There is a nice little park off the 3rd bypass in Mersin that I’ve passed for a couple of years now. In the park, there is a statue of a man with a huge cannon shell on his back. I was always curious as to who this man was, but recently I noticed the same man in a picture in another city. Then a few days alter I saw another statue in another city. So, I thought it was high time I checked out who this man was.
Seyit Onbaşı (later Seyit Çabuk) was born to Aburrahman and Emine in September 1889 in the village of Çamlık in the Havran district of Balıkesir Province in Turkey. He entered the Ottoman Army in April of 1909, and in 1912 he joined the Balkan War. The Balkan War was one of the events that lead to World War I. After the Balkan War ended, instead of being discharged, Seyit was transferred to the forts along the Dardanelles to serve as a member of the shelling unit.
In the Battle of Çanakkale (April 25, 1915 – January 9, 1916), the Allied forces were attempting to storm Istanbul, the capital of the Ottoman Empire. In order to do so, the Allies would have to pass through the Dardanelles, a straight through which was only route they could get to Istanbul. The fort at which Seyit served was on the banks of the Dardanelles. After heavy bombardment from the Allied Forces, Seyit’s fort was left with one shelling gun operational; but after its crane was damaged, there was no way to lift the gunning shells up to the barrel of the weapon. Seyit, seeing no other option for the Ottomans to hold the straight, hoisted a 600 lbs. shell on his back and climbed the turret to reload the weapon himself. He then did it a second, then a third time.
Because of his heroics, the Ottoman army held the Dardanelles against the Allied army. The image of Seyit carrying these huge gunning shells are iconic in Turkish culture, emoting the strength of the Turk.
After the war, Seyit returned to his village and became a forrester and later a coal miner. In 1934, after the Surname Law was put into effect, Seyit took the last name Çabuk, meaning ‘quick.’ Seyit died in 1939 from lung cancer.