Wednesday, August 4th, 1915. Port Said.
When I go on deck I am told the whole Division has assembled in the Harbour. Seven Troopships visible together with two Russian Cruisers, one English and one French. Shore leave granted from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. I go ashore. Port Said a decent little place full of British Officers. Returned to ship at 1 p.m. Watched some Arab conjurors on board after lunch. Very smart but with an inclination to swindle. Left Port Said at 6 p.m. We were second ship out of the canal and had a great send off from those on board a French Battleship at the mouth of the canal. All the men assembled on the deck of the Battleship, while the ship's band played "Tipperary". In fact "Tipperary" seems to be the National Anthem just now. It is played everywhere. Even the Arab street bards make a specialty of it. Our send off from Port Said was the heartiest we had since leaving England. We soon passed the leading ship and struck due North West. Twelve months today we mobilised.
Thursday, August 5th 1915. At sea.
When daylight broke on us we were out of sight of all our sister ships. Early in the afternoon we slowed down apparently to wait for them, and as day waned one of them came into view behind us and to starboard. Lights out early and bed in the dark. A report of the ship's crew breaking in on the rum stores is current throughout the ship, and numerous guards are mounted for the night. I am awakened very early by Cory shouting that a scorpion was by his side and munching one of his biscuits. By the light of a match we located the Animal, but it got clean away and I am afraid poor Cory's sleep was very disturbed for the night.
Friday, August 6th 1915. At Sea.
A lovely morning finds us cruising between the Isles of Greece. Byron's words return to one instinctively.
"The Isles of Greece, the Isles of Greece,
where burning Sapho loved and sung."
A view of the Islands does not impress one towards loving or singing. Where we see them they are bare, barren and uninhabited.
Saturday, August 7th 1915. Lemnos.
At 5 a.m. the ship's hooter gives a prolonged groan. All on board rush to the port holes to find that we are approaching the Island of Lemnos. The sky to the East is a brilliant purple, and the sea a gentle calm. Submarines, destroyers and battleships pass us to and fro. Gradually we near the entrance to the Harbour when an immensity of shipping displays itself to the view. We pass the boom and slowly enter the Harbour. Our surprise is great. It is one of the finest natural Harbours in the world and full of all sorts of sea craft. The "Wiltshire" direct from Alexandria has arrived before us. We drop anchor near her. To our left is rather a large village, probably Mudros, behind which two rocky promontories rise majestically upwards. To our right is another village around which are many encampments. Some sheep graze on the land level near the sea, and a few farm houses dot the country around. As the eye wanders inland the land seems more barren, and little or no vegetation is apparent. The climate seems very equable, and a beautiful fresh breeze enervates our somewhat sluggish constitutions. We stay at anchor in harbour all day.
Sunday, Aug 8th 1915. Lemnos.
Aroused early (4.30 a.m.) by the tramp of feet around the deck. The men, by an early summons, are getting ready to disembark. Breakfast 6.45 and at 8.30 we weigh anchor and proceed out of harbour. Just at the outlet approaching on the high seas a Destroyer signals us to get back to Harbour, that submarines lay on our track. We return to Harbour and await a Destroyer escort, which arrives at 11 a.m. We then proceed on our way, each ship accompanied by a small destroyer. The lion and its cub, though the cub carried the elements of defence.
"And there lay before us the Island of Lemnos, barren, bare, and uninviting, the red dawn tinselling its jagged rocks with peaks of gold. Yet, what a volume of history could this Island unfold? What tales of blood and slaughter could these old rocks give up of the ancient days of Grecian glory and decay?"
At 2.20 p.m. the first sound of big gun firing becomes audible, and away to our right lay the warship and the peninsular, where the guns of these same warships pour forth death and destruction every minute of the day and night. The entrance to the Dardanelles is visible from our ship, and a Hospital ship stands some distance outside it at sea. The lighthouse is still intact, and the peninsula itself looks as calm as the moors of Devonport. Yet within that area now plainly visible to us, is being waged the most deadly battle in the history of the world. Achi Baba, the main bone of contention at present, is covered by a dark cloud, surely a precursor of its destiny, though God grant it a sunny morn when the British army takes possession of it. The cliffs of the peninsular on our side seem a great height and one wonders how ever human beings scaled them in face of such a deadly storm of shot and shell poured forth on them from the guns of the Turks. Here and there out at sea are the British warships, from each one of which is a flash visible every second as it discharges its deadly shells amongst the Turkish trenches.
From this scene our ship turns round to the left and enters a cosy harbour in the Island of Imbros. Slowly she steams past the boom that guards the harbour, and drops anchor by the side of a sister ship within the safety of the guns of the Fleet. As we lie at anchor the noise of the ship's engines does not disturb the hearing faculties and the continuous boom of the big guns is ever audible. One wonders what death each boom bursts forth! What wife is left to mourn a breadwinner, what sweetheart to mourn a lover and how many little children become fatherless withal? But it is war and such thoughts must not disturb the placid tenor of our way, and with somewhat unnatural equanimity we talk, we laugh, we play at cards within sound and sight of this great and horrible carnage.
