FIVE MONTHS AT ANZAC: 4th
ANZAC COVE 1915.
Photo by Lieut.-Col. Millard.
A NARRATIVE OF PERSONAL
EXPERIENCES OF THE OFFICER COMMANDING THE 4th FIELD AMBULANCE,
AUSTRALIAN IMPERIAL FORCE
JOSEPH LIEVESLEY BEESTON
C.M.G., V.D., L.R.C.S.I.,
Colonel A.A.M.C. Late O.C. 4th Field Ambulance, late A.D.M.S. New
Zealand and Australian Division
ANGUS & ROBERTSON LTD. 89
CASTLEREAGH STREET SYDNEY 1916
W.C. Penfold & Co. Ltd., Printers,
183 Pitt Street, Sydney.
DEDICATED TO THE
OFFICERS, NON-COMMISSIONED OFFICERS AND MEN OF THE 4th FIELD AMBULANCE,
A.I.F., OF WHOSE LOYALTY AND DEVOTION TO DUTY THE WRITER HEREBY
EXPRESSES HIS DEEP APPRECIATION.
4th Field Ambulance in Head Quarters
Shortly after the
outbreak of War—after the first contingent had been mobilised, and
while they were undergoing training—it became evident that it would be
necessary to raise another force to proceed on the heels of the first.
Three Infantry Brigades with their Ambulances had already been formed;
orders for a fourth were now issued, and naturally the Ambulance would
be designated Fourth Field Ambulance.
The Fourth Brigade was
composed of the 13th Battalion (N.S.W.), 14th (Victoria), 15th
(Queensland) and 16th (Western Australia)—commanded respectively by
Lieutenant-Colonel Burnage, Lieutenant-Colonel Courtnay,
Lieutenant-Colonel Cannon and Lieutenant-Colonel Pope. The Brigade was
in charge of Colonel Monash, V.D., with Lieutenant-Colonel McGlinn as
his Brigade Major.
As it will be necessary
from time to time to allude to the component parts of the Ambulance, it
may be as well to describe how an ambulance is made up. It is composed
of three sections, known as A, B, and C, the total of all ranks being
254 on a war strength. It is subdivided into Bearer, Tent and Transport
Divisions. Each section has its own officers, and is capable of acting
independently. Where there is an extended front, it is frequently
desirable to detach sections and send them to positions where the work
As the name implies, the
Bearers convey the wounded to the dressing station (or Field Hospital,
as the case may be). Those in the Tent Division dress the cases and
perform nursing duties, while the Transport Division undertakes their
conveyance to Base Hospital.
It was decided to recruit
the Fourth Field Ambulance from three States, A Section from Victoria, B
from South Australia, C from Western Australia. Recruiting started in
Broadmeadows, Victoria, on the 19th October, 1914, and thirty men
enrolled from New South Wales were included in A Section. Towards the
end of November B Section from South Australia joined us, and
participated in the training. On the 22nd December we embarked on a
transport forming one of a convoy of eighteen ships. The nineteenth ship
joined after we left Albany.
Details from the
Ambulance were supplied to different ships and the officers distributed
among the fleet. Our last port in Australia was Albany, which was
cleared on the last day of 1914—a beautiful night and clear day, with
the sea as smooth as the proverbial glass.
4th Field Ambulance Dressing Station on
The convoy was under the
command of Captain Brewis—a most capable and courteous officer, but a
strict disciplinarian. To a landsman, his control of the various ships
and his forethought in obtaining supplies seemed little short of
marvellous. I had the good fortune to be associated with Captain Brewis
on the passage from Colombo to Alexandria on board the —— and his
friendship is a pleasant memory.
The fleet was arranged in
three lines, each ship being about three lengths astern of the one
ahead. The sight was most inspiriting, and made one feel proud of the
privilege of participation. The —— towed the submarine AE2, and kept
clear of the convoy, sometimes ahead, then astern, so that we viewed the
convoy from all points.
The day after leaving
Albany a steamer, which proved to be the ——, joined us with C
Section of our Ambulance. Signals were made for the —— —— to
move ahead and the —— to drop astern, the —— moving into the
vacant place. The manoeuvre was carried out in a most seamanlike manner,
and Captain Young of the —— received many compliments on his
Three days later a
message was flagged from the —— that Major Stewart (who commanded
the C Section of the Ambulance) was ill with enteric, and that his
condition was serious. The flagship then sent orders (also by flag)
"Colonel Beeston will proceed to —— and will remain there until
next port. —— to provide transport." A boat was hoisted out,
and Sergeant Draper as a nurse, Walkley my orderly, my little dog Paddy
and I were lowered from the boat deck. What appeared smooth water proved
to a long undulating swell; no water was shipped, but the fleet at times
was not visible when the boat was in the trough of the sea.
However, the —— was
manoeuvred so as to form a shelter, and we gained the deck by means of
the companion ladder as comfortably as if we had been in harbour. Major
Stewart's illness proved to be of such a nature that his disembarkation
at Colombo was imperative, and on our arrival there he was left in the
The heat in the tropics
was very oppressive, and the horses suffered considerably. One day all
the ships carrying horses were turned about and steamed for twenty
minutes in the opposite direction in order to obtain a breath of air for
the poor animals.
In the holds the
temperature was 90° and steamy at that. The sight of horses down a
ship's hold is a novel one. Each is in a stall of such dimensions that
the animal cannot be knocked about. All heads are inwards, and each
horse has his own trough.
At a certain time in the
day lucerne hay is issued. This is the signal for a prodigious amount of
stamping and noise on the part of the animals. They throw their heads
about, snort and neigh, and seem as if they would jump over the barriers
in their frantic effort to get a good feed. Horses on land are nice
beasts, but on board ship they are a totally different proposition. One
intelligent neddy stabled just outside my cabin spent the night in
stamping on an adjacent steam pipe; consequently my sleep was of a
disturbed nature, and not so restful as one might look for on a sea
voyage. When he became tired, the brute on the opposite side took up the
refrain, so that it seemed like Morse signalling on a large scale.
We reached Colombo on the
13th January, and found a number of ships of various nationalities in
the harbour. Our convoy almost filled it. We were soon surrounded by
boats offering for sale all sorts of things, mostly edibles. Of course
no one was allowed on board.
After arranging for Major
Stewart's accommodation at the hospital, we transferred from the ——
to the ——. The voyage was resumed on the 15th. When a few days out,
one of the ships flagged that there were two cases of appendicitis on
board. The convoy was stopped; the ship drew near ours, and lowered a
boat with the two cases, which was soon alongside. Meanwhile a large box
which had been made by our carpenter was lowered over the side by a
winch on the boat deck; the cases were
placed in it and hoisted
aboard, where the stretcher-bearers conveyed them to the hospital.
Examination showed that operation was necessary in both cases, and the
necessary preparations were made.
The day was a glorious
one—not a cloud in the sky, and the sea almost oily in its smoothness.
As the hospital was full of cases of measles, it was decided to operate
on deck a little aft of the hospital. A guard was placed to keep
inquisitive onlookers at a distance, and the two operations were carried
out successfully. It was a novel experience to operate under these
conditions. When one looked up from the work, instead of the usual tiled
walls of a hospital theatre, one saw nothing but the sea and the
transports. After all, they were ideal conditions; for the air was
absolutely pure and free from any kind of germ.
While the convoy was
stopped, the opportunity was taken to transfer Lieutenant-Colonel Bean
from the —— to the ——. There had been a number of fatal cases on
board the latter vessel, and it was deemed advisable to place a senior
officer on board.
On arrival at Aden I had
personal experience of the worth of the Red Cross Society. A number of
cases had died aboard one of the transports, and I had to go over to
investigate. The sea was fairly rough, the boat rising and falling ten
or twelve feet.
For a landsman to gain a
ladder on a ship's side under these conditions is not a thing of
undiluted joy. Anyhow I missed the ladder and went into the water. The
first fear one had was that the boat would drop on one's head; however,
I was hauled on board by two hefty sailors. The inspection finished, we
were rowed back to our own ship, wet and cold. By the time
"home" was reached I felt pretty chilly; a hot bath soon put
me right, and a dressing gown was dug out of the Red Cross goods
supplied to the ship, in which I remained while my clothes were
Sewn inside was a card on
which was printed: "Will the recipient kindly write his personal
experiences to George W. Parker, Daylesford, Victoria, Australia."
I wrote to Mr. Parker from Suez. I would recommend everyone sending
articles of this kind to put a similar notice inside. To be able to
acknowledge kindness is as gratifying to the recipient as the knowledge
of its usefulness is to the giver.
The voyage to Suez (which
was reached on the 28th January) was uneventful. We arrived there about
4 in the morning and found most of our convoy around us when we got on
deck at daylight. Here we got news of the Turks' attack on the Canal.
We heard that there had
been a brush with the Turks, in which Australians had participated, and
all the ships were to be sandbagged round the bridge. Bags of flour were
used on the ——. The submarine cast off from the —— outside and
came alongside our ship. I was invited to go and inspect her, and Paddy
accompanied me. On going below, however, I left him on the deck, and by
some means he slipped overboard (this appears to run in the family on
this trip); one of the crew fished him out, and he was sent up on to the
——. When I got back I found Colonel Monash, the Brigadier, running
up and down the deck with the dog so that he would not catch cold! The
Colonel was almost as fond of the dog as I was.
All along the canal
we saw troops entrenched—chiefly Indians. This at the time was very
novel—we little knew then how familiar trenches would become. At
various points—about every four or five miles-a warship was passed.
The troops on each ship stood to attention and the bugler blew the
general salute. Port Said was reached in the afternoon, and here a great
calamity overtook me. Paddy was lost! He was seen going ashore in the
boat which took the mails. Though orders were out against any one's
leaving the ship, Colonel Monash offered me permission to go and look
for him. With Sergeant Nickson and Walkley I started off and tramped
through all sorts of slums and places, without any success.
Finally we returned to
the waterfront, where one of the natives (a little more intelligent than
the others) took me to the Custom House close by. One of the officials
could speak a little English, and in response to my enquiry he turned up
a large book. Then I saw, among a lot of Egyptian writing, PADDY 4
A.M.C. MORMON. This corresponded to his identity disc, which was round
his neck. He was out at the abattoirs, where after a three-mile drive we
obtained him. His return to the ship was hailed by the men with
On arrival at Alexandria
we made arrangements for the disembarkation of all our sick,
Lieutenant-Colonel Beach superintending their transport. We left soon
after by rail for Heilwan, arriving after nightfall. A guide was
detailed to conduct us to camp, and we set out to march a couple of
miles across the desert. It was quite cold, so that the march was rather
good; but, loaded as we were, in full marching order and soft after a
long sea voyage, it was a stiff tramp. In the pitch dark, as silent as
the grave, we stumbled along, and finally arrived at the camp outside
Heliopolis, a place known as the Aerodrome.
