arrange for the exchange of prisoners. Let us hope something will be done, though we can’t believe anything will be done.

Some reports have come out that the English will be allowed to leave in a few weeks time. If so, many will go. I hope all these reports are true, but one has become so unbelieving. We hear that Jerusalem has been taken by the English. That may be true. What a joy.

Jan 1918.

We can’t help wondering what 1918 will bring. Will our port open. No one can possibly tell, and we have small hopes.

Business has been good and we manage to keep the pot boiling. Though we fear we shall soon have no clothes or shoes to wear. They are too expensive to buy.

Feb 1918.

Dear Evelyn [a friend] is now in perfect health. She is so happy to have had her operation such a success and is very grateful to the German doctors for having done it so well. What a blessing she had the courage to have it done, for we none of us encouraged her, as we were afraid of the responsibility.

Apr 1918.

The country is lovely and is more cultivated than it used to be at the beginning of the war. This season promised to be a good one. Arthur Hichens’ vineyard looks well and we have planted the field with wheat which we hope will give us flour. At least some of it. Our greatest trouble is clothing and shoes. The prices for them are awful. We are reduced to buying each others cast-offs, and paying bank-notes for them. We have had one or two nice picnics in the country and intend to have more. The flowers are lovely.

May 1918.

This week there is great excitement amongst the Belligerents as the governments are making arrangements for exchange of prisoners. Many people hope to get off as the life they lead here is not good for them. They ought to be working. Great strong healthy girls as they are now, and they wish it also for the years are passing and they must do something for themselves. Of course getting away from Turkey is no joke and people will have no end of bothers and travelling will be awful as long as it is in Turkey. Today and Lilla and I are going to Nellitsa’s house in Paradise, to put by some of her things as the house is to be let. The things people leave behind them are often stolen, there are no end of thieves. So many people’s rugs have disappeared from the places where they have been put by. That really it is best to sell all one has before one leaves. The Partridges I believe will sell all house and everything. It is the best plan.

Aug 1918.

Nearly three months have passed and I have not written a line in this journal. There has been nothing exciting happening here. Though we have changed places as it were with the Germans for when I last wrote they were all cock sure of success as possible and now they are down in the depths as we were then.

We are ready to wait now for our dear England to do what we know she would do from the beginning of the War.

The Belligerents have hopes of leaving but as yet things are not settled. Turks take such a long time…

We get most of the [maternity] cases in our own set, as there is no good English Doctor.

Smyrna is becoming such a dirty town. Only the splendid climate prevents some awful plague starting. The horses are a little better fed now and we don’t see them dying in the streets. Also there are no hungry people. All workmen and women have good wages! it is the clerks at a fixed salary that suffer, for the prices of things are awful. The commonest cotton prints are a pound and a half the pike so you can imagine that few people can renew their clothing and this war has lasted four years so that most people are in rags, but patience it will be over soon.

Sep 1918.

The Perkins girls are quite ready to leave as soon as the ship comes to take the exchange prisoners. We hope now that it will come before the end of next month. Some of the English who sold all their things are uncomfortable. Partridges have sold house and every stick of furniture as well as all the rubbish that was in the house, but they have made the wise provision that they retain all they need till they leave so that they are not at all uncomfortable. He is very satisfied with the prices he got. Double what he paid for his house, and four times what he paid for his furniture and linen. He is a wise old Partridge, there is no doubt of that. We are going to try to sell Rowley’s house and Arthur’s vineyard and hope to make a good bargain too. English prisoners have come and some are lodged in the American College, and some in the town in different institutions. They are in a very poor condition, and have hardly any clothing. The English ladies are making shirts as hard as they can, and every one is doing their best to send comforts. But there are so many, and it is a drop in the ocean what we can give.

Oct 1918.

