A Soldier’s Diary of Gallipoli 1915
This spot, where supplies of all sorts, valued at millions of pounds, were stored, was safe from enemy shell-fire. In the background is seen the precipitous Walker’s Ridge, which is about 500ft above sea level.
A Soldier’s Diary.
The writer is a young lawyer of Sydney. He has declined offers of military advancement preferring to serve in the ranks. From time to time soldiers letters have been published. They have given many stirring incidents, especially of the great attack on Lone Pine. Our object in publishing this diary is to throw open the day-to-day life of the soldier at Gallipoli. There is something more intimate than is found in a hurried letter inspired by one sensational event. Our young lawyer became sick (one notes the record of his ailments with sympathy), and big things happened while he was away. (At another time the ‘Mail’ will fill up that gap — other diaries will come to hand.) His Diary was resumed when he returned to the Peninsula. Then come the entries relating to the wonderful evacuation.
10/4/15.— A Company (only) of 13th Battalion left Heliopolis Camp at 7.13 p.m. and marched with band playing through Heliopolis to railway station (about a mile) and entrained for Alexandria. We were cheered by all our chaps at Heliopolis Camp as we marched out, and by the soldiers and crowd in Heliopolis — train moved off at 11.20 p.m.— packed pretty close in train, and chaps sleep all over the floor and under the seats.
11/4/15.— Arrived at Alexandria at about 5 a.m. and embarked on s.s. —— . A Company of 13th Battalion and two companies of New Zealanders and one Company of the 15th Battalion and one of 16th — about 1100 troops all told — great military activity in the port — many transports, English, French, and Australian, taking troops on board — moved away from the wharf and anchored out in the stream taking in cargo all night from lighters.
12/4/15.— Left Alexandria at 6.30 a.m., beautiful weather and sea, but still a little rolling made some men seasick. Food good and plenty of it — no work, and only muster parades on deck — it is said we are going to some island off the coast of Turkey which we are to use as a base for operations in Turkey.
13/4/15. — In Mediterranean; had a nice shower of rain — passed several small and apparently uninhabited islands were served out with 200 rounds of ammunition each — informed we are en route to island of Lemnos.
14/4/15. — Fine sunny morning— other boats in sight, and also Island of Lemnos, where we anchored at 7.30 a.m. in a nice little bay, where numerous other transports and men-of-war and gunboats are anchored — Lemnos, a rocky island with hills and peaks — a few trees or shrubs, but several small villages and many cultivation patches in view, also numerous old-fashioned round windmills for grinding grain — nice green cultivation patches here and there — some troops are ashore here — had practice climbing down rope ladders into boats and back with all our full marching gear and rifles.
15/4/15.— Beautiful day — nothing much doing — some more transports arrived and warships are going— a little drill aboard ship — we are now part of the “Mediterranean Expeditionary Force.”
17/4/15. — Message from General Birdwood re conserving water and food during first three days of our attack in Gallipoli read out. We are warned we may get no more water than we can carry in our water-bottles during that time.
18/4/15.— Sunday— usual Sunday service. The rest of the 13th are on the s.s. here. We hear that a Turkish torpedo-boat chased a British transport which was making for here and fired three torpedoes at her, which missed, but caused a bit of panic on board. which resulted in some going overboard and being drowned; also that subsequently two British cruisers chased the Turkish torpedo-boat and ran her ashore and blew her to pieces. The transport subsequently arrived here O.K.
19/4/15. — Went ashore with a full pack, climbing up and down ship on rope ladders — had a much-needed swim on the beach — many of the local (Greek) villagers came round selling edibles, cigarettes, etc. Saw some English troops ashore, who appear to be much smaller men on the average than our chaps.
20/4/15. — By order each man cut a small faggot of wood from the waste deal cases aboard to take ashore, as it is said firewood is very scarce where we are to land. 21/4/15.— Colonel Burnage came aboard from the —— to have a look at us.
24/4/15. — Several transports and battleships leave this harbour — told we are leaving to-morrow.
25/4/15. — Those sleeping on deck heard big gun fire during the night, and it could be heard this morning — presumably the Allied fleet bombarding the Dardanelles. We left port in company with the —— , clearing Lemnos Island about 11.30 a.m. We carry very heavy packs, including three “iron” rations (little bags containing biscuits, small tin of bully beef, and little packets of beef extract), 200 rounds of ammunition, and bundle of firewood. The —— has the rest of the 13th aboard — heard the big guns going an hour after leaving Lemnos — heard bombardment all day off Gallipoli (in the Gulf of Saros). Saw our warships all along the coast firing continuously, and many transports lined up along the coast ready to land, and some landing, and some transports which had landed their troops returning. On arriving close inshore saw the warships firing distinctly, and could see where the shells landed. Anchored off Gallipoli about 4.30 p.m., and had dinner — many other transports and battleships all around us. In the evening just before sunset the warships round us shelled all the hills in front of us, and raked the whole of the skyline with shrapnel. Several Turkish shells fell in the water amongst the transports close to us and some transports moved further out. Our aeroplanes went up and made several reconnaissances. The fire from our ships seemed very accurate. Some of the troops from our boat landed at sundown, and through the afternoon and night rapid rifle and machine-gun fire could be heard. We were ordered on our troop deck fully equipped to disembark about 6.30 p.m.; but later orders came that we might not disembark till 1 a.m., and to sleep in packs as best we could in the meantime — numerous naval launches came alongside during the night, some with wounded aboard; various rumours of our losses current. (We had heard earlier in the day that those of our Australian and New Zealand troops who had already landed had occupied a ridge on our right.) Had coffee about 1.30 a.m., and waiting orders to disembark — chaps in good fettle and very cheerful, being glad to be into the real biz. at last. Four chaps, who went ashore early in the evening were sent back aboard us wounded. The bombardment of the Turks’ positions on the hills (there is only a small beach oppo- site us, where the troops are landing, and then very steep hills and deep gullies), was a fine sight, and demonstrated the accuracy of the gunners and great method — every command from the boat directing the fire being carried out smoothly and quickly. Just been up to the hospital, and find two men wounded in head, one in leg, one in arm. Order given that nothing would be doing till daylight, so all turned in to get what sleep, we could.