Sutherland and Major Helsham were camped with their Ambulance close by,
and with most kindly forethought had pitched our tents for us. We just
lay down in our greatcoats and slept until morning. Our Brigade was
camped just across the road, and formed part of the New Zealand and
Australian Division under General Sir Alexander Godley.
Training soon began, and
everyone seemed full of the idea of making himself "fit." Our
peace camps and continuous training at home look very puny and small in
comparison with the work which now occupied our time. At manoeuvres the
number of troops might be anything up to thirty thousand. To march in
the rear of such a column meant that each of the Ambulances soon
swallowed its peck of dirt. But with it all we were healthy and
As an Ambulance we
practiced all sorts of movements. Under supposition that we might have
to retreat suddenly, the whole camp would be struck, packed on the
waggon and taken down the Suez road, where it was pitched again, ready
to receive patients; then tents would be struck and a return made to
camp. Or we would make a start after nightfall and practise the
movements without lights; the transport handling the horses in the dark.
Or the different sections would march out independently, and concentrate
on a point agreed upon. It was great practice, but in the end not
necessary; for we went, not to France, as we expected, but to Gallipoli,
where we had no horses.
However, it taught the
men to believe in themselves. That period of training was great.
Everyone benefited, and by the beginning of April we felt fit for
anything. We were exceedingly well looked after in the way of a standing
camp. Sand of course was everywhere, but when watered it became quite
hard, and the quadrangle made a fine drill ground. Each unit had a mess
house in which the men had their meals; there was an abundant supply of
water obtained from the Nile, so that shower baths were plentiful.
established, and the men were able to supplement their rations. The
Y.M.C.A. erected buildings for the men's entertainment, which served an
excellent purpose in keeping the troops in camp. Cinematographs showed
pictures, and all round the camp dealers established shops, so that
there was very little inducement for men to leave at night. A good deal
of our time was occupied in weeding out undesirables from the Brigade.
Thank goodness, I had not to send a man from the Ambulance back for this
Apart from the
instructive side of our stay in Egypt, the sojourn was most educational.
We were camped just on the edge of the Land of Goshen; the place where
Joseph obtained his wife was only about a mile away from my tent, and
the well where the Virgin Mother rested with our Saviour was in close
proximity. The same water wheels are here as are mentioned in the Bible,
and one can see the camels and asses brought to water, and the women
going to and fro with pitchers on their heads.
Then in the museum in
Cairo one could see the mummy of the Pharaoh of Joseph's time. All this
made the Bible quite the most interesting book to read. The troops
having undergone pretty strenuous training, we were inspected by Sir Ian
Hamilton, who was to command us in the forthcoming campaign. Then, early
in April, the commanding officers of units were assembled at
Headquarters and the different ships allotted. Finally, on the evening
of the 11th April, our camp was struck, and; we bade good-bye to
The waggons were packed
and the Ambulance moved off, marching to the Railway Station in Cairo.
Nine-thirty was the time fixed for our entraining, and we were there on
the minute—and it was as well that such was the case, for General
Williams stood at the gate to watch proceedings.
The waggons with four
horses (drivers mounted, of course) were taken at a trot up an incline,
through a narrow gateway on to the platform. The horses were then taken
out and to the rear, and the waggons placed on the trucks by Egyptian
We had 16 vehicles, 69
horses, 10 officers and 245 men. The whole were entrained in 35 minutes.
The General was very pleased with the performance, and asked me to
convey his approbation to the men. Certainly they did well.
Getting Wounded off after a Fight.
At midnight we left Cairo
and arrived at daybreak at Alexandria, the train running right on to the
wharf, alongside which was the transport to convey us to Gallipoli—the
Dardanelles we called it then. Loading started almost immediately, and I
found that I—who in ordinary life am a peaceful citizen and a surgeon
by profession—had to direct operations by which our waggons were to be
removed from the railway trucks on to the wharf and thence to the ship's
hold. Men with some knowledge of the mysteries of steam winches had to
be specially selected and instructed in these duties, and I—well,
beyond at times watching a ship being loaded at Newcastle, I was as
innocent of their details as the unborn babe.
However, everyone went at
it, and the transport was loaded soon after dinner. We had the New
Zealand Battery of Artillery, Battery Ammunition Column, 14th Battalion
Transport and Army Service Corps with us, the whole numbering 560 men
and 480 horses. At 4 p.m. the ship cast off, and we went to the outer
harbour and began to shake down. The same hour the next day saw us under
weigh for the front. The voyage was quite uneventful, the sea
beautifully calm, and the various islands in the Egean Sea most
Three days later we
arrived at Lemnos, and found the harbour (which is of considerable size)
packed with warships and transports. I counted 20 warships of various
sizes and nationalities. The Agamemnon
was just opposite us, showing signs of the
damage she had received in the bombardment of the Turkish forts a couple
of months before. We stayed here a week, and every day practised going
ashore in boats, each man in full marching order leaving the ship by the
It is extraordinary how
one adapts oneself to circumstances. For years it has been almost
painful to me to look down from a height; as for going down a ladder, in
ordinary times I could not do it. However, here there was no help for
it; a commanding officer cannot order his men to do what he will not do
himself, so up and down we went in full marching order. Bearer work was
carried out among the stony hills which surround the harbour.
Finally, on the
24th April, the whole armada got under weigh, headed by the Queen
Elizabeth, or as the men affectionately termed
her, "Lizzie." We had been under steam for only about four
hours when a case of smallpox was reported on board. As the captain
informed me he had time to spare, we returned to Lemnor and landed the
man, afterwards proceeding on our journey. At night the ship was
darkened. Our ship carried eight horse-boats, which were to be used by
the 29th Division in their landing at Cape Helles.
Just about dawn on Sunday
the 25th I came on deck and could see the forms of a number of warships
in close proximity to us, with destroyers here and there and numbers of
transports. Suddenly one ship fired a gun, and then they were all at it,
the Turks replying in quick time from the forts on Seddul Bahr, as well
as from those on the Asiatic side. None of our ships appeared to be hit,
but great clouds of dust were thrown up in the forts opposite us.
Meanwhile destroyers were passing us loaded with troops, and barges
filled with grim and determined-looking men were being towed towards the
One could not help
wondering how many of them would be alive in an hour's time. Slowly they
neared the cliffs; as the first barge appeared to ground, a burst of
fire broke out along the beach, alternately rifles and machine guns. The
men leaped out of the barges— almost at once the
firing on the beach ceased, and more came from halfway up the cliff. The
troops had obviously landed, and were driving the Turks back. After a
couple of hours the top of the cliff was gained; there the troops became
exposed to a very heavy fire from some batteries of artillery placed
well in the rear, to which the warships attended as soon as they could
Elizabeth was close by us, apparently watching
a village just under the fort. Evidently some guns were placed there.
She loosed off her two fifteen-inch guns, and after the dust had cleared
away we could see that new streets had been made for the
inhabitants. Meanwhile the British had gained the top and were making
headway, but losing a lot of men— one could see
them falling everywhere.
Water Carts protected by Sand Bags
having been got overboard, we continued our voyage towards what is now
know as Anzac. Troops—Australians and New
Zealanders—were being taken ashore in barges. Warships were firing
apparently as fast as they could load, the Turks replying with equal
cordiality. In fact, as Captain Dawson remarked to me, it was quite the
most "willing" Sunday he had ever seen.
Our troops were ascending
the hills through a dwarf scrub, just low enough to let us see the men's
heads, though sometimes we could only locate them by the glint of the
bayonets in the sunshine. Everywhere they were pushing on in extended
order, but many falling. The Turks appeared to have the range pretty
accurately. About mid-day our men seemed to be held up, the Turkish
shrapnel appearing to be too much for them. It was now that there
occurred what I think one of the finest incidents of the campaign.
This was the landing of
the Australian Artillery. They got two of their guns ashore, and over
very rough country dragged them up the hills with what looked like a
hundred men to each. Up they went, through a wheat-field, covered and
plastered with shrapnel, but with never a stop until the crest of the
hill on the right was reached. Very little time was wasted in getting
into action, and from this time it became evident that we were there to
The practice of the naval
guns was simply perfect. They lodged shell after shell just in front of
the foremost rank of our men; in response to a message asking them to
clear one of the gullies, one ship placed shell after shell up that
gully, each about a hundred yards apart, and in as straight a line as if
they were ploughing the ground for Johnny Turk, instead of making the
place too hot to hold him.
The Turks now began to
try for this warship, and in their endeavours almost succeeded in
getting the vessel we were on, as a shell burst right overhead. The
wounded now began to come back, and the one hospital ship there was
filled in a very short time. Every available transport was then utilised
for the reception of casualties, and as each was filled she steamed off
to the base at Alexandria. As night came on we appeared to have a good
hold of the place, and orders came for our bearer division to
They took with them three
days' "iron" rations, which consisted of a tin of bully beef,
a bag of small biscuits, and some tea and sugar, dixies, a tent, medical
comforts, and (for firewood) all the empty cases we could scrape up in
the ship. Each squad had a set of splints, and every man carried a
tourniquet and two roller bandages in his pouch. Orders were issued that
the men were to make the contents of their water-bottles last three
days, as no water was available on shore.
The following evening the
remainder of the Ambulance, less the transport, was ordered ashore. We
embarked in a trawler, and steamed towards the shore in the growing dusk
as far as the depth of water would allow. The night was bitterly cold,
it was raining, and all felt this was real soldiering. None of us could
understand what occasioned the noise we heard at times, of something
hitting the iron deck houses behind us; at last one of the men
exclaimed: "Those are bullets, sir," so that we were having
our baptism of fire. It was marvellous that no one was hit, for they
were fairly frequent, and we all stood closely packed. Finally the
skipper of the trawler, Captain Hubbard, told me he did not think we
could be taken off that night, and therefore intended to drop anchor. He
invited Major Meikle and myself to the cabin, where the cook served out
hot tea to all hands.
I have drunk a
considerable number of cups of tea in my time, but that mug was very,
very nice. The night was spent dozing where we stood, Paddy being very
disturbed with the noise of the guns. At daylight a barge was towed out
and, after placing all our equipment on board, we started for the beach.
As soon as the barge grounded, we jumped out into the water (which was
about waist deep) and got to dry land. Colonel Manders, the A.D.M. S. of
our Division, was there, and directed us up a gully where we were to
stay in reserve for the time being, meantime to take lightly-wounded
One tent was pitched and
dug-outs made for both men and patients, the Turks supplying shrapnel
pretty freely. Our position happened to be in rear of a mountain
battery, whose guns the Turks appeared very anxious to silence, and any
shells the battery did not want came over to us. As soon as we were
settled down I had time to look round.
