Gümüşlük a Neutral Haven in October 1943

Turkey remained neutral during the majority of WW2 and during 41 days in 1943 Gümüşlük was to become neutral haven to the crews of three allied ships.
The Dodecanese Islands (Rhodes, Kos, Kalymnos, Patmos, Leros etc) had been under Italian control since the Italian – Turkish War 1911 – 1912. When Italy joined Germany in WW2 the islands were used as a naval staging area for the Battle of Crete. Following the Italian armistice in 1943 there was push by the both sides to take control of the islands.
On the 21st of October 1943 two Hunt class escort destroyers HMS Hurworth and HHelMS Adrias were involved in a diversionary operation to distract the German forces on Kos and Kalymnos allowing a small convoy of other ships to slip past and resupply the allied forces on Leros.
Sometime after 21:00 hours the Adrias struck a mine destroying part of the bow with the loss of 21 crew and 30 wounded[1]. Within less than 20 minutes HMS Hurworth, while manoeuvring to assist the Adrias, also struck a mine. Hurworth sank within 15 minutes with the loss of approximately 130 lives (The wreck of the Hurworth lies at a depth of 102 meters 36.59N 27.06E and is designated a war grave)
The Adrias although badly damaged made her way into Turkish neutral waters and beached at Gümüşlük in the early hours of the following morning. The dead seamen from the Adrias were buried in the village and reinterred after the war and their bodies repatriated to Greece.
Donald Haskell a survivor from Hurworth who arrived in Gümüşlük approximately a week later described seeing the Adrias beached alongside a long jetty on one side of a narrow inlet “with not much of a front end”[2].
Haskell and a further 10 survivors from the Hurworth had spent approximately 6 hours in a life raft drifting on the current before making landfall on the Island of Pserimos where they were cared for and hidden from German patrols by the locals islanders for 6 or 7 days. By using signal fires the Greek islanders contacted their opposite numbers on the Turkish coast and two rowing boats came across and ferried the 11 survivors first to a small sandy island approximately a quarter of a mile from the Turkish mainland, then on to Gümüşlük the following day.

A local doctor treated the two badly wounded members of the party plus another four who were suffering with cuts and bruises, these six were then taken by boat to hospital in Izmir. Haskell and the remaining 4 survivors of the Hurworth were picked up by boat and taken to Bodrum and from there they made their way again by sea to the island of Kastellórizo, 78 miles (125km) east of Rhodes, which was an allied Special Forces base.  While in Bodrum they were informed that a party of approximately 40 of their shipmates had managed to get into the ship’s motor boat and had landed near to the Adrias some days previously.
The Adrias remained in Gümüşlük undergoing repairs until the 1st of December when she set sail on the 600 mile voyage to Alexandria, via Cyprus, arriving on the 6th of December.

Adrias Returns To Alexandria
Greek Destroyer Adrias by Harry Pitchford CC BY-SA
The captain Commander Toumbas of the Royal Hellenic Navy was awarded the Golden Cross of Valour the Greek equivalent of the VC for his heroic efforts and determination displayed in returning his ship to Alexandria.
During the period Adrias was being repaired, the yacht Nereia captained by Stamatis Miniotis, a member of the Greek Resistance, who had brought two British officers to the village, received a message that a small British transport ship had sank off a reef to the south of Gümüşlük. Captain Miniotis went out to rescue the crew and retuned with 20 sailors[3].
Whilst this may have been an extraordinary peak in activity with a damaged war ship in the harbour plus sailors from the Hurworth and the transport ship all passing through the village in 41 days, what is not clear is whether the village was a regular point of entry from the surrounding islands for other escaping allied soldiers and sailors into Turkey.
Basil Mamouzelos, the villager on the Isle of Pserimos who had helped Haskell and his party had a list which contained the names of 180 allied servicemen[4] he had previously helped to escape. It seems likely that at least some of these 180 soldiers and sailors would have also entered Turkey through Gümüşlük.

[1]  Geoorge V Krestas, A first-hand account of the saga of “ADRIAS” through the eyes of one of her young officers, Christos E. Papasifakis.

[2]  Donald E Haskell, The Sinking of the Hurworth (A short Break From Hostilities)

[3]  George Poulimenos The memoirs of George Miniotis

[4]  Donald E Haskell, The Sinking of the Hurworth

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