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Stereoscopic slides of Gallipoli, May 1915

Recently purchased for the Library’s collection is an extraordinary collection of glass stereoscopic slides of Gallipoli, 1915 taken by Charles Snodgrass Ryan.

Charles Snodgrass Ryan (1853-1926), was a doctor from Victoria who had served as a military surgeon in the Turkish army in 1876 when Turkey was engaged in war with Serbia and then in the Russo-Turkish campaign of 1877-78.

For his war services he was decorated with the Turkish orders of the Osmanieh and the Medjidie and the War medal. Later he was to write of his experiences in Under the Red Crescent (London, 1897), see Australian Dictionary Biography, accessed 2/6/2015. 

When war was declared in 1914, Ryan was appointed assistant director of medical services, 1st Division, Australian Imperial Force (AIF). He sailed for Egypt in October and was appointed to Lieutenant-General Sir William Birdwood's staff. He served briefly at Gallipoli, facing the Turkish forces will whom he had served some forty years before. In June 1915 he contracted enteric fever and was evacuated to Egypt and later to England.

In the month and a half that he served at Gallipoli, Ryan documented the men and various locations on the Peninsula, including Anzac Beach, Cape Helles, Plugge's Plateau, Quinn's Post, Shrapnel Valley, Russell's Top and Watson's Pier, as well as key Australian military personnel including Generals Birdwood, Carruthers, Wagstaff, Walker, Wright, other officers and men of the AIF.

Amongst these images are four which depict Australian burial parties in the process of burying Australian and Turkish dead at either Quinn’s Post or the Nek during the temporary armistice which took place on 24 May 1915. The high death count had occurred on 19 May during the Turkish attack on Anzac positions. 3,000 Turks and approximately 169 Australians were killed.

 Burial of Australian and Turkish soldiers, Gallipoli, May 1915

Charles Bean wrote of that day;

19 May 1915:

… the dead and wounded lay everywhere in hundreds. Many of those nearest to the Anzac line had been shattered by the terrible wounds inflicted by modern bullets at short ranges. No sound came from that terrible space; but here and there some wounded or dying man, silently lying without help or any hope of it under the sun which glared from a cloudless sky, turned painfully from one side to the other, or slowly raised an arm towards heaven.

Charles Bean, The Story of Anzac, Vol 2, p 161

Ryan captured not only the burials taking place on 24 May, but also the process of the negotiations which occurred on two days prior, on 22 May between General Birdwood and a Turkish envoy, Major Kemal Ohri at General Birdwood’s headquarters. Seen in this image is the blindfolded Turkish envoy being helped along by Captain Sam Butler who is carrying a large white truce flag.

 Gallipoli truce negotiation, 22 May 1915

The truce last just one day, from 7.30am to 4.30pm, 24th of May. Red Cross flags were placed in front of the 3000 yards of Anzac frontlines, and the Turks carried out a similar plan, but they used Red Crescent flags. The taking of photographs of the burial parties working on the day of the truce, was banned by terms of the truce agreement. As a result of this restriction, there are few other photographic records of that event.

Diarist Archie Barwick who served at Gallipoli recalled the day of the truce;

… they arranged that they should meet at a certain hour on the next day, which they did, and arranged an 8 hour armistice we were to to bury all men half way between our lines and the Turks, while they were to do the same with their half all our biggest men were picked for the job, no doubt to impress the Turks with the physique of the Australians, and I suppose they done the same, in front of our companys [sic] lines they got no less than 167 rifle bolts off Turkish rifles, we took their bolts and handed the rest of the rifle back and they done the same with ours, I could never see the sense of that, but I suppose they would have a job to get other bolts to fit. Some of the German officers showed themselves, and the Turkish officers and ours exchanged cigarettes and the Turks done the same with our men, while the armistice was on a number of Turks rushed across the ground separating the trenches and gave themselves up, The Turkish officers then so as to stop this sort of thing ordered all men to keep their heads down and we never saw much more of them after that, excepting of course those who were helping to bury the dead our fellows wore a white bandage with a red cross, while they had the crescent on theirs, they wont [sic] recognise a red cross.

Archie Barwick diary, 22 August 1914-September 1915, MLMSS 1493 / Box 1 / Item 1.

 Surgeon Charles S. Ryan sitting outside his dugout, Gallipoli

Surgeon Charles S. Ryan sitting outside his dugout (marked M.O. for Medical Officer), Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey, May 1915.

The Library holds a number of collections of 19th and early 20th stereoscopes. Stereoscopes comprise two nearly-identical images, taken closely together so that when viewed through two lenses, a stereoscopic viewer, the result gives an illusion of a three-dimensional picture.

Margot Riley and Elise Edmonds

Research & Discovery Branch