26/4/15.— Gunfire started at daylight again, shelling the hills. (The Queen Elizabeth is now with us.) Troops still landing from transports, being taken ashore by torpedo boats, which transfer them to barges close inshore, guns from our ships keeping up fire to cover them — our shells and shrapnel bursting over top of hills and in gullies and throwing up columns of smoke. Behind our boat an observation balloon has gone up to a great height — fine day, and cool. Had breakfast aboard about 7.30 a.m., and immediately after went aboard torpedo-boat, which took us near shore and transferred us to a punt with open ends (like a horse punt), from which we landed, getting wet to the waist in doing so. Shrapnel was bursting all round us while the boat was making for the shore, and one sailor was hit while on the torpedo-boat and one of our chaps while on the punt. Most of the landing parties had some men killed or wounded in the boats. One felt inclined to ‘duck’ one’s head when one heard the shrapnel burst overhead — heard our chaps had captured nine Turkish machine-guns and also various rumours as to our own losses — also that one party of Turks had shown the white flag and then fired on our men with a machine-gun when they advanced to take them prisoners. Troops landing all the time, and ships bombarding as they pick up the Turkish positions — aeroplanes are out, and no doubt directing fire on ships — balloon is also up about four miles out at sea. We (A Company of 13th) awaiting orders — told that on first lot of Australians landing on day before they had met the Turks right at the water’s edge, and charged up the steep hillsides which rise from the sea. The Turks also had machine-guns firing on our chaps in the boats as they landed; but our chaps jumped out of the boats up to their waists in water and went straight for the Turks (leaving many dead and wounded in the boats), having fixed bayonets while still in the boats, charged up the steep hills, and cleared the Turks out of their trenches — but, of course, we lost a good many. The artillery are now landing, also horses and mules — a good bayonet charge is going on above us, while we still await orders on the beach, and continuous rifle fire all round, and shrapnel bursting all round the beach. We went to the head of the valley and occupied a ridge (afterwards known as Pope’s Hill, after Colonel Pope). About 200 yards from the Turks’ trench we kept up a continuous fire, which they returned; many of our chaps killed and wounded.
28/4/15.— Been in the trenches ever since last note, with the exception of yesterday afternoon, when our section were posted on the left of the hillside to pick off snipers who were concealed on the hillsides and shooting our men from the rear. We have occupied and made trenches on three sides of the position of which a valley is the centre, and also hold the other side under control by fire from the ships. We are sending out parties to clear the hillsides of snipers, who are shooting a lot of our men from the rear and right and left flanks. Several men and officers of A Company wounded and dead. Very steep ascent up to our position. You can hardly get a foothold — enemy keeps us at it day and night, and if we show ourselves at all the snipers are at us. We have shot many of the snipers. It is difficult to locate them, as the hills are all covered with short scrub and undergrowth. Had several narrow shaves from bullets lobbing up against me while digging cover with entrenching tool — our chaps on the right of the position have had to retire at times from part of the trenches, but they have always reoccupied them with a bayonet charge. The Turkish artillery is pouring shrapnel into us all the time. Some more transports with an escort of warships arrived this morning (we can see all the boats below from our position high up on the hills about a mile and a half from the beach). Our aeroplanes go out scouting every day — fighting on our right very stiff — one of our mine trawlers sunk on the beach by the enemy’s shells. They are now burying some of our dead at the head of the valley on the right — poor Tom ——, shot dead by a sniper in the trench alongside me — shot through the mouth. Our machine-gun is about six yards above me on top of hill, and it draws a lot of the enemy’s fire, of which we get the benefit. We had to dig ourselves in deep and bank up the sides and rear of the trench, as we are being sniped at from the right flank and rear left.
Later, same day.— Still in the same trenches, and we have had to take turns for a sleep, as we have not been relieved since we came here — feeling pretty good, but very cold at night, as we had to leave our packs and overcoats on the beach (being too much to carry up the steep hillside); very hot in daytime and very cold at night. We keep up fire a good deal in daytime, and it goes on merrily nearly all night on both sides.
29/4/15. — Still in same trenches — enemy’s shrapnel still going strong, and the shells from our ships and artillery below whizz close over our heads on the top of the hill on their way to the Turks’ positions beyond — some of it comes uncomfortably close. Got relieved about 7 p.m., and went down the hill about a hundred yards below for a sleep, having had only a few dozes in the trenches since we landed. Find our company has lost a good many killed and wounded since we went into this position. Made dug outs for ourselves and went off to sleep, but were called to arms twice during the night, as it was thought the Turks were advancing down the head of the valley just opposite our position.
30/4/15. — Got up at daylight and went down the valley and made a dixie of tea (first since we landed), and had breakfast — returned to our trenches in the firing line about 6.30 a.m. Find Turks had dug some more trenches during the night on the crest of the hill on the right about 400 yards in front of us and about 60 yards from our chaps’ trenches on the other side of the valley (Quinn’s Post). Heard while below that Willie —— had been shot dead in our trench, and of others of our crowd wounded — later in day machine-gun playing on our trench, and had to lie very low. C —— and C —— with me in trench.
1/5/15.— Turkish machine-gun on us again, and kept us low in trench — dug deeper. Continuous rifle fire most nights, and intermittent rifle fire and shell fire each day.