In addition to the volume of survivor, eyewitness, and diplomatic evidence on the Armenian, Greek and Assyrian Genocides, there are eyewitness accounts by Australian and other Allied servicemen from World War One (WWI). These prisoners-of-war, infantrymen and cavalrymen describe their own experiences of witnessing these events throughout the Middle East.
Hundreds of Anzacs were captured as prisoners on all the major battlefronts where they faced the Ottoman Turkish forces: the Sinai Peninsula (present day Egypt) and Palestine; Mesopotamia (present day Iraq); as well as the Gallipoli Peninsula and the Hellespont (Dardanelles). See http://www.awm.gov.au/exhibitions/stolenyears/ww1/turkey/
Many of these prisoners-of-war in the Ottoman Turkish Empire – members of the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps – witnessed the Armenian, Greek and Assyrian Genocides.
Many of these Anzac stories reporting the annihilation of Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians were recorded at the time. One account was provided by allied prisoners who were kept in the Armenian Church in the city of Akroinos (present day Afyonkarahissar, Central Turkey) and used its graveyard as their exercise yard. They reported that the iron-covered gates of the Armenian cemetery were riddled with bullets and suggested that some Armenians had sold their lives dearly. Another story recounts that during the northern summer of 1918, the Dunsterforce (an allied military unit composed of Australian, New Zealand, British and Canadian soldiers) rescued some 40,000 Assyrians and Armenians from south-eastern Anatolia (present day Eastern Turkey) and north-western Iran by bringing them to the relative safety of British Mesopotamia (present day Iraq).
Australian Flying Corps Captain, Thomas Walter White, wrote extensively about the massacres and deportations against the Armenians during his time in captivity in Ottoman Turkey in his book Guests of the Unspeakable, published in 1927.
There are also a number of cases where Imperial Camel Corps personnel (Australia soldiers) provided sanctuary for Armenian Genocide survivors in the Jordan River Valley in 1917 and 1918. In a touching display of humanity amid the horrors of war, Anzac Colonel Arthur Mills carried a 4-year-old Armenian girl, sleeping in his arms, on his camel to safety. See http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/mills-arthur-james-7591
During and immediately after World War One, the experiences of Anzac soldiers and their reports of the annihilation of Armenians, Greek and Assyrians eventually reached Australia. These stories were widely reported in Australian media. Hundreds of articles were published in the major Australian newspapers during this period detailing the eyewitness accounts and experiences of Anzac soldiers.
Many of the Anzacs that returned to Australia after the war joined the Armenian relief movement which had mobilised a broad spectrum of Australian religious, political and civic leaders.
A neglected part of Australia’s military history, the Anzac eyewitnesses to the Genocides and the Anzac rescuers of survivors is one of the brightest legacies of Australian military service beyond our shores.
Australian Archival Sources
Wheat, J H, Typescript of a diary compiled by Wheat, a member of the Australian AE2 submarine captured by the Ottoman Turks in April 1915 shortly after the AE2 penetrated the Dardanelles. Wheat was among the many Anzac POWs held captive in abandoned Armenian churches and homes in Ottoman Turkey during WW1. See digitised diary in the Australian War Memorial http://ae2.ivec.org/pdf/AWM_3DRL-2965.pdf
Also, see transcript of Wheat's diary in the State Library of NSW website http://acms.sl.nsw.gov.au/_transcript/2012/D16835/a3901.htm
Handsley, George. Handsley was a Light Horseman captured by the Ottoman Turks in Palestine during WW1. See http://www.australiansatwar.gov.au/stories/stories_war=W1_id=133.html
For a digital copy of George Handsley's book, 'Two and a half-years prisoner in Turkey', and other sources on Anzac POWs in Turkey held in the National Archives of Australia:
Click on 'begin search'
Type 'prisoner of war turkey'
Click 'digitised item' on right hand side
Bibliography of Books by Anzac POWs who witnessed the events surrounding the Armenian Genocide in Ottoman Turkey during WW1:
Brown, H. A. Diary. Mitchell Library ML MSS 5. (AE2 Submarine POW Turkey).
Halpin, J. Blood in the Mists, Sydney, Macquarie Head Press, 1934.
Halpin, J. 'Captives of the Turk', in Reveille RSS&AILA, NSW Branch, Sydney. 1 Mar 1934, 1 Apr 1934, 1 May 1934, 1 Jun 1934, 1 Jul 1934, p25, 26. p48. p29. p15..
Jones, E. H. 'The Road To En-Dor ', London, Pan Books, 1955.
Lushington, R. F. A Prisoner With The Turks 1915 - 1918, London, Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co. Ltd, 1923.
Luscombe, L. H. The Story of Harold Earl - Australian, Brisbane, W. R. Smith & Paterson, 1970.
Richardson, L.D. Diary. Mitchell Library ML MSS 2447. Signaller, 1LHR. Anzac. Experiences as a POW in Turkey.
Wheat, J.H. Papers. Mitchell Library ML MSS 3054. (AE2 Submarine POW Turkey).
White, T. W. Guests of the Unspeakable. The Oddyssey of an Australian Airman - being a record of Captivity and Escape in Turkey, 2nd Australian edition, Sydney, Angus & Robertson, 1935.