It is Sunday afternoon. The heavens are wonderfully clear. The sun shines out in all its brilliance. The waters of our little harbour are calm and with somewhat of a loving touch each small wave kisses the sides of the many ships floating on its surface. All around us seems bright and gay. Men bellow to each other from their ships. "What lot are you?" and the answer is given back. "Sussex", "Welsh", etc., as each man shouts the name of his regt.
And all this safe in harbour, when out at sea, steering directly towards us is a large ship painted white, flying the emblem of mercy, the Red Cross of Geneva. Slowly she bears her freight of human maimed and crippled to the rest of the hospitals on the shores of the inlet. I wonder what is happening in many similar harbours in England this same Sunday afternoon. I daresay they make merry. And why should they not? The people of England are ever apt disciples of Omar Khayaam. And why should we not do likewise?
"Ah, make the most of what you've yet to spend
Before you too into the dust descend.
Dust to dust and under dust to lie,
Sans wine, sans song, sans singer and sans end."
There is no comfortable tea at 4 p.m. and soon after our ship weighs anchor and heads for the sea. A message has been sent to us to sail for the Bay of Suvla directly opposite on the mainland of the peninsular. There is much speculation on board as to whether we are making a new landing. Everyone seems to think that we shall soon be under shellfire and there is general excitement as we near the warships flashing forth their deadly shells. Nearer and nearer we get to the mainland and still no shellfire worries us. At 6 p.m. we have dinner and nearing 7 p.m. we drop inside another boom and drop our anchor within a few 100 yards of land. All around us are a number of warships, each one of them flashing fire at regular intervals. One of them is heavily bombarding a crest of hill about 3 miles inland, where, we learn later, a Turkish column was advancing and was annihilated. Steadily the evening closes on us and away to the West is the purple glow of the setting sun, slowly depriving us of the magic rays of its brilliance as it descends to open day to the peoples of other nations whose natural inclinations lead them not to war and its horrors. After dark a number of us congregate in the Smoke room and quaff a parting glass together, the last for some time, perhaps the last for some of us. Still no-one is perturbed and the Smoke room of the "Huntsgreen" situate within range of the enemy's guns is no more animated than the Smoke rooms of the Savoy or the Ritz away in faraway London. At 10.30 p.m. the Infantry and Royal Engineers are ordered ashore and we are to remain on board. I retire to get what rest is possible in the midst of such a noisy din.
Monday, August 9th 1915. Bay of Suvla.
At 4.30 a.m. I am awakened by very heavy firing. I go on deck as the grey streaks of dawn penetrate the gloom of the Eastern horizon. Half a dozen warships belch forth with unabated fury. All round the crests of the distant hills shells fall in quick succession and columns of smoke slowly rise from their craters, transient mementoes to the destruction they have wrought. The heavens are everywhere illuminated by bursting shrapnel. The noise is intense, the situation awe-inspiring, and one well worth years of life to witness. The firing continues heavily for about two hours and then dies away for a short interval, when the crackling of rapid rifle fire becomes distinct. Surprising that in the prospect in view thousands of men are engaged against each other. Yet not a movement is visible on the hillsides through the most powerful glasses.
The men of our Division (53rd) are landed on the right of the entrance to the harbour. The sparkling of their little field fires are plainly seen as they prepare an early breakfast. At 9 a.m. about half of them move forward, firstly in column of route and then they open out in extended order as they cover the slope of some rising ground. Their movements are perfect and steady and a halt is called before reaching the summit of the rise, where they remain.
A monitor comes slowly into harbour and finds anchor near to our ship. Suddenly she opens fire and the roar of her guns fairly deafens us. She blazes away at a mark on the hillside beyond a village and each shot finds its billet with the greatest accuracy. Something like an enemy gun flashed from a point away on the crest of the hillside. A light Cruiser at anchor a few hundred yards from our ship fires two shots in quick succession and all is still at that point on the hillside.
Towards six o'c p.m. firing gradually ceases. Two Cruisers engaged a little further away from us come home to roost at 7.30 and drop anchor inside the safety of the boom. At dusk the men of our Division deploy from the position they took up earlier and they are gradually lost in the scrub of the hillside. After dark things are for the most part quiet. We all retire at 9. p.m. Just before retiring a number of dead mules are towed across the bay by a steam pinnace. The day's toll in mules to be buried in some place of safety.
Tuesday, Aug 10th 1915. Bay of Suvla.
After a good night's rest I awaken at 5.45 a.m. No firing. A thick haze covers the hillsides, making accurate shooting difficult. At 6 a.m. the first gun fires and gradually numbers of them follow. The men who had positions occupied on the left of the bay on the previous day have disappeared from view, thus showing that an advance was made through the night. Heavy firing continues unceasingly until 12.30. The sides of the hills above the Harbour are littered with high explosive shells. The crackle of rifle fire is still distinct in the flat ground at the base of the Hills. The monitor discharges a few volleys from her 15.2 cm guns, but their objective is not within sight. Probably they are for the forts of the narrows on the other side of the range of hills. Great numbers of mules are put ashore from Transports. These hardy animals are well suited to the rocky ground of the Peninsula.
