The Norfolk Regiment in Mesopotamia

After a break of a few months for reading new sources our Mesopotamian correspondent is back with details of the Norfolk Regiment during their time in Turkish captivity.

Captivity in Turkey: from the diaries of Lieutenant Colonel Francis Cecil Lodge

Part 1: to 31st December, 1916

This is a continuation of the posting of 16 November, 2016, which was an account of the march into captivity following the surrender of the British garrison of Kut al Amara.

Colonel Lodge was unsurprisingly concerned to receive letters from home, especially from his beloved wife, Margaret; many of his entries in this regard are repetitious, so only a selection have been included here.

Appreciation, as ever, goes to the Curator of the Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum.

The Notebook kept by F.C. Lodge during his captivity at Yozgad
Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum

After arriving at Yozgad (Yozgat), Lt. Col. Lodge describes their accommodation:

30th June, 1916

…It [the countryside] is well wooded with fruit trees and poplars. Water is plentiful, evidently from springs. We are housed in 2 large houses, apparently lately owned by Armenians. They are quite clean, but like all Turkish houses the sanitary arrangements were quite inadequate. The F.O.’s in one house, the Captains and Subalterns in the larger of the two. Our party totalled 20 officers and 6 orderlies. This number was increased very soon after by the arrival of the Worcester Yeomanry & Col: Chitty, the former captured on the Suez Canal; their C.O. was Col: Coventry. Our total was now 35 including orderlies.

Two tables were laid with crockery knives etc: so we hope to get a meal shortly. At 12 we sat down to a very fair meal soup maigre, mutton, and an enormous plateful of a kind of greasy spagetti [sic], topped up with some unripe cherries; however not having had a square meal for many days we did full justice. We found that all our party had to feed in the same room, so when we finished the others took their turn. It was a bit crowded and the seats not of the best. The feeding is run by a contractor who we eventually found to be a high class rotter. The waiters are crude, 2 men and 2 ammunition boys, all beastly dirty, the men smoke all the time & there is a good deal of  kockey tooing. To bed early. The same party as occupied our ariba share a small room. We have been provided with a kind of wool mattress, a quilt, pillow & one sheet. A great relief to be settled at last, no more turning out before dawn with no meal for certain, for some time to come. Slept well.

1st July, 1916

Breakfast 8.30. Eggs, bread & butter & a glass of milk. Col. L. & Col. Wilson both have fever and stayed in bed. No one is allowed outside the house. I hope these precautions will soon be relaxed. Our house stands on the small stream at the bottom of the valley, there are houses all around us, but the larger part of the town lies to the north, and above us.

2nd July, 1916

Nice cool morning. Not allowed out for exercise yet. There is a small yard about 20 x 5 yards, roughly paved and quite unseen from the road, owing to a high wall. This was our only means of exercise for about 3 weeks. There is a small garden running to a point where one could get a walk of 60 paces round it, but we were not allowed to use it for 3 weeks. Weather lovely, which makes the want of exercise all the more.

3rd July, 1916

Meals are falling off in quality and quantity.

4th July, 1916

More trouble with contractor about food; price exhorbitant for what we get. Commandant not inclined to assist us; so far we have not seen the gentleman. Our custodians consist of several old greybeards (prison warders I believe) with no intelligence and inclined to treat us as convicts. They practically run the show, as so far we have seen no official. Later a subaltern arrived, but he had no initiative: also a very young interpreter.

5th July, 1916

Owing to yesterday’s bickerings over food etc. with contractor. There was no breakfast this morning. The Comdt. at last put in an appearance; more talk. He, the Comdt., cannot speak any language but his own, so we have to trust the very doubtful interpretation by the young man above mentioned, which was afterwards, I’m sure, the cause of a good deal of our troubles. …

6th July, 1916

Very hot day – Still not allowed out.

7th July, 2016

We have been here a week today. Not allowed to write yet and no news of any letters for us, though there must be a great many due. They take no notice of our repeated request to be allowed to write – a great shame.

9th July, 2016

Our daily meals consists of 2 eggs, ½ pint milk, a small roll of bread which has to last for two meals – reminds me of Kut days – lunch & dinner a fid* of mutton or goat, a piece of lettuce, sometimes a raw cucumber. Butter which ought to be good and plentiful is generally rancid, and quite unfit to eat, for which they charge at the rate of 2/6 per pound. For ½ oke** of sugar 50ps [piastres]: i.e. 9/2 for 1¼ lbs. Coffee the same. Eggs can be bought 10 for 2d but the contractor only gives us 4.

