A Soldier's Story

To commemorate the centenary of the Anzac landings at Gallipoli, the Fryer Library Reading Room exhibited many treasures dating from World War I.

The collection of former UQ student and World War I veteran, John Denis (Jack) Fryer, after whom the Fryer Library is named, includes his letters, greeting cards, military maps and medals.

Stories of other Australians who served in the war are also told through our collections. Brothers Stewart and Kenneth Lodington 's personal realia show beautifully embroidered greeting cards and postcards (also known as World War I silks) and a worn canvas belt with 'Glorie aux Allies 1914' embriodered on the weave. More sombre are their letters home, including one from eldest brother Kenneth to their father, pleading with him to discourage his younger brother from enlisting in The Australian Imperial Force in 1916. The war diaries of Major Allan Nash, a school teacher from Gympie who was killed in action in 1915, record his enlistment and training with 2nd Australian Light Horse, deployment from Egypt to Gallipoli, and events up until his death at Gallipoli on 29 June 1915.

In contrast to the Australians' experiences, another highlight from the Fryer collection reveals a Turkish perspective from the war. The Diary of a Turkish soldier who fought at Gallipoli was donated to the University of Queensland Library in 1965 by returned AIF serviceman, Mr John Black.

Map of Berlin and Constantinople
Image: A map of Berlin and Constantinople in the diary

Small enough to fit inside the palm of a hand, its minute pages were written by a Turkish soldier, Refik Bey, in 1916. In neat, precise handwriting he transcribed Turkish poetry, documented philosophical and religious thought as well as sketching a map of Turkey and Germany.

Turkish Diary on display in Fryer
Image: The Turkish Diary on display in Fryer

The diary has proven difficult to translate as it was written in Ottoman Turkish, which was replaced by modern Turkish sometime around 1928. Dr Oguztoreli of the Department of Mathematics at The University of Queensland provided some initial translation of the old Turkish script in the 1960s, uncovering new insights into the life of this Turkish soldier and his role during the war. 

Refik Bey seemingly travelled to Berlin from Istanbul, possibly during the war. He was apparently learning German, as there are German-Turkish equivalents written on on several pages. He was possibly a member of the Turkish HQ staff and would have worked with the German soldiers serving in the Eastern Campaign.1

Dr Oguztoreli writes:

As is borne out by the diary, he was a religious man, a thinker on philosophical subjects, with a strong love of poetry. He was said to have been very much respected among his contemporaries. As a result of his war wounds he had the title of Gazi bestowed on him, and perhaps it is the result of these qualities of his that he has achieved a small degree of immortality through the preservation of this tiny diary.

Dr Oguztoreli's translation notes
Image: Dr Oguztoreli's translation notes

Apart from Dr Oguztoreli's work, other translations have taken place. It was translated from Ottoman Turkish to Modern Turkish, then into English. Both the Embassy of the Republic of Turkey in Canberra and the State Archives in Istanbul were involved in the translation process. Translator Redha Ameur from the National Centre of Excellence for Islamic Studies at The University of Melbourne also worked on both of these texts. Once translated, the pages of the diary reveal moving accounts of the experiences of war. Other passages offer profound thoughts on kindness, humility, suffering and hope.

Pages from the Turkish Diary
Image: Pages from the diary written in Ottoman Turkish.

An excerpted translation reads:

There are soldiers marching everywhere; there is no stopping the Ottoman soldier
Those who are injured or martyred are in the past now
Bullets raining down like roses; some flee for their lives; some fall over
Heroic soldiers advance; victorious; majestic

To view the diary, please contact the Fryer Library at The University of Queensland Library:

Email: fryer@library.uq.edu.au or Phone: +61 7 3365 6236.

Fryer Library's World War I exhibition was on display in the FW Robinson Reading Room, level 4, Duhig Building during 2015.


1 From Dr Oguztoreli’s unpublished notes accompanying Diary of a Turkish soldier who fought at Gallipoli F592, Fryer Library, The University of Queensland Library.

Last updated:
24 April 2019