At 1.30 p.m. a number of transports come into the bay bringing the men of the 54th or East Anglian Division. At about the same time the bombardment is resumed and broadside after broadside is poured forth from the warships.
At 7 p.m. a Taube² hoves in sight high up in the heavens. Slowly it soars over our position taking in all available information. Just as it passes over our position, a warship lets go two shrapnel shells, but they go very wide of the mark. It soars along at still a higher altitude skirting the coast the while. Suddenly from the direction of Imbros, one British aeroplane appears in sight flying at a great height and going at a great pace. She steers straight for the Taube and manoeuvres for the higher position. It rapidly gains ground and a real chase commences. They fly on until nearly lost to sight, when a flash of fire appears between the two. We, on the ship, think the duel has commenced, but to our surprise the British plane swiftly swerves and makes for home. The flash of fire was the explosion of a shrapnel shell from a Turkish gun, which came in dangerous proximity to the British airman. The excitement on board was intense while the chase lasted and great was the disappointment it ended thus.
As is usual in Eastern climates darkness came on quickly. The sight after dark is wonderful though awry. Many little fires tinkle far away on the hillsides. Away on the plateau a great blaze of fire from burning scrub and grass lifts its tongues of flame towards the heavens, shedding a lurid light on the many warships at anchor in the Bay. The glare of the enemy's searchlight brightens the horizon as it momentarily reposes here and there trying to spy on where our soldiers rest. The lights of all the ships in the bay are ordered to be put out at 8.30 p.m., and a game of auction bridge we had just started had to be abandoned.
Wednesday, August 11th 1915. Bay of Suvla.
Soon after dawn another Taube pays us a visit and this time drops two bombs on our position, but they dropped harmlessly in the water. A monitor blazes at her but is again wide of the mark. Still on board the "Huntsgreen" and nothing to do. Idleness in these parts is very wearying. The warships have been very quiet all day and only a few shells fired.
On the left of the entrance to the Bay, a couple of hundred yards inland, are two marquee tents. They fly the Red Cross and are probably used as dressing stations. Every now and again some wounded are brought in on stretchers. Away on the most inner corner of the Bay a number of similar marquees are placed. From the latter the Red Cross wagons can be seen plying to and fro the firing line. From each of these stations strings of boats towed by steam launches carry the wounded to the Hospital ships at sea.
In the afternoon things brightened up somewhat. Two large shells dropped in the Bay close by us, rising immense columns of water. The Captain of the ship thought they came from Chomak forts as they were shells of large calibre. Three more shells dropped on the land to our left quite close to the dressing station and nine shrapnel shells exploded over our men in the flat ground in front of us. That completed the evening hymn of hate and judging by the small number the Turks are rather hard up for heavy ammunition.
A Staff Colonel from a Steam Pinnace tells us we will be put ashore tomorrow.
After dark the hillsides bristle with little fires, a sure sign that no danger is expected from the enemy. The same searchlight plays on the hill crests and every now and then large star shells explode in the air. Heavy firing is heard from the direction of Achi Baba. At 9.30 we retire.
Thursday, August 12th 15. Beach, Bay of Suvla.
Early this morning we are told we are to be put ashore. After breakfast a lighter is brought alongside the "Huntsgreen" and the men start loading. At 11.30 it is full and I am ordered to go ashore with the first landing party.
I get my little party ashore and am looking around for a convenient place to place my stuff when a shell falls within a few yards of me. Luckily it did not explode or this diary should have finished with yesterday's entry. The shelling continues rather hotly for half an hour, and a monitor close by in harbour is hit. She soon shifts her position and continues firing from another position. Soon afterwards the Swiftsure is hit and she and the others change from broadside to stern on.
Shellfire has rather a demoralizing effect when one comes under it. Most of my boys ducked their heads when they heard the whistle come through the air, but very soon all signs of fear worked off and they continued working as if nothing were the matter.
Soon, the guns of the warships opened fire, and a terrific cannonade ensued. The noise of the explosions is simply deafening and the shrill whistle of the shells as they rent the air overhead is ear piercing in the extreme.
The beach where we are landed is very congested. The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Welsh Field Ambulances are in close proximity. The day is quiet as far as casualties are concerned. I hear that Col. Phillips of the 3rd R.W.F. has been killed. A great pity. He was a soldier of the first order and a gentleman. Now I hear that a desperate battle was fought on Tuesday when a lot of ground was gained but some of it had to be given up again.
