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Researcher of history in Çanakkale (Dardannelles), Turkey

An English teacher with a passion for history has uncovered a previously ignored Levantine heritage normally associated as being limited to Izmir and Istanbul, in this small town. Çanakkale was previously known as ‘Chanak’, ‘Kale-i Sultaniye’ [Sultan’s castle], or just the ‘Dardanelles’. The town situated on the Asian shore of the Dardanelles and its relatively small size allows the heritage to be viewed on foot.

Start with the central clock tower built in the 1890s with 10,000 gold coins bequeathed by Emilio Vitalis, a wealthy merchant and Italian vice-consul, who also features in the Troy-Schliemann escapades of 1870-1890. There was an inscription in English on the clock tower, till the spring of 2003 that was brought down ‘for no apparent reason’. The top is not the original; that probably fell during the 1912 earthquake. Public hangings took place from the upper railings of the clock tower, even up to the late 1950s. The house of Emilio Vitalis is to the right, with palm trees in the courtyard. After his death the French tobacco monopoly used it, then the state monopoly TEKEL, then it became the property of the Çanakkale 18 Mart (March) University. British officers used it during the occupation of 1919-1922.

 Note: The origins of Emilio Vitalis may rest with Chios - a sample of baptismal records from this island - where centuries migration from the Italian states had created a significant Catholic population with a high aptitute for trading.

Take the nearby road to the left, along Fetvane sokak, passing wine warehouses once owned by Godfrey Whittall and further on, the courtyard of an old caravanserai, the ‘Yalı han’, where a British gold-mining company had offices pre WWI.

Turn right and pass the Yalı mosque. At the next junction you will see Çimenlik park to the left, now a museum and barracks, with German, French and British artillery pieces scattered around the castle gardens. Turning right again, after a short while you pass the ‘Vakıf Hanı’, where the French Catholic church and school once stood. The building, where older residents of Çanakkale learnt French, was demolished in around the 1950s, somewhat needlessly. The French church was still standing in the 1960s and was probably pulled down in the 1970s. There does not seem to have been an Anglican church in town, even though the British community was certainly larger than the French. Though there are archive references to a congregation at Dardanelles [Çanakkale] its probable that there wasn’t a building but a congregation certainly, with one of the rooms in their big houses probably serving as a chapel. The church of the Greek community, now long since demolished, was in the vicinity of the bus station. Only the Armenian church is still standing, now converted into an ethnological museum and restored recently. Built in 1873, with Armenian writing over the door and huge cannon balls in the garden, the Armenian quarter was centred around it. Following the exodus of its community, the empty church became Çanakkale’s first archaeological museum in 1932. Items donated by the Calvert family formed the nucleus of the collection.

Return to the main square via the clock tower, go past the big gun used at Kumkale as defence against the British fleet during the Gallipoli campaign, across the grassy park, and enter the public park (halk bahçesi) on the far side. Until 1940, this was the private garden of the Calverts, a British family involved in consular duties, trading and farming. The garden was established on marshy ground in the mid 19th century and planted with 115 varieties of imported trees. The curious shape of the fountain enclosure in the centre (marble edging still visible) dates from when it was a goldfish pond, in the shape, it is said, of the British Isles. The garden had its own water circulation system. The Calverts came here from Malta in the 1840s and the last Calvert (Edith) died in Çanakkale in 1952. The most famous of the family was Frank Calvert, consul for the United States and occasionally Britain; an accomplished archaeologist who rediscovered Troy though Schliemann carried out the major excavations and took all the glory.

 Note: Heinrich Scliemann excavated the ‘lost city’ of Troy 3 times between 1870-90, found the falsely-attributed gold jewellery from the Troy II layer which he named ‘King Priam’s treasure’, then smuggled it out of Turkey, and presented it to the Berlin Museum. Lost at the end of the Second World War, the treasure is now in Pushkin Museum in Moscow. Most of what is left of Troy, 7 km. from the southern entrance of the Dardanelles, is the remains of the destruction of Schliemann (Internet).

The property owned by the Calverts was once very extensive, stretching far out of town, including the mound of Troy at Hisarlik. There were tennis courts, stables, orchards behind the formal consular house in town (described later), a country house (now destroyed) at Erenköy (now renamed ‘Intepe’, some 12 miles to the south-east) and the Calvert brothers ran a farm - ‘Thymbra’ - at Akçaköy, some 4 miles southeast of Hisarlık. However, family fortunes never really recovered after WWI.