Down on the beach the 1st
Casualty Clearing Station (under Lieutenant-Colonel Giblin) and the
Ambulance of the Royal Marine Light Infantry were at work. There were
scores of casualties awaiting treatment, some of them horribly knocked
about. It was my first experience of such a number of cases. In civil
practice, if an accident took place in which three or four men were
injured, the occurrence would be deemed out of the ordinary: but here
there were almost as many hundreds, and all the flower of Australia. It
made one feel really that, in the words of General Sherman, "War is
hell," and it seemed damnable that it should be in the power of one
man, even if be he the German Emperor, to decree that all these men
should be mutilated or killed.
The great majority were
just coming into manhood with all their life before them. The stoicism
and fortitude with which they bore their pain was truly remarkable.
Every one of them was cheery and optimistic; there was not a murmur; the
only requests were for a cigarette or a drink of water. One felt very
proud of these Australians, each waiting his turn to be dressed without
complaining. It really quite unnerved me for a time. However, it was no
time to allow the sentimental side of one's nature to come uppermost.
I watched the
pinnaces towing the barges in. Each pinnace belonged to a warship and
was in charge of a midshipman— dubbed by his
shipmates a "snotty." This name originates from the days of
Trafalgar. The little chaps appear to have suffered from chronic colds
in the head, with the usual accompaniment of a copious flow from the
nasal organs. Before addressing an officer the boys would clean their
faces by drawing the sleeve of their jacket across the nose; and, I
understand that this practice so incensed Lord Nelson that he ordered
three brass buttons to be sewn on the wristbands of the boys' jackets.
However, this is by the
way. These boys, of all ages from 14 to 16, were steering their pinnaces
with supreme indifference to the shrapnel falling about, disdaining any
cover and as cool as if there was no such thing as war. I spoke to one,
remarking that they were having a great time. He was a bright, chubby,
sunny-faced little chap, and with a smile said: "Isn't it
beautiful, sir? When we started, there were sixteen of us, and now there
are only six!" This is the class of man they make officers out of
in Britain's navy, and while this is so there need be no fear of the
result of any encounter with the Germans.
Another boy, bringing a
barge full of men ashore, directed them to lie down and take all the
cover they could, he meanwhile steering the pinnace and standing quite
unconcernedly with one foot on the boat's rail.
Burial Parties during the Armistice.
AT WORK ON
Casualties began to come
in pretty freely, so that our tent was soon filled. We now commenced
making dug-outs in the side of the gully and placing the men in these.
Meantime stores of all kinds were being accumulated on the beach—stacks
of biscuits, cheese and preserved beef, all of the best. One particular
kind of biscuit, known as the "forty-niners," had forty-nine
holes in it, was believed to take forty-nine years to bake, and needed
forty-nine chews to a bite. But there were also beautiful hams and
preserved vegetables, and with these and a tube of Oxo a very palatable
soup could be prepared. A well-known firm in England puts up a tin which
they term an Army Ration, consisting of meat and vegetables, nicely
seasoned and very palatable.
For a time this ration
was eagerly looked for and appreciated, but later on, when the men began
to get stale, it did not agree with them so well; it appeared to be too
rich for many of us. We had plenty of jam, of a kind—one kind. Oh! how
we used to revile the maker of "Damson and Apple'!" The damson
coloured it, and whatever they used for apple gave it body.
One thing was good all
the time, and that was the tea. The brand never wavered, and the flavour
was always full. Maynard could always make a good cup of it. It has been
already mentioned that water was not at first available on shore. This
was soon overcome, thanks to the Navy. They convoyed water barges from
somewhere, which they placed along shore; the water was then pumped into
our water carts, and the men filled their water-bottles from them. The
water, however, never appeared to quench our thirst. It was always
better made up into tea, or taken with lime juice when we could get it.
Tobacco, cigarettes and
matches were on issue, but the tobacco was of too light a brand for me,
so that Walkley used to trade off my share of the pernicious weed for
matches. The latter became a precious commodity. I have seen three men
light their pipes from one match. Captain Welch was very independent; he
had a burning glass, and obtained his light from the sun.
After a few days the
R.M.L.I. were ordered away, and we were directed to take up their
position on the beach. A place for operating was prepared by putting
sandbags at either end, the roof being formed by planks covered with
sandbags and loose earth. Stanchions of 4 x 4 in. timber were driven
into the ground, with crosspieces at a convenient height; the stretcher
was placed on these, and thus an operating table was formed. Shelves
were made to hold our instruments, trays and bottles; these were all in
charge of Staff-Sergeant Henderson, a most capable and willing
assistant. Close by a kitchen was made, and a cook kept constantly
employed keeping a supply of hot water, bovril, milk and biscuits ready
for the men when they came in wounded, for they had to be fed as well as
medically attended to.
Simpson and his Donkey
One never ceased admiring
our men, and their cheeriness under these circumstances and their droll
remarks caused us many a laugh. One man, just blown up by a shell,
informed us that it was a —— of a place—'no place to take a lady.'
Another told of the mishap to his "cobber," who picked up a
bomb and blew on it to make it light; "all at once it blew his
—— head off—
Gorblime! you would have
laughed!" For lurid and perfervid language commend me to the
Australian Tommy. Profanity oozes from him like music from a barrel
organ. At the same time, he will give you his idea of the situation,
almost without exception in an optimistic strain, generally concluding
his observation with the intimation that "We gave them hell."
I have seen scores of them lying wounded and yet chatting one to another
while waiting their turn to be dressed. The stretcher bearers were a
fine body of men. Prior to this campaign, the Army Medical Corps was
always looked upon as a soft job. In peacetime we had to submit to all
sorts of flippant remarks, and were called Linseed Lancers,
Body-snatchers, and other cheery and jovial names; but, thanks to Abdul
and the cordiality of his reception, the A.A.M.C. can hold up their
heads with any of the fighting troops.
It was a common thing to
hear men say: "This beach is a hell of a place! The trenches are
better than this." The praises of the stretcher-bearers were in all
the men's mouths; enough could not be said in their favour. Owing to the
impossibility of landing the transport, all the wounded had to be
carried; often for a distance of a mile and a half, in a blazing sun,
and through shrapnel and machine-gun fire. But there was never a flinch;
through it all they went, and performed their duty. Of our Ambulance 185
men and officers landed, and when I relinquished command, 43 remained.
At one time we were losing so many bearers, that carrying during the
day-time was abandoned, and orders were given that it should only be
undertaken after night-fall.
On one occasion a man was
being sent off to the hospital ship from our tent in the gully. He was
not very bad, but he felt like being carried down. As the party went
along the beach, Beachy Bill became active; one of the bearers lost his
leg, the other was wounded, but the man who was being carried down got
up and ran! All the remarks I have made regarding the intrepidity and
valour of the stretcher-bearers apply also to the regimental bearers.
These are made up from the bandsmen. Very few people think, when they
see the band leading the battalion in parade through the streets, what
happens to them on active service. Here bands are not thought of; the
instruments are left at the base, and the men become bearers, and carry
the wounded out of the front line for the Ambulance men to care for.
Many a stretcher-bearer has deserved the V.C.
One of ours told me they
had reached a man severely wounded in the leg, in close proximity to his
dug-out. After he had been placed on the stretcher and made comfortable,
he was asked whether there was anything he would like to take with him.
He pondered a bit, and then said: "Oh! you might give me my diary—I
would like to make a note of this before I forget it!"
It can be readily
understood that in dealing with large bodies of men, such as ours, a
considerable degree of organization is necessary, in order to keep an
account, not only of the man, but of the nature of his injury (or
illness, as the case may be) and of his destination. Without method
chaos would soon reign. As each casualty came in he was examined, and
dressed or operated upon as the necessity arose. Sergeant Baxter then
got orders from the officer as to where the case was to be sent. A
ticket was made out, containing the man's name, his regimental number,
the nature of his complaint, whether morphia had been administered and
the quantity, and finally his destination.
All this was also
recorded in our books, and returns made weekly, both to headquarters and
to the base. Cases likely to recover in a fortnight's time were sent by
fleet-sweeper to Mudros; the others were embarked on the hospital ship.
They were placed in barges, and towed out by a pinnace to a trawler, and
by that to the hospital ship, where the cases were sorted out. When once
they had left the beach, our
knowledge of them ceased, and of course our responsibility. One man
arriving at the hospital ship was describing, with the usual picturesque
invective, how the bullet had got into his shoulder. One of the
officers, who apparently was unacquainted with the Australian
vocabulary, said: "What was that you said, my man?" The reply
came, "A blightah ovah theah put a bullet in heah."
At a later period a new
gun had come into action on our left, which the men christened
"Windy Annie." Beachy Bill occupied the olive grove, and was
on our right. Annie was getting the range of our dressing station pretty
accurately, and requisition on the Engineers evoked the information that
sandbags were not available. However, the Army Service came to our
rescue with some old friends, the "forty-niners." Three tiers
of these in their boxes defied the shells just as they defied our teeth.
As the sickness
began to be more manifest, it became necessary to enlarge the
accommodation in our gully. The hill was dug out, and the soil placed in
bags with which a wall was built, the intervening portion being filled
up with the remainder of the hill. By this means we were able to pitch a
second tent and house more of those who were slightly ill. It was in
connection with this engineering scheme that I found the value of W.O.
Cosgrove. He was possessed of a good deal of the suaviter
in modo, and it was owing
to his dextrous handling of Ordnance that we got such a fine supply of
bags. This necessitated a redistribution of dug-outs, and a line of them
was constructed sufficient to take a section of bearers.
The men christened this
"Shrapnel Avenue." They called my dug-out "The Nut,"
because it held the "Kernel." I offer this with every apology.
It's not my joke. The new dug-outs were not too safe. Murphy was killed
there one afternoon, and Claude Grime badly wounded later on. Claude
caused a good deal of amusement. He had a rooted objection to putting on
clothes and wore only a hat, pants, boots and his smile. Consequently
his body became quite mahogany-coloured. When he was wounded he was put
under an anæsthetic so that I could search for the bullet. As the
anæsthetic began to take effect, Claude talked the usual unintelligible
gibberish. Now, we happened to have a Turkish prisoner at the time, and
in the midst of Claude's struggles and shouts in rushed an interpreter.
He looked round, and promptly came over to Claude, uttering words which
I suppose were calculated to soothe a wounded Turk; and we had some
difficulty in assuring him that the other man, not Claude, was the Turk
he was in quest of.
Mules in a Gully.
aeroplanes flew over our gully pretty regularly. As first we were rather
perturbed, as they had a nasty habit of dropping bombs, but as far as I
know they never did any damage. Almost all the bombs dropped into the
water. One of them sent some steel arrows down, about six or eight
inches in length, with a metal point something like a carpenter's bit.