Towards the evening I met two parsons, (one R.C. and one C. of E,) who were wandering aimlessly around the beach. They informed me that they were ashore since Sunday morning and had no kit or food. What food they got since then they had to borrow from other units. I brought them to my shelter and made them some tea and bread and jam. They ate with a relish but a shrapnel shell burst overhead while they were at it and my two parsons bolted. That shrapnel shell was too near to be comfortable. It kicked up the dust at the very door to my shelter. Numbers of men were hit but no one was killed. There followed about six of the kind but the first and the second were the nearest to me. The parsons told me that the beach gets a morning and evening hymn of hate every day. I lie on my sand bed to get what sleep I can at 9.30.
En passant, how soon one gets used to hard living. I never enjoyed a meal so much as my bread and jam and black tea on this Thursday evening. Hunger is the best sauce, and the excitement of shell fire whets the appetite to an extreme pitch of hunger.
Soon after 10 oc p.m. a furious musketry fire starts on the hillsides. Our shore battery lets off shrapnel shells at a great rate. The firing lasts about half an hour and ceases, but an occasional crackle of rifle fire is heard throughout the night. Soon one distinguished the class of shell fired by the noise of the firing explosion. The shrapnel shell has a soft boom easily distinguishable from the hard sharp bursts of the high explosive.
Cory has turned poet, and has given me the following as an example of his verse -
What if the best of our wages be
An empty sleeve, a stiff set knee,
A crutch for the rest of life? Who cares
As long as the one flag floats and dares?
Friday, August 13th 1915. Beach, Bay of Suvla.
The Parsons were right. Just as I was enjoying my early morning cup of black tea the shelling commenced. Shells of all descriptions burst all round us. Large "Jack Johnsons" throwing up columns of dust dug large holes here and there throughout the beach. Some of them went far out in the bay and dropped near the "Huntsgreen". She soon weighed anchor and dropped it again when she got to safe quarters. Shrapnel shells burst all round us and rattled on the sides of my shelter.
I thought these damn Turks respected the Red Cross, yet it seemed to act as a target for them this morning. After all they are no better than the Germans. This beach position easily raises a thirst and I have to betake myself to my mess tin and black tea several times during the day. A goodly number of wounded pass to and fro.
About 2.30 p.m. the remainder of the station come ashore. They bring large quantities of stores and I am very glad of the condensed milk in my tea. What I used to despise at home is absolute luxury. With my few men I am able to make a comfortable dugout during the day, and it proves a great haven of rest, when about 3.30 a few shrapnel shells explode in our midst. Two men were killed and several wounded around us by these shrapnel shells.
Sunday, August 15th 1915. Beach, Bay of Suvla.
Only for the faithful way I have chronicled the days and dates I should never have known today was Sunday. It certainly has none of the appearances of Sunday in these parts. Had to get out of bed at 2 a.m. this morning to relieve Biggs who was on night duty. I spent most of the time chatting with Gen. Cowan who related many interesting tales. The rattle of musketry fire was rather regular during the night. A lovely day near the sea, but it’s not appreciated here. Shelled again this morning. The news this morning is rather good. The village on top of Chocolate Hill has been taken.
We had quite a number of wounded today, due no doubt, to last night's skirmish. So far we are only evacuating them. No news of any other part of the world. A furious battle developing as I write this. The ships in the bay are blazing away. The rattle of musketry fire is continuous and the distinctive splutter of the machine gun is audible every now and then. The hill on the left of the bay is being peppered with shells. It is very hard to say how the fight is going from our position as no movements are visible even through glasses. Frankie Williams is wounded. I wrote the Mater.
Monday August 16th 15. Beach Bay of Suvla.
There are a lot of wounded after the battle of last evening. No ground was gained as far as can be ascertained. A number of guns have been put ashore and they are peppering away at the enemy. It is quite pathetic to witness the agony of the wounded. One wonders what fate awaits those who brought all this misery on the world. Day wears on and the battlefield sends in its toll of maimed and wounded. Two die soon after admission. One, Sidebottom, was shot clean through the head.
I must say, one becomes accustomed to war as to other things. Today we go on with our work as heedlessly as if we were in peaceful England, though shells drop all round us in all directions. Our food so far is not too bad. Last evening we had pea soup and greatly enjoyed it. As yet we have a supply of bread brought from the ship, but it is growing mouldy and will be unfit for food in another day, when we must content ourselves with "dog" biscuits.
The field batteries are blazing away today at a great rate. I daresay they are preparing for a big battle. A chap of the York and Lancasters was admitted to Hospital today. He was shot clean through the ankle on Thursday last and continued fighting ever since without ever bringing it to the notice of the M.O. He was noticed today only because it was suppurating but he asked us here not to send him further as he wanted to go back to the firing line as soon as possible. That's the spirit we want!
I met the M.O. of the 4th Cheshires today. He was unshaven and unkempt but a jolly fine chap. He told me the district further inland, where his battalion was situated, was a very pretty spot. Good cultivation abounding with vineyards nicely kept and some wooded parks. A few crofters' cottages are here and there situated amongst the vineyards. These cottages are small, flat roofed, with earthen floors.
