- 1st Battalion
- 2nd Battalion
- 3rd (Reserve) Battalion
- 1/4th Battalion
- 2/4th Battalion
- 3/4th and 3/5th Battalions
- 1/5th Battalion
- 2/5th Battalion
- 4/5th Battalion
- 5th Battalion
- 6th (Service) Battalion
- 7th (Service) Battalion
- 8th (Service) Battalion
- 9th (Service) Battalion
- 10th (Service) Battalion
- 11th (Reserve) Battalion
- 1/12th Battalion (Pioneers)
- 2/12th Battalion
- 13th (Home) Battalion
- 14th Battalion
- 15th (Service) Battalion
- Home Service Only
- Battalion not known
This is a personal account of Gallipoli and the battle of Chunuk Bair by 10996 Private Paul Gaskell who was batman to the Commanding Officer of the 6th Battalion, Lieut-Col. Henry George Levinge.
Paul Gaskell self-published his experiences in 1917 in a 24-page booklet when he returned to England after being wounded. The print-run wouldn’t have been very many so this newly discovered work contains valuable information that has thus far not been reported.
Our casualty list for Chunuk Bair, and photos of Helles memorial can be found HERE.
WARNING: This article contains graphic details about several deaths.
MY EXPERIENCES IN GALLIPOLI
With the 6th Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment.
The Battalion of the 6th Loyal North Lancashire Regiment disembarked from two of H.M. Destroyers, after a pleasant forty-miles from Lemnos. The destroyers drew towards a point of the beach which stood out so prominently in the Aegean Sea, this point namely, Lancashire Landing.
There a pier is formed of that grand old troopship the “River Clyde,” which took a very prominent part in the first landing of troops on April the 25th, 1915 when her Commander ran her aground to effect that glorious landing performed by the 29th Division.
Our Battalion were all clear from the Destroyers by 11 p.m.; the order “fall in” was given, and then we proceeded towards that so-called impregnable mountainous hill, Achi Baba, which the Turks so defiantly held.
The date of our arrival on that ill-fated battlefield was on the 4th of July, 1915 – the day of our reward after eleven months’ strenuous training around the Aldershot district. After an hour’s march we were brought to the halt in a huge ravine, and we were allowed to rest until 6 a.m. on the following morning.
That night I lay awake wondering what fate had in store for us, for we had heard such tales of the terrible fighting of the most desperate nature that it made us think of our future experiences. Our first impressions of warfare were to hear the bullets in their erratic flight, to feel the vibration and concussion of the shells as they traveled through the air and exploded. Our next impression of warfare was to witness a battle in the air between a British biplane and a German Taube. It was a thrilling sight to see both combatants swerving under and over each other, waiting their opportunity of a good sight for their machine guns. The fight lasted twenty minutes; however, the Britisher gaining an advantage over his opponent eventually sending the German Taube at express speed crashing-to earth, thus ending his career in an unrecognisable and mangled form.
At 11 a.m. we “stood to” under orders awaiting to relieve the 8th Battalion Highland Light Infantry. At 1 p.m. of the same day our men marched in the trenches singing one of their usual old airs as happy as children. ‘A’ Company took command of the first line trench, the other three Companies, B, C, and D commanded the reserve line trenches.
What an experience! It was the one desire which for months we yearned, to be in those trenches and not 50 yards from the Turks. Our chaps, full of merriment and excitement, kept the Turks as their audience, until a bomb dropped on the top of the parapet, which brought the singing to an instantaneous end. Evidently, for once, music had no charms as far as the Turks were concerned, for they kept us going with a few bombs dropping in our trench now and again. By this time our boys were to business and they retaliated much to the Turks’ discomfort.
The first casualty our Battalion was a Private Jones, who put his hand above the parapet, presumably to reach something, and received an enemy bullet which severed his fore-finger. He was the only casualty we sustained during our first period in those Eski Line trenches.
On our fifth day in the firing trench, we were relieved by the 6th King’s Own Royal Lancashire Regiment of our Brigade (the 38th Brigade of the 13th Division), under the Command of Brigadier-General Baldwin and Major-General Shaw respectively. Brigiadier-General Baldwin chose our resting place – this being “Gagan’s Bluff,” a large hill with numerous dug-outs.
On being relieved from the trenches, and on our way to this resting place, our Company officers were warned to keep a sharp look-out for snipers, who at that time were active in the vicinity of the Eski redoubt, near a junction of gullies called “Clapham Junction”. As we were marching along one of the gullies, we were suddenly attracted by the continuous ping of the snipers’ bullets. One of these bullets struck Quartermaster-Sergeant Graham, a good fellow, through the head. What a spectacle he looked. He lay where he fell and bid his comrades farewell, a few minutes afterwards being called to God’s care.