In addition to his archaeology, Frank wrote about the geology, geography, agronomy, botany, palaeontology and entomology of the Troad, though many were too specialised to be read by the general public or were never published. As a result, Calvert’s contributions to these fields remain largely unknown. Frank was also an acting correspondent for this area for the Istanbul-based English language newspaper the ‘Levant Herald’, which provided its readers with world and local news. He also contributed information for many years to the ‘Murray Handbook for travellers’, an early version of modern tourist guides published in the later part of the 19th century, a source of past information for today’s researchers.

Two Bacon brothers from Boston, Mass. enter the local scene through their marriage to two Calvert daughters. The younger brother, Henry Bacon, a talented architect who designed the Lincoln memorial in Washington, married Laura Calvert, and both stayed mostly on the other side of the Atlantic. Francis H. Bacon was a renaissance man, furniture manufacturer and designer among many other talents, who first arrived in the 1880s as part of the American team excavating Assos, and married Alice Calvert, spending his latter years living and writing prolifically in Çanakkale, where he died in 1940.

 Notes: 1- Assos, three hours drive south of Çanakkale, near present day Ayvacık is where Aristotle began to formulate many of his later works (Internet). According to the book, ‘Classical Turkey’ by John Freely (1990 – p.22), J.T. Clarke and F.H. Bacon were American archaeologists who excavated the ruins of Assos in 1881-3.
2- The Calvert House garden of the Dardanelles is the setting of a group picture of 1931, sourced in the archives of the late Richard Abbott of Izmir (d. 1968) when this and the related family local family members of Whittall, Abbott and Bacon are partially identified, the investigation to identify all is continuing.

Exit the park on the far side by the children’s playground and turn left towards the sea. This street, officially ‘Ziveriye sokak’, is still called by many residents ‘Alman sokak’ [German street], because of the three-storied building adjoining the park was once the German Consulate and the military headquarters at the time of the Gallipoli campaign, with a machine gun on the roof as defence against British planes. The two-storied building next to it was the British Consulate for the Dardanelles in the days before the Republic and the last home of the Çanakkale Calverts.

 Note: The British consular presence here may be almost as old as that in Istanbul/Izmir. From the book ‘Turkey, Around the Marmara’ (John Freely – 1998), quoting Richard Chandler’s travels in Asia Minor 1764-65, we have the following glimpse; ‘received on the shore by the English consul, a fat well-looking Jew, who after bidding us welcome in broken Italian or Lingua Franca, conducted us through the town to his house, in the quarter assigned to that nation…’

Like most towns in Ottoman times, Çanakkale divided itself into districts according to the wealth and origin of the residents. The Greeks, Armenians, Gypsies and Jews each had their separate quarters. The main Turkish quarter was behind Çimenlik castle and the ‘Frankish’ (foreign residents) quarter was along the waterfront just outside the limits of the old town.

Alman sokak was also one of the streets most liable to flooding until the Atikhisar dam was built. Twice in the 1960s the waters of the river Sarıçay burst their banks near the British consular cemetery and surged through the town carrying dead animals and even fridges, over 2m. deep in places.

The well looked-after British consular cemetery is at the back of town and goes back to the Crimean War, though no graves from that era are now marked. It is always kept locked but the key may be obtained from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission office in Çanakkale. There are several Calvert and Bacon graves, one Whittall, war graves from the Gallipoli Campaign and 1920s, and internments transferred from Rodosto (Tekirdağ) Catholic cemetery and Gallipoli consular cemetery. Next to the British cemetery is the now derelict Catholic cemetery, containing French and Greek burials including the Xanthrupolo and Grech families.

 Note: Graham Lee has recently compiled a listing and report of the British and French consular and Catholic cemeteries, based on registers and personal observation, click here:.

Turning right at the end of the street, you immediately see a villa-like residence with a row of granite columns that belonged to Godfrey Whittall, member of an important Izmir and Istanbul Levantine trading family related to the Calverts.

 Note: Godfrey Whittall (1882- 1957 Rhodesia) was the son of Edward Whittall (collector of wild flowers of Asia Minor) and Mary Maltass (also Izmir born), and married in 1911 Winifred Constance Eveline Calvert who died in 1975. They had 5 children, who in turn continue the Whittall name in children and grandchildren (‘Whittall’ family tree).

Godfrey was the Lloyd’s agent here and ran an export business with Kosti Xanthrupolo, shipping out the acorns [palamut] from vanolia oak for dying leather, a big industry in the old days, though not much dying went on locally. Çanakkale is still quite small and has no large-scale industrial enterprises. Until 1926, when Çanakkale became the provincial capital, Gallipoli and Biga were far more important politically and economically. During ‘Levantine times’, Çanakkale was important for its military fortifications, harbour and shipping agents, consulates and pottery. Godfrey was perhaps one of the last of the foreign community to leave Çanakkale mid 20th century. The British had mostly returned to England or emigrated to the colonies, Rhodesia and Canada in the case of the Whittalls.