In order to conceal our tents, we covered them with holly-bushes, cut
and placed over the canvas. Our aeroplanes were constantly up, and were
easily recognised by a red ring painted underneath, while the Taube was
adorned with a large black cross; but after we had been there a little
time we found it was not necessary to use glasses in order to ascertain
whose flying machine was over us; we were able to tell by listening, as
their engines had a different sound from those belonging to us.
Our aeroplanes were the
source of a good deal of annoyance to the Turks. They continually fired
at them, but, as far as I was able to judge, never went within cooee of
one. The bursts of shrapnel away in the air made a pretty sight, puffs
of white smoke like bits of cotton-wool in succession, and the aeroplane
sailing unconcernedly along. It appears to be very difficult to judge
distance away in the air, and even more difficult to estimate the rate
at which the object is travelling. What became of the shell-cases of the
shrapnel used to puzzle us. One day Walkley remarked that it was
peculiar that none fell on us. I replied
"surely there is
plenty of room other than where we are for them to fall." Scarcely
were the words uttered than down one came close by. We knew it was a
case from above and not one fired direct, because the noise was so
different. The hydroplanes used by the Navy were interesting. Floating
on the water, they would gather way and soar upwards like a bird. Their
construction was different from that of the aeroplanes.
A captive balloon was
used a good deal to give the ranges for the warships. It was carried on
the forepart of a steamer and was, I believe, in connection with it by
telephone or wireless.
We kept up the custom of
having an officers' mess right through the campaign. When we first
landed, while everything was in confusion, each man catered for himself;
but it was a lonely business, and not conducive to health. When a man
cooked his own rations he probably did not eat much. So a dug-out was
made close to the hospital tent, and we all had our meals together. A
rather pathetic incident occurred one day.
Just after we had
finished lunch three of us were seated, talking of the meals the
"Australia" provided, when a fragment of shell came through
the roof on to the table and broke one of the enamel plates. This may
seem a trivial affair and not worth grousing about; but the sorry part
of it was that we only had one plate each, and this loss entailed one
man having to wait until the others had finished their banquet.
I have elsewhere alluded
to the stacks of food on the beach. Amongst them bully beef was largely
in evidence. Ford, our cook, was very good in always endeavouring to
disguise the fact that "Bully" was up again. He used to fry
it; occasionally he got curry powder from the Indians and persuaded us
that the resultant compound was curried goose; but it was bully beef all
the time. Then he made what he called rissoles—onions entered largely
into their framework, and when you opened them you wanted to get out
into the fresh air. Preserved potatoes, too, were very handy. We had
them with our meat, and what remained over we put treacle on, and ate as
pancakes. Walkley and Betts obtained flour on several occasions, and
made very presentable pancakes.
John Harris, too, was a
great forager—he knew exactly where to put his hand on decent
biscuits, and the smile with which he landed his booty made the goods
toothsome in the extreme. Harris had a gruesome experience. One day he
was seated on a hill, talking to a friend, when a shell took the
friend's head off and scattered his brains over Harris.
Before leaving the
description of the officers' mess, I must not omit to introduce our
constant companions, the flies. As Australians we rather prided
ourselves on our judgment regarding these pests, and in Gallipoli we had
every opportunity of putting our faculties to the test. There were
flies, big horse flies, blue flies, green flies, and flies. They turned
up everywhere and with everything. While one was eating one's food with
the right hand, one had to keep the left going with a wisp, and even
then the flies beat us. Then we always had the comforting reflection of
those dead Turks not far away—the distance being nothing to a fly. In
order to get a little peace at one meal in the day, our dinner hour was
put back until dusk. Men wounded had a horrible time. Fortunately we had
a good supply of mosquito netting purchased with the Red Cross money. It
was cut up into large squares and each bearer had a supply.
Graves of Major Ellis and Lieut.-Col.
On the 23rd of May anyone
looking down the coast could see a man on Gaba Tepe waving a white flag.
He was soon joined by another occupied in a like manner. Some officers
came into the Ambulance and asked for the loan of some towels; we gave
them two, which were pinned together with safety pins. White flags don't
form part of the equipment of Australia's army.
Seven mounted men had
been observed coming down Gaba Tepe, and they were joined on the beach
by our four. The upshot was that one was brought in blindfolded to
General Birdwood. Shortly after we heard it announced that a truce had
been arranged for the following day in order to bury the dead.
The following morning
Major Millard and I started from our right and walked up and across the
battle-field. It was a stretch of country between our lines and those of
the Turks, and was designated No Man's Land. At the extreme right there
was a small farm; the owner's house occupied part of it, and was just as
the man had left it. Our guns had knocked it about a good deal. In close
proximity was a field of wheat, in which there were scores of dead
Turks. As these had been dead anything from a fortnight to three weeks
their condition may be better imagined than described. One body I saw
was lying with the leg shattered.
He had crawled into a
depression in the ground and lay with his great-coat rolled up for a
pillow; the stains on the ground showed that he had bled to death, and
it can only be conjectured how long he lay there before death relieved
him of his sufferings. Scores of the bodies were simply riddled with
bullets. Midway between the trenches a line of Turkish sentries were
posted. Each was in a natty blue uniform with gold braid, and top boots,
and all were done "up to the nines." Each stood by a white
flag on a pole stuck in the ground. We buried all the dead on our side
of this line and they performed a similar office for those on their
side. Stretchers were used to carry the bodies, which were all placed in
The stench was awful, and
many of our men wore handkerchiefs over their mouths in their endeavour
to escape it. I counted two thousand dead Turks. One I judged to be an
officer of rank, for the bearers carried him shoulder-high down a gully
to the rear. The ground was absolutely covered with rifles and equipment
of all kinds, shell-cases and caps, and ammunition clips. The rifles
were all collected and the bolts removed to prevent their being used
again. Some of the Turks were lying right on our trenches, almost in
some of them.
The Turkish sentries were
peaceable-looking men, stolid in type and of the peasant class mostly.
We fraternised with them and gave them cigarettes and tobacco. Some
Germans were there, but they viewed us with malignant eyes. When I
talked to Colonel Pope about it afterwards he said the Germans were a
mean lot of beggars: "Why," said he most indignantly,
"they came and had a look into my trenches." I asked
"What did you do?" He replied, "Well, I had a look at
Wounded being placed on Hospital Ship.
OF THE TRIUMPH
The day after the
armistice, at fifteen minutes after noon, I was in my dug-out when one
of the men exclaimed that something was wrong with the Triumph.
I ran out and was in time to see the fall of the water sent up by the
explosive. It was a beautifully calm day, and the ship was about a mile
and a quarter from us; she had a decided list towards us, and it was
evident that something was radically wrong. With glasses one could see
the men lined up in two ranks as if on parade, without the least
confusion. Then two destroyers went over and put their noses on each
side of the big ship's bows; all hands from the Triumph
marched aboard the destroyers. She was
gradually heeling over, and all movables were slipping into the
One of the
destroyers barked three or four shots at something which we took to be
the submarine. In fifteen minutes the Triumph was
keel up, the water spurting from her different vent pipes as it was
expelled by the imprisoned air. She lay thus for seventeen minutes,
gradually getting lower and lower in the water, when quietly her stern
rose and she slipped underneath, not a ripple remaining to show where
she had sunk. I have often read of the vortex caused by a ship sinking,
but as far as I could see there was in this case not the slightest
disturbance. It was pathetic to see this beautiful ship torpedoed and in
thirty-two minutes at the bottom of the sea. I believe the only lives
lost were those of men injured by the explosion. Meanwhile five
destroyers came up from Helles at a terrific speed, the water curling
from their bows; they and all the other destroyers circled round and
round the bay, but the submarine lay low and got off. Her commander
certainly did his job well.
Stretcher Bearers carrying
torpedoing of the Triumph here,
and the Majestic in
the Straits all the big ships left and went to Mudros, as there was no
sense in leaving vessels costing over a million each to the mercy of
submarines. This gave the destroyers the chance of their lives. Up to
this they had not been allowed to speak, but now they took on much of
the bombardment required. They were constantly nosing about, and the
slightest movement on the part of the Turks brought forth a bang from
one of their guns. If a Turk so much as winked he received a rebuke from
The Naval men all
appeared to have an unbounded admiration for the Australians as
soldiers, and boats rarely came ashore without bringing some fresh bread
or meat or other delicacy; their tobacco, too, was much sought after. It
is made up from the leaf, and rolled up in spun yarn. The flavour is
full, and after a pipe of it—well, you feel that you have had a smoke.
We had a good many Indian
regiments in the Army Corps. The mountain battery occupied a position on
in the early stage of the
campaign, and they had a playful way of handing out the shrapnel to the
Turks. It was placed in boiling water to soften the resin in which the
bullets are held. By this means the bullets spread more readily, much to
the joy of the sender and the discomfiture of Abdul. The Indians were
always very solicitous about their wounded. When one came in to be
attended to, he was always followed by two of his chums bearing, one a
water bottle, the other some food, for their caste prohibits their
taking anything directly from our hands.
When medicine had
to be administered, the man came in, knelt down, and opened his mouth,
and the medicine was poured into him without the glass touching his
lips. Food was given in the same way. I don't know how they got on when
they were put on the ship. When one was killed, he was wrapped up in a
sheet and his comrades carried him shoulder-high to their cemetery, for
they had a place set apart for their own dead. They were constantly
squatting on their haunches making a sort of pancake. I tasted one; but
it was too fatty and I spat it out, much to the amusement of the
One of them saw the
humorous side of life. He described to Mr. Henderson the different
attitudes adopted towards Turkish shells by the British, Indian and
Australian soldiers. "British Tommy," said he, "Turk
shell, Tommy says 'Ah!' Turk shell, Indian say 'Oosh!' Australian say
'Where the hell did that come from?'"
The Divisional Ammunition
Column was composed of Sikhs, and they were a brave body of men. It was
their job to get the ammunition to the front line, so that they were
always fair targets for the Turks. The mules were hitched up in threes,
one in rear of the other, each mule carrying two boxes of ammunition.
The train might number anything from 15 to 20 mules. All went along at a
trot, constantly under fire. When a mule was hit he was unhitched, the
boxes of ammunition were rolled off, and the train proceeded; nothing
stopped them. It was the same if one of the men became a casualty; he
was put on one side to await the stretcher-bearers—but almost always
one of the other men appeared with a water bottle.