A little further on we were aware of the fact that one of our best officers, Captain C. C. de Fallot, shared the same fate as that of Graham; but this officer fought hard for life for four and a half hours. He was vainly trying to cheat death, poor fellow, but the hand of God intervened. Quartermaster-Sergeant Graham and this gallant officer were laid to rest near where life was so brutally snatched from them.
After resting for eight days we received orders to relieve the 2nd South Wales Border Regiment that same evening. At night time, our Battalion were again in the trenches as happy as ever.
I wish to say that water was extremely scarce in Gallipoli – money could not buy a drop – and with the heat which averaged 120 degrees, the Lord only knows how one prevented one’s self from going “non-compos-mentis”. Each man was allotted one pint and a half of water per day instead of one quart per day, as usually is the daily ration of water.
Again we were relieved after being in the trenches for seven days, this time by the 4th East Lancashire Regiment, and we proceeded to our resting place. We rested for six days.
With water being so scarce and our men so thirsty, they began to dig their own water wells, although knowing the dangers of cholera and enteric fever. They dug wells without authority, but we were all desperate for water.
One who has never experienced this terrible sensation and suffering, can hardly realise to any extent what we endured during the hours of those sun-scorching, dry and fly-pested days.
Oft-times I would sit myself down deep in thought and think of the thousands of people who at that particular minute would be wasting water unnecessarily in far-away England. These are times that make one think of his past pleasures. Also of the times when I would waste such precious water and laugh at doing such a deed. I saw an incident one day while a strong guard was put to guard a water-cart, a dozen men or so attacked the guard in the endeavour to satisfy that ever increasing thirst, which resulted in the dispersing of the guard and the emptying of the cart. I could mention more incidents, but such is sufficient to show the pangs of thirst.
We were now in the trenches on the left of the French. Here we witnessed a charge by the French against the Turks – a charge of great energetic determination. Twice the Turks drove the French back. The third time rewarded their defiance with five lines of trenches and two or three hundred prisoners.
The Turks on the following day bombarded our trenches and ammunition stores for thirty-six hours, but failed to deliver an attack.
On the tenth day in the trenches we received news to the effect that our forces had met with a big success in the Persian gulf. Every available rifle was loaded with five rounds of ammunition to be fired at 5 p.m. that evening, to commemorate such a glorious success. One the minute of 5 p.m., rifles cracked unceasingly, our artillery were also firing rapid. It was a proper inferno of hell-fire.
Naturally, our fire alarmed the Turks, in making them think that we would deliver an attack; and they began to retaliate with a rapid fire also.
Our 19th day in the trenches found us being relieved by the 4th Worcestershire Regiment.
We took our new resting place against the Royal Naval Division – a level plain with under-ground dug-outs in full view of the enemy.
Day after day the enemy shelled us, causing a few casualties in our Battalion. When one of our officers came to report a fellow (who had been found asleep at his post) at Headquarters, a shell burst quite near him, injuring his spine and head, and he died shortly afterwards en-route for England.
We had not been out of the trenches long before the Colonel was given instructions to make the necessary preparation for the Battalion and stores to be shipped to Lemnos Island, an island lent to us by the Greek Government. On the following day we were on our way to Lemnos where we rested for five days. To be in Lemnos was a great change to us all. We knew that we could get a fairly good quantity of water for at least five days. We also knew that when we slept at night we could sleep without fear of being hit, and we had the satisfaction that instead we could have quite a nice undisturbed sleep, instead of being called upon by your relief to “stand by” for another two hours or so.
In the village of Lemnos I would go and buy water, melons, bread and tomatoes, etc., for the Colonel and myself, for we were never given bread on Gallipoli. It was a perfect treat to have a drop of cool water once again where we could procure it from a small spring. Our favourite dish at noon would be boiled Indian corn which grew in abundance there. Grape vines grew in abundance, also beans (vegetable) and tomatoes. The fifth day brought us notice again for removal, this time to effect a new landing place at Suvla Bay.
The 6th Loyal North Lancs. boarded a large steamer at midday on August the 5th, 1915, and steamed for our destination at 4 p.m. of the same date.
We arrived at Anzac that evening under darkness at 10 p.m. What a glorious and thrilling sight we beheld. Two cruisers and half a dozen destroyers firing broadsides with the aid of their powerful search-lights. Their guns spat death each time they flashed. Now we could hear the bullets splashing in the water, then we would lie deep in the water for the enemy were using the star-lights.
