May 1915 Truce

– By Sarah Johnston (Client Services Coordinator – Radio, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision)

One hundred years ago today, the high death rate on Gallipoli triggered an extraordinary truce between the two opposing sides.

The tremendous number of casualties on both sides since the landings on April 25th had led to a large number of unburied corpses piling up between the trenches. As temperatures climbed the health risk and stench these caused became unbearable, and on the 22nd of May Turkish Major Kemal Ohri was escorted, blindfolded to Anzac headquarters to negotiate a truce, so the dead could be buried.

Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey. 22 May 1915. Captain Sam Butler, holding the white truce flag, leads the blindfolded Turkish envoy Major Kemal Ohri from General Birdwood's Headquarters to return to the Turkish lines after arranging the burial armistice for 24 May 1915.
Gallipoli Peninsula, 22 May 1915. Captain Sam Butler (holding the white flag) leads the blindfolded Turkish Major Kemal Ohri back to the Turkish lines after arranging the armistice for 24 May 1915. Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial Museum.

On the 24th of May at an arranged time, a white flag was flown and men cautiously came out of their trenches to begin the grim task. For many, it was a chance to see the enemy face to face.

Those involved still had vivid memories of their close encounters with the enemy when they were interviewed many years later, as you can hear in this selection of recordings from our Anzac: Sights Sounds of World War I website.

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