Past the Akol hotel is the municipal social centre, previously the first popular cinema in Çanakkale. Silent films first came in 1935 and sound films arrived in 1942-45, brought by ship from Istanbul. Road connections with other cities did not really exist until after WWII.

Next along is the city art gallery, a lovely building once the family home of Necip pasha, the Dardanelles artillery commander, built around 1896. The dome of the small Turkish bath behind it is still visible. In 1910 it was sold to ‘Ritali’ Grech, son of the British consul at the time, Alfred Charles, and member of a British family with titled connections going back to Malta. The Grechs lived here for many years, in particular Beatrice ‘Hettie’ Gretch, locally known as ‘Madam Katy’, whose mother was Greek (Marie Westbury). Something of a local legend, always immaculately dressed and often wearing a beret, she never married and lived in Çanakkale from the 1920s to the 1980s. The Gretch family is believed to have come from Malta in the latter part of the 19th century and the name Gretch is probably derived from Greek, attesting to their earlier homeland. Hettie was born in 1902 in the ‘white house’ now used as a fine arts gallery, but left Çanakkale at the commencement of WWI and having received education abroad returned in 1923. Her father assisted his brother in his ship repair business, but later left her and her mother, lived in Istanbul and died there before 1930. His grave may be at the Haydarpasa cemetery. A beauty in her day, Hettie lived for many years a full life spiced with rounds of social engagements. She died in 1983 aged 81 in Istanbul and is possibly buried at the Feriköy cemetery.

 Notes: 1-Later investigations in London, viewing archive Constantinople based English language newspaper, Levant times and shipping gazette, showed that the local (Dardanelles) agent for this publication in the late 1860s was an E. Gretch, thus placing this family’s roots in the town to at least this time frame.
2- Using title records and old postcards, Mr Lee has produced a document highlighting his findings to date on the history of the Gretch family of the Dardanelles, viewable here:

As you continue along, the block after the Naval Club [ordu evi] used to be the site of several Italianate villas with marble columns (pulled down around 1960s-70s), one of which belonged to the honorary Italian consul, the popular and genial ‘Ashil’ (Achilles) Xanthrapulo, who would dress up in his ceremonial uniform and attend all official functions until one day, when someone checked on his official status (around 1950s-60s); all was not what it seemed, and overnight he and his family disappeared to Athens.

Once you reach the end of the promenade by the mosque and tea garden, it is time to return to the town centre, but not before glancing up the hillside, named in Turkish ‘Hastane bayırı’ (hospital hill), after the large old hospital now in ruins at the top, built possibly as a result of an epidemic in 1935. Rumours that foreigners built it persist, compounded by the lack of any ‘kitabe’ (inscription) which are de rigueur with all Ottoman buildings. It was used to treat the Turkish wounded during the Gallipoli Campaign and there is a cemetery nearby. The Allies’ Crimean War hospital was located on the lower slopes of İntepe, on the shoreline, known as Karantina [quarantine], now known as Güzelyalı.

 Note: There is an on-line listing of the return of the medical officers at the ‘civil’ hospital in the Dardanelles during the time of the Crimean war, probably corresponding to this hospital.

Returning to the town centre along the waterfront, the small garden adjacent to the sunken basketball court, called ‘Moorabbin’ park, was where the Calvert mansion once stood (then in the northern limits of the old town). The house contained Frank’s business office as well as being, at varying times, the consular office of Britain, America, Prussia, Belgium and Holland, since between them, Frank, his brother Frederick and his maternal uncle C.A. Lander each on occasion represented these countries. It was built of such large blocks of stone that after the roof fell in during the 1912 earthquake, it became uninhabitable and far beyond the financial capabilities of the Calverts to repair. Eventually, it was demolished around 1942, but it took a caterpillar truck and 40 or more soldiers and citizens tugging at ropes to pull it down. Along this stretch, before the busy landing stage, private villas once stood where the fishing boats and marina now are, each having a jetty leading to a wooden bathing hut, with steps to the sea from inside. Alas these bathing cabins were all swept away in the gales of 1957-58.

 Note: More information on the ‘consular’ Calvert family here:

The main post-office was near the ferry station, as is seen in old postcards but to which nation it belonged (in the Ottoman times) is not clear.

