The Battle Has Begun...

"On 13 July 1915 the order came: prepare yourselves for deportation eight days hence. What should they do? Most left their six villages in the foothills, and climbed up the mountain taking with them their flocks, farm implements, and as much food as they could carry: and all the weapons they could lay their hands on, 120 modern rifles and shotguns; and about 350 old flintlocks and horse pistols.

The eight days' grace expired on 21 July. The Turks, who had realized what the villagers had decided, launched an assault on their positions with an advance guard of 200 Regulars. Their commander allegedly boasted that he could clear the mountain in a day. But the early attacks were a failure, and after suffering several casualties, and being forced to abandon a mountain-gun, they were driven off.

Then one day the Armenians' scouts brought word that the enemy was all around at every mountain pass. Small Armenian forces dispersed to each of these concentrations. By the evening they were 400 yards from the Armenians separated only be a deep ravine. Eventually a bold plan was hammered out: the men set out, and with their intimate knowledge of the mountain that had stood over them all their lives, they crept through the dense, dark woods and encircled the Turkish force. Suddenly they attacked. The Turks are thrown into confusion, rushing, stumbling in the darkness.

Shortly afterward, however, an even larger Turkish force was assembled, with yet more soldiers. Full siege conditions operated, as the Turks tried to starve the Armenians out. Soon bread, cheese and olives were exhausted, and they had to live on meat alone. Even that, by late August, was only sufficient for two more weeks.

Plans for an escape were made. On 2 September, three swimmers were put on permanent alert to be ready to dive in and swim out to any passing vessel. Two large flags were made, one with a large red cross in the middle of it, and the other with the legend written in English: "CHRISTIANS IN DISTRESS: RESCUE." These were fastened to tall trees, and a dawn-to-dusk watch was kept.

Then suddenly, on Sunday morning, 12 September 1915, the fifty third day of siege, a battleship was sighted, which had clearly seen the distress flags, since it was heading straight for them.

It was the French vessel Guichen. The French admiral, much moved be their story, gave orders for the entire community to be taken on board. Five vessels (four French, one English) finally transported the community to Port Said, Egypt, where they arrived in the middle of September. There were about 4,200 men, women, and children saved."

ARMENIA: The Survival of a Nation
By Christopher J. Walker