Why The Turks Never Used Chemical Warfare?
The Gallipoli War is evaluated as the last "gentleman war" of the twentieth century. This evaluation is correct, in terms of the techniques used during the battles and the war conditions. A comparison between the battles of the Gallipoli and the other fronts of the First World War would reveal why it was considered as a "gentleman war."
When the Allied soldiers first landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula, they thought that they would confronted with barbaric, cannibal Turks. The day of 25 April 1915 was the beginning of their venture that lasted for eight and a half months. Each day, both sides acquainted with each other increasingly. Both the Turks and the Allies have realised that the enemy that they have been fighting was a human. There was no difference between their pains, sufferings, or deaths.
In the beginning, for the Allies to be captive of the Turks was a nightmare. They could not imagine the torments that they will experience. As the time has passed, the care the Turks shown to wounded ally soldiers or their treatment to the captives erased those thoughts.
Another fear of the Allies was the chemical warfare. Turkish trenches were mainly positioned on the high points of the peninsula and the natural winds of the region were very convenient for the use of poison gases. The Germans released chlorine gas against the French in the western front. They could be using it here as well. Especially, the British were very anxious about this possibility. They have given gas masks to the soldiers and trained them against the detriments of the chemical gases.
The Turkish officers and commanders refused German offer about the chemical warfare. "Usage of such a fatal instrument was not fair and just," they said. Moreover, such an action was out of the "War Law." They rejected to release poison gas until the end of the war.
During the wars, Australian and New Zealand press often mentioned that the Turkish Army has not been using any chemical warfare and there was nothing to worry. For example, "Otago Times" published an article on 01 November 1915. In this article about the Turkish Warriors, the frankness of the Turks was emphasised as; "the Turks never fire a hospital, they never use chemical warfare. They ceased fire when Triumph has been hit. The Turks are not hypocrites."
Another Australian Newspaper dealt with this subject was The Age. On 11 December 1915, it published an article titled "no tread of gas bombs." The source of the article was the reports from the Gallipoli front. In the article, Australians have confessed that they were despising the Turks until they saw the Turkish decency in war. They said that they have found the Turks not as Germanised as to use chemical warfare.
Another reason of non-use of poison gases was the location of the Turkish forces. The Turks were mainly positioned on the slopes of the peninsula. Explosion of a gas bomb especially in the Anzac Cove with the help of the rough winds would effected the Turkish soldiers as well. Moreover, such an explosion would effected the entire peninsula considering the famous winds of the region. The Turks did not have gas masks and they could not take such a risk.
Had the Turks chemical warfare? This question has not been answered yet. However, it is clear that if they had, they would not have used it. As the Allied soldiers said, "the Turks are fair soldiers, they never use poison gas."
In contrast of the war's unpleasant aspects, the Turkish army has created such a nice image. This image made the Gallipoli Wars, the last "gentleman war" of the century.