File No. 763.72/1505
The Consul at Aleppo ( Jackson ) to the Secretary of State
[Received February 26.]
Sir: I have the honor to report as follows concerning a threatened bombardment of the city of Alexandretta from December 20 to 22, inclusive, 1914, viz.:
At about 10 o’clock p. m. of December 20 this Consulate received the following telegram from the American consular agent at Damascus:
Commandant Syrian Army communicates through you that all the Englishmen of this region are imprisoned at Damascus, and that if fire is opened on undefended city of Alexandretta to-morrow morning and Ottoman subjects are killed, he will shoot a number of Englishmen to be decided by him. Communicate this immediately to the commandant of the British war vessel who has given the ultimatum. Embassy notified.
In compliance therewith I at once telegraphed to the American consular agent at Alexandretta a copy thereof. At 8 o’clock p. m. of December 21 the consular agent telegraphed as follows:
Commander British warship has given Ottoman authorities until 9 o’clock Tuesday morning to destroy station and rolling stock. Otherwise will bombard.
At 10.30 p. m. the consular agent again telegraphed to this Consulate, as follows:
Communicated contents your despatch commander British warship. Same information contained in Governor’s official reply to commander’s demand to surrender all material capable of being used in military operations. Commander of warship will communicate reply immediately. Presume bombardment inevitable.
About the time this Consulate received the last above-mentioned telegram from the consular agent in Alexandretta, his excellency the Governor General of Aleppo, Djélal Bey, sent the Director of Political Affairs to the Consulate to ask me, unofficially, if I would see the British subjects, who had been imprisoned in Aleppo, and ascertain if they had any communication they desired to transmit to the commander of the British war vessel at Alexandretta. This the writer agreed to do, and went personally to the place where the British were imprisoned at about midnight of December 21. After [Page 960] consulting among themselves for an hour or so they handed me a draft of a telegram that they requested the Consulate to send to the commander of the British warship as follows:
Fifty-five male members British colony majority fathers of families held prisoners in Aleppo. Under Syrian Army commander’s threat of death as reprisal for loss of life of Ottoman subjects which might follow as consequence bombardment Alexandretta, they request in common interest avoidance bombardment if possible. Governor General Aleppo assures that decision of commander is irrevocable. Please communicate immediately to commander of British warship wire result.
It may be well to state that of the fifty-five British subjects above mentioned there were but five pure English, the balance being of families of Aleppo who have been many years away from Great Britain or who have never resided there and consequently of a much different character. The former were decidedly of the opinion not to send any telegram whatever to the commander of the war vessel, believing such action to be unpatriotic and of no avail. However they finally compromised on the telegram as sent.
It was the opinion of the writer that whatever the exigencies of the situation at Alexandretta required, would be done by the British commander regardless of the unspeakable threat of the Syrian commander, but that probably time could be gained to permit the action of the Turkish commander to be brought to the knowledge of the American Embassy and the central Ottoman Government at Constantinople, with the idea, also, that pressure could be brought to have instructions sent to Damascus forcing the Turkish commander to withdraw from his unwarranted position. With this object in view, this Consulate at the same time telegraphed urgently to the American Embassy the following:
English warship after destroying railway along coast Alexandretta gave ultimatum to authorities until Tuesday morning nine o’clock to surrender all material capable being used in military operations and to destroy railway station and rolling stock; otherwise will bombard. Commander Syrian Army Damascus communicated through me to commander warship that all Englishmen of this region are imprisoned at Damascus and that if fire is opened on undefended city of Alexandretta and Ottoman subjects are killed, he will shoot a number of Englishmen to be decided by him. Consular agent Alexandretta communicated same to commander, but bombardment presumed inevitable as Government refused to yield. Commander Army seemed decided to carry out his threat which will result in loss of life of innocent persons. Embassy’s urgent intervention solicited.
In fact, it appears my calculations were well founded, for at 2 p. m. of December 22, the American consular agent at Alexandretta telegraphed to this Consulate the following:
Have delivered message British commander who withholds decision until a later hour.
This was followed by another telegram from him at 11 p. m. of the same day as follows:
According to Article 2 of the Hague convention local authorities destroyed locomotives to avoid bombardment, these being the only material of war here. One representative from the ship and myself were present. Ambassador advised.
The agreement between the British commander and the Ottoman authorities was carried out, according to the American consular [Page 961] agent’s last above-mentioned telegram, and his report No. 138 of December 24, 1914, copy of which herewith enclosed.1
Immediately upon receipt of the last-mentioned telegram, the writer personally visited the Governor General of Aleppo, and explaining that as the incident was closed, there could be no reason for continuing to retain the British subjects in prison, requested their release, which was complied with.
Herewith enclosed copy of a despatch of December 26, 1914, from the consular agent at Alexandretta concerning an effort of the authorities at that place to excite the Moslem population against the Christians, and which might have succeeded had not notice thereof been given in time to the provincial government. The persons specified in the consular agent’s telegram, as mentioned in his despatch, were the commanders of the American war vessels in this vicinity.1
Enclosed, also, are translations of the correspondence exchanged between the British commander and the Turkish authorities.1
This report is forwarded in duplicate so that one copy may be transmitted to the Foreign Office of the British Government.
Copy hereof is being sent to the American Embassy at Constantinople. Copy is also being forwarded to the American Consulate General at Constantinople.
I have [etc.]