The past month the prisoners have been coming from up country in batches of 50 or 60. Sometimes the poor fellows are very ill and dying. One lot journeyed for 5 days with nothing to eat. Several have died since coming. It is dreadful to think of the suffering they have gone through. Their numbers have been reduced from thousands to hundreds. One Company, 370 men is now 39 only. All the officers’ faces look so sad. They are not allowed to talk politics or say anything of what they have been through. Some of the civilian English are allowed to visit them, but there is nearly always someone near listening and also they have given their parole. So nothing much can be heard, but they will have awful things to reveal some day. I hope Turkey will not be forgiven. It is too wicked a nation. These days there are talks of Peace. Bulgaria having an armistice is very good news for us, also we hear that Damascus has been taken but we are not quite sure if it is true. How we hope it is. Last night after midnight we heard that the whole town was buzzing with talk. It was pitch dark, for we have no gas now. Presently Charlie Hadkinson rang at our door bell and announced that a general Peace was signed. Of course it is not quite true, but things are humming. We all jumped out of bed and talked with all our neighbours. We have Beard and Ida staying with us and we were all in dressing gowns in the garden talking till nearly 3 o’clock. There were bands of young men all over the town with mandolins and guitars singing at the tops of their voices. Oh how happy we are. This morning we see from the papers that there is reason for this rumour of Peace. You will also have been reading about it in the papers. Who knows before the year is out we may see the end. The two Perkins girls have been so busy and useful to the prisoners who are sick in the hospitals. Some were taken to Boudjah and there Ethel and Evelyn worked hard giving them comforts. Evelyn was allowed to nurse them. One English man died and they were so unhappy over him. They had to do everything for him, lay him out and put him in his coffin. Now Evelyn goes once a week to all the hospitals in town where sick are scattered about. We hear that the ship is to come in fifteen days time, but we are not sure whether it will or not.

The peace negotiations are going on and we hope will soon finish. There is talk of a separate Peace with Turkey. The English prisoners keep on arriving, there are nearly a thousand men now and about 40 officers. You can imagine the excitement in the town. All the shop keepers grin from ear to ear. And English money is flying. Oh how happy we all are, but we have not realized it yet. Most of the English families have taken in some English officers. As of course they are not very comfortable in their quarters at the American College in Paradise. They are so crowded there. Some who can afford to have taken rooms at the Hotel. Our girls are bursting with excitement and we all feel a bit light headed. We get Mother as many sweets as she likes, poor old darling. Last night two officers missed the last train for Paradise, and Carmaelo the ticket puncher at the station brought them over to us. Poor fellows they were, so shy and shabby. But we soon made them feel at home. Having Mr. Beard here, they were soon made comfortable. We gave them hot baths and clean beds and they did enjoy themselves. To one it was the first civilized bath, and bed he had got for three and a half years. He danced in the bathroom for joy. The other was a flying man who was brought down the coast fifteen months ago.

well the Armistice has been signed and now we have every hope of all the troubles of Turkey to be over and please God Germany will also be put in her place. And there will be no more wars for years and years. We are going to start writing letters and soon we shall be getting news of you all. I can imagine you reading about us in the papers and rejoicing with us, you will be quite excited. Everyone is giving tea-parties for the officers and quite feasting is going on in each household. We cannot make too public a rejoicing as of course, we are not in our own country and there are so many Germans about still and it will not be good form, but oh how glad and happy we are and not only we but all the population of Smyrna. The British Seaman’s Hospital will soon be given over and we will clean it and put our own men in it. Hurrah. Our own flag will fly on the mast again, and the German one hauled down. Hurrah. Again Hurrah. I shall start writing letters from today and hope soon to be able to post them. The Perkins girls will leave by first steamer. They are all packed and ready. They have been for the last month.

Nov 1918.

Yesterday evening we suddenly heard that the ship which is to take the prisoners has come in to Fokia [Foça] and that all who wish to go must be ready by 7 o’clock the next morning. Some people said that they were only going to take the military, however, as our two girls were very anxious to leave, they packed up till the small hours of the night and were ready by 7. Such a commotion and excitement. We were all, sort of hanging out of the door, and again we were told no civilians allowed. However, we went on to the railway pier, which was entirely in the hands of the English. And a Colonel who knew the girls told them to come along and they would be taken. Hurrah. How glad we were that we went on to the pier.