* a small thick piece or wedge

** in Turkey, Egypt, and other countries of the Near East, a unit of weight roughly equal to about 2¾ lbs (1.3 kg)

10th  July, 2016

Allowed in the garden for the first time. Not much room for walking as it is full of beds of drying vegetables and too many fruit trees. The latter the sentries strip though the fruit is mostly unripe. I hope they will suffer for it. As lamps are few and indifferent, and the allowance of oil very meagre, we go to bed soon after dinner which is at 7.30 pm.

No letters, books, papers to help while away the days, and we the “honoured guests of Turkey”.

11th July, 1916

Bought some honey in the court [?], very dirty and full of bees and flies at 60 ps the oke – an 0ke = 2½ lbs about. Some letters were handed us just as we had gone to bed. Thank goodness news at last.

Post cards 3 & 1 letter of 4 lines from M. [Margaret, his wife] First news from M since the 21st Nov: 1915

Post card 1 from Ethel, 1 from Evelyn

M’s were d[ated] 3rd, 7th, 14th & 24th May. Ethel’s 21st Evelyn’s 20th

16th July, 1916

A batch of prisoners arrived here today: they were the Worcester Yeomanry captured near the Suez Canal, Colonel Coventry was their senior officer. Col: Chitty, Shakeshaft & Baines I.M.S.* all of the Kut Garrison also came with this party. They brought us news that our men were having a bad time marching up; I’m afraid many will not be strong enough to come through.

* Indian Medical Service

19th July, 1916

Mail in: 3 post cards & a four line letter from Margaret.

20th July, 1916

At least we got out for a walk. A party of about 30 of us went through the bazaar, with a guard of 6 and 2 officers, to some open ground to the north of the town; we remained out for about 2 hours. It was a great boon to get some fresh air and a change of scene having been couped [sic] up so long.

21st July, 1916

The second party went out for their walk at 5 pm. For the last 2 or 3 nights we have had to go to bed in the dark, most annoying when we are charged for lamps and oil. We have now bought a tin of oil for 2 liras so we shall be able to undress in comfort.

23rd July, 1916

Went to early service in the upper house at 7.30; this was the first opportunity since Kut. The Padre (Wilcox) came with the Yeomanry.

24th July, 1916

Anniversary of the battle of Nasiryeh. …

25th July, 1916

No mails for us. A letter from Red Crescent asking us to put place of detention on our cards or letters.

28th July, 1916

No walk today as we have been naughty. We refused to sign some impossible rules made out by the Cmdt.

29th July, 1916

No breakfast this morning: a row apparently between the Cmdt. and the contractor. As we were unprepared for this, only had an egg and chupatti which lasted till dinner when matters righted themselves. Then only goat and rice graces the board. 2 letters and 2 pc from M. PC from Mother and Ethel. It was the parents Golden Wedding Day on 5th July, wish I could have been home for it.

30th July, 1916

Service at 10.30.

31st July, 1916

Meals getting worse. For lunch we had some cut up goat, raw cucumber & dried figs, all pretty beastly. 3/- per day.

1st August, 1916

Mail in 2 letters & 3 pc’s from M. … Still not allowed out. The gist of the rules was that we were to make ourselves entirely responsible for feeding, clothing ourselves and orderlies – purchase of stores, wood etc. for the winter, with no assistance from Cmdt. & no pay. His was practically impossible.

2nd August, 1916

Another day with no breakfast, why goodness knows, the contractor has struck! Got a meal at 6 pm. Of sorts!! They allowed an officer to go out into the bazaar to buy us food. The revelation as regards prices was rather astonishing, we have been grossly overcharged. We cannot carry on much longer; we’ve had no pay since Baghdad & funds are getting low – many have to borrow from those more fortunate. We are already in arrears for pay*.

* Officer prisoners were not required to work and were paid by their captors. In his notebook FCL listed the payments received whilst a prisoner of war.

F.C. Lodge’s record of pay received from the Turks whilst a prisoner of war

NB Lodge lists his pay in liras, piastres and paras. The lira was the basic unit of Ottoman currency at the time of the First World War. The lira was divided into 100 piastres (kuruş). There were 40 paras to the piastre. Hence, the pay he received on 15th April, 1917 was 15 liras, 35 piastres and 28 paras.

