Chapter XI

Fresh Assaults, Turkish Prisoners Of War And The Burning Of The Armory


Turkish attacks, April 19 to 22, as vicious and vehement as they were, failed to secure any worthwhile advantages for them. They lacked planning and the effect of concerted and concentrated fire. Beginning on April 23rd, however, this haphazard type of assault was changed into more devastating and well planned attacks.

To pin point our defenses, in the area of action, Turks hoisted large red flags on tall posts, visible by their gunners. It was very risky to remove them, but we destroyed three of them.

It was noticed on April 23rd, that our Marootian defenses were being shelled by the two cannons atop the rock simultaneously with the one held piece at Haigavank demolishing its upper story in short order.

From then on, we were forced to barricade ourselves on the ground floor where shell fire was less effective. Where necessary, we rebuilt the top story at night, to the bewilderment of the enemy.

Our counterattacks during the night of April 20th, which lasted seven hours, had secured the needed anchors for effective resistance. The city was choked with smoke and the flames pierced its thick blanket. Early next morning cannon fire from atop the rock signaled the beginning of a violent and general attack against our Marootian, Der Boghassian, Shahin Agha, Military warehouse, Mirzakhanian, Khani Dag and Unuz positions. At 3:00 P.M., a cannon was brought to the Katerji mosque and started shelling our Shahin Agha defense, a distance of 30-40 meters away. Militiamen and irregulars attempted to sneak behind our defenses to occupy the four Turkish homes. They were discovered. Several of the combatants from Shahin Agha and from barricades at its left flank dashed out and occupied the houses in the face of murderous fire. Four of the enemy were killed. Six women and two youngsters were taken Prisoner, and the rest fled into the mosque. The prisoners were taken to the Prelacy building and were well taken care of. During this encounter Maroot of Der Shogh was hit in the chest by a bullet. He kept on fighting as the bullet hardly penetrated the skin. The indecisive fighting continued until sunset. Four Armenians were killed in the streets by shell fire from above.

For the night that followed, our objective was the destruction of the Armory. It was a challenge as formidable as it was dangerous. Built of massive stone walls, it was situated across the street from the Military Procurement. Its rear was protected by the ancient battlements and enclosed by stone and a wooden fence. Its two ponderous gates presented the only means of destroying it by fire. The open space between us, about one hundred meters, was a real death trap for anyone attempting to cross it in the face of enemy fire. The job had to be done.

Area leader Haro, his group, and the youth Aram Gabatoogian proceeded as far as the ruins of the police headquarters, which was destroyed by us the previous night. Terrific rifle fire was directed at them. The men took positions and answered as violently. Aram took his tools and proceeded between the bullets. All odds were against him and we lived very anxious moments. A few minutes later, a small flicker of light was noticed. Entrenched inside, the Turks lost their head. Fire. Fire. Help for God’s sake were heard coming from the panicked mob. The confusion helped the youth in getting back safely, panting, and bathed in sweat. Haro and his men kept the gates under constant fire to prevent the Turks from putting the fire out. The fire spread gradually and in a few hours the building was in complete ruins helped by the explosion of the war material stored inside.

This was glorious, a glorious victory. Two consecutive nights of brilliant success. In this conflagration, much military gear, ammunition and flags were destroyed.

These were the symbols of our protest against the barbaric policies of the government and a pillory of humiliation for its infamous servant, Jevdet Bey, governor general of Van.