They were very adept in
the management of mules. Frequently a block would occur while the mule
train occupied a sap; the mules at times became fractious and
manipulated their hind legs with the most marvellous precision—certainly
they placed a good deal of weight in their arguments. But in the midst
of it all, when one could see nothing but mules' heels, straps and
ammunition boxes, the Indian drivers would talk to their charges and
soothe them down. I don't know what they said, but presume it resembled
the cooing, coaxing and persuasive tongue of our bullock-driver. The
mules were all stalled in the next gully to ours, and one afternoon
three or four of us were sitting admiring the sunset when a shell came
over. It was different from that usually sent by Abdul, being seemingly
formed of paper and black rag; someone suggested, too, that there was a
good deal of faultiness in the powder. From subsequent inquiries we
found that what we saw going over our dug-outs was Mule! A shell had
burst right in one of them, and the resultant mass was what we had
observed. The Ceylon Tea Planter's Corps was bivouacked just below us
and were having tea at the time; their repast was mixed with mule.
Donkeys formed part of
the population of the Peninsula. I am referring here to the four-footed
variety, though, of course, others were in evidence at times. The
Neddies were docile little beasts, and did a great deal of transport
work. When we moved out in August, orders were issued that all equipment
was to be carried. I pointed out a drove of ten of these little animals,
which appeared handy and without an owner, and suggested to the men that
they would look well with our brand on.
It took very little time
to round them up, cut a cross in the hair on their backs and place a
brassard round their ears. They were then our property. The other type
of donkey generally indulged in what were known as Furfys or Beachograms.
Furfy originated in Broadmeadows, Victoria; the second title was born in
the Peninsula. The least breath of rumour ran from mouth to mouth in the
most astonishing way. Talk about a Bush Telegraph! It is a tortoise in
its movements compared with a Beachogram. The number of times that Achi
Baba fell cannot be accurately stated but it was twice a day at the
least. A man came in to be dressed on one occasion; suddenly some pretty
smart rifle fire broke out on the right. "Hell!" said the man,
"what's up?" "Oh!" said Captain Dawson,
"There's a war on—didn't you hear about it?"
One thing that was
really good in Anzac was the swimming. At first we used to dive off the
barges; then the Engineers built Watson's pier, at the end of which the
water was fifteen feet deep and as clear as crystal, so that one could
see every pebble at the bottom. At times the water was very cold, but
always invigorating. General Birdwood was an enthusiastic swimmer, but
he always caused me a lot of anxiety. That pier was well covered by
Beachy Bill, and one never knew when he might choose to give it his
This did not deter the
General. He came down most regularly, sauntered out to the end, went
through a lot of Sandow exercises and finally jumped in. He then swam
out to a buoy moored about a quarter of a mile away. On his return he
was most leisurely in drying himself. Had anything happened to him I
don't know what the men would have done, for he was adored by everyone.
Swimming was popular with
all hands. Early in the campaign we had a Turkish attack one morning; it
was over by midday, and an hour later most of the men were in swimming.
I think it not unlikely that some of the "missing" men were
due to this habit. They would come to the beach and leave their clothes
and identity discs ashore, and sometimes they were killed in the water.
In this case there was no possibility of ascertaining their names. It
often struck me that this might account for some whose whereabouts were
While swimming, the
opportunity was taken by a good many to soak their pants and shirts,
inside which there was, very often, more than the owner himself. I saw
one man fish his pants out; after examining the seams, he said to his
pal: "They're not dead
yet." His pal replied "Never mind, you gave them a —— of a
fright." These insects were a great pest, and I would counsel
friends sending parcels to the soldiers to include a tin of insecticide;
it was invaluable when it could be obtained. I got a fright myself one
night. A lot of things were doing the Melbourne Cup inside my blanket.
The horrible thought suggested itself that I had got "them"
too, but a light revealed the presence of fleas. These were very large
able-bodied animals and became our constant companions at nighttime; in
fact, one could only get to sleep after dosing the blanket with
My little dog Paddy
enjoyed the swim almost as much as I did. He was a great favourite with
everybody but the Provost-Martial. This official was a terror for red
tape, and an order came out that dogs were to be destroyed. That meant
that the Military Police were after Paddy. However, I went to General
Birdwood, who was very handsome about it, and gave me permission to keep
the little chap. Almost immediately after he was reprieved he ran down
to the Provost-Martial's dug-out and barked at him.
Paddy was very nearly
human. One day we were down as usual when Beachy Bill got busy, and I
had to leave the pier with only boots and a smile on. I took refuge
behind my old friends the biscuits, and Paddy ran out to each shell,
barking until it exploded. Finally one burst over him and a bullet
perforated his abdomen. His squeals were piteous. He lived until the
next day, but he got a soldier's burial.
We saw a good many
Turkish prisoners at one time or another, and invariably fraternised
with them. They were kept inside a barbed-wire enclosure with a guard
over them; but there was no need to prevent their escape—they would
not leave if they got the chance. On one occasion twelve of them were
told to go some distance into the scrub and bring in some firewood. No
one was sent with them, the idea being to encourage them to go to their
lines and persuade some of the Turks to desert to us.
But they were like the
cat; they all came back—with the firewood. I saw two of our men on one
occasion bringing in a prisoner. They halted on the hill opposite us,
and one of them went to headquarters to ascertain how the prisoner was
to be disposed of. In a very short time he was surrounded by fourteen or
fifteen of our soldiers, trying to carry on a conversation, and giving
him cigarettes and in fact anything he would accept. An hour before they
had been trying their best to shoot one another. In one of the attacks
on our left the Turks were badly beaten off and left a lot of their dead
close up to our trenches. As it was not safe to get over and remove the
bodies, a number of boathooks were obtained, and with them the bodies
were pulled in to our trenches. One of the "bodies" proved to
be a live Turk who had been unable to get back to his line for fear of
being shot by our men. He was blindfolded and sent down to the compound
with the other prisoners.
The difficulty of
obtaining sufficient exercise was very great at times. We only held a
piece of territory under a square mile in extent, and none of it was
free from shell or rifle-fire, so that our perambulations were carried
on under difficulty. Major Meikle and I had our regular walk before
breakfast. At first we went down the beach towards Gaba Tepe, and then
sat for a while talking and trying to see what we could see; but a
sniper apparently used to watch for us, for we were invariably saluted
by the ping of a rifle in
the distance and the dust of the bullet in close proximity to our feet.
We concluded that, if we continued to walk in this direction someone
would be getting hurt, so our walks were altered to the road round
"Pluggey's Plateau." We were seated there one morning when our
howitzer in the gully was fired, and we felt that the shell was not far
from where we sat. We went down to the Battery, and I interrogated some
of the gunners. "How far off the top of that hill does that shell
go?" said I. "About a yard, sir," replied the man;
"one time we hit it." I asked him if it would be convenient
for the battery to elevate a bit if we were sitting there again.
The postal arrangements
on the whole were good, considering the circumstances under which the
mails were handled. It was always a matter of interest for all of us
when we saw mail-bags in the barges, whether or no we were to
participate in the good luck of receiving letters. And here I might make
the suggestion to correspondents in Australia to send as many snap-shot
photos. as possible. They tell more than a letter, for one can see how
the loved ones are looking. Papers were what we needed most, and we got
very few indeed of these.
I wrote home once
that I was fortunate in having a paper to read that had been wrapped
round greasy bacon. This was a positive fact. We were up the gully at
the advance dressing station, and a machine gun was playing right down
the position. Four men were killed and six wounded right in front of us,
so that it was not prudent to leave until night fell. It was then that
reading matter became so necessary. The paper was the Sydney
Morning Herald and contained an advertisement
stating that there was a vacancy for two boarders at Katoomba; I was an
applicant for the vacancy.
was a God-send when it arrived, as was Punch.
Norman Morris occasionally got files of the Newcastle
Morning Herald, which he would hand on to us,
as there were a lot of men from the Newcastle district in the Ambulance.
Later on it was possible to register a small parcel in the Field Post
In order to keep the
health of the troops good it was necessary to be exceedingly careful in
the matter of sanitation. Lieutenant-Colonel Millard was the Sanitary
Officer for our Division, and Lieutenant-Colonel Stokes for the 1st
The garbage at first was
collected in casks, placed in a barge and conveyed out into the bay; it
was found, however, that a lot of it drifted back. It reminded one so
much of Newcastle and Stockton. The same complaints were made by the men
on the right as are put forth by Stockton residents regarding the
Newcastle garbage. We, of course, occupied the position of the Newcastle
Council, and were just as vehement in our denial of what was a most
obvious fact. The situation was exactly the same—only that, instead of
dead horses, there were dead mules. Three incinerators were started,
enclosures built up with stone, and a fire lighted. This was effective,
but gave rise to a very unpleasant smell along the beach. The only time
I was shot was from an incinerator; a cartridge had been included in the
rubbish and exploded just as I was passing. The bullet gave me a nasty
knock on the shin.
It was a fairly common
practice among men just arrived to put a cartridge in their fire just to
hear the noise. Of course down on the beach it was not usual to hear a
rifle fired at close range, and the sound would make everybody look up
to "see where the —— that came from." The discovery of the
culprit would bring out a chorus from the working parties: "Give
him a popgun, give him a popgun!" "Popgun" was preceded
by the usual Australian expletive.
The water found on the
Peninsula was always subjected to careful examination, and, before the
troops were allowed to use it notices were placed on each well stating
whether the water was to be boiled or if only to be used for washing.
Everyone knows of Simpson
and his donkey. This man belonged to one of the other Ambulances, but he
made quite frequent trips backwards and forwards to the trenches, the
donkey always carrying a wounded man. Simpson was frequently warned of
the danger he ran, for he never stopped, no matter how heavy the firing
was. His invariable reply was "My troubles!" The brave chap
was killed in the end. His donkey was afterwards taken over by
Johnstone, one of our men, who improvised stirrups out of the
stretcher-slings, and conveyed many wounded in this manner.
No account of the war
would be complete without some mention of the good work of the
chaplains. They did their work nobly, and gave the greatest assistance
to the bearers in getting the wounded down. I came into contact chiefly
with those belonging to our own Brigade. Colonel Green, Colonel Wray,
and Captain Gillitson; the latter was killed while trying to get one of
our men who had been wounded. Services were held whenever possible, and
sometimes under very peculiar circumstances. Once service was being
conducted in the gully when a platoon was observed coming down the
opposite hill in a position exposed to rifle fire.
The thoughts of the
audience were at once distracted from what the Padre was expounding by
the risk the platoon was running; and members of the congregation
pointed out the folly of such conduct, emphasizing their remarks by all
the adjectives in the Australian vocabulary. Suddenly a shell burst over
the platoon and killed a few men. After the wounded had been cared for,
the Padre regained the attention of his congregation and gave out the
last verse of "Praise God from Whom all blessings flow."
There was one man for
whom I had a great admiration—a clergyman in civil life but a
stretcher-bearer on the Peninsula—Private Greig McGregor. He belonged
to the 1st Field Ambulance, and I frequently saw him. He always had a
stretcher, either carrying a man or going for one, and in his odd
moments he cared for the graves of those who were buried on Hell Spit.