A 20 piastre banknote from 1917

3rd August, 1916

An egg and dry bread for breakfast. Dry bread for lunch, and a meat stew at 3.45. The prices for food bought by ourselves today were: Meat 5ps:[per] oke ie 2¾ lbs. Honey 25ps per oke, we had been charged 60 or 40 for same amount. Vegetables quite cheap 20ps: bought enough beans and marrows for 125 of us: we had been charged 1½ ps per head hitherto. Our guards do practically what they like. They are allowed to push officers about, no redress from Cmdt. Today I was walking in our alley when a sentry called & signalled me to go in; I at once complied, but before I got to the door he smiled and made me understand that I could continue walking – simply, I suppose, to show some onlookers his authority.

Posted a p.c. to M. today.

4th August, 1916

Two years today since the war began. Some wheat porridge and honey for breakfast this morning. The lane is now open from 2 till 5 pm. Not a wildly exciting form of exercise. It runs about 60 paces between 2 walls and is about 3½ yards wide, with a dirty drain of evil smelling water on one side. One end of the lane leads on to the road, the other end looks over some cabbage gardens. After dinner we had a meeting to discuss the present require[ment] of running our own feeding arrangements. The figures showed that we could manage to carry on for 21 days, when, if no money arrives, we are up a gum tree.

5th August, 1916

Food is a great topic of conversation, which is hardly to be wondered at considering the hand to mouth existence we are leading. As our tea is running short we only take it at chota-hazri* and tea time. …

*from British India: a light meal taken early in the morning.

6th August, 1916

Church at 10 am. Our house is hard at work making tables and chairs as since the contractor has been sacked we’ve had none of these [?]. The wood we obtain from empty Regi-cigarette packing cases. …

8th August, 1916

Each of us received 3 liras from the American Ambassador*, Stamboul. It came in the nick of time, being urgently needed. I was reduced to about ½ lira at the time.

* Abram Isaac Elkus was United States Ambassador to Turkey from 1916 until the USA declared war on Turkey in April 1917. He replaced Henry Morgenthau Sr. who resigned in January 1916 over the issue of the deportation of Armenians from Anatolia. The U.S. ambassadors did all they could to care for British prisoners of war in Turkey.

U.S. Ambassadors to Constantinople: Henry Morgenthau Sr. and Abram Elkus
public domain images

9th August, 1916

Much cooler today, an easterly wind blowing. No news of outside world. Up till now they have been translating the Turkish war telegrams to us, this has been stopped, no great loss as they are well padded before being sent here; still one could read between the lines & so gather a little information.

27th August, 1916

Service at 10.30. parcel mail. 2 for me. Fortnum & Mason & 2 tins of Capstan Tobbacco [sic] all most acceptable. These parcels had taken 3½ months in their journey.

31st August, 1916

Colonel Lethbridge and I began shorthand lessons under Mason today.

1st September, 1916

Rumour says that Roumania has sided with us.

6th September, 1916

Received a parcel of 3 books today, they would not let me have them until they had been censored.

6th September, 1916

A Red Letter Day. They actually gave us pay for one month. We went up in batches of 10. It was a very tedious job as they took so long over it. I eventually got Liras 10 from this was deducted 175ps for bedding & 425¼ ps which was half the contractor’s bill also 3ps for stamped receipt. I only got 3 Liras 50ps. The balance of 46¾ ps was paid into Gilchrist’s account a[nd] remains there to my credit.

11th September, 1916

A large consignment of clothes were distributed, these came through the American Embassy. My share was a very thin holland suit, pyjamas suitable for a boy of 14, 1 flannel and 2 cotton shirts of very poor material, 3 towels, 2 vests & 2 drawers all on the small side & highly coloured, 3 hanks, 1pr braces, slippers, pipe, reel of cotton, a pair of hair clippers & 1 bag.

They gave me 2 of my books today, a great joy, as it was the first reading matter I’ve had for 9 months. Rain yesterday, the first we’ve had since our arrival.

24th September, 1916

A heavy thunderstorm after lunch with lots of rain. Our small stream was soon a raging torrent, a good thing to, as it will wash away the filth thrown on to the banks.

27th September, 1916

…Anniversary first day of battle at ESSINN. Wrote 5 lines to M. Went for a good walk up the KAISERIE road – my first walk for a month.

