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Source: GB/FO 424/219/pages 92-96
Central register: 1909-A-17615
Edition: Adana 1909
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Last updated: 10/22/2017

Sir G. Lowther to Sir Edward Grey.


No. 85.

(Received May 10.)

(No. 325.)

Constantinople, May 6, 1909.


WITH reference to my despatch No. 321 of the 4th instant, I have the honour to forward herewith a despatch from Major Doughty Wylie, reporting further on the course of affairs at Adana and the vicinity after the massacres of the 14th ultimo and following days.

I have, &c.

Inclosure in No. 85.

Major Wylie to Sir G. Lowther.

Adana, April 28, 1909.


IN continuation of my last despatch, I have the honour to report as follows:

Sunday, April 25. About dusk, firing broke out, and in the evening, even in this quarter where we live, there was instant panic; hundreds of people ran in here; and a few shots were fired, which they said were at them. One man was wounded, he says by a bullet, but I think he sat on a spike. Soldiers were at once sent from the town, and the night passed quietly here, with the exception of a little shooting, but in the town there was fighting, and a great many dangerous looking fires. I happened to have Mr. Trowbridge here, and endeavoured to send him up to see what was happening, but he was turned back by soldiers.

I telegraphed the situation to the Captain of the “Swiftsure” by means of the railway wire. By 10 P.M. an officer of the Konak had reached me with a more cheerful report, and I decided to wait for morning before asking for a Consular guard.

Monday, April 26. At dawn I telegraphed to Captain of “Swiftsure” as follows:

“Town seems quieter this morning, but roads blocked. Am just going konak; wait news before doing anything. Consulate safe.”

I rode up on Mr. Trowbridge’s horse, accompanied by him and four soldiers. We went first to the American Girls’ School, where Mr. Trowbridge lives, and found the place safe; that it was guarded sufficiently, and every one was very frightened. I then went to Mr. Chambers’ house, where there was an enormous crowd of refugees; one man wounded, and several bullets had struck the house. I went from there to the konak; there was some shooting in the streets, but comparatively little, and I saw about twenty or thirty bodies. So far as I saw the guards from the two regiments of Roumelians were in hand, and did good work.

In the konak there was the usual confusion. I told the Vali that if he could not protect foreigners I would telegraph at once for troops, that he must send guards at once to the American Mission, and that I would give him till midday to restore quiet. It seemed to me that this could be done, and by 11

A.M. it was, practically, but there was still plundering, and the fires were terrible.

I went straight from the konak to the School of the Jesuits, taking with me fifty men and the Ferik’s staff officer. On arrival I found so many houses burning close to it that it seemed imperative to get the people out. There were over 2,000 of them. This was done, little by little, by Mr. Lawson Chambers and myself, assisted by the French priests. I had found Mr. Lawson Chambers in the konak, where he had been sent the night before with a message, and where he had passed the night for safety. With the first 200 refugees my staff officer and all the escort, except four, returned to konak, and none came out again.

I do not think we were fired at, although there were a great number of cartridges going off in the burning houses, and wreckage was falling across the streets. However, stray parties of soldiers kept the streets clear for me, and we completely cleared the French school of men, women, and children, and I suppose eight or ten wounded. I took all these refugees to the konak and had them in a garden. I had paid a visit to the French nuns’ school as well, and found it safe, and sufficiently far from the fires not to be threatened. I promised them a guard, and now took them one from the konak, shooting on the way a plunderer or two. After that I revisited Mr. Chambers and the other American school. A house near this had been burned, and the fire had been put down by some of his Armenian refugees. We left a few men in the French schools to work with buckets, &c., and as soon as we got the people out we got the pumps and water-carts, and then went back to the konak. Upon arrival I found Commander Carver of His Majesty's ship “Swiftsure.” I told the Vali that as the troops were now well in hand I would keep my promise and would not ask for foreign assistance. I also said that the fire should be fought by the troops, as without discipline it was impossible to do anything.

The Staff officer arrived with new troops and asked me if I would come with them and some priests to search the churches for arms. (It is said that last night’s dispute was caused by a small band of Hanjakists, who wished to bring about foreign interference and who killed fifteen Roumelian soldiers who were on picket in the Armenian quarter I do not know if this is true or not.) I said I would certainly go if it would help to make peace, and asked the Vali if he would personally request me to do so, which he did. We then started, and went to the Armenian (Gregorian) church. Troops on the way cleared the burning streets full of pillagers.