The neatness of many of them was due to his kindly thought. He gained
the D.C.M., and richly deserved it.
All the graves were
looked after by the departed one's chums. Each was adorned with the
Corps' emblems: thus the Artillery used shell caps, the Army Medical
Corps a Red Cross in stone, etc.
The Engineers did
wonderfully good work, and to a layman their ingenuity was most marked.
Piers were made out of all sorts of things; for instance, a boat would
be sunk and used as a buttress, then planks put over it for a wharf.
They built a very fine pier which was afterwards named Watson's. Again,
the "monkey" of a pile driver they erected was formed out of
an unexploded shell from the Goeben.
This warship, a German cruiser taken over by the Turks, was in the Sea
of Marmora, and occasionally the Commander in a fit of German humour
would fire a few shells over Gallipoli neck into the bay—a distance of
about eight or nine miles.
As soon as the Goeben
began firing, one of our aeroplanes would go
up, and shortly afterwards the Queen Elizabeth could
be seen taking up a position on our side of the Peninsula, and loosing
off. Whether she hit the Goeben or
not we never heard. It was Mafeesh.
The Engineers also made
miles upon miles of roads and, furthermore, created the nucleus of a
water storage. A number of large tanks from Egypt were placed high up on
"Pluggey's," whence the water was reticulated into the far
One night in May the
Turks made a fierce attack on us, apparently determined to carry out
their oft-repeated threat of driving us into the sea. The shells just
rained down over our gully, lighting up the dug-outs with each
explosion. It was like Hell let loose. Word came up from the beach
station that they were full of casualties and on getting down there one
found that the situation had not been over-estimated.
The whole beach was
filled with stretchers, the only light being that from bursting shells.
We worked hard all night operating and dressing, and when one had time
to think, one's thoughts generally took the shape of wondering how the
men were keeping the Turks off. It was useless to be sentimental,
although many of my friends were amongst those injured; the work just
had to be done in the best way possible.
One night a strong wind
got up, just like our "Southerly Busters," and in the middle
of it all firing began on our left. I heard that the Turks nearly got
into the trenches, but they were beaten off and rolled right round the
position—passed on, as it were, from battalion to battalion.
It was very interesting
to watch the warships bombarding Turkish positions. One ship, attacking
Achi Baba, used to fire her broadside, and on the skyline six clouds
would appear at regular intervals, for all the world like windmills. On
another occasion I watched two ships bombarding the same hill a whole
afternoon. One would think there was not a square yard left untouched,
and each shot seemed to lift half the hill. Twenty minutes after they
had ceased firing, a battery of guns came out from somewhere and fired
in their turn. They must have been in a tunnel to have escaped that
One day we were up on
"Pluggey's" while our beach was being shelled; at last the
stack of ammunition caught fire and was blazing fiercely until some of
the men got buckets and quenched the fire with sea water most
courageously. Later a shell landed among a lot of dug-outs. There was
quietness for a bit; then one man began scraping at the disturbed earth,
then another; finally about six of them were shovelling earth away; at
last a man appeared with his birthday suit for his only attire. He ran
like a hare for the next gully, amid the yells of laughter of all who
witnessed the occurrence. I think he had been swimming, and being
disturbed by "Beachy," had run for a dug-out only to be buried
by the shell.
That was the
extraordinary thing about our soldiers. Shelling might be severe and
searching, but only if a man was hit was it taken seriously. In that
case a yell went up for stretcher-bearers; if it was a narrow squeak,
then he was only laughed at.
That beach at times was
the most unhealthy place in the Peninsula. Men frequently said they
would sooner go back to the trenches. One day we had five killed and
twenty-five wounded. Yet, had Johnny Turk been aware of it, he could
have made the place quite untenable. I saw one shell get seven men who
were standing in a group. The effect was remarkable. All screwed
themselves up before falling. They were all lightly wounded.
About the middle of
July I sent a corporal and two men over to Heliopolis with a letter to
Lieutenant-Colonel Barrett, asking for some Red Cross goods. I had
already received issue vouchers for two lots, but these had been
intercepted in transit, so the men were ordered to sit on the cases
until they gave delivery to the Ambulance. Fifty cases came, filled with
pyjamas, socks, shirts, soap and all sorts of things. The day they
arrived was very, very hot, and our hospital was full of men whose
uniform had not been off since they landed. No time was lost in getting
into the pyjamas, and the contented look on the men's faces would have
gratified the ladies who worked so hard for the Red Cross. Talk about
peace and contentment—they simply lolled about in the scrub smoking
cigarettes, and I don't believe they would have changed places with a
Those Red Cross goods
saved one man's life at least. All the unopened cases were placed
outside the tent. One afternoon a shell came over into a case of jam,
went through it, and then into another containing socks. A man was lying
under the shelter of this box, but the socks persuaded the shell to stay
with them, and thus his life was saved. It was on this day that my
nephew, Staff-Sergeant Nickson, was wounded. He had just left his
dug-out to go to the dressing station on the beach when a shrapnel shell
severely wounded him in the leg. The same shell killed Staff-Sergeant
Gordon, a solicitor from Adelaide, and one of the finest characters I
knew. He was shot through the spine and killed instantly. Two other men
Our Ambulance was ordered
to pitch a hospital up Canterbury Gully to provide for a possible
outbreak of cholera, as almost every writer on the subject stated that,
when European troops occupied trenches that had been previously held by
Turks, an outbreak of cholera invariably followed. Major Clayton was
detailed for the work, and soon had accommodation for a hundred men. As
there was no cholera, the sick men were kept here. We had been so long
in this place without a change, and so many troops were crowded into
such a small area, without a possibility of real rest, that the men
began to get very stale.
prevalent, and this hospital seemed to help them a great deal. It was a
picture to see them all lying in their pyjamas reading the Bulletin
and swapping lies. The New Zealanders held a concert here one night.
Major Johnston, the O.C., filled the position of chairman, the chair
being a cask. One man with a cornet proved a good performer; several
others sang, while some gave recitations. We all sat round in various
places in the gully, and joined in the choruses. It was very enjoyable
while it lasted; but, as darkness came on, rifle fire began on the tops
of the surrounding hills—also, occasionally, shell fire. This
completely drowned the sound of the performers' voices, and the concert
had to be brought to a close; Abdul had counted us out.
FOR THE ADVANCE
Towards the end of July
great preparations were made for an offensive movement, the object being
to take Hill 971 and so turn the Turk's right. Large platforms were dug
out of the hillsides in Monash Gully, each capable of holding three to
five hundred men; they were constructed well below the sky line, and
were fairly secure from shell fire. On these the incoming battalions
were placed. There was not much room for sleep, but the main object
seemed to be to have as many men handy as possible. The Turks seemed to
be aware of the influx of troops, as they shelled the whole position
almost all night.
The beach, of course, was
attended to most fervently, but considering the numbers of men landing
few casualties occurred. A 4.7 naval gun, which, I understand, had
served in the relief of Ladysmith, was swathed in bags and landed on a
barge, which conveyed it to a position alongside the pier. A party was
put on to make a shield on the pier of boxes of our faithful friends the
"forty-niners," in case there were any Turks of an enquiring
turn of mind along the beach towards Suvla.
The Engineers then
constructed a landing place, and the gun was hauled ashore, again
covered up, and conveyed to its position on our right during the night.
General Birdwood outwitted the Turks that time, as they did not fire a
shot during the whole operation.
On the third of August we
received orders to remove to the left flank, the right being held by the
Australian Division which participated in the operation known afterwards
as Lone Pine. The last day on the beach proved to be pretty hot with
chiefly from Beachy Bill.
A number of pinnaces were busy all day towing in barges from the
transports, and this could be easily seen from the olive grove where
Bill had his lair. At one time the shells came over like rain; two of
the pinnaces were hit below the water-line, and were in imminent danger
of sinking. Through all the shelling Commander Cater ran along the pier
to give some direction regarding the pinnaces, but was killed before he
got there. He was a brave man, and always very courteous and
Our casualties during
this afternoon were pretty considerable, and our stretcher-bearers were
constantly on the "go" getting men under shelter.
Early in the morning the
Ghurkas came ashore, but the Turks spotted them, and gave them a cordial
welcome to Anzac. They are a small-sized set of men, very dark (almost
black), with Mongol type of face and very stolid. One was killed while
landing. They were evidently not accustomed to shell-fire, and at first
were rather scared, but were soon reassured when we told them where to
stand in safety. Each carried in addition to his rifle a Kukri—a
heavy, sharp knife, shaped something like a reaping-hook, though with a
curve not quite so pronounced. It was carried in a leather case, and was
as keen as a razor. I believe the Ghurkas' particular delight is to use
it in lopping off arms at the shoulder-joint. As events turned out we
were to see a good deal of these little chaps, and to appreciate their
The 2nd Field Ambulance
was to take our position on the beach. We packed up our panniers and
prepared to leave the spot where we had done so much work during the
last three months, and where we had been the unwilling recipients of so
much attention from Beachy Bill and his friend Windy Annie. Our donkeys
carried the panniers, and each man took his own wardrobe.
Even in a place like this
one collects rubbish, just as at home, and one had to choose just what
he required to take away; in some cases this was very little, for each
had to be his own beast of burden. Still, with our needs reduced to the
minimum, we looked rather like walking Christmas-trees. The distance to
Rest Gully was about a mile and a half, through saps and over very rough
cobble-stones, and our household goods and chattels became heavy indeed
before we halted; I know mine did.
ON SARI BAIR
Our Ambulance was
attached to the Left Assaulting Column, which consisted of the 29th
Indian Brigade, 4th Australian Infantry Brigade, Mountain Battery and
one company of New Zealand Engineers under Brigadier-General Cox.
The commanding officers
of all the ambulances in General Godley's Division met in the gully and
had the operation orders explained to them by the A.D.M.S. of the
Division, Colonel Manders, a very capable officer. To my great regret he
was killed two days later; we had been acquainted for some time, and I
had a great regard for him.
The 4th Infantry Brigade
was to operate in what was known as the Aghyl Dere (Dere in Turkish
means "gully"). The operation order gave out that we were to
establish our Field Hospital in such a position as to be readily
accessible for the great number of wounded we expected. Meantime, after
making all arrangements for the move and ascertaining that each man knew
his job exactly, we sat about for a while. The bombardment was to
commence at 5 p.m. Precisely at that hour the Bacchante
opened fire, the howitzers and
our field guns co-operating, the Turks making a hearty response. The din
was frightful. To make a man sitting beside me hear what I was saying, I
had to shout at the top of my voice. However, there were not many men
hit. We had tea—for which Walkley had got three eggs from somewhere,
the first I had tasted since leaving Egypt.
