Les défaites turques
Lithograph with hand colouring through stencils. Publisher: Tolmer & Co. 1915
Given by Sophie Gurney 1994
No. 39 from the 2nd series La Grande Guerre .
This print is unusual in its subject of defeated soldiers. The brief caption states that the ‘tireless and courageous’ Russian army has inflicted bloody defeats on the Turkish forces, and that the many prisoners include the best generals. It also reports that some ‘soldiers were so ill-equipped that many died of cold and hunger, as they did not receive provisions.’ The image shows weak men scarcely capable of fighting, lying beside a dead or dying horse. The plight of injured men was especially dire in the eastern war theatres. The guns in the distance on the right remind us that advances in machinery were far ahead of those in medicine. Doctors worked in unsuitable conditions without antibiotics or anaesthetic. Men died of wounds waiting to be treated. It was often not the end of a soldier’s suffering if he were captured. Some were held in appalling conditions and died of starvation.
The French word Turques is not to be confused with nos turcs or turcos , mentioned in no. 6 . These were the Algerian soldiers who fought in the French army. The name was supposedly given to the men by the Russians during the Crimean War (1853-56), and had stuck.
The French caption with English translation:
LES DÉFAITES TURQUES.
Les Russes ont infligé de sanglantes défaites aux armées turques ; ils leur ont fait de nombreux prisonniers, parmi ces derniers un de leurs meilleurs généraux. Les soldats turcs étaient si mal équipés qu’une grande partie sont morts de froid et de faim, car ils n’étaient plus ravitaillés. Les combats ont en lieu sur des montagnes à de grandes hauteurs. L’armée russe s’est montrée infatigable et courageuse ; l’artillerie, surtout, a fait des prodiges.
The Russians inflicted bloody defeats on the Turkish armies, they made many of them prisoners, among them one of their best generals. The Turkish soldiers were so ill-equipped that many died of cold and hunger, since they did not receive more provisions. Fighting took place on the mountains at great heights. The Russians army has shown itself to be tireless and courageous. The artillery, in particular, performed wonders.