The past 10 days have been full of excitement, English prisoners daily arriving. Officers staying in private homes. Tea-parties, dinners etc. No end of fuss. Germans gone. They are a thing of the past. Never to return. Bad luck to them, I hope we have seen the last of them. The Greeks here have been great asses as usual. A small English gun-boat came into the harbour, bringing the Eastern Telegraph staff and one or two staff officers to take over the Consulate. When the Greeks saw it they thought it was one of their own. They are absolutely certain that the Greeks will be given Smyrna. And they went off their heads with joy. In about ten minutes every house was decorated with their own lovely blue and white flags. The quay was like an ant train. Carriages, carts, donkeys all going up and down waving flags. Frank Street impassable, as evening came on they got worse and worse. Parties of drunk men kicked up rows. And fought, smashed windows etc. In fact they lost control of themselves. At last the commander of the English gun-boat went to the Vali and told him he must use the police to stop this fuss, that it was ridiculous. That Peace had not been signed yet and this was only an Armistice, and the Turks had a right to punish all who made fusses. You should have seen how soon the Turks restored order. A few soldiers with fixed bayonets marching through the streets. The English were very angry and the next day they put in the Papers that if the Greeks did not know how to behave themselves, they would not allow a Greek man-o-war to come to Smyrna with the fleet when it comes. I am so glad they got this snub for they have been too awful for words. According to them they have done all the work, they openly say that had it not been for the Greeks who helped the English the Turks would not have been conquered. Cheek just like these ours. I hope England will keep them well in their place.

Dec 1918.

Now every week more English people come and they are bringing provisions for us all. How glad I am, it will be lovely having rice again. The weather is simply perfect, it makes one happy to be alive.

Yesterday the staff from the railway came. How glorious now things will hum. Though, they say we must have patience. But it is lovely to have the dear English at last.

Jan 1919.

The Church is packed every Sunday with soldiers and sailors, and we have the National Anthem at the end. It makes my heart glow to have our dear Nation come up top. We have suffered so much all these years with the Germans scoffing at the English. And their hateful decorations every time they had a victory and their beer gardens and their Hock Hocks [German wine party?]. But now they have vanished, everyone. The few that are left are hiding their heads. Now it is Englishmen everywhere and good quiet men without any bombast or clap-trap, but solid and all there.

Mar 1919.

The first of our people to come back were the Lawrences, Caleb, Nellie and the five boys. Such joy to see them all and all looking so well and prosperous. Heaps of good clothes and lots of provisions with them. They came with the American Relief Commission. Caleb has distinguished himself in France with the Y.M.C.A. and now he is working for the Relief. Nellie was glad to get back her own home. They stayed with us in this blessed Clinique for a week until their home could be cleaned and their furniture gathered from here and there. What shocks all housekeepers get when they return to their tumbling down homes. We are yet expecting Alithea, it is nearly four months since she left.

Apr 1919.

Alithea returned in April bringing no end of good things from our dear brothers. Our dining room looked like a groceries store.

May 1919.

I must just add a line of goodbye to this old diary. The War is over and things are quite different to what we thought. The English have given Smyrna to the Greeks. And this pill must be swallowed. The Turks are furious and declare they will never submit to the Greek. There were horrible massacres of Turks by the Greeks on the day of their landing now a year ago. Alithea and I saw them kill 4 Turks on the quay and after they had shot them they flung them into the sea and fired on them till they were quite dead. Our first sight of slaughtering, and it was not nice. We hate the Greeks and can’t help showing it. There are murders in all parts of the town and every Kavash in factories was murdered. Even old Emin would have been slaughtered had it not been for Zoe Rees and Alithea who saved him from their clutches. The brutes. Up to now things are unsettled and we don’t know really how far the Greek will have power here and even the Smyrna populace is disgusted and wishes the Greeks were not the ones to be here. We are waiting for the final signing of the Turkish Peace and wondering what will happen.

