Before the war, the Ottoman Army had a hospital of 250 beds in Canakkale and six infirmaries at Seddulbahir, Kilitbahir, Eceabat, Bolayır, Kumkale and Canakkale. The appearance of the English and French fleets in front of the Dardanelles provided for the augmentation and fortification of these hospitals and infirmaries. By July 1915, the number of hospitals had reached 25, with a total of 10,700 beds.
As the battles were very severe during the war, 3000-4000 wounded were carried to these hospitals each day. Because of the insufficiency of beds in these hospitals, a great number of the wounded were transferred to city hospitals in inner Anatolia.
Apart from this, the Turkish Red Crescent converted three warships into hospital-ships, one of which, the Gulnihal, was responsible for carrying the wounded from the front lines at Gallipoli.
The Ottoman Empire raised the flag of the Red Crescent, signifying a hospital, in accordance with the 1906 Geneva and 1907 La Hague Conventions. This meant that buildings, vehicles and personnel bearing the Red Crescent were exempt from all attack or detention.
The realities of war were very different. The two belligerents partly violated the rules of the Geneva and La Hague Conventions, and even the Ottoman Empire, according to the claims of Russia. Russia claimed that the Ottoman state had attacked the hospital-ship ‘Portugal’ and ‘Vperiod’. Turkish military authorities, however, said that these hospital-ships had been struck by mines. We can see 80 violations during the years 1914-1920 in the archives of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Ten of these violations directly concerned attacks oriented towards Turkish hospitals and ambulances. Besides these, we have observed other attacks in the same archives. According to the military hierarchy, these violations were reported to the International Red Cross Committee in order for them to inform the French and British authorities.
Violations that occurred during the Gallipoli Campaign can be enumerated as follows:
Spring 1915, attacks on Turkish hospitals in Canakkale September 1915, bombardment of Canakkale Hospital
Bombardment of the Red Crescent Hospital-Ship ‘Gulnihal’
May 1915, bombardment of Turkish Hospital in Eceabat (Maydos)
June 1915, bombardment of Turkish Hospital in Eceabat
July 1915, bombardment of Turkish hospital at Halil Paşa Çiftliği (Farm)
August 1915, bombardment of Turkish military hospital at Akbas
During the war, the International Red Cross Committee sent official complaints of violations to the concerned parties. The parties concerned, in this case the French and British authorities, sent their responses via the same international committee.
In their responses, the British authorities did not deny these violations. They did not say definitively: “We did not carry out this kind of violations”. They said: “Violations such as this did not occur willingly but occurred accidentally. In battles, this kind of thing always happens”. The French authorities, on the other hand, did not accept these violations and they said: “These complaints are total slanders. But in battles, this kind of bombardment might happen. Hospitals must be set up far away from the battle area”.
As a conclusion, we can say that bombardments of this kind might occur by mistake. But the repetition of these bombardments in the Dardanelles from May 1915 to September 1915 makes us consider that these violations were more than a mistake, perhaps a result of anger due to lack of success in battles at Gallipoli.
Source: Canakkale Turk Yilligi, The Turkish Yearbook of Gallipoli Studies, No: 1, March 2003