The battle of last evening continues this evening with unabated fury. Our chaps are gaining ground rapidly and our guns have set fire to the enemies' positions. The position being fought for is at the end of the Hill crest to the left of our position. This hill crest has rather a peculiar formation. It rises gradually from the sea inland for about 2 miles. About one mile and a quarter inland another narrow hill crest arises from the ground at a lower level and runs inland parallel to and beyond the higher hill. Between the two is a ravine through which runs a mountain road. The Turks occupy this position and are defending it sternly.
I have met a number of officers back from the firing line and they all complain of the great lack of organisation amongst our higher officials. For one thing there are no guides to and fro to the trenches. Last night the reinforcements of the 5th and 6th R.W.F. came ashore and there was no one about to show them to their trenches. They wandered about for hours. There are other things which I shall not enter here, but shall trust my memory to keep them for a later date.
Lt. Kenny of the 5th R.W.F. is sent to our hospital for a rest. He says there are only 6 officers of the Battalion left. My old friend Capt. Alf Roberts is still left I am pleased to note.
One of the prettiest sights imaginable is the Sunset in these parts. From our position the sun goes down behind the high rocky island of Samothrace. Against the sky the island presents a semicircular appearance. When the sun sinks behind it the heavens present a bright scarlet hue through which the crags and peaks of the Island show out in beautiful relief. On each side of the sunset proper the horizon fades away into a delicate flesh colour tint.
Tuesday, August 17th 1915. Beach, Bay of Suvla.
The wounded come in today rather regularly but not in great numbers. They are all very cheerful, and seem to think we have the enemy well in hand. I gave an anaesthetic for Capt Cory to amputate the thumb of a wounded Tommy. It did well.
I saw 12 Turkish prisoners pass our position today. For the most part they were big awkward chaps. The enemy are heavily shelling the batteries on the left of our position. So far they have not succeeded in doing any damage.
Yes, the glass quaffed in the "Durflinger" on the Sunday night of the 8th August was the last for a good many. I hear today of a number of fatal casualties amongst the lot of us who assembled in that room. Poor old Osborne of the 5th Welsh R. is presumed dead, while young Dunn, Capt Toby, M'sex, and a number of others are known to be dead. Such is the life of many of those brave boys who left their homes and all that was dear to them to fight for their King and country. Up to date the Welsh Division has had a fearful time of it and their casualties are very heavy.
This evening we had a most entertaining performance: about 6.30 a Taube appeared high up in the heavens. She circled widely over our position and dropped three bombs away to our right in close proximity to our Divisional head-quarters. (Later we hear no damage was done). Quickly the machine guns open up on her but to no avail. A big gun from a battleship fires a shrapnel shell which goes rather near, but still she flies on. Another and another shrapnel shell follow until the Taube is well out of range. Twenty minutes later the sound of machine guns again draws us from our shelters. The Taube is again over us, and deliberately she makes her way towards the battleships lying at anchor in the Bay. The machine guns splutter but the pilot is apparently oblivious to it as on he steers directly over the very guns that were firing on him. Suddenly a black spot appears underneath his machine and a moment later a column of water rose high in the air a few yards from the Battleship. The bomb had missed its mark. Away to the east the Taube continues its course and when the angle of fire widens the big guns again boom forth. The first shell explodes right up against it, but the machine flies on apparently undamaged. No other shell went near and the Taube continued towards home.
A high explosive shell drops into the sea twenty yards in front of us this evening. Lucky escape.
Wednesday, August 18th 1915. Bay of Suvla.
The bathing here is excellent and each day I enjoy a dip, though oft times a shrapnel shell makes it very uncomfortable.
Taking all things into consideration the Turk is a brave and chivalrous enemy. He fights hard and which of us would not if the enemy were on our shores. One noble trait in his character is that he respects the Red Cross flag. Those shells that fell in and around us were not really meant for us though they have been very near. Yet 20 yards in front of us is a highway for all sorts of convoys and conveyances and I think it is little wonder the Turk does not make more of an excuse of this and shell us incessantly. The Germans would.
Our menu has now been very much reduced. We are living entirely on the "Iron Ration" consisting mainly of tea, bully, and dog biscuits. A little effort on the part of the authorities ought to be able to provide us with a field bakery and give us a little bread which would be quite a luxury.
The Turks shell heavily the two horns of the beach. Troops are being landed on the left, and some damage is done amongst them. We had some very nasty wounds today. One man was clean shot through the head of the Tibia from before backwards. Two had bullet wounds through the abdomen. Both died in our Hospital. The poor chaps suffered intensely. In fact this suffering in others is the worst part of War. I am fairly hardened to the world but the suffering of others, through no fault of their own, fairly wrings my heart.
This evening we have a visit from two Taubes. They don't come very near the Warships but drop bombs over the position of our men. The ships fire but they don't record a hit, and the Taubes having dropped their bombs, sail gaily home.
Later, a quiet evening. The Turks never shell us after dusk. Evidently they won't risk their gun positions being spotted.
Thursday, August 19th 1915. Beach, Bay of Suvla.