 Note: The history of the development of the various foreign postal services in the Levant is a story in itself, with a host of nations jostling for the prestige it brought, details here.

Sons and daughters of the foreign community were probably schooled by private tutors in a room of these villas, unlike the children of the extensive Greek and Jewish communities, who had their own schools.

Çanakkale reached the zenith of its wealth during the late 19th century, partly due to incentives to foreign investors following the Tanzimat (Reform) era begun in the 1840s, and partly due to worldwide expansion of trade. Hence, pre-WWI there were about 16 consulates represented in Çanakkale and the grandest buildings, the clock tower being the best example, date from those years. In addition, in Britain the spheres of gentleman and entrepreneur seeking his main chance were seen to be at odds, however often gentry were in need of money and the rising commercial classes in need of social acceptance. In the Levant however, it was possible for families to reconcile the two. There was prestige in being a consul, at the same time they were the reins of commerce and it was no accident that sooner or later members of prominent families like the Calverts found their way into the consular service.

 Additional note: The area of Dardanelles having cost massive Allied losses in 1915, was to have political repercussions under different circumstances seven years later. The British prime minister of the time, Lloyd George, was faced with the ‘Chanak crisis’, in which he delivered an ultimatum to the Turks who, having seized Izmir from the Greeks, were poised to strike across the ‘neutralised’ Straits zone. The Turks agreed to withdraw but in Britain Lloyd George was accused of recklessness. The conservatives withdrew from the coalition and his ministry fell in October 1922 (Internet).

Graham Lee is continuing his local research in his spare time and has been in touch with Calvert and Bacon family researchers in the USA as well as gathering recollections in Turkish by elderly residents. One of the items recently acquired by Mr Lee is a lottery ticket issued by the local Catholic Levantines in 1908, showing a facet of their lives. Mr Lee has also collected and compiled old Çanakkale postcards, with a book recently (May 2003) published locally, ‘Dönem dönem eski Çanakkale kartpostalları ve fotoğrafları’ [Old Chanak postcards and photographs through periods]. He has researched the history of the Jews of the area, and has written about Turkish surnames connected with the Gallipoli campaign, recently (2001) published in Turkish in the Gallipolian. This was an off-shoot of a major collection of surname stories (100s) Mr Lee has worked on and was self-published as a book in English in 2006 under the name ‘The Story of Turkish Surnames’. He has written an article on ‘Handy guide to Çanakkale, Gallipoli and the Dardanelles’ published in Çanakkale in 1999, and the above article is heavily based on that piece. Mr Lee is also a contributor to the Gallipoli research centre yearbook, the research publication of the local university and in 2005, he submitted an article to this organ entitled: ‘German Books on Gallipoli: The problem of untranslated works in historical research’. Mr Lee feels this research is all the more important now, as more and more old buildings are being pulled down everyday, and regrets not being able to give historical investigations the attention it deserves. Mr Lee’s most recently published article is ‘The Lander-Calvert Villa at Erenkoy - 2. Troas Bölgesi Değerleri Sempozyumu (2nd Troad Symposium Proceedings), 31 August - 2 September 2007, İntepe, Çanakkale, 2007’.

Written sources are sparse but include articles published by the Journal of the British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara, 1994, An appreciation of Frank Calvert, by Marcelle Robinson; American Journal of Archaeology, July 1995; Finding the walls of Troy: Frank Calvert, Excavator, by Susan Heuck Allen; and Handbook for travellers in Constantinople, Brusa & the Troad, John Murray, 1893.

 Note: There is also a web site detailing the journals of Francis S. Bacon and his excavations at Assos, viewable here.

Gallipoli (Gelibolu) 1918-1923

Like most ports in Ottoman times, Gallipoli (nowadays “Gelibolu”) was home to Turks, Greeks, Armenians and Jews, each community tending to follow particular trades and retain elements of their cultural identity (language, religion). Over time, there was some cultural crossover in terms of eating habits and adoption of local Turkish words.

Two threads tend to run through the history of Gallipoli during Ottoman times; the city’s role as a military base and its inclination towards religion and mysticism. It was an important port, a ship-building centre, a training base for apprentice Janissaries, and an army base to protect the Dardanelles and the Gallipoli Peninsula, both strategically important. During the Crimean War (1854-56), large contingents of French and British troops were based in the vicinity. On the other hand, there was a large Dervish Lodge (“mevlevihane” – now restored and open to the public), many Islamic thinkers lived there, Shabbetai Zevi (Sevi) the false Jewish Messiah was imprisoned in Gallipoli (disputed by some, who say it was Abydos or Çanakkale), and the leader of the Bah’ai faith, Baha’u’llah, passed through in August 1868.