2nd October, 1917

Caught a chill which has settled on my chest, feel rotten.

3rd October, 1917

Better today. Paid Lethbridge 75 ps this squares us up to date. Paid Wigger* 50ps.

*Private Wigger was Lodge’s orderly

6th October, 1917

A bright day – wore my mufti suit and felt the benefit of it. Put in some good work at a wood fatigue, we are putting in a stock for winter. We have to pay ready cash for this and as our funds are low we cannot, at present, buy much. This is a great nuisance as the price of wood goes up a good deal later on. We are now 3 months in arrears for pay.

8th October, 1917

Jolly cold – we’d give anything to have fires, but have no stoves nor the money to buy.

22nd October, 1917

H.C. after morning service. Three letters for me all in French 2 from M d/ 8th & 15th June & one from Ethel d/ 10th June. …

25th October, 1917

Post Card from Mother d/ 27th Sept saying she had sent a parcel. 2 p.c.’s from Ethel telling me I had been gazetted Lt. Colonel 15th Sept 1915*.  All news good. My p.c. To K.K. re investments reached him.

* From the Supplement to the London Gazette, 27 September, 1916 – Norf. R.—Maj. F. C. Lodge, D.S.O., to be temp. Lt.-Col., whilst in comd. of a Bn. 13th Sept. 1915.

28th October, 1916

Liras 3 from American Embassy. p.c. from de Grey, asking me to nominate a new adjutant.

1st November, 1916

2 letters from M one d/ 19th July the other 2 Oct, the former written in French as they come more rapidly? She still only writes 4 lines – I got a 2 page letter from Ethel & one from Evelyn

2nd November, 1916

Letter to Mother and p.c. To de Grey, nominating Floyd as his successor.

3rd November, 1916

A new contractor has taken over our feeding arrangements. It seems a pity to change as our bazaar parties consisting of one officer and 4 or 5 servants were working so well.

4th November, 1916

Comdt. Came round for the first time for many months.

6th November, 1916

White frost this morning. Got a reach me down suit, vest & drawers, very scratchy, gave them to Wigger. Cap & shirt. In the suit, I feel & look like a 3 Class engineer of [or?] a tramp in his best.

7th November, 1916

Four delightful photos of the kiddies – in one of which M figures. They were taken when the children were 2 years old. The last photo I had was taken on the 24th Sept 1915, sitting on their grandfather’s shoulder, 13½ months ago.

14th November, 1916

PAY DAY. Received our very much overdue pay this afternoon. For 3 months, we are still 1 month in arear. I drew Liras 25 for July, Augt & Sept: with the following deductions Ali’s bill 425¼ ps Rent 12, 9, 9 for house & 9ps for receipt stamps.

15th November, 1916

Posted letter No 4 to M.

Paid Wigger 1 Lira for Sept & Oct:

Posted a card to Evelyn

17th November, 1916

A Turkish sanitary official came and inspected our houses to day with what result I do not know.

18th November, 1916

Colonel Coventry still very ill – Baines up with him all last night. There is no doubt that he is suffering from Typhus. There is no room in which sick officers or men can be isolated. Col. C’s room leads into our dining room.

19th November, 1916

Wretched mail, only an ancient p.c. from Jones-Bateman asking me to nominate a successor to de Grey. J.B. Is evidently commanding the remnants of 2 Bn. In India.

20th November, 1916

Nice warm day. Seven of us moved into a new house further up the street, opposite the Comdt office. It is a nice, nearly new, clean house. Our party consisted of Col Chitty, Col. Wilson C.B., R.E. [Royal Engineers], Col. Lethbridge C.M.G., D.S.O., Self, Julius, Thomes Yeomanry & Burn West Kent. I share a good room, much bigger than our old one, with Col.Lethbridge, it faces S., has one side all cupboards. We ought to be most comfortable. A good upstairs dining room and an excellent room for our stores. We have some difficulty in getting down to the old house for exercise as the sentries are rather stupid, this I hope will be righted in time – we’ve no place for exercise in this house.

21st November, 1916

… Captain Bignell died last night, I had no idea he was so seriously ill – bronchitis & acute diarohea [sic]. He died of heart failure. As mentioned before there is no accommodation for sick, hardly any medical comforts.

