Kayseri citadel and old mosque
     Kayseri citadel and old mosque (August 2006)

When he evoked his captivity in Turkey, Elie always specified that he had been well treated. What did he want to say? To understand, I sought in the reports of French soldiers and officers who lived this captivity with Elie. The Commander Mesnil, most graded among French prisoners, belonged to the first group of 46 prisoners released on September 25, 1921, in the context of Accords d'Angora. Elie and the other prisoners were released between on October 28 and on November 1. In his note, dated September 20, 1921 the Commander gives some precise details on the conditions of detention of his soldiers: (SHD 4H228)

On september 20, 1921, French prisoners in Anatolia were in the following camps:

     TALAS (10 km from Césarée)
          OFFICERS: Captain Jousse                      )
                               Lieutenant Contrevillier      )  of 412th RI
                              Sous-Lieutenant Fourest        of 17th RTA

          Privates:       586

          19 Native Riflemen
          Bozanti: 4 could not be seen when we passed

Then he explains:

In spite of the absolute lack of news of their families until November 1920, the very bad condition of wearing, insufficient, the badly prepared and little appetizing food, men were maintaining in very good spirits.

And forward:

About their physical condition, the prisoners remaining in Talas are hardly in better health than those which were repatriated. They are in large majority paludic, very weakened, unable of any effort

Why Elie did he say he had been well treated?
It is likely he did not want to give to his children a bad image of the Turks. He had seen the suffering of their country. All their people were underfed, devastated by the diseases which killed many children. The Commander Mesnil in addition points out that the French prisoners were badly nourished, but in the same manner as the Turkish soldiers.
Moreover, Elie was not wounded, and he did not contract any serious illness, compromising its future. It is probable he was captured with most of the troops and he profited from the protection of the Commander Mesnil. And then Elie had a discrete temperament. He thus did not undergo the body maltreatments which some prisoners were victims of. He had chance! He was well treated.
Opposite reports allow to better perceive how the things occurred. It is especially at the time of their capture that the prisoniers were vulnerable. What they tell reveals the mentality of a time when an individual life had little price to a soldier point of view, should he be French or Turkish!
The report of Bourdallé soldier tackles a significant subject for soldiers in campaign far from their country, he speaks about the burial of the soldiers fallen into the engagements.

Copyright        Nicole ROUFFIAC - 2005 - Tous droits réservés