What happened was every bit as bad as the First World War. Here is a contemporary film from the YMCA/YWCA, which, amazingly, survived. A note, by Robert Davidian (5 March 2008) says: “Robert Davidian’s grandfather, George Magarian, born in 1895, educated at the American College at Konya, Turkey and, later, director of the Konya YMCA, filmed Smyrna, Turkey, immediately after [its] genocidal destruction. The resulting 35mm edited nitrate film was hidden in my grandmother’s apartment in NYC for 60 years. I was lucky to transfer it to digital before it completely disintegrates.”

This follow-up diary by Grace details some of the horror around her own experience of the Great Fire that destroyed Smyrna and killed so many people, and her evacuation. It points to the even worse experiences of tens of thousands of others but her two key interests remain, of course: her friends, family and community on the one hand; and her patients and those that rely directly on her professionally, on the other. Here is the key day.

Sept 12th 1922

This day I think has been the worst and let us hope from now on, things will get better. All day there has been a black cloud over us, as the Allies may have a war with Turkey and in that case we are all done for. From the villages the most dreadful accounts come in. You have read of atrocities, well it is no use my saying anything about them except that the newspapers have if anything been unable to describe them in their true colours. They are too bad to spoken of. And they are taking place all around. The Turks vengeance has been smouldering for three years, and he is having his fling now. It seems they have spared very few houses in Bournabat. And where the owners remained in they were beaten up. Old Dr. & Mrs Murphy, he 87 & she 75 years old were brought to us by Sir Harry Lamb in a terrible state, both had their heads banged by the butt end of a rifle & he was shot in the shoulders. I don’t expect the old Dr. will live. Their house had everything stolen that could be carried & what could not was smashed, all the other houses the same. This old couple were lying in Lawson’s little house with some other wounded for three days & the Consul at last was able to go and bring them into town. Oscar de Jongh & Cleo are both killed, they were shot with a rifle. How thankful I am all the relatives went away. Leslie was right to go when he could for we might be shut in for ages, and we know what that means. Last night we had no gas & our stock of petroleum? Again we will have those awful dark nights!! Everyone advises us to clear. But I at least must stop behind. I gave my word to the staff that I would stick by them whatever happens, and I cannot leave them. Besides I have no money & we are bound to guard this house if it is possible, it is owed to the Brothers. Lilla wants to stay with me but Alithea must go. Poor girl, just as we were all so happy.

The streets of the town were being cleaned and a bit of order was gradually restored; but it looks dreadful, no end of dead & rubbish all together! I think that now no British are left in any of the outskirts of the town, the last few were put in the empty vicarage to wait orders. If it is war out, they will have to go to the first ship that can take them, and oh the horror of travelling as a refugee. How I cling to my home and my own room…

This diary was found on the floor of my room amongst a heap of other letters and papers. The remains of what the Turks left when they looted the whole house of all that was any use to them.

About Midday of the 12th Sir Harry Lamb [the British Consul-General] & the Admiral of the “Iron Duke” came & gave us a last chance of leaving the place. They strongly advised us to do so, but how could we leave our patients & staff behind! impossible. The admiral would only take British subjects. I urged Leila for the sake of her children to leave – but she would not – Alithea & I stuck together.

