is the largest online archive of world war 1 photographs and texts. the Archive of World War 1 Photographs and Texts
History of World War 1 The Western Front The Russian Front Italian Front The Middle East Air Warfare War at Sea
A First World War Soldier

Prev | Next | Contents


Nazareth during World War 1

When I learned of this tragedy, I determined to get out of the army and return to my village at all costs. Nine Turkish officers out of ten can be bought, and I had reason to know that the officer in command at Saffêd was not that tenth man. Now, according to the law of the country, a man has the right to purchase exemption from military service for a sum equivalent to two hundred dollars. My case was different, for I was already enrolled; but everything is possible in Turkey. I set to work, and in less than two weeks I had bought half a dozen officers, ranging from corporal to captain, and had obtained consent of the higher authorities to my departure, provided I could get a physician's certificate declaring me unfit for service.

This was arranged in short order, although I am healthy-looking and the doctor found some difficulty in hitting on an appropriate ailment. Finally he decided that I had "too much blood"--whatever that might mean. With his certificate in hand, I paid the regular price of two hundred dollars from funds which had been sent me by my family, and walked out of the barracks a free man. My happiness was mingled with sadness at the thought of leaving the comrades with whom I had suffered and hoped. The four boys from my village were splendid. They felt that I was right in going home to do what I could for the people, but when they kissed me good-bye, in the Eastern fashion, the tears were running down their cheeks; and they were all strong, brave fellows.

On my way back to Zicron-Jacob, I passed through the town of Sheff'amr, where I got a foretaste of the conditions I was to find at home. A Turkish soldier, sauntering along the street, helped himself to fruit from the basket of an old vender, and went on without offering to pay a farthing. When the old man ventured to protest, the soldier turned like a flash and began beating him mercilessly, knocking him down and battering him until he was bruised, bleeding, and covered with the mud of the street. There was a hubbub; a crowd formed, through which a Turkish officer forced his way, demanding explanations. The soldier sketched the situation in a few words, whereupon the officer, turning to the old man, said impressively,--"If a soldier of the Sultan should choose to heap filth on your head, it is for you to kiss his hand in gratitude."

Prev | Next | Contents