Out of bed early this morning to dress a case in from the firing line. Fighting was going on at the time and the rattle of musketry and machine gun fire was very distinct. When I got back to lie down at 4 a.m. it rained heavily. Our shelter was deluged and our morning's rest destroyed. I hear Gen. Lindley has been sent back.
We have a heavy morning's shell fire but very little damage done. Most of the shells fall in the sea. I write to M. The sea again develops a bad swell and the evacuation of the wounded is rather difficult.
Today we do an amputation of the Rt thigh for a man who had his leg badly shattered by the fire of his own rifle. One man was shot through the top of his right lung and bronchial tubes. He lives still, though life must be agony to him. Some nasty head and abdomen wounds were admitted to Hospital today. About 6 p.m. we had three nasty shells fired at us. One hit the ground behind us and threw a lot of dust and a bush into the shelter adjoining ours. On the whole those three shells were too near to be comfortable. The wind was high this evening and the Taubes did not appear. We missed our evening's entertainment. No mail. News of events higher up the hill is much the same.
Friday, August 20th 1915. Beach, Bay of Suvla.
A fine morning. At 11 oc a.m. we are heavily shelled. The first shell drops amongst the men of the 23rd Field Ambulance immediately on our left. The second in the same spot and the 3rd a little further on the beach amongst our men. The three shells claimed only one casualty, a man wounded. For half an hour shells fall fast around us, their objective clearly being the pontoon jetty where the wounded are evacuated. Thirty shells miss it. The Turks must think that this jetty is used for other purposes than the evacuation of wounded, as so far they have respected the Red Cross.
About 12.30 a steam pinnace draws up to the jetty. A shell just misses her. She clears and a second dips into the water at her stern. She gets clear and the jetty has another twenty minutes shelling, no shell hitting it. At its end one of the pontoon boats is sunk. Only damage. The day grows very hot. Tapioca for dinner. Quite a luxury. The steam pinnace again draws up to the jetty at 2.15. This time she is allowed to proceed with the evacuation of the wounded unmolested. This has been by far the heaviest day's shelling we have had. No mail. No news from home. Wrote John Lane.
Our guns did not fire much during the day. Obviously they are holding it in reserve for something. Throughout the night rifle fire was very heavy up the hills. There were some very bad head and abdomen wounds during the day. Most of them were beyond recall.
Saturday, August 21st 1915. Beach, Bay of Suvla.
A fine morning with a gentle breeze. A stray shell comes our way. At 2 p.m. the great battle for the hills on our front commences¹. Bang goes a gun from a warship in the bay. The signal is given and a hundred bangs rent the air at once. From land and sea the flaming mouths of over a hundred guns could be seen belching forth shells on the hillsides immediately in front. The noise was simply deafening. The sight of the hill was somewhat awful to behold as shells by the hundred burst all over it. Dense smoke rose into the air as the scrub took fire from the bursting shells. As an officer aptly described it, it looked like a vision of hell. Such a bombardment was sufficient to disturb the morale of the best trained troops in the world.
Precisely at 3 p.m. our men leaped from the trenches and charged up the hill. They fell in great numbers, but others took their places at once. The gun fire was kept up but at somewhat longer range and about 4.30 the hill was in the hands of our troops. A little later they had to retire but not for long as they advanced again, took the hill and kept it. The number of Casualties was very heavy. We worked all through the night at the Station and some 500 wounded passed our hands. Some of the chaps had fearful wounds but in all cases their cheery disposition was admirable to behold. The British Tommy is a wonderful chap. His cheer in adverse circumstances is exemplary. A few shells drop amongst us.
¹ This was the start of the Battles for Scimitar Hill and Hill 60, the final attempt to link the front from Suvla Bay to Anzac Cove.
Sunday, August 22nd 1915. Beach, Bay of Suvla.
A busy morning. The wounded come in very regularly, but not in such large numbers of the night before. Those today were all stretcher cases and most of them bad. We had a continuous shelling from 9.30 to 11 a.m. A large number of high explosive shells were dropped amongst us, but fortunately, did very little damage.
About 4.0 p.m. about 50 infantry in single file and 4 to 5 paces distance passed along the edge of the beach. They were heavily shrapnelled and one was knocked out right opposite our operating tent. Luckily his wounds were not serious. Three out of the 50 were knocked out before they reached the end of the beach. It does seem a great waste to march men before the enemy in open day, when the same work could be done at night.
We were again heavily shelled in the evening, mostly high explosives. One man was killed a little bit to our right. An R.A.M.C. chap too. Three shells landed plump in the midst of the 3rd Welsh Field Amb. and wounded a lot of men.
Monday, August 23rd. Beach, Bay of Suvla.
The one and only consolation we have to be thankful for here is that the weather remains fine. Were it otherwise life would be miserable. The boys of the 3rd Welsh Field Amb have another shell right in the middle of them. Two patients are killed and two and Col Wilson wounded. Col Wilson is brought into us and is in great pain. His heel has been shattered.
