The Royal New South Wales Lancers

The Turkish Map

It's part of the Museum collection which has been professionally assessed as arguably the finest collection of Turkish WW1 maps and field documents in Australia.

It was captured by Lieutenant (later Lieutenant Colonel) Halfdan Wikner who, for some reason known only to himself, decided to land in his RE8 reconnaissance aircraft at Amman in 1918, before the Turkish Army had finally evacuated the city.

For years these maps and documents defied the Museum’s best efforts to have them translated – no Turkish people living in Australia could read them. It eventually turned out that they are written in Ottoman Turk, a language abolished by Kemal Attaturk after the war as he established the modern Turkish Republic. Digital copies must be sent to Ankara, where a handful of scholars expert in Ottoman Turk do the translation - an expensive business.

Turns out this map is not even from WW1. Between 1912 and 1913, the Balkans War was fought between the Ottoman Empire and Greece. The map covers parts of modern-day Greece, Albania and Macedonia. The sweeping Ottoman script on the South West of the mainland is the town of Ioannina, site of the siege of a large Ottoman force. When Ioannina surrendered, the Ottomans lost the war.

Most of the other documents in the Museum's collection are from Gallipoli and Palestine. However, the riddle is how this collection, including the map from the Balkans War, ended up in Amman to be captured in 1918. The answer might be found in an Ottoman Officer's field notebook, contained in the collection. However, that would be very expensive to have translated and must wait for another day.

A Map (Courtesy Google Maps) showing the same area as the 1912/13 mystery map today. The blue verticle line showing the approximate eastern limit of the original map.

[LEFT] Halfdan Ivanhoe Wikner in later life, probably as OC Parramatta Squadron, 1LH (NSWL). Colonel Wikner commanded the Regiment from 1 Feb 1927 'till 20 Jun 1929.

[RIGHT] A Greek soldier guards the border with North Macedonia today north of Florina, near the Map's centre.

[BELOW] Amman today.

Ian Hawthorn, 2020

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