Captain Sarkis Torossian – Hero of the Dardanelles

Captain Sarkis Torossian

Captain Sarkis Torossian was born in 1891 in the town of Everek (an Armenian settlement in the Caesarea region of the Angora Province, Ottoman Empire). He graduated from the local parochial school and since childhood has dreamed of becoming a military man, which, however, has been an almost unrealizable dream because of the strictest prohibition on carrying weapons for the Christian population of the Ottoman Empire.

Then, Sarkis Torossian entered the State College in Adrianapolis where he became friends with Muharrem, an Arab student and son of an Ottoman army general. The children became so close that Muharrem’s father, an influential pasha, arranged for both of them enrollment at a military college. After several visits to the pasha’s palace, a romance began between Sarkis and Muharrem’s sister Jemileh.

After graduating from college in 1914, Sarkis received the rank of artillery lieutenant and was sent to Germany for three months. Before Turkey entered WWI, Sarkis was appointed the commander of Fort Ertogrul which defended the entrance to Dardanelles. Muharrem was appointed a secretary to General Jevad Pasha, commander of the defensive fortifications of Dardanelles.

Captain Sarkis Torossian was the first man in early 1915 to destroy a British naval ship in the Battle of Dardanelles. Jevad Pasha, admiring the courage and devotion of Sarkis Torossian, introduced him to the Minister of War of the Ottoman Empire Enver Pasha, stressing that the forts led by Captain Torossian had been the only areas where they had managed to sink enemy ships.

During the audience, Minister Enver Pasha introduced Sarkis Torossian to German high-ranking officers – Marshal Otto Liman von Sanders and General Colmar Freiherr von der Goltz – as the “Armenian hero of Dardanelles”. During the meeting, Enver and the German military men discussed with Sarkis Torossian the situation on the fronts of Canakkale and besieged Constantinople, as well as the possibilities of the British.

On the morning of September 29, 1915, Torossian received a telegram that Muharrem had been seriously injured during one of the battles for the Dardanelles. Torossian rushed to visit Muharrem in the hospital. Before his death, Muharrem made a remarkable confession about his sister Jemileh, which in the diary of Sarkis Torossian is presented as follows:

“During the Armenian massacre in 1896, my [Muharrem’s] father was in command of an army unit stationed in Mush. Even at that time, he was very concerned about the attitude of the Turks towards Christians. One day, passing by one of the Armenian villages, my father saw a barely two-year-old girl who was wandering aimlessly through the empty streets.

After failing to find any information about her parents, driven by pity, father took the child with him and brought her home. In the end, she was accepted into our family. My mother, who didn’t like the cross-shaped tattoo on the girl’s left hand, used acid to remove the Christian symbol, leaving a scar on the girl’s hand forever.”

From June 1915, when the deportation and massacres of the Armenian population of the empire began, the parents and sister of Sarkis Torossian, despite the existing law, were also deported and taken to Deir ez-Zor. Before the deportation, the head of the Everek district offered Torossian’s parents to adopt Islam and marry their little daughter off to his cousin, but he was rejected.

To rescue his family, Torossian addressed high-ranking Turkish military men – however, he was nearly killed instead. Later, from one of the Turkish officers, he learned that Talaat Pasha had intended to poison him through one of his mistresses, Fehrie Houman, and throw his body into the sea.

A little later, Torossian, this time in Palestine, survived a second attempt on his life. The hatred of the Young Turks which had been doubled by the murder of his parents forced Torossian to join the Arabs under the leadership of Nuri Yusuf who acted under the auspices of the Allies.

Torossian received high awards from England and France for his courage, exceptional leadership skills, and skillful command. In addition to the awards received from the Allies, Torossian had also been awarded the military regalia of the Ottoman Empire and other countries of the Axis – namely, Germany, Austria, and Bulgaria.

In one of the Arab deserts, Torossian found his sister Anik who was the only survivor in his family. Soon, however, both the sister and Jemileh died from illness. After the return of the Cilician Armenians, Torossian participated in local resistance against the Kemalists. However, after it failed, he moved to Pennsylvania, the US.

In 1927, Sarkis Torossian published his memoirs in Boston under the title “From Dardanelles to Palestine.” Experience and knowledge gained on five fronts allowed Captain Torossian to write unique memoirs of extreme significance for future generators.

Captain S.Torosyan in Constantinople, June, 1915
Certificate presented to Captain Torosyan by the Ottoman Government
The geography of the military service of Captain S. Torosyan
Ottoman army captain Sargis Torosyan
The military way of captain S.Torosyan during the First World War
A map of the military operation under the Dardanelles, drawn by Captain S. Torosyan

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