We are very pleased to have a visit from Major Pauli (MO 2/10 M'sex) today. He had gone through some awful experiences but looked very fit. He didn't entertain very much regard for *********** of the Regt. He told me of a most ghastly affair in connection with some of his wounded. His stretcher squad ran out of stretchers on the second evening they had been in action with the result that the wounded could not be sent back to the Field Amb. A number of them were collected together and placed in a hut on the mountainside. During the night the hut caught fire owing to the shelling and he could only rescue eight of the wounded. The rest were burned to death. We have had only one shell near us today. Very strange after such a heavy day's shelling yesterday. I have entered already in this diary that the Turk respected the Red Cross Flag. Such an entry may appear strange side by side with entries of shelling us daily. I must say that each time we have been shelled, the Turk has been fully justified in doing so. The jetty was shelled because the steam boat drawing into it carried a gun, which was in itself a shameful and thoughtless act on the part of those responsible. At other times we have been shelled only when infantry or convoys were passing right in front of us. In fact this evening the 35th Field Amb (next us on the left) brought a whole convoy of A.S. mules to shift their stores and they were not shelled though the fact that their using A.S. mules was ample justification.
We had some bread today brought us from board the Hospital ship. It was very welcome. I have heard that the Dorset Yeomanry had a fearful cutting up on Saturday last. It appears they were moved the previous night in the broad light of day across Salt lake in fours to their position in the trenches. They lost about half their strength. One would think that those who are blind would have learned a lesson from what happened previously. Who can be responsible for this hideous waste of human life? Are human lives of such little moment that they can be thus sacrificed? This information I have had from Major Knollys.
Everybody who has had anything to do with the Navy out here complain of their abnormal incivility. On the Saturday morning the landing took place in this bay they were 1½ hours late in starting with the result that day broke before the men could advance to decent shelter.
The wounded came in today in a very regular stream. We had the greatest difficulty in evacuating them. In this department things are very bad also. We have had wounded in our hands for three days owing to this fact. I am afraid things are not as they should be.
Tuesday, August 24th 15. Beach, Bay of Suvla.
It is very pleasing to relate that we have had no shells thrown at us for two days. Under these conditions we can do much better work at the Station. Things have been rather free of big gun firing both yesterday and today. This afternoon there was rather a violent thunderstorm with heavy rains. Luckily it only lasted about fifteen minutes.
News reaches the beach of a naval engagement in the Baltic in which the Russians sank 1 battleship. 3 cruisers and some destroyers of the Germans. The news lacks official confirmation¹.
It appears to be correct that Venezelos has gone back to power in Greece², which means that Greece will soon be at war on the side of the Triple Entente. There is a rumour that the Balkan States are about to form a league to enter the war. Very good news if true. No mail so far. What a glorious day when it does turn up. The C.O. hears that Biggs, Robinson and myself have been promoted Captains.
¹ An early report of the Battle of the Gulf of Riga, 8-19 August 1916. The Russians sank 3 German minesweepers and 1 destroyer; the battle cruiser Moltke was severely damaged by a torpedo from HMS E1.
² Venizelos was ousted again in October 1915 following the Allied landings at Salonika. It wasn’t until June 1917 that he succeeded King Constantine and Greece openly sided with the Allies.
Wednesday, August 25th 15. Beach, Bay of Suvla.
A grand day. We have a mail. I have four letters, posted between 4th and 9th of August. Those earlier have not yet arrived.
There were two very pathetic cases admitted to Station today. They were wounded on Saturday and were lying out until this morning. Their wounds were full of maggots and the poor chaps were famished. The two of them lay in a hedge and some Turks came along near them and killed and robbed the wounded. One of them was taken to be dead by the Turks and they set about to rob him of his boots, pockets etc., when the man moved. The Turk put a bayonet in him but failed to kill him. The poor chap feigned death and the Turk went on with his robbing and then left him. It appears the Turks have a great liking for the boots of our soldiers, and always sedulously deprive the dead bodies of them.
A momentous decision is expected from Greece today or tomorrow. This is the third day throughout which we have not had a shell. The Turks bombarded the "Venerable" today and registered two hits. They did no damage though they were large shells. It is rather interesting to sit at breakfast and watch an artillery duel between a battleship and a field battery, even though the shells whiz very near us at times.
At dusk I paid a visit to the boys of the 3rd Welsh Field Amb. and found them all in cheery mood and very fit. The boys of the 2nd Welsh Field Amb gave a fine selection of songs as night brought her fairy shadows over the camp
Thursday, August 26th 15. Beach, Bay of Suvla.
A few high explosive shells were dropped about a hundred yards to our left this morning. They killed one - a gentleman ranker, and wounded several of the 88th Field Amb. We had a very heavy mail today and had quite a plethora of home news. Peace rumours are freely circulated in connection with the war here. Having no special enmity to the Turks I hope the rumour is true. The weather today is perceptibly colder, and the wind somewhat higher than previously. It may be the preliminary of the stormy weather.