We were given a good reception from the Australians and New Zealanders, who gave a jolly good cheer all round until I am sure their voices were hoarse. We camped that evening in Victoria Gully, not far from the Lone Pine, where hundreds of good lives were willingly sacrificed for this great Great Cause.
On the following morning, our daily rations were distributed to us, we not having the slightest idea that it would be a long time before we would get any more rations. Presently we moved on to Shrapnel Valley, and took up Headquarters there for a few hours. I may say that we did not make the landing by sea at Suvla Bay. The Divisions chosen for that work were the 11th Division, 10th Division, and the 53rd (Welsh) Division.
About 10-30 p.m. on the evening of August the 6th, 1915, seemingly, was the appointed hour for the landing to be effected. Our Division, the 13th Division, were on the right of Salt Lake, waiting to cut the Turks off in their retreat, if such was the case.
At the given hour the attack was made from the sea. The 11th Division were the attacking Division, the 10th Division were reserves to the 11th Division, and the 53rd Division were reinforcements to the two former Divisions. The landing was effected, the Turks driven back, but we could not take part for reasons I do not know of. Onward swept the British and Colonials and by 6 a.m. of the same date they had captured nearly 1000 yards of ground with little loss, considering the great odds which they attacked. Such work of those men was magnificent and no other country would have dared to attack, which one might have called the impossible.
The 18th Division on that glorious but sorrowful day camped upon the new ground so gallantly won, amidst the dead and dying of those brave Divisions and Colonials also. The air smelt of death, or slaughter may I say, for it was not simple fighting, men were lying in the open, freshly butchered dead, dying, and exhausted. My chum, Jim Gunning, and myself went about foraging for what we could find. Our first find being a dead New Zealander, and what a happy smile was still on his face.
He was a sturdy built young fellow, not more than four and twenty. There he lay, presumably bled to death, for he had been severely wounded in the chest. At his side was a packet containing four cigarettes; cigarette stumps were littered about. Though this man must have been in terrible pain it is evident that he found much comfort in those smokes, for those icy fingers still gripped a cigarette end. Being as it was, that tobacco was a novelty in Gallipoli, we partook of this hero’s smokes, also his half-filled water bottle, and departed with heavy hearts, although it was a little consolation to us to know that he died happy.
At that particular moment, hunger was approaching us. We had received nothing to eat for some time; hunger did not trouble us so much as long as we had a drop of water. Darkness set in, then the cold, for it was fearfully cold at night in that country.
We could neither sleep in the day when the opportunity occurred, on account of the millions of torturing flies which would bite one unmercifully, and neither could we sleep at night on account of the intense cold.
On the morning of August the 8th, two fellows, Charles Gordon and T. Smith and myself, went to the beach for a swim in the sea. We had not touched a drop of water on our hands or face for fully a fortnight, and I would like to say that we did not look clean or feel clean. Vermin was the thing of the day. Which afforded many a good hour’s enjoyment to some fellows. However we undressed and went into the sea. We were about two hundred yards from the beach in deep water, when suddenly I was attacked with with cramp in both my feet and left thigh. I could not float on my back, for I had never learnt to float. I was in great difficulties and I shouted to my friends for help. They, knowing that I could swim, naturally scoffed at my appeal for help. I went down once, trying to grab some floating object that was not there. I remembered going under once again, and I could dimly see the form of Charles Gordon approaching me, then all was blank. Seemingly, in my endeavour to save myself, I clutched hold of my rescuer, whereupon he hit me behind the head to keep me quiet, and also to save himself from being dragged under. Gordon brought me to the beach, and brought me round with artificial respiration.
Had I the world at my disposal, I would have given it to my rescuer for his conspicuous deed, for I had no wish to die in a watery grave. That good fellow is among some of his comrades this present day, in a grave with a cross over it on the hillside graveyard.
When we returned to the Battalion a few hours later, everybody was standing to, in case the 7th Gloucesters and the 8th Welsh Regiment should require reinforcements, as their Battalions were suffering terrible losses, owing to the enemy’s enfilading fire of machine guns.
I was preparing breakfast for the Colonel, which consisted of bully beef and old biscuits which we had found in a Turkish dug-out, when the Brigadier-General came to our Colonel (Colonel H. G. Levinge) with good news to the effect that the New Zealanders had gained another 100 yards of ground and farmhouse included.
Our attention at that moment was called to loud distant shrieks. We guessed what was taking place. It was a charge made by those gallant Colonials. We could see their burly forms hurling through the scrub at lightning speed; then they came back, but not all. Alas, some brave souls who went into that brilliant charge went there never to return. They had failed to obtain that trench, at a heavy cost, but with a good heart.