By the afternoon the whole town of Smyrna was in flames and it was impossible to move. We did not know what to do, comforting this one, attending to that; how weary we were towards afternoon. All the English & our friends gone! And the flames coming nearer & nearer. Alithea advised that we should pack our suit cases with some clothes in case we had to flee for our lives, but I was too weary to do anything. Dr. Murphy died about 11 pm. We laid him out & locked the door of his room. At that hour an Armenian patient’s husband arrived & in a desperate state of funk decided to take his sick wife & try to get on board one of the Italian men-o-war. He left with his wife, what a pity? He might have been saved, but for that, for we have never heard of him or his wife since. At last about 1 o’clock I retired to my room & went to bed too weary for any more struggles. About 3, we were all roused by loud knocking on the door. The night nurse went to open & found two British officers. They said they had come with fifty of their men & some stretchers to take us and all the patients & staff as they had orders from Head quarters to save & evacuate the British Nursing Home. What joy & what a relief it was marvellous how soon we all got together & were out on the square in the middle of an open square, made of British sailors holding oars to form a square. The patients were put in their stretchers first, then all the staff including the Greek doctor & his family & all of us. Leila begged her son Bill should be called from the church, but the officer in charge said he could not risk his men as he had only orders for the Nursing Home & no further. So Bill had to be left behind poor chap. He did his duty tho & saved the church from being robbed & perhaps blown up, he also saved about thirty women & children who had taken refuge in the crypt of the church & Memorial Hall.

We were marched to the sea front & on going I saw our poor Armenian & his wife looking like nothing on earth with fright. They made signs to me, but I could do nothing. I was under orders. At the quay front we were put in small boats & rowed to the “Iron Duke” where we were received by the Admiral who said “Thank God you are all here sister”. Well I did thank God. My heart ached for all we had left behind & it seemed that we would never see our beloved home again.

From the deck of the Iron Duke we watched Smyrna burn, the fire seemed to reach very near our home. Such a fearful sight of flames & people running here & there, some flinging themselves into the sea in hopes of being able to reach some little boat & safety!!

On the morning of the 13th we were called on the Deck of the “Iron Duke” and each one was asked to choose the place they wished to be taken to, Pireaus, Saloniki, Cyprus or Malta? We chose Cyprus and some of our patients chose Greece or Saloniki, according to the nearness of their friends. When all were fixed up those for Cyprus were put on board an English cargo steamer. Many, many people were on that little boat & we were rather short of food, but thank God we got to Cyprus on the fourth day after leaving Smyrna.

Pictures of the Great Fire of “doomed” Smyrna at Levantine Heritage Foundation.


Grace did returned to Smyrna briefly around a month later, and was arrested – as recounted in this additional short diary. Pausing in the flow of the dramatic story (her own and that of some others), she reflects: ” I felt what a fool I had been to leave my people and perfect safety in Cyprus and trust to the word of these evil people. For they are not the Turks we know they are a race of wild Bolshevists. Not one man amongst them had the slightest resemblance to the good old Anatolian Turk – or the old fashioned official with the black broad cloth and white beard, red fez and polite manners. They were rude, rough and unwashed and had long untidy black hair sticking up on end, more in the style of the Tatars. Never was the word Allah mentioned by any of them, so different from the right sort of Mussulman we know, who always says “if God wills” it shall be so- I wonder if Ali Han and other right minded Mohamedans know that these Kemalist are so different from the true sort of Mussulman. I remember and have lived with Turks for years and they are totally different from these.” The after-effects of revolutions seem strikingly similar.

A year later, she returned permanently. She writes of that final return at the end of the 1922 follow-up diary, “After six months one could hardly tell that our ‘New Home’ had ever been touched or lived in by sick Turkish soldiers. We had a small indemnity given us by the British government and that helped. It is now ten years since those dreadful times but thank God we have lived comfortably & are well.”

In our own times, we can reflect that our brothers and sisters in the region are experiencing the full range of human experience, still. From peace, joy, duty and creativity to misery, terror, war, slavery, murder and worse at the hands of governments, terrorists, thugs and nightmarish ideologues. And fate. So many lives are ruined, futures are squandered.  Yet so many individual people are brave, or stoic, or just continue to exist; all in the face of broader events outwith their control.


The content here is just copied, without permission, from The Levantine Heritage Foundation website. The originals are in their diaries page.  

See also

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

A Website.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: