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