We tried to get some
sleep, but that was impossible, the noise being so great; it was hard,
too, to know where one was safe from bullets. Mr. Tute, the
Quartermaster, and I got a dug-out fairly well up the hill, and turned
in. We had not been long there when a machine-gun appeared to be trained
right on to us—bullets were coming in quantities. It was pitch-dark,
so we waited until they stopped, and then got further down the gully and
tried to sleep there—but this particular dug-out had more than
ourselves in it, and we passed the night hunting for things. The
Division started to march out just after dark, the 4th Brigade leading.
It was almost daylight before the rear of the column passed the place at
which we were waiting. The men were all in great spirits, laughing and
chaffing and giving the usual "Are we down'earted?". I think
those men would laugh if they were going to be hanged. Our bearer
divisions, in charge respectively of Captains Welch, Jeffries and Kenny,
followed in rear of the Brigade, while the tent divisions came in rear
of the whole column.
Major Meikle and I had
often, like Moses viewing the Land of Promise, looked at the country
over which the fight was now to take place—a stretch of flats about
three miles long, from the beach up to the foot of the hills. As the day
broke, we found a transformation at Nibronesi Point, which is the
southernmost part of Suvla Bay. At nightfall not a ship was there; now
there was a perfect forest of masts. The place looked like Siberia in
Newcastle when there was a strike on. I counted ten transports, seven
battle-cruisers, fourteen destroyers, twelve trawlers and a lot of
pinnaces. These had landed the force which was afterwards known as the
Suvla Bay Army. A balloon ship and five hospital ships were also at
anchor in the bay. As we passed what was known as our No. 3 Outpost, we
came across evidences of the fight—dead men, dead mules, equipment,
ammunition boxes and rifles lying all over the place. We noted, too,
little hillocks of sand here and there, from behind which
the Turks had fired at
our column. It was evident that our men had soon got in touch with the
enemy and had driven him back. The Aghyl Dere proved to be a fairly wide
gully with steep hills on either side. A little distance, about three
quarters of a mile up, we came to what had been the Turkish Brigade
Headquarters. Here everything was as they had left it. The surprise had
been complete, and we had given them very short notice to quit.
Clothing, rifles, equipment, copper pans and boilers were in abundance,
and it was evident that Abdul makes war with regard to every comfort,
for there were visible also sundry articles of wearing apparel only used
by the gentler sex.
The men had comfortable
bivouacs and plenty of bed-clothing of various patterns. The camp was
situated in a hollow, round in shape and about a hundred yards in
diameter, with dug-outs in the surrounding hillsides; all was very
clean, except for the fleas, of which a good assortment remained. The
dug-outs were roofed in with waterproof sheets, buttoned together and
held up by pegs which fitted into one another. These sheets, with the
poles, made handy bivouac shelters, easily pitched and struck.
Altogether, their camp equipment was better than ours.
We annexed all the pans
and boilers and made good use of them for our own Ambulance. Then,
proceeding further up the gully, we found it almost impassable by reason
of dead Ghurkas and mules; a gun on a ridge had the range of this place
to a nicety, and the ammunition train was held up for a time. I never
saw such a mess of entangled mules; they were kicking and squealing,
many of them were wounded, and through it all the Indian drivers were
endeavouring to restore some kind of order. One had to keep close under
the banks to escape the shells.
Not far from here was the
emplacement of our old friend "Windy Annie," but alas! Annie
was constant to Abdul, and they had taken her with them. It was a great
pity we did not get the gun. No wonder our guns never found the place.
The ground had been dug out to some depth and then roofed over with
great logs and covered with earth and sandbags; the ammunition—plenty
of it—was in deep pits on either side; artillery quarters were in
close proximity, and the tracks of the gun were clearly seen.
The shelling was far too
heavy to let us pitch a dressing station anywhere here, so we retired to
the beach to find a place more sheltered under the hills; the bearers
meanwhile followed the troops. Soon scores of casualties began to
arrive, and we selected a position in a dry creek about six yards wide,
with high banks on either side. The operating tent was used as a
protection from the sun and stretched from bank to bank, the centre
being upheld by rifles lashed together; the panniers were used to form
the operating table, and our drugs were placed round the banks.
We were, however, much
handicapped by not having any transport, as our donkeys had been
requisitioned by the Army Service Corps. Everything had to be carried
from a distance, and water was exceedingly scarce. All day we were
treating cases and operating until late at night. Major Meikle and I
divided the night, and we were kept going. From one until four in the
morning I slept in a hole in a trench like a tomb.
At daylight we could see
our men righting their way through the scrub over Sari Bair, the
warships firing just ahead of them to clear the scrub of the Turkish
Infantry. The foremost men carried flags, which denoted the farthest
point reached and the extent of the two flanks, as a direction to the
ship. With the glasses one could see that the bayonet was being used
pretty freely; the Turks were making a great stand, and we were losing a
lot of men. They could be seen falling everywhere.
Our bearers were doing
splendid work; it was a long and dangerous carry, and a lot of them were
wounded themselves. The miserable part of the affair was that the
Casualty Clearing Station on the beach broke down and could not evacuate
our wounded. This caused a block, and we had numbers of wounded on our
hands. A block of a few hours can be dealt with, but when it is
impossible to get cases away for forty hours the condition of the men is
very miserable. However, we got the cooks going, and had plenty of
Bovril and Oxo, which we boiled up with biscuits broken small. It made a
very sustaining meal, but caused thirst, which was troublesome, as it
was particularly difficult to obtain water.
Shelter from the sun,
too, was hard to get; the day was exceedingly hot, and there were only a
few trees about. As many as could be got into the shade were put there,
but we had to keep moving them round to avoid the sun. Many of the cases
were desperate, but they uttered not a word of complaint—they all
seemed to understand that it was not our fault that they were kept here.
As the cases were treated
by us, they were taken down towards the beach and kept under cover as
much as possible. At one time we had nearly four hundred waiting for
removal to the ship. Then came a message asking for more stretchers to
be sent to the firing line, and none were to be obtained; so we just had
to remove the wounded from those we had, lay them on the ground, and
send the stretchers up. Thank goodness, we had plenty of morphia, and
the hypodermic syringe relieved many who would otherwise have suffered
Going through the cases,
I found one man who had his arm shattered and a large wound in his
chest. Amputation at the shoulder-joint was the only way of saving his
life. Major Clayton gave the anaesthetic, and we got him through.
Quite a number of Ghurkas
and Sikhs were amongst the wounded, and they all seemed to think that it
was part of the game; patience loomed large among their virtues. Turkish
wounded were also on our hands, and, though they could not speak our
language, still they expressed gratitude with their eyes. One of the
Turks was interrogated, first by the Turkish interpreter with no result;
the Frenchman then had a go at him, and still nothing could be got out
of him. After these two had finished, Captain Jefferies went over to the
man and said, "Would you like a drink of water?" "Yes,
please," was the reply.
During one afternoon,
after we had been in this place for three days, a battalion crossed the
ground between us and the beach. This brought the Turkish guns into
action immediately, and we got the time of our lives. We had reached a
stage when we regarded ourselves as fair judges of decent shell-fire,
and could give an unbiassed opinion on the point, but—to paraphrase
Kipling—what we knew before was "Pop" to what we now had to
swallow. The shells simply rained on us, shrapnel all the time; of
course our tent was no protection as it consisted simply of canvas, and
the only thing to do was to keep under the banks as much as possible. We
were jammed full of wounded in no time. Men rushing into the gully one
after another, and even a company of infantry tried to take shelter
there; but that, of course, could not be allowed. We had our Geneva
Cross flag up, and their coming there only drew fire.
In three-quarters of an
hour we put through fifty-four cases. Many bearers were hit, and McGowen
and Threlfall of the 1st Light Horse Field Ambulance were killed. Seven
of our tent division were wounded. One man reported to me that he had
been sent as a reinforcement, had been through Samoa, and had just
arrived in Gallipoli. While he was speaking, he sank quietly down
without a sound. A bullet had come over my shoulder into his heart. That
was another instance of the fortune of war. Many men were hit, either
before they landed or soon after, while others could go months with
never a scratch. From 2 till 7 p.m. we dealt with 142 cases.
This shelling lasted for
an hour or more, and when it subsided a party of men arrived with a
message from Divisional Headquarters. They had been instructed to remove
as many of the Ambulance as were alive. Headquarters, it appears, had
been watching the firing. We lost very little time in leaving, and for
the night we dossed down in the scrub a mile further along the beach,
where we were only exposed to the fire of spent bullets coming over the
hills. Our fervent prayer was that we had said good-bye to shells.
The new position was very
nice; it had been a farm—in fact the plough was still there, made of
wood, no iron being used in its construction. Blackberries, olives, and
wild thyme grew on the place, and also a kind of small melon. We did not
eat any; we thought we were running enough risks already; but the cooks
used the thyme to flavour the bovril, and it was a nice addition.
Not far from us something
happened that was for all the world like an incident described by Zola
in his "Dèbacle," when during the bombardment before Sedan a
man went on ploughing in a valley with a white horse, while an artillery
duel continued over his head. Precisely the same thing occurred here—the
only difference being that here a man persisted in looking after his
cattle, while the guns were firing over his head.
Walkley and Betts proved
ingenious craftsmen. They secured two wheels left by the Signalling
Corps, and on these fastened a stretcher; out of a lot of the web
equipment lying about they made a set of harness; two donkeys eventuated
from somewhere, and with this conveyance quite a lot of transport was
done. Water and rations were carried as well, and the saving to our men
was great. Goodness knows the bearers were already sufficiently worked
did some splendid firing, right into the
trenches every time. With one shot, amongst the dust and earth, a Turk
went up about thirty feet: arms and legs extended, his body revolving
like a catherine wheel. One saw plenty of limbs go up at different
times, but this was the only time when I saw a man go aloft in
It was while we were in
this position that W.O. Henderson was hit; the bullet came through the
tent, through another man's arm and into Mr. Henderson. He was a serious
loss to the Ambulance, as since its inception he had had sole charge of
everything connected with the supply of drugs and dressings, and I
missed his services very much.
We were now being kept
very busy and had little time for rest, numbers of cases being brought
down. Our table was made of four biscuit boxes, on which were placed the
stretchers. We had to be very sparing of water, as all had to be
carried. The donkey conveyance was kept constantly employed. Whenever
that party left we used to wonder whether they would return, for one
part of the road was quite exposed to fire; but Betts and Walkley both
One night I had just
turned in at nine-thirty, when Captain Welch came up to say that a bad
casualty had come in, and so many came in afterwards that it was three
o'clock in the following morning before I had finished operating. While
in the middle of the work I looked up and found G. Anschau holding the
lantern. He belonged to the 1st Field Ambulance, but had come over to
our side to give any assistance he could. He worked like a Trojan.