Long search was made in the church with the aid of the Armenian priests. Nothing was found except about ten or twelve old arms, which were brought in. No harm was done, the troops were perfectly in hand, and every consideration was shown to the priests’ feelings. After this I found myself too weak to do any more, and came back to Mr. Trypani’s house, leaving Mr. Chambers to go with the soldiers to the other churches. The bazaar was partly burning, and full of a looting crowd, whom the soldiers drove away. When writing to Captain Thursby, of the “Swiftsure,” I asked him to telegraph to your Excellency which of the foregoing he thought important, as even urgent telegrams are taking two days from here.

Hadjin. Latest news from the Vali (if he can be believed) was the arrival to-day of Lufti Bey and the Commissioners sent from here. Lufti seized some horses, and turned his men into mounted infantry. I had considerable hopes from this officer should he arrive in time.

Adana. The general burning and devastation of the town must render relief work harder than ever, as the number before this were 15,000.

Four marines arrived from “Swiftsure” to assist with the sick and wounded.

About 3 P.M., I suppose, two French nuns arrived from their school, saying that it was in danger of catching fire. Directly afterwards similar messages came from the American School. I sent Mr. Lawson Chambers to the konak for troops to escort refugees from both these places. Later on I went up myself, and going to Mr. Chambers’ house first, found that the nuns’ school would be safe, and that there was a good chance for the American Girls’ School, and a chance for Mr. Chambers’ house. The nuns and French priests were all by this time sent to Mr. Trypani’s house; the Armenian refugees into Trypani’s and the German factories. I brought down Mr. Chambers’ wife and daughter Mr. Chambers himself, his nephew, Sick Berth Attendant Pink, and Bombadier Hawes, R.M.A., who were left in the house. I went to the American Girls’ School, and, after consulting with the missionaries, withdrew from there eighty girls, whom we placed in Mr. E. Trypani’s house. The Americans will remain in the school unless driven out by fire. They have a guard of twelve men, which is amply sufficient to bring them in, as the girls have now been withdrawn. In the streets there are thousands of fugitives, but Roumelian soldiers are doing their work well, and there had been no killing or plundering that I saw. I spoke to the captain who had charge of the quarter containing Mr. Chambers’ house and the Girls’ School, in order to insure as far as possible that no plunderers should enter them.

It appears to me that about one-half of Adana city will be burnt. Efforts with pumps are being made, but the pumps are too few and too feeble, and the con­flagration too widespread. I think that only a systematic scheme of blowing up houses to make a ring round the burning area would be of any use.

Tuesday, 27th. I left here at about 7:30 A.M. and went to Mr. Chambers’ house, where I found the fires were not out, but less threatening. Some houses had burnt themselves out. I also visited the American Girls’ School and the French nuns’ school. The nuns’ school is close to the fire. The quarter contained some prowling thieves, who were driven out; but one can have no confidence that they will not return. I then went to the konak. The news from Hadjin of yesterday to the Vali was that fighting was still going on, but that the monastery alone was burning, and not the town, which is on the opposite side of the valley. He said that the Commandant sent had been wounded, and that he thought the reason why there had been so much delay in the surrender was that nobody would trust the Commandant. The Hodjas, sent from here to make peace, had arrived, and Lufti Bey should arrive to-day. The number of troops at the disposal of Lufti Bey would, it is computed, be about 400. I have had no telegrams from Hadjin for the last three days. I emphasized to the Vali that the first thing to be done was to put out the fires and drive out the pillagers with the severest measures. The Alia Bey and a party of men were sent to do what they could to demolish dangerous buildings and to work the pumps. I also talked about reliefs, now a still more burning question than before, as 10,000 people are in Trypani’s factory without any food, and a very large number in the Germany factory. I have bought for the people in Trypani’s factory this morning fifteen bags of flour, and I persuaded the Vali to give me five bags, the men in the German factory are being fed by Mr. Stoohell, but I have had no time yet to find out how. I arranged with the Vali to fix the price of flour and wheat, and on my submitting to him a list of people without food, to telegraph to Constantinople, to know if the factories will be at his disposal, he sent for the Defterdar, who said that no factories were available.

Returning from the konak I met Commander Carver and the Commander of the “Victor Hugo” coming up to the konak. I had asked the Vali if a party of men from the ship would be of use to him in saving the French and American property, but he said he would give me an answer in half an-hour, and Commander Carver went to the konak to get this answer. It was evasive. I visited the French school, the scene of the fire, and the American schools again. The Alia Bey and party had been round and left a pump with an unskilled party, who did not appear to me to be doing anything. I myself set them to work on one house, but had to leave them.