That day was spent watching the wounded, who were able to help themselves a little, arm in arm, a picture of brotherly comradeship. “Heavens” I thought, “why does God allow such a cursed thing to carry on? Doing our best to extinguish that one creation of life!”
My heart bled for some of those poor fellows. I saw two brothers, one belonging to the Connaught Rangers, arm in arm, and crying. One of the brothers had his lower jaw shattered, a picture of despair. Gradually I became hardened to some extent to these heart-aching sights.
We were all very tired that night, and we were not allowed to sleep, as we expected orders to proceed up the line at a minute’s notice. It was a great effort just to keep my eyes open. I was just dosing into a slumber when all of a sudden I heard an appealing cry of “Mother, I am dying.” It was a pitiful voice; how I lay there I do not know. Tears came to my eyes and my thoughts flew to my own darling mother, away in peaceful England. I dare not go to this poor fellow, who lay some distance away in the blackness of the night night. Had I gone, I might never have found him, and perhaps have lost myself, as this surrounding was unfamiliar to us all.
Dawn of August the 9th broke the awful monotony of that terrible night. I was very thankful that light came.
We received orders from General Johnson of the New Zealanders, to the effect that we would relieve his force at 9 p.m. that same evening. During the day I went for a supply of water to a newly opened well near the beach. I took two cans with me and filled them both. Having had to wait my turn for three or four hours, I eventually arrived at Headquarters at 5 p.m. – much to the delight of my Colonel, who, like myself, had been without water for some time.
At 9-30 p.m. half the Battalion, A. & D. Companies, set off to relieve the New Zealanders, while the rest of the Battalion, B. & C. Companies, went the beach to draw rations, etc. It was a fearfully cold moon-light night, and in order to get to our destination it was necessary to cross an exposed stretch of flat ground, namely, Salt Lake. We were in imminent danger of being observed by the enemy, but fortunately we were not seen.
Across this unfamiliar and blood be-spattered scrub we scrambled and fell, our hearts beating much above the normal standard, until finally, we were told to run into a shallow trench one by one. This trench was only about four feet deep, just sufficient cover to keep one’s head under. We understood that we were there to play a prominent part in this region of Chunuk Bair. We understood the nature and extent of the work which faced us. We knew that this large, black and gloomy hill standing before us, was preventing us from taking those costly narrows.
We were out to take that hill at all costs, yet a big surprise was to come. I remember on the New Zealanders being relieved, one came to me and said, “You shall not be here very long, they will push you out of it” meaning that the Turks would advance. I took not the slightest notice of his remark, but afterwards I found his words to be proved.
During the night, men were posted on out-post duty, observing the enemy’s intention, and each man knew exactly his objective. The old cry once again went round, No water. Nobody had any water. My supply had dwindled to nothing. The Colonel had water, and like a gentleman that he was, he shared it. I was busily engaged in building a bomb-proof barricade. What made me think of doing it, I cannot think, but it was proved afterwards, that it saved other lives as well as my own*
* See Ian Hamilton’s Final Dispatch. “Even in the darkness their Commanding Officer, Lieut.-Col. Levinge, recognised how dangerously these trenches were sited, and began at once to dig observation posts on the actual crests, and to strengthen the defences where he could.”
However, the Colonel asked me if I would volunteer to bring in water before dawn appeared. It was now 11 p.m., so with two milk cans swinging in my hands, l crept out of the trench for my destination – the well near the beach. That particular locality being infested with devilish snipers, it made things somewhat warm, but one does not give this a thought on a mission of this nature, and one gets accustomed to these dangers.
Blindly I walked on, stepping and stumbling over the dead, apologising as I did so. It was the sensation of my life to be alone amongst those rotting corpses. My heart seemed to be beating in my throat. I determined to pull myself together and fight against this unmanliness. Eventually my wanderings brought me to the well, it now being 12-30 a.m., August the 10th. I filled both the cans with water to say nothing of the trouble, for the pump was an old rusty affair, which required the greatest energetic strength to manipulate. At 2 a.m. I started on my return journey to those trenches.
Twice I lost my way and on each occasion found myself with a cluster of wounded men. They knew that I had water, and most appealingly they begged for some.
Those anguished appealing cries! What could I do but to give it them? I could not listen to those despairing cries without being stirred, “For God’s sake, give me water” ‘they appealed. At that moment, I could hear some distant agonising cries, echoing far into the night and calling for water and aid. “God help me, come and take me,” “Stretcher bearers,” were their cries. Those cries through memory’s life I shall never forget, for they still haunt me. I handed the water around to my poor comrades and I again started on my way with one gallon of water in the bottom of my can.
