Turkey - What was he doing there!

Discussion in 'North Africa & the Med' started by Belgian Dave, Sep 23, 2013.

  1. Belgian Dave

    Belgian Dave Well-Known Member

    Earlier in the year I wrote a post concerning a question I had over my Grandfathers military service. It can be found here :

    The gist of the post was that I have photos of my Grandfather with place names and dates on the back. He was 1st RTR, and I assumed they were Egypt, hence the title of the post. After some atlas searching, I found the places were actually all around Turkey. This was confusing, because:

    -He was RTR, and they were around the Egypt area on those dates.
    -He was a tank driver, yet the photos show more construction vehicles, and the building of airstrips, etc.
    -Everyone seemed to be dressed in cilvilian clothing.
    -Turkey was neutral during the war.

    I have now learnt something quite interesting. My Mother met up with family at the weekend, and one of the family members served with my Grandfather. He now recalls that My Grandfather was seconded to a unit that was instructing the Turkish Army in various tasks. It makes sense as he was a tank driver, but I know they were also trained as mechanics (he was regular Army before the war, so different training to enlisted men). So that explains alot, but also gives me more questions:

    -Why send valuable skilled men to teach a neutral army when im sure they were needed more in the combat area?
    -I have photos which have written on the back 'Playing the I.Army at football' I take the 'I' to mean Italian, so does this mean the Italian army were also there? Were they also instructing? Surely you would not have two berligerent nations in a neutral country together?

    If anyone can shed more light on this, I would be very pleased to hear. Also, how could I go further in researching this?
  2. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Let's see the photos! ;)
  3. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Belgian Dave

    At that time we were trying hard to get Turkey into the war - on our side....this usually meant that we had to GIVE more than we expected so the fact that 1st RTR were handy in Egypt some

    Driver/ Mechanics were spare and not aways in the fighting crews - so aircraft landing fields might have been built in case we had to send some bombers into Turkey etc..IF and when they joined us

    now this was the brainwave (sic) of both Churchill and Eden who also came up with trying to save Greece and Crete which didn't seem to work either....when Alanbrooke finally got to Turkey after

    one of his trips to Egypt and Moscow he soon put the boot into that nonsense as even starting in 1942 he doubted that they would be any use in WW2 even to-day in 2013 turns out he was right as the

    last battle they had was in 1915 at Gallipoli....

    Now Dave - not wishing to be rude - but I would strongly suggest that you visit your local library and borrow the book by Barre Pitt of Volume 1 - "The Crucible of war"as this will gear you up on many

    of the activities in the desert from before 1940 and is well worth studying...the Italians were useless at football in those days and I very much doubt they had a team in Turkey

  4. JackGe

    JackGe Junior Member

    I find this kind of interesting, and after searching/reading all kinds of things on the net, seems like it could very well have been politcis involved - just as Tom above eludes to.

    Although neutral throughout the war until close to the end, sounds like Turkey was bed mates with both sides. If the facts are all true, this write-up found here might have something of worth to the op:


    "Like other neutral countries, Turkey was bound to the Nazis through trade, but that’s where any similarities stop. Turkey descended from the Ottoman Empire and was primarily a Moslem nation. During the World War I, Turkey had aligned itself with Germany. Immediately following WWI, Turkey conducted a program of exterminating the Armenians, a charge that Turkey still vigorously denies. Moreover, Turkey began WWII bound to Britain and France by the military alliance of October 1939; declared neutrality in June 1940 after the fall of France; and ended the war allied with the Allies. Much of Turkey’s proclaimed neutrality was a result of Turkish fears of a Nazi invasion. After the fall of the Balkans to the Nazis, Turkey signed a Treaty of Friendship with Germany in June 1941.

    Throughout the war, Turkey walked a tightrope, balancing the needs and expectations of the Nazis against those of the Allies. While Istanbul was a center of spying and intrigue during the war, Turkey took no overt action against the Nazis, and in turn the Nazis never violated Turkey’s borders. In October 1941, Turkey signed an important trade agreement with Germany. In exchange for raw material, especially chromite ore, Germany would supply Turkey with war materials and other finished goods. At the same time, Turkey maintained friendly relations with the U.S. and Britain, which supplied Turkey with modern war equipment in exchange for chromite ore. Turkey’s chromite ore was critical for the Nazis. Turkey was their sole source for chrome, a vital element in steel making. Albert Speer stated that Turkey’s chromite ore was so vital to the Nazis that war production would come to a complete stop 10 months after the supply was cut off. The ore was shipped from Turkey by rail through some of the most rugged country in the world. Towards the end of the war, the allies targeted bridges along the main rail line to stop the chromite shipments.

    In 1941, Turkey was added to the lend-lease nations available to receive equipment. In January 1943, during the Casablanca Conference, FDR considered asking Turkey to enter the war. In November 1943, all three of the big leaders, Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin, called for Turkey’s entry into the war. In February 1944, after Turkey made its entry into the war contingent upon massive military assistance and a significant Allied military presence, Britain and the U.S. stopped their aid program. By 1943, the Allies foresaw no threat from a Nazi invasion. It wasn’t until April 1944 before Turkey ceased the chromite exports to Germany, and then only after being threatened with the same economic sanctions that the other neutral countries were under. Later in August, Turkey suspended all diplomatic relations with Germany. Late in February 1945, on the eve of establishing the United Nations, Turkey declared war on Germany."
  5. PsyWar.Org

    PsyWar.Org Archive monkey

    For the Allies as far as Turkey was concerned, was firstly making sure she didn't join the Axis, didn't do anything to breach her neutrally and prompt a German invasion and then to become as pro-Allied as possible. The same policy as other neutral European countries.