We buried him this afternoon at 5 p.m.. All of us attended, as did a Turkish guard, the uzbashi was also present. We got a cart for the coffin which was an old framework, used by the Greek church, who carry their dead in this tawdry affair & bury in a shroud, using the box for others. We bought the thing outright for which they had the nerve to charge 10 Liras, 4 for the cart & 4 for a very shallow grave: all most iniquitous charges. B was buried in the Armenian cemetery, a bit of open ground apart from the Mohamedan [sic].

22nd November, 1916

Anniversary of the battle of CTESIPHON. … Wrote letter No. 5 to M.

23rd November, 1916

Tea is now 400 ps per oke ie £3/13/4 for 2½ lb*. And very poor stuff at that.

*In England, in 1914, tea retailed at 2d. per ¼ lb, although prices increased during the war. Hence,  2½ lb would have cost about 1s/8d (about 8p)

29th November, 1916

My birthday and anniversary of my arrival in KUT. Got 3 parcels, 2 from Fortnum & Mason No. 6838 & 7635, the former broken open. Also a waterproof bag containing undergarments & medicines & a splendid cardigan. Am well set up now.

30th November, 1916

Posted card No. 6 to M. Received Liras 3 from American Embassy.

1st December 1916

Frosty & bright. The interpreter came in at dinner and told us we might write a long letter this mail. Wrote letter No. 7 to M. & one to Mother. Went for a walk after tea, the first time for nearly 2 months.

3rd December, 1916

The 6th Divn. entered Kut a year ago from the North [the retreat from Ctesiphon].

6th December, 1916

Got a packet of snapshots of the kiddies, taken in Scotland. All excellent – no letters.

11th December, 1916

We had a visit to day about lunch time, from two members of the Swiss Red Cross. They were accompanied by a Turkish colonel & 2 other junior Turkish officers. The party went round all the houses, asked us how we had been treated, & whether we were comfortable. Col. Chitty & Harward handed statements as to our treatment both here and in ANGORA. One of the delegates took a photo of the 4 of us. I asked him to send a copy, if successful, to Margaret: he said he would in any case he promised to write to her. They all returned to tea about 6.45 p.m. including the Cmdt., this taxed out limited resources a good deal. They leave tomorrow to visit some Russian prisoners.

The Swiss Red Cross delegate’s photograph in the courtyard of the house in Yozgad Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum From left to right as viewed: Major Julius (Royal Sussex Regiment); Lt. Col. F.C. Lodge (Norfolk Regiment); Lt. Col. Wilson (Royal Engineers); Captain Burn (Royal West Kent Regiment)


The visiting card of one of the Swiss Red Cross delegates
Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum

12th December, 1916

Lovely frosty day. Went for a splendid walk up to the pine woods, in the hills to the S. of us: it reminded me of the country around Aldershot, only more hilly.

Mail in

Two letters d/26 Oct & 1st Nov: from M. …

25th December, 1916

Christmas Day. Service and H.C. At 11.30. Sandes played his violin at the service. Singing very hearty. Mince pies, home made, for lunch. Turkey, plum pudding, also home made, for dinner. A concert in lower house at 9pm. I did not go. Pleasanter Xmas than last year [besieged at Kut].

26th December, 1916

Wind in the East, beastly cold.

29th December, 1916

Snow during the night, ground covered this morning – still snowing, no chance of getting out.

30th December, 1916

We have been here 6 months today. Fine bright morning, nice dry cold, walking slippery.

31st December, 1916

New Year Eve. Did not go out all day. Mail came in about tea-time one ariba: they say there are some parcels, no private ones all from [American] Embassy. They gave us our letters after dinner. Post card from Mother d/ 29th Nov:

Two letters d/ 23rd Aug (in French) & 30th Nov from M. In the letter she had obituary notices of me from India. I cannot think how people can be so careless.

Letter from T.A. Chalmers – Jorhat, Assam, India – he was the owner of the “Ariel” of Mesopotamian fame, and had been very kind to me at Lujj after I was wounded, giving me meals on board his boat when food was had to come by.

There aren’t any accessible accounts from the Norfolk Regiment of the tribulations of the ‘other ranks’ in captivity, which were markedly more difficult than the experiences, however trying, of Lt. Col. Lodge and some other officers.

‘The Other Ranks of Kut’ by Sergeant P.W. Long, MM, tells another story. The book is available in paperback and is written in a straightforward and very readable style. It tells something of the manner in which many men worked, died – and survived Turkish captivity.