Commander Carver visited the American Church, which had no guard, and was full of refugees.

As all the other temporary hospitals in the town had been burnt, or are in danger of burning, 150 wounded were sent down to my wife’s hospital. We have neither house nor beds nor blankets for these people. I am trying, but I am afraid vainly, to obtain them, so much has been burnt, and there is such universal disaster.

Commander Carver is going again to the konak, to press again for a guard on the church full of refugees. The French Commander is going to take back to their houses the nuns and priests now in refuge with me, and to stay with them, as he feels there is no security otherwise. I cannot help feeling very uneasy about the state of the town. The soldiers appear to me to be sulky, and some of the officers who were too cowardly to come out with me when the firing was going on, are now going round with parties of troops, ostensibly to prevent looting, but I think that instead of protecting the Armenians, they are threatening them with further punishment, as they call it.

Mr. Stockel, the manager of the German factory, reported to me this evening that his office in the town had been broken open by soldiers, and the safes and papers plundered. He lost 560 l. in cash, and many valuable papers.

On his arrival there he found the rooms full of Roumelian soldiers and Bashi Bazoukas. The soldiers pretended to drive out the Bashi Bazoukas, and went out with them.

He also reported to me that a guard on his factory had refused to stay there, and that the men would not obey their officers. He had in his factory many thousands of Armenians, and there were 13,000 in Mr. Trypani’s factory; both these factories are full of cotton, and the risk from fire was very great. I wrote for a guard on both places.

To-day a telegram from the Ambassador reached me, saying that the Minister of the Interior had given orders for Mr. Lawson Chambers to be sent to Hadjin as soon as sufficient escort was available. I wrote to the Vali to ask if he could start at once. The Vali replied that he had received no such orders yet, but that he would act on them as soon as he did so, I have had no news from Hadjin this afternoon.

We telegraphed to the Director of the railway at Mersina for the use of some of his depôt sheds for the wounded.

The Turkish municipal doctors came and asked us to receive 150 more wounded. There are over 100 wounded in the German factory. Commander Carver went up to the American Girls’ School, from which the girls have all been sent to Mersina, and brought from there fifty beds. The Director kindly consented to give us a shed which would hold about fifty people, and it was fitted up. I am trying to get a small sesame oil factory, which is closed here and would do well, but the owner is a refugee in Mersina. The American Red Cross in Beirut asked us, at the suggestion Mr. Gibbons, of Tarsus, for a list of what we required in the way of medical supplies. Miss Wallis is busy making this out.

The difficulty of feeding all these thousands of people in the factories is extreme. They have been hungry for days. In the German factory some children have even died of hunger. The Municipality sent us fifteen sacks of flour and we managed to get about twenty-five ourselves, but people are too thickly crowded to cook and in the struggling crowd proper distribution becomes impossible. Further, Mr. Trypani’s looms are, he tells me, ruined by the crowd of people pressing against them and playing with them. Every must be made to-morrow to empty this factory, if only some small degree of confidence can be restored. There are also grave reasons of health why this should done.

Soon after dusk two strong patrols of Roumelian troops visited the quarter and took charge of the factories.

I was relieved to see the officers and the discipline of these parties. An official messsage from the Vali reached me announcing the accession to the throne of the new Sultan.

Soon after this there was a great deal of shooting in the town and in this neighbourhood; so far as I know at present, this was a sort of feu de joie in honour of the new accession, but it caused a great panic. Thieves and murderers, who are on the outskirts or in the slums of the town (there have been at least a dozen murders to-day in the neighbourhood of the German factory), took the shooting for a signal that their reign had again begun. Four ran into the hospital we had formed here, but were fired on and driven off by my guard. I have no news yet of what happened in the town. This afternoon I was informed unofficially that the Vali had been dismissed, and that the new one was arriving in a day or two viâ Iregli.

The Arab battalions from Beirut have all been moved to the konak and to central positions. This is a wise measure, as their discipline does not admit of their being broken into small parties without some deterioration.

The same thing may be said of the Roumelian troops, but they are not so bad. All Redifs have, I think, been dismissed. There are a few Muhafis doing town guard in places.

An informal meeting of the Turkish members of the Relief Committee, with myself, took place, but little was done as the old list of refugees are now useless and we shall have to begin again. The urgent question is to somehow feed and house the starving people and systemize as far as we can.

I have, &c.
(Signed) C. H. M. DOUGHTY WYLIE, Vice-Consul.

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