We still had our swim off
the beach from this position. It will be a wonderful place for tourists
after the war is over. For Australians particularly it will have an
unbounded interest. The trenches where the men fought will be visible
for a long time, and there will be trophies to be picked up for years to
come. All along the flat land by the beach there are sufficient bullets
to start a lead factory. Then searching among the gullies will give good
results. We came across the Turkish Quartermaster's
store, any quantity
of coats and boots and bully beef. The latter was much more palatable
Our men had a novel way
of fishing; they threw a bomb into the water, and the dead fish would
either float and be caught or go to the bottom—in which case the water
was so clear that they were easily seen. Wilson brought me two,
something like a mackerel, that were delicious.
As there was still a good
deal of delay in getting the cases off, our tent was brought over from
Canterbury Gully and pitched on the beach; the cooks keeping the bovril
and biscuits going. We could not maintain it there long, however, as the
Turks' rifle-fire was too heavy, so the evacuation was all done from
Walker's Ridge about two miles away. The Casualty Clearing Station here
(the 16th) was a totally different proposition from the other one.
Colonel Corkery was commanding officer, and knew his job. His command
was exceedingly well administered, and there was no further occasion to
fear any block in getting our wounded off.
Amongst the men who came
in to be dressed was one wounded in the leg. The injury was a pretty bad
one, though the bone was not fractured. The leg being uncovered, the man
sat up to look at it. He exclaimed "Eggs a cook! I thought it was
only a scratch!"
Our bearers did great
work here, Sergeant Baber being in charge and the guiding spirit amongst
them. Carberry from Western Australia proved his worth in another
manner. The 4th Brigade were some distance up the gully and greatly in
want of water. Carberry seems to have the knack of divining, for he
selected a spot where water was obtained after sinking. General Monash
drew my attention to this, and Carberry was recommended for the D.C.M.
Early in August, soon
after Colonel Manders was killed, I was promoted to his position as
Assistant Director of Medical Services, or, as it is usually written,
A.D.M.S. On this I relinquished command of the 4th Field Ambulance, and
though I appreciated the honour of the promotion yet I was sorry to
leave the Ambulance. We had been together so long, and through so much,
and every member of it was of such sterling worth, that when the order
came for me to join Headquarters I must say that my joy was mingled with
regret. Everyone—officers, non-commissioned officers and men—had all
striven to do their level best, and had succeeded. With one or two
exceptions it was our first experience on active service, but all went
through their work like veterans.
General Godley, in
whose division we were, told me how pleased he was with the work of the
Ambulance and how proud he was to have them in his command. The Honour
list was quite sufficient to satisfy any man. We got one D.S.O., two
D.C.M.s, and sixteen "Mentioned in Despatches." Many more
deserved recognition, but then all can't get it. Major Meikle took
charge, and I am sure the same good work will be done under his command.
Captain Dawson came over with
me as D.A.D.M.S. He had been Adjutant from the start until the landing,
when he "handed over" to Captain Finn, D.S.O., who was the
dentist. Major Clayton had charge of C Section; Captains Welch, Jeffries
and Kenny were the officers in charge of the Bearer Divisions.
Jeffries and Kenny were
both wounded. Captain B. Finn, of Perth, Western Australia, was a
specialist in eye and ear diseases. Mr. Cosgrove was the Quartermaster,
and Mr. Baber the Warrant Officer; Sergeant Baxter was the Sergeant
Clerk. To mention any of the men individually would be invidious. They
were as fine a set of men as one would desire to command. In fact, the
whole Ambulance was a very happy family, all doing their bit and doing
On the 21st of August an
attack was made on what were know as the W Hills—so named from their
resemblance to that letter of the alphabet. Seated on a hill one had a
splendid view of the battle. First the Australians went forward over
some open ground at a slow double with bayonets fixed, not firing a
shot; the Turks gave them shrapnel and rifle-fire, but very few fell.
They got right up to the
first Turkish trench, when all the occupants turned out and retired with
more speed than elegance. Still our men went on, taking a few prisoners
and getting close to the hills, over which they disappeared from my
view. Next, a battalion from Suvla came across as supports. The Turks
meanwhile had got the range to a nicety; the shrapnel was bursting
neatly and low and spreading beautifully—it was the best Turkish
shooting I had seen.
The battalion was rather
badly cut up, but a second body came across in more open order than the
others, and well under the control of their officers; they took
advantage of cover, and did not lose so many men. The fight was more
like those one sees in the illustrated papers than any hitherto—shells
bursting, men falling, and bearers going out for the wounded. The
position was gained and held, but there was plenty of work for the
There were very few
horses on the Peninsula, and those few belonged to the Artillery. But at
the time I speak of we had one attached to the New Zealand and
Australian Headquarters, to be used by the despatch rider. Anzac, the
Headquarters of General Birdwood, was about two and a half miles away;
and, being a true Australian, the despatch-carrier declined to walk when
he could ride, so he rode every day with despatches. Part of the journey
had to be made across a position open to fire from Walker's Ridge. We
used to watch for the man every day, and make bets whether he would be
hit. Directly he entered the fire zone, he started as if he were riding
in the Melbourne Cup, sitting low in the saddle, while the bullets
kicked up dust all round him.
One day the horse
returned alone, and everyone thought the man had been hit at last; but
in about an hour's time he walked in. The saddle had slipped, and he
came off and rolled into a sap, whence he made his way to us on foot.
When going through the
trenches it is not a disadvantage to be small of stature. It is not good
form to put one's head over the sandbags; the Turks invariably objected,
and even entered their protest against periscopes, which are very small
in size. Numbers of observers were cut about the face and a few lost
their eyes through the mirror at the top being smashed by a bullet. On
one occasion I was in a trench which the men were making deeper. A rise
in the bottom of it just enabled me, by standing on it, to peer through
the loophole. On commending the man for leaving this lump, he replied,
"That's a dead Turk, sir!"
Watching the Field
Artillery firing is very interesting. I went one day with General
Johnstone of the New Zealand Artillery to Major Standish's Battery, some
distance out on the left, and the observing station was reached through
a long sap. It was quite close to the Turk's trenches, close enough to
see the men's faces. All directions were given by telephone, and an
observer placed on another hill gave the result of the shot—whether
under, over, or to the right or left. Errors were corrected and the
order to fire again given, the target meanwhile being quite out of sight
of the battery commander.
It was amusing to hear
the heated arguments between the Artillery and Infantry, in which the
latter frequently and vehemently asseverated that they "could have
taken the sanguinary place only our own Artillery fired on them."
They invariably supported these arguments by the production of pieces of
shell which had "blanky near put their Australian adjective lights
out." Of course the denials of the Artillery under these
accusations were very emphatic; but the production of the shell
fragments was awkward evidence, and it was hard to prove an alibi.
The advent of the
hospital ship Maheno resulted
in a pleasant addition to our dietary, as the officers sent ashore some
butter, fresh bread and a case of apples. The butter was the first I had
tasted for four and a half months. The Maheno belonged
to the Union Company, and had been fitted up as a hospital ship under
the command of Colonel Collins. He was the essence of hospitality, and a
meal on board there was a dream.
While we were away along
the beach for a swim one afternoon, the Turks began shelling our
quarters. It had not happened previously, and everyone thought we were
out of range. The firing lasted for about an hour and a half. I fully
expected that the whole place would be smashed. On the contrary, beyond
a few mules and three men hit, nothing had happened, and there was
little in the ground to show the effects of the firing. (I noticed the
same with regard to the firing of the naval guns. They appeared to lift
tons of earth, but when one traversed the position later very little
alteration could be detected.) The Turks, however started at night
again, and one shot almost buried me in my dug-out.
The number of
transports that came in and out of Anzac while we were there was
marvellous, and a great tribute to the British Navy. There is no
question as to who is Mistress of the Sea. Occasionally we heard of one
being torpedoed, but considering the number constantly going to and fro
those lost were hardly noticeable. The Southland
was torpedoed while we were in Gallipoli, and
Major Millard (who was on board) told me that there was not the
slightest confusion, and only one life was lost.
One cannot conclude these
reminiscences without paying a tribute to Abdul as a fighting man. All I
know about him is in his favour. We have heard all about his atrocities
and his perfidy and unspeakablenesses, but the men we met fought fairly
and squarely; and as for atrocities it is always well to hear the other
side of the question. At the beginning of the campaign it was commonly
reported that the Turks mutilated our wounded. Now I believe that to be
an unmitigated lie, probably given a start by men who had never set foot
in the Peninsula—or who, if they did, had taken an early opportunity
We were in a position to
know whether any mutilation had occurred, and I certainly saw none. I
believe that similar reports were existent among the Turks regarding us,
and I formed that opinion from the attitude and behaviour of one of the
prisoners when I went to dress his wound. He uttered most piteous cries
and his conduct led me to believe that he thought he was to be
illtreated. I have mentioned before the class to which most of the
prisoners were. They were always most grateful for any kindness shown
As to their sense
of fair play, when the Triumph was
sunk, they never fired on her—though I understand it would have been
quite allowable directly the men set foot on another warship. Again,
about a fortnight after the landing at Anzac, we tried to land a force
at Gaba Tepe, but had to retire and leave our wounded. The Turks
signalled us to bring them off, and then they never fired or abused the
white flag. The third instance occurred on our left, when we made the
advance in August. Our Ambulance was under a hill, and a howitzer
battery took up a position just in front. The Turk sent
word that either the Ambulance or the battery
would have to move, otherwise they would be forced to fire on the
The shells we got on the
beach could not be attributed to any disregard of the Red Cross, for
they could not see the flag, and moreover the Ordnance was next to us, a
thing utterly out of order, but unavoidable under the circumstances.
My career on the
Peninsula came to a close at the end of September, when I fell ill and
was put on the hospital ship. The same evening a very willing attack was
put up by the Turk. One had a good and most interesting view, as one was
in perfect safety.
The bursting shells in
the darkness were very picturesque. Prior to going off we had often
discussed the pleasure of getting between sheets and into a decent bed—how
one would curl up and enjoy it. But my first night under those
conditions was spent in tossing about, without a wink of sleep. It was
Being accustomed to be
lulled to sleep by the noise of six-inch guns from a destroyer going
over my dug-out, I could now hear a pin drop, and it was far too quiet.
We found we were to be sent to England. Malta was no place in which to
get rid of Mediterranean fever. The treatment the people of England give
the Australians is handsome in the extreme. They cannot do enough to
make them comfortable. Country houses are thrown open to the invalided
men, perfect strangers though they are, and all are welcome.
Together with Major
Courtenay (with whom I came over) I was taken to Lockleys, in
Hertfordshire. Sir Evelyn and Lady de La Rue had a standing invitation
at Horseferry Road, the Australian Military Headquarters, for six
officers. We happened to be among the lucky ones to be included, and the
kindness I received from our host and hostess will be remembered during
the remainder of my life.