Just after dark we all sat on our stools outside our shelters and watched some glorious effects of lightning in the North Western skies. The sky lit up from time to time and little wriggling pieces of much brighter hue played snake-like in the lighted area. Just as dusk appears all is quiet and serene, and everybody smokes the pipe, or cigarette, of peace in the open. There is nothing left to remind one of war, save the occasional "pick-pock" of the sniper's rifle. This evening all the boys along the beach took up the singing of "Loch Lomond". It was quite like home but extremely pathetic. I expected an attack today, or at least I heard one was to come off, but it didn't.
"At the attack on scimitar hill the 4th South Wales Borderers lost 400 men, by the end of the campaign the total of 214.000 troops had been killed or died of sickness, the 2 SWB alone lost 1,600 men, 4 SWB lost 400, and the 4th and 5th Welch lost another 480 between them, they were awarded seven battle honours"
Friday, August 27th 15. Beach, Bay of Suvla.
The morning air is noticeably nippy, and the sea perceptibly colder. Bathing not as pleasant but refreshing. For the most part the day has been quiet, and no shells were dropped in our immediate neighbourhood. In the evening a severe scrap took place on our right flank, when an effort was made to link up between our soldiers and the Australians. Most of the casualties were evacuated through the clearing station on the right point.
Had a chat with a G.S.O. who thought we were down to spend the winter in this place. I trust not. Such a course would be fatal. Far better an abandonment by the troops and a naval blockade.
The fly pest is still as bad as ever. It is interesting to watch a pot of jam being put on the table. Immediately it is opened there is a struggle between the flies and ourselves as to who gets the bigger share. A large number of patients suffering with dysentery pass daily through the station. It is certainly the most severe cause of depletion to the army here. Evidently it is not amoebic in origin, and is possibly due to an irritation of the bowel from the water, and probably the food. The men are now supplied with fresh meat. It is of good quality and ought be a large amount of comfort to them. A small ration of bread has also been issued and has made life much more tolerable.
At dusk we sat on our camp stools in front of our shelters and enjoyed a pipe of the best. It is strange that an air of immunity pervades the whole beach when the sun goes down, and then visits are paid and the prospects of the campaign are talked over in perfect calm.
Sunday, August 29th 1915. Beach, Bay of Suvla.
A lovely day. The heavens clear and the light fresh wind gentle and refreshing. There is a non-conformist service close to us on the left. It is fine to hear the singing while shells burst all around. These Padres deserve the greatest respect for the devoted manner they administer their duties. In the afternoon a Taube flew over our position and continued its course over "C" beach where it dropped bombs on the 14th Casualty Clearing station, killing and wounding a number of wounded. A report says the pilot was German. It was either this or the pilot was looking for the General Headquarters. A couple of very nasty shells passed closely over us while at lunch. They burst about 100 yards out at sea, rising immense columns of water. The news from our right flank is rather good. The Australians and Gurkhas have occupied very important positions in the crest over Anzac beach.
Monday, August 30th. Beach, Bay of Suvla.
A lovely morning. Artillery duel in progress while lying in bed. I listened with ease to the shrill scream of many a shell passing overhead. The afternoon was very quiet, and a few of us had a good view of the battlefield through glasses. Everything seemed still on the slope of Chocolate Hill, facing us, and the number of dugouts and shelters erected there made the place look like a rabbit warren. The sunset this evening was remarkably fine. As the brilliant red glow slowly descended beneath Samothrace, the great warships in the Bay made a beautiful picture in the background. I am not feeling well today, and have very little energy left. A large amount of wounds today from the Essex Regt.
Tuesday, August 31st. Beach, Bay of Suvla.
A very quiet day, few casualties save dysentery which seems to be on the increase. Feeling ill today. I am afraid of dysentery,
Wednesday, Sept 1st 15. Beach, Bay of Suvla.
A quiet day. Illness growing on me and getting much worse.
Thursday, Sept 2nd 15. Beach, Bay of Suvla.
Illness worse and no energy. Constant enteritis. Day quiet.
Friday, Sept 3rd 15. Beach, Bay of Suvla.
Illness worse. Temperature 100°. Pains very bad in lumbar and sacral region. Removed to Hospital boat "Valdinia" in the evening. Feeling very weak.
"My Grandfather was diagnosed with amoebic dysentery and evacuated first to Malta and then to Osbourne House on the Isle of Wight. I’ve read that of the 213,000 British casualties at Gallipoli, 145,000 were due to sickness; the chief causes being dysentery, diarrhoea and enteric fever. Following his recuperation he took command of 3/3 Welsh Field Ambulance in Cardiff, under his old friend Major Cory (aka “Sir Thomas of Suvla Bay”). In May 1916 he sailed once more from Devonport to Alexandria to join the Sinai and Palestine Campaign. From Cairo he was ordered to Bir el Abd via Wardan Camp and Moascar Camp, Ismailia. He took part in the Battles of Romani (3-5 Aug 1916),Magdhaba (23 Dec 1916) and Rafa (9 Jan 1917) and the First and Second Battles of Gaza (March-April 1917). In May 1917 he got another attack of amoebic dysentery and was returned to Cairo, where his diary ends."