On arriving in that trench at 4 a.m., my Colonel asked me if I had succeeded in bringing back the water. What could I say? I told him what had occurred, he saying that I had done just as he would have done.
At 4-30 a.m. we were suddenly attacked with a shower of bombs, as the dawn broke through the darkness. Before I proceed any further, I may add that the half Battalion of the 6th Loyal North Lancs., under the command of Colonel H. G. Levinge and the 5th Battalion Wilts Regiment, were the two Battalions selected for the responsible work of holding Hill Q.
Our trench was partly commanding the left of Hill Q, which was our only one difficult situation left in taking the Narrows.
Continually the Turks bombed us, and continually we repeated with bomb and rifle. My chum and myself took cover behind that barricade which I had built a short time previously. Bomb after bomb hit this barricade and exploded, doing no harm whatever. Had I not built that barricade, probably my life and others also would have been snatched from us.
Over this construction we took careful aim with our rifles. I had an Australian rifle, which caused a lot of trouble in extracting the spent cartridge, and I may say I was very annoyed about it. The Colonel on seeing my plight, gave me his service revolver, while he used his automatic pistol. At 5 a.m. the Turks delivered an attack – a slight attack on our left – more for bluff than anything – probably to see what our strength really was; but less went back to their trench than came out. The Turks shortly afterwards were reported to our Colonel to be advancing on our right flank. No time was lost. The Colonel gave the order “Rapid fire.” We guessed what was coming, a grand attack by the enemy. Now the enemy advanced towards our centre flank, then our left flank, every flank was heavily engaged, each one of us were firing with rapid speed. Onward swept the enemy like a foreign cyclone, calling upon the name of their god “Allah.” There must have been thousands of Turks advancing; they looked just like a dead wall, for one could not see a gap in their lines of advance.
Crack went our rifles with deadly aim. Shells burst with a deafening roar, and machine guns tore up the earth before them. I could see the enemy drop with a bullet or two from my revolver. They were only about 15 yards off our trench and I could not help getting a bull’s eye.
On our extreme right the enemy were making short work of our men with the bayonet, but they fought hard for life – they would not give in.
We were now forced to retire, the enemy being about to cut us off. Bullets would hit the ground and bushes near me, but thank Heavens, as yet I was untouched. Unconscious of where I was going, I suddenly felt myself spinning through space, which landed me with a very unpleasant feeling, as the Turks were following up. It was a bank I had fallen from, which was quite 15 feet high. I collected myself together and in trying to walk, I discovered that my ankle was sprained. Pain did not trouble me then – I wanted to get to the second British line of trenches. On and on I plodded, hopping as best I could on my uninjured foot, until presently I came to a bunch of British Tommies, about to take up a fresh position. These I discovered were remnants of the 10th Hants Regiment, and other Regiments.
We made a fresh position and fixed two machine guns at each end of this trench, which helped to repulse the enemy in their vigorous onslaught. Everything seemed much against us – were we to be driven into the sea? Such seemed the case in every man’s opinion. Here we were waiting anxiously for reinforcements, before we could think to advance. In this blundering predicament, it was most advisable to hold on to our position until those promised reinforcements came.
Officers, N.C.O.’s and men were shot down by the enemy’s bloodthirsty fire. One Staff Captain about to encourage his men to advance and who had already been shot through the head, received another head wound, which blew half his head away exposing his brains; and others shared the same fate. In this trench where I was, not one officer was anywhere about to take command; because owing (I suppose) to their severe losses – they being made a special target of – but every man knew exactly their one objective. Rat, rat, rat, spat the machine guns. The Naval shrapnel shells burst forth and the land batteries poured a shower of lead into those advancing maniacal Turks, sweeping over that dreadful crest of Hill Q, which meant certain death to each one who would dare to come into close quarters. My ankle at that moment was giving me much pain. I was also feeling exhausted, probably due to thirst, etc. I stopped firing and sat down in the bottom of the trench, reloading rifles in quick time. Two of our machine guns were put out of action, and each one of those machine gun crews were also put out of action. Two still remained active, until finally a shell burst near our parapet, which rendered the third gun and its crew beyond any hope of repair – the crew suffering severe losses. Only two men were now to be seen at the one remaining gun. This last death machine poured volley after volley of hot lead into the enemy tearing past the farm house. Thousands of rounds of ammunition were being consumed by this gun, the barrel being red-hot. With his eye trained on his sights, the Commander of the gun, a boy of no more than 17 years of age, still kept up the terrible fire, in spite of dangers which he exposed himself to, for his head was well above the parapet. His chum shortly afterwards fell a victim of the enemy, being seriously wounded in the face.