    Turkey was subject to large propaganda campaigns both from the Axis and Allies. SOE were active in the country organising weapons caches and stay-behind parties and conducting anti-Axis propaganda. They got into trouble with the British High Commissioner a few times as he was concerned about SOE breaching Turkish neutrality.

    And as with the other neutral countries they ended up appeasing both the Axis and Allied blocks until the tide of the war decided which side they should eventually support.
  6. spidge


    Spain to name one!

    There may have been something going on with Turkey that worried the British in early 1942.

  7. Wills

    Wills Very Senior Member

  8. Belgian Dave

    Belgian Dave Well-Known Member

    Thanks everyone. I'll look into the recomendations for books, and the links given.
    As for the photos, I will try to get scans done, but dont have the means to at the moment.
  9. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    War time politics.

    It does appear that Turkey played a wait and see game regarding which powers were on the ascendency in the area and at the same time co-operated with Germany and the Allies.

    What I personally consider important is the fact that the German Invasion of the Soviet Union was going quite well and at the same time Rommel's Afrika Korps were also in good form.

    There was a Feeling amongst the Allies that the Germans would get to the Oil Fields and then turn south towards the Middle East and attempt to link up with Rommel who was attempting to get to the Suez canal and beyond.

    This caused the Allies to enter Syria and take out the Vichy French elements causing a Buffer Zone.

    At the same time many fortifications were put in place in Palestine, (see the thread on Haifa).

    Should the German Forces turn South from the Soviet Union and attempt a link up with Rommel it would have placed Turkey under tremendous pressure to ally herself with Germany or face a possible occupation.

    As it was Stalingrad and El Alemain put paid to the German advances and this Hypothosy was never put to the test.

    Just my two penneth for what it is worth.

  10. MalcolmII

    MalcolmII Senior Member

    In Berbard Fergusson's "The Trumpet in the Hall" he mentions being a member of ' BLAST' the British Mission to Turkey. In it he mentions members of the Royal Engineers in civvy clothes building an airstrip and others helping the Turks.
  11. Belgian Dave

    Belgian Dave Well-Known Member

    Thats interesting MalcolmII. I will look into that further, sounds like a good lead. What does BLAST stand for?
  12. Andreas

    Andreas Working on two books

    British Liason Assistance Support Turkey? :)

    I tried to post yesterday, but my post was eaten by the forum. Essentially it appears to me that he was a member of some form of mission to Turkey which supported the Turkish army. The place names check out and make sense in their relation to each other, him being in civvies is also a clue. Balikesir seems to have quite a bit of Turkish army presence.

    Overall context was that the Allies were concerned that the Germans were running all over the Soviet Union, and migh advance through the Caucasus into Turkey/Iran, and thence to Iraq/Syria.

    All the best

  13. dryan67

    dryan67 Senior Member

    54th Field Company, RE sailed to Kilia in Dardanelles in May 1940, but was back to Egypt in June 40. Also here is an excerpt from the RE Official History regarding support operations for the Turkish government by the RE during the war.

    Attached Files:

  14. Belgian Dave

    Belgian Dave Well-Known Member

    Super stuff Andreas and dryan67. Thanks.
  15. Andreas

    Andreas Working on two books

    Note that I am guessing regarding the name.

    All the best

  16. merdiolu

    merdiolu Junior Member

    As a Turkish citizen myself I can say Turkey (or newly formed Turkish Republic formed in 1923) was walking a very thin taunt line in World War II. During war Axis (or rather Germany ) drew considerable sympathy from certain ultra nationalist Pan Turkish political circles (especially when they seemed winning) Remember Soviet Union was deemed a threat as serious as Nazi Germany in expansion and violating neutrality. And Turkey had a considerable history fighting Russians trying to expand its borders to south trying to capture Dardanelles Straits. Kremlin trying to export its Communist ideology ( somewhat unacceptabler to conservative religious Turks) did not help matters. There was a geninue fear and apprehension against Soviet Russia.

    At the other hand Turkish political leaders (chiefly president Ismet Inonu) and people old enough to remember Great War did not trust Germans at all. During WWI Ottoman Empitre in a crumbling state allied itself with Central Powers and entered war at their side due to their nationalist and inexperienced leaders who came into power in a coup. It was ruinous. Besides Germans double sided Turks in several occasions during Great War. 23 years later when Hitler invaded Balkans ,n 1941 and came to border of Thrace in Turkish territory an apprehension and unease grew that Turkey was next in invasion list. Thank God it did not happen and Turkey played both sides to gain time and stay neutral. Selling chrome ore and grain to both Germans , Russians ands British , buying oil from British held Iraq and Iran , returning escaped Allied airmen and military personel back via Syria and Iraq borders etc... Later President Inonu participated Allied conferances in Adana , Turkey and Cairo , Turkey received Lend Lease aid in return to British military missions and airfield construction works etc. Turkey was a special interest to Winston Churchill since Great War ( during World War One Gallipoli Campaign was his idea ) That's why he tried thsat ill fated Dordenallecsse Campaign in Aegean Sea to grab Italian held islands in 1943.

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