Captive Anzacs: Australian POWs of the Ottomans during the First World War

Monday, 5 March 2018

New book tells the untold story of Australian POWs in Turkey.

Member of the Centre for 21st Century Humanities, historian Dr Kate Ariotti will release a new book to coincide with Anzac Day.

Captive Anzacs: Australian POWs of the Ottomans during the First World War is a comprehensive, nuanced account of the experiences of 198 Australians who were taken as prisoners of war (POWs) by the Ottoman Army during World War One.

Captivity caused these men to question their position as soldiers and their role in the war, while living under the rule of a culturally, religiously and linguistically different enemy also proved challenging.

Dr Ariotti wanted to understand how these Australians negotiated the difficulties they faced in captivity, as well as how their capture and imprisonment resonated at home.

“The ripple effects of their captivity were felt much wider than just the 198 men who were imprisoned. People from across Australia, and around the world, worked to deal with the challenges of this unprecedented wartime situation and provide assistance and support to the men in the prison camps,’ Dr Ariotti said.

“Theirs is a story that might surprise and confront people. The way the POWs thought and spoke about their captors very much reflected Australian attitudes of the time towards foreigners. Racial and cultural clash was a major cause of stress for the prisoners. Everything from the food and the accommodation they were provided with to the way they were made to work was very different. It gave them a sense they were being held captive by what they perceived to be an inferior people,” Dr Ariotti observed.

Dr Ariotti also examines why these POWs have long been neglected in the national memory of the war.

“Often people can tell you lots about the POWs of the Japanese in the Second World War, but the stories of POWs from the earlier war are not so well-known. Captivity was not seen as a particularly heroic experience compared to fighting in the trenches, and realistically there weren’t many of them. When you put them in the context of 60,000 Australian dead and 150,000 wounded throughout the course of the war, it’s understandable why they slipped through the cracks,” she noted.

The book, which is being published by Cambridge University Press, will be released in mid-April.

Related news

The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.