This incident and the loss of his chum seemed to give this boy a greater spirit of defiance, for he kept calling upon the enemy to come nearer, although the enemy were out of hearing range by a long way. It was not long afterwards that he was wounded in the left elbow joint by a bullet which splintered the bone. He was in much pain. His arm lay dead at his side, blood oozed out of his arm in large quantities, but our friend never neglected to watch his sights. An N.C.O. eventually ordered this plucky boy to go to the dressing station. The boy, knowing that no man in our trench could handle his gun, refused to comply with the N.C.O.’s orders, saying, “There is nobody to take my place, I shall keep her going until I am out of action altogether.” This piece of pluck was the best of its kind that ever I witnessed. Those words of that gallant little soldier I shall ever remember. Surely this was a deed worthy of the highest distinction, but there were no officers about to recognise it. I could write about dozens of brave acts that were never recognised – nobody had much time to think of themselves or others; we had to check the enemy’s attack or be annihilated. Comrades were falling dead each side of me. The dead bodies of our men on top of the parapet, who had been there for quite a length of time gave off a very unpleasant stench. Reinforcements had long been promised us – we would be driven out this position if reinforcements failed to come. It was one of our most anxious moments waiting for that promised help which seemed would never come.
By this time, the land batteries and our Navy had got the correct range of the Turks sweeping over Hill Q in their thousands. It was an awful cyclone of fire which the Turks experienced. An iron rain fell upon the ponderous mass of the enemy, scattering their lines and inflicting terrible losses. Our gunners had a remarkably good range which told the enemy that the recapture of this vital crest of Hill Q was the most dearly paid sacrifice of the whole campaign.
A short distance behind our line we could hear loud cheers ringing in the air – reinforcements had arrived; which seemed to give us all fresh courage and hopes. These men seemed quite exhausted like ourselves, evidently they had been rushed up to our lines under all that blistering ‘heat, raging ‘thunder of shrieking shells and belching guns.
My ankle at that moment ‘was giving me much pain, so I endeavoured with a Lance-Corporal of the Loyal North Lancashires to make a dash to the nearest dressing station. My escort had had a very severe wound in the calf of the leg, therefore making him hop on one leg like myself. The dressing station was about 400 yards away, so off we set, leaving our Gallant comrades still keeping up that hell’s fire.
When we had gone 50 yards, my escort and myself sat down to rest, against a clump of bushes, in the heart of that shell-swept plain. We had not been there for more than five minutes when a hail of bullets attracted our attention to the fact that an enemy machine gun sniper was active nearby.
Being rather a little shy of throwing our lives away we took shelter in a large shell hole. Knowing that we were quite safe from being perforated, the sniper resolved to leave us alone for the time being. My friend and I had been in our shelter for nearly an hour when I suggested that we would make a dash for the dressing station. On leaping out of our hiding place again came a rain of lead. On, on we hopped as we could, expecting any minute or second to fall a victim to this sniper.
Luckily we had gone another 150 yards without being hit, so again took rest, this time quite undisturbed. In my excitement I had practically forgotten the pain in my ankle. After resting for 15 minutes we again set off towards the mouth of the gully leading to the dressing station, and down to the beach. My friend and myself after our trying experiences across that bloody slaughter yard were finally rewarded with the sight of that gully but 50 yards away, where, as we thought, we would be safe from snipers’ observation, but it seemed as yet, we would experience further ordeal, for we could see men dropping like skittles 20 yards down the gully. On coming to the mouth of the gully, I motioned my friend to lie low until this sniper quietened down. In that dusty and blood-bespattered ground, lay dozens of dead and dying comrades, freshly butchered by this inhuman enemy. To pass these men, one would have to walk over them, for this gully was only four yards wide.
As we lay flat on our stomachs, we perceived the bullets burying themselves against the gully sides, evidently trying to find a target for a wounded man who dared to move. By all accounts, we were not as yet out of danger. We had to pass this spot which seemed certain death in doing so.
On seeing the situation which lay before us, we eventually agreed to make a final bid for life, for by now, we did not care which way things went. We stood up ready to make that bid for life, I starting first, my friend following close in the rear. At that moment, an Irish soldier brushed past me with his head bent, and was shot through the head on coming to this fatal spot. By some mistake, one of the Naval ships had got short range, and when I was nearing this fatal spot, suddenly a shrapnel shell from our Navy burst about 20 yards in front of me, and I went to the ground with a thud and a groan, for a shrapnel bullet had shattered my right femur bone of the thigh.