During the First World War (1914-1918), Gallipoli was within the war zone. The German General Liman Von Sanders had his headquarters there, which was bombed by the Allies in the Gallipoli Campaign (1915-1916). The clock tower was also destroyed.

The period following the end of the First World War is particularly confusing in terms of the history of Gallipoli due to the presence not only of different local communities but also different military forces.

The Treaty of Mudros on 30 October 1918 ended hostilities between the Ottoman government and the Allies, and, on 9 November 1918, both sides of the Dardanelles were occupied by British forces. On 20 November 1918, the European side of the Dardanelles (where Gallipoli is located) was turned over to the French. The French occupied and administered Gallipoli until October 1923, when Allied occupation forces left Turkey and the Republic of Turkey was proclaimed. It is therefore normal to find postcards or photographs showing the French in Gallipoli during this period. (photograph: “French occupation forces in Gallipoli”)

The Jewish community in Gallipoli has a very long history. They remained there as traders throughout the centuries, slowly dwindling in number during the 20th century. It is still possible to find the synagogue, though now a ruin.

Few details are available on the Armenian community. It may be assumed that very few, if any, remained after 1915. Since Armenians were among the first to develop photography in Turkey, it is not surprising that nearly all pre-1914 postcards of Gallipoli are the work of “Takvor J. Soukiassian, Gallipoli”. Most postcards are captioned not only in French but with the name in Greek, Armenian and Turkish. (photograph: “Ottoman era Gallipoli postcard in four languages”)

In August 1920, Greek troops occupied Gallipoli in the early stages of what would become the Turkish “War of Independence” (Kurtuluş Savaş). Postcard views of the town at this time were printed with “Gallipoli-Grece” on them. The Greek army lost the war against the Turks in Anatolia and in October 1922, Greek forces began withdrawing from Eastern Thrace. At the same time, the Greek population of Eastern Thrace, including Gallipoli, was forced to leave. This is shown on the attached photograph. The date is significant. (photograph: “Evacuation of Gallipoli by Greeks 18.11.1922). The evacuation of Greek occupation forces is still celebrated every year in Gelibolu on 25-26 November as “Kurtuluş Günü”. The Greek refugees were not allowed to return after the signing of the Treaty of Lausanne (30 January 1923), under which a massive “Exchange of Populations” took place between Greece and Turkey.

The Russians too figured amidst this post-war upheaval and tragedy. Rather than face defeat against the advancing Russian Red Army, the White Russian Army of General Wrangel, numbering 150,000, was evacuated from the Crimea and after negotiations in Istanbul, the French gave permission for a large contingent of the ‘regular army’ units to be quartered temporarily at Gallipoli. On 22 November 1920, two ships arrived at the port with 9,540 officers and 16,400 men on board, plus their families, under the command of General Kutepov. They stayed in Gallipoli for about a year under very difficult conditions. Food and medicine was in short supply and they lived in half-ruined barracks and tents in winter. About 250 people died in December and January. Discipline was maintained, however, and the Russians established their own church, published a newspaper, and set up two theatres. There are many photographs showing the soldiers and their families during manoeuvres, parades, and military training. In July 1921, a memorial was erected to 343 of their comrades who had died of wounds, cold, hunger, and disease during their exile in Gallipoli. The memorial tumbled down over the years and new housing developments were built over the area. (The memorial was rebuilt in 2008). In 1961, the Gallipoli Society built a smaller replica of the monument in the Russian cemetery of Sainte-Genevieve-du-Bois near Paris. In November 1921, with departure from Gallipoli imminent a commemorative medal was struck, inscribed “Gallipoli 1920-1921”. (photograph: “Russian medal commemorating the year they spent in Gallipoli”) In late 1921 (14 December is one date quoted), most of the army re-embarked and was resettled elsewhere in Europe. The last remaining White Russians left Gallipoli in May 1923.

 Notes: 1- To view the French Gallipoli cemetery listings created by Graham Lee, click here:
2- In 2010 (updated lastly 2013) Graham Lee created database documents for the Consuls of all the various nations represented pre-1922 of the ports of Dardannelles and Gallipoli. He will welcome any additional information from readers to help build a better picture of this history and would also welcome researchers verifying the data from their own nations / language sources.
3- In April 2014 Graham Lee created a text with photos, after a couple years of study ‘A Walk around Old Edirne’ with photos.

Useful refs/link:
1. “Communique of the Society of the Descendants of Gallipoli”, PARIS: May 29, 2008.

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