The Kia ora coo-ee : the magazine for the ANZACS in the Middle East, 1918
In German Footsteps
"This is mere conjecture", you will say. "You are construing the attitude of the German into what you suppose it might be from a general knowledge of his temperament. The fact probably is that, if only for politic reasons, the German stood as an humble brother-in-arms with the Turk, sharing poverty and misery with him in the common campaign". But there is more than surmise in it. It is fairly evident, from an examination of the towns and the land we have overrun, that the German preened himself amongst the humble-feathered Turks, and was prepared to do anything except share-and-share-alike. This is not hasty inference from the fact that Liman Von Sanders ran for all he was fit, leaving his unhappy Turkish command "to it". You saw evidence of German super-comfort, super-equipment, super-feeding and super-accommodation everywhere. It struck you first and most forcibly in watching the droves of prisoners come in. Where Turkish officers walked, German officers were riding on donks, on camels, in gharries or any vehicle; you can fairly safely infer that at the time of capture all these means of locomotion were available equally to Turk and German. But it was not the Turk who ended up on them; it was consistently the Hun.
But it was in a captured town that one saw the contrast in many aspects. Take the matter of grub alone. I lived in.....for three days. There was much captured provender there— Turkish and German. I had brought bully beef and biscuit. But I did not eat any of it. I lived chiefly on German M. & V. and German tinned-sausage and dried fruits. I had often heard of this ration in France, but never tasted it. To taste it was to spurn bully. All the Turkishfood consisted in sparse supplies of dried legumes. There is, of course, the national difference in diet to be reckoned with. But if you base your comparison on quantity alone, you will see how well the German fed by comparison with "Joe Burke". The same contrast held true of the food found on captured Turks and Germans.
Our Brigades will tell you that one of the things that astonishes the captured Turk most is the ubiquity of our mechanical transport. As he marches down to the cage he is stupefied by its multiplicity. You don't have a German exclaiming in this way. He did not lack M.T.: the Turk did—woefully. Captured lorries and motor cars are German. Captured Turkish transport is the miserable little wagons that a Newfoundland dog could almost drag. Nothing Turkish expresses Turkish poverty more strongly thsn his meagre animal-transport. Between Jenin and Nazareth you will see the havoc wrought by our airmen upon retreating transport; and there you will get your clearest notion of how the German outclassed the Turk in his method of moving himself and his stores.
Of clothing and equipment little need be said. The Turk is in rags of greater diversity than any slum can show. The Eastern informality in dress has run mad in the Turkish army. You know well, as you look at it, that this is no deliberate oriental informality, but an informality forced upon the Turk by sheer poverty. It is the more pathetic beside the comparative splendour of the German uniform. No one blames the German for this contrast so markedly in his favour. But it is a striking commentary on the notion that the German must have despised with a keen contempt the rag-tag-and-bob-tail army with which he found himself associated. It is a commentary on the German's downright assiduity in securing his own comfort. And what is more significant is the manner in which it suggests the depths to which Turkish morale must have fallen.
There are some pathetic aspects of the German Expeditionary Force. It is unwarlike to put yourself in the place of the German and pity him as part of this forlorn expedition on the barren soil of Palestine. We have ourselves and our friends to pity. One does not pity the Hun; but one visualises his self-pity in the last phases of this forlorn campaign before the attack overtook him. Galled by his native sense of superiority in education and arms, it must have been hellishly humiliating to him to know how slight was the hope of victory in collaboration with that army he despised. A hint of this appears in some of the letters one comes across in the German Military post offices that were taken after the rout. There was a great bulk of sealed and undespatched private mail. The German letters home were not inspired with that confidence in victory which colours the letters from the field of an optimistic force. Of German sisters we saw something in captured hospitals—those hospitals that were carrying on at a fierce pace the succour of thehourly-arriving wounded. Between these nurses and the Turkish sisters there was a contrast—but less strongly marked than that between the soldiers of these races. But women, busy with this negative form of warfare, are less indicative of the temperament of their army than the combatant part of it. Between German and Turkish wounded you could see the difference very plainly; but between the women there was more equality in bearing.