The next that I knew ‘was Fitzsimmons my friend laying on top of me with a large hole in his wind-pipe. Poor fellow! He was delirious and kept saying, “Nellie” – at the same time throwing all of his weight on my body. I could not shake him off, for his strength was far beyond mine. With a great effort I bandaged his wound, to keep away the thousands of flies which were murdering each other to eat his blood, which seemed to be boiling. “Poor old Fits!” I kept saying, as I would look at those ghastly lines of agony as if drawn on his face. It was very shortly afterwards that he died, the blood had choked him. I then rolled his body off mine. I was now very much relieved from his weight, but he had left his mark on me, for my trousers were saturated with his blood. I was in terrible pain and thirst nearly drove me mad.
Curiously, on looking around I could see an officer’s water bottle two or three yards away, which I secured by means of a bayonet, as it was a little too far for my reach. Much to my surprise, as I drew the cork I could smell a strong odour of rum. It seemed to have been dropped from heaven. No one knows how really thankful I was to have the sensation once again of having my lips wet. The wounded and dying around me were clamouring for water, so I took a drink of this rum and handed the bottle to another wounded Tommy to pass on. The picture of despair and agony in the men who were dead and dying!
One seems to feel the maggots that are devouring in their millions the men who have lived and fought by gnawing and crawling over your own live carcass, as one’s brain reels in delirium at the sights and sounds one hears and sees; at those struggling souls you feel about and among you, still fighting a ghostly battle in the air, as if not realising death.
Seemingly, this rum had not been handed round, for it lay by my side quite three-quarters full. All this time since I first handed the bottle to my comrade, I lay in one position without even a flinch, as if dead, because had I moved probably this sniper would have observed me and would have tried to make a clean job of me. The temptation of the rum beside me and the awful accumulating thirst, made it impossible to resist, so I sat up to take a drink of this rum when suddenly there came a score or so of bullets, one which, cutting through my cheek, came out and tore the lobe and surface of my ear. The blood from my wound trickled like a miniature stream down my neck and shirt. This knock partially dazed me and this was the very first time that I thought I was dying, for naturally with being dazed, I understood the bullet to have penetrated a vital part of the head. Happily this was not so, but at the same time I bid all and everything “Good-bye.”
At this particular moment, my attention was again drawn to the ping of bullets, next thing I knew, was a young boy laying on the ground of the gully and not five yards away. Near by him was a tiny pool off dirty muddy water which had been made evidently by the bursting of a water bag on a pack-mule. This boy with an extreme thirst, equal to a hungry wolf, ravished part of this dirty pool of mule and boot trodden water, when I threw him the remaining contents of my bottle. I am quite positive in saying that this boy was mad or partially so from the effects of the heat and thirst, for he kept glaring alt me in such an inhuman, fiendish fashion; whilst drinking this rum at each interval.
It was time now to be lying down playing the dead man, otherwise I might be butchered. I had just laid my head on the ground, when I felt a sharp sting on my hand and perceived another bullet wound on the back of the hand and across the knuckle of the first forefinger. I lay there quite still hour after hour, wondering how much would be left of me on the following day.
First aid was lacking in organization, owing I dare say to the enormous amount of casualties sustained amongst the R.A.M.C., who were exposed to quite as many dangers as us infantry men.
Through the immense heat endured that day, many men who lay wounded in the open went mad and many suffered sunstroke. During the day I had found a sand bag, and this I put over my head, which probably averted serious results. Night gradually fell upon us, and as yet no aid. It was good to feel the cool air on one’s face once again, but towards midnight, it got very cold. I had cut my trousers away during the day. I had no tunic as I had retired without it that same morning and only one boot remained in my possession because I had thrown it away to lessen the pain in my ankle. My shirt and boot were the only pieces of clothing that I possessed, and I may say, that I felt the cold most keenly. It was a terrible night of anguish, the moaning of the wounded was utterly heart breaking, more so especially when some unfortunate comrade would be wounded again by a stray bullet, which in one or two cases were fatal.
At this particular moment, our Navy were giving the Turks a good reception, in commemoration of the recapture of that costly crest of Hill Q.
Picture night in the black and deadliest silence (for the bombardment had suddenly ceased) while you are in the midst of the foul smelling corpses of your dear comrades; and in the dust and their blood hour after hour, waiting for hell’s fire to burst out from earth again!
In the early hours of the following morning, an Australian officer came to us, and told us that he could not give us aid just at that moment on account of the shortage of the men of the R.A.M.C. but he promised to send aid before evening. I could not sleep, but lay awake, picturing those cliffs situated near the beach that were wrested from the enemy, and wondering if the enemy really tried to check our intrusion, for it seemed such an impossibility to every eye-witness.
The Turks had every advantage, their artillery were already positioned and they had the advantage in being on a much higher level from the beach. Right up to Chunuk Bair rose a steep incline of hundreds of feet, as far as my memory carries me; which should have enabled them every observation. The old British spirit and daring proved its worth in the eyes of the world against this barbarous enemy, by forcing such a glorious landing as the Suvla Bay landing, and these tremendous heights which were thought impossible. The spirit of our men were there when we had effected the landing, their one objective was concentrated on those “Narrows.” At any price indeed they would be taken. Their hearts were good, but there seemed to be a certain amount of hesitation amongst the higher Commanders. I still believe that had our attacks been followed up, instead of waiting to give the enemy time to bring up reinforcements, we would have conquered and achieved those impossibilities, but inertia prevailed somewhere and with terrible results.
Nearly all our best officers had gone in their vain attempt to hold this part of Chunuk Bair. Our Brigadier, General Baldwin, and the bigger majority of his staff had been put out of the fighting effectives.
Our gallant Commander, Col. H. C. Levinge, and Major G. S. Rowley-Conwy of my Company (A. Company), were simply overwhelmed in those shallow trenches on the right flank of Hill Q but they stuck to their men with every coolness and confidence, defiantly fighting such enormous odds, although perhaps knowing that their little band of men would be finally crushed by the thousands of the enemy that threatened him. But they were game, they stuck to their guns maintaining the old traditions of their race, until they finally disappeared from the fighting effectives as if the earth had swallowed them. It was now 8 pm. of August the 11th. We had suffered the truly horrible tortures of the heat, of the thirst, and the biting fly.
We were waiting for that promised aid by that Australian officer, when to our great delight, a dozen or so stretcher-bearers came up to us and began to dress our wounds. By 9 .p.m., we were all dressed and each of us was given a drink of water. One by one we were put on a stretcher and carried towards the beach.
It was a long way from where we lay wounded to the beach, and the country was most rugged and intricate that we had to pass over. Every few hundred yards, my rescuers would let me down whilst they rested. These intervals occurred regularly for it was no joke to them carrying me up and down small hills and over rough ground, also through those gullies which were littered with the dead, stepping over the corpses as they went. Towards 11 p.m., we reached the beach where I had my name and all particulars of my wounds taken.
I was given some biscuits and a drop of tea by a hospitable R.A.M.C. orderly. It was new life to me to have these luxuries, for it was days since we had tasted tea or biscuits and I ravished these biscuits and tea like a hungry jungle beast let loose. By 11-30 p.m., lighters were made fast to a small pier and operations commenced to ship us.
Eventually the lighters being loaded with its human freight, a tug was coupled to the towrope and steamed towards its destination – a hospital ship lighted with hundreds of brilliant green, white and red lights, purposely to show the enemy at night the nature of its mission. Here we arrived, whence we were hauled aboard the hospital ship on a stretcher sling mechanically worked from the steam winch. Everything seemed too good to be true. We could not realise being in so clean a place as this ship’s ward, and the hospitality and kindness of the sisters – it all seemed a most delightful dream. We were each one put in a cot with all our dust, dirty clothes and vermin included, on top of pure white bedclothes. Cocoa and bread and butter was next served, lastly came the dressing of our wounds. Those sisters worked like demons to give us every comfort. Their work cannot be too highly praised.
In the early hours of the following morning we set off for our destination, this being Malta, where I stayed for nine days, eventually being reshipped enroute for England – dear old “Blighty” – which I though, should I survive those awful sufferings of Gallipoli, to see again.
Here I give a special tribute and praise to Lieut-Col. H. G. Levinge, Major G. S. Rowley-Conwy, Major R. Fairlie, and Captain and Adjutant Mann for their gallantry and devotion to their men, whose confidence they gained as leaders at such critical moments when coolness and courage reigned supreme; to the officers and men off the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, and to each individual on the Gallipoli peninsula.
Let me also pay tribute to all my comrades dear, who went there never to return again to their loved ones. Their magnificent self-sacrifice, loyalty and patience proved that the old traditions of their race was still up-held. They all fought most splendidly, they never wavered, they never grumbled, but died side by side in the ranks where they stood, leaving their anguished loved ones to meet again in the next peaceful world.
Paul McCormick is the creator and administrator for the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment website. Since 2010 he has been researching the soldiers that served during the First World War and sharing their stories on his website. You can contact Paul through the website 'Contact Me' page or on Twitter and Facebook.
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Sounds of singing and laughing were heard in the German trenches opposite No 1 Coy sector by patrols, 8 till 10 PM.
Christmas day, 25th December 1915
(10th Battalion War Diary)
- Sounds of singing and laughing were heard in the German trenches opposite No 1 Coy sector by patrols, 8 till 10 